Sunday, February 24, 2013

Economic Food for Thought

Michael Pettis's brief review of American Development economic history and lessons for China's current developments. Lots of discomforting thoughts. Of course, also too general and not quantified enough for effective implementation, but then, so's much of political economics, I guess :D

Victor Davis Hanson's essay on the culminating changes of the past few years in America. More discomforting thoughts.

The pending European currency crisis will probably be the trigger of worldwide economic tumult, but whether China or the US goes second is the key question for the rest of us. Arguably the market is already pricing in the European currency collapse, but the order of the subsequent crises will drive how you should prepare. If America goes second, then we simply need to preposition our savings and wait out the American inflation. If China goes second, however, there will be geopolitical disruptions in addition to an American recession, which argues for a different savings allocation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Stories of Trench Defense?" Defense Primer

Question: What other books or stories are out there like The Defense of Duffer's Drift? Stories that can help me to understand defending our home and farm. I've read the ranger's handbook, but it's really not about static defenses. I don't want to read about building huge sandbag fortifications. I just want to have some ideas to think through fluid situations

The reason it is difficult to find a book/account akin to "Duffer's Drift" is because of evolution in warfare. With artillery, it is dangerous to stay in a fixed position. In the age of bows and catapults, castles are still viable as semi-permanent fighting positions. With the proliferation of gunpowder, all fighting positions became temporary. Therefore, your scenario/premise is faulty to begin with: Any defensive works (trenches, et al) is only a means to gain time, time to evacuate your dependents and stores.

If you want stories on fighting from trenches, working on trenches, books on Vietnam and WW1 are probably your best bet. (Korea has plenty of positional warfare, but most accounts are in official history forms.) McDonough's Platoon Leader is a good book on being in combat, setting up a Platoon Patrol Base, and leading patrols. Command Legacy is also a great starter/complement to Ranger Handbook and FM 7-8 on how to set up a defense.

For more thoughts on defending a homestead, check out the Infantry tag. Below is a short primer.

Contrary to popular misconception, WW1 was not a triumph of machineguns and trenches. More properly, WW1 was the triumph of the railroad, the counter-attack, and artillery. The allies and Germans usually succeeded in breaching the trench/defensive line. However, they were never able to exploit the breach. Artillery meant that it was almost impossible to mass your reserves close enough to exploit the breach. Even if you did breach, the railroad was always able to bring in the defense's strategic reserve and set up a defensive line to contain your exploitation and counter-attack. Mass conscription meant that there was always a strategic/operational reserve.

The Blitzkrieg, more than anything else, was the tactic to exploit a breach made by the infantry. Rommel's WW1 memoir, Infantry Attacks, is a classic on the German stormtrooper tactics for breaching trenches. On Infantry is another classic that discusses infantry principles.

Therefore, as Command Legacy says, your defense consists of 3 things: Combat Patrols, Fighting Positions, and the Counter-Attack Reserve. Combat patrols are fairly obvious, you patrol to disrupt enemy reconnaissance, provide advance warning, and make the enemy to commit prematurely. The combat patrol is what you use to take out enemy snipers, and helps you pincer during your counter-attack. You use your Reserves and stragglers to ambush the enemy when they breach your defense, and to counter-attack when he culminates in his exploitation.

For fighting positions, you try to set up 3 per: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. When the enemy makes a hole in your defense, you do not try to plug it immediately. Instead, your defenders, who are now in untenable Primary positions, withdraws to their 2ndary in an orderly fashion, while your Reserve sets up an ambush. When the enemy now comes through that beautiful hole they just made, you cut them down, repel. Then while the enemy is re-organizing, your defenders go back to their Primary positions, and you plug that hole then.

If the enemy is overrunning your defense, and you have to continue holding your position (ie, evac is not complete), then that's when you fall back to Tertiary (ie, squad bunker/safe room). From your Tertiary position, you wait as the enemy rushes past you, then shoots them from behind. Hopefully you have a Reserve/Reinforcements coming to rescue you, but if the numbers are against you, then this is either where you fight to die or where you fight to breakout. In Vietnam, that's when they call in the artillery on their own positions. In your case, you might blow up your own house when the attackers are all On The Objective.

Therefore, obviously, your Primary positions may be quite a distance away from your homestead. If they are sieging your house, then it's a very bad situation. You want to keep the defense mobile so you can trade space for time. In WW1, German infantry took to using allied shell craters as their 2ndary positions, using a limited form of mobile defense.

As you can see, a proper defense takes a lot of people. If you are less than platoon-size, then you should commit to staying mobile. Not to say you shouldn't be farming, but don't get married to your land unless you're willing to stake your lives on it. You can always come back to the land later (root crops), but you can't exactly replace your family.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Math/Science Proficiency vs STEM Careers

Derek Lowe had an interesting corrective to the calls for more Science, Technical, Engineering, and Math (STEMs). I see where he's coming from. And it is very amusing to see non-technical graduates advocating for more STEMs, such as the vast majority of the political leadership on both parties. If it was so good, why couldn't you hack it?

But one thing missing from Lowe's arguments is the failure of math education in America. [We can reasonably argue the various ways of learning science and budgetary needs, but math education is strictly budget neutral.] You can toss a simple arithmatic problem at most Americans, and they'll become frozen with panic and fear if they're without calculators. That math-phobia extends to all math domains, and is remarkably broad-based across all classes. [Talking about the non-STEM population here, which is most Americans in all socio-economic classes.]

Why is that? The evisceration of the rote-learning paradigm in the 1970s is to blame. While it was a good corrective against rote memorization, most basic education require quite a bit of memorization to get started. Especially in math, proficiency with arithmatic can only come from repetitive drills over time. Even after New Math has faded, grade school teachers remain reluctant to train arithmatics in the age of calculators. The Kahn Academy and the Singaporean method both work by going back to the basic drills. Without that foundational understanding of numbers, kids cannot master higher-level material.

We don't need to make everyone into mathematicians. But they don't have to be math-phobes, either. In the rest of the world, people may not like math, nor want to be STEM. But at least they can handle numbers without calculators, they're comfortable with numbers. That's something I'd like to see here, too.

Delilah, SEAD, and A2AD

Defense Industry Daily highlighted an engrossing IAF article on the history of the Delilah cruise/loitering missile. Delilah appears to be one of the first loitering missile, circling the sky looking for surface-to-air missiles. [The BAE ALARM is the other loitering anti-radiation missile, tho its capability and flexibility are more limited.]

The oral history reminds of the heady years of the SEAD development (1960s-1980), when millions of dollars and thousands of men went into defeating Integrated-Air-Defense Systems. It also serves as a reminder that defensive bubbles can be cracked, given time and money. And saturation attacks can be managed, using defense in depth [AEGIS and Naval Aviation]. Neither offense nor defense can reign for long.

The whole Chinese effort into Anti-Access/Area Denial is similarly an effort to erect a defensive bubble, just like the Russian submarine Bastions and US Navy's AEGIS umbrellas. [The only irony is that China is setting up a bubble by piercing USAF and US Navy's bubbles.]

And the American Air-Sea Battle is similarly another effort to crack the shore battery bubbles. In the post-Cold War era, we are seeing a resurging interest in missile Coastal Artillery among the 2nd tier powers.

The contest between the spear and the shield goes on.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

USAF Politics and Lt Gen(P) Wolfenbarger

I saw this interesting story on Yahoo today, Obama Air Force Nomination Reeks of Politics, by Teri Heisler.  It talked about the careers of 3 different female USAF flag officers: Lt Gen(P) Wolfenbarger, Maj Gen Masiello, and Lt Gen(ret) Gabreski.  Wolfenbarger made the news because she will become USAF's first female 4-star.  Heisler decried the selection because she thinks that the other two officers were more qualified, worthy, of being the first USAF female general.

The 3 generals had very distinct career paths:  Wolfenbarger, an Academy grad, is a developmental engineer.  Masiello is a contracting officer.  And Gabreski is a maintenance officer with significant command and operational experience.  Masiello deployed to Iraq once, while Gabreski served a tour in Korea.  Wolfenbarger stayed CONUS the whole time, but she did have a GWOT Svc Medal. [Couldn't find where she got it from.]  Heisler thought that Masiello and Gabreski are better role models because of their deployments and operational experience for an Air Force at war.

However, I think USAF went with the right choice with Wolfenbarger, both as a female role model and as AFMC Commander.  Wolfenbarger is an engineer, which is exactly the raison d'etre of AFMC: to engineer weapons for the USAF.  If Gabreski was in the Army, then she would have made 4-star because the Army likes operational experience.  But the USAF needs an engineer to manage its technical programs, so Wolfenbarger got the nod.

Moreover, as a female engineer, Wolfenbarger is the right STEM role model.  It's somewhat ironic that Heisler, who just wrote about "Women in STEM Careers", turns right back around and decries a female engineer making ranks.

[On the other hand, the current AFMC Commander, Gen Hoffman, a male, was a fighter pilot and an engineer.  So when USAF female pilots come of age, we can expect AFMC commanders to stay pilot/engineers.  Gabreski was operational, just not the right kind of operational.]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Army, ADA, and AirSea Battle

Galrahn has been discussing AirSea Battle for quite awhile, specifically focusing on the absence of any Army contribution to the overall public discussion.  It is quite sad that the Army has not publicly engaged on the AirSea discussion.  Only this month has the AUSA come out with a rebuttal to the Navy and Air Force's public discussions.

One big reason Big Army is not contributing to this AirSea concept is because of internal Army politics. Specifically the decline of Air Defense Artillery. It is quite paradoxical that, while Ballistic Missile Defense has taken on greater strategic significance, Army itself is institutionally moving away from ADA in general.

ADA is composed of two components, HIMAD and SHORAD. For much of the 90s, the active officer corps was split 50/50: 10 Battalion of HIMAD and 10 Battalion of SHORAD. Right after OIF1, though, Big Army saw that there was no low-altitude threat at all, so it moved decisively to eliminate the SHORAD formation. I think right now there's only 10 Stinger/Avenger batteries providing a residual capability, which is a 75% cut.

You'd probably say it's long overdue, but the key is that the loss of 30%+ of total ADA corps means that many fewer O4s and O5s writing papers to Parameters and other professional journals. Sure, we have several ADA generals at the Pentagon, including the current G-8, but where do you think the generals' talking points come from? It's those O4s and O5s.

The BMD mission has slightly increased the HIMAD side of the house, but it did not make a dent against the SHORAD loss. The unit manning the GMD missile field is a Guard unit (Colorado/Alaska Guard), whose officers do not worry about professional journals. Ambitious officers transfer to other hot fields to make their stars.

ADA probably will never attain the reverence of the Soviet PVO branch, but its preoccupation with self-preservation means that Big Army has little brainpower thinking about AirSea. Horror upon horrors, but sometimes I wonder if we should have folded ADA into the USAF like the Europeans have...