2016/04/17

"The defence ministers of Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and Germany."

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I saw this repeatedly for months, and it began to annoy me. No doubt a great many people look at this and assume that 'female ministers of defence = weak military' and 'grim male uniformed minister of defence = tough military', or something similar.

That's primitive, sexist bollocks.

Ministers of defence are the civilian overlords who shall ensure that the armed bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defence serves the people. To have an officer as minister of defence is a capital mistake because said officer will feel with his peers and pursue the armed bureaucracies' best interests, not the people's best interests.

Female or not doesn't matter much, what matters is the individuum. A female cousin of mine commands her male spouse like a pet, I sure wouldn't conclude that he would be a better leader of an organisation than her.
Being male doesn't equate relevant military experience or competence, not even in a country that had conscription until a few years ago. Our worst minister of defence in the last four decades was 99% show + 1% substance - and a NCO of the reserves.

So Germany has a civilian, female career politician with no military background or previous interest in military affairs as minister of defence. Does she do a good job? Apparently, she's more in command than at least two of her three male predecessors, using an inner circle of longtime loyalists and external consultants to penetrate the bureaucracy. Does she reform in anyway like I'd like to see it? Hell, no. Nor did any of her male predecessors. Our last minister of defence* with a very good reputation left office almost three decades ago, and I hold huge disagreements with some of even his big decisions.

By comparison, that Russian minister of defence from the photo above is the overlord of a deeply corrupt, deeply inefficient bureaucracy that repeatedly fails to meet military reform or even only procurement objectives, is so badly run that recruiting shortfalls are a nightmare and last but not least he's almost guaranteed to be deeply corrupt himself. He's a "General of the Army", but has apparently no or almost no military experience**, being a civil engineer who became a career politician in 1991 already.
To give a man a rank and a uniform doesn't make him an expert on military affairs.

S O

*: Wörner
**: My search was unable to dermine whether he served as a conscript at least.It's rather likely.

edit August 2016: The nonsense is in its next round.
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11 comments:

  1. The Swedish MoD pictured,nr 2 from left, left office in 2014 and she is a captain in swedish marines.

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  2. You are 100% correct to take on the issue of civilian leadership and sexism; my minor quibble is the implication that a military officer or retired officer cannot faithfully serve as MOD or SECDEF in a democratic government.

    Your points about bias and interests are well taken, but that is true of any political creature. Many of the worst excesses in military spending do not originate in the military, but are driven by legislators that pursue narrow personal interests through questionable spending decisions.

    GAB

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    1. Different countries, different ways. German legislators have in theory much power over procurement (they pass the budget, after all), in practice they're negligible for arms industry lobbyists. To them it's all about the top of the bureaucracy, including the minister.
      In Germany ALL unwise military spending originated either in the minister of defence (particularly Strauß in the first years) or the top levels of the bureaucracy.

      The huge role of legislators in micromanageing military affairs is afaik unique to the United States.

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  3. In my opinion you underestimate the importance of culture in warfare. A female civilian leadership is only a symptom of a much bigger and hidden topic: the downfall of the military culture as a whole in western europe.

    Even a corrupt but "male" (in terms of beeing aggressive and military-centric) military can be much better in warfare than the effiminiate pseudo-army we have here in western europe, especially in germany.

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    1. "the downfall of the military culture as a whole in western europe" is a good thing.

      Military power is a public good, but it's public consumption, not investment. The less you need of it, the better.
      I want students to think of the industry R&D and management as the place to go for the smartest folks, not the officer corps.

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    2. You did not understand my argument. There are two primary sides which create fighting power: 1 equipmment (which include soldiers) and 2 intangibles like morale, aggressivnes, discipline, spiritual and cultural qualities.

      If you lack the second because of cultural reasons, you need an enormous advantage of the first to compensate that and to the opposite: if you have less in the first part, you need to compensate it with the named intangibles, otherwise you will loose the war.

      Military Power is a necessity. But we have neither 1 or 2 in western europe in sufficent quality.

      And what you want for students is even in the medium term not what is best for the nation, not even the best for the students themselve. To the opposite: if you invest less than ever in the military, you must at least set up the highest standards for the human side - and especially for the military culture.

      In this case you need more than ever real warriors, not effeminate wannabe SoldatInnen**. I have seen the german army before the womens their arrrived and after. And it was a shame even before they arrived. But after it, it became only hilarious. And today many western europe militaries has become a burlesque, and are not armies any more. They would loose without much fight even against materially weaker countries. Because their culture and intangibles are weaker!

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    3. There has been a certain lack of seriousness for at least two decades already, but complaints about the army becoming soft are ancient. You can literally read such concerns in ancient Greek literature already. The WW2 veterans though that the Heer was soft in the 50's, those who were trained by the veterans though the Heer was soft in the 70's, Cold War veterans thought the Heer was soft in the 90's...
      What matters first and foremost is the relative fitness, and the Russian military sure isn't better "culturally".

      It's also extremely hard to maintain a really serious attitude for long. A relaxing effect is typically observed within three years even after a very big war. The "warrior-ism" or other idolising attempts to strive for high quality troops is nonsense imo, and this includes a cult of masculinity/chauvinism.

      I'm all for enforcing the very same standards, but those who look at ministers and come to conclusions based on their sex don't do so at all.
      --------
      Finally, do you troll us? Your spelling mistakes are almost mutually exclusive. "their" instead of "there" and "loose" instead of "lose" are typical native English speakers' mistakes, and "womens" is clearly a non-native English speaker's mistake.

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    4. I am not a troll and that i do not speak english well has the reason, that i am german (and of german-russian origins). I agree, that the pic for itself is nonsense but i have the conviction opposite of yours: that only a soldier and a truly militarian can understand the needs of an army and the needs for warfare. In my conviction civilian influence on the military do it no good and especially harms the fighting power (in the sense how Crefeld defines it). A closer look at bad decisions in the military often shows political/civilian influence that to often have a primate before military needs, especially if military needs are overruled by economy interests.

      And if you want better military decisions, you need better soldiers, and that means especially, the smartest folks should join the officer corps and not the economy.

      But why is that not the case?! Because of the culture, because the smartest guys in western europe by the majority are against the military, and prefere civilian materialism before the intangibles which are necessary to win in a real war.

      To this is added the ritualiced warfare that we practice today in the western military. It is like the flower wars of the aztecs, a very specialiced and strange forme to wage war - against the very nature of war himself. This results also from our culture and lead me to the question: who will be our Cortez?

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    5. I'd like to direct your attention to the French miltiary's emphasis on élan and offensive spirite in the early 20th century. They did allt eh things you propose, and got it spectacularly wrong.
      The cool, civilian mind of Jan Bloch got it right, and frankly, the women of the time got it more right than the entire French officer corps as well. Or the Russian one. or the Austrian-Hungarian one, or the German one, or the British one.

      A super competent ready-to-go military with everyone fully martial in attitude is not necessarily in a society's best interest, for it's not for free.
      This is true especially today, since we neutralised almost all relevant threts through diplomacy, maybe for good.

      Besides, I think it's more about education (history, political). What we're lacking aren't a couple hundred thousand Rambos with teamplayer qualities. It's a civilian society ready to acknowledge that there's no clean war, and defence is always dirty (thus deterrence is preferable).
      "Schlagen aus der Nachhand" would be impossible in a limited war, and officially even the plans and deployments for a total war (1980's Cold War in the West) were sabotaged by a lacking readiness to allow retrograde movements and a lacking understanding of mobile warfare in general.

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    6. Your utopia of a civiliced world in peace is all well and good, but the reality is: that despite the studies of Jan Bloch, despite all the feigned female peace attitudes, world war I happened and after it world war 2 and than the korean war and so on. Did the writings of Bloch changed anything ?! You overestimate logic, sanity, diplomacy, and so on and because of this assumptions of yours you overestimate detterence and underrate drastic the chance for war. I think this is because of the long peace period in europe which is a abnormality, not the normal case. A civilian managed effiminate military and the anti-military culture which prosper in such a time are also a result of this. So your assumptions are only a result of this culture, which results from specific cercumstances which can and will change perhaps even in the near future.

      War ist reality, is a necessity, results from the very nature of the human in person and will happen again. It will happen again in europe between european countries, it will happen again against other countries, even civil war in germany is thinkable. That your ideas about the future of warfare appear more clever, does not make them the right choice, does not make them a choice at all. They appear only so because of the culture in western europe today which influences your thinking.

      Perhaps after the next bloody war someone will speak about you like you now speak about Bloch.

      And if my thesis is right, a super competent ready-to-go military with everyone fully martial in attitude is exactly what is needed to survive as a society or at least with the least damage possible. The utopia you claim is very near to Blochs writings. But the reality has proved him wrong in the most important part (not the technology side of war, but his conclusions. For example he claimed, that any big war in future would not last long but will end fast in revolution of the society against the leaders to end it. Reality proved that wrong. Bloch wrote, that in future warfare no offensive would be possible. Reality proved him wrong. He even claimed that no side could win a future war. Reality proved him wrong.

      IMO your claims will also be proved wrong by the reality and that the side with the more suitable culture for war will have an enourmous advantage in the next big war which is perhaps very near.

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  4. To be fair, Russia has dramatically improved the effectiveness of her forces in the past years.
    With a budget slightly larger the UK, it has managed to increase the readiness of all branches while modernizing along the lines you like. (More common parts, less vehicles, less heavy logistic pitfalls etc...) and fight several proxy wars.

    The combined military budgets of the four nations are actually higher then Russia, but it seems Russia is getting far more for they $.

    "By comparison, that Russian minister of defence from the photo above is the overlord of a deeply corrupt, deeply inefficient bureaucracy that repeatedly fails to meet military reform or even only procurement objectives"
    this part, minus the corrupt, isn't exclusively Russian.

    Germany on the other hand is getting very little for a quite large budget in total numbers.

    But I agree that it has nothing to do with the sex of the minister.

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