If Western great power gaming wasn't so incompetent

One of the extra reasons for opposing Western great power gaming is the West's incompetence at it. The Americans messed so many great power games, we've become used to it. The war of aggression against Panama with its rather fine aftermath (save for the dead and maimed people, of course) is a pleasant exception. Just look at the IS/ISIS mess, a consequence of the war of aggression against Iraq!

 The West's dealing with the Ukrainian territorial crisis is no different. again, incompetence abounds.

I've offered rather diplomatic strategies and some observations on the conflict before

now here's a great power gaming strategy for it. I'm not in favour of great power games, so this is not a recommendation (would be a few months too late for it anyway), but an example meant to show how relatively inept the West is at these games. Obama, Merkel, Hollande are playing a league or two below Putin in these affairs (and Erdogan appears to be disinterested).

So this was for the situation at the end of the Crimean secession, when it became obvious Putin was having designs for Eastern Ukraine, too:

Putin/Russia is understood to try to grab some continental Ukrainian territory while the new government in Kiev is still incapable of decisive resistance.
Economic sanctions and the like were probably if not certainly factored into Putin's deliberations already, and can be dismissed as non-decisive for this reason. Something unanticipated is needed for additional deterrence effect.

Why not force Putin to lose two long-running great power games as the price for merely trying to play a great power game in the Eastern Ukraine?
Get Turkey and Georgia to agree with your strategy, then concentrate air and (suitable) land power in Turkey, threatening to move into Georgia, defeat the separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to kick out the Russian 'peacekeepers' there. Make sure Putin believes this by adding forces to the deployment which would only be necessary against Russia, not against militias; such as SEAD (suppression enemy air defences), much Electronic Warfare forces in general, battlefield air defences and substantial anti-armour firepower.
(c) Ssolbergj
Putin/Russia would be forced to keep Russian troops in the Caucasus and to even reinforce them in order to deter an actual Western intervention there with the risk of a messy NATO-Russia conflict on proxy territory (it would be similar to how American and Russian pilots fought each other over North Korea during the Korean War).

Russia would be hard-pressed to reinforce the troops in the Caucasus with more than air-deployable forces only, but assuming it did succeed, it could attempt to sway Western public opinion by threatening Estonia with some additional brigades south of St. Petersburg.
The non-involved NATO and EU countries could respond by deploying some suitable forces in an 'exercise' to Lithuania (which has no border with Russian mainland), and subsidise an Estonian partial mobilisation (another 'exercise').

The elegance in this; nothing in this strategy even only requires a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, since no recognised country would be threatened.

So this is how great power hardball could or would look like if the West was playing at the same level as Putin.
It's not. Instead, Western great powers bully weak countries (up to an actual invasion and occupation) for no gain and annoy other delinquents with sanctions if they're disinterested in doing more.

Very little good came of this, ever. The sanctions on apartheid South Africa were probably effective and a good idea, and Panama was mentioned before. Other than that, Western great power games aren't merely cost-inefficient, but often even disastrous. The Iranian theocracy can be traced back to an American-supported coup in the 50's, for example. Many Cold War great power games were ill-fated because of sheer Western ignorance and self-delusion (categorizing independence and unification movements as communist and pushing them into Moscow's arms). Nowadays the USA are supporting both Saudi-Arabia (top ten worst states world-wide) and Pakistan (ditto), both were no doubt more to blame for 9/11 than Saddam's Iraq.

I expect (hope) my readers to recoil in horror at the aforementioned counter-Putin deterrence strategy, for it is risky gaming, expensive gaming and well, it depends on Turkish cooperation which would make it even more expensive (such as a promise never to support the Kurds or even an intervention in Syria). And the Abkhazians seek independence legitimately, so an actual move against them would be unethical.

It's fine if it looks like a bad idea; that's my point. Great power games are bullshit.
What's even worse bullshit is if one's government does play such games, but sucks at them even more than the adversary. And that's the status quo.


P.S.: After I wrote this I saw an "expert" suggest to move NATO forces into Ukraine itself to counter Russian aggression. That's exactly what I mean; so stupid (and primitive), a ten year-old would come up with the same 'advice' within seconds. 

Edit: I'm fully aware that even if they tried, they couldn't get the public to support the strategy. Western politicians can't do bluffs of this scale well. And again, that's my point: They're incapable, incompetent - but they still want to play the game. There's no von Bismarck anywhere, but it would take one to succeed.


Specialised reinforcement formations

There were discussions and experiments during WW2 and discussions afterwards about specialised brigades for reinforcing the combined arms formations (especially the so-called infantry divisions, which combined infantry, artillery and engineers, but lacked tanks).

One (tested) proposal was a pure artillery outfit, usable for creating an artillery concentration without stripping divisions holding the line of some of their artillery. Independent rocket artillery detachments were actually quite common.

21 cm Mörser 18*,
obviously unsuited for
divisional artillery
The employment of an artillery reinforcement is a curious case:
On the offence, you would have difficulty providing the necessary ammunitions tocks and any artillery ordnance that's not common in divisional artillery (such as 21 cm howitzers) would be a tell-tale sign for a coming offensive. The German army was accordingly able to predict most Red Army breakthrough offensives that were founded on massed artillery. It employed very heavy artillery only in independent detachments (one or few batteries, never full regimental strength) itself.
On the defence, artillery reinforcements would have a timetable problem. Early warning of hostile offensive intent would rarely allow for administrative marches of the reinforcements AND delivery of appropriate ammunition stocks.

An anti-tank reinforcement formation (regiment; not the mere assault gun, tank destroyer or heavy tank detachments and battalions) was another discussed option.
It would rather not be used to support offensives, but on the defence it could be decisive. A concentration of some anti-tank power in specialised reinforcements would allow for (and require) a slight reduction of line forces' heavy anti-tank weaponry. This in is not all bad, for some of those forces would be in tank-unfriendly terrain and not need much long-range AT firepower. The concentration of some of the best AT units in a mobile theatre reserve would have met the concept of a Schwerpunkt.
Yet again the employment of AT reinforcements would crucially depend on the timely detection of hostile offensive intent, a quick administrative march and quick choice and creation of camouflaged positions (at night).

The specialise and expensive 57 mm ZiS-2,
a potentially good choice for Soviet
dedicated AT reinforcements (c) Kerim 44

Today's specialised reinforcements mostly avoid these problems:
Helicopters can move their area of activity by about 200 km in an hour, and artillery may shift its long-range rocket/missile fires by up to about 50-500 km within minutes.
The large 'footprint' for the short term employment of such specialised support no doubt made them more attractive, and may have contributed decisively to the huge role such forces play in some of today's Western peacetime orders of battle. It may also lead to an understanding of helicopters and long range artillery as corps or theatre assets, and help to get rid of the stupid  idea of brigade- or divisional-level army aviation.

The position of specialised reinforcement formations in military art and theory is thus nowadays a very different one than during the World Wars. It's still an interesting concept (to me), and may come back to the spotlight if circumstances change suitably.


*: (c) "Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-093-0376-15, Norwegen, Lappland, Küstenbatterie" by Schödl (e)


The dragoons' problem lingers on

Modern people could mistake the dragoons from before the mid-18th century for cavalry, but they were in fact infantry on a mount (horse), typically a 'light horse' (low cost and too small and weak to carry a cuirassier and his equipment well).

The dragoons were supposed to fight on foot. Their officers were attracted by the more prestigious real cavalry and dragoons became more and more cavalry-like out of this bureaucratic self-interest over time until they were absorbed into a general cavalry (which ultimately had to give up mounted combat anyway but didn't want to be renamed into "dragoons").
17th century dragoons. I think the stance on the right may be ahistorical.
The original dragoons were a weird creation. Most European armies had lost their archery skills (especially horse archery skills if they ever had much of them, unlike the Ottoman armies. This meant ranged combat on horseback was reduced to harassing and signalling (firearm noise telling nearby forces about the enemy's presence) and incapable of decimating the enemy as known from Asian and Persian steppe peoples. Cavalry had thus at most only a (weak) carbine or long pistol ("dragon", thus "dragoon") for firepower, and dragoons had to fight dismounted to possess more than this merely harassing firepower.

Mounted dragoons were inferior to real cavalry due to less training in mounted combat. Yet once on foot, they had to fear cavalry, for their firearms weren't effective enough to stop well-sized cavalry charges and their carbines (shorter muskets) were largely useless as a pike replacements even with extra-long bayonets. Dragoons weren't used in large-enough groups to enable a good defensive square formation (due to the cost of even their small horses).
The worst problem was no doubt that the horses didn't disappear once the dragoon intended to fight on foot: As a rule of thumb, one third of the dragoons (and later general cavalry) had to stay back with the horses to keep them under control and to protect them. Dragoons and late cavalry weren't merely weaker in dismounted combat than infantry, but also decimated by 1/3!

This problem lingered on with the 20th century descendants of the dragoons: Motorcycle troops and later motorised troops.
A two ton truck may be a very efficient transportation vehicle for a squad, but it still requires one in about ten men to stay back with the vehicle - and probably wait there instead of hauling supplies next. This 1/10th figure isn't representative, though: A late 20th century division of about 15,000 men (+/- a few thousand) had about 4,000 vehicles (+/- hundreds), and most of them were not combat vehicles. About one in four men in a modern army field formation is a designated driver not meant to engage in combat. The share is high in combat units, too.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 produced an event with high public attention; a successful intercept of a platoon of a maintenance company. Much attention was on the prisoners, on the (ironically) poor maintenance of their weapons and the like, but the news back then also revealed to the public that the 18 vehicles were 'manned' by only 31 soldiers; only 1.72 per vehicle. This isn't uncommon among support units any more; vehicles are now plenty and manning instead of motor transportation is the bottleneck nowadays. Back in 1940 those vehicles would be cramped because getting a free ride instead of a foot march was great. Nowadays we've got only a driver in some vehicles. The peacetime TO&E doesn't matter much in this regard, as units are almost always well below 100% nominal strength on a campaign.

The Korean War revealed some dangers in the current concept of motorisation; North Korean and Chinese infantry infiltrated through the poorly manned front-line and attacked the rear - mostly non-combat units, which were cramped in the valleys and bound to them due to their high quantity of motor vehicles and high share of drivers. The Americans and their allies proved to be resistant to this lesson, as they feared the nuclear battlefield more.

It got even worse with the introduction of the HMMWV* and its copies: Often times two such low capacity (1 1/4 ton, later 2 ton) trucks are being used for what could (and should) be done with a single medium three to six ton truck with one instead of two drivers. Other times they are used by a single senior NCO or officer to move around; something which could be done on a single motorcycle instead (possibly parasitic to cut down convoy size).

I consider this to be one of the actually long-known defects that need be corrected in Western ground forces. The general clumsiness of Western manoeuvre formations wasn't much of a concern on small training areas or on desert terrain or in computer simulations, but it's a dragging problem. Officers write many monographs, memos and books on agility and mobility and manoeuvre - but in the end the forces need to be able to realise the theory in face of competent and not terribly outnumbered hostiles. This is in doubt, and Third World armies demonstrated what happens when you attempt mobile warfare with unsuitable forces repeatedly.

The absence of much of a conventional military challenge to the EU doesn't make this issue less dire: For one, we should do reform when we're not under pressure, for it's much more difficult to pull off once there's a short-term risk of war. Second, more competent and better organised military forces are more efficient and can do more with less - saving on manpower (=freed for the economy) and funds (=lower taxes or less public debt).



*: The French ACMAT VLRA concept was actually much superior and was introduced in 50 countries since the 60's. The 4x4 VLRA base vehicle is more capable than a HMMWV militarily and the family extends to true light and medium trucks with an impressive parts commonality.

Man Who Lived Through Cold War Says Terrorist Group ‘Imminent Threat’ To America

Duffel Blog

Is it still satire if it's true?


Future land campaigns for defence

I didn't really write much on military theory topics for a while, and that's a mistake.

My military theory-tagged writings are a mix of some appreciation for old insights and practices, some peripheral topics and my core interest: How to deter / prepare for / wage a land warfare campaign as defending ("war of necessity") power or bloc in a land/air campaign. This is about a clash mostly between great powers. The kind of warfare that made Europe so fearsome militarily and broke much of it twice. Hence a healthy emphasis on "to deter".

There's nothing to be gained in such a war. Whatever you take or force on others, you'll pay way too much for it. The only sensible choice is to get over with it quickly, and with an acceptable outcome.
This means the defending power(s) should visibly gain the upper hand quickly, and proceed to offer a quick, face-saving and relatively cheap status quo ante peace or at least an armistice.
Any pondering about how to occupy the aggressor's countryside is thus moot. Very subtle progress in warfare isn't very helpful. Escalation - especially involving additional powers or introducing nuclear weapons - could prove to be perverse. To knock out the aggressor's government only keeps the aggressor from negotiating, and is thus counter-productive.

Highly visible and credible strength is fine for deterrence, but only if it is not so great that it creates fear of invasion and only if the strength is actually applicable: It doesn't help to know multiple divisions will arrive in two months if the aggressor intends a limited coup de main followed by a peace offer only.

The differences between textbook approach and reality will vary. Sometimes it will work almost flawlessly, other times a unit may be 50% understrength, lack radio comm, be low on supplies and tired. An all-round strong military has to at least potentially be good under all circumstances. You need to be able to exploit when and where you have superior power. You need to bee able to accomplish modestly ambitious missions with little resources. You need to avoid paralysis or collapse during a crisis.

Versatility, ability to function as fragments, ability to make do with a fraction of authorized strength ... there are many highly unfashionable and unsympathetic topics which deserve at least as much attention as the shiny new tool and its music-supported CGI video advertisement.

Infantry manoeuvred and fought in units of hundreds of men for thousands of years. The firepower revolution of the 'smokeless' powders changed this. Theoreticians understood that infantry would need to exploit cover and concealment during the approach in order to survive this firepower until it's close to the enemy. They did not figure out that this necessitated manoeuvre and combat in at most platoon-sized elements because cover and concealment were in short supply (nor did they figure out how to overcome defenders on the last few hundred metres). Practicians had to figure this out in 1914-1916.

Infantry adapted; by WW2 army offensives on cluttered terrain (such as in Italy) were really a string of  platoon engagements.
It is likely that mechanized forces still need to transition to a fully developed model for small manoeuvre unit tactics, leaving the big manoeuvre unit approach to engagements under very favourable circumstances only. Tank companies and platoons can and often do manoeuvre independently, of course - especially in battlefield reconnaissance and security missions. I'm somewhat ambitious and believe that this is far from "fully developed model for small manoeuvre unit tactics", and this is in part a matter of equipment versatility.

The challenge is about the same on the tactical level as on the strategic level; it's of lesser interest what to do on the battlefield when local superiority has been achieved. It's also of lesser interest how a clash between two largely intact and capable forces would end.
What's most interesting is how to shape the battlefield, how to create advantages prior to the main clash - or rather without a really big clash.

The focus should be on how to create advantages prior to the big clash, not during the big clash. A brilliant manoeuvre in the midst of a battle when thousands were already sent into the meatgrinder is fine for history books, but it's very, very late.
Small unit manoeuvre tactics and the reconnaissance's principle of committing few to high risks in order to alleviate the risks for the majority of the force are likely able to help very much.

Schwerpunkt. The current interpretations of "Schwerpunkt" vary a lot and are being applied to many different topics. The nature and validity of a Schwerpunkt is very different on the bloc, corps, brigade and battalion levels. Schwerpunkt / Economy of force and similar concepts are self-evident and valid ideas which help to avoid wasteful behaviour. The interpretations which obsess about the enemy's Schwerpunkt meanwhile cannot really show a track record of usefulness in real warfare.

Schwerpunkt is valid inasmuch as it helps us to maintain self-discipline and clarity of thought at times; it keeps us from fizzling out and demands a better husbanding of resources.
I do not fully subscribe to the concept, though. As mentioned in (4), the challenge is to prepare for tactical victory by accumulating advantages. The husbanding of resources as advised by the Schwerpunkt concept is but one way of many how to do this, and not ranking particularly highly amongst them. Too much attention to the Schwerpunkt can lead to ponderous preparations and risky bunching up of forces. Moreover, a fixation on the "bigger battalions win battles" school of thought keeps us from looking at the important micro level of independently manoeuvring small units and units or the value of shaping operations.

Answers depend on questions, military theory answers depend on circumstances. A force which is meant to handle a conflict quickly and satisfactorily will likely not be able to do so with the full power of its bloc. In fact, leaving much if not most of the bloc's power out of the campaign may allow their power to serve as bargaining chips in negotiations. You cannot threaten to add forces into the fray any more if you already did it. Few things impress as much in battle as the arrival and intervention of reinforcements, and politicians are likely to feel the anxiousness about this as well.

A conflict may thus be not only limited in time (quick) and geography (no escalation), but also very much limited in the forces committed. The consequence would be a rather low ratio of forces to terrain during the first weeks. This is even more important as fully motorized forces may move a lot, and may be positioned in great depth (thus increasing the area).
The battlefield may not only seem to be empty; it may actually be quite empty. Really defensible lines are not to be expected unless the geography really favours this. We have actually never seen a land campaign between two competent and fully motorized great power forces. The campaigns of Israel faced moderately competent forces and demonstrated a remarkable instability and record-breaking destructiveness. This was repeated against Iraqis, but this may prove to be no more instructive for campaigns against competents than was mowing down tribal spearmen with Maxim machineguns.


Conflict scenarios and musings of people who stick more to a conquest-like idea of war are bound to produce different conclusions.



Aggressive defence

Armoured divisions which forcibly crossed a river 1940* were told to set up a defended bridgehead by cautious minds. The idea was to wait for reinforcements and to refresh the exhausted troops. It was a sensible tactic on paper, for the culminating point of attack was likely close if not already exceeded. The troops were really tired and the artillery almost out of ammunition after four days of rapid advance.
More daring commanders on the scene - understanding that armour was better on the offence than on the defence - were more aggressive. Their concept was to advance and they enlarged the bridgehead considerably before hastily assembled elements from several opposing divisions arrived to create a weak defence around the bridgehead.
Later on, the reinforced armoured forces broke out of their large bridgehead quite easily (and probably with luck).

Ever since, the tactic of (what could be called) aggressive defence was firmly established in the repertoire of Western fast ground manoeuvre forces: Aggressive manoeuvres to disrupt preparations for counter-offensives, for breaking through defensive lines before they become strong and for avoiding a close containment of bridgeheads and breakthroughs.

Well, on paper: The same war famously saw a huge failure to enlarge a bridgehead a few years later.**

- - - - -

The concept - as imperfect as its execution usually is - has a quite universal applicability. You can observe the same in chess, in politicians' debates, in football - it should be no undue stretch to apply it to military strategy.

The ingredients are
(1) one's own ability to act aggressively
(2) while the opposing side is not yet done with (preparations for) what it intends to do.

- - - - -

Imagine an unfolding crisis, and your government has confidence in its expectations for what's going to happen next.
Couldn't a couple aggressive***, unexpected actions ruin the opposing sides' plans, crush their timetable, make their political calculations obsolete, destroy their confidence in their ability to predict your government's reactions and to predict the costs of the crisis?

Couldn't such a disruption make a quite acceptable diplomatic settlement more likely?

- - - - -

I'm all for peace and free love and stuff****, but I distrust the notion that escalation is always a bad thing. An escalation to ruin some aggressor's day may be the right thing to do. To have and obey a defensive and reactionary game plan makes one predictable. The very existence of a crisis should be understood as a hint that someone used this predictability to predict the outcome of a produced crisis - and arrived at the conclusion that it's a good idea.
A.k.a. failure of deterrence.


*: Meuse crossing, May 1940
**: Anzio, early 1944
***: "aggressive", NOT "aggression against a peaceful country
****: Similarly, I don't think "war as last resort" makes much sense.


Will the Marine Corps APC racket ever end?

The U.S. Marine Corps introduced an amphibious APC (similar to, but not as versatile as their WW2-era vehicles) for its large squads early in the 70's and immediately began to think about its successor :
1972: AAV-7 enters service
no production

1982: LVT(X) project,
no production

1990's and 2000's: AAAV project,
no production

until recently: EFV project, 
no production

Four decades. USMC development of big amphibious armoured personnel carriers has been ongoing for four decades without a production model, much less an affordable one. Only the "LAV-25", a slightly modified off-the shelf armoured truck, was purchased in the meantime. Its successor, "MPC", is on hold and big business is ready to go - go skim off a rent on development budgets since production is unlikely. The corps of most effective self-promoters failed in AFV development procurement grossly.

This beats even the U.S.Army, which was unable to bring a new armoured fighting (as opposed to transportation or combat engineering) vehicle into production for about three decades (and quite the same for helicopters, which is a USMC area of fail as well).

Examples of the USMC's bit ticket procurement incompetence are spreading in NATO; the U.S.Army, the British Army and the German army are on their heels. The active, but largely fruitless Poles and the Italians are no better. Armoured vehicle development and procurement sucks in NATO.
We can expect to sooner or later lag behind an aggressive neighbour by up to 40+ years if we allow such incompetence to reign on.

Yes, the German Puma IFV had severe teething problems. Some of the known (though not explicitly published) early problems were outright embarrassing, 3rd semester engineering studies-level failures. The program delivered merely one version, which is less than the mid-1980's Puma that was a development project of the industry itself and had huge logistical commonalities with the Leopard 1 and 2 tank families.


A quick look at oil trade

I did a quick look at oil trade, to see whether the United States become more independent from Persian Gulf oil and thus probably long-term more disconnected and disinterested as well. The statistics don't support this guess, but their look in diagram format is nevertheless striking (and odd):

data from U.S.Energy Information Administration




Researchers Easily Slipped Weapons Past TSA’s X-Ray Body Scanners

Andy Greenberg, Wired

As with so many supposed "counter-terrorism" or "pro-security" efforts proved to be useless, gone awry or plain harmful, nobody will be held accountable. To be pro-"security" is a no-lose position, and there's hardly ever a rollback of failures or a decimation of inflated "security" bureaucracies. That's by slice by slice we slide deeper into a mess in which "security" is overrated and faked, while civil liberties are being perforated more and more.




Future of Warfare in low GDP countries

(GDP = Gross Domestic Product)

Speculations about how future war(fare) would look like tend to know two extremes; high tech scenarios against other high-tech forces and high-tech scenarios against low budget guerrillas or other troublemakers.

I was tired of this and looked at it from the other angle for a change; the future of warfare in regard to low budget forces primarily against peers.

As a starting point, I didn't assume a really low-tech or no-electronics force. Instead, I assume that consumer electronics are available to low budget troops, including affordable goodies otherwise meant for gun nuts, golfers and hunters.

Improvised armoured SUV in Mexico
This means affordable sniper rifles, quality assault rifles, laser rangefinders, software encrypted radios, camouflage clothes and load carrying stuff, soft body armour, helmets, ballistic computers for direct and indirect fire weapons, satellite navigation, drones with a daylight video camera, night vision devices as well as up-armoured and soft 4wd vehicles would be affordable and probably available.

The typical cheap heavier weapons exports such as NORINCO products and old stocks (machineguns, recoilless rifles, various anti-tank weapons up to 120 mm calibre, mortars, hand and rifle grenades), various guided missiles and towed or truck-mounted howitzers would be affordable and available as well. Nobody would need to fight with machetes.
Improvised armoured car with RCL in Libya

Other low budget forces could field about the same stuff, plus some probably quickly consumed (or rarely employed) tanks and combat aircraft as well as fresh supplies of cheaply acquired heavy weapons systems as warfare might drag on.

Mobile warfare would depend more on so-called technicals (with 12.7-23 mm gun or 73-120 mm recoilless gun) than we're used from Western forces (in which only special forces and LRRP use "tactical" soft 4wd vehicles, which tend to look more like dune buggies or steel pipe framed trucks than Toyota Landcruisers). The defence against this might be as important as the defence against tanks in Europe. A typical howitzer battery might have many heavy machineguns on many of its trucks and cars for self-defence, for example. It's difficult to armour-up wheeled vehicles against threats such as 12.7, 14.5, 20 or 23 mm API: This was achieved with purpose-designed armoured trucks (rated against 14.5 mm API), but plain steel protections require a thickness of 30-40 mm. Up-armoured cars and trucks would tend to be protected against 7.62 mm only.

Artillery offers the best bang for the buck with old Warsaw Pact howitzers (122 mm) and multiple rocket launchers (122 mm, too) which are available in huge quantities. Their dispersion is bad (especially for the rockets) and munition duds a problem (due to long storage or little quality control at manufacturing), but the accuracy (centre of impacts relative to target) could be great. Both the target's and the artillery's position can be determined with great precision nowadays using simple civilian equipment such as mobile phone GPS, mobile phone ballistics application, mobile phone meteorological app, compass and golfer or hunter laser rangefinders. The only accuracy weak spots would be muzzle velocity (if no MV radar is available) and exact wind conditions (unless weather balloons are used and tracked well), but this is manageable with observed howitzer fires.

The range of weapons and munitions available to a low budget force could thus be impressive and customised for the threat and environment. Their active tactical repertoire would still be very small if they face a high tech force. Units would enjoy freedom of movement only if air defences with a good service ceiling are available and restrict hostile air power to strike packages (= no continuous threat overhead) of which the ground forces would be warned in time.

The real question is in my opinion not what equipment they will use. They will simply use what fits.

Much more interesting is how competent the armed forces and guerrillas of future warfare will be.

Will they be much better than today's low budget forces in regard to training? Video games such as Operation Flashpoint 2 (multiplayer, highest difficulty setting) could surely indoctrinate the need for caution into even the most stubborn recruits who would otherwise reject crawling in dirt and prefer to spray and pray upright instead.
Tactical coordination and cooperation might be much-improved if by terrain or other circumstances radio communication can be used without excessive risk.

There is great potential for detached small unit infantry tactics whenever no sizeable percentage of the civilian populace is hostile and if at the same time the terrain does not offer long lines of sight in most places. Small unit raids and ambushes supported by small team surveillance, shadowing and scouting of hostiles could yield great benefits to the tactically more proficient force.

Low budget-on-low budget forces clashes might be much less dominated by morale collapses and outright flights from previously held settlements than we're used to. Cohesion might become much better instead, allowing for low-budget forces to prevail even during crisis situations. You can build a cohesive force without a lavish budget drawn from a high-tech economy, but you need to get recruiting and small unit leadership right. This doesn't necessarily mean that many poor countries will exploit this potential; they may still raise and maintain politically loyal yet incompetent and brittle forces instead.

The 2000's high profile occupation wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involved tiny low budget forces (with great non-violent support base) vs. larger and lavishly funded Western forces and their overpaid proxies. There is no reason why this should be normal in the future. Low budget armies with hundreds of thousands of male and female members - fighters as well as (para)military and civilian porters and  supporters - could dominate future warfare instead.

Imagine a conflict close to the equator; 26° C midday temperature all-year, 90% air humidity. High-budget forces would probably not even wear hard body armour under such circumstances, but even without it they would tend to carry more equipment than their low-budget opposition. The low-budget opposition would likely make use of porters and thus lighten the load of the dismounted fighters even more. They could run circles around their laden opponents (unless superior opposing forces' observation capabilities restrict them too much).

Campaigns between low-budget forces on the other hand might be dominated by the civilian support advantage. Logistical, communications and intelligence support in friendly territory can be much better than among a hostile population. Actions on hostile ground would probably be more often than not be limited to raids and superior concentrations of forces.



Planned topics

These are some topics planned for August/September:

(for the German arms exports debate, this should soon be published)

The Economist: "The humble hero"
(still looking for an excuse to link to this old economics article on containerization and trade)

Campaign volunteers
(on foreign fighters / mercenaries)

Battlefield missile artillery from the blackpowder age to the 21st century - Part I
(big topic)

Affordable combat aircraft
(an overview with few conclusions)

Aggressive/preemptive defence
(tactical and operational mil theory and history topic)

Specialised reinforcement formations
(mostly mil history and theory)

The fusion of battlefield AD, C-RAM and field artillery
(big one, but rather ambitious concerning technology)

Future land campaigns for defence
(war and peace topic)

Our addictions
(about irrational, bloating and weighting down requirements)

Drones in theory (Part 3: Naval drones)
(as if I had a clue)

Dolchstoßlegende, assault infantry and modern personnel affairs
(held back becuase the topic is dislikable)

Basic training catch up considerations
(essentially calculations)

Future of Warfare in low GDP countries
(big topic)

Will the Marine Corps APC racket ever end?
(held back because enough U.S. bashing already)



Wonderful article about the bias of Western news

Max Fisher, Vox

Citadel armour

Back in the Age of Sail warship resistance to shot was largely determined by the quality and thickness of timber used. Ships of the line were able to withstand some light and medium size cannonballs at a couple hundred meters range. This changed when practical high explosive shot was introduced; it was capable of massacring wooden ships.
Shortly thereafter iron and steel became affordable in greater quantities due to industrialised production and ships with metal armour plating (and still wooden support) became the new capital ships. The hevy weight of the necessary armour was a problem, and this problem only grew worse when by the late 19th century the big guns (about 234 to 304 mm calibre) became more relevant and with new propellants (mostly cordite) also much more deadly. 
One solution to the weight problem was to harden the vital parts of the ship (bridge, boiler and engine rooms, main and secondary artillery and its ammunition supply, fire control observer stations) and leave most else largely unprotected. This was known as "Citadel armour".
The most extreme version of this was the "all or nothing" armoured ship, which had only thin (IIRC up to 25.4 mm ~ 1") fragmentts-stopping armour outside of the citadel.

armour scheme of the U.S.S. Iowa
The consequence was that damage to the unprotected areas - including collision damage - could put a ship out of service for months.

HMS King Geargo V with a damaged bow after a collision in 1942

This naval example was mentioned first in this text not because it was the first or most important one; it merely offers a nice term for the phenomenon of having varying degrees of protection, even including no protection in some portions: Citadel armour.

A much older example is a hoplite, who (in the most expensive version) included an all (bronze plate) or nothing armour.

Modern infantrymen tend to have four protection levels; bullet proof plate with kevlar vest backing, kevlar vest and helmet at most capable of stopping handgun ball projectiles, polycarbonate goggles capable of stopping weak fragments and some buckshot and finally nothing stronger than cloth or boot leather. This is de facto an all-or-nothing protection against rifle bullets at normal combat distances.

Modern tanks have the same staggering of protection. Frontal protection is typically designed to stop hits by the biggest tank guns, while sides tend to stop at most autocannon and moderately-sized shaped charge warhead shots. Plenty of its components are rather exposed, though. There's no more armour protecting the suspension as with Matilda II tanks, unprotected fume extractors were revealed to be a problem in 2003 and the external weapon stations and sensors are at most protected against rifle bullets if at all.

Matilda II tank, with expensive cast steel side armour protecting the suspension

The widespread application of the concept of citadel armour creates a challenge, as claims such as "protected against ..." are usually misleading; the protection is always partial only.

This creates a great need for spare parts (such as optics for tanks, tires and windows for armoured trucks). It also causes a drop in readiness during prolonged campaigning. An infantryman may survive a bullet to the chest nowadays, but the fragments of a grenade in his limbs can still put him into hospital and recovery for months. Tanks are notorious for having a high degree of attrition and piling up at repair workshops during mobile warfare, though a large share of mission killed tanks is repairable usually.
There's also the problem of incentives; a requirement to withstand some extreme threat on some surfaces may easily lead to a neglect of relatively modest protection for other surfaces (see the fume extractor problem). Armoured vehicles tend to have no protected stowage for the personal items of the crew, so a great many tankers have already been unable to change into fresh clothes or boil some water for coffee because their backpacks were perforated and burned beyond recognition.

The drawbacks of the citadel armour concept are bound to re-appear during every warfare just about every time, and they are equally bound to be underestimated in peacetime when they're not as obvious.




[Not a Top 10] Persisting challenges

Some persisting challenges in warfare appear to be as old as warfare, and this text is dedicated to them.

(1) Individual soldier's load
The individual warrior's load may have been small for poor Germanic warriors who only owned lance, club, wooden shield and knife - but maybe even they were burdened to the max. They had little or no horses and Germanic armies are not exactly remembered for an organised train of oxcarts. Someone surely carried food and something to protect against the weather and cold nights. Their Roman legionary opponents were loaded to the maximum, for sure. They are remembered as "Marius' mules".
There's no doubt that medieval soldiers were heavily clad, but even the European 18th century soldiers were officially burdened by almost 30 kg individually. I suppose we all know that this official load was rather the minimum. And these soldiers were not chosen for a strong physique nor well-nourished as were the earlier knights: They were amongst the poorest of their societies, and likely below average size and strength even in their own time.

Today's soldier's loads are obviously too large for Westerners (even the mere rifles have been laden with accessories so much that the G36 rifle has also been called 'Tower of Babel' at times). Meanwhile, less well-funded military forces and most paramilitary forces tend to still go relatively light; with all the associated drawbacks, of course.

It's still a challenge to muster the self-discipline and rigor to use an optimal load instead of the maximum load.
And we tend to fail in this.

(2) Prediction of wartime usefulness

It's still difficult if not impossible to predict wartime usefulness of soldiers and especially leaders during peacetime. A part of this problem is about a bureaucratic bias: The incentives and disincentives of a military bureaucracy are different in wartime and peacetime. So even if we knew how to tell, the bureaucracy would rather not be motivated to do it and act on it. Another problem is the inability to simulate the psychological stress of war during peacetime. And even if we could do it, it would likely not be a good idea to expose generations of peacetime troops to it.

We're still unable to really predict who's going to be useful after the shooting started, and this inability is warping our idea of personnel over time. Most of us look at tables of organisation and see a captain as the leader of a company, someone else as machine gunner et cetera. In wartime, a high percentage of these people are duds and largely useless, if not even troublemakers. Junior officers get sorted out by fire or by superiors real quick. Useless company leaders disappear into offices. Useless machinegunners turn into machinegun belt porters. The nominal tables of organisation would not be very relevant even if peacetime vacancies and casualties would not come into play. And who exactly can predict which female soldier is not going to get pregnant real soon once a shooting war begins?

(3) Supply flow during mobile warfare

Campaigns of European professional armies had been limited by the useful radius of action of horse-drawn supply carts. You better didn't move far from a magazine or controlled city. This changed when Napoleonic armies proved less interested in preserving their manpower and more willing to forage supplies from the surrounding region. This concept of supply austerity didn't work during either World Wars, of course. You cannot forage artillery shells from farmers, nor much gasoline fuel from a largely not yet motorised society. The fuel supply issue might have improved a lot over time, but the ammunition supply issue hasn't and no, 3D printers won't change this.
Mobile warfare consumes much fuel and little ammunition, but even 'little' still needs to be resupplied. A self-propelled howitzer can be expected to churn through 200+ shells a day; a large truckload. Organic carry capacities of artillery units are limited, so you really need resupply every second or third day.
And that's what troops in mobile campaigns can expect; resupply every 2nd or 3rd day. It's the bare minimum, and there's little doubt (in my mind) that firepower could be increased much better by improving this supply situation than by adding more nominal firepower (guns, launchers) to the forces.

Still, the solution to the supply challenge in mobile warfare is elusive. Maybe we will see armies with combat-capable supply column battalions after the next 'big one', capable to push through obstacles and minor opposition by themselves and delivering on a daily schedule no matter what?

(4) Combat worthiness of non-combat units and personnel
Historical armies of times long gone spent the nights in large, concentrated camps with or without field fortifications. They moved out of these camps to either march on or to face another army on a field only one to three hours of march away. The non-combat personnel either followed them into battle (supplying arrows, spears, spare shields, water, playing music or simply carrying away the wounded) or stayed in camp. The camp had to be guarded, though - and this was not always done by some combat personnel that was meant to be preserved (such as the Triarii at Cannae). Quite often the non-combat personnel was expected to defend themselves in the camp.
Military history is rich in episodes about how non-combat personnel was incapable of self-defence, and poor in anecdotes about when they did well.

"Alarmeinheiten" (alarm units) - scraped-together rear area troops and lightly wounded combat troops of the German armed forces sent into a battle crisis in WW2 - didn't fare well either. Rear-area troops and air force troops turned infantry were a perpetual disappointment of already low expectations as well. The U.S.Army had this phenomenon as well when it reassigned air defence personnel to infantry.

A real self-defence combat-worthiness of non-combat troops has rarely, if ever, been achieved. This challenge may be one of training and personnel systems, of course. We would probably not have this kind of problem if almost all troops began their career as infantry and moved to supply, electronic stuff, staffs et cetera only later. It seems to be too late for such an approach, as the share of combat troops has fallen to a low point. 

The (lacking) combat-worthiness of non-combat units and personnel is still a problem. And it's a pressing one, as they need to provide their own 360° 24/7 security in a mobile warfare context.

(6) Discipline
Western military bureaucracies with their roots in the musket drill of the 18th century think of themselves as highly disciplined, but they aren't (judged by my expectations).
They excel in overt discipline, as was to be expected with such a background. They are just as bad as any other military force in self-discipline, though.
Sleep discipline, discipline in ammunition expenditure, self-discipline in face of "we need to do something" situations and, more recently, even uniform discipline are well below the expectations of many of us.

(7) Stupid budgeting
Let's boil this down to two distinct stupidities: Size and structure.

First, size.
Let's say a country has an economic output of 100 billion. Or it has one of 150 billion. Should the defence spending differ? In ancient times rich countries were more attractive for raiding, but that's no factor any more. So why would there be a relationship between a country's economy and its defence needs?
There's none, but the idea of linking economic output (GDP) to military spending through a per cent figure is a powerful, and apparently very intuitive one. And it keeps costing gazillions for no gain of security.
Imagine the country which moved from 100 billion GDP to 150 billion GDP was stupid enough to spend 4% GDP on "defense", and raised its government consumption for "defense" by 2 billion accordingly. After ten years of such spending no real security gain could be documented, but the spending was probably the equivalent of developing a drug that grows boobs naturally to D cup size. 
What would you prefer? Them sticking to a pointless percentage or bigger boobs?*

Second, structure.
The "hollow force" issue is a fine representative here. A "hollow force" is a military which still has plenty shiny platforms, but lacks the spares, training and consumables to be much good with them. I suppose this is rarely the outcome of incompetence and more often the outcome of poor incentives, including the top brass' attempt to blackmail politicians into providing bigger budgets while maintaining officer slots.
Getting the "mix" right is a more wide problem, though. The armies of the 1930's were much criticised for not investing enough in tanks and other modern hardware - in hindsight. How far they were off the optimum wasn't so easily visible at the time. Young officers knew that old artillery officers talking about horse-drawn guns were too old-fashioned, but few if any thought of what we now know as self-propelled guns; essentially tracked and lightly armoured vehicles with a rotating turret housing a gun-howitzer capable of high elevation. Yet this was understood to be the optimum by '44 already. The hasty experiments till then led to many dead ends.

Hardware aside, it's damn hard to allocate the resources well. People are stupid, and their budgets are stupid. Our intellect doesn't exactly combine to work out a budget. It's a perpetual struggle, and the outcomes are highly unsatisfactory considering the incredible amount of resources we could save if we knew better.

(8) Strategy
Don't let them fool you: There's almost no strategy in use that's worthy of the concept. Air warfare campaigns, for example. They're either entirely haphazard (such as South Ossetia 2006), reacting to developing events or they're strings of elaborate procedures which as a whole fall short of making much sense.
All too-often air warfare campaigns destroy a list of targets, don't register the desired effect, pile up more resources on the effort, rinse and repeat.**
The COIN crowd wasn't able to integrate all real-world restrictions into a fine answer to a strategic problem either; commanders rather piled up more resources to somehow drown the problem until they gave up.

Many people write and talk about strategy, all leaders pretend to have one - but there's hardly ever a good one used in war. They got plans, but hardly strategy. Strategy is what leads to success; by that measure we have at most one strategy, and a very dominant one: "If you fail at first, throw more resources on the pile!"
Our strategists are on par with Haig.

(9) Lessons and their retention
Mankind developed writing and alphabets, but it still fails to retain lessons. It takes units about three years to forget the lessons of warfare and merely a generation to forget the lesson of war. This, too, could be considered a challenge of self-discipline, but it's more. The young ones have the élan, the drive - but not the knowledge. The old ones have the knowledge, but their mind has settled and become dull, capable of heeding the pet lessons learned, but incapable of finding new answers to different problems.

The only way out may be to learn more, and sooner.

(10) Proper simulation of warfare
A German author-general (Uhle-Wettler) once recounted his experience with computer simulations; they showed that man-portable anti-tank weapons were close to useless. It turned out that the programmers had assumed that a RPG user would expose himself very much and be easily detected. A single wrong variable did ruin the entire tactical numerical model. The fools basically attempted to get a computer game's game mechanics right without the slightest bit of balancing.
It wasn't possible to determine the validity of this means of anti-tank defences through simulation because a correct simulation required that you knew the answer in form of the inputs beforehand.

Even as of today we simply fail on exercises to take indirect fires into account properly. We can simulate small arms fire with laser bursts and with smart phone-level hardware we should be able to fully integrate grenade effects in exercises, but we don't. Not properly. The result is a bad underappreciation of the dangerousness and influence of indirect fires.*** This applies particularly to the psychological effects.

A hundred years ago wargames were about map, pen and paper. Now we have gigahertz computer networks, but we still depend on input that's largely guesswork. Nothing really changed; we can simulate most things well that aren't about contacts with the enemy, and nothing well that's about contacts. We can calculate the movements of a supply convoy - but we don't know so well which and how many supplies we will need when and where, for example.

(11) To be continued...

...when I remember what else I wanted to mention here.

* I'm trying out some new rhetorical devices, obviously. What? You expected a link to a research project in the footnotes?
**: Going to write more about that later.
***: The indirect fires crowd gets some things wrong as well, but that's another story.


Low organisation armed forces

Just a thought based on what I've read about several militias / civil war parties / military forces:

It appears that in countries with a weak central government (or plain civil war), the armed forces often have a fundamentally different model of organization in comparison to the Western industrial age armed forces.

Quite often the only truly loyal and mobile forces are a hard core of a few thousand men, usually only a few per cent of the whole armed forces' size. These are sometimes labelled "shock troops", "elite troops" et cetera in reports. They're the only ones usable for offnsive action in the entire country instead of only in a home region and they're usually full time troops. Their lack of a regional limitation stems sometimes from them being foreigners (such as the few thousand AQ 'shock troops' of the Taleban up to 2001).

The bulk of the forces are different; local or regional warbands / militias. They're rooted in their region and largely useless beyond it.* Their loyalty belongs to their warlord and their local social organisation (village, clan, valley, city, ethnic group) and is often the result of diplomatic extortion: The aforementioned mobile reserves can turn one militia after another by showing up in force, negotiating and leaving some loyal liaison personnel behind. Their numbers may vary with seasons, degree of threat to their home region and pay.

Such an armed forces organisation is at times difficult to knock out for good, but it is vulnerable on both accounts:
Attrition of the mobile reserves drains power where it matters the most and the semi-loyal locally rooted armed forces can be turned if only the "offer" made to them is "irresistible".

This isn't about combat aircraft quality, tanks, gargantuan logistics, artillery, futuristic stealth warships. All these are quite irrelevant in such a context. What matters is instead how to deal with such a not very stable organisation of armed forces. 

I personally don't see much reason to develop an approach to defeat such armed forces, since they're unlikely to attack us and it's questionable whether I'd prefer the defeat of an insurgency in the West itself.

But it's telling how very much Western commentary and other attention was focused on a couple celebrity generals, military pundits, armoured vehicles, engineering stuff, demolition munitions, fancy drones, camouflage patterns, bulletproof vests, rifles, jamming equipment, precision guided munitions and combat aircraft whenever the West faced armed forces of the described pattern. Attention was on everything but what mattered; how to disconnect the established links so friendly armed forces can become the alpha power with their newly built-up brand of mobile reserves.
Instead, we obsessed about what matters in our high organisation armed forces, and expected the adoption of this model.
This isn't merely an obituary for ISAF; I suppose this pattern of behaviour will resurface again and again, no matter how much talk about "asymmetric warfare", "hybrid enemies" and the like willbe done.


*: This is a recipe for a long civil war; anti-governemnt forces largely incapable of a concentrated offensive.


On the decision to go to wars of choice

Over a long period of time, shared experiences and cooperative activity of many different kinds shape a common life. "Contract" is a metaphor for a process of association and mutuality, the ongoing character of which the state claims to protect against external encroachment. The protection extends not only to the lives and liberties of individuals but also to their shared life and liberty, the independent community they have made, for which individuals are sometimes sacrificed. The moral standing of any particular state depends upon the reality of common life it protects and the extent to which the sacrifices required by that protection are willingly accepted and thought worthwhile. If no common life exists, or if the state doesn't defend the common life that does exist, its own defense may have no moral justification.
"Just and Unjust Wars", Michael Walzer, 1977, p. 54

This quote is interesting in two ways; one, it shines an entirely different light on the idea of "failed states", (though the author didn't seem to think of them). "Failed states" are probably rather countries in which society lacks cooperative activity to sustain a functional "state". This in turn would mean that outside intervention to establish a functional state top-down would fail as long as the spirit of cooperation doesn't grow in the country.

The other way this quote is most interesting is the final part: Whether the defence of a country has moral justification. This isn't exactly mirrored by the (lack of) moral justification of invasion, but it's close.

Philosophy isn't simple, but still largely unrestrained and this is an example where conclusions from philosophy may be wrong in real life.

Who determines whether a state lacks moral justification of itself or for its defence? Who determines whether that state is so bad, so evil, that invasion (intervention) is fine? Or more directly; the pro-intervention crowd and media may paint a picture of a country persecuting a minority, even committing genocide.
Should we trust them?

All too often, such and lesser assertions were wrong, if not outright lies by warmongers. The horror stories about Kosovo in 1999 were mostly lies as well - very little was proved ex post, very much was disproved.

Mr. Walzer used the analogy to the case of an individual very often in the quoted book. An individual has a right to self-defence, a country (presumably) has also a right to self-defence.
Now looking at the individual level, said same individual usually has the right to be judged innocent until found guilty, and more importantly it is usually only to be found guilty if there's no doubt about the guilt any more. In dubio pro reo.
Most if not all countries have this rule codified because it's quite universally believed to be worse to risk harming an innocent than to risk to let a guilty one go.

This, too, could be applied to the level of countries. The result would be a very, very high bar for invasions even if and when very extreme accusations were made. Very extreme accusations are being made to launch just about every war, after all. They would become less frequent if we denied them power by not being swayed to go to war by very extreme accusations, but also demanded de facto certainty about what's happening.


On attack, surprise and tempo

I'll lay out a little framework on what I've learned /read in the past. First, two example quotes:

"It's quite remarkable that most people believe that the attack costs more casualties. Don't even think about it; the attack is the least costly operation.

I first saw that clearly in 1914. We attacked an English hill position in Northern France. We approached to about 300 meters. The English were just reinforcing to launch some counterattacks as a cover for major withdrawals. The commander of our company in the center said, "If the English reinforce we're lost -- so we've got to get up the hill before the reinforcements arrive." We blew our signals and launched the attack. The result was that the English were overrun and thrown out, and the losses were as follows: our light infantry battalion of 310 men buried 30; The English buried 250 men and lost 250 as prisoners. And from the heights we could see the English army in retreat. For an attack under most unfavorable circumstances, these results are typical relative losses for the attack and the defense.

The matter is, after all, mainly psychological. In the attack, there are only 3 or 4 men in the [small unit] who carry the attack; all the others just follow behind. In the defense, every man must hold his position alone. He doesn't see his neighbors; he just sees whether something is advancing towards him. He's often not equal to the task. That's why he's easily uprooted. Nothing incurs higher casualties than an unsuccessful defense."

"Furthermore, in 1987 OA [operational analysis] demonstrated that the defender is at a systematic disadvantage in close country (be it woods or built-up areas). It seems that, amongst other things, in close country the defender is generally unable to mass the fire of his weapons, due to very short ranges available in relation to unit frontages. Given their relative protection, if only from view, the attackers can mass forces more safely than is normal. They can therefore isolate and attack small bodies of enemy relatively easily. The overall effect was described as 'counterintuitive'. [...] In [fighting in built-up areas; urban combat] the attacker is expected to suffer high casualties.
By assumption, the defender will suffer fewer casualties. Conversely it seems that such expectations, formed from experience of high casualties in FIBUA, are based on ignorance of relative casualty rates. Attacking infantry generally have an advantage of 3.57 :1 in terms of attackers' to defenders' casualties in FIBUA."

The commonly held opinion can be explained differently; an attack is ceteris paribus more costly than no attack in most cases. Yet it tends to be less costly for than defence, unless shit happens (bad luck, incompetence, too much incorrect intelligence).

Now the second ingredient:
"The effect of surprise attacks [...] is considerable. HA [...] showed that in a company- or battalion-level attack, the attacker's casualties tend to be about twice those of the defender if the attack is frontal. Where the attacker manages to find an exposed flank [...] the defender typically takes slightly more than twice as many casualties as the attacker. When an attack strikes the defender's unprotected rear, the attacker tends to inflict almost four times as many casualties as he suffers. The overall advantage of rear over frontal attacks is of the region of seven-fold in terms of casualties. [...]
Surprise occurs in about 40 per cent of infantry attacks. [...] It increases the probability of success, reduces the attacker's casualties, and increases the probability of inflicting shock. The probability of success in the attack in ana rmoured battle typically ranges from 40 per cent to 54 per cent when there is no surprise. Where surprise occurs, the probability of overall success is about 75 per cent. [...] If surprise is achieved, the probability of success is largely independent of force ratio. If success is not achieved, the probability of success is highly dependent on force ratio. [...]
Surprise will normally have a greater impact than a force ratio of 10:1."
Jim Storr, The Human Face of War, p. 85-86

Timely reconnaissance and high tempo no doubt increase the odds of achieving surprise in mobile warfare, but both provoke a mental problem: One might fear to have too little of the former and too much of the latter.
I myself am of the "first avoid defeat, then seek victory" kind of personality* - and this is likely inferior to a more daring attitude. I would be tempted to wait for better intelligence and might fear to run into traps or to exhaust fuel supply - and miss out on opportunities to accomplish missions with the benefit of surprise and thus with little losses.

//Quick excursion:
I noticed many people have difficulties thinking in gradients instead of absolutes (and I blame poor math education). Something pointing at a certain direction doesn't mean this is always the way to go. It depends, as the challenge is usually to optimise several conflicting variables rather than to maximize something.
In the aforementioned case there's a "too daring" and a "too timid".//

Keeping the quotes above in mind, we can have a fresh look at 20th century military history, and at tales of clumsiness or rapidity in mobile warfare.
It appears that some armies preferred rather daring leaders and collected the benefits of surprise more often in mobile warfare, provoking this benefit by moving quick with a seeing eye (Germany, Japan).
Others trusted rather their material strength and sought battle preferably with a very beneficial force ratio (US, UK, USSR) with surprise rather being a desired outcome of planning (especially deception and secrecy) rather than of unpredicted rapid movements.

The "If surprise is achieved, the probability of success is largely independent of force ratio." part was and likely still is especially attractive to those who cannot muster a very favourable local force ratio, or who cannot afford unfavourable loss ratios.

It may be difficult to ingrain the quest for surprise in mobile warfare through high tempo into armies which consider themselves to have superior assets. This may be even more difficult if peacetime service or small war service rewards caution over daring (casualty aversion).
And this is the point where I suppose many German readers will remember some of the many complaints (not just mine) about how the Bundeswehr has adopted the American way of war too much, with grown HQs, much planning, much specialisation and a certain clumsiness.**



P.S.: Finally a new military theory text on Defence and Freedom!

*: You can tell by watching me play chess, for example. I end up with lots of zig-zag pawn lines.
**: While still enjoying a reputation of being capable of higher tempo actions than most NATO ally forces, of course.