Quotulatiousness

May 27, 2015

Sir Arthur Wellesley, before the fame and fortune

Filed under: Britain,History,India,Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Diplomat, Francis P. Sempa looks at the early commands of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) as formative experiences:

Before Waterloo, Wellington had brilliantly commanded armies on the Iberian Peninsula, where they wore down and drained French forces, causing Napoleon to refer to it as “the Spanish ulcer.” But Wellington learned how to command, supply, and lead soldiers to victory not in Europe, where he is most remembered, but in India. Wellington in India, wrote biographer Elizabeth Longford, was “a great commander in embryo.”

Wellington, then Colonel Arthur Wesley (the last name was later changed to Wellesley) of the 33rd regiment, arrived in Calcutta at the age of 28 in February 1797, after a journey of more than three months. His most recent biographer, Rory Muir, described Colonel Wesley as “an unusually ambitious, intelligent and well-read officer who looked far beyond the horizons of his regiment … and who was already comfortable assembling his thoughts into coherent arguments …” In all, he spent eight years in India, where for much of the time his brother was Governor-General. Wellington’s time in India, writes Muir, “were crucial years in which he developed his skills as a commander of men, a tactician, a strategic planner and a civil governor.” It was in India that the future victor of Waterloo and future prime minister of Great Britain first dealt with questions of war and peace and civil government.

On March 26, 1799, troops under Wellington’s command came under attack by forces of Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore. As the French-trained enemy forces approached, wrote Elizabeth Longford, Wellington’s men held their fire “with the utmost steadiness until the enemy were sixty yards away.” British infantry then decimated the columns of enemy attackers, spreading confusion, while cavalry forces scattered the remnants of the attacking force. Then, during April and May 1799, Wellington participated in the siege of Seringapatam in Mysore, and led an attack on the entrenchments of the fortress there. After Seringapatam was taken, Wellington was made civil governor and remained there until 1802.

During his time in Seringapatam, Wellington was ordered to suppress a rebellion in north Mysore led by Dhoondiah Waugh. For the first time, Wellington exercised independent command in battle. During this operation, Rory Muir explains, Wellington “displayed all the characteristics of his subsequent campaigns, …” which included attention to logistics and “unremitting aggression.” He fought a battle at Conaghul and won a complete victory. Muir writes that Wellington exhibited a remarkable flexibility on the field of battle. A British officer commented on Wellington’s “alacrity and determination” during battle.

May 25, 2015

Women in combat roles

Filed under: Military,Politics,USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At War on the Rocks, Anna Simons looks at the ongoing controversy in the United States over allowing women to serve in front-line combat roles:

Earlier this year, I spoke with a roomful of field grade officers about the debate and controversy over women in combat. The officers knew my position. What was next to impossible for me to discern, however, was where most of them are when it comes to this topic — which is the challenge with trying to have an open debate about it. The topic is just too politically charged for opponents to feel they can speak openly or honestly.

Officers who balk at the idea of women serving in ground infantry units or on Special Forces Operational Detachments Alpha (ODAs) won’t publicly say so, let alone publicly explain why. They worry about retaliation that could hurt their careers. In contrast, those who have no reservations — usually because they won’t be the ones who have to deal with the fallout from integration at the small unit level — slough off the challenge as just another minor problem or “ankle biter.”

There is more to this dichotomy than just officers’ career concerns, however. As one member of the audience put it, even if special operations forces and Marine Corps brass are prepared to go to Capitol Hill armed with irrefutable logic and unimpeachable facts against integrating women into ground combat units, they will still come across as chauvinists. For any male who opposes full integration, the chauvinist charge is impossible to escape.

I am sure there is something to this; and if I were a male, the chauvinism charge might mortally wound me as well. Maybe knowing in advance that this is how I would be branded would cause me to fight only on grounds of proponents’ choosing. For example, I could use standards and measurable data — as if there is some scientific way to determine what the right ratios and formulae are to prevent anything untoward happening when young men and women are put together in the field for indeterminate lengths of time.

May 22, 2015

The trains of war – the military application of steam power

Filed under: Military,Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

James Simpson on the revolution in military affairs triggered by the development of the steam engine and the railways:

Navvies working on the Grand Crimean Central Railway, 1854. Walker, Charles (1969) Thomas Brassey, Railway Builder (via Wikipedia)

Navvies working on the Grand Crimean Central Railway, 1854. Charles Walker: Thomas Brassey, Railway Builder, 1969. (via Wikipedia)

Trains were cutting-edge weapons of war in the 19th century — and all the major powers were figuring out how to deploy them. The Europeans learned how to move troops by train. The Americans — how to fight on rail cars. The British, meanwhile, found they could dominate an empire from the tracks.

In today’s world of tanks, bombers and submarines, it’s perhaps hard to believe that the train was once an amazingly mobile weapons platform. They might be locked to their rails, but for over a century trains were the fastest means of hauling troops and artillery to front lines across the world.

The invention of the railway shaped warfare for a century. Rails allowed force projection across immense distances — and at speeds which were impossible on foot or by horse.

[…]

The first demonstration of the military efficacy of the railroads was the 1846 Polish Uprising. Prussia rushed 12,000 troops of the Sixth Army Corps, with guns and horses, to the Free City of Krakow to help put down the Polish rebellion. In this period of nationalist uprisings, Russia and Austria also used their railroads against similar uprisings from 1848 to 1850.

A lack of infrastructure and experience stifled the success of these early endeavors. Due to a lack of rolling stock, suitable platforms and double-track stretches, the trains sometimes operated far slower than a man could march on foot.

Austria was first to get it right. In 1851, the Austrian Empire shuttled 145,000 men, nearly 2,000 horses, 48 artillery pieces and 464 vehicles over 187 miles.

May 21, 2015

John Monash – Australia’s greatest general

Filed under: History,Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page reviews a new biography of Australia’s General John Monash:

The centennial of the First World War has brought forth renewed public interest and additional scholarly study of that still controversial conflict, variously the last 19th century imperial war and the first modern war. When its great generals are enumerated, one named by relatively few outside the Antipodes is Australian Army Corps commander John Monash (1865-1931), this despite Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery’s declaration half a century after the Armistice that Monash was “the best general on the Western Front in Europe,” and historian Sir Basil Liddell Hart’s even stronger accolade as “the greatest general of World War I by far.” Yet in the three-volume Cambridge History of the First World War, there is not one mention of him.

Monash, it must be said, has not been entirely overlooked. He was knighted in the field by George V (as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath) and subsequently given the title Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and in his homeland his name graces a university (indeed, the publisher of the book under review), a scholarship, a town and even a freeway. Nevertheless, in Maestro John Monash, former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer argues that Sir John has been wronged by history and not given his due. In a breezy hagiography (Fischer vehemently denies that characterization, protesting that his biography is “warts and all,” however, he downplays or dismisses most of the “warts” cited, e.g., other generals also had mistresses, and while he made mistakes at Gallipoli, he learned from them) and advocacy piece, he makes a justifiable case for Monash’s posthumous promotion to field marshal (backdated to 1930). Had he been promptly promoted postwar, rather than in 1929, to general (that is, full or four-star general), Fischer points out logically, he likely would have been promoted by the king one step up in rank to field marshal.

In his account of Monash’s life and military career, Fischer details the many obstacles faced and surmounted by “the most innovative general” of the war. His sobriquet for Monash, “maestro,” comes from Sir John’s comparison of a “perfected modern battle plan” to a “score for an orchestral composition.” Indeed, while some British and French generals were still thinking in terms of cavalry charges, sabers and bayonets, drawing on his engineering background, Monash made concerted use of infantry, artillery, tanks, aircraft and radio in (to quote him) “comprehensive holistic battle plan[s].” His strategy’s success became evident in thwarting Germany’s final westward push and smashing through the Hindenburg Line, in the 93-minute Battle of Hamel and the second Battle of Amiens, which German General Ludendorff later called “the black day of the German Army in the war,” victories achieved while Monash was still a lieutenant general (three stars). “Never has a general who did so much to help win a world war … been so unacknowledged,” affirms Fischer, returning to his theme.

May 20, 2015

Ask what “Red Team” can do for you

Filed under: Military,USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At Strategy Page, a look at the “Red Team revolution”:

Red Teams came out of wargaming. There, the “Red” team represented the enemy, while the “Blue” team played the good guys. Beginning in the late 1970s the U.S. Army adopted a form of wargaming based on historical models but where commanders are presented with very realistic situations for future battles. This was applying to wargames the old phrase, “train as you fight, and fight as you train.” But in addition to providing more realistic games for training, this style of wargames also made it possible to analyze war plans as never before. In the past, your war plans didn’t really get a workout until you were in combat against a real, live Red Team (the enemy). The new wrinkle was that it was now easier to have your own people provide an effective, if not perfect, Red Team experience because of all those officers with wargame experience.

So now the senior commanders of the U.S. Army have been sending Red Teams around to the major commands, to play devil’s advocate to whatever war plans senior commanders and their staffs have come up with. It’s not new, really. The concept of “devil’s advocate” has been around for a long time. But now the army has institutionalized it and used more powerful techniques (wargaming) to implement it.

This all began back in the 1980s, when realistic wargaming was catching on, especially among the students at the Command and General Staff School (C&GSS) and the Army War College AWC). The younger officers at the C&GSS were particularly enthusiastic, and they came to be known as the “Jedi Knights,” mainly because the analytic skills obtained from playing lots of wargames, gave them a seemingly magical ability to find flaws in war plans. That’s what the Red Teams are all about, Jedi Knights on steroids. Since then the Staff School at Leavenworth has established courses for training Red Team members, some of the courses are 18 weeks long.

And what would the poor Red Team officers do when, as in Japanese wargaming before the Battle of Midway, the Blue force commanders “re-floated” most of the losses, thereby winning the game (but losing the war)? You don’t subordinate the Red Team to the local commander:

The Red Teams all report to the head of the army, which insures that none of the commanders they are working with try to pull rank. The Red Teams give the Chief of Staff of the army regular reports on how effective the many war plans developed in the army combat units are holding up to scrutiny, which is a unique capability in the military world.

May 19, 2015

The Tin Foil Hat Brigade and Jade Helm 15

Filed under: Military,Politics,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tom Kratman on the overtly paranoid reactions to the upcoming Jade Helm exercise:

In about two months, exercise Jade Helm 15 is scheduled to kick off. This is a two-month long special operations exercise, spread out across the southwest of the country, from Texas to California. It has the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, Right Wing Regiment1, demonstrating all the calm and relaxed demeanor (I am, of course, kidding), as well as the typical paranoid delusions (not kidding at all), for which it and its members are justifiably famous.2

Never having actually enlisted with the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, my initial reaction to exercise Jade Helm 15 was a resounding, “ho hum,” and my reaction to the TFHB reaction was, “As Christ probably would have said if He’d thought about it, ‘The loons ye shall have with ye always.’”

To be fair to the TFHB, though, whenever the New York Times3 and Washington Post4 agree that something like this is clearly harmless, it’s possibly time to inventory our stocks of ammunition and break out the banana oil to make sure our protective masks are in good working order. In other words, their enthusiastic and unquestioned agreement constitutes a rebuttable presumption that FEMA is about to open concentration camps.

However, rebuttable presumptions are there to be rebutted. This week and next I’m going to limit my rebuttal to the notion that the exercise is inherently suspicious because it is so militarily useless and unnecessary as to be indefensible. To do that we need to get into a little history, a bit of doctrine, and a touch of dogma.

[…]

1 Which in general demeanor much resembles the TFHB, Left Wing Regiment.
2 Just Google it; there are too many examples for me to illustrate without appearing to be playing favorites.
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/us/conspiracy-theories-over-jade-helm-get-some-traction-in-texas.html?_r=0
4 http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/29/jade-helm-15-a-military-simulation-draws-scrutiny-and-wild-speculation-in-texas/

May 15, 2015

Women in front-line combat trades

Filed under: Military,USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Strategy Page, a look at the political desire to fully integrate women into the combat arms:

In 2014, after years of trying to justify allowing women into the infantry, artillery and armor and special operations forces, the U.S. government decided to just order the military to make it happen and do so without degrading the capabilities of these units. While the army was inclined the just say yes, find out what quotas the politicians wanted and go through the motions, others refused to play along. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and the marines pointed out that the research does not support the political demands and that actually implementing the quotas could get people killed while degrading the effectiveness of the units involved. This is yet another reason why many politicians do not like the marines and are uneasy about SOCOM.

But action had to be taken and orders were orders. The various services opened up some infantry training programs to women and have discovered two things. First (over 90 percent) of women did not want to serve in any combat unit, especially the infantry. Those women (almost all of them officers) who tried out discovered what female athletes and epidemiologists (doctors who study medical statistics) have long known; women are ten times more likely (than men) to suffer bone injuries and nearly as likely to suffer muscular injuries while engaged in stressful sports (like basketball) or infantry operations. Mental stress is another issue and most women who volunteered to try infantry training dropped out within days because of the combination of mental and physical stress. Proponents of women in combat (none of them combat veterans) dismiss these issues as minor and easily fixed, but offer no tangible or proven solutions.

Back in 2012 the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were ordered to come up with procedures to select women capable of handling infantry and special operations assignments and then recruit some women for these jobs. This had become an obsession with many politicians. None of these proponents of women in the infantry have ever served in the infantry, but they understood that if they proceeded without proof that women could handle the job, that decision could mean getting a lot of American soldiers and marines killed. The politicians also knew that if it came to that, the military could be blamed for not implementing the new policy correctly.

So far the tests, overseen by monitors reporting back to civilian officials in Congress and the White House, have failed to find the needed proof that women can handle infantry combat. The main problem the military has is their inability to make these politicians understand how combat operations actually work and what role sheer muscle plays in success, or simply survival. But many politicians have become obsessed with the idea that women should serve in the infantry and are ignoring the evidence.

May 1, 2015

QotD: Military decorations and military men

Filed under: Humour,Military,Quotations,USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Anno 1865. I look out of my window and observe an officer of the United States Army passing down the street. Anno 1922. Like General Grant, he is without a sword. Like General Grant, he wears a sort of soldier’s blouse for a coat. Like General Grant, he employs shoulder straps to indicate to the army who he is. But there is something more. On the left breast of this officer, apparently a major, there blazes so brilliant a mass of color that, as the sun strikes it and the flash bangs my eyes, I wink, catch my breath and sneeze. There are two long strips, each starting at the sternum and disappearing into the shadows of the axillia — every hue in the rainbow, the spectroscope, the kaleidoscope — imperial purples, sforzando reds, wild Irish greens, romantic blues, loud yellows and oranges, rich maroons, sentimental pinks, all the half-tones from ultra-violet to infra-red, all the vibrations from the impalpable to the unendurable. A gallant Soldat, indeed! How he would shame a circus ticketwagon if he wore all the medals and badges, the stars and crosses, the pendants and lavallieres, that go with those ribbons! … I glance at his sleeves. A simple golden stripe on the one — six months beyond the raging main. None on the other — the Kaiser’s cannon missed him.

Just what all these ribbons signify I am sure I don’t know; probably they belong to campaign medals and tell the tale of butcheries in foreign and domestic parts — mountains of dead Filipinos, Mexicans, Haitians, Dominicans, West Virginia miners, perhaps even Prussians. But in addition to campaign medals and the Distinguished Service Medal there are now certainly enough foreign orders in the United States to give a distinct brilliance to the national scene, viewed, say, from Mars. The Frederician tradition, borrowed by the ragged Continentals and embodied in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, lasted until 1918, and then suddenly blew up; to mention it to-day is a sort of indecorum, and to-morrow, no doubt, will be a species of treason. Down with Frederick; up with John Philip Sousa! Imagine what General Pershing would look like at a state banquet of his favorite American order, the Benevolent and Protective one of Elks, in all the Byzantine splendor of his casket of ribbons, badges, stars, garters, sunbursts and cockades — the lordly Bath of the grateful motherland, with its somewhat disconcerting “Ich dien“; the gorgeous tricolor baldrics, sashes and festoons of the Legion d’Honneur; the grand cross of SS. Maurizio e Lazzaro of Italy; the sinister Danilo of Montenegro, with its cabalistic monogram of Danilo I and its sinister hieroglyphics; the breastplate of the Paulownia of Japan, with its rising sun of thirty-two white rays, its blood-red heart, its background of green leaves and its white ribbon edged with red; the mystical St. Saviour of Greece, with its Greek motto and its brilliantly enameled figure of Christ; above all, the Croix de Guerre of Czecho-Slovakia, a new one and hence not listed in the books, but surely no shrinking violet! Alas, Pershing was on the wrong side — that is, for one with a fancy for gauds of that sort. The most blinding of all known orders is the Medijie of Turkey, which not only entitles the holder to four wives, but also absolutely requires him to wear a red fez and a frozen star covering his whole facade. I was offered this order by Turkish spies during the war, and it wabbled me a good deal. The Alexander of Bulgaria is almost as seductive. The badge consists of an eight-pointed white cross, with crossed swords between the arms and a red Bulgarian lion over the swords. The motto is “Za Chrabrost!” Then there are the Prussian orders — the Red and Black Eagles, the Pour le Merite, the Prussian Crown, the Hohenzollern and the rest. And the Golden Fleece of Austria — the noblest of them all. Think of the Golden Fleece on a man born in Linn County, Missouri! … I begin to doubt that the General would have got it, even supposing him to have taken the other side. The Japs, I note, gave him only the grand cordon of the Paulownia, and the Belgians and Montenegrins were similarly cautious. There are higher classes. The highest of the Paulownia is only for princes, which is to say, only for non-Missourians.

H.L. Mencken, “Star-spangled Men”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.

April 25, 2015

They called it “hardtack” for a good reason

Filed under: History,Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

An army may march on its stomach, as Napoleon is reputed to have said, but what filled that collective stomach might well turn our modern ones:

The origin of Hardtack’s name itself is a source of some disagreement. Many argue that it stems from the texture of the item combined with British sailor slang for food, or “tack.” Others say the term originated during the American Civil War. Some maintain that the name derives from the biscuit being “hard as tacks” – somewhat uninspired.

In a time before refrigeration, pasteurization, canning, or preservation through chemical additives there were only so many ways a food could be kept without spoilage. Salting and dehydrating foods was a relatively easy way to make them last. Baking cereal grains into a dense biscuit made for easy transport and a reduced risk of spoilage (although, as we will learn, vermin were a different story). Most importantly (especially for operational planning), it was cheap. A form of hardtack was given as rations to Roman armies under the name bucellatum and during the 16th Century, British sailors could expect a daily ration of 1 gallon of beer and 1 lb. of hardtack.

While hardtack was issued right up until World War I, the most recent and descriptive accounts of the food come from the American Civil War. Soldiers often referred to the biscuits as “worm castles” because all too often they would become home to maggots and weevils. One soldier recalled the sorry state of hardtack that he and his comrades were to consume:

    A brigade officer of the day called out sharply to some of our men as he passed along the line: “Throw that hard tack out of the trenches. Don’t you know, men, you’ve been told not to throw your rations in the trenches” Prompt to obey, the men threw out the hard tack, saying as they did, “We’ve thrown it out several times, sir, but it will crawl back.”

    When the hardtack wasn’t infested with insects, soldiers needed to soften the biscuits for consumption in a variety of ways, including whacking them with the butt of their rifles, soaking them in coffee, or softening them in water to then be fried in pork fat. Delicious.

April 9, 2015

Former US Army colonel would be “disgusted” if US doesn’t have plan to invade Canada

Filed under: Cancon,China,Military,USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Retired US officer-turned-SF writer Tom Kratman thinks heads should roll in the Pentagon if they do not have up-to-date plans to invade Canada … among other current allies … because creating and maintaining plans is what the general staff is supposed to do:

Since at least the time of world class fool, blunderer, jackass, and complete and utter failure, Woodrow Wilson, there’s been a lot of confusion about what military planning is and means. For these purposes, it falls into two categories: planning to actually do something you intend to do, and planning to react to something you do not really want to happen but must be prepared for.

In terms of the latter, I would be not just surprised but disgusted if somewhere in the bowels of the five-sided puzzle palace there are no plans, kept more or less up to date, for invading Canada. I would be at least as surprised and disgusted if Canada doesn’t have some plans to resist that invasion, too. Sure, ours might be hidden as a response to a humanitarian crisis, or couched in terms of responding to a request from Canada’s government for help/intervention, while theirs – for all I know – may reference “Fenians,” or the like. Still, if the plans don’t exist – quite despite that none of us want to invade Canada – then a large number of multi-starred idiots need to be relieved. Why? Because you never really know. Because the future defies prediction in any detail.

That is different in kind from things like Hitler’s invasions of Poland and the USSR which fell not into the category of things that the planner would rather not happen (but had to be prepared to react to) but of things the planner absolutely intended to do.

So is China planning for a war as some claim? Sure they are; it’s their general staff’s job to do that planning. Do they want that war or wars? Puhleeze; as discussed previously, a real war is about the last thing they want. They’re much, much more likely engaged in the first, contingency, class of planning than the second, aggressive, class.

April 6, 2015

QotD: Conscription

Filed under: Law,Liberty,Military,Quotations,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Poul Anderson pointed out to me that he rather doubted if this country could survive through purely voluntary military service.

Perhaps he is right. I care not. If there are not sufficient Simon-pure, utterly uncoerced volunteers to defend a country and save it … [sic] then let it go down the drain! And that applies just as much to my own beloved country as it does to the Roman Empire … The thought of a draftee being required to die that I may live is as morally offensive to me as that of galley slaves, chained to their sweeps, and drowning in battle not of their choosing.

If the United States goes under (as I am inclined to think she will), I will be inclined to blame it on moral decay rather than on the superiority of our enemies … [sic] and, to me, the gravest aspect of that moral decay lies in the fact that we have elected to depend on human slaves as cannon fodder.

But I suppose that my opposition to a democratically accepted and publicly approved social institution such as the National Selective Service Act — having the gall to label this flag-bedecked and chaplain-blessed custom “human slavery” — is still another of “Heinlein’s dangerous ideologies” as seditious as my unspeakable notion that the franchise is not a “natural right” to be handed out as freely as favours at a children’s party, but to be earned by toil and danger at great personal sacrifice.

Well, if my teachings are now to be indicted as “dangerous”, tending to “corrupt the youth of the land”, I will be in most noble and distinguished company. Pass the hemlock, please —

Robert A. Heinlein, letter to Theodore Cogswell 1959-12-04, quoted in William H. Patterson Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 2014).

April 2, 2015

QotD: Punjab and the Sikhs, 1845

Filed under: Britain,History,India,Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

First of all, you must do as Sale bade me, and look at the map. In ’45 John Company held Bengal and the Carnatic and the east coast, more or less, and was lord of the land up to the Sutlej, the frontier beyond which lay the Five Rivers country of the Sikhs, the Punjab. But things weren’t settled then as they are now; we were still shoring up our borders, and that north-west frontier was the weak point, as it still is. That way invasion had always come, from Afghanistan, the vanguard of a Mohammedan tide, countless millions strong, stretching back as far as the Mediterranean. And Russia, We’d tried to sit down in Afghanistan, as you know, and got a bloody nose, and while that had been avenged since, we weren’t venturing that way again. So it remained a perpetual threat to India and ourselves — and all that lay between was Punjab and the Sikhs.

You know something of them: tall, splendid fellows with uncut hair and beards, proud and exclusive as Jews, and well disliked, as clannish, easily-recognised folk often are — the Muslims loathed them, the Hindoos distrusted then, and even today T. Atkins, while admiring them as stout fighters, would rather be brigaded with anyone else — excepting their cavalry, which you’d be glad of anywhere. For my money they were the most advanced people in India — well, they were only a sixth of the Punjab’s population, but they ruled the place, so there you are.

We’d made a treaty with these strong, clever, treacherous, civilised savages, respecting their independence north of the Sutlej while we ruled south of it. It was good business for both parties: they remained free and friends with John Company, and we had a tough, stable buffer between us and the wild tribes beyond the Khyber — let the Sikhs guard the passes, while we went about our business in India without the expense and trouble of having to deal with the Afghans ourselves. That’s worth bearing in mind when you hear talk of our “aggressive forward policy” in India: it simply wasn’t common sense for us to take over the Punjab — not while it was strong and united.

George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman and the Mountain of Light, 1990.

March 31, 2015

One for the zipperheads

Filed under: Cancon,Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 27 Mar 2015

Digitized Leopard 2 systems improve mine protection, mobility, fire power.

March 25, 2015

Something for the gunners

Filed under: Cancon,Military — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Mar 2015

Howitzer’s new system allows troops to shoot and move faster.

Episode – 549

February 27, 2015

Muscle-flexing – Russia’s military exercises

Filed under: Europe,Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Russian military exercises tend to dwarf those of their neighbours, especially in the number of troops involved (and the kind of troops). Ian J. Brzezinski and Nicholas Varangis report on the phenomenon:

Exercises are used by defense establishments to test their readiness, deployability, and logistical and combat proficiency. They can be used as demonstrations of force to underscore determination to defend national territory/interests and those of allies and partners. They can also be used to intimidate and to camouflage offensive operations. Regarding the latter, in February 2014 Russia mobilized 150,000 troops under the guise of an anti-terror simulation. Many of the units in this exercise were deployed along Ukraine’s border just as Russia invaded Crimea and then later eastern Ukraine.

While military exercises are not the sole indicator of military readiness and capability, they do reflect seriousness of intent. In this case, a comparison of exercises by NATO and those of Russia reveals a troubling disparity in magnitude. In short, there is a NATO-Russia “exercise gap” that is all the more glaring when one would think it would be easier for a group of nations to orchestrate larger exercises than those conducted by a single nation.

The following chart indicates that since 2013, Russia has conducted at least six military exercises involving 65,000 to 160,000 or more personnel. In contrast, during the same period, NATO’s most significant exercises included STEADFAST JAZZ, a collective defense exercise conducted in Poland and Latvia in November of 2013 involving 6,000 personnel (of which half were headquarters staff) and NOBLE LEDGER, a test of the NATO Response Force (NRF) that brought 6,500 troops to the field. Individual NATO allies have hosted larger multinational exercises in the North Atlantic Area. These include Norway’s COLD RESPONSE involving some 16,000 troops, the United States’ BOLD ALLIGATOR involving 15,000 personnel and Poland’s October 2014 ANAKONDA with 13,250 personnel.

NATO and Russian military exercises

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