One of the saddest things in life

... is to see a friend join  a bureaucracy and turn from a person who meant to improve the world into a person who is defending processes that are in the way of improving the world.

I had an orientation week when I began university studies. A senior student led the orientation group and assured us that after a certain amount of studying in the field, we would adopt the way of thinking that characterizes the field. I considered the notion repulsive.

Years later, I agreed. It had changed me, it had changed how I approached issues and questions, what tools and methods I used to find solutions. It was kind of the point of doing the studies, for frankly, I forgot much if not most of the content (details) of the studying within weeks after the tests. The lasting effect wasn't about memorizing details.

Organisations and professions can suck you in, absorb you, assimilate you - and turn you into one of them. It's scary, but it depends whether it's a good thing or not. An organisation that's on the wrong track will pull those who enter it onto the wrong track. An organisation that's on a good track may make very good use of such an assimilation power.

The challenge remains to guide an organisation onto a good track (such as serving the country, not itself) before it guides YOU onto its status quo track. 

This suggests that the secret ingredient of reform may lie in keeping enough of a distance to it. A superhuman ability to resist such assimilation was hardly ever observed.

I wrote a lot about how secretaries of defence should guide the armed bureaucracy onto the path of pursuing the national interest instead of self-interest. Such ministers usually turn into champions of the armed bureaucracy's self-interest within a few weeks.

Maybe a different interaction with a lot more spacing may do the trick. We might tweak the responsibilities, tasks and authorities of the office in order to ensure that a minister of defence is considered by others (and by himself/herself) as first and foremost the nation's first critic of the armed services, not as their organisational leader. Failures and embarrassments of the armed services should not be blamed on the minister if the minister criticised them and punished the underperforming part of the bureaucracy and its chain of command. The minister should not identify as part of the armed services community, but as its worst nightmare - a nightmare that keeps it honest and pursuant of national interest rather than self-interest.
Think of it as leadership by sanctioning failure.

disregard the smile
Maybe you readers would consider it excessive, but I think the uniform dress code should include a "pink ballerina skirt" that the minister could add to the obligatory officers uniform of any part of the armed services for any duration on short notice.

I have a hunch that internal red tape could be overcome real quick if we had that.

We should move to a political culture where we would chastise a minister of defence for NOT 'upgrading' the officer dress code like that if the armed service mismanaged procurement, displayed poor readiness, wasted personnel strength on pointless activities, allowed deterioration of skills, or resisted some novelty for too long. 
That kind of political culture might be just enough to ensure that such failures would simply not happen and the skirt would remain a theoretical possibility.

Meanwhile, every minister of defence in the real world of today would consider it an embarrassment to himself or herself if officers were photographed with pink ballerina skirts over their trousers. There's no good reason for it, but that's how we roll. In the end, the fish stinks from the head, and this head is our political culture; it's in what we expect from the civilian leadership. The rot begins at a very fundamental level. Most people appear to think that a minister of defence should work for the armed services rather than for the country.



Fund for World Peace

Nervos belli, pecuniam infinitam.
Endless money forms the sinews of war

Mankind spent USD 1.8 trillion on military power in 2018, presumably to keep the peace. It's a tragedy that we're presumably keeping the peace against each other, but there's another interesting thing about this sum:

A tiny fraction of it would probably suffice to create world peace at least between states if reallocated to solely this purpose.

I present you the

Fund for World Peace

The nations of the world pay 1% of their military spending into this fund. Within a few years, the fund grows to well over € 100 billion.

A country under attack would receive as much interest-free credit (due in rates after ten to 20 years) from the FWP as needed for its defence whenever the U.N. General Assembly or the UNSC (disregarding vetoes) condemn a country for a direct or sponsored aggression against another country. All U.N. member countries are required to allow arms exports (save for a couple technologically too sensitive categories) to the defending country.

Still, attacked countries might succumb under assault by an aggressor. The United Nations General Assembly may authorise the use of force to liberate such a country, as happened in the case of Kuwait. The FWP would then offer a bounty for the liberation of the country (costs plus 50%). It would also provide a loan for a credible effort (at negotiated conditions).

The fund would accept emergency loans from countries (at their ten-year bond rates, repayable in ten years) if its liquidity is insufficient to meet its mission.

The effect would be that even great powers such as Russia or the U.S. would be deterred from many potential military aggressions because even small powers would suddenly have the economic means to defend themselves or to liberate nearby occupied countries.

It wouldn't be perfect. The decision-making could be flawed, powers could try to exploit the rule set and some powers might not fear countermeasures because they can threaten the use of nuclear munitions. Still, it would be a powerful deterrent - for a tiny fraction of the current annual expenses.



German / European Syria policy

The wannabe chancellor candidate of the conservatives in Germany is bungling in Syria policy with a proposal for military protection mission that almost nobody else in Europe appears to want.

The problem right now is that you cannot have a satisfactory Syria policy these days without either having very low expectations or a satisfactory Turkey policy.

There, that's the real issue:
What's the Turkey policy?

Turkey is NATO member, and it appears settled that it won't join the EU in this generation. Its autocratic government is dominated by a nationalist-pseudoreligious party and its undisputed leader.
Turkey clearly chose to have improved and more close relations with Russia, regardless of the incident about a shot down Russian aircraft. 
Turkey's geostrategic role is extremely important. It controls the Bosporus, is in striking distance of Crimea and Suez Canal, is neighbour with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia. It has at least the potential to bridge between Orient and Occident, though not with the current president. The Turks dominated Arab countries for centuries in the Ottoman Empire, and there's a certain justified unease about their changed policies regarding especially Syria, but also northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, Turkey is a multi-ethnic country that oppresses the Kurdish minority, maybe because it cannot afford to accept the notion of not being a nation-state.

So what is the European Turkey policy? I understand the United States have a dysfunctional foreign policy right now that doesn't extend past personal interests and fixations of its president, but what's the European strategy?

(1) Do we try to keep Turkey in NATO at all costs, appeasing it regardless of aggressive actions and sporadic cuddling with Moscow?

(2) Do we try to at least keep Turkey from joining Russia's bloc? We should then neutralize them in NATO; there's no way to kick them out, but they need not be involved in secret affairs. 

(3) Do we try to push for a preferable political leadership in Turkey?

(5) Do we ignore Turkey and its actions?

We need to have and settle on a satisfactory Turkey policy before we can devise a satisfactory Syria policy. Else, we wouldn't know if to wield the power of the UNSC against Turkey, for example. Armed forces protecting the Syrian Northeast make sense only if they are meant to actually protect it, even against advancing Turkish forces of against advancing Turkish proxies supported by Turkish forces.

The current Syria policy appears to be short-sighted, incomplete, and many important actors do not appear to have thought enough about the Syria case.

About the German Minister of Defence: It was a folly that the proposal to send protection troops to NE Syria came from the Minister of Defence instead of from the minister of foreign affairs. A policy trial balloon about protection troops from the minister of foreign affairs with some dissent from the Minister of Defence would have damaged intra-NATO relations less. The military policy origin needlessly puts the military policy question (is Turkey really considered a NATO ally or a great power to be restrained) into the field of view more than if the minister of foreign affairs would have done it.
It's indeed a double folly, for the proposal isn't even national policy; the cabinet is divided about it.





A couple notes

For the first time ever, I noticed a major news outlet mentioning that Article 1 of the North Atlantic Treaty makes aggressions illegal. Hooray!
Now apply this insight beyond just Turkey.

Not-so-fun game: Try to come up with ways how the' president of the united states' a.k.a. "lying moron" could possibly serve Russian interests better than he already does.
- He drove oil prices up with Iran
- He drives wedges into NATO
- He seems to drive Turkey out of NATO into Russia's arms
- He utterly destroyed U.S. diplomatic capability - there's no ability for actual diplomatic agreements left. That's in part becuase of State Department disassembling, in part because he's not giving real guidance to diplomats (so all negotiations are a mess) and in part because he's proving his country to be utterly unreliable (up to signalling that ratified treaties are merely the starting point for a shakedown for a fictional better deal).
- He worked hard to get Russia sanctions lifted
- He gets an Ukrainian government into trouble
- He withheld arms deliveries to Ukraine
- Did nothing against the threat of election fraud

I think of myself as someone who has a lot of ideas, can improvise and find ways how to unhinge seemingly stable systems. I doubt I could have made up these pro-Russia moves in a week.
I would have insisted on backdoors in network and computer hardware and software to make Western computer networks more vulnerable to Russian attack - which incidentally is something the U.S. government (and politicians in the EU) did want, too.

I don't really share the criticism about the fake Syria withdrawal a.k.a. betrayal of the Kurds. The criticism is too much in opposition (and thus in favour of having troops deployed in Syria) as a matter of principle.
It could have been done in a competent way - there was enough time. The Kurds could have negotiated autonomy with Assad under favourable conditions using the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal as one of the bargaining chips instead of being forced to plea to Assad for help. The Turkish invasion (expansion of invasion) would rather not have happened if the Syrian border guard and army were on the border.

Having troops in Syria is great power gaming nonsense in my opinion. So an actual (not fake) withdrawal would have been fine if done well. I suppose those senators who criticise it just want to continue the great power gaming nonsense. They don't care more about the Kurds than the lying moron does.

The mess was created for practically not gain (there are still U.S. troops in Syria, and expected to stay), at least concerning Western interests.
What now? The U.S. could abstain from protecting Turkey in the UNSC instead of doing childish pseudo-tough talk and embarrassing letters. The UK and France would probably not protect Turkey. Maybe Russia would, but keep in mind Syria would have to appeal to the UNSC to act against the invasion in the first place. Putin would have to choose whether to side with Turkey or Syria.

I didn't write as much as usual lately because I got distracted. Stuff happens.

Right wing extremism may have passed a zenith in several European countries at least for this generation. The right wing extremists in Germany suffer from several problems
- the Austrian right wing radicals' corruption scandal, which exposed the workings of right wing extremists
- it's becoming increasingly obvious that their primary party is more of an Eastern German protest party than anything else
- a court declared it legal and no libel to call one of their far-far-right members a "fascist", which clarified the matter
- their favourite target, chancellor Merkel, it slowly leaving the spotlight since she gave up party chairmanship
- the migration issue has ebbed
Personally, I wonder when and whether ever the nation will pay attention to far right wingers having no working answers to challenges and problems. They're mostly about fear and hate, only in few countries (Hungary, Poland) has the far right wing been smart enough to break from the mold and actually do something for the poor and the middle class.

I'm concerned that there's neither much of a movement for a ban on autonomous lethal drones nor a hurried development of countermeasures against them. This has a "1905" feeling of seeing horse cavalry divisions, but neither armoured motor vehicles nor anti-armoured vehicles guns in the army.



Strategy changes

Several of my blog posts were written under the (mentioned) assumption that we should have a division of labour in NATO / EU. The Baltic countries and Poland should focus on self-defence against a strategic surprise attack. Germany should be able to quickly deploy a decisive ground forces strength capable of stopping Russian ground forces, Turkey should be able to close the Bosporus even to submarines, Spain should be able to close Gibraltar Strait even to submarines and so on.

I hinted back in 2017 that such an alliance grand strategy of deterrence by frustrating even strategic surprise attack scenarios might need adjustments if the Turkey situation doesn't develop well.  Strategy changes may be necessary, and this may be a terrible issue given the inertia in the armed services.

A complete change of an air war strategy may take 30...40 years, for that appears to be the life cycle length of combat aircraft and air defences from introduction to disappearance. I doubt it will become much quicker unless there's a major war wearing down the inventory.

Even unspectacular changes of a national defence strategy such as reorganisation of the army (which should be possible in little more than a year including the re-training periods) often last 5+ years nowadays.

This slowness is what seemingly almost everyone has become used to, and has become accepted as normal, if not inevitable.
It's not. 
Remember, Germany built a continent-dominating military based on a 100,000 men army and 10,000 men navy in less than seven years. No computer programs were used, and we should get rid of them if computer programs were slowing down rather than accelerating things. Technology advanced, so we should be quicker, not slower. Whatever technological change made us slower should be dispensed with.

It's a rule of thumb to replace a strategy every about five years in a business. Few large businesses (such as concrete factories) can successfully operate without having and adapting a strategy. Likewise, we should expect strategy changes every five years on the national and collective defence levels. Any longer intervals are symptoms of failure by the executives involved.

An armed bureaucracy that expects to change strategy every about five years has to move to be able to change course every about five years. Such an adaptable armed bureaucracy could dare to react to its environment with more specialised adaptions than a sluggish armed bureaucracy that lives and preserves inertia and conservatism above every thing else. It's a bureaucracy's self-interest to preserve itself and to not change much, so the impetus towards adaptability has to come from the civilian leadership.

Political leadership may change as well, but ours in Germany exists in four-years legislative cycles, and this fits the five-year rule because we don't really hand over power in four-year intervals. Our governing coalitions last about 5...14 years.

We should be much more adaptable on the strategic level both as nations and as collective security organisations (alliances).



Operational Planning Processes and Tactical Decisionmaking

I'm still not much in a creative mood, so I present you a slightly modified blog post written in 2014, but not published till today.

The Operational Planning Process (OPP) is a linear, analytic method for planning used by most NATO ground forces. The problems and inadequacies are well-known, and I'm not motivated to provide a list thereof.

I am motivated to push for an alternative approach, though:

This alternative approach is really an approach, not a method.
First, it is important to understand and value the consequences of Moltke the Elder's quote (which I assume to be largely correct based on military history):

"Kein Plan übersteht die erste Feindberührung."
("No plan survives first contact with the enemy.")

Second, it is advisable to take a look at how highly successful commanders actually led their forces tactically in mobile warfare: Many of them commanded in person on the scene - preferably at their Schwerpunkt. This is often ideal for leaders of battalion- to small brigade-sized forces.

Third, it is advisable to keep in mind that war isn't like exercises - especially if there's no front-line. There's often only one starting point (unless invasions happen) followed by campaigning till the end. Exercises have a starting point, few hours or days of action and then rinse, repeat. Many exercises are scripted to have serial phases.
Mobile continental warfare would be different. The phases would run in parallel, and the only starting points that are repeated are the insertions of refreshed reserves into the meat grinder. A staff officer might wake up, go to his folding desk and be confronted with reports of past actions, an ongoing action, a tactical plan for the day, a logistics plan for tomorrow and ongoing logistics planning for the day after - in parallel. He wouldn't be in "the" planning phase.

Fourth, there are great advantages to be found in training officers to the point where they can understand if not anticipate their peers' standard actions without much fuss.
A common doctrine that's good enough to be actually employed by the vast majority of officers is one way to support this - but only to a point, since doctrinal flexibility has its merits.
A personnel system that provides staffs and ground forces in general with enough stability to enable officers to get to know each other well long before they're transferred helps as well.

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I'd like to push for a different attitude:
Planning should lose much of its prominence.

Planning should focus on delivering what was known as "Combat Service Support" (~support that doesn't affect the enemy directly; mostly logistics) and moving reinforcements. This is known to be a rather fruitful area of activity for planners.

Updates of (not very specific) missions given to manoeuvre forces on the other hand would be directed in a more "naturalistic" or "artistic" way. The corps or theatre commander or his deputies could make such adjustments right away, in reaction to a change of mind or a change of the situation that happened only minutes ago.

The tactical actions - both preservative and aggressive ones - should be led by commanding officers on the scene, leading from their position among their troops.

This should not sound very unusual, for it happened in many conflicts. My claim is that the way to go is to develop a system of command and control, leadership, coordination, planning et cetera based on the expectation that this is how things could be, should be and will be.

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Let's see how this could look in a simple example:

Traditionally, HQ would draw up and consider some plans and finally issue orders to subordinate forces: Team A engages and fixes the enemy, Team B flanks.
The whole process takes a lot of time and the enemies don't play along. A and B often need to adapt themselves on their own on the spot, since HQ issued new orders with too much delay.

Now instead, HQ would tell Teams A and B to deploy into respective mission areas, with respective levels of ambition regarding tolerance for hostiles' presence there.
Hostile forces close with A, but A is not meant to fight decisively yet (dictated through the set level of ambition) - A ambushes and delays if the hostiles come really close. 
The deputy commander (commander is sleeping) at the HQ re-appraises the situation and tells A and B to cooperate with an increased level of ambition for their combined areas. A and B become authorised to update their common area border bilaterally without specific HQ orders.
A and B manoeuvre, and after a series of skirmishes their leaders sense an opportunity to strike, agree and execute a pincer attack.

Pay attention to the choice of words here; "level of ambition" and "mission area". The deviation from conventional doctrines here is to not give a mission about what to achieve, but to order an area to be (similar to the positions assigned to a patrol line of wolfpack submarines) AND to set a level of ambition. Level of ambition could range (in steps) from "do not engage under any circumstances" to "find opposing forces and inflict maximum casualties". The extreme levels of ambition would be suitable in a guerilla war only, of course. Typical continental warfare in Europe would rather have levels of ambition ranging from "deploy to detect and report movements of hostile units, but avoid losses" to "destroy hostile forces when conditions aren't disadvantageous".

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I mixed a good dose of horizontal cooperation into this scenario. The same is true for area-centric missions and ambition levels. These favourite topics of mine are parts of the tool bag that could replace planning where the latter doesn't work anyway.

So in the end, there are ways to avoid the well-known inadequacies of the very bureaucratic processes. Such processes have their times and places, but I am in the mainstream when I assert that they're being used for too many purposes. The decision-making on the scene by leaders among their men - an almost alien thought in a computerised staff exercise - deserves to destroy many planners' claims relevance in regard to manoeuvres and combat.
We should also get away from trying to predict things. This does not work, period. Missions given by higher commands should be limited in detail by even higher command's orders. Any too detailed corps HQ orders should be outlawed and thus ineffective, period. A corps commander who pinpoints the timing of an action down to the minute shall go to prison as a private, period. "When you're ready, preferably before 1230" is accurate enough.


Written by someone who is really into improvisation and never liked planning much for activities where plans don't last anyway.


Business as usual

Germany got a new minister of defence, said minister has no background in military, military policy, security policy, or even only good experience in foreign policy.

A few weeks into the term, said minister publicly claims that the budget is inadequate.

A budget that grew extraordinarily over the past couple years.

The real problems are different ones, but the minister has already 100% failed on the job by doing the usual thing. Minister and bureaucracy now share interests. The minister is pursuing the bureaucracy's self-interest. There's no hope that this minister (or any, really) will steer the bureaucracy off the course towards self-interest and onto the course towards public interest.

The German armed bureaucracy will NEVER have enough money, and will NEVER become swift enough to do its job properly unless it gets yanked off its course by a proper reformer. There's no reason to expect a conservative minister to do meaningful reform, of course.*

It's depressing.


*: Conscription was deactivated under a CDU (conservative party) minister, but a very strong case can be made that he was no conservative, but a person with 80% show, 20% thirst for power and 0% substance.


Link dump September 2019


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Sadly, this is true of other countries as well. It's just not THAT obvious there.

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 12,019 "false and misleading claims" (lies) in 928 days

Those were only the public lies.

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[German, 2019] heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Klingeltoene-und-WhatsApp-EU-Staaten-fuer-maximale-Vorratsdatenspeicherung-4498291.html
[German, 2016] heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Europaeischer-Gerichtshof-bekraeftigt-Anlasslose-Vorratsdatenspeicherung-ist-illegal-3578920.html
Angesichts des offensichtlichen Willens zum Rechtsbruch braucht es vielleicht drastische Rechte, um  solche nicht verfassungstreuen Bürokraten aufzuhalten. Wie wäre es mit einem Organklagerecht hierzu, damit die höchsten Gerichte auch staatliche Institutionen als kriminelle (bzw. illegale Zwecke verfolgende) Organisationen identifizieren und auflösen können?

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Die Achtung der Verfassung und von Bürgerrechten ist ein tendenzielles Problem bei der CDU. Das belegen auch die vielen von Verfassungsgerichten aufgehobenen, von der CDU lancierten Gesetze. Bei der illegalen Vorratsdatenspeicherung versuchen sie es sogar immer wieder, obwohl schon höchstrichterlich entschieden wurde, dass sie illegal ist.
Zwischenzeitlich dhat das die CDUler schon so geärgert, dass sie die lästige Durchsetzug von freiheiten durch das Bundesverfassungsgericht beschränken wollten. Den Angriff auf hinderliche Richter hat nicht der lügende Schwachkopf aus Amerika erfunden.

Eine andere Tendenz ist, dass sich Innenminister als "Law and Order" Kraftmeier aufspielen. Doch statt "Law" haben die dann vorwiegend "Staatsgewalt" im Sinne und ordnen der möglichst allmächtigen Staatsgewalt dann allzugerne Recht und Gesetz unter.
Zur "Law and Order" Masche gehört leider auch, dass solche Typen viel auf Show und Effekthascherei wertlegen. Uniformierte Streifen mit Schutzweste und MPi usw..
Die wirklich wirksamen Maßnahmen sind in der Regel kaum für die Öffentlichkeit wahrnehmbar und daher für solche Selbstinszenierungen nutzlos. Dazu gehört zum Beispiel, dass auch bei kleinen Verbrechen anständig kriminaltechnisch ermittelt wird und es nicht bei Einbrüchen mit geringen Schäden bei einer oberflächlichen Beschau durch Streifenpolizisten bleibt.
Die Aufklärungsquoten sind bei Morden geradezu unfassbar hoch, weil da viel Aufwand betrieben wird. Es braucht für die Strafverfolgung undd en Schutz der Öffentlichkeit vor Verbrechern nicht mehr Rechte oder selbstdarstellerischer Innenpolitiker, sondern einen besseren und konsequenteren Einsatz der vorhandenen Möglichkeiten.

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Ich werde hier ausnahmsweise die CDU in Schutz nehmen:
Meines Wissens nach macht diese Ungenauigkeit wohl so gut wie nichts aus wegen dem zweigliedrigen Wahlsystem mit Direkt- und Listenstimme (wie auch beim Bundestag). Letztere gleicht Gerrymandering aus. Die einzige relevante Ausnahme wäre wohl, wenn die Wahlkreisgrenzziehung einer Partei ein zweites Direktmandat verwehrt, die an der 5% Hürde scheitert. Von der Regel halte ich allerdings ohnehin wenig. Wir sollten die Hürde einfach bei allen Wahlen in Deutschland runtersetzen auf 2% und die Direktmandatregeln abschaffen.
Im Übrigen spricht schon lange nichts mehr dagegen, die Abgeordneten mit einem (ungleichen) Stimmgewicht zu versehen, dass 1:1 ihrer erhaltenen Stimmenzahl entspricht. Das bisschen Kompliziertheit ertragen wir locker.



Dolchstoßlegende, assault infantry and modern personnel affairs

During the Inter-War Years, many Germans (mostly centre and right wing) believed in the "Dolchstoßlegende": The idea that the German army hadn't been defeated by enemy armies at the front; the problem in 1918 had supposedly been those socialists who stabbed the army in the back by causing trouble at home.

It was utter bollocks. The supreme army command had strongly urged the civilian government to plea for peace after the army had badly failed on the Western Front on August 8th, 1918; the successful beginning of the Western powers' offensives of 1918.

The army in the field had failed to hold the front lines because it was exhausted.

The problem was relatively simple, but rarely appreciated by authors: A robust defence isn't only about men, guns and terrain. It requires effective counter-attacks. Some losses of positions are bound to happen if dangerous hostiles launch an offensive against you. These need to be counter-attacked to save the position unless you're willing to trade land for blood. The German generals in August 1918 were not willing to trade land for blood; they knew that later lines of defence farther to the back (behind the main line of resistance) would have much worse field fortifications. It was less horrible to fight where they were.
The only way to hold a line for long without counter-attacking successful break-ins is to make the line strong up front. This means many - not few- men far forward. Far forward; that's where the hostiles observed the best, where their artillery was the most powerful and where their tank attacks still had cohesion and most tanks were still mobile. It had been understood long before summer 1918 that having many men far forward was too bloody and the resulting defence was brittle in face of powerful offensives and an eventual failure of such a stiff, brittle defence would be much worse than the failure of weak forward elements of an elastic defence.

The problem by August 1918 was that there was war. 
Another problem - which concerned almost exclusively generals and politicians - was that there had been a bloody war for such a long time that the ability of the army to counter-attack locally had been diminished too much. The elastic defence had failed as well.
Now how had the ability to counter-attack locally been diminished precisely? In addition to the battles of 1914-1917 (the pre-War troops below rank of battalion staffs had been 'spent' by 1916 at the latest), lots of losses had been suffered earlier in 1918 during German offensives of unprecedented 'success'. (Malnutrition and the flu epidemic were other problems.)

In order to achieve the required breakthroughs, Germany had mustered in addition to the usual means a couple tactical and organizational innovations, most notably Bruchmüller's artillery plans and some of the first (finally) seriously trained modern infantry. These German infantry units were similar to Russian and Italian efforts at creating specialised assault infantry in that they finally trained properly and equipped properly for the task. The German assault troops were quite numerous; many were raised in order to enable breakthroughs in many places simultaneously. German army formations and basic training units had to send the best infantry for the attack to this training and employ them in breakthrough attacks.
The tactical success was striking, but so were the losses. The German army had exposed its best assault infantrymen to fire and burnt them. They weren't left for local counter-attack any more.

So what kind of troops are 'the best' for assaults? The junior officers of the time knew this by observation, but the 20th century was bloody enough to teach us a lesson or some and we can actually make some general observations about who is likely better-suited for assaults than average troops are.

(a) Men who are married with children (or simply very much in love) tend to have more survival instincts. This means they're not as aggressive as single men. They do not tend to give up easily under pressure, which makes them suitable for tactical defence.
(b) Stupid men do stupid mistakes and die too easily.
(c) Smart men are smart enough to understand dangers, and thus to avoid them. Dangers such as assaulting entrenched infantry.
(d) Older men are typically not fit enough (especially a hundred years ago) for much infantry action.
(e) Men older than something around 30 tend to be less daring than young men.
(f) Men from rural background did tended to be superior to urban men for warmaking that involved close combat. This was a recurring theme from late Roman antiquity till sometime after WW2. It was likely about better nourishment and cleaner water and may no longer be relevant.

So the ideal assault infantryman of 1918 came from a rural area, had normal intelligence, was adult but not older than late 20's, single and had no children.

The First World War consumed these men at an astonishing pace, and several warring countries fell once they had lost too many of them (Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Germany, France only almost in 1917). The same happened to Germany in WW2 and even to the Soviet Union in WW2; that's why the Red Army of late WW2 had to emphasize artillery and tanks in their assaults so very much: Artillery and tank troops required fewer troops for combat power. Infantry was still employed in great numbers, of course - but it was the weakest pillar of Red Army combined arms attacks by 1944.
Similarly, the German army of 1944 had to emphasize artillery fires as the main pillar of defence because the thinned-out infantry was only capable of maintaining a thin screen.

I'm totally in favour of not doing any experiments about total warfare ever again, but there's still an interesting facet to this: The usual notion is that we have now a youth that's much less suitable for warfare than earlier generations. Yet I cannot see a great many married men with children below age 30 here. It was common to be married by the mid-20's (for life) and have children early in the 20th century. This isn't normal any more. Instead, relationships of young men are rather temporary in nature.
The advantage of "rural" recruits certainly waned, so the entire description of the ideal assault infantryman is now much more representative of young men age 18-29 in Western Europe than ever before. Obesity is rare in that age group.

You may think that we have few men in the relevant age group due to demographic change. I assure you, that's nonsense. Germany has more than 10 million men of military age, more than five million men in their 20's and roughly four million are citizens. I doubt anyone knows a plausible scenario for war in which we would run out of men to draft (unless one assumes that a catastrophe have already killed tens of millions of Germans).



I'm asking for a show of hands:
Who expected Russia to be a threat to Danish sovereignty over Greenland?
Who expected the U.S. to be a threat to Danish sovereignty over Greenland?

I remember a lot of articles and blog posts about the Arctic and how there could be conflicts over it in the near future. Those articles were written with a distinct perspective and more or less implied idea of who would be the threat. They seem to have been a bit off.

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Worth mentioning when mentioning Greenland:



Unreliable partners

(I had nothing prepared for this Saturday, so I present you a text that was finished, but apparently not published in March 2017. I think it aged well. The rather pro-conservative but not pro-fascist Washington Post recently published that the lying moron had passed 12,000 falsehoods and misleading claims since inauguration.)

Trump made a speech that was hailed as this best in a long time, kind of "presidential", literally unpresidented.

The problem with this is that fact checking found him false on up to 51 of 61 claims made in 61 minutes.


There's a controversy about a few of those, so I play it safe and say he said 40+ falsehoods in one hour of speech to the legislative branch of government. That's the speech that was widely considered his best.
Now think about this for a while. 40+. Maybe you like Trump and are inclined to claim that there were maybe only 20+ or 10+ falsehoods. That would still be 10+ falsehoods in an hour. With previous presidents of the post-WW2 era (save for maybe GWB and Nixon) 10+ falsehoods would have been considered be outrageously much and the speech to be their worst - not the best as with Trump. That's how normal the constant lying has become in U.S. politics since Trump appeared on the stage.

It's difficult to come up with 40+ falsehoods of Chancellor Merkel over the entire course of her Chancellorship since 2005, and I write this despite disliking her and many CDU policies.

Thus it's established (once again, as if any further proof was needed) that the president of the United States is a liar, likely a pathological liar or what was called a "bullshit artist".

The conclusion is that the United States have a very powerful president whose statements are worthless because of the high frequency of falsehoods and who bases his policies on ideas that don't stem from reality, but from fiction.

The United States have essentially become an unpredictable random factor in global affairs.

It's pointless to talk to the United States' president unless the plan is to manipulate the president. Nothing he says can be considered a reliable statement of fact or a promise.

This is a stark contrast to the immensely stable 'Washington rules' establishment foreign policy which had its flaws, but rarely did anything unpredicted. Reagan's nuclear arms reduction negotiations were among the most unpredictable policies under the old paradigm, and they were a pleasant surprise.

Today, form a German perspective, the #1 partner in national/collective security should be France. I chose France over the UK because the UK hasn't made up its mind about whether it's a European or a North American country. The executive branch leadership of the U.S. is a near-worthless partner as of now, unpredictable and living in a fantasy world of "alternative facts".



INF 2.0

It's official - the INF treaty is gone.
The question is what should we do now.

A launcher for SS-20 "Saber" (RSD-10 "Pioneer"),
the missile that scared the West into negotiating the original INF treaty

I've pointed out before that medium range ballistic missiles with conventional precision guided warheads are a terrible threat to high value targets (HVT) in Europe.

Ballistic and cruise missiles offer vastly more bang for the buck than strike fighters and their precision-guided munitions (PGMs) if you plan for but a week or two of air war. A combat aircraft approach (manned or not) causes huge costs for the platform, and it takes many sorties to compensate for this by using cheaper (than 500+ km missiles) PGMs. The break-even of costs between a strike fighter and surface-to-surface-missiles depends on many variables, of course. I wager it's not in the first two weeks if you take into account that strike fighters have operational expenses for on average 20+ years, which adds to their fixed cots in this comparison.
To make this more clear, here's a simplistic model to show the general idea:

An aircraft costs 150 million €. It needs a munition costing 100,000 € to deliver a 250 kg warhead precisely.
A medium range missile costs 750,000 €. It precisely delivers one 250 kg warhead each. Its launcher has a negligible price (simplistic model, but quite true if you look at the simple Sergeant missile launcher, for example).
The break even would be after 230 targets engaged with 250 kg precision-delivered warheads at about 173 million € total costs with either approach.

I have also made my case that the least unrealistic actual defence scenarios for NATO (or EU) in Europe might last no more than a few days or weeks because a threat of tactical nuclear weapons employment could (and would) prevent a counteroffensive politically.

These are my three pillars for my assertion that conventional 500...3,500 km precision-guided missiles are a terrible security threat to Europe. A few hundred such missiles could deliver a terrible blow to our air forces, navies, headquarters and army HVTs (such as counter-battery or air defence radars and command vehicles). The cost of preparing such a terrible blow could be a billion € or less.

There was no such precision strike technology available to the Soviet Union, so most people don't appear to have understood its ramifications yet (since the Americans mostly used such missiles for bullying Third World countries, not so much for unexpected Six Days War-ish first hour strikes). The mass media stupidly writes and talks about nuclear-tipped medium-range missiles, as if Russia couldn't hit us with longer-ranged nuclear-tipped missiles at will if it meant to. The news media totally misses the real problem. INF was a nice cost-savings deal for the very late Cold War, but afterwards it turned into a requirement for the viability of Western European air power.

I see two general options in response to the end of INF:
  1. Accept that our deterrence and defence must not critically rest on high value targets that could be targeted by PGMs and restructure our deterrence and defence accordingly.
  2. Quickly replace INF with something that keeps Western European air power viable.
#1 will be almost impossible. There's too much path dependency, too much inertia, too little chance to convince people of the extreme threat of conventional PGMs to our HVTs. Armed bureaucracies such as air forces will no doubt fight to preserve what they love; especially the gold-plated combat aircraft.

#2 is thus the only hope of avoiding horrible levels of waste that go even beyond the ordinary military bureaucracy wastefulness.

Sadly, the United States' foreign policy is controlled by a lying moron who may be a Russian asset, so they are of zero use to Europe (as in so many other cases these days). Even the "Transatlantiker" crowd (zealots with an ideology of emphasis on European-U.S. cooperation) have given up on the concept of cooperation with the administration of crooks, grifters and incompetents. That change was overdue, for it's been obvious for two years that it's pointless to negotiate with someone who lies and wants to cheat you, and who considers the signing of a treaty as but the end of round one of cheating and bullying.

The good news is that nobody needs the United States to create a useful INF 2.0.

I'll lay out a draft of how INF 2.0 could work, taking into account that the Russians need to be motivated to sign, ratify, implement and sustain it.

INF 2.0 should feature these rules
  • treaty members; EU countries, European NATO, Russia, Belarus
  • missiles of 500...3,500 km range would be banned in Europe, Turkey and south of the Caucasus*
  • no treaty member bases or transports 500...3,500 km missiles on ships or submarines (excluding a defined list of sea-based legacy missiles and legacy naval aviation missiles)
  • Russia must not have any 100...500 km missiles in Kaliningrad Oblast
  • Russia would be allowed to have a moderate quantity (to be agreed-on, should be no more than 300) of 500...2,000 km cruise missiles in Asia**
  • Russia's Asian 500...2,000 km cruise missiles must not be loaded into or onto any aircraft
  • air-launched 500...3,500 km legacy  missiles can be retained, and replaced on a 1:1 basis (single warhead each and no replacement of cruise missiles by ballistic missiles)
  • no conversion of ICBM or SLBM for conventional warheads by any treaty member, nor any preparations for such a conversion
  • treaty members must not increase their quantity of ICBMs or SLBMs
  • European signatories do not permit U.S. or Canadian missiles to be based in Europe or Turkey
  • European signatories do not permit U.S. or Canadian ships with 500...3,500 km missiles to enter their territorial seas (exception for passing the Straits).
  • European signatories do not participate in or help fund the development or procurement of operation of missiles that they couldn't operate under this INF 2.0 treaty.
  • Russian 500...2,000 km cruise missiles would be accompanied by a European observer mission, which gives Europeans an early warning if these missiles are moved into range (denying the strategic surprise attack option); this means a right to unlimited access to every missile for inspection including x-ray inspection up to a specified total x-ray dosage per missile
  • General inspection regime to certify compliance, run by the United Nations with bloc-free country personnel only
  • This general inspection regime includes that missile tests need to be announced and observed, and the inspectors get the opportunity to see if the range limitations are observed
  • Range of missiles defined as range when carrying a 50 kg payload (warhead + guidance, could be calculated based on test results with a heavier payload)***
  • Treaty members may leave the treaty 12 months after announcing the move to the other treaty members
  • We could sweeten the deal with some long term contracts for Russian commodity exports and a European aviation project using a Russian gas turbine design.****

(Russia would likely not agree to a total MRBM/IRBM ban because the Chinese wouldn't, and the Chinese wouldn't agree to it becuase they need such missiles as one of the ways to keep American carrier battlegroups at a safe distance in wartime. Hence the complicated Asia exception which necessitates extra tracking by inspectors.)

We need to push our intelligence services***** to learn about Russian 500+ km inventories and missile production. It's the #2 priority behind early warning of an attack.

INF 2.0 should be in force before 2025. The heads of government of Germany, France, Italy and Spain need to step up and publicly, urgently warn the public about the problem once we know that we won't get INF 2.0 before 2025. We'd then (at the latest) need to move much funding from air forces and navies to armies AND deploy at least half of our combat and combat support aircraft to a permanent training mission in Canada where a surprise attack would be much more difficult to pull off.

My guess is that European politicians are so unimaginative and used to muddling through without any actual strategy that they couldn't pull this (or anything smarter) off. The ability to develop and enact strategy has atrophied in the West. We'd need a von Bismarck-calibre politician to change this quickly.



*: 3,500 km suffices to hit all of Europe from Russian soil east of Kaliningrad Oblast
**: 2,000 km is the approx. distance between Asia (Ural mountains) and European NATO
***: This is so low because relatively light Small Diameter Bombs proved to be able to penetrate hardened aircraft shelters. This means a 50 kg warhead would almost certainly  be able to do the same if mounted on a very fast impact 3,500 km quasiballistic missile.
****: Raw materials commodities and gas turbines are almost all that works well in the Russian economy. The commodity deal would be economically and fiscally important to Russia and the gas turbine deal would be a substantial prestige boost, at least if we sign a NDA that keeps us from bitching about the product quality afterwards.
****: The spying ones, not the counter-intel ones, of course.

P.S.: Not every single EU country would need to agree. INF was only a bilateral treaty and worked even though the Soviets  knew that legally the Europeans could cheat the spirit of the treaty by getting MRBMs. INF 2.0 could work just as well as long as the Russians trust that the European non-signatory powers would not cheat its spirit, either. Germany, Poland, Baltic countries, France, UK, Turkey, Italy and Spain would probably be required members.


Link dump August 2019

edit later this day: Blogger appears to have a problem with commenting right now. I myself cannot reply to comments using Google Account or Name/URL options any more.

It's important to have a people working in the government who live in the reality, not in some racist fantasyland.

Just so you guys know; I WILL ignore (and delete) crude attempts of explaining the crime stats in the one pic with a single correlation.
The insinuated/supposed correlation isn't even one, as anyone who looks at statistics the way a scientist looks at them (rather than someone in pursuit of bias confirmation).

I have accumulated so much knowledge about causes of crime (that should be common knowledge, but sadly isn't) that the two deleted primitive comments are way beyond my and thus the blog's dignity.
Don't get me started on how complicated and laborious it is to do actual research on topics such as causes of crime. One could have a discussion on scientific findings on the subject, but crude attempts to do primary research or insinuate primary research results that aren't is a no go. The two comments on the topic so far were on the 'nazis ate breakfast, thus breakfast causes world wars' level of 'thought'.

Besides; anyone who thinks the stats in that pic were the point of that section didn't get the point.

(Have you ever wondered, how certain things get into places they don't belong?)

- - - - -

A good summary of the idiocy.

- - - - -

The total costs of the Puma program (350 IFVs for the German army) is 5,989 million Euros. 17 million Euros per vehicle. I suppose the insanity is obvious.

We need to phase out (dishonourably disband) the procurement bureaucracy and blacklist all officers who were ever involved in it (save for the technical experts) or in corresponding jobs in the ministry of defence. Then we need to set up a new procurement bureaucracy with all-new procurement rules that employs the technical experts for nothing but their technical expertise. All executives in new equipment programs should preferably be retired SaZ officers (no active or former professional officers) with thorough project management training (much more than just the IPMA basic certificate!) and at least three years of civilian development project or procurement management expertise. Ordinary civilian procurement executives can be hired for the repeat purchase of spares, replacements and so on.



No good title

There were a couple ages-long tensions regarding force composition and armament in land forces:

One example was the conflict of choosing between melee and missile capability. There were archers with good melee capability (such as the Babylonian troops with bow and spear), but much of the time missile troops were poor in melee and melee troops were poor or mere targets at range. Attempts to create a hybrid that was good at both were made, but didn't seem to be successful enough to finally settle the question.

State of the art during the mid-17th century was to have a growing share of missile infantry (musketeers) and a waning share of melee infantry (halberdiers) to protect the missile infantry especially against cavalry. There were also some late attempts to combine missile and melee prowess, such as by the double-armed man with longbow and pike (the sword didn't count, being a mere sidearm).
The arrival of practical bayonets seemed to  settle the issue. The musketeer  became able to turn his musket into a lousy spear. It was good-enough to scare horses and the shots were good enough to scare hostile infantry. Some attempts were made to improve the melee prowess with blade sidearms, but they proved largely impractical (and the iron alloy quality for blades was quite expensive).

Then - a long time later - the problem came up again. Again, there were two kinds of infantrymen; submachinegunners with short range firepower and riflemen with long-range firepower. It took only a generation to harmonise this by moving towards intermediate cartridges and the assault rifle.

Now we hear people 'whining' about supposedly insufficient range (that is, from mountain to mountain) of such cartridges, and more powerful single shot rifles ('designated marksman rifle') were introduced, in yet another effort to enjoy more longer range specialists' benefits.

The lesson is probably that we should be glad to have a hybrid, but there will always be people who think they're smarter than the compromise and long for the benefits of specialisation. I guarantee you; the more specialisation we add, the more people will think that the hybrid is the smarter choice.

Another such tension was about armour; how much protection is the right level of protection?
Heavily armoured warriors / soldiers usually are more capable in melee. Lightly or unarmoured troops are cheaper, quicker, have better endurance, are better-suited for extreme temperatures, can swim and unlike some of the most-armoured troops types they do need no servants.
Rome attempted to standardise its troops into armoured troops under Marius, probably because this was best-suited for professional (16, 20 years of service) troops. This was hugely successful, but they had to support their core of professional troops with lots of specialist and mercenary troops, most of which were much less well-armoured.

The question about armour appeared to have been answered for good by the late 18th century when even heavy cavalry no more used even only breastplates. The bullets of muskets had good penetrative power and armour seemed to be quite pointless. It was reintroduced for a short stint during the Napoleonic Wars (for cuirassiers, but other troops added at least some head protection as well).
Iron manufacturing improved, and 'bullet-proofed' body armour was tried again and again from the mid-19th century to WW2. It never made it into general usage, though steel helmets did in face of the high explosive munitions' fragmentation threat. Other materials were used to add protection tot eh torso against fragmentation, but only by the 1990's did the bulletproofing of torsos take off again. Helmets were bulletproofed against rifle bullets again sometime around 2010.

Again, it's nothing but an ancient struggle. The drawbacks of personal armour protection remain largely the same (weight, cost) while technology swings the pendulum around.

The force composition between highly mobile (cavalry) forces and rather slow-moving (infantry) forces was another such struggle.
The pendulum swung towards mounted forces during the migration period, and swung back towards dismounted forces in the 14th and 15th centuries (in Europe). The great increase of rifle firepower during the mid-19th century seemed to make cavalry obsolete save for mostly non-combat purposes, but the motorization seemingly pushed the pendulum back towards  highly mobile forces, up to complete motorization. On the other hand, horse cavalry forces were not really much quicker on long-distance marches than infantry anyway. Horse cavalry had its advantage mostly in battle mobility and in quick marches for a day or two as required for reconnaissance. We still have a similar difference between tracked and wheeled forces; tanks are more mobile off-road, but wheeled mobility gives most troops actually better march mobility than the tracked tanks possess. So motorization did not really push the pendulum around all that much; the overall level of mobility was increased (albeit not by much in face of opposition*).
Theorists of the 60's to 80's thought of the helicopter as being the true high speed alternative on the nowadays, but their costs grew to such extremes after the 1960's that their use en masse has become unaffordable.

Professional high quality troops vs. cheaper low quality troops in greater numbers. Frankly, this choice almost always ended the same way; a mixes force was more cost-efficient to both a high end-only and low end-only forces in land warfare. The only exception I can think of is the enlightenment age when armies became quite homogenous in their internal quality in Europe. There were Jäger and Grenadier units among more common Prussian Füsilier infantry and there were different kinds of cavalry, but overall the German, princes, French and British appeared to have applied high expectations to all their infantry at least and the rather mixed concept and mixed quality Austrian army did not prove superior to this.
The idea of all-high end land forces was revived by de Gaulle in his theoretical work, but an all-mechanised force still seems impractical and most importantly, we know it would be inefficient.
The interest in all-professional forces was renewed post-Vietnam War, but "professional" did not necessarily equate "higher quality" compared to long-serving conscripts as peacetime comparisons between U.S. Army and (West) German Heer revealed. Nowadays we have good reason to believe that even professional forces need a strong reserve personnel pool.


*: I remember a 1990's article from an American military professional journal that showed how the advance speeds of quick campaign moves didn't change much with motorisation. Pre-motorisation armies were often very quick for a couple days as well. Motorised armies didn't come close to exploiting their technical speed.


(Current) Bundeswehr policy

The German secretary of defence is falling the career stairs upward after a string of failures with no real successes to show in years of being in command of the German military. This is an unpublished blog post (written long ago) about this secretary of defence's policies and expected effects. I wasn't sure enough to publish it, but I suppose it's accurate enough in hindsight. SecDef also failed to repair the horrible procurement system, an attempt that I didn't expect to happen. To be fair; the procurement system is in small part broken because the parliamentary committee is part of the problem. 

- - - - -

It's becoming more clear that the new German minister of defence (background in family and social policies, little clue about military affairs) will focus on personnel affairs of the Bundeswehr. Some political risk aversion is likely; this politician still plans for a bigger political career and major blunders in this office don't fit into such plans. This makes new stupid small wars less likely. They're probably well outside the comfort zone and too far outside of popular opinion.

The personnel affairs focus will likely pay attention to attractiveness of the service, more integration of women, compatibility of family and deployments and the like.

The sum of this may be an improvement, but it's bound to worsen a problem which I intended to write about for a long time. The problem here is the choice of words, though.

But first the recent developments from the press:
The media folks don't like the current ruling coalition, and they pay much attention to the minister of defence because she's such an obvious mismatch. The reports first looked a lot into her potential area of activity; the attractiveness of service. The obvious choice for research by journalists is to look at the complaints which soldiers filed last year. That's apparently where the journalists who are usually well-insulated from all things military began paying attention to a common complaint; that female soldiers can pass tests and get promotions without delivering the required performance (and thus competing unfairly with male soldiers for acceptance as professional soldiers after the initial volunteer service). The journalists began highlighting these complaints. This serves both the journalists' hostility to this coalition and the particular choice of minister of defence (since it's almost unreasonable to expect that the minister is going to correct the issue) and it is about the minister's focus on attractiveness of service.

Now about the (not entirely new) problem:
Some Western military forces had serious recruitment challenges during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but oddly not necessarily with their infantry recruitment. There is apparently a small share of the male population which has an innate desire to go to war (exactly once). It's some strange male instinct (or cultural thing?) apparently, and its major drawback for recruitment is that these men typically don't re-enlist after one tour in a war zone; they've "had their war" already, and we all know this kind of job sucks 90% of the time anyway so few of them stay.*
A less extreme phenomenon among the same lines is that likely thousands of men seek military service every year (in Germany alone) because it's manly or something - without expecting to see combat.

Furthermore, a majority of enlisted and NCO personnel is according to decades of Bundeswehr experiences more satisfied with their job if it's a challenging, if not tough, one. Easy, simple service is too boring (and everyone who served knows the particular problem of idling).

A nicer, more gentle service may attract more recruits in the mid and long term, but it may easily make re-enlistment less likely, lead to more complaints about idling and may also make recruitment of suitable personnel for the combat units much more difficult.

The Bundeswehr recruitment videos of the past couple years were originally meant to be the centre of a critical blog post. I never wrote it for a simple reason: I couldn't stand watching all those videos in entirety. I sure cannot stand embedding or linking to a single one either.
The message of some of these recruitment videos was approximately 'Join us and don't worry - the Bundeswehr isn't so very military. You can do civilian-like jobs, merely with different work clothes.'
By now it should be obvious what's the big problem with the choice of words here: The official line has gone so far away from a "tough" line that criticizing it makes it difficult to keep appropriate distance to some dumb right winger bullocks. Dumb people talk a lot of shit, and they occupy a lot of keywords which would otherwise be a good choice to describe the problem.

My concern is efficiency and satisfactory effectiveness of the Bundeswehr and our defence policy in general. It doesn't help to make the big stick not only smaller, but also softer and more gentle to handle with a coating for great haptic quality if in the end it's too limp for its intended role of scaring or beating the s### out of (potential) aggressors. That's what defence is about, after all; to deter and if that fails to save with violence.
The more efficient the tool is, the smaller and cheaper it can be.

I have "doubts" whether the soft and nice approach is a good idea for the army. I don't mind it for the air force or navy, but the army will run into trouble if the recruitment focus is on non-combat types and if the training is oriented at not burdening the personnel much instead of challenging them to become hardened experts of their profession. I also don't think that the much wished-for ideal of being able to plan your career (and its locations) for years in advance makes much sense in the greater picture.


*: I'm not going to provide evidence for this, as this is neither a paid nor scientific text and I'm not inclined to look up gazillions of articles to find the sources again. In case you wonder where it came from; Canadians published this issue based on their recruitment and retention experience during their Afghanistan involvement.



How to fix ... the United States Navy


The U.S. Navy (USN) has a long list of problems that deserve fixing.

The typical naval-focused or naval-interested blogs and pundits have a short list of changes to the USN that they favour. These favoured fixes can be summarised as "double down!". The call for more warships is most popular, while a few more specific calls for improvement predictably pop up when there was again some typical scandal or collision accident. (And the LCS is controversial, to say the least.)
The "double down!" lobby does not pursue national interest; it has an irrational desire to see an ever more powerful navy. Some of those people are rationally motivated actual lobbyists, who get paid by industries to push for more spending that will enrich said industries.

These are the problems that deserve fixing in my opinion:
  1. the USN costs terribly much in general
  2. the months-long deployments disrupt private lives and make USN jobs unattractive, requiring high pay for compensation and depressing re-enlistment
  3. the USN is so very much focused on land attack (and secondarily on air defence) that its ASW and counter-mine abilities were neglected 
  4. the USN gets involved in provocations in distant waters that threaten world peace
  5. the USN is ill-prepared regarding munition stocks, training, hardware and doctrine for the only pressing major war scenario
  6. the USN's forward-deployed forces are terribly exposed to strategic surprise attacks (by military and clandestine assets)
  7. the USN would need months to muster its forces even for the least unlikely defensive war scenario (Naval Station Norfolk - Perth/Australia is 11,000+ nmi if the Panama Canal is blocked; that's 26+ days at 18 kts)
  8. the USN has a navigation competence problem that's the visible tip of the iceberg of a more general competence problem rooted in a poor personnel policy and the need to assemble crews for months-long deployment tours in time
  9. the U.S. cannot compete with the PR China in regard to warships arms racing on its own
#1 is the worst, especially when seen in context of #5.

The most fundamental mistake

...is the endless rotating forward deployment to distant places with both carrier battlegroups and amphibious battlegroups. The amphibious groups follow a mere regimental-sized force concept that's never been of good use in many decades. There was never a both legitimate and useful peacetime employment of such or smaller size in U.S. history that couldn't have been done by airlift as well.

The only major threats

There are really only two major threats; Russia and PR China. Russia's strategic navy (SSBNs) should be left alone. It should be supreme order never to threaten any second nuclear strike capability, for this could lead to a panicked preventive first strike by some other nuclear power. This leaves very, very few really operational Russian naval forces as relevant potential targets for the USN. The Black and Baltic Sea Fleets would be handled by the Europeans unless they redeployed before hot conflict.
Overall, the USN does not need to pay attention to Russian naval forces from Europe other than a few submarines in the North Atlantic. The Russian land-based long range bombers would be a greater naval concern, and one could expect them to be redeployed to different airbases or airports in order to prevent their simple destruction on their peacetime airbases. So there might be some ASW and AAW issues in the North Atlantic, though they would be small compared to what else would happen in a NATO-Russia conflict. To secure a transatlantic New York-Lissabon sea lane (3,000 nmi) with a daily 18 kts convoy per day in either direction would require more than 14 escort groups. This alone would cost so much if done with conventional warships that there's a better strategy. We could handle Russian submarines (other than SSBNs) in port, possibly their replenishment ships and Russian naval bombers with air power and simply endure the damage done by whatever submarines and bombers slip into the North Atlantic.
The Russian naval capabilities in the East are similar, but even smaller (unless they redeploy their naval air power to the East). The Pacific Ocean offers ships a great choice of routes. This makes it harder for the Russians to find targets.

The other major threat is the PR China. There was some talk about attack aircraft ranges for naval air attack on China, but this subsided. It appears that the current dominant idea for a hypothetical naval war with the PRC is mostly about a distant naval blockade and possibly defence of Japan. Land attack would probably be limited to cruise missile launches, and the cruise missile stocks would be depleted quickly. Attacks on the turbine rooms of non-nuclear powerplants might be the most devastating and still acceptable option.

The Chinese navy builds up its own surface forces to about equal size to the USN, maybe larger. A long distance blockade would stretch the blockading force, and as a consequence all blockade task forces would be fairly small. The Chinese could in principle pick them off one by one. To counter this requires either a successful attrition of said Chinese naval forces 'by a thousand cuts' (such as by SSNs and possibly offensive minelaying killing one ship after another) or a decisive battle that clears the seas of major PLAN forces before the victorious remnants set up the naval blockade.

Another somewhat credible scenario is that the USN might be sent to face off some Chinese fleet in some distant crisis (imagine China trying to take over control in some distant country, for example). This could lead to a large naval battle as well, though I don't remember any such scenario (naval battle as consequence of a fleet face-off in peacetime) from history.
How to fix it

Changes in posture

The USN should assemble almost all of its ships and submarines in a battlefleet on the continental West coast of the U.S.. 

There would be exemptions to this force concentration: 
  • SSBNs
  • training ships
  • small flotillas detached for training with Europeans, Japanese or Australians
  • some SSNs tasked with shadowing Russian or Chinese subs
  • some ships cruising between battlefleet and shipyards
  • oceanic survey ships 
  • hospital ships

About 80% of the USN should be on the West Coast.

Why there? The West Coast is protected by the North Atlantic Treaty, unlike Hawaii. This is an additional disincentive against a strategic surprise attack on the battlefleet in port. The USN would be central to any Pacific war, but it would be a sideshow in any European war. It makes sense to keep the USN in the Pacific for this reason.

Why concentrated like this? Wartime usage of surface fleets would include much larger task forces than the small task forces that cruise the seven seas today. Proper training has to include many large scale exercises between large task forces and between large task forces and USAF or allied forces. Finally, only a moderate share (no more than 60%) of the fleet must be in ports to further discourage a surprise attack on the ports. All of this fits to a concentration of by far most of the USN on the West Coast.

The battlefleet should have exercises at sea with typically much less than a month duration. Time at sea could be limited to about 40%. Proper personnel policies could ensure vastly improved competence despite the reduction of operational expenses by the reduced time at sea (see later in this text).

Attempt to trade away the amphibious fleet

The Chinese amphibious fleet is the most severe threat to Taiwan's independence and also a huge factor for naval war planning in general. I see exactly one way to eliminate this problem in peacetime:

Trade the USN amphibious warfare capability in a double zero disarmament treaty. All Chinese amphibious warfare ships would be scrapped in exchange for all USN amphibious warfare ships getting scrapped. The Chinese marines would be disbanded and Chinese paratroops limited to current nominal strength in exchange for disbanding of the USMC (land warfare and STOVL components, not CVN-going fixed wing aviation) and limitation of the airborne to current nominal strength.

A hypothetical Pacific War gets a lot less messy and a lot less fuzzy if such a double zero disarmament treaty can be made to happen. The greatest value of the amphibious fleet and the marines is their bargaining chip value; they are most useful if they cease to exist. That's why such a double zero disarmament treaty should be a policy objective.

Changes in structure

Naval aviation is crazy expensive (example; the aircraft purchase costs are approximating the ship procurement costs and were exceeding ship procurement costs previously). It should not be expanded. Even the wisdom of replacement carrier construction is questionable. The known design faults and excessive costs of the Ford class add to this.
A reinforcement of naval air power by land-based air power makes a lot of sense on cost grounds. This is particularly true for maritime (surface) surveillance and and for strikes on surface task forces or land bases. Land-based combat aviation has insane mission radii when supported by tanker aircraft. Single engine single seat F-16s were used to bomb Afghanistan!
Kits to convert airliners into tankers within a few weeks are a much more cost-effective approach to enabling oppressive air strike at sea dominance than to build insanely expensive carriers with dedicated naval air wings and insanely expensive escort warships. The USAF would need to participate in training and at least some of its combat aircraft should be compatible with chute-and-drogue refuelling*, though.

Mine hunting capability needs to be available in numbers that would suffice to secure lanes in front of all U.S. major ports AND in front of overseas bases in wartime. This does not need to involve new dedicated minehunting boats. Truck- and air-deployable drone sets with remote control from a container on land via small relay boat might suffice. A minehunting boat only adds a different mode of mobility to such equipment.
Some lures (acoustic signature faking boats) could also be used for minebreaking. Classic minebreaking is about moving an actual boat or ship to trigger mines below. These lures would instead be meant to trigger self-deployable torpedo-like drones to approach and thus give away their presence. The lures do thus not need to mimic hydrostatic or magnetic signatures, which makes them much smaller than more ambitious minebreaking drones and potentially air-transportable (by C-5B).
Today's general purpose warships such as the Arleigh Burke destroyers are inefficient for counter-mine purposes. You need to find and destroy mines along a lane in front of a port several times before a task force arrives, not only begin with the mine hunting once it arrived.

Scrap the useless LCS, or maybe sell them to the Saudis or other kleptocrats who like shiny toys regardless of their wartime uselessness. Brunei and UAE might be interested and some other kleptocrat despots might like a LCS as a presidential yacht as well. The LCS seems to be designed more for this than for combat anyway.

The West Coast battlefleet needs an aggressor flotilla that can represent the best non-nuclear submarines (AIP submarines, a.k.a. SSI or SSP). A MOTS (military off-the-shelf) purchase of five or six Type 214 submarines without any equipment or software modifications (other than translations) would be a good fit.

ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed and tested with cargo convoys in mind. Both ASW and AAW could be covered by using (small) container ships as auxiliary warships in wartime (and during annual exercises). 

Other ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed to turn cargo ships into armed merchantmen (auxiliary cruisers) for a distant naval blockade. An auxiliary cruiser only needed a weak 10.5 cm gun armament for successful raiding in the world wars. Nowadays it would need two medium helicopters with a boarding party and some lightweight anti-ship missiles as well as the ability to call an anti-ship bomber.
The use of such auxiliary cruisers for distant blockade purposes would be extremely cost-efficient (even assuming that at least one of the helicopters needs expensive sensors and missiles). It would not require much shipyard capacity, which the PRC has in abundance and the U.S. has almost none of. Such auxiliary cruisers would be difficult to identify (particularly for hostile submarines) among all the actually civilian maritime traffic thousands of miles away from Chinese ports. The use of helicopters would enable each auxiliary cruiser to control a fairly large (and moving) patrol area (I estimate at least 200 x 200 nmi, but it could be much larger with a very capable medium helicopter type).

A small training fleet should be established which uses well-equipped dedicated training ships on world cruises. All the new personnel meant for shipboard employment would complete one such world cruise with 1/3 leisure days in 20+ foreign ports. This would be a major recruiting tool, and should be the only time most of the navy personnel has to be away from home for months. Navy personnel not meant for shipboard employment would not participate.

The battlefleet should be structured into three task forces with very stable compositions. This enables similar (1 on 1) and dissimilar (2 on 1) combat exercise scenarios in addition to combat exercises against land-based forces. The permanency of these task forces could foster a competition among them and could also help develop and try out different approaches to master challenges.

Personnel policies

Kick out all known officer duds instead of protecting them. There should be no remorse, no false loyalty!

Divide the service into land-limited career and sea-going careers. The land-limited personnel system could be a continuation of the current one, though some improvements are no doubt desirable.
The sea-going personnel should have a totally different career system. The initial training on world cruise training ships was already mentioned. Later on the men, women and whatever would mostly have a trial period on non-combat ships. Those who are well-suited and well-motivated for a career as naval sailors for life would become exactly that; they would join a warship crew and more likely than not retire from the Navy at age 60 without ever having been transferred to another team or having left the navy before that age.** The others would become submariners for a few years or go to land-based units.

Imagine the competence of a warship crew of which more than two thirds have served together on that ship for well over a decade, and almost everyone has years of experience in his job and additional years of experience in some other job on the ship! This should reduce the bridge crew competence problem that was revealed by multiple collisions. General purpose warships become much more useful if the crew has enough experience in all missions rather than being 'jack of all trades master of none' because the crew gets torn apart after a couple months of training on a range of missions.

The SSBN fleet would be exempt from this 'sailor for life' thing because of the discomfort of SSBN patrols. SSBN crews could thus be recruited the traditional way, and the SSBN fleet could be used as a recruiting ground for the SSN crews (which would sometimes do weeks-long patrols - typically only for shadowing of SSN/SSGN).

The quantity (and share!) of officers can and should be reduced by much. This should be simple since there would be much fewer busy bases, a smaller training effort and several unified combatant commands can and should be disbanded (CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, USSOCOM, USEUCOM).  I wrote "simple" instead of "easy" because the officer establishment would fight any such reform, of course.

Naval aviation

A helicopter design would be needed for the auxiliary cruisers; modified UH-1Z might become an acceptable stop-gap solution.

The purchase of F-35B is utter nonsense and it's very regrettable that the F-35 overall design was compromised by the STOVL obsession of the B version. Orders for F-35B should be changed into F-35C. The U.S. is not going to get any better carrier-capable combat aircraft than the F-35C anytime soon (prior to 2040). The F-35C should thus become available in a quantity of about 600 aircraft (for 9 carriers) to almost 800 aircraft (for 12 carriers) plus at least a hundred training (early production) airframes. Super Hornets could be held in reserve to replace F-35s lost in wartime. Their utility as tankers and stand-off surface attack munition platforms won't diminish till 2040.

A carrier-compatible "6th generation" combat aircraft or drone should enter service in the early 2040's. It would need to be multi-role and suitable for export (= affordable and versatile). A joint USN-USAF-JASDF-RAAF development project is advisable.

Land-based USAF F-35A do not need to be qualified for new anti-ship missiles. USAF C-17s could launch long range AShMs, with land-based F-35As acting as escorts. The USN doesn't need a land-based F-35 component other than for type training and as reserves. Its naval aviation units could still fly training sorties from airbases when their carriers are in port, of course.

I distrust the P-8 concept of an anti-submarine aircraft because I don't think that submarine-hunting with sonobuoys makes much sense. It might work when the approximate position of a submarine is already known, but I doubt that capability is worth the expense. The location would typically be known if there's a warship with ASW helicopter in the area anyway. The modern very silent and reduced echo submarines defy any true large area surveillance as far as I know.
The USN does nevertheless need maritime patrol aircraft for tracking and identifying ships, or else it would neither defeat hostile surface raiders nor keep a distant naval blockade from being very leaky. Such maritime patrol aircraft need no ASW equipment, but they do need imaging equipment for ship identification (synthetic aperture radar, thermal, visual). Their demands on airfields (runway length, maintenance hours per flying hour) should be modest. I suppose that the existing 'global' business jets would be a fine fit (Gulfstream 650s are domestic products). They would frequently need to drop below their optimum cruise altitude for thermal/visual ship ID, though. Drones such as MQ-4C are not reliable enough in this job unless one fully trusts the wartime reliability of communication satellites (which I don't). They don't appear to be cheaper than a G650 with a sensor outfit and some extra radios anyway.

The surveillance of the Pacific Ocean could be complemented by sea surveillance satellites and use of other satellites, but I have a hunch they might be less reliable assets in wartime than dispersed aircraft.

Wartime basing

Japan and Australia would be the most relevant forward bases for the USN, though warships would limit the presence in Japanese ports to the absolute minimum duration. I have no idea why Australian politicians are so keen on 'security' cooperation with the United States that could drag Australia needlessly into a Pacific War. Yet Australia would be the prime base for Southwest Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean operations as long as they have such an attitude.

The dominance of land-based air power would push the USN to seas far from Japan for a distant naval blockade. An employment as a battlefleet 'fleet in being' backup to a triple layer of MPA+auxiliary cruisers+bombers in the Eastern Indian Ocean seems rather sensible to me. The U.S: would not necessarily have access to land bases there.

Hawaii would serve as a safe port for damaged ships, for storage of some missile munitions in wartime and as a refuelling point (especially for refuelling replenishment ships and auxiliary cruisers) for North Pacific operations. It would also be relevant for occasional convoys coming from or going to Japan, and these would in large part be protected by Japanese ships.

Forget about Guam; Guam should be demilitarised, that's its best bet on not getting devastated in a war.

Submarines (SSN mostly) should have some forward bases for frequent resupply of munitions at sea. This is a necessity if they have to deploy many naval mines.*** Some submarine replenishment ships with freezer rooms and lots of spare torpedoes would be needed.

The use of land-based air power for strike dominance at sea would be much easier if countries such as Malaysia were cooperating. The USN could only bet on this approach if it designs the effort to work with no other bases than American and Australian airports and airbases, though.

The USN's war plans need to be promising in case that South Korea remains neutral. South Korea could not be defended against Chinese invasion by land without nuclear strikes. Likewise, the U.S. should not trust that South Korea would provide its huge shipyard industry to an arms racing cause.


Testing needs to become much more rigorous again, and zealously protected from politics. Any officer who declares a ship or aircraft type operational without comprehensive testing with no substantial shortcomings left needs to be fired in a most mortifying manner.

Also, 'test' some LCS (each one of both classes) by letting the USAF blow them up in front of practically all admirals. This should get the message through to never ever develop and 'justify' such a waste of money again.

Some other things

Fire every single individual involved in the Iran Air Flight 655 incident if any such individual is still in the service. Strip anyone involved from their ranks, even if they are already retired.

Fire all officers who ever lied to the American public. This includes EVERY SINGLE officer who ever promoted the LCS in the shape it took.**** Make an example of them that all other and future officers understand. 

Fire every single officer in the chain of command who was involved in selecting the idiotic blueish uniforms and wasn't determined to stop them from becoming introduced.

Add a lot more escape provisions to warships. The current requirement for 110% life raft capacity (AFAIK) is grossly insufficient for wartime emergencies. Some inflatable life rafts could be pierced and become useless when a ship is hit, and actual emergency evacuations of a ship hit by a torpedo would not be efficient in making use of existing boats and life rafts. About 150% life raft capacity might suffice.

Attitude changes
  • land attack is unnecessary for deterrence & defence and thus becomes a low priority
  • capability needed to defeat a threat after a few months of mobilisation has to guide force design, not stupid regional combatant commander peacetime patrol wish lists
  • wartime capability also has to guide budgeting; no self-sabotage into a hollow force***** in order to blackmail politicians into bigger budgets any more!
  • accordingly, the USN has to overcome its fixation on active strength (and in particular on ship quantities): Auxiliary cruisers and land-based (USAF) air power are indispensable substitutes for warships because of their superior cost-efficiency.
  • forget Rickover's fetish; nuclear propulsion has to justify its horrible costs
  • hostile surface forces can and should be defeated first and foremost by land-based airpower
  • forget "freedom of navigation" patrols
  • combat ship crews should be lasting teams, not potpourris of ever-rotating personnel
  • forget about WW2 and Cold War path dependency things; there's hardly any use for amphibious forces for the U.S. (much more for the PRC!) and aircraft carriers can be substituted for by much less expensive and less specialised assets in most sea regions

*: The USAF's preferred refuelling method is much more difficult to retrofit to airliners.
**: Any by writing "team" instead of "ship" I mean to say that almost the whole ship crew would be transferred as a team to a new ship if their old one was decommissioned.
***: I don't think of simple naval mines here. The idea is rather to use electric torpedoes such as DM2A4, which might be used as self-deploying mobile mines and would attack a passing target just as a heavyweight torpedo does. This means the SSN could deploy most of its remaining torpedoes as mines when it returns from its patrol area.
****: This excludes the early Streetfighter concept works because working on some unconventional concepts should be encouraged, not punished. To promote a waste of resources on some obviously useless warships is something very different.
*****: "hollow force" = neglect of consumables buys and upgrades in order to maintain or grow nominal strength in ships and aircraft. The top brass does this to avoid actually efficient cuts and bets that some future Congress will expand the budget any more after lots of cries about poor readiness and a "hollowed-out force".  It's cynical bollocks and self-sabotage that should be punished.