Showing posts with label War and Peace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War and Peace. Show all posts


The belief that "war works"

Not long before his untimely death the historian Tony Judt observed that “For many American commentators and policymakers the message of the twentieth century is that war works.” Judt might have gone even further. Well beyond the circle of experts and insiders, many ordinary Americans at least tacitly share that view.

This reading of the twentieth century has had profound implications for U. S. policy in the twenty-first century. With the possible exception of Israel, the United States today is the only developed nation in which belief in war’s efficacy continues to enjoy widespread acceptance.

Others – the citizens of Great Britain and France, of Germany and Japan – took from the twentieth century a different lesson: War devastates. It impoverishes. It coarsens. Even when seemingly necessary or justified, it entails brutality, barbarism, and the killing of innocents. To choose war is to leap into the dark, entrusting the nation’s fate to forces beyond human control.

Americans persist in believing otherwise. That belief manifests itself in a number of ways, not least in a pronounced willingness to invest in, maintain, and employ military power.

I'm not sure I would group the British with the continentals on this, at least not their national level politicians.

Other than that I think this quote is fine. It offers an explanation for very much - military spending, foreign policy, tolerance of warmongers' commentary in the mass media and the general tone in public discourse about military and foreign affairs.

The lessons were already fading away in Europe, with the German governments applying a salami tactic towards a more militarised foreign policy (the Greens criticised this a lot, but once they were in power, they supported the Kosovo Air War participation, assuming fitness to govern would require being pro-war!).



Economic interdependence and war

It's long overdue to recommend Krugman's blog post "Globalization and Macroeconomics". These days experience a high tide for remarks about how very much connected certain counties are economically and how this affects the risk of war.

The sad truth is, the European countries were trading very much (despite tariffs) prior to 1914, and the Great War still happened.



A quote


Its true.
You could have peace by surrendering immediately. Whoever fights a war does it for something different than "peace". The idea that one could fight a war to end war looks British in origin to me; I've seen next to nothing alike in German sources, for example.



Putin's way of aggression

Putin's approach to aggressions is an interesting one. It appears he has recognised the limitations of his freedom of action, found and began to exploit loopholes.

An all-out conventional invasion, 1914-style, is apparently out of question to him. Russia lacks the forces to pull this off on a grand scale, at least without exposing itself too much.
His exploits appear to range up to army corps size instead (South Ossetia 2008) - with all other power being held in the back, as a political equivalent to a "fleet in being". This restricts the freedom of action of other great powers. Small powers can probably not pull off the same risky games for they lack this component - even if they could easily muster forces equivalent to the ones employed actively.

Traditional Cold War deterrence rested on the fear that a too bold move might lead to World War III, and the demise of European civilisation. There were no aggressive moves done in Europe proper after the Berlin blockade; both blocs were content with keeping their own line*. Bold moves were largely restricted to Asia, with proxies and at times small numbers of opposing great power troops fighting against each other**.

There as a fear that some bold, yet incremental, moves could be dared in Europe - and it was difficult to define when exactly such incremental offenses should lead to mobilisation or war. A British satire (a "Yes, Prime Minister!" episode, see 7:04 minutes and after) explained this better than articles or books ever did. Also remember the metaphor of boiling frogs.

Putin appears to have thought of this incremental approach when he decided to send paramilitary troops without national insignias into the Crimea.

He did apparently also take into account that the Ukraine is not allied with any country.

Finally, the third ingredient; international law had been stretched somewhat prior to the move.

Putin did stretch his freedom of action in face of International Law proponents prior to the conflict with Georgia in 2008 by exposing 'peacekeeper' troops. Georgia proceeded to attack South Ossetia at some point and this included firing on peacekeepers. At that point Putin had a semi-plausible excuse for intervention. His intervention was not as blatant as the intervention of Kuwait 1990, for example. Him withdrawing after fait accompli avoided troubles as well.

The stretching of International Law for the invasion(s) of the Ukraine wasn't done by Putin himself. This damage was done by Western great powers which had a fit of arrogance and short-sightedly decided that rule of force suits them better than rule of law. Rule of law was supposedly a concept to be applied on other powers only.
Except that the "other powers" includes some great powers which evidently can behave arrogantly as well.

It would help if the same Western great powers reaffirmed the importance of international law in a non-hypocritical way. They could admit guilt, seek and accept a ruling about compensations and - most importantly - refrain from further violations. 
This won't happen, of course. Only losing aggressors have to show regret in this world.

Another approach to close the loopholes would be to expand the collective defence systems; offer an alliance of some kind to the Ukraine. This is most unlikely as well. It would lead to further conflict and might end up being much too expensive. The Ukraine is not too big to fail, after all. Nothing in there is really crucial to the West (for historical reasons), while much in there is crucial to Russia.

Finally, one could tune up the reaction to incremental moves and effectively turn incremental moves into too big moves thereby. This appears to be the preferred approach among Western great power governments.


*: The Greek Civil War already ended in 1949, being the last major attempt to keep Western countries in line.

**: Soviet and Western fighter pilots battled in a couple proxy wars.


Uncertainty and reasons for intervention

Imagine you're in some Banana Republic and the Dictator offers you to play his version of Russian Roulette:
You get a revolver and are asked to aim at someone innocent in his country and pull the trigger. He says there are few bullets in the revolver, but you're sure at least one chamber is empty. You'll never justice there or at home if you kill somebody like this. In case you pull the trigger and there's no bullet fired, the person you aimed at would become multi-millionnaire in some meaningful currency; very rich. But you would have killed the person if you aimed, pulled the trigger and there was a bullet aligned with the barrel. Either way, you would need to pay a week's worth of income.

Would you aim, and pull the trigger?

Presumably you would not.

Now imagine a different situation. You're leader of your country and hear the news that ethnic cleansing and massacres are happening in some other country. You cannot know for sure. Such things happen, but disinformation happens as well.
Some people suggest you should intervene with your military, and you know you would get away with it if it turns out that there was no ethnic cleansing or massacres, but merely a small insurgency about to be quelled.*
You realise that if there's evil going on you could help the people much, but if you were misled your intervention would really be a war of aggression, harming a great many people.
Either way, the fiscal and human costs to your country would be substantial.

Would you intervene invade?

Presumably interventionists would,
because people simply almost never change their mind
no matter how painful a cognitive dissonance I create. ;)

In  dubio pro reo. Civilized countries employ this principle on the level of individuals. I think it is underappreciated on the level of countries. Too many wars have been started for manufactured reasons, and the costs of these wars have been horrible. Even supposedly very sophisticated countries**  are susceptible and can be enticed to make the mistake of going to war on feeble grounds. It's almost as if a jury of ten would only need six "guilty" votes to convict the defendant, or even only four if the chairman of the jury is in favour of a conviction.
This is stupid. Uncertainty, fallibility and special interests working to deceive should be more widely recognised as corrupting our decision-making in such cases, and we should be careful accordingly. 

*: With rural people fleeing from their villages when there's fighting (and returning after the war reporters left the scene) and the massacres are really insurgents killed by security forces, stripped of their weapons before the war reporters made their photos.
**: Including Germany.


When all you have is a hammer ...

... all problems look like nails to you.

I'm not impressed by Gates' display of intellect  a.k.a. his recent Wall Street Journal column.

Him about Putin:
He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders' reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners' believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law.
How stupid or dishonest is a man who was secretary of defence during the occupation of Iraq and still writes this? "reverence for international law"?
Right now I want an arena, Gladiator-style, full of Iraqi women who lost their sons in the war of aggression against Iraq in 2002, and Mr. Gates in the centre. I'd donate the shoes. Heavy, steel-capped work shoes.

Quite to the contrary; what Mr. Gates bemoans is not that Putin is unlike Western politicians; he bemoans that Putin has become like Gates' own ilk.

Do a thought experiment: Think of U.S. foreign politicians, White House folks under GWB and foreign policy commentators. Now imagine what policies they would advocate if they were Russians.

There are somewhat more sensible accounts of why and how Putin came to behave like this, and they don't dismiss the legitimacy of Russian grievances as easily as Gates. They rather paint a picture in which Western hypocrisy and "containment" policy (if not encroachment) have provoked Russia to behave as it does now. The high energy commodity prices of the last decade have helped Russia economically and made it more stable, more powerful. Now it asserts the right to be just as aggressive and hypocritical as some Western powers.

We've got many people who think they're brilliant enough to do foreign policy or to give advice on it. And too many of them aren't that brilliant, but rather fool themselves. They aren't even smart enough to comprehend backlash. Too many of them are one-trick ponies, capable of thinking in but one direction: Confrontation.

- - - - -

For sure, the majority of countries and people want a rules-based foreign policy world if they made up their mind about foreign policy at all. Others - with much military potential on call - think that rules are for the weak. The weak shall obey the rules, while the powerful do what they want.
And amidst all the nonsense talk about an "unipolar" world with but one "superpower" [blatherblather] these people fooled themselves into believing that their own party is the only one which can break the rules and get away with it (officially). Too bad Russia proves that others - shielded by the very same nuclear arms threat and the very same UNSC veto power - can break the rules as well and get away with it (officially). Now they're crying foul and rally to reduce this other power to a weak power which has to obey the rules.

The NATO members had a unique opportunity to shape the world from a position of strength, to have the self-discipline and foresight to submit to rules as do the supposed weak powers. Instead, the steering wheel was given to warmongers in exactly the wrong countries and now we've got this mess with a hypocritical mixture of great and small powers, rule of force and rule of law.

We all pay the price by living in a world with unnecessary rivalries, hostilities, waste of resources and instability. At the very least we should punish the warmongers and make sure they won't be able to act as if they were wise experts on foreign policy any more.


*: Which seemingly are still able to inflict damage of a couple dozen times equal their pre-war GDP on great power aggressors.


Appropriate military strength requirements

What is a satisfactory or even ideal level of a nation's "defence" strength?

Let's ignore for a while the inclination of many people to mistake intervention-readiness with defence.
There are - according to my long-time observation - different aspirations concerning defence and security. 

The most extreme demands complete dominance in a quest for perfect security, but aside from the problem that the latter is unachievable, there's also the correct saying that perfect security for one is perfect insecurity for others.
We don't need Kant's categorical imperative to understand that being able to defeat (or at least hurt badly) everybody else is hardly a reasonable metric for "defence". In fact, the quest for such dominance may carry the seeds for future war (and war losses, costs) in itself, as others will feel compelled to increase their military power in order to meet at least relatively moderate defence requirements. This in turn can be misunderstood as offensive preparations (and can indeed morph into them) and provoke 'hawks' to promote offensive action in order to achieve something that's usually not really achievable.
The spending required to seek dominance is also ruinous.
Complete dominance isn't even a sensible means to achieve the end of security for a single country. It's for the same systemic problems no sensible means for an alliance.

Two Power Standard
There's a great choice of only slightly less ambitious goals; the Royal navy's two-power standard was such an example. They wanted to have a fleet equal to the fleets of the second and third most powerful fleets combined. It was defined with a couple serious other fleets in mind.
The British were not able to maintain this standard for long; the first true challenge to this standard succeeded by exceeding the UK's economic abilities and the British settled for a much less ambitious parity with the strongest other navy soon thereafter.*

Reality isn't simple enough
More sensible approaches take into account additional information, such as logistics, geography, or the difference between offensive and defensive potential. It wouldn't make much sense for the Europeans to be concerned about the Indian army's strength, for example. China does not need to worry about Israeli nukes. Austria doesn't need to worry about Turkish amphibious capabilities even thought they add to the Turkish military spending. Vietnam doesn't need to fear German tanks.

Political relations - at least the stable ones - influence the sensible demand for military strength as well. Allied forces can be added to yours, neutral ones don't add to your needs and only unfriendly ones are of real concern.
So basically Europe is overly militarized because of little threats, but let's move on the theory track some more.

Not simple at all
Let's assume you've got a sum of unfriendly forces potential of 100 that could be brought to bear against you. Would you need to have a military strength of 101 or 100? 
Or maybe you need less than 100 because said sum cannot ever be realised since some of the unfriendly powers don't like each other or at least would not co-operate? Maybe there's a potential of 100, but the maximum reasonable expectation of realised threat is rather at 60? So we should discuss a strength level of 61, 60 or less, right?

Reality vs. perception
Is military strength the correct metric at all? Do the potential aggressors ask god about our exact real military strength and get an answer? Is the answer correct or a lie?
Or maybe they don't know our correct military strength and what matters is rather their estimate of our military strength? Or rather the emotional impression done instead of a more cool-headed estimate?
What about the inaccuracy of our estimates or impressions about our and their strengths?
There's no doubt a great deal of uncertainty. The problem of uncertainty is that we should not choose the safe route and estimate our strength cautiously while readily believing every hype about theirs. Assume we did; we would need to strive for great military strength, which would lead to similar consequences as the 'complete dominance' approach.

Pyrrhic 'victories'
But maybe we don't need this anyway. Maybe we do not really need to be superior. 
Sounds silly, right? That's because the discourse on such matters has gone silly itself long ago.
Almost everybody is aware of the phenomenon of Pyrrhic victories and generally disappointing 'victories'. Sometimes a fight wasn't worth it even though you're recognized as 'winner'. Maybe the expectation of such a disappointment is a just as effective deterrent as the expectation of defeat?

At times, even less might suffice. Even the expectation of a resounding victory may be an insufficient motivation for aggression. Keep in mind there are third parties. Hitler would likely not have attacked Poland the way he did if he had known what mess this would entail. Hussein would not have attacked Kuwait either if he had understood the third party reactions in advance.

International Law (and culture) as cost-saver
An international framework of rules, norms and expectations may indeed enhance national or collective security far beyond what your military strength can achieve on its own. All those miniature countries such as Monaco, Andorra or Brunei would not exist any more without this effect.

Reliance on third parties is unreliable of course (despite the aforementioned long-term survivor states). Even formal, treaty-bound allies are at times unreliable and may not act quite as expected when it gets bloody [cough] Italy [/cough].

You might also get caught in a situation in which you ought to defend an ally against attack from a power which you didn't initially consider unfriendly at all.

In the end there's a great deal of fuzziness and uncertainty. It's apparently impossible to determine the exact military strength needed to meet a specific ambition or requirement. Well, it's at least impossible without god-like omniscience, and I won't be reassured by certain politician's pretensions that they've got a direct phone line to god.

We can tell whether certain ambitions are wrong in principle or not. These are not affected by the complexity, fuzziness and uncertainty. Someone who claims that his country needs to dominate the world militarily as a requirement for its national defence isn't speaking about mere defence and national security at all; he (rarely she) is rather speaking about infantile power fantasies.

Practical application on the EU
Europe is in a beneficial geographic situation thanks to the Mediterranean Sea. Right now most of the Southern Med countries have little military power and Israel is still considered to be no threat to Europe. Yet even if there were credible threats on the other side of the Med, all we would need to have is the ability to keep them at a distance or repel them. An ability to return the favour and invade them, occupy them, and force extreme demands on them is not required for European defence. The South is relatively nice and cheap defence-wise.
The Western direction is no issue as long as we're allied with the only powers there, the northern direction is basically barren land and water from where no threat originates. 
The Eastern direction only points at Russia, which is much weaker than it used to be. Again, we don't need to be able to capture Moscow - we don't even need to be able to bombard it. I suppose we only need to be able to keep whoever rules there convinced that attacking us is a stupid idea.

And military strength alone - even if great - is not enough to do so. You also need to be convincing about its use even against minor aggressions. This is - yet again - an Estonia-related topic. One of the present European deterrence challenges is to teach Russians that EU Europeans truly considers Estonians as some of themselves. That might some day be worth more than a thousand of gold-plated military aircraft. To be frank; this would require that the average EU citizen learns about the existence of Estonia in the first place.


*: Please note that today, even a theoretically much more ambitious five-power standard applied to the USN would allow the USN to dismantle itself so very much that the naval community and many anglophone milbloggers would not only cry foul, but likely even talk about revolt.


New leaked recording from Turkey

International business Times, UK Edition

(1) For years their domestic and foreign policies seemed like a huge and extraordinary success. Since then, the Turkish economy has gone into bubble mode, the foreign policy unravelled due to the Arab Spring, the liberties situation turned visibly to the worse with censorship and the government which initially countered decades-old corruption turned out to be corrupt itself.
They clearly missed the point when it was best to pass on the baton.

(2) Warmongers at work (apparently). Deliberating about how to construct a false reason for war, false flag-style.

(3) After more than a year of country-shaking leaks they still discuss such things when recordings are possible? Even with the intelligence chief? How stupid is that?

(4) It's remarkable how leaks have influenced foreign and domestic policies since Wikileaks attracted much attention. Now Russia appears to use leaks as an effective foreign policy tool, trying to thwart opposing schemes.


*: In theory it could be worthwhile to learn Turkish, but it's yet another language family and I'm not inclined to learn it as 5th language.



The past weeks were fascinating. There's an 'opportunity' for a war, and most voices suddenly sound anti-war. Even infamous warmongers had their anti-war moment and for the first time ever disliked an 'opportunity' to send troops in harm's way. That is, until their fetish got the better of them and they still demanded some involvement with guns.

So there's a conflict in which the potential opponent would not be some inept Arab military and there was no orchestrated multi-month propaganda campaign, much less there's oil in any substantial quantities involved. 
And suddenly there are pacifists, reasonable adults, everywhere.

Warmongers do no cost-benefit calculations, so the only explanation I have for this kind of behaviour is that still too many people are in a gaming mode when thinking about war and peace. Some wars promise to be 'fun', others not so much.

"News" shows are actually entertainment shows pretending to deliver information.
Plane is missing! - plane crashed there in the sea! - no it flew that direction! - no, wreck pieces found there! - no it flew the other direction after all! - people on some island saw an aircraft flying low! - information content: about zero, but it's apparently attractive to enough people to sustain the racket.

One shouldn't be surprised by how some distant war is just another entertainment project to the masses, distracting them from few people enriching themselves on it or having fun with their fetish of power fantasies.
Wars used to be in great part the games of a ruling elite and a justification for a warrior caste. Nowadays we're more democratic, and cabinet wars are largely gone. Today's governments don't need majority support for a war, but at least a critical mass of a minority - and especially majority support or tolerance in the media.

Now it just happens that wars are a story that keeps giving to media, like a plane crash every week. Horrible, but they do love it. And too man people cannot resist the attraction and keep being useful idiots, contributing to the critical mass of war supporters once the warmongers gear up.
Well, unless the potential war is no fun even to warmongers.



Strategic reaction to inter-state war crisis situations


Historians keep blaming the mobilization of forces for setting Europe on autopilot for the Great War (now known as First World War), or at least partially so.
Quick mobilization of reserve divisions and transportation thereof to the theatre of war by means of the railroad network have been known since the mid-1860's. The better armies of the 1900's emphasized this very much in their peacetime planning. To be slower than an a opposing staff or to have politicians introduce any delays was believed to risk a quick defeat in war.

Mobilizations - even reactive, defensive ones - are since 1914 widely regarded as provocative measures and as escalating steps potentially (likely) leading to war. Politicians don't authorize mobilizations lightly for this reason any more, nor equivalents.
The result is that the aforementioned politically induced delays have become rather likely.
Scientists calculated during the 70's that a Soviet first strike with intercontinental missiles could reach Washington DC within about seven minutes if launched from the USSR (and almost no time if launched from the Atlantic ocean nearby). This wasn't enough for a reasonable decision-making about a retaliatory attacks even without including any friction. Again, politically induced delay was a major 'problem', and there was no doubt that a second strike ability after the first (only) thermonuclear attack wave was required, hence all that interest in the ridiculously large quantity of U.S.and USSR nukes and in mobile (rail, truck, submarine) long-range missiles with large yield warheads. The delay and its consequences shaped a large part of the Cold War arms race. The nuclear arsenals didn't so much compete against each other as some people believed: It was a race to convince the other bloc's leaders that they couldn't keep you from retaliating. We will never know if much less of an arsenal would have sufficed as well.
Well, this was how seriously all the things which can go wrong were taken in planning for a crisis situation during the Cold War. Seemingly insane spending levels were 'justified' with the necessities caused by the difficulties of Cold War crisis situations.

At the end of the Cold War, everyone seemed to slack a bit.
By 1991 NATO had adopted (but not trumpeted out very much) counter-concentration as its crisis reaction doctrine.

The massing of military forces, or massing of their effects, at a particular time and place with sufficient military capability to counter the attacker's force concentration. Counter-concentration can be conducted by the defender to neutralize the effects of the attacker's ongoing or future concentration.
Dictionary of Modern Strategy and Tactics

To be honest; the rather few noises made about this may indicate that few take it particularly seriously more than two decades later, but then again there's to my knowledge no real alternative doctrine and counter-concentration is the rather intuitive response anyway. It doesn't take the studying of von Clausewitz' "Vom Kriege" original edition to understand the concept.

The strategic counter-concentration doctrine didn't provoke very much activity, though. Planning for such counter-concentrations, base-building, forward supply stocks, quick deployment exercises - none of this coined NATO since the 90's. NATO went playing great power games over Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan instead. 
The Baltic countries were still a bit reassured by the established quick deployment forces (paras, mountain troops, wheeled armoured reconnaissance units) and probably also by Gen. Shinseki's quick deployment fetish post-'99.**
Western airborne forces were never adequately equipped to face competent mechanised forces on relatively flat, open terrain. In fact, Western airborne forces doctrine and equipment didn't seem to much sense in face of competent adversaries ever. They were all weak in regard to on-ground mobility, supply, anti-tank firepower, protected mobility, direct fire support, indirect fire support ... basically a hyped-up reserve pool for regular infantry.

NATO's counter-concentration capability is suffering from inevitable political delays as only warmongers would want to provoke and escalate needlessly and it's suffering from a rather low speed of counter-concentration because the units of highest strategic mobility are rather inadequate in a major crisis once on the ground.

Air power deployments don't change this much either, for in part they compete with ground forces deployments for air lift and in part Western air forces seem to lack what it takes.
The Soviets were always making sure that all their front combat aviation would be capable of operating from grass strips if necessary. Westerners fiddled around with some STOVL aircraft (yielding only a handful Harriers), some impractical zero length launch devices (only suitable if you think of an aircraft as a single use cruise missile with a nuclear warhead or to evacuate cratered air bases) and other than that occasional exercises with some aircraft operating from motorways were about the maximum ever done.
This unhealthy love affair with big airbases became even more fortified during the 90's. Aircraft flying missions against targets in Kosovo didn't necessarily take off in Southern Italy, but usually in more distant Northern Italy. This was much worse in regard to endurance over the target area, fuel reserves for air combat and so on, but there were more big and beautiful bases up north. Aviano Air Base, for example. Aviano was suitable for strikes on most of Serbia, but far away from Kosovo

The same ridiculous story was repeated during the bombardment of Libya (and I don't mean Reagan's, which was even more extreme): The participating air forces did mostly not set up shop close to Libya, on Crete and Sicily, much less on Lampedusa. Instead, they used whatever fully built-up air bases already existed in the Mediterranean, with all bells and whistles. Even in ridiculously distant places. It's no wonder that European aerial refuelling assets were inadequate. They were never dimensioned to make up for such epic laziness.

In short: NATO's air forces may think of themselves very highly (or not), but they are far from oriented towards quick a deployment in force onto ill-prepared air bases or roads in some distant country. Counter-concentration isn't their strength, and I suppose if politicians asked them to shape up in this regard the first and loud answer would be a multi-billion wish list for more transport and tanker aircraft instead of a couple serious unannounced deployment exercises.

- - - - -
Now, how to do it better?
First, acknowledge there will be politically induced delays. We're not going to get rid of them because they actually make sense. In fact, to pay more attention to political means of addressing conflicts not only during conflicts but also beforehand (budget!) would be very promising.
Second, acknowledge that whatever quickness of counter-concentration 'we' may have when we need it, it's more likely to be called "slowness" by later historians. Take this into account in general.
Third, military forces need to get quicker by actually preparing for their defence job for a change and run unannounced quick deployment exercises. Tell a German brigade on Sunday at 19:00 to be on an army training ground in Bulgaria by next Friday at 12:00. Then run a demanding one-week exercise there. Someone from top leadership should be there and see what arrives in time, and in what shape (and whether they fall asleep on 5th day or maintained sleep discipline). Rinse, repeat (with new locations and times) till they're good at quick strategic deployments.

Fourth, forget all this Arab beating up business with six months of preparations, "overwhelming force" and "synchronized" stuff, including detailed plans for many hours ahead.
We need doctrine, organisation and equipment meant to prevail while outnumbered, partially outclassed by hardware, unaccustomed to terrain, from -30° C to +45° C, with severe yet random personnel deficiencies (up to ~20% non-deployable personnel and vacancies) and material deficiencies (up to ~15% material unserviceable). Small units of manoeuvre (reinforced battalion battlegroup size at most), prepared to make do with little and sporadic official supply. To wait till large units of manoeuvre arrive completely and with plenty stocks would add much delay.
Air forces need to be banned from their air bases at times, their ground units have to be able to generate two or three sorties per combat aircraft and day on average - including repairs of combat damage and with the wing dispersed on two or three improvised airfields. An air war needs to be sustainable far away from depots without time to stock up forward depots first.
Quick deployment plans involving not only the easily disrupted rail network, but also civilian trucking companies need to be available for contingencies.

- - - - -

Military bureaucracies would no doubt prefer a very expensive and not particularly challenging forward deployment with lots of forces in lots of areas over a cheaper yet very challenging preparation for very responsive forces capable of prevailing under very unfavourable conditions. I prefer the latter if it's reasonable that it will succeed to deter an aggression against our alliance(s).
Now what we have least use for are stupid military adventures for no real gain whatsoever in distant places that distracts said military forces from their most noble mission:

(1) Der Bund stellt Streitkräfte zur Verteidigung auf. Ihre zahlenmäßige Stärke und die Grundzüge ihrer Organisation müssen sich aus dem Haushaltsplan ergeben.

(1) The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defence. Their numerical strength and general organisational structure must be shown in the budget.


*: Including Chancellor Schmidt, whose alarm about the SS-20 was naive in my opinion.
**: The goal was to deploy an American brigade with Stryker 8x8 AFVs by air within four days, but nobody seemed to have asked the USAF if this did fit in its plans and nobody had convinced the Russians that 8x8 AFVs were equals to T-80s.

P.S.:  This was in part inspired by the Ukraine crisis, but it combines several opinions I had about the entire topic for a long time. I criticized counter-concentration already back in 2010, for example.

By the way; to read up on the undefeated (in over 60 battles) Generalissimo Suvorov and his habit of being so quick and direct on campaigns that his opponents were rarely ready for the fight is recommended.


Hypocrisy in effect

Kerry on Russia: “You just don’t” invade another country “on a completely trumped up pretext”

We should not have done the Kosovo Air War. They should not have done the Iraq invasion.
Now the U.S. cannot really claim that Russia is doing anything unusual, even through they violate the sovereignty of another country and a multinational treaty. At least not without being completely hypocritical.

Violated the Charter of the United Nations repeatedly (Panama 1989, Iraq 2002, Yugoslavia 1999)
Violated the North Atlantic Treaty repeatedly (same)
Invaded countries repeatedly (Panama 1989, Iraq 2002)
Did not bring any responsible individuals to justice for these violations

Many EU members:
Violated the Charter of the United Nations (Yugoslavia 1999; UK and Poland also Iraq 2002)
Violated the North Atlantic Treaty repeatedly (same)
(UK and Poland: Invaded a country (Iraq 2002))
Did not bring any responsible individuals to justice for these violations

Violated the Charter of the United Nations repeatedly (Georgia 2006, Ukraine 2014 apparently)
Violated the Budapest Memorandums repeatedly
Invaded a country (Georgia 2006)
Did not bring any responsible individuals to justice for these violations

I don't need to talk with someone who has a Russian perspective to see that the Obama administration's line is hypocritical. It's the same old story again; 'we' do what we want, rules apply only to others. Grow up.

P.S.: The lists are not meant to be comprehensive, nor do they include domestic behaviour. I think they prove the point that the West and the U.S. in particular don't own the moral high ground without being comprehensive. Putin could even invoke the Grenada excuse for an invasion.

What I wrote years ago...

...on the topic of the Ukraine and possible guarantees of sovereignty or independence:

The tone is coined by my stance that defence policy is about defence, not about playing games in distant places. 
Feel free to compare this tone and mindset with all the voices which are inevitably going to be raised about possible guarantees or interventions in the Ukraine.

The difference is a fundamentally different approach. 
My approach is to protect one's own country, which is best done in a sufficiently strong alliance - and this means "defence" is widened in its meaning to collective defence of the alliance.
Troubles such as those in the Ukraine, or earlier in Georgia, are better handled through institutions and global culture. Interventionists erode the role of institutions (UN etc.) and peaceful culture with aggression, hypocrisy and disrespect. Both are unpleasant obstacles to their own gaming, but merely useful tools to bash others (hence hypocrisy).
We were globally better than that when the UN was founded and aggressions ostracised.
A world with interventionist great powers is a worse world than one in which even great powers could face the Apartheid regimes' fate of exclusion. Regrettably, the design of the UNSC and the economic integration of Western economies make this extremely difficult for the time being.

- - - - -

By the way; the best a better lever against the apparent current Crimea policy of Putin is likely not military power, but taking the wealth of Russian oligarchs that's being stored abroad hostage. This in turn is reminiscent of what I wrote about strategic air warfare.*  Let's see if the usual (warmonger) suspects get that idea, too. ;)
I suppose they only see nails and will call for the hammer.


*: (I don't have nearly as many ideas as blog posts, that's for sure.)


A second interpretation of international sanctions

You may or may not have followed the developments about the Iran / nukes / USA story over the last year of so, thus for the purpose of this blog post my summary:

An agreement was reached that Iran stops or reverses some of his civilian nuclear industry activities (there's no evidence for ongoing military nuclear activities) and ongoing negotiations are meant to eventually resolve the conflict peacefully* within the next months.
The price paid for this progress? No new sanctions on Iran.

So basically what happened a while ago was what the existing sanctions were purportedly meant to achieve: Iran becoming cooperative and seeking a diplomatic solution, with the prospect that it doesn't turn into a nuclear power.

Yet something strange happened; some politicians who were very much proponents of sanctions (supposedly to coerce Iran) are now calling for more, even adding them into federal U.S. legislation efforts that otherwise aren't really about Iran at all (such as a veterans benefits bill). They're obviously trying to sabotage the negotiations process, even though sanctions were supposedly meant to coerce Iran into doing what it's actually doing now.

The majority interpretation appears to be that this is merely a symptom of the usually idiotic domestic two-party system politics between the two overtly hostile political parties in the United States: It's being assumed that the sabotage is meant to keep the president from scoring a foreign policy success by solving a chronic issue which the other party's president didn't solve.
I disagree, albeit I admit blaming idiotic politics is not implausible.

My interpretation is rather that the masquerade did end. 
The sanctions were never meant to coerce Iran into negotiations, at least not to some of their influential proponents. The sanctions were rather meant to foster a climate of hostility towards Iran, laying the groundwork for "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran".

It was the same with the IAEA inspections in Iraq post-1996. The smarter Neocons probably understood that Iraq had been thoroughly disarmed in part by warfare and in part by the 1991-1996 disarmament campaign. The dumber ones like Wolfowitz likely didn't, but the smarter ones likely did (at least subconsciously). Ongoing inspections were not meant to disarm; they were meant to keep the 'problem' (which wasn't) alive and to maintain the image of Iraq as a hostile, threatening power. It was about fostering hostility, not about seeking a peaceful solution to an actual problem.

Only a few days ago there were calls for sanctions against the Ukraine (or its government). It didn't sound to me as if someone had thoroughly thought about what sanctions, how they could help - it rather sounded like an attempt to escalate the Western position in the domestic Ukrainian conflict towards open hostility towards the Ukrainian regime.

Maybe I'm right on this, maybe I'm not. Just keep it in mind when the next time someone is demanding sanctions against some country.  Is the person (and the represented institution) likely sincere in the quest for a peaceful solution? Are the proposed sanctions better suited to coerce others into a peaceful solution or better suited to foster hostility against a foreign government?


*: That's what the United States, UK and others are obliged to seek in case of a political conflict anyway; a civilian solution. The obligations stem from the Charter of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty.


The point of having a state and government

Many political differences can in my opinion be traced back to different ideas of what a state and government is good for.

My idea is that governance for a group (nation) has to serve the group as a whole. The exact meaning of this still depends on the philosophical stance concerning the weighing of interests of different people. I prefer to accept the ignorance about their preferences and to let them express their preferences through plebiscites and elections. This is basically the "rule of the majority + protection for the minority" thing, except that I suppose the majority or its representatives should still attempt to serve the whole group because majorities are changing. People from countries with locked-in majorities (Southern United States, Africa) are unlikely to have this same idea if they consider themselves as part of this majority.

Another idea is partisan; politicians and their followers strive for power in order to strip the defeated minority of what it wants and take or establish what they want instead. The majority gets the perks, the minority gets to suffer even when it's obviously unfair. This partisan approach does usually not pay much attention to neutral scientific conclusions, and does often not respect ethnic or religious minorities. I also think they're more prone to radicalism (politicians seek to mobilize their followers instead of winning over undecided voters) and less respectful to foreign powers. The latter may be an extension of the domestic 'us vs. them' attitude to the rest of the world. 
A country with a generation of hyperpartisan politics may easily lose its way because the strategists behind these cynical policies* leave the stage and their successors are naive true believers who were stupid enough to actually buy into their partisan propaganda themselves. This is one way how a country could transition into the next category:

There is in some countries the idea that the state or governance should serve an ideology. Most ideologies are simplifications of reality, meant to more easily convince and fire up the masses rather than striving for accuracy. Theocracies and feudal or monarchic rule with much focus on dynastic succession and accumulation of power belong into this category as well, but are rare nowadays. The problem with ideology-serving governance is plain and simple that ideology is but an illusion, and the governance all-too-often doesn't serve the people much, if at all.

Some governments which insist on the appearance that they're true to an ideology don't really serve the ideology, though. It's usually stupid anyway. Such states do instead serve only the powerful, and this may be one patriarchal absolutist ruler who doles out favours in exchange for the necessary support of this governance. Oppression and propaganda are often most extreme in such regimes because the population would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to rule. This kind of rule coupled with a relatively powerful country yielded the most troubles historically, and was usually contained by a concerted effort of multiple other powers (example Napoleon, Hitler). Small countries with such a rule tend to be of little concern for their neighbours, of course.
It's a mess with these different ideas of what a state is supposed to do: The "right" and "wrong" of a policy depends on this idea, and some seemingly "right" moves only become "wrong" because the idea of government is "wrong". Or so you think.
You may encounter elaborate reasoning and justifications for an action, and it may be comprehensive and make perfect sense - within its own framework of what a government is good for. You may even debate someone else on a topic and both you and the other person are right in the respective opinion and reasoning, but only within the respective framework. This makes for very boneheaded debate behaviour.

Preferences may differ to the extent that someone may actually prefer to serve an ideology or get great psychological relief from oppressing a despised minority. Preferences in themselves require no legitimacy; they simply exist, and are themselves the source of legitimacy of actions (or determine their illegitimacy). Preferences may even be the sole source of legitimacy there is, but more religious people may consider their deity or deities as an equal if not superior source of legitimacy.**

Anyway; whether a policy is "right" or "wrong" is often subjective and based on one's preferences. There are few outright nonsensical, incompetent policies which are wrong on every account. Such accidents happen, though.

The usual notion of democracy vs. dictatorship (or tyranny) is much too simplistic, but most Westerners know this. What's lacking in my opinion is awareness about how countries at times slide from one idea of governance to another. Both hyperpartisanship (an affinity towards policies of "us vs. them") and ideology (a usually codified extreme simplification of reality, giving the impression of sufficient knowledge where there's none***) are most troublesome.
The way to go is a strict pursuit of the common good. This doesn't mean that a policy must not leave anyone left behind as a loser; it rather means that not only constitutional minimum requirements, but also fairness in general should be observed by the rule of the majority.
A domestic political culture of this kind does in my opinion not tend to produce aggression against other countries any more, since the common good can rarely be served through the voluntary entry into an orgy of destruction such as modern warfare. And this political culture helps domestic freedom, of course.


*: related
**: This is in my opinion impossible to settle with reasoning until one or some of the thousands of deities known to mankind shows up in some decisive way (again). Right now I don't even know how exactly the various monotheistic religions determined which prophet was real and which was fake.
***: The intellectually lazy path, quite similar to conspiracy theorists: They make up bullocks or adopt it and then get the feeling of superior knowledge on the cheap. Then again, we all need to make up our mind without knowing everything about a subject; there are merely degrees of ignorance, everybody is at least partially ignorant on everything. Some of us are more easily satisfied with their level of ignorance than others, though.


East Asian nationalism

Some professional firebrands and other ignoramuses are still calling mainland China "communist", after three decades of clearly anti-communist reforms and after they created an economy with extreme income inequality and worker exploitation for profit.
We should shed the remains of such simplistic Cold War ideas.

Modern China's policy is first and foremost nationalistic, with socialism or communism merely serving as a fig leaf for the party, as it needs fig leaves to support its claim for its political power monopoly. They may sooner or later develop some more democratic elements, but I would rather expect them to develop them inside the party than with a true multi-party system.

China's nationalism isn't unique; (South) Koreans are also very nationalistic, as is Japan. Both West-aligned countries exhibit a nationalism if not jingoism that's disrespectful enough of lesser people that it wouldn't be acceptable in most of Europe any more (which means a lot, since Europeans tolerate quite a lot nationalism, especially from small and thus rather harmless European countries).

China's nationalism is more complicated, up to a whole notion of China being the centre of the world and other countries being peripheral. Nowadays only the United States and Israel come close to perceiving themselves as similarly destined to be central to the world.

I presume policies for keeping peace and protecting mainland sovereignty in East Asia depend a lot on understanding these nationalisms, and on taking them into account in strategies.

The failure to understand nationalism or even to misunderstand nationalism for communism has been revealed in the needlessly ruinous Vietnam War, which was essentially a war of national unification with communist ideology being both important and secondary.

East Asian nationalism can still be called "nationalism" just as European nationalism, but it's very different (actually, Europe was very heterogeneous in its nationalism as well). Westerners don't necessarily understand them even after we understood that nationalism is an important driving force.

Sinology, Japanology and Koreanology should be considered more relevant than operational research on how F-22 fighters can fight over Taiwan (or rather cannot) when it comes to "defence" or "security" policy in East Asia. We don't need to discuss fashion or pop music, but history, philosophy, politics, organisations and the origin of borders and claims deserve a lot of attention.

I suppose the quality of think tanks, political campaigns, policies and opinions about East Asian security affairs will correlate with how much input Asian studies have fed into them, and how well these inputs were received.
A serious "pivot to Asia" should first and foremost include a generous allocation of money into academic Asian studies institutes and a high valuation of Asian studies graduates in public offices and political consulting. It should not be about the quantity of aircraft carriers, the range of carrier-borne drones and the like.

related: 2009-09 Relevant Chinese history



[Fun] Good question


Granted; it's a bit of a strawman attack.



"We Have a Deal With Iran. A Good One."

The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so.

The "bomb, bomb Iran" crowd hates it, but that was predictable. They're missing out on wanking off while the news report that yet another country gets bombarded.
Luckily, this anti-social crowd loses some of its fights, too.





This is what I think most often when I read what people think is "necessary" in regard to 'war or peace' decisions.



"Warmonger psychology" or "If warmongers were smart and educated in economic theory"

I am no psychologist (I promised myself to read more on the very interesting cognitive psychology), but I have a suspicion that warmongers have a desire for war, military bullying and general boasting of national strength that is not related to common cost/benefit thinking.

They just like the idea of national military strength and of using this strength. It appears to give them satisfaction in itself. This would also explain why and how they can consider even disastrous conflicts "successful": They gave them satisfaction. Everything else appear to be a mere pretence.

I don't think countries should spend billions or go to war just to satisfy this population share's desire for it. Maybe a modified Flottenverein model could be a solution: Whoever wants more military spending than required for national and collective defence should join the 'club of offensive military sponsors' and pay club fees.
But unlike the Deutscher Flottenverein, these fees would not be used to lobby the government for more military spending: The club would instead pay for the additional, unnecessary spending which serves only the warmongers' taste.

Now if smart and economic theory-educated warmongers would come to this blog and comment, they could put a lot of argument pressure on me with my cost/benefit approach: Warmongers' desires for offensive military capability and actions is in econ theory a "preference".
Preferences are a kind of dark matter to economists; it would take god-like mind reading skills to learn about them directly. That's why economists need to retreat in many, many cases (more than they actually do) to a position of "We don't have enough information for a calculation, so the best approximation to the ideal is to let preferences show themselves in a vote".

A warmonger could attack my writings like this (but no smart or educated enough ones come to face me, so I play devil's advocate here). My next line of defence against their warmongering would then be to point at the votes/polls which oppose war and huge military budgets and an examination of the votes/polls which do support it.
And that's where we're at political science and psychology research, for there are plenty ways how a vote can be manipulated to not reveal the best interest of the voters (or the population as a whole).

This is the real area of activity of warmongers; they don't calculate cost/benefit, for it never seems to support their case anyway. Instead, they try to manipulate populations into supporting their agenda, so they can satisfy their antisocial desire.

And this is where societies need to meet, counter and resist them as long as possible. This resistance fades in strength as memory of failures dwindles and inexperienced people replace experienced people, so warmongers will eventually succeed in some countries, but we could at the very least lengthen the intervals at which they succeed.

It's an ever-lasting conflict with a particular kind of dangerous idiots.



Unconventional weapons and deterrence

Hat tip to "Dayuhan", ripped from a forum:
CW haven't deterred the Israelis from attacking Syria whenever they like, and they won't deter an American attack. They didn't deter the Syrians from rebelling. On the evidence of Syria, the track record of CW as a deterrent is pretty poor.
Indeed. Chemical warfare Armageddon scenarios didn't deter the Second World War either. The People's Republic of China even dared to intervene in the Korean War, opposing multiple nuclear powers in the process.

Maybe it is exactly the tabooing of chemical weapons which made them an ineffective deterrent (albeit CW usage was expected for WW2 in the 30's and WW2 still happened)?

Maybe nuclear weapons will sooner or later fail to deter war and nuclear powers will sooner or later fight each other on proxy terrain or on oceans because they won't think nukes would be used in such conflicts?

I hope to never learn the answer (and still hope for a long life, of course). Potential proxy conflicts should be taken seriously, as conflicts in need of defusing before the s**t hits the fan.