German politics (2018)

German politics appear to keep shifting, albeit slowly. The old extreme form of stability of the Kohl era is gone, nowadays parties can lose giant chunks of their base in a few years, or multiply their votes for no apparent reason.

Here's my summary of the current situation:

Still the biggest party, and apparently the only one that still maintains the "Volkspartei" reputation; trying to represent (almost) everyone, in principle electable for all population groups (though the "C" as "Christlich"/"Christian" is a bit of a deterrent to non-Christian people of faith). They are still allied with the CSU and thus present only in the 15 states where there's no CSU.
The CDU is facing three fundamental issues:
1) An entire generation of politicians who want to get rid of the career glass ceiling that's the Merkel establishment.
2) Voters who slowly notice that the CDU didn't solve a single problem since the early 90's.*
3) The CDU is not seeking to trigger, magnify and exploit fears among the electorate due to the "Volkspartei" approach, or at least not much. Their half-assed exploitations of the organised crime, terrorist, salafist, Reichsbürger (anarchists), Identitäre (neonazis) and paedophiles bogeymen is peanuts compared to the staple of fearmongering, scaremongering and hatemongering that conservatives exploit in many other Western countries. This leaves opportunities to other right wing parties.
In regard to military affairs it's noteworthy that soem CDU politicians haven't really gone past the end of the conscription. That topic was brought up again, but I don't think it will go anywhere. Keep in mind it was brought up during the low news summertime.

Bavarians, the Texans of Germany. The CSU is present in but one of 16 states, and though quite competent at governing it (some corruption in the CSU is completely understandable given that they governed Bavaria for 60 years without any other government ever cleaning up).
They share issue #1 with the internal opponents of Merkel, do not share issue #2 with the CDU (I don't like many of their policies, but they do occasionally solve or even prevent problems) and they understood issue #3. The CSU has a history of loudmouth and aggressive behaviour anyway, so exploitation of fearfulness is second nature to them.

These supposed social democrats are rather Blairites and as far as I can tell nobody seems to consider them to be champions of the poor and lower middle class any more. The entire party's existence appears to be due to inertia, and it's withering away rapidly. The left wing of the party deserted in disgust of Schröder's policies long ago (mostly to LINKE and greens, I think), and the remnants have hardly anything to offer to anyone. Regardless of who you are; you can find a party that represents you better than the SPD. I suppose that almost all of the remaining SPD voters vote for the SPD out of habit or because they know some particularly convincing SPD politician.

The greens have a reputation as a party of academics rather than as an environmental protection party nowadays.
They keep shooting themselves in the foot by means of their reflexive siding with minorities and thus with what's in English widely called "social justice warriors". There's hardly ever any underdog or minority that the German greens do not side with, which doesn't exactly sound like smart politics. They could probably be a 30...40% party nation-wide if they hadn't this "pro-minority" reflex. They're still doing quite fine, as they don't have many no-go issues for voters save for the reflexive siding with minorities. In fact, they are en route to become the biggest party in some particularly wealthy areas and appear to become the second-largest party in some more states. Their minority focus may actually fade as and if they grow into a "Volkspartei".

They are liberals in the literal sense (not "liberals" = social democrats, as in the U.S.), and this party of liberals is extremely close to "business", not at all close to "employees" or even "unemployed people". They could have joined the governing coalition, but bailed out of the coalition talks for still not really publicly understood reasons. The FDP is notable for its extreme volatility. Anything ranging from not passing the 5% threshold and thus not entering the Bundestag up to 20% of the Bundestag seats appears possible with the FDP.
Politically they do little but providing stalwart defenders of civil rights and rule of law for the ministers of justice offices and helping the wealthy and rich.
Corruption may be at work in the background; the party has some extreme finance issues and some of their pro-business policies such as the infamous VAT tax break for hotels were fishy.

They're dead. They didn't get their internal party workings right and eventually failed for good in elections.

The one relevant left wing party. They're in governing coalitions in some Eastern states, but at the federal level they haven't been in power ever and thus bathe comfortably in ideological purity, which makes them quite insufferable to most people regardless of how well they point out actual problems of workers, retirees and unemployed people. The orthodoxy wing appears to be winning against internal efforts to steer towards 'realpolitik'. I suppose they won't become part of a governing coalition at the federal level unless they would be needed to keep neonazis from power (which won't happen). Last but not least, their majority loves to side with minorities.

Founded as a party with a weird predominance of economics professors that rebelled against the common European currency and CDU inactivity, they suffered two waves of hostile takeovers first by the far right and then by the even farther right. Nowadays they're still maintaining a minimal deniability regarding their neonazi party nature, but that may break away any time. Ever since the takeovers they went all-in on fearmongering and exploitation of fears, but most of them are stupid enough to be true believers. Those are no cynical politicians who exploit fears of dumb people to gain power and then redistribute income from the middle class to the rich.
They have the stable roughly 4-6% neonazis-in-Germany base plus a fluctuating and not really predictable base of protest voters. Anything ranging from 4-20% of the vote seems possible for them, and 6-16% is probably what one should expect in the next elections.
The AfD could easily collapse from infighting or if some other party succeeds at attracting the protest voters (the Realpolitik wing of the far left tries such a thing). Fearmongering is always possible, so actually solving any issues that the AfD fearmongers about is rather not going to make it go away. Nor should any sensible person expect a fearmongering-based party to actually solve any problems; to solve actual problems would debase the party (which discourages the not-so-true believers), and all-too often the fearmongering isn't about real problems anyway.

Polls about how many votes the parties would get if there were federal elections next Sunday:
The next federal elections will be no later than 2021, but the elections in the states could in the meantime change the 2nd chamber of the parliament (the Bundesrat), which has powers in regard to legislation that burdens the states.

There's no sensible coalition in sight that would address real issues with real, competent reforms. I suppose that Germany is going to enter the 2020's on autopilot.


S O,

*: This is but a slight exaggeration.
A top CDU politician, Schäuble, recently said in an interview: "Wenn die jungen Leute sich nicht wehren gegen uns Alte, dann geht es schief. Wir Alte können bei jedem Problem gut erklären, warum eine Lösung im Prinzip nicht möglich ist." (Something goes wrong if the young people don't push back against us old ones. We old [politicians] can explain for every problem why a solution isn't possible in principle.")
THIS is the problem with the CDU conservatives in power in Germany: They don't think that problems can be solved, thus they don't try to solve any problems. Why don't they think that problems can be solved? Well, many problems could be solved by accepting some other, smaller problem to pop up. That would be an improvement (just as buying food solves the hunger problem, but costs money), and it's also a change. Those people are real conservatives; they abhor change. Thus they cannot solve problems whenever this requires change.
Again; German CDU conservatives are real conservatives; they don't want change. Just stay the course. They're not like American conservatives who want radical change towards some unworkable 1920's gilded age-like fantasyland.


War as a continuation of policy? (II)

The first part showed that CvC did not cover all political motivations for waging war; war isn't always about making others yield to your demands.

I suppose he wasn't able to fully describe the core of the nature of war because he looked at it from the wrong angle.

CvC looked at what could be achieved through warfare.

He should have been aware that only a small minority of those princes who waged war in his era and earlier eras actually achieved much or anything by waging war.

War is worse than a zero sum game; it first reducing the cake, and then presumably changes who gets how large a share of it. That's because warfare is destructive, not constructive.

You don't win it by competing about who can build something quicker or drive down illiteracy or child mortality rates the quickest. Instead, it's about destroying, killing, maiming and taking away.
It should be deeply unintuitive to think of it in a 'who achieved what' framework.

Instead, let's look at the true nature to describe and understand what war really is.

War is the absence of peace. This sounds trivial, but it isn't.

Humans are a social species. We're not loners who only meet up for mating as many other species do. The burdens of late pregnancy and of the long upringing of children to the point where they are self-reliant (producing more than consuming) are so heavy that humans need to stick together to afford them, and accordingly need to be able to coexist in proximity to each other (in a social group).

Nature has prepared us well for life in small clans, and such small groups have an easy time maintaining good enough relations to other insular clans for evolutionarily advantageous interbreeding. Evolution did also prepare us to fight other groups / clans to gain or protect access to essential resources (and sometimes also fight for breeding opportunities as described in the legend of the Sabian women, for example).

Evolution did not optimise us for life in megacities, and the understanding of a nation of millions to billions of people as the own community is overburdening many human minds as well. They think of smaller groups as their own community (or focus on the looks of people), and refuse to feel kinship to more or less arbitrarily defined "others" even in their own "nation". This refusal to accept fellow nationals as kin undermines the illusion of a nation, and thus the effective working of that illusion. It's truly unpatriotic, as true patriotism is all about bolstering the notion of national community and kinship.

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It's culture that allows us to nevertheless function as larger communities, even as nations - without too many destructive conflicts with each other. Culture even allows us to maintain peace with other groups (clans / nations); the highest level of culture is probably international law.

War is essentially a slip from this peaceful coexistence. It's a slip that allows us -in narrowly defined ways- to cease being social and instead start killing and generally display destructive behaviour. It's a relaxation of cultural norms that enable us to live in a community (of nations). This release can be fun especially to men, who once in a while plainly enjoy to destroy things (even blow them up) - just as a 3-year-old prefers destroying toy block towers over building them.*

War - the absence of peace - is a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction (of what's not yours).

This relaxation of cultural taboos doesn't necessarily have a real objective.

It may happen because those in positions of extraordinary power did let their guard down and did simply not maintain the taboo. The German government of 1914-1918 could not point out what exactly Germany was fighting a bloody war for, for example. There was no approved, much less communicated, list of objectives or demands against the Western Entente powers. Demands were made up for the Russian government only when the Russian forces began to fail. War had happened because peace wasn't protected. The cultural taboo of killing and destroying was not maintained.

There are wars in which openly communicated and/or secret lists of demands existed, but they're merely one subset of all wars. The demands were not necessarily the reason for or cause of war.

War is first and foremost a temporary and partial relaxation of the cultural taboo of killing and destruction. Warfare goes on until all sides re-established this taboo (or escaped** or were eliminated), not necessarily until at least one side yields to demands of at least one other side.

The whole 'war as continuation of policy with different means' way of thinking frames war as an activity pursued to achieve something. Achievement is the exception; net achievement (actually "winning" as "gaining") is extremely difficult because of the destructive rather than productive / constructive nature of warfare. The framing doesn't properly describe war.
I claim with great confidence that less than half of all powers participating in all of mankind's wars have actually achieved more than lost. To think of warfare in the framework of achievement is about as much a folly as to think about betting in a state lottery in the framework of winning.

The "achievement" framework is deceiving, leading to a misunderstanding of the nature of war. It's not even a satisfactory description of the mere political purpose of war.


**: This applies to nomadic people and those who migrated (such as the Goths) to evade an enemy. 


War as a continuation of policy? (I)


"At the decisive battle of Fleurus on 26 June 1794 the Austrians even began by launching a series of assaults which, after a very hard-fought day, held the French to at least a draw. However, the Austrian commander then consulted his secret political orders and realized that he had no need to fight at all. Tired of the game, he retreated without being forces to do so. (It transpired that the core Austrian war aim was to allow the French to capture Belgium so that the Austrians - through the arcane workings of 18th-century diplomatic logic - would be awarded Bavaria as compensation. Oddly, in the event they weren't.)"
"French Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815", by Paddy Griffith

This is a curious episode.
On the one hand it supports von Clausewitz' conclusion that war(fare) is the extension of policy. On the other hand it adds to the cases that do not align with his conclusion that the aim in warfare is to disarm the political opponent in order to force him to yield to your demands.

Other examples where this conclusion isn't confirmed are wars of extinction (such as many of the Indian Wars in North America or the hunt for anyone loosely affiliated with AQ) and a couple wars that happened for no other reason than revenge or payback for insult. It's also very much possible that the Franco-German war of 1870/1871 was at least initially about unifying Germany (minus Austria; "kleindeutsche Lösung") rather than the eventually huge French reparations.

The question of the objective of warfare is one of the weakest spots in Carl von Clausewitz' theoretical work.*


*: Let's ignore his brain-melting terrible grammar and non-existing prosaic qualities here.
He would never be this popular if the people actually read his works at length. I'll happily read "the art of war" for the 10th or "Principles of War" for the 5th time, but certainly never read my "Vom Kriege" edition a second time from front to back! I heard it's going to be translated to yet another language from the German original, and I pity the translator.


Link dump August 2018

I saw some bloggers scaremongering about China's "expansion" by military basing etc.. I had to think of these:

(the use of the NATO symbol isn't quite accurate, of course)

(a few locations are inaccurate, but the overall picture is valid)
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The government of Israel has been accused of having Apartheid policies that discriminate against Arabs in Israel, and its response was to make exactly that -an Israeli version of Apartheid- official policy.

There was the nice idea of clash of civilisations and victory of Western liberalism in the 90's. Sadly, it was utterly incorrect. The "West" is now littered with non-Western countries that substantially deviate from Western values:
  • Hungary (approaching "controlled democracy"),
  • Israel (Apartheid light, routine disregard of international norms),
  • Poland (undermined judiciary branch),
  • Turkey (de facto "controlled democracy" by now, close to theocracy),
  • United States (torture is considered debatable, capital punishment, partially turned away from enlightenment and science, government favours zero-sum games over cooperation, head of government and state openly favours dictators, routine disregard of international norms, racist politics, federal government demagoguery against the press).
Two of them are in the EU and three of them are in NATO, undermining these organisations' claims and pretensions of being champions of Western values.

Additionally, one should pay attention to the future trajectories of the two important countries UK (disengaging from cooperation, xenophobic campaigns) and Japan (still has capital punishment, intensifying nationalism/jingoism). Furthermore, Italy could turn for the worse at any time considering its media concentration, nationalist to fascist political parties, unsolved organised crime issues and economic & fiscal instability.
France deserves mention for its drift towards state of emergency-ish legislation. (This is a quite widepread issue, though. Germany still has laws in effect that were meant to counter the RAF in the 70's. Such anti-terror and anti-organised crime laws should always have a limited duration, and should not be extended without an intense public debate).

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"Russia admits defeat on its 'stealth' F-35 killer by canceling mass production of the Su-57 fighter jet"
Alex Lockie, Business Insider

The issues regarding the Su-57's (lack of radar) stealth - especially the lack of s-ducts - were discussed in public. The Su-57's radar cross section is probably in between the Rafale and Chinese LO jets. It would be a huge development if Russia gives up competing in combat aircraft technology for the 2020's and 2030's. Their current arsenal isn't superior to the European arsenal and is projected to fall behind (further). To give up on competitiveness in such a critical field as air combat would be a strong signal that Russia is no conventional threat to NATO in the 2020's, and Western efforts to introduce the next combat aircraft generation in the 2030's may actually be on time.
Then again, maybe they simply give up on symmetric competition and expect more from a dissimilar air war force consisting of area air defences, surface-to-surface missiles and drones?


I suppose they either understood that the economic realities are keeping them from healthy great power status (=a success of sanctions?) or they follow indeed a very unconventional route.

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I hope it's OK I quote them at this length:
"Prior to and during the NATO summit, there was much hand-wringing over member states’ military spending as a share of GDP. Each member is expected to increase its spending to 2% of GDP by 2024, but Trump seems to think that this already should have been done. And at the summit last week, he suddenly called for a new target of 4% of GDP—which is more than even the United States spends. (...) But this attitude changed in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and launched secretive military incursions into Eastern Ukraine. (...) More fundamentally, Trump’s complaint that the US is shouldering an unfair share of the burden for NATO’s collective defence is dubious. While the US military budget equals roughly 72% of combined defence spending by all NATO member states, roughly three-quarters of US military spending is directed towards regions other than Europe. Around half of the US defence budget is spent on maintaining a presence in the Pacific, and another quarter is spent on operations in the Middle East, strategic nuclear command and control, and other areas.
Moreover, although the US has increased its defence outlays in Europe substantially over the past few years, it is worth remembering that most US forces and facilities there are actually focused on the geostrategic arc from India to South Africa. With facilities such as Ramstein (...), the US has long used Europe as a staging ground (...). And the early-warning and surveillance facilities that the US maintains (...) are there to defend the continental US, not Europe.
The fact is that total European defence spending is (...) roughly twice what Russia spends on defence (...). The critical importance of US command, control and intelligence forces in Europe (...) should at least be put into perspective. Although the US Army recently rotated heavy brigades through Europe for military exercises, its permanently stationed troops are equipped only for limited interventions."
"The end of NATO?", Carl Bildt, The Strategist (ASPI)

A fascinating description of the astonishing quality that side looking airborne radars had in mapping and moving target indicator modes during the 1960's already. I'm not sure what they were used for (maybe monitoring the Ho Chi Minh trail), but such technology was extremely handy for reconnaissance of hostile road marches in the often very cloudy Central European weather. The RF-4s had a less capable SLAR since the 1960's (they were probably meant for Central Europe) while the normal reconnaissance aircraft such as Mirage III 'R' series had little more to offer than Mk.1 eyeballs, radio and photochemical cameras.
Regrettably, my knowledge of 1950's to 1970's aerial reconnaissance technology still isn't exactly a strong point of mine. I'm not aware of any good literature on the subject

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"Godzilla on World Tour"

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It's the "Short Airfield for Tactical Support" (SATS). I never understood why this approach (or a ski jump + arresting gear combo) wasn't used a lot during the Cold War when everyone was (correctly) fearing that one's airbases would be destroyed in the event of war. Ski jumps reduce the take-off runway length requirement by half. Land catapults reduce the need to less than 600 m and arresting gears reduce the landing runway length requirement to less than the take-off requirement (and rejected landing would be helped much by a ski jump).

A ski jump for airfields is no particularly heavy or demanding design and I suppose it would take but two 15 ton 8x8 vehicles to recover, transport and install such a ski jump.

The runway length required for take-off with a ski jump is furthermore quite similar to the runway length required for landing with thrust reversers AFAIK. Thrust reversers appear to have fallen out of fashion just like variable geometry wings, though. Nowadays you want a thrust vectoring nozzle or a stealthy nozzle, not a thrust reversing nozzle on a combat aircraft.

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The Americans had similar EW helicopters much later (among the EH-60 versions), but their approach to standoff jamming appears to be mostly reliant on fixed wing aviation. This makes sense if you want to support strike packages far away from friendly terrain (the Russians also had standoff jamming fixed wing aircraft), while EW helicopters make a lot of sense if you think continentally.
Such helicopters can start their engines, fly for a couple km distance at treetop altitude, climb to operating altitude 30...60 seconds, jam for a few minutes, descend to treetop altitude, return, land, stop the rotors and are mostly safe from air threats unless some airborne radar tracked them. That would typically be some hostile AEW, but those could be jammed by ground-based jammers. So in the end a sufficiently sophisticated combined arms effort could actually keep such helicopters quite survivable and they in turn could keep some strike fighters alive while they knock out radar-dependent air defences.

Some more about the Mi-8 ELINT versions: http://www.16va.be/4.5_les_mi-8_part6_eng.html

About AEW jammers: example here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krasukha_(electronic_warfare_system) IIRC the claimed footprint (area protected against radar observation) is about 50 km radius for Russian anti-AWACS and anti-J-STARS jammers.