Summary: Defence and Freedom military theory posts

There is a tag "Military Theory" on many blog posts on Defence and Freedom, and after six years of blogging I'm in the mood for a summary about this kind of posts.
I blame the high temperature which keeps me awake this late.

My first attempt to point out how misleading the use of the words "winner", winning", "victory", "victorious" usually is. The official "winning" party of a war is usually worse off than it would be if it had avoided the war. The winner is the lesser loser.
This is an important insight, and should be remembered especially once there's the next political campaign for a war of choice.

My first post pointing out my approach for combat against a high tech opponent: Be elusive, if possible undetected almost all the time. I repeated this a lot over the years.
People get easily amazed at hat sensors our troops have at their disposal. Less people think about what the very same troops should do if they face the very same sensors in hostile hands.

Another post notable for a 'first'. It offers a very rough sketch only, but mentions "skirmishers", a key word which plays an important role in much of what I wrote later on (though much of it was never published). The choice of this word was inspired by a '97 article which Javelin teams in a delay mission skirmishers. Ever since, I struggled with the problem that the word isn't a perfect match for my purposes.

Being a history-fuelled guy, I cannot but notice the similarities between our situation and the situation around 1900. This was the first hint at this.

I revisited a lot. The reason is that manoeuvre elements of modern armies are becoming smaller. Battlegroups with independent mission are now more likely to be a few companies rather than a regiment or brigade. There is also a (limited) move towards protected (armoured), but not very heavy combat vehicles.
The combination of both means that the armoured reconnaissance detachments of old have become better analogies for much in modern mobile warfare than the tank divisions of old.

I didn't frame or call it this way, but this was really the first display of my concept about repertoires in warfare. The enemy can take cover behind a wall? Add a weapon to reach him there, too. At the time, I wrote about this in the combined arms framework instead,

This is one of several posts (not the first one) pointing out that lessons from recent conflicts may be very misleading in future conflicts. I thought (think) that many people are too uncritical about the impressions left by recent conflicts. Again, it helps to have read accounts from historical wars and being able to compare with what happened in the following wars.

Infantry Fighting vehicles are an accident of history in my opinion, but the concept is a successful one if measured by its ability to dominate doctrines. The Israelis have the only modern army with no interest in IFVs. I wrote this article with a 90's article about NGP (German armour concept studies of the early 90's) and WW2 experiences as well as technical Cold War era developments in my mind.

Almost nobody pays attention to me, so I got away with pointing out something favourable about flamethrowers. It's a typical text, attempting to shine some light on something non-intuitive, non-superficial yet noteworthy. I wrote plenty such blog posts over the years.

A typical text as well, since I basically called for modesty. Many people get easily carried away by the fascination of power, ability. Restrictions, limits, trade-offs, scarcity - they exist, but are pure joy-killers.
I suppose modesty is often the advisable path. Those who pursue 100% solutions and cannot resist temptations tend to end up in costly troubles. I play this tune also in regard to military budgets, for example.

This blog text did in part pay some tribute to Luttwak, but also points out a paradox he did not mention: Sometimes less destruction may cause the enemy to be more willing to yield than more destruction. This may appear counter-intuitive, but only so if one falls for the sunk costs fallacy, which became a recurring theme in my blog posts in  itself.

This combines the aforementioned concerns about exaggerating lessons from recent wars (neglecting lessons from others) and the modesty theme. The attempt to eliminate accident casualties may actually be a terrible trade off, as combat casualties (and mission failures) may rise as a consequence.

This may actually be a most important topic in the future due to urbanisation. A dirty red container is easily a better camouflage in a city than a green-black-brown one. This theme became a recurring one as well, I even applied it to a naval example later on.

This is where I became serious about military theory. It's an early centrepiece of my "skirmishing" ideas(s). It served me well, as I was able to skip much typing over the years in personal communication: I simply linked to this blog posts instead of writing it all again and again. This is one of the advantages if you run a blog.
This blog post was probably my first really serious attempt to contribute to the art of war.

This combines Clausewitzian thought with my framework about repertoires in warfare; again before I even published the latter.

I revisited this not much later on.Our top-down assignment of leaders is probably a leftover from long-gone feudal societies. There may be niches in which a kinda democratic bottom-up choice of leaders is superior.

2009-12 Opportunities
I revisited this 'opportunities' thing recently, but I actually like this old blog text much better.

Few people read von Clausewitz' "Vom Kriege" book completely, and you better put to good use what you learned by doing so. I pointed out the difference between the modern CoG and the original Schwerpunkt idea. This is another blog post which i have referenced many times over the years.

2010-01 Repulsion
This was inspired by a remark about infantry firepower read in an old book. I came up with an entire concept and attempted to give it a name. It is basically yet another way of looking at weapon systems, and once again it's counter-intuitive.

The definitive summary of my concept about repertoires in war and the suppression thereof. it's a way of looking at war and most of what it's composed of. I have a feeling some gifted authors could write a successful book based on this kind of idea alone.

The same general theme as already in 2007-11, but more.

Some Bobba Fett jetpacks or powered Starship Trooper exoskeletons would really go a long way solving the extra trouble in mountain warfare. I didn't really come up with any spectacular ideas, but I stubbornly rejected the option of declaring helicopters to be a cure-all.

It's but one example of me thinking about what's a good idea for a small power. Most military theory talk elsewhere is (if it happens at all) about how great powers can kick ass the best.

I attempted to make use of martial arts knowledge here, but the post is more remarkable for spelling out one of my convictions clearly: "reaking contact on short notice with few losses is an important core skill (...)". Easier said than done. I pushed this even farther (and I think also earlier) in regard to infantry, asserting that breaking contact (or observation) should happen after two minutes in order to avoid hits by hostile indirect fire support.

Another attempt of highlighting something counter-intuitive

Counter-intuitive conclusions, as usual.

A bit air power scepticism coupled with a proposal to push for proper cooperation by giving both teams good bargaining chips.

The first time I explained my idea of horizontal cooperation semi-properly. Horizontal cooperation (as opposed to the top-down linear organisation) is a pet topic of mine. It has been introduced in the business world (some large corporations push for direct cooperation across departments instead of requiring the detour through the respective superiors). Western military bureaucracies may find much room for improvement if they look more intensely at this.

The modesty theme in new clothes.
A very important thing about low force density scenarios (another favourite topic of mine).

"Readiness" is another lens for looking at military issues, especially if you use a broad definition of readiness. It's quite similar tot he "unfair advantage" theme, but saying "readiness" leads more easily to a couple conclusions than saying "unfair advantage".

A critical view on one of the more tricky military concepts, and some probably original thoughts about it.

Low force density in a theatre of war means no front lines can (and will) be maintained. A most interesting topic, especially as many modern ground warfare doctrines only pay lip service to the issue and don't really offer definitive answers for how to substitute for the missing front lines.
The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem.

Basically the attempt of creating a list of what's important in regard to artillery, and it's much longer than most sources would want us to believe.

My blog post about unfair advantages as the purpose of tactics et cetera. It's also noteworthy for a key quote: "(...) battles should be among the least interesting episodes of a skilful campaign. Battles should be pretty much decided prior to their initiation. The real challenge is ahead of a battle." 

My definitive blog post on sniping.

Air wars were different and delivered seemingly conflicting observations. This is my definitive blog post about strategic air warfare and I still think it's consistent and quite comprehensive. Its key was to pay attention to the psyche of the hostile political leadership.

It's generalising, but not useless.

I chose only one post later than summer '12 for this summary. The character of the blog posts about military theory changed away from suitability for this summary in part because I had my book project (occasionally) running in the background and saved some ideas for it.

The summary is long enough any way - I hope you feel provoked to look up some old stuff. Many if not most of my blog posts could have been written a decade earlier or a decade later - it wouldn't make much of a difference in regard to the content. The chronology of the blog posts is thus not very important. Some old ones are actually better than some new ones.

P.S.: The list is not complete. Click on "Military Theory" in the tags list on the left for the complete list.


  1. Sven,

    I have been working on a post for Think Defence concerning light infantry as modern day skirmishers; it appears remarkably close to your own ideas.

    This shouldn't be too surprising as I was also influenced by the paper by Major Morningstar concerning Javelin ATGMs and came across your "Square Trick" and "history of arms branches in orient" articles while doing research.

    There is some important differences, as my focus has been on their use by the British armed forces and rapid deployment forces. I wish to ask your permission to link to relevant articles and possibly quote you in the TD post?

    Yours sincerely,

    Gareth Jones (aka Swimming Trunks)

  2. Dunno why people ask for permission for quoting. Quoting of moderately long text parts is free. Only graphics aren't necessarily open domain.

    You should look at three things for your article:
    (1) The Long Range Desert Group's tactics
    (2) Delaying action missions and classic picket lines
    (3) Red Team Journal's "Interposing Tactics" article

  3. Cheers Sven. I will start researching them now.