2015/03/05

[Blog] Under preparation

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I won't cover Netanjahu's primitive fearmongering; I think Kaplan did a good job at that already (and Jon Stewart with his tools as well).

Under preparation are other topics (some not for the first time):

# big artillery-related topics with historical perspective and outlook, possibly multi-part

# propeller era military aircraft topics, sharing a bit my military history fascination

# another "Exotic weapons" topic or two

# maybe a basic training topic or two from the national perspective, not the recruit's

# I expect to keep covering the anti-surveillance state topic as (quite reliably) new info becomes available

# I expect to cover the 'better actual defence, no stupid military adventures overseas, actually reduced military expenses' preference some more. The typical call elsewhere is for an intuitive increase of military spending in response to a subjective increase of the Eastern European threat situation.

# Some general remarks on uniforms, uniformity, and privately purchased equipment

# Politics and policy in Germany are too depressing for coverage.


S O
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2015/03/04

Tactical ballet

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(A demonstration of police tactics in Germany)


I suppose some German police tactics developers and trainers looked at ancient Roman infantry tactics closely!

S O
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2015/03/03

[Fun] Camelflage

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http://9gag.com/gag/a5PMXgO

You may have noticed; the comments were switched off a while ago. The reasons are several, in part it's saving me a lot of time, in part I got annoyed once too often by comments which were either hostile, off-topic or in denial of me having debunked their point in the blog text itself already. To censor the poor comments amongst the good ones was no acceptable option, so I recommend to everyone who wants the own opinion be published in a milblog to set up an own one.

I recommend MilPub and Think Defence (see blog roll on the left) for discussions; those milblogs are  debate-centric.
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2015/03/02

Infrastructure

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A Youtube comment on this video with about 800 'thumbs up' was

"Maybe if you cut your military funding by 2%, you'll be able to
fix all the dams and bridges in America."

It's more like 10% if you look at military spending overall, almost 20% if you look at the DoD budget only:

"The nation’s surface transportation systems are facing a funding gap of
about $94 billion per year under current projected spending levels."

Something is going wrong when hundreds of billions of U.S. Dollars can be added on top of what's needed for actual defence in order to have offensive bullying and invasion capabilities, but meanwhile the nation's infrastructure crumbles with an annual 0.5% GDP-large funding gap.

S O
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2015/02/28

Military theory - the evil twin

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Robinson is on his island. He's good at collecting coconuts and a poor fisherman, but he would like to eat fish much more than coconuts. Friday appears on the scene. Friday is a better fisherman, but prefers coconuts over fish.
Welcome to microeconomics 101, the simplest model of trade and how trade between two agents is a win-win for both and actual improves aggregate output. There are diagrams for this, of course. Macroeconomics has its analogy in free trade theory.
Economics is about how cooperation can lead to a better aggregate and individual outcome.

Military theory is the evil twin: It's not about how to achieve what cooperation, but about how to force others into compliance. Its only efficiency goal is to force the own will on others at least expense, whereas the aggregate outcome and at least one party's individual outcome (usually everyone's) are worse as a consequence of the process of (trying to)  forcing one's will on others.

Economics good, military theory evil. 
Too bad; countries often need the latter for avoiding its worst consequences, even if they don't like it.

Yesterday I did refer to economists' appraisal of biology as a supporting science, and suggested that military theory and political science could do the same. This wasn't by accident. Military theory and economics may be opposites, but this makes them similar as well. Economic theory is about cooperation, military theory is about confrontation. Both are about an interaction of agents, whereas a great many sciences such as geology, physics and math aren't about the interaction of thinking and competing humans at all.
Political science is in between both, in that it is both about cooperation and confrontation between competing agents (in military theory you usually don't compete with allies unless some honour code is in effect or said allies are expected to become rivals or enemies soon thereafter).
The similarities are promising enough; one field may gain insights by paying attention to other fields' findings. There sure is a better match than the faux analogies of geometry (Renaissance military thinkers) or misunderstood physics (von Clausewitz).

S O
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2015/02/27

"Your genes help determine how much money you save"

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Researchers Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel constructed a measure of savings by essentially tracking the changes in the net worth of the twins between 2003 and the end of 2007. They found that identical twins—who share the exact same genes—are significantly more similar in their savings behavior than fraternal twins. In fact, they conclude that genetic differences explained roughly 33% of the variations in individual savings rates.
Matt Phillips

Imagine a future in which such influences on behaviour, such biologically-mandated preferences, could be known about senior officers and top politicians before they they're empowered by command or office. It would be eerie in some way, but potentially world-changing for the better, too.

Citizens could almost know which politician would start a needless war because of some archaic territorial fight gene. An army could almost know in advance which officer would keep a cool head and find the right mix between caution and boldness.

Economics have begun to accept biology (neuroscience, for example) as a supporting science in the 90's as far as I know. Maybe political sciences and military theory should do the same, and embrace it fully to squeeze the maximum gain of insights out of it.

S O
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2015/02/24

Isoluminence camouflage

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The rise of tiny LED lights may have made this approach practical on a large scale. A different technological approach is IIRC to use surface materials which emit light when there's an electrical current in them.
Drones of any size and aircraft could hide visually with this because it's the shadow that makes even white undersides dark and easily recognizable.

We will likely not see any use in great quantities in the next couple years because platform life cycles and upgrade intervals are long and no major conventional war forces armies to optimise themselves with great effort.

related: Wikipedia article "Yehudi lights", secretprojects forum topic "Yehudi lights"
S O
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2015/02/23

An old scenario about Russia

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The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force...let them ally with PR China and they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel[land] before appeasement was given up. Imagine a reunification of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Russia was actually more self-confident (going alone), faced a weakened (economic crisis) Western world and (so far) grabbed less (the equivalent of Sudetenland, Memelland). Other than that, the scenario was much more spot on than the "COIN is the future of war!" slogan.


S O
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2015/02/22

Military lessons from the war in the Ukraine

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There are some interesting parallels between the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the Spanish Civil War. It's far from a replay, but nevertheless interesting (to me).

Back in Spain during the 1930's, new equipment was introduced to warfare, although they were mostly incremental improvements of First World War arms: Tanks, monoplane fighters, monoplane bombers with proper bombsights, dive bombers, heavy anti-air guns with elaborate fire control, light rapid fire anti-air guns, anti-tank guns, miniaturized radio sets (and especially the new voice-over-radio mode).
Some lessons were drawn from their use, both wrong and correct ones.

The incorrect ones were drawn because the conflict was not representative of the coming Second World War. The Spanish Civil War was mostly static, but not as much a trench war as the First World War on the Western and Italian fronts due to a shortage of artillery ammunition. It had its mobile phases, but these were reminiscent of the 'successful' offensives of late 1917 and 1918. The focused operational advances of fully motorized forces with tanks had but one disastrous parallel in Spain.

The combat in the Ukraine appears to be similar to what was known from Yugoslavia and Spain; lots of volunteer formations in service (I'm thinking of the Ukrainian side here), very little movement. Seemingly spectacular advances as the recent (possibly intentionally incomplete) encirclement of Debalzewe took weeks, while an action of this size would have been a day's work during 1939-1945.

The Russians may probably not draw many wrong lessons from this since they had similar actions in Chechnya already and employ mostly 1980's technology. Meanwhile, the West might draw some wrong conclusions, albeit the very small involvement will likely diminish this. It's mostly the effects of ammunitions such as (somewhat) modern artillery that may offer good insights for military forces in the EU. The Russian breakthrough day during the South Ossetia War is more worthy of study in regard to mobile warfare.

S O
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The miracle of Greece's defence spending efficiency

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Back in 2009 I wrote about the relatively high military spending of Greece and my expectation about its impending reduction.* I wrote:

Greece's military spending is about 3 % GDP, about twice as much as necessary in comparison with allies. That's already less than the 2005 figure of 4.3%. I expect a military budget crunch down to about 1.5-2% GDP till 2015.

According to SIPRI military expenditures fell from 7.660 billion EUR in 2009 to 4.472 billion EUR in 2013.


According to Eurostat** Greece's GDP fell from 237.4 billion EUR in 2009 to 182.4 billion in 2013.

This yields a drop from 4.21% GDP in 2009 to 2.45% GDP in 2013.
The CIA World Factbook offers a much smaller figure; 1.72% GDP in 2012.

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Now let's consider what's missing in this picture:
An aggression against Greece. There was none.
Nor did the EU as an alliance or NATO as an alliance get into trouble because the Greeks spent less on their military.

This is the best real world experiment imaginable for the thesis that the Greek state overspent on defence. It wasted likely 1-3% GDP during almost the entire post-Cold War period. Furthermore, an unnecessarily high quantity of young men were removed from the private sector or had their education interrupted.***

Similar natural experiments happened for U.S.military spending: The U.S.Army and U.S.Marine Corps were very much fixed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had their training reoriented for occupation duties for years. Meanwhile, North Korea did not attack South Korea. PR China did not attack Taiwan. Not a single ally, much less the U.S. themselves were attacked by any real threat during these years. This is the best evidence imaginable in support of the thesis that the U.S. overspends on defence: All those army brigades busy with preparing for, being in or recovering after being in Iraq or Afghanistan weren't really needed for national or alliance defence at all.

One may consider such natural experiments as weak evidence, but they face no evidence at all pointing at the opposite conclusion!
There are merely claims and conjectures supporting the size of the military expenditures, not any natural experiment results. Never in modern history did a military budget cut lead to a series of events that ended with aggression - no matter how often the pro-military spending people assert that budget cuts put lives at risk and similar.


Greece's military spending efficiency was increased very much, as they got the same national security at a much lower price. Has the Greek military improved very much, become incredibly smarter? No, not at all. It was merely inflated well beyond the optimum previously (and I suppose it's still well above optimum today).
The reason for the oversized military spending was the stupid Little Cold War between Greece and Turkey. Turkey cannot possibly take even a single island away from Greece by force because Greece could call on all EU allies for defence, while nobody would be obliged to help Turkey. Still, politicians played with the myth of a Turkish threat for decades, similar to what happens in Pakistan. Now guess what the new government's minister of defence did right after taking office? He provoked Turkey with his new toys.


S O

**: I'd like to use this opportunity to voice my extreme disdain for the EUROSTAT website.
***: I know of a Greek student who wanted to become an engineer in Germany and was recalled for a pointless conscript service before he was able to complete his almost for-free university study in Germany. This happened after the Fiscal troubles blew up in Greece.
 
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