Link drop April 2020

 It's all fine as long as you're on the matching terrain.
This camo pattern does the micro /macro patterning really well for very short to short distances, though.  I suspect it won't be much different from unicolour beginning at 100...150 m.

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Hungary is a dictatorship now.

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I have an incomplete knowledge about what's going on in the media of different countries. Still, I find the politically motivated large-scale disinformation about COVID-19 in the U.S. unusual. There are sceptical people and idiots everywhere and certain developing countries have displayed epic stupidity on the issue for want of education. Yet the U.S. stands out with its wilful and politically motivated deception and smearing of some actual experts among western countries.
Well, it stands out if you think of it as a Western country. The U.S. government (executive branch) behaviour fits just fine to what the governments of Russia and Belarus do.

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 The effect of propaganda liars on the stupidity and anti-social behaviour of people:

Note: The map shows movements relative to normal movements.
Rural or urban does thus not matter. 

It is almost as if a god had tailored the virus to punish American right wingers: Disinformed, mostly old people who do not trust the government even when their dysfunctional guy is in charge of the executive branch. At least European governments and populations want to fight the virus for real.
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"A Korean War-era law called the Defense Production Act has been invoked hundreds of thousands of times by President Trump (...) Yet as governors and members of Congress plead with the president to use the law to force the production of ventilators and other medical equipment to combat the coronavirus pandemic, he has for weeks treated it like a “break the glass” last resort, to be invoked only when all else fails."
This tells us about his priorities. American lives aren't among them. He betrays his own people. Why would any ally-by-treaty of the United States think of it as being a reliable ally or partner? That would be stupid.

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how the story ended so far:

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This is from people who have access to uploaded data from IoT thermometers.
It appears that the social distancing has dramatically reduced fevers (especially by infections other than Covid-19) in general. It does also show the known Covid-19 hot spots Seattle and NYC&NJ, but interestingly also much more extreme fever hot spots in Florida. That's just a preliminary, superficial, marginally informed layman interpretation, of course.

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Public morale message:
 Reggae/dance music. It really improves the mood.

example (this was not much of an international hit, it was a German cover group):

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[German] https://freiheitsrechte.org/corona-und-grundrechte/

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Corona humour section:

(It's an insider joke. This character was the personification of death in a TV show.
The people around him dropped dead seconds after he passed them, just by his proximity.)

There are going to be sequels.


Math teachers must be despairing all over the world.This global, collective display of inability to make use of math lessons to understand the implications of exponential spread of COVID-19 must be disheartening.

It's funny, but not totally correct. They spend insanely on health care,
but pull off only mediocre to inferior health outcomes. American life expectancy is in free fall.




"Resilience" was a huge buzzword a decade ago or so. I remember having been a regular reader at a blog that obsessed about it. Eventually, I stopped reading there because there seemed to be no insights, just chewing through the same idea over and over again. The "resilience" apostles also saw "resilience" everywhere, or at least being important everywhere. They had a hammer in the inventory and nails everywhere problem.

Nothing of what little I remember of all those "resilience" recipes looks relevant to the current crisis. "resilience" zealots were (IIRC) practising the subsidiarity principle: They thought that low level common sense (re)action was the key to "resilience". The current crisis appears to emphasise very, very different qualities*:
  1. having specialist expertise institutions
  2. paying attention to them, not to the usual universal dilettante talking heads
  3. not having idiots in big lever situations (this ranges from the one South Korean sect member to "let's pray" nonsense talkers to irresponsible media talking heads to heads of government)
  4. having emergency rules (distancing people from each other mostly) enacted
  5. in time
  6. and enforced by an effective police force
  7. having relevant industrial production capacities for very specific products

Very little points at neighbourhood self-organisation and self-help being a key factor. It's more like a nice-to-have feature.
Instead, resilience in this crisis seems to be about having a large-enough, sophisticated-enough economy and a both competent and decisively-acting government. It's a case study in favour of technocracy and a bit of temporary limited authoritarianism.

Thinking about it, all "resilience" preachers whom I remember seem to have been Americans. Maybe their "resilience" preaching was nothing but the typical American/anglophone selective anarchism combined with a buzzword?**


P.S.: On the other hand, I gotta be honest and admit that I did not do a full spectrum surveillance on "resilience" talk then or now. I may have looked at a niche.

*: Closing borders only delays unless you can close for real, and very early. Iceland stood a chance to escape completely, but its government failed. Other countries merely could have bought only a week or two by strict international travel restrictions. Closing borders for travel after the virus is already in the country with many cases is quite pointless. The outlawing or flights and train travels because of the too high density of crowds makes sense, but it makes then little sense to set different rules for travellers who mean to cross a border.
**: That's merely the nice interpretation, for I know of a more ugly possible explanation for why all that talk around 2010 came to be and that one is particularly American.

honourable mention; this came to my attention after I wrote the blog post and planned it for release on 28th: https://twitter.com/AndrewCesare/status/1242174265547468803 Brazil has a problem with #3.


When the shit hits the fan

The recent weeks were a convincing natural experiment to confirm what I had said and written again and again for well over a decade:

Things are different when the shit hits the fan.
Paradigms crumble. Inhibitions crumble. Resistances to action crumble.

It was unthinkable in January that intra-European borders would shut down for general travel. It was unthinkable that our societies could go into lockdown soon. Europeans don't even wear face masks when sick, how could they possibly resort to such extreme measures against a mere virus?

There was A LOT of shittalking about Western societies being too soft, to un-warlike, too demilitarised and so on for war.*

The shit hit the fan in the virus crisis and unthinkable measures and behaviour were the response.

A war - a real war, not some distant sandbox bullshit - would wake up the beast that Europe is. To force us into war would be a grave mistake. Students of history know what European prowess produces at war. It would be ugly, very, very large-scale ugly. 
Nobody could possibly "win" by participating in or even causing such a mess.



*: And I'm not even focusing on certain commenters here. It was (and is) really widespread.


Political paralysis in Europe

Political indecisiveness and paralysis is probably the biggest problem in Europe.

It's not a design fault of the EU's imperfect institutions and rules. The very same inability to act or at least react decisively can be seen on the national level in many European countries.

It's not all about resources, either. Sure, mature governments with slow-growing economies and many established vested interests face great difficulties when they need to reallocate resources, for all of the available resources are allocated and very few are being gained even during economic growth years. That still doesn't explain the paralysis on the many topics where very few resources would be needed for decisive and successful action. So it's not about resources, either.

There are some exceptions to the dominance of paralysis, but none seem very promising and applicable in most of Europe at the same time:
  • The Scandinavians and Dutch are rather progressive and willing to experiment, with occasional periods of arresting the development when conservatives take over for a while
  • Some erratic politicians make many proposals for action, but aren't really patient enough to first lay the groundwork for their success (recent French presidents)
  • Some extremist politicians call for decisive action, though usually with simplistic and unimpressive ideas
The German conservatives (now down to about a quarter of the vote in polls, but still likely to remain in power in next year's elections) are actual conservatives. German conservative politicians want to do hardly anything but passing a budget. They pass almost no reforms to speak of*, and the very few exceptions are almost invariably disasters**, which only feeds their disgust for change*. German conservatives dislike change and reform so much, they refuse to acknowledge the existence of problems to avoid accepting a need for action as long as possible. They pretend that no reform would work and staying the course is 'without alternatives' later on when the problem cannot be denied any more.

Other countries who have extremists disguised as conservatives can envy us for our conservatives. German conservatives are a fine alternative to reform-minded parties, usable as an occasional brake when the bus gets too quick. The German problem is that we've had our conservatives in power for about four decades, only shortly interrupted by neoliberals who disguised as social democrats. They broke more than they fixed IMO.

The German paralysis - the inability to muster decisive, successful action against a problem or in an opportunity - is thus a political one. Our voters kept voting for paralysis, it's our own fault. Well, it was always a minority, but a large one - and German political culture says that the biggest party in a governing coalition gets the head of government job and thus becomes dominant. That's how around 25% of our active voters (=less than 20% of our adults) can ensure paralysis even though there are hardly any self-blockade mechanisms in our constitution.

I strongly suspect that the reasons behind the obvious paralysis vary between countries. Some challenges are similar (such as youth unemployment in the Med area), while others are very country-specific. Still, decisive and successful action is hardly anywhere to be seen.
The Russian government can launch decisive action (though it's not motivated to do so on the most severe problems facing Russia), but it falls short in regard to successes.
The Chinese government can launch decisive action and met with many successes, though it needs enormous resources and a tyranny's arsenal to achieve this much.

Many people blame the weirdest things for our societies' prevailing problems, and I consider those bogeymen to be distractions. Our real problem is the paralysis, and handing power to extremists who delve in fantasyland and don't universally respect our constitutional freedoms is not a solution.
We should generally be much more diligent in our voting decisions. People only deserve political power above ordinary level (voting rights) if they respect the constitution and all the rights and protections it provides for everyone (yes, everyone - almost all rights in there apply to humans, not just citizens). Another condition should be that the candidate (or party) can be trusted to act decisively and successfully against problems or in opportunities. Conservatism is only fine in exceptional situations when there had been too much reform turmoil and some other party needs to clean up some failed experiments which the original experimenters won't clean up themselves.

Was this about defence and freedom? Yes it was, absolutely. Paralysis keeps us from proper military reforms, it keeps us from achieving more prosperity and resilience. The extremists who provide a fake alternative to failing parties are a threat to our freedom.


P.S.: Belgium and the UK are special cases and their kind of paralysis by temporary lack of parliament majorities on questions about the nature of the nation state isn't what I'm writing about.

*: CSU not excluded.
**: CSU included with emphasis. 


Link drop March 2020

edited following Wednesday:
I made a simplistic regression analysis of  the known SARS-CoV 2 infections in Germany. Today we had 1,567 known cases. That regression curve (exponential, which is justified by the indeed exponential growth of confirmed infection cases outside of the PRC) came up with well over two million cases in Germany by early April. I doubt it's going to be that many (because there are factors that are likely to slow it), but it looks to me as if we'll have hundreds of thousands of cases by early April. (I don't believe the arrest of the epidemic in the PRC at all and consider their stats to be implausible.)

A small disclaimer: Doing a regression analysis including the imported cases is imperfect. I just don't have the statistics for infections that happened in Germany or close to its borders. Those figures would be better if we assume shrinking travel activity. Moreover, the wikipedia stats don't agree with the tracker stats, which stand at 1,908 cases.
This is just a quick&dirty first approximation interpolation anyway.  Interpolations are notoriously unreliable.
COVID-19 cases so far (data taken from Wikipedia for convenience).
Vertical axis is logarithmic. So if the growth looks linear, it's really exponential.
Extrapolation assuming exponential growth
Again: I don't think it's going to look like this.
It's no good time for Germany to have a do-nothing-just-sit-it-out-and-enjoy-having-power political "leadership".

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edited on Sunday:

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edited later on Saturday:
(These figures are for the U.S. only.)

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"Every war is easy to start, but it is extremely difficult to finish"
- attributed to Sallustius (though I never found the Latin original)
It's terribly true in our times, especially so if you are extremist in your expectations.

The Kosovo Air War was in some ways the ideal war; the victim had no substantial ability to retaliate and the aggressor could end the hot conflict at will. Lots of other things were terribly wrong about it, of course.

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I'm German, so I'm entitled to this kind of humour.

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DIRCM really seems to be compact enough for combat aircraft now. This may turn "stealth fighters" that cannot integrate DIRCM obsolete. A DIRCM-equipped aircraft may be highly resistant against both radar- and IR-guided missiles, while a stunted "stealth" fighter may be resistant only against radar-guided missiles. 
In case of irritation about the resistance of non-LO aircraft against radar-guided missiles: Look at the effects of multiple towed decoys, free-flying decoys launched from external hardpoints, and much more jamming than is to be expected from LO/VLO aircraft.

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"The CIA Hacking Group (APT-C-39) Conducts Cyber-Espionage Operation on China's Critical Industries for 11 Years"

Well, of course they do. Anyone who believes the pretence about 'hacking back' is gullible.

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I wish I had such illustrations about Germany. Such economic distress symptoms might be very informative. I'm still not sure what exactly has fuelled the expansion of extreme right wing idiocy in recent years. The migration topic and exposure to idiotic American right wingers through the internet may not have been the only triggers.

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Maybe it takes a Ph.D. in Levant studies to understand what's going on there.

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I suppose they roll the tech out because of Hong Kong protests, not because of the (probably largely ineffective) surgical masks. 

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They knew something in advance ...

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 Just WOW!

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Decades of war on science and war on factual education come home to roost.
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Biomachines, yet another Science Fiction coming true.

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Bei einem solchen Fehlverhalten von Bürokraten würde ich rücksichtslos mindestens zwei Führungsebenen und jeden anderen Beteiligten mit lebenslanger Beförderungssperre belegen, diverse Leute ersetzen und für mehrere Jahre alle Polizeioffiziere der Stadt (also die mit den goldenen Dienstgradabzeichen, höherer Dienst) erbarmungslos in Nachtschichten, Fußballspieleinsätze, Objektschutzeinsätze usw schicken. Am Ende sollten die und alle ähnlichen Bürokraten drumherum eine Lektion für's Leben gelernt haben.



Is or should there be a military "science"?



[ sahy-uhns ]


  1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
  2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
  3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.
  4. systematized knowledge in general.
  5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
  6. a particular branch of knowledge.
(from dictionary.com)

Efforts to turn the study of how wars are waged (and how to do it 'well') into a science had a mixed record in my opinion. The Soviets emphasized it a lot, but what I saw of it was many words with little meaning. Maybe the translations were poor.
There are also some mathematical approaches - in logistics, or the Lanchester equations, for example.
Fortifications became very largely a topic for geometrical thought and design by the 17th century in Europe.

Fortress design became an exercise in geometry,
to ensure flanking fires and to protect critical surfaces
against direct cannon fire for a while
The scientific method is a most promising and extremely successful one. It separates opinion from facts (or sometimes the best known approximation of facts, such as with Newton's mechanics before the relativity theory was found). Its application is worthwhile in all areas of life in my opinion - sometimes quite formal, sometimes rather stealthy. You shouldn't write a mathematical model for a peer-reviewed paper to determine which food your friend loves the most, but a reasonable method for it would end up being compatible with the scientific method: You shouldn't disregard observable results, you shouldn't stick to old opinions after they were falsified in a test and so on. Making notes wouldn't hurt, either.

Economics uses the scientific method and the challenges are somewhat similar to the challenges in military except that we have much more practical activity to observe. Both fields are about intelligent beings in relationships that may be adversarial, cooperative or some often uneasy in-between.
Economics tried for decades to build an encompassing model of how the economy works and why by adding one tiny mosaic stone (tiny models) to another, hoping to explain behaviour as the consequence of many little inputs. Macro results were supposed to be explainable with microfoundations. The research activity was interesting, often enlightening and helpful - but microfoundations fall short of explaining macro results fully. The big meta models had thousands of variables, and still couldn't predict events or reactions to uncommon situations. The mosaic image never became complete (so far), and it may even be growing (thus we might never complete it).
This matters because unlike with a literal mosaic, you may get a completely wrong picture if but one of the critical pieces are missing. The conclusions and recommendations might be 180° off in economics if you forget but one aspect.
That's why those researchers who insisted on looking at macro outcomes directly proved to be rather better at explaining and predicting in the past decade of fairly unusual economic conditions.

I suspect that's what would happen to any attempt to fully explain warfare with a bottom-up approach. There would be many, many small insights, but we wouldn't get the full picture, ever. (It still makes sense to pursue the knowledge about the individual mosaic stones - but such knowledge warrants no high confidence in the conclusions gained. You may still have missed something crucial.)

So we can work on trying to understand warfare through a scientific process, but we would lack data, natural experiment would be very regrettable, most other experiments would be illegal and even a century of research efforts by ten thousands of researchers might not yield a complete picture.

We may be doomed to never get more than the occasional insight from applying the scientific method on tiny areas of the whole. Could looking at the macro level only be helpful in this case? I doubt it. Trivial answers would be easy to come by, but the shortage of data is a crushing shortcoming.

What's left is the scientific method and common sense. Logical reasoning, valuation of observed facts, acceptance of falsifications are important to avoid voodoo military theory. Uncertainty about the conclusions will prevail.
Personally, I also value parallels and patterns highly in absence of proper theories.




Folks, Covid-19 appears to go pandemic.

I'm not the easily scared type, but I am a history buff type. Pandemics happen, and they can be really bad with lethal diseases. Covid-19 has the potential to exceed the lethality of tobacco consumption this year. That's BAD.

The question is not whether it can be contained, but whether we can advantageously slow the pandemic down so our pharmaceutical supplies production capacities and medical services capacities can handle it better. Moreover, we absolutely should slow it down till the flu pandemic is over so we don't have that double stress on the system.

Wear gloves, wash hands, limit skin-to-skin contact, don't sneeze wildly (do it into elbow or quickly-discarded handkerchief), absolutely avoid public handrails/doorknobs and similar touching points in public (also: cash). Seek medical care when you have one of these symptoms:
  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath
These are also symptoms of (so far) much more common and less lethal or non-lethal diseases, so leave the diagnosis to the medical doctor. Most Covid-19 patients have mild symptoms, but can still infect other people. It's advisable to lower the threshold of doctor visits this year; don't sit out a likely common cold infection on your own in 2020.

The available info about the effectiveness of filter masks is discouraging, but I don't want to discourage their use in case they are found to be worthwhile after all. Already sick people should probably use them (only the kind that has no exhaust valve) to at least reduce their emissions.





[German] https://www.sciencemediacenter.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Fact_Sheets_PDF/FS_Pandemie_Verhalten_CoV.pdf

It appears that some governments have focused their anti-pandemic planning on versions of the flu, with an emphasis on rapid provision of vaccination to the whole population. That's unlikely to help much against Covid-19.
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This is merely my guessing: I suspect UVC lamps will boom soon. They are very likely effective area disinfectants (with side effects that make permanent use impractical). UVC lamps for clearing up an aquarium appear to be rather safe and cheap compared to some other types.



Reactions to tragedies

A lunatic recently killed nine people in Germany. There's no final report, but it appears to have been a political extremist / conspiracy theory nutjob.

The reaction by the minister of the interior was as unimaginative as predictable: He (pretends) that he wants to tighten security in Germany.

I can tell that there wasn't time to draw and evaluate any new lessons learned from this case in such a short time without being an insider, much less come up with any new ideas based on those lessons.

This leaves multiple conclusion options in my opinion:
  1. They failed to do a good job (deserve some blame) and want to do a better job now. As mentioned, there was very little time for such an insight.
  2. They failed to do a good job and just want to seize the moment to do what they wanted to do all along, but lacked the political capital to do.
  3. There's really nothing sensible that could be done to prevent such tragedies altogether. They want to seize the moment to do what they wanted to do all along, but lacked the political capital to do.
  4. The talk of tightened security is security theatre and not serious.
  5. The talk of tightened security is an outright lie.
I suppose it's #3, but I would prefer it to be #4 or #5.

We would ruin our prosperity if we posted armed guards everywhere, and it would still not stop all massacres, as we can observe in countries which have many more guards and still a lot more issues with violence. There is always a residual risk, and an adult is supposed to understand, tolerate and preferably (for his or her own quality of life) ignore it. It's sad that this doesn't appear to be present in the thoughts of people enough: Politicians think they can score political points by pretending that they can create more security with more police, more police powers, more intelligence services powers et cetera.

We should have stopped and rolled back the authoritarians long ago.
image source Dirk Adler
The "hawkish" (authoritarians who are present in nearly all parties in positions of influence) politicians exploit tragedies to push for measures they want. It doesn't matter to them whether the measure would work. A few years ago there was a massacre in France and our "hawkish" politicians immediately leaped to the microphones, demanding that we finally introduce an obligation to internet providers to log internet traffic for months. It didn't matter to them that France actually had such a law at the time, and it hadn't provided the slightest utility against the attack.

So I'll step forward and propose two very different reactions to such tragedies.

1) As a matter of principle, to fight against the encroachment of police state and surveillance state, we move towards liberty rather than authoritarianism after such a tragedy. It's a great opportunity to get rid of some security theatre that obviously did nothing to prevent the attack. The authoritarians salami slice towards police state and surveillance state with every tragedy. Liberals need to salami slice towards freedom with every tragedy that exposed the perfect security illusion.

2) As a matter of deterrence, we should punish the political extremists when one of theirs kills someone in Germany because of extremist hate or other political motives. Examples:
For every person killed in Germany by a xenophobic nutjob we should invite 1,000 additional non-EU foreigners to settle and work in Germany for 10 years.
For every person killed in Germany by a pro-migration nutjob we should refuse 10,00 additional non-EU foreigners an extension of their stay and if need be have them deported when the legal hospitality expires.
For every person killed in Germany by some nutjob who didn't like a caricature, a 100,000 sticker copies shall be printed and randomly distributed by mail.
We would have to wait with these retaliations till we're 99% sure about the motivation, of course.
The same kind of response should be applied when German citizens get killed abroad.

The most stupid thing is to allow authoritarians to strangle us millimetre by millimetre, ever more, never rolling their crap back.



Disruptive technologies

Just a couple musings of mine in no particular order:

Hypersonic missiles (SRBM to IRBM equivalents)
I don't think that these are really an indispensable technology to an advanced military. Hypersonic missiles do roughly what can be done with (quasi)ballistic missiles as well, and cruise missiles are another substitute.
Rating: 0

Hypersonic missiles (anti-tank HVM)
I still regard missiles that mimic APFSDS as a thing to pursue instead of putting faith on imaging infrared seeker ATGMs such as Spike & Javelin. Likewise, I don't think that the delayed but apparently revived push for (long) tank guns bigger than 120/125 mm calibre makes much sense. Their advantage is almost entirely limited to greater APFSDS performance, which can be had through a few HVMs. I still prefer a battery of six protected HVMs in combination with a high elevation rapid fire gun in the 75...90 mm range for a succession of the MBT concept. There's still the question about the long-term viability of AFVs, of course.
Rating: +1

Offensive "cyber" warfare
I don't think this is really an indispensable technology, either. It strikes me as something that seems most usable in a kind of cold war, and much less useful in times of hot/actual war. The biggest problem with the pursuit of offensive 'cyber' abilities is that governments will complement such efforts with efforts to weaken the security of electronics products with hidden vulnerabilities. It's the same as with domestic surveillance efforts. The pursuit of offensive ability will likely make us more vulnerable to the same. The net gain (if positive at all) doesn't seem indispensable to me at all. The adverse effect of offensive cyber on defensive cyber goes against the very notion of armed forces securing the nation.
It's trickier if one looks at a small power that doesn't produce much software or hardware, but could do harm through 'offensive cyberwarfare'. The question remains what's the utility in there, though.
Rating: 0

"Stealth" combat aircraft
Radar stealth is but one of many survivability-enhancing technologies and it largely prohibits the exploitation of several other approaches. This can be observed with the relatively limited EW suite of the F-22 and even the F-35 (which has no rearward-facing radar and little jamming capability).
A full appraisal of the benefits of radar stealth requires knowledge beyond publicly available information, but to me it seems as if very low observable characteristics make sense for cruise missiles, but for combat aircraft low observable characteristics (which require much less design restrictions) make the most sense.
Rating: +1 (though whatever 'disruption' potential it had was likely already realised)

Autonomous drones
Autonomous drones appear to me to be the most critical capability, though it might be very preferable to keep this Pandora's Box closed somehow. Small (down to bird-like) autonomous and smart decision-making drones capable of attack and support tasks might revolutionise land and air war in ways that exceed the impact of firearms in their significance.
I don't think that AFV-like autonomous drones will be relevant, though. To slap autonomy onto the nearly unchanged AFV recipe won't be much of a game changer, unlike swarms of millions of small autonomous drones. 
Likewise, countermeasures to autonomous drones will become important and probably the most important feature of battlefield air defences.
Rating: +3

Networks of hundreds of small satellites
The shootdown of a satellite requires an expensive munition or very, very powerful lasers. A network of hundreds of satellites priced at 250,000 € or less (as expected for the StarLink network) could prove very important in a cold war of ideas (in which we really should be superior if we don't fail badly) and still very useful in a hot (actual) war. Such networks could give uncensored internet access to oppressed countries (particularly if we can add a comm laser uplink option that would be hard to detect for oppressive regime forces). This could drastically change the future of mankind and hugely increase Europe's 'soft power' where it matters the most.
The Americans are leading in regard to networks of small satellites, but Europe might catch up, hopefully with less delay than with GPS-Galileo.
Rating: +1

Human body enhancements
Enhancements of physiology and 'cyborg'-ish technology like exoskeletons could improve the performance of troops, and this would not be limited to infantry and dismounted scouts. Enhanced motivation and reduced need for sleep could have huge advantages in support tasks as well. The benefits of human body enhancements for combat and scout troops would be diminished with the arrival of small autonomous drones anyway.
Rating: +1

LOL, no.
Rating: -3

Destructive Lasers
I suspect they may become a complement to missiles and maybe guns, but their diminished performance in adverse weather makes them unreliable. The resulting duplicity of spending on both lasers and missiles will likely turn out to be inferior to an all-missiles approach. Anti-satellite lasers might be an exception.
We might add a couple destructive lasers to our arsenal to burden threat forces with destructive laser countermeasures, though.
Rating: 0

Additional electronics to AFVs
I suspect that combat AFVs have become so horribly expensive that (just as attack helicopters) they'll sooner or later fall from favour. See small autonomous drones.
We will likely preserve some means of passive protection for vehicles, but I don't think we'll see cost-efficient line-of-sight combat AFVs (duel situation AFVs) in the 2040's. A new MBT or MBT successor would IMO be a design for the 2030's at best.
Rating: 0

Cloud computing
LOL, no.
Rating: -3

Low support requirements
A hugely disruptive development would be a force design that greatly increases the share of combatants and greatly reduces their appetite for supplies. This is conditional on a delay of autonomous small drones, of course.
Today's armed forces consist of few teeth and many, many support efforts. Less than a thousand personnel of a 4,000 personnel brigade are meant to face hostiles in line of sight, and that's supposed to be the combat formation. Combat formations have but a small share of an army's personnel.
An approach to land warfare in which 70% of the personnel are scouts or combat troops could likely overrun a modern, more 'sophisticated' force of the same personnel strength but much greater budget. This would only work till the latter has added such a presumably 'low tech' component to itself, of course.
There was widespread interest in such low support requirements concepts in the 70's and 80's, but nowadays it appears that Western army establishments have a consensus that only other, irregular, forces can operate in this way. We haven't faced a truly effective force of that kind (unlike the Russians in the First Chechen War), so there's little respect for it and little interest in adopting this as a capability.
The time window for the approach may soon close due to -again- small autonomous drones anyway.
Rating: +1

New, supposedly more "usable" nukes
I don't think they'll even only be cost-efficient compared to using a larger quantity of conventional munitions and the idea of making nukes "usable" seems like a terrible slippery slope risk to me anyway.
Rating: -2

Further top-down delegation of decision-making (not quite a technology)
Autonomous drones are an extreme case of delegating decision-making to lower levels. There are other opportunities for this, and all of them run against an officers-led army bureaucracy's self-interest. We could largely dispense with the work of (corps/division/brigade) staffs and empower junior leaders further. This might in turn lead to junior leaders not being so young and inexperienced any more, as their role would be elevated by much. 
A preferred approach of mine is to hand down merely vague, area-related orders to manoeuvre forces commanders and let them figure out (in cooperation with adjacent leaders if needed) how to accomplish their mission (and when to give up on it and report that). Two manoeuvre elements could even temporarily unite for an action and split up again without any superior HQ ordering any such thing.
Such further decentralised decision-making could also carry over to the age of autonomous drones, when superior HQs merely allocate hardware to areas and set ambition levels or other missions to the forces in ad hoc designated areas.
Drone micromanagement - with superior HQ desiring to "look" through the "eyes" of individual drones and intervene in their actions - will be a non-starter in the autonomous drone age anyway. The reliable and secure communication bandwidth requirements would be an unacceptable burden. It would sabotage the benefits of autonomy.
Rating: +3



Musings about why I dare to voice dissent (so regularly)

I wrote something along these lines before: It would be a phenomenal achievement if I was 51% of the time correct whenever I criticize and bring forward a very unconventional proposal. Even 20% would be quite a feat and make the blog a super worthwhile read.

Why do I dare to publicly dissent on topics where I am (and have been for a long time at least) an outsider, without (much) confidential info at hand?

I can hardly ever point to a comprehensive operational research, wargame or other conventional means of justifying conclusions on military matters. I cannot claim to have superior yet secret information. 

Why do I dare to dissent?

My justification is about parallels and systemic issues.
They show at least that I could be correct.

Military history shows that military insiders (professional experts) are wrong much of the time, and even in disagreement (which by logic means not all of them can be correct).  Many wars have been fought with every single party entering the war with wrong ideas, and we even know of armed bureaucracies drawing wrong conclusions from years-long wars they participated in. 
The fallibility of the insider experts and the armed bureaucracy's leadership can be considered proven by overwhelming indirect evidence historical analogies if nothing else.
Outsiders on the other hand have occasionally proved to have superior insights. Jan Gotlib Bloch was a spectacular example; he got early 20th century warfare between industrialised nations more right than some European armies a year into the actual First World War (then "Great War").

Systemic issues:
I am using established theories to argue that systemic bias leads the armed bureaucracies astray from the optimum. Examples are:
  • Niskanen's budget-optimising bureaucrat
  • principal-agent problem
  • path dependencies
These three actually quite simple ideas are extremely versatile, pervasive, powerful. You can apply them almost everywhere. Sadly, the real world phenomena described by these models lead to inefficiencies everywhere.

And then there's my experience that most officers are actually not terribly bright, not really creative (especially not the senior ranks), usually terribly impaired by group think, some of them aren't all that much interested in or passionate about their job and most of all, they are rarely very knowledgeable on military affairs beyond what they were taught or experienced themselves.
I estimate no more than 50...100 German active duty officers exceed my military history knowledge*, and probably none of them also exceeds my military technology knowledge* or my foreign army doctrine knowledge*. I may be utterly wrong about this, but how likely is it that anyone who actually exceeds me on both counts is also extremely effective at shaping the structure and doctrine of the Heer or Luftwaffe?
There are people who are better-suited to blog about the issues I am covering, but I don't see them doing it.

It's imaginable that I am about correct in a worthwhile amount of blog posts.
So that's why I dare to dissent.



*: A subjective statement, for we don't know how to quantify and thus compare such knowledge. I suppose my point is still understandable.


Link drop Feb 2020


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The big issue isn't that this one kills many people. The flu kills many more in parallel. The big issue is that this one isn't understood yet and might actually be much worse than the flu. At least the mortality rate appears to be no more than a couple per cent so far.
A 'couple per cent' such as 3% could still kill more than both World Wars combined when the infectiousness allows it to overrun the world. That's why contagiousness is so important. Sick people being able to infect others without showing symptoms devalues many containment schemes, and to date it's still not known for certain how exactly the virus can be transmitted. There's a very small chance that it may be airborne.

I suppose the wealthy Western countries will be able to deal with it even though we don't have a culture of wearing face masks to protect others.

Poor countries on the other hand have much less capacity to deal with outbreaks, and might not get much aid if we need our resources for ourselves.

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"camo is gender neutral"

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Lots of tensions and much economic damage, for no gain.

Foreign policy that promotes and respects international law and uses win-win cooperation as the standard operating procedure may be opaque, boring and devoid of spectacular events. Still, loud mouth low IQ bully foreign policy is a spectacular failure by comparison.

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I wrote about this before. The U.S.Army is the epitome of procurement incompetence in regard to armoured vehicles for combat and helicopters. All attention on their programs is misplaced, as they get cancelled anyway. The maximum the U.S. Army AFV efforts can create are MRAPs and Frankenstein's monsters à la M109A7.

The USMC rivals them in their incompetence. They're flying modified Vietnam era helicopters and have been unable to replace an amphibious Vietnam-era APC despite near-constant efforts.

The USN hasn't devised a truly good ship class since the Arleigh Burke design of the 1980's, and that one was based on the questionable premise that AEGIS with its semi-active radar homing missiles and dependence on huge shipborne radars rather than emphasising AEW made much sense. Their design also started off without a helicopter hangar. So even that supposed success story is a mixed one.

That leaves the USAF. The C-17 was never necessary, the C-5 design could have done the same job. C-130J was just barely a successful upgrade. The 135 series replacement was no show of great competence to say the least. The F-22 was essentially an 80s/90s effort and a mixed success - the aircraft is still unnecessary to this day. It would thoroughly surprise me if the F-35 story turns out to be successful. It sure doesn't match the early expectations well.

All that (procurement) incompetence nullifies much of American military spending. It should also inform the rest of the world - and Europe in particular - to not expect the Americans to advance military tech by much. They don't advance platform concepts. There are advances in munitions and electronics, but we would stagnate if we relied on the Americans to advance platform concept technology for NATO.

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"77% of Americans surveyed can't find Iran on a map"

That's just business as usual.

The support for killing a foreign general without the state of war was higher than the ability to locate the country on a map. I suppose that at some point, one has to ask whether the president is the threat to peace or the people as a group. Such polls sure point in the latter direction.

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German newspapers are reporting about an official government report that the Bundeswehr didn't improve in its problem areas much. This despite an extreme increase of military spending; plus a quarter from 2013 to 2018 alone.
Quel surprise! Other countries had similar experiences. The readiness problem was never a fiscal problem. The bureaucracy has become rigid and its leadership is self-serving. There hasn't been a strong civilian leadership that forces them onto a path of pursuing national interest rather than self-interest.
To throw more money at them solves nothing. Sadly, that's all the current 'top politicians' are capable of - and the job of secretary of defence is rather a toxic waste dump than one for which the best possible candidate is selected.



Libya peace process

The recent apparent success of German diplomacy in negotiating a peace process (and possibly aid) for civil war-torn Libya looks like a success story of the kind of diplomacy that the United States, France, Italy and Russia are not capable of (any more):

Five rounds of diligent and patient negotiations with all important stakeholders without provoking much public attention, largely with a non-partisan  'honest broker' reputation and behaviour. Almost all parties agreed on a long list of promises (Greece and Saudis were not invited to the final conference and did thus not sign the promises as far as I know).
Libyan Civil War
Map of approx. territorial control in Libya, source Ali Zifan / Wikipedia
We'll see how much good that does in the next five years or so, but we already know that it exceeds what the French and Italians (both considered to be partisans in the conflict) achieved in their earlier effort.

I wish this diplomatic effort much success - especially as such diplomacy might find ways out of seemingly ever-lasting conflicts more often in the future.

The only obvious downside to Germany is that there's much talk about a need for German blue helmets for Libya. Personally, I don't see at all why a diplomatic 'honest broker' would be obliged to send blue helmet troops. This strikes me as thinking typical of those people who wouldn't come up with 'honest broker diplomacy' as their first idea for addressing such a conflict at all. Why would their opinion deserve much weight in this case? How would an 'honest broker' stay non-partisan for when violence flares up and requires further negotiations if it's involved with fighting troops? Don't those reporters and pundits think before writing? Is 'we must deploy troops into crisis region' some kind of reflex? And don't get me started on whether deploying troops into Libya is helpful at all. There's  little supporting evidence for such a notion - but reporters and pundits appear to think of it as self-evidently true.

The African Union, Pakistan and Jordan would be fine candidates for providing troops for a blue helmet mission. To let them help Libya get back to functioning is more promising (on the psychological level) than to insist on Europeans or even Americans meddling there.

There's the ubiquitous concern about how willing such forces would be to use force against organised armed resistance and about their proneness to corruption and human rights abuses, of course. Let's face it; Western troops deployed to Libya wouldn't necessarily be exemplary, either. American and French troops in particular have a deserved reputation for 'rough' behaviour towards no-name civilians and German troops would inevitably have extremely restrictive rules of engagement forced by our politicians, which would limit their utility to providing local security. I don't see them as a force that would forcibly disarm a warlord army, for example.

There are benefits in non-partisanship in international diplomacy. The Swiss understand this intuitively, and I have a hunch that Western great powers in particular lost sight of this. The serious international conflicts that exist today exist because there are opposing factions that cannot finish off the conflict through overwhelming power. The worst cases (such as Syria) are multi-polar, where the partisan powers being 'friendly' and 'opposing' does not produce a clear-cut two sides of a conflict; the enemy of an enemy may both be your enemy or your friend in such a conflict. Such conflicts are terribly complicated and crying out loud for a non-partisan 'honest broker diplomacy' effort.



Defence against strategic surprise air attack

Previous posts dealt with the threat and challenge of a possible surprise air attack on high value targets (HVT*)**, particularly with hundreds of precision-guided missiles (PGM*). Such a surprise air attack could take out much of Europe's air power and other high value targets in the first hour of hot conflict.
Hypersonic missiles are the scare missiles du jour,
supposed to scare you
I suppose that there's no promising way to protect against such an attack in calm times because the required defences could not realistically be held in a sufficient readiness (with high-powered radars operating 24/365, for example). It might be feasible to protect against it in times of crisis. Recent events have highlighted the side effect risks of such a readiness, though. 

So let's look at how we could set up such (crisis time) defences under the assumption that we could (technically) detect and intercept even terrain-following cruise missiles that possess very small radar reflexivity and quasiballistic / hypersonic missiles with a worthwhile probability of success.

Europe is large, and both its coastlines and its Eastern frontier are long. So I suppose that the only feasible way of actually defending against a large wave of PGMs would be through the use of area air defences. It doesn't appear to be promising to use hundreds of short-range air defence sites. Short range air defences are most unlikely to be effective against quasiballistic / hypersonic PGMs anyway. 
The area air defences would have a much smaller 'footprint' (protected area) against quasiballistic / hypersonic PGMs than against cruise missiles (a well-known phenomenon with existing area air defences), so this backbone of defence could be split into a defensive line behind frontier (with spacings suitable for intercept of cruise missiles) and along coasts on the one hand (same) and other 'rear' firing units providing a protective 'umbrella' to clusters of HVTs (also against medium range quasiballistic and hypersonic missiles).


The erroneous killing of civilian aviation could be avoided by not permitting the area air defences to fire on subsonic targets unless there's a high confidence detection of a large wave of incoming cruise missiles somewhere in Europe.
A small first wave of PGMs might be launched to exploit this and take out the area air defences, of course. Soft kill (multispectral smoke, local and directed jamming against imaging radar and satellite navigation), hard kill (short or very short range air defences to intercept the few incoming missiles) and evasion (quick reaction movement of the possibly targeted assets by few hundred metres) could be used to harden the defence network against this. This would be a particular challenge at coasts and close to certain borders (where many cheap munitions could be used with very little warning time to defeat the defence network), and much easier for rear cluster defence units (such as near Berlin or Paris, for example).
Another problem is airborne standoff jamming.  The frontier chain of defence against cruise missiles might be exposed to this, and thus be an unreliable proposition for defence. Standoff jamming would help stealthy cruise missiles a lot. Non-radar sensors may be required to make this line technologically redundant and thus more trustworthy.
Legitimate supersonic contacts would be known to all firing units (not many friendly supersonic capable aircraft would be around, and they would have their transponders active), so threat supersonic/hypersonic missiles would be identified as such with ease once detected.
Such defences would be integrated (keyword IADS), but this integration must not be a necessity, for a necessity would introduce a potential systemic point of catastrophic failure.

It shouldn't be much of a problem to elevate the defences to crisis (high readiness) mode. This should not require a political-level  direction. Spares budgets and personnel policies should allow for military leadership to elevate the readiness to crisis mode at slight hints of a surprise attack threat on its own. The safety precautions and defensive nature should suffice to convince the political leadership to permit this.

This begs three important questions:
(1) Is this technically feasible? Can we really detect and intercept challenging PGM targets with sufficient reliability, possibly in face of standoff jamming by hostile aircraft and disruptions of network integration?
(2) Is this affordable? Several existing air defence projects have shown extremely high costs for area air defences. Active radar seeker missiles are very expensive. Even the Russian S-400 system is said to be multiple times as expensive per regiment than S-300.
(3) Should it be done as a multinationally (EU or NATO) coordinated program akin to what was done with AWACS or at least the coordinated Central European area air defence belt of NATO in the 70's and 80's?

NATO SAM belt in Cold War
I do suspect that the technical feasibility is at most a challenge of possible 10-20 years additional R&D. The obsession with BMD since the 1991 SCUD scare should actually have served a purpose in preparing us against quasiballistic and hypersonic missiles. I'm less convinced that we could deal with stealthy terrain-following cruise missiles. Especially missiles / killer drones that fly at bird speed with a bird's radar signature could slip though to at least the forward line of defence. Our doppler radars would be fooled.

The affordability is a question of political will, and thus a question of problem awareness. Even extremely expensive systems would have a price tag that disappears in the noise of economic growth volatility.
I suspect that Poland might mobilise such awareness and might set up defences for Warsaw at least. France and Italy might relocate their SAMP/T batteries for protection of their capitals and equip them with the newer BMD missile version, but I doubt that more than this is realistic.
A strategic PGM surprise attack in some war might be a warning shot (similar to the 1967 Six Days' War surprise attack on airbases) that could raise threat awareness to a sufficient level for a 80% solution within ten years.
The affordability could be helped by grouping HVTs in fewer clusters, but the effort to relocate HVTs is an obstacle.

Should it be done multinationally? Well, at least the exchange of situation data should be arranged. The European geography doesn't necessitate more than that IMO. Let's say Belgium did not set up a coastal line of intercept. That would not force Netherlands, Germany and France to set up lines of intercept at Belgium's borders. We wouldn't really need a linear defence that far west. Belgium's coast should merely be covered by early warning sensors, and that might actually be possible with over-the horizon (OTH) radars that require no Belgium-specific sites.
I see no reason why NATO should be involved. Returning D&F readers may understand that this is because not only Russia, but also the U.S. should be considered as a medium- to long term missile strike threat country by Europeans. A coordination of the effort by the relevant continental countries (Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, possibly Denmark, Czech Republic, Portugal and Netherlands) including joint competitions for technical solutions (even if they lead to purchase of different offers as in some past competitions) would be appropriate.

The purpose of such spending would be to deny aggressor war planning the optimism that could lead to an aggression. Aggressor war planners should fear that a strategic surprise attack would fail if launched in times of crisis, and the European allies would thus retain enough military power through the first day of hot conflict to defeat an aggression with conventional means.
The feasibility depends on technical questions and political will.



*: Acronyms used to shorten the text and make it a little less repetitive
**: The links are near the end of the blog post.