Team roles and military personnel affairs

The typical Western military fosters roughly five personalities with its training (across branches):

enlisted personnel
non-commissioned officers
senior non-commissioned officers
leadership officers
staff officers.

Only two of these - the two officer types are very important for operational and strategic ideas and plans. The stereotypical staff officer archetype is well-adapted to working in a staff under close supervision of a superior with great specialisation and working diligently, even long hours.
The leadership officer archetype was rather trained to influence subordinates, bear responsibility, act independently and push his subordinates for performance. He was very depending on senior non-commissioned officers in his first command jobs.

These are by design two archetypes, although real officer corps are more heterogeneous, of course. I'm pointing at the fact that the military fosters primarily two types, a greater variety of the outcomes is not the merit of the training.

Now let's look at the as far as I know dominant model for character archetypes in teams: The Belbin roles.

I've looked up a nice summary for you.

All of these archetypes are enriching the team, and an industry which finds its project teams to be dominated by only two or three of these is rightfully concerned about this suboptimal composition. meanwhile, a military with an almost cult-like idolization of co-ordinators (leadership officers) and implementers / monitors (staff officers) end up with such a poor composition by design. More senior non-commissioned officers in a staff doesn't help much either, for especially the "plant" role remains underrepresented.
This is obvious, and why shouldn't it be underrepresented? A military is an organization with dozens fi not hundreds of "how to" books (field manuals) which nobody can memorize, so anybody with a novel thought can be shot down with a (false or actual) reference to one of those quasi-holy books.Even worse; failed experiments that went against such a holy book's advice often cripple a career.

The Belbin model of roles in teamwork originates in business economics, is well-known and no doubt known to many Western military institutions: The Bundeswehr even teaches business economics to many of its officer candidates during their stay at a Bundeswehr university. There hasn't been any exogenous shock that would have forced the Western military bureaucracies to do something about this or other rather hidden 'room for improvement'. Short of defeat in warfare, who could deliver this exogenous influence? A minister of defence who has a medical degree? Rather not.

The Belbin model applies particularly well to project teams - teams working on a challenge or problem that's unusual and not a repetitive activity (which would be covered by process management instead of project management).
Maybe you questioned whether the concerns mentioned above were well-founded, but this is food for thought in light of what we've seen the last 30 years: Any weaknesses that stem from poor team compositions according to the Belbin model would not be visible in repetitive, routine activities (such as most peacetime activities), but particularly much during strategy planning or procurement program management.



Echo chambers

Echo chambers are the dread of good defence policy and military theory progress. People in an echo chamber don't respect and probably don't even get to hear or read conflicting views or evidence, instead all of their intake is from people with similar opinions.

Echo chamber groups avoid the mean cognitive dissonance, but the price is intellectual stagnation and the inability to overcome incorrect or outdated paradigms. Such echo chamber groups rapidly agree on a favoured narrative, and then proceed to laud each other's reciting of kool aid as "thoughtful" or "strategic thinking".

This may sound like the complaint of someone not allowed to join a particular echo chamber group, but I'm really, really glad that (as far as I know) I never joined any such group. Some people appear to be more well-suited for such memberships than others.

The problem with this groups in regard to mil theory advances is obvious; almost all of their output is mere noise of no value, similar to most obligatory master's theses.

The problems caused in regard to defence policy (or "security", military policy) are probably not as obvious: Such echo chambers tend to be stiff and incapable of adapting to changing circumstances sensibly. Changing circumstances are rather exploited as an excuse to bring forward the same old wish lists - or even longer ones. This is somewhat similar to how inflation hysterics keep demanding higher central bank interest rates because hyperinflation is just around the corner ... for decades.
Many politicians in the office of minister of defence (or equivalent) are no experts on defence. They're rather experts in politics, in fostering networks and a political base, and may have had prior experience in heading some bureaucracy (executive office). They may then come under influence of a whole array of echo chambers, some of which were propped up by the arms industry because their reliably monotone message suits their interests. Most echo chambers will readily provide a message the minister of defence wants to hear: "Defence" deserves more prestige and a bigger budget and the MoD should engage in high level foreign policy.

It would be very, very valuable if the politicians recognize the echo chambers as what they are, not as pools of defence thinking excellence. Right now I couldn't name a single minister of defence who ever beyond doubt did so.

Another dream is about a world in which echo chambers were cracked open, and discourse is effective at finding fine answers to important questions. This dream appears to be very outlandish, though.


P.S.: There are echo chambers contra big spending as well: POGO, the "Military reform" gang,  "fighter mafia" and most if not all of the usually completely ineffective pacifist groups qualify (or qualified) as echo chambers as well.


Something for the foreign readers

No, there's no Muslim invasion of Europe or Germany, and we don't turn Muslim anytime soon either. I mean this century (and I very much doubt religion will have much of a niche left in the 22nd century).

What's happening in Germany right now is not a defence issue, nor a disaster or whatever. It's a domestic cultural conflict; a domestic political battle with xenophobia. Xenophobes and other fringe people have made 'progress' first out of sight by organising and preparing BS propaganda and BS theories, and since last year also by daring to enter the sunlight. Suddenly (by joining conspiracy theorists and protest groups with more or less valid points) xenophobia was fit enough for respectable political rally sizes and quantities (in a handful of cities). They even infiltrated and overwhelmed a small fresh party of disillusioned conservatives who disliked the mainstream CDU/CSU parties.

Federal-level politicians sat this out and didn't do much about it, but the brazenness increased and xenophobes produced quite a string of arson incidents on uninhabited buildings meant to house immigrants in the future.
This was when national media, national-level politicians up to the Chancellor etc. decided to lead a political counteroffensive, choosing the immigrant / "refugee" issue to take a stand. 

I think they choose the site of their battle poorly, and there may be a horrible backlash to their policy (because these "refugees" actually ceased being legitimate civil war refugees when they decided to leave safe havens in Turkey and Jordan and began passing through several safe haven countries to seek out the more wealthy destination Germany). A Pyrrhic victory is likely.

Even with several billion Euro spending per year for this mess (half of it flows back as taxes anyway), the bigger issue is the ongoing battle between the mainstream and the xenophobic fringe.
Even a million immigrants wouldn't make much of a dent in German demographics, and in the long term their fertility will approach the typical German fertility rate anyway. The vast majority of our past "Muslim" immigrants are now secular and disinterested in religion, whereas but a few thousand of them (and converts) ever turned into Salafists and the like - the "Muslim" contribution to the fringe in this country.



Sovereignty and borders

Many borders don't reflect the ethnic, religious or cultural majorities and are perpetual suspects whenever some conflict flares up. The Sykes-Picot Agreement is under much criticism nowadays, and the borders in all of Africa appear to be just as artificial. The conflicts in Nigeria and Mali can be considered to be consequences of borders which don't reflect the cultural divide between the Tuareg and other Muslim minorities in the North and the Southerners, which tended to have been more under European influence (religion, language) due to easier access from the coast.

A repair of such nonsense borders may indeed avoid future wars, but I doubt it would be better than a 85% solution. The problem is in many places the very same as it was in Bosnia - no sensible borders could be drawn because of chaotic dispersion of ethnic or religious groups.

Bosnian ethnic map 1991 (c) "Milan1237"
Radical changes of borders are furthermore very, very difficult and usually possible only through war because the governments have vested interests in the status quo.

The long-term solution to the problem of poorly devised borders needs to be a different one. The most obvious solution would probably be the best one as well: Make borders irrelevant; shared sovereignty over territory.

This isn't without precedent at all. The feudal societies of (at least) Central Europe had well-defined borders between the upper levels, but at the lower levels, lower nobility and monastries, the "territory" of these princes was actually defines by individual farms. There was no cohesive territory - the realm of a monastry or a lower prince consisted of a collection of ownership deeds for specific farms. 

Likewise, a modern state could be defined not by a territory, but by what matters for real; its citizens. The state would be where the citizen lives - within limits, of course. A region such as Bosnia could be home to three states with three governments - but without simplistic borders. The sovereignty would rather be dependent on circumstances instead of by geographic location. Similar to how the authority of different law enforcement agencies would be dependent on what crime happens and what criminal code paragraph was violated - rather than by geographic division.

The private and legal (economic) interaction of citizens or government agencies of different such states would require specific rules, but those could be set bilaterally just as already done with interactions across borders.

The intriguing thing about such states with shared territorial sovereignty is that despite their outlandish appearance, the powers that be would actually lose less if anything and might be more ready to accept such a system than radical adjustments of borders. The scattering of ethnic groups which makes border corrections utterly impractical in many cold conflicts would probably even make such states with shared territorial sovereignty more practical, rather than less.

An alternative is the model of the European Union, of course - the integration into a multi-ethnic super-state and government. This helps to some degree, but I doubt it has much potential beyond the degree of integration as realised in the EU already. The (perceived) costs of further integration appear to outweigh the benefits - particularly as long as language barriers and very much different perceptions of policy and politics persist (because of separated mass news media).


[Fun] All-Veteran Paintball Team Can’t Win Without Air Support




Naval commerce raiding today

Someone has published two unusual articles at "The Strategist", the MilBlog of ASPI (Australian): He argued not in favour of classic warships, but of land-based naval capabilities and short-range boats. His idea was that the Royal Australian navy shouldn't pay so much attention on what it can do ion distant waters with warships, and pay more attention on how to protect Australian maritime trade where it's the most dense and thus the most vulnerable; close to Australian ports.

He apparently did so with commercial interests (PR) in mind, but these articles are nevertheless very unusual. Most of the naval debates are driven by shipyard interests, naval bureaucracy interests (preferring a large active force with many ship hulls and many jobs for senior officers) and navy fanbois with a focus on ship hulls as well. All three groups of usual suspects want warships, warships, warships - and preferably large expensive ones for distant waters. 
Attention to home waters is left to a small bunch of Coast guard fans (salute to Chuck!).

I'm mostly sympathetic to Mr. Morrison's two unusual naval-themed articles, having published something similar a few days earlier.

He did a mistake (or omission), though: It's not that difficult to find and track ships on vast oceans after all. Sure, a few diesel submarine would have a difficult job there*, and even the increasingly unaffordable nuclear-powered attack subs are  poorly suited for sustained wartime naval blockades on high seas (too few torpedoes and missiles aboard). 
There's one unconventional solution that might make an ocean very unsafe, though:

A warring state could outfit a small container ship with some prepared containers, land a chartered (or stolen) helicopter aboard and then if would possess a modern armed merchant cruiser. This could even be done by clandestine services with personnel which turns into uniformed navy personnel only after leaving a neutral harbour. Such a helicopter-equipped merchant cruiser / commerce raider could detect and identify ships in a radius of hundreds of nautical miles and board (then burn or scuttle) ships with a fast-roping boarding squad at will. The expense would be minimal and a lot of patrolling/hunting, defensively armed merchantmen or a convoy system would be required as countermeasures.
This would still not necessitate destroyers with a price tag of billions or racing frigates with a price tag not much shy of a billion, but it's still something a serious "we protect our nation's maritime trade" navy should think about in advance.

I 'feel' the European navies are obsessed with maintaining a wide range of different missions and ship types (maintaining "competence" in ASW, AAW, MCM, subs etc.), with some at least small great power gaming intervention skills (mostly France and UK, but also to a lesser degree Spain and Italy) and in the case of Germany there's a post-2000 obsession with UN naval embargoes and similar patrol missions.
The USN meanwhile is obsessed with patrols of carrier battlegroups in distant waters, the ability to bomb the other countries and with preparations to defeat the IJN again.
Hardly any navy is focused on securing maritime trade near its nation's ports.** This is odd; it should be considered to be the second-most obvious job description for a navy. Well, it's odd until you think of a navy as a bureaucracy with its own interests and will.


*:He even claims "only long-range nuclear submarines will be able to patrol these areas". I'm always amazed how many anglophones have forgotten that conventional submarines ceased to be mere coastal assets more than a century ago! All those USN and RN nuclear subs and the marginal role of SSKs in anglophone countries have warped perceptions quite a bit apparently.
Germany's Typ IX D2 submarines of 1944 had 31,500 nm endurance (at 10 kts) already, and Japan's I-400 class in excess of 37,000 nm. The modern Type 214 wasn't designed for extraordinary range, but still exceeds 10,000 nm endurance.
**: Even Taiwan's and Japan's naval forces don't focus on this. I suspect Pakistan's navy comes close, though.


Misuse of military acronyms

"AWACS" is not a class of aircraft types with long range radars. It's a very specific aircaft type with this mission (E-3 "Sentry") in NATO. The class of such aircraft types and versions is being called AEW&C (airborne early warning and control).

"MLRS" is not a class or multiple rocket launchers. It's a specific type of such artillery vehicles, the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Multiple Rocket Launchers are "MRL", plural could be "MRLs".

"Stinger" is but a single type of ManPADS (man-portable air-defense system).

What some people call a "underwater USV" (unmanned surface vehicle) is an "UUV" (unmanned underwater vehicle) actually.

So-called weapons which can be used but once (such as the M72 and its Soviet equivalents, DM34 etc) are no "weapons"; they are "munitions". There are no "chemical weapons" or "nuclear weapons" really - all of them are munitions actually (and the effective components of chemical and biological munitions are "agents").

A "weapon of mass destruction" is a munition for an explosive nuclear fission (even "H-bombs include a fission device as first stage). Chemical and biological agents are no WMD. Pipe bombs are no WMD. The early inflation of "WMD" terminology was Neocon newspeak, used for deception, misleading suggestion and lies. The later "WMD" inflation was about the FBI's (and ATF's) bureaucratic authority-grabbing through excessive law interpretations and exploitation of hysteria.

These misuses annoyed me many, many times. I understand when non-specialised journalists get this wrong, but it's annoying when people with great interest in military affairs do so as well.

Now what I keep getting wrong myself:

A submarine with air-independent propulsion are not an "AIP SSK" as I usually call it. The correct acronym is "SSI" - but hardly anybody appears to use it (yet).

I insist on "aerial drone" or "UAV" instead of the more fashionable "UAS".

I also prefer the old "CS" (combat support) and "CSS" (combat service support - the ones that are not meant to shoot) over plain "sustainment" as well.


To Germans and Austrians: Not every portable weapon (or munition) for use against tanks is a "Panzerfaust". Man-portable overcalibre munitions (warhead bigger calibre than tube) with no sustainer rocket are a "Panzerfaust". The ones with sustainer (or acceleration) rocket are RPGs. The breech-loaded ones with a movable tube tail section such as the Carl Gustav are recoilless guns ("rückstoßfreie Geschütze", früher "Leichtgeschütze"). The things with extendable or non-extendable tube and munition inside are bazookas.



Quick thought about phalanxes

Quick thought:
Having looked at a video of a pike formation (phalanx) sweeping its pikes, I felt reminded of sea urchins from the Mediterranean Sea. One of these black beasts left some reminders in a foot of mine after a careless step, so I don't forget these things even though those needles were dissolved after a decade or so at last.

This analogy in nature to medieval pike square formations makes me wonder even more whether the ancient Hellenic (Macedon, Seleucid and Ptolemaic) pike phalanx was really limited to a line instead of being capable of moving and fighting in blocks as did medieval pike formations and supposedly late Republican and early Imperial Roman heavy infantry.

Landsknecht pike square

Could the ancient Hellenes really have missed this nature's analogy and missed out on what a bunch of Swiss peasants improvised in the 14th century? The terrain of Greece has few open plains and many obstacles, so a non-linear formation should have been an obvious choice once the ritualistic relatively low casualty polis-vs-polis phalanx pushing contests fell out of fashion.

An army of pike squares with at least 10 m wide gaps would be able to defend on a much wider frontage than a continuous linear phalangite force, and it would have been able to rotate between front and reserves, to cope better with uneven advances or retrograde movements etc. Cooperation with light troops (skirmishers such as archers, slingers, peltasts) and cavalry would be easier as well.

I've read a lot about ancient European, North African and Near/Mid Eastern warfare, but Landsknecht-style pike squares were never mentioned in a pre-1200 context.

Ancient illustrations - wall reliefs, mosaics, vase paintings - aren't well-suited for depiction of pike squares, but depicting a linear phalanx posed no difficulties. Maybe that's the key here.

- - - - -

By the way; many illustrations of pikes in action are wrong: Either the pike is bent in its natural state (held upwards) and bends into a straight pike in action (held horizontally) or it's straight naturally and bent in action (which would make it less robust on impact). I suppose they were bent naturally for greater strength in combat. This means illustrations such as the one above should be incorrect. The pikes were probably illustrated as straight when held vertically because it looks better and is easier for the artist. The bending is a nature's law thing and can be calculated - you cannot avoid it. No pike was or will ever be straight both when held vertically and when held horizontally.




There are plenty ministries of defence, secretaries of defense et cetera. All of them used to be called differently, such as "Ministry of War", but then countries began to pretend for a while that waging war was for outlaws only.

Ever since, the talk about "defence policy" and similar has been deceptive, for much of it wasn't about defence at all - or about preserving the peace. Much of it was about foreign policy, bullying, enforcing UN embargoes, UN blue helmet missions, military observer missions and the like.

This is regrettable, for it enables the pro-intervention camp to deceive the public about what military spending is for; they pretend it's for "defence" (or "defense"), when in fact much of it isn't, thus isn't that necessary, and some funds would probably be withheld if the public wasn't deceived through language.
In essence, this is similar to the manipulative rebranding efforts such as rebranding "anti-abortion" into "pro-life". Public support differs on one and the same question depending on how you frame and call it.

I suppose true defence - the prevention of aggressions against the own camp (country or alliance) through deterrence (si vis pacem para bellum) - is not only legitimate, but also undisputably justified if the odds of success are acceptable. To some countries this may be more about foreign policy than about military spending (see Iceland, Costa Rica).
You will not be able to determine the exact budget required to keep the peace or to be able to repel an invasion, stop a bombing campaign or break a naval blockade, of course. Yet if there's an all-knowing entity and it would tell us the  figure, we should all be able to agree that this figure is about true defence spending.

Additional spending on the other hand is not about true defence - it's about offensive capabilities. It's not about breaking a blockade, stopping a bombing campaign or repelling an invasion - it's about the capability to do this to other countries. Well, this and some more obvious luxuries, such as preserving some ancient warship or having some hospital ship or two.

Again, we cannot tell where exactly this luxury spending on aggressive capabilities begins, but I insist it's nevertheless worthwhile to remember the distinction between true defence and offence.

The practical utility of this distinction is given because sometimes it's all-too obvious that some expenditure is not related to defence at all. A mini aircraft carrier for Thailand, for example. A containerized military base camp system for Germany. Another supercarrier for the U.S. Navy, with U.S. allies having the majority of non-U.S. carrier forces. A submarine conversion for launching a hundred or so cruise missiles. 
We can tell with a simple look at these that they are not for true defence but for additional military capabilities. Yet we can only do so if in our mind we understood the difference between true defence and offence. Without this distinction, all these non-defence expenses would still be registered as "defence", and I've seen uncounted articles making this exact mistake, resulting in pseudointellectual garbage.

In theory we could determine the optimum amount of non-defence military spending with a cost/benefit analysis. Again, it's not possible -particularly not in advance - to pinpoint the optimum budget exactly. Yet again the knowledge about the suitability of cost-benefit analysis may help us, for again there will be cases where this criterion certainly will not be met. We would be helpless in face of claims that a spending proposal is fine unless we have a suitable criterion (such as cost/benefit) in mind for at least an own estimate.

Let's pretend our country spends ten billion € per year on the capability to invade a defended beach with a division of marines, using hovercraft, helicopters and landing boats. Now we could look for what value is generated by this capability, we would look at history as empirical evidence and find not a single case where anything even only approaching such a capability was required since the demise of Imperial Japan. Every single example was substitutable by our army, including the landing at Inchon 1951, which the Japanese had already done without dedicated ships and troops in 1904. Our estimate should thus be that such a capability stands no chance to pass a cost/benefit comparison even though we don't know the exact figures.

Meanwhile, someone who buys into 'All of this is  defense' is a mere Kool-aid consumer who lacks the capability to spot the difference between true defence and other military spending.