2008/09/24

European poll data

These poll results are quite puzzling to me.




Source: www.ft.com

It would be interesting to learn more about the interviews, especially about the Baltics question. Did the interviewer inform about the NATO membership of the Baltic states? If not - how many of the people who answered knew about the NATO membership?

Sven Ortmann

2008/09/19

Seismic - an additional signature dimension for camouflage

The classic signatures that need to be camouflaged to enhance ground forces' survivability are quite well-understood.

* visual (including image intensifier technology)
* near infrared (partially covered by image intensifiers as well)
* infrared ("thermal")
* ultraviolet (relevant on snow)
* radar (movement indicating and/or imaging)
* acoustic (now also including acoustic sniper direction indicators)
* radio
* smell
* traces on soft ground

I haven't seen the seismic signature dimension being mentioned in military manuals yet
(I've probably just missed it, though).

The seismic signatures of soldiers, wheeled vehicles, tracked vehicles and animals are distinguishable from each other to a useful degree by small sensors in the ground. The miniaturization of electronics, radio modules, GPS tools and the improvement of batteries allows for effective networks of seismic ground surveillance sensors. These can be (and usually are) coupled with other sensors like infrared to confirm and possibly identify triangulated seismic contacts.

This technology has been (in a less sophisticated) around since the Vietnam War and got attention again some months ago as one of the spin-off tools of the Future Combat System program.
Aforementioned modern technologies could make this stuff affordable in huge quantities.
It's ideal for defenders who want to cover a large are/wide frontage with few forces. There are always some spots difficult to observe - and such ground sensors (as of course others as well) can help a lot against infiltration and reconnaissance attempts.

It would be an illusion to believe that this kind of technology won't be available to second or third rate armies. Several only partially industrialized countries have a better industrial base for the production of such tools than many (so-called) industrialized countries.

Soft boot soles will likely not help, and the impressive advertised detection radius for such a seismic sensor (soldier: 50+ m, heavy vehicle: 500+ m) leaves little hope for the effectiveness of special walking techniques as well.

There are possible countermeasures, though. Attacking the sensor's radio network is a very obvious possibility, radio triangulation and subsequent mortar fire with HE bombs on the position of such sensors is another possibility (albeit likely too expensive). Seismic jamming might also be possible. Moving slow might help as well, but that won't happen if the leader doesn't suspect the presence of such enemy sensors.

Seismic sensors seem to deserve more attention. Such tools are not reserved to Western armies by nature's law - they can easily be produced by many countries and it looks as if the understanding of such sensors and the countermeasures aren't well-developed yet.

Sven Ortmann

2008/09/16

Northwest Africa: Possible future security policy focus for European powers

The USA is heavily involved in the Persian Gulf region today - mostly due to its oil addiction.

Europe might have such a focus in the distant future as well (hopefully without such a heavy emphasis on military power).

This focus could be on Northwest Africa*, a region which has natural gas, crude oil and huge barren/desert regions close to Europe and sea ports.
The region has no own great power, is economically weak and could therefore be influenced by Europe for its own and Europe's good.

The crude oil supply from Algeria and Libya is already important for Europe (in part because the U.S. wasn't exactly friendly to Libya), the natural gas production especially of Algeria is interesting as alternative to Russian natural gas - it would be liquefied and shipped by sea to dedicated harbor terminals in Europe.

The region has also a great potential for solar energy production in the barren/desert regions, high voltage power lines to ports, hydrogen production and liquefaction at the ports and finally shipping of hydrogen to Europe. An alternative would be to lay high voltage power lines directly to Europe.

Few European countries have a really high potential for solar energy production - Spain is the only lucky EU member in this regard. Many European countries have so many clouds that scatter the light (and make mirror-based solar power plants inefficient), are so far north (less sun light in general) or have so little available areas (like the Netherlands) that they cannot produce much solar power domestically. Even if they could - it would still be more efficient (technically) in Africa, especially if the solar energy needs to be stored for later use anyway.

We might see European military forces occupied with
A) deterrence of Russia and its allies in the framework of an European alliance
B) securing the energy supply from Northwest Africa
by 2040.

This deserves some thorough analysis - technically and politically.

It would be a good idea to become more involved in Northwest African affairs.
We should promote political stability in the area and friendship/good relations with its people and governments.
The military activity to secure the supply would likely focus on interventions to counter/deter coup d'états (army, air force) and securing ports and shipping lanes (navy).

Close bonds between Europe and Arab/Muslim Northwest Africa might lead to some problems for Israel, though - it's tough to be friend with both sides of a fierce feud.

Sven Ortmann

*
I consider for the purpose of this text these countries as "Northwest Africa"; Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, (Western Sahara) and Mauretania. Egypt might also be included (not the least because of the Suez Canal), but it's danger close to the Israel conflict. Senegal might also be included, but it's quite far away and would lose agricultural areas to solar power farms. It has a good harbor and might agree to naval and air bases, though.

2008/09/12

Overly aggressive allies

Germany has had very bad experiences with overly aggressive allies in its short history as nation-state.
The Cold War time didn't end in a disaster, but there were still enough examples.

1914:
The allied Austria-Hungary is aggressive in its stance towards Serbia and launched World War I. Germany was blamed after the war for this because its head of state had backed Austrian-Hungary.
But there would have been no WW I without Austria-Hungary's aggressive foreign policy in the Balkans - at least not the WW I as it happened.

1941:
The very new ally / brother in arms Italy decided to invade Greece while failing in the North African theatre. They failed badly in Greece as well and had to be bailed out by the Wehrmacht.
That was lucky for the Soviet Union and unlucky (it depends - losing is sometimes better than winning) for Germany, as the delay of the invasion of the Soviet Union saved Moscow and saved the Soviet economy from a collapse (Moscow was the planning economy's brain and a vital traffic node).

2003:
The USA - while being involved in the alliance's war in Afghanistan - starts the entirely needless war in Iraq and diverts important resources (not only its own, but also British ones) to Iraq.


Overly aggressive allies can be a real menace. Every nation with such an ally should think about quitting the alliance.

There are some strong arguments for calling such overly aggressive allies to order:

One is the Charter of the United Nations - every member state limits the legality of its foreign policy options by joining and staying in the United Nations. A violation of the charter can and should be considered as illegal, even if the action would be legal otherwise.

The Charter of the United Nation says in Article 2 (excerpt):
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
Source: Charter of the United Nations

Another document creates a direct link to the NATO alliance:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Article 1 of
The North Atlantic Treaty:

The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
Source: The North Atlantic Treaty

NATO members shall refrain from attacking other states without explicit and unambiguous permission of the United Nations!
Any other attack on or threat to another state is a violation of the Charter of the U.N. and the NATO treaty and puts the obligation of the other NATO members to assist the aggressive state in case of a foreign attack in question.
A good ally doesn't violate the Charter of the United Nations or The North Atlantic Treaty. This is not open for debate.

S O

2008/09/11

"Wehret den Anfängen !"

I've found a possibly specific German attitude in my discussions with foreigners in the past few years; it's about how to handle the very seeds of potentially dangerous things.

The slogan for this is "Wehret den Anfängen!" - that could be translated as "Nip things in the bud!".

We have a remarkably low tolerance for even small seeds of potential political extremists, especially against the right wing here.
(Our right wing is comparable to the U.S. political center to its far right wing, but it's non-religious).

The Neonazis in Germany (they're politically powerless and outcasts, respectable election results only in small regions and only once or twice in a row) have absolutely no political talent and are much too inept to be a real danger.
One of their expressions of their existence are demonstrations, using fantasy flags and symbols.
It's a tradition to counter these demonstrations with an (afaik always) considerably larger counter-demonstration.

This attitude of marginal tolerance to extremists is strong in large parts of the population and is being applied on many occasions.

I had a discussion about the Ukraine recently, in which a Russian claimed that Ukrainians and Russians were the same ethnic.
Most people weren't alarmed, but I saw a private assault on Ukraine's sovereignty by negation of its national identity in this and emphasized their sovereignty
He couldn't understand why I bothered - he only expressed a personal opinion and had no political power anyway.

Well, that's how it doesn't work with Germans. We don't wait till harmful ideas reach the political leadership because then it's too late to bother.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.:
Exceptions prove the rule. The German people are not entirely homogeneous on this, of course.

2008/09/10

Present-day challenges

Every period has its own foreign policy challenges.

1900-1914:
Challenge for the European power to keep the extremely successful peaceful co-existence - unsuccessful

1918-1928:
Challenge to re-arrange the peaceful co-existence - preliminary success, but evil seeds were sown both in the treatment of Germany, the interventions in Russian civil war and by giving up the close relationship between UK and Japan.

1929-1935:
Challenge to master the World-wide economic crisis - an economic science learning process

1936-1941:
Challenge to master the rise in power and limit the expansion of Germany, Soviet Union and Imperial Japan - total failure

1945-1950:
Challenge to re-arrange the global relations between powers, especially in Europe and in regard to the Soviet Union - failure

1951-1990:
Challenge to prevent a hot World War III as minimum requirement - successful

1991-2000:
Challenge to re-arrange global relations because of the Warsaw Pact falling apart - initially promising, but apparently moved on a wrong track with the 1999 Kosovo Air War.

2001-2007:
Challenge to master the relatively tiny problem of AQ terrorism (remember; few years ago, it was about not exterminating mankind!) and challenge to re-arrange the West's relations to Russia and PR China - the reaction to terrorism was apparently a huge and wasteful over-reaction that created new troubles. The relations to PR China seem to be either simple "business as usual" or not really defined yet. The relations with Russia didn't improve, and Russia's partial recovery led to the first hot clash "West" vs. Russia, which was on first sight won by Russia.

What will be the challenges for the future?

I see five hot topics.

A) Russia
Russia's "place in the world" needs to be defined again (mostly by itself).
Russia's role as important country in the global economy, in the short term especially concerning the raw materials supply.
The background is very complicated because of Russia's past as superpower, traditional dominance over its neighbors and a residue of Pan-Slavism.

B) PR China
The China situation is very similar to the one about Russia.
China's "place int he world" needs to be defined - the Chinese are apparently interested in their pre-19th century regional dominance and secured sea lanes for trade.
China's role in the global economy needs to be defined; its trade surplus isn't sustainable, and a growing trade surplus isn't even sustainable in the short term. China needs to transform itself into a nation with strong domestic consumption, but at the same time it needs to limit its disadvantageous impact on global raw material supply and global climate.
The background is very complicated because the regional dominance is so far a U.S. dominance, and all three regional powers (China, Korea, Japan) would like to see their position improved - a win-win seems to be impossible.
The much worse background-related problem is the repeated humiliation of China by European powers, the USA and Japan till the late 1940's.

C) India
India is a bit behind China in its economic development and is a very different country.
It needs a secure overseas trade, has a conflict with Pakistan looming about Kashmir, has some domestic terrorism troubles, the Sri Lanka civil war next door, Myanmar with its problems at the other next door and is a nuclear power.
Its economy is becoming an important factor in the global economy and needs to become sustainable (economic balances, climate, raw materials demand).
The historical background is again difficult; the caste system is still influential and it has a history as colony of European powers (England mostly).
Maybe the 'Western' states in the Commonwealth are in the best position to address frictions that will happen between the 'Western' nations and India.

D) Terrorism and Pakistan
This mess has only grown since 2001 in my opinion.
The challenge is simple; keep Pakistan from using its nukes.
This is really a good opportunity to accept that international affairs are difficult and that it could be wise to accept even a deterioration in order to avoid the worst case.


The challenges of our time are visible - will they be addressed properly?

Sven Ortmann

2008/09/09

Critique: William S. Lind on "Defending the Baltics"

On war 273: "Defending the Baltics", by William S. Lind

I've heard similar opinions before, since the Russians fought in Georgia.
An insurgency as defensive strategy, to defend against a superior power.

That's folly in a situation like the Baltic states' ones, for it is a very poor Plan A. It can be used as Plan B, but even then it's a bad idea.

The Baltics already had an insurgency against Moscow's rule, the last insurgents ceased their activity sometime in 1952 after many years of occupation. The Baltic states have only a very small population each, and therefore little power even in an insurgency.

Stalin deported great parts of opposing nations (Chechens, Ingushs, about 10% of the Baltic population) to handle rebellions and Putin flooded Chechnya with more military and para-military personnel than Chechnya had inhabitants, just to crush the insurgency there.

Insurgency does not work out well against Russia. The Russians don't apply the same self-inhibitions as Western powers in insurgency, and defeat rebellions. Their costs are high, but not so high that the prospect of an insurgency could reliably prevent an invasion.

Lind is also wrong on his "toy army" argument. A conventional all-round army/navy/air force design is unsuitable as he wrote, but that does not exclude the possibility of a conventional warfare defense.

Those states cannot defend themselves against Russia, but they could delay an invading force if well-prepared to do so - this capability could offer sufficient deterrence in conjunction with credible reinforcement preparations by their NATO allies.

Some people over-estimate insurgency / 4th Generation Warfare decidedly, and belittle the utility of conventional military power.

Sven Ortmann

2008/09/08

Not COIN, but insurgency as strategy against the Taliban

The simple "more troops" approach to the Afghanistan war and the lack of an end in sight there is seriously annoying me. I don't like small wars anyway because they tend to be hugely overestimated in their importance and to be much to expensive if not limited to very short interventions like the French did it in many African conflicts.

This shall again be an attempt to lay out smarter alternatives to the Taliban problem.

The basis is the conclusion that AQ and Taliban were not unanimously greeted in the mountainous Pakistani border region. They were greeted by some local leaders and opposed by others. The latter group was apparently assassinated in large part.
The Taliban apparently exert state-like power in that region.

My suggested strategy is to attack them offensively, but not with primitive assassinations from the air.

Let's raise an insurgency against Taliban rule in the border region. They ruled the region (together with local allies) for some time and their arrival, exertion of power and their killing of opponents have certainly created a lot of opposition that's being suppressed at this time.
An insurgency instead of an overt political opposition could attack their base of power and keep them busy in their previous safe haven, probably even lead to their expulsion.
The Pakistani central government could help in a final mop up phase of such an insurgency and establish a more moderate self-government in the area.

Such an insurgency would be made much easier if the Taliban and their local allies had less propaganda opportunities to unite the people against an external foe.
This foe is apparently the presence of Christian foreign troops in Afghanistan, their partial or complete withdrawal would take away the basis for their jihad.

This is the point where a connection to the mobile defense operational plan could be created. And a withdrawal is also a great opportunity to test the Afghan anti-Taliban power. Who knows, maybe the warlords would turn their drug money-paid militias against the Taliban?

Sven Ortmann