Mobilization Part I: The need to counter arms buildups


The French were keen to reconquer Alsace-Lothringia after 1871. They conscripted to the maximum (about 75% of young men were deemed fit and pressed into service), trained many officers, introduced the revolutionary Soixante-Quinze field gun and produced it in the thousands before WWI. Germany enjoyed a larger population base and kept the peace with a less extreme conscription (a bit over 50%). The defensive outlook of Germany in 1871-1913 was based on the consensus that German borders were satisfactory with no need for expansion. The alliance situation did put the gargantuan Russian army on the side of Germany's opposition, though. The German armies repeatedly called for additional funding for additional army corps, but the parliament (of the then supposedly oh-so militaristic German nation) refused such expansions for many years about two years before WW1. Eventually, Germany was short of a couple army corps in 1914 to win in France and the First World War became not only unnecessarily bloody, but also a disaster that cracked (amongst others) the German society. The ability to expand the armed forces more rapidly before WWI would have helped much; it would have kept costs (and loss of productivity) low during the many peaceful decades that preceded the First World War in Central Europe and it would have delivered that critical extra punch when the war happened.

The run-up to the Second World War was longer. Italy's Fascist government was considered a prime threat to peace in Europe around 1930, but the Soviet Union was at that time already much-increasing its arms production output based on new factories, some of which were built with American help. Germany turned Fascist in early 1933 and began a rearmament program based on a 100,000 troops army of men who were almost all qualified for immediate promotion (plus a small navy) and reintroduced conscription in 1935. Hostilities began around 1936-1938 with the Italian aggressions against Albania, Abbessinia (Ethiopia), the Japanese attack on China and German occupation of today's Czech Republic. The Second World War officially broke out in late 1939 and by end of 1941 the world was on fire for real. Again, several countries would have fared better if they had better prepared for a rapid expansion of their armed forces, especially their army. They had about two to twelve years time for this expansion, depending on country and political situation.

These are two examples of very high stakes conflicts with a prior period of a few years in which countries needed to prepare for (defensive) war in face of preparations for war by aggressive powers. Maybe such an ability would even have deterred the historical aggressor?

This series of blog posts will cover the scenario of a peaceful country (or alliance) reacting to aggressive intent and the potential aggressors' military build-up.





"Evolving" transitory tech: FPV drones & electronic warfare


Back in the 1930's the Nazi government of Germany sent troops and vehicles to assist Franco's Nationalist-Fascist coup (later civil war) effort in Spain.

The only tanks available for employment (testing) in Spain were Pzkpfw I, bulletproof tankettes with two normal calibre machineguns. They did of course encounter bulletproofed vehicles of Soviet manufacture and even their steel core bullets proved to be useless against those. Germany got ahead of that problem by using 20 mm autocannons in the successor and later 37 mm cannons (and 75 mm stub guns) in the last pre-WW2 tank models.

The tech that was employed in Spain was hinting at the future, but it wasn't the future. Most of it was outdated two years later already.

I suppose the "This is the future of war!" claims based on what's happening in Ukraine will prove to be just as durable.

Let's look at a most striking example; the FPV (first person view) remote-controlled kamikaze quadcopter with a 1980's shaped charge that's a terrible threat to almost any tank in existence today. These proved to be more practical than Nammo's experiment with a multicopter that has a downwards-firing bazooka. For all I know (unconfirmed info) the rule of thumb is that you need ten of these for one hit, and in regard to anti-tank warfare they are very often employed against already immobilised or even abandoned tanks. Success story videos on Youtube have a "survivor bias".

These remote-controlled drones need a radio line of sight to transmit the steering commands and much more bandwidth to transmit a video feed from the drone to the operator. The onboard radio is tiny and weak and has no directional antenna. An airborne larger drone could jam this signal easily, but the ground forces under attack lacked a line of sight to the operator's radio and were thus hardly able to jam the video feed.

You can observe that the video feed of such kamikaze drone attacks often interrupts briefly before impact. All early such videos had this degradation and eventual loss of the video feed (example).


At that time the self-defending ground forces were able to employ a jammer to jam the steering command transmissions, for the attacking drone was in the defender's field of view. Two approaches were used; directional jamming with a directional antenna (examples) and semi-spherical/omnidirectional jamming (example). The latter was usually automated, while the former usually took the shape of a jamming 'rifle' pointed at the drone. The directional approach transmits more energy into the drone's antenna, which allows for a longer range (or weaker emitter). The omnidirectional approach did not require knowledge about the drone's whereabouts; a detection of the video feed signal would trigger a jamming of the steering commands datalink.

The jammed frequencies were often the typical frequencies used by commercial DJI drones; 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Some jammers were only built to jam the older 2.4 GHz range (jamming up to 3 GHz) and were useless against 5.8 GHz signals, leading some people to conclude that the self-protection jammers seen on tanks a second before impact of the kamikaze drone were useless. Predictably, there was and is a race of measures and countermeasures in Ukraine; different frequencies are now used (2.4 and 5.8 GHz are widely considered useless by now due to the jamming), often as modification of commercial drones by tinkerers.

The attackers attempted to solve the connection loss issue by using high vantage points or a radio repeater on a bigger drone. Nowadays many attack videos don't show the typical degradation and loss of the video feed any more.

The defending ground force have a line of sight to the repeater as well, so jamming the video feed (downlink) rather than mostly the steering signal (uplink) is feasible if an airborne repeater is used that has the attack target in line of sight. In fact, the defenders might triangulate the repeater (or detect it by radar) and jam it directly (with directional antenna and strong jammer) in an area defence effort rather than to rely on a short range omnidirectional self-protection jammers on vehicles, at trenches or in backpacks.

The self-protection jammers can be valuable, of course. A self-protection jammer can jam the drone if it's ahead of it in the measures-countermeasures race. The defenders' problem is that this doesn't necessarily help. A drone can be independent of its radio link entirely in the final attack phase; it can be "locked-on" the target at a safe distance (safe from omnidirectional self-protection jammers) and then execute its terminal approach to hit. this is 1970's technology, already seen in the AGM-65A "Maverick" missile. It's not much of a challenge for an average young electrical engineer or a programmer, as the pattern recognition algorithms are easily available. You just need a bit more computing power in the drone than for normal flying and you need to crack DJI's proprietary steering software if you want to use DJI drones.

Maybe the radio jamming efforts will escalate to the point that all drones above treetop altitude will be detected and submitted to strong directional RF jamming efforts. Maybe the entire battlefield will be jammed broadband by so many cheap & small emitters that you cannot triangulate and kill them by artillery.

That will still not protect from drones, as aforementioned pattern recognition tech long since advanced to the point that drones could find, identify, decide to attack and attack ground targets on their own, without any radio link. And maybe they even do so from multiple directions, with a couple of linked drones splitting up after 'locking on' themselves. Or they communicate by means that would not be jammed as long as they fly in a very close formation (acoustic, by light or by radio frequencies with very high atmospheric attenuation).

Maybe you think a typical hard kill active protection system for tanks would protect against drones? It might, but such systems could easily be saturated by an attack of more than six drones within few seconds and they usually only intercept the incoming munition at a few metres distance. Hard kill APS were designed with anti-tank guided missiles and RPGs in mind. An anti-ATGM solution from the 1980's combined a radar with machineguns to shoot down the missile. Almost all other systems are meant to be able to stop a RPG shot at very short distances, and thus their intercept of the munition is at very short distances.

That's a problem, for an airborne drone does not need to come close to hit, penetrate and potentially destroy a tank. The evidence for this is the smart artillery munition that fires with EFP warheads at tanks. You can easily see the distance involved.

A drone could calculate a distance estimation based on how quickly the target becomes bigger in the vide (knowing the own speed by inertial sensor) and fuse a EFP for lethal effect from a safe distance without any potentially jammable rangefinding procedure.

So what next? Dazzle the drone with laser? It might not even use an optical sensor. Maybe burn or perforate the drone with a laser or gun?


I wrote about autonomous attack drones years ago (of course no original thought of mine). I wrote about the remotely controlled weapon station for anti-drone defence (with possibly a little utility against ATGMs as well) years ago. I also wrote about the hard kill APS with RPG and ATGM in mind years ago. These two hard kill defences were very obvious choices to me, but are just barely in existence outside of Israel.

All that electronic warfare with jamming and radio wizardry to counter jamming are extremely important right now, but they are not the "future of land warfare". There will be jamming, but you will need hard kill defences. The electronic warfare defences of Ukraine 2022 and 2023 will look like a T-26's merely bulletproof armour in 1941; of little use, and definitely not the future.





Do the British carriers make sense?

The article

"Floating mausoleums to political vanity: Our two new aircraft carriers cost almost £8 billion to build but, with the Middle East on fire, they're languishing in Portsmouth. We'd be better off selling them, says DAVID PATRIKARAKOS"


creates a bit of a stir.

Some online responses claim that it's error-ridden while agreeing somewhat. 

I would certainly have edited the part about the missile threat to carriers; the anti-ship cruise missile threat appears to be in check IF the attacked ship or a well-positioned escort is on alert. The old and neglected Moskva probably didn't even have effective combat systems and no proper damage control preparations when it was struck by two missiles.

I would point at the "ballistic" anti-ship missile threat instead; the British carriers (and the American ones!) may be kept out of the range of Houthi ballistic anti-ship missiles because they pose too much of a risk. The British escorts are likely less well-equipped to deal with that threat than the American ones, at least that's what I read from the success of American-made SAMs against ballistic missiles and the development of a new generation of Aster missiles (the British escorts' SAM) to improve anti-ballistic missile ability.

I picked the British carriers as examples for the cost of carrier aviation relative to land-based airpower about 15 years ago. The high costs were never a secret or news.

Nor was the issue of the British not really buying enough F-35 for two carriers to make sense any insider knowledge:

There's not really much new about the naval vs. land-based aviation argument.

The American carriers are instruments for land attack against countries that cannot effectively defend themselves against it, and it's been that way since late 1943. Most other carriers showed marginal utility since then.

Land-based aviation has come such a way that bombing Afghanistan from Diego Suarez and Kuwait was more practical than bombing over Afghanistan using carrier-based aircraft. Midair refuelling is the key, and navies try to ignore it because midair-refueling using converted (plentiful) airliners extends the airpower-dominated maritime areas so much that surface fleets make very little sense in a peer war. They need to be either awfully far away from hostile land or enjoy land-based assistance by fighters (which usually means that the carrier isn't needed as a base in the scenario).

Personally, I think that CROWSNEST (having an airborne early warning helicopter) was the brightest part of the British carrier investment effort of the past 20 years (albeit it's apparently technically not terribly great). Rotary AEW assets coupled with lock-on after launch surface to air missiles can substitute for carrier fighters in the defensive role, and likely cope much better with surprise saturation attacks than carrier fighters could. Admirals would prefer to have the fighters as additional defence layer (and their radars as additional sensors), but admirals are not known for being good at allocation of scarce resources (budget) for very good reasons.

A small carrier with affordable combat aircraft (Harrier II with APG-83 and modern air-to-air missiles) might nevertheless make much sense in some scenarios, but only so if ambition and costs are kept small. A few such 15,000 tons carriers with enough aircraft for three on station and three on 5-minute readiness as interceptors could make quite a difference as escort carrier between Japan and Hawaii. The Americans have no need for these, as they could improvise with land-based AEW and their amphibious carriers, of course.

So what's a single French carrier good for? Launching a few airborne missiles throughout four decades of service? That could be substituted for by a chartered small cargo ship and some containerised cruise missiles.

What are two British carriers with effectively one air wing good for? The British delude themselves into thinking they can do American-style land attack in every year (the French cannot when their carrier is in the shipyard for maintenance). That's it. Again, buying some standard (not capsuled for submarine use) surface-launched cruise missiles to be launched from some otherwise non-combat ships (volume and deck area on frigates and destroyers is too scarce) would yield about the same land attack capability, especially paired with midair-refuelled land-based combat aircraft being in range (within thousands of kilometres and if necessary overflight rights).

Other (online) commentary I saw recently called for a British focus on the naval realm, at the expense of the land forces. But what could be achieved in the naval realm? Russia has a crap navy and China has a navy on the far side of the globe that could very largely be neutralised by land-based aviation. So what's to be gained by adding a couple more British warships? Prettier naval parades for more tourism? Navy enthusiasts being happy? (Navy enthusiasts always want more, though. They're never happy!)

Here are musings about what could/should have been done for security in Europe instead, spending-wise:


That would have been much less "sexy" than aircraft carriers that could fit tennis courts inside.














The victim card was played too brazenly

It appears that playing the victim card to get a carte blanche to commit offences yourself doesn't work so well for Israel any more. They're so much used to it that they don't seem to be able to follow a different approach, though.

The death toll of the October 7th attacks by Hamas appears to be roughly 1/3 combatants (I'm not sure whether this includes deaths among those who were taken prisoner by Hamas fighters and other Gaza Strip inhabitants).


This compares very unfavourably (for Israel) to the ratio of civilian to non-combatant deaths in Gaza Strip by the counteroffensive.


Moreover, Israel keeps producing evidence that its armed forces are intentionally destroying the real estate in Gaza Strip, including all universities.


The demolitions were actual demolitions, by a long shot not all damage done during combat. Many already swept buildings were destroyed by demolition charges, which is hardly ever justifiable.


The conflict in the levante is a conflict of counterviolence to counterviolence. Any claim that a particular action is a response to an original aggression is laughable. The people who started the conflict were already disposed of by biology. There's little point in trying to figure out who is more at guilt than the other in such a cycle of counterviolence. Words don't matter much, either - actions matter. Israel is killing way more civilians, and has been doing so for decades already. It couldn't have come this far without playing the victim card so effectively for so long, and it won't get much farther if that doesn't work any more.

Israel should stop being drunk on its perceived power and mind the fate of the crusader states: They didn't collapse because the Arabs beat them in battle; they dwindled away when the overseas allies lost interest in supporting them. Their overseas allies lost interest in supporting them because they lost confidence in that crusades were a worthy cause.





A Personal Defence Weapon


Personal Defence Weapons (PDWs) are weapons meant for soldiers who do not have shooting at the enemy with small arms as an important part of their job description. Support troops, tank crews, helicopter pilots and even infantry platoon leaders qualify.

Early examples of de facto PDWs were the revolvers or pistols used by officers and the relatively weak M1 "carbines" of the U.S. Army in WW2.

Germany used UZI submachineguns for that purpose during the Cold War and introduced the dedicated PDW "MP7" with its tiny bullet since. The pistols in use with the Bundeswehr are not really de facto PDWs; their primary utility is in being guns with ball cartridges for escorting men outside of barracks who carry war small arms with useless blank cartridges. This way nobody shoots a gun with deadly munition while thinking it's loaded with blanks and there's still protection against people with pitchforks overwhelming and robbing an entire infantry platoon on a foot march.

PDWs are not really meant to be used against hostile troops even in wartime. They would only be used to shoot in anger under extreme circumstances. Most likely, the user would stand no chance due to morale, (lacking) combat training, lacking night vision and/or circumstances anyway.

PDWs do serve purposes, though. They make the user feel armed (and thus respected as a soldier) and they may be used to control prisoners of war or to scare away civilians who interfere with military operations.

PDWs do thus not need to be very powerful or high end. NATO was famously looking for PDWs that can penetrate a certain bulletproof vest concept (titanium plate + aramid layers) at a useful distance. this ruled out submachine and probably served no other purpose.

The cheapest way to create a PDW would be to build some super-cheap submachinegun such as a modern Sterling submachinegun. It would fail to be perceived as a respectable military weapon nowadays, though - and thus fail the morale job of the PDW.

In practice you could use just about any assault rifle or battle rifle (G3, FAL) to equip non-infantry and non-dismounted scout troops, but those would be quite cumbersome practically all the time they are carried. Thus they would not be carried for almost all the time.

I pondered about the concept of a PDW long before I started this blog in 2007, and just in case I ever need a blog post and can't come up with any decent topic I'll write down my currently favoured concept for a PDW (unless the armed forces have enough old assault rifles / carbines in their stocks):

It shall be

  1. lightweight
  2. cheap
  3. not cumbersome
  4. respectable
  5. with good ergonomics
  6. fully sable in all seasons
  7. built for their users (who don't get much small arms training)

  • 5.56x45, 5.45x39 or 5.8x42 mm calibre (depending on standard calibre in use with the armed force)
    • reason: lightweight cartridge, small recoil, penetrated soft body armour, flat trajectory makes aiming relatively easy out to 200 m at least
  • chrome-lined barrel of about 28 cm (about 11") length
    • reason: That's long enough for the purpose with 5.56x45 mm at least, especially with a high pressure cartridge such as EPR
    • chrome lining more to preserve the weapon during 50+ years of use than to enable more shots fired
  • barrel should be of lightweight construction ("pencil" barrel, outer diameter ~ 16 mm (0.625") and does not need to be armourer-level exchangeable
    • few practice shots per year on average, as most PDWs would be stored for mobilization, not be in use by active duty troops
  • assumed munition loadout: 20 rounds in loaded magazine (wartime only), twice 30 rounds in pouches, maybe another 20 rounds in stripper clips in a pouch
    • infantrymen would carry much more munitions, support personnel would certainly not carry more on the body most of the time! Cartridges in stripper clips are a very lightweight reserve just in case the more readily usable cartridges in magazines were spent very quickly.
    • 20 rds magazine loaded becuase this protrudes less than 30 rds magazine; less bulky
  • an effective (but preferably short) flash hider
    • the shortness of the barrel makes the muzzle flash worse, so a basic flash hider such as A2 is unsatisfactory
  • handguard around the barrel with M-LOK interface on top and bottom
    • just in case upgrades (or iron sights) are later deemed advisable, more lightweight than NATO rails
  • forward hand grip in front of magazine well
    • improving ergonomics of shooting at marginal additional weight
    • least protruding solution
    • example picture; shaping should be integral with magazine well rather than an aftermarket solution, of course
  • short stroke gas operated system
    • no direct impingement to reduce need for cleaning, quite lightweight
  • closed bolt operation
    • necessary for sufficiently small dispersion out to respectable 200 m
  • bolt catch; bolt remains in sprung position after last cartridge
    • so the user immediately notices when the magazine is empty
    • so the user doesn't need to repeat manually after changing the magazine
  • larger tolerances than with infantry & scout assault rifles
    • for reliability when dirty and lower costs, leading to a MOA (dispersion) of 2 or 2.5 (2.5 for air force and navy personnel other than guards)
    • this should also reduce production costs
  • suitable design and oil for reliable operation at -30°...+50°C operation at any humidity and the use of manually repeating weapon should be possible down to -40°C
    • four seasons lubricant and four seasons cleaning oil
  • no touching of metal parts necessary for combat use
    • in case it's freezing cold and the user has no or only thin gloves
  • good (nowadays ordinary) ease & quickness of assembly, cleaning and disassembly
    • better odds of good-enough care even if the NCOs fail to enforce it
  • for aiming just a cheap AAA battery-powered red dot sight on a NATO rail, flip switch for on/off (explanation later)
    • red dot sight because this requires the least training and is the easiest to use under stress, a really cheap one suffices
    • red dot suffices for effective range of 200 m due to flat bullet trajectory with this cartridge & barrel combination
    • AAA instead of AA battery for less weight and bulk
  • red dot size 2.5 MOA
    • suitable for 200 m
    • large and thus easy enough to see for close fights
    • 2.5 MOA happens to be close to the dispersion MOA value of the gun
  • sight line protected against smoke from hot barrel and possibly evaporating weapon oil
  • trigger group with fire select trigger (single shot and either burst or full auto, depending on the armed service's preference - I would go for a 3...5 rds burst)
    • mostly meant to make it easier for already terribly stressed users in close combat defence situation
  • safety lever and all other interfaces in ambidextrous design
    • ergonomics for right handers and left handers
    • this includes symmetrical grip shapes
  • ejection of spent cases can be changed between left and right by unit armourer, ideally without requiring spare parts
    • ergonomics for right handers and left handers
  • comfortable resting location for the index finger to promote safe behaviour (again ambidextrous)
  • all interfaces and trigger guard designed with possible use of winter gloves in mind 
  • a short buffer spring
    • so unlike with AR-15 design you may use fully folding shoulder stocks
  • a fully top-folding stock, unfolding it should switch the sight light on and folding should switch it off
    • example (for a shotgun) here. I understand this is not exactly top ergonomic, but it doubles as mechanically protective cover for the red dot sight
    • minimizes the folded length (shorter than telescopic stock)
    • narrower than side-folding stock
    • it discourages the shooting while folded unlike the ergonomically similarly bad underfolding stocks, as it would obstruct the sight and would be very visible on top
  • the stock would be angled when unfolded
    • so the sight line is directly above the barrel and no bulky carry handle on top would be needed to raise the sight line as with a straight stock
    • happens to reduce the silhouette when shooting aimed shots over a cover compared to straight stock weapons with their sights mounted high over the barrel
  • no use of a sling, but multiple carrying solutions; the most relevant one would be a cushioned carrying on the back parallel to the spine with magazine well facing outwards (with a quick release interface!), ideally with other things (counterweights) worn on the other side of the spine such that you could even sit comfortably in a (vehicle) seat with the PDW on the back
  • cleaning kit either stored in the primary hand grip or stored in the carrying interface
  • no such thing as a forward assist
    • marginal utility
    • understood to be unnecessary in all rifle families but one
  • compatible with all cartridges of the calibre at least with unit armourer-level adjustment of the gas operation
  • steel parts gunmetal-finished, all other parts in a brown matte unicolour camouflage
  • steel magazines
    • cheap and durable
    • I understand this is an exception from the rule to not need to touch metal in freezing temperatures
    • unit-level armourer should be able to measure & replace magazine springs that were worn out
  • availability of easy-to-use dry zeroing device on the small unit level
    • important for maintaining zero and thus trust in the guns

Sadly, I do lack both the artistic talent and graphics software skills to illustrate such a PDW concept.

In the end, such a PDW would be more expensive than mass-produced assault rifles unless it is mass-produced itself as well. There's good reason why a PDW would be mass-produced; the vast majority of military personnel are neither infantry nor dismounted scouts. Those are a minority even in an infantry brigade.

One problem remains; non-combat and non-scout troops don't have much night fighting ability. Their NCOs may use flare guns for illumination and there may be some lights (essentially state of art of early WW2), but the expensive, fragile and scarce 3rd generation night vision devices and the thermal vision devices (which discharge batteries quickly) would be limited to infantry and scouts. The typical PDW user small unit is thus* at an even more pronounced disadvantage against infantry at night than at day. One could use cheap digital night vision with some illumination, but would that really be in stock for reservists throughout the 'lifetime' of a PDW (which could be 60 years)? Electronics don't last as long as guns, even when stored properly and separately from batteries.

And then there are other challenges for non-combat troops who need to defend themselves against infantry or scouts. In the end, nothing much more successful than a modest 'always carry' PDW with basic night vision will prevail due to the expenses involved.



*: With PDW or an assault rifle like G36 or HK 416 doesn't matter - it's almost entirely about the night vision, training, mindset, organisation and the other weapons.



Houthis again


Some ships were attacked by Houthis while they were still south of Aden.


Regarding geography: This means Houthis attack ships that are on the far side of their domestic Yemeni enemies. They do clearly attack without any line of sight between territory controlled by Houthis and the targeted ship.

Well, one of the Houthi targets bombed by the U.S. was a radar installation that monitored maritime traffic from onshore. It appears the Houthis can attack ships without such a station. One could argue that they could attack more easily with such a radar installation, but wasn't the purpose of the bombing to end the attacks rather than to make them just a bit more challenging to the Houthis?

Frankly, here's how I imagine the bombings came to happen:

  1. Houthis commit piracy in Red Sea and send missiles towards Israel.
  2. Sustained attacks on ships by Houthis, mostly defeated by naval air defences.
  3. How can they be so disrespectful?
  4. We need to do something!
  5. What's "something"?
  6. Out of the box answer is to bomb some brown people.
  7. CENTCOM gets tasked to create a target list for air strikes.
  8. CENTCOM cannot exactly offer a strategy with a perspective to achieve much of anything, but it creates a target list with items plausibly linked to the attacks on ships and/or Israel. 
  9. Some targets of the target list get bombed.
  10. CENTCOM declares success, invents a figure of by how much the Houthis' attack potential was reduced.
  11. Houthis continue to attack ships.
  12. More Houthis targets get bombed.
  13. Houthis continue to attack ships.

Sounds kinda like the Kosovo Air War escalation and two decades of assassination-by-air phony war on errorists campaign.

It's almost as if the establishment was only mildly intelligent.



Response to Houthi piracy


I wrote during the times of Somali-origin piracy that the patrolling mission was stupid. It was known by collected intelligence that almost all piracy could be traced back to three coastal villages (at some point in time - this may have changed later).

The hugely successful (and rapid!) anti-piracy campaign of Pompey the Great cleared the Mediterranean off the pirates plague for centuries to come. It involved a fleet, but the fleet actions were rather supportive of using infantry to clear out the piracy bases. Eventually, some cornered pirate ships stood up for battle and were destroyed.

Historically, piracy wasn't defeated by patrolling. Close blockades of piracy/raider ports was somewhat effective, attacks on raider ports were somewhat effective, but only ending war or at least temporary taking the piracy bases promise a lasting solution to a piracy or raider problem.

So I denounced the Atalanta mission and argued that piracy should be attacked at its bases.


15 years forward, the Houthis commit piracy a little farther north (and there's STILL ships patrolling off Somalia!). It is piracy because the Houthi forces are not recognised as state actors (state forces cannot commit piracy by definition).

The USN had destroyer(s) in the area and shot down some anti-ship missiles of multiple types (drones mostly with 127 mm guns). Still, the Houthis captured a car transport as an early success (by helicopter, which is impractical now with destroyers securing the route). Western Yemen enjoys a couple thousand new cars.

Is this the time to go for the piracy bases?

A land war or even only major raids seem out of question; the relevant hardware of the pirates. The U.S. and UK opted for air attack(s).

First off regarding the legality; I'm confident the internationally recognised government of Yemen was fine with the strikes. Even if it wasn't, the piracy may have provided a legal basis for the strikes (though I have no reliable info that either the U.S. or UK or their ships were attacked).

The practical considerations are more interesting.

What's the point of bombing other than to vent frustration or do business as usual?

The justifiable purpose of bombing (and the associated risk to protected persons a.k.a. civilians on the ground) would be to reduce or end the threat to ships at sea, the piracy threat.

  1. Does the piracy threat get reduced?
  2. Was or will it be ended by air strikes?
  3. Could it have been neutralised by defensive action (escorting convoys as most navies think or area defence as the USN appears to prefer)? Keep in mind defensive action does not endanger civilians on land.
  4. Could/should the piracy be ended by accepting the political demands (~ending Israel's Gaza war)?

1) Maybe, but it depends on how much the agitated Houthis will react with increases of capability. Their  reaction to air strikes might overcompensate for the loss of hardware.

2) This is almost impossible hardware-wise, and most unlikely as a political reaction.

3) So far the defences were very effective (and some of the attacking missiles very inaccurate). The biggest problems were the costs of the missiles used and the risk the seamen (especially of the cargo ships) were exposed to.

4) IMO not a promising approach. The issue would likely flare up again even if the demands were met by now - regardless of whether as a deal or just by coincidence.

I was and am not in favour of the air strikes. They're a primitive out of the box action by utterly unimaginative and strategy-free establishments. Reasons:

a) The Houthis have been bombed for years by the Saudis with American tech and they adapted already. The hardware that threatens the ships can very largely be hidden almost anywhere in Houthi territory. I have very little confidence in the ability to reliably find and positively identify the proper targets. The risk of civilian casualties is very high. Keep in mind the Americans once mistook a fertilizer factory for a poison gas factory and had a long, long string of poor targeting choices ever since. I don't expect these attacks to get rid of much of the relevant Houthi arsenal. I've seen claims that 25% of the hardware for piracy was eliminated, and I'd rather consider "the 5% most easily found piracy-related targets were hit" as plausible.

b) Where's the smartness in just blowing stuff up? Let's have a look at the Houthis' interests. They want to rule over all of Yemen. How about reversing the unification of Yemen and the Northern Yemenis (~Houthi movement area) simply govern themselves again as a non-secular people many of whom belong to a different Muslim sect than their neighbours? A de-unification seems to be the only way to calm the conflict in the region (of which piracy is but a small episode) anyway.

So let's put of incentives towards an internationally recognised, not sanctioned, sovereign North Yemen where the Houthis rule over themselves and their kin. They might also be given some other (free) bargaining chips, such as a coincidental end of the bombing of Gaza (which is to be expected as soon as Israel has swept the remaining smaller part of the Gaza Strip anyway).

Add disincentives towards continuing other (unacceptable) paths. The Houthis sure don't want weapons and munitions given to their enemies. They don't want a naval blockade against themselves. They don't want the Saudis or anyone else to fight them.

And most of all: Make that piracy the problem of Egypt. Shame Egypt's junta publicly into action and withhold military aid from them for good (same with Israel, obviously.

Sometimes we get told that smart security policy experts, foreign policy experts, experienced career people, smart admirals, smart generals and smart think tankers are behind what Western security policy does. I do very much doubt that, because primitive stuff like this bombing campaign could be made-up by some drunk low-IQ people just as much.





A president they deserve?


I saw an interesting thought on the internet: What if Kim Jong-Un would run for president in the U.S. (assuming he was eligible; natural born citizen and not an insurrectionist).

I suppose the person who wrote that thought meant to imply that a certain party would fall for such a candidate. I'm not sure said person got right which party would do so.

Kim Jong-Un (c)DonkeyHotey

What would Kim Jong-Un bring to the table?

  • He's fat.
  • He's demanding total loyalty.
  • He's got a weird haircut.
  • He wants to jail political opponents.
  • He wants total loyalty of law enforcement to himself (rather than to the law).
  • He  wants total loyalty of the judiciary to himself (rather than to the law).
  • He boasts all the time (or lets mouthpieces do it for him).
  • He loves the allegiance of "his" generals.
  • He would love cheerleading news and pundits.
  • He loves to play with rockets.
  • He brings family members into positions of power.
  • He sets up a family member as likely successor.
  • He doesn't respect women other than select family members.
  • He would promise to punish the deviants.
  • He's talking a lot about how he brings greatness to his country (or lets mouthpieces do so for him).
  • He would be a nobody without inheriting stuff from his father.
  • He's a sociopath.
  • He's a serial liar.
  • He's issuing threats very often.
  • He's an attention whore.
  • His accomplishments are propaganda lies - all of them.
  • He would promise a proper border protection - with strong fences, landmines and military personnel ready to shoot at intruders.
  • He doesn't believe in any god or goddess.
  • He's exploiting ideological preparation of the country for own political gain.
  • He's in favour of the death sentence, even for innocents.
  • He loves holding events where citizens subjects cheer him.
  • He's never shown any capability of intelligent discussion of any topic.
  • He wants to live in a gilded palace.
  • The economic well-being of fellow countrymen doesn't interest him.
  • His party and country shall follow the leader principle.
  • He pretends to be a strong leader, but he's terribly fearful and a pussy.
  • He's in favour of torture and abuse of prisoners.
  • His foreign policy makes him hated all over the world.
  • He's a laughingstock.

We already know that this is an offer that yields 47% of the popular vote in a U.S. presidential election.

I suppose we Europeans should wake up and realise that large demographics of allied countries have left our civilization. It's not just the Russians who are uncivilized. All three serial aggressor countries are at least 1/4th uncivilized.



also related:





The Suez Canal issue


The naval-minded people love to pretend that maritime trade is a bigger thing than it is. They usually use the metric of % world trade in tonnage, while the rest of the world thinks of trade in terms of value (which shows the importance of services and air freight).

Now there's some piracy (considering the Houthi forces as non-state actors) against Red Sea traffic.

Personally I don't mind the impoverished Yemen having some couple thousand brand-new cars, but such piracy does make ship operators shy away from that route.

I don't advocate that navies from faraway places should police the sea there, but every country is free to waste its money on that, of course. The most obvious navy responsible for the Red Sea is the Egyptian Navy, which nominally has 20 frigates and corvettes in service and the Red Sea is their backyard. The second most-obvious navy is the Saudi one.

Egypt should be especially motivated to secure the Red Sea because an impeded Red Sea maritime traffic means reduced Suez Canal transit fees (FY 2022/3: USD 8.8 bn) for Egypt.

But there's the pretence that European wealth depends on the Suez Canal. Just how important is it really to us?

The short term damage by a partially or entirely blocked Suez Canal is difficult to estimate, but estimation becomes much easier when you ignore transitory effects, as we should in regard to strategymaking and grand strategy.

8.8 bn $ (about 8 bn €) - why don't the Egyptians levy greater transit fees?*

Presume the Suez Canal's benefit to the shipping companies is 100 bn $ per year. How much of that would the Egyptians skim off through transit fees? I say no less than 60%, no more than 90%. Less than 60% would be stupid, as they could enrich themselves much more without provoking too much diversion of traffic and more than 90% would too much risk to do exactly that in the long term.

I'm going to argue here that the Suez Canal is not a terribly big deal in the long term for our wealth in Europe, so I'm going to give the other side of the argument the benefit of the doubt and assume that the Egyptians only skim off 60% of the benefit.

Now if 8.8 bn $ is 60%, then 100% is 14.67 bn $. With 8.8 bn $ of the benefit going to Egypt, that leaves 5.87 bn $ benefit for the rest of the world (the remaining 40%).

Now again I will give benefit of the doubt to the opposing side of the argument and pretend that all of those 5.87 bn $ benefit are to Europeans, not to their overseas trade partners.

The GDP of the European Union is 16.75 trillion $ and the GDP of the United Kingdom is 3.09 trillion $. That's a combined GDP (approximating European GDP, but not all of it) of 19.84 trillion $.

5.87 bn $ is about 0.03 % of European GDP.

Germany's GDP is 4.08 trillion $, 20.56% of the GDP mentioned above for EU+UK. So about 1.2 billion $ share of estimated Suez canal net benefit fall on Germany (the figure would be a bit higher if we use share of goods trade instead of share of GDP). 1.2 bn $ per annum is not a big figure for Germany. It's again about 0.03% of GDP.

There are 448 million people in the EU and 67 million in the UK. 5.87 bn $ distributed among 515 million people is 11.40 $ per capita. Basically, one meal at MacDonald's.

I dare say the Suez Canal is not of great importance to Europeans in the long term. The short term transitory effects of its (hypothetical) total blockade would be troublesome, but its importance drowns in statistical noise in the long term.

One might consider us responsible for anti-piracy work in the Red Sea IF there wasn't Egypt. But there IS Egypt, which is the main beneficiary of the Suez Canal and thus of Red Sea maritime traffic. Yet Westerners are so Western-centric and so eager to play with their own military toys that I haven't even seen anyone else mentioning that Egypt should secure Red Sea trade so far.

And I don't give a shit about Houthis pretending to fight Israel and Arabs trying to avoid looking like they defend Israel. The Houthis are attacking ships rather indiscriminately and the Saudis have bombed them for eight years already. If the Egyptian tyrant insists on pretence over hard cash, then Egypt deserves to lose billions of dollars, and media should make sure Egyptians understand this. Fuck them, there's absolutely no reason why Westerners should clean up the mess caused by foreign people playing dumb. We got enough of a mess to clean up in topics where we're actually at fault.

Sometimes it's empowering to say "So what?" and to shrug shoulders at miniscule economic losses rather than to allow foreigners and your own irrationally to drive your actions. 

Next time you see economic interests used as motivation for military action try to look up how big said economic interest is. The supposed oil fields around the Falkland islands used as part of the reasoning for reconquest of the islands in 1982 are still not pumping any oil.



*: The transit fees are set to rise by 5 to 15% in 2024, but that doesn't change the overall argumentation here substantially. It doesn't mean a 5 to 15% increase in transit fee revenue anyway, for some shipping would be diverted on cost grounds. Future fees should not be compared to past GDP, so I simply used the most recent figures available.

P.S.: Everytime I wrote "Red Sea" I meant the Gulf of Aden as well, of course.



On people going nuts and supporting Hamas


We've seen some strange behaviour by some people in the past weeks. Some people who were famous for something (often advocacy) began to side not just with Palestinians/Arabs, but even with Hamas.

It reminded me of an old blog post of mine:


I think you need to be a certain kind of person to dare leave the conventional consensus and be an outspoken champion for a change of the status quo. This readiness to turn against the mainstream doesn't necessarily correlate with great judgment, of course.

All those gold bugs are plain idiots when it comes to economics and monetary policy in particular, for example. They get every single it 180° wrong and don't care that all the evidence is against them. Still, they are people who dare to turn against the mainstream opinion on money.

So people may have become famous for some advocacy against the mainstream position, and maybe they were right on that one - but that doesn't mean their opinion is a smart one on another topic that they chose to become outspoken about.

Just as famous businessmen are usually delusional when they think they can give good economic policy advice.

Yes, I'm self-aware that I wade into many different topics and am greatly at risk of being wrong in one or another. See this about that.