History Repeated to Threaten Our Future …. Again

Franco and Hitler, formerly the preferred Allies of populist nationalists in both Europe and America (such as Charles Lindberg) against the perceived main threat. As with Putin now, they could underline that Franco acted in support of the Church and Christian values.

During the Interwar Period, Western liberal democracies were threatened by totalitarian/authoritarian forces from both left and right, but very few were willing confront the double challenge (with the core parts of the Nordic and German Social-Democratic Parties as the notable exceptions).

One example: During the mid-1930s the Danish Social-Democratic led Government asked the State Security Police to report on the threats to the Denmark from both the totalitarian Right (Nazi Germany) and from the International Communist Movement and the Danish Communist Party. The report underlined the different character of the two threats, but saw both as extremely serious.

The Social-Democratic Party parliamentary election poster from 1935, the year of the State Security Police two parallel threats report, showing the Prime Minister, Thorvald Stauning. The text reads “Stauning or Chaos. Vote for the Social-Democratic Party”.

Large parts of the Centre-Right forces allied themselves with the totalitarian Right. Communists, and democratic Socialists were grouped together as enemies. In the same way Centre-Left forces allied themselves with the Communists and Popular Front movements against both democratic Conservative and Fascist Forces.

Now we see the same destructive hunt for dangerous simplicity. In their hatred and fear of the destruction of their way of life by Muslims and other Migrants, Centre-Right political forces (both fundamentalist economic Liberals and Conservatives) want to ally themselves with Putin’s Russia, incapable of realising that she is as hostile to their safe future as the Islamists. Actually the Russian view of individual liberty is a mirror of that of the Islamic forces. The urge for simplicity that formerly meant that Communist and democratic Socialists (and Jews) were grouped together means that all Muslims and other migrants and other foreigners are seen and treated as enemies, thereby threatening to make this an unmanageable reality.

Unfortunately the populist Danish People’s Party spokesmen and supporters have now joined Front National, UKIP and the White Power part of Trump’s supporters.

A later use of the same motive from a “Dansk Folkeparti” election poster, the populist Centre-Right Party that now have joined their fellows in “understanding” and support for Putin.

On other side we see the Left being incapable of seeing and treating Radical Immigrants as a problem and challenge to their future. Thereby they mirror the self-destructive naïvity of the former Popular Fronts.

The only positive sign is that some Social Democrats seem to realise once more that two evils have to be confronted at the same time. However, the Social Democratic movements are far less powerful than 80-90 years back, and the media’s Facebook-reinforced hunt for Red/Left-Blue/Right simplicity undermine the move towards what is now desperately needed.

With the Leukemia of Lies in the Blood


We are being exposed to classical campaign of misinformation and deliberate lies meant to undermine both national political effectiveness by radicalisation and the ability to cooperate in Europe and with the Americans. Classical in the sense that it mirrors what the Bolsheviks did in the 1920s, the Nazists did in the 1930s, the North Vietnamese did from the later 1960s and what Islamists have done to our Muslim minorities the last quarter century.

Accelerating with Russia’s Crimea coup invasion and her creation of a Ukrainian bleeding ulcer in the Donbass, the West and especially Europe became exposed to a both massive and flexible campaign that uses both the traditional media and the opportunities created by the internet and social media.

The campaign is both supplemented and supported by direct political and when possible economic support to radical nationalists and brother semi-Fascists such France’s Marine le Pen, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Greece’s “Golden Dawn“, opportunistic power-seekers as Donald Trump, normal separatists such as the Scottish National Party and anti-American old-leftists as Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn.

The point here is to argue why the campaign is so effective.

The first reason that the Post-Modern part of our academic elite that grew out of the radical left-wing intellectual movement of the 1970s rejected and successfully abolished the national and common Western narratives of The Second World War and the Cold War. The narratives had nourished the development of the EU and kept the Western Alliance together during the extreme stress of the early 1980s. What followed was a loss of a common moral history and an open-minded emphasis that all views and narratives had equal and legitimate value. There were no real fact, positions were academic constructions. There no longer existed a common framework of reference. Putin and Lavrov were probably as right as everybody else, and it is legitimate to agree with them without any seeking an irrelevant and elusive “truth“.

The second reason is derived from the first. History is no longer a warning of what might happen if we act stupidly. Global Warning is seen as certain if we do not act now, but progress and common sense is considered to mean that we have learnt that international war between will never happen again, at least not in Europe. Not only will war not happen, but our leaders agree the only problems we may meet are those of recent years: a temporary collapse of economic growth due to unrestricted greed, some terror that is not likely to hit you personally and masses of migrants. With the loss of history comes the loss of ability and will see and address awkward painful “hypothetical” developments such as the likelihood that the egoistic departure from cooperation in the EU would lead to the erosion of the the obvious benefits all have enjoyed.

As all will be OK no matter how stupidly and uninformed we act, there is no real reason not to keep our open-minded and liberal attitude to lies and misinformation. Aren’t lies and misinformation just words?

Even if the EU erodes, benefits must remain. Surely?

Even if Great Britain exits with Putin’s support, Scotland will remain to enjoy the more free rule from London. Right?

Even if Scotland leaves with Russian encouragement, Rump Britain will somehow remain as a military power, at least until Old Labour takes over with Russian blessing. Certainly?

By a miracle NATO must survive and Russia be prevented from exploiting the regression into the situation of the late 19th Century?

And there can be no regression into something as anachronistic as international war. Definitely?

My only problem is that logics and sense of history makes me unable to see how. So maybe its a good idea to return to a less relativistic concept of truth.


Sorry that I have to worry you even more

Our main problem in Europe is now that some key member states of the alliance are already moving towards political profiles that match what Putin would like to see: de-democratized, countries ruled by ever more corrupt self-interested leaders that would hate “colour-revolutions” as much as he, leaders that rule by opportunistic manipulation of own populations, using regressive nationalistic propaganda.

This is quickly undermining the unity of purpose the drove the NATO and EU expansion of 2004.

Erdogan’s Turkey is quickly becoming an autocratic clone of Russia. The country’s foreign policy under him in relation to Russia is as unstable as it was in relation to the Middle East, where it has now suddenly returned to the traditional alliance with Israel after years of opportunistic confrontation. This development may be considered positive, but the shifts took place within a framework of autocratic-kleptocratic manoeuvring to stay in power like that of Milosovic.

Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are all on the way to follow the tracks of the 1930s away from democracy towards nationalistic “guided” democracies. Fortunately the Balts have not been infected so far.

Both France and Britain are on unpredictable trajections towards selfish isolationism intoxicated by delusions of former grandeur, and Germany is quickly losing the political stability and sense of purpose that has lasted six decades.

After Sander’s last victory we have a very clear impression of the fundamental character of the political crisis in the U.S. Even when Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, she will be tainted by having to move left in an opportunistic attempt attract Sander’s supporters as well as both left and right to address the challenge from Trump. We still lack good analyses of how the basically unfocused, anarchistic popular reaction against the political and economic elite will affect the post-elections’ Congress.

The military intellectual and physical weakness outlined in the previous blog article is mirroring a loss of purpose of the Western world. We are fast self-destructing before Putin’s (and Erdogan’s) eyes.

The West is experiencing a combination of the spring 1914 optimism that a great war would naturally be avoided and the fast collapse of popular and elite belief in modernity and international co-operation we saw in the mid-1930s.
The main problem avoiding an even worse rerun of what happened then is that both politicians and their civilian and uniformed advisors seem to have lost the ability and will to foresee the more likely outcomes of trends and decisions.

That ability used to be the core of strategic decision-making and crisis management preparations. Now all react to events as if they were natural disasters that could not be foreseen or averted. The military have lost the ability to make campaign planning that is not a one-sided procedure driven, linear logic activity, and the civilian advisors are theoretical political scientists, corporate lawyers or economists.

Those few who do react miss the disturbing over-all picture and focus on details such as countering trolls and developing fancy new technologies that may become an answer in a decade if the opposition does not act or react in the meantime.

So we are a-historical sleep-walkers, who have lost the ability to plan and act on the strategic level.

The Path to West-European Military Auto-Emasculation … and now what?

During the last months I participated in an international brain-storming network that was developed to find politically realistic ways of deterring the developing Russian threat to the Baltic States. The other active participants were mainly other Scandinavians and Americans.

After some months of otherwise highly constructive correspondence, I started to wonder why I did not provoke any reactions when I argued that the problem was not only a matter of very low West European defence budgets and new challenges as a result of Russian improved military technology and the aggressive body language of a psychologically unstable chained dog.

Why was it that I only met silence when I noted that far too many West European militaries needed not only “rebooting”, but a new operating system installation as much as a computer used constantly for a decade with an old version of Microsoft Windows?

I have realised that the unhappy situation is due to:
1) the grossly over-officered forces where only a very small fraction could get practical experience in units,
2) the unchallenged adaptation of New Public Management fads,
3) the military unionism that brought and consolidated privileges that undermined the professional ethos and behaviour,
4) the lack of realistic, unscripted exercise activities,
5) the loss of critical professional discourse, and finally
6) the de-professionalization of advanced officer education.

What happened in several places, and especially in Denmark and Sweden, was that civilian academics, and in Denmark especially theoretical political scientist (not of the British War Studies, Military History school) and New Public Managers won the high ground and key advisory positions by an unchallenged, deeply arrogant rejection of the relevance of “unscientific” military professionalism.

The supplementary contributions of civilian expertise can be sound and necessary. Since the 1950s civilian academics gained a key role in the Western political and strategic discourse about nuclear deterrence and the potential use of the weapons. This had been essential, because it added sophistication and risk awareness to the views of the USAF Strategic Command and some U.S. Army nuclear warriors.

However, with the end of the Cold War, the dams of balanced common sense broke; history was implicitly assumed to have ended in the sense that no great inter-state wars would ever happen again, at least and especially not in Europe. The core of military professionalism had previously been all the preparations necessary for intensive warfare, at least initially dominated by conventional weapons. The naval forces had to face a difficult contest in a sea-air environment before a workable level of sea control was established. The air forces would remain involved in a continuous struggle for air superiority.

The land forces prepared to become involved in a combination of attrition and manoeuvre, combine arms and air-land combat to gain or defend key geographical areas.

To prepare professionally required constant terrain reconnaissance and analysis of force requirements as technology, the political framework, own forces and the potential enemy forces developed. The operational defence planning was matched by force development, cadre education and realistic exercises from lowest to highest level. To be able to do so was at the centre of military professionalism, and few civilian defence academics felt qualified to challenge more than minor elements or assumptions of that combination of professional competencies.

All that changed in Europe with the end of the Cold War. When all future wars for the Europeans would be wars of choice, the traditional military profession would be irrelevant. Forces could be reduced to “tools” tailored for a specific mission and adjusted when initially ineffective. No comprehensive professional ability to identify military requirements, advice and develop the forces was necessary or encouraged. The professional world based on 250 years of discourse and practice from the Enlightenment via Clausewitz and Corbett to Michael Howard and John Warden had become irrelevant. The military lost their paradigm, and as a hermit crab losing its snails house, they were vulnerable to both predators and their own insecurity.

As invasive species the predators came immediately in the form of the carriers New Public Manager fads, theoretical political scientists and the heralds of waves of pseudo-strategic buzz-words. The suits and skirts than moved in to direct and be uncritically copied by the uniforms did not aspire to plan, command and take responsibility; they only sought power based on an unsupported feeling of superiority in the post-military-paradigm era of “New Wars”.

They did not consider giving practical advice, beyond not sending tanks to peace keeping missions because they would escalate violence, dropping conscription because it was obsolete, developing or accepting ideas like “smart defence” that was built on the unsupportable assumption of NATO being a supranational organisation.

They could see theoretical problems, but remained unsuited to man Colin Gray’s “Strategy Bridge”. All knew theories, some gained relevant technological insight but outside a team that included relevant military expertise, they remained nice window dressing repeating their impressively sounding theories making finance ministers and uniformed copycats happy.
If the military professionals had had some backbone, very little harm had been done, but unsure of themselves most aped the superficial theories and buzz-words of the shallow challengers, quickly losing their professionalism in the process to gain empty prestige from irrelevant and unusable academic credits in management and strategic spidery-wordery.
Now nobody is around outside the U.S., Poland and maybe Britain and France that can identify and test a military requirement for a real war problem like the one we are now facing in the Baltics.

Advanced officer education was first considered irrelevant for the new era in Sweden and now in Denmark.

However, after the unwanted therefore warning of 2008, the happy era of the irrelevance of military professionalism ended in 2014. Now it is time to crash-train and educate some of the relative youngsters that fought for us without a strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the useless empty uniforms that in best cases can give mere technical-tactical advice only, dressed-up in the lingo-feathers that the Emperor with little clothes wore.

It is time that we all start to worry about how to return to a cadre-rank “pyramid” and retirement age, that mirrors that the military profession is a practical one, where even directly professionally relevant theoretical education actually is less relevant than proven leadership experience and ability in units with tough realistic training.

It is time that we all start to study and remember what it takes from basic training to general war gaming to create effective military forces. You will find little in political science theory, but much in the analytic military history works of persons such as Michael Howard, Martin van Creveld supplemented by Jörg Muth, early Ed Luttwak, Arden Bucholz and even S.L.A. Marshall.

It is time to address the balance between regular and reserve elements, especially from conscription and part time volunteers, to develop the necessary quantity.

It is time to address what working hour rules and privileges that are compatible with an effective military.

It is time to force the uniformed state employees to become military professionals again.

To Protect the Baltic States against Russia

I agree with those who have noted that the Baltic States can by defended against both an overt or covert invasion by present Russian forces, but I disagree that the present local and NATO posture can achieve this.

The first key issue is sea control of the Baltic Sea from the island of Bornholm to the Aland Islands. As when the Baltic littoral was defended the last time against a Russian offensive – by Nazi Germany during the last year of the Second World War – everything depends on the ability to defend and use the chosen sea-lines-of communication.

During the Cold War the NATO mission was limited to the far less demanding task of denying the Warsaw Treaty Organisation navies free use of the sea routes in the southern part of the Baltic Sea for the support the offensive operations of the Coastal Front and Soviet Red Flag Baltic Navy. In the hope to defeat the threat, to succeed in this limited mission, the involved NATO states developed large, modern and capable specialised naval and naval air units. They were thereafter scrapped in the later focus on Blue Water capabilities.

The ability to defend sea routes cannot be decided by a simple comparison of available NATO and Russian local naval forces. Both are rather weak. We have to analyse whether NATO can protect the shipping generally or at least high priority convoys. The transport shipping has to be effectively protected from mines, submarine, air and missile attack. The task has always been difficult in the Baltic Sea due to the temperature and salt layered character of the sea, and the development of mine and torpedo technology since 1945 has made task ever more difficult. In 1944-45 the Germans could count on the cover of winter darkness and cloudy weather as well as on the indifferent quality of Soviet Naval Aviation to shield the transports from effective air attack. Now long-range detection systems coupled with full all-weather attack capability by both aircraft and long-range air and surface launched anti-shipping missiles will make the protection of shipping extremely difficult and demanding. The task becomes even more difficult during a crisis period before and the first phases of hostilities where strikes against the potential source of attacks will be ruled-out to avert escalation.

The Baltic States have four capable terminal ports at relatively safe distance from Russian territory: Liepaja, Ventspils, Riga and the port facilities in and east of Tallinn. However, all have approaches vulnerable to the most discreet “hybrid” warfare anti-shipping weapon: the mine. The main Lithuanian port of Klaipeda lies too close to Russian territory to be considered available. As the mine-warfare expertise and capability of the NATO-navies have withered together with the anti-submarine and air-defence capabilities and the general coastal warfare capabilities, it is doubtful whether NATO can muster a credible sea control MCM posture for the Baltic Sea. Any fishing or merchant ship now has the ability to carry out accurate covert mining operations in support of hybrid warfare.

The missile threat is also serious and even if probably only urgent after the start of hostilities. The reduced Russian Baltic Navy light surface units and naval aviation presently in the Baltic area mean that there exists a very significant latent missile threat against shipping everywhere in the Baltic. Nothing can prevent Russia from reinforcing their forces from the other fleets prior to and during a crisis and to start employing harassment of Western shipping and naval units as sometimes during the Cold War.

If NATO tries to establish protected sea lines, the effort will be heavily dependent on general and specialist naval air power. It should be employed in the protection of convoys that use the less directly exposed sea routes (away from the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast) across the central Baltic Sea from Swedish the territorial waters of Gotland to the four safest Baltic harbours listed above. In order to have maximum time in the area the aircraft should operate from East-German, Polish or – far best – central Swedish bases. The credibility of the whole sea control operation to support the defence of the Baltic States may depend on the availability of the Swedish bases that the country secretly planned to make available to the USAF during the Cold War.

The lesser capable alternatives to sea transport are air transport and over-land transport via the narrow Polish-Lithuanian land corridor between the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast and Belorussia. These options will be sufficient for any initial limited deterrent deployment of light reaction forces, but will not have the capability to support the larger NATO-forces of army formations and logistics needed for a minimum defensive deployment.

Of the main airfields, Vilnius Airport and the Palanga Airfield are too close to Belorussia and Kaliningrad Oblast to be safely usable, and support of Lithuania will have to use Karmeleva at Kaunas and the large military airfield Zokniai near Siauliai. Air transport to Latvia depends on the use of Riga Airport with the military airfield at Lielvarde as a reserve, in Estonia Tallinn Airport has Ämari military airfield and the local airfields at Tartu and Pärnu as reserves – the latter a former Soviet air base west of the city centre and harbour. All Baltic airfields are difficult and demanding in troops to guard against Special Forces due to built-up or wooded areas in close proximity. To work effectively as air bases in a hybrid warfare phase they need the deployment of a full set of local defence and security forces and logistics elements. If considered for later defence operation in spite of operating within the range of Russian long-range air defence missile systems, the bases need area and close air defence systems as well as EOD and rapid runway repair elements. None of these capabilities can be supplied by the Baltic Host Nations, and the lack of this operational requirement during the last two decades, few, if any, remains in the European NATO forces.

The main problem, however, is that none of the Baltic States have the forces available to create a minimum cohesive, initial forward territorial defence of their territory, and because of this a symbolic employment of U.S. subunits to the capitals as a “trip-wire” as suggested recently by Zbigniew Brzezinski signal weakness by offering hostages rather than a step that ensures later timely deployment of robust deterrent forces. Such follow-on forces that were previously available no longer exist, as they were irrelevant after “history had ended”.

No exposed forward state was ever capable of creating an effective initial territorial defence and deterrent force posture without the use of conscription, and fortunately the last decades of communications and individual or pair served weapon system development have created equipment far easier to handle than those 40-50 years ago. Only some complex crew served weapons such as tanks and command cadre functions still benefit from a long service regulars’ routine. However, fashion, ideology and lack of personal experience with training and use of national servicemen still seems to block Western peace-time realization of the essential benefits of access to the draft to supplement regulars. It is the only way to generate quantity without real loss of flexibility and quality. Historical cases indicate that local initial defence capabilities are not only essential for gaining time and keeping space for receiving assistance, the demonstrated will to defend themselves and handle hybrid challenges without having to resort to serious suppression eases the political decision among allies to fight for another country.

It was been the a-historical NATO policy to pretend – recently under the “smart defence” buzz-heading – that there exists an immediate and pre-programmed political willingness in all member states to contribute forces to fight for an ally no matter what situation and what the host state contributes. Of course it is dim-witted nonsense. It is time to realize that the bluff has been called and act accordingly.

To protect the Baltic States, NATO needs protected airfields for initial deployment, a local cohesive territorial defence of borders and capitals as well as safe sea-lines-of communication. To meet and deter the Russian challenge takes the development of credible and sizable national defence forces – standing and reserves. Flimsy make-believe diplomatic constructions pretending solidarity by all to all hypothetical but undefined challenges is making Putin’s project simple.

End to the chase for silver bullets

In 1914 the best European military professionalism had failed catastrophically. Staffs knew how their countries could win a major war through centrally planned and controlled movements of field armies and battleship fleets.

Superior scientific management of mobilization and rail transport by own General Staff should ensure superiority on land. One would crush the opponent’s army in a huge meeting battle and get his government to throw in the towel.

At sea the British Grand Fleet would cut-off and defeat the German High Seas Fleet by centralized scientific monitoring and management by radio telegraphy from Admiralty Situation Room. While waiting, the limited economic warfare might bring a weakening and collapse of the German globalized finance and economy, forcing an end to the conflict.

None of this happened. After constant experiments with alternatives through 1915-1918 that cost millions killed and Russia’s collapse, the exhausted Entente powers won the war with American capital and fresh and therefore optimistically aggressive American soldiers.

During the inter-war years new professional models for how to prevail in war were developed. Several thought that the only possible solution was to attack the opponent’s cities with terror bombardments from the air, They would quickly cause rebellion and revolution. Others thought that scientifically designed precision bombardment of enemy industry key functions could get his fragile economy and social structure to collapse – in a way similar to what naïve commentators today think that cyber war will achieve. Again others like the Frenchman Charles de Gaulle and the British Frederick Fuller believed that small elite forces equipped with tanks could manoeuvre their way to victory. In combination all these ideas influenced World War II. However victory in 1945 was due neither to smart weapon nor to simple concepts. It came as a result of mass production, deployment, support and the combined use of “good enough” tanks, trucks, all types of aircraft, landing craft and aircraft carriers, etc. Economic strength and mass gave the Allies made much of everything available so that they could replace the huge losses of material that will always be the result of war against a great power adversary.

The reason to remember this part of world history today is not only that it is 100 years ago that the belligerents tried to get past the 1914 debacles by the employment of massive artillery at the fronts and Zeppelin bombardment of England. Neither is it because it is the 75th anniversary of the reformed German army’s manoeuvre victory over the traditional French in 1940. The reason is that it is now again clear that the West’s military science is once more at a dead end. This time it is not due to belief in scientific management of mass to the battle and superior will to take losses when engaged. This time arrogance has led to an a-historical dependence on extremely expensive high technologies to achieve low vulnerability that result in very small forces. The only good news compared to last time is that we do not have to learn after horrible failures in war.

The problem is not only that we in the West still often focus on types of weapons that brought victory in World War II, but that the specialists of these weapons in a loss of common professional sense have combined with the arms industry to refined the weapons to an absurd degree in an uncontrolled project “management”. This has led to crazy prices and therefore very small number. Focus has slipped from the ability to develop robust relevant units to an unprofessional hunt for technological perfection.

The value of the quantity and such robust structures seems forgotten, and NATO has thus lost the ability to deploy forces large enough to match actual defense missions. We now have new armoured vehicles, autonomous precision weapons and fabulous aircraft, but so few in number that it only makes sense against totally inferior opponents, not against other states. Not even the Americans have the money needed to replace more than a small fraction of the warships and aircraft they inherited from the Cold War – even if they forgot the current ideology and returned to the individual taxation of the Eisenhower Era. The micro high-quality units may be narrowly effective, but within the context of any larger conflict they are militarily as irrelevant as the dazzling battle cavalry of the major powers in 1913.

Most European countries’ defence priority seem to have become the continued employment of under-employed personnel, where few have the age, physique or relevant practical and leadership experience match operational requirements. They have simply made-up their mind – without thinking or asking – that the Americans will supply the appropriate quantity until the eternal peace soon comes. Their own forces have been reduced to the minimum required to send symbolic micro contributions to the various distant wars under public opinion back home forces a withdrawal. The loss of real military capabilities has removed the basis for realistic exercise activity and professional officer training. Cadres spend their time on self-management and hunt for pseudo-academic credits.

The absence of meaningful military capabilities was not necessarily critical if the military challenges would always be limited to missions where the few remaining aircraft could operate from secure bases and drop smart weapons with a minimal risk to the crew. Missions where the only hazards were the “expert” idealistic international lawyer assessments in the domestic media or local Jihadists’ discovery of the names of the deployed aircrew.

The loss of real land force capabilities would not be critical as long as missions where limited to the deployment of ad hoc composite micro army units or instructor teams in today’s parallel to former de-colonization operations. We can easily contribute as long as other, larger countries take responsibility for strategy and for eventual failure.

Some wars before World War I could have warned responsible military and political leaders that an easy victory would be difficult to achieve. The costs of offensive operations and difficulties were made evident in the American Civil War, the Boer War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the First Balkan War in 1912. But top officials are expected to provide the politically desired advice and options. and in 1914 that was options for quick and cheap victories. In 2003 the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, learnt that essential lesson when he warned against a “light” invasion of Iraq.

The wars in recent years repeat the lesson of a hundred years back that if there is a will to resistance, even a clear qualitative superiority cannot bring a quick result. It became clear in the of Ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It has been confirmed during Israel’s punitive expeditions against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. We see it during the civil war in Syria and the present fighting in Eastern Ukraine. These wars are modern parallels to attrition battles during the First World War. As in the attrition battles during World War I the fighting is dominated by artillery weapons and most of both the artillery and other weapons are inherited from mass production of the Cold War.

The key difference from then is that a very significant part of the fighting on one or both sides is carried out by rough militias that do not see themselves constrained by international law. The wars take place in the midst of the civilian population, and as peacetime standards prevail in the Western world, the propaganda have become a central and integral part of the warfare.

It would be possible to “win” with a massive military action by Israel in the Middle East and from Russia in Ukraine, as both countries differ from the West by having maintained large conventional forces. But as Israel Russia probably realize that cost would be high and the resistance is likely to continue as guerrilla or terrorist activity.

However in 2014 Russia’s Putin made clear in speech and action that the risk of international war between industrialized states do not only belong to the past. Hereafter military quantity and robustness becomes at least as relevant again as quality. Western air forces now have neither size or self-defence means to operate in areas covered by the Russian air defence, including the Baltics, because Russia combines updated, rugged cold war systems with new, long-range weapons.

The only real Western advantage in meeting the Soviet Union on land during the Cold War was a decisive technological superiority of its – mainly American – air forces. This superiority depended to on constant development of active and electronic counter measures against Soviet airborne and land based air defence weapons and constant updating of self-defence packets. All based on a constant and focused electronic intelligence effort. In the period since the Cold War the constant and now accelerated Russian updating and complementation of their various air defence systems have not been similarly monitored and countered, and we have not stopped technology transfer to the now assumed friendly partner. Then the scenario foreseen was general war that created freedom for use of offensive air power not only against the massive invading land forces, but also in interdiction campaigns against the enemy lines of communications and in offensive air campaigns against his home bases and command and control systems. No such permissive operational environment is likely to exist in the far less clear scenarios that we now foresee in NATO’s nearly undefended eastern borderland.

In its protection of that borderland against Russia, we have lost the previous advantage of air power by combination of
1) the likely political constrains on the use of air power,
2) the lack of land forces strong enough to contain an offensive,
3) the lack of the long range artillery necessary for the suppression of enemy front line air defence assets formerly assumed,
4) the lack of updated electronic warfare superiority,
5) the lack of quantity necessary to take attrition.

The only country on Russia’s western border that is militarily secure is Finland with its very large conscript-based and hence “obsolete” defense. To maintain the quantity needed to cover their large country the Finnish Defence Forces have maintained “good enough” standards rather than seek “perfect” ones, This applies to all fields except F-18 fighter jets needed for air policing. Moreover the Finnish balance between robustness and quality as well as their decentralization probably makes their forces less vulnerable to cyber-attacks than the centralized and therefore vulnerable command systems those of the West.

The innovation of weapons and tactic from 1915 onwards and during the inter-war period was recreated the possibility of operational victory. West’s post-Cold War focus on extremely expensive, small and therefore vulnerable, over-managed military forces must be seen as a mindless continuation of this trend toward the absurd.

The single-minded focus on quality gave the West the possibility of a virtually risk-free effort in their small wars of choice. But that focus has now become an evolutionary dead end as it rewards revisionist players like Vladimir Putin. It makes the West militarily powerless in international conflicts in which we must continue to take the existence of nuclear weapons into account.

None of the new existing or emerging civilian high technologies will be able to restore the possibility of easy and painless victories. On the contrary, they are likely in any new prolonged confrontation or war to increase threats to all conventional weapon systems, both older from the Cold War and the few precious new ones. It will take place through both targeted development efforts and improvisation, as remotely controlled roadside bombs did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wars are likely to be ever more attritional rather than decisive making mass rather of the “good enough” than quality more relevant.

We have to end the chase for silver bullets. Time to bite it.

After another Islamist Act of Terror: Paris 7-1-2015

I find it strange, very strange that we do not quietly but clearly ask:

From our Muslim fellow citizens that they prove by action what the leaders have claimed constantly, namely that these acts are contrary and unacceptable to their religion. They should immediate create formal organisation that isolated the radicals completely and reported constantly to our police and security services on any propaganda and behaviour and acts by clericals that was contrary to the laws and spirit of their chosen homelands.

In this we have to distinguish between three, not only two, types of Muslims. The first group is the majority that only seek freedom to practice their religion as others active religious citizens. Otherwise they simply want to be treated as other citizens of their Western country. The third group consist of the radical Islamist that are willing to use any type of violence against their enemies, namely both moderate Muslims and the Western supporters of the right to remain an unpolitical believer. The interesting group is the second. Here we find the different fractions believers in Political Islam. They hide behind the moderate, unpolitical Muslims, but they share the objectives of the Radicals, and they supply the “water” where the terrorist recruit and operate. Political Islam as Fascism and Communist reject liberal and democratic political systems like an invasive species. Political Islam is not just another religion, it is a threat and should be deprived of any public subsidies and rights, closely monitored and contained as any other political groups that work to undermine democracy. If we do not see a deliberately seperation between the moderate Muslims from the Islamists in the way that the Social-Democrats broke with the Communists a century ago to fight the radical leftist together with other Democratic forces, we will slide into tragedy.

Muslims should feel wellcome, Political Islam should not, because it is our enemy whether violent or not.

The Acute Worries of a 20th Century Historian

I fear that we have very limited time.

The Russians have clearly convinced themselves of the truth of their own “Stab-in-the-Back” myth with Gorbachev, Jeltsin, the Democrats and the Balts in the role that the German frustrated nationalists gave to the Jews and Socialists. We have passed the two decades that it took last time for the myth to drive action.

As then aggressive nationalism is married to a deep and arrogant conviction of the weakness of the opponents due to their decadence. As then the opponents of the West have hostility to its modernity common. In their mind we have proven by our actions that the Russians have a window of opportunity. They get open encouragement from like-minded forces among us such as the regressive and increasingly repressive Hungarian leadership that we have failed in reacting to, totally ignoring what we say we stand for. Putin’s view of our weak, liberal, humanistic, individualistic, tolerant, violence-rejecting societies mirrors that of the Islamic State – and that of Hitler and his henchmen.

As then success develops a momentum and expectations. You may consider Georgia: the Rhineland, Crimea: like Austria and Eastern Ukraine: the Sudetenland. We are now seeing the warm-up to the equivalents of the early 1939 events with the West giving guarantees unsupported by real power. Events accelerate now as they did then, driven by the domestic policy needs of Putin under economic pressure.

By mental and practical preparations Putin has gained escalation dominance. The West is now diverted to the Middle East as Britain was to the Far East then.

In his eyes the fact that London allowed the Scottish referendum to proceed proves his point. If “Yes” to independence next week it will undermine the main political bridge in the Atlantic Alliance and create another small internationally immature, neutralist, appeasing Nordic country in a key strategic position search of an alternative position in the world. The Scottish National Party has already promised that an independent Scotland will never do anything that might irritate its Muslim minority.

A key politician of another such small Nordic nation, the Faroe Islanders, has just used the fact the Islands is a part of Denmark outside the EU to bypass sanctions to increase their export to Russia. The islanders’ economy and welfare is heavily sponsored from Denmark, but the Ukraine is a large “country far away about which they know so little“. It is a long Nordic tradition to let others do what it takes to safeguard their independence and future while benefiting as much as possible economically from the suffering of others. Most Swedes deeply believe that this elevates them to a superior moral position. It is a widespread decease that nations feel unhappy without the ability to be superior to others in at least one field.

As then the West believes that regaining strength from the results of economic recession must be given first priority, because our history-deprived leaders, mostly political scientists or jurists. They believe that no political development not outlined in current (economic) theories can be predicted if not an extension of known, progressive trends. Therefore one must wait to act until the future has become an urgent “breaking news” present.

Putin is now digging into his country’s pension saving to sustain his populist and popular action. How long time can he do that? How long time could Japan of 1941 run on oil reserves.

The main difference now is nuclear weapons. But remembering the 1980s’ discourse: are they usable for us, the reacting side? Especially if we have to improvise as now with no visible forward deployment highlighting the risk?

Hope that somebody can convince me that I am wrong that I am just an old paranoiac and pessimist.

I know that history does not repeat itself, but I also see all too clearly that a combination of human frailties such as narrow-mindedness, opportunism, self-delusion, opportunism, egoism, bucket-passing and avoidance of responsibility etc. is a basic condition.

Americans, Minions, Small War Defeats and the Deliberate Withering of Strategic Brain and Options

Even great power military action must be guided by a strategy that mirrors both the prioritized end-state objectives of the political leadership and what is realistically possible within a limited period such as a couple of years with the available military forces and economic assets.

This applies especially if the state is not overwhelmingly stronger than the opponent and not both brutal and single minded enough to use that strength to the degree necessary to achieve a quick victory and to follow it up with energetic repression such as in the final Russian campaign in small Chechnya.

In order to develop a realistic strategy in a democracy there must be an open and honest interaction between on one side the ultimately responsible political leader (in the U.S. the President) and on the other the professional joint and service military and intelligence leaders.

The professional leaders could and should know and contribute with both the strengths and weaknesses of own and enemy available forces and societies and acknowledge, accept and present the basic uncertainty of war. Otherwise these advisors will fail in their main roles: to foresee the consequences of different strategy and operational options and underline the risks.

To be effective the political-professional interaction should be characterized by mutual respect and trust as well as by a clear acceptance of the other side’s role, including that the final decision rests with the political leader. The Second World War relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his service chiefs was very close to the ideal. In the Korean War the routines were still strong enough to counter Douglas MacArthur’s anachronistic challenge, but thereafter the interaction quickly eroded and became far removed from the ideal.

It is now clear that in small wars in peacetime such as those of the last fifty years, the situation became normally far removed from the ideal.

The main problem was that the political side in any dialogue was rarely the responsible political leader, the President. Kennedy, Johnson and George W. Bush delegated far too much authority to their Secretaries of Defence: Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld.

This led to serious defects in the policy and strategy making. Firstly the resulting strategy became unbalanced by being narrowly military-operational, as only the President had the formal authority to ensure a sustained and integrated foreign-policy, economic and military effort. Secondly, as the Secretary of Defence could never be certain of his authority in the dialogue with the military professional leaders (as he did not have the legitimate command authority of the President), he sought to reinforce his position by challenging the relevance of professional advice.

The secretaries surrounded themselves with a layer of likeminded, deeply ideological civilian advisors: in McNamarra’s case his scientifically management whizz-kids, in Rumsfeld’s his Neo-Conservative tunnel-visionaries. Uncertain of their position they did not ask for honest professional advice, they expected unquestioned loyalty and compliance. As moral courage has hardly ever been a dominant trait among military career officers dependent on the service for salary and status, McNamara and later Rumsfeld soon got what they asked for: a compliant and mediocre service leadership who happily paid homage to their masters’ series of buzz-word policies and ignored the responsibility of their office to the Commander-in-Chief and the nation. Being Americans, military-technological and dramatically massive fire-power fixes were always sought that made most observers ignore the fundamental lack of a comprehensive strategies for the campaign. In Vietnam they counted bodies for McNamaras, in Iraq all just felt good until ambushed by shedded soldiery and other locals.

Any alternative views from the Department of State were ignored as was criticism from inside the services until the realities of war in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan led to a late, far too late, adjustment.


After this view of the too often dysfunctional political-military strategy making in the U.S., we shall shift our focus to the real subject of this article: the character of the policy-making of the American democratic allies prior to joining her wars and their reaction to the total failure and suppressed humiliation that became the result of the combined effort.

A contribution of allies to the dialogue built on independent analysis might have helped. They had a significant potential leverage as the US needed their participation for political reasons. Prior to the formal and final U.S. decision they could have interacted with and used the internal policy debate in Washington. In the Iraq War case states that were basically positive to involvement could have used and reinforced the arguments of State as well as the army chief of staff, making preconditions for any substantial involvement.

Such a contribution should be expected as states develop and pursue independent policies in all other fields. A medium state such as Great Britain or Australia or a small state like Denmark would normally have a national policy. Policy must be developed through own analysis of the issue and situation and the prioritisation of different objectives. Thereafter the state would identify other states with somewhat similar objectives and view of the situation in order to lay the foundation for common action in the pursuance of the common aims.

Each state and the network of co-operating states will identify actors in the American policy-making process with compatible views, and dependent on the situation in D.C. it and they will discretely or openly lobby using that political tactical common ground to further their objectives. They can assume that the U.S. or at least some in Washington need international support and open backing, and that gives leverage if applied with insight and empathy. If there is no common ground, such as often in the field of environmental policies, the outsiders note that fact and delay bridge building and lobbying to later.

In 2002-03 during the American hasty path away from Afghanistan towards the invasion of Iraq and again in 2006 – before building-up the Allied effort in Southern Afghanistan – such an independent well-prepared allied effort did not take place. This was clearly to the detriment to any chance of success.

The logical choice in 2002-03 for close allies of the U.S. such as the UK and Denmark would have been to conduct their own analysis of the situation, foreseeable problems and the combined and national military possibilities. The leaders of the medium and small potential contributors could and should have challenged the military, regional and reconstruction experts of their countries to come up with consolidated predictions, advice and options.

With the obviously distorted and emasculated process in Washington, it was easy to compete with quality of arguments in the process and find local common sense: Colin Powell’s State Department, the army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, as well as the acutely accurate common sense predictions of the U. S. Army War College were there to support.

However, against the interests of the American and their own peoples, not to mention the thereafter much unnecessarily extra suffering Iraqi and Afghan peoples, the American allies did not press their professionals to contribute with independent insight and policy options. As the children following the Hameln Pied Piper (the difference being that he knew where he was going), the Allies meekly condoned and thereby reinforced the Washington mistakes reducing their military professionals to leading the cannon fodder, managing the physically and mentally hurt and comforting the families of those killed.

Both the responsible political leaders such as Tony Blair and Anders Fogh-Rasmussen and their chief military advisors, who meekly accepted being ignored, should be exposed to severe public and professional criticism for offering unquestioned loyalty rather than the necessary qualified advice and conditional assistance. The Danish Foreign Minister, Erik Scavenius, much criticised by Fogh-Rasmussen, demonstrated more presence of mind, moral courage and sense of his leverage, when in Berlin November 1941 he rejected just signing the renewed anti-Komintern Pact.

However, politicians, their general managing civil servants and the media all seem unaware that the foremost initial and follow-on role of any professional is to offer advice that includes prediction of likely outcomes of different actions.

In relation to Afghanistan the main and constant problem was – again – the lack of a comprehensive strategy and integrated execution: Deliberate ignorance that getting full Pakistani co-operation through a mixture of coercion and rewards was essential; only half-hearted commitment to the gradual improvement in the quality of both central and local government essential for progress; inability or lack of will to co-ordinate national and international military and reconstruction efforts.

What it added up to in both the Iraq and Afghanistan cases was and is a rampage of a loose club of amateurs doing their un-focused well-meaning best, hoping for a miracle in a hurry. It was the natural result of the lack of ability to conduct a broad strategy dialogue in both the U.S. and in and among the minions. In Washington ideology ruled, among the supporters the symbol of being willing to sacrifice the lives and futures of some of their naïve citizens was considered enough.


After the failures since the early 1960s both the politicians and the militaries in the involved countries took steps to avoid such future painful experiences again, not by improving the policy and strategy making structure and culture, but by reducing and refocusing the military structures and by designing binding incantations such as the Weinberger Doctrine. After the Vietnam failure conscription was abolished in both the U.S. and the then only supporting democratic minion: Australia. The U.S. Army invested in the ability to do better in another war in Central Europe and the U.S. Marine Corps suppressed their Small Wars focus and claimed unrealistic roles in the framework of the massive fleet expansion of the Reagan years. The U.S. Air Force went on seeking ways to win wars om their own by destroying things and killing some important people.

The reaction after Iraq and Afghanistan is, again, built on an unreflected and possibly unconscious flight from the immediate experience. In both the U.S. and among the minions the land forces are cut drastically to undermine the ability of future politicians to be caught-up again in an optimistic interventionist folly. No attempt is made to revisit the flawed strategy making process. All the responsible amateurs in uniforms, suits and sweaters agree that the effort were basically futile, but they do not have the critical insight to tell you why.

They considered that fortunately technology now helped us as it did more crudely in the 1990s. Then we could pretend to be effective with cruise missiles, now we can use drone launched precision weapons with less risk of killing innocents. It is conveniently ignored that any effect beyond the purely symbolic and domestic at home depends on a deep and constantly updated understanding of the target organization, something that only comes after an extended force and intelligence commitment to the region as has been the case in the Afghan-Pakistani border area and around the Horn of Africa.

After the Vietnam War the force reductions and a withering of the strategy making structure were severely hampered by the continuing and then intensifying Cold War. This is no longer the case, and for the group of leading civil servants that dominate the western policy-making in the 21st Century, there is no real possibility of serious security challenges requiring more than symbolic military power in the short or mid-term. To this positivist corps of “group thinking” people dominated by economists and political scientists the future looks safe.

Russia may act in an anachronistic way, but she will – of course – soon leave the mental world of the early 20th Century and join the 21st and then stop doing to her neighbours what she did to Georgia in 2008.

The “Arab Spring” may have encountered a few problems, but those glitches are happening beyond the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Several European states may have growing problems with anti-democratic and narrow nationalist right wing movements, but that is probably only a hitch on the road to universal progress.

China may act like Britain did when she built her new empire in the first half of 19th Century with trade and investment in overseas resources, but the Chinese are fortunately completely different and will never defend their gains as all other imperial nations have done through history.

The view that a political-military dialogue may be required in the future and the ability to conduct one are constantly being undermined. In the late 1990s NATO told the aspiring new members from Central and Eastern Europe that it knew that their future was safe. The Alliance bureaucrats, as always dominated intellectually by British academics proactively serving the Americans and elegantly defining the leading member’s position, told the hopeful that they need not think themselves and could safely leave any aspirations to maintain self-defence structures built on conscription and reserve mobilisation. They should specialise in creating such logistic elements as air transport squadrons, military police companies and field hospitals that the big boys needed in quantity.

The Alliance was fundamentally incorrectly presented as a super-national organisation and the new member states were assumed to deliver their contributions without any independent analysis of the possibilities and risks of a mission. The current “new speak” buzz-word for the Anglo-Saxon arrogant view that they are not to reason why, just do and die, is: “smart defence”.

In 2003 my own defence of the view that independent states should maintain have their own ability to carry out a critical strategy dialogue before putting their citizens in harm’s way led to a policy conflict between the Baltic Defence College and the U.S. Tallinn defence assistance advisor about what courses the College should offer. His view was that the Balts only needed their officers educated to company commander level. The implication was that the U.S. would just inform them when they needed cannon-fodder.

Now, the possibility to conduct an effective independent policy dialogue is being deliberately and quickly destroyed in Denmark. The demolition work is taking place in different areas at the same time. The already weakened advanced officer education that prepared the best to act as professional policy advisors in the strategy process is now being de facto terminated leaving the officers capable of leading cannon-fodder.

The Chief-of-Defence’s possibilities to act as a policy advisor is undermined by deliberately seeking an officer without the necessary experience, keeping him on a short term contract in the job, only giving him temporary rank, and politicising his position and keeping him from any role in relation to parliament and public by subordinating him to the Defence Ministry Permanent Under Secretary.

We are becoming totally dependent on the theory-based, a-historically optimistic strategy amateurs being right. Which of course history makes far most likely they will not be.

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” (Mark Twain)

Once upon a time a civil war was started by aggression against the people of in a divided state. It happened in a region of states incapable of honest co-operation. The war broke out at a sensitive time in history, where whole world was still unstable because of the deep economic crisis provoked some years previously by short-sighted selfish capitalists with their hub in Wall Street.

The totalitarian oriented side in that civil war (then the rebels), was immediately and effectively supported by like-minded powers.

The other side in the war (then the government), was much more divided between moderates and totalitarian minded people. It only received asistance from another totalitarian power and a mixed group of international volunteers, where the most effective were motivated by a totalitarian ideology. At several stages the situation beween the groups that supported the government approached open hostilities, something that strenghtened the radical elements and helped the common enemy by undermining general international support.

The well meaning moderate states of the region and the rest of the world could only agree on a policy of non-intervention, meaning no arms transfer to the ever more pressed moderate elements of the war. Even the neighbour state that had to support the flow of refugees maintained its stand-offish stance.

The result became worse than the well-meaning moderates could imagine, both for the warring nation and eventually for the non-interveners. Those who would not assist anybody because they knew that man – at least the civilian man – is inherently good and that war is created by tools …: the weapons.

History may not repeat itself, but man’s well meaning, short-sighted naïvity clearly does… as political and diplomatic man’s commitment to miracles rather that taking timely decisions when facing hard choices.

Then it was Spain… now Syria.