Universal human rights

Our relationship to many not-so-democratic states in the world is not the best because so many people in our Western countries demand that our politicians press for human rights in those states. The basis for this is the claim that human rights are universal.

Well, there's good reason behind this assertion, but it's worth to be discussed if the current approach is a good one even if they are universally applicable.

Let's recall what human rights are. They are the basics that we used to transform our feudal (aristocrats, clerics, commoners) societies into egalitarian ones. The process of transformation took up to two centuries for the European countries - and the enlightenment was invented there!

Transforming societies is no easy enterprise - it takes a generation at least, sometimes two or more. The old rule set needs to be replaced by new ones, and whenever that happens you have some turmoil and ineffectiveness during the transformation as new rules don't harmonize with persisting old rules.

Asking a country to adopt human rights equals the demand to transform their society, as old society rule sets cannot function anymore with human rights. Think about the prevention of sexually motivated violence, for example. Our approach is to threaten everyone with high jail sentences as we have effective criminal investigation, court and jail systems. This allows us to grant human rights and not to force women to hide their beauty.

Other cultures have a different approach - they weren't able to afford court and police systems like that in the past and knew about the severe social troubles for raped women due to all the other rules in their societies. The answer is simple; women have restricted rights - they need to minimize exposure by not leaving home without male escort and have to hide their beauty. Such a rule set works fine and prevents a lot of sexually motivated violence - without expensive police, court and prison systems. The price is instead freedom, a price much lower than to feed and equip all those policemen, judges and lawyers if you're in a society that has already troubles to sustain itself without many people in these unproductive jobs.

Well, what happens if human rights are pressed into this society? The old rule set doesn't function anymore, but the costs of the more modern rule set cannot be afforded. The state is overburdened - as can be observed in many Third World countries.

We should recognize the challenges that some human rights create and not consider human rights as something free, something that has no disadvantages except probably for those who are already in power. There's a reason why dozens of states world-wide resist our demands for more human rights.

It's a fact that pressing other countries is less in our own national interest than being befriended with them. So we shouldn't press other countries to adopt our values until they're prepared to master the challenge.

To insist that all nations adopt human right immediately is not in our national interest, and often even not so in theirs.



The press as threat

Most nations have their own press disaster, a newspaper or TV channel that doesn't deserve respect for its quality in reporting.
The German example is a newspaper which is sold in - thank god - steeply declining quantities.

This newspaper is owned by a publishing house that's known for its questionable quality output for decades. This specific publishing house has entered the market for postal services, apparently thinking that the logistical experience by newspaper deliveries was enough qualification for the business.
Well, the enterprise for the postal service market does not fare very well. It's known for unacceptably low pay and it's not in a good shape.

So far no threat to our freedom or sovereignty. But we have a discussion in Germany; the labour union of the classic postal service wants our secretary of economy to turn their collective labour agreement into one for the whole market, including said enterprise. That's possible in German law if the agreement already covers more than half of the sector.

Well, this agreement includes a minimum wage that would quickly kill the publishing house-owned enterprise - and here comes the trouble.

Said newspaper launched one of its terrible campaigns - against the minimum wage. The postal service enterprise somehow managed to have its workers protesting against the higher wages - and only one newspaper reported this nonsense.

There's much more about it, but the essence is that a part of our media landscape manipulates public opinion by extremely poor and biased reporting, much more biased than the usual newspaper bias. It has become obvious for everyone that the press is not only strengthening our democracy - it can also be a threat to democracy (and thereby to freedom), exerting unacceptable and unjustified pressure on politicians (many examples) to pursue an agenda.
Elements of the press can be a lobbyist group in themselves.

I see good arguments for strict press regulations that decentralize ownership of newspapers, TV stations and Internet portals. Italy, USA, Australia, Russia and Germany provided enough bad examples in the past 15 years alone.

edit: The campaign was not successful. The underpaid workers of the postal service get their new minimum wage and the publishing house is about to sell the company.

Sven Ortmann


The doctrine of primacy

Just a couple of years ago many people believed that the military primacy of the U.S. would make it possible to defeat most nations of earth at once. Today it's clear that even the occupation of a rather minor country is too much without a conscription.

The assumption of military omnipotence was characteristic for the attitude around 2000. It was certainly true that in some types of terrain the U.S. forces could smash many enemy army divisions. It is also true that personnel exhaustion, supply consumption, terrain restrictions, opposing numbers and clever counters to U.S. strengths impose limits on this ability that were not visible in the short campaigns of the past 30 years.

But who cares if the U.S. is able to smash other armies, probably several at once? Is it really useful? And if it is useful - does it justify the costs? Loss of productivity by manpower demand, fiscal costs, social costs ... the U.S. military is the most expensive force in the world. What does this strength offer as advantage to compensate for this?

The present strength and costs were created by the assumption that these forces need to be able to defeat several mid-sized powers at once. But not only defeat - no, resounding success was expected. It wouldn't have been satisfying to defeat those powers (people usually thought of Iraq and North Korea) - the expected superiority must have been excessive or people wouldn't be satisfied with the preparations.
No weakness that could be abolished with money was acceptable, superiority had to be complete.

The primacy idea and its traps and limits was explored in a very impressive way by Carl Conetta of the PDA (Project on Defense Alternatives). He describes the quest for primacy as a zeitgeist in which the current U.S. politicians and thinkers seem to be stuck.

At any rate, when evaluating primacy, the most important comparison is not between us and other international actors, but between means and ends - that is, between our power and what we propose to do with it. The options range from simple defense and deterrence at one end to schemes of coercive national transformation on the other. If our Iraq experience teaches anything, it is that humility is in order. But this lesson is not likely to register in our policy discourse - not so long as it remains a prisoner to primacy.
Carl Conetta

The rather excessive costs and expectations of the U.S. forces as well as the willingness to use force in the whole NATO never pleased me. The Western world should prepare for the future with more preventive and constructive means.

Sven Ortmann



Invading another country for no good reason is widely recognized as being a bad, bad thing. Those responsible for it are usually considered as really bad persons - just think about what we thought about Saddam Hussein once he had invaded Kuwait.

It's interesting to recall why it's like that. Wars imply waste of resources, death and suffering. It also leads quite often to unfair peace treaties and of course there's general assumption that the aggressor is superior to the victim. Nobody likes to become a victim of a stronger power, so we generally tend to dislike the aggressor for this reason as well.

Many of these war disadvantages also apply to wars that were started with good intentions and it's obvious that also the wars begun by Western powers in the past couple of years caused a lot of death and suffering - and often rather unfortunate and unfair conditions after the hostilities.

It's about time to no longer limit the contempt for warmongers to dictators who want to annex other countries. Our very own warmongers deserve the same treatment. The very minimum is to deny them every influence on our policy, direct and indirect. It's time to counter their warmongering which is usually preceded by scaremongering to scare us into stupid wars.
let's stop them ASAP, their scaremongering only works because there's no decent lobby that counter them.

Scaremongers usually invent a lie and repeat it a couple thousand times till many people believe them without ever having seen an evidence. Some even belief strongly that evidence exist, although there is none. The scaremongering also works because of networking and because of the inclination of mass media corporations to pick up such sensational stories that address very basic instincts like fear.

Once enough people are scared it becomes simple for warmongers to execute the most irrational and stupid policies that let us run into costly nonsense adventures that kill and maim our troops as well as innocent enemy troops and civilians. Wars benefit only some war-related corporation CEOs, employees and shareholders. Wars and stupid interventions/military adventures cost us a huge share of our economic output - resources that we should better use for rational preparations for the future like education, preventive health care, improved relations to other countries, alternative energy and raw material supply and efficiency improvements.

Scaremongers are enemies of democracy and therefore enemies of freedom. They manipulate the people to enable policies which are hurting these people instead of helping them. They are traitors and deserve to be treated as such.

Warmongers are enemies of their people. They deserve the most severe punishments that our civilization is willing to use for the most severe crimes.

Warmongers are worse than serial killers by several orders of magnitude.
You know who's a warmonger in your country. Think about these persons again.

And especially don't be scared by scaremongers about Iran, or even agree to a war of aggression incited by warmongers against Iran. It's their newest pet project.

Sven Ortmann


Societies' ingrained commemoration of war

Different societies have different histories, and different lessons learned from history.
Germany is a very special case of this, as its present state and society were created to prevent a repetition of past mistakes, especially war of aggression and fascism.

Europe has been ravaged by war for millennia, and especially the war-torn countries of continental Europe have learned many lessons about the terrible effects of war.
Germany, for example, has been depopulated by the thirty years war in the 17th century and had its cities destroyed by World War II.
Germany became a major power quite late due to late unification and difficult geo-strategic position in the center of Europe. The following attempts to gain advantages concerning territory and natural resources by war were complete failures and ended as defeats in two devastating world wars. The attempts to gain prosperity by own economic activity before and after the two world wars (1871-1914, 1949-today) were great successes. Germany had learned the lesson that you don't need much territory and you don't need to have rich natural resources to be successful and influential.
High efficiency agriculture can substitute for territory and trading is a much more efficient means to raw material supply security than wars are.

But this seems to be less the case for the late colonial powers UK and France and for those states who never really tried the wrong recipes themselves like Poland, for example.
The USA had only one devastating war at home, and only in a small part of itself. The expenses and losses of the World Wars were either small (World War I) or remembered as heroic history of a "Golden Generation" (World War II).
It has - and this is not easily understandable - a quite aggressive stance to raw material security, using a military power to exert influence and even to wage war for raw materials in the Middle East.

This and the fading memories of the past create a - let's call it "Zeitgeist" in Europe - it misguides people.
The old lessons learned are pushed aside by the promises of smaller military actions than conventional war to give economic advantages, comfort and prestige at low costs.

Well, the costs are not low. Even if you invade a country with less than 100 KIA (killed in action) soldiers, you still end up paying billions of US-$ or € for the adventure.
A comparison of the economic advantages and disadvantages of the U.S. adventures in the Middle East would be devastating.
It would have been cheaper to get away from the oil addiction, probably even without the costs of the extremely expensive Iraq occupation.

Others are much smarter than Europeans and Americans.
The Chinese buy plantations in the Third World to secure their renewable resources supply. They become friends of dictatorships world wide with a strict business-only approach to investments and contracts for mineral an hydrocarbon resources.
The Chinese secure their raw material supply by being smart and applying the lessons learned with European blood instead of alienating resources-rich countries and wasting their own nations' energies and financial power in military expeditions.

Our approach to address our future global needs is wrong.

We should strengthen our relationships with weak nations instead of playing Great Power games and wasting our attention and resources on military adventures.



Tactical visibility

Discussions in the past years on military technology were often about new sensor technologies to find and identify enemies and about new communications technologies to relay this information to someone who can engage the target effectively.

Well, this is an utterly offensive approach that has its merits, but also its limits. The best-case scenarios never worked out in practice - not the least because the enemy adapts, as always.

This fits into the general trend in warfare since the mid-19th century's Minie rifle:
The enemy will likely kill you if he can see you.

Firepower in terms of accuracy, range and also rate of fire has been improved steadily since smooth bore weapons became outdated in the 19th century.
Dispersion and camouflage and since World War 1 (again) armour were successful means to negate much of the enemy's firepower.
The lack of troop numbers would force us to embrace the concept of dispersion in today's conflicts even if there was no the firepower argument, and armour has spread even to personal bullet-resistant armour for non-infantry soldiers.
But dispersion only reduces excessive casualties and has severe drawbacks such like locally reduced capabilities.
Armour has its drawbacks as well, like heavy weight and movement restrictions. Neither tanks nor soldiers can be fully armoured to withstand all typical attacks. Tanks have their weak spots, and body armour protects only the torso (partially) against rifle fire and the head against fragments. Wounds in the extremities reduce the fighting power of the infantry a lot and being hit at an unprotected spot is quite likely.

But let's have a look at the third element - camouflage. Its purpose is to enable troops and equipment to not recognized by the enemy. It's a primarily non-technological means to survive firepower and therefore not in the spotlight, just like dispersion.
The ability to fight without being seen is a distinct strength of indirect fires as indirect fire support troops attempt to stay out of line-of-sight, but also infantry can use the principle to its benefit (and does to some extent).
Not being seen is more than just camouflage. It's about deception, careful movement, manipulation of night sight, obstruction, ability to sense while being unseen - and it's a mindset.
A mindset that tells all infantrymen and even more so scouts that they need to remain unseen as much as possible.
Imagine how this vital mindset is ruined by vehicle patrol, diplomatic, symbolic, construction, checkpoint, garrison and escort duties during counter-insurgency and peace-keeping missions. A generation of NATO soldiers becomes accustomed to the idea that the enemy sees you all the time while they themselves can see but not identify him. This creates a completely different mindset than the one necessary for inter-state wars (those wars which are sometimes really about defending ourselves). The result is an over-emphasis on armour (keyword: MRAP) that leads to excessive costs and logistical problems as well as tactical and movement restrictions.

In a discussion some time ago I was amazed how someone considered supporting fires as the only viable solution to the tactical problem of an infantry or recon squad being pinned down by the fire of a single MG.
This scenario reminded me immediately of a device of World War I, a device that allowed a sniper to aim and shoot with his rifle without exposing himself. Stuff like this has been attempted with modern camera and monitor technology, but in fact it doesn't require much more than a simple mirror and mechanics system. It would enable a squad marksman to shoot effectively while being pinned down. Add some obstruction by smoke and you can defeat a 1,000 US-$ MG without the need to call a 50 million US-$ fighter-bomber or (admittedly much cheaper) tank/artillery/mortar fire for help.

Staying pinned down and wait for superior firepower to arrive is sometimes the best choice when you're fighting low quality enemies like Central Asian irregulars, as it promises a happy ending without casualties. But it's no useful mindset for a large-scale war against medium or high quality enemies (which would outflank you or use indirect fire weapons to counter the cover) and very different ratios between ground troops in combat, available fire support and available bandwidths (resulting in much less available supporting fires).

Well, the tricky thing about being unseen in combat is to see the enemy at the same time. That's tricky because the latter often requires a line of sight. Mirrors and camouflage help to combine these conditions, as do the much more expensive remote sensor and robotics systems.
A real infantry combat revolution comparable to the Minie bullet is about to happen with the wide-spread use of infra-red sights by infantrymen. An extreme infantry fighting power inequality will arise once at least all infantry leaders, scouts, machinegunners and designated marksmen are equipped with such sights. The army which can equip its troops like this can use obstruction by smoke to break the line of sight for the enemy while retaining its own ability to see the enemy as IR sights can see through some smokes.
It's still possible to camouflage against IR observation, but very difficult and sometimes even outright impractical.
This (expensive) technological advance could help us getting back to a "I see you, but you cannot see me" mindset.

It's really necessary to preserve mindsets suitable for large-scale wars, and to restore skills and mindsets lost in the recent needless overseas adventures to stay up to the task of protecting our sovereignty.

Sven Ortmann


War within Europe

The exhausting effect of World War Two and the unifying effect of common enemies turned both Eastern and Western Europe into quite peaceful regions during the Cold War. Europe saw conflicts and even a civil war in this time, but no inter-state war.
People became used to living in peace with each other apparently, as we saw no inter-state wars in former Warsaw Pact or NATO countries since then as well. The Yugoslavian Wars of 1991-1999 were a very unpleasant variation of the norm, as well as tensions between Greece and Turkey.

So what might lead to intra-European wars in the future?

The old idea of conquest don't seem to be as strong as a few generations ago. Most people realize that land mass does not equal wealth or power, even own natural riches are dispensable. Germany, Italy and Japan began to flourish once they gave up expansionism.

Conflicts of religion are hardly imaginable. The Balkans had their semi-religious conflicts in the Yugoslavian War, and the borderline between Christian and Muslim regions is mostly on Europe's edges.
Minority insurgencies based on religion (like German Muslim Turks vs. German state and so on) are quite unlikely as the immigrants dominate no territories and it's excessively difficult to even launch an insurgency if your supporters are a minority everywhere. They cannot claim any territory for the same and historical reasons.

Wars over natural resources are unlikely as well. Europe has much less natural resources than it uses, which makes its own resources an asset of minor importance. Water is only short in South and Southwest Europe and even then it's much simpler to fix the water transport system than to wage war.

Wars over trade opportunities (like control over pipelines or harbours) offer little good reasons for war as well.

War over influence/power. That's the Russia card. A direct confrontation between nuclear powers about something secondary like prestige or influence seems not advisable. It might happen that the West-East conflict causes wars in or between smaller influenced nations in East Europe (Moldavia, possible Ukraine civil war) or Russia's southern periphery (Caucasus), though.
Another possibility is that the Western world divides into two alliances, with some European nations allying with non-European nations (like UK with USA and so on).

Finally there's war over ethnics.
It' likely good thing that Hungary is only a small power as Hungarian enclaves exist in many of its neighbouring countries. The ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia has apparently been thorough and might prevent future wars. Conflicts may arise around the Albanians which live in Kosovo and Macedonia and not only in Albania itself.
One of the safest way to cause a war is to put several nationalities into one state, rule the state with marginal or no democracy and wait till it collapses.
This happened in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Soviet Union, Austria-Hungary and a couple of other states which had well-developed nationalities (instead of just tribes like African mixed states) on their territory.
Can anybody explain to me why so many politicians want to enlarge and empower the European Union while accepting that it offers less democracy (especially ridiculously indirect-indirect-indirect democracy that assures that the voters have no significant power any more)?

The current development of the EU to a state with marginal democracy is laying the foundations for an intra-European war of secession by 2030-2060. The potential of this is in my opinion greater than that of many other imaginable intra-European conflicts.



German overseas military operations - serious?

The German army and navy have significant overseas operations, patrolling in the coastlines of Lebanon and Somalia and peace keepers in Kosovo and Afghanistan, for example. The peacekeeping force in Afghanistan is even in a war-like situation.

It's an open secret that the past German governments have used troops commitments as a means to build up political capital because they want to get a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.

Untimely withdrawal of forces would cost political capital and this is likely why the politicians keep renewing those missions ... again and again ... for years ... eight years now for KFOR (Kosovo).

The interest in actually solving or defusing the conflicts seems to be rather limited. Diplomatic activity for this seems to be very limited, probably kept secret. Multinational institutions like NATO, EU and U.N. are held responsible for this work.

This is not the only hint that makes some people wonder how serious those commitments really are.
Troops are held away from combat as much as possible. Either geographically (as in Afghanistan) or by the choice of troop types (recon planes, patrol ships, advisers).

Finally, there's something that exposes a peace-like mindset and accordingly the lack of seriousness: Hostages in Afghanistan.
Our media reports captured soldiers of any nationality in Afghanistan as "hostages", not as "prisoners" or "prisoners of war". Well, that's the media.
But our politicians do obviously pay for the freedom of civilian hostages in Afghanistan, thereby encouraging thugs to take more hostages (many nations seem to do that).
This does not fit to any serious commitment of creating a lawful, peaceful Afghanistan.

German rulers sold their troops to England as mercenaries for the American war of independence in the 18th century. Today our politician sell our modern troops for imaginary political capital in their quest for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.
Finally, there's also the motivation of our past three secretaries of defense that's called "prestige".

The German top politicians aren't serious about peacekeeping or defusing conflicts - they just want to contribute as much as the German public will tolerate.


National security and economy

I have already written about the sustainability of military power a while ago.

The sustainability is a very important criterion for long-term national security planning.
Economic power balances will shift over time, and just like the industrialization in the late 19th century turned Germany into a Great Power and the industrialization in the 1920's and 1930's turned Russia/Soviet Union into a much more potent power than grasped by contemporary analysts in the west.
We'll also see shifts in the next decades. China and India are obviously on the rise (but they'll have at least one economic crisis as well), while Europe and North America are on the decline (not measured in money, but measured in industrial capacity).

We have seen episodes in military history during which economic power in terms of money alone was sufficient for dominant military power. That was mostly related to mercenary armies and all such examples took place before the middle of the 19th century.
Since that time we've seen how the ability to produce the equipment and consumables for warfare in a war economy was the primary variable for military power.

Now look at the situation of our present western economies: We have lots of money and secured raw material supply, but huge chunks of our industrial capacities moved into non-allied countries of the world.

This won't be a problem for national defense affairs as long as we stay out of total wars and limit confrontations to small wars, preferably beating on economically and militarily ridiculously inferior nations like Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia and so on. As long as we do this, we'll only struggle with so-called asymmetric warfare challenges that do not threaten our sovereignty, and barely our interests.
But once we return to what we were best in during the 20th century - conventional warfare among industrialized nations - we'll recognize painfully that we gave away much of our war-relevant economic strength.

This is probably the point at which most readers think about how inferior possible challengers are in training, doctrine, expertise and the like. The present is always deceiving if you try to look 20 or more years ahead.

Think about the proud Royal Navy of August, 1889, showing its powerful fleet in front of Queen Victoria and German Emperor Wilhelm II at Spithead. The German navy was a mere coastal defense organization with marginal cruiser forces at that time, lesser in power than every one of the many RN fleets world-wide.
15 years later a technological revolution (Dreadnought all big gun battleship) - embraced by the Royal Navy as well as by many other navies - made the entire Royal Navy battlefleet (and all others) obsolete.
20 years later the Royal navy struggled in an attempt to keep its superiority over the German navy.
25 years later both navies were in war with each other.
27 year later the RN prevailed during the Battle of Jutland (at greater loss of personnel and material) despite its technological flaws (several secondary explosions in battle cruisers) . It did so because the economic superiority of the Entente alliance had enabled the RN to continue building the newest, most powerful battleships (super dreadnoughts; "R" and "Queen Elizabeth" classes with 15" guns) while the German navy had fewer of these in production, at lesser priority. But there were the submarines, and the RN was almost defeated by this mostly unanticipated factor...

The UK's advantage in that conflict was that it still controlled the maritime access to world raw material markets. NATO countries are in the same lucky position today.

But no one in the UK would have suspected that within less than a generation the proud Royal Navy would be in such a dire situation against a navy that was at that time still a minor force. But the foundations were already laid by 1889, as Germany's economy was growing rapidly (being an industrialization late-comer) especially in the steel industry sector.

By the way - did you also read about armour-quality steel shortages due to the little conflict in Iraq? The few thousand armoured cars needed for that conflict apparently stretched the U.S. armour steel production capacity to its limits.

Don't take it as written in stone that NATO nations will have superior war economies for major wars in the future.



India's cultural power

I have for my pleasure a client of Metacafe, a service comparable to YouTube. The search function on their website is the worst ever and the service has some other drawbacks, but the client downloads videos and other content in the background when my computer runs and some of it is indeed worth a look or just outright funny.
One of the categories that are downloaded is the image category, and there's been a huge trend in the past months at least; Bollywood celebrities.
The Indians (those in South Asia...) have a very different taste concerning women beauty (round face, larger eyes, thicker lips), while their male celebrities remind me a bit of young George Clooney, a bit darkened.
Anyway; having noticed this I looked a bit around in the Internet and real world and it seems as if India's population is becoming more extrovert about its culture.

Cultural power is easily misunderstood or ignored, but cultural influence is in fact a great power.
Let's use Germany as an example. Once the every family had a house or flat for itself again years after 1945, (Western) Germany proceeded to gain some wealth. But it lacked a model to use the wealth and adopted the US American model. Well, not completely, but in large part. The influence was obvious - it's quite impossible to feel more connected or allied to a nation that's very foreign to you than to one that's culturally very close (and not offensive against your nation).

China might expand in terms of industrial production like no other country, but India seems to expand its cultural influence like no other country. China isn't doing any progress in this field because Hong Kong Chinese already seem to have spread most of Chinese culture that's attractive to foreign nations in the past decades.

What might be the result of growing Indian cultural power? It'll certainly progress in economic and military power as well, so there's a potent mixture.

Indians are still present in some African nations (former English colonies), but I'm not aware if they have trader networks there like the Lebanese and Chinese. So it might be that India's influence in Africa won't match the one of China.

It's living in conflict with its Western neighbour Pakistan (which is kind of allied with China anyway) while its Eastern neighbour Myanmar doesn't seem to be very important in the long term. South East Asia otherwise is rather in the Chinese influence zone.

Indian emigrants might influence Australia a lot in the future, but that applies to China as well.

Indian cultural/political/economic ties with Europe and North America might be most interesting. India has a lot of inhabitants that look almost like Caucasians, which might simplify a convergence.
Indian emigrants in the USA, UK and Canada could help to exercise cultural influence.

By the way; the U.S. model of culture has definitely reached its peak long ago - it's not safe to assume that the U.S. American cultural influence in the world will remain as strong as today forever.

Maybe the most relevant consequence of India's rise is that an industry-depleted USA might lose its influence in Europe in the next decades while India and Europe converge? This could be very relevant, as a triple alliance Russia-PR China-India seems not to be feasible due to Indian-Chinese conflicts and rivalry.

India might drift into the "Western" camp and have much closer ties to Europe than we can imagine today.

East Asian security challenges and Europe

In theory and practice most of Europe and all of Northern America are allied. It's been common in history that an alliance shares threats and foes, but this time the partners are so far away from each other and have so different stances in the world that it's more complicated.

American people with interest in foreign or defense policy often consider the PR China as the next big opponent. The USA have security treaties with East Asian countries in addition to their NATO obligations. The result is that an invasion of Taiwan or South Korea would for Americans almost be like a declaration of war on the USA.
For most Europeans, it would rather be a severe disruption of international trade and an event that would be handled through the United Nation's institutions.

This difference is quite important and should be understood by Americans. I know about no security pact between any of the European nations and any of the East Asian nations. It's the other end of the world for Europeans, where some industrial consumer goods come from and to where some of our businessmen go for investments.

The only European country with really strong security interests in East Asia is the semi-Asian Russia.

Sven Ortmann


Iraq War developments

Probably the only benefit that I had when I changed from an analogous satellite to digital terrestrial TV receiver some weeks ago is that I can now see CNN International. I'd prefer BBC World, but well. CNN International has the hilarious Daily Show with John Stewart, and I'm a fan of this satirical humour since I saw it in youtube.
Recently I continued to see the Late Edition or how that political show is called, and a Republican Senator highlighted a story about Shi'ites in Iraq turning against the Mahdi army (Al Sadr's militia). This and what happened previously in the Al Anbar province where Iraqi tribes (including an influential smuggler tribe) turned against AQ was presented as signs for a positive development in Iraq.

Well, I understand the principle of divide et impera, but splitting an inhomogenous nation into even more opposing factions does not look to me like a winning strategy. It increases the intensity of the conflict, even if away from the occupying/foreign forces in Iraq.

I pointed out much earlier that in my opinion the Iraq conflict is a defeat for the U.S. anyways, but even if the costs of the conflict were ignored, those developments barely qualify as breaks. What do people like this Senator expect those Iraqi factions to do?
- continue eternal conflict. No success, just fuel in a civil war fire.
- both become peaceful after showing their different strengths. Right, and I'm the pope.
- one overwhelms another, is strengthened by the success and turns on other forces, probably foreign ones. Not nice.
- one overwhelms the other and does not use the newly-gained power for anything. Sounds like some people would believe this.

In the case of the Mahdi army the citizen themselves got annoyed by criminal militiamen and probably not a tribe or other militia. But if the Mahdi army loses territory and followers, other powers which are so far probably not influential at all will replace it.

The only success for the foreign forces in Iraq could be the creation of a true Iraqi state as William S. Lind, a respected national security analyst in the USA, points out in his blog. A state that successfully claims the monopoly of force.
Such a state is not in sight as the state's servants appear to be usually more loyal to their faction than to the central state. Further dividing the Iraqi society into even more opposing groups might weaken unfriendly groups, but it does not promote the creation of a properly functioning Iraqi state, powerful enough and with loyal personnel to end the civil war.

The recent actions against Blackwater are probably a well-orchestrated move to give the Iraqi government more popular support, legitimacy and authority in Iraq as well as a move to discipline out-of-control para-military contractors.
This might be part of a strategy aimed at strengthening the central state. This strategy might involve weakening only opposing militias instead of overpowering all militias. The increasing diplomacy between U.S. officers and tribal representatives in Iraq hints at this.

In this case we could forget about the creation of an Iraqi state to Western standards and instead expect that it will become something that resembles rather Lebanon before the Lebanese state was doomed by the Israeli invasion of 1982.
I don't see any long-term advantages in an unstable, Lebanon-like Iraq. It's too sad that this is quite the most promising scenario for Iraq today. Maybe the warmongers will wish sometime in the future that Saddam returns and rules Iraq with an iron fist in isolation as he did before 2003.

Sven Ortmann


"Leader of the free world"

"Anführer der freien Welt" ("leader of the free world"), I remember this.
The U.S. presidents were called like that in Germany. I remember this well, I heard it a lot in the 1980's and 1990's. Reagan, Bush senior, Clinton.
No matter if Clinton had blowjobs or sex - he was called the leader of the free world.
Sometimes this was changed to "Leader of the Western world", but everybody meant the same.

I cannot remember having heard this later than 2001. I believe the cut was when people became irritated by Bush junior's preparations for a needless Iraq war. He wasn't leading the Western world, he was only trying to do so and failed.

I remember having read that Bush senior and Baker had gained a lot of political capital and prestige for the USA when they successfully assembled a coalition against Iraq in 1990. Everybody was impressed. I think it's a good description of the effects.
I also remember that the comparably laughable "coalition of the willing" of 2003 was commented as the opposite. The USA had spent their political capital for this weak coalition, almost all of it. The USA lost prestige by this war of aggression, not gained any.

But it's not only a foreign affairs story. I recently read a quote in which president Bush told someone that he had sent his general to tell the congress and his people about the Iraq war. His people would believe this general, not himself.
A leader who admits that the people don't follow him anymore.

This loss of leadership strength and political capital makes a unilateral foreign policy next to impossible for the USA, which is good news for everyone who doesn't like the approach anyways. The situation might change in 2009, but so far the world does not need to fear any further needless wars initiated in Washington since that government is simply bankrupt in foreign policy. Almost no-one believes or follows that government anymore, and the primitive civil war in Iraq has drained the US forces' strength so much that their generals are more concerned about how long it takes to recover than thinking about how much is left for additional parallel adventures.

It will depend on the next U.S. president how the international security architecture will work in 2009-2015.
Many options exist. Creation of competing alliances, multilateral approach in the United Nations, a slow recovery of the US' position, likely unsuccessful unilateral/bilateral actions...

Sven Ortmann


Conflict of loyalty

We've seen that several European partners that supported the US in Iraq and/or Afghanistan were not most reliable partners in a specific meaning. Some Americans consider this as a reason to excoriate them and claim they're poor allies or folded in face of AQ pressure.

Well, the situation is more complex.

The first really important background is that these partners were junior partners - the fate of their troops were bound to U.S. senior commanders. I cannot remember that the USA ever proved to be such a great partner that they accepted that their own troops were under control of an allied military in a combat mission. To accept this requires a lot of trust in the ability of the other officers and means basically that you give away a part of your force which shall protect your sovereignty.

The second problem behind the story is that the European people - Spanish, Germans, British, Poles, Italians - were not exposed to so much pro-war and anti-Iraq propaganda on TV and in print media as the U.S. population. This and different national interests yielded an anti-war majority in most European countries. Whenever European troops were committed to Iraq or Afghanistan the governments were not backed up by a strong majority of the population on the issue. In fact, the governments usually decided against the will of their population.

It's true that the Spanish government changed due to elections held not long after some terror strikes, but it's also true that the same government lied to its people, had no really good performance record and committed troops to a cabinet war without popular support. Spain wouldn't have been a democracy if there was no likeliness of a government change in such a situation.

Mr. Blair in the UK has ruined his political career by supporting the Iraq war against much of his cabinet and a strong majority of his people.

The German parliament recently allowed the Afghanistan combat mission (separate from the peace-keeping mission) to continue for another year. This covers the 100 special forces troops granted for Afghanistan, which were reported to not have been called upon by allied commanders since 2005. It's obviously a commitment on paper, a symbolic gesture. Even the value of this symbolic commitment is apparently enough to continue this farce to the benefit of international relations against the will of the majority of the people in Germany.

We were able to observe a distinct conflict of loyalty. Politicians that have more contact with and respect for their foreign politicians than with their own people decided to be rather loyal to foreigners than to those whose power they had lend.
In fact, the European states were too loyal to the USA in the recent conflicts, calling them disloyal is a poor joke.

This conflict of loyalty is grinding on the base of European democracies and might prove to be a long-term liability for the alliance. Our politicians should adhere to democratic traditions and not play cabinet wars against the will of our people.


"We need to do something ..."

I've had many discussions in the past years with very divergent opinions. One constant that I observed was that I often didn't disagree with ideology, assumptions and the like ... I disagreed because I wasn't compelled "to do something". I simply don't have the feeling that something needs to be done just because I dislike the situation.
It's quite impossible to convince me that "something needs to be done" unless I recognize an improvement of the situation as likely result of the proposed action.

A good example is the campaign against terrorism.
Somebody proposes a counter-measure, I disagree because I don't see proportionality of advantages and disadvantages.
Now I can take the stopwatch and measure how long it takes till somebody accuses me to ignore a threat, help terrorists, sabotage counter-terrorism efforts and so on.
Many people don't weigh advantages and disadvantages at all. They're proponents of ANY action if a situation is inconvenient for them.

Another example shows the mentality in its devastating effect: Incompetent (concerning art of war) politicians and journalists called for the NATO air forces to put more pressure on Milosevic and to stop ethnic cleansing during the Kosovo Air War 1999. Well, this was impossible due to the limitations inherent in air power. That is, unless you don't stick to relevant targets and just begin a nation-wide stampede against any target that might remotely be labelled as relevant for warfare. Bridges in Northern Serbia did certainly not help para-military forces in Kosovo (south of Serbia) to expel Kosovars...
The impatience resulted in much more destruction than necessary - strategies with marginal destruction but decisive impact like shutting down electricity in whole Serbia until it accepts certain conditions became impossible options. Not enough patience, "something had to be done".
The Kosovo Air War became a historical low point in air warfare strategy, covered up by eventual political success.

We need to learn to accept inconvenient situations and need to become more patient. It is ridiculous to assume that an improvement of every inconvenient situation is within our powers.
Just as the Christian teachings tell us - sometimes it's better to offer the other cheek as well. Especially if every imaginable offensive action only worsens the situation in comparison to that.

This "we need to do something" mentality is in my opinion a demonstration of a lack of self-discipline, rational thinking and patience. It hurts us as it wastes resources and draws us into needless conflicts



NATO's (non)prominence

I just noticed that I haven't read anything about the NATO in other defense-related blogs for ... well, I remember no such word like "NATO" in those blogs. Was the NATO ever mentioned in the defense-related studies and articles that I've read (written in English language)? I don't think so.

The NATO is the great bond between North America and Europe, and the basis for all European defense planners. Its existence is considered to being close to a law of nature.

The USA wouldn't even be a superpower without this alliance, as it' would lose allies, bases, opportunities to exchange technology and tactics and of course most of its influence in Europe. Without this alliance, Europe and North America would likely compete against each other much more in foreign politics and defense affairs.

How could such an important alliance be so much ignored?

Sven Ortmann


Taiwan's national security or "USA vs. PRC"

Warmongers and the like in the Western world now tend to focus on two nations since Iraq is gone; Iran and the PR China. War with the first one is a real possibility for the U.S. Americans while the "threat" PR China is the bogeyman for the long term (financing of the forces).

I want to focus on the PR China this time; PR (People's Republic) China is no longer perceived as an ideological threat but rather as an expansionist newcomer with huge industrial and personnel resources. China has indeed lured into it much of the classic war industries of the West (metal, chemicals, electronics, vehicles), and other such industries (like a huge share of the world's shipbuilding industry) have huge concentrations in its vicinity.
China has a long tradition of a regional power with near-constant internal troubles (especially a constant trouble to keep its central control over all provinces). It has never reached for global domination as Western civilization has, in fact it has been almost isolationist for most of the European imperialism period (15th to 19th century).

Whoever perceives the PR China as future adversary of the USA does so not only because they might have the potential - the usual assertion is that PR China tries to gain regional hegemony in a way that violates our regional friends' (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and possibly Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore) sovereignty.
The most obvious example is Taiwan, and Taiwan war scenarios are frequently used in discussions about the further development of the U.S. Navy.

Here's a particularly extreme example about how some people perceive the situation. It's not uncommon to assume that Taiwan is defenceless against PR China without Western forces assistance. The example even concludes with PR China's PLA soldiers invading Taiwan without resistance, as if there were no defenders at all once U.S. forces in the area are defeated. I told you, an extreme example - but not really unrepresentative.

Taiwan has a mobilization potential for roughly half a million men, and the geographic situation is not favourable for an invasion at all. There's no way how PR China could effectively project its far superior mobilization potential without capturing at least one of Taiwan's harbours. Taiwan has a serious air force and a serious navy - Taiwan would likely not be able to break a PR China blockade of its commercial communication lines in the air and on the sea, but defence against an invasion is something completely different.

There are obviously two defence departments in the world that can judge the chances of an invasion the best; both Chinese defence departments (or how exactly they call themselves).

So let's look at Taiwan's preparations for its defence in the middle term.
source: CIA World Factbook 2007
Military service age and obligation:
19-35 years of age for compulsory military service; service obligation 16 months (to be shortened to 14 months as of July 2007 and to 12 months in 2008); women in Air Force service are restricted to noncombat roles; reserve obligation to age 30 (2007)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.2% (2006; to increase to 2.85% in 2007)
So they increase their very low (rather typical for European nations) military expenditures to a higher, but still very low level.
At the same time they reduce the service obligation from 16 to only 12 months, the absolute minimum for useful military training.

Could they afford a stronger military?
source: CIA World Factbook 2007 (not unbroken quote, I picked the parts that are relevant)
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$680.5 billion (2006 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:
4.6% (2006 est.)

Unemployment rate:
3.9% (2006 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1% (2006 est.)

Current account balance:
$9.7 billion (2006 est.)

revenues: $67.33 billion
expenditures: $77.93 billion (2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$280.6 billion (2006 est.)

Debt - external:
$93.06 billion (2006 est.)

Well, lot's of data, let's sort it out:

- Their economy is fine, no ongoing troubles with inflation or unemployment that could stress the government enough to distract from defence (the economy is increasingly dependant on factories relocated to Chinese mainland - but that trend could be reversed).

- Their budget would require higher taxes, especially if defence spending shall be raised.

- The state has some debt, but nothing very serious; the nation as a whole has lots of reserves and could ask for increased foreign deliveries based on foreign exchange/gold reserves and a so far clearly positive account balance.

- 2.85% of GDP defence spending equals something like $21 billion (PPP) by 2008 (and 2.2% are about $15 billion (PPP) in 2006), so it would be reasonable to believe that the nation could without serious troubles raise this by an additional 50% to about $30 billion (PPP) and sustain that level (plus increases proportional to economic growth. perhaps less, but there are obviously some reserves not tapped yet for their own defence. (PPP = purchasing power parity - see the quote, PPP makes figures more useful for the discussion)

The most cost-effective method to defend against an invasion is certainly a strong army with good artillery and battlefield air defence. Naval strike forces and even air forces are much less reliable and cost-effective means to secure a single large island against invasion.

This raises a question; if even Taiwan itself does not seem to believe that it's so much threatened by the PR China to motivate strong defence spendings, why does a distant power care so much about this "threat"?

It's quite the same with South Korea and Japan - South Korea has quite capable forces, but tried to cool down U.S. American diplomacy on North Korea all the time and doesn't seem to really believe in a threat to its sovereignty. Japan strengthens its "Self Defence Forces", but to a level that is still laughable in comparison to its economic power.

Maybe they execute a free rider strategy in regards to defence - but since all three regional friends of the USA have a very positive account balances towards the USA it would in this case be advisable for the USA to end this strategy - in its own interest.

My conclusion is that the (national?) security debates surrounding the PR China are overheated and not based on an objective danger so far. That danger might exist in the future, but the most affected countries - South Korea, Japan and Taiwan - should take the lead and define their needs for foreign assistance beyond their capabilities, not think tanks and military bureaucracies in North America or even Europe.


Addendum: Feasibility of an intercept vs. captured passenger plane in Germany

edit 2015: This info is outdated, but still shows the general problem of peacetime air defence / QRA.

The debate about shooting down passenger planes is not only a serious threat to the basics of the Bundeswehr - it's also a political show with marginal relevance for real-world security.

This is a map of Germany into which I added the locations of our active nuclear power plants and our relevant Luftwaffe bases.
The black points (4) depict the position of Tornado wings (fighter-bomber and reconnaissance wings; no interceptor mission, suboptimal aircraft for the job). The larger red points (3) show the locations of our three fighter wings (first to be equipped with Typhoon, now mostly equipped with outdated F-4F Phantom II). The radioactive warning signs (12) show the locations of active nuclear power plants (AKW, Atomkraftwerk in German). The biggest skyscrapers of Germany (prestige targets) are in Frankfurt.

edit 2015: Image was finally re-found on an old harddrive and re-inserted here:

Examples for international airports are Frankfurt, Hamburg, Köln, Hannover, München, Nürnberg and in general most large cities.

An aircraft would need little more than a minute from Frankfurt airport to Frankfurt's skyscrapers. Hamburg airport to AKW Krümmel east of Hamburg is possible in about three minutes, same with Stuttgart and AKW Philippsburg and Frankfurt to AKW Biblis. Hannover airport to Grohnde AKW west of it and Nürnberg to AKW Grafenrheinfeld north are longer distances, but far enough away from all fighter bases.

Even if I assume perfect information with no delays and Mach 1.8 speed (with missiles and fuel tank) for fighters and Mach 0.8 speed for passenger plane, it's that easy to find airport/skyscraper and airport/AKW combinations that make an interception by QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters impossible.
We'd need several permanent 24/365 fighter patrols or great coverage with ready surface-to-air missile batteries to intercept a captured plane reliably before it impacts on its target.

The reality is even worse;
- an air traffic controller needs minutes to recognize a terrorist act,
- his superior another minute to confirm that,
- more minutes are lost in communication with the Luftwaffe,
- another minute is lost till the fighter pilots are alarmed,
- up to five minutes are lost till the fighters take off,
- it takes up to ten minutes to intercept the passenger aircraft and come close enough for visual identification of type and airline markings,
- another minute is lost till the firing for effect (if the pilot doesn't hesitate) means loss of control of the aircraft and has changed the path of flight enough to save a target even if the aircraft was already close.
That's easily 15 to 25 minutes in reality till a kill (minimum).

This makes it obvious that the present debate is a show and not oriented at all at adding real security.

An important background information for this debate is that the secretary of defence's (Franz Josef Jung) party (CDU) is pro-nuclear power.
A true security against terrorist strikes against the most terrible targets, the AKWs, would be to shut those power plants down and evacuate the radioactive material or to build a bunker around them. Additionally, surface-to-air missiles were necessary to protect the capital Berlin and the skyscraper centre of Frankfurt against terrorist air strikes (the French sent SAM units to protect their nuclear power plants in 2001).

Old studies showed that the present AKW concrete shell can stop a low-flying military jet (low-level flying was trained a lot in the 80's over Germany), but a much heavier passenger plane is much more powerful.

We don't fortify the AKWs, and this fact exposes how serious this party and this minister really take the security; they prefer the prestige and competence gains (even if at cost of freedom against observation in case of the minister of the interior (Schäuble) who promotes one competence of dubious efficiency after another) over real protection.

It's too sad that so many people in Germany fall prey to strongman rhetoric and simple scaremongering in Germany! The "may we shoot down passenger planes or not" debate is bogus!

A German institute published a new report on AKW vulnerability. Some AKW seem to be well-protected while others (old ones) are not. They summed up older research and test results in this German study.


Destroying the Bundeswehr's integrity from top

Germany has an ongoing debate since 2001-09-11; the existing laws do not allow to shoot down a passenger plane under terrorist control even if it's approaching a nuclear power plant or city. A law passed the parliament to change that, but was declared to be ineffective by our constitutional court.

This is obviously not a satisfactory situation.
I personally believe that the passengers themselves would likely be the best defense against such a terror act as they remember what happened in the USA, but our politicians don't want to rely on that.

This is the reason why our secretary of defense Mr. Jung emphasizes that in such a case he would give the order to shoot down the plane anyway.

This is where the problem begins.
I don't care much about what lawyers and the like think about it while the media focuses on Mr. Jung's questionable approach to legal/illegal - I see a very different problem.

The experience of the Wehrmacht (which followed a felonious dictator and committed war crimes based on strict obedience to corresponding orders) inspired a new rule set for the Bundeswehr: It is illegal to execute an illegal order. A soldier who is ordered to do something illegal is obliged to report this and to not execute the order.

An order to shoot down a passenger plane would be obviously illegal due to the constitutional court's judgment.

So all officers in the chain of command between secretary of defense and pilot would be obliged to not proceed, but to report the illegal order (the first officer would be obliged to report the order to the chancellor, I guess). If they would relay the order they'd have to face serious disciplinary punishment (in theory, at least) and the prosecution for instigating mass murder.
The pilots would be obliged to deny the execution of the order and report it as well.
If the pilots would shoot down the plane, they would (in theory) face
- disciplinary punishment in the Bundeswehr, including most likely a discharge
- prosecution for mass homicide
- a loss of their pilot's license for dangerous influence on air traffic safety

Our secretary of defense may play the strong man and attract some cameras, but in fact he's no more empowered to give the order to shoot down a captured passenger plane than you and me.
The possibility that he doesn't know the Bundeswehr's rules enough to realize this is shocking - the more likely scenario that he has been told about the implications but ignores the legal problems and implications for the officers despite the historical reason for the rules is even more shocking.

Our secretary of defense Mr. Jung is eroding the integrity of the Bundeswehr.



Followers of technology

This is by no means an original thought - but the problem is persisting and huge.

Our Western forces pay lip service to tactical innovations first, but focus their continuing improvement efforts on the introduction of new high-tech tools and weapons.

Many experts have complained about the insufficiency of technological answers to problems. The enemy can counter almost every technological superiority to a high degree. This does often lead to costly arms races without really improving the relative position of the first innovator. The most successful technological innovations were those which remained either undetected by adversaries for a long time (like Ultra deciphering) and those which were exceptionally difficult to counter (like motorization). The latter were often countered by adopting them as well. A rule of thumb is that a spectacular technological advance will quickly fade as advantage as it provokes a strong reaction. Think about stealth in this context...

The questionable long-term effect of technological advances isn't the only shade on this.
Another disadvantage is the huge cost of R&D and production. It's difficult to sustain the high expenses in the long run when your adversaries can keep up with much less expenses for copying and countering your technology. The high expenses don't only risk the national security, but they're also a huge strain on the taxpayers which expect for good reason that the military does its job without major financial waste.

Another problem surrounding technological warfare is that technology often doesn't keep its promises in restricted terrain types and harsh real-world conditions in general.

The fourth and most important problem associated with the focus on technology is its root:
The defense industry cannot earn money by developing phenomenal tactics, military theory, drills, strategies and operations plans. It earns money by R&D and eventual production of hardware and software.
There's no lobbying for the brain-related factors in warfare besides good will and intellect of the people in administration and military. But there's a huge lobby for technology, as an entire industry branch can live off that. This powerful lobby is likely the primary reason for the drift towards technology-centric warfare.

It's very unlikely that this coincides with the optimum, and in fact many experts have complained about technology-centric development of the military. This encompasses most NATO forces, especially the larger ones with an indigenous arms industry.

Complaints alone will never solve the problem as long as the cause - the lobbying - continues. And it's highly unlikely that this lobbying can be suppressed ... to fight lobbying is very uncommon and usually unsuccessful as lobbying fulfills a desire of bureaucrats for a simpler life and more prestige as bureaucrat.

We need a counterweight to the lobbying for technology - a lobbying for improvements that don't need much more than the brains of our soldiers for their implementation.
This could be an institution solely for such solutions with a strict ban on (high-)technological approaches. Another possibility to promote non-technological solutions could be to issue call for tenders about non-technological solutions - valued as high as a technological offer would be.

Sven Ortmann


Attractiveness & relationships

When I was a boy and attended school, I had to read classic German 19th century literature just like all others. I remember a particular scene in one of these books - it describes how an Englishman comes into a German provincial community and despite his young age he's admired for he behaves as a free man from a free country and knows a lot about foreign countries that he had visited. That was very different to the behaviour of the local population which still lived in the remains of the feudal society.
The admiration of the author for this was obvious.

Free societies don't only have direct benefits for their citizens - they have also huge advantages when in contact with foreign people and all but the most dictatorial governments.
The western nations, including the NATO nations, enjoyed this attractiveness for several decades - will they continue to do so in the future?

The image of the western nations seems to transform from a bright and avant-garde area to a fortress that's used for many violent excursions into weak countries.

That's certainly less than attractive and might add to the list of enemies and shorten the list of friends and even allies.

The Grand strategy of the major NATO nations should be different and avoid such a picture.

There's a parallel to what's been said about political capital. In 1990 the USA built a coalition for a war against Iraq and gained an enormous amount of political capital by doing so for a cause that was considered righteous.
In 2002 the USA built a much less magnificent coalition for a war against Iraq and it did not gain political capital, but it went bankrupt in terms of political capital - it spent it all.

Many reactions to 9/11 , both originating from governments and originating from media or people themselves (like by such small things as comments full of hatred on YouTube) seem to worsen the reputation of the West in the world, sometimes right into evil ratings.

The fact that this originates from so many sources tells me that it's both a kind of zeitgeist and probably a primitive reaction. Don't misunderstand "primitive" - I don't accuse people of being primitive - the reaction seems to be rather obvious and not the result of deep, well-informed reasoning about the problem.

If this is a clash of civilizations, we're about to lose. Well, we're most likely not about to lose our own civilization, but rather our ability to co-operate with foreign powers and people. Imagine being a Libyan businessman with a great new product that you want to sell in the Western world. Great prospects? Not at all. Libya is too unsympathetic to us and trade with it even often limited by law. An Indian businessman would have much better prospects than a Libyan one with the same product despite the greater distance.

If we don't want to become unpopular or even outlaws for much of the world we should correct our stance and restrain from annoying them. We're sitting in this world together with about five billion other people, and their opinion about us is not unimportant.

To believe that we should pay regard to other's opinions would represent the mental state of a 16-year-old at best.

We should try to regain our attractiveness and regain trust, not demolish our relationships with others for the freedom to beat on some people who we dislike.

Sven Ortmann


Book: "War is a racket"

"War is a racket" by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler is an antiwar classic by a highly decorated U.S. Marine Cops officer. There's still a USMC base in Japan named for this officer.

One quote of this remarkable officer sums his experience up, but isn't from his "War is a racket" text itself:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.
The horrors of war, the unjustified profits of the war industry, the suffering at home, mutilated soldiers and especially his experience in many needless and corrupt small wars convinced BG Butler that war is a racket, evil. I read his book twice in the past years, and it's obviously applicable to our time as well as to the early and late 20th century.

He judged by his personal experience of his lifetime - the "Great War" and many small interventions against sovereign nations in Latin America.

He wrote "War is a racket" in 1935, in hindsight probably one of the worst times ever if you want to have lasting impact and fame for an anti-war work . The axis powers didn't allow peace for long any more (he warned only about Italy in his book) and showed that there are two kinds of war; those you can avoid and those you cannot avoid without submission.

This distinction is very important if we try to apply lessons learned from history for a better future.
Patriotism is a good thing if used to mobilize for unavoidable wars, and it's evil if it's exploited to reinforce support for needless wars.
Furthermore, the arguments of pacifists should not be dismissed completely, but considered for each and every war in detail - they apply to some wars and not so much to others.

Not only the understanding of patriotism should be influenced by past experiences - the whole approach to war needs to be checked. Are our societies really prepared to repel attempts to lure us into needless small or major wars in the future? Or will we fall prey to such attempts as the British did in 2003, when their head of government was able to participate in a war that the majority of the British didn't even want and that became a disaster?

The conditions are very different in the NATO countries. The USA will likely get an Iraq syndrome comparable to the Vietnam syndrome and shrink away from needless wars for some time. Let's hope that the lesson will be learned and last for more than a generation, as did the last one. The UK and other nations that participated in the Iraq conflict will probably have comparable movements.
France seems to have a steady willingness to execute small military actions in Africa, but never with really serious commitment - that's its policing policy in former colonies adopted after the Algerian War.
Germany otherwise is a completely different case. Two generations of Germans did their best to convince the world that German military actions are not desirable and there was absolutely no military action (of Western Germany) during the Cold War.

But we have a consistent policy of both large parties to drag the nation deeper and deeper into military actions and get the people more and more accustomed to it since the early 90's. It's basically a great power game, an open gambling for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council by making yourself important and a permanent method of our secretaries of defence to gain prestige.

I hope the best, but the escalation path is obvious and we'll probably end up participating in the next stupid, needless war together with allies as only few people connect the horrors of the World Wars to small wars - and Germany had no small war on the ground for about a century.

Finally there's still the exploitation of war by businessmen who sell overpriced, inferior or even useless equipment to the forces for maximum profit. The huge budget expansions of the military in wartime and the wide-spread military incompetence in accounting promotes such behaviour.

It's always been very difficult to reduce such behaviour in wartime, but the next war's end should be a fine opportunity to begin with really punishing such war-related fraud and thereby fight one of the war's horrors as noted by Butler.

S Ortmann

About myself

I've been asked to write a bit about myself, apparently that is important to some readers.

Well, this is indeed a good opportunity to describe myself.

My knowledge base includes information about military equipment of different ages and all services, historical strategic/operational and tactical art and a very good knowledge of history and especially military history.
There's always more to learn and always someone who knows more, but I feel sufficiently well-informed to have a good foundation for my opinions.
Of course, it's not required to have a good opinion. Democracy is all about allowing everyone an opinion and to value that. Experts don't have the best records concerning their opinions anyways, and they usually disagree with each other, so it would be silly to just depend on them without an own opinion.

My general approach to national security affairs is coined by historical lessons. I don't just look at the moment - I consider many 20th century historical situations as good description for possible situations of ours within a couple of years. Information given by officials is not much worth and qualification of officers always under close scrutinity, as history tells us better not to believe what we're told. Most nations that suffered military disasters weren't informed about what was going to happen in advance - although there were always hints or let's say patterns that hinted at a forthcoming disaster.
History also teaches to distrust simple theories about what will happen in the world - domino theory, "Arabs will welcome us and love to build their democracy", "this was a war to end all wars" and the like.

That leads to a strong pattern in my analysis - I'm a skeptic and critic.
Again, this has strong foundation in history. A short look at the West's post-WW2 record of wars tells us that it's far from being perfect, even though the typical superiorities of superior logistics, firepower, financial power, industrial power, training and combined arms were present in all those conflicts.
Falklands and Korean Wars were almost lost, Vietnam/Indochina and Algeria were lost, Iraq is obviously about to be lost and Afghanistan is far from being won. Several other conflicts included severe disappointments, as all engagements in Lebanon and the 1999 Kosovo War, which was despite its ultimate outcome in large part an exhibition of military and political incompetence.

You won't ever find a "The FCS tank will rule the battlefields - unseen by the enemies, FCS forces defeat everyone with missiles!" text here. Instead, you can expect sometimes very original perspectives on national security affairs with a minimum of backing data and links in my texts. The usual points of view are accessible everywhere - I attempt to discover the truth in those cases where mainstream opinion is wrong.

A French parliamentarian visited the front line in April 1940 and was shocked to see the weak defense in the Sedan sector - he alerted everyone he could alert about this possibly fatal weak spot. But common opinion was that the Germans would - if at all - attack just like 1914. In fact they had their Schwerpunkt at Sedan, and the marching orders of the French army HQ moved much of its forces into the prepared trap north of Sedan. The Battle for France was lost a few days after it had begun.
I'd be proud of my work if only one in ten of my entries comes close to this (less the defeat).

Someone recently accused me of being anti-American. Well, I don't think so. That guy did just not know how much I criticize my own countries' forces and policy. My critique is a general pattern, a personal style - my critique is not focused on specific countries, races or religions. The USA gets a good share of my critique - that's in large part due to their activity and size. Economic imbalances of Luxembourg would be uninteresting, the same for the USA is a global problem. Countries with little military activity or a less extrovert approach to information on the military don't provide as many stories for a critic on military affairs...

I'm no pacifist, although that was suggested recently as well. My recurring critique on wars might mislead people to that conclusion, but in fact I'm just hard to convince about going to war and continuing wars for far-reaching goals. I frequently use the word "needless" in combination with "war". As I see it, there are wars that need to be fought and wars that are plain stupid.
I've read some books of pacifists, though. I did so because my passion for military affairs required a counterweight. Scientific pacifists have a point. Their argumentation is far from the typical stereotype of the pacifist who wouldn't fight at all costs and be a coward. Those scientific pacifists focus instead on the immensely wasteful and destructive nature of war and mankind's aggressive and destructive potential. It helps to consider pacifist's arguments seriously if you're serious about avoiding needless wars. After all, even victories can hurt you more than peace.

Sven Ortmann


Inwards propaganda

This blog entry is on inwards propaganda, a topic that was already scratched on the surface by the "Buzzwords" blog entry.

I participated recently in a short discussion about a computer game that the Hezbollah released (in fact a modded Battlefield 2 game). The game is often commented - in many places and by many people - with an attitude as if it was something special, amateurish and something that the West doesn't do.
Well, in fact there are several computer games (full-blown computer games, not just small modifications) on the topic of hunting terrorists (often quite unrealistic scenarios) and the like on the market. We don't lack B-Movies about the topic as well. The computer games and movie industry is in fact quite busy delivering us propaganda products that define the common foe for the western nations - since decades. The movie industry is busy with such works since about the 1930's. The support of the U.S. forces with personnel and material for many such productions proves that there's in fact a link between propaganda and at least one western government.
We must really be blind to blank out our own inwards oriented propaganda when we discuss Hezbollah's famous computer game as if it's something special.

There's of course more to tell about it than the quality of the mod (apparently not "good") or about specific claims on content and how evil it is (or how bad a "Rambo" movie is, for example).

Thinking about inwards propaganda (propaganda focused on the own people) led me to the conclusion that it's in fact an authoritarian concept that regrettably can often be a commercial success due to an entertainment effect.

In democracy (can) work fine when people are well-informed and can make good decisions before they vote.
Adding a subjective, manipulating element like propaganda instead of honest information into the system poisons it and let's it drift away from the ideal.

What could be the purpose, who could prefer such an endeavor?
In my opinion only authoritarian people who are not true democrats (I don't mean a specific party in just one of more than hundred nations of this world) could prefer it even after they thought about it in detail. These are people who distrust democracy so that they prefer the people - the sovereign - to be manipulated instead of just informed.

This is no conspiracy theory, it's just my theoretical reasoning about whether inward propaganda is good because of its mobilizing effect or evil because of its manipulative effect.

My conclusion is obviously that it's evil. It deteriorates our democracy and since democracy is what keeps sovereignty where it belongs - to the people. Propaganda is a tool that threatens our sovereignty, let's it fade away. Honest information is what we need.
Some NATO nations have learned this lesson again in the past years as they were misled by propaganda (well, the British people weren't that much mislead, rather their prime minister).

Anyway - everyone is invited to have his own opinion on propaganda of all sorts.

Let's hope that (s)he has decent information to process before (s)he arrives at a conclusion. This blog entry promotes just one point of view and is no sufficient information base, for example.

Sven Ortmann

edit 2008-12-02:

"Hilary Rosen, the former chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America, who was also present at the post-9/11 meetings, said that Mr. Rove and other White House officials were looking for the kind of support Hollywood gave the United States during World War II.

“They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she said. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.”"



Digging the grave

Counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare has a dirty side; most of it is about controlling the population. Census, ID cards, checkpoints, databases and the like are more important for COIN than aircraft and tanks. They serve to control the population, to suppress their support for insurgents and to identify insurgents in the mass of the people.

But COIN waged by industrialized nations like the USA leads inevitably to attempts to improve the ability to control the people with technological means. Projects like this exceed everything that George Orwell was able to imagine for his novel "1984".

This means that the Western societies are in a dilemma - they can develop technologies for their military (especially for small wars) for small benefits in wars abroad. But at the same time they construct the tool set for the greatest imaginable internal intelligence apparatus - tools that can be used to turn our free states into totalitarian states without any chance of uprising.

We do already install cameras into our cities to watch public places and develop software to make better use of them. Face recognition software becomes able to identify people, databases intended to search for terrorists by tracking people can easily be converted for a search on dissidents.

Terrorism is a very small threat in comparison to historical threats - insurgents in distant places are no threat at all to us, at our home. They only threaten our troops who occupy their country/support the local puppet regimes.

But our reaction to these small threats includes digging our own grave by preparing for an authoritarian or even dictatorial regime at home.

Sven Ortmann



Buzzwords have sometimes important functions; they can focus a crowd on a common topic.

"Communist" for example; maybe some would dispute that it's a buzzword, but in fact it was used for decades to describe socialists, not communists. Among others. After a while it was used on everyone who was disliked - social democrats in developing countries, for example.
The Western nations simplified the Cold War into a struggle "against communists" to make it easier to rally their people for this struggle. Simplification means loss of complexity, of information. Sometimes you're simply wrong with a simplified approach.

Quite the same happened in the last years. Suddenly the term "terrorist" became applicable on movements that were called "guerrillas" before 2001. Third world dictators just needed to pledge they'd fight communists to ensure Western support during the Cold War - today they seem to be required to pledge to fight terrorists.

But the people learned from their experience, so the term "terrorist" isn't nearly as loosely in use as during the Cold War (the Rhodesian Apartheid regime called their fight against the black population a part of the west's struggle against communism - I don't know about a modern anti-terrorism counterpart yet).

An accepted definition for terrorism would help, though. So far the United Nations weren't able to agree on one despite intense efforts. Some (Non-western and Western, democratic and dictatorial) nations feared that their actions fell under proposed definitions of terrorism.

Much less reserved is the use of another degrading buzzword; islamo-fascism/islamo-fascist. Somehow "we" never agreed on all Arabs or all Muslims as our enemies, so "we" obviously needed to identify an ideology as our enemy and the power behind those terrorists that attacked us. The result was "islamo-fascist". I believe I read that the first time around 2002, and it has become quite widespread in the meantime. It's in fact almost thirty years old. To date, it's still highly unusual in Germany. Very good online translation programs don't even know it.

So let's have a look at this word "islamo-fascism"...

"islamo-..." - OK, nobody would deny that AQ is an Islamic terror group/movement/network/ideology/whatever.

"...-fascist" - I never understood that. There's nothing fascistic in the modern Islamic terrorism.

Reminder; fascism is not particularly anti-semitic, that was nazism, a variant of fascism. Fascism was not much more anti-semitic as was common in Europe during the 1920's (Mussolini, for example, didn't do much about the few Jews in Italy for the first 15 years of his rule).

So why this constructed relation to fascism? I guess because almost nobody denies that fascism is bad, so connecting Islamic extremists to fascism serves the purpose to clarify they're bad, without further explanation.
Anyway - "islamo-fascist" is simply misleading. It might help to mobilize simple-minded people to sacrifice in average some hundred dollars wealth per year for a global fight, but it does not help in that fight in any other way. It distracts.

Buzzwords in use to sell new gadgets to forces contribute to waste of financial resources - buzzwords in use to degrade opposing people manipulate our stance to foreign politics (sometimes even internal politics) and can lead to much worse effects.

We should keep our languages accurate and correct - and resist stupid buzzwords that were designed to manipulate the weak-minded. The truth is either motivating enough or any further motivation through manipulation does only harm us.

About this blog

Hello readers,

the statistic about visits is developing quite well and it encourages me to continue the blog.

Furthermore, I'd like to inform you about some details here;

I've got several topics in preparation. But I prefer to let those texts rest and mature for days or weeks to improve them again and again before I release them. So you can count on me adding more entries, even when I don't do so for some days.

The other detail is that I'm thinking about moving to another service provider for more comfortable appearance of the blog, more like the quality standard of the national security blogs. I don't see here any advertisements even when I'm not logged in because my filters work well, but I know that some readers get annoyed and distracted by ads. If I move sometime I'd transfer all texts and establish a link here to the new site.
I have experimented at the beginning with a more colorful design for this blog, but feedback indicated that the blog was too difficult to read then. Somehow I cannot get it right with the limited options here.

I'd also like to point out that everyone is invited to comment - the comment function isn't in much use to date, but comments can infuse a lot of life into a blog and I'd really appreciate some more feedback on the content.


Sven Ortmann


No major war in Europe in the next ten years (?)

Military history is just like general history an excellent tool for learning. You cannot make enough personal experiences to match what history offers you.

History offers valuable lessons for our strategic situation today. We feel extremely safe from threats of conventional war in Europe, and see no conflicts that could lead to such a conflict any time soon. Finally, we don't believe that any other power could challenge us in Europe - after all, we would have nukes for the worst case that our conventional forces fail.

There are two very disturbing lessons in military history that offer parallels to this situation.
I scratched on the surface of these lessons before, but they deserve a more thorough presentation.

I never truly believed the "nobody attacks us because of our nuclear weapons" ideology.
Air war theorists expected massive genocide from the air with gas bombs for the next war in the inter-war years (1919-1939) - but there was next to no poison gas usage in World War II. Hitler had the very first nerve gasses under his control and thereby a considerable advantage. But he never used any gas. Even not when the conventional attacks on England in 1940 failed or in more dire situations afterwards. No other power used gas in quantity on the battlefields or for bombing cities.
This means that there's an historical example that matches our expectations of 'WMD' dominance in the next European major war - and this example tells us that such expectations don't need to become reality.
We should (stay) prepare(d) for the case that some nation calls our nuclear deterrence bluff and not rely much on the nuclear deterrence.

The other remarkable and very irritating lesson of 20th century history is that you cannot plan your forces as much as five years in advance. To attempt it and stick to the plan leads to failure in case of real need for forces.
Germany had a 100,000 men military army in January, 1933. There was no military aviation allowed. And these troops were all volunteers, conscription was forbidden. There had been no training of reserve troops for many years by 1933 and the World War veterans weren't fit for combat service anymore.
Less than seven years later Germany had the most powerful army, a small but dangerous navy and an air force that was better prepared to support army operations than any other air force in the world. This rise of a phoenix shows how quickly a strategic situation can change.
Our policy would have a serious lag before it recognizes and reacts to such a challenge as did the policies of the European nations in the 1930's. The power which prepares for war in a specified time frame can more easily build up a modern and ready force than such a force can be maintained for decades.
The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force...let them ally with PR China and they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel before appeasement was given up. Imagine a reunification of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. We'd quickly face a nation much stronger in population, geo-strategic means, economy, arms industry and military - and probably backed up by an allied China.

The feeling of complete security in Europe and the assumption that it would require decades to threaten us with conventional war is completely wrong. History's lesson is clear-cut: Such safety cannot exist, there are historical precedences for what it would take to create a conventional total war in as few as a couple years.


edit: Corrections about Reichswehr size were made.