2020/01/25

Libya peace process

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The recent apparent success of German diplomacy in negotiating a peace process (and possibly aid) for civil war-torn Libya looks like a success story of the kind of diplomacy that the United States, France, Italy and Russia are not capable of (any more):

Five rounds of diligent and patient negotiations with all important stakeholders without provoking much public attention, largely with a non-partisan  'honest broker' reputation and behaviour. Almost all parties agreed on a long list of promises (Greece and Saudis were not invited to the final conference and did thus not sign the promises as far as I know).
 
Libyan Civil War
Map of approx. territorial control in Libya, source Ali Zifan / Wikipedia
We'll see how much good that does in the next five years or so, but we already know that it exceeds what the French and Italians (both considered to be partisans in the conflict) achieved in their earlier effort.

I wish this diplomatic effort much success - especially as such diplomacy might find ways out of seemingly ever-lasting conflicts more often in the future.
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The only obvious downside to Germany is that there's much talk about a need for German blue helmets for Libya. Personally, I don't see at all why a diplomatic 'honest broker' would be obliged to send blue helmet troops. This strikes me as thinking typical of those people who wouldn't come up with 'honest broker diplomacy' as their first idea for addressing such a conflict at all. Why would their opinion deserve much weight in this case? How would an 'honest broker' stay non-partisan for when violence flares up and requires further negotiations if it's involved with fighting troops? Don't those reporters and pundits think before writing? Is 'we must deploy troops into crisis region' some kind of reflex? And don't get me started on whether deploying troops into Libya is helpful at all. There's  little supporting evidence for such a notion - but reporters and pundits appear to think of it as self-evidently true.

The African Union, Pakistan and Jordan would be fine candidates for providing troops for a blue helmet mission. To let them help Libya get back to functioning is more promising (on the psychological level) than to insist on Europeans or even Americans meddling there.

There's the ubiquitous concern about how willing such forces would be to use force against organised armed resistance and about their proneness to corruption and human rights abuses, of course. Let's face it; Western troops deployed to Libya wouldn't necessarily be exemplary, either. American and French troops in particular have a deserved reputation for 'rough' behaviour towards no-name civilians and German troops would inevitably have extremely restrictive rules of engagement forced by our politicians, which would limit their utility to providing local security. I don't see them as a force that would forcibly disarm a warlord army, for example.
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There are benefits in non-partisanship in international diplomacy. The Swiss understand this intuitively, and I have a hunch that Western great powers in particular lost sight of this. The serious international conflicts that exist today exist because there are opposing factions that cannot finish off the conflict through overwhelming power. The worst cases (such as Syria) are multi-polar, where the partisan powers being 'friendly' and 'opposing' does not produce a clear-cut two sides of a conflict; the enemy of an enemy may both be your enemy or your friend in such a conflict. Such conflicts are terribly complicated and crying out loud for a non-partisan 'honest broker diplomacy' effort.
 

S O
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2020/01/18

Defence against strategic surprise air attack

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Previous posts dealt with the threat and challenge of a possible surprise air attack on high value targets (HVT*)**, particularly with hundreds of precision-guided missiles (PGM*). Such a surprise air attack could take out much of Europe's air power and other high value targets in the first hour of hot conflict.
Hypersonic missiles are the scare missiles du jour,
supposed to scare you
I suppose that there's no promising way to protect against such an attack in calm times because the required defences could not realistically be held in a sufficient readiness (with high-powered radars operating 24/365, for example). It might be feasible to protect against it in times of crisis. Recent events have highlighted the side effect risks of such a readiness, though. 


So let's look at how we could set up such (crisis time) defences under the assumption that we could (technically) detect and intercept even terrain-following cruise missiles that possess very small radar reflexivity and quasiballistic / hypersonic missiles with a worthwhile probability of success.

Europe is large, and both its coastlines and its Eastern frontier are long. So I suppose that the only feasible way of actually defending against a large wave of PGMs would be through the use of area air defences. It doesn't appear to be promising to use hundreds of short-range air defence sites. Short range air defences are most unlikely to be effective against quasiballistic / hypersonic PGMs anyway. 
The area air defences would have a much smaller 'footprint' (protected area) against quasiballistic / hypersonic PGMs than against cruise missiles (a well-known phenomenon with existing area air defences), so this backbone of defence could be split into a defensive line behind frontier (with spacings suitable for intercept of cruise missiles) and along coasts on the one hand (same) and other 'rear' firing units providing a protective 'umbrella' to clusters of HVTs (also against medium range quasiballistic and hypersonic missiles).

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The erroneous killing of civilian aviation could be avoided by not permitting the area air defences to fire on subsonic targets unless there's a high confidence detection of a large wave of incoming cruise missiles somewhere in Europe.
A small first wave of PGMs might be launched to exploit this and take out the area air defences, of course. Soft kill (multispectral smoke, local and directed jamming against imaging radar and satellite navigation), hard kill (short or very short range air defences to intercept the few incoming missiles) and evasion (quick reaction movement of the possibly targeted assets by few hundred metres) could be used to harden the defence network against this. This would be a particular challenge at coasts and close to certain borders (where many cheap munitions could be used with very little warning time to defeat the defence network), and much easier for rear cluster defence units (such as near Berlin or Paris, for example).
Another problem is airborne standoff jamming.  The frontier chain of defence against cruise missiles might be exposed to this, and thus be an unreliable proposition for defence. Standoff jamming would help stealthy cruise missiles a lot. Non-radar sensors may be required to make this line technologically redundant and thus more trustworthy.
Legitimate supersonic contacts would be known to all firing units (not many friendly supersonic capable aircraft would be around, and they would have their transponders active), so threat supersonic/hypersonic missiles would be identified as such with ease once detected.
Such defences would be integrated (keyword IADS), but this integration must not be a necessity, for a necessity would introduce a potential systemic point of catastrophic failure.

It shouldn't be much of a problem to elevate the defences to crisis (high readiness) mode. This should not require a political-level  direction. Spares budgets and personnel policies should allow for military leadership to elevate the readiness to crisis mode at slight hints of a surprise attack threat on its own. The safety precautions and defensive nature should suffice to convince the political leadership to permit this.


This begs three important questions:
(1) Is this technically feasible? Can we really detect and intercept challenging PGM targets with sufficient reliability, possibly in face of standoff jamming by hostile aircraft and disruptions of network integration?
(2) Is this affordable? Several existing air defence projects have shown extremely high costs for area air defences. Active radar seeker missiles are very expensive. Even the Russian S-400 system is said to be multiple times as expensive per regiment than S-300.
(3) Should it be done as a multinationally (EU or NATO) coordinated program akin to what was done with AWACS or at least the coordinated Central European area air defence belt of NATO in the 70's and 80's?

NATO SAM belt in Cold War
I do suspect that the technical feasibility is at most a challenge of possible 10-20 years additional R&D. The obsession with BMD since the 1991 SCUD scare should actually have served a purpose in preparing us against quasiballistic and hypersonic missiles. I'm less convinced that we could deal with stealthy terrain-following cruise missiles. Especially missiles / killer drones that fly at bird speed with a bird's radar signature could slip though to at least the forward line of defence. Our doppler radars would be fooled.

The affordability is a question of political will, and thus a question of problem awareness. Even extremely expensive systems would have a price tag that disappears in the noise of economic growth volatility.
I suspect that Poland might mobilise such awareness and might set up defences for Warsaw at least. France and Italy might relocate their SAMP/T batteries for protection of their capitals and equip them with the newer BMD missile version, but I doubt that more than this is realistic.
A strategic PGM surprise attack in some war might be a warning shot (similar to the 1967 Six Days' War surprise attack on airbases) that could raise threat awareness to a sufficient level for a 80% solution within ten years.
The affordability could be helped by grouping HVTs in fewer clusters, but the effort to relocate HVTs is an obstacle.

Should it be done multinationally? Well, at least the exchange of situation data should be arranged. The European geography doesn't necessitate more than that IMO. Let's say Belgium did not set up a coastal line of intercept. That would not force Netherlands, Germany and France to set up lines of intercept at Belgium's borders. We wouldn't really need a linear defence that far west. Belgium's coast should merely be covered by early warning sensors, and that might actually be possible with over-the horizon (OTH) radars that require no Belgium-specific sites.
I see no reason why NATO should be involved. Returning D&F readers may understand that this is because not only Russia, but also the U.S. should be considered as a medium- to long term missile strike threat country by Europeans. A coordination of the effort by the relevant continental countries (Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, possibly Denmark, Czech Republic, Portugal and Netherlands) including joint competitions for technical solutions (even if they lead to purchase of different offers as in some past competitions) would be appropriate.

The purpose of such spending would be to deny aggressor war planning the optimism that could lead to an aggression. Aggressor war planners should fear that a strategic surprise attack would fail if launched in times of crisis, and the European allies would thus retain enough military power through the first day of hot conflict to defeat an aggression with conventional means.
The feasibility depends on technical questions and political will.


related:
/2019/08/inf-20.html
/2018/10/inf-i-dont-hold-back-this-time.html
/2018/05/summary-modern-air-defences-for-europe.html
/2018/03/oth-coverage-for-europe.html
/2017/12/comment-on-european-investments-in-air.html
/2016/11/meadstlvs-alternatives.html
/2010/07/first-week-of-peer-vs-peer-air-war.html

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: Acronyms used to shorten the text and make it a little less repetitive
**: The links are near the end of the blog post.
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2020/01/11

China's international position

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There's a curious map about which countries support the PR China in regard to its oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority in the West of China:



It is curious that multiple Muslim countries appear to support China in its oppression of its Muslim minority. The Chinese influence or perceived bonds to China must be strong if the map is correct.

There's another and very similar map about support for China regarding its South China Sea territorial dispute, but it didn't withstand scrutiny:


I didn't do the research to check the former map's accuracy, for the latter map already has the key takeaway: There's no non-"Western" support for arbitration. I interpret this as most poor countries not being in favour of fair international law approaches to conflicts when the PRC is involved. This interpretation may be to far-reaching, but I am not aware of any evidence to the contrary.

I wrote repeatedly that the Western World is only a stalwart proponent of international law when it's about enforcing its will, and habitually ignoring international law and even its own treaties when they restrict the West in its bullying (a.k.a. "cruise missile diplomacy").

That would leave a terribly small quantity of true supporters of international law. Switzerland, Liechtenstein ... anyone else?

Aside from the IL angle, I read a really strong position of the Chinese (relative) newcomer great power in the "Third World" and "Second World" in these graphics and this fits to what else I saw over the years. It appears that the West isn't just failing to ward off Chinese efforts to secure its access to African raw materials; it's failing to look attractive. We've got too much baggage, and may even look like the inferior future customer and investor market.
This doesn't quite fit to the self-image of Europeans, Americans and Japanese who tend to think that their way of life is the best or very close to being the best.

It appears that the West needs a grand strategy change in foreign policy. Instead, it's playing petty games in Syria and elsewhere and brings lots of useless politicians into positions of great power.


S O
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2020/01/04

Link drop January 2020

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https://www.voanews.com/usa/pentagon-concerned-russia-cultivating-sympathy-among-us-troops

"The second annual Reagan National Defense Survey, completed in late October, found nearly half of armed services households questioned, 46%, said they viewed Russia as ally.
Overall, the survey found 28% of Americans identified Russia as an ally, up from 19% the previous year."
defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2012/12/inflationary-use-of-word-ally.html
  
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The lying moron may have written this because he would have done it in Obama's place.

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It's a leap over the L/52 barrel length step, but unlike many other U.S.Army projects this one is just an upgrade tot he already Frankenstein-ed M109, so it may actually succeed rather than be cancelled as most of their blank sheet of paper designs.

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The article is behind a paywall, so I link to a summarizing left wing website, too:

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https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/how-boeing-lost-its-bearings/602188/

It's not a new diagnosis. This was already understood to be a problem generations ago.
I highly recommend to watch this in full:


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https://boingboing.net/2019/12/31/ingenious-cold-war-keylogger-t.html



S O
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2019/12/28

Let's open our eyes to the ugly reality as the decade ends

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Copied from http://home.earthlink.net/~eldonenew/fascism.htm, green parts are mine.

"Characteristics of Fascism" by Dr. Lawrence Britt
Dr. Britt, a political scientist, wrote an article about fascism that appeared in Free Inquiry magazine -- a journal of humanist thought. Dr. Britt studied the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile). He found the regimes all had 14 things in common, and he calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The article is titled 'Fascism Anyone?', by Lawrence Britt, and appeared in Free Inquiry's Spring 2003 issue on page 20.

The 14 characteristics
  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism -- Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.[Both Democrats and Republicans in the United States exaggerate the flag-waving and flag decorum compared to almost all other countries. Many Republicans additionally revere the traitors' battle flag.]
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights -- Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to 'look the other way' or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc. [Disdain for human rights shown by Republicans in cases of caging, torture advocacy, elevating war criminals to campaign props]
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause -- The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic, or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. [Scapegoating is habitual for Republicans; Muslims, brown people, blacks, Hispanics, LGBTQ, and not the least Democrats]
4. Supremacy of the Military -- Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized. [Republicans immediately increased of the already ludicrously high military spending despite budget deficit increase after years of debt hysteria - and did so for no reason. Elevating SEALS above the law. Lots of generals in cabinet-level positions. Cuts to social programs, empty promises on public infrastructure.]
5. Rampant Sexism -- The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy. [Not really necessary to elaborate, is it? Republicans check the box - their politicians are overwhelmingly white men and they often obsess about things like forcing transvaginal probes on women who try to exercise a constitutional right.]
6. Controlled Mass Media -- Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common. [Republicans: Extensive attempts to promote right wing media sources, independent media cut off from press briefings, interviews. Attacks on critical media as 'fake media', hate campaign against independent media, move against internet neutrality]
7. Obsession with National Security -- Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses. [Republicans: check - Migrant caravan is coming! Scary brown Muslims! Seriously, they even used the "national security" argument against steel imports from Canada. "National security" talk has been on an exaggerated level in the U.S. compared to all European countries for many years. The only "National Security" that Republicans are not concerned about is security against Russia's intelligence service campaigns.]
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined -- Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions. [Republicans: Evangelical leaders assert that the lying moron has a mandate from heaven, talk of 'chosen one', the Vice President is a bible thumper etc.. Nothing about separating children from parents, taking away food aid, allowing more pollution, hatemongering or mocking the disabled is really Christian. This is a clear-cut case of box checked.]
9. Corporate Power is Protected -- The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.  [The only really consistent Republican policy besides fearmongering and hatemongering is pursuit of plutocracy. Big businesses that politically support the lying moron get relief from import tariffs.]
10. Labor Power is Suppressed -- Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed.  [Suppression and cracking of labour unions other than police and firefighters labour unions is a long-standing Republican policy. Republicans only targeted those labour unions for union-busting that were not clearly leaning their way.]
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts -- Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free-expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts. [Republicans promote hostility to college-educated people, coastal elites etc - and their dear leader literally claimed to love the uneducated.]
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment -- Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses, and even forego civil liberties, in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations. [Republicans: Clear cut check the box, particularly in regard to migrants. Most domestic law enforcement is not under federal control, but Republicans sure cheered the 'law and order' types such as the criminal Sheriff Arpaio. Republicans were in solidarity with policemen and deputies who killed citizens for no good reason. Other American politicians play the "law and order" racket as well, but Democrats very largely turned away from it.]
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption -- Fascist regimes are almost always governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions, and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders. [Republicans sure check the box in regard to cronyism and corruption. Accountability is avoided even by obstruction of Congress (not complying with binding subpoenas). The dear leader routinely self-enriches himself through the office by allowing bribes by foreign diplomats paying above-market rates in his Washington hotel, and other scandals]
14. Fraudulent Elections -- Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against (or even the assassination of) opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. [Republicans are known for gerrymandering, voter suppression incl. voter caging, closing polling places in non-Republican-leaning areas, requiring ID to minimize non-Republican-voter turnout, resisting a law in Florida to withhold voting rights from citizens, rejecting suitable ID to maximise the effect, suppressing a decisive recount, allowing and demanding that foreign governments intervene in domestic elections on Republicans' behalf]
One might add the corruption and perversion of the judicial branch by appointment of hyperpartisan judges and smears against non-compliant judges by the Republicans.


I am past pretending that the United States of America are a Western country under the present president. They have a fascist government. 

It doesn't take a 100% replay of Hitler or Mussolini to be fascist*. The characteristics - all of which incompatible with a modern liberal* Western society - are all met by the Republicans who control the executive branch, paralyse the legislative branch and take over the judiciary branch of federal government.

Their fascist government may not be entrenched well-enough to withstand the 2020 elections, but the fascist nature of today's Republican party is evident.

The United States are furthermore a most questionable ally (that habitually disregards its obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty anyway) against the threat that the Russian Federation poses to up to four EU members. 

Europe may secure itself AGAINST the Americans in the medium term (3...5 years) rather than with them. America has a (weak) fascist government now. The USA are a THREAT to free Europe in the medium term perspective.

Europeans should stop considering the Americans to be allies at all and prepare AGAINST them. This requires a lot more ship-killing capability (primarily by air power, for the whole USN can only muster a few hundred naval aircraft), so we need to secure our combat aircraft against cruise missile attack and purchase a lot more anti-radar and anti-ship missiles (and not from outside Europe, including not from the UK which still cannot make its mind up whether it's American or European). Europe generally needs to devise and implement a strategy for resilience against precision-guided missile attack (we should simply assume that most missiles hit, regardless of whether they're ballistic or air-breathing missiles).

NO, (not yet).
Keep the alliance on paper, prepare as if it didn't exist for a while until the Europe-U.S. alliance doesn't help to dampen transatlantic conflict any more.
This includes kicking all Americans out of European defence planning, keeping them out of multinational HQs in Europe and cutting intelligence ties to the same level of minimal cooperation that we have with the Russians.

Huawei isn't a trustworthy supplier of internet hardware for Europe? Well, neither is Cisco. That's a fairly mainstream remark by now, of course.

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I understand most Americans will hate this post and reflexively think of me as anti-American. That's a very convenient way of avoiding a confrontation with the dark side of the own nation (a side that all nations possess in varying degrees).

Nobody wants to admit that he or she is the bad guy, on the wrong side of history. Historical Fascists didn't think of themselves as the bad guys or on the wrong side of history, either. Yet there's no reasonable doubt that Fascists are both. So if the criteria for Fascism are met - and they are in this checklist and other checklists - then the diagnosis is complete. Change the ways of your nation if you don't want to be with the bad guys (or leave). You may still have a choice (maybe).

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: By my experience, Americans are clueless about the meaning of political science terminology like this. They don't know what Fascism or Liberalism are. American English has perverted and distorted the meaning of such words.
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2019/12/21

The stupid wall of the internet

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Russia got serious last year about being able to cut off its telecommunications from the global internet. 
It was but a matter of time till some *insert disparaging word here* came up with the proposal that the West or the EU should be able to do so as well.

Let me explain in a concise form why this is utter bollocks and nothing but a threat to our freedom:

1) Disconnecting from the global internet helps a government to oppress its population by excluding dissenting information and it helps itself avoid repercussions by keeping its oppression less visible to the rest of the world (example Iran 2019).

2) Disconnecting DOES NOT in any way help against subversive information without suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of the press domestically. A tiny microSD card that could be hidden almost anywhere and thus easily be smuggled could 'infect' the interior area of such a cut-off space with the subversive information. It would require domestic oppression of information to defeat this. This would require a totalitarian government.

3) Disconnecting DOES NOT protect against 'cyber warfare'. A large-scale attack would rather more likely than not be launched BEFORE the EU could de-couple from the internet. To disconnect would cause extreme economic costs and dissatisfaction. It would thus require a very, very convincing argument.
The disconnecting would thus happen late - too late. We would not disconnect in peacetime, period. We should not be aggressors, so in any legitimate war of ours our enemy would have the opportunity to launch his 'cyber offensive' before we disconnect.

4) Hostile intelligence services could easily and quite cheaply prepare against this by preparing sleeper cells that could still launch a 'cyber offensive' AFTER the de-coupling.

5) Disconnecting would only affect the official connections. There could still be cross-border connections by radio or laser comm, or even use of not European-controlled comm satellite networks (and jamming satellite networks is not part of the proposal). Every private EU-internet-connected computer with such an unofficial connection to the outside world would constitute a  gateway despite the official disconnection.* Hostile intelligence could easily install such gateways, even fully automated ones.

So in conclusion; people may be serious about preparing our telecommunications and the things that depend on telecommunications for the case of all-out 'cyber warfare'. A switch to turn the EU into an internet island, disconnected from the rest of the world internet, still makes no sense.

We should rather identify critical institutions and businesses that require the ability to disconnect themselves. Critical infrastructure should not receive software updates over the internet (every online updater is de facto a backdoor) or insecurely sourced spare parts, and their timely patching should be regulated and supervised with greatest fervour. ANY intelligence service's demand for backdoors in software or hardware should be answered with extreme prejudice against said bureaucracy. 

There are many possible actions to mitigate some of the 'cyber warfare' harm done to us in a future war scenario. To disconnect from the rest of the world is the most primitive option, and an easily circumvented one. Such preparations suit oppressive governments only.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: This and efforts like Starlink render Russia's internet disconnection switch mostly useless, too. They would need to have an excellent surveillance and censorship enforcement on their national internet to complement their disconnection ability (see #2).
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2019/12/14

Cults

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quotes:

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

I suppose those who should realise that they're following a bad cult leader are the least likely to recognize it, even if they saw this.


S O
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2019/12/07

Link drop Dec 2019

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Info for readers who understand English, but not German:
A relatively much-read German security policy blog by a professional journalist is Augengeradeaus, and it exists at least partially also in an English version:
https://augengeradeaus.net/category/english/
So you could use that link to rarely read a (mostly pro establishment, particularly compared to me) German security policy publication. Most of its articles are not available in English, though. You may give an auto-translation of the German version a try as well.

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https://www.csis.org/analysis/natos-brain-death-burdensharing-blunders-focusing-right-investment-force-strength-and

"NATO’s current burden sharing goals totally ignore military needs and effectiveness, and merely call for spending 2% of GDP on total defense spending levels, and at least 20% of annual defense expenditure on major new equipment. (...)
The analysis shows that NATO heads of state, Ministers, and parliaments/legislatures do not properly examine the priorities that would emerge from net assessments of the balance or on improving NATO’s capability to deter and fight. They fail to focus effectively on its many individual national problems and issues in strength and readiness, and they have failed to create coherent force and modernization plans for the future.
Worse, this report presents considerable quantitative evidence that NATO’s current burdensharing goals actually focus the Alliance on the wrong objectives, and do so in ways that encourage pointless burden–sharing debates over the wrong objectives. It shows that the 2% and 20% goals have six critical defects:
  • They are irrelevant, given intelligence estimates of the actual level of NATO resources relative to the key Russian threat.
  • (...)"
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https://boingboing.net/2019/12/03/harbringer-of-doom.html
Such research could be a gold mine for future officer selection process reform.

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"(...) the motorized brigades of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (or SANG). (...) The mission of the motorized brigades is to provide internal security within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly for the oil fields in the Eastern Province. They provide quick reaction forces to the guard mounts and light vehicle-borne patrols that provide the actual site security. In addition, the brigades’ internal security mission requires them to be able to quickly move anywhere in the kingdom to conduct a full spectrum of internal security operations. Lastly, in time of war (...)"
Lt.Col. Martin N. Stanton, Armor Magazine, Mar-Apr 1996, page 6

I realized I do often refer to this article as a description of how the Saudi military isn't a military in the modern Western sense. It serves four purposes
  1. playing ground for princes
  2. secure the rule of house Saud
  3. pretend that Saudi-Arabia has a real military
  4. spreading income to natives (Saudi-Arabia is a top-down distribution scheme similar to mafia organisations; loyalty is purchased by handing down shares of the oil revenues)
It's one of those armed services where loyalty to the ruler is more important than competence. The consequence is inevitably a low degree of competence in peacetime (wartime weeds out at last some of the incompetents). Such armed forces are common in much of the Third World, and even NATO has a member (Turkey) which can solidly be suspected to have sabotaged its armed forces this way.

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It's difficult to watch this without skipping:

Embedding this is the closest I'll ever go in regard to supporting torture.

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2019/12/04

A puzzle about Americans and daesh in Syria

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Do you remember that the lying moron claimed the Syrian oil fields are secured? It was a headpalm moment if there ever was one. That would not be something that a U.S. official would be supposed to say out loud even if oil was the objective of U.S. military action.

He was basically telling the Syrians that Americans were there to grab what's left of Syrian wealth, which kind of provokes (if not justifies, given the absence of an invitation by the Syrian government) the killing of U.S. troops in Syria. He made it really easy to paint the American troops there as resource-thieving invaders, modern-day Mongols. PsyOps people all over the Western World must have laughed out loud in despair at this ineptitude gift to daesh and Assad propaganda.

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Well, the ISW blog's graphic on the location of the U.S. troops

source
made me wonder; Syria's oil fields aren't all in that one area around Tanf, aren't they? I thought I remembered some of those depicted in the East of Syria in my old atlas (I read that book way too much).
(Supposedly, about 600 American servicemen are in the Northeast, but those seem to be rather embeds and the exact locations of small teams are not known to the public for obvious reasons.)

Well, a quick search later it turned out that they are indeed almost all over the place*, EXCEPT at Tanf.


source

Now where is daesh active?
source
So there's hardly any daesh (a.k.a. ISIS) activity in or around Tanf, either.
Maybe that's because of the American presence?

source
No, that's not it, either. daesh wasn't ever much active there, just some presence along the road** - a very minor theatre of operations for daesh.
 
The American military doesn't stay in Syria to protect some oil, or to protect people - Kurdish or whoever. It's not there to fight daesh territorial control (attempts), either. It doesn't block escape routes for daesh militants because it blocks at best but one of very many possible routes.
 
The American military stays in Syria because it wants to keep playing in the great powers playground formerly known as Syria.

Maybe some professional journalists (those who get paid to look into such things) should have a look at this and start a public discussion about WTF they're doing there? I suspect they simply maintain a helicopter refuelling point (or base) for SOCOM raids outside of pesky Iraqi jurisdiction.

S O

*: (and particularly in the East, hooray)
**: I don't know details, but I suspect that was little more than toll-raising banditry. 

P.S.: This irregular (non-Saturday) blog post was a part of next Saturday's link drop, but outgrew it. Think of it as making up for missing the Nov 2nd slot.
Regarding the "daesh"; I know grammar asks for a capital "D", I just think it's suitable to not grant Daesh any capital letter. They lost any claim to a capital. ;-) 


edit a few hours later:
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/13/donald-trump-syria-oil-us-troops-isis-turkey
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7750937/I-kept-oil-Trump-defends-withdrawal-exposed-Kurdish-allies.html
"He said 'we have total control of the oil' and 'we can do with the oil what we want'" (3 Dec 2019)
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2019/11/30

Leopard 2 tanks getting knocked out in Syria

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(The action starts at 0:36 min. The huge explosion likely stems from a side penetration by the SACLOS ATGM that reached the front hull munitions storage. A mere 15 quick-to-use rounds can be stored in the safer turret bustle)
 
The (old) German tanking field manuals that I read strongly implied that the threat (felt like 90% of the threat) was a MBT (T-64, T-72, T-80, but also T-62 and even T-55 well into the 80's). One example; the field manual advised to avoid the middle of a large open field and to instead drive along the edge of woodland. Such a movement is a horrible idea if you fear RPGs, but it's the thing to do if you fear hostile MBTs and ATGMs. Tactics were built on the often only implied assumption that the long-ranged MBTs and ATGMs rather than short-ranged RPGs were the main threat.

The Leopard 2 was devised as a well-rounded duel vehicle to combat tanks. It had great mobility on Central European terrain, great penetration power, and great (though of course not perfect) protection in the frontal 60°. Its reverse gears allowed for quick evacuation of firing positions in a delaying action and its gun depression allowed the exploitation of hull down firing positions in the many rolling hills areas of Central and Southern West Germany. Damaged or broken down tanks were relatively quickly repaired, but the tank was designed to not break down very often anyway. The tank commander had an excellent all-round vision (without head protection), as there wasn't much equipment installed on the rather flat roof. Gunners, drivers and loaders could be 18-month conscripts.
The tank was designed with the defence of Central Europe in mind, with an emphasis on blunting the numerically superior armoured spearheads of the Warsaw Pact. The delaying action against superior numbers was considered to be a very important tactic for attrition of the hostile tank force.

People don't usually seem to be aware of it, but the Cold War Soviet forces and indeed even the late WW2 Soviet forces were rather weak on infantry quantity in the combined arms mix (the Red Army suffered horrible loses in 1941-1945, and was rather bled white by 1945 as was the whole nation till the 60's). That's where the emphasis on artillery and tanks came from. So if you assume a tank- and arty-centric opposition, you expect few infantry forces with RPGs in suitable firing positions. Additionally, the West knew that RPG-2 and RPG-7 were inaccurate (terribly so in crosswind) when it developed the first Chobham tank generation including the Leopard 2. A 30 kph moving tank was at little risk of getting hit by a RPG gunner in a stressful combat situation at 100 m distance.

Now fast forward to the 2000's and 2010's and Chobham generation MBT users find themselves clobbering brown Muslim war bands that are almost devoid of heavy arms and have few ATGMs. MBTs are mostly employed in stationary overwatch missions, or as assault guns. Those wars last years, not months - and troops cannot maintain vigilance indefinitely.
It's as if the Americans hadn't shown that such campaigns are stupid and unproductive. Other powers did the same stupid and unproductive shit in 2015-2019 with no end or gain in sight.

Many of the assumptions of the Leopard 2 design don't apply in such a scenario, and thus the design is suddenly not well-rounded, but rather a mismatch to the mission. Some users rush upgrade kits into service, which adds costs, maintenance demands and mass, and reduces soft soil mobility (which may be decisive on Baltic terrains) and readiness rates.

S O
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