2010/05/31

Köhler resigned

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The President of the Federal Republic of Germany Horst Köhler (mostly representative head of state) has resigned because of the strong reactions to an interview he gave just a few days ago (transcript).


The interview has been interpreted as championing the aggressive use of military force to further national interests (= in my opinion a possible interpretation of his words).
The reactions pointed out that this would be way beyond the constitutional limits and that the Federal Republic of Germany has military forces for self defence, not for Banana Wars.

Federal presidents tend to have more integrity than common top politicians and it's to be respected that he resigned that quickly because he felt that he hadn't enough respect and support any more.

I interpret his speech as the latest step of an multi-party salami tactic that was employed since about 1993 in order to increasingly get used the Germans to distant and even offensive use of military power. A normal politician would have proposed a stupid mission, got resistance and have postponed the accustomization till a later date.

I wrote in 2009/11:

(...) Then came the end of the Cold War.

German politicians proceeded with a salami slice tactic for so-called "out of area" missions of German troops, one step at a time. It began with a field hospital in Cambodia, then logistical support troops in a safe place in Northern Somalia and so on. Peacekeepers here, peacekeepers there, finally some purely anti-radar missions of Tornados in the 1999 Kosovo Air War and then more peacekeeping in Afghanistan coupled with up to 100 commando soldiers on AQ hunt.

Well, now we're in the stupid business of small wars - with a strong popular majority rejecting this policy and at the same time re-electing the conservatives for domestic policy reasons.

Sven Ortmann


photo: Roosewelt Pinheiro/Agência Brasil
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2010/05/30

War and economic growth

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Oliver Stone's documentary "South of the Border" apparently includes this account of the former Argentine president Kirchner about a conversation with GWB:


It's not exactly uncommon that people believe in positive economic effects of warfare, but those effects are mostly illusions, caused by tunnel vision.


In the realm of macroeconomics, expenditures for warfare are about equal to expenditures for a program to build buildings, then blow them up, build again, blow them up, ... it's consumption that does not stimulate anything and doesn't meet the consumption preferences of the population.
Investments usually increase the economic output (depending on circumstances), while additional consumption does so at most by a factor of 1 unless the economy was running at significantly less than full potential (and only if the circumstances allow it).

A war can of course erase unemployment, but keep in mind that all the mobilised soldiers don't really "work" in the economy during war. They're the equivalent of unemployed people, adding nothing to the nation's economic output.


There is one valuable thing in war, though: War - and especially the emotional mobilisation of the population by it - can provide motivation, break up resistances and such. Re-distribution fo income becomes fairly easy during war.
Motivation is the key in every economy, it drives them. It's what comes before the worker even raises his hand. A very detailed research into the motivation effects on the micro and macro scale could consume the whole career of hundreds of economists, and economists tend to be more interested in researching peacetime economies.

It's therefore difficult to tell what exactly changes due to the changes in motivation, but it's quite safe to say that these effects do not apply significantly to peacetime military spending.
Even IF the motivation of the population in wartime would change enough to enable a net positive economic effect; that effect would not mean that peacetime military spending could be considered as an economic advantage. It's simply a form of government consumption actually.


There are additional reasons why a look at the economic effects is almost excessively difficult; most wars are short. It's possible in wartime to postpone the replacement of old machinery and buildings, for example. These investments are a huge factor in normal, peacetime economies. You can postpone them - which merely postpones investments and frees production potential for other production.
There's also the problem of waste. The GDP metric is generally under fire for being a poor indicator for welfare. To raise a building and then blow it up does increase economic output just as two neighbours helping each other does not while them doing the same and paying each other an identical sum does.
The welfare effect of economic output isn't shown in GDP. The GDP merely shows the extent of official economic activity.
The economic activity of warfare has very little to do with welfare (private consumption drops significantly in major wars), and even worse - much of the war expenses are usually wasted. Again, this waste is not being subtracted from the GDP.


In short; even if (and that's not for sure) warfare does increase the GDP on paper, it's among the most crappy tools for economic recovery. High peacetime military spending is similarly crappy for the purpose.

Then again, it's not surprising or even unbelievable that GWB recommended war as economic policy.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/29

Those irrational, misled, conspiratorial Muslims

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By Glenn Greenwald

I recommend it. Excerpts:

[...]Of all the myths identified by the NYT article, the implicit one conveyed by that photograph -- Pakistanis harbor anger toward the U.S. only because of false conspiracy theories they're being fed -- is easily the most extreme. [...]
[...]There is a lot of propaganda, paranoia and myth in Pakistan, along with most places in the world. But the American media's fixation on pointing to it and deriding it has the principal effect (if not intent) of obscuring the role we play in enabling (and even justifying) those sentiments, along with at least our own equal share of such propaganda and our own media's central role in bolstering it.[...]

S O
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2010/05/28

Nimble Quadrotor drone

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This is just an impressive flight display of a small quadrotor drone.


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2010/05/26

Allensbach poll on Germans in Afghanistan

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The Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach has published a new poll on the German ISAF mission.

(The article has additional interesting results for other questions.)

They asked Germans the question "Würden Sie rückblickend sagen, dass es ein Fehler war, sich an der Schutztruppe in Afghanistan zu beteiligen?"
("Would you say that, in retrospect, it was a mistake to participate in the protection force in Afghanistan?")

"Es war ein Fehler" ("It was a mistake") answered
59% of the group 'whole population'
48% among CDU (social conservatives) voters
59% among SPD (social democrats) voters
46% among FDP (liberals) voters
70% among Grüne (greens) voters
85% among Linke (socialists) voters

This confirms older polls (here and here); a majority is against the German participation.

Especially interesting and wicked is the situation for the greens; the SPD and greens were in power and led by decidedly centre/moderate top politicians (now retired) into both the Kosovo Air War and the initial Afghanistan mission.

Green party top politicians still paint the ISAF mission as a kind of women's liberation and human rights mission and dream about building schools and such. The party supports the ISAF mission.
The green voter base thinks differently; the greens were (until their loss of pacifist principles in 1998) THE German peace party. The socialists try hard to fill the gap.
Obviously, many - indeed most - green voters didn't buy into the green party leadership's delusions about the ISAF mission.


Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/24

Giraffe tanks

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I collected info on 'giraffe' tanks (tanks with sensors or even weapons or a manned observation platform on a long elevatable mast) for some time. The intent was to write about them, but that story hasn't much flesh.

It's rather simple;
(a) It's stupid to use a manned mast because of today's technology.
(b) It's apparently unnecessary to mount weapons that high (lasers and guided missile launchers were included in some projects).
(c) It's quite common to use such masts for sensors and/or long range radios.


The most interesting vehicle of this kind is in my opinion the Czech artillery observer vehicle "Snezka" (that's a mountain).





A 14 metre mast with battlefield observation radar, laser rangefinder, day/night TV, thermal sensor (likely bsolete by now), wind sensor and a good radio offer almost everything that artillery observers could hope for (in such a vehicle). It certainly embarrasses the by comparison limited CV90 FOV.
I think the Czechs deserve a bit more attention with such an impressive vehicle concept.



Besides:



Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/23

Maybe a small step towards less heavy equipment

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Canadian adventurer Jamie Clarke is putting [zeroloft material] to the ultimate test by climbing part of Mount Everest in a thin jacket [...] that contains zeroloft. The 0.15-inch-thick windbreaker is as warm as a goose down jacket 1.6 inches thick, [...].

The soldier's problem with great weight-saving tech is of course that undisciplined leadership asks him to exploit the equipment's light weight by carrying more.

Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/16

The Failure of Surveillance Cameras

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"When it comes to preventing and solving crimes,
cameras are about as useful as a pet rock."

by Steve Chapman

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2010/05/14

Defence policy thoughts for (very) small powers

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An acquaintance suggested that I write about the defence of a small country facing a less than very friendly, much larger neighbour.

Most texts here were written because of a spontaneous idea of mine (that may have been old at the time of writing, though). I'm not sure how good a "by request" text may be, but I'll give it a try.

- - - - -

The first idea is to obviously avoid conflict. The small nation should not only avoid violent conflict; it should also avoid political conflict, maybe even ally with the larger power.
Regrettably, this option is not available in his (Estonian) case.

To seek other, sufficiently powerful, allies is another option. Sadly, even a written alliance treaty may ultimately fail to deter. Nevertheless, such a treaty pretty much ends the political challenge.

Next, the small nation should decide what form of armed resistance it wants to be able to put up. It signed an alliance treaty, after all - and that's a two-way commitment unlike a unilateral guarantee of sovereignty. This means also that even a small ally is supposed to be ready to help others. The minimum commitment would in my opinion be a readiness to deploy rear security troops and troops for handling prisoners of war.

Next, let's think about the military defence strategy and the suitable force structure.
There's a "miniature military" trap; some small armed forces attempt to mimic large ones, with a full set of capabilities ranging from simple infantry to heavy artillery, armoured forces, multi-role fighters, air defences and naval forces.
Israel is probably the only example that really worked well. Many militaries that adopt such a course fail and cannot reach good quality and readiness.

A tailored approach to national defence - coupled with some thought about the potential contribution to alliance defence elsewhere - looks more promising.
The defence of a very small alliance member against a much superior potential invader is quite a challenge without very suitable terrain and without forward deployed allied forces.

The first problem is the budget. Both its likely small size and the necessity of very efficient spending pose some tough challenges. Compromises are necessary - even compromises that say "no" to certain standard capabilities of bigger militaries.
Cost-efficiency is extremely important and this forces the usage of older and used equipment for most purposes. Only very, very influential key equipment can justify high procurement and operating costs.
Examples of such key equipment could be encrypting jam-resisting radios, capable anti-tank missiles, (very) short range air defence systems and possibly also equipment that's necessary for key actions. The latter could for example be some equipment for the destruction of the tunnel that connects South Ossetia with Russia (in the case of Georgia).

The defence of a given area against numerically superior invaders is a tough job. It's especially tricky if no continuous front line can be established for a lack of forces. Even a fortified front line wouldn't hold indefinitely, though. An army needs no overall numerical superiority in order to achieve a local 3:1 or 6:1 superiority. A breakthrough attempt with such a local superiority tends to lead to mobile warfare (just as the case without a continuous front line).


Success in mechanised mobile warfare requires skills and equipment that's unlikely to be found in small armies. There's nevertheless a temptation to add an armour battalion, regiment or brigade to the army.

The biggest advantage of doing so is probably the training effect for those who're supposed to resist enemy armour.

What could an armour brigade be worth? It adds primarily some offensive striking power, gives some headaches to invasion planners.

Those invasion planners would have much more severe headaches in other scenario planning, though. A single armour Bde isn't exactly a large force even by modern standards. NATO has dozens and even Germany's shrunk army has five active armour and mechanised brigades.

The failure of such a expensive and high profile component of the defender's arm would furthermore risk to break all defenders' morale.

It's reasonable to expect that the potential invader will prepare properly and have at least one very good answer for every obvious challenge.
The not-so-obvious, unpredicted obstacles would have less political deterrence value (not that this would make a difference when you're already allied with great powers), but they would cause unanticipated problems for an invader. It would be a good idea to strengthen the defence with something that poses an unmitigated challenge to the invader. Strengths that he doesn't know about, doesn't understand, cannot counter due to his own restrictions or doesn't want to counter due to arrogance might work.

Let's face it; main battle tanks are the last thing that an invader is not prepared to defeat. The necessary air defences alone could furthermore easily double the costs of the tank force.

Air and naval forces are often a waste of budget money as well. A fighter squadron or fighter wing would not stop an invasion. It might be crushed or stuck in its own base - or be defeated by superior air power in the air. Taiwan's air force gets a good share of their national defence budget, but its position is quite hopeless against the only realistic threat, the mainland Chinese air force.
Navies - well, let's recall the utterly irrelevant role played by the Polish navy in September of 1939. Navies are sometimes mere toy ship collections. Some nations really should limit themselves to simply blocking their harbours with some demolition experts in order to prevent their usage by the enemy.

- - - - -

A quite fine example of a successful defence against a powerful neighbour is the Vietnamese defence against the Red Chinese punitive invasion in 1979. Vietnam - then unified only for a few years - had decided to put an end to the excesses and border violations of the crazy Red Khmer and sent its field army into Cambodia. The PR China was not amused and invaded Vietnam. This invasion got stuck quickly even though it faced only second-rate defence forces.


Invasión de China sobre Vietnam, 1978 - 1979
(Fuente: Nam, Crónica de la guerra de Vietnam)

The Vietnamese did not use high-tech tools, expensive weapons, much ammunition and as far as I know they did not desperately open dams to flood the terrain.
They had instead a kind of militia defence with many local defence networks (including underground networks) and a partially war-experienced light infantry force. The Chinese army on the other hand stumbled in part because of incompetence and previously unknown training deficiencies.
I don't want to suppose that this kind of defence would work in many or most cases world-wide, of course.

Well, I'm not exactly an expert on this particular conflict, but I'd suggest to small army planners to look more closely at it.

- - - - -

It could also make sense to look at the bigger picture. I consider Estonia to be indefensible against a Russian invasion if the latter is well-prepared. Russia would most likely not want to annex only Estonia, though. A complete grab of the three Baltic countries is a more likely scenario. Estonian defence planners could therefore ask themselves how to spoil such a bigger invasion instead of a small invasion of only their country. (No matter how unlikely the scenarios are; preparing is what they get paid for, after all.)


larger map

Time would be a critical component of any such invasion plan. They would need to create a strong signal that discourages invasion planners by indicating that a quick invasion is too difficult.
This might lead to consider the defence of the Southern neighbour and ally Latvia instead of the own defence. This may sound strange, but waging a war abroad instead of at home does make sense. The French learned this thoroughly during the first World War.
An Estonian readiness to defend Riga (the Latvian capital and traffic node) could improve its own national security more than greater efforts to secure its own border and capital. Just food for thought.

The speed of an invasion could also be hampered by small and large landscape-shaping and infrastructure projects. The terrain can be shaped to be more of a problem to an invader (although trees grow slowly, for example) and the road network could be modified to be more easily blocked along possible invasion routes.
Settlement projects could be located with the creation of defensible closed terrain along invasion routes in mind.

Intra-alliance politics could also be important. NATO could invest in much better road connections between the Baltic states and Poland (to enable a quicker reinforcement and thus cut the invader's time table even more).
The richer, bigger allies could also subsidise Baltic armies in order to create army strengths way beyond the capability of the small countries themselves. That's certainly cheaper than forward deployment of allied brigades.


I do usually prefer to think about peer, 1-on-1 conflicts because these provide the kind of ceteris paribus scenario that allows for rather clear thinking about how to gain advantages purely by military skill.
Nevertheless, the defence policy problems of small alliance partners or even non-allied, isolated countries offer much food for thought as well. It's a much more refreshing case than the budget-busting high technology orgy fantasies that often pass as military thought in the Western World.

There's the case of indefensible nations, though. These nations depend on others and no military skill will ever change that.

Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/13

Fun: The Daily Show on winning wars with Powerpoint

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There was a brief renewed interest in criticizing Powerpoint presentation usage in the armed services due to a recent newspaper article somewhere.

Well, that apparently got the attention of the Daily Show, and I almost missed it!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Afghanistan Stability Chart
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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2010/05/11

MACGREGOR: Remember the Blitzkrieg before it's too late

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Doug MacGregor sent an e-mail to his contacts, pointing out this commentary of his in the Washington Times.

My reply was this:

Dear Doug MacGregor,

the campaign actually lasted six weeks, not three weeks.

The British Expeditionary forces in France were not optimised for colonial warfare at all - they were an almost fully motorised, modern force for conventional warfare. Their only role in a possible trench war would have been rapid reserves, breakthrough and tactical/operational exploitation of breakthrough.
The British lack of modern army equipment after the campaign was a consequence of the campaign's losses, not a consequence of poor procurement. Your article might mislead in this regard.

"Otherwise, the generals' current obsession with counterinsurgency will leave the American armed forces as unprepared for a real war in 10 years as the British and French forces were for their confrontation with Germany in 1940."

I generally agree, although I prefer to draw parallels to the time of Boer Wars to 1914. That seems to fit better in my opinion because I doubt that any nation has got the right doctrine for modern conventional land war. The political conditions (lack of respect for war due to no great war in decades) seem to resemble 1913 more than 1938 as well.

Best regards,
Sven Ortmann

I do generally support such there'll be a conventional war in the future, and we are ill-prepared warnings. I'm not sure that WW2 is a good example, and in any case examples should be accurate, not misleading.

The problem in 1940 wasn't that the Western powers had prepared for colonial wars; they had prepared for a war with front lines and with mobile phases being rather the exception than the norm. That was not the kind of campaign that was forced on them - and there were other shortcomings. A focus on colonial war is a rather rare accusation in regard to this historical campaign, though.



Sven Ortmann

edit: alternative link; the CDI website has the full article as well.
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2010/05/09

Poster fun

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Russians and Ukrainians are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

The younger generation doesn't seem to be well-informed about the Great Patriotic War, though.
Find the humour and keep it! :-)





It's almost as if they've just forgotten to invite us to their parade, too. ;-)
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2010/05/05

Rare earths

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Rare earth materials (atom numbers 57-71) are a topic of concern because they're necessary for many high technology industries and the PR China has had a production share of consistently more than 90% since 2001.

The scenario of painful export restrictions by China that could kill off many high tech industries in the rest of the world has helped to attract attention to the problem.

This concentration of supply would be a pressing problem even if the Chinsse government was a good friend, though. It's not certain that the Chinese production will keep up with a growing and changing world-wide demand. China might end up consuming its whole rare earth materials production itself in a couple of years.

The production of rare earth materials wasn't always concentrated like this; it's a development of the last 15-25 years.


The world-wide production for are earth materials is only around 125,000 metric tons/year +/- 15,000 t/yr (I don't know the exact figure for 2009). That's a relatively small quantity on a global scale; the annual iron production exceeds 1.7 billion tons, for example.

Can such a small quantity make a huge difference?
Yes, it can. You can easily find the concerns about this in websites and publications about rare earths. I'd like to offer a different view, by showing the historical impact of rare materials shortages in Germany during the World Wars.

Propellants and explosives were produced from nitre (salpetre) up to WW1. Nitre supplied the necessary nitrogen. The greatest nitre production was in Chile - and Germany was cut off from that supply by the British naval blockade. The First World War would have been over by late '1915 for a lack of Central Powers munitions if the German chemical industry (the biggest chemical industry of the time) had not developed a procedure to extract the necessary nitrogen from air (the atmosphere consists of 78% nitrogen, after all).

Rubber was produced exclusively from natural rubber back during WW1, and Germany had almost no access to it due to the naval blockade. The consequence was the substitution of rubber to keep the few motor vehicles of the time running; spring-cushioned metal wheels were used, for example.


The lesson was learnt and the German chemcial industry found a solution during the inter-war years by developing synthetic rubbers ("Buna"). The Nazis ordered synthetic rubber factories built and there was no need for spring-cushioned metal wheels in WW2 (there was still a rubber shortage, though. The Allies had their own rubber shortage because they lost the Malayan natural rubber plantations in early '42).


Iron is superior to Bronze not so much because of the iron's own properties as because of the effect of additives. Iron alloys can have excellent technical properties. These alloys require the addition of carbon and other materials (such as Manganese, Chromium, Nickel) in small quantities. That's fine - as long as you have a guaranteed supply of these steel additives.

The likely best bomber design of WW2, the Junkers Ju 288, wasn't built simply because the only suitable engine (Jumo 222) had been developed without concerns for rare materials availability. The engine simply required too many rare materials and was therefore not put into production.



The Allies were spared of this extremely high performance bomber and the model was mostly forgotten. Nowadays, the Ju 88 or its derivative Ju 188 are being remembered as the best German WW2 bomber and a contender for the title of overall best WW2 bomber.

The German army had a serious problem with its anti-tank capabilities in WW2. This was in part because its very promising research and development of squeeze bore anti-tank guns did not yield usable quantity-produced AT guns. The technology was sound (albeit quickly overtaken by subcalibre projectile technology). The barrel had a smaller bore at the muzzle and "squeezed" the projectile. The projectile received the propellant gas pressure from a larger surface than its cross-section in flight. The result was an extraordinarily high muzzle velocity (and high barrel wear). That high muzzle velocity and high kinetic energy in relation to its cross-section allowed for a high armour penetration if one more conditionw as met: The projectile core had to be very, very strong. It also helped to have this projectile core made of very dense material, for this increased the effective range.


The problem: The projectiles required tungsten. Tungsten was in short supply. The German government basically had two choices:
(1) It could supply tungsten to the industry for the production of tools and machines to keep the war industry running.
OR
(2) It could spend tungsten on projectiles, accepting that the metal industry would soon thereafter collapse for a lack of durable metal working tools.

The choice was an obvious one, and the tungsten core munitions were produced in very small quantities - they offered no general answer to the AT problem and the AT gun development had to shift its focus belatedly towards more conventional guns.

- - - - -

The problem of rare materials supply is a clear one; you can usually substitute, but the substitutes are usually expensive and often technically inferior.

It would be a good idea to be concerned about rare earth mineral supply as much as energy supply, and to take action on the problem.

The answer is an easy one for the U.S.; it can (and does) re-start rare earth production at their "Mountain Pass" mine.

I think the rare earth supply problem is an excellent opportunity for a concerted European action; we could found a rare earth supply project similar to the earlier European efforts at founding a strong airliner production industry (Airbus) and setting up an own European satellite navigation system (Galieo).

There are only small deposits in Europe, though. Portugal, Germany, Norway and Sweden have tiny deposits and the Russian deposits in Europe aren't useful for a EU project.

There are huge deposits in Danish-controlled Greenland (~5 million tons) and in Europe-friendly Australia. A small, exploitable deposit is in Malawi; an Australian company has the mining rights. Canada has also two rare earths projects that might help.


A dirty mineral mine on Greenland (unavoidably associated with environmental damage) isn't nearly as sexy and pleasant (photo ops!) as a European aircraft production corporation of a satellite network project. Nevertheless, it might prove to be even more importnat. We shouldn't jut hope for supply from the Mountain Pass mine or wait for a solution of the problem by the corporations. To adress the rare earths supply problem is a classic example of a necessary strategic policy.


Links:



Sven Ortmann
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2010/05/01

Leverage

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I have a small theoretical model, nothing special - it might still be of interest, though.

Businesses know the term "leverage"; it's really simple. The more you work with borrowed capital, the more extreme becomes the profit for the equity capital owners. The drawback; the magnifying effect works also on the risks; the losses are also magnified.

The military has a similar mechanism at work. That's what the model is about. (Actually, the analogy isn't even close to perfect, but I didn't come up with a better one.)

- - - - -

Imagine a large force attacking a smaller force of 100 personnel.
Those 100 personnel are 40% "fighters" and 60% "helpers".
The "helpers" don't fight; to keep it simple is usually a good idea in theory models.

The superior force encircles, then attacks and has a loss ratio of 2:1 (2 attacker casualties per defender casualty).

The fight takes out all 40 "fighters" and 80 attackers (again; keep it simple to make details visible).

A "good" battle for the defender? Not really. The 60 "helpers" are still in the pocket and can be taken prisooners by the attacker without further casualties.

The end result is thus 80 attacker losses vs. 100 defender losses. That's an offensive success despite the unfavourable 2:1 loss ratio in the actual fighting. The reason is of course that the targeted unit broke and wasn't able to make good its escape (due to being in a pocket).

- - - - -

That most simple example was quite unrealistic, of course. Let's add one additional variable; the "fighters" don't fight to the last men. Their morale breaks at 40% fighter casualties. This is still terribly inaccurate, but again - KISS. Defending divisions historically broke at about 10-40% losses (just a rule of thumb). Some formations and armies prevail better in crisis than others.

Let's also change the loss ratio in combat to 1.5 because defenders are quite disadvantaged in a pocket battle. They are short on suplies and might need to launch counterattacks to hold ground - and counterattacks are attacks, therefore not gifted with the tactical advantage of the defender. This loss ratio is in reality very unpredictable, of course.
Modern army forces might also end up having less than 40% "fighters", so let's use 30% as an example.

30% "fighters", the combat loss ratio of 1.5:1 disadvantages the attacker and the "fighters" fail after 40% of them became casualties.

40% of 30 = 12. 12*1.5 = 18. The attacker would have 18 casualties till the defending "fighter"'s will breaks and all remaining defenders surrender.

The end result in this calculation is thus 18 to 100 losses. Some of the 18 may be wounded personnel who recover, so 15 to 100 is more reasonable.
That's a quite drastic overall loss ratio for opponents of even quality.


It did merely take an encirclement (pocket) and local attacker superiority in numbers. It's no wonder that encirclements have such a drastic reputation in military literature and history.

I had the impression that the literature emphasises the "cut off supply" aspect of pockets more than the "grab the support troops for free" aspect. This model suggests that the latter may be important as well.
Support personnel is of course not entirely devoid of combat power. The model is simplified and exaggerates the combat power difference to an all-or-nothing, but that's how many theoretical models work until someone bothers to enlarge the model and someone else bothers to spend years on researching the value of all variables.

- - - - -

The model shows more, of course. It confirms several long-known facts:

(1) Avoid / break out of pockets ASAP. This hasn't been so self-evident in the time of effective fortresses (till the late 18th century). The Red Army's costly defence in 1941 should have settled the case (it was nevertheless re-opened in '44/'45).

(2) Unit cohesion is very important. Unit cohesion is represented in the model by the "defenders surrender at xy% fighter casualties" variable. The better the cohesion, the lower the variable. A higher unit cohesion reduces the leverage (reduces the difference between overall attacker and defender losses).

(3) A higher percentage of combat troops produces a more robust force. This one is complicated. We could enlarge the model and let a higher share of support personnel improve the combat loss ratio.
This in combination with some combat power for the defenders could produce situations with too few support personnel. Combat power for defenders is messy for the formula, though. It wouldn't be possible to set the moment of surrender that easily. Everything would become more fuzzy, and that hurts the explanatory potential of a model.

(4) Exchange ratio in battle. This is most obvious. More enemy casualties per own casualty is better. That's trivial.

(5) Combat value of "helpers". Again, more is better. "Everyone a rifleman" and such. Trivial as well. That didn't keep me from writing about it in '08, though. Ouch.


Sven Ortmann

edit: shortened
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