"Kriegsnah ausbilden - Hilfen für den Gefechtsdienst aller Truppen"

"Kriegsnah ausbilden - Hilfen für den Gefechtsdienst aller Truppen" is the original 80's publication which received so much political correctness criticism that it was withdrawn and later republished in a modified version (only to receive the same criticism).

I never understood the PC critique (and I'm no right wing nut at all). The historical examples are well-selected, useful and do not appear to me to be somehow tainted by political things or prejudices. Failures, sacrifice and suffering are described in anecdotes as are outstanding successes.

The booklet is rarely to be found in ebay (it took me ages to find a worn copy at an acceptable price), but the miracle of the intertubes seems to offer an alternative.

I'm not aware of any translated versions, although the publication is certainly good enough to warrant an English translation. It does have a huge 'Great War' bias, because it draws a lot from WW2 examples, though. The quality of the booklet is much better than usual in the field manual genre; it was actually written to inform and influence junior leaders and enlisted personnel. Lots of field manuals do not appear to be written for such a purpose.

Sven O


Democracy/dictatorship - special interest groups loyalty and war

The assumption that a democracy is less aggressive and better governed than a dictatorship is quite widespread, and if wrong may lead to wrong interpretations of international security situations.

Thus my 50 cents...

There's always a difference in regard to civil liberties (although not necessarily for all; minorities may find their right to vote pointless, and a semi-democracy may even withhold suffrage from a minority such as convicted felons etc.), and this is clearly in favour of a democracy. This is no indicator for a government's aggressiveness, though..

The mechanisms of loyalty is a better indicator for this than civil liberties in my opinion.

A classic monarchy (think: European middle age, Pharaoh's, Chinese emperor) rests its legitimation on a divine order illusion. This has clearly lost its effectiveness during the last thousand years, and enlightenment did a lot to finish off the legitimacy of most such monarchies. Ideologies such as Fascism and Bolshevism developed into substitutes for the 'divine' aspect, but they proved to be much less durable.

A classic monarchy had a huge advantage over more modern dictatorships with its imaginary divine order; it did not require much effort on part of the dictator. The loyalty was mostly for free (the reformation changed this for a while; monarchs and princes had to fight for their divine monopoly during the 16th and 17th century).
Modern autocrats rule differently, mostly through two immensely wasteful approaches:

(a) Terror. Stalin and later Mao developed this path. The terror wasn't only a direct terror, but largely a scapegoating and ever new waves of purges, crisis, scapegoats - permanent revolution, with permanent turmoil. Extremely wasteful.

(b) Cronyism. Autocrats have the wealth of their country under their control, and they buy the loyalty of special interests in order to maintain a critical mass of supporters. The others suffer accordingly at the hands of such a redistribution of income and power.

The latter method (government buys special interest group's support with wealth and positions of power) extends into some politically unstable democracies as well.

Nevertheless, a democracy CAN (but does not necessarily) rest the loyalty of the people on the democratic legitimation of the government. This CAN (but does not necessarily) free the society of wasteful political efforts aimed at loyalty-sustainment.

A democracy (or rather: Republic) can swing to the other extreme as well: Special interests can begin to buy the loyalty of the government - a reversal of the modern autocracy pattern. This, too, can be extremely wasteful.

Wars of choice fit into the category "wasteful government activities" and can easily be launched by a monarch (most unpredictable), an autocratic ideologue (somewhat predictable thanks to the published ideology), modern autocrats (if it enhances, not risks, the loyalty of the targeted special interest groups), stupid modern democracies and corrupt republics (especially if war serves powerful special interests).

The true, non-corrupted and non-cronyism-riddled democracy can be expected to have the least systematic inclination towards wars of choice. It may still be stupid enough, though.

It's too bad that the usual pundit comments on whether a democracy or a dictatorship is more dangerous in international affairs do not look at the issue at a greater resolution. I think it's necessary to take the loyalty mechanisms into account or else the patterns won't be significant.

S Ortmann

edit: Could have been written much better. It happens.


The Enemy Within

By David Rothkopf

I do mostly agree with him; scaremongering is misguiding attention away from real, domestic problems (and political incompetence). It is embarrassing how many people fall for ridiculous inflation of marginal threats. We (NATO countries) haven't seen a national security threat substantial enough to beat the lethality of bus drivers ever since the Warsaw Pact became dysfunctional in the late 80's (or even since it became cooperative in the mid-80's).

Just look at all the military budget cuts. No horde is invading any country that did or does cut its military budget. Think about it; why is it possible to cut the budget based on domestic economic issues? Shouldn't budgets be dominated by issues abroad, like actual threats? If interventionism is a good idea, why wouldn't it pay off in an economic crisis?

In the end, we wasted a lot of our resources on surplus military bureaucracy sizes for almost two decades. The higher the %GDP of military spending, the higher the waste that happened. The higher the spending boost during the terror craze era, the greater the terror craze.

Con men go to jail for mis-allocating a couple ten thousand bucks. What are we doing about our politicians and 'experts' who mis-allocated billions if not trillions!?



Military expenditures 2011

I won't call these "defence expenditures" - no matter how popular this is in some places.

The figures and graphics are in this (poorly layouted) fact sheet. NATO military budgets are in excess of 60% of global mil expenditures. Greece's drop in mil expenditures was big (26%) and not exactly unexpected. Lithuania doubled this figure, though. Azerbaijan's incredible increase of mil spending (89% !!!) supports the reports from last year about a high risk of a renewed war with Armenia. (I remember reports of a parliamentary delegation which upon return expressed its strong concern about the region turning into a powder keg, for example.) Just don't know why SIPRI files it under "Europe" ('wrong' side of the Caucasus).
Maybe our foreign policy should still pay attention to it?
World military burden, i.e. world military spending as a share of world gross domestic product (%)
About 2.4 to 2.7 % since 2002, with 2.5% in 2011. That's a remarkable portion of global economic activity, considering that it's almost entirely about harming ourselves. 

S Ortmann


The new Blogger interface sucks

That's it. The new blogger interface sucks; it just ate a completed blog post of mine. Beware: Somehow the whole text was deleted and nothing happened when I did hit CTRL+Z, then I saw the "Save" blink (automatic save) and it was gone for good. So no blog post about military cryptology for today.

Here's how to go back to the old blogger interface:
  • Login to your Blogger account.
  • On the top right of the screen you will see Blogger Options. Click that, and from the dropdown, choose Old Blogger Interface.

Bad news about Hungary

by Kim Lane Scheppele



SEAD and fair weather opposition

A Major Jeff “Seed” Kassebaum, USAF -apparently a career SEAD guy- sounded off in the JED Journal 2011-12 issue (a professional journal on electronic warfare). His article was a quite direct attack on complacency and doctrine-reality mismatch:

This was apparently the dominant experience from the SEAD fight over Libya:
Libya’s IADS [integrated air defence system(s)] was non-traditional in the sense that they strayed away from Cold War era rigidity in command, control and communication (C3) and had the capability to incorporate modern technology into their air defense system. Tactically relevant SEAD cannot ignore the technological incorporation of commercially available, seemingly “non-military,” additions to the threat’s IADS.
So basically the pro-government Libyans were allowed to keep their civilian radars active and they did keep them running. They did not shoot back effectively even with the knowledge derived from these radars, though.
The last 10 years of close air support (CAS) and electronic attack (EA) in CENTCOM has resulted in a generation of aviators accustomed to a permissive air environment with a minimal surface-to-air threat at medium and high altitudes. These kinds of permissive environments can dangerously trend toward complacency and lack of respect toward credible surface-to-air threats.
and he goes on with
This trend became a reality in Libya, when the strategic and operational game plans opposed tactical force packaging from the start of the conflict and lacked a robust plan to locate and suppress the threat IADS.

This made me wonder:

How bad is the complacency and lack of serious preparations if even someone who's trying to shake things up with a warning call pretends that the almost negligible Libyan air defences were good enough to expose NATO shortcomings?
Or maybe he's ringing the alarm bell too much?

Or do I underestimate what decades-old ill-maintained missiles can do to 90's tech air power when manned by poorly trained and -led personnel? In that case I should probably sound off about the state of strike aircraft survivability (especially on-board ECM)!?

Context: "IADS" is as far as I know most often used to describe modern air defence networks with area defence SAMs, ShoRAD systems, robust communications, area surveillance sensors - and capable fighter aircraft (and pilots!) as necessary partners of the ground-based elements.
The Libyan opposition was -if I am not badly mistaken- basically the old 60's-era  hardware, mostly deteriorated and operated by marginally trained personnel. I suppose a dozen generals and several dozen colonels are in dire need of sudden retirement if Libyan air defences already posed a threat that made the peace-time complacency look bad. After all, you can easily stay beyond the reach of whatever arsenal of ManPADS (VShorAD) equipment the Libyans had and still find, ID and hit whatever you want on a terrain as theirs.

(Disclosure: I argued elsewhere last year vehemently that the Libyan radar-based air defences were so much in shambles that doing specific DEAD (destruction of enemy air defences) or SEAD missions against nodes etc amounted to killing innocent Libyans (the enlisted Libyan air force personnel was not exactly the same as the regime or known for attacking civilians) in a mission that was called for in order to protect Libyans. NATO basically began its "protect Libyans" mission by killing the same, and I argued that this part of the campaign was unnecessary and thus wrong.
This was the reason why I finally wrote the "Elegance in Warfare" blog post back then.

S Ortmann


Crazy gun-related stuff

I attempt to keep a good balance between rather intellectual topics, history stuff and hardware stuff on this blog.

There are occasional [Fun] posts, but I keep a lot of crazy hardware-related stuff out.

In case you're interested in such crazy gun nut-type stuff; I send this kind of stuff to Steve and he puts much of it on his own, hugely successful (not that hard with a hardware focus ;-) ) firearms blog.

(List may be incomplete.)

So this is why Steve's unpolitical hardware-focused firearms blog is in my very exclusive blogroll. 
His thanks with backlink were often responsible for spikes in my visitors statistics. Given the huge audience for hardware topics, even a tiny fraction of his visitors needs to click on such a link to double my visitor stats for a day.

S Ortmann


A decision-making aid for strategic air warfare

The purpose of air power is to contribute to the military's success in peacetime and wartime. Both times it's in the end all about the will of a foreign power: To deter aggression or to force it into accepting our idea of a post-war peace.

The principal ability of air power to deliver such contributions hasn't been questioned for generations, at least not in the case of large and wealthy countries. The best strategy and the limits of air power's contributions on the other hand are subject to renewed discussion during most major violent conflicts with Western participation.

The evidence for limits and quality especially of different strategic air war strategies appears to be contradictory. Didn't win air power the 1999 Kosovo War and didn't it fail utterly over North Vietnam despite much greater loss of lives and property? Air power's ability to win wars without substantial naval or ground manoeuvres appears to be inconsistent - but that's a superficial observation.

This text attempts to resolve the apparent contradictions by paying much attention to the nature of the opposing forces' leadership. It does also attempt to support decision-makers in identifying the most promising approach on a case-to-case basis. Furthermore, it's about truly strategic air warfare; its core is how to persuade the opposing government, not how to crash a war economy (although this fits into the sixth following group).

About the importance of the enemy's character

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Sun Tzu

The first thing to understand when you want to break someone's will is the enemy himself. The opposing leadership has a distinct nature. Different natures may require different strategies for success. This explains in part why strategic air war sometimes failed and sometimes succeeded in pursuit of its strategic goals.
It means as well that anecdotal evidence cannot prove the effectiveness of a certain strategy in general: History lacks examples of ceteris paribus examples and the differences between targeted governments were likely very influential.
It seems plausible to me to define six most relevant groups of opposing governments, based on 20th century military history:

A dominantly rational government is extremely rare, but it's an interesting case. This kind of opposing government is not inclined to wage wars of aggression and is thus rarely if ever an enemy.
A rational being doesn't fall for the sunk costs fallacy and thus doesn't mourn past or inevitable losses. Instead, a rational decision-maker considers only effects that can still to be influenced by its own actions.
The threat of destruction is more potent than actual destruction in this case. Destruction can serve to make the threat more credible, but it also reduces the potential for future destruction. The more you destroy, the less destruction you can threaten with.
The threat of destruction should get primacy over actual destruction as a mechanism for breaking the will of a dominantly rational opponent. It might even be promising to offer reparations for war damages as an incentive. This appears to be practical only in a limited war, of course.

A dominantly irrational government falls for the sunk costs fallacy, and this can work both ways.
It depends on the interpretation of the fallacy whether it provokes more resistance or breaks the same.
The "We have already lost so much, let's not dishonour our fallen comrades!" interpretation improves resilience. The "We already lost so much! Let's end this insanity!" interpretation breaks will. Common to both is the irrational influence of unavoidable outcomes (past losses) on the decision-making. The choice of interpretation depends likely on the character of the person and on how much the person has become emotionally involved.
A campaign that inflicts much damage can fail to break the enemy's will if the irrational government goes with the second interpretation. Such a campaign should thus be reduced to the extent to which it's justified by its support value to decisive land or naval warfare.

A government which is dominated by its greed for power fears its possible loss of power, and this is an effective lever for its adversary. Attacks could be directed at the government's ability to retain its power; at its internal security apparatus, its political organization, its propaganda and at its support from powerful special interest groups. A campaign should hurt the powerful, regime-supporting special interest groups, embarrass the target government and expose its lies.
Popular and institutional support for the government may erode and the government may eventually become convinced that it needs to accept our peace offer's conditions in order to reduce the risk of a political collapse.

A government which is dominated by its intent to serve its country is actually interested in what it perceives as its country's well-being. This may at times simply be national glory. The critical lever against such a government is thus identified easily: Hurt (or threaten to hurt) whatever represents the country's well-being for the targeted government. This happens to be close to the dominant Second World War idea of strategic air warfare, in which much damage has to be inflicted on the opposing country. Tragically, the German and Japanese governments of the time were not pursuing the real interests of their respective people.

A dominantly fearful government is unlikely to be aggressive. A strategic air war against such a government is therefore likely unethical and illegal. There's an impressive historical example for the successful use of air power against such a government: Hitler threatened the Czechoslovakian president Hácha into surrender in March 1939 without any actual fighting. He threatened to bomb Prague and Hácha collapsed. This happened about two years after the devastating and much-publicized bombing of Guernica. Hácha's morale collapse was probably the greatest strategic air power success ever, for it was achieved with very little cost for the victorious aggressor.
A great and credible threat can break the will of a fearful government under certain conditions.

A dominantly resolute government cannot be (easily) threatened or bombed into submission. Germany and the United Kingdom provided such examples during the Second World War.
There's usually the option of foregoing the direct attack on the opposing leadership's will and to employ air power instead in support of land power. Air power can attack land power and its infrastructure directly and it can attack economic targets in order to reduce the sustainment and strengthening of the opposing land power. Air power can also be directed at tactical support of land or naval warfare, foregoing any strategic air warfare.
Alternatively, it may be possible to circumvent the government's resolution by provoking a change of government. It would then be highly advisable to avoid a general bombing campaign that could provoke popular defiance. Instead, the government should be discredited and embarrassed with well-aimed attacks of different kinds. The objective would be to expose the government's inabilities, lies, corruption and other traits that could help their political opposition to replace the government. Such a campaign could be executed with an intentionally very low level of violence in order to avoid an increase of solidarity among the people and their government. Psychological operations and embarrassing actions such as air power displays over the capital in daylight might be more important than bombs in such a strategy.

Actual governments may come close to fit into three of these groups, as the groups basically represent three different opposite pairs. It needs to be investigated on a case-by-case basis which trait is the dominant and thus the one that influences strategic air warfare effects the most.

(It should be added that reality is not immediately relevant when the target is the opponent's will. His perception of reality counts instead.)

These were general strategy ideas for air war strategies against six generic government groups. These strategies are not only about warfare, but inherently political. A good air war strategy is much more than mere selection of targets and dates for high explosives delivery.

S Ortmann

[Fun] It's all a matter of the perspective

And remember their insistence on staying close to a carrier group!


Strategy discussions and learning require that we get the basics right

(The following text is a slightly modified version of a draft for an anglophone publication. The editor liked it, and asked me to add more to it, but I refused. He left me with the perception that I was supposed to cure hunger and cancer with a short article.
As far as I can tell, few readers would have followed me on the core of this article if I had added more debatable content.
The article draft was aimed at a U.S. audience and to a lesser degree at UK and Australian audience. The mentioned issues have only marginal parallels in Germany and most of continental Europe.)

Strategy discussions and learning require that we get the basics right

The foreign and especially the American military involvement in the domestic conflicts of the Iraqi people has already come to an end. The foreign -and again especially American- military involvement in the domestic conflicts of the Afghan people appears to come to an end or to switch to a lower level of involvement as well. Articles and editorials about a withdrawal or a change towards a smaller footprint – keyword "Biden plus" - are beginning to pile up quickly these days.
The time is coming when all that's left to do in regard to these conflicts is to care for the wounded veterans and to learn (and hopefully memorize) lessons.

A recent SWJ blog post titled "Mission Can't-Complete" recounted the personal experience of Mr. Evans; how he first rooted for a pro-war advisor and then learned to regret this because the hopes were simply not met, and said advisor just keeps cheerleading for more of the same.

The end of a war or even the aftermath is a horribly late date for finally paying enough attention to critical analysis and lessons learned on the political level. It would be best if mistakes were avoided by recognising bad advice before crashing with what amounts to a trial & error campaign.

The one weakness that casts the darkest clouds on the horizon is the inability to discern bad from good advice, bad from good advisors. Sadly, the tolerance for bad advisors whose only great talent is in getting attention has been way too high.

This is probably so because the think tank and media contributor system keeps such people in pay until they're almost entirely disrespected. A think tank trying to acquire funds and a TV station trying to maximise its 18-49 demographic viewership are more interested in show talent and entertainment value than in good advice. A brilliant and boring speaker won't rise high, while a brilliant attention-seeker with a track record of consistently bad advice becomes a millionaire.

The community of people who are deeply interested in national security for the purpose of security, not paychecks, should confront this with a parallel system; a system in which good and bad advice are recognised.

Consistently bad advice needs to be recognised and it needs to have decisive consequences on the pundit's chances of getting attention again.
Likewise, good advice needs to be recognised and be rewarded with attention in the future – no matter how entertaining or boring, well-connected or isolated the expert is.

For example, 33 scholars of international relations published an anti-OIF advertisement titled "War is not in America's national interest" in September 2002, all in capital letters. Few of these 33 scholars and almost no-one else who spoke out against that war of choice early on did rise to great prominence as national security pundits.

Instead, this pundit community is still riddled with people who went on TV shows and conference panels and who wrote Op-Eds with the same recurring theme; invade, add troops, do some changes in strategy, give it some more time. Rinse and repeat.
They dug a deeper and deeper hole, and the military filled it with the bodies of American troops. Yes, bad advice has consequences!

It is absolutely essential to get the basics right before the popular discussions of strategies and doctrines -such as "COIN"- can yield real benefits.
Without the basic skill of discerning good advice from bad advice, no amount of doctrinal discussion will succeed. You need to root out the bad advisers from the community first, or else they will taint any discussion with their ineptitude.

S Ortmann

Open thread

An attempt to decipher why certain blog posts get a lot of comments and others don't did yield only one useful insight so far; there's lots of off-topic stuff in the comments.

This blog was never meant to be an alternative to a discussion board as are the MilPub or Think Defence blogs (just examples), but an occasional open thread doesn't hurt.

So be it.

(And spare the next few threads with off-topic comments! ;) )



I did explain earlier (somewhere in the blog, if I remember correctly) that military theory, history and technology are gazillions of mosaic pieces to me. They need to be assembled in order to make sense.

This is second nature to me; I absorb information of all kinds without expecting the individual bits to offer a complete and useful picture by themselves. Then I combine them and all too often it appears as if the mainstream did not, for I find myself in disagreement.

A discussion lately brought this to light again: I had recommended a source which in my opinion provided a gem of a mosaic piece, and the other guy lamented about this and that conflict - as if the tiny mosaic piece could be expected to provide a full picture. At first, I didn't even get his stance.

I am increasingly under the impression that he's rather representative, and that many -even influential-people take this lazy attitude and expect complete and still concise pictures, right now, with pleasant conclusion, for free - and from a single source!

It would go a helluva long way to explain why so many people buy so easily into enticing explanations, ideologies, prejudices, alluring power fantasies offered by certain hardware and the like.

For the record; I'll never complete my mental mosaic picture on human warfare. I can at best hope to get an incomplete yet still useful look akin to the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great and Darius III above. Luckily, statistics predict that I've got plenty time left. 
By the way; this blog basically represents -aside from fun stuff and political stuff- basically patches from the grand mosaic that appear to make sense as details already.

S Ortmann

Naval convoys, operational research and stuff: Part 1/2; World wars period

(A new naval affairs-related blog post of mine, for a change. )
Disclaimer: Naval affairs aren't even close to being my speciality. Don't expect the same quality in posts tagged "navy" as in others, please. 

Naval convoys are an interesting organisational answer to the problem of how to secure thousands of ships against attacks while using only hundreds of warships for the job. Convoys are so interesting because of unintentional side effects.

One such side effect is inefficiency in regard to time in harbour (for loading or unloading). A convoy only leaves the harbour when its last ship has completed loading. This means that other, already loaded ships are required to idle. This alone already yields a considerable loss of productivity for the merchant marine involved.
A similar and on long travels or with large harbours more important inefficiency is caused by cruise speeds: A convoy of any kind only stays coherent if it doesn't cruise faster than the lowest cruise speed of all ships involved.
These two effects mean that the mere accomplishment of forcing an opposing power to employ a convoy system already reduces its merchant marine capacity a lot. Strangely, this effect was not to be found in any work that covers either a Battle of the Atlantic or other convoy regimes that I've ever read (= several ones).

There is another, operational research-driven, detail about convoys: Western Allies' operational research calculated with really simple math that it's a more efficient use of escorts to form a huge convoy than multiple small ones. The reason for this is that the escorts basically had to guard the circumference of the convoy. Both square and circle-shaped convoys grow quicker in area (size) than in circumference. Twice as many escorts in a convoy were able to escort more than twice as many freighters.

This efficiency is an efficiency in regard to the use of escorts, of course. It further adds to the freighter-related inefficiencies mentioned before. The optimal convoy size did thus only in part depend on the scarcity of escorts - it is always a compromise.

Another interesting detail is that there's a threshold speed that allows for a dramatic drop in required escorts. German World War 2 subs had a surface top speed of about 18-19 kts, while some Japanese ones had a few kts more. Fast freighters made an attack approach from behind largely impractical, as a single escort was able to secure even a really big convoy's rear.

- - - - -

WW2 convoy protection had furthermore interesting parallels to other increasingly sophisticated tactics of warfare from other domains.
It became increasingly a combined arms effort by '42. CVEs (escort carriers) were added to large convoys and provided near-constant aerial daylight support. The aircraft were able to spot and attack submarines on the surface. The spotting alone was already bad enough for the subs; it was asserted that no ship was sunk on Caribbean convoys that were escorted by a blimp (which did only spot, not destroy).
HMS Audacity, a CVE from WW2
Convoys furthermore at times received ships meant for search and rescue of the sailors of sunk ships, and ships with primary or secondary purpose of refuelling the escorts on the high seas.
Sub hunter escorts also began to employ hunter-killer tactics, since it was difficult to close in for the kill without losing sonar contact.

Another interesting convoy parallel to another sophisticated domain of warfare was that the fight against submarines became an area effort.
The defenders did not wait for subs at the convoys any more, but were increasingly organised into sub hunter groups that patrolled on sub travel routes. Land-based long-range aircraft patrolled the Northern Atlantic (with a quite small gap in the north central region). In the end, bombing runs against submarine bases and aerial naval mine-laying in submarine training waters were done with quite substantial effort and in the latter case also substantial success.
The interesting analogy is there the analogy with fighters protecting bombers: As early as 1940 it was well-known that 'freie Jagd' (freely roaming combat air patrols) was much more worthwhile than close escort of bomber formations - although just as in case of naval convoys, a certain amount of the latter was found to be quite indispensable.

- - - - -

Modern naval convoys appear to be still quite similar to WW2. The so-called anti-submarine aircraft are now more often called maritime patrol aircraft since their effectiveness against submerged subs is small. Helicopters based on carriers AND on escorts (frigates, destroyers) have largely replaced the naval fixed wing ASW aircraft and their mission is more the identification and engagement of contacts  (suspected, but probably false detections of subs)

Naval convoys are an interesting matter in my opinion, and I am preparing a 2nd part of this post with some analysis (or speculation). As usual, it will conclude with some remarks that are quite critical of current budget priorities.

S Ortmann

Edit: Changed the diagrams for more intuitive reading (same math).