The "we need to provide security" argument and the "strongest tribe" hypothesis

Many COIN theorists and pro-Afghan "surge"(tm) pundits share a common assertion; the Western forces in Afghanistan supposedly need to provide security for the local population to succeed.

The COIN theorists tend to have a more sophisticated argument (and my mood deteriorates when I think of TV pundits), so I'll address theirs:

The typical line of thought is like this (no quote):

The pro-Western powers (the government) needs to earn the local's support and allegiance by providing services and constructing objects for better quality of life. This construction work and the maintenance of public services can only succeed if protected properly against enemy (Taliban) attack (and blackmail in case of NGOs).
Western troops need to move in, defeat (chase away) local insurgents and provide security to the pro-Western efforts to stabilize the area through popular support for the Western cause.
That's nice in theory, but it fails my plausibility check.

Western troops ride in armoured vehicles and live in guarded forts, yet they still suffer casualties.

How could Western troops - even assumed a high force density - hope to provide security for a population that outnumbers them 11 million (Afghan Pashtu) to much less than 600,000 (projected target strength Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police plus maximum imaginable quantity of pro-Western foreign combatants)?

This (future, dream) ratio doesn't look particularly terrible - until you consider more than half of the pro-Western troops are non-combat troops (much more among the foreigners) and remember that you would need to guard effectively every marketplace, every school, every isolated hamlet to provide real security and eliminate all safe havens.

The security problem isn't limited to the protection of pro-Western employees and institutions, after all. You would also need to protect the general population.

Afghanistan has a rather unstable allegiance culture: A village may be considered to be allied with a certain faction and provide fighters to that faction. Another faction may arrive, execute a show of force and can negotiate that the village switches sides. A refusal could lead to a massacre.
This fragile allegiance system is what made the then-surprisingly quick Taliban rout in 2001 possible; supposedly pro-Taliban settlements switched sides when the Taliban were losing and Northern Alliance forces arriving. This allegiance thing is also the core of the talk about "being the strongest tribe" that's popular among many COIN crowd members.

The "strongest tribe" idea means that locals ally with the strongest (and reliable) power and despise, even attack a weak or unreliable power.

It's a close relative of the "we must provide security" and "Afghan surge" concepts because it's all at least in part about having more forces in place.

I consider this "strongest tribe" idea to be very misled. It's not about strength or reliability. It's about threat value instead. There's little to no booty (the classic tribal warfare motivator) to gain in the Afghanistan conflict, therefore choosing sides is either about power (relevant only to a minority) or security.
The "strongest tribe" concept doesn't pass my plausibility check, a "most threatening power" concept could do so.

So there's our predicament: We are past the civilization stage where taking hostages and mass murder were considered viable tactics of warfare. We are not threatening (still dangerous, but not in a directed, useful and predictable way). We are not able to fully protect against other threats because such encompassing protection is impossible. The enemy will always find a way how to hit his targets in his own country/region.

This problem has its limits, of course. The Uzbek and Tajik communities are not as much inclined to bow to the Taliban as the Pashtu communities which often share culture, political goals and ethnicity with the Taliban.
The informed part of the pro-"we must provide security" crowd simply hopes that the difference between the Uzbeks/Tajiks on the one hand and the Pashtu on the other hand aren't that great, so imprefect security would suffice to even turn the tide in pro-Taliban communities.

I don't agree, for I do not support warfare that's critically based on hopes and dreams.

Some people assert that warfare should be continued until you found a way how to win. That may fit to those who remember their nation's history of first floundering and then winning in war after huge expenses. It doesn't fit my thinking, though: I expect wars to be only fought if waging war is the lesser evil in comparison to peace, which means that I don't accept high resource expenditures without having equally high expectations for the advantage gained by warfare.

Sven Ortmann


Conservatives vs. Progressives

Conservatives (people who prefer to have no significant changes or even want to return to glorified past settings) and progressives (people who want to introduce new ideas to the society or institution) are in a seemingly eternal struggle.

The Western democracies show how the pendulum of power swings between conservatives and progressives, usually not getting stuck in any one place for long. To understand these dynamics is useful. Both conservatives and progressives have a point - and have important functions.

A long reign of conservatism usually leads to backwardness as quickly as in about two decades.

A long (or especially dramatic) reign of progressives leads to instability and at times reactionary collapse (as observed in Iran and Afghanistan where secularization failed spectacularly). They can also ask too much of the society.

Societies are divided, and ignoring that fact doesn't help the longevity of progressive reforms. Nor does it help the ability of conservatives to sustain their model.

The society's forces pull stronger towards the other extreme the more one extreme advances in its plans.

We can conceive great plans of modernization for corporations, armies, states or whole societies, but the forces of conservatism will eventually break every such effort that isn't in step with the change of opinion.

Conservatives likewise can draw great plans of conserving the status quo or even go back to the society of their childhood, but such plans will eventually fail as too many people will at some point dismiss their ideas as backward and increasingly inappropriate.

Conservatives always fail in the long run; all they can do in the long run is to limit the speed of progress to the speed of change of opinions. Conservatives become moderates and moderates become progressives in regard to specific issues over time. The progressives usually have a point, and their arguments usually convince moderates over time - or moderates simply become accustomed to examples of progressiveness (like women in trousers) over time.
This is the key to progress; shape the opinions and provide examples. Grand plans don't work nearly as well as planned, but a steady erosion of conservative positions does.

That's why education, communication, media and the protection of progressive examples is so important.

* conservative education examples; teaching conservative nonsense like creationism, separating schools into boy and girl schools and last war types teaching about warfare in an army
* poor communication of progressive ideas examples; no charismatic and rhetorically brilliant leaders, poor use of communication top-down and bottom-up
* conservative media examples; media that flips out at every swearword or nipple, generally leans to conservatives or serves directly as propaganda tool of clerics, insistence on old field manuals
* attack on progressives examples; killing emancipated minority members, burning down schools, harassing women in short skirts, destroying homosexual politician's careers, sabotage of experiments by assigning substandard resources and restricting participating officer's careers.

- - - - -

The rate of progress must not be sustained in excess of the societies', corporation's, army's or institution's ability to adapt. The key to a rapid modernization is therefore to create the insight that progress is a good thing - to help the conservatives to adapt.

Communication, examples and compelling ideas are the key to rapid sustained modernization, while highly visible projects like buying shiny new big-ticket hardware or enacting a revolutionary bill against majority opinion appears to be much less promising.

- - - - -

Let's look at examples:

(a) The 60+ generation lack of understanding for youth culture and new technologies (a never-ending story, because today's youth becomes tomorrow's old generation).
It's a good idea to block the conservatives' attempts of breaking youth culture, but the key to success is probably to let them participate. In other words; develop software that makes 60+ year olds use a computer. Mission accomplished in that regard.
It's less simple in regard to clothing fashions (I don't want to see retirees in teen fashion, really!) and in regard to music. There's still the expectation that they'll eventually get used to it.

(b) Army modernisation.
Army modernisation doesn't work by simply buying new vehicles, tools and weapons. The ideas for their purpose and right employment need to be created and distributed. The communication tools (professional journals, films), education/training efforts (training courses, university studies), charismatic innovator leaders, successful examples (also to be found in other countries and especially in conflicts) and well-supported innovative projects and experiments are much more promising than modernization efforts based on procuring high-tech hardware and mere training.

An army that's modernised in its thinking will be superior ceteris paribus to an army modernized only in its hardware. The (mis-)use of tanks in early WW2 provides rich examples for this.

We could emphasize the modernisation of thought over hardware modernisation if we could considerably shorten procurement (and development) processes for innovative hardware. Right now it looks as if in regard to many modernizations there's no choice but to develop the inventory of ideas and hardware in parallel.

Nevertheless, it's extremely important to keep in mind that it's not just about hardware, it's about the people.

Luckily, we're able to propel army modernisation by retiring too conservative leaders. An armed service that allows its officers to serve into very high age and that doesn't retire excessively conservative leaders fails. It fails to keep up with modernity and becomes obsolete, waiting for disaster in the next great war - and thereby failing in its mission.

That leads to example
(c) The West fails grossly in Afghanistan.
We cannot properly communicate progressive ideas due to cultural and language barriers. We cannot dominate the media because the country has different media structures than we're used to and important opinion multipliers in that country (mullahs) are conservative.
We introduce tools and rules of modernity without convincing the people in general.
We set up examples of modernity that we cannot protect against attacks and harassment.

Nation-building is one thing. To add 250 years of society advances to a country in a few years in parallel to a civil war is so utterly insane and stupid that it casts strong doubts on the mental qualities of those who were and are responsible for it.


I begin to fear that I'm turning into a conservative as well. My emphasis on historical best practice examples (WW2) and a good deal of contempt for some "stupid" youth culture stuff are distressing indicators.

Well, maybe I'm just moving towards moderate and won't step into conservative territory.


German federal coalition contract: The plan till 2013 (Part II)

I wrote previously about the national security-related parts of the new federal German coalition contract. Now it's the time to cover the civil rights / domestic freedom topics.
The coalition contract has been accepted by the parties (CDU, CSU, F.D.P.) and signed in the meantime.

(I'm sorry for the awkward translations. The coalition contract itself isn't exactly a piece of high art literature and I attempt to translate for authentic meaning.)

Chapter III. "Sozialer Fortschritt" (social progress)
III.4 Gleichstellung (equal opportunities)

This is mostly about equal opportunities for and fair treatment of women. Most in this chapter is pretty much what all alternative coalitions could have agreed to as well.
They also pledge to enforce the principle "same money for same work". (Economic studies show a 10% remaining salary disadvantage for women that cannot be explained with any other reasons than discrimination.)

Chapter IV. Freiheit und Sicherheit (liberty and security)
IV.1 Innere Sicherheit und Bürgerrechte (domestic security and civil rights)

They want to strengthen and improve the Bundespolizei (federal police = previously border guards).

Wir halten am Trennungsgebot zwischen Polizei und Nachrichtendiensten fest.
(We uphold the separation principle for police and intelligence services.)

They want to found a federal coast guard (as institution).

Daher werden wir auf Grundlage der verfassungsgerichtlichen Rechtsprechung das BKA-Gesetz daraufhin überprüfen, ob und inwieweit der Schutz des Kernbereichs privater Lebensgestaltung zu verbessern ist.
(We will on basis of the constitutional court's ruling evaluate the BKA law to see whether and how the protection of the core area of privacy shall be improved.)

Wir werden im Hinblick auf die Befugnis der Ton- und Bildaufzeichnung außerhalb von Wohnungen den Kernbereichsschutz verbessern.
(We will improve the core privacy area protection in regard to the competence for audio and video recording outside of residences.)

Für die Entscheidung über die Anordnung der verdeckten Ermittlungsmaßnahmen nach dem Abschnitt zur Gefahrenabwehr gegen den internationalen Terrorismus im BKA-Gesetz soll künftig ein Richter am Bundesgerichtshof [...] zuständig sein.
(For the decision about the court order of covert investigations according to the chapter for averting of a danger against international terrorism in the BKA law will a judge at the Federal Court of Justice [...] be responsible.)

Then there's some drivel about improving institutions for danger aversion, and informing the public better about threats and the like. This line follows:

Diejenigen, die sich in Feuerwehren, Hilfsorganisationen, Rettungsdiensten und im THW aufopfernd und unentgeltlich für die Sicherheit ihrer Mitmenschen einsetzen, müssen dauerhaft unterstützt werden. Sie sind Vorbilder unserer Gesellschaft.
(Those who work for free in firefighters, aid organizations, paramedics and THW (a technical disaster response service) need to be permanently supported. They are role models of our society.)

OK, there it is. It's not really linked to civil rights, but it's interesting for it shows the world from the eyes of 50-70 y.o. German politicians. Complaints about a supposed decline in readiness to work for the society voluntarily are frequently recurring, and this is no different. These politicians have a recognition and field of view problem.
A minute writer in a registered club and an aid organization worker are recognized for their supposedly selfless service, while new forms of voluntary work for free are being ignored.
You won't find a German politician cheering someone who has edited a thousand wikipedia articles with high quality additions. You won't find a German politician who recognizes online game clan staff as the equal of a carnival club staff.
They lack a complete picture of our society, and that's not exactly good news.

(...then some very normal stuff...)

Deutschland hat schon jetzt eines der strengsten Waffengesetze der Welt. Wir sind daher einig in der Einschätzung, dass es gegenwärtig keinen weiteren Veränderungsbedarf im Waffenrecht gibt.
(Germany has one of the most strict wapons laws of the world. We are therefore in agreement in the assessment that there's no need for additional changes in the weapons law.)
But: there's an ongoing evaluation till 2011 whether there are unacceptable requirements in the weapons law about the storage of weapons. This is a pointer that there may be some relief (not in regard to weapons, but in regard to regulations for their storage) in 2011-2013.

Under the headline "Terrorcamps":
Wir werden das Gesetz zur Verfolgung der Vorbereitung von schweren staatsgefährdenden Gewalttaten zur Mitte der Legislaturperiode im Hinblick auf seine Wirksamkeit gegen die Bedrohungen durch den internationalen Terrorismus evaluieren.
There were some efforts to illegalize the participation in so-called terror camps in the past which were rejected for legal principle and practical reasons. This quote merely says that they'll look at the issue again.

Die Reform der Telekommunikationsüberwachung werden wir im Hinblick darauf evaluieren, ob deren Ziele erreicht wurden und welche Maßnahmen zur Optimierung ergriffen werden können.
(The reform of the telecommunications surveillance will be evaluated in regard to the question whether the goals were achieved and which measures can be taken to optimize.)
This may be a weak hint that some in the coalition consider the surveillance as disappointing and not worthy in the present extent. it may also point into the opposite direction - it's completely ambivalent. Well, politics...

IV.2 Informations- und Mediengesellschaft (information and media society)

Allen Menschen Zugang zu neuen Medien zu erleichtern, ist uns [...] ein zentrales Anliegen, sowohl im Hinblick auf die Verfügbarkeit als auch auf Barrierefreiheit und Medienkompetenz.
(To make the access to new media easy for all people is a central [...] concern of ourts. Both in regard to availability and in regard to barrier-freeness and media competence.)
The barrier thing may prove important over time.

They trust the existing market structure to provide net neutrality, but will observe the development and if necessary intervene to ensure net neutrality.

Wir bekräftigen, dass Recht und Gesetz im Internet schon heute und in Zukunft ebenso gelten wie überall sonst.
This quote pretty much rebukes previous polemic about the internet being supposedly a law-free space. I bet this came form the liberals and is meant to silence some especially annoying conservatives.

[...] werden wir uns auf internationaler Ebene für Lösungen stark machen, um Kinderpornographie sowie Kriminalität allgemein im Internet besser bekämpfen zu können.
([...]will we stick up on the international level for solutions to besser fight against child pornography and crime in general in the internet.)
This may be the successor of the technically stupid and constitutionally illegal family ministry's bill for an internet censorship against child pronography.
It's still ambivalent enough that it could mean something completely different, though. Politicians...

Internetsperren [...] Wir sind uns darüber einig, dass es notwendig ist, derartige kriminelle Angebote schnellstmöglich zu löschen statt diese zu sperren."
(Internet blocks [...] We are in agreement that it's necessary to delete such criminal supply (child pornography in the internet) as soon as possible instead of blocking them.)
This "delete instead of block" policy will last for twelve months, afterward they will evaluate the experiences and the contract tells nothing about what happens afterward.
There will be no other efforts to block internet content in those twelve months.

There went the internet censorship law of von der Leyen down, before it became effective.
The coalition will delete instead of block (which IS mostly possible, but wasn't done so far because von der Leyen was obviously incompetent, Schäuble was obviously uninterested and the previous government preferred symbolic policy over actual countermeasures in regard to child pornography.)

IV.3 Datenschutz (data privacy)

Some unspectacular efforts for data privacy, they will apparently revise teh law on it with the intent of making it more simple, mroe technology-neutral and more effective.
They will create a foundation data privacy to test services in regard to data privacy (we have mchc-respected other foundations for testing other services and products - this is a consumer protection effort.)

Wir werden den Zugriff der Bundesbehörden auf die gespeicherten Vorratsdaten der Telekommunikationsunternehmen bis zur Entscheidung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts über die Verfassungsmäßigkeit der Vorratsdatenspeicherung aussetzen und bis dahin auf Zugriffe zur Abwehr einer konkreten Gefahr für Leib, Leben und Freiheit beschränken.
(We will pause the access of federal agencies to the saved communications data of telecommunications corporations till the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court about the constitutionality of the data retention. Till that decision we will limit the access to the purpose of averting concrete dangers to body, life and freedom.)
The general expectation in public is as far as I know that the court will trash the law anyway, so this temporary agreement in the coalition contract should suffice.

Wir setzen uns für eine Verbesserung des Arbeitnehmerdatenschutzes ein und wollen Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter vor Bespitzelungen an ihrem Arbeitsplatz wirksam schützen. Es dürfen nur solche Daten verarbeitet werden, die für das Arbeitsverhältnis erforderlich sind.
(We will stick up for an improvement of the employee data protection and want to protect employees against spying at work. Only such data as necessary for the employment need to be processed.)
Many - too many - scandals about spying corporations laid the groundwork for this. We'll see how sharp the actual legal changes will be, though. Some of the corporations in question have very good relations to top politicians.

IV.4 Rechtspolitik (legal policy)

(some stuff, but I don't know enough about the topics to comment)

Wir stärken die Pressefreiheit. Dazu werden wir insbesondere im Strafgesetzbuch sicherstellen, dass sich Journalisten künftig nicht mehr der Beihilfe zur Verletzung eines Dienstgeheimnisses strafbar machen, wenn sie ihnen vertraulich zugeleitetes Material veröffentlichen. Darüber hinaus stärken wir den Beschlagnahmeschutz für Journalisten. Künftig wird eine Beschlagnahme nur noch bei einem dringenden Tatverdacht gegen den Journalisten möglich sein.
We reinforce the freedom of the press. We will make sure in the criminal code that journalists don't violate an official secret if they publish secret material that they got. Furthermore we improve their protection against confiscation. A confiscation of journalist materials will in the future only be possible with a strong and urgent suspicion.)
This is certainly meant to prevent future scandals as those that have erupted again and again since the 60's.

Im Kampf gegen Zwangsehen werden wir einen eigenständigen Straftatbestand für Zwangsheirat einführen.
(In the fight against forced marriages we will create an independent element of an offence for forced marriage.)
This will in practice affect only minorities (especially Muslim and Southern European foreigners in Germany).

Innovationen und Erfindungen sind für die volkswirtschaftliche Entwicklung unseres an Rohstoffen armen Landes, für die internationale Wettbewerbsfähigkeit unseres Landes und für den Schutz von Arbeitsplätzen in Deutschland von zentraler Bedeutung. Wir wollen deshalb den rechtlichen Rahmen für einen wirksamen Schutz des geistigen Eigentums durch Patente, Marken und Muster weiter stärken und den Zugang zu Schutzrechten für den Mittelstand erleichtern.
(Innovations and inventions are of central importance for the macroeconomic development of our resource-poor country, for the internaitonal competitiveness of our country and for the protection of jobs in Germany. We want therefore reinforce teh legal environment for an effective protection of intellectual property by patents, brands and designs. We want also make easier the access of the small and medium enterprises to industrial property rights.)

There's apparently still no insight that patents don't stimulate innovation but rather strangle it. The stimulation was nice theory, but the system has long since been perverted, and only those corporations who profit the most by this lobby a lot. Well, those and the die-hard and unimaginative music industry.
The attempts to improve the situation on the international stage haev little chance of success either. Very large corporations can sabotage small and medium enterprise innovation by going to a dozen European countries for patents on the innovation - the SME usually bows to this because of the excessive legal costs of a real fight for their rights. The SME's only chance is to keep the innovation secret.
The system is perverted and this coalition doesn't plan to repair it.

IV.5 Moderner Staat (modern state)

Wir wollen die Mitwirkungsmöglichkeiten der Bevölkerung an der demokratischen Willensbildung stärken. Dazu werden wir das Petitionswesen weiterentwickeln und verbessern. Bei Massenpetitionen werden wir über das im Petitionsausschuss bestehende Anhörungsrecht hinaus eine Behandlung des Anliegens im Plenum des Deutschen Bundestags unter Beteiligung der zuständigen Ausschüsse vorsehen.
(We want to reinforce the opportunities of the population to participate in the demoratic process. We will tehrefore evolve and improve the petition right. In regard to mass petitions we will expand the right to be heard to a discussion in the German federal Parliament with participation of the responsible commissions.)
Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures had little effect in the past, maybe they'll get more attention in the future.

- - - - -

Now about the personnel:

New minister of the interior:
Thomas de Maizière (CDU)
The predecessor Schäuble is still in the cabinet; he became minister of finance.
Thomas de Maizière doesn't look like an improvement (the pool of problematic politicians in CDU/CSU isn't exactly small):

Let me quote Wikipedia.de:

Im August 2009 forderte de Maizière strengere „Verhaltensregeln“ für das Internet. Er erklärte gegenüber der Rheinischen Post:

„Müssen wir nicht die Menschen vor Denunziation, Entwürdigung oder unseriösen Geschäften schützen wie im Zivilrecht? Ähnlich wie auf den Finanzmärkten brauchen wir mittelfristig Verkehrsregeln im Internet. Sonst werden wir dort Scheußlichkeiten erleben, die jede Vorstellungskraft sprengen. Vieles geht da übrigens nicht nur national.“
It would be too painful to translate; he basically made the nonsense assertion that the internet is a law-free space and called for 'traffic rules' in the internet. I label him "pro-censorship" and a threat to civil liberties in Germany.
(photo (c) Tobias Krecht)

New and old minister for famility, women, seniors and youth:
Ursula von der Leyen
Zensursula, the women who wanted to violate our constitution by constructing an internet censorship that fails technically 100% in its supposed purpose, but creates the legal infrastructure for more censorship.
She got the Big Brother Award this month.

New minister for justice:
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
She was already in this position in 1992-1996 and may become the bulwark that protects civil liberties in Germany.
I recall only good things of her earlier term. She even resigned in 1996 in protest against an eavesdropping law.
(photo (c) user Akriesch via Wikipedia)

Those with serious interest in the coalition contract (and the necessary German language skill) should read the original.

Sven Ortmann


German federal coalition contract: The plan till 2013 (Part I)

German governments are coalitions. We had three, four and five arty systems since 1949 and one-party governments were only feasible in some states, but ever on the federal level.

Conservatives (CDU), Bavarian conservatives (CSU) and liberals (F.D.P.) wanted to form a coalition and are in the process of doing so, thanks to having won enough votes in the September federal elections.
Their coalition contract isn't completely accepted by all relevant party instances yet, but it's expected to be the final version already. You could download it at the CDU, CSU and F.D.P. homepages.

Two chapters are relevant to this blog, the chapter on domestic security and the chapter on foreign policy and defence. I begin my report with the defence chapter:

"V. SICHERER FRIEDEN Durch Partnerschaft und Verantwortung in Europa und der Welt"

At the beginning they proclaim their allegiance to NATO, EU, European unification, multilateralism (G20, G8...) universal human rights, international law, peace, freedom, rule of law, security, prosperity ... the usual stuff.

The next part is about German interests (in their opinion):
The characterize Germany as an export nation (accurate, but rather something that should change!) and define our interest in sustainable economic activity, free trade and secure trade.
Risk and need for cooperative solutions arise from international terrorism, organized crime and piracy, climate change, fighting against poverty, food and resource security, pandemics and illnesses. (I wonder whether this order was deliberate.)

They want to strengthen and reform the UN to better match today's realities with its structures. They ask for a common permanent seat of the EU (actually less than the British and French one, and therefore not aimed at increasing, but at uniting European voting power). An alternative idea is a permanent UNSC seat for Germany, especially as a interim solution (that's a 90's dream of German foreign politicians). This duplication of proposals looks like a compromise to me.

(Several passages of continuity or of low interest.)

The issue of EU membership for Turkey is inconclusive. The CDU was pro-Turkey in the past in this matter, but the part in the coalition contract more describes the process than giving a yes or no answer.

Again some emphasis on a unified EU foreign policy...

"Wertegebundene und interessengeleitete Außenpolitik" - a foreign policy guided by interests but limited by values.

Strengthened German-American relations, with the notion that better relations would increase our political capital ("Gewicht", weight) in foreign affairs.

Then some praise on multinational institutions for supposedly being the right places to discuss and solve issues.

Next some emphasis on multinational treaties (NPT and others) and on the need to replace those that end soon.

(More a description than an action plan.)

Latin America:
A description, common EU foreign policy, free trade.

It's obviously being considered to be a trouble hot spot. Little real intent visible.

Near East:
(Continuity, nothing else.)

Several self evident statements (self-evident in Germany). This part sounds nevertheless quite unfriendly.

Our engagement there is (supposedly) of high interest to us.
Solidarity with the Afghan people (no mention of tribes).
New strategy to be worked out in a conference together with Allies and the Afghan state.
They stick with the concept of "Vernetzte Sicherheit" (networked security, an old and annoying German foreign policy buzzword).
Significant increase of training and (re)construction efforts.

Wir handeln militärisch nur dann, wenn wir dies im Rahmen der VN, der NATO oder der EU sowie aufgrund einer völkerrechtlichen Legitimation tun können. Unberührt davon bleibt das Recht auf Selbstverteidigung.
(We act militarily only if we can do so in a framework of the UN, the NATO or EU and on basis of an international law legitimation. Exempt is the right of self-defence.)

An order of how to respond to a crisis:
(1) diplomacy
(2) civilian efforts of police and judiciary system
(No mention of violent intervention, probably a concession to the "peace" emphasis in the document and the near-pacifist parts of the society. Maybe - just maybe - they learned that small wars are a poor idea.)

The federal police (former border guards) shall increase its pool of deployable personnel, and the 16 Germans states shall contribute to it.

They want to reduce the German contribution to UNIFIL (the pointless Lebanon maritime cordon) and cease it later completely.

Unification of the many multinational missions against the Somali pirates.

Funds for unexpected costs of deployments of security forces shall be in title 60 of the federal budget (the defence budget is title 14).

OK, short break. On page 116/124 finally a few words about the Bundeswehr itself...

- - - - -

(First some drivel...)

They stick with the conscription (the F.D.P. wanted to get rid of it), but will reduce it till 2011 down from nine to six months.

(...then some self-evident stuff...)

The problem of German courts watching suspiciously the use of violence by deployed troops shall be solved with centralized responsibilities (this will most likely mean that the federal general attorney will be exclusively responsible).

A statement for a robust German defence industry...

The coalition wants to see the (original) contract fulfilled. (This means no reduction of requirements, no increase of costs despite Airbus' pleas.)

Exports reduce the final batch 3b (which likely means a few fighters less).

Bei der Beschaffung wehrtechnischen Materials werden wir Strukturen zur Sicherstellung von Rechtsbeachtung und -befolgung schaffen.
This is surprising. It basically means more oversight over arms procurement. A (new) watchdog committee or bureaucracy that watches legality in arms procurement?

- - - - -

Back to foreign policy:

A lot of pledges against evil in the world (child labour, human rights violations, torture ...the full program).
Again some allegiance to the concept of multilateral institutions in this context.

- - - - -

The best of the coalition agreements at the end:

New minister of foreign affairs:
Guido Westerwelle
(chairman of the F.D.P.)
He's powerful in party politics, has aspired to this role for years.
Germany has a long tradition of liberal foreign ministers.
(photo (c) Dirk Vorderstraße)

New minister of defence:
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg(shooting star of the CSU and former economics minister)
He was active in foreign and national security politics before.
Germany has some tradition with CSU ministers of defence).
He's Unteroffizier der Reserve der Gebirgsjäger
(reserve NCO of the mountain infantry)

The old and new chancellor will be the (unimaginative) Mrs. Merkel.
That's relevant for overall policy, foreign policy and the chancellor would also be CinC in wartime.

- - - - -

Most of what the coalition contract tells about the future national security and foreign policy is a continuation of old policies or drivel.

Interesting were:

The personnel decisions (we got rid of the terrible SecDef Jung).

The inconclusive part on Turkey's EU aspirations.
The part about the UNSC seat, especially in regard to the quest for a European foreign policy.
The conscription reform (a compromise, and possibly a slow death of conscription in general).
The A400M decision (a good one, and bad news for Airbus).

Future overseas missions of the Bundeswehr will at least in part be financed from outside of the defence budget.
An possible end for the legal insecurity of deployed troops in combat.

Armed interventions may be out of fashion, maybe just too hot a topic for a coalition contract. Who knows.

For foreigners it should be interesting to see the emphasis that German policy places on rule of (international) law, multinational institutions, cooperation and the United Nations.
This is just a continuation of foreign policies that date back to the early 50's, of course.



Press Freedom Index 2009

Germany ranks 18th
(2008: 20th)

So why were all Scandinavian countries able to get a perfect 0.00 rating while Germany only got a 3.50?

The German press in May 2008 discovered the scale of phone tapping carried out by Deutsche Telekom against journalists, union leaders and a section of its own board of directors between 2005 and 2006 as the company’s management tried to discover the source of several months of internal leaks of strategic information to the press, which created a crisis of confidence within its management.

The year 2008 was also marked by a ban on foreign television broadcasts from Germany. The interior ministry on 19 June 2008 banned Kurdish exiled ROJ TV from operating there. The television channel which has a Danish licence is suspected of links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The company Viko Fernseh Produktion which runs ROJ TV in Wuppertal was searched and forced to halt is activities. Lebanese television channel Al Manar was also banned from broadcasting on cable networks by the interior ministry, on 1st December 2008, because the content of some programmes on the channel, which is owned by Hezbollah, were judged to be anti-Semitic. It remains accessible by satellite, although it is banned from selling advertising or receiving donations.

The German Supreme Court, anxious to protect confidentiality and private life of users on 27 February 2008 put major obstacles in the way of verifying emails and the use of electronic data. This new “fundamental right to the guarantee of confidentiality and integrity of information systems” could however be challenged by a decision taken by the federal constitutional court on 6 November 2008 forcing telecommunications companies to transmit personal details and the location of users’ calls to the national security services. Operators have to keep data for a maximum of six months but investigators can only be allowed access to the data in the case of serious offences. A final court ruling is still being awaited.

The government and the parliament in January 2009 adopted an anti-terror law that extends the role and the rights of the federal justice ministry. The new law allows an “online search” and the examination of suspect computers. This however can only be carried out with a court warrant, in line with the constitutional court ruling, and granted only in case of serious offences.

Surveillance carried out in April 2008 against a Der Spiegel editor Susanna Koelbl led to questioning of the robustness of safeguards. The federal information and intelligence agency had for six months monitored email exchanges between the journalist and Afghan trade minister Amin Farhang in a unacceptable practice contrary to instructions just given by the federal government to its agents not to spy on journalists.

These issues are well-known and were debated in Germany. The cases of foreign media with supposed extremist links running in trouble in Germany is complicated, but the other issues are simply sad.

The legal situation deteriorated; the government eroded privacy rights and increased surveillance of the population and its communications. That may (or may not) end with the return of the liberals to the government after ten years in the opposition. I began to miss their influence - you only know what good you had when you lost it.

The case of Top 50 corporations becoming way too boldly and beginning to behave as if they were the CIA (even our largest telecommunications company!) is terrible. The boldness may be the result of a feeling of standing above the normal mortals in the population due to the wealth and access to politicians that their top managers enjoy. The situation was quite terrible in the retail industry where corporations are already used to spy on both customers and employees with ten thousands of cameras nation-wide.

Overall, it's quite embarrassing that all Scandinavians did that much better. It almost proves that we could do much better if only we attempted strongly enough.

Sven Ortmann


Stop & go tactic

Let's jump into art of war theory.

(1) Best conditions for operations can only be achieved with effective battlefield shaping efforts.
(2) Effective shaping efforts are impossible to sustain 24/7.

"Stop and go"; a synchronization of vulnerable operations with windows of opportunities created by only temporary shaping efforts - the 'Stop & go tactic'.*

- - - - -

Examples of vulnerable operations:
(1) attack (example: air force strike packages)
(2) defence (in action, not just waiting)
(3) breaking contact
(4) march

Examples of shaping efforts:
(1) counter-artillery and counter-mortar fires
(2) increased availability (and use) of support fires
(3) electronic countermeasures (ECM; jamming)
(4) active air defence and/or combat air patrol
(5) suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD)
(6) smoke wall (vehicle borne)
(7) suppressive fires (laid in line of sight)
(8) OPFOR reserves kept busy elsewhere / deception ops in general
(9) aerial surveillance in place
(10) radio comm relay in place (like aerial relay platforms circling)

- - - - -

(1) Economy of effort: Exhausting shaping operations are maintained only at times of greatest benefit.
(2) Improved survivability and chance of mission success: Vulnerable operations would take place mostly under the best achievable conditions.

(mixed colour: vulnerable ops covered by shaping ops.
blue areas: war sucks. red areas: waste of shaping effort.)

- - - - -

In the end this is just a clear display of what's otherwise usually integrated into "synchronization". Yet, the differences are significant; especially the angle of view and the conclusions.

My special emphasis:
(1) use for force protection (assumption of a highly dangerous OPFOR)
(2) emphasis on time (discontinuous instead of "all the time")
(3) emphasis on the scarcity of support: Its economic application is a must

The frequent use of this tactic creates the expectation that certain vulnerable operations take place once the shaping ops take place. This offers opportunities for deception.

A problem of the tactic is that it's difficult to use in practice. It's more like an ideal to aspire to in deliberate actions and stationary phases of warfare.

- - - - -

The real difference to orthodox "Synchronization" becomes visible in details:

What should come first?
Vulnerable ops lead to shaping ops?
Shaping ops lead to vulnerable ops?


(Case 1)
Vulnerable ops happens, shaping ops fail.
Consequence: casualties / mission failure

(Case 2)
Vulnerable ops don't happen, shaping ops done
Consequence: wasted shaping effort (and mislead OPFOR)

It is a superior view to see shaping ops as enabling/preceding vulnerable ops in comparison to shaping ops being a consequence of vulnerable ops.

How to implement:
Let's take the traffic lights analogy. Green - yellow - red.
Units react to (exploit) the shaping ops that were initiated by a higher level HQ. Units could also request shaping ops, but the vulnerable ops would still be a consequence of shaping ops if possible.

The traffic light coding and in general the setting of shaping ops conditions in specified areas or for specified units could be developed to a leadership tool. This tool allows for a lot of initiative at the lower levels. It does primarily set the conditions; exactly what higher level HQs should do the most.


*: I'm guilty of creating that term in this context.


Mainland Chinese Southern security policies


Europe is a relatively calm, unified and peaceful place nowadays. It's necessary to look at history or other places if one wants to get case studies for strategic thought.

One such example is mainland China (People's Republic of China, PRC). It's obvious that China's relative and absolute strengths and needs evolve quickly due to its growing population and rapidly growing wealth.
This holds the potential for major changes in national security topics.

I assume two main interests of China in National Security affairs:
(1) Self-protection
(2) Security of import and export
(almost entirely maritime trade)

There are further interests that get some attention:
(3) Re-unification with Taiwan
(4) Protection of what calls itself a "socialist" system in North Korea
(5) Prestige

The most interesting and most difficult interest is likely the security of imports and exports in maritime trade.
The only reasonable threats to this are naval power (ships) and air power (land-based aviation), but it's very difficult to provide effective defence for maritime trade.

The Chinese Navy isn't well-suited for protecting Chinese maritime trade by offensive action or convoys yet. Convoying would likely be pointless for economic reasons (inefficiencies) and the sheer volume of trade (quantity of ships on different sea lanes). Offensive protection of maritime trade would require much better air defence and land attack capabilities.
The only thing that the Chinese navy can accomplish in its current state in regard to maritime trade protection is effective deterrence against small powers. Malaysia wouldn't dare to face them on its own, for example.

The costs of a military strategy for maritime trade security would be huge. China has plenty domestic problems that cry out loud for funds and attention. A very costly approach to security problems should therefore be scrutinised.
A political approach to the national security issue of maritime trade may be vastly superior due to its much lower price.

Such a cheap approach would not launch an arms race. It would aim at not alienating, but befriending foreign powers. Such a friendship needs to be based on common interests. It's possible to create common interests where none are yet - by alliances and economic/political structures.
China has a great hunger for resources and could be seen as a competitor to the ASEAN countries in regard to many raw materials. That could be changed by cooperation.
Europeans very rarely see a competitor for raw materials when looking at the U.S., and rarely so if looking at Japan, but they do so when looking at China. Cooperation and good relations make the difference.
Competitors can build a "we" feeling through cooperation.

I would greatly prefer such a cooperative approach between China and the ASEAN countries. The lingering conflict over the Spratly islands looks to me like both a great opportunity for the future and a stupid move so far.
China moved itself into a rival and almost enemy position by insisting on its claim on those islands. It could alternatively use the conflict as a great entry into a cooperative future in regard to ASEAN (by dropping its claim in negotiations). The moves in that direction were so far quite half-hearted.

Military bases on the islands and an expensive Chinese navy could never secure the Western trade sea lane as well as a friendship with Malaysia and Indonesia could. Potential raw material riches on the seabed in that area are likely not worth a conflict either.

China would need to dominate those countries completely in order to secure its sea lane as well as it could through cooperation. Complete domination is a much too expensive approach for the problem.

- - - - -

The Chinese-Indian border 'disagreements' and 'violations' at the inadequately defined border of both states is another quite puzzling story.

A rivalry between China and India is likely in the long term because of their size and somewhat similar economic levels. They will likely compete for the same raw materials for decades to come - and both will have a huge demand.

There's nevertheless nothing to gain from conflict on top of that competition.
hat could be gained? A few mountains and maybe a pass or two*.
What could be lost? The same - plus a disproportionate amount of wealth as well as the chance to have India on its side on other issues.

- - - - -

A policy of embracing neutrals nearby would serve China's national security needs much more than a pedantic and uncooperative behaviour in relatively tiny disagreements.

There are some conflicts around China, but they shouldn't be considered as being exclusively roots of conflict. The could also be bargaining chips to be used for a peacful future.

Look at India's border problem, for example. The Indians could approach the Chinese in a high-level, strategic discussion (not nitpicking about a few acres here or there). Some grand strategic decisions could lead to a Chinese-Indian cooperation, even at the expense of Chinese-Pakistani relations.
It's all about grand strategy decisions - their future path is not carved in stone yet.

Europe is - luckily - too far away and has few formal links with that region (UK: Commonwealth). Others have more interest in Eastern and Southeastern Asian security affairs (Australia, for example). There are many hawks in those countries who raise the alarm over supposed Chinese ambitions, roots for conflict and such.
Maybe they should be more in horror about a rivaling Chinese adept at cooperation and maybe they should talk and write less about future war scenarios or about what to buy in preparation for future East Asian wars.

Sven Ortmann

*: I understand the regions aren't exactly small. Its rather their relative unimportance that made me dismiss them as a few mountains.


Depth of reconnaissance

There was a rule of thumb for the necessary depth of reconnaissance in the horse age. I think it was that the scouting cavalry was supposed to be three main army day's marches ahead.
I'm not sure on the exact number and it has lost relevance long ago anyway. The driving factor back then was the delay in messaging (couriers had to ride back and would at times spend much time searching for the army HQ).

There were rules of thumb later as well, but the use of such rules of thumb would lead to impossible recce depth requirements if speed of movement was used as a variable.

We need something different today. Today's armies have been freed from many shortcomings (slow communication, slow movement) that plagued armies before the 20th century and we need a new reasoning about recce depth requirements.

My best guess candidate would be our reaction lag multiplied with the velocity of enemy attacks and multiplied with a constant:

required reconnaissance depth =
reaction lag * enemy attack speed * constant

The constant is at least =1, preferably greater to account for friction.
The reaction lag is a bit fuzzy; it depends on the ambition. A very ambitious definition would be the time lag from recce units learning about something till main body HQ having changed its intent AND re-positioned and prepared the units under its control accordingly.

No matter what kind of level we're talking about - battalion, brigade or corps - such a rule of thumb should be useful.

It means that no matter how the enemy wants to hit us to his advantage, we would have enough time to parry or evade IF our recce succeeds in its mission at the required depth (distance ahead).

- - - - -

This easy (astonishingly, math is at times really making things easier) formula leads to several noteworthy conclusions:

(1) The necessary depth of our recce depends on our unit agility on the battlefield. More agile units need less reconnaissance depth/advance.

(2) An enemy who's very rapid in his execution of offensive actions in turn increases the need for reconnaissance depth.

(3) Becoming more rapid on the offence would increase the enemy's reconnaissance requirement and we may become too quick for him (if we weren't yet).

(4) There's a blind area in which reconnaissance has limited or no utility for early warning.
It's therefore preferable to keep a greater distance to the enemy than the required reconnaissance depth unless we're ready for the fight. This requires something that keeps him at a distance, of course.

- - - - -

The old reconnaissance challenge does still exist (and reconnaissance units have much more utility than just early warning).

The idea that aerial reconnaissance could and would be reliable and satisfactory has been postponed again and again. We still need reconnaissance up close, able to interrogate prisoners and interview civilians. Recce troops who can identify tracks up close, search evacuated resting places for hints, inspect a bridge from below for explosives, go into buildings and look behind camouflage nets that conceal dummies.

The question of the necessary reconnaissance depth is a very important one. It influences the optimal force structure and design. Greater depth requires more recce units, greater recce vehicle endurance, longer range communications and greater survivability of recce units against aerial threats.



Crisis in battle

Many military units look good on paper and in exercises - but I'm sceptical, and for a reason: The real quality of a unit isn't shown in its preferred mode of operation, at full strength. Great and not-so-great units can instead be told apart in crisis.

Sometimes just about everything goes wrong; the organization can fail due to a lack of x or y to meet the situation and the people can fail by allowing the events to break their will (and they flee or stop the assault).

The ability to master a crisis in battle is at least as important as the theoretical performance at near-full strength. It is possible to prepare for such crisis situations, and that shall be the topic of the day.

Redundancy of capabilities (and geographical spacing of these redundant capabilities) enables a unit to keep fighting after losing important parts of its own. A loss of a HQ needs to be compensated by a reduced HQ capability elsewhere. A loss of secure radio comm due to compromised codes would need to be compensated for by a second mode of communication. Especially valuable and rare items need to be arranged in a fashion that prevents their total loss at once (radars, for example).

Redundancy by versatility
Versatility allows others to take over the tasks of specialists that aren't able to master the situation on their own. An air defence unit with long-range anti-tank firepower and support troops equipped with short-range anti-tank weapons are examples. A basic infantry training (defence of position against conventional attack, breaking contact, exfiltration at night) for all support troops helps as well.

The procedures can also be a risk in a crisis. A staff that's fixated on planning will miss the right time to switch to rapid, on the spot decisions that are driven by intuition instead of by planning procedures.

Choice of key personnel
I found a passage of a memoir written by Manstein to be especially noteworthy. He was describing different characters that he had worked with, and praised a certain chief of staff of some corps that was part of Manstein's army group.
No matter how serious and superficially hopeless a situation was - that chief of staff simply said that they'll somehow get through it and always stayed optimistic in the most terrible crisis situations when no reserves were left.
Such characters in the right positions can make a huge difference to networked semi-politicians who rose to flag rank with an optimized career path and who are always preparing for the next job instead of focusing on the current one.

All solutions in crisis are improvisations. It's no true crisis if orthodox actions can end it.
Some army cultures discourage improvisation, while others encourage it.

Finally, the most important preparation: Leadership reserves.
Leaders die in heavy combat like flies, especially junior officers. The performance of an army unit is in large part defined by the performance of its platoons, so it's hugely important to keep these functioning.

The answer is simple; overqualified soldiers.
The German armies began around 1906 to train Gefreiten (lance-corporals, PFC) as replacement squad leaders. Junior NCOs were capable of leading their platoon in a crisis. Senior NCOs were capable of taking command of their company in crisis if all officers and the company NCO (Spieß, most senior NCO of the Coy) were unavailable.

This requires more than courses back in garrison, though. It requires that everyone is informed about the intent two levels above his own. A NCO needs to know what the Coy needs to do. Senior enlisted personnel needs to understand the mission of the squad and platoon.

The extreme resilience of the Wehrmacht came in great part from such provisions (American scholars usually focus at the Auftragstaktik to explain that resilience - that's another, less complete angle for looking at it).

There are numerous anecdotes that show the extremes the German armies were capable of thanks to this system.
Rommel writes in his book about how he took command of several companies (total more than battalion strength) as a 1st Lt and led them successfully in a relatively deep attack.
Another anecdote is about a junior NCO who took command of his officer-depleted company on the attack, took a dominant hill, repelled a counter-attack and then assaulted enemy positions that held up the neighbour Coy. His attack enabled the regiment to meet its assault goals for the day.
Another anecdote tells about an enlisted soldier who took over his platoon in defensive combat and held the position in the midst of a powerful Russian assault till exfiltration.
NCOs taking command of a Stoßtrupp (assault team in squad to platoon strength) and continuing with the mission were a quite regular occurence - one example led to the success of the Meuse crossing operation at Sedan in 1940, a critical action for the quick fall of France.
Many people talk about how snipers can paralyze units by taking out their leader - that didn't work nearly as well against Germans as against Russians, for example.

The ability to keep fighting - forward, backward or in position - after repeated decapitations is awesome. It's what makes the difference between armies that excel and fragile ones that can be broken with enough pressure.

This was even more visible in earlier ages up to the early 19th century when wars were waged with great battles and these battles were decided by routs. Often times an army leader or king fell or fled - and the whole army failed. Frederick the Great fled in his first battle after his cavalry got routed - but Prussia still won the battle because his 2nd in command ordered the infantry to attack.
King Darius III fled twice in battle when threatened directly by Alexander's heavy cavalry charge and lost an empire.

The Bundeswehr still remembers World War experiences, but I'm not positive that it does more than paying lip service to these lessons. The main reason for my doubt is rank inflation; today's junior NCOs are the equivalent of 80's senior (volunteer) enlisted personnel due to watered down training and wrong recruitment practices. Lieutenants were more respected by their superiors during the 80's as well.

The ability to master a crisis in battle separates a truly good force from a fair weather force.


edit 2011: I'm so sorry, I completely forgot to mention cohesion in this text!

edit 2012: related http://www.jhuapl.edu/ourwork/nsa/papers/SmallForceTheory.pdf


Five evils that make us wage war

It's interesting to see how the wars (that involved Western powers) of the post-colonial age (1974-today) can be traced to few root categories.

(A) Root: Overestimation and hyping up of threats, poor intelligence, scaremongering
(a1) "Cold War" (in its historical extent) link 1, link 2
(a2) Afghanistan War (latest phase) 2001-?
(a3) Gulf War III 2003

(B) Root: Excessive aggressiveness and lack of respect for others' sovereignty
(b1) Gulf War III 2003
(b2) Panama invasion 1989-1990
(b3) Operation Desert Fox - Bombing of Iraq 1998
(b4) Kosovo Air War 1999

(C) Root: Ignition of ethnic conflicts in ethnically divided states
(c1) Iraq occupation war (much of it) 2003-?
(c2) Yugoslavian Civil Wars 1991-99, Kosovo Air War 1999

(D) Root: Diplomacy gives wrong signals
(d1) Falklands War 1982
(d2) Gulf War II (especially the original invasion of Kuwait) 1990/91

(E) Root: Israel - Arab conflict
(e1) Israeli invasion of Lebanon 1982
(e2) 2nd Intifada 2000+
(e3) Lebanon War 2006
(e4) Gaza War 2008-09

The 1983 invasion of Grenada doesn't fit well into any category (maybe B).

Category A (overestimation of threats) is quite embarrassing. It's a mixture of having too many easily scared pussies among us and being played by scaremongers and warmongers.

Category B (aggressiveness) isn't much less embarrassing, for it shows the hypocrisy in the Western world. The Western culture was the one that invented all those nice rules like human rights, international law and Charter of the United Nations, but some of our policies are outright hypocritical and violate these achievements.

Category C (ethnic conflict) is a huge problem. Many states on earth are powder kegs in this regard. The only civilized, permanent solution is probably an evolution of the concept of the state. Maybe mankind should develop an understanding of states that allows for shared territories.

Category D (wrong signals) shows competence and communication deficits in foreign policy and diplomatic services. The problem wouldn't have as many bad consequences if category B hadn't prepared the ground for misunderstandings.

Category E (Israel conflicts) is notorious and obvious. The only good thing about it is that it's mostly restricted to one region. I could imagine solutions, but they wouldn't work without a lot of pressure to break the involved political powers first.

The good news is that categories A, B and D can be corrected.
Such wars can be avoided by not letting the wrong people into certain jobs (politicians, news editors, intelligence analysts/bureaucrats, think tanks, government advisers).

That's at the same time a mission for the Western World; grow adult, avoid such nonsense.

Sven Ortmann

edit: Minor correction..



I love it how all those late bloomers suddenly discover that waging the war in Afghanistan is NOT a war of necessity and only peripherally related to Al Qaida and the prevention of new terror attacks.

This is 2009, though!

The mess began in 2002 (invasion in 2001, but it wouldn't have been a mess without the nation building project that begun in 2002).

Seven years. Seriously, nobody should earn credit for an insight that took seven years.

We knew in 2002 that AQ had almost entirely fled the country and found refugee in Pakistan.
The public knew in 2003 that AQ did not consist of one major conspirator and a training organization in Afghanistan. AQ became a label that got slapped on dozens of cells that had at least minimum ties with AQ or adopted the brand for greater public effect of their stunts.

We knew by 2002 that the 9-11 strike was prepared more in Germany and Florida(!) than in Afghanistan. We learned in 2001 that the vast majority of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudi-Arabians.

So why did it take that long?
Maybe not enough strain? The Taliban intensified the warfare in 2006. Did their level of activity only reach uncomfortable (for the pundits) levels recently? That would tell us that the pundits lack foresight. Even inept Wall Street 'chart technicians' could have predicted the rise of activity in 2006.

Seriously, I have no respect for such late bloomers. A time lag of three to seven years for grasping reality in face of overwhelming evidence is simply embarrassing.

There's no doubt that the late-bloomers with access to TV shows and newspaper columns will get a lot of credit for not being completely blind. It has almost become a fashion in certain U.S. media outlets to be skeptical of the current involvement in Afghanistan.