Arms racing; escalatory or de-escalatory?

Weeks ago I made a case for an intermediate legal situation between true peace and mobilisation. The idea was that deterrence (which is assumed to preserve the peace) is more effective if a potential aggressor doesn't expect major time lag advantages from moving first.
Alternatively, we could look at it as a cost-saving measure; you don't need to have all the military expenses to counter what a threat has AND it can build up in strength over two years of arms racing if you can credibly expect to be effective at counter-arms-racing in those two years. That capability means you only need to deter against what capabilities the threat has plus what it can build up in six months of arms racing.

It's a bit odd for a German to write about this and on this side of the aisle because our news media, historians and politicians appear to have a consensus that arms racing is not deescalatory, but escalatory. 

That may very well be true (which means we should find ways to change this), but arms racing and being prepared to arms-race are as different as are warfare and deterrence. The ability to grow much military power during a short arms race may (should) discourage any plans of aggressions that would be built on the assumption of creating an advantage through a superior arms-racing effort.

On the other hand, the possibility of for example a 30% growth in military power during a mere two years peacetime might be perceived as threatening and provoking higher military expenses by another power. This could be mitigated if only countries known to be rather defensive (not meddling, bombing and invading on distant continents all the time) establish this enhanced arms-racing capability.

I'm not irritated in the slightest that this turns out to be an argument against participation in stupid small wars (= all small wars).


P.S.: I understand that I made up "arms racing" as a verb. I found no better alternative to express the concept.


  1. I was wondering if the double crewing of German frigates you mentioned in your recent naval articles was perhaps an attempt at a similar capability.

    Training maturity in crews is the most time expensive element of scaling capacity. Therefore, during your arms racing period, some off the peg designed ships could be built (even in foriegn yards) and those crews assigned to 'double' the size of the German fleet.

    If this is the intent, it halves the size of the built fleet saving the attendant costs, while still offering the over sized trained crews as an avenue to increase total deployed fleet weight.

    Even if that isnt the intent, Im sure the Russians have noted the strange decision and at least consider the possibility.

    1. It takes a few months to form a new crew with naval personnel that once served on ships but doesn't any more. Yet it takes 5-10 years to add a frigate to the fleet.

      No, the double crewing nonsense of F125 is about different things
      - fake advantage as political selling point (the ship in itself has not much capability to boast)
      - optimisation for naval blockades farther away than the Med

      I don't expect them to really do the double crewing. Maybe they do it with the first two units for a year or two, but then they'll drop it because they lack the recruitment and retention success and simply don't have enough personnel.

      A simple path for better recruitment would be to follow the imperial navy's example from the late 19th century; cruise the world, let young men see dozens of foreign countries with plenty land time. More young men would join if they could expect one around-the-world cruise on a comfortable training ship with 100+ days spent in 20-30 port cities around the world.

      Good retention rates require different features; compatibility with family, not too often forced to move to a different base, good pay, good esprit de corps, pride in the own organisation.

      We're inching towards nationwide retirement at age 70 due to the demographic change. Soldiers do and should retire much younger. Maybe a guaranteed job in federal administration after retirement as professional soldier (well before age 70) would be an effective tool to improve retention rate from SaZ to professional NCO employment.

  2. All of this makes perfect sense. I'm not going to argue with any of it :)