Russian manipulations


You're NOT a patriot if you get duped by agitators (or even foreign agents) to hate fellow citizens, period.

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[German] https://www.buzzfeed.com/de/karstenschmehl/falschmeldungen-facebook-2018-fakes-luegen-fake-news

Schon im Kalten Krieg hat man den damals sowjetischen Bemühungen zur Unterwanderung und Spaltung des Westens viel Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt. Die Annahmen, was die 'Russen' da alles bewirken könnten, waren teils schon sehr wundersam bzw. schwachsinnig. Als ob Studenten, hippies und Punks im Falle einer Krise zu Waffen greifen und Aufstände durchführen würden.
Real gelang dem KGB und der Stasi damals eher eine spionierende Infiltration, und eine recht subtile Infiltration einiger Parteien. Strauss' unerklärlicher Milliardenkredit an die DDR gehörte vielleicht zu den wichtigsten Erfolgen (aber da ist bis heute unklar, wieso der zustande kam, vielleicht war die Stasi dabei nicht mal relevant).

Die Russen scheinen erst so richtig Fahrt aufgenommen zu haben mit ihrer Unterwanderung und Spaltung, als sie aufhörten, Personenkreise wie Ingenieure, Offiziere, Politiker und Medien als Hauptziele zu betrachten und sich stattdessen darauf verlagerten, die dümmsten und leichtgläubigsten Menschen zu beeinflussen. Zudem scheinen maßgeschneiderte Botschaften viel besser zu funktionieren als primitive pseudomarxistische Ideologie und Erpressung.

Jahrelang verblieb ich bei den alten Ansichten, dass die 'Russen' in ihren subversiven Aktivitäten weitgehend ineffektiv sind, weil Routinegegenmaßnahmen die im Zaume halten und man ja wohl nur schwer so blöd sein kann, darauf reinzufallen.
Inzwischen geschieht mit mir das, was die Senioren schon immer gesagt haben; mit fortschreitendem Alter wird die Meinung über die Menschheit immer weniger rosig. Man bemerkt einfach zu viele Schwachköpfe und traut der Menschheit immer weniger zu. Dementsprechend schätze ich die Widerstandskraft gegenüber der Russenpropaganda heute auch deutlich niedriger ein als noch vor 2-3 Jahren.

Es ist einfach enttäuschend, wieviele Menschen in unserem Lande wenig wissen, wenig auf Plausibilität prüfen, viel glauben und insgesamt weitab vom wissenschaftlichen Ideal des vernunft- und beweisbasierten Strebens nach Wissen sind. Und vor allem; wieviele Menschen offenbar ein psychologisches Bedürfnis nach Feindbildern haben.


edit same day:

Comments are set to obligatory moderation, and moderating/unlocking may cause days of delay because of the Christmas time.


Christmas movie and versatility vs. specialisation

It was difficult to keep up with the weekly schedule after I discarded some unsatisfactory texts, thus I present you my favourite Christmas movie to beef this blog post up:

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A comment recently pointed out that my stance on warships (in favour of multi-role) differs from my stance on IFVs (criticising multi-role).
There were entire blogs and book author careers dedicated to apply one and the same idea over and over again to many different topics. I remember a mil blog where the author obsessed about "small and lightweight" in all military topics, for example.

I try to avoid this approach of setting up an ideological template and then to squeeze the whole world through this one template. I've been wary of those people in my own professional life who came to meetings with lots of general experiences and then just assumed that they know experience-based answers to problems without thinking about (or even only knowing) the specific case. They were blundering most of the time (and usually nobody called them out because they tended to be superiors in the hierarchy, or powerful/influential in some other way). Those people are usually utterly unaware of how much nonsense they spout, how much they waste everyone's time and how much damage they do.

Here's an example of how very different answers can be from one and the same person on seemingly almost the same subject:

Armoured fighting vehicles should in my opinion be rather specialised (combat, transportation, indirect fire support, standoff electronic warfare et cetera) when they're meant for use in a formation (battalion battlegroup, for example). This is where they can complement and support each other. A jack of all trades armoured fighting vehicle would be extremely expensive, extremely heavy (70+ tons) and most of its capabilities would be ineffective most of the time.

Meanwhile, the picture is completely different when we look at armoured reconnaissance, skirmishing, raiding on land (LRDG-style). These activities would be done with small units (2...4 vehicles) as manoeuvre elements, and these manoeuvre elements  might be separated by distances that make close cooperation of more than two such small units unlikely. The use of specialised vehicles causes a lack of capability (or at the very least lack of redundancy, and thus robustness) in such a case. Such small units' vehicles should have versatility prioritised over some other qualities, such as protection or ambition (air defence could be very short range instead of area air defence, for example).

I try to not be a template zealot who forces one way on all things. The extremism of pursuing such a template approach or of following an outright ideology is inconsistent with the lessons of (military) history. History shows the success and superiority of varied, tailored approaches, and the optimum changes as available technology and environment changes over time.


Comments are set to obligatory moderation, and moderating/unlocking may cause days of delay because of the Christmas time. 


Chinese efforts in Africa

I'm steadily amazed by how much attention the Chinese get for their efforts in Africa, and by how important they are perceived to be in Africa itself.

Here are some figures about their actual efforts:
"China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy, and Xi’s offer of more money comes after a pledge of another $60 billion at the previous summit in South Africa three years ago. Xi, addressing leaders at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, said the new $60 billion will include $15 billion of aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, a credit line of $20 billion, a $10 billion special fund for China-Africa development, and a $5 billion special fund for imports from Africa. Chinese companies will be encouraged to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent in the next three years, he said. (...) China loaned around $125 billion to the continent from 2000 to 2016, data from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies shows."

USD  170 billion over the course of at least 20 years.* Less than USD 9 billion per year. The German annual foreign aid budget is a little higher, and it's much more aid, not mostly lending.

Population density in Africa c. 2000
(c) The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

The difference may be a difference in perception (established aid streams being perceived as self-evident background noise), a difference in style (such as lots more high profile investments done with Chinese money, for example) or it's Western hysteria.

I suspect it's a combination of all three, and the stark difference to German foreign aid appears to be that German foreign aid is actually mostly foreign aid, while the Chinese are rather investing in economic and political relationships. They may do it with access to natural resources in mind, but it's safe to say that this isn't the only motivation.

Africa needs huge investments in infrastructure and education. The old colonial era transportation infrastructure was designed for export (such as rail lines to ports, but not parallel to coasts) and poorly suited for intra-African trade. It's also crumbling or has done so in many places. 

Maybe the largely basic needs-oriented German foreign aid style is not all that smart after all. A decade of projects to educate and assist farmers in some places falls well short of the effect that a Western African rail line a few hundred km inland and parallel to the coast, reaching from Dakar to Kano would have. A similar East African North-South railroad could boost intra-African trade and commerce as well.**

Maybe we Europeans should invest more in North Africa (could supply much solar power, but shouldn't supply more than ~20% of Europe's electrical power needs) and Atlantic Black Africa (railroads, durable paved highways). Such investments don't need to displace traditional foreign aid, and they don't need to be terribly selfish grand strategy policymaking either. It would certainly be within reach with our resources and the benefits*** to us could very well exceed the costs. The very low interest rates signal that there are too few opportunities for (private) investment in Europe itself - it may make sense to open up investment opportunities in Africa. Who knows - maybe Africa could even grab much manufacturing that would otherwise happen in South, Southeast or East Asia?

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Now what would be the relevance regarding defence and freedom?
I suppose it could bring us into conflict with China (though a hot conflict is extremely unlikely), but it could also thwart Chinese efforts to gain footholds in the South Atlantic. The Africans will be wary of loaning military bases to Europeans (except that France maintains a few old ones), and maybe we could -with more political influence and better relations- convince them to refuse Chinese military interests in Atlantic Black Africa.


*: Chinese companies also appear to get contracts for large construction projects that aren't being financed with Chinese money. The Chinese construction companies have cheaper engineers, bring their own workforce (very few people hired locally), and usually deliver the product on budget and on schedule. Such projects are of economic importance, but not really relevant to grand strategy.
**: We've wasted money on Greece's stupid little Cold War with Turkey and on Greek pensions and subsidies instead. 
***: These are difficult to calculate in advance, especially so in the case of non-toll highways.


Internet and opinions

I did comment again on a certain navy-themed blog and took another screenshot right away because I was sure the comment would be deleted - and not for lack of civility. I don't think my typo was to blame, either. (The first comment and right column are not context, they just indicate where I found this):

The quotes are real, not made up - and they're from one and the same blog post.

First, credit where credit is due: He's way above average Americans in actually acknowledging that European conventional military power is far from having trouble with wet paper bags.

Next, about the all-too common problem in there: The recitation of sentiments and prejudices instead of a pursuit of coherence or a show of any actual chain of reasoning. That's ordinary.
He doesn't deserve to be singled out for this content - I do it only because he provides such an easy example (he does often provide really obvious inconsistencies with his half-baked reasoning).

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Agreement or disagreement is rarely correlated with whether logical, well-informed reasoning comes to the same conclusion or not. My life experience indicates there are rather two very different reasons for when people have a high or poor opinion of a statement:
  1. Is the person who issued the statement powerful/influential or not? (Powerful or influential people get away with most blundering unless they have equivalent enemies.)
  2. Do you agree with the statement? The statement must be incorrect if you disagree!
The anonymity of the internet usually removes power from the equation, thus these translations are good rules of thumb in most of the internet:

"Your opinion is crap" actually means "I disagree"
"Your opinion is fine" actually means "I agree with you"

The application of feelings and prejudices on issues appears to dominate almost every time even when the author strives to establish and maintain an aura of logical reasoning. The public discussion of topics such as defence policy suffers a lot from this rampant inability to reason and the widespread preference for sticking to pre-existing preferences during a discussion or while reading an article.

You may now very well go ahead and think that these observations apply to me as well. I would probably be the last to notice.


BTW, he actually explained why he deleted the comment, in a comment of his own. He claimed a personal attack. The (quote-supported) remark "incomplete reasoning that's devoid of logic" was apparently counted as a personal attack?!? That's quite some safe space expectation there.
He also claimed he never deletes a comment only because it's in disagreement. Well, I documented such a case, so I call that a lie. Of course, he can lie there at will - it's his own place, after all.
Maybe you wonder why I picked this fight. He strikes me as a stark example of fake-rational commenting on military affairs, that's why. There's a pretension of being facts-driven, of elevating the debate, of reasoning towards conclusions - but the conclusions are nothing but simple thoughts driven by sentiments. A few facts are the mere decoration that's added to the sentiment, which gets presented as 'conclusion'. The reaction to those who call this out is arbitrary and driven by denial about the criticism's substance. I ignored some such blogs in the past, but those didn't have that many readers and I preferred to let them languish in obscurity.


Link drop Dec 2018


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I noticed this very late, but now I applaud them for doing the right thing.
It's important to have the bridge engineers in place to bridge Oder and/or Vistula if the need arises - and it's even more important than Russian military HQs understand this capability. It's important for deterrence.
I would have called on the German army to double its pontoon bridge capabilities if the British had really withdrawn theirs and moved it past the channel, where they'd be of marginal utility by comparison. The bridges across Oder and Vistula rivers can be destroyed in the first minutes of conflict, and reinforcements from Germany, France or the UK would be delayed if no pontoon bridges are in place early on. Such pontoon bridging engineers are in my opinion of greater importance for European deterrence against Russia than all F-22s combined.

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155 mm  Brutus would be a step up for airborne, infantry and Stryker brigades, but still fall short of being a high quality SPG (self-propelled gun) due to its lack of fragmentation and bullet proofing, little if any onboard munitions and using a 39cal barrel instead of a more modern (better range) 52cal barrel (the propellant chamber may be small as well). Still, it might make these brigades' artillery relevant for warfare against 1st and 2nd rate opposition.
105 mm Hawkeye (which isn't new; I wrote about it repeatedly) could meanwhile provide a mostly superior alternative to 120 mm mortars for conventional warfare (with mortars retained as secondary ordnance for outpost duties), or become the sole indirect fire asset of airborne brigades.
I don't expect them to do either, though: The U.S. Army has many programs, and does rarely actually solve major equipment issues. They have a habit of failing to introduce all-new assault rifles, MBTs, IFVs and attack helicopters. Their 1970's/early 1980's generation of such equipment was troubled with shortcomings, still hyped, and soldiers on because all replacement programs were cancelled. Only the USMC is even worse, they failed in their attempts to replace their amphibious APCs since the early 1970's.
Americans can do semi-satisfactory upgrade programs (up to replacing all original parts, as in M109A7), but they cannot manage all-new major combat system programs.

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0:02...1:24 - both answers were very good, and I'd like to add that they were terribly underrated. They should have worked on the latter point a bit more.
The press has a pro-establishment bias in many if not most Western countries because working as a relay for those in power (and commentator of what they said and did) is much easier, much quicker and much less work than to delve into issues, interview actual experts (not universal know-nothings a.k.a. pundits and 'leading' politicians) and assemble a thorough picture of an issue, complete with descriptions how analogue issues were addressed and possibly improved or solved in other countries.

I have great disdain for 'breaking news' reporting. We would be better off if all reporting followed a weekly schedule. Anything quicker than that should either be a super-urgent warning ("Tsunami incoming!"-style) or news about impending or actual start of war.

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They can agree it's in the four digits range, and thus unprecedented.
The irony is that the followers think that the rest of the world is lying to them.

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[Blog] I will have pre-scheduled blog posts on 22 and 29 December and may set the comments back on mandatory moderation to keep that extremely determined Mumbai escort marketing bot out.