"I told you so!"


Do you remember the post-2003 obsession about how best to occupy Muslim countries and nation-build there? Practically everyone who dared to write anything new about how best to defend the alliance against old school blockade, bombardment or invasion was deemed a Cold War relic, a dinosaur, incapable of adapting to the new, post-Cold War world.

Well, occupying Muslim lands never reaped any benefits to speak of, and proved to be a badly misguided obsession. Instead, we're back at worrying about Russia, although the pendulum has swung so far (people are calling for unnecessary spending increases to meet this 'new' challenge) that by now I'd prefer to brake its movement already.

Let me reap the (marginal) benefits from having been right, not wrong, and a  long time ago already:

The article is relevant in its entirety, so I'll repost it in entirety:

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

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

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

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

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

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


I did not predict the Crimea and Donetzk grabs as the first (and so far only) ones,  and I didn't predict the salami slicing approach of Russia exploiting whatever freedom of action it has. Instead my warning was about their ability to go the brute strength route in an alliance with the PR China - which may still happen. Either way; it would have been beneficial to pay more attention to collective security instead of fruitless and costly great power games.


P.S: There was a small inaccuracy in the old article. The Reichswehr had 100,000 men in the army, navy was extra 15,000 men.I corrected that.


  1. Do you think that the last 15 years of blasting mudhuts and ill-equipped Iraq Guards has yielded sufficient progress in technology/art of war to justify the tremendous effort for achieving to build 0 stable democracies in the region or do you think they would have been invented anyway, i.e the MRAP-program? Would the outcome be significantly different if after toppling the Hussein regime west would have left Iraq and later Afghanistan to tend for themselves? Are they worth it or just a total waste of thousands of western soldiers and maybe millions of locals? IMO no.

    1. At costs of apparently USD 2-4 trillion for these wars, the entire Western world could have replaced the majority of its coal and nuclear power plants with solar and wind power plus power storage and transmission capacities.

      Almost nobody in the West was much interested in the well-being of Afghans and their trouble prior to 2001, and trying fix only some of the top 10 most-difficult-to-fix countries only appears to be an outrageous waste of resources from a humanitarian perspective.

      Concerning the armed services, most developments from those occupation campaigns are of marginal if any utility for deterrence and defence in Europe:
      - EW against radio command fuzes
      - on-road vehicles hardened against RPG and under-belly command-detonated blast mines
      - base protection C-RAM
      - more hard body armour
      - road demining convoys

      Meanwhile, plenty bad habits were acquired
      - base-centric thinking
      - dependence on air support
      - staying behind cover when under fire instead of breaking contact or assaulting
      - excessive air deconfliction
      - casualty evacuation becoming the #1 mission

      Military history knows of many conflicts that misled about the nature of the next big one; Boer Wars, Spanish Civil War, Russo-Japanese war ... this is really dangerous, for misled armed services are inefficient if not operationally brittle armed services.

    2. To me the whole concept of UOR points out the lack of planning and short sighted thinking. Billions were poured on the MRAP-program with majority of the vehicles being scrapped or given away in the end. Even for the terrain they were designed for they functioned poorly because of the bad infastructure and exposing them to using roads. I feel that WOT has implemented teen-like attitude on military planning: poor, short sighted planning, I want this and that now (UOR). The worst piece of military hardware to come out as a result of WOT has to be long range UAVs. Zero survivability and as expensive as manned aircraft.

      PS. You're certainly no friend of brits (anymore) or they just have thin skin when it comes criticism.

    3. Think the worst part is the special forces everywhere thinking. Which makes sense for the type of war the west is fighting, but will fail horribly if there is ever something close to a peer opponent.

  2. Russia persists in their effort, China has options to exploit the situation and one accepted presidential candidate of the US signaled an openness to not support a NATO ally in need. This is one way to get peace with Russia.
    Europe could be on its own in case of a Baltic invasion with just some forward deployed US tripwire forces messing up diplomatic solution options, including the options of any elected US president.
    Political system differences between the US and Russia seem to decrease the other way round. Trump's public style is authoritarian and supports a end to freedom of speech with truthiness worthy of Russia Today.

    This blog could do with some coverage of Chinese land and air power as according to the predictions made, the SCO could potentially be an alliance deployed next door soon.

    1. Chinese forces won't appear in Europe in decisive strength. The PR China is very, very distant and thus even in alliance with Russia only a threat regarding economy and technology.

      So far the PLA land and air forces have hardly any technological lead over Russia. Amphibious assault vehicles, a single fibre-optic guided missile, DF-21D, man-portable grenade weapons and a few low observable fighter types are the only exceptions.

  3. "The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking."

    Agree completely, good article. The situation is more dangerous than many realize. And as bad as they are, the bad military habits you detailed aren't even the worst thing - the worst thing is the complete demoralization of the remaining few patriotic elements in Europe and specifically Germany due to desastrous internal policies.

    Should war come, should the draft get activated (as it surely would after a few weeks of high-intensity conflict), who would answer to the call?

    Leftists? SJW millenials? Immigrants? Of course not. And we remaining patriots sure as hell won't sacrifice ourselves for Brussels and Washington.