Military theory - the evil twin

Robinson is on his island. He's good at collecting coconuts and a poor fisherman, but he would like to eat fish much more than coconuts. Friday appears on the scene. Friday is a better fisherman, but prefers coconuts over fish.
Welcome to microeconomics 101, the simplest model of trade and how trade between two agents is a win-win for both and actual improves aggregate output. There are diagrams for this, of course. Macroeconomics has its analogy in free trade theory.
Economics is about how cooperation can lead to a better aggregate and individual outcome.

Military theory is the evil twin: It's not about how to achieve what cooperation, but about how to force others into compliance. Its only efficiency goal is to force the own will on others at least expense, whereas the aggregate outcome and at least one party's individual outcome (usually everyone's) are worse as a consequence of the process of (trying to)  forcing one's will on others.

Economics good, military theory evil. 
Too bad; countries often need the latter for avoiding its worst consequences, even if they don't like it.

Yesterday I did refer to economists' appraisal of biology as a supporting science, and suggested that military theory and political science could do the same. This wasn't by accident. Military theory and economics may be opposites, but this makes them similar as well. Economic theory is about cooperation, military theory is about confrontation. Both are about an interaction of agents, whereas a great many sciences such as geology, physics and math aren't about the interaction of thinking and competing humans at all.
Political science is in between both, in that it is both about cooperation and confrontation between competing agents (in military theory you usually don't compete with allies unless some honour code is in effect or said allies are expected to become rivals or enemies soon thereafter).
The similarities are promising enough; one field may gain insights by paying attention to other fields' findings. There sure is a better match than the faux analogies of geometry (Renaissance military thinkers) or misunderstood physics (von Clausewitz).



"Your genes help determine how much money you save"

Researchers Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel constructed a measure of savings by essentially tracking the changes in the net worth of the twins between 2003 and the end of 2007. They found that identical twins—who share the exact same genes—are significantly more similar in their savings behavior than fraternal twins. In fact, they conclude that genetic differences explained roughly 33% of the variations in individual savings rates.
Matt Phillips

Imagine a future in which such influences on behaviour, such biologically-mandated preferences, could be known about senior officers and top politicians before they they're empowered by command or office. It would be eerie in some way, but potentially world-changing for the better, too.

Citizens could almost know which politician would start a needless war because of some archaic territorial fight gene. An army could almost know in advance which officer would keep a cool head and find the right mix between caution and boldness.

Economics have begun to accept biology (neuroscience, for example) as a supporting science in the 90's as far as I know. Maybe political sciences and military theory should do the same, and embrace it fully to squeeze the maximum gain of insights out of it.



Isoluminence camouflage


The rise of tiny LED lights may have made this approach practical on a large scale. A different technological approach is IIRC to use surface materials which emit light when there's an electrical current in them.
Drones of any size and aircraft could hide visually with this because it's the shadow that makes even white undersides dark and easily recognizable.

We will likely not see any use in great quantities in the next couple years because platform life cycles and upgrade intervals are long and no major conventional war forces armies to optimise themselves with great effort.

related: Wikipedia article "Yehudi lights", secretprojects forum topic "Yehudi lights"


An old scenario about Russia

The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force...let them ally with PR China and they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel[land] before appeasement was given up. Imagine a reunification of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Russia was actually more self-confident (going alone), faced a weakened (economic crisis) Western world and (so far) grabbed less (the equivalent of Sudetenland, Memelland). Other than that, the scenario was much more spot on than the "COIN is the future of war!" slogan.



Military lessons from the war in the Ukraine

There are some interesting parallels between the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the Spanish Civil War. It's far from a replay, but nevertheless interesting (to me).

Back in Spain during the 1930's, new equipment was introduced to warfare, although they were mostly incremental improvements of First World War arms: Tanks, monoplane fighters, monoplane bombers with proper bombsights, dive bombers, heavy anti-air guns with elaborate fire control, light rapid fire anti-air guns, anti-tank guns, miniaturized radio sets (and especially the new voice-over-radio mode).
Some lessons were drawn from their use, both wrong and correct ones.

The incorrect ones were drawn because the conflict was not representative of the coming Second World War. The Spanish Civil War was mostly static, but not as much a trench war as the First World War on the Western and Italian fronts due to a shortage of artillery ammunition. It had its mobile phases, but these were reminiscent of the 'successful' offensives of late 1917 and 1918. The focused operational advances of fully motorized forces with tanks had but one disastrous parallel in Spain.

The combat in the Ukraine appears to be similar to what was known from Yugoslavia and Spain; lots of volunteer formations in service (I'm thinking of the Ukrainian side here), very little movement. Seemingly spectacular advances as the recent (possibly intentionally incomplete) encirclement of Debalzewe took weeks, while an action of this size would have been a day's work during 1939-1945.

The Russians may probably not draw many wrong lessons from this since they had similar actions in Chechnya already and employ mostly 1980's technology. Meanwhile, the West might draw some wrong conclusions, albeit the very small involvement will likely diminish this. It's mostly the effects of ammunitions such as (somewhat) modern artillery that may offer good insights for military forces in the EU. The Russian breakthrough day during the South Ossetia War is more worthy of study in regard to mobile warfare.


The miracle of Greece's defence spending efficiency

Back in 2009 I wrote about the relatively high military spending of Greece and my expectation about its impending reduction.* I wrote:

Greece's military spending is about 3 % GDP, about twice as much as necessary in comparison with allies. That's already less than the 2005 figure of 4.3%. I expect a military budget crunch down to about 1.5-2% GDP till 2015.

According to SIPRI military expenditures fell from 7.660 billion EUR in 2009 to 4.472 billion EUR in 2013.

According to Eurostat** Greece's GDP fell from 237.4 billion EUR in 2009 to 182.4 billion in 2013.

This yields a drop from 4.21% GDP in 2009 to 2.45% GDP in 2013.
The CIA World Factbook offers a much smaller figure; 1.72% GDP in 2012.

- - - - -

Now let's consider what's missing in this picture:
An aggression against Greece. There was none.
Nor did the EU as an alliance or NATO as an alliance get into trouble because the Greeks spent less on their military.

This is the best real world experiment imaginable for the thesis that the Greek state overspent on defence. It wasted likely 1-3% GDP during almost the entire post-Cold War period. Furthermore, an unnecessarily high quantity of young men were removed from the private sector or had their education interrupted.***

Similar natural experiments happened for U.S.military spending: The U.S.Army and U.S.Marine Corps were very much fixed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had their training reoriented for occupation duties for years. Meanwhile, North Korea did not attack South Korea. PR China did not attack Taiwan. Not a single ally, much less the U.S. themselves were attacked by any real threat during these years. This is the best evidence imaginable in support of the thesis that the U.S. overspends on defence: All those army brigades busy with preparing for, being in or recovering after being in Iraq or Afghanistan weren't really needed for national or alliance defence at all.

One may consider such natural experiments as weak evidence, but they face no evidence at all pointing at the opposite conclusion!
There are merely claims and conjectures supporting the size of the military expenditures, not any natural experiment results. Never in modern history did a military budget cut lead to a series of events that ended with aggression - no matter how often the pro-military spending people assert that budget cuts put lives at risk and similar.

Greece's military spending efficiency was increased very much, as they got the same national security at a much lower price. Has the Greek military improved very much, become incredibly smarter? No, not at all. It was merely inflated well beyond the optimum previously (and I suppose it's still well above optimum today).
The reason for the oversized military spending was the stupid Little Cold War between Greece and Turkey. Turkey cannot possibly take even a single island away from Greece by force because Greece could call on all EU allies for defence, while nobody would be obliged to help Turkey. Still, politicians played with the myth of a Turkish threat for decades, similar to what happens in Pakistan. Now guess what the new government's minister of defence did right after taking office? He provoked Turkey with his new toys.


**: I'd like to use this opportunity to voice my extreme disdain for the EUROSTAT website.
***: I know of a Greek student who wanted to become an engineer in Germany and was recalled for a pointless conscript service before he was able to complete his almost for-free university study in Germany. This happened after the Fiscal troubles blew up in Greece.


Bombing Libya was no success

"The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over."

"One can debate whether all of this is done by design or by “accident”: if you realize that U.S. actions create further pretexts for war, then those who do this for a living must realize it, too (...); and how many times does something have to happen before “accident” is no longer a viable explanation (...)? But whatever else is true about motive, there is no question that U.S. militarism constantly strengthens exactly that which it is pitched as trying to prevent, and ensures that the U.S. government never loses its supply of reasons to continue its endless war.

Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.” Some non-governmental advocates of “humanitarian war” may be motivated by the noble aims they invoke, but humanitarianism is simply not why governments fight wars; that is just the pretty wrapping used to sell them."
Yet this looked the most "successful" of the recent Western interventions and bombings.
War does not work.
Interventionism is a wasteful folly.



'Experts' interpret current warfare

As mentioned in the previous post, so-called experts were startled by what they saw happen in the Ukraine, and rushed to maintain the façade of competence by supposing that they have the tools to understand what happens.

Yet be warned, I already covered this years ago:

This almost six years old blog post was nicely complemented by the comments:

I think you've stumbled on the old phenonema where if an alleged expert sees something he had not seen before, it is therefore "new" and he gets credit for developing a paper on it. Additional research and agressive peer-reviews not required.
Al Mauroni

The term "Hybrid war" is already expanding. Some read it as "irregulars using regular methods", others as "regulars using irregular methods" and finally some simply use it as a replacement for the "full spectrum" buzzword of the 90's.

Now let's see whether Putin's ruse of using regular (para)military troops without proper identification and employ them in denied warfare against another power is anything new. If it was, the startled 'experts' might have a justification to talk of what happens these days as new, not old.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG),
also known as the "Flying Tigers"!

Real combatants of the United States Army (Air Force), who went on a 'vacation' and served with American-built fighters in China to fight for China as mercenaries against Japan. They did so based on an executive order of the POTUS and totally did not use proper U.S.A.A.F. uniforms until the U.S. entered the war officially.

Well, maybe you're not satisfied by this example because they were merely in a country at war, but not invading. Well, in this case I propose you read up on foreign involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

Putin used the fig leaf of deniability to enlarge his freedom of action, to get away with invading a country as the US and UK did with the fig leaf of WMD lies in 2003. That's no new kind of war, no new style of war and no new theory of war is required, much less new buzzwords of war. Western 'hawks' are merely angry that they themselves didn't come up with it and that some other power was brazen enough to do it.

There's hardly anything surprising to you about the face of war(fare) once you've learned enough about military history, for there are few truly new things.



Countering Russia with military spending

Plenty people with supposed "security policy" expertise have waken up to the fact that the NATO (and EU) got to secure its Eastern frontier only lately. I don't hear any mea culpas, but it's kind of embarrassing to supposed experts, isn't it?

Well, the other noticeable tendency of those people is to suppose that we need to spend more on the military to rise up tot he challenge (preferably in addition to continued nonsensical wars in sand bowls, of course).

Now that's another faux pas; the relevant question for changes in military budgets isn't whether an "expert" was startled, but the comparison of what's needed and what would be spent without any change.

Now let's have a reality check (though I've visited the topic before). This is how the pre-Ukrainian crisis spending looked like:

Now I see one country being crazy on military spending and then a long list of military great/medium powers.
Let's change the colours according to the situation in Eastern Europe: Blue for NATO/EU, Red for Russia and Belarus, orange for powers irrelevant in the Eastern European context:

You may now vet the data or put in the extra labour of correcting this with purchasing power parities, but the general picture won't change much. Russia would gain by about half the area (NOT diameter) in PPP. We can subtract this then-third by taking into consideration that Russia needs some military power in Central and East Asia.

Startled "experts" want us to spend more based on their personal failure to pay attention to basics, whereas the facts about actual military spending call at most for more quality, but certainly not for more quantity of spending in regard to the security of the Western World.

The security of the Western World is about doing actual deterrence and defence well, not about spending (even) more!



Logistics for quick continental deployments: Heavy AFV transport


This is a drawing for a 60 ton flat-bed  trailer. There are bigger (80 ton, for example) and smaller ones - the carrying capacity is largely proportional to the count of axles. Such trailers can be widened from about 2,550 mm to about 3,750 mm, so a Leopard 2 (width 3,760 mm) should be transportable with a legal waiver  at the latest (or with detached skirts). It could be transported on long range administrative marches on motorways with such civilian trailers if the gravity force is being distributed well onto the axles by a stiff bed or additional pallets.

We don't need to look up official registries to know that we have a couple thousand such trailers in Germany, do we?

I remember from my time in uniform that the Bundeswehr actually has a couple contracts with civilian companies 'just in case'; for recovery of aircraft which left the runway and are stuck in grass, for hauling material et cetera. I do not assume that there are many big contingency contracts with shipping companies nor am I aware of legislation empowering the police to commandeer such vehicles in the event of crisis (Krisenfall).

Both might actually be a good idea, since this could enable the Bundeswehr to quickly deploy brigades with several days worth of ammunition on the European continent. And by "quickly" I think of a week till Romania at most. This is possible technically, so it's left to legislation, planning and training efforts to enable this in practice.

It wouldn't be very important whether a vehicle weights 30 tons or 60 tons if such preparations were in place; any talk of "medium" (25-40 ton) armoured fighting vehicles for strategic deployability would be nonsense.

The Bundeswehr has lived for decades with the need to deter with military power at home, and since has lived with the need to follow stupid military adventures with small (up to brigade-sized) contingents in distant places. Now it should -belatedly- turn its attention towards rapid deployments in force on the home continent.
This can be had cheaply; there's no need to purchase a dedicated and quite expensive tank transporter for every tank in the inventory. A SLT 2 "Mammut" costs a million € apiece*, and this is really only necessary in small quantities for recovery purposes (transport of immobilized tanks to field repair workshops).

Heavy AFVs can be deployed by rail or ship as well, but the latter is negligible in the context of Germany and I consider the former to be unreliable. Rail traffic could be disrupted easily by agents (cutting railroad signal cables et cetera) and possibly even by the fashionable 'cyber warfare' or in most extreme cases by air attack. All of these disruptions would be under control with security and repair efforts after a few weeks, but the point of a rapid deployment is to be rapid, which excludes modes of transportation that might be bugged for weeks.

Rapidity of a well-trained road march deployment of German brigades to the area of Warsaw: 

Less than two days for political decisionmaking lag
+ less than one day to call up all personnel and ready the material
+ less than one day to additionally assemble all required trucks
+ slightly less than one day for administrative dispersed road march to Warsaw area (~1,200 km)
+ few hours to unload, zero and otherwise prepare equipment
+ few hours march and deployment in area of operations
+ about one day reserve because of 'friction'
Sum: less than a week

A rapid deployment capability may be much more crucial than fancy gadgets for vehicles and troops. A Polish army trusting the German army's capability to arrive battle-ready within days could weaken the security of Poland's Eastern border and prepare for a rush into the Baltic itself to help stall (better: deter) a coup de main attempt, for example.


*: It would probably cost about 700,000 € a copy if hundreds were purchased.