Ideological dead ends


There are certain ideological dead ends that are plaguing the Western World, albeit with very varying degrees among its countries.

For example, some people seriously believe that a bunch of cells equals a human being and an abortion is thus homicide (or "murder").


So once you've convinced yourself of this, you see a gazillion of "murders" happening in your country every year. Certainly, there's nothing more important than ending that, and voilà, you've become a single-issue voter. A useful idiot who is going to support the party that more or less seriously represents your position on this single issue, but its heart is really with giving rich people tax breaks and allowing corporations to poison the environment and everyone (and rip everyone off).

Still, at this point nothing trumps this single issue to you and you're locked into that ideological dead end.

And then there are people who have convinced themselves that the opposing party is riddled by paedophiles, sells children's organs, well, maybe they're satanists. Oh yes, and their most prominent politicians are super villains. So villainous indeed that no amount of investigations over many years can uncover a single criminal act of theirs.

At this point it doesn't matter how many paedophilia scandals your own party has, or that investigations of the politicians whom you hate are fruitless. You refuse to be ruled over by paedophiles and their league of child-eating super-villains! It doesn't matter to you what the other (your preferred) party does regarding the quality of life and security of yourself, your family, your children, your neighbours. it just doesn't matter. You refuse to be ruled over by paedophiles! Paedophiles cannot possibly legitimately win an election, ever! It doesn't matter whether they were declared winners of an election even by office-holders of your own party. Any story about how they allegedly cheated in the election has to be true, obviously. Moreover, accusations of such election fraud are not just accusations, they're evidence! They have to be true, no more evidence needed. Doesn't matter how many courts dismiss lawsuits about the election, those judges are probably lizards or paedos.

And of course, fact checkers are propagandists when they say something you don't like (but you send your peer group their fact checks if you like the result!). 

Some people are even serious about the "lizard people control the world" thing, or similar ideas.

All reasonable arguments against your position become weightless once you've convinced yourself of such things. There's no reason to listen to paedos, lizards, baby-murderers. You're smart, you're standing against the puppetmasters! Including against those puppetmasters who beg you to not vote against your own family's economic interests for once!

You've got your news source, and those news sources informed you that all other news sources are run by lizards, or something. Don't trust them!

- - - - -

Bullshit accumulates, and so far biology is the only really effective way of cleaning it up. It can accumulate to the point of poisoning a major party. "First past the post" election systems favour two-party systems (though the British definitely broke that old wisdom a bit up), and having one of only two relevant parties poisoned is a national tragedy. It's even worse if your constitution has the defect that different institutions can block each other very often and paralyse the country (it doesn't matter whether the country as a whole has put lipstick on the pig and pretends that such blockades are a feature, not a bug).

- - - - -

Now maybe you're a right winger and think that I've once again bashed right wingers. That should give you pause to THINK how the heck you think that such outlandish behaviour could be descriptive of your tribe.


Besides, I bash left wingers as well. There's just a huge difference between the real world consequences of left wing idiocy and right wing idiocy now that left wing parties don't push for planning economies any more and don't party with Stalin any more. (That's kinda the fashion in the right wing these days.)

One example; I was enticed to think that a lot of the trans stuff is bollocks and legislation should point at a certain way. Then I learned that much of that stuff was already settled law in Germany since 1981, with important addition by constitutional court decision in 2011. It was enlightening to me. Absolutely none of these rules have ever affected me, my family, friends nor did I ever notice anyone being affected. All of this controversy was entirely irrelevant to practical life as far as I can tell. Meanwhile, as an economist, I can tell that certain other policies make the difference between working poor and middle class for people whom I know. In fact, the pendulum is stuck at "working poor" for them. The whole trans bollocks is but a distraction from what matters for real. Thus I mock people who get exasperated about who gets to use which restroom.

I heard the siren's call clear and loud and I sailed on.

I wish more people could avoid getting stuck in ideological dead ends and would be able to focus on what matters for real. That would be a nice new year's resolution.




P.S.: My New Year's resolution is to be less lazy, both privately (working out) and on the job.



Prussian infantry singlemindedness

The Prussian army of 1741 won Frederick the Great's first battle because it was better drilled. It was capable of shooting about three shots per minute, while the opposing Austrian-Hungarian troops shot about two times per minute. The psychological pressure of getting shot at so much more often while the Prussian lines were advancing was too much for the Austrian-Hungarian infantry and it broke and ran.
Prussia had to become good at much else (cavalry charges, use of artillery, first all-mounted "horse" artillery brigades, improvements of skirmishing, battle manoeuvres) to prevail in that was and the next, but the infantry remained obsessed with shooting faster than the enemy.
1773 Prussia introduced a new ramrod for loading infantry muskets that had identical ends and thus the drill was shortened by eliminating the movement of turning the ramrod around.
1781 Prussia introduced a conical hole between the barrel and the pan where the flintlock's sparks ignite the blackpowder. This shortened the loading drill further, as the movement for adding blackpowder to that pan was eliminated and the movement to close the pan was eliminated. The blackpowder from the barrel now fell by itself into the pan through the conical hole.

The rate of fire was improved to about six rounds per minute. The infantryman carried 60 cartridges at that time, but the shooting order inevitably broke down in battle and even the best flint of the flintlock had to be replaced after about 50 shots, so there was enough munition for much more than 10 minutes of shooting.
That's how the Prussian army went to war with Revolutionary France and later Napoleonic France, but the infantry failed to impress in those battles. This was certainly in significant part to the increased numbers of artillery pieces in battles, but those had already risen before 1763. Inferior morale of the infantry was another issue. But maybe something else was wrong, too?

Let's look at the conical hole, which as far as I can tell is universally lauded as an improvement in literature.

This hole allowed blackpowder to fall into the pan from the barrel. The infantryman only needed to open the paper cartridge, pour teh blckpower into the musket muzzle and then ram the ball bullet down the barrel. So the blackpowder that was ignited by sparks was identical to the blackpowder that drove the lead ball forward in the barrel.
I see a problem here, and it is about the nature of blackpowder: Blackpowder is made of a carbon source (charcoal), an oxygen source (saltpetre) and sulfur. What's the purpose of sulfur? It's much more flammable than the others, so it can be ignited with adequate reliability by sparks (if dry). Adding more sulfur does actually not make the blackpowder more powerful. 
So you want a high sulfur content in the pan (to be ignited by the sparks) and low sulfur content blackpowder in the barrel. You can have that if you store and load a more sulfur-rich blackpowder for the ignition pan.
To have more sulfur in the barrel than necessary is wasteful and provokes supply issues in wartime. Flint was imported from France, England and Spain (Spain was usually at war with either Spain or France and allied with the other in 1740....1815), charcoal (preferably by hemp stem cores) could be produced anywhere, saltpetre could be won from any pigsty. Meanwhile, sulfur was imported from Italy.

So the Prussian method was economically wasteful, but that's not the whole issue: Sulfur is the part of blackpowder that makes blackpowder famous for producing much smoke.The smoke became an issue, as troops and leaders could not see their enemies well any more, as the smoke of muskets and cannons accumulated on the battlefield.
The Prussian infantry of the 1780's did not only shoot three times faster than the Austro-Hungarian infantry of 1740, it did also produce more smoke with every shot. This was done by an army that kept the three-rank line (as opposed to the British who used a two-rank line), another +50% smoke.

The Prussians had muskets that looked neat, but their buttstock was not angled well and made the use of sights very awkward. That didn't matter much, as the muskets didn't really have sights. Well, adding sights would not have helped past the first salvo anyway.

I suspect that the Prussian focus on infantry rate of fire was too singleminded and suboptimal. Skirmishing, morale (motivation) and coping with logistics austerity was much more important than nominal rate of fire in 1792...1815. Later, the ingeniously simple invention of the Minié ball allowed quick muzzle loading of rifles and for the first time the accuracy of fire of general infantry became most important.

P.S.: There are debates about what rates of fire were really achieved. There's no debate regarding Prussians loading and shooting more rapidly, that's consensus.
I used the book ISBN 3-8289-0521-8 to write this blog post, for I didn't want to fully rely on memory of what I read years ago.


The scariest army of them all


... would be an army that gets the basics right at every level, even if it has no luxuries, no bells & whistles, not a single piece of equipment newer than 20 years old design.

Like a perfect storm

Such an army would overrun more sluggish lethality-obsessed armies, it could outlast much larger Potemkin village armies, it would benefit from every season, it would be only mildly impeded by air power and it would generally have very lopsided (in its favour) "exchange ratios" in battle.

It would also be only mildly attractive to defence contractors, as they would not get many outsourcing contracts, and could not make much profit off gold plating development contracts. They would get a steady stream of revenue from good-sized munitions & spares orders, though.

Systemic deviations from the optimum

I understand that the leadership of most developed world armies wants to get the basics right, they probably even think they do. 

I strongly suppose they don't, based on the observation of symptoms. I strongly suppose there are systemic issues in group and organisation behaviour that lead to suboptimal outcomes. To get the basics right on all or nearly all levels requires to betray tactical and organisational traditions. It requires constant effort. It requires that you free up time from everyday activities to learn about what others do differently, why, and with what results. It requires to forego self-interest and peer - group self-interest in favour of the pursuit of getting at least the basics right.

Identify and fix

The concept may be abhorrent to many military fanbois, but the way to go is to bring in external economists (which the German military actually educates in its own university!), psychologists (same), historians and sociologists (including anthropologists!) to work out the patterns that drive the army bureaucracy away from optimum paths towards self-serving paths. Some additional research is needed to identify (and likewise call out) civilian influences that cause such harm as well.

We can aim to counter the bad patterns and influences once we understand them, and everyone who gets into high leadership positions needs to be briefed on these findings thoroughly. In fact, I would  have them educated to the point that they need to show they understood everything in tests, and have to work more on test questions where they failed to score. I'd rather have an interim leader and the designated leader stuck in a training course for months than to let anyone new into a high level position who does not understand the issues well.

The insiders can't fix themselves

It is utterly self-evident that the German professional officer corps is a failure. It's not their fault, really. Some wrong people got selected into it and the rest is also working within a rotten system, unable to decisively reform it from inside. They sure have a very high opinion of themselves, but their results are damning and their excuses (especially blaming politicians) are weak sauce considering how much goes wrong that a handful of politicians cannot possibly have been responsible for.

Example: The antiquated small arms training that got reformed only a couple years ago after generations of stagnation. No army officer can reasonably argue that ministers of defence forced the army to bring firearms training that's limited to 1920's style shooting ranges into the 21st century. Another example; the utterly unrealistic layout of exercise areas, which can easily be identified on satellite imagery because they stand out from the real world so much. Even the best built up training area could not be mistaken for any real world settlement. The army preferred to ask for gold-plated vehicles rather than to insist on realistic training (areas).

It's furthermore completely impossible that the German military wasted millions on Global Hawk drones that could never be used, but somehow it would be the civilian politicians' fault that we don't have a gazillion of dirt-cheap consumer-grade multicopters like the ones employed with success in Ukraine. They get money for a lot of crap, certainly they could have gotten funds for such drones if only they had prioritised it. It would even have been less than the famous 25 million threshold*, so political interference opportunities would have been minimised.**

Civilian overseers have to force a course change

The insiders cannot fix themselves, thus we need outsiders to do it. outsiders with the power to force and remove insiders, to break all resistance. The civilian leadership by politicians such as the minister of defence has this job.

This job hasn't been done for decades, though. Not a single German minister of defence did a decent job in the post-Cold War era. Rühe had to lead in a very demanding period (integration of East German military including retaining some officers, post Cold War downsizing) and certainly some things were done well back then, but he also launched a terrible, terrible refocus towards stupid "out of area" missions that brought practically zero benefit to the nation over the next three decades.

We need a competent minister of defence with a team of competent, trusted reformer managers and a competent civilian chief of staff. This minister and his team shall not become one with the armed bureaucracy, shall not adopt its self-interest as their self-interest. They shall be rewarded for exposing scandals and shaming failures, for firing and disbanding. The press usually instinctively does the opposite; it blames ministers of defence for what goes wrong in the armed forces. That's an incentive to cover up and keep things silent, rather than an incentive to clean the house of crap. The minister of defence should publish scandals themselves and the press should shame the predecessors for scandals instead (unless the minister has been in officer for more than the last three years already).

In the end, we need very few legislative changes. Most importantly, the entire approach towards the office of the minister of defence needs to change. No more no-clue non-specialised politicians shall be sent there to bury their career, to give them some office after they failed with some more grand ambitions or for mere party coalition offices distribution maths. We need reformers with a passion for breaking resistance and clearing out crap. Brutal personalities who don't bend arms to get what they want, but cut throats right away - so the peers understand the new direction of flow right away. We shall ignite a passion for clearing out bollocks among the officers and ignite the hope that the rotten institution becomes a deservedly proud one again.

Those generals? They're worthless pawns. They cannot repair the armed forces. The professional officers are the insider club whose autopilot is stuck on the wrong course. The minister of defence needs to be the power that drives reform. He/she/it (I REALLY don't care) has to change the course, and everyone who resists shall be eliminated from the armed bureaucracy, regardless of rank and the treatment should be as mean and disrespectful as possible within the limits of article 1 to discourage resistance by others.***

No need to shine

There's no need for anything spectacular, shiny, "sexy", super-impressive in an army or air force. We need no GUMLRS-ER missiles, for example. We need no dedicated national military radar satellite. We need no high end main battle tank. We need no F-35.

We need to get the basics right. We need stuff that works, in good quantity, with enough consumables, we need to be able to get it where we need it and when we need it, our troops need to know how to use it well, they need to be fit, alert, ready, deployable, motivated, confident, take care of each other, follow orders without delay according to the superior's intent. Command has to be modest, self-restrained, agile, clear, quick and imaginative. We don't need a hugely impressive military machine, but its gears need to be well-lubricated and sand-free.

And anyone who dares to stand in the way of achieving this shall be eliminated from the armed forces, period.




*: Orders bigger than € 25 million require additional parliamentary involvement.

**: That being said, I'm convinced that lobbying and "my region before the country" politicians in the armed forces committee are responsible for much money wasted on defective helicopters, defective transport aircraft, combat aircraft for which there are almost no spares or munitions and certain useless warships. These are no excuses for all the other things that went wrong, though.

*: German constitution, article 1 is a very general article that protects human dignity.



The Kremlin's puppets

Putin's regime is still playing the American far right like a fiddle.

They have buttons on their table, and they know exactly what happens when they press the button "American right wing shall hate other Americans and their president some more".

So POTUS wanted the two Americans who are being held with dubious criminal convictions in Russia, and his diplomats negotiated. The Russian regime did the obvious thing; it maximised how much damage it can do, for the U.S. has nobody in custody whom they really want freed.


They gave POTUS a young, black, female and Cannabis-using and lesbian citizen back and categorically rejected the notion of releasing the other guy, a former Marine.

Naturally, the far right sprang into action and began hating, as if POTUS had betrayed the good guy to get some woke (the word they use on everything they hate these days, but cannot defined properly) person back instead.

There was hate on the freed captive, hate on the president, ... utterly predictable.

But why was there such hate? Wouldn't a patriotic party be glad that a fellow citizen was freed? Wouldn't it be glad that the president had a success?

What does it take to hate and be outraged instead? Maybe it takes hating about half of the own country, and putting party partisanship before country?

The remarkable thing about this exchange is that it happened despite the reactions being so completely predictable. POTUS obviously decided that freeing a fellow citizen would be worth the backlash to freeing a fellow citizen. He's put country before party politics. This was clearly no issue suitable to mobilise followers for the next elections (which are now very distant), so this degree of selflessness is plausible.

By the way, that "marine"? Discharged for bad conduct. A thief. The reflexive militarism that was exposed by the reactions was interesting. "marine" = "good guy" was implied, because militarism. He's neither. The marines don't think he's one of them, they didn't want him to be one of them. A thief.

He's still a citizen who should be repatriated, but that was not on the table. And the reason for that is probably the far right wing. Their predictable response to him not getting freed is what made it so unattractive to the Kremlin to let him go.

BTW, the lying moron had two years time to get Whelan for Bout only if that was ever a possible deal. He didn't. Well, coherent thoughts are not a requirement to become a hyperpartisan hater who hates half of the own people.

The Russian regime needs to play slightly different tunes to control the German far right (or the German far left), but it knows how to do that as well. These days show who's truly the vaterlandslose Gesellen.

It's important and valuable to expose who gets played how easily and clearly. Keep in mind who's a puppet of the Kremlin, dancing by the Kremlin's tune, when you get to vote again!



BTW, if you think Bud is going to be a big arms dealer again, maybe importing weapons fro Putin: Bollocks. His business model was to bribe high-ranking officers to sell him what's in Russia's arms warehouses and he had a fleet of old cargo aircraft to deliver those weapons. If anything, Putin is angry at him because this guy is a big part of the reason why the Russian army lacks equipment for mobilization and a small part of the reason why it's so corrupt and lying so much.



Artillery - philosophies and competence


There's a saying - Artillery conquers, infantry occupies. The American Maneuver Warfare military reformers of the 80's and 90's used this to describe the French First World War approach, which the American army adopted as it became the French army's apprentice as late-comer to WWI.

The effect of this on American thinking about artillery and air/ground attack is indeed profound. Lethality here, lethality there. It's all about lethality.

The Russians seem to follow it as well.

Those who follow this philosophy have good arguments; there were battles if not entire wars in which indirect fires accounted for about 80% of casualties. The current Russo-Ukrainian War appears to follow this pattern as well. 

But there is a different way of thinking. Air power could be thought of as impediment to logistics, and thus to operational agility. An increase of its lethality could even be counter-productive

Artillery could be thought of as an enabler to battlefield manoeuvres of land forces.

Let's say there's a patch of 100x200 m woodland from which an  infantry force of 30...150 personnel (not exactly known) can fire on vehicles in 2 km radius with missiles and call artillery fires onto infantry in the same radius.

The "Artillery conquers, infantry occupies" school of thought would destroy this force by bombarding the entire patch of woodland, thoroughly. They might want to have a bird's view on it, so troops who evaded to open fields could be shot at as well. The defenders may have dug in properly, so a very high density of 155 mm shells of multiple very big bombs such as Mk 84 (914 kg GP bomb) or special thermobaric/fuel air explosive munitions would be needed. The amount of fires would be calculated to destroy the force. Then infantry in IFVs or APCs would drive to the patch of tree stems, dismount, count the bodies and take a few prisoners.

The Maneuverist school of thought would do this very differently. It would execute a very brief but intense bombardment by artillery and/or mortar HE munitions  and would rush in with the infantry mere seconds after these "neutralising" fires were lifted. They would assume that the brief but intense bombardment has "neutralised" the defenders. That's a state of shock that goes away within minutes. At most a handful of defenders would open fire on the advancing troops, and they would easily be overwhelmed by direct fires. Almost all defenders would be taken prisoners.

So let's sum up. 

Advantages of Maneuvrist approach:

  • less munitions expended
  • less firepower needed
  • less planning required
  • quicker
  • less killing
  • smaller calibre artillery and mortars suffice, may even be better
  • enables rapid advance through deep defences without extreme amount of fire support

Advantages of the "Artillery conquers, infantry occupies" approach:

  • Your officers don't need to be smart about land warfare.


I mentioned the 80% casualties by indirect fires statistic. This is true and valid, but you can achieve a much better statistic if you have a large competence advantage. Operation Barbarossa caused about 4.5 million personnel losses to the Soviet Union in 1941. Half of these were prisoners of war. The Axis forces could not have defeated that much personnel and could not have advanced that quickly if they had relied on "Artillery conquers, infantry occupies". They did use up the ingredients of this success (competent infantrymen were worn out, logistics vehicles were worn out, strong horses were lost, motorcycles were worn out) in the later years, but the events of 1940 and 1941 show that if you have a big competence advantage and the means to exploit it, you can do much better than the firepower fetishists.

The philosophical difference is between surprise & shock or lethality of fires. It's obvious how laymen and undereducated army officers gravitate towards the latter. It requires much less understanding of what happens and what works in battles. Most superficial knowledge suffices to understand the 'lethality über alles!' approach.

The lethality approach is nevertheless the approach to go with if you lack competence in your officer corps or if you cannot or don't want to advance. If all you can really do is shoot, you shoot - regardless of whether something else would be better if you just could do that as well.


Firepower's lethality fascinates laymen just as much as the Americans (I'm not sure about today's Frenchmen). The focus on lethality should be a fallback position for when you can't do better.






BTW, the loss of DPICM bomblet munition to the cluster munitions ban doesn't seem to be all that bad when you expect enemies to use overhead cover or if you just want neutralising fires (which works fine with "unitary" HE munitions). Yet the theoretical lethality advantage of DPICM made it the dominant munition in the U.S. Army of the late Cold War (something like 70% of 155 mm rounds were DPICM if my memory of a secondary source serves well).