(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 This is an unpublished blog post (written long ago) about this secretary of defence's policies and expected effects.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. 

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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.


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