Ukraine’s wake-up call for NATO


"For years leaders of this Baltic state were an irritant at NATO meetings, insisting to eye-rolling ambassadors from Western Europe that Vladimir Putin’s Russia was a revanchist power bent on destabilizing and dominating its neighbors. Now they voice grim satisfaction that what was once dismissed as paranoia has become the West’s conventional wisdom."
Washington Post

Oh, really?

Just imagine this; there were people who were actually being paid for writing about how COIN is the future blah blah blah for years. Then - only when the relevance of Eastern European issues became undeniable even to casual TV news watchers - these pundits finally woke up and now they're all interested in evil Russia. They now earn their living with writing, presenting and talking about Eastern Europe defence issues.

They're not REALLY interested in the subject matter, though. I wouldn't read so many hysterical articles about Russian military strength if they were interested in Russia's actual military power, much less if they paid attention to its relative military power. Instead, they're now paying attention to Russia because it's where the money and attention is. It's not about content first.

This reminds me of what I've observed among business consultants: The ones with the biggest paychecks are the biggest marketers of their services, not the ones with the best services. In fact, the best-earning ones usually depend almost entirely on the work of others when it comes to actually delivering something to the client.



It's about time to do something about China!

OK, I'm fed up. China is really dangerous and way too aggressive. Obviously, its political system is on an imperialist ego-superpower course.

It's spending on its military like crazy. The navy strives to reach a size and power never seen since the demobilisations after the Second World War. Its navy patrols aggressively in foreign waters, often provoking fights and shooting up foreign boats even though China didn't declare war. It's only a matter of time till the aggressive behaviour hits some wrong ships, boats - or maybe an airliner mistaken for a fighter.
Plenty invasions of sovereign countries in the last 35 years alone prove it's unfit for lasting peace, an imperialist hyper-aggressive power. This aggressiveness is underpinned by intense propaganda and myth-building at home, with entire service industries inflaming the population against countries they cannot even point at on a map. Racism plays into this as well, with lots of derogatory names for foreigners of exotic looks.

China's gunboat and cruise missile diplomacy with occasional and nowadays frequent bombing of neutral countries is out of control, but a United Nations Security Council veto power protects them against formal repercussions. They even bombed an American embassy 15 years ago and nothing happened!
I'm especially concerned about how they now discuss how to wage a future war against the United States. All the public discussions are solely about how to defeat American land-based defences so Chinese naval battlegroups can close with the American coasts and bomb military and strategic targets at will. Unmanned combat drones are an especially favoured tool for this; many Chinese appear to have high hopes for these. The range and stealthiness is apparently at the centre of their hopes.

We shouldn't stand by this and pretend we aren't involved.
China's aggressiveness needs to be contained now!

Oh, wait.



Schwerpunkt and low force density campaign theory

I mentioned in my previous post that I didn't cover the the Schwerpunkt topic comprehensively, especially not in light of what I wrote about modern low force density campaign theory. This post shall change this.

First, about Schwerpunkt. The German Schwerpunkt concept goes back to Carl von Clausewitz who used his misunderstanding of Newtonian physics as an analogy. The Prussians of his time had been defeated in 1806 in the parallel twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt by Napoleon's army. They couldn't stop wondering if they had won the war if they had combined both armies on the army led by Napoleon personally and kept the other one busy with weak forces.
CvC did cast this idea into the Schwerpunkt concept: You better combine as many forces for a war-deciding battle as possible while having elsewhere only enough strength left to avert disasters.
This German concept was later adapted by the German (post-1871) armies as a guidance for military leaders from squad (machinegun as Schwerpunkt weapon of the squad) to high command. It's also common language in the civilian world, always with the same meaning of having a focus of resources and highest priority on what's deemed to be most important.

The American concept of a "center of gravity" (translated: Schwerpunkt) did lend the same word for fashion reasons, but grew actually into describing the part of the enemy which if you break it means his defeat. They think about a critical vulnerability. They describe the massing of forces for decisive actions with the terms "main effort", "economy of force" and "mass" instead. And that's why I keep writing "Schwerpunkt" in English blog posts when I mean CvC's Schwerpunkt instead of translating it to "centre of gravity".

Schwerpunkt is a valid and widely applicable concept, but it's not an "I win" button. It's more like a spice; there are times when to apply it and times when you shouldn't.

It is most applicable in its original form (instead of merely as a philosophy to explain the need for prioritization) as a battle-winner. The 'bigger battalions win battles'. I disagree in the context of modern technology AND low force density campaigning, though. Some previous thoughts about this were in the post about shaping operations.

To go into battle without knowing the outcome means to have failed to win before the battle. And by "battle" I think of the clash of thousand of soldiers, NOT harassing fires on a platoon strongpoint as it's become fashionable lately.

We shouldn't expect World War-esque front lines in future warfare, except maybe when low-skill armies face off as in the Iraq-Iran war. A conflict between India and China could have a "front line" of mountain outposts, but in Europe we should expect at most militias or infantry units holding settlements in a kind of hedgehog positions zig-zag line, if not mosaic. This is also what we see in Syria.
A mechanised brigade or armoured recce platoon could easily penetrate or infiltrate through the gaps between such positions forth and back. It would take very mobility-degrading terrain (hilly woodland, mountains, swamps, rivers) to prevent this.
The old functions of a continuous front line of securing flanks and rear should thus not be expected and much less taken for granted.

This offers opportunities for small, highly mobile and agile units (akin to armoured recce companies) which are in radio contact (listening 24/7, emitting sporadically) with friendly forces if not their area command (corps HQ) (2009-09 The square trick). These could be most important as an shaping effort in what was known as Kleiner Krieg at CvC's time; raids, sabotage and ambushes in the 'rear' area mostly. They could also provide the answer to organic armoured recce's resource problem.
The supply dependency and huge share of non-combat forces in modern high-end land warfare elevate this potential beyond anything ever seen in my opinion. Decisions could be sought and achieved by this kind of campaigning while few brigades maintain a deterrence against an hostile all-out advance.

Such a theory for land warfare campaigns with regular forces would have little use for a massing of forces for a decisive battle. Instead, the priority would be on the shaping efforts of the many dispersed small units. CvC's self-evident assumption that massing of forces would maximise the odds for "victory" would be turned upside down due to radio communications, large share of support troops (including air war assets such as SAM batteries and airfield crews) and absence of front lines' functions and low force(s) density (troops per sq km or frontage km in the theatre).*
Another, conflicting, approach might maximise the odds for "victory" instead. The independent and in themselves weak and dispersed forces were understood by CvC as being not helpful for winning a decisive battle and merely the price to be paid for averting disasters far from the main force. Nowadays they could instead ensure the opponent's defeat without a decisive battle happening at all.**

The (small) manoeuvre units described previously could still apply massing and Schwerpunkt at times, combining for battalion-sized raids in what RAND called "swarming". This would be an application on the tactical level, and there are many other valid uses for it. I'm merely pointing out that under some circumstances even an upside-down approach might make more sense than an application of the classic CvC Schwerpunkt.
Schwerpunkt is a valid and widely applicable concept, but it's not an "I win" button. It's more like a spice; there are times when to apply it and times when you shouldn't.


(other related posts were linked elsewhere in this post)

*: You may want to read Leonhard's "The principles of war in the information age" about his take on the obsolescence of "mass"ing forces for another take.
**: This goes counter to the instinct of Western senior officers as much as the thought of independent squad manoeuvres was most alien to pre-1915 officers. Our senior officers would rather prefer to be in 24/7 control down to all small units, and would not want to accept high risks for small parties as a risk management approach for the whole force. Efforts such as the Distributed Operations concept were largely given up.


My bad

Introspection makes sense, so I'll try to compile a list of my errors (or rather of errors which I recognised):

* did not expect the French to become involved in Mali this much, particularly not in the north
* badly underestimated world trade's sustainment of monotonous trade imbalances
* didn't think Stuxnet was a U.S./Israeli government product
* overrated Karzai's behaviour
* underestimated the political longevity of the anti-piracy patrols
* probably underrated 5.56NATO calibre
* didn't believe Putin would think the Eastern Ukraine was a worthwhile grab after the Crimea
* expected more advance of small aerial drone technology 2008-2014
* mixed stance on battlefield radio comm (enticed by potential of datalinks, aware of need to be able to make do without)
* mixed stance on NATO
* mixed stance on navies
* I once retracted a naval-themed blog post because my source had apparently some wrong specifications about a ship
* the piece on divisions was probably not all that great
* overestimated India's soft power
* pretended that politicians guide the military to at least some substantial extent
* underestimated the principal-agent problem in domestic reform topics
* I may also overrate improvisation, since I tend to improvise a lot and know others don't feel that comfortable with improvisations

Things I didn't conclusively wrote about so far:

* never fully sorted out the conflict between rejection of interventions and the problem of (rare, actual and stoppable) genocides
* never really comprehensively covered the suitability of the Schwerpunkt concept (when, where, how - or not) in modern land warfare (in conflict with the dispersion concept)



Another (small) link dump

It feels as if I lost the feeling that 'I need to write something on the blog' when I didn't publish anything for a couple days, so blogging slows down. In fact, it didn't slow down, but I don't write the very time-consuming big pieces so often any more. All posts this and previous month were written quickly.

Here is yet a again a low-effort post, another link dump:

Meyer is too much into conspiracy theories, but I think his observation on the Ebola response deserves attention. I cannot link to the Oct 5 entry directly. Related: Africom. It was predictable that the Africom bureaucracy would want to expand and grow in power ("responsibilities") once it had been set up. That's bureaucratic instinct.

War in practice (1903)
Very nice look at the state of the art in military theory on land warfare as of 1903 (and largely till 1911 if not 1914). I mentioned this old book years ago already.

He stopped blogging, but it's interesting nevertheless.

German/deutsche links:

Das Dumme ist, dass wir wegen all der Großen Koalitionen in den nächsten Jahrzehnten wohl immer eine Partei in der Regierungskoalition haben werden, die die bisherigen BND-Praktiken mitgetragen und die bisherigen NSA-Praktiken mittoleriert hat. Kursänderungen sind daher kaum zu erwarten.
Ich persönlich flüchte mich hierbei in die Hoffnung auf bundesweite Volksabstimmungen mti Gesetzgeberqualität als Nahezu-Allheilmitel.

Die deutschen Massenmedien wachen langsam auf und erkennen, dass sie mit ihrer Gruppendynamik sich von ihren Kunden entfernt haben. Das Internet ist doch nicht der einzige Grund für die Zeitungskrise.



I told you so

Back in 2007 I wrote
The similarities between 1933 Germany and today's Russia are striking.
Mortified, defeated, survived economic crisis, shrunk military, authoritarian government, desire for national greatness, territories to reclaim, history of military strength even without major allies, arms limitations treaties in force (...) they could grab Eastern European territories just like Germany was able to grab Saarland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Memel before appeasement was given up.

I'm a little embittered about how 'very serious people' of 2007 were talking and writing all about COIN and interventions as the future of warfare, and seamlessly switched to pretending to give important counsel about Russia and China when it became apparent that their old counsel was bollocks.

I've never invested self-discipline into writing in a polished, "very serious people" pundit style unless I got paid for it. My emphasis was on content, not style. My content is often critical enough to not win any fans among the establishment anyway. This concerns not the lest military spending, which you need to consider to be too little in order to be a true military affairs pundit. Hardly anybody can live off telling people not to give more money to stakeholders. The stakeholders won't pay you for such a message.

It's astonishing that COIN was ever able to get the attention of the military-industrial establishment in Germany at all, given the constitutional mandate for the German armed forces:

Article 87a

(1) The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defence. Their numerical strength and general organisational structure must be shown in the budget.

(2) Apart from defence, the Armed Forces may be employed only to the extent expressly permitted by this Basic Law.

Sadly, the constitutional court once bent this (and Art. 24(2)) beyond recognition in 1994, which opened the gates for the stupid interventionista crowd in the first place.



German North Sea coastal defence

The history of Germany's North Sea coastal defence is a military history oddity. The geography was a natural ally of the German navy as the Russian winter was to Russian armies.

This satellite imagery shows most of the German North Sea coast; the missing part on top is similar. We can easily see the chain of islands which leaves only the Eiderstädt peninsula on top truly exposed. Everywhere else "brown water" is an understatement. Muddy bottoms and very shallow waters are everywhere and restrict capital ship movements (see also this training nautical map). Ports and cities are thus well-protected from hostile surface actions.

typical look of the shore
The North Sea withdraws far during Ebb tides,
leaving a muddy landscape

It was relatively easy to secure the few navigable channels with coastal artillery, but 20th century wartime defences rested heavily on mines and motor torpedo boats. Minimally armed fishing boats (Kriegsfischkutter) served as picket boats (Vorpostenboot). Hostiles also had to fear false buoys, as they could lead ships into too shallow waters. The smaller navigable channels change over time, and years-old nautical maps are unreliable.

There's but one extant coastal fort; it guarded the entrance to the Elbe river estuary and thus to the primary German harbour city, Hamburg. Fort Kugelbake (satellite image). It was equipped with ten 283 mm guns before the First World War, half of these were moved to Flandres in 1914 already, and the fort only served as heavy anti-air battery with very little coastal defence value during the Second World War.

English North Sea coast cities endured some shelling during the First Word War; the German ones never did. The Royal navy had a plan for an amphibious invasion of Germany prior to the First World War already, (Baltic project), but it involved the risky navigation through the Danish waters and a landing on the German Baltic Sea shore - the North Sea shore was too troublesome.

The Sweden, Finland and Estonia - have a similar oddity in that the Baltic Sea is has little salt and thus often freezes over for months during wintertime. Norway has its unique fjord coastline, Sweden its archipelago in front of its capital. Croatia has a similar coastline as Germany, sans the influence of the tides. Much of the Dutch coastline resembles the German one.
Of all these countries, only Norway suffered from a (quite daring) amphibious invasion (Estonia experienced an invasion of its islands only).

I always thought this geographic influence on naval military history was quite interesting, and now I finally shared it.


P.S: Coastal artillery had historically a rather low lethality because its high lethality was usually avoided (save for few exceptions). Duels between cruisers and coastal forts were typically indecisive in both World Wars. Most coastal artillery lacked the battery size for effective long-range fires. (As a rule of thumb it takes a six salvo for a good observation of the centre of impact fountains and thus for accurate observed and corrected fire at long ranges. This is why the move from four to six or more primary artillery guns with the All-big-gun battleship in the Dreadnought revolution was such a big deal.) Most large calibre coastal guns were often very slow-loading compared to shipboard guns because the means for ammunition transport were more primitive. Coastal mortars were almost useless with their low rate of fire.


[Fun] They made FedEx proud

For example, while inspectors obsessed over whether every checklist and review of individual medical records was completed, they ignored huge problems, including aging blast doors over 60-year-old [ICBM] silos that would not seal shut and, in one case, the discovery that the crews that maintain the nation’s 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles had only a single wrench that could attach the nuclear warheads.

“They started FedExing the one tool” to three bases spread across the country, one official familiar with the contents of the reports said Thursday. No one had checked in years “to see if new tools were being made,” the official said. This was one of many maintenance problems that had “been around so long that no one reported them anymore.”
New York Times, Nov 2014

Has anybody doubts left about a military being a bureaucracy?



NATO Summits and spending pledges


"At the 2006 NATO summit, all members pledged to devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense."

Strange. I see no such thing in the official Riga Summit Declaration.

"Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will pledge at a summit here to lift their military spending to 2% of each country's gross domestic product over the next 10 years, according to three officials familiar with the negotiations over the summit communiqué."

He also mentioned it would be non-binding. Maybe I have a translation issue here; what exactly is a non-binding pledge??? Isn't it simply "nothing"?

Yet this time they actually wrote a (non-binding) commitment, a.k.a. nothing of relevance:

We agree to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities. Our overall security and defence depend both on how much we spend and how we spend it. Increased investments should be directed towards meeting our capability priorities, and Allies also need to display the political will to provide required capabilities and deploy forces when they are needed. A strong defence industry across the Alliance, including a stronger defence industry in Europe and greater defence industrial cooperation within Europe and across the Atlantic, remains essential for delivering the required capabilities. NATO and EU efforts to strengthen defence capabilities are complementary. Taking current commitments into account, we are guided by the following considerations:
o Allies currently meeting the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence will aim to continue to do so. Likewise, Allies spending more than 20% of their defence budgets on major equipment, including related Research & Development, will continue to do so.
o Allies whose current proportion of GDP spent on defence is below this level will:
halt any decline in defence expenditure;
    aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows;
    aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade    with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO's capability shortfalls.
o Allies who currently spend less than 20% of their annual defence spending on major new equipment, including related Research & Development, will aim, within a decade, to increase their annual investments to 20% or more of total defence expenditures.
o All Allies will:
    ensure that their land, air and maritime forces meet NATO agreed guidelines for deployability and sustainability and other agreed output metrics;
    ensure that their armed forces can operate together effectively, including through the implementation of agreed NATO standards and doctrines.

Repeated from Defence and Freedom, September 2014:

A common complaint is that somehow NATO requirements are not being met, or commitments to NATO cannot be met.
The correct answer to this is "So what? Who cares?"

A man needs to obey a minister's decree. More important is a more specific minister's decree. Both draw their power exclusively from the law (enacted by the legislative branch) which empowers the minister to issue the decrees in the first place. So laws are ranked higher than decrees. More specific laws rank even higher. Constitutional articles (created or modified by an even more demanding legislative effort) are more powerful. More specific constitutional articles overrule some others, though.

Now where's a minister's "commitment" in this ranking?
Nowhere. An elevator boy could have said it, and it would be as forceful.

Now remember that in all democracies the legislative branch holds the budget power.
The 'more military spending!' clique only pretends that such commitments hold power, since these play into their cards. And of course do ministers like to make promises, but then they cannot keep them because it's the legislative branch that holds the budget power. The ministers like to point out those fake commitments to the legislative branch, but again and again said legislative branch doesn't give a shit about fake commitments and dictates a modest military budget.

So even though we can read one of those semi-legendary pledges, we also know they're nothing of relevance; the executive branch pretends to have powers which actually a different branch of government holds, the legislative branch. That's as if a CEO would give a pledge concerning what his shareholders will do in the next years; irrelevant and ridiculous.


Newest plans for more GTK/MRAV/Boxer purchases

Die Bundeswehr plane die Beschaffung von 131 Radpanzern des Typs Boxer, von dem die Bundeswehr bereits mehr als 200 Stück besitzt, berichtet die "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ/Dienstag) unter Berufung auf Industriekreise. Der Auftrag für die achträdrigen gepanzerten Transportfahrzeuge belaufe sich auf 620 Millionen Euro. Allerdings sei die Bestellung noch nicht beschlossen.
"Deutsche Panzerbauer haben Auftrag der Bundeswehr in Aussicht"
FAZ, 4.11.

GTK Boxer prototype
620 million for 131 armoured lorries with gold plating.
4.73 million per armoured lorry with gold plating.
That's € 0.59 million per seat for a dismounting infantryman or an equivalent share of a module.

Do you know what else costs this much per seat?
9 passengers
774 kph speed
3,300 km range
€ 5.1 million (€ 0.57 million per seat)

Those € 5.1 million are the starting point for negotiations. You could surely buy 131 of those for much less than € 5 million each. Well, the Bundeswehr would certainly not; it would gold-plate it till it can barely fly any more and then pay at least € 15 million each.

There are plenty people who look at the vehicle and are impressed. Impressed by all the 'capability' which had been loaded on it (even DPICM protection!). Some are concerned as well - concerned about the cross-country mobility and restrictions concerning bridges.

A look at the hardware alone is nonsense. This is much too expensive; the gains in protection over simple armoured trucks are nowhere near justifying the extra fiscal, logistical and manpower effort. This vehicle is supposed to deliver light infantry (Jäger), and mostly so on administrative marches. It's not even a combat vehicle. It's an omnibus without windows with paranoid protection standards.

There's no reason whatsoever why the Jägertruppe should have a single such vehicle.Why them, only for marches - not for combat? Great many other troops would need to do administrative marches in war zones as well, and this sure is no general standard of protection. Most others move in soft or modestly up-armoured trucks.

Germany doesn't want the insane expense of up-armouring all army vehicles to such a high level, for sure. What's the rationale for giving such vehicles to the Jägertruppe? The one branch that is supposed to be the  one with nature, one with environment, foot-mobile even in difficult terrain.
Not long ago our generals were convinced the Jägertruppe needs to be more oriented towards woodland and combat in settlements, now it's getting equipped with gold-plated lorries that make the then-unusually expensive Fuchs look like a budget solution. Business Jet-level expenses for a rifleman's mobility.
And they're not even the branch that's ticketed to be the fast-moving one.

This insanity and waste of taxpayer money should be stopped. The German army has lost its way; it's lost in the labyrinth of gold plating tunnel vision. The ministry's agency for procurement of military matériel needs to be disbanded in light of this and other failures - and all its executives need be banned form ever having any influence on public spending again.

Instead, this particular planned purchase appears to being pushed by claims that we need this bollocks to counter the nowadays more aggressive Soviets Russians. Bollocks enabled by hysteria. As if these transport vehicles were able to justify their price in Eastern Europe. The means-ends connection doesn't seem to be interesting to people any more, nor is fiscal prudence.


Die neuesten Pläne für mehr Boxer Anschaffungen

(An article version in English is available here.)
Die Bundeswehr plane die Beschaffung von 131 Radpanzern des Typs Boxer, von dem die Bundeswehr bereits mehr als 200 Stück besitzt, berichtet die "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ/Dienstag) unter Berufung auf Industriekreise. Der Auftrag für die achträdrigen gepanzerten Transportfahrzeuge belaufe sich auf 620 Millionen Euro. Allerdings sei die Bestellung noch nicht beschlossen.
"Deutsche Panzerbauer haben Auftrag der Bundeswehr in Aussicht"
FAZ, 4.11.

GTK Boxer prototype

620 Millionen € für 131 gepanzerte Wagen mit Goldrand.
4,73 Millionen € je gepanzertem Wagen mit Goldrand.
Das sind 0,59 Millionen € je Sitzplatz eines Infanteristen oder äquivalenten Anteil an einem anderen Modul.

Wisst Ihr was sonst noch so viel je Sitzplatz kostet?
Ein Cessna Citation Jet CJ2+!
Cessna CitationJet, (c) Alan Radecki
9 Passagiere
774 km/h schnell
3,300 km Reichweite
5,1 Millionen € (0,57 Millionen € je Passagier)

Diese 5,1 Millionen € sind eine Verhandlungsbasis. Man könnte sicherlich 131 dieser Flugzeuge für weit weniger als 5 Millionen € je Stück bekommen. Nun ja, außer der Bundeswehr - die würde auf einen Goldrand bestehen und dann bestimmt mindestens 15 Millionen je Stück bezahlen.

Es gibt genug Leute, die den Boxer Panzerwagen anschauen und beeindruckt sind. Beeindruckt von all den 'Befähigungen' mit denen das Design überladen wurde (sogar Schutz gegen Hohlladungsbombletts!). Einige sind auch beunruhight - beunruhigt über die Geländegängigkeit eioes derart schweren Radfahrzeuges und über die Fähigkeit kleiner ländlicher Brücken abseits der von großen LKW frequentierten Straßen.

Ein Blick auf das Gerät alleine ist jedoch Unsinn. Es ist viel zu teuer; der Zugewinn an Schutz gegenüber einem simplen überpanzerten LKW kommt einer Rechtfertigung des zusätzlichen fiskalischen, logistischen und personellen Aufwandes nicht einmal nahe. Dieses Fahrzeug soll in seiner Grundversion leichte Infanterie (Jäger) transportieren - und zwar nicht freiwillig ins Gefecht, sondern v.a. auf Straßenmärschen. Es ist kein Kampffahrzeug! Es ist ein fensterloser Bus mit paranoidem Schutzstandard.

Es gibt keinen guten Grund, warum die Jägertruppe auch nur ein Einziges dieser Fahrzeuge haben sollte. Warum sie, warum nur für Märsche - nicht als echtes Kampffahrzeug? Viele andere Soldaten müssten ebenfalls Straßenmärsche in Kriegszonen durchführen und bekommen ganz sicher nicht dieses paranoide Schutzniveau geboten. Die Meisten würden in ungepanzerten oder gering geschützten Fahrzeugen unterwegs sein.

Deutschland möchte ganz sicher nicht die wahnsinnigen Kosten stemmen, die anfallen würden wenn die ganze Truppe mit solch einem paranoiden Schutzniveau herumfahren sollte. Warum also ausgerechnet die Jägertruppe? Diese Waffengattung soll Eins sein mit der Natur, der Umgebung, sich (relativ) wohl fühlen im Orts- und Häuserkampf - und zu Fuß beweglich sein in jedem Gelände.

Vor nicht allzu langer Zeit hatten wir noch Generäle die überzeugt waren, dass die Jägertruppe sich mehr in Richtung Adaption an Waldgelände und OHK entwickeln müsse, und nun wird sie mit Goldrand-Panzerbussen ausgestattet, die die einst unangenehm ungewohnt teuren Fuchs Mannschaftstransportwagen*  geradezu spottbillig aussehen lassen. Geschäftsreisejet-ähnliche Kosten je Passagier, damit ein Infanterist über Straßen gefahren wird.
Und die Jäger sind nicht einmal eine Waffengattung, die als 'schnelle' Waffengattung besonders viel Wert auf Geschwindigkeit legt.

Dieser Wahnsinn und die Verschwendung von Steuergeldern sollten gestoppt werden. Das Heer ist auf dem Holzweg; Goldrandlösungen für wenige Hundert Soldaten sind verschwenderisch und nahezu irrelevant für den grundgesetzlichen Auftrag und Existenzgrund unserer Streitkräfte.

Das Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB), das sich alle paar Monate in der Zeitschrift "Strategie und Technik" selbst beweihräuchern darf, sollte aufgelöst werden angesichts dieser and vieler anderer vom BWB verursachten, mitverursachten oder mitgetragenen Katastrophen. Und jeder dort, der auch nur annähernd etwas zu sagen hatte, sollte auf Lebenszeit auf eine schwarze Liste, damit er nie wieder im Öffentlichen Dienst zu Verschwendung beitragen kann.

Stattdessen wird diese spezielle Beschaffung vermutlich durchgewunken, abgesichert mit blödsinnigen Behauptungen, wie dass die Ukraine-Krise solche Beschaffungen ratsam mache. Schwachsinn getragen von Hysterie. Als ob diese Goldrand-Panzerbusse ihren Aufwand jemals in einem Osteuropa-Szenario rechtfertigen könnten. Wenn es soweit wäre, würden wir eher darüber fluchen, dass wir uns nur ganz wenge leisten wollten, konnten und rasch nachbauen können.
Verhältnismäßigkeit zwischen Aufwand und Nutzen interessiert bei solchem Gerät kaum Einen, ebensowenig wie Sparsamkeit mit Steuergeldern.


P.S.: Dieser Text ist nicht besonders gut geschrieben und der Frustanteil an der Schreibmotivation war auch zu hoch. Die erste Version war übrigens die Englisch, dies hier ist die Übersetzung.
Ich denke jedoch, dass die Leser hier Denkanstöße bekommen, denen sie selbst nachgehen können.

*: Mehr als 200.000 DM waren in den 1970er Jahren noch eine große Menge Geld, und inflationsbereinigt fast auf einer Höhe mit dem Stückpreis des zuvor schon beschafften M113 MTW (Kettenpanzerwagen).


Azerbaijan allegedly downed an Armenian military helicopter

Azerbaijan's defence ministry says its forces have shot down an Armenian military helicopter violating its airspace.
Three crew members were killed in the incident, according to local reports.
The helicopter was flying in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, an enclave in western Azerbaijan controlled by ethnic Armenians.

BBC News*, 2014-11-12

related: 2011-08: Territorial disputes


*: I'm not sure why they claim the war began in 1988.
The USSR was still in place at that time.

How Europe armed for War 1871-1914


by J.T.Walton Newbold
written in 1916

I'm always amazed by how these people researched such a huge wealth of information within few, often only two, years. Without the internet, even without transatlantic or international phone calls!



Sino-Singapore joint training exercise

" The eight-day exercise in Nanjing, China from Nov 2-9 will involve around 70 personnel each from the SAF and the PLA."

China Defense Blog

I can't tell who's who on such photos because

(a) I don't know those countries' uniforms

Singapore is at one gate between Indian and Pacific Ocean, so I suppose such cooperation between these countries should be of interest to people who pay attention to East Asian and Indian Ocean security affairs and geostrategy.



[deutsch] Die zwei Gesichter des deutschen Staates beim Thema Verschlüsselung

(domestic German topic on data security and policy)

Die Bundesregierung hatte mit einer Behäbigkeit auf die Spionageenthüllungen aus dem Snowden-Fundus und ähnlichen Enthüllungen unter Anderem damit reagiert, dass sie die Verschlüsselung von E-Mails zum Normalfall erheben wollte:

Heise.de, Juli 2014

... andererseits ...

Heise.de, November 2014

Der Spiegel/Spiegel Online, November 2014

Das mag nun schlecht koordiniert, disharmonisch klingen. Oder nach Doppelmoral.

Man mag sich auch in Erinnerung rufen, dass die CDU die einzige** große Partei war, die unter Datenschutz in ihrem Wahlprogramm zur Europawahl nicht etwa den Schutz der Privatsphäre verstand, sondern den Schutz der Wirtschaft gegen Wirtschaftsspionage. Und dass der BND unter Bundeskanzleramts-Fuchtel steht und somit unter Kontrolle eines CDU-Ministers.

Wer etwas genauer hinschaut, der mag auch bemerken dass der Exploit von Schwachstellen nur so lange möglich ist, wie diese Schwachstellen nicht veröffentlicht und beseitigt werden.
Die Nutzung oder gar Schaffung von Schwachstellen bedeutet daher, dass der Staat wegschauen würde während wir in unserem Grundrecht auf informationelle Selbstbestimmung verletzt werden können und zudem unser Post- und Telekommunikationsgeheimnis durch in- oder ausländische Straftäter verletzt werden kann.

Das ist ungefähr so, als ob die Regierung den Polizisten Weisung geben würde, nichts zu unternehmen, wenn Knüppel und geladene Pistolen vor einem Fußballstadium auf dem Asphalt liegen.

Letztlich bedeutet JEDE Kenntnis eines SSL Exploits durch den BND ohne rasche Meldung der Schwachstelle an die Softwareentwickler bzw. Serverbetreiber wohl eine Verletzung der staatlichen Schutzpflicht.

In einer gut funktionierenden Demokratie wäre das der Stoff, aus dem Mißtrauensanträge gegen eine Regierung geschmiedet werden. Hierzulande geht die Sache aber irgendwie geradezu unter.


edit: heise.de IT-Sicherheitsgesetz vs. Exploit-Pläne des BND: "Völlig irre"

*: Unter Umständen auch die CSU, deren Programm habe ich damals nicht daraufhin durchleuchtet
**: Zur Frage, opb das der Spionage oder Gegenspionage dient, die der Artikel nicht klar beantwortet: Der BND ist v.a. für Spionage bzw. Informationsbeschaffung zuständig. Für Gegenspionage bzw. Schutzt wären der MAD, Bundesverfassungsschutz und das Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik zuständig. Wenn letztere diese Information bekämen, würden sie sie aber wohl auch zum allgemeinen Schutz verwenden. Zudem bedeutet die Absicht, nur Regierungsrechner schützen zu wollen auch gleichzeitig eine Schutzpflichtverletzung des Staates gegenüber den Privatpersonen.

How to camouflage a helmet in 2 seconds


I knew, but also forgot how this (fairly new) procedure is called.
You can do it yourself (the procedure, not the camo) if you want to try it; the procedure is apparently also used to paint fingernails (well, whole fingers and then you scrub the skin clean).


Congratulations to the U.S.Navy!

It's spending taxpayer money on developing an Unmanned Influence Sweep System - a boat drone which is supposed to fool some kinds of naval mines into detonating.* A prototype is supposed to be ready by 2016. This sounds as if the operational capability is hoped for for the 2020-2025 time frame.


The German navy has had this kind of vehicles in service since 1981.

German "Seehund" (seal) remotely operated vehicles

In fact, this kind of vehicle may be obsolete and ineffective already due to the 1980's development of digital signal analysis of acoustic mine fuzes based on sound libraries. And naval offshore minesweeping and minebreaking* has become unreliable in general because of 'smart' mobile mines which would allow a naval minefield to rearrange and thus replace spent mines.
Ships could follow a "cleared" lane with GPS accuracy and could still encounter a naval mine which had still been somewhere else while a mineweeper swept the lane the last time.


*: It's common to apply the terms "minenräumen" / "minesweeping" to this, but it would be more accurate to call it "minebreaking" from the perspective of the drone. "minebreaking" was an uneconomical method of dealing with mines, used only by desperate commanders. The Japanese did it in 1945 (least valuable ships leading the convoy column and thus clearing the path for the others). They had no effective minesweeping technology against magneto-acoustic mines, lagging behind European theatre of war technology. The very rare employment of the minebreaking procedure ensured that the term would largely stay obscure and unknown.

Further official (German) links:  link 1 and link 2



Labour unions

Labour unions are a curious thing. They have an indispensable function in a market economy, but they also tend to fill out a political role, and the latter typically opposes political turns towards dictatorship - even up to nation-wide general strikes.

Labour unions have been weakened in the Western world since the late 1970's due to political and other reasons, though: Both economic development and political opposition by ruling right wing governments have caused this decline. The political alignment of most labour unions with the left wing sets the right wing into an opposing political role, and right wing governments rare have qualms about weakening the labour unions (right wing-aligned ones often excepted) by blunting their tools.
It's historical irony that the governments known for the most union-busting in the Western world during the 1980's hailed the rise of the Solidarność labour union, which opposed the "communist" government of Poland.

Quick jump back to the economic role of a labour union:
It doesn't take much experience or imagination to understand that a single replaceable worker on his own has little to bargain with a multinational corporation with billions of profit. United workers on the other hand can collectively refuse to work under the given conditions and thus shut down the operation of the company and thus hurt its profits, which gives them substantial bargaining power.
Three outcomes are possible: The labour union may still be weaker and not be able to get an agreement on 'fair' wages and work condition, it might be the equal of its counterpart and be able to just get 'fair' wages and work conditions and finally it may be more powerful than its counterpart.

The anti-labour union sentiment is largely about the possibility of the 3rd case and about unnecessarily harmful strike strategies. The latter can be tuned away through legislation - one only needs to do it (which those opposed to labour unions fundamentally prefer not to do in favour of weakening the labour union). A bargaining power asymmetry favouring of the employees is just as wrong as an asymmetry in favour of the employers, so a good government strives for a fair balance. It's difficult to tell what a bargaining power symmetry is, though. The practical way is to at least recognize whether the current is a clear asymmetry or not (and in whose favour an asymmetry is).

The ability of workers to strive for fair instead of lopsided negotiation is a freedom issue, as it is about freedom from exploitation. You wouldn't be free if some guy next door could without good reason take a tenth of your income, for example. The ability of an employer to withhold a tenth of your fair income from you due to superior bargaining power is essentially the same. And the exploitation of powerless workers can go much farther, and did in more dark times. In some places at some times a worker couldn't even leave his job because he would be blacklisted by all other employers in the sector due to an agreement amongst employers. Imagine a master in printing with 20 years job experience being effectively shackled to his job. And there were other techniques of exploitation as well, this fantastic song describes one:

Some systemic problems of labour unions could be addressed by explicitly restricting their activities to economic matters, outlawing political activity. This would be highly questionable and risky even if political activity by counterweights such as employers associations was outlawed as well. That's impossible anyway, for some of their counterparts are private citizens (billionaires etc.).

To get the power balance between employees and employers right goes beyond economics, but it's a big deal in itself. Germany had labour market-related reforms in 2003 and 2004. These followed about a decade of employer association propaganda about competitiveness and did indeed increase the international competitiveness of the German businesses. This is a consensus view, which can also easily be seen in an extraordinary shift of the balance between capital and labour income which happened 2003-2007: The share of labour income in national income fell from 71% in 2003 to 63.6% in 2007 with capital income share going from 29% to 36.4%. The capital owners had their situation improved by a quarter.
Profits have suffered later during the economic crisis (weakened demand for export products), masking the domestic redistribution towards capital owners considerably (labour income temporarily back to 68%).*

The reforms obviously didn't make the market economy go smoother only. It was in great part about redistribution of income from employees to employers, and the mentioned data doesn't even show the gains made by top managers since it treats their income as labour income, not capital owner income.
The increase in competitiveness wasn't necessary at all, despite the employer side propaganda. Germany's trade balance was about balanced. The shift was harmful indeed, as the fixed exchange rate regime with most other European countries known as Euro currency didn't balance trade any more. Germany entered a phase of huge, partially harmful and needless trade surpluses which contributed a lot to the current Economic mess in Europe that may be a long-term security risk.

Meanwhile, German labour unions keep losing member strength. Their bargaining power is largely down, and it's only custom and legislative environment which keep their wrecks afloat as relevant players.
A currently debated (in Germany) exception are specialised labour unions which accept only such employees as members who have a lever role. Personnel working in trains, airline pilots and traffic controllers specifically. These specialised labour unions have proved to be powerful, since strikes of their members have a disproportionate effect. Economic theory indicates that their members should probably be paid very well if they have indeed such an exceptional importance, but people are more used to seeing them a couple levels lower than for example plastic surgeons in income. The classic labour unions which try to represent entire sectors instead of only small shares of a company's employees have opposed their competition as well.
Finally, the general population is not very inclined to suffer from temporary mobility infrastructure blackouts just in order to help a small group get better pay and work conditions (event hough the latter influence the safety onboard). The German government (cabinet and parliament) currently move to cut down the power of such specialised labour unions in favour of the classic ones.
Still, the success of the specialised niche labour unions shows that it is indeed about the (im)balance of power. It's not globalization or whatever supposed change of the world that keeps employees from having a good bargaining position.

I suppose the crisis around labour unions wouldn't be nearly as severe if two things were different:
(1) A more widespread understanding that it's about power (a)symmetry in an important market economy function, not about good and evil
(2) A sincere desire to solve the problem, including a readiness to leave traditional paths.

Here's a model how to get the balance right without the negative economic effects such as strikes in public transportation:

Replace the strikes with a fine system:
The labour unions would be obliged to raise a certain percentage of their members' incomes as membership fees with regulation on how much and when they could or have to pay something back.
When despite all rules no agreement about wages and work conditions in the next period can be found between employers and employees, there would be a labour dispute, but not with strikes. Instead, for every day of non-agreement with either one party insisting on the labour dispute, both would suffer monetarily. The labour unions would lose a percentage of their capital reserves every day to the government, and the employers would lose a percentage of their last three years average turnover or profits (whatever share is greater) to the government.** The government would be obliged to buy back debt obligations with the money.
The labour dispute ends with an agreement or if the labour unions runs out of money, in which case the pre-existing wages and conditions would be extended. Other labour unions would be allowed to help the struggling one with credit.

The percentages mentioned would be set by legislation, and this means the government would have an elegant ability to balance the power of both employers and employees.

Bargaining power may still be lopsided with this kind of regulation, but this could be factored into the future voting decisions of the citizens.

I wrote earlier about mature countries and their relative inability to reform or reallocate resources well. This text picked one example of something going wrong without effective remedy applied, and at the same time it pointed out how we could still find a remedy if only we looked more objectively at the problem and were ready to enact substantial changes. This theme pertains to many problems, including bureaucracy-related ones.


*: Source: Destatis, website of the German federal statistics agency. See chapter 1.3 here.
**:: The percentages could be really small, such as 0.3% of annual profit/labour union reserves per day, to offer them time for reconsidering their stance. The percentage would be adjusted if only a share of the employees are involved in the labour dispute. There's no hurry, after all. Without strikes, the outside world would not be affected unfavourably.

edit 12-2014: Even more details would be needed to make the scheme work in light of companies without turnover, such as R&D subsidiaries. In this case, "budget" or "expenses" could substitute for "turnover".


Scare of this season: Multinational Jihadist

IS/ISIS/ISIL/-IS-something has become a prime and kind of favourite bogeyman and scare since this June. And IS-something is apparently largely (maybe a third, maybe two thirds of fighters) a foreigners-run organisation.

The all-too reflexive, intuitive reaction in the Western countries to this was perfectly predictable in its primitiveness:

IS-something = evil !!!
Help others against IS-something !!!
Bomb IS-something !!!
Separate IS-something from its money and revenues !!!
Create a symbol, preferably somewhere where Western reporters can provide photos and videos without too much risk !!!
Keep people from joining them !!!
Fear those who returned after they (tried to) join them !!!

- - - - -

To restrict travel of Western citizens is usually frowned upon. Still, efforts to keep young men from travelling to Syria were tolerated all-too easily these days, and it shows yet again that the people who hold freedom up with words and the people who actually hold freedom up in face of at least a minor scare are two groups of very different sizes.
A loss of freedom is a downside of travel bans.

Supposedly, there are substantial upsides. Supposedly, these substantial upsides are self-evident. We would have had a public discussion on them if they weren't, right?

Now what are these upsides, these advantages of restricting the freedom of travel and of allocating resources at 'handling' returning once-"foreign fighters"?

I found no such list (conspicuous, isn't it?), so I made my own list of potential advantages:

(1) Returning foreign fighters/jihadists are dangerous
(2) To weaken IS to serve our interests
(3) To weaken IS to serve the interests of people in the region
(4) To save the young men from the horrors and risks of the civil war.
(5) To protect the own countries relationships with and reputation among other countries

About (1) "Returning foreign fighters/jihadists are dangerous"

By Chams Eddine Zaougui and Pieter van Ostaeyen, July 2014

Richard McNeil Willson, May 2014

The Economist, August 2014

This sounds to me as if this case is more complicated than intuition or primitive hostility reflexes can handle well.

About (2) "To weaken IS to serve our interests"

One needs to be delusional to believe that 'we' in the West have interests in that area itself. The "oil" argument is worn out. We don't need that oil, and if someone else needs it, this someone else would be concerned - not us. Military action has never been a cost-efficient means to lower oil prices anyway.
IS cannot strike at us from the distance, and won't be able to do so, period.

The only NATO member in the region is Turkey. Its opinion should have the greatest weight on the topic of Syria, though not a dominating one. NATO is (by its still effective founding document) a defensive alliance, after all.

About (3) "To weaken IS to serve the interests of people in the region"

Beheadings and similar actions are unpleasant even to distant observers, but I find it conspicuous how selective our outrage about beheadings is. Poor manners are very common amongst civil war participants, so most alleged and real atrocities don't really single out IS.
What's singling out IS in regard to atrocities is the media coverage about the same.

The still low intensity of the intervention is unlikely to really defeat IS. It appears more directed at containing it. Moreover, the hope that foreigners will deal decisively with the foreigners-run IS may keep the people in the region from standing up and kicking them out by themselves.

IS is rumoured to have 18,000-30,000 fighters, maybe 60,000 with a very wide definition. 
Syria has about 18 million inhabitants. Iraq has about 36 million inhabitants.

How delusional does one need to be to think that some intercontinental intervention is necessary to stop IS? Didn't we tell the Arabs for years that their problems are rooted in their own failures and that they need to stand up and do something about it themselves? An intervention gives them an excuse to not do precisely this.

About (4) "To save the young men from the horrors and risks of the civil war"

There is the institution of protective custody, so we are no foreigners to the idea of restricting freedom to take away the freedom to harm oneself.
I've never really seen concerns about the safety of 'our' jihadists brought forward as an (attempted) justification for anything, and it's striking that nobody felt alarmed enough to intervene when Westerners went to fight in more 'favoured' conflict parties.

About (5) "To protect the own countries relationships with and reputation among other countries"

 I've never seen this argument used either, and I flat-out reject it. Reputation is no good-enough reason to restrict freedom of travel of anyone. And if it was, Germany should first think about outlawing travels to Thailand and Mallorca before it even only considers Syria.

This wasn't comprehensive, but I think the message is clear:
The reaction to the IS/foreign jihadism phenomena is in my opinion a primitive reflex. Warmongers seized the opportunity to get people and stuff bombed yet again.