Interlibrary lending

Have you ever thought reading some book might be a good idea, but its price of 60 bucks was too steep and you didn't find a 'pirated' version online nor a cheap old copy in an online marketplace?

Try interlibrary lending. Or speak to a librarian nearby; maybe (s)he finds a copy in another nearby library, which you can then read even on the same day.

I've used interlibrary lending many times, it costs me less than three Euros per book for six weeks of having said book (in Germany). Only photocopied pages ever proved to be unreasonably priced.

Your personal research and growth of knowledge can be boosted by interlibrary lending at very reasonable costs in many developed countries!



A sunny day

Recently I visited a trade fair in the morning and called it a day by noon.

So there I sat in the pedestrian zone of a German city, blue sky, hot sunlight, light fresh wind, and enjoyed a Döner Kebap in pita - the Turkish-German style of this fastfood.
There was a loud bang in the street nearby and everyone curiously looked that way. I explained to a women next to me who was there with her child that most likely a tire had blown up and finished my Döner Kebap. Then I went to an "Italian" pizzeria and ordered an ice cone - walnut ice. I was served by a friendly girl in a Hijab - the first such piece of cloth that I saw in months. Typically, I only see elderly women from the retirement home in my home's street wearing cloth on their heads, and of course nuns on 'Nun TV', a.k.a. ARD.

So I wandered through the sunny pedestrian zone, enjoying the weather and ice, but my thoughts were clouded by my experience earlier that day:
A guard had inspected by bag at the entrance of the trade fair. He joked about my 1.5 litres of cola that I carried (bag and cola didn't quite fit to my attire), and we talked a bit. He was being paid the minimum wage, and all his training for this "security" job was half an hour of instructions a few days earlier, mostly about showing the place to go for work.
This was security theatre, nothing but security theatre. If someone had wanted to blow anything up in there he or she could have rented a tiny booth and used the exhibitors entrance where there was no security theatre whatsoever. You could easily smuggle in a 200 kg bomb that way. Or hide a bomb in a 2 litre cola bottle - you cannot see through cola, after all.

So I sat down again in the pedestrian zone and mused about the golden decade - the 90's. No Cold War any more, no post-9/11 craze yet, no major economic crisis yet ... the Japan scare in the German industry and the small post-reunification boom recession of 1993 were distant, weak memories. Granted, TV quality went downhill fast in Germany during the 90's. Stupid soap operas, "talk shows" and so on.

Still, I got the feeling that one day maybe 20 years later I'll be asked how my generation allowed it all to go down the drain after the golden 90's. I hope to come up with an answer in time.

On the other hand, sunny days are still sunny days.



Beyond mutual cancellation

The First World War was ultra-bloody, but even during the most heated days the vast majority of the troops wasn't even in contact with the enemy, much less in the main effort battles or even becoming casualties that day. The vast majority was instead waiting in front of each other, or in some way supporting such troops. They were cancelling each other out.

Air power is countered and greatly diminished in its potential by air defences, which in turn provoke dedicated anti-air defences aircraft missions, equipment if not entire such specialised aircraft. In the end, the air defences can avoid destruction for quite some time if they are competent, and the result is that the air defences and a portion of the opposing air power cancel each other out.

It is a very widespread phenomenon in military history that most forces don't defeat each other, but instead cancel each other out. The examples above are by far not the only ones.

Navies have a nice term close to such mutual cancellation; "fleet in being"; the idea that a fleet by its mere existence restricts the freedom of action of the opponent. (It's also quite an excuse for being too useless to do anything directly useful for months or years, of course.)

The Western way of warfare has mostly been about being better at this cancellation game, trying to overcome such cancellations by superior quality. Better anti-radar missiles, better counterbattery fires et cetera. Other efforts were directed at doing the cancellation part of warfare with less resources. Advances in field fortifications belong to this category, for example.

Rarely was the focus on breaking out of this cancellation game, pulling together some resources and trying to circumvent the cancellation situations. Blitzkrieg was one such example; it wasn't about winning in trench warfare or doing it with fewer troops, but about going past trench warfare.

The interests of procurement bureaucracies, toy lovers and arms industries favour the idea of being better in the cancellation game by having the better tools. Thus expensive radars compete with expensive jammers, expensive tank upgrades compete with expensive anti-tank munitions et cetera. 

This begs the question; where could we nowadays find - especially in doctrine advances - ways to improve the military by not playing the expensive game of mutual cancellation, but of circumventing cancellation for sake of direct benefits?

I suppose Luttwak delivered a key insight for this* decades ago already: 
An unspectacular advance will remain without counter for a long time, whereas a spectacular advance will provoke a strong reaction, leading to a quick and powerful countermeasure.
So one way to avoid mutual cancellation would be to pursue incremental improvements instead of "revolutionary" ones. The arms industry doesn't like this, of course. This approach also has the drawback of not delivering much in terms of deterrence, since incremental qualitative improvements are not fully appraised by threats.

In operational art, the way to go is to muster the self-discipline and political support required for pursuing the Schwerpunkt concept whenever it's promising; this reduces the share of forces that's cancelling opposing forces and maximises the share of forces that's in the business of actually overwhelming opposing forces locally or in a small region.

Concepts such as "anti-access / area denial" ("A2/AD") and everything with "counter" in its description deserve more scrutiny than is usually offered. Many such things are necessary and purposeful, but a focus on such approached may lead to almost all military efforts being about mutual cancellation, which is a powerful recipe for a long, devastating war instead of quick and decisive warfare.

To "get things right" in the military domain means to deter well with least possible expenditures, avoiding wars altogether or minimizing the horrible consequences of warfare. I suppose the widespread emphasis on mutual cancellation of military potential is too strong, and we should be more sceptical of approaches that are about or predictably end in mutual cancellation.

(This was about one-sided suppression of tactical repertoires, an idea related to mutual cancellation.)

(Another similar thought, but more distantly related to mutual cancellation.)




Moscow's supposed fifth columns

Political subversion by foreign agents was a common topic in defence policy contexts during the Cold War. Supposedly the KGB was the great puppeteer behind every left wing opinion, group, financing, campaign - and in the event of WW3 leftist saboteurs and sleeper agents would sabotage us politically and our infrastructure, maybe even produce uprisings.

Much of that was bollocks, though the KGB no doubt attempted to become at least a fraction that effective in the West.
Yet WHY were such suspicions , allegations and accusations so widespread?
Aside from some lunatics I suppose they provided a very comfortable excuse for treating the political opponents (the left wingers) as illegitimate. This denial of legitimacy of the political opposition is extremely dangerous to democracy, of course. Democracy depends on the respect for disagreeing positions, and on the idea that elections have consequences - and both legal and legitimately so. The United States had for almost eight years a continuing crisis in this regard, since many whites seemed unwilling to accept hat a biracial man could possibly be a legitimate president.

These days we  have a different situation in Europe (and as an even  more recent development in the U.S.); the right wing is under suspicion of serving some puppeteer in Moscow. This is particularly visible in the German AfD, slightly so in Hungary, to some extent post-coup attempt in Erdogan and now also in Drumpf and his followers.

The story goes differently this time; supposedly Putin - a former KGB officer - reactivated old KGB expertise and is turning right wing populists and autocrats against the West, using distrust of the establishment as fault line in democracies and the EU's aversion to autocracy in Europe as fault line in authoritarian-ruled countries. I suppose this confuses many old Cold Warriors to no end.

- - - - -

Well, how does such influence happen - if at all?

I suppose the part about autocrats is fairly obvious, but how do anti-establishment radicals attract the suspicion of being Moscow's puppets? 

I suppose there's a substantial distrust in the establishment, and this isn't centred on the most poor people. It's the same story with European terrorists of the Cold War, pseudo-jihadists, racists and communism dreamers; the core of such groups aren't those who are at the bottom of society. The core are at least modestly educated people who fear to lose their relative standing in society.

There's an old anecdote that I remember well because I like it so much:
A father and his son watch a KKK rally and the father instructs his son to not look at the white hoods, but at the feet. The boy looks at the feet and sees cheap and worn-out shoes. The KKK asswipes weren't at the bottom of society (the blacks were), but they feared that -being relative losers- they would end there if blacks became emancipated. They fought against an end of segregation because segregation was probably the only thing that kept them from being at the bottom of society, and they feared this drop in standing.
The poorest of the poor - homeless, beggars, day labourers - have incited much less (if any) revolts and revolutions in history than people who feared dropping into (even) worse times or greedy wealthy people who envied the privileges of the status quo elites (such as merchants and master craftsmen revolting against nobility).

Enough of this detour. For whatever reason, many people mistrust the 'establishment', the most influential and best-of tiny share of the population that's under suspicion of being in control of our lives, rigging both political processes and the economy in their favour. This mistrust is then in search of an alternative ideology and alternative interpretations of events than what we get fed by establishment media. 
Religious reformers / extremists offer one such alternative ideology, and with it the alternative interpretations. The so-called communists (Bolshevists) offered an alternative ideology, extend alternative interpretations and to some extent alternative mass media as well.
Putin no doubt is offering alternative ideology (masculinity/anti-feminism, "strong man" politics etc.), alternative interpretations (all too-often lies) and with RT and other outlets also alternative mass media sources (then multiplied by Western laymen with blogs and other publications) as well.

Let's just look a the case of the Crimea conflict.
A conventional view on the conflict of Crimea would stress that Russia guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty in the then-existing (Crimea = Ukrainian) borders and the annexation is doubtlessly an aggression. Russia exposed itself as untrustworthy and aggressive, and the way to go is to punish it with non-violent sanctions and to never recognize the annexation as legal or legitimate.
But that's the "establishment" view supposedly. There's another view, and I was quite astonished by how much of reality has to be ignored in order to believe it - and many people appear to believe it.
In this other view the Crimea was never really Ukrainian because only an unjustified change of internal SSR borders in the USSR made it Ukrainian for the first time, early in the Cold War.  The West (USA and EU) is the real aggressor against the Ukraine because it subsidised and incited a coup against the real government of the Ukraine with billions of dollars, including fascists in the coup mob. The people of Crimea didn't want to be Ukrainians and voted so overwhelmingly in a plebiscite that should really be taken seriously. They wanted to rejoin Russia because Ukraine is (after the "coup") the most corrupt country in Europe and "knowledgeable" people like Trump know this well, but the Western mainstream media will never tell anything about this.

There's plenty wrong with this - Western meddling in the Ukraine was likely much softer than the Russian one, the Russian-backed president was ludicrously corrupt, Trump is basically a know-nothing because he has the attention span of a four year old boy and the plebiscite is irrelevant because it was under Russian control without neutral observers and had a suspiciously one-sided result.
The proper way to deal with the Crimea issue would have been to be honest about Crimea likely having a majority pro-Russian population, recognise the right to self-determination and ask the Ukraine to conduct fair and well-observed plebiscites to determine which districts want to secede and join Russia. This could and probably should have been a requirement for joining the EU (once that's a major topic at all), but we know all-too well that several EU countries (*cough* UK, France, Spain) would not go along with this.

In conclusion, there is an in itself somewhat conclusive alternative world view being offered, and whatever people are in search of an alternative to the status quo tend to be susceptible to this offer. The alternative view is so disruptive because it supposedly delegitimises our governments and splits our societies into believers of different "realities" (or reality and fiction, but most likely different fictions).

Now the typical "experts" claim that the West needs to get better at its propaganda to counter Russian propaganda, pseudo-jihadist propaganda et cetera. They want an active info war. I think that's primitive nonsense.  

The answer to such alternative view ideology and propaganda is (if I am at least somewhat correct) not to get louder with the Western mainstream message. The answer is to allow Western non-mainstream messages that are not as harmful as other alternative views to gain more attention. Preferably some non-mainstream messages that remain tethered in reality most of the time and not focused on bigotry and other society-dividing nonsense.
Pseudo communist ideologies were effectively defeated by social democracy in the West, and I suppose the 700+ million people in the EU and North America can come up with modern alternatives as well. The greens and certain progressives won't do, for they drive the emancipation of minorities and women, which triggers aversions in a lot of embarrassingly insecure white men.




The 3 A.M. Phone Call

Zbigniew Brzezinski Received 3 a.m. Phone Call Warning of Incoming Nuclear Attack  Declassified Documents Shed Light on Soviet Diplomatic Reactions and Internal Pentagon Review  Secretary of Defense Advised President Carter that "We Must Be Prepared for the Possibility [of] Another False Alert" but "Human Safeguards" Would Prevent a Crisis
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 371


Three personalities

A conservative personality
doesn't think that it can be done better (or is already being done better by others)

A progressive personality
believes it can be done better (or is already being done better by others) and has a favourite alternative.

A creative personality
has at least one original idea how to do it better.

None of them are necessarily correct, though all of them are at times correct.

Young officers tend to start out as a progressive/creative mix, but get so often rebuffed and rejected that most of them were hammered into shape for the conservative pattern by the time they actually get to decide how to do stuff.

Senior NCOs and senior officers tend to be so heavily indoctrinated that all-too often they become conservative and truly believe that the way they're doing things and were taught to do things is the only correct one. They may even see the symptoms of failure, but don't connect this with what's become dear to them about how things are being done.

Maybe the way to go is to make sure all creative people get their way once in a while (such as one major proposal accepted per quarter) in order to keep the spirit of ambition for improvement alive?



Destruction of Kurdish cities and towns

Months ago I highlighted how Kobane had been saved from Daesh by destroying it instead.

Today I'd like to highlight the destruction caused by the Turkish military's campaign against the Kurds / the PKK:*







(this RT* video is from March 2016)

The not-really-young-any-more generation may remember how the West looked the other way when 'our' bad guys did their thing in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia - all for the epic struggle between First World and Second World blocs during the Cold War.

One may now wonder why are we looking the other way today? Is there any comparable epic struggle in which 'our bad guy' deserves to get a free pass on whatever he does? The German press sure turned against Erdogan since the ludicrous libel case, and very overtly so since the counter-coup. Yet the war in the Kurdish regions of Turkey still doesn't get much attention, nor does it seem to get it in the anglophone world. (My observation of French newspapers is infrequent, so I can't tell for sure whether the French pay attention.)

I understand that at least the smarter ones among the top politicians hold back due to diplomatic etiquette and geostrategic considerations, but none of this should apply to the media. Maybe German newspapers fear to lose Turkish readers? That would be foolish, for they might gain Kurdish readers and the Erdogan fan group among the "Turks" in Germany can be expected to read Turkish newspapers, if any.
Maybe it's really as simple as Turkey not being an established 'evil' country and access to the war zone being difficult (and dangerous) for reporters.

Anyway; I expect historians to be very critical of what's happening in the Kurdish regions of Turkey this year, and to draw parallels to the passive toleration of Cold War atrocities.


*: I assembled multiple links to largely eliminate possible distortions by special interests.



I implied a certain assumption back last month when I wrote what about critical room for improvement in U.S., German and UK land forces: The assumption that an armed services' performance and deterrence value depends greatly on getting certain cornerstones right, even if much of the rest of the building was weak.*
Or the other way around; forces are brittle if certain critical points are weak.

Such critical points in conventional warfare are good cohesion, enough discipline, a robust (near-)real-time communication system, effective anti-tank munitions, artillery that survives and achieves the necessary effects, a minimum of battlefield air defences that degrades air attacks to ones with bearable consequences, alternatingly thorough and quick decisionmaking and planning at headquarters, a reliable and high throughput logistical supply system, adequate doctrine for defensive and offensive actions, sufficient collection and exploitation of information/intelligence about  terrain and opposing forces.

The quality of rifles and many other typical military fanboi pet topics are of marginal importance by comparison.

The equipment and organisation weak spots are the easiest to rectify. This can be done in a few years.
It's by comparison hard to change a command system and slow to change a  doctrine (in peacetime). Sometimes you need to wait till an old generation of officers is gone before you can change those.
Hence my focus on hot fixes for equipment and organisation only in all three articles.

- - - - -
Let's revisit the "brittle" remark: Artillery that fails because for example only towed howitzers with at most about 30 km range were used (unable of shoot & scoot tactics) will crumble under a counter-artillery effort that's well done. There withers 60+% of a brigade's lethality. 120 mm mortars may have provided another 20% or so, but they, too can be expected to fail in face of such a counterfires effort. The brigade is then down to about 20% lethality, and easily defeated by properly executed attacks. Such brigade are a waste of budget since they are near-useless for deterrence and defence.

It's similar with AT munitions; one cannot execute mounted warfare if one lacks effective AT munitions, and it's utterly likely that 20+ years old ATGMs were countered by opposing forces' technology and tactics already. You may not face this problem when beating up Arabs, but better don't fool yourself about the prospects of such munitions in Europe.

A third and fourth very much stressed aspects were rapid deployment by road and battlefield air defences. Both concerns have the same origin; the first week of a conflict may be decisive for whether alliance members can be defended or not - and there's no reason to believe in air superiority during this first week. Land forces without proper battlefield air defences may be shattered by concentrated air attacks (such as 200+ tactical aircraft focusing on a single brigade for a day). This wouldn't happen to all such forces in the theatre at the same time (much of the Iraqi retreat in 1991 was unscathed by air power while other units were wiped out) and the targeted forces could alleviate much of the pressure by dispersion, concealment and camouflage, but this would temporarily disable them as manoeuvre forces. And this effect may happen to multiple brigades at once, even if air power would only be able to devastate one at a time. So battlefield air defences need to be able to reduce the effects of air attacks, in particular on moving convoys and artillery.

*: Meant as 'in principle'


Road marches in Eastern Europe

Distance Saint Petersburg, Russia to Vilnius, Lithuania: 734 km
Distance Saint Petersburg, Russia to Riga, Latvia: 577 km
Distance Saint Petersburg, Russia to Kaliningrad, Russia: 967 km
Distance Saint Petersburg, Russia to Warsaw, Poland: 1,173 km

"Pristina airport incident" convoy (with Russian 8x8 wheeled BTR-80 APCs), 1999:
Almost exactly 1,000 km travelled in almost exactly 24 hrs,
with 8 hours advance notice for the troops involved.

Distance Berlin, Germany to Warsaw, Poland: 574 km
Distance Berlin, Germany to Vilnius, Lithuania: 1,023 km

NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force standard: 
"The VJTF’s rapid yet flexible response times are what set it apart from other components of the NRF; some units will be ready to deploy in just two days, whilst the majority of units will be ready to move in less than seven days."

Two days till some of them begin to move. A full week and still some didn't commence any movement. That's what NATO calls "very high readiness".

We should get rid of everyone who tolerates a state of affairs in which less than a heavy division equivalent's reinforcements would arrive at the Polish-Lithuanian border in less than 48 hours. Everyone. From major to minister of defence and NATO general secretary, from state-level state secretary of traffic to minister of foreign affairs. We should get rid of everyone who tolerates slowness.

We don't need bigger budgets, we don't need more brigades - we need to get rid of slowness and marginal "readiness".



Deterrence and defence efficiency in Europe

Maybe I should clarify the underlying idea behind those "Fixing the ..." posts, the Baltic invasion scenario and some other blog posts:

First, a very, very foundational point: Military spending in itself has no net value for society. It's government consumption if we ignore the deterrence and defence purpose. 
Military R&D doesn't really advance science or civilian technology much any more, that's a thing of the past. Military service is rarely fun, so that's no contribution either. In fact, most economic effects could be had as well if people were instead paid to build homes, then demolish them, build, demolish, rinse repeat.

Second, there's no profit to be made for the society as a whole in military adventures / great power gaming. Individuals and corporations may make profit off this, but not the society as a whole.

Third, the inevitable consequence: Armed services have the primary and almost lone purpose of providing the common good of security against (organised violence) foreign threats. Their business is deterrence and (if this fails) defence.

The conclusion is that spending should be kept to the level required for deterrence and defence.

- - - - -

Now what's the required level?
The least unlikely threat scenario that justifies military spending is a Russian aggression (and I'm happy with the fact that this is still very unlikely). I think I showed that such a conflict would be very short and quick if there's much military power in the background that would make an aggression disastrous if it lasts longer. Now we should convince them (or keep them convinced) that even a quick invasion scenario doesn't work out well, for this should provide the deterrence that keeps the peace.

So there are three requirements founded in the Russia scenario(s):
(1) Forces that become effective within the first week and deter a quick aggression campaign plan.
(2) Forces that deter a longer aggression campaign plan.
(3) One or several alliance members sustain a nuclear deterrence (U.S., UK and France)

Fourth, we can add a certain 'competence core sustainment' mode for distant alliance members (for long term deterrence and defence option).
Fifth, at least one alliance member (U.S.) has Pacific Ocean allies and territories to keep in mind.

So for European policies I suppose we should be serious about orienting military policy towards deterrence and defence against Russia.
Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, France, Romania, USAREUR, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic should have their armed forces at least partially at a high-enough readiness for a 'first week' phase.
U.S., UK, France, Italy, Spain should have at least part of their air forces at high enough readiness for a 'first week' phase.
U.S., UK and France maintain the nuclear 'umbrella' (France and the UK could downgrade to cheaper systems than SSBNs/SLBMs, though).

Turkey can mind its own business, it's in a hot-enough neighbourhood (that's nevertheless not going to attack Turkey with regular forces) and may need to deploy its armed forces on its borders for national security any time (in addition to its less laudable ongoing de facto war of secession).

The rest of European NATO could follow military designs that are in part focused on territorial defence and in part focused on maintaining military competence* (but then it should really be competence, not obsolescent doctrine). This includes Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Belgium, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Norway (much territorial defence) and Denmark (NATO's lock for the Baltic Sea).

Some NATO members could demilitarise altogether, for their contribution would be insignificant anyway and they're not really wealthy (Slovenia, Albania, soon Montenegro).

Iceland is nice to NATO and provides itself as a base for air-sea warfare, and thus it's fair to return to the old arrangement under which the U.S. provides for its defence.
Luxembourg is a similar exception; it's tiny and lends its flag for NATO aircraft - its single battalion army is OK.

- - - - -

This is the real difference between what I'm proposing and what most commentary on military affairs in Europe is proposing: When I'm writing about a turn towards collective defence against regular military threats, I'm not only proposing to become qualitatively better about it. I'm also stating that we already have the quantity required AND re-orienting towards actual deterrence and defence can and should include cutting unneeded surplus parts, since these cause unjustified expenses.

Such as a German (or Polish) navy; cut this wasteful spending. Forced entry amphibious warfare vehicles; cut them. Fleet replenishment ships; you don't need those if you defend, for you cannot "defend" far from home.** Occupation warfare equipment; scrap it.*** Obsolete hardware that would fail in a clash of 1st class regular armed forces; scrap or replace it.

The usual commentary doesn't propose to cut such unnecessary parts, and it doesn't mention or take into account that the level of spending and manpower is already grossly in favour of European NATO compared to Russia (and even more so with American NATO).

Instead, the usual commentary on a pivot towards defence against Russia prefers bigger budgets, more troops, more new weapon systems. That's probably even more wasteful than the great power games about occupying Muslim countries.


*: One might be tempted to question this for example in regard to Italy; isn't it a maritime power that needs to defend the Southern flank? The question is; against whom? Algeria, Tunisia and Libya are probably not going to be able to pose a regular military threat to Italy for decades to come. Besides, when did an Italian navy ever justify its budget? Italian naval power hardly ever justified its existence post-Lepanto; exceptions in the 20th century were motor torpedo boats, minelayers, minesweepers and submarine chasers. The Italian armed forces could reduce to a mechanised brigade, militias on Sardinia and Sicily, coastal minehunting systems and a few dozen multirole combat aircraft and Italy would be safe even as a neutral country.
By the way, a single budget brigade or two would be fine for maintaining land warfare competence.
**: The British may shriek now, but frankly, it's idiotic to spend billions for the defence of a community of less than 3,000 inhabitants. 
***: Or lend it to UN blue helmet missions.