2013/11/28

Calm down about the ADIZ

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There's a lot of noise by professional and hobby firebrands who want to prop up mainland China as the new evil empire or something, but the ADIZ (air defence identification zone) story is rather not newsworthy. I can tell it's rather not newsworthy because the Japanese did the same a few years ago and few news organizations did deem it newsworthy.

Here's a map; now figure out yourself whether this ADIZ makes mainland China look more aggressive than Japan:

(c) Maximilian Dörrbecker, from de.wikipedia.org

To get agitated about East Asian disputes easily is an early (and stupid) step towards getting involved in needless (stupid) hot conflicts in distant East Asia.

The usual suspects cry foul about this new ADIZ.
The usual suspects are stupid and dangerous.
Don't believe them. Think for yourself.

S O
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2013/11/26

"We Have a Deal With Iran. A Good One."

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The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so.

The "bomb, bomb Iran" crowd hates it, but that was predictable. They're missing out on wanking off while the news report that yet another country gets bombarded.
Luckily, this anti-social crowd loses some of its fights, too.

S O
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2013/11/25

"Good Luck Everyone"

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Only a country with a comedic tradition of using perpetually struggling characters as main protagonists was able to produce a comedy series (or season thereof) about the trench war in 1916/1917. And even if others would (or could), they would hardly produce such a series finale. The entire conflict left very different marks around the world.

To be honest, I think the war is overshadowed by its 2nd edition in Germany. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of working-age Germans didn't know more about the First World War than that there has to have been one since there was a Second World War, after all.
 
 
S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

(The character at the beginning is called "Captain Darling", and the Blackadder character mocked this perfumed prince by calling him "darling" only during the entire season.)
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2013/11/23

Hit and run vs. find, fix, strike

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The week long focus on bashing interventionists is obviously gone, mil theory posts are back.

This one is going to be about manoeuvre formation level (battalion battle group to brigade) primarily:


Two different approaches to combat are 
(1) hit, break contact, move, recover, rinse/repeat
(2) fix them, manoeuvre, strike/finish, exploit

Typical descriptions for this are "hit and run"/"shoot and scoot" and for the latter "hammer and anvil", but they're not exactly the same as I meant above.

So I thought some about both, and how I intuitively dislike the "fix" part*. I think I came up with ideas for when to prefer which approach.

The force of inferior size or superior agility should likely prefer quickness ("hit and run"), while the superior size or inferior agility force should prefer to fix the opposing force.

Sounds simple so far, except if keeping the opponents fixed is too expensive. That's what my intuitive dislike is in part about. Contact with hostiles may be very lethal to one's force, and if lethality trumps survivability too much during contacts you better know how to "fix" without exposing your force too much.
The best way to do so is probably to substitute actual confrontation and contact with the fear thereof. 

This is similar to the thoughts about repulsion: It doesn't work well if it's overambitious; you should leave the enemy an enticing course of action which you prefer him to take - be lethal to enemies while they move, not while they cower. An overambitious approach would be to hammer them while cowered**, which will entice them to move and provoke costly contact in an attempt to keep them fixed nevertheless.
They shall fear action more than inaction if you want them fixed. That is, unless your survivability is so strong you can stand their lethality easily (but why would we expect them to not withdraw under such circumstances?).

There is a time for quick and also for prolonged contacts. Even forces with superiority in the region may be inferior at some locations temporarily ("economy of force" - strength was gathered for an important action elsewhere). Prolonged contacts without good survivability during contact should be limited to decisive, high pay-out actions, though. 

For this reason I still don't think "Find, fix, strike, exploit" is a good general doctrine.
Some tactical missions don't require you to find the enemy (such as blocking a route), many don't require to fix them and at times to fix them is even too costly. But I wrote about "Find, fix, strike" much more some time ago already.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

*: I dispute that it's a necessity. It's more of a nice-to-have that comes at a price.
**: To be done eventually, but only once you're prepared - not while you fix in order to gain time for preparations.
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2013/11/22

Mortar bombs and countermeasures

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Today's mortar bombs are almost all very similar in concept to World War 2 mortar bombs, the greatest differences are the proliferation of cargo (submunitions, cluster, ICM, DPICM) munitions and the streamlining of the body of many mortar bomb types for better aerodynamics. Radio proximity fuzes - a WW2 invention - are now rather normal on high explosive mortar bombs as well.

This is the kind of old school mortar bombs which has spawned multiple countermeasures in the meantime.

The oldest countermeasure is the late 40's invention of counter-mortar radars. These radars still employ the same principle; they search the horizon for contacts (mortar bombs in flight) and then collect further data on the contact's trajectory. A bit mathematical interpolation by a computer later the user knows the approximate origin of the contact.
Mortar teams facing such a sensor are very much impaired in their ability to accomplish their mission. Their effectiveness is badly degraded even if they know and apply all the tricks of the trade, knowing about the radar's limitations.

Another countermeasure are hard-kill defences; autocannons and even lasers (a German 40 kW laser has been successfully tested on mortar bombs, for example). These depend on the radar for fire control data, of course.

HE mortar bombs employ kind-of-radars themselves for fusing at a most 'promising' height over ground. The very first such fuzes were meant for HE grenades fired at aircraft, so as to make a direct hit or difficult time fusing unnecessary. The inventors were huge fans of the approach and claimed it's reliable. Someone else (engineer of physicist, I forgot) was sceptical and his team improvised an effective jammer within two weeks with the benefit of knowing the fuze. Such jammers were not introduced during WW2, but became rare specialised equipment during the Cold War and are now more common; "Shortstop" was and is a famous such tool.

Finally, electromagnetic pulse emitters could be used to counter guidance or electronics-dependent fuze types of mortar bombs.

And this is where countermeasures to the countermeasure come into play:

Proximity fuszes on optical principles have been developed to maturity two decades ago, and more old-fashioned methods such as point detonation super quick fuzes, jumping-back-on-impact mortar bombs and time fuzes (now better thanks to electronics and electronic maps) negate the protection by usual jammers. Cluster munitions were (and are) easily used with time fuzes, since small errors of a few metres don't influence their effect much. The electronics-free approaches are even resistant to microwave-based hard kill defences.

Spin stabilised mortar bombs (such as the French 120 mm of the very much proliferated MO-120 RT mortar) are troublesome for lasers because the laser effectively faces the whole circumference instead of one side only. This is only a problem if the heat capacity of the mortar bomb's shell isn't the limiter, of course. After all, heat disperses quickly in steel.
But what if the mortar bomb is an insensitive munition, with a much higher cook-off temperature than usual? The laser might need too long to reach this temperature.
There's also the possibility of highly reflecting surfaces, which would degrade the laser's effect initially.

But let's not fixate on laser countermeasures. After all, the really troublesome countermeasures appear to depend on the fact that mortar bombs have a tendency to be ballistic projectiles; this enables the interpolation of their origin. Now what if the mortar munition is not a ballistic munition, but rather a guided or course correcting one (sometimes called 'quasiballistic')? It may manoeuvre on autopilot early on and then fake a trajectory which lures counterfire to some unoccupied area.
Manoeuvring munitions also make the hard kill approach much more difficult, albeit the low velocity of mortar bombs (usually less than 280 m/s; subsonic) means that this doesn't nearly help as much the mortar teams as it helps the howitzer teams against hard kill defences.

Finally, why tolerate detection and tracking by radar at all? Even moderate changes of the shape of mortar bombs could reduce their radar cross section by a factor of ten and make detection much less likely at least for the mortar teams which are rather distant from the radar. A polygonal surface would be a cheap approach for radar stealth, albeit it would require some discarding sabot in order to achieve a decent sealing for the propellant gasses in the tube. That's tricky because of the tail fin section. It's still likely practical.


And these were merely the hardware counter-countermeasures. The "tricks of the trade" of the mortar teams are probably still more powerful.

Military tech journals feature high-tech countermeasures occasionally. We shouldn't forget that some of these are (still) impractical, others will rarely face fine conditions for employment and all of them will sooner or later face counter-countermeasures and de-valuing new tactics (tricks of the trade).
I wish there was more written on the potential employment of new tools, not just a presentation of the mere technical performance.
No doubt many, many novelties will disappoint in (hopefully distant) future wars, just as it happened in past wars.

S O

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2013/11/17

North Korean defence options

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It's interesting to think about how North Korea could (not) defend itself. The tactical challenges it faces are in part challenges a great power's military would face as well if it's at war with another great power.

(c) Sadalmelik
Navy:
Forget about it. A few fishery protection police boats may make sense and might be able to drop some mines in the vicinity of harbours during the prelude to a hot war, and that's about it. All other naval assets are fodder or inconsequential. Effective and survivable coastal defences would be too expensive.

Air Force:
Same. Maybe a few helicopters with unusually skilled or lucky pilots might skim the valleys for a while and avoid destruction, but the fixed wing aircraft are mere targets. North Korea might maintain a squadron of attack aircraft for an uprising scenario and a squadron of interceptors for air policing as well as a few semi-civilian transport aircraft for sensitive international freight.
Area air defence does almost inevitably depend on radars and would thus be subjected to sophisticated anti-air defences campaigns. A few such (mobile!) systems may make sense purely in order to degrade hostile offensive air power potential by forcing some caution on them (including prevention of persistent drone patrols), though.

Army artillery:
It's largely a political weapon (threat to Seoul). I suppose the heavy artillery would be consumed almsot in its entirety by the first 48 hours of warfare and the vast majority of other artillery would be gone within a week.
A few heavy (= long range) multiple rocket launcher systems, optimised for camouflage, might remain useful (especially with scatterable AT mines). Their use would depend on the ability to tell when the skies are clear, though. This requires at least local air surveillance (possibly by upwards-looking infrared and UV sensors as well as passive radars).
South Korean air bases and civilian airports would probably be overcrowded and might be enticing targets for bomblet munitions, too (to be released before C-RAM systems can intercept).

Army engineers:
I'd focus entirely on defensive tasks; build underwater and pontoon bridges, lay minefields, blow up roads, cause debris avalanches and the like. Forced river crossing and clearing of minefields under fire would be pointless.

Army armour: 
Similar to artillery, this would be consumed really quick. Some armour is still invaluable for representing the armour threat during training for the infantry.

Army infantry:
The classic North Korean infantry of 1950 was exceedingly impressive at infiltration attacks - even support troops pressed into infantry missions. They were willing to risk much and it paid off.
Infiltration attacks are now exceedingly difficult because the cover of the night was largely lifted by night vision devices.
Still, the infantry is the most elusive force component and needs the least supplies. It would be the most promising (though not the most impressive to civilians) force for strategic defence.
The next part will be exclusively about how to set up a respectable North Korean infantry.
______________
First, ensure morale is adequate. You cannot fight without adequate morale, especially not with duel (line of sight combat) troops. The people of NK need to see improvements in their lives. Every quarter some progress. Some more relectricity, some more or better food, some more clothes, somewhat higher misdeamor requirements for being sent to labour camps. The troops would be very unreliable if they cannot be motivated. Reallocate resources from the useless air force and navy towards consumption and economic investments to create progress.

Second, ensure the NCOs and officers understand Western sensors and the camouflage requirements. Visible / near IR / IR camouflage against ground forces, Visible / IR / radar camouflage against aerial threats. Same for concealment and deception. This is about training, discipline and also equipment.

Third, they need night vision; mostly cheap passive near IR (low light, starlight), but also some passive IR (thermal) sensors for officers and mortar forward observers. Also enough munitions to provide illumination to near IR night vision devices if there's no moonlight.

Fourth, they need to be able to take on main battle tanks. British and American forces have demonstrated how demoralising and irresistible de facto immune MBTs are in ground combat. They depend on them, too. South Korea has comparable MBTs which are a little better optimised for Korean terrain.
Infantry battalions should probably get the Chinese 120 mm battalion recoilless guns for taking on MBTs and for line of sight fire support during local (counter) attacks. The regular infantry squads should be able to make do with the Russian 105 mm warheds for RPG-7 (PG-7VR series), which would be dangerous to IFVs all around and to MBTs from flanks, rear or high ground. The fuzes would need to react to bar (cage) armour in time, keeping the warhead from being deformed prior to ignition.

Fifth, at least reliable VShoRAD (very short range air defence) is a necessity. They would get shot up even by circling Apache helicopters and their 30 mm guns if there's no reliable VShoRAD. Passive infrared is the typical guidance method, but it's insufficient. Countermeasures are numerous and IR-based VSHoRAD ("ManPADS") have lost a lot of respect during the last 10-15 years. Laser beam riders are the way to go, preferably with impact fuze instead of jammable proximity fuzes. The launcher needs to have night vision and support by a passive early warning device. An IFF (identification friend/foe) component is unnecessary.

Sixth, they need mortars dedicated to survival. The hilly and mountaineous Korean landscapes are very difficult terrain for mortar radars, but it still takes skill (education) and possibly some dedicated mortar bombs to manage the risks. The relevant mortar bomb radar cross sections should be kept small, and trajectories need to be kept low. The typical 82 mm mortars and Chinese 'Jet Shot' commando mortars could be used a lot. 120 mm mortars could be used preferably for guided munitions (which make interpolation of origin difficult if they manoeuvre early on already). It may be that mortar teams would still be forced to shoot primarily from within settlements (which is no war crime as long as the civilians are free to leave), as the South Korean government would probably not want many North Korean civilians massacred..

Seventh, they need communications. Motorcycle couriers, improvised cable and fibre-optic land lines, and digital radio relay networks using many dispersed nodes (too many to shoot at with artillery after triangulation) might work. The best approach would probably to simply keep the distances short and the dependence of bandwidth minimised. One-time pads should be used for most radio communications within regular networks (along the ordinary chain of command from company upwards).

Eighth, jamming and decoying should be rampant and be based on many cheap items instead of few expensive ones.

Ninth, bulletproof plate inserts need to be defeated. They defeat AK-pattern assault rifles and that's going to be both unsatisfactory and persistent. Assault rifles still have their place in the infantry, but riflemen with powerful-enough semi-auto long cartridge weapons and quality AP bullets are required, too. This is a must-have for morale, if nothing else (you can also shoot legs, after all).

Tenth, I suppose their army would be most resilient if it was based on battalion battlegroups. A small HQ element, a signaller/courier platoon, a VSHoRAD platoon, sniper platoon, engineer platoon, mortar company, MI/MP platoon, gun company, supply company (no trucks), three or four rifle companies and one replacements/training company.
These battalion battlegroups would receive the definition of their area of operations, orders for their activity there and one-time pads and other information for cooperation with neighbouring battlegroups. At least three different battalion battlegroup types might make sense; militia (settlement defence), regular army (countryside) and strategic army reserve (trained for offensive actions, not the least against paras).


This kind of army forces would not "win" a war, of course. South Korea and Mainland China are both superior to North Korea on their own. They could only make it bloody*, relevant foreigners might be able to anticipate this and this in turn might keep the peace ceasefire. Or such an army might buy enough time till allies arrive.

________________

I wrote years ago about how military forces seek to minimize the active tactical repertoire of their enemies. The incredibly poor opposition in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated failures to maintain the very basics of tactical repertoires. Effective anti-tank defence, effective short range air defence, adequate morale, defeat of NIJ level IV body armour by at least some small arms, uncompromised basic communications, basic night vision and sufficient camouflage are not negotiable. An army hoping to resist sizeable Western-style forces for more than a few weeks needs to possess and maintain these capabilities. It's possible and depends on relatively few expensive hardware items. Reliable VShoRAD missiles are probably the most difficult to come by, for many of the known examples are from Western sources. The Russians use the technology as well, though (SOSNA system, SOSNA-R missile).


S O

related: 2012-08 North Korea's military capabilities and defence (about the impression-focused defence strategy which they actually employ)

*:  The regime would probably need to relocate to Hyesan, a Northern border town which is in the mountaineous region that's relatively suitable for defence by light forces.
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[Fun] U do it wrong

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They used to be better with camouflage. :)
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2013/11/15

Securing maritime trade in faraway places

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Another German Milblogger (or 'security policy' blogger) published a piece about how we should have more naval activity in the East to secure maritime trade. I had to mobilize my self-discipline and patience in order to not start a blog war. Seriously, this guy annoys me with his primitive bullocks.
Kudos to him for mastering the facade, the style, of a very serious person. At least he's got a 'serious' style. We diverged on this; he went with style, I went with substance and have my fun. Style is reserved for and added only when I get paid for writing stuff.

Anyways; the topic is about the role of navies in securing maritime trade in peacetime; the 'showing the flag', 'forward deployment' business. Back in imperial times, this was considered self-evident. Nowadays one might dare to task one's brain to think about whether it's a good idea. Most people trust primitive instincts instead.


First step: Vital trade

Think about how vital (and I mean "vital") maritime trade is for your country. Do this for the various routes (through Panama Canal, through Suez Canal, in Persian Gulf, through Strait of Gibraltar et cetera) separately to identify really vital maritime trade (if there's any)*.
And I mean vital. Let's assume the Suez Canal would be shut down as in 1956. Maritime shipping would need to go around Africa. Industry associations would complain about it and some corporations would make less profit, mabye our inflation would even rise by 0.x % and economic output would be reduced by 0.y%. That's not the symptoms of a vital trade route being cut. That's merely an annoyance. A scratch.
The same goes for when maritime trade becomes a bit more expensive or if trade needs to be re-routed from one harbour to another.

The description of vital maritime trade route being lost sounds more like 'Our powerplants are projected to run out of coal by summer. Power rationing can be expected during peak demand times.'

Many people who talk and write fast and loose about how navies should do this or that are using words such as "vital" inaccurately and prefer to produce strings of assertions without real foundations in order to sound alarming and 'serious'. Healthy, normal people don't run around and scream about problems, so most people assume that there's actually a problem if someone claims there's one with all the elements of alarm. Some people with an agenda exploit this.**

Back to the first step: It's also important to have basic competence in reading statistics.
For example, someone might claim that we trade XYZ billions € per year with an exotic country. The sum may look impressive, but how much of it is left for justifying a naval mission if a huge chunk is actually air freight?*** A large chunk of our trade is always services traded, and services surely don't get traded on container ships. Some more trade is inevitably import of raw material which could usually be imported from somewhere else about as easily. 
People with an agenda (and Im not focused on aforementioned blogger here) at times deliberately use the biggest figure available (which is correct, but irrelevant) in order to 'support' their case. And then there's usually nobody dissecting the argument and separating relevant from irrelevant, much less sanctioning the offender for misleading others intentionally.

You should be able to determine whether or not maritime trade on a certain shipping lane is actually vital for your country (or at least form a substantiated opinion about it). But it's laborious, requires thought and it's inevitable dependent on guesswork.

Step 2: Is the naval approach useful?

Next, think about whether tasking the navy makes sense. Yes, "think". This is not as self-evident as other milbloggers would assume. You're at Defence and Freedom here, after all. So "think".

Whatever threat to maritime trade exists, naval assets are not necessarily able to secure much trade. Think of Taiwan, for example. They have the scenario that mainland China may want to impose a naval blockade. Who's stpid enough to think that Taiwan's navy could do much about it if mainland China was serious? They would be hard-pressed to escort a single convoy out and in per month, and would likely not even accomplish this.
Likewise, Germany could not fool itself into thinking that it could secure its maritime trade through the Strait of Malacca if Malaysia and Indonesia decided to have an air/sea skirmish. A forward deployed frigate squadron wouldn't even be sent into the fray, no matter how much shipping goes through that strait in normal times. The shipping would simple have go use a longer route.

And then there are the gunboat diplomacy (re-branded into "showing the flag") nonsense talkers. I have a large, eight centimetre thick chronicle of the 20th century in my cupboard. I want to smash it repeatedly on the head of such nonsense talkers till they understand the uselessness of the Panthersprung and similar actions****. They obviously can't read history books by themselves. Nobody needs to see a ship to know that there's a navy somewhere. To show the flag is about killing time for seamen, not about accomplishing anything. Don't confuse it with warning shots. Sometimes showing the flag is even terminally stupid.

Step 3: Non-vital maritime trade with potential effectiveness of navies

There is a possibility that a navy (or navies) may actually be useful in securing maritime trade. The combination of this and non-vital maritime trade yields a modestly interesting scenario.
 
The way to go is then to look at costs and benefits. Is it reasonable to believe that the naval effort (minus the sunk costs such as procurement and normal operation of units which you already have) can pay off? Will the benefits be greater than the disadvantages?

This isn't only about additional kerosense costs and hundreds of private lifes ruined by separation of young couples for months. Foreign countries may get seriously antagonised if you keep patrolling just barely outside their territorial waters, after all. You may also need to accept shady deals with some dictator in order to secure some naval base somewhere.

Choose the action with the greatest advantage of benefits over costs, but beware of overoptimisim. It's better to err on the side of history which preferred non-violence.

- - - - -
 
Unsurprisingly, I'm too uninterested in the expeditionary bullocks to make a thorough calculation myself, and any such attempt to determine which trade is vital and which not, how much naval presence would cost additionally and what effects - beneficial and worrisome - it may have is bound to be dominated by guesswork anyway.

I did arrive at a conclusion, though. 
This conclusion is that we should not slavishly follow the obviously unsuccessful or excessively expensive approaches. We shouldn' use the classic Western approach in a world which changed a lot since the late 19th century.
The Royal Navy patrolled the Indian Ocean a lot with its cruisers when it had an empire to guard, but all this patrolling achieved little and there were actually no non-European navies in existence which could have secured the area.
Nowadays the strait of Malacca is an important bottleneck for maritime shipping. I suppose it's the responsibility of the countries in the region to secure it. I wouldn't want Chinese frigates to patrol the Baltic Sea in order to secure the export of Chinese wares to St. Petersburg, after all. Americans regularly like to see their navy patrolling along the territorial waters of distant countries many of them cannot find on a globe, but they also freak out when a fishing boat  shows the Chinese flag near Hawaii.
So why should we patrol in SE Asia?

The Northern Indian Ocean is India's backyard (Who'da thunk it?). They have a navy, and I think to secure maritime trade there is their job by default. Germany: Western Baltic Sea and German Bight. Russia: Eastern Baltic Sea. Spain: Strait of Gibraltar. Saudi-Arabia and Iran: Persian Gulf. Egypt: Red Sea. South Africa: Cape of Good Hope. Colombia and USA: Vicinity of the Panama Canal. Argentine and Chile: Cape Horn. Et cetera.
These responsibilities may be neglected, but that's no reason to go crazy and maintain a naval squadron in very distant waters for decades. Instead, diplomacy and cost/benefit analysis shall rule. Maybe the shit hits the fan sometime; then again, analyse and consider cost/benefit. Maybe the freighters can simply go a longer route.


The idea that "maritime trade => navy shall protect it => let's build an expeditionary navy and send it to the end of the world !" is primitive bullocks. It's not serious thinking; it's non-thinking. It's instinctive, a reflex. A failure of contribution to discussion.
But some people just seem to need this"power" thing. Maybe they're privately insecure and need to have something national to be proud about. Maybe they just need to have this idea that their tribe is strong.
We better don't let such people influence our allocation or national resources.

S O

*: Greeting to my Hungarian readers.
**: They deserve to be treated like a child that yells "help" a hundred times a day.
***: Air freight has an enormous share of the value of exports of Germany, for example. German air freight trade was 4.3 million tons in 2012. That's 2% of tonnage, but 30% of goods trade value.
****: Or at least shut up, which would be the more likely the more passionate I'd be about applying the book.
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2013/11/14

Sunk costs / Principal-agent problem / How not to

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Communicated with another blogger, found out he agrees and actually planned to write about the very same conclusion. Now I need to hurry in order to save whatever originality my thought might have had. :)

Cuts of procurement problems programs usually yield surprisingly little savings. Well, experience alleviates the surprise, for there's really a pattern.
Assume a procurement program was about 200 aircraft and after delivery of 60 aircraft something changes and the program shall be cut down to 160 aircraft - a cut of remaining deliveries by 40%. The price for the remaining deliveries usually drops by far less than 40%, usually more as 10-15%, and this is not only due to lost economies of scale.

The reason for why it may even happen that such cuts don't save anything or no substantial sum is in the existing contracts; there's usually a penalty clause saying that if the government cancels or renegotiates the contract, a certain substantial penalty shall be paid.

Why would governments agree to such a clause in the first place? They're in a position of strength at the during the bargaining (assuming there's any bargaining at all). Sure, they want that piece of kit, but they can buy elsewhere, while the supplier likely needs the development money and order to get an exportabel product in the first place.

The answer is that bureaucrats and politicians in office want to rig the contract so fast that it makes cancellation difficult. This rigging is meant to reduce the freedom of action of governments in the future and doesn't serve the interests of the people at all. It merely serves the personal preferences of the bureaucrats and politicians in favour of 'their'  project. They exploit the 'sunk costs' issue to suit their personal preferences.The more the program advances, the less costs are not sunk and depending on the contract text it's even possible that a point approaches at which the contract penalty is as large as the remaining regular order. The program would then be immune to cuts because cuts would not save any funds at all.

illustration principal-agent problem, (c) "MisterX000", wikipedia

This is yet another example for how bureaucracies (and politicians) as agents of the citizens (principal) don't truly represent the interests of the people, but their own ones. It's an example for a principal-agent problem.


The solution is simple, and may actually help not only in military procurement, but in governance in general: Outlaw contract penalties and anything which has the same effect in government procurement of goods or services. Make it plain illegal and ineffective. This wouldn't neutralize penalty clauses retroactively (because of the rule of law), but it could save a country such as Germany billions of Euros per year on average.

S O
defence_and_freedom@gmx.de

Edit: There's an additional and substantial benefit in this proposal for countries with a tendency to cancel big programs often. An example would be the U.S.Army and USMC, which appear to be almost totally unable to bring an all-new combat vehicle or helicopter program into the production phase.
The example is that while the costs for cancellation are not initially high-profile, the corporations would likely seek to get a fixed and lower revenue as a substitute for it. This would be hig-profile, visible from start as costs.
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2013/11/13

It's a wonder there are not more dead civilians in Syria

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Hat tip to ELP

Outright crazy civilians and something between crazy and inept soldiers. It's difficult to keep in mind how low you can go in regard to military skill, but such videos help. The initial movement of the AFV team to the entry point was already done stupidly. It only got worse afterwards.
 
This reminds me of what flabbergasted Americans said to Israelis in 1991, the meaning was approximately:
'So you bragged all these years about defeating these Arabs?'

S O
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2013/11/12

Dangerous bus drivers yet again

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Maybe you remember how I made fun of the supposed dangerousness of errorists, especially compared to the dangerousness of bus drivers. Whenever some errorist attacked Germans anywhere, bus drivers had proven their superior dangerousness in the meantime since the last errorist incident.

This was all statistics, of course. Somehow the idea of dangerous bus drivers did not attract so much public attention as did the idea of dangerous errorists. Well, sometimes statistics are mere grey theory and it takes some emotional input to raise an alarm.

Today I got such an emotional input: I experienced with my own eyes how a bus driver disrespected another driver's right of way and rammed a car.

So where's the WOBRD?


S O
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More about the nonsense of the Afghanistan mission (ISAF)

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A report of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has made it into national news in Germany. Here it is:

www.afghanistan-analysts.org/reluctant-interventionists-isafs-influence-on-local-power-structures-in-kunduz-and-badakhshan

and its two-page summary is here.

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2013/11/08

German grand strategy and economics

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(Trust me, there is a link between this text and defence, at least in a wider sense.)

Germany's culture produces a birth rate lower than the mortality rate. This has been resistant to political efforts (some of them quite costly) to change it, even to those efforts which copied seemingly successful policies from abroad. This cultural characteristic extends to immigrants; the fertility among Turks in Germany has dropped below 2 per female long ago as well.

Immigration is being kept moderate and insufficient to compensate the shrinking of the population, for more immigration would provoke greater problems than the shrinking population does (we saw that already). Germany also fails to attract a large share of well-qualified immigrants (and even when they arrive we typically dismiss their official job qualification in jobs such as teacher, physician or nurse), as do many countries with substantial immigration.

It's thus a rather safe bet to assume that Germany will experience a moderate shrinking of the population for decades to come. The German population doesn't disappear, of course. Official scenarios predict a reduction from a zenith of about 82.5 million to about 65 or 70 million by 2060.

The change of the working age population is more troublesome. The changes are slow and thus allow us to get used to the future, but there's nevertheless a widespread expectation that the ratio between working and not working people in Germany will deteriorate. (Articles tend to exaggerate a bit by looking at working-to-retiree ratio, neglecting that a small youth  share is a partial counterweight to this.)

So this a long-term background for German policy, and one determinant of a German grand strategy (as it  forms accidentally and incrementally).
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One of the concerns caused by the demographic change for decades (began in the 80's) is that the current system of pensions may fail us and not provide enough income to retirees in the future. It is a transfer system with current working population paying for current retirees. This may indeed look ugly by 2040 with fewer people working and more people being retirees, although I expect us to get used to it and to adapt easily, not the least because the rate of technical progress is still well above 1% per annum. Retirees of 2040 will probably live better than today's retirees.

This way of financing pensions is the only approach for a nation as a whole which made sense. Back in the 50's "we" knew that fortunes were destroyed in two world wars, a hyperinflation, a great depression and then again in Nazi disrimination of minorities and political opponents - all in the previous 40 years. A savings-based pension systems wouldn't have survived this.

There's an increased effort to provoke more width of savings in Germany, with the middle class being asked to save for extra pension income in order to improve on their pensions. This seems sensible for middle class families, but how does it make sense on the national level? What could these savings do? The really, really durable investmens are typically investments in public infrastructure. I can tell that I often ride a train along a route which was obviously cleared and fortified more than four generations ago, for example.
Very little but family homes is as durable. But we already have badly scattered settlements in Germany. The lesser efficiency of public services in for scattered settlements in comparison to cities points against the idea that every middle class family buying a family home could make sense. Even if they did; the low income groups in Germany cannot save much, especially not since the Schröder reforms ten years ago.

Nevertheless, the promotion of family savings for retirement - especially based on subsidised plans offered by insurance companies - is an important reaction to the demographic change expectations. Insurance companies and many individual savers don't buy family homes, though: They invest in financial markets.
Now how exactly could this be helpful on the national level? How could savings now reap benefits in 2050?
This is simple, outright trivial, in microeconomics. Meanwhile, it only works in macroeconomics (the nationwide view) if we export capital.
After all, machines built now won't last till 2050, so they won't raise incomes in 2050. Private capital investment now is a very poor substitute for missing workers in 2050.
We can invest now and expect this money to somehow keep working till 2050, then in conjunction with foreign workers. We can invest savings abroad.

This means capital exports now and capital imports in 2030-2060. In fact, it means net capital exports and imports. There's an entity between capital export and goods and services exports in macroeconomics; we can only build up our savings abroad by exporting more goods and services than we do import (save for a couple usually unimportant exceptions such as transfers).

This still doesn't help German low income groups, but at least it kind of makes sense for our middle class. Fact is, much of the saving is actually being done by the rich instead, but that's our very own distribution and allocation issue and not felt by foreigners.

Now with capital exports being the same as goods and services exports and us having a huge net export, there's a lot of criticism about that. Famous Nobel prize winner and columnist/blogger Krugman and now even the EU appear to led a charge against this, demanding a more balanced trade (I would actually like that, but it's not compatible with the grand strategy elements laid out so far). They look at the short term, and at how the export strength requires a depressed wage level (since the other balancing mechanism, the common currency, fixed the exchange rates between Germany and many other European countries). This demand makes a lot of sense in the short term, but it completely fails to appreciate why this behaviour actually makes sense (= is a somewhat promising stratey) for Germany in the long term. Well, if our savings don't evaporate.

The Euro crisis is in part so horrible to Germans because it threatens the idea that we could have our savings work for us abroad and recall them piecemeal only at retirement age. Such investments need to be reliable, low risk, in order to make sense. It's especially pointless to maintain depressed wage levels, work hard, save and export much if this only means you'd be forced to support those who did the opposite in order to balance out your deviation from the average.

So that's the economic policy short / long term conflict between Germany and much of the EU. Notorious short-term-only thinkers such as Krugman don't get this, but now maybe readers of Defence and Freedom get this.
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I promised a link to defence. Well, remember what I wrote before; world wars wiped out savings twice. Unreliable foreign governments can decimate savings, too.

The optimum world for this new German grand strategy element (to counter the demographic change's consequences at least for the middle class) is a world of reliability, of the rule of law (the rule of rules), of no wars between great powers, of cooperation instead of confrontation. "We" want stability and reliability. 
Countries with a decade of trade balance deficits as their background may be first and foremost be concerned about trade or political crusades; but countries with a decade of trade balance surpluses as their background may actually be most concerned about the risk to savings abroad.
Assume a country turns into a troublemaker after being a net import of German goods for a decade. This could lead to less trade, and Germany as a whole would lose annual benefits from trade equal to a few per cent of that trade (profits, savings). Meanwhile, losing savings invested in that troublemaker country could easily be twenty times as great and thus be much worse than years of no trade with the country in itself.


The classic post-1945 grand strategy of West Germany was about the integration with the Western world and the industrial pursuit of wealth for the masses. The grand strategy of the 90's was about pulling East Germany up to West Germany's level of prosperity and sensibly remove the shackles and attitude of Cold War's Germany; which was on both sides of the wall coined by limited sovereignty and little freedom of action. The common Euro currency finally led in conjunction with the wages-depressing Schröder reforms to what I described above. It wasn't really figured out by one or two geniuses (as was the Cold War strategy of Adenauer and Erhard) and then enacted, but grew as different actions and outcomes compounded to a whole, not being changed because it seemed to make some sense.

S O
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2013/11/06

[For Life] The answer to (almost) everything!

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Let's assume a scenario; quality shortcomings are rampant at your workplace. Maybe some plastic sheets are defective too often or paperwork doesn't get done often enough or a surgeon forgets stuff in patients' intestines or an army workshop platoon doesn't do serious carbine training.

There's a bureaucratic and textbook approach to fix this; introduce rules. Such as ISO 90001 certification and other elaborate and annoying scripts.

There's also a good answer to this, and it applies in general. Wirthout at least a sall dose of it no rules will ever do the trick:

Ambition

Leaders cannot spot, understand and solve all problems or spot, understand and exploit all opportunities on their own. The way to go is instead to wake up the folks and instill ambition. To instill pride (and to enable pride by leading by example and not sabotage pride) is an important ingredient for this.

Typically the only problems left once your people are ambitious are scarce resources and to avoid over-ambitiousness.


Think about it: Which problems wouldn't have been solved, which opportunities ould have been wasted if the people involved had had a lot more ambition?
 
Ambition - a directed driver of intrinsic motivation - is what organisations such as a military bureaucracy need to foster, and at the same time they need to keep down at a healthy level. This is much, much more important than questions about force structures and tables of organisation. It's also more important than the tools and weapons.

The importance (and risks) of ambition are also valuable in civilian life, much more so than all stupid management tools which you may hear about from consultants or at courses or university. Get your folks up to a fine level of ambition and performance will go up by itself.

This isn't a perfectly original stroke of genius - but it's a most neglected idea of great potential.


S O
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2013/11/05

A thought about individual camouflage

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So the U.S.Arm messes up the entire individual camouflage pattern thing. Its universal grey camouflage was a disaster, as it was almost universally poor and actually didn't even look good in the original evaluation. An interim solution was specifically adopted for Afghanistan and now the bureaucracy cramps its way towards adopting the same thing as standard camouflage pattern. Meanwhile, they keep buying poorly camouflaged equipment in the old "universal" pattern.
This makes sticking with grey-olive monocolour clothes for decades (Bundeswehr 60's to 80's) look smart.

source
The graphic above shows in an abstract way the compromises required if troops need to move through different terrains during a single mission. No matter whether you pick specialised or universal patterns, you're going to be suboptimal in some environment.
It should be a no-brainer that the answer is a reversible overall smock with different camo patterns on both sides. I kid you not; Germany had this already 70 years ago. It's not fully compliant with the approach of overladen infantrymen with load carrying vests all over the upper body, of course.

Here's a different thought, one which takes human nature into account instead of staring at landscape photos and stuff only: Give some universal camo which works at least in shadows (where hiding is easiest) to the non-combat troops and mounted combat troops. Meanwhile, dismounted scouts and infantry should be given only a basic camouflage which nobody would misunderstand as sufficient in itself. These troops are actually (supposed to be) highly conscious about the need to camouflage, and they should do so depending on terrain. Let them add both factory-made and improvised camouflage elements to themselves, in order to be almost always very well camouflaged. This includes especially 3D camouflage elements which can beat any pattern hands down anyway.
The reasoning is that supporters aren't going to do individual camo well anyway, so they should get the best factory-made and universal camo. It takes a disciplined army to ensure that supporters have at least their guns cleaned and are skilled in their use - no army has ever been able to enforce much camo discipline on individual support troops.
Meanwhile, the few troops which are the most exposed individuals (infantry, dismounted scouts, possibly dedicated tank hunters) can be kept camo-aware by a disciplined army. They're also the ones for which a second-best camo is not good enough. So don't fool them into trusting the inadequate patterns when 3D camouflage elements are much superior. Force them into applying these by handing them only obviously inadequate camo suits which are nevertheless a fine basis for additional camo efforts.

factory-made, still fresh and clean ghillie camo suit example

I suppose this approach of basic camo for combat troops and enforced extra camo efforts should be tested. Maybe it's great, maybe not.

S O
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2013/11/04

"necessary"

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This is what I think most often when I read what people think is "necessary" in regard to 'war or peace' decisions.

S O
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2013/11/03

Non-combat vehicles musings

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I'm going to try to build my own vehicle strategy here. It's meant as a baseline for comparison with actual vehicle inventories. I'm fully aware that developing an actual vehicle inventory is messy, incremental, and done by successive leaderships.
The comparison is thus not necessarily a critique, but rather an attempt to make the difference between actual and optimal (or what I think would be optimal) visible.


(1) Road march and driver efficiency
Up to as quarter of the personnel of a division or brigade can be full-time or part-time drivers. Almost none of these troops would abandon their vehicle during contact and fight in effective small units. This drain of personnel strength is astonishing. Many formations have a substantially lower share of drivers, albeit 15-20% drivers is still bad enough. The trouble doubles once you assume a second man in the cabin for manning a defensive gun. This issue adds to the attractiveness of big, high capacity vehicles as you get more capacity per head.

A similar effect is visible in regard to maintenance. The maintenance requirements of trucks don't scale nearly with their nominal or average payload. Again, attractiveness bonus for high capacity vehicles.

The third effect of this kind is about column length. Both the convoy length and convoy time of passing a certain point (from first to last vehicle) should be short. A high capacity vehicle may have five times the payload of a small one, but be only about twice as long. The mandated spacing between vehicles (for avoidance of traffic issues, accidents and for diminishing the effect of attacks) is even the exact same for a car and a heavy truck.

As a consequence of these considerations, I am no fan of light trucks. A HMMWV-based vehicle park is very suboptimal in my opinion.
Many vehicles have functions which only require a 1.5 or two-ton truck's payload capacity, and the common practice is to not allocate a bigger vehicle than necessary for the job. Sometime ago I already wrote about my alternative; multi-role vehicles. A light truck with a radio cabin may be replaced by a medium truck with a radio cabin, a powered water purifier, surplus diesel fuel capacity, and a small flatbed with some supplies, for example. The overall quantity of vehicles would be decreased, and the overall quantity of drivers and gunners would be decreased.


one ACMAT VLRA version (light truck)
(2) Spare parts logistics
Having the same steering wheel in all trucks is a largely pointless commonality, but having the same engine spare parts (even if the engines of two trucks have a different cylinder count) or the same tires (two or three standard tire sizes could suffice for almost all vehicles) is a different story. The French had great success with their ACMAT VLRA family of vehicles and Germany had partial standardisation with its MAN trucks as well. I am under the impression that these laudable efforts are withering away.

(3) Fuel standardisation
Most modern armies have standardised on diesel fuel, with some jet fuel for rotary aviation. This move of the 70's and 80's was a wise one, but it also helped to drive motorcycles out of the armies, and that was probably not such a good idea. Luckily, there are a few diesel engines for medium weight motorcycles available off the shelf today, so a perfect fuel standardisation on diesel fuel should be self-evident nowadays. You never know what dearly paid-for lesson the bureaucracies throw out of the window next, though.

(4) Night march capability.
A limitation of headlight effects was important during the Second World War up to the Vietnam War, but modern combat aviation has introduced sensors which question the relevance of such discipline nowadays.
The suppression of the visible light signature at night may still be worthwhile because of the ground threat, though. This assumes that only negligible civilian traffic drives at night, of course. Civilian trucks would both provide false positives to hostiles and the risk of traffic accidents with dark military trucks would force the latter to switch on their headlights on temporarily in order to avoid crashes.
One solution to the problem is the use of infrared driving aids
The use of such driver's aids actually adds another issue: It makes little sense to build mixed convoys of vehicles some of which have such aids and others don't. I suppose we need to limit the employment of such driver's aids for some years to come, and I assume the vehicles in manoeuvre and scouting units should get such aids, as should the advance guard of large convoys.
We should always afford the very simple, cheap yet effective devices used for night marches at correct intervals used in the past. Mere reflector crosses and other simplistic pro forma measure for night driving safety aren't nearly as good.

(5) Climate control
German military vehicles need only the basic heater and no cooling climate control. Neither Germany nor NATO or EU can be defended in an African desert, period.
Cabins full of electronics are an obvious exception, of course. There should nevertheless be provisions for an upgrade with a standardised climate control kit (for export, if nothing else).

(6) Fuel tanks, road range
Wheeled vehicles can quite easily reach great on-road ranges. 1,000 km is easily possible, and 1,500 km is possible as well. It has been documented that even in heavy formations the trucks are the main fuel guzzlers, not the tanks. Even the notorious thirst of the Abrams tank prior to introduction of its auxiliary power unit did not change this. Logistical trucks drive more and are so numerous that their combined movement of weight is much greater than the combined movement of armoured vehicle weight even of a mechanised brigade.
Now let's take into account that manoeuvre forces (such as a mechanised brigade) are very difficult to resupply during mobile warfare. Often times they receive supplies only every second day, even if daily resupply was intended. The longer they can make do without resupply, the less trouble for the leadership. The additional fuel thirst from carrying the extra weight of extra fuel and fuel capacity does not come close to compensate for this.
I would thus set a minimum road range of 500 km (except for motorcycles) under realistic conditions including whatever electrical power has to be supplied for the payload. The vehicle fleet as a whole should have about 1,000 km road range. The transfer of fuel from longer-endurance vehicles to shorter-endurance ones should be possible, quick and easy with on-board equipment. This way the higher fuel capacity vehicles (heavy trucks) would probably be the only ones being refuelled by fuel resupply and then much of this fuel could be further distributed over time to lower endurance vehicles. The filling of fuel tanks should be visible outside, so no driver could refuse to hand out fuel as long as his truck's fuel supply is above a marked level (such as equivalent to 500 km road range), by claiming that he's short on fuel.

(7) Protection
Armour protection for trucks is terribly in fashion nowadays. Even RPG-proofing with the aesthetic armageddon of cages is widespread. Protection against mines is focused on the command-detonated types, both below the hull (V-shaped belly, shock absorbing structure, roof-mounted seats) and roadside.
The classic pressure-fused mine threat is being neglected by comparison (otherwise we would prefer to have the front axle well ahead of the cabin, so the cabin isn't directly above the explosion of a pressure-fused mine). We also don't care much nowadays about scatterable mines either. Anti-vehicle (anti-tank) mines can be scattered by multiple rocket launchers, combat aircraft, dispensers underslung a helicopter et cetera. I suppose this threat is something to consider for vehicles in a manoeuvre formation.
Does up-armoring make sense? It depends. One thing is certain, though; it does again favour the higher capacity vehicles. The armour protection for a truck cabin weighs in at about a ton, so two-ton trucks cannot reasonably be up-armoured and still be employed in a two-ton truck role. The drivers of 15-ton trucks barely notice a difference.
It makes sense to keep the overall standard truck design compatible with up-armouring and lightly armoured versions, but I doubt that today's fashion of very much protected cabins and trucks will last for long.
We will probably go back to mere bullet-proofing and add a reduction of secondary effects (reduced fire hazard, spall liners to limit the effect of penetrations, protection against common mines) to it. Even this kind of protection may be limited to those units most exposed to wartime hazards.

(8) Fuel consumption
Very high pressure tires, much electronics, no armour weight and very aerodynamic, curved shapes would be ideal for fuel efficiency. Instead, many military vehicles are rather technically primitive, boxy vehicles. Modern civilian trucks are in between.
I suppose there's a golden middle. We can have the electronics, but the vehicles should keep going in a back-up mode if they fail. We can have the boxy cabin structures that allow easy addition of armoured panels, but we can have aerodynamic, curved skins on them. The 1950's era innovation of central tire inflation systems is widespread anyway and allows for high air pressure tires during road marches and soft, wide tires on soft soil. Alternatively we could use airless tires.

(9) Off-road requirements
Most vehicles don't need greater agility or off-road ability than the trucks used in the forestry industry. The ones which need better off-road ability can be divided into groups. The greatest off-road aspirations would have the scouting vehicles and combat engineer vehicles (some of which could even be reasonably equipped for amphibious movement) followed by combat vehicles. Most other vehicles even in manoeuvre formations would not drive in difficult terrain often. Most importantly, they are unlikely to cross drainage ditches, fences or walls often. Driver training is a greater determinant of off-road capability in such trucks than the gearbox or axles. There is little to be gained by noticeable variations in the off-road capability of such vehicles. An offroad-wonder such as a Unimog in the same unit as a barely modified 7-ton road truck would allow the convoy effect to kick in: The leader would need to limit his routes and speed according to the limits of the poorest vehicles and drivers.

(10) On-board spare parts
I've long-lost the source, but I remember an anecdote about a convoy in Bosnia during the 90's which got harassed by snipers so badly that hundreds of tires were ruined during a day's trip. Sure, we have run-flat tires nowadays, but once pierced these still require replacement and at least some serious repair. The very small quantity of spare tires has always irritated me. I suppose we need many more, and vehicles should be prepared to carry many more full quality spare tires, ready for a quick change. Two full quality and inflated spare tires on or in a four-wheel vehicle should be normal, not noteworthy. Again, airless tires may be a reasonable alternative.

(11) Radios
All trucks should have the rather large radio antennas (to keep observers from identifying leadership vehicles) and all should be (are) prepared to accept a quick upgrade with a military radio set.
Short-range (hundreds of metres, with automatic relay function) radios should be in all vehicles. Their use should not be more distracting than unavoidable. The costs of this kind of technology have dropped so much that there is really no excuse for not having short-range radios in all trucks. No troops should be forced to resort to improvisations with civilian mobile phones.

(12) Camouflage and deception
Certain paints can reduce infrared contrast, certain netting can reduce both radar and infrared signatures. Exhausts and coolers can be placed and designed to leave less of a signature.
All these signature reduction measures should be considered with the possibility of blending with civilian-type vehicle traffic in mind. I'm not really thinking of mixing with civilian traffic, but many civilian trucks with quick military paintjobs would be used in a major conflict. They would be driven either by contractors or by soldiers.
Either way, they would be lower priority targets than the dedicated military trucks. The latter possess more capabilities, are more likely to be part of manoeuvre forces, and are more likely carrying valuable equipment.
The heavy army trucks should thus be able to switch between an almost civilian appearance and trying to hide entirely (not on the move, of course). Special versions such as trucks with multiple rocket launchers or expensive air defence or electronic warfare equipment should be able to look identical to their less important military truck cousins of the same basic vehicle type.

(13) Crew comfort other than temperature control
Many heavy civilian trucks possess a module on top of the cabin (or in its rear) with a bunk for sleeping. Military trucks don't, for somehow we still pretend that a weapon on most if not all trucks is a good idea.
We should nevertheless provide some more comfort for these troops. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem during military campaigns, and it is well-known that tired drivers cause many accidents. These accidents are 'friction' which sabotages the execution of the commander's intent. A reduction of this friction requires enough sleep for drivers. Yes, this should be a truck design issue, too. The truck's side could have a quick folding tent roof and a quick-folding camp bed with enough insulation for a European spring or autumn night. Maybe there is actually enough personnel for two men per cabin; the second one should be easily able to adjust his seat, get a pillow and sleep during a road march. Many cabins weren't designed with this in mind.

(14) Navy and air force have little need for standardisation or off-road capabilities
Dump all vehicles which were found deficient in practice there.

(15) Mobilisation
It should be possible to satisfy the need for trucks during an emergency doubling of the army within six months. The production of enough trucks should be possible on short notice and civilian commandeered trucks should be adapted in time.

(16) Temperature range
Useful down to about -40°C, without excessive breakages. This includes suitable coolants, rubbers and lubricants.

S O

edit: Updated link in (6); it's relevant for (8) as well.
edit 2014: Related earlier text
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2013/11/01

Extremist rebels

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Imagine your country's state is completely corrupt - from lowly policemen who rape and extort up to the head of state.
You go to vote, but even if you are not impressed by "irregularities" before the elections, you see how the elections are stolen with bribery and obvious fraud.
The organized crime makes up a huge portion of your country's economy.
Foreign - really, really foreign - troops back your government. They assassinate opposition leaders, sprawl the country with bases and pour a flood of money into their helpers and into corrupt officials.
They promise to help your countrymen, but their "help" efforts are dwarfed even by their fuel bill, probably even by their ammunition bill.

Now maybe - just maybe, since all peaceful alternatives for real change to the better are exhausted - maybe you're ready to oppose the corrupt clique and its backers? Maybe even violently?

You thought "no"?  Wimp.
You thought "yes"? So you would be a Taliban if you were born as Pashtun in Afghanistan.

What's your complaint? I didn't mention religious zealots, thus no Taliban?

Well, that's the tragedy. There's not so much of a choice.
It's utterly, utterly typical in military history that extreme guerilla organizations - be them left wing, right wing or religious - are composed of extremists and moderates.
Castro's Cuban revolutionaries weren't all reds either. The Vietcong weren't necessarily much into communism.
The moderates usually play a minor role in the leadership  in comparison to revolutionary zealots and are quickly discarded once the struggle is either successful or becomes marginalized. 
There are rarely "moderate" guerilla groups, you know?


Guerilla organizations tend to be more ideologically homogeneous (as in Yugoslavia in WW2) when there are several truly competing resistance organizations. 'Truly competing' means that a man has a choice - which is not really the case if said organizations have clearly defined territories.
Sadly, the latter is an approximation for the situation in Afghanistan, where the parallel guerilla organizations are even loosely allied (there's more than one kind of "Taliban").


It's a great tragedy and an expression of strategic incompetence that the Western meddlers in Afghanistan allowed the Taliban to become the only really active and highly visible opposition to the corrupt mayor of Kabul. This failure channelled the guerilla recruits into the arms of the Taliban groups. A real lasting defeat of the Taliban could have been attempted by allowing a non-religious Pashtu opposition group to rise to prominence. Who knows? Maybe it could even have been a non-violent, political opposition group. The only requirement was that it needed to be effective. It needed to be able to challenge the government, even the system. Oops, that was beyond the grasp of short-sighted meddlers.


Then again - who cares? So we messed up the thing with the Taliban. It's really not our problem. The Taliban aren't the enemy, but merely the former hosts of the enemy. The Afghani Taliban are even proved to be unessential for AQ, as they have long since scattered. We just forgot about that unimportant detail.
Darned mission creep!


Sven O

P.S.: Written in 2011, published only with great delay. It became a bit more interesting with the discussion of extremists among Syrian rebels in the background.
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