Tripwire forces - and why I reject them inevitably

Here's the very root of the tripwire forces issue:

(1) Many people think that tripwire forces are purposeful because they - being a kind of hostage taken by their own government - would force their government to get involved in the event of aggression, and thus ensure it political commitment  to defence. This act of foreign policy communication is meant to bolster deterrence and protect the peace.
Sure, the tripwire forces (especially super-symbolic multinational ones) would likely be easy targets in the event of deterrence failure*, but that doesn't matter, for this whole paradigm depends on one assumption: We are overwhelmingly superior in military power, and effective defence only depends on signalling that this superiority would be brought to bear against an aggressor.

I'm not sure that people who follow this paradigm really thought this through, but what I wrote above seems to explain their behaviour regarding deterrence and tripwire forces.

(2) And then there's the other paradigm, which I am applying: In this paradigm military forces are for deterrence AND defence, and setting part of one's forces up for failure in the event of an aggression is unacceptable.
As an addition that's rather uniquely mine I did add that the will to defend against an aggressor should be signalled by extreme fitness of the armed bureaucracy. Reaching this fitness requires the political masters to pursue it, disrespecting the self-interest of the (naturally lazy and egoistic) bureaucracy if not outright punishing the bureaucracy so much that it doesn't dare pursue any self-interest but avoiding said punishment for pursuing self interest.

Well, before I digress even more I'd like to admit that my preference for the latter paradigm is predetermined. I once studied economics, and this includes a creeping yet thorough indoctrination: You get indoctrinated to hate wastefulness.

The first paradigm is the wasteful one, since it requires overwhelming military superiority, not "just enough" military power for deterrence and defence. Only overwhelming military superiority would allow for a waste of military resources, and even negligence regarding fitness and deployment speeds.
I suppose everyone understands that "overwhelming superiority" isn't the same as "just enough". In fact, "just enough" may be reached at a state of military inferiority. Just look at Finland coexisting with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. The Finns were no doubt NOT superior militarily.

My other insistence on fitness and on addressing typical issues of bureaucracies (I wrote a lot about the basic descriptive models Niskanen's budget-optimizing bureaucrat and the  principal-agent model) was predetermined by my economics studies as well.**

The first paradigm is kind of correct; European NATO HAS an overwhelming military superiority of Russia, the only not entirely ludicrous threat generator in its neighbourhood. Within the existing imbalance of power and the first paradigm militarily ineffective symbolic composite battalions, one per Baltic country and even one for Poland, make sense.

It's just unbearable to me how wasteful the whole situation is. To spend but ten billion Euros too much on the military is equivalent to killing more than a thousand of our citizens by neglect. Scratch the "equivalent to". I suppose we overspend by a much greater margin, looking at how poorly the armed forces in European NATO / in the EU are oriented at deterrence and defence.


*: Think about how extremely well the poorly armed U.S. airborne troops who served as tripwire forces in Saudi-Arabia during the Gulf crisis 1990 fit to this description; hopeless militarily, but backed up by overwhelming power.
**: So very much that I grew tired of adding links to it.


  1. If RANDs Baltic attack study is correct (it is in fact too optimistic in some ways), I will add that war will be over long before any distant "overwhelming superiority" can play any role in it. That means Russians can take Baltics in just three or for days and declare that it is now Russian territory and every counterattack will start nuclear 3rd WW. - Then every soft Western politician would shit his pants immediately and cave in.

    1. That's pretty much my baseline scenario

  2. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/nuclear-war-no-longer-unthinkable-russia-18648

  3. The baltic states invest their spare money in the wrong military equipment, for example in GTK Boxer APCs. The should instead build militas, light infantry and structures for guerilla- and especially in minewarfare on a new level so that the prize in blood for invading them become to high. As S.O. also stated in another post, the other NATO Members could finance such a border military structure.

    Moreover such a structure of the baltic forces would not threaten russia because it is defensive only, would be excellent in fighting a russian insurgency in the baltics assissted by little green men and it would cost much less, so that the baltics could have much stronger armies in numbers.

    It is not possible to overrun a country in 3 days in which everything explodes if you touch it or come to close to it. Only the mine clearing would cost weaks.

  4. Good point. Western NATO members should build maneuver forces equiped with heavy armored vehicles and place them on Polish soil. Baltics, however, should read people like Austrian general Emil Spanocchi, mimic Finland and study Georgian army experience (they know very well that their tanks etc. were too visible for enemy even on not so impressive 2008 Russian reconnaissance standards).

  5. BTW: I think it is absolute "classics" for German military tradition to invent various types of conventional forward defenses, historically speaking. But Germany has now big Russian problem on the home front. If I can assume some similarities with Czech experience in 2013, this can be really confusing and dispiriting (you have no safe hinterland anymore, political will to defend is in question...), surely it is not straighforward problem for soldier. But you`ve got very good CI capacities and also good tradition of fighting foreign-supported extremism at home. We lose, our pro-Kremlin president will soon go to WH to meet Trump, which this week will also install Rex Tillerson decorated personally by Putin to State Department. But Germany still can succeed defending itself, I`m sure.

    I hope Berlin also can settle this issue in the end. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/europe-responds-to-trump-win-with-nuclear-deterrent-debate-a-1125186.html