The illogic of well-protected APCs

I made a similar case when I wrote about (against) IFVs, but I'd like to focus on one particular issue this time:

The first armoured personnel carriers served to transport infantrymen or combat engineers to where they were needed (or very close nearby) quickly, and more importantly, with protection against bullets. Hence their open top wasn't a prohibitive problem on flat terrains.

Requirements for protection were increased by much since; protection against large calibre machineguns, protection against single or double-stacked pressure-fused anti-tank mines, protection against 155 mm HE shells exploding at a certain distance, even protection against DPICM bomblets.

Requirements for armament were increased as well, though the rise was from a mere shielded normal calibre machinegun typically to a remotely controlled weapon station with normal or large calibre machinegun or an automatic grenade launcher. The desire to keep the transport vehicle at the drop-off point to give suppressive fires is strong, as is the tendency to think of an APC as a combat vehicle. A combat vehicle that would defend itself on a road march even, with its own armament instead of by deploying the infantry for the fight.

The result was an increase of APC weight from less than eight metric tons to about 30 metric tons, for the same quantity of infantrymen dismounting.

GTK Boxer prototype
This led to horrible costs and - since almost all new APCs are wheeled - to horribly high mean maximum and nominal ground pressures, even despite CTIS. Tracked APCs would create headaches regarding long administrative (road) marches, would cost even more and require a greater driver training effort. On top of this the tendency to think of tracked APC as a vehicle that can be upgraded into an IFV is strong.

So the well-protected and somewhat seriously armed APCs are not that mobile offroad, especially not in a reliable way. They may navigate an obstacle course and most will likely not get stuck or roll over on an offroad mission, but the odds  that at least one gets stuck or rolls over and requires a troublesome and possibly risky recovery effort are much worse than with tracked vehicles. Many leaders will be tempted to let the infantry dismount or be picked up at different places than with tracked vehicles; the vehicle design tendencies counteract the original intent and purpose.

There's a different purpose, of course. This is also very visible with the non-APC versions of the same basic vehicle type. That purpose is to protect personnel on the march, and even when stationary, and primarily so against artillery and mortar threats. Forward command posts and recovery & repair vehicles, for example. Those would rarely be sent into range of hostile machinegunners intentionally.

Granted, some of such versions are protecting critical or very expensive equipment or are prone to draw fires (mortar carrier, radio jammer), but the overall picture is that nowadays we build armoured vehicles to protect troops in general - regardless of their job description. The MRAP trend showed this in extreme; everybody outside of fortified camps was meant to be protected against even very challenging threats.

This is where an illogic, a lack of consistency, appears:
We cannot protect everyone or even only 90% of the deployed army personnel in conventional warfare. There are more than 1,000 motor vehicles in a brigade of about 4,000 men, the ratio is roughly (slightly worse than) 1:4 among different brigade designs. That would be about € 5 billion per brigade for motorisation alone, plus the mission equipment. To equip six brigades this way would cost twice as much as equipping the Luftwaffe with Typhoon aircraft. This is before we add the expensive true combat vehicles.

Obviously, this degree of protection for everyone is not affordable. Which begs the question why afford it for a fraction only instead? The obvious argument is that for example infantry needs this.

Needs for what? Even the heaviest-armoured APCs cannot withstand modern man-portable anti-tank munitions. Protection against indirect fires is at best moderate, protection against mines is not very important in mobile warfare, and a mine hit will still be a mission killing hit for the squad. The wheeled APCs restrict the choices of drop-off and pick-up points and are rather rarely used for breaking through weak obstacles.

Infantry that accompanies main battle tanks makes the point more obvious: The adequate protection level is the protection level that MBTs enjoy against all portable and indirect fire threats. Neither the heaviest APCs nor any IFVs meet this; only the so called Heavy APCs, HAPCs strive for it at least conceptually.
Meanwhile, why should infantry ride in greater safety than support troops when not in combat? Wouldn't it be most likely to expect that infantry dismounts when a convoy is under attack, compared to mechanics or electronic warfare troops?

This creates a case for giving the infantry no better protection on the move outside of combat than others, and about equal protection to MBT side protection when in combat.

The conclusion ought to be HAPCs for the battle taxi role, and really cheap APCs (essentially medium lorries with cab protection and a bullet- and fragments-proof container on the back) for all non-combat personnel and infantry on administrative marches.

The infantry would leave their lorry-based cheap (less than a million € per copy) vehicle, enter the HAPC, drive by a few kilometres and dismount as close to the objective as bearable.
One company worth of HAPCs would serve three light APC-mobile infantry companies. This battle taxi company would move the infantry (and combat engineers) to the hottest zones, get it out of them and would do so also with wounded personnel (which then gets transferred to a helicopter or cheap APC for transport to a field hospital).

What we have instead is an approach in which only select personnel enjoyed protected vehicles, and then we entered a protection inflation in the 1990's that made their vehicles quite unaffordable. The same protection couldn't be offered to everyone else for reasons of costs, of course - so we unable to offer a consistent approach to protected mobility for the event of conventional warfare. We can do so for occupation warfare, but only because we accepted de facto road-bound protected vehicles for the majority of troops that is not at fortified bases at any one time.
The worst of all; the protection for some of the hottest of missions - such as moving infantry to or into a defended village under fire - is still inadequate, despite the sick prices.

I think this is largely a story about path dependency and inside the box thinking. People were used to see only certain troops in protected vehicles, they got used to the peacetime propaganda/indoctrination about IFVs, they lost conventional warfare out of sight and stared at occupation warfare and its customised recipes. 

If we shed all this old garbage and devised a protected mobility strategy from a blank sheet of paper we sure wouldn't end up with the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none IFVs, or with super-expensive APCs that cannot be combat vehicles but have been partially gold-plated for combat.



Summary of my naval ideas


My basic charge against navies - particularly the German one - is an overemphasis on platforms. They like their ship hulls, their officer career opportunities and so on. They would resist a move to unmanned platforms, boats instead of ships, land-based systems instead of ships and so on with as much determination as horse cavalry officers resisted the acknowledgement of their obsolescence. Or maybe they do already.

So here's my opinion, which navies would abhor:

Maritime transport protection in wartime

(1) along secured lanes, following this model and improved by land-based fighter cover and mine hunters

(2) beyond those lanes in convoy format, possibly by means of armed merchantmen which carry containerized ASW* and AAW solutions even involving AEW&C helicopter support that enables the use of long-range air defence missiles (SM-6 and similar) even against low-flying targets

(3) harbour protection against divers and unmanned underwater vehicles

Defence against amphibious invasion

(1) land-based defences (sensors, missile launchers, communication)

(2) land-based combat aviation

(3) the army

None of the above requires a single warship more expensive
than a slow and small coastal minehunter
Navies would hate it.

Frigates and destroyers would no doubt still be useful, but only as escorts for the typically fast-moving aircraft carriers, in carrier strike groups. These again make sense primarily to project air power to areas far away from friendly air bases - which in itself almost perfectly excludes that this might be about national or collective defence. The U.S. defending Taiwan is about the only exception, and a most unlikely one. The expenses for a single CVN would suffice to greatly bolster Taiwan's defences and defence infrastructure directly.

That's why I think carriers and dedicated amphibious warships are offensive platforms, grossly inefficient for defence. This is also why I am so sceptical about the navies' obsession with super-expensive platforms with high operating costs. Containerised modules for armed merchantmen and coastal-based defences would be totally against the bureaucratic self-interest of navies, but they might be the much more cost-efficient approach.

The typical claims that navies protect maritime trade is ludicrous in context of a great war (against other great powers); the numbers of warships are grossly inadequate for this and many warships would be busy escorting offensive warships such as carriers and amphibious warfare ships. The German navy has a few high seas-capable frigates, but those wouldn't even suffice to protect the traffic lane in the coastal waters between Hamburg and Rotterdam only.


*: The loudly emitting low frequency sonars would enable long-range torpedo and missile shots by submarines at such a convoy, though. This may be an unacceptable problem if the guided munitions are effective enough. An answer might be to use a screen of sonar emitter boats in a multistatic LF active sonar network. The long range shot problem may be unavoidable with both armed merchantmen and regular warships, though: The long range of those guided munitions coupled with the loudness of civilian transport ships may enable effective shots from beyond any practical screening radius.

"Of Psychopaths and Presidential Candidates"

While there is no set score that officially renders someone a psychopath, it’s revealing to see who scores in the top 20 percent of all people who have been evaluated with the PPI-R. The table highlights those with scores in this upper quintile, which are somewhat lower for women than for men.
The verdict on the candidates: Trump, Clinton and Cruz all scored in the upper quintile in Self-Centered Impulsivity and Coldheartedness. Trump landed in the top 20 percent across the board on psychopathy traits, with a total score that placed him between Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler.
Scientific American MIND Guest Blog

Well, Trump's chances to become POTUS have been calculated as about 15% only, so we may pass on that one. Yet we have extremely questionable persona as head of state or head of government in Turkey and Hungary, and Berlusconi had a suboptimal character as well.

The North Atlantic Treaty - and other treaties - doesn't include any provisions to cope with really, really bad leaders of members that appear for a few years or even last in office for decades. All members.
It's not always a political culture that yields terrible policies, sometimes it's simply a terrible party or a terrible leader. The allies are caught up in this, and whatever damage is done may endanger them as well.

In theory, a member could simply leave the alliance, but this is de facto impractical for many members.
Imagine the situation: The hardcore "transatlantic"conservatives in Germany wouldn't even imagine such a thing, and a whole network of think tanks, journalists and old politicians would start an all-out communications offensive if any public figure ever uttered such an idea. Germany leaving NATO would collapse the defence of NATO's Eastern members almost instantly (unless we begin to think of the EU Treaty as an alliance treaty). The port capacities in the Adriatic Sea are pitiful (even Trieste) compared to Hamburg and Rotterdam, and the Baltic Sea ports would be very hazardous. The strategic logistics of NATO for Eastern Europe defence would largely be cut if Germany left the alliance. It would take years to adapt, a substantial window of vulnerability.
 To leave NATO is no practical option for Germany, Iceland and Eastern European members. This means there's no practical alternative to enduring being allied with a dangerous idiot government sooner or later.


P.S.: Of course, all this talk after the quote is little more than an excuse for quoting the "between Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler" part. I couldn't resist that one.I had the topic largely covered in 2008/09 already, as the links show. 

BTW, the damage GWB did in Europe was considerable, an election of Trump to POTUS would in my opinion create a 50/50 chance of a decades-lasting split between Europe and the U.S. that would become very costly for both. Turning away from NATO is impractical for German conservatives, but not so much for social democrats and it would be almost welcome to our greens, certainly so to our socialists. Many NATO members do not really need NATO. Portugal, Italy or France, for example.


Compartmentalized secrecy and Turkey

I devoted much of the intro to my Baltic invasion scenario to how to keep the preparations secret in order to catch NATO off-guard. I chose an extreme form of compartmentalization; lock up a small planning staff and isolate it from the outside world entirely.

The typical day-to-day routine of secrecy is very different; it's about compartmentalizing secret information. A general security clearance doesn't suffice to learn certain secrets; you need to be in a list of authorized personnel who were chosen because they need to know the secret. This often runs into the problem of inflation; the lists of authorized personnel keep growing. It's also troublesome because often times someone who needs the information isn't on the list, and efforts may be duplicated without anyone noticing.

- - - - -

Now think about the current sunny times between Erdogan and Putin, and his crackdown on the Turkish military and replacement of much of its leadership.

I'm not much concerned about this in itself (though the unlikely case of Turkey leaving NATO would create quite a deterrence & defence challenge for the Mediterranean NATO members, then approx. justifying their present naval expenditures).

But what about  SHAPE (ACO)? How trustworthy are Turkish officers in NATO staffs, would they be excluded from viewing or even contributing to defence planning concerning the Baltic states or Poland? Judging this individually wouldn't help to dodge the problem because a successor might be offended by not getting the same access as his more trusted predecessor, for example.

What if Turkish officers will be excluded and the AKP politicians don't keep this confidential, but protest loudly? Would the Turks suddenly not consider themselves as true NATO members any more because NATO seemingly reduced them to 2nd class?

- - - - -

It seems to me as if there's quite some demand for diplomacy in this case.
My approach would be to focus all high-ranking Turkish officers in SHAPE on various NATO plans regarding the surroundings of Turkey as an excuse for not assigning any to Baltic defence plans (which also means that Turkey wouldn't do anything for Baltic defence according to those plans). The development of the various Turkey-centric contingency pans would need to be published in Turkey (loudly) to establish this excuse in advance of troubles.



Interlibrary lending

Have you ever thought reading some book might be a good idea, but its price of 60 bucks was too steep and you didn't find a 'pirated' version online nor a cheap old copy in an online marketplace?

Try interlibrary lending. Or speak to a librarian nearby; maybe (s)he finds a copy in another nearby library, which you can then read even on the same day.

I've used interlibrary lending many times, it costs me less than three Euros per book for six weeks of having said book (in Germany). Only photocopied pages ever proved to be unreasonably priced.

Your personal research and growth of knowledge can be boosted by interlibrary lending at very reasonable costs in many developed countries!



A sunny day

Recently I visited a trade fair in the morning and called it a day by noon.

So there I sat in the pedestrian zone of a German city, blue sky, hot sunlight, light fresh wind, and enjoyed a Döner Kebap in pita - the Turkish-German style of this fastfood.
There was a loud bang in the street nearby and everyone curiously looked that way. I explained to a women next to me who was there with her child that most likely a tire had blown up and finished my Döner Kebap. Then I went to an "Italian" pizzeria and ordered an ice cone - walnut ice. I was served by a friendly girl in a Hijab - the first such piece of cloth that I saw in months. Typically, I only see elderly women from the retirement home in my home's street wearing cloth on their heads, and of course nuns on 'Nun TV', a.k.a. ARD.

So I wandered through the sunny pedestrian zone, enjoying the weather and ice, but my thoughts were clouded by my experience earlier that day:
A guard had inspected by bag at the entrance of the trade fair. He joked about my 1.5 litres of cola that I carried (bag and cola didn't quite fit to my attire), and we talked a bit. He was being paid the minimum wage, and all his training for this "security" job was half an hour of instructions a few days earlier, mostly about showing the place to go for work.
This was security theatre, nothing but security theatre. If someone had wanted to blow anything up in there he or she could have rented a tiny booth and used the exhibitors entrance where there was no security theatre whatsoever. You could easily smuggle in a 200 kg bomb that way. Or hide a bomb in a 2 litre cola bottle - you cannot see through cola, after all.

So I sat down again in the pedestrian zone and mused about the golden decade - the 90's. No Cold War any more, no post-9/11 craze yet, no major economic crisis yet ... the Japan scare in the German industry and the small post-reunification boom recession of 1993 were distant, weak memories. Granted, TV quality went downhill fast in Germany during the 90's. Stupid soap operas, "talk shows" and so on.

Still, I got the feeling that one day maybe 20 years later I'll be asked how my generation allowed it all to go down the drain after the golden 90's. I hope to come up with an answer in time.

On the other hand, sunny days are still sunny days.



Beyond mutual cancellation

The First World War was ultra-bloody, but even during the most heated days the vast majority of the troops wasn't even in contact with the enemy, much less in the main effort battles or even becoming casualties that day. The vast majority was instead waiting in front of each other, or in some way supporting such troops. They were cancelling each other out.

Air power is countered and greatly diminished in its potential by air defences, which in turn provoke dedicated anti-air defences aircraft missions, equipment if not entire such specialised aircraft. In the end, the air defences can avoid destruction for quite some time if they are competent, and the result is that the air defences and a portion of the opposing air power cancel each other out.

It is a very widespread phenomenon in military history that most forces don't defeat each other, but instead cancel each other out. The examples above are by far not the only ones.

Navies have a nice term close to such mutual cancellation; "fleet in being"; the idea that a fleet by its mere existence restricts the freedom of action of the opponent. (It's also quite an excuse for being too useless to do anything directly useful for months or years, of course.)

The Western way of warfare has mostly been about being better at this cancellation game, trying to overcome such cancellations by superior quality. Better anti-radar missiles, better counterbattery fires et cetera. Other efforts were directed at doing the cancellation part of warfare with less resources. Advances in field fortifications belong to this category, for example.

Rarely was the focus on breaking out of this cancellation game, pulling together some resources and trying to circumvent the cancellation situations. Blitzkrieg was one such example; it wasn't about winning in trench warfare or doing it with fewer troops, but about going past trench warfare.

The interests of procurement bureaucracies, toy lovers and arms industries favour the idea of being better in the cancellation game by having the better tools. Thus expensive radars compete with expensive jammers, expensive tank upgrades compete with expensive anti-tank munitions et cetera. 

This begs the question; where could we nowadays find - especially in doctrine advances - ways to improve the military by not playing the expensive game of mutual cancellation, but of circumventing cancellation for sake of direct benefits?

I suppose Luttwak delivered a key insight for this* decades ago already: 
An unspectacular advance will remain without counter for a long time, whereas a spectacular advance will provoke a strong reaction, leading to a quick and powerful countermeasure.
So one way to avoid mutual cancellation would be to pursue incremental improvements instead of "revolutionary" ones. The arms industry doesn't like this, of course. This approach also has the drawback of not delivering much in terms of deterrence, since incremental qualitative improvements are not fully appraised by threats.

In operational art, the way to go is to muster the self-discipline and political support required for pursuing the Schwerpunkt concept whenever it's promising; this reduces the share of forces that's cancelling opposing forces and maximises the share of forces that's in the business of actually overwhelming opposing forces locally or in a small region.

Concepts such as "anti-access / area denial" ("A2/AD") and everything with "counter" in its description deserve more scrutiny than is usually offered. Many such things are necessary and purposeful, but a focus on such approaches may lead to almost all military efforts being about mutual cancellation, which is a powerful recipe for a long, devastating war instead of quick and decisive warfare.

To "get things right" in the military domain means to deter well with least possible expenditures, avoiding wars altogether or minimizing the horrible consequences of warfare. I suppose the widespread emphasis on mutual cancellation of military potential is too strong, and we should be more sceptical of approaches that are about or predictably end in mutual cancellation.

(This was about one-sided suppression of tactical repertoires, an idea related to mutual cancellation.)

(Another similar thought, but more distantly related to mutual cancellation.)




Moscow's supposed fifth columns

Political subversion by foreign agents was a common topic in defence policy contexts during the Cold War. Supposedly the KGB was the great puppeteer behind every left wing opinion, group, financing, campaign - and in the event of WW3 leftist saboteurs and sleeper agents would sabotage us politically and our infrastructure, maybe even produce uprisings.

Much of that was bollocks, though the KGB no doubt attempted to become at least a fraction that effective in the West.
Yet WHY were such suspicions , allegations and accusations so widespread?
Aside from some lunatics I suppose they provided a very comfortable excuse for treating the political opponents (the left wingers) as illegitimate. This denial of legitimacy of the political opposition is extremely dangerous to democracy, of course. Democracy depends on the respect for disagreeing positions, and on the idea that elections have consequences - and both legal and legitimately so. The United States had for almost eight years a continuing crisis in this regard, since many whites seemed unwilling to accept hat a biracial man could possibly be a legitimate president.

These days we  have a different situation in Europe (and as an even  more recent development in the U.S.); the right wing is under suspicion of serving some puppeteer in Moscow. This is particularly visible in the German AfD, slightly so in Hungary, to some extent post-coup attempt in Erdogan and now also in Drumpf and his followers.

The story goes differently this time; supposedly Putin - a former KGB officer - reactivated old KGB expertise and is turning right wing populists and autocrats against the West, using distrust of the establishment as fault line in democracies and the EU's aversion to autocracy in Europe as fault line in authoritarian-ruled countries. I suppose this confuses many old Cold Warriors to no end.

- - - - -

Well, how does such influence happen - if at all?

I suppose the part about autocrats is fairly obvious, but how do anti-establishment radicals attract the suspicion of being Moscow's puppets? 

I suppose there's a substantial distrust in the establishment, and this isn't centred on the most poor people. It's the same story with European terrorists of the Cold War, pseudo-jihadists, racists and communism dreamers; the core of such groups aren't those who are at the bottom of society. The core are at least modestly educated people who fear to lose their relative standing in society.

There's an old anecdote that I remember well because I like it so much:
A father and his son watch a KKK rally and the father instructs his son to not look at the white hoods, but at the feet. The boy looks at the feet and sees cheap and worn-out shoes. The KKK asswipes weren't at the bottom of society (the blacks were), but they feared that -being relative losers- they would end there if blacks became emancipated. They fought against an end of segregation because segregation was probably the only thing that kept them from being at the bottom of society, and they feared this drop in standing.
The poorest of the poor - homeless, beggars, day labourers - have incited much less (if any) revolts and revolutions in history than people who feared dropping into (even) worse times or greedy wealthy people who envied the privileges of the status quo elites (such as merchants and master craftsmen revolting against nobility).

Enough of this detour. For whatever reason, many people mistrust the 'establishment', the most influential and best-of tiny share of the population that's under suspicion of being in control of our lives, rigging both political processes and the economy in their favour. This mistrust is then in search of an alternative ideology and alternative interpretations of events than what we get fed by establishment media. 
Religious reformers / extremists offer one such alternative ideology, and with it the alternative interpretations. The so-called communists (Bolshevists) offered an alternative ideology, extend alternative interpretations and to some extent alternative mass media as well.
Putin no doubt is offering alternative ideology (masculinity/anti-feminism, "strong man" politics etc.), alternative interpretations (all too-often lies) and with RT and other outlets also alternative mass media sources (then multiplied by Western laymen with blogs and other publications) as well.

Let's just look a the case of the Crimea conflict.
A conventional view on the conflict of Crimea would stress that Russia guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty in the then-existing (Crimea = Ukrainian) borders and the annexation is doubtlessly an aggression. Russia exposed itself as untrustworthy and aggressive, and the way to go is to punish it with non-violent sanctions and to never recognize the annexation as legal or legitimate.
But that's the "establishment" view supposedly. There's another view, and I was quite astonished by how much of reality has to be ignored in order to believe it - and many people appear to believe it.
In this other view the Crimea was never really Ukrainian because only an unjustified change of internal SSR borders in the USSR made it Ukrainian for the first time, early in the Cold War.  The West (USA and EU) is the real aggressor against the Ukraine because it subsidised and incited a coup against the real government of the Ukraine with billions of dollars, including fascists in the coup mob. The people of Crimea didn't want to be Ukrainians and voted so overwhelmingly in a plebiscite that should really be taken seriously. They wanted to rejoin Russia because Ukraine is (after the "coup") the most corrupt country in Europe and "knowledgeable" people like Trump know this well, but the Western mainstream media will never tell anything about this.

There's plenty wrong with this - Western meddling in the Ukraine was likely much softer than the Russian one, the Russian-backed president was ludicrously corrupt, Trump is basically a know-nothing because he has the attention span of a four year old boy and the plebiscite is irrelevant because it was under Russian control without neutral observers and had a suspiciously one-sided result.
The proper way to deal with the Crimea issue would have been to be honest about Crimea likely having a majority pro-Russian population, recognise the right to self-determination and ask the Ukraine to conduct fair and well-observed plebiscites to determine which districts want to secede and join Russia. This could and probably should have been a requirement for joining the EU (once that's a major topic at all), but we know all-too well that several EU countries (*cough* UK, France, Spain) would not go along with this.

In conclusion, there is an in itself somewhat conclusive alternative world view being offered, and whatever people are in search of an alternative to the status quo tend to be susceptible to this offer. The alternative view is so disruptive because it supposedly delegitimises our governments and splits our societies into believers of different "realities" (or reality and fiction, but most likely different fictions).

Now the typical "experts" claim that the West needs to get better at its propaganda to counter Russian propaganda, pseudo-jihadist propaganda et cetera. They want an active info war. I think that's primitive nonsense.  

The answer to such alternative view ideology and propaganda is (if I am at least somewhat correct) not to get louder with the Western mainstream message. The answer is to allow Western non-mainstream messages that are not as harmful as other alternative views to gain more attention. Preferably some non-mainstream messages that remain tethered in reality most of the time and not focused on bigotry and other society-dividing nonsense.
Pseudo communist ideologies were effectively defeated by social democracy in the West, and I suppose the 700+ million people in the EU and North America can come up with modern alternatives as well. The greens and certain progressives won't do, for they drive the emancipation of minorities and women, which triggers aversions in a lot of embarrassingly insecure white men.




The 3 A.M. Phone Call

Zbigniew Brzezinski Received 3 a.m. Phone Call Warning of Incoming Nuclear Attack  Declassified Documents Shed Light on Soviet Diplomatic Reactions and Internal Pentagon Review  Secretary of Defense Advised President Carter that "We Must Be Prepared for the Possibility [of] Another False Alert" but "Human Safeguards" Would Prevent a Crisis
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 371


Three personalities

A conservative personality
doesn't think that it can be done better (or is already being done better by others)

A progressive personality
believes it can be done better (or is already being done better by others) and has a favourite alternative.

A creative personality
has at least one original idea how to do it better.

None of them are necessarily correct, though all of them are at times correct.

Young officers tend to start out as a progressive/creative mix, but get so often rebuffed and rejected that most of them were hammered into shape for the conservative pattern by the time they actually get to decide how to do stuff.

Senior NCOs and senior officers tend to be so heavily indoctrinated that all-too often they become conservative and truly believe that the way they're doing things and were taught to do things is the only correct one. They may even see the symptoms of failure, but don't connect this with what's become dear to them about how things are being done.

Maybe the way to go is to make sure all creative people get their way once in a while (such as one major proposal accepted per quarter) in order to keep the spirit of ambition for improvement alive?



Destruction of Kurdish cities and towns

Months ago I highlighted how Kobane had been saved from Daesh by destroying it instead.

Today I'd like to highlight the destruction caused by the Turkish military's campaign against the Kurds / the PKK:*







(this RT* video is from March 2016)

The not-really-young-any-more generation may remember how the West looked the other way when 'our' bad guys did their thing in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia - all for the epic struggle between First World and Second World blocs during the Cold War.

One may now wonder why are we looking the other way today? Is there any comparable epic struggle in which 'our bad guy' deserves to get a free pass on whatever he does? The German press sure turned against Erdogan since the ludicrous libel case, and very overtly so since the counter-coup. Yet the war in the Kurdish regions of Turkey still doesn't get much attention, nor does it seem to get it in the anglophone world. (My observation of French newspapers is infrequent, so I can't tell for sure whether the French pay attention.)

I understand that at least the smarter ones among the top politicians hold back due to diplomatic etiquette and geostrategic considerations, but none of this should apply to the media. Maybe German newspapers fear to lose Turkish readers? That would be foolish, for they might gain Kurdish readers and the Erdogan fan group among the "Turks" in Germany can be expected to read Turkish newspapers, if any.
Maybe it's really as simple as Turkey not being an established 'evil' country and access to the war zone being difficult (and dangerous) for reporters.

Anyway; I expect historians to be very critical of what's happening in the Kurdish regions of Turkey this year, and to draw parallels to the passive toleration of Cold War atrocities.


*: I assembled multiple links to largely eliminate possible distortions by special interests.



I implied a certain assumption back last month when I wrote what about critical room for improvement in U.S., German and UK land forces: The assumption that an armed services' performance and deterrence value depends greatly on getting certain cornerstones right, even if much of the rest of the building was weak.*
Or the other way around; forces are brittle if certain critical points are weak.

Such critical points in conventional warfare are good cohesion, enough discipline, a robust (near-)real-time communication system, effective anti-tank munitions, artillery that survives and achieves the necessary effects, a minimum of battlefield air defences that degrades air attacks to ones with bearable consequences, alternatingly thorough and quick decisionmaking and planning at headquarters, a reliable and high throughput logistical supply system, adequate doctrine for defensive and offensive actions, sufficient collection and exploitation of information/intelligence about  terrain and opposing forces.

The quality of rifles and many other typical military fanboi pet topics are of marginal importance by comparison.

The equipment and organisation weak spots are the easiest to rectify. This can be done in a few years.
It's by comparison hard to change a command system and slow to change a  doctrine (in peacetime). Sometimes you need to wait till an old generation of officers is gone before you can change those.
Hence my focus on hot fixes for equipment and organisation only in all three articles.

- - - - -
Let's revisit the "brittle" remark: Artillery that fails because for example only towed howitzers with at most about 30 km range were used (unable of shoot & scoot tactics) will crumble under a counter-artillery effort that's well done. There withers 60+% of a brigade's lethality. 120 mm mortars may have provided another 20% or so, but they, too can be expected to fail in face of such a counterfires effort. The brigade is then down to about 20% lethality, and easily defeated by properly executed attacks. Such brigade are a waste of budget since they are near-useless for deterrence and defence.

It's similar with AT munitions; one cannot execute mounted warfare if one lacks effective AT munitions, and it's utterly likely that 20+ years old ATGMs were countered by opposing forces' technology and tactics already. You may not face this problem when beating up Arabs, but better don't fool yourself about the prospects of such munitions in Europe.

A third and fourth very much stressed aspects were rapid deployment by road and battlefield air defences. Both concerns have the same origin; the first week of a conflict may be decisive for whether alliance members can be defended or not - and there's no reason to believe in air superiority during this first week. Land forces without proper battlefield air defences may be shattered by concentrated air attacks (such as 200+ tactical aircraft focusing on a single brigade for a day). This wouldn't happen to all such forces in the theatre at the same time (much of the Iraqi retreat in 1991 was unscathed by air power while other units were wiped out) and the targeted forces could alleviate much of the pressure by dispersion, concealment and camouflage, but this would temporarily disable them as manoeuvre forces. And this effect may happen to multiple brigades at once, even if air power would only be able to devastate one at a time. So battlefield air defences need to be able to reduce the effects of air attacks, in particular on moving convoys and artillery.

*: Meant as 'in principle'