Stephen M. Walt on the 2% debate

Finally, I found some sensible mainstream publication article that tells the public the same thing as I did for years.

This recurring concern with European defense spending is understandable, but it mostly misses the point. Why? Because the fundamental problem isn’t inadequate latent capacity or even a lack of mobilized resources. The only “clear and present” military threat Europe faces today is a resurgent Russia (though this threat may not be nearly as great as alarmists maintain), and NATO’s European members possess the wherewithal to deal with the challenge on their own. Leaving the United States and Canada out of the equation, NATO’s European members have nearly four times Russia’s population, and their combined GDP is more than 12 times greater. More importantly, even at today’s supposedly “inadequate” spending levels, every year NATO’s European members (again: not counting the United States and Canada) spend at least five times more on defense than Russia does.
The problem, in other words, is not the amount of money that European countries devote to national security. The problem rather is that they don’t spend these funds very effectively and don’t coordinate their defense activities as well as they could. Despite numerous attempts, Europe’s long-promised “Common Foreign and Security Policy” remains an aspiration, not a reality. This failure isn’t at all surprising, because CFSP is an EU initiative and the EU is still more of a collection of nation-states rather than a fully integrated community. The key point, however, is that throwing more euros (or kroner or zlotys) at the problem won’t fix it.

A hypothetical naval treaty

Let's look at a "hypothetical" scenario:

Country blue has a fleet size of 100 units and country red has a fleet size of 40 units.
Country blue has the shipyard capacity to build 5 units a year and country red has the shipyard capacity to build 50 units a year.

Would it make sense for country blue's navy proponents to demand an increase in the fleet size to 120 units in order to cope with the challenge that country red is capable of?
I suppose it's not sensible at all. It's a wasteful and losing proposition.

An alternative would be to approach the issue diplomatically; 

A naval treaty might be negotiated that limits both countries to a fleet size of 80.
Both countries would be served well by this, and it would be a win-win treaty. Country blue can reduce its spending by approx. 20% (>33% compared to the plan to increase to 120), while country red would be recognised as equal in naval affairs and could achieve fleet parity with much less spending at an earlier date.

A similar treaty existed a century ago, the Washington Naval Treaty. It lasted for 14 years until it was washed away - as so much else - by a wave of jingoism and hostilities.

The limitation on actual warship hulls would go counter to the intuitive pursuit of self-interest by the navies, but it would motivate them to find ways around the limitations. One of these ways could be a containerised, modular system to turn freighters into auxiliary warships - armed merchantmen - within weeks. Convoys of freighters and armed merchantmen could become capable of self defence against missile attacks, submarines within heavyweight torpedo range and against surface and some aerial threats. Meanwhile, the official and permanent warship fleet could be focused on submarines (SSI preferably), ships with huge (BMD) radars and - if this is for some reason advisable - CTOL aircraft carriers. The naval air service could include a surplus of AEW and ASW helicopters officially meant for coatal protection and really meant for the armed merchantmen.

Such a country blue navy might also be motivated to invest much in the development of drones (underwater, surface and aerial). Ship hulls become the less important the more the military functions are transferred from the platforms to drones, offering a way to mitigate the importance of the shipyard inferiority.

Navies that seek more ship hulls would intuitively hate such a concept, but navies that had the pursuit of more ship hulls blocked by a binding treaty might embrace such a concept. Well, unless the navy is as powerful as the IJN was and pushes the government to leave the treaty.

There are downsides for country blue, of course.
  • country red would reach parity sooner
  • country red would have an on average newer (more modern) fleet when it reaches parity
  • country red could still leave the treaty and commence a naval arms race, which it is bound to win
The treaty strategy would thus not be perfect for country blue, but the status quo ante of country blue isn't perfect anyway, unless it somehow finds a way to catch up in regard to shipbuilding capacity. The treaty might in fact be a huge improvement, even if it wouldn't last long.




"Enemies" of the U.S.

The New York Times "The Upshot" blog published a report on polling about perceptions on what country is an "ally" or enemy of the United States. The polling was divided in overall, Democrats' and Republicans' views. The question by YouGov was

From January 28 - February 1, 2017, YouGov asked 7,150 adults living in the United States the question:
"Do you consider the countries listed below to be a friend or an enemy of the United States?"

Almost nothing about the results was unexpected; the usual bogeymen ranked high as "enemies". I suppose the poll may not be scientifically representative to the highest standards, but I also believe that almost all of the results are representative.

I saved this as a bookmark for later use and after all the political reality disconnects of the past weeks I think it's a nice excuse for a roundhouse kick on questionable security policy world views:

The worst-rated ("enemies") countries were (for Republicans)

North Korea (worst)
Palestinian Territories
South Sudan

Let's look at those, one by one. The descriptions obviously aren't 100% complete, but I suppose the most important issues get mentioned.

North Korea
  • a hereditary tyranny with fig leaf of communist ideology
  • in Asia
  • effectively no human rights there
  • started a war of aggression against South Korea 56 years ago, was subsequently pushed back by -among others- U.S. forces
  • annoying loudmouthing as deterrence
  • built a few weak (and likely dirty) nukes for deterrence
  • provoked South Korea repeatedly, including sinking of a corvette a few years ago
  • annoying in its readiness to export weapons and munitions to countries not liked by the U.S.
  • no attacks on U.S. soil ever
  • potential nukes seller 
  • surprisingly, no Muslims here, but still at top of the list
The U.S. must be fantastically safe if this is the worst enemy.

  • a theocracy with elected parliament
  • in Asia
  • human rights issues, though surprisingly it's a more welcoming place to transsexuals than the U.S., since 1987
  • killed a few Americans and took many hostage at about the time of their revolution against a U.S.-backed tyrant - 37 years ago
  • attempted to enact a blockade against Iraqi oil exports (including through Kuwait) during its defensive war, was countered by USN
  • annoying in their (regional) great power gaming in which they are a patron to Shi'ite factions in other countries (where Shia are often more or less oppressed by Sunni governments)
  • did support some Shi'ite groups considered terrorist by the U.S. government
  • annoying loudmouthing and grandstanding (though the worst example is long out of office)
  • were on the verge of being able to become a nuclear power in a few years
  • the U.S. -which otherwise insists a lot on freedom of navigation - is super-irritated when USN ships encounter Iranian warships and boats close to the Iranian coast, used to shoot them (and an airliner) on sight during the 80's
  • a tyranny with an ongoing civil war including the human rights abuses typical of both tyranny and warfare
  • in Asia
  • did literally nothing to the U.S.
  • hosts military bases for Russia, thus giving them a foothold in the region
  • did have chemical munitions until recently, may have used them
  • the government-opposing faction Daesh (also the brand du jour for asswipes who want to commit terrorism anywhere and want to freeride on some corporate identity and marketing machine) is centred in Syria's rural East, but has little popular support
  • another government-opposing kinda-Al Qaida faction is there as well
  • tolerates that the U.S. and other foreign powers bomb Daesh on its soil
  • hardly a state any more
  • in Africa
  • is in a civil war
  • one civil war faction is a (currently badly losing) Daesh offspring
  • the long-ousted leader of Libya was a delusional case of loudmouth, supported some terrorism in the 80's and supported Muslim insurgencies in Africa, especially Chad
  • Libya got bombed by the U.S. decades ago, under Reagan
  • Iraq's government is supported by and friends with the U.S. government
  • in Asia
  • is in a civil war
  • Daesh controls some territories of Iraq
  • Iraq is fighting Daesh with support by U.S.
  • the long-ousted leader of Iraq had and used chemical munitions (particularly in his U.S.-tolerated war of aggression against Iran), attacked and occupied Kuwait until kicked out by coalition forces including mostly U.S. forces, was a loudmouth and supposedly once sent assassins after George Bush
  • Afghanistan's government is supported and subsidised by the U.S.
  • in Asia
  • Taliban are at home in Afghanistan (and Pakistan); they harboured UBL and his AQ mercenaries 15 years ago - before he admitted being behind 9/11
  • Taliban were attacked and pushed out of power by U.S. in 2001, they kept fighting a guerilla war against the Afghan government and its foreign allies on Afghan soil ever since
  • Afghanistan is fighting against Taliban together with U.S.
  • Afghanistan applies tribal customs that overlap with "Sharia" (!!!) law
  • a failed state that broke down a quarter century ago already
  • in Africa
  • only the North is somewhat orderly (an unrecognised proto-state hoping for international recognition of its secession), while the government in the South depends on foreign support to maintain a façade of statehood in a society divided by clan allegiances and conflicts
  • some Salafist faction exists, but has no role outside of Somalia and very close areas
  • became a piracy heaven years ago (now suppressed) for want of governmental enforcement of order
  • one clan once gave U.S. special forces a bloody nose in a botched raid some 23 years ago
Palestinian Territories
  • geographically and politically divided into two by now very different parts 
  • in Asia
  • inhabited mostly by Sunni Arabs
  • were occupied (illegally) by Israel for decades, West Bank is still mostly occupied and gets illegally colonised by Israel
  • Palestinians were involved in uprisings against Israeli occupation and engaged in skirmishes on and off for decades
  • some Palestinians welcomed the 9/11 strikes in 2001
  • Palestinians were involved in much terrorism, particularly during the 70's and 80's and related primarily to the conflict with Israel, secondarily to because of ideological links with wannabe communist terrorists
  • waged a quite genocidal war against its South for a long time, but South Sudan ceded years ago
  • in Africa
  • some ongoing conflicts with South Sudan
  • harboured UBL during the 90's, then evicted him (he fled to Afghanistan) 
  • had a fertiliser factory bombed by the U.S.
  • only (Sunni) Muslim-dominated country that has nukes
  • in Asia
  • used to be a military dictatorship, is approximating a presidential republic nowadays
  • is seemingly perpetually stuck in a mini cold war with India
  • has territorial conflict with India (Kashmir)
  • didn't police mountainous ("tribal") areas in the West for a long time, which led to a domestic conflict win the area
  • military intelligence service is widely believed to have de facto founded Taliban, and supported them well past 2001
  • home of many really bad phone call centres
  • used to be separated into a typical but practically oilless Arab state and a pseudo-socialist somewhat modernised state until a unification in 1990
  • in Asia
  • AQ attack on USS Cole happened in Aden 16 years ago 
  • government wasn't able to police the country properly, but tolerated U.S. surveillance assassination campaign with aerial drones for years
  • domestic tensions and conflicts erupted in civil war (depending on how you want to write down history, the war began 2004 or maybe 2011)
  • Shi'ite Houthi faction was about to become dominant until Sunni Arab dictators intervened against it militarily
South Sudan
  • in Africa
  • I'm at a loss here why South Sudan might be considered an enemy of the United States. It may involuntarily be the host of Joseph Kony (LRA from Uganda, infamous for leading child soldiers and many war crimes) and "South Sudan" sounds like "Sudan". I can't think of anything else that a majority of Americans might know about.
  • Only about 18% Muslims here
  • Lebanon was civil war-torn especially in the 80's, suffering in part form an Israeli invasion
  • in Asia
  • the country is so very heterogeneous in ethnicity, religion and politics that speaking of one county is misleading
  • one faction truck-bombed U.S.Marines barracks in Lebanon, which convinced Reagan that the region is too nuts to deal with. Reagan withdrew U.S. forces after claiming to be unimpressed and ordering some punitive bombings.
  • South Lebanon is dominated by Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which opposes and occasionally skirmishes with Israel, even prompting a war in 2006
  • one of the 9/11 hijackers was from Lebanon. Lebanon is the ONLY country on this short list that was homeland of a 9/11 hijacker, sponsor or planner
  • pseudo-communist dictatorship
  • in Americas (Caribbean)
  • played an important role during the Cold War, but has since become very unimportant
  • embarrassed the U.S: by repulsing a botched invasion attempt of proxies in 1961
  • used to export wannabe communist revolutionaries/guerillas in the 60's and 70's into Latin America, also into Angola against Apartheid South Africa's and the West's proxies
  • exile Cubans are fierce haters of the Cuban regime and loyal (R) voters (they likely tipped the scales in favour of Drumpf in Florida and thus overall)
  • practically no Muslims there, that's weird
- - - - -

This looks very much like a list of most miserable, suffering countries of the world (though Cuba, Lebanon and Pakistan would be misplaced and some places such as Eritrea missing) and much less like a list of countries that want to attack the U.S. or its allies, or did so. Such examples are actually a minority, and examples like the invasion of South Korea are ancient.

It's striking how hostility to these countries, their populations or their governments is no "winning" strategy. It's not "defeating" the hostility or regime. Cuba has faced U.S. hostility for more than 56 years and the regime is still in power. North Korea: 66 years. Iran: 37 years. Invading Iraq in 2003 evidently didn't remove it from this list. Generally, bombing or invading countries during the last ~40 years rather seems to add countries to this short list, not remove them.

It's also striking that Saudi-Arabia is missing. Only 42% of the responses rated it as an enemy or unfriendly. 
  • Saudi Arabia as a country (government and people) was and is the #1 sponsor and distributor of Wahhabism/Salafism, a.k.a. radical Islam.
  • Saudi-Arabia is a tyranny with a "royal" clan running a kleptocratic oligarchy
  • 15 of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi-Arabia
  • As was UBL himself
  • Saudis (not necessarily the ruling clan/clique) sponsored Taleban, AQ, Al Nusra Front and Daesh (though by now the government opposes Daesh as Daesh doesn't recognise the legitimacy of the Saudi tyrant clan).
  • The Saudi government ranks high in human rights violations, especially the oppression of women and Christians
  • Saudi public beheadings put Daesh to shame with their extreme quantity.
  • Saudi Arabia applies (its interpretation of) Sharia (!!!!) law.
They embody everything the average (R) voter is supposed to hate safe for delivering crude oil and petrochemical products to the world market. Saudi Arabia was NOT on the so called "Muslim Ban" list, of course.

- - - - -

I believe the American public is misinformed about the real hostility of countries, as well as about the roots of what hostility actually exists. The U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy are perfectly unsuitable to tone down such hostility and instead does the most possible to let it carry on to the next generation. A real security policy that's not great power gaming and instead really caring about security regarding foreign threats would be different. It would seek to reduce hostilities, even if there's a parallel containment effort that reduces the freedom of action that aggressive foreign rulers have.

There is an upside: The PR China didn't make it high on the Republicans' "enemies" list (yet?), so presumably there's today not much political freedom of action for the current U.S. government to turn more confrontational in the West Pacific than it already did with Obama's/HRC's "Pivot to Asia".



Cooperative engagement capability and ARH missiles

I wrote for years about how a radar (even a radar of an AEW aircraft) can be used to direct a missile launched from a remote platform (ground vehicle, ship, aircraft) to the vicinity of a hostile aircraft where the missile's own sensor locks on the target and guides the missile during the terminal homing phase.

Now, somewhat belatedly, I noticed that I never really told readers about the terminology for this.

One relevant keyword is "Cooperative Engagement Capability" (CEC), and the more general buzzword is of course "network-centric warfare" (NCW).

The entire thing rests heavily on digital datalinks (typically "Link 16"), but analogue systems to guide manned interceptors to the vicinity of bombers existed already back in the 1940's and were quite sophisticated by the 1950's. Early digital systems appeared in the 1960's (example; Swedish "STRIL 60"). I was astonished when I learned that the U.S. Navy didn't test some early kind of CEC ability with missiles guided by another platform than the launch platform until well into the 1990's, for I had simply assumed that this had been a feature of AEGIS since the 80's. It seemed to be a no-brainer to me that illumination radars of multiple ships should be available for missile terminal homing guidance.

Readers might have noticed that I often do not suppose that sensor and weapon need to be united on one platform or in one battery. Artillery began to give this up prior to the First World War, when it detached forward observers who communicated with howitzer batteries via field telephone (cable). Warships did this a little later, with aircraft observing fall of shot (particularly in coastal bombardments).
It still feels intuitive and self-evident that a surface-to-air missile system needs to have a matching sensor (radar) to form a battery with launcher+control cabin+sensor, but it's not self-evident at all.

The availability of lock-on after launch (LOAL) sensors on missiles enables us to use somewhat imprecise sensors that do not need need to deliver very exact vectors to and of the target vehicle. The 'footprint' of the missile's seeker can find the target if only the missile is directed to fly approximately to the target and arrives in its vicinity for its own sensor to take over.

Another important step was to leave semi-active radar homing (SARH) behind; this required powerful radar emitters that "illuminated" the target, so the missile with its passive radar seeker could track the target by the reflections. The switch to active radar homing (ARH) and passive (usually infrared) homing seekers allows to get rid of the huge illuminating radar.
Fighters can now turn and run away after launching their missiles at the target. This way they run away from the target's missile shots and the friendly missiles may still get midcourse updates (from other fighters, even if those are too far away fro SARH illumination) to find the target by another fighter that didn't turn. 1990's and later fighters (Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale) tend to have this kind of cooperation capability.

The good news are
  • we don't need to spend as much on land-based and warship radars any more
  • our SAM batteries aren't easily suppressed or knocked out by attacks on their radars any more since they may not even have a radar
  • warships without anti-air warfare specialisation may now still be hugely capable in AAW
while the bad news with all this are
  • air war depends even more on radio communications (datalinks) than before
  • missiles are more expensive because ARH is expensive
  • we should spend more on survivable AEW assets (and should find a better acronym than "AEW")
  • opposing forces' area air defences may also be highly resilient if designed to function without and organic emitting radar


external links:
Under the NIFC-CA ‘From the Air’ (FTA) construct, the APY-9 radar would act as a sensor to cue Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles for Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets fighters via the Link-16 datalink. Moreover, the APY-9 would also act as a sensor to guide Raytheon Standard SM-6 missiles launched from Aegis cruisers and destroyers against targets located beyond the ships’ SPY-1 radars’ horizon via the Cooperative Engagement Capability datalink under the NIFC-CA ‘From the Sea’ (FTS) construct. In fact, the Navy has demonstrated live-fire NIFC-CA missile shots using the E-2D’s radar to guide SM-6 missiles against over-the-horizon shots—which by definition means the APY-9 is generating a weapons quality track.



The recent missile crises

Both Iran and North Korea recently gained attention for testing ballistic missiles. Both events were treated as a crisis by the international Western media, and Drumpf took severe criticism for his display of lacking professionalism when read presumably confidential reports in full view of clearly unauthorised personnel. Well, at least we saw him reading more than 140 characters in one sitting for once. I actually found that to be rather reassuring.

The whole exasperation is in my opinion entirely misplaced, regardless of what the UNSC thought about it.

Western countries and Russia are testing nuclear warhead-capable missiles often and we don't presume that anyone else should feel threatened. The United States have thousands of nuclear warheads, Iran has none and would need many years to build a weak one - which remains practically impossible as long as the IAEA keeps inspecting it finding no nuclear arms program (Iran does follow its NPT obligations, while the U.S. doesn't) and the recent treaty on the issue remains in force (which Drumpf doesn't want it to be). 

North Korea meanwhile has a few nuclear warheads of low yield (but they're likely very dirty because of their inefficiency), but evidently doesn't use them on any other country. 

The entire exasperation about North Korea testing long range ballistic missiles (which could be intercepted by the operational BMD, but maybe wouldn't) is about the scenario of a nuclear warhead reaching Honolulu or even CONUS cities. This is supposed to be scary. That, of course, would also be possible if they launched a simple rocket from a ship four nautical miles off the coast, where - freedom of navigation! - they have the right to cruise anyway.

My advice is to ignore all these issues. Ignore North Korean nukes, ignore Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles.

One hint should have been that North Korea didn't use its nukes so far.

They won't use them, ever. The North Korean regime is a hereditary tyranny with a fig leaf of communist ideology. The first and foremost objective of the entire state is to support and sustain the rule and safety of the leader and his children. Everything else is of much lesser importance (even the lives of uncles and half-brothers).
To use a nuclear warhead all but ensures defeat by a nuclear power, maybe three of them. 
Moreover, even if North Korea was in a  conventional war and losing badly, with the leader and his last troops pushed back to the Yalu - North Korea would still not use any nuclear warhead as long as the PRC offers the leader a life in exile. To use a nuclear warhead at that stage would no avert defeat, but it would ensure that the leader would be extradited or assassinated instead of surviving in exile.

Nuclear munitions larger than the really small ones (up to 1 kt TNTeq) are almost perfectly unusable post-WW2, at least against targets on land. The powers that have them have no use for them against smaller powers, and face the threat of nuclear retaliation in regard to attacks on other great powers.
A country can threaten to use nukes, but that's about it - it's almost 100% a bluff.

It's thus best to call the bluff by ignoring such "threats", even perceived peripheral threats such as ballistic missile tests. We are almost certainly safe as long as we don't attack them,and even then a use of nukes is unlikely. A military history parallel for this exists in the German non-use of Tabun nerve gas during WW2.

Next time North Korea launches a big ballistic missile congratulate them to their achievement and ask them when they will launch their first geosurveillance satellite that helps the country's agriculture to optimise the use of land for food production. Don't treat it as a national security issue. It isn't one.
One advice in particular to politicians who want to communicate the "strong man" image; being easily scared by harmless missile tests doesn't fit the image you want to project. Cool, dismissive statements on the other hand would do so.



A Western S-400 and its potential purposes

The Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system (a.k.a. SA-21 Growler) is famous and succeeding the S-300 as the preferred area air defence nightmare. S-300 sales negotiations make Western warmongers fear for their ability to incite Western powers to cruise missile diplomacy and other aerial bullying, already. S-400 is much more powerful - and much more expensive, too.

Most S-400 batteries are deployed around the air defence capital of the world, Moscow. The others are located at certain points of great interest to Russia. We would likely not see many S-400 batteries in a Russia-NATO conflict at the front, but most likely a few, since their unique capabilities are so useful.

S-400 is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, aircraft, cruise missiles - the usual stuff for an area air defence system. Two characteristic stand out:
  • a UHF search radar that can detect low and very low observable ("stealth") aircraft at very useful ranges because their shaping doesn't help against these wavelengths
  • a super long range missile (one type believed to have 400 km nominal range) that would force transport aircraft, tanker aircraft, Elint aircraft, jammer aircraft and long range radar aircraft (AWACS/Sentry, Erieye, Hawkeye, J-STARS, ASTOR/Sentinel) to stay at a respectful distance, minimising if not eliminating their utility to the opposing forces.
There would be several possible fields of employment among not very Russia-friendly countries for such a missile system, particularly the 40N6 missile:
  • Taiwan dominating the Taiwan strait and securing the first ~ 100 nm of a convoy lane eastward
  • Poland cutting Kaliningrad Oblast off regarding transport aircraft (and thus reinforcements in wartime)
  • Sweden dominating much of the air space over the Baltic Sea and over its North
  • Finland covering the airspace of its vast North
  • Japan securing its West and the Tsushima Strait against PRC air power
  • United States defending Guam, including against ballistic PGMs

The alternative to most of these would be fighter patrols, but even quick reaction alert fighter forces could not cope with saturation attacks and strike packages as well as a battery that can launch dozens of missiles in a few minutes. Either way, past about 200-250 km one would need external radar sensors (typically AEW) to exploit the range of such a missile.

- - - - -

SM-6 launch
Well, what do we have in the West? To my knowledge we only have the RIM-174 Standard Extended Range Active Missile a.k.a. SM-6 in this category.

I'm not typically in favour of anyone buying anything from one of the big American arms manufacturers (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, all three shipyards etc.) for they are slow to deliver, expensive and often underperforming. The only alternative in this case would be MBDA, though. They could use the Aster-30's booster technology with a modified (all ramjet) Meteor missile to approximate the performance of SM-6 and 40N6, but this would take many years and billions. So there would be no reason at all to ask it do develop such a thing unless MBDA would pay back much of the buyer's bill through taxation.

SM-6 can be launched from a vertical silo, and assuming that the missile can be stored for a while in the horizontal position (which is most likely) there should be little difficulty in creating a land-based version. I wouldn't ask for a complete area air defence system, though. A containerised launcher, a command & control container, a radio datalink (Link 16) container and an off-the shelf generator trailer should suffice. Sensor data could be provided by external sources such as AEW aircraft radar, warship radar, fighter radar or land-based radars.

This could still turn into a multi-billion nightmare, and I'm not talking Zimbabwean dollars here. The best course of action would be if Raytheon made such a land-based SM-6 firing unit design ready and available off-the-shelf, so merely IADS integration, certification and technical manual translations would be necessary development activities for a sale. A price of about USD 5 million per missile is bad enough - there should be no huge development expenses for a niche product be paid by the first or any customer.



P.S.: I resent Raytheon in part for repeatedly sending press releases out claiming that SM-6 did set records for surface-to-air kills in tests without ever mentioning the achieved distance. Deliver or don't claim!


The "Quick White Peace" approach

I do often imply a certain doctrine of mine (I call it the "Quick White Peace Doctrine") when I write about defence policy:

This doctrine contains three maxims:
  1. Do not launch or join wars of aggression
  2. Try to deter a war of aggression against your country or alliance
  3. If (2) fails, seek a quick white peace (and be prepared to achieve this)

(1) and (2) should be self-explaining and obvious, but the term "white peace" may require explanation. A white peace is a peace under which the status quo ante is restored; no party of the conflict gains or loses territory nor do they gain or lose territory claims nor does any part become obliged to pay reparations of any kind.
It's essentially a reset to the pre-war situation except for the damage done and the aggressor having learnt that this kind of war does not yield benefits.

The intent behind the doctrine is to minimise the damage done by war. To compel the aggressor into accepting more ambitious demands would require additional war efforts and would lead to greater human suffering and economic damage, but also to greater risks. Essentially, points (1) and (2) become effective once the defending power has reached the point where the aggressor would agree to a white peace; the diplomatic ending of the war serves the same purpose as did the peacefulness and deterrence effort prior to the war.

It's part of the "quick" requirement that the war should not be escalated unless this serves to end it quickly. A regional limitation of the conflict by the aggressor should be welcomed. "quick" does not include nuclear suicide, of course.
_ _ _ _ _

This leads to a somewhat weird optimum-finding for peacetime defence policy. On one hand we should want to spend just as much as required to deter, but on the other hand we should spend enough to defeat an aggression quickly. The ability to defeat a foreign power quickly (to the point of white peace) typically requires more resources spent in peacetime than to the ability to merely defeat an aggressor slowly.

My preference regarding military spending in the EU is on enforcing a white peace quickly rather than slowly and barely. This has the additional benefit of offering a greater margin of safety in the deterrence effort.

The consequences of such a doctrine are far-reaching and tend to yield very different outcomes than the pursuit of armed services' self-interest, to follow old paths or to pursue intuitively favoured "balanced forces".
The "How to fix..." series has shown this; usually I dispense with the unessential (which in the European context is usually the navy) and focus on quickly effective air and land power, backed up by cheap militias and possibly a single regiment for protection of the national government in the capital (akin to the German Wachbataillon).

NATO is a two-continents alliance, so we can have many forces optimised for the first weeks of conflict, with forces from the other continent or even only other end of the same continent arriving much later in force and adding a strategic deterrent against continuing a war past a white peace offer.

All luxuries should be cut mercilessly. The strategic Schwerpunkt should be on the ability to defeat an aggression quickly to the point where agreement to a white peace proposal is likely. This requires economy of force elsewhere; cut everything else that's not needed for this purpose.

Even slight inefficiencies in military spending due to having poor ideas or lacking the self-discipline to follow good ideas can cause an annual waste of resources greater than the entire debt refinancing of Greece and Spain combined. The current inefficiency of military policymaking in Europe is a huge ongoing crisis. Sadly, almost everyone seems to have become accustomed to this inefficiency.




The advantages of an aggressor

Let's take a basic model; two countries coexist.
It's impossible for both to be vastly superior in military power to pursue their own security. Only one can be vastly superior at a time, and the attempt to reach this superiority may lead to an economic  lose-lose situation. Even the case that one nation gains such an upper hand is messy; warmongers would push for an abuse of this power.

The most stable case would be if these countries developed armed services which excel much more in defence than in offence, so both countries would be safe if they have approximately equal warmaking potential. This is very difficult to achieve with modern military technology.

Reality is even more destabilising; aggressors have intrinsic advantages ceteris paribus.
Here's an incomplete list, which I expect to link to in later posts:

  1. timing (procurement): The aggressor can choose the timing of the procurement of new technologies in order to reach a technological superiority during a certain time window
  2. timing (season): An aggressor could train and equip especially for one season (such as wintertime), gaining a specialisation advantage during this season.
  3. timing (day): The aggressor can choose the first day of conflict to his advantage, example Yom Kippur War.
  4. concentration before counterconcentration: The aggressor can amass his forces in the border region and the defender can react to this only with a lag (detection, communication, decisionmaking, distribution of orders)
  5. choice of theatre: The aggressor can choose where to attack, and whether to draw small powers into the conflict. He may limit the conflict to a single region if it suits his strengths, or escalate widely if he thinks this would suit his strengths. The non-aggressive defender would not forcibly draw additional neutral powers into the conflict.
  6. unusually high readiness at day of aggression is possible: Aircraft, ships and heavy land forces equipment often have readiness rates of 50-80% in peacetime, but this can be pushed to 80-95% at a specific date, for example for maximum power available on the day of aggression. One example was Germany in 1940; the readiness rated of the Luftwaffe were artificially high in the days prior to the campaign in the West.
  7. strategic surprise: This goes well past mere timing; an aggressor can desensitise the target to the telltale signs of attack preparations by repeatedly showing these without attacking for real. This, too, happened in 1940 - the multiple delays of the German campaign in the West desensitised the French to the (often correct, but soon obsolete) intelligence reports of German attack intentions.
  8. aggresssor gains bargaining chips: The aggressor will likely make some territorial gains, which in the event of a truce will serve as bargaining chips or may even be occupied indefinitely
Most of these advantages cannot be mitigated fully, but at least partially so.



New poll in Germany

There's an interesting poll (by forsa, commissioned by the journal Stern) about defence issues in Germany:

"Sollte Deutschland seine Verteidigungsausgaben in den kommenden Jahren erhöhen?"
(Should Germany increase its defence spending in the next years?)

yes 42%
no 55%

Only supporters of the far right AfD and the liberal (pro-employer and usually pro-tax decreases) party FDP are in favour of increased defence spending.

"Sollte sich Deutschland militärisch noch stärker am Kampf gegen die Terrormiliz "Islamischer Staat" beteiligen?"
(Should Germany participate even stronger in the fight against the terror militia "Islamic State" militarily?)

yes 38%
no 56%

"Sind Sie dafür, dass die EU-Staaten eine europäische Verteidigungsunion aufbauen und ihre Streitkräfte zusammenschließen?"
(Are you in favour that the EU states create a European defence union and join their armed services?)

yes 50%
no 43%

I disagree with the majority on latter one, but that's for reasons of above-average knowledge on the subject. I suppose the vast majority of responders merely thought about the issue on the political level, where we learned that cooperation is a hugely successful approach most of the time. Sometimes it's not the best choice, though (same problem as with the common currency).

- - - - -

I have seen very an international poll about the willingness of men to fight for their country, with Germany ranking really low. I don't care about such polls because I think the reason for such a result is the feeling that we're not threatened. All the irrational aspects of readiness to fight only come into play once you feel that you or your community are under threat. Without this, only factors like grandstanding, versions of masculinity cult or a high esteem of the armed services will lead to a high rating in such a poll.
Regardless of what certain nutjobs all over the world claim, Germany is not in any real trouble, particularly not by external threats (including immigration).

Foreign "threats" are little more than bogeymen that scare the simple-minded ones, with a fig leaf of basis in reality. The polls above show that Germans aren't easily scared by bogeymen, unlike many other countries and the German far right.



A security treaty for the East Asia - North Pacific region

Let's first have a quick look at the security situation of the pro-Western countries in East Asia:

Cannot withstand PR Chinese airpower, its navy cannot protect maritime trade lanes against PR Chinese air and sea power, and its rather neglected army is unimpressive. The biggest threat is still the threat of an amphibious invasion, for Taiwan could keep resisting blockade and a non-nuclear bombardment for years. The greatest security hope is that the USN would intervene with its air power and submarine force if the PRC went aggressive, so Taiwan would really only need to resist on its own for maybe a month or two.

It's fairly safe from threats due to geographic separation, but in the long term or over the course of a long war it could face the same situation as Taiwan, albeit Japan is bigger.

South Korea:
It's militarily superior to North Korea in everything except light infantry numbers and nuclear munitions. Russia is not really a threat, but the PRC could be a threat similar as with Japan, or if it intervenes in a war on North Korea's behalf. South Korea could not be defended by its own forces or allied forces against the PRC's military potential due to its continental position. The threat of an amphibious invasion by the PRC's forces -  a reverse Inchon - is relevant and would force South Korea to keep substantial forces in reserve in the event of war.

It is amazingly difficult to find an East Asia map that
shows Taiwan as separate if one uses English keywords.

I suppose the single most de-escalating and peace-preserving measure would be to take the PLAN's amphibious forces out of the equation.

- - - - -

So here's a plan for a security deal for East Asia

People that would need to know about the full plan:
  • President of the United States
  • Premier President of the Republic of China
  • Prime Minister of Japan
Everyone else would be kept ignorant about certain key parts, so that the bluff elements may succeed.

Taiwan and the United States begin talks about selling thousands of Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs, M109 SPHs, M270 MRLs, ten thousands of Javelin missiles as well as about half of the U.S.' Patriot area air defence batteries and land-based SM-6 batteries with hundreds of new production missiles.

Japan and the United States  begin talks about selling land-based SM-6 batteries and hundreds of  F-18E/F/G combat aircraft, dozens of tanker aircraft as well as thousands of cruise missiles.

No doubt the PRC's leadership will proceed to fume and rev up to never-seen-before exasperation.

Weeks later a long-planned bilateral meeting between the presidents of the PRC and USA happens, and all these arms deals become a topic. The POTUS drops a line during this meeting - seemingly spontaneously - about how all these arms deals are all rooted in the PRC's amphibious aggression capability. 'Kind of as your concerns about our military power are mostly about our navy.'

The proposal for a deal arises, similar in spirit to the START treaties of the 80's:
  • Both PRC and USA mothball their entire amphibious fleets* with a bilateral inspection scheme
  • Neither PRC nor the USA buy or build any amphibious warfare ships, nor do they assist or subsidise other countries in building up their inventories of such ships
  • The U.S. doesn't deliver weapons or munitions to Taiwan, and won't deliver any air or naval warfare hardware to Japan.
The consequences would be
  • Taiwan is safer from invasion than it could be even if the USN was full-time focused on defending Taiwan
  • Japan is safer from the PRC
  • South Korea is safer from the PRC
  • Malaysia would be safe from the PRC
  • the PRC could not enforce any trade deals it made with African countries by sending its navy
  • the USA would save approx. USD 10 billion every year, total gains (including manpower transferred to civilian economy for productive employment) would probably exceed USD 20 billion every year
  • less confrontational political climate in East Asia AFTER the deal
  • no substantial downsides

The downside of the plan as a whole - not of a potential treaty - is the temporary heating up of the political climate in the region. An extreme (and unlikely) worst case would be a preventive PRC invasion of Taiwan - a risk that the Premier President of the Republic of China would have to assess before agreeing to the plan.


*: With measures that make it impossible to reactivate more of half of those fleets in less than three months, such as removing the engines from the hulls.

P.S.: Now don't tell me that 'dealmaker' Drumpf is going to do anything remotely similar, please. He already botched the "One China" issue terribly. His attention span would not suffice to read this article.

I don't think that this is necessarily a super-wise policy proposal. It's merely the idea of one man. It's rather the kind of proposal that I think aides to great power leaders should produce - about 40-50 such ideas per year as a creative input for strategic policies. To work out details and do the risk assessment would be an inter-agency team project.