"We need to do something ..."

I've had many discussions in the past years with very divergent opinions. One constant that I observed was that I often didn't disagree with ideology, assumptions and the like ... I disagreed because I wasn't compelled "to do something". I simply don't have the feeling that something needs to be done just because I dislike the situation.
It's quite impossible to convince me that "something needs to be done" unless I recognize an improvement of the situation as likely result of the proposed action.

A good example is the campaign against terrorism.
Somebody proposes a counter-measure, I disagree because I don't see proportionality of advantages and disadvantages.
Now I can take the stopwatch and measure how long it takes till somebody accuses me to ignore a threat, help terrorists, sabotage counter-terrorism efforts and so on.
Many people don't weigh advantages and disadvantages at all. They're proponents of ANY action if a situation is inconvenient for them.

Another example shows the mentality in its devastating effect: Incompetent (concerning art of war) politicians and journalists called for the NATO air forces to put more pressure on Milosevic and to stop ethnic cleansing during the Kosovo Air War 1999. Well, this was impossible due to the limitations inherent in air power. That is, unless you don't stick to relevant targets and just begin a nation-wide stampede against any target that might remotely be labelled as relevant for warfare. Bridges in Northern Serbia did certainly not help para-military forces in Kosovo (south of Serbia) to expel Kosovars...
The impatience resulted in much more destruction than necessary - strategies with marginal destruction but decisive impact like shutting down electricity in whole Serbia until it accepts certain conditions became impossible options. Not enough patience, "something had to be done".
The Kosovo Air War became a historical low point in air warfare strategy, covered up by eventual political success.

We need to learn to accept inconvenient situations and need to become more patient. It is ridiculous to assume that an improvement of every inconvenient situation is within our powers.
Just as the Christian teachings tell us - sometimes it's better to offer the other cheek as well. Especially if every imaginable offensive action only worsens the situation in comparison to that.

This "we need to do something" mentality is in my opinion a demonstration of a lack of self-discipline, rational thinking and patience. It hurts us as it wastes resources and draws us into needless conflicts



NATO's (non)prominence

I just noticed that I haven't read anything about the NATO in other defense-related blogs for ... well, I remember no such word like "NATO" in those blogs. Was the NATO ever mentioned in the defense-related studies and articles that I've read (written in English language)? I don't think so.

The NATO is the great bond between North America and Europe, and the basis for all European defense planners. Its existence is considered to being close to a law of nature.

The USA wouldn't even be a superpower without this alliance, as it' would lose allies, bases, opportunities to exchange technology and tactics and of course most of its influence in Europe. Without this alliance, Europe and North America would likely compete against each other much more in foreign politics and defense affairs.

How could such an important alliance be so much ignored?

Sven Ortmann


Taiwan's national security or "USA vs. PRC"

Warmongers and the like in the Western world now tend to focus on two nations since Iraq is gone; Iran and the PR China. War with the first one is a real possibility for the U.S. Americans while the "threat" PR China is the bogeyman for the long term (financing of the forces).

I want to focus on the PR China this time; PR (People's Republic) China is no longer perceived as an ideological threat but rather as an expansionist newcomer with huge industrial and personnel resources. China has indeed lured into it much of the classic war industries of the West (metal, chemicals, electronics, vehicles), and other such industries (like a huge share of the world's shipbuilding industry) have huge concentrations in its vicinity.
China has a long tradition of a regional power with near-constant internal troubles (especially a constant trouble to keep its central control over all provinces). It has never reached for global domination as Western civilization has, in fact it has been almost isolationist for most of the European imperialism period (15th to 19th century).

Whoever perceives the PR China as future adversary of the USA does so not only because they might have the potential - the usual assertion is that PR China tries to gain regional hegemony in a way that violates our regional friends' (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and possibly Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore) sovereignty.
The most obvious example is Taiwan, and Taiwan war scenarios are frequently used in discussions about the further development of the U.S. Navy.

Here's a particularly extreme example about how some people perceive the situation. It's not uncommon to assume that Taiwan is defenseless against PR China without Western forces assistance. The example even concludes with PR China's PLA soldiers invading Taiwan without resistance, as if there were no defenders at all once U.S. forces in the area are defeated. I told you, an extreme example - but not really unrepresentative.

Taiwan has a mobilization potential for roughly half a million men, and the geographic situation is not favourable for an invasion at all. There's no way how PR China could effectively project its far superior mobilization potential without capturing at least one of Taiwan's harbours. Taiwan has a serious air force and a serious navy - Taiwan would likely not be able to break a PR China blockade of its commercial communication lines in the air and on the sea, but defense against an invasion is something completely different.

There are obviously two defense departments in the world that can judge the chances of an invasion the best; both Chinese defense departments (or how exactly they call themselves).

So let's look at Taiwan's preparations for its defense in the middle term.
source: CIA World Factbook 2007
Military service age and obligation:
19-35 years of age for compulsory military service; service obligation 16 months (to be shortened to 14 months as of July 2007 and to 12 months in 2008); women in Air Force service are restricted to noncombat roles; reserve obligation to age 30 (2007)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.2% (2006; to increase to 2.85% in 2007)
So they increase their very low (rather typical for European nations) military expenditures to a higher, but still very low level.
At the same time they reduce the service obligation from 16 to only 12 months, the absolute minimum for useful military training.

Could they afford a stronger military?
source: CIA World Factbook 2007 (not unbroken quote, I picked the parts that are relevant)
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$680.5 billion (2006 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:
4.6% (2006 est.)

Unemployment rate:
3.9% (2006 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1% (2006 est.)

Current account balance:
$9.7 billion (2006 est.)

revenues: $67.33 billion
expenditures: $77.93 billion (2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$280.6 billion (2006 est.)

Debt - external:
$93.06 billion (2006 est.)

Well, lot's of data, let's sort it out:

- Their economy is fine, no ongoing troubles with inflation or unemployment that could stress the government enough to distract from defense (the economy is increasingly dependant on factories relocated to Chinese mainland - but that trend could be reversed).

- Their budget would require higher taxes, especially if defense spending shall be raised.

- The state has some debt, but nothing very serious; the nation as a whole has lots of reserves and could ask for increased foreign deliveries based on foreign exchange/gold reserves and a so far clearly positive account balance.

- 2.85% of GDP defense spending equals something like $21 billion (PPP) by 2008 (and 2.2% are about $15 billion (PPP) in 2006), so it would be reasonable to believe that the nation could without serious troubles raise this by an additional 50% to about $30 billion (PPP) and sustain that level (plus increases proportional to economic growth. perhaps less, but there are obviously some reserves not tapped yet for their own defense. (PPP = purchasing power parity - see the quote, PPP makes figures more useful for the discussion)

The most cost-effective method to defend against an invasion is certainly a strong army with good artillery and battlefield air defense. Naval strike forces and even air forces are much less reliable and cost-effective means to secure a single large island against invasion.

This raises a question; if even Taiwan itself does not seem to believe that it's so much threatened by the PR China to motivate strong defense spendings, why does a distant power care so much about this "threat"?

It's quite the same with South Korea and Japan - South Korea has quite capable forces, but tried to cool down U.S. American diplomacy on North Korea all the time and doesn't seem to really believe in a threat to its sovereignty. Japan strengthens its "Self Defense Forces", but to a level that is still laughable in comparison to its economic power.

Maybe they execute a free rider strategy in regards to defense - but since all three regional friends of the USA have a very positive account balances towards the USA it would in that case be advisable for the USA to end this strategy - in its own interest.

My conclusion is that the (national?) security debates surrounding the PR China are overheated and not based on an objective danger so far. That danger might exist in the future, but the most affected countries - South Korea, Japan and Taiwan - should take the lead and define their needs for foreign assistance beyond their capabilities, not think tanks and military bureaucracies in North America or even Europe.

Sven Ortmann


Addendum: Feasibility of an intercept vs. captured passenger plane in Germany

The debate about shooting down passenger planes is not only a serious threat to the basics of the Bundeswehr - it's also a political show with marginal relevance for real-world security.

This is a map of Germany into which I added the locations of our active nuclear power plants and our relevant Luftwaffe bases.
The black circles (4) depict the position of Tornado wings (fighter-bomber and reconnaissance wings; no interceptor mission, suboptimal aircraft for the job). The larger red circles (3) show the locations of our three fighter wings (first to be equipped with Typhoon, now mostly equipped with outdated F-4F Phantom II). The radioactive warning signs (12) show the locations of active nuclear power plants (AKW, Atomkraftwerk in German). The biggest skyscrapers of Germany (prestige target) are in Frankfurt.

(Map graphic file was lost when external image hoster deleted it)

Examples for international airports are Frankfurt, Hamburg, Köln, Hannover, München, Nürnberg and in general most large cities.

An aircraft would need little more than a minute from Frankfurt airport to Frankfurt's skyscrapers. Hamburg airport to AKW Krümmel east of Hamburg is possible in about three minutes, same with Stuttgart and AKW Philippsburg and Frankfurt to AKW Biblis. Hannover airport to Grohnde AKW west of it and Nürnberg to AKW Grafenrheinfeld north are longer distances, but far enough away from all fighter bases.

Even if I assume perfect information with no delays and Mach1.8 speed (with missiles and fuel tank) for fighters and Mach 0.8 speed for passenger plane, it's that easy to find airport/skyscraper and airport/AKW combinations that make an interception by QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters impossible.
We'd need several permanent 24/365 fighter patrols or great coverage with ready surface-to-air missile batteries to intercept a captured plane reliably before it impacts on its target.

The reality is even worse;
- an air traffic controller needs minutes to recognize a terrorist act,
- his superior another minute to confirm that,
- more minutes are lost in communication with the Luftwaffe,
- another minute is lost till the fighter pilots are alarmed,
- up to five minutes are lost till the fighters take off,
- it takes up to ten minutes to intercept the passenger aircraft and come close enough for visual identification of type and airline markings,
- another minute is lost till the firing for effect (if the pilot doesn't hesitate) means loss of control of the aircraft and has changed the path of flight enough to save a target even if the aircraft was already close.
That's easily 15 to 25 minutes in reality till a kill (minimum).

This makes it obvious that the present debate is a show and not oriented at all at adding real security.

An important background information for this debate is that the secretary of defense's (Franz Josef Jung) party (CDU) is pro-nuclear power.
A true security against terrorist strikes against the most terrible targets, the AKWs, would be to shut those power plants down and evacuate the radioactive material or to build a bunker around them. Additionally, surface-to-air missiles were necessary to protect the capital Berlin and the skyscraper center of Frankfurt against terrorist air strikes (the French sent SAM units to protect their nuclear power plants in 2001).

Old studies showed that the present AKW concrete shell can stop a low-flying military jet (low-level flying was trained a lot in the 80's over Germany), but a much heavier passenger plane is much more powerful.

We don't fortify the AKWs, and this fact exposes how serious this party and this minister really take the security; they prefer the prestige and competence gains (even if at cost of freedom against observation in case of the minister of the interior (Schäuble) who promotes one competence of dubious efficiency after another) over real protection.

It's too sad that so many people in Germany fall prey to strongman rhetorics and simple scaremongering in Germany! The "may we shoot down passenger planes or not" debate is bogus!

A German institute published a new report on AKW vulnerability. Some AKW seem to be well-protected while others (old ones) are not. They summed up older research and test results in this German study.

Sven Ortmann


Destroying the Bundeswehr's integrity from top

Germany has an ongoing debate since 2001-09-11; the existing laws do not allow to shoot down a passenger plane under terrorist control even if it's approaching a nuclear power plant or city. A law passed the parliament to change that, but was declared to be ineffective by our constitutional court.

This is obviously not a satisfactory situation.
I personally believe that the passengers themselves would likely be the best defense against such a terror act as they remember what happened in the USA, but our politicians don't want to rely on that.

This is the reason why our secretary of defense Mr. Jung emphasizes that in such a case he would give the order to shoot down the plane anyway.

This is where the problem begins.
I don't care much about what lawyers and the like think about it while the media focuses on Mr. Jung's questionable approach to legal/illegal - I see a very different problem.

The experience of the Wehrmacht (which followed a felonious dictator and committed war crimes based on strict obedience to corresponding orders) inspired a new rule set for the Bundeswehr: It is illegal to execute an illegal order. A soldier who is ordered to do something illegal is obliged to report this and to not execute the order.

An order to shoot down a passenger plane would be obviously illegal due to the constitutional court's judgment.

So all officers in the chain of command between secretary of defense and pilot would be obliged to not proceed, but to report the illegal order (the first officer would be obliged to report the order to the chancellor, I guess). If they would relay the order they'd have to face serious disciplinary punishment (in theory, at least) and the prosecution for instigating mass murder.
The pilots would be obliged to deny the execution of the order and report it as well.
If the pilots would shoot down the plane, they would (in theory) face
- disciplinary punishment in the Bundeswehr, including most likely a discharge
- prosecution for mass homicide
- a loss of their pilot's license for dangerous influence on air traffic safety

Our secretary of defense may play the strong man and attract some cameras, but in fact he's no more empowered to give the order to shoot down a captured passenger plane than you and me.
The possibility that he doesn't know the Bundeswehr's rules enough to realize this is shocking - the more likely scenario that he has been told about the implications but ignores the legal problems and implications for the officers despite the historical reason for the rules is even more shocking.

Our secretary of defense Mr. Jung is eroding the integrity of the Bundeswehr.

Sven Ortmann


Followers of technology

This is by no means an original thought - but the problem is persisting and huge.

Our Western forces pay lip service to tactical innovations first, but focus their continuing improvement efforts on the introduction of new high-tech tools and weapons.

Many experts have complained about the insufficiency of technological answers to problems. The enemy can counter almost every technological superiority to a high degree. This does often lead to costly arms races without really improving the relative position of the first innovator. The most successful technological innovations were those which remained either undetected by adversaries for a long time (like Ultra deciphering) and those which were exceptionally difficult to counter (like motorization). The latter were often countered by adopting them as well. A rule of thumb is that a spectacular technological advance will quickly fade as advantage as it provokes a strong reaction. Think about stealth in this context...

The questionable long-term effect of technological advances isn't the only shade on this.
Another disadvantage is the huge cost of R&D and production. It's difficult to sustain the high expenses in the long run when your adversaries can keep up with much less expenses for copying and countering your technology. The high expenses don't only risk the national security, but they're also a huge strain on the taxpayers which expect for good reason that the military does its job without major financial waste.

Another problem surrounding technological warfare is that technology often doesn't keep its promises in restricted terrain types and harsh real-world conditions in general.

The fourth and most important problem associated with the focus on technology is its root:
The defense industry cannot earn money by developing phenomenal tactics, military theory, drills, strategies and operations plans. It earns money by R&D and eventual production of hardware and software.
There's no lobbying for the brain-related factors in warfare besides good will and intellect of the people in administration and military. But there's a huge lobby for technology, as an entire industry branch can live off that. This powerful lobby is likely the primary reason for the drift towards technology-centric warfare.

It's very unlikely that this coincides with the optimum, and in fact many experts have complained about technology-centric development of the military. This encompasses most NATO forces, especially the larger ones with an indigenous arms industry.

Complaints alone will never solve the problem as long as the cause - the lobbying - continues. And it's highly unlikely that this lobbying can be suppressed ... to fight lobbying is very uncommon and usually unsuccessful as lobbying fulfills a desire of bureaucrats for a simpler life and more prestige as bureaucrat.

We need a counterweight to the lobbying for technology - a lobbying for improvements that don't need much more than the brains of our soldiers for their implementation.
This could be an institution solely for such solutions with a strict ban on (high-)technological approaches. Another possibility to promote non-technological solutions could be to issue call for tenders about non-technological solutions - valued as high as a technological offer would be.

Sven Ortmann


Attractiveness & relationships

When I was a boy and attended school, I had to read classic German 19th century literature just like all others. I remember a particular scene in one of these books - it describes how an Englishman comes into a German provincial community and despite his young age he's admired for he behaves as a free man from a free country and knows a lot about foreign countries that he had visited. That was very different to the behaviour of the local population which still lived in the remains of the feudal society.
The admiration of the author for this was obvious.

Free societies don't only have direct benefits for their citizens - they have also huge advantages when in contact with foreign people and all but the most dictatorial governments.
The western nations, including the NATO nations, enjoyed this attractiveness for several decades - will they continue to do so in the future?

The image of the western nations seems to transform from a bright and avant-garde area to a fortress that's used for many violent excursions into weak countries.

That's certainly less than attractive and might add to the list of enemies and shorten the list of friends and even allies.

The Grand strategy of the major NATO nations should be different and avoid such a picture.

There's a parallel to what's been said about political capital. In 1990 the USA built a coalition for a war against Iraq and gained an enormous amount of political capital by doing so for a cause that was considered righteous.
In 2002 the USA built a much less magnificent coalition for a war against Iraq and it did not gain political capital, but it went bankrupt in terms of political capital - it spent it all.

Many reactions to 9/11 , both originating from governments and originating from media or people themselves (like by such small things as comments full of hatred on YouTube) seem to worsen the reputation of the West in the world, sometimes right into evil ratings.

The fact that this originates from so many sources tells me that it's both a kind of zeitgeist and probably a primitive reaction. Don't misunderstand "primitive" - I don't accuse people of being primitive - the reaction seems to be rather obvious and not the result of deep, well-informed reasoning about the problem.

If this is a clash of civilizations, we're about to lose. Well, we're most likely not about to lose our own civilization, but rather our ability to co-operate with foreign powers and people. Imagine being a Libyan businessman with a great new product that you want to sell in the Western world. Great prospects? Not at all. Libya is too unsympathetic to us and trade with it even often limited by law. An Indian businessman would have much better prospects than a Libyan one with the same product despite the greater distance.

If we don't want to become unpopular or even outlaws for much of the world we should correct our stance and restrain from annoying them. We're sitting in this world together with about five billion other people, and their opinion about us is not unimportant.

To believe that we should pay regard to other's opinions would represent the mental state of a 16-year-old at best.

We should try to regain our attractiveness and regain trust, not demolish our relationships with others for the freedom to beat on some people who we dislike.

Sven Ortmann


Book: "War is a racket"

"War is a racket" by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler is an antiwar classic by a highly decorated U.S. Marine Cops officer. There's still a USMC base in Japan named for this officer.

One quote of this remarkable officer sums his experience up, but isn't from his "War is a racket" text itself:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
The horrors of war, the unjustified profits of the war industry, the suffering at home, mutilated soldiers and especially his experience in many needless and corrupt small wars convinced BG Butler that war is a racket, evil. I read his book twice in the past years, and it's obviously applicable to our time as well as to the early and late 20th century.

He judged by his personal experience of his lifetime - the "Great War" and many small interventions against sovereign nations in Latin America.

He wrote "War is a racket" in 1935, in hindsight probably one of the worst times ever if you want to have lasting impact and fame for an anti-war work . The axis powers didn't allow peace for long any more (he warned only about Italy in his book) and showed that there are two kinds of war; those you can avoid and those you cannot avoid without submission.

This distinction is very important if we try to apply lessons learned from history for a better future.
Patriotism is a good thing if used to mobilize for unavoidable wars, and it's evil if it's exploited to reinforce support for needless wars.
Furthermore, the arguments of pacifists should not be dismissed completely, but considered for each and every war in detail - they apply to some wars and not so much to others.

Not only the understanding of patriotism should be influenced by past experiences - the whole approach to war needs to be checked. Are our societies really prepared to repel attempts to lure us into needless small or major wars in the future? Or will we fall prey to such attempts as the British did in 2003, when their head of government was able to participate in a war that the majority of the British didn't even want and that became a disaster?

The conditions are very different in the NATO countries. The USA will likely get an Iraq syndrome comparable to the Vietnam syndrome and shrink away from needless wars for some time. Let's hope that the lesson will be learned and last for more than a generation, as did the last one. The UK and other nations that participated in the Iraq conflict will probably have comparable movements.
France seems to have a steady willingness to execute small military actions in Africa, but never with really serious commitment - that's its policing policy in former colonies adopted after the Algerian War.
Germany otherwise is a completely different case. Two generations of Germans did their best to convince the world that German military actions are not desirable and there was absolutely no military action (of Western Germany) during the Cold War.

But we have a consistent policy of both large parties to drag the nation deeper and deeper into military actions and get the people more and more accustomed to it since the early 90's. It's basically a great power game, an open gambling for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council by making yourself important and a permanent method of our secretaries of defence to gain prestige.

I hope the best, but the escalation path is obvious and we'll probably end up participating in the next stupid, needless war together with allies as only few people connect the horrors of the World Wars to small wars - and Germany had no small war on the ground for about a century.

Finally there's still the exploitation of war by businessmen who sell overpriced, inferior or even useless equipment to the forces for maximum profit. The huge budget expansions of the military in wartime and the wide-spread military incompetence in accounting promotes such behaviour.

It's always been very difficult to reduce such behaviour in wartime, but the next war's end should be a fine opportunity to begin with really punishing such war-related fraud and thereby fight one of the war's horrors as noted by Butler.

S Ortmann

About myself

I've been asked to write a bit about myself, apparently that is important to some readers.

Well, this is indeed a good opportunity to describe myself.

My knowledge base includes information about military equipment of different ages and all services, historical strategic/operational and tactical art and a very good knowledge of history and especially military history.
There's always more to learn and always someone who knows more, but I feel sufficiently well-informed to have a good foundation for my opinions.
Of course, it's not required to have a good opinion. Democracy is all about allowing everyone an opinion and to value that. Experts don't have the best records concerning their opinions anyways, and they usually disagree with each other, so it would be silly to just depend on them without an own opinion.

My general approach to national security affairs is coined by historical lessons. I don't just look at the moment - I consider many 20th century historical situations as good description for possible situations of ours within a couple of years. Information given by officials is not much worth and qualification of officers always under close scrutinity, as history tells us better not to believe what we're told. Most nations that suffered military disasters weren't informed about what was going to happen in advance - although there were always hints or let's say patterns that hinted at a forthcoming disaster.
History also teaches to distrust simple theories about what will happen in the world - domino theory, "Arabs will welcome us and love to build their democracy", "this was a war to end all wars" and the like.

That leads to a strong pattern in my analysis - I'm a skeptic and critic.
Again, this has strong foundation in history. A short look at the West's post-WW2 record of wars tells us that it's far from being perfect, even though the typical superiorities of superior logistics, firepower, financial power, industrial power, training and combined arms were present in all those conflicts.
Falklands and Korean Wars were almost lost, Vietnam/Indochina and Algeria were lost, Iraq is obviously about to be lost and Afghanistan is far from being won. Several other conflicts included severe disappointments, as all engagements in Lebanon and the 1999 Kosovo War, which was despite its ultimate outcome in large part an exhibition of military and political incompetence.

You won't ever find a "The FCS tank will rule the battlefields - unseen by the enemies, FCS forces defeat everyone with missiles!" text here. Instead, you can expect sometimes very original perspectives on national security affairs with a minimum of backing data and links in my texts. The usual points of view are accessible everywhere - I attempt to discover the truth in those cases where mainstream opinion is wrong.

A French parliamentarian visited the front line in April 1940 and was shocked to see the weak defense in the Sedan sector - he alerted everyone he could alert about this possibly fatal weak spot. But common opinion was that the Germans would - if at all - attack just like 1914. In fact they had their Schwerpunkt at Sedan, and the marching orders of the French army HQ moved much of its forces into the prepared trap north of Sedan. The Battle for France was lost a few days after it had begun.
I'd be proud of my work if only one in ten of my entries comes close to this (less the defeat).

Someone recently accused me of being anti-American. Well, I don't think so. That guy did just not know how much I criticize my own countries' forces and policy. My critique is a general pattern, a personal style - my critique is not focused on specific countries, races or religions. The USA gets a good share of my critique - that's in large part due to their activity and size. Economic imbalances of Luxembourg would be uninteresting, the same for the USA is a global problem. Countries with little military activity or a less extrovert approach to information on the military don't provide as many stories for a critic on military affairs...

I'm no pacifist, although that was suggested recently as well. My recurring critique on wars might mislead people to that conclusion, but in fact I'm just hard to convince about going to war and continuing wars for far-reaching goals. I frequently use the word "needless" in combination with "war". As I see it, there are wars that need to be fought and wars that are plain stupid.
I've read some books of pacifists, though. I did so because my passion for military affairs required a counterweight. Scientific pacifists have a point. Their argumentation is far from the typical stereotype of the pacifist who wouldn't fight at all costs and be a coward. Those scientific pacifists focus instead on the immensely wasteful and destructive nature of war and mankind's aggressive and destructive potential. It helps to consider pacifist's arguments seriously if you're serious about avoiding needless wars. After all, even victories can hurt you more than peace.

Sven Ortmann


Inwards propaganda

This blog entry is on inwards propaganda, a topic that was already scratched on the surface by the "Buzzwords" blog entry.

I participated recently in a short discussion about a computer game that the Hezbollah released (in fact a modded Battlefield 2 game). The game is often commented - in many places and by many people - with an attitude as if it was something special, amateurish and something that the West doesn't do.
Well, in fact there are several computer games (full-blown computer games, not just small modifications) on the topic of hunting terrorists (often quite unrealistic scenarios) and the like on the market. We don't lack B-Movies about the topic as well. The computer games and movie industry is in fact quite busy delivering us propaganda products that define the common foe for the western nations - since decades. The movie industry is busy with such works since about the 1930's. The support of the U.S. forces with personnel and material for many such productions proves that there's in fact a link between propaganda and at least one western government.
We must really be blind to blank out our own inwards oriented propaganda when we discuss Hezbollah's famous computer game as if it's something special.

There's of course more to tell about it than the quality of the mod (apparently not "good") or about specific claims on content and how evil it is (or how bad a "Rambo" movie is, for example).

Thinking about inwards propaganda (propaganda focused on the own people) led me to the conclusion that it's in fact an authoritarian concept that regrettably can often be a commercial success due to an entertainment effect.

In democracy (can) work fine when people are well-informed and can make good decisions before they vote.
Adding a subjective, manipulating element like propaganda instead of honest information into the system poisons it and let's it drift away from the ideal.

What could be the purpose, who could prefer such an endeavor?
In my opinion only authoritarian people who are not true democrats (I don't mean a specific party in just one of more than hundred nations of this world) could prefer it even after they thought about it in detail. These are people who distrust democracy so that they prefer the people - the sovereign - to be manipulated instead of just informed.

This is no conspiracy theory, it's just my theoretical reasoning about whether inward propaganda is good because of its mobilizing effect or evil because of its manipulative effect.

My conclusion is obviously that it's evil. It deteriorates our democracy and since democracy is what keeps sovereignty where it belongs - to the people. Propaganda is a tool that threatens our sovereignty, let's it fade away. Honest information is what we need.
Some NATO nations have learned this lesson again in the past years as they were misled by propaganda (well, the British people weren't that much mislead, rather their prime minister).

Anyway - everyone is invited to have his own opinion on propaganda of all sorts.

Let's hope that (s)he has decent information to process before (s)he arrives at a conclusion. This blog entry promotes just one point of view and is no sufficient information base, for example.

Sven Ortmann

edit 2008-12-02:

"Hilary Rosen, the former chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America, who was also present at the post-9/11 meetings, said that Mr. Rove and other White House officials were looking for the kind of support Hollywood gave the United States during World War II.

“They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she said. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.”"