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May 21, 2014


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Relatively convincing, but read Tooze's 'Wages Of Destruction' re German economic mobilisation.

I can't really see this going past stage 2.

In this scenario, the "Attrition" seems to imply that both the military hardware and the professional cadres are completely depleted. Smashed, gone, wasted, or at least very near to that point. In any modern democracy, the impending loss of military capability would be a political catastrophe to the ruling government. Even for an authoritarian country such as Russia or China, the situation would be completely unsustainable, as the ruling regime bases its authority on military power, and the loss of that power would imply the loss of authority.

By the time of the "stalemate", negotiations and a return to the _status quo ante_ would be pretty much imminent. Assuming that any democratic government or even an authoritarian regime would nonetheless eschew negotiations and simply insist on continuing to "mobilization", the results would be fatal. We're living an age of global protest, when governments can be toppled by popular resistance and non-cooperation.

Regarding the "insurgency" part, those encounters between "Finnish ski-mobile light infantry" and Soviet armored columns in 1939-1940 were set-piece battles. They don't qualify as guerrilla warfare or as an insurgency. And most of the fighting in the Karelian Isthmus, which was the main front of the war, was done on the trenches.

Chris: That is a great book! My memory of it, though, is that Tooze's work is generally consistent with Martin's characterization of Germany's delay in total mobilization. IIRC, Tooze argues that the old view that Germany botched its early mobilization was wrong; rather, the problem was that government continued to put resources into investment projects rather than immediate arms production until late 1941.

Am I misremembering?

My take-away from Tooze is that Germany was actually pretty close to full mobilisation, one way or another, for most of the war: the 'post Stalingrad ramp-up' is a misunderstanding largely derived from Speer's remarkably successful attempts to blow his own trumpet.

Effort shifted, and more was squeezed out of the economy in 1943, but the degree of militarisation of it in 1938 was already so large that it's not really tenable to maintain the 'Hitler initially relied on Blitzkrieg not total war' argument.

I just pulled out my copy, and you're right.

Tooze argues that Germany refocused on immediate war-output in 1942 ... but the civilian economy had been squashed well in advance of that. What ramped up afterwards was the exploitation of Western Europe.

For those readers who lack a copy, here is the capsule version:


Key parts on pages 181 and 189. The table shows a monotonic increase in German military output as a percentage of GDP; the text makes the justification.

But the book says it all much better and in depth.

This really belongs on a response on my blog to this. However, as I told Noel, I am uber pressed for time these days. I’m going to deal with rapid attrition this first reply. Perhaps I’ll roll this all for the blog post after all.

I've been seeing and generally agreeing with this for a while when it comes to aircraft and its why I am often concerned when we buy relatively small: 180 odd F-22s is fine for dealing with anyone other than a peer, but the peer…whoa. However, there is a caveat (isn't there always?). Nation-states do not just produce or procure the amount of weaponry they need for the active troops, at least not those who expect to fight a major war. The United States, frex, has thousands of M-1 tanks in storage. We produced 6k of the M-1A1/A2 versions. IIRC, we have 10 heavy combat brigade teams of which there are two battalions each of M-1s. Each of these has 44 tanks. That means we have almost 900 tanks in use (that’s lower than I thought since 9 other brigades & regiments have been strykered out). We have then enough replacements for another 58 brigades. The original M-1s and M-1Is probably are stocked away as well. Similar situations exist for Bradleys and the M-113. The Russians likewise have huge stocks (though of questionable quality, probably) of equipment. I am sure the Chinese do, too.

At least for ground equipment, there is a going to a deep well to draw on. It is NOT to say they won't run out. However, it won't be as quickly as many expect.

Replacing aircraft will be difficult and even more so the pilots; however, there is a revolution underway. It will have a profound impact on how we fight wars. Folks point to drones all the time. Consider the original premise of drones: cheaper and without risk to the pilot. You shoot down an X-47B (QA-47B?), the aircraft is lost. However, the greatest risk to the pilot is he will burn himself with the coffee if he's based in the US as he gets pissed and throws the cup. Personnel replacement is therefore covered unless someone destroys the control center in the US. Furthermore, it takes less than half the time to produce a drone pilot than a fighter jock.

This unmanned revolution will not be confined to the air. Its just there first because flying - ironically - is easier than ground movement (and calm waters are easiest of all, but ships which go in calm waters only are pretty useless). This same revolution would not be hard to do for tanks at all. As for the infantryman, Skynet's terminator - ahem - Google-Boston Dynamics' ATLAS is a couple generations away from a serviceable unmanned infantry.

Drones are not without issues. Satellites are a weak link, but there are ways to armour those suckers if you're really that concerned about getting taken out & are wiling to pay for the mass. DARPA is also working on the hacking angle as well (re the UNhackable drone).

Its common to state, then, that drones are problematic for looking through the soda straw for being situationally aware and an argument as to why fighter planes cannot be unmanned. I think Noel has brought this up. Let me point to ARGUS-IS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARGUS-IS) and (http://youtu.be/IOzCiCl05Ec?t=31m20s). Tweak that a bit, place one dorsal and another ventral, and a ball sensor for zoom…and….Pilots can go home to their spouses at night. Use the same equipment on tanks, and I suspect you can take the tanker out of the vehicle. Infantry, the ole mudfoot and my family’s crazy love profession seems about the /only/ thing you cannot ‘drone.’

Production time. The procurement system is a dog’s breakfast. Worse, actually! And it produces good stuff…sometimes and better, amusingly, than anyone else currently. However, its an artificial system rather than what could be done. The MRAP is probably the poster child for what /could/ be done. 3 years, 10,000 vehicles and that was NOT when pressed during a major war against a peer. It’s a case of just needing a clear goal, good management and NOT moving the fence post while doing the procurement. The nasty-word-nasty-word DOD does that in EVERY procurement and it causes no end of problems. As for lead times? While Russian systems are definitely not ours, the recent article at ‘Russian Defense Policy’ (http://russiandefpolicy.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/visit-to-napo/) gives 170,000 man-hours for a Su-34…and that’s down from 460,000 in the beginning. Betcha you could do the same here Stateside: the only reason to reduce the costs here /now/ is make sure you fit within what Congress is willing to pay, not to worry about the war….and with the same Robopocalypse in manufacturing…well…

What do we have here then?

/Right/now warstocks are an immediate answer to the attrition question. We have and we have always realized we’re going to run through the equipment PDQ. IF the US has the ability to KO nation-states now, we also have depth for play – like say taking on the Chinese – to keep fighting (10 brigades active and stocks for 48+).

Starting in the 2020s, war gets…interesting. Unmanned (or rather remotely piloted) everything is coming. Which case, you’re looking at cost, not skills, which are the problem. And that can be, like it is now, overcome by warstocks. Build 10 TIR(*) for every real, active duty or weekend warrior, require she/he use his/her xbox at home. Then have three shifts of folks running the remote bot…and all the consequences thereof.

The same family of automating technologies will be allowing manufacturing to ramp up much faster. Furthermore, the seven years to produce a ship or whatever are relics of a procurement system, which has been dealing with budgets, not fight for nations’ life, for a long, long time. The MRAP program hints we have the ability to radically change if we want to. And if we were to go to war with China, we’d need to and probably want to.

I’d argue sustained, major war isn’t going to be over because of attrition. Not now. Not in the foreseeable future.

As for stalemate, mobilization and insurgency? I’ll see if I can write on those soon.

* TIR: Trooper, Infantry, Robotic. Sounds the same as Tyr even if its not.

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