2021/03/06

Link drop March 2021

.

- - - - -

https://twitter.com/torriangray/status/1361778280521605122

I didn't even know that electric can openers are a thing. My can opener perfectly bites into all cans and opens them in about three seconds and it's a 50...70 years old piece of stamped and bent or cast iron alloy pieces with a bit of rust.

- - - - - 

- - - - -

- - - - -

- - - - -

- - - - -

- - - - - 

boingboing.net/2021/01/27/pilot-takes-off-in-2-5-feet-lands-in-16-5.html

- - - - -


politico.com/news/2021/03/05/biden-war-powers-congress-473843

 - - - - -

9gag.com/gag/aLp805V

- - - - -

- - - - -

oryxspioenkop.com/2020/09/al-watiya-airbase-capture.html

- - - - -

- - - - -

boingboing.net/2020/01/24/telescreens-r-us-2.html

Getting more powers, more toys, more possibilities is self-serving for law enforcement. Very few things are actually known to influence crime rates for sure. The up and down of crime rates is still mostly a mystery to researchers. Some seemingly unrelated things like long-term lead exposure of people appear to be much more influential regarding crime than policing, though.

Effective policing can depress crime rates only to some degree, and only some crimes (serial burglaries or serial robbers, for example) are understood to be highly susceptible to policing effects (not counting mere crime hotspot relocation). The best you can do for effective policing is likely not to give police such dystopian tech, but to enforce that it investigates a wide range of crimes properly and doesn't waste resources - neither on signalling nor on irrelevant stuff like bullying minorities, militarization or playing with toys.

- - - - -

- - - - -

 9gag.com/gag/av5rynb

- - - - -

www.youtube.com/c/GermanTankMuseum

- - - - -

research.checkpoint.com/2021/the-story-of-jian/

Long story short: The NSA created offensive cyberwar tools, the Chinese got them really quick and used them to cause harm to Western computer networks. Offensive cyberhacking is shooting ourselves into the foot and there's close to zero even only debatable evidence for significant upsides of it.

- - - - -

Let's have a look at what OSInt (open source intelligence) and an ordinary calm, non-partisan and reasoning approach can deliver in regard to super-important things that seem to be the realm of specialised subject matter experts.

Back on February 1st, 2020 I published (and it was written a few days before):

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6
https://theconversation.com/how-contagious-is-the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-can-you-spread-it-before-symptoms-start-130686

The big issue isn't that this one kills many people. The flu kills many more in parallel. The big issue is that this one isn't understood yet and might actually be much worse than the flu. At least the mortality rate appears to be no more than a couple per cent so far.
A 'couple per cent' such as 3% could still kill more than both World Wars combined when the infectiousness allows it to overrun the world. That's why contagiousness is so important. Sick people being able to infect others without showing symptoms devalues many containment schemes, and to date it's still not known for certain how exactly the virus can be transmitted. There's a very small chance that it may be airborne.

I suppose the wealthy Western countries will be able to deal with it even though we don't have a culture of wearing face masks to protect others.

Poor countries on the other hand have much less capacity to deal with outbreaks, and might not get much aid if we need our resources for ourselves.

A while later on February 24th, 2020 I broke with the regular "Saturdays-only" blog posts to make an announcement.

The gloves and hand washing tips were the info given at the time, though missing the main transmission path of airborne particles. What I wrote about masks was OK given the available info, albeit masks eventually proved to be really, really important. Some super-specialized subject matter experts were (as it appears) more wrong on masks even months later.

So while the info given (or rather relayed) on countermeasures was ordinary and mediocre at best, the appraisal that this shit could become a really big mess was spot-on, and all this written in late January - weeks before most policymakers finally sprung into serious action outside of PRC, Taiwan and South Korea.

It's encouraging to me in a an already well-known way. I've seen before that my opinions on details change as I add more knowledge and thought on a subject over years, but the big picture appraisals are typically stable and withstand the test of time if tested at all. (And I don't want more of them tested!)

See the flying autonomous drone topic, for example. Around 2010 I was thinking that maybe shotguns should be a thing to defend troops against tiny bird-like or rat-like autonomous killer drones. I now don't really see much potential for troops self-defence against such drones except drones intercepting drones and troops trying to be in closed indoor spaces or behind protective netting. Later I focused on adapted remotely-controlled (and somewhat autonomous) weapon stations on all motor vehicles (except two-wheelers, of course) as a countermeasure to bigger multi-kg drones. The timely detection of  tiny camouflaged drones seems nearly hopeless even in daytime.

What didn't change is that I see a likely revolution at the introduction of autonomous 'killer' drones of such sizes. I'd prefer to be wrong about this, but OSInt plus a calm, non-partisan reasoning approach led me to expect this. More about that later

- - - - -

[German]https://www.lto.de/recht/hintergruende/h/stpo-ermittlungsverfahren-durchsuchung-beschlagnahme-benachrichtigung-beschuldigter-95a-strafverfolgung/

"Der Anspruch auf rechtliches Gehör ist in Ermittlungsverfahren für die beschuldigten Personen von größter praktischer Bedeutung. Er ermöglicht es ihnen, sich gegen den Tatvorwurf zur Wehr zu setzen und auf die staatlichen Ermittlungen zu ihren Gunsten Einfluss zu nehmen. Insbesondere voreiligen, sich letztlich als unzutreffend erweisenden Vorwürfen – und das sind, aufs Ganze gesehen, die meisten – kann die Verteidigung effizient entgegentreten. Allerdings nur dann, wenn sie darüber informiert wird.

Vor diesem Hintergrund erschließt sich die Brisanz des geplanten § 95a StPO-E: Dieser sieht die Möglichkeit vor, im Rahmen eines Ermittlungsverfahrens Beschlagnahmen und die ihr vorausgehenden Durchsuchungen bei Dritten vor den hiervon betroffenen beschuldigten Personen entgegen den §§ 33 Abs. 3, 35 Abs. 2 StPO geheim zu halten, ggf. bis zum Abschluss der Ermittlungen."

Es wäre bei weitem nicht das erste verfassungswidrige Gesetz, das von den Konservativen betrieben und verabschiedet würde. Bei der bisherigen Häufiung von erwiesenermaßen (per BVerfG) verfassungswidrigen (Legislativ-)Bestrebungen von CDU/CSU wäre eigentlich mal eine Beobachtung durch den Verfassungsschutz wegen dringendem Verdacht auf Feindlichkeit gegenüber unserer verfassungsmäßigen freiheitlichen Grundordnung angebracht.

S O

 

2021/02/27

Sun Tzu: The Art of War (VIII): Variation in Tactics

.
I will use this easily accessible translation version
to comment on the Art of War, and I will pretend that Sun Tzu was indeed a historical person. 
This source website offers its own commentary (focused on ancient China) and is still freely available - unlike the previously-used source website.
My parts are in cursive as always.
 
Sun Tzu artist's impression from Qīnggōngdiàn Cánghuàběn
清宮殿藏畫本 / 清宫殿藏画本

1

Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces.

2

When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions.

In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.

3

There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.

This is still relevant, and much needless expense and suffering has been inflicted by unnecessary actions. Thousands of Germans died in 1871 because some a-hole general absolutely wanted to capture a besieged and neutralized fort long after the war was de facto won. The American Pacific War was extended and 15,000 men died needlessly in the stupid Battle of Peleliu. German cities were bombed long after WW2 had been decided - and the destruction actually impeded the ground forces' advances.

also, see /2011/03/elegance-in-warfare.html

The other part of this sentence is about the need for the forward commander to think by himself. Preferably, the commander should do what's necessary and use his remaining freedom of action to suit what he understands is his superior's intent. This intent is not necessarily the same as the last order given by him. The knowledge about the situation is changing often times, and the forward commander has to act accordingly - not stick to obsolete orders given with a very different set of information in mind. There are anecdotes about this, notably by Frederick II the Great and and Royal Navy (Fisher after Battle of the Dogger Bank). Basically, senior troops-leading officers were told for centuries that they were made officers because it was believed that they'd know when it's the time to not follow orders.

4

The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.

The polar opposite was quite often seen on the Eastern Front. A Soviet assault failed, the Soviet commander was pressured to succeed, a 2nd assault failed, 3rd, 4th, 5th, ...

5

The general who does not understand these, may be well acquainted with the configuration of the country, yet he will not be able to turn his knowledge to practical account.

6

So, the student of war who is unversed in the art of war of varying his plans, even though he be acquainted with the Five Advantages, will fail to make the best use of his men.

7

Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.

8

If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our schemes.

9

If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

A.k.a. "recon pull"; first see, then devise your action to suit the situation (and possibly exploit an opportunity). To be honest, my personal experience is that I'm unable to do so when I'm unprepared for the situation.

10

Reduce the hostile chiefs by inflicting damage on them; and make trouble for them, and keep them constantly engaged; hold out specious allurements, and make them rush to any given point.

11

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
 
Back in the old days an army usually didn't need to do more than set up camp and position on a hill to deter attack because uphill melee fights were losing melee fights. Few armies were able to supply themselves with water on a hill (the Romans did dig wells in such situations), so opponents could usually simply wait till the hilltop army had to move.

12

There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

"cowardice" is rather meant as timidity according to the source website. 

Temper and honour superficially don't seem to be of much relevance in modern warfare any more, but timidity sure has. Then again, temper and honour provocation are exactly what UBL exploited to make the Americans -and to a lesser degree the Europeans - go batshit crazy and hurt themselves in a myriad of ways.

13

These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of war. 
 
It's weird that he doesn't mention lack of loyalty as a general's possible sin. That caused unfathomable harm both to the Western Roman and the Chinese empires and still plagues the developing world.

14

When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of meditation.


So this chapter is overall not yielding so many opportunities for me to comment. Much of it seems to be quite obvious to the modern reader.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

.

2021/02/20

Stupid partisans

.
I want to share the insights from a little social experiment of my own.

Liars and bullshitters piss me off, so I stopped the false politeness in face of their impoliteness* entirely. 

So I looked up evidence to refute their misinformation (lie), provided the link and then I proceeded with something like 

"That was a LIE. xy told a LIE. xy is a LIAR."

There were up to four or five such responses of mine to some particularly offensive liars at once. Some people seriously tell five falsifiable lies in eight lines and proceed to call you a retard.

The reactions were interesting.

Long story short; the reactions taught me to doubt that they were plain liars or bullshit artists. Their attempts to counter what I said/wrote lacked logic, relevance, and were often goalpost-moving.

My conclusion was that these people aren't simple liars or bullshit artists. They were stupid partisans.

The reaction was not like

"Oh, he brought arguments. Now I need to counter with arguments."

and it was not like

"Oh, he may have convinced some bystanders. Now I need to be convincing in my reply."

Their attempts to counter were very clearly like

"Oh, he hit me. Now I have to fling whatever shit back, hit him as well. Ugh, caveman, ugh!"

Even those who admitted to stand corrected on one point (of several) proceeded with just more lies (and non-arguments based on faulty thinking). It was obvious that they weren't intelligent enough to even only understand the evidence for their lying.


So how could discourse be won against stupid partisans, to push society onto a better path?

Frankly, I gave up on those who are already stupid partisans. I doubt that anyone ever fully recovers from that. We might push back hard against propaganda/indoctrination that turns stupid people into stupid partisans. That's not going to be easy (possible), for the indoctrination doesn't originate from a handful sources. Some 'zombie' lies lingered for forty years after being debunked over and over again after being obvious BS even when they were new. They showed how difficult it is to get rid of old poison, and new poison is certainly in the making at all times. It's no wonder that history is a string of failures, and progress is usually coming from few people pushing along anyway.

So on a positive note, let's help those few who drive progress!

Meanwhile, people with a large platform (such as TV personalities should be held to a high standard; they must not allow their audience to be lied to. I've observed that people who don't shy away from exposing liars get treated much more respectfully and not be lied to the face in interviews. See Jon Stewart's old interviews with known serial liars and propagandists, for example. Indoctrination of stupid people with bullshit cannot be prohibited, but there's no reason to leave doors wide open for it.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

P.S.: You have not paid attention to how countries get into wars if you don't see how this blog post relates to  "Defence and Freedom".

*: Lying is impolite and offensive. Telling the truth is NEVER offensive (impolite maybe). Most of all the Americans have the terrible cultural defect that they consider it bad manners and prohibit to call out liars, while they tolerate lies if they like them. Look what this got them into. 'Karma is a bitch.'

.

2021/02/13

Military punditry and think tanking

. 

I was tempted to write a response to yet another navy fanboi pseudo-intellectual drivel that made the rounds on the internet, but I saw with great satisfaction that many comments already pointed out that playing fantasy navy with an imaginary doubled budget and magic asterisks is hardly impressive or worthwhile thought.

The time is overdue for a radical change (that totally won't come, so many terrible issues will persist).

The interested public should stop paying attention to the fanboyism and professional lobbyism / agitation (a.k.a. arms industry- or military-sponsored think thanks). I pushed this point for years, but it deserves repetition: The principal-agent model explains many woes. The colloquial equivalent that applies here of it is "It's hard to understand if your pay check depends on not understanding". There are so many people in the 'play' whose income or whose passion drives their opinions that most opinions are outright worthless because of such systemic bias.

Accordingly, ordinary punditry on military affairs uses a very restricted repertoire

  • always using status quo as starting point, which causes a path dependency bias*
  • uncritical acceptance of threat scenarios
  • pointing out new tech
  • criticizing popularly criticised failures (LCS, for example)
  • being smart AFTER the fact
  • usually one pet topic (obsession) per pundit

Very rarely do they make a case against the bureaucratic group self-interest of the armed bureaucracy

  • calls for less and smaller staffs, fewer flag rank officers, fewer privileges/prestige for flag rank officers
  • calls to disband established structures
  • rejection of pathos or delusional self-praise
  • calls for a smaller budget
  • pointing out that the emperor has no clothes**
  • calls for bloated establishment to be shrunk harshly (such as German military medical sector)
  • calls for old systems to be decommissioned (ships, aircraft, AFVs)
  • actual critique on specific named active duty flag officers***

2021/02/06

Link drop February 2020

.
china-defense.blogspot.com/2020/12/exoskeleton-equipped-china-army-border.html

- - - - -

www.warfare.today/2020/06/07/usaf-experiments-with-palletized-weapons/

- - - - -

www.openculture.com/free_certificate_courses (NOT spam; maybe there's something for you in there)

- - - - -

 I considered to write a mil history post about the anomaly of Japanese warriors not using shields in an age of intense archery threats (Samurai body armour was very much like shields attached to the body). Then I learned that they did use some shields, after all:

gunbai-militaryhistory.blogspot.com/2017/12/tate-tedate-japanese-shields.html 

Those looked rudimentary, though the pavise-like big shields for arquebusiers seem like a pretty good idea.

- - - - -

Read this powerful account, please:

www.salon.com/2021/01/16/the-selective-restraint-of-american-police-on-display-at-the-capitol-riot-amazed-me/

This is one of its links:

theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/13/us-police-use-of-force-protests-black-lives-matter-far-right

I have absolutely no doubt that the tonfa is more loose in Germany when opposed to left wing activists than with right wing activists. The exception may be large anti-nazi counterprotests.

- - - - -

[German] www.der-postillon.com/2021/02/von-der-leyen.html


 

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

.

2021/01/30

Mücke

..

Lessons learned from the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict trickled into the public over the past two months or so, and the picture that formed is one in which electronic warfare (mostly sensing a.k.a. radio direction finding and data processing) and remotely-controlled drones were key assets for Azerbaijan to overcome the Armenian military defence of Nagorno-Karabagh in weeks. Armenia was very heavily armed (and armoured) by the metrics of the 1980's.

www.oryxspioenkop.com/2021/01/aftermath-lessons-of-nagorno-karabakh.html

 

(hat tip to anonymous commenter)

and now a funny-sounding video:

The two apparently most important drone types (aside from decoys) were the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2, which served in an aerial artillery observer role akin to what was done with light manned aircraft in WW2 and the Israeli IAI Harop, which served as a loitering drone used to search, find and then kamikaze a high value target.

BTW, I believe that the original Harpy (predecessor of Harop) drone was somehow an offspring from a cancelled German kamikaze drone program of the 1980's. I don't accurately remember the designation of it (K-DAR? Kampfdrone Anti-Radar?), but by the looks of it the Israelis either developed something nearly identical-looking by form follows function or they just swapped out the electronics package, which they seem to do a lot when they adopt foreign airframes. 

We have a silly public debate about armed drones in Germany in which the government pretends that it's about Reaper-style observation drones getting munitions to drop, when the topic really should be about such kamikaze drones and especially about autonomous drones. So far the government doesn't introduce armed drones. I suppose the debate is silly because we shouldn't debate whether or not we should play the virtuous ones who don't have such dirty weapons. We should discuss how to keep Pandora's autonomous drones box closed just as NBC munitions have been kept in check pretty well for generations. Pandora's box of kamikaze drones and munitions-dropping drones was already opened in the Second World War and is most unlikely to get closed. I'm not even sure whether it would be a good thing to get rid of kamikaze drones or armed observation drones, for these are a lot more usable for small powers facing hostile air superiority than are manned observation air vehicles. To suppress arms that benefit the weak against the great powers does not look like a good cause to me.

Back to the lessons learned; the obvious counter to remotely controlled drones that need to transmit a video feed (high bandwidth!) or at least series of photos and to receive commands (very low bandwidth) to be of much use is to jam the radio link. Radio physics is tricky, but I still suppose that (radio) line of sight between emitter and receiver is de facto necessary. You can't do everything with the freaky short wave frequencies.

To jam this air-ground link from the ground may sometimes be possible (high mast in very flat terrain or jammer on mountains), but more regularly you'd want to have an airborne jamming emitter. The American way of Warfare would be to pick some huge Boeing or USD 100+ million combat aircraft, and equip it with powerful standoff jammers. 

The German army (or some suppliers, I'm not sure about this) pursued a different concept in the 1990's, and I meant to write about this on basis of an ancient journal article (Soldat und Technik 1/1997) for a very, very long time. The concept was meant to make use of the terribly troubled Brevel observation drone project's airframe and equip it with electronics and antennas to become an airborne RF jammer in at leat the 200...500 MHz band. It was called "Mücke" (midge). (Our principal ground-based jammers Hornisse and Hummel only covered the 1.5...30 MHz and 20...80 MHz frequencies in 1996).

The Mücke project / proposal is so elusive that even secretprojects.co.uk doesn't have a thread about it. It did look (in the article's illustration) 99% like KZO Brevel, just with two stick antennas.

Mücke didn't seem like a good idea at the time, and the German army instead invested in replacing the electronics in our bulletproof 6x6 RF jamming vehicles with something that did not belong into a museum. This was likely much cheaper. Mücke was (according to the article) not really meant to disrupt radio comm between hostile airborne vehicles and ground stations, but to jam general radio comms up to 100 km 'deep' (you know, as if there was some front-line), something that you cannot really do with land vehicle-mounted jammers (except freaky shortwave, which makes RF physics such a mess). The proposal to give every division only 12 drones was a stupid non-starter in face of opposing air defences and fighters.

Mücke would not need to loiter over hostile-controlled ground with the different mission of messing with the video upload of kamikaze and observation drones. The airborne RF jamming drone may finally have a good reason to exist.

2021/01/23

A framework for national opinion-finding

. 

The widespread inability to and disinterest in forming the own opinion based on facts has exasperated me for a long time. All humans are imperfect and incapable of perfect logic all the time, but there are avoidable and actually fairly obvious obstacles to good opinion-forming and thus to good decision-making.

Some of these obstacles are cultural and by my limited lifetime experience, they were not as prevalent in the late 20th century. Call me anti-American if you want, but many of the intelligence-trashing cultural obstacles appear to be most intensely applied and followed in the United States where a large fraction of the population is outright preferring to live in fantasyland. Their disdain for actual information and actual reasoning is appalling.

- - - - -

So I'll lay out a format for how a nation could have a sensible and fair discussion based on known facts with unusually good conditions for reaching opinions based on good faith and known facts. It is in large extent optimised to counter the American bullshitting culture. This format would be very much suitable for a weekly primetime one-hour TV show on a major TV network.

The first thing you need to have is proper fact-checking and an offence database. The fact-checking needs to be reputable and quick. The hosts would choose the fact-checkers, and take responsibility for their choice. The conflicting parties would have no say in this choice.

Second, you need a clear, concise and published rule set that discourages the usual bullshitting culture moves:

  • bad faith arguments
  • hypocrisy
  • attempts to keep a discussion from reaching a conclusion as long as the own side doesn't seem likely to win
  • lies
  • "plausible deniability" cover for lies and other unethical behaviour (dogwhistles)
  • moving goalposts
  • logical fallacies 
  • irrelevant distractions and trivialities

The host selects a topic and gives two conflicting parties (not necessarily political parties; it would also be something like PETA vs. Association of not assholes) few weeks time to prepare and announce their small delegation. Both side begins with an argument-free opening statement of their conclusion and both sides begin with 100 points. The pro-change side begins by making their first (time-limited) argument, and announces how heavily it weighs this arguments in points (example: 10 points weight), but with a limit of maximum 20 points.

The fact checkers check the argument, and if they find bad faith, hypocrisy, lies, disinformation, dogwhistles, logical fallacies, irrelevant or trivialities, this is an instant defeat and they lose all those points (example: -10 points). In case the argument was fine, they don't lose any points but the other side does (example: -10 points). In case of the argument being found to be plain wrong (lies or wrong information, lacking in logical reasoning) they lose the points twice (example: -20 points).

Next, it's the other side's turn. There's a check if any side is at or below zero points after every such round, and if so, the part with less points is declared  to have lost the argument on the issue.

The following week, there will be a one-hour special prime time TV show providing all the real world facts about the issue that the winning side wants to be known to the public (and that can be stuffed into one hour of TV).

  • Lies get punished
  • Bad faith arguments get punished
  • Dogwhistling gets punished.
  • Logical fallacies get punished.
  • Distractions at topics when the other side deserves to score get punished.
  • Hypocrisy gets punished.
  • No moving goalposts or keeping the discussion open indefinitely because of the finite points pool.

And most importantly; any delegation found to have lied will be admonished for lying and be excluded from the show for one year. A liar will be branded a "liar" and banned from not only the TV show, but the entire network for lifetime for the second offence. Known serial liars won't be permitted into the delegation in the first place. Again, the host accepts responsibility for this and has to lay out evidence of serial lying for every proposed but then rejected delegate.

- - - - -

There are imperfections such as that I found no accurate way for the points to reflect the actual importance of the argument. A party could "win" with 10 rather unimportant arguments while losing against four heavyweight arguments, for example. A way out would be to let the host allocate all or additional points to an argument, but this only moves the imperfection around. Likewise, the factcheckers could fail, and indeed would very likely fail on some very unusual topics. a 17th century factchecker would have gotten ethics of slavery wrong, a 1950's fact checker would have made rulings about gay stuff that would be appalling in the 21st century and so on. There's also a time problem; to give fact checkers much time becomes impractical, and they might be tricked with new lies if they have too little time. The debate that's being concentrated into a two-hour TV show should probably happen over several days' time with a non-disclosure condition until the broadcasting.

Still, a framework that discourages bullshitting culture and reduces it to some rule-tricking efforts that are but a fraction of the unregulated bullshitting would be a huge improvement. Such a framework could also be used in and by large institutions (large corporations, military bureaucracies) to support better decision-making while under attack by one or another bullshitting culture.

We won't have such a Saturday evening TV show. We do need to stem the tide of bullshitting culture, though. It's about time we do something, for the old-fashioned institutions fail against bullshitting culture.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

.

2021/01/16

Vorwärtsdrang

Some old American military history/theory literature admired the "Vorwärtsdrang" of German tank division (and their commanders) in France 1940 at great length, without using this word. "Vorwärtsdrang" has no accurate English translation. It describes the acute urge to move forward.

This was very useful for the spearhead forces of an encirclement movement in 1940-1942. The quicker the advance, the less likely the opposing forces could establish a defence in front of them. Even hasty counters devised by the defenders would be obsolete by the time they can be executed. The correct answer was a proper flank attack well behind the spearhead, but the counterattacks that did happen usually lacked the offensive effectiveness in 1940-1942 and stalled.

Even infantry forces made good use of "Vorwärtsdrang". Capture that hill this evening despite being tired and exhausted and you don't have to do a bloody assault on it against defenders the next morning! This was a recipe for offensive success on the operational level in an age when front-lines with field fortifications were coining land warfare in Europe.

It's not necessarily a good concept for the post-Korean War era.

Front-lines have been very scarce after 1953. The Iraq-Iran War saw front-lines, but they were weak in most places because of the forces:length ratio. There were also relevant front-lines in Lebanon and at the Suez Canal. There's little reason to expect front-lines in Europe, unless Greece and Turkey wage war after all. European warfare rather involves strongpoint/hedgehog defences in long-running wars (Bosnia, Eastern Ukraine). We would likely see mostly highly mobile battlegroups facing each other in a NATO-Russia conflict. There would not be a real front-line until after the main action, during a ceasefire. I repeatedly wrote about that for more than a decade.

What's the use of Vorwärtsdrang when the operational picture is about two overlapping clouds of moving centipedes (mobile battlegroups) rather than about front-lines of infantry divisions in field fortifications interrupted by breakthroughs and breakthrough exploitation/encirclement phases? The urge to move forward would only position your battlegroup deeper, and severe your own lines of communication. There is no mobility advantage of spearhead (tank) forces over the opposing forces. If anything, battlegroups with tracked vehicles are at a road mobility disadvantage compared to all-wheeled formations. Their only technical mobility advantage to be had may be about forced obstacle (narrow river) negotiation (bridgelayer tanks).

Instead, agility, alertness and quick reaction might be the decisive virtues in a modern army. All those battlegroups could be overrun or pushed into an ambush if they don't best the opposing forces by eluding their efforts and positioning themselves for combined efforts to exploit fleeting opportunities.

It was very, very difficult and exceptional to have commanding officers with Vorwärtsdrang in the late 1930's when the paradigm of trench war was still influential and dominant. Today it is very, very difficult to have entire (battalion) battlegroups capable of leaving a bivouac in minutes to elude an attack, to have commanding officers who quick make on-the-spot decisions despite the NATO command staffs culture, to have division- and corps-level commanding officers who leave subordinate battlegroups off the leash to enable their quick decisionmaking. The 2nd and 3rd qualities mentioned can be seen in the campaigns of 1940-1942, but the Vorwärtsdrang in particular seems ill-advised now. It was possible to dominate the opposing forces by breaking their timetables with a quick relentless advance in 1940/41, but now we need something different with the current force structures and sizes. The ability to react quickly (to opportunities or threats) matters a lot more.

Hagiographies of Wehrmacht generals are not helpful for this, as they didn't represent the virtues that were best during and since the Cold War.

related:

 
 
 
P.S.: An example of the kind of literature that I mentioned above is "Bias for action" by Dr. Russel H.S. Stolfi, 1991, written for the USMC and explicitly presenting the exploits of a particular German tank division of 1940/1941 as a good example for 1990's USMC tactical leadership. I've seen more than a dozen such anglophone and also some germanophone books with such conclusions or insinuations.
.

2021/01/09

Self-evident to civilians, still debatable to generals 15 years later

.
MilPub had a topic on how armies marched into the First World War doctrinally unprepared, despite experiences made with the new smokeless propellant firepower weaponry in the preceding 15 years.

In this light, something else struck me deeply: An ordinary lexicon of technology and its auxiliary sciences published in 1920 featured a summary of artillery experiences made by the German army in the First World War, and concluded

"Für Geschütze der leichten Artillerie, welche in den Nahkampf eingreifen sollen, wird in Zukunft völlige Panzerung und der Kraftzug unbedingt notwendig sein. Dies führt zur Tankartillerie."

("Complete armour and motorisation will be an absolute necessity in the future for guns of the light artillery which shall intervene in close combat. This leads to a tank artillery.")

This basically declared the infantry gun obsolete and declared that assault guns as they appeared in the Second World War would be a necessity.

The author may have had first-hand experience and may actually have been an officer during the war, but he certainly was not an active duty high-ranking officer of the army's artillery branch at the time of the writing.

Yet, despite this civilian's conclusion of 1920, a 1935 memorandum of then-Colonel von Manstein is famous to this day, for he argued for the need to introduce assault guns in it. A later meeting with generals showed that at least one old guard general still believed that horse-drawn infantry guns would suffice.

Eventually, infantry guns proved useful-enough in indirect fires, useful (albeit risky) in some direct fire applications and totally insufficient for keeping  up direct fire HE support for a long or rapid advance in most terrains.

So how could it be that a conclusion that was casually stated in a civilian book (not focused on military affairs) was rehashed 15 years later by an officer corps prodigy and then pushed as an innovative, modern concept that still needed some effort to spread in the army?

I have a hunch that the biggest progress we could make in the sciences in the 21st century could be the discovery of how to make and keep large, old institutions innovative and agile as start-ups. I might be wrong about that, of course. Maybe 22nd century?

.

2021/01/02

Link dump January 2021


That's a misunderstanding. He didn't write about THOSE founding fathers. He wrote about the founding fathers of the Republicon fantasyland. The same fantasyland where racism is only directed against whites, waving Confederate battle flags and revering traitors is patriotic, tax cuts increase economic output and pay for themselves, where the Rich flee when their income is taxed properly, where the constitution is always on Republicons' side even if it says otherwise, where Jesus is the best but none of his teachings are preferred over Leviticus, where only Republicons can legitimately win elections, where liars are upright truth-tellers and an exogenous entity known as "the government" is the problem - not the Rich exploiting the rest of the country to such a degree that 80+% of the working people haven't had substantial real income growth in 30+ years.

- - - - -

The whole Covid-19 vaccine distribution issue could be used by the European Union to create a strategic partnership with Africa (before the Chinese do). We should have a huge and well-publicized (hybrid online-real) conference with photo ops, press releases, press conferences and all and provide Africa with enough vaccines for the entire continent for the EU's purchasing prices, starting at a reasonable date (say, March 1st).

China could still jump in and attempt to deliver vaccines sooner, but then we could simply tell Africa that this urgency is thanks to our promise and make the African public(s) understand that we played China like a fiddle.

This would require some strategic thought among politicians or top bureaucrats, of course. So I'd be most astonished if it happened.

- - - - -

https://www.politico.eu/article/sweden-nato-membership-dilemma/

- - - - -

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/08/thieves-target-russia-nuclear-war-doomsday-plane

- - - - -

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/us/politics/russia-hack-putin-trump-biden.html

- - - - -

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/indland/hemmelige-rapporter-usa-spionerede-mod-danske-ministerier-og-forsvarsindustri

- - - - -

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https://netzpolitik.org/2020/russische-desinformation-das-netzwerk-gefaelschter-auslandsmedien/


.