The German secretary of defence is falling the career stairs upward after a string of failures with no real successes to show in years of being in command of the German military. This is an unpublished blog post (written long ago) about this secretary of defence's policies and expected effects. I wasn't sure enough to publish it, but I suppose it's accurate enough in hindsight. SecDef also failed to repair the horrible procurement system, an attempt that I didn't expect to happen. To be fair; the procurement system is in small part broken because the parliamentary committee is part of the problem.
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It's becoming more clear that the new German minister of defence (background in family and social policies, little clue about military affairs) will focus on personnel affairs of the Bundeswehr. Some political risk aversion is likely; this politician still plans for a bigger political career and major blunders in this office don't fit into such plans. This makes new stupid small wars less likely. They're probably well outside the comfort zone and too far outside of popular opinion.
The personnel affairs focus will likely pay attention to attractiveness of the service, more integration of women, compatibility of family and deployments and the like.
The sum of this may be an improvement, but it's bound to worsen a problem which I intended to write about for a long time. The problem here is the choice of words, though.
But first the recent developments from the press: The media folks don't like the current ruling coalition, and they pay much attention to the minister of defence because she's such an obvious mismatch. The reports first looked a lot into her potential area of activity; the attractiveness of service. The obvious choice for research by journalists is to look at the complaints which soldiers filed last year. That's apparently where the journalists who are usually well-insulated from all things military began paying attention to a common complaint; that female soldiers can pass tests and get promotions without delivering the required performance (and thus competing unfairly with male soldiers for acceptance as professional soldiers after the initial volunteer service). The journalists began highlighting these complaints. This serves both the journalists' hostility to this coalition and the particular choice of minister of defence (since it's almost unreasonable to expect that the minister is going to correct the issue) and it is about the minister's focus on attractiveness of service.
Now about the (not entirely new) problem: Some Western military forces had serious recruitment challenges during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but oddly not necessarily with their infantry recruitment. There is apparently a small share of the male population which has an innate desire to go to war (exactly once). It's some strange male instinct (or cultural thing?) apparently, and its major drawback for recruitment is that these men typically don't re-enlist after one tour in a war zone; they've "had their war" already, and we all know this kind of job sucks 90% of the time anyway so few of them stay.*
A less extreme phenomenon among the same lines is that likely thousands of men seek military service every year (in Germany alone) because it's manly or something - without expecting to see combat.
Furthermore, a majority of enlisted and NCO personnel is according to decades of Bundeswehr experiences more satisfied with their job if it's a challenging, if not tough, one. Easy, simple service is too boring (and everyone who served knows the particular problem of idling).
A nicer, more gentle service may attract more recruits in the mid and long term, but it may easily make re-enlistment less likely, lead to more complaints about idling and may also make recruitment of suitable personnel for the combat units much more difficult.
The Bundeswehr recruitment videos of the past couple years were originally meant to be the centre of a critical blog post. I never wrote it for a simple reason: I couldn't stand watching all those videos in entirety. I sure cannot stand embedding or linking to a single one either.
The message of some of these recruitment videos was approximately 'Join us and don't worry - the Bundeswehr isn't so very military. You can do civilian-like jobs, merely with different work clothes.'
By now it should be obvious what's the big problem with the choice of words here: The official line has gone so far away from a "tough" line that criticizing it makes it difficult to keep appropriate distance to some dumb right winger bullocks. Dumb people talk a lot of shit, and they occupy a lot of keywords which would otherwise be a good choice to describe the problem.
My concern is efficiency and satisfactory effectiveness of the Bundeswehr and our defence policy in general. It doesn't help to make the big stick not only smaller, but also softer and more gentle to handle with a coating for great haptic quality if in the end it's too limp for its intended role of scaring or beating the s### out of (potential) aggressors. That's what defence is about, after all; to deter and if that fails to save with violence.
The more efficient the tool is, the smaller and cheaper it can be.
I have "doubts" whether the soft and nice approach is a good idea for the army. I don't mind it for the air force or navy, but the army will run into trouble if the recruitment focus is on non-combat types and if the training is oriented at not burdening the personnel much instead of challenging them to become hardened experts of their profession. I also don't think that the much wished-for ideal of being able to plan your career (and its locations) for years in advance makes much sense in the greater picture.
*: I'm not going to provide evidence for this, as this is neither a paid nor scientific text and I'm not inclined to look up gazillions of articles to find the sources again. In case you wonder where it came from; Canadians published this issue based on their recruitment and retention experience during their Afghanistan involvement.
The U.S. Navy (USN) has a long list of problems that deserve fixing.
The typical naval-focused or naval-interested blogs and pundits have a short list of changes to the USN that they favour. These favoured fixes can be summarised as "double down!". The call for more warships is most popular, while a few more specific calls for improvement predictably pop up when there was again some typical scandal or collision accident. (And the LCS is controversial, to say the least.) The "double down!" lobby does not pursue national interest; it has an irrational desire to see an ever more powerful navy. Some of those people are rationally motivated actual lobbyists, who get paid by industries to push for more spending that will enrich said industries.
These are the problems that deserve fixing in my opinion:
the USN costs terribly much in general
the months-long deployments disrupt private lives and make USN jobs unattractive, requiring high pay for compensation and depressing re-enlistment
the USN is so very much focused on land attack (and secondarily on air defence) that its ASW and counter-mine abilities were neglected
the USN gets involved in provocations in distant waters that threaten world peace
the USN is ill-prepared regarding munition stocks, training, hardware and doctrine for the only pressing major war scenario
the USN's forward-deployed forces are terribly exposed to strategic surprise attacks (by military and clandestine assets)
the USN would need months to muster its forces even for the least unlikely defensive war scenario (Naval Station Norfolk - Perth/Australia is 11,000+ nmi if the Panama Canal is blocked; that's 26+ days at 18 kts)
the USN has a navigation competence problem that's the visible tip of the iceberg of a more general competence problem rooted in a poor personnel policy and the need to assemble crews for months-long deployment tours in time
#1 is the worst, especially when seen in context of #5.
The most fundamental mistake
...is the endless rotating forward deployment to distant places with both carrier battlegroups and amphibious battlegroups. The amphibious groups follow a mere regimental-sized force concept that's never been of good use in many decades. There was never a both legitimate and useful peacetime employment of such or smaller size in U.S. history that couldn't have been done by airlift as well.
The only major threats
There are really only two major threats; Russia and PR China. Russia's strategic navy (SSBNs) should be left alone. It should be supreme order never to threaten any second nuclear strike capability, for this could lead to a panicked preventive first strike by some other nuclear power. This leaves very, very few really operational Russian naval forces as relevant potential targets for the USN. The Black and Baltic Sea Fleets would be handled by the Europeans unless they redeployed before hot conflict. Overall, the USN does not need to pay attention to Russian naval forces from Europe other than a few submarines in the North Atlantic. The Russian land-based long range bombers would be a greater naval concern, and one could expect them to be redeployed to different airbases or airports in order to prevent their simple destruction on their peacetime airbases. So there might be some ASW and AAW issues in the North Atlantic, though they would be small compared to what else would happen in a NATO-Russia conflict. To secure a transatlantic New York-Lissabon sea lane (3,000 nmi) with a daily 18 kts convoy per day in either direction would require more than 14 escort groups. This alone would cost so much if done with conventional warships that there's a better strategy. We could handle Russian submarines (other than SSBNs) in port, possibly their replenishment ships and Russian naval bombers with air power and simply endure the damage done by whatever submarines and bombers slip into the North Atlantic.
The Russian naval capabilities in the East are similar, but even smaller (unless they redeploy their naval air power to the East). The Pacific Ocean offers ships a great choice of routes. This makes it harder for the Russians to find targets.
The other major threat is the PR China. There was some talk about attack aircraft ranges for naval air attack on China, but this subsided. It appears that the current dominant idea for a hypothetical naval war with the PRC is mostly about a distant naval blockade and possibly defence of Japan. Land attack would probably be limited to cruise missile launches, and the cruise missile stocks would be depleted quickly. Attacks on the turbine rooms of non-nuclear powerplants might be the most devastating and still acceptable option.
The Chinese navy builds up its own surface forces to about equal size to the USN, maybe larger. A long distance blockade would stretch the blockading force, and as a consequence all blockade task forces would be fairly small. The Chinese could in principle pick them off one by one. To counter this requires either a successful attrition of said Chinese naval forces 'by a thousand cuts' (such as by SSNs and possibly offensive minelaying killing one ship after another) or a decisive battle that clears the seas of major PLAN forces before the victorious remnants set up the naval blockade.
Another somewhat credible scenario is that the USN might be sent to face off some Chinese fleet in some distant crisis (imagine China trying to take over control in some distant country, for example). This could lead to a large naval battle as well, though I don't remember any such scenario (naval battle as consequence of a fleet face-off in peacetime) from history.
How to fix it
Changes in posture
The USN should assemble almost all of its ships and submarines in a battlefleet on the continental West coast of the U.S..
There would be exemptions to this force concentration:
small flotillas detached for training with Europeans, Japanese or Australians
some SSNs tasked with shadowing Russian or Chinese subs
some ships cruising between battlefleet and shipyards
oceanic survey ships
About 80% of the USN should be on the West Coast.
Why there? The West Coast is protected by the North Atlantic Treaty, unlike Hawaii. This is an additional disincentive against a strategic surprise attack on the battlefleet in port. The USN would be central to any Pacific war, but it would be a sideshow in any European war. It makes sense to keep the USN in the Pacific for this reason.
Why concentrated like this? Wartime usage of surface fleets would include much larger task forces than the small task forces that cruise the seven seas today. Proper training has to include many large scale exercises between large task forces and between large task forces and USAF or allied forces. Finally, only a moderate share (no more than 60%) of the fleet must be in ports to further discourage a surprise attack on the ports. All of this fits to a concentration of by far most of the USN on the West Coast.
The battlefleet should have exercises at sea with typically much less than a month duration. Time at sea could be limited to about 40%. Proper personnel policies could ensure vastly improved competence despite the reduction of operational expenses by the reduced time at sea (see later in this text).
Attempt to trade away the amphibious fleet
The Chinese amphibious fleet is the most severe threat to Taiwan's independence and also a huge factor for naval war planning in general. I see exactly one way to eliminate this problem in peacetime:
Trade the USN amphibious warfare capability in a double zero disarmament treaty. All Chinese amphibious warfare ships would be scrapped in exchange for all USN amphibious warfare ships getting scrapped. The Chinese marines would be disbanded and Chinese paratroops limited to current nominal strength in exchange for disbanding of the USMC (land warfare and STOVL components, not CVN-going fixed wing aviation) and limitation of the airborne to current nominal strength.
A hypothetical Pacific War gets a lot less messy and a lot less fuzzy if such a double zero disarmament treaty can be made to happen. The greatest value of the amphibious fleet and the marines is their bargaining chip value; they are most useful if they cease to exist. That's why such a double zero disarmament treaty should be a policy objective.
A reinforcement of naval air power by land-based air power makes a lot of sense on cost grounds. This is particularly true for maritime (surface) surveillance and and for strikes on surface task forces or land bases. Land-based combat aviation has insane mission radii when supported by tanker aircraft. Single engine single seat F-16s were used to bomb Afghanistan!
Kits to convert airliners into tankers within a few weeks are a much more cost-effective approach to enabling oppressive air strike at sea dominance than to build insanely expensive carriers with dedicated naval air wings and insanely expensive escort warships. The USAF would need to participate in training and at least some of its combat aircraft should be compatible with chute-and-drogue refuelling*, though.
Mine hunting capability needs to be available in numbers that would suffice to secure lanes in front of all U.S. major ports AND in front of overseas bases in wartime. This does not need to involve new dedicated minehunting boats. Truck- and air-deployable drone sets with remote control from a container on land via small relay boat might suffice. A minehunting boat only adds a different mode of mobility to such equipment. Some lures (acoustic signature faking boats) could also be used for minebreaking. Classic minebreaking is about moving an actual boat or ship to trigger mines below. These lures would instead be meant to trigger self-deployable torpedo-like drones to approach and thus give away their presence. The lures do thus not need to mimic hydrostatic or magnetic signatures, which makes them much smaller than more ambitious minebreaking drones and potentially air-transportable (by C-5B).
Today's general purpose warships such as the Arleigh Burke destroyers are inefficient for counter-mine purposes. You need to find and destroy mines along a lane in front of a port several times before a task force arrives, not only begin with the mine hunting once it arrived.
Scrap the useless LCS, or maybe sell them to the Saudis or other kleptocrats who like shiny toys regardless of their wartime uselessness. Brunei and UAE might be interested and some other kleptocrat despots might like a LCS as a presidential yacht as well. The LCS seems to be designed more for this than for combat anyway.
The West Coast battlefleet needs an aggressor flotilla that can represent the best non-nuclear submarines (AIP submarines, a.k.a. SSI or SSP). A MOTS (military off-the-shelf) purchase of five or six Type 214 submarines without any equipment or software modifications (other than translations) would be a good fit.
ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed and tested with cargo convoys in mind. Both ASW and AAW could be covered by using (small) container ships as auxiliary warships in wartime (and during annual exercises).
Other ARAPAHO-II sets should be developed to turn cargo ships into armed merchantmen (auxiliary cruisers) for a distant naval blockade. An auxiliary cruiser only needed a weak 10.5 cm gun armament for successful raiding in the world wars. Nowadays it would need two medium helicopters with a boarding party and some lightweight anti-ship missiles as well as the ability to call an anti-ship bomber. The use of such auxiliary cruisers for distant blockade purposes would be extremely cost-efficient (even assuming that at least one of the helicopters needs expensive sensors and missiles). It would not require much shipyard capacity, which the PRC has in abundance and the U.S. has almost none of. Such auxiliary cruisers would be difficult to identify (particularly for hostile submarines) among all the actually civilian maritime traffic thousands of miles away from Chinese ports. The use of helicopters would enable each auxiliary cruiser to control a fairly large (and moving) patrol area (I estimate at least 200 x 200 nmi, but it could be much larger with a very capable medium helicopter type).
A small training fleet should be established which uses well-equipped dedicated training ships on world cruises. All the new personnel meant for shipboard employment would complete one such world cruise with 1/3 leisure days in 20+ foreign ports. This would be a major recruiting tool, and should be the only time most of the navy personnel has to be away from home for months. Navy personnel not meant for shipboard employment would not participate.
The battlefleet should be structured into three task forces with very stable compositions. This enables similar (1 on 1) and dissimilar (2 on 1) combat exercise scenarios in addition to combat exercises against land-based forces. The permanency of these task forces could foster a competition among them and could also help develop and try out different approaches to master challenges.
Kick out all known officer duds instead of protecting them. There should be no remorse, no false loyalty!
Divide the service into land-limited career and sea-going careers. The land-limited personnel system could be a continuation of the current one, though some improvements are no doubt desirable.
The sea-going personnel should have a totally different career system. The initial training on world cruise training ships was already mentioned. Later on the men, women and whatever would mostly have a trial period on non-combat ships. Those who are well-suited and well-motivated for a career as naval sailors for life would become exactly that; they would join a warship crew and more likely than not retire from the Navy at age 60 without ever having been transferred to another team or having left the navy before that age.** The others would become submariners for a few years or go to land-based units.
Imagine the competence of a warship crew of which more than two thirds have served together on that ship for well over a decade, and almost everyone has years of experience in his job and additional years of experience in some other job on the ship! This should reduce the bridge crew competence problem that was revealed by multiple collisions. General purpose warships become much more useful if the crew has enough experience in all missions rather than being 'jack of all trades master of none' because the crew gets torn apart after a couple months of training on a range of missions.
The SSBN fleet would be exempt from this 'sailor for life' thing because of the discomfort of SSBN patrols. SSBN crews could thus be recruited the traditional way, and the SSBN fleet could be used as a recruiting ground for the SSN crews (which would sometimes do weeks-long patrols - typically only for shadowing of SSN/SSGN).
The quantity (and share!) of officers can and should be reduced by much. This should be simple since there would be much fewer busy bases, a smaller training effort and several unified combatant commands can and should be disbanded (CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, USSOCOM, USEUCOM). I wrote "simple" instead of "easy" because the officer establishment would fight any such reform, of course.
A helicopter design would be needed for the auxiliary cruisers; modified UH-1Z might become an acceptable stop-gap solution.
The purchase of F-35B is utter nonsense and it's very regrettable that the F-35 overall design was compromised by the STOVL obsession of the B version. Orders for F-35B should be changed into F-35C. The U.S. is not going to get any better carrier-capable combat aircraft than the F-35C anytime soon (prior to 2040). The F-35C should thus become available in a quantity of about 600 aircraft (for 9 carriers) to almost 800 aircraft (for 12 carriers) plus at least a hundred training (early production) airframes. Super Hornets could be held in reserve to replace F-35s lost in wartime. Their utility as tankers and stand-off surface attack munition platforms won't diminish till 2040.
A carrier-compatible "6th generation" combat aircraft or drone should enter service in the early 2040's. It would need to be multi-role and suitable for export (= affordable and versatile). A joint USN-USAF-JASDF-RAAF development project is advisable.
Land-based USAF F-35A do not need to be qualified for new anti-ship missiles. USAF C-17s could launch long range AShMs, with land-based F-35As acting as escorts. The USN doesn't need a land-based F-35 component other than for type training and as reserves. Its naval aviation units could still fly training sorties from airbases when their carriers are in port, of course.
I distrust the P-8 concept of an anti-submarine aircraft because I don't think that submarine-hunting with sonobuoys makes much sense. It might work when the approximate position of a submarine is already known, but I doubt that capability is worth the expense. The location would typically be known if there's a warship with ASW helicopter in the area anyway. The modern very silent and reduced echo submarines defy any true large area surveillance as far as I know.
The USN does nevertheless need maritime patrol aircraft for tracking and identifying ships, or else it would neither defeat hostile surface raiders nor keep a distant naval blockade from being very leaky. Such maritime patrol aircraft need no ASW equipment, but they do need imaging equipment for ship identification (synthetic aperture radar, thermal, visual). Their demands on airfields (runway length, maintenance hours per flying hour) should be modest. I suppose that the existing 'global' business jets would be a fine fit (Gulfstream 650s are domestic products). They would frequently need to drop below their optimum cruise altitude for thermal/visual ship ID, though. Drones such as MQ-4C are not reliable enough in this job unless one fully trusts the wartime reliability of communication satellites (which I don't). They don't appear to be cheaper than a G650 with a sensor outfit and some extra radios anyway.
The surveillance of the Pacific Ocean could be complemented by sea surveillance satellites and use of other satellites, but I have a hunch they might be less reliable assets in wartime than dispersed aircraft.
Japan and Australia would be the most relevant forward bases for the USN, though warships would limit the presence in Japanese ports to the absolute minimum duration. I have no idea why Australian politicians are so keen on 'security' cooperation with the United States that could drag Australia needlessly into a Pacific War. Yet Australia would be the prime base for Southwest Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean operations as long as they have such an attitude.
The dominance of land-based air power would push the USN to seas far from Japan for a distant naval blockade. An employment as a battlefleet 'fleet in being' backup to a triple layer of MPA+auxiliary cruisers+bombers in the Eastern Indian Ocean seems rather sensible to me. The U.S: would not necessarily have access to land bases there.
Hawaii would serve as a safe port for damaged ships, for storage of some missile munitions in wartime and as a refuelling point (especially for refuelling replenishment ships and auxiliary cruisers) for North Pacific operations. It would also be relevant for occasional convoys coming from or going to Japan, and these would in large part be protected by Japanese ships.
Forget about Guam; Guam should be demilitarised, that's its best bet on not getting devastated in a war.
Submarines (SSN mostly) should have some forward bases for frequent resupply of munitions at sea. This is a necessity if they have to deploy many naval mines.*** Some submarine replenishment ships with freezer rooms and lots of spare torpedoes would be needed.
The use of land-based air power for strike dominance at sea would be much easier if countries such as Malaysia were cooperating. The USN could only bet on this approach if it designs the effort to work with no other bases than American and Australian airports and airbases, though.
The USN's war plans need to be promising in case that South Korea remains neutral. South Korea could not be defended against Chinese invasion by land without nuclear strikes. Likewise, the U.S. should not trust that South Korea would provide its huge shipyard industry to an arms racing cause.
Testing needs to become much more rigorous again, and zealously protected from politics. Any officer who declares a ship or aircraft type operational without comprehensive testing with no substantial shortcomings left needs to be fired in a most mortifying manner.
Also, 'test' some LCS (each one of both classes) by letting the USAF blow them up in front of..
The vehicle has tracks, but the crew chooses to operate from the road, which makes determining its coordinates much easier. This is the kind of tactical stupid that's borne out of complacency. Same deal as with Frenchmen letting recce drones fly the very same route day after day during the Kosovo Air War.
The physical fitness stuff is stupid, the uniforms are stupid, the simulation of underbarrel grenade launcher weight with (not fixed) canteens is stupid, the urban combat tactics seem stupid, the way of moving with backpack over a rope is totally stupid.
I'm a bit conflicted. On the one hand there's history showing that Russians have a consistently (over centuries) poor efficiency in warfare, and Chinese the same. There's plenty indications that their tech sucks more often than not, and plenty people told me that Chinese psyche is unsuitable for innovation et cetera.
On the other hand I also reject the notion that Russians or Chinese could be stupid or systemically unimaginative as individuals. There's nothing in IQ statistics pointing at them being stupid.
Maybe there's something wrong in their culture that explains this. Something that systematically nudges the people toward poor performance.
I'm sure that no Western armed service would so consistently and stubbornly publish such stupid photos. The use of stupid blue digicamo camouflage on marines alone is too much of an embarrassment. The USN has such stupid uniforms as well, but not for land combat (though theirs are stupid and dangerous, too).
Maybe it's the bulletproofing (and even mine-proofing) of our times' army vehicles that drives developers towards such overly complicated, heavy, thirsty and expensive vehicles. An armoured vehicle can be sold at five to tenfold price of a comparable unarmoured vehicle, even if the difference is little more than RHA plates (the difference is not quite as extreme with up-armoured vehicles).
Just a reminder; we could still move four humans with equipment around in a 1950's design Jeep, offroad and on-road. I assure you, they could move from A to B in a timely manner.
There's no doubt a golden middle, but I tell you, JLTV and other recent monstrosities ain't at it.
I've put my warship series AAW chapter from February 2018 (equivalent of 20 book pages) into http://www.analyzemywriting.com/ and the result was devastating. The readability grading ranged from grade 12.57 (Coleman-Liau) to grade 15.81 (Gunning fog). So I looked for a second opinion and asked https://app.readable.com/ for another Flesch-Kincaid score with a text version that had headlines, lists and captions removed (analyzemywriting gave grade 12.66 for Flesch-Kincaid). The result was grade 12.0 (and Gunning-Fog grade 14). At least I had a "cliché count" of 0%.
"For comparison, according to this source, academic papers are written at about the 12th grade level. Malcolm Gladwell writes at the 9th grade level, F. Scott Fitzgerald at the 8th grade level, Stephen King at the 6th grade level, and Ernest Hemingway at the 4th grade level. It also says that only about 1 in 8 U.S. adults can read at the 12th grade level."
I have as far as I know also issues with too much use of passive voice and presumably some other habits regarding choice of words and grammar that are suboptimal.
This compound of writing issues might explain why I keep having the impression that many people who comment seem to be oblivious to my already given arguments. They may simply not have read them.
I don't even know how to write simpler British English and I don't think switching back to Simplified English would help, so don't expect any improvements on this front regardless of this new-found awareness. Sometimes there's just a problem, and no solution to be expected.
I suppose we should get a study to see if the results can be reproduced, and if yes we should simply ban such surveillance software, period.
Meanwhile, our German ministers of the interior seem to have a consensus that the government should be able to spy a lot more on its citizens. They want encryption vulnerable and internet companies to yield as much surveillance info as possible when asked.
This is what I wrote about when I complained about the principal-agent problem. Our politicians should lead executive branch divisions to force them on a path of pursuit of national interest. Instead, they adopt the bureaucracies' self-interest for more authority, more budget, more, more and more.
“We reason that increased resources and independence from others cause people to prioritise self-interest over others’ welfare and perceive greed as positive and beneficial, which in turn gives rise to increased unethical behaviour,” the researchers concluded.
That would explain a lot - and point at a solution: Let them feel their actual dependence on others.You did not build that without the effort of many others, without the infrastructure provided by government, without the rule of law and enforcement of law by the government et cetera.
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Next Saturday: A "How to fix ..." series blog post. And no, it's NOT about Sweden, Spain or Finland.
*: It might make sense for large 9+ ton trucks if they are expected to use narrow river or mountain roads a lot, but AFAIK there's no such vehicle. Timber truck drivers negotiate such roads without such bells and whistles mostly by skill.
This is a very interesting study in my opinion. Ammonia has popped up in many articles during the last 18 months or so as a possible solution to the hypothetical hydrogen economy's problems. There was some technological progress in efficient hydrogen release from ammonia a few years ago.
I suppose Ammonia (they really need to make up some fancy name like "FutureFuel" for it to dispel the association with its pungent smell!) might become the fuel of the future for most land vehicles that need more range than is economical (regarding the vehicle costs, not the energy costs) with solid state batteries.
Ammonia could also (maybe in hybrid designs with substantial solid state batteries) become standard fuel in future military land vehicles (ammonia stored in pressurized tanks) if it succeeds in civilian automotive sector long range applications.
The U.S. military has looked into biofuels and biofuels are also popular with many conservative politicians in Europe (mostly because they want to give their farmer voters some gifts), but biofuels make very little sense. Nature is ridiculously efficient at many things with its evolution-optimised organisms, but it is horribly inefficient at converting sunlight into usable energy. Photovoltaic cells have an efficiency of beyond 20%, while photosynthesis has efficiency of less than 2%, commonly less than 1%. Technical energy gathering solutions are more area-efficient than biofuel production by an order of magnitude (even taking into account the later value added steps till we have comparable fuels). Utility scale photovoltaic power is now also among the cheapest power sources in the world.*
We should gather energy in poor vegetation productivity areas with much solar irradiation (some areas of Spain come to mind, we don't need to go to Africa for that) and use the more productive areas for food and non-energy raw material production (or let them recover to avoid soil degradation and erosion).
I reckon from the current point of view that future transportation propulsion should be mostly about solid state batteries, ammonia fuels (the latter often for use in fuel cells) and for both ships and large aircraft; liquid hydrogen.
This would have huge implications for military logistics, but also for very low temperature operation of motor vehicles.
*: https://aneconomicsense.org/2019/06/20/the-increasingly-attractive-economics-of-solar-power-solar-prices-have-plunged/ There has been a flood of very recent study publications about the extreme economical advantages of solar and hydro power in pure money economics (even before taking into account external effects). Only natural gas powerplants can compete (if there's a pipeline or gas field nearby). Coal and nuclear power are a waste of money right now, and to build any new coal or nuclear powerplants is utterly stupid. This does put a huge question mark on what the Saudis want "civilian" nuclear power tech for.
I spent some time looking into the short Ironclad era - an era of roughly 15 years that began with the first iron-armoured warships and ended with a seagoing warship that had all its guns in turrets and used neither sails nor oars (only steam engines and screws) for its propulsion.
There were less than a hundred Ironclads. The pace of construction was fairly modest compared to the exertions of the 1890's to 1916. Many ironclads were modernised with better guns few years after introduction in service, and some ironclads had their armour plating improved to keep pace with better-penetrating guns (even doubled armour thickness).
The quality and thickness as well as wood backing of armour advanced at a fast pace, and a ship launched just a few years earlier might just as well have been unarmoured when facing some of the newest, biggest guns.
The success of the era-concluding Devastation class seems unlikely to me even in hindsight; its freeboard was scary small and its armament were a mere four slow-loading heavy guns. Still, this was the prototype battleship, setting a dominant design that lasted until HMS Dreadnought (1906) appeared and in many ways more similar to today's warships than to warships just 15 years before its time.
HMS Devastation (built 1869-1873)
The Italians lost the only major naval battle of the era through a horrible fleet leader performance and an unbelievable degree of gunnery incompetence (missing seagoing ships at less than 1,000 m with entire salvoes).
Sadly, the literature about the era appears to be very limited. I found (and read some of them):
The British Navy, Past and Present by S.Eardley-Wilmot, 1888 The Development of Navies by Captain S. Eardley-Wilmot, 1892 Ironclads in Action by H.W. Wilson, 1896 Our Iron-Clad Ships: Their Qualities, Performances, and Cost by Edward James Reed, 2011 (the author died 1906, so this is a new edition) The Old Steam Navy: The Ironclads, 1842-1885 by Donald E. Canney, 1993 Ironclads At War: The Origin And Development Of The Armored Battleship by Jack Greene and Allessandro Massignani, 1998 War at Sea in the Ironclad Age by Richard Hill, 2006 Ironclads: An Illustrated History of Battleships from 1860 to the First World War by Peter Hore, 2006
British Ironclads 1860-75 by Angus Konstam, 2018 (Osprey) European Ironclads 1860-75 by Angus Konstam, 2019 (Osprey)
Some of the new books recycle 19th century books' contents, including using refurbished drawings. I disregarded the many books about the uninteresting American Civil War's ironclad riverine boats and coastal fair weather (negligible freeboard) vessels.
I hoped to find some insights and lessons about what happens when there's some revolutionary technology and armed bureaucracies try to cope with rapid technological progress. I didn't find any such things in the books about the Ironclad era yet.
Technically, HMS Warrior's screw design and HMS Waterwitch's pump jets were surprises to me; both were approaches that would avoid the drag of the screw when the ship is sailing and became superfluous by the time HMS Devastation dropped the rigging altogether. Sailing rigs were afterwards only sensible for cruisers, particularly raiders (the auxiliary cruiser SMS Seeadler of WWI fame was a sailship for this reason).
I do usually write with the unmentioned assumption that deterrence is necessary for maintaining peace.
Well, maybe it isn't?
There's the historical example of countries or princes paying some other power (not necessarily a weaker one) to maintain the peace. The Byzantine Empire did this, and it survived for more than a thousand years.
The payments may actually be cheaper than to maintain the forces to deter, and were almost certainly always cheaper than actually waging a war. So this choice may be the economically right thing to do (especially as a supplement rather than a full substitute for armed deterrence), but there's the risk that such behaviour leads to ever higher prices for peace and isn't optimal in the long term. Still, there are irrefutable and largely successful historical examples for powers maintaining the peace not only by deterrence, but also by protection money.
Other examples for peace without effective deterrence are modern and obvious. Uruguay certainly does not deter Brazil or Argentina, but it doesn't get invaded. Many other countries don't get invaded despite their obvious inability to deter, either.
Germany and Denmark would not go to war with each other even if there was no repercussion for doing so whatsoever. It would simply not cross anyone's (not insane) mind.
I mean it; Germany wouldn't even invade Denmark if it was invited to do so by all other countries, if there was no EU, no NATO, no Danish military, no UN - it simply would not happen. We wouldn't even invade Denmark if we faced economic sanctions for NOT invading Denmark.
I suppose that maintaining peace without effective deterrence and thus without much military expenditure has to receive at the very least as much attention in writing as does deterrence strategising. After all, there's somewhere the key insight for a world with marginal if any waste of resources on deterrence & defence in there.
So my own priorities are off to some degree, obviously.
Previously, I argued that the United States violated its own temporary grand strategy for peace and prosperity in the Western world with its own actions in the 50's. It would be considered a "rogue state" because of its undermining of unfriendly governments, its violent aggressions and its militarism if it was a majority Muslim, East Asian or simply "communist" country.
Remnants and façades of the international system built in the 40's and early 50's still hold out, in part because nobody wants to give nuclear war a try and in part because Europeans (and until recently also Americans) at least partially support them.*
Some European countries are somewhat aggressive (particularly the previous colonial empire UK and France), but overall, continental Europeans appear to have one precondition for being the decisive champions for a rules-based international order for peace and prosperity that the United States appears to lack:
Most of them appreciate win-win cooperation as a strategy, unlike the United States, which have been decayed by quasi-anarchist propaganda ("(...) government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem."**) and which cannot really settle on such a strategy any more. I don't doubt that they have at least one political party capable of occasional win-win cooperation diplomacy, but I doubt that they have a political party of importance that would do so in a more consistent way than the country did during the 1960's-2010's.
Could Europe become a champion for a rules-based international order for peace and prosperity?
A long list would need to be checked in my opinion:
European unification ideologues would need to look outward a lot more and seek peace & prosperity on a global level instead of being fixated on European unification, for without them there would not be a large-enough ambitious base for such a grand strategy
Europe would need to join its influence with India and some other major countries in the long term (this may be Nigeria and Brazil)
European public(s) need to understand the utility of a win-win cooperation, and resist the decaying infiltration by ideologues from the U.S. and Russia
France would need to become more self-disciplined and stop its occasional violent interventions in Africa that often run counter to a rules-based international order
Europe would need to be willing to face the U.S., UK, Russia and possibly PR China at least in non-violent ways (UNSC votes, France's UNSC veto power, economic sanctions, refusal of diplomatic support and cooperation, support of opposing proxies)
Europe needs to secure its raw materials access independently from any power it might need to face off against in defence of international law (this is about diplomacy & trade, not much about naval power)
In other words; I doubt it will happen. Mankind is probably (and has been for sixty years) on a path away from win-win cooperation as the norm and away from an international order for peace and prosperity that's based on international law. We're moving back to the previous world order of great powers pursuing their interests at the expense of others (with everyone most likely being worse off as a result).
We'll likely fail at the climate change challenge and fail to get to global net zero CO2-equivalent emissions from human actions' first order effects.*** We may get cleaner, healthier air in European cities from electrified motor vehicles, we will maintain necessary food supply and energy supply and preserve most of our coastlines for decades to come, but we'll fail in the greatest challenge since the risk of self-ruin by thermonuclear war simply because Western societies have decayed**** just short of true greatness, and turned away from pursuing a grand strategy for smart win-win cooperation in a rules-based world. Challenges such as atmospheric CO2(-equivalent) content cannot be dealt with without a global appreciation of the utility of cooperation and confidence in major countries' commitment to agreed-upon obligations.
In the end, the Americans who were such a beacon of hope for mankind in 1944-1953 may be the first to blame for global civilizational decay with their aggressiveness rooted in not having had lost a great powers war ever (at least not thoroughly) and the egoism of their Rich who undermined the government / national community with egoism and anarchical ideologies to receive some taxation reprieve for a few decades.
Obviously, some other countries (especially UK, France, Russia, Saudi-Arabia) deserve much blame as well, while the others are mostly guilty of complacence and of being followers on the wrong path.
*: Especially France and the UK disregard international law when it suits them, as well. The whole 1999 Kosovo Air War and Poland's participation in the war of aggression in 2003 add to the picture of Europeans being unreliable defenders of a peaceful international order. **: The "(...)" part was "In this present crisis", but the anarchist-minded people decided to ignore it and turned the later section into their article of belief, usually granting the military an exception.
***: Thus we'll almost certainly fail to achieve net zero global CO2 equivalent emissions taking thawing permafrost and such into account. We will not stop, much less reverse, climate change a.k.a. global warming before some natural mechanism does it for us. That may take thousands or ten thousands of years, though. I myself am guilty of believing the mainstream idea during the 90's, thinking that some savings by improved efficiency here and there would suffice as global warming countermeasures. Back then, we would have needed to add a zero emissions technology perspective (solar-hydrogen economy) and major carbon sink efforts (such as special net negative carbon concretes, maybe fertilizing some maritime areas with iron) to the "efficiency gain" route. So in all fairness, it's not just the cooperation issue that makes us fail, but also the sluggishness of mainstream opinion turning around.
****: I can already hear some European right wingers loudly liking to read this, which is tragic. They don't realize that their model Russia is de facto at the end state of total decay. Russia fails at science, health achievements, economy, civic development, culture and freedom and European right wingers who embraced Putin's Russia as political ally are nothing short of traitors to their own nation in my mind. They don't fight decay - they embrace it. A barefooted black lesbian couple with green hair loudly chatting in a foreign language on a train is not societal decay; the loss of community and loss of confidence in solving problems together as a nation is societal decay. Putin doesn't want to save Europe from the gays and the brown-skinned people - he wants it to become as dysfunctional, corrupt and unproductive as Russia already is.
There's an easy solution to end the warmongering against Iran and stabilise the Persian Gulf region's northern side for good: Iran needs to enter an alliance with a nuclear power. It could enter an alliance with Russia, with China, with India or major EU powers.
The media makes it look as if Europe couldn't decisively interfere against the warmongering. That's wrong. Europe's power and influence is limited by its own will more than by anything else.
Admittedly, the cooperation-focused policies in Europe have created a political class ill-suited to deal with sociopaths effectively.
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Hat tip to "An economic sense", an underrated economics blog. He clearly should have made it into this list, but then again, the very well-known Mankiw didn't either.
My background as economist sometimes lets me write about economics and military affairs issues myself once in a while:
"I'm curious how well this economic opinion will stand the test of time." So far I'm not too enthusiastic.
Looking back, I must say I did not fully resist the fashionable public debt craze of 2009-2012. I did largely resist the then fashionable calls for austerity (except for the Greek military budget IIRC, but that's a special case as much of the spending goes to imports), though. Another saving grace is that I called for at least some counter-cyclical spending (hastened military procurement and IIRC also infrastructure projects to have some expansionary effect without much influence on long-term public debt).
As a conclusion, I must say my previous (anti-Keynesian) professor for public finance lectures probably still had me influenced with the crowding-out thing that turned out to not matter under the specific circumstances (zero lower bound issue) of 2008-2013.
I like to cultivate an outside-the-box, non-mainstream attitude and way of thinking, but some of my macroeconomics postings from 2008-mid 2013 weren't nearly as timeless as I hoped my blog posts would prove to be. I still don't think I was wrong, but history didn't exactly prove me correct on the trade balance and public debt alarmism issues, either.
What must be said; nothing in there is contrary to economic science. To the contrary, it's exactly what economic research suggests will or does work well. Neoliberalism on the other hand is only partially reconcilable with economic theory and empirical observations. Neoliberalism is based on first order effects in the better cases and utter nonsense in some other cases (the latter category is largely confined to the anglophone world). Stiglitz is no proponent of some radical left wing ideology; he's proposing to make use of what we know about real world economics as opposed to fantasyland economics. Neoliberalism isn't the origin of all economic evils in the West, though. A couple metrics began a trend for the worse in the 1973-1980 period already. Neoliberalism was probably less harmful with its pursuit of its agenda than by not doing anything about those bad trends.
My pageviews from an arbitrary recent 7-day period (monthly is about 25k):
I have no explanation for why the German share kept dwindling over time. The Russian share is even more confusing - it wasn't nearly this large before and I haven't written anything of special interest to Russians since the Shilka article in February.
"The present T-34 ammunition capacity is 55 rounds: 5 APCR, 20 armour piercing, 30 HE. This is not enough and only lasts for 1.5-2 hours of battle."
This is a common theme from combat reports and memoirs about tank warfare (which is mostly combat against opposition other than tanks). 30 rds HE and thousands of machinegun rounds lasted for less than 2 hrs in this report. We should expect that 10+ of today's 120 mm HE rounds would be expended in an hour of combat. Resupply of munitions should be considered a most important aspect of tactical combat and operational-level efforts unless it's about pursuit (pursuit is much more about fuel supply and POW handling than about munitions supply).
I'm not informed about the inventories of dedicated 120 mm HE tank rounds such as DM11*, but I have a hunch they would be expended real quick, and then most Western tankers would use the less efficient HEAT supposed multi-purpose rounds against "soft" targets, expending them really quick to get the desired effects. Western MBTs might be downgraded to coaxial 7.62NATO machinegun fires against all soft targets well before the campaign ends.
I have argued against this myth myself as well. Claims that the durability of a T-34's was a few days does not square with the quantities produced and the inventories in service (thousands) over a span of years.
About 80,000 T-34s were produced during WW2, and the average inventory was somewhere around 3,000 to 4,000 That would lead to them lasting for 1/20th to about 1/30th of the war duration (June 1941 to August 1945 for the USSR) in a first approximation estimate. This leads to a likely average T-34 life of more than two months during WW2 (much of it in storage, transit or training, though). It certainly wasn't a few days, for then they couldn't have trained the tank crews.
My suspicion is that the myth rests on the rumour that T-34s produced in Leningrad during the siege had very short lifespans (some of them were supposedly manned by workers, not tank-trained soldiers). An average durability of few days at the front may have been correct there in 1942. Most T-34s in use were likely used for months, though.
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Vote shares among first-time voters in the election for the European Parliament in Germany
The radical right wingers largely failed in the recent election in Germany; they got more votes than previously (back when their party wasn't overtly xenophobic and nationalistic yet), but less than polls indicated for them if there had been federal elections instead. They got a mere 11% and frankly, I don't see them ever getting past 18% (but then again I didn't expect the FDP strawfire a couple years ago or the recent greens boom past 20% either). There are only so many right wingnuts and protest voters in this country.
The young voters clearly don't see their future in the radical right, and now don't seem to like the formerly huge and dominating conservative and social-democratic parties either.
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Nach Wahlaufruf von YouTubern: Kramp-Karrenbauer löst Diskussion aus - YouTube
I may have been too nice to the CDU last time when I diagnosed them to not be radical right wingers on the same slippery slope towards overt authoritarianism. Their chairwoman and designated future chancellor reacted to electoral defeat and Rezo's video with a public statement that can only be interpreted as the wish for censorship against such disagreeable non-traditional media. The previous CDU call for censorship was von der Leyen's anti-constitutional call for internet censorship (with pedophiles as excuse for the entrance into censorship). The CDU may not seem so undemocratic as some radical right wing parties because so far it did not feel threatened in its power. Anyway, that chairwoman just disqualified herself from all high offices in my opinion.
I don't think she or the other CDU politicians who got in trouble this week really want censorship. It's less simple, but even more dangerous than that. They think of themselves as the 'good guys', and 'good guys' don't commit atrocities. So by definition they cannot want censorship, as censorship is bad. They just want some etiquette (I wonder why they didn't find this word themselves) that shuts up critics or at least moderates them to the level of harmlessness (taming) that the CDU is used to from newspapers and TV shows. See? That's not 'censorship'. Just as Americans were the good guys and of course did not torture. They waterboarded, but since Americans are the good guys this meant that waterboarding must not be torture (when Americans do it). It's a slippery slope that unhinges the taboo of being evil. That's even more dangerous than overt agitation in favour of censorship.
"ich wusste nicht dass 70 Jahre Grundgesetz ne Abschiedsfeier war"
("I didn't know that 70 years German constitution was a farewell party)
A youtube comment
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The inability of the CDU to cope with the Youtuber criticism should not surprise**. The other parties would probably not be much better at it.
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[for German speakers] Und nun noch mal in inhaltlich anderer Langform:
Wenn man sich dieses Wahlergebnis und diesen Link hier
ansieht, dann stellt sich hier in der Tat die Frage, ob das jetzt ein tipping point war, also ein Ereignis, bei dem ein scheinbar stabiles System an seiner Unzulänglichkeit kollabiert.
Könnte es wirklich sein, dass die Generation U30 oder gar Generation U40 aufsteht und gegen den Status Quo vorgeht? Es ist kaum ein Geheimnis, dass die Politik sich kaum um Langfristthemen und Jugendinteressen kümmert. Ebenso ist es kein Geheimnis, dass nach ca. 70 bzw. 30 Jahren Bundesrepublik in Politik und Verwaltung alles festgesetzt und kaum noch zu entschiedener Reform fähig zu sein scheint.
Falls das wirklich ein tipping point ist - und bei sowas verschätzt man sich sehr, sehr leicht -, dann wäre eine mögliche Konsequenz, dass wir von einer (abnehmend) programmatisch links-rechts orientierten Politik zu einer jung-alt Orientierung übergehen könnten. Die alte links-rechts Orientierung der Politik funktioniert ohnehin nicht mehr, seit die SPD in den 90ern nach Lafontaines Wahlniederlage auf Bundesebene neoliberal wurde.
Eine jung-alt Orientierung würde allerdings auch eine urban-rural Spaltung bedeuten. Die bemerkt man in Ostdeutschland (wo Großstädte die einzigen Inseln des Wohlstandes und vorteilhafter Entwicklungen zu sein scheinen) jetzt schon in extremer Form. Wir würden vielleicht in einer krassen Weise die Entwicklung zur Polarisierung nachholen, die die Amis vollzogen haben. Jetzt muss man wohl hoffen, dass es Russen und Springer Verlag nicht gelingt, hier sowas wie Fox News, rechtsradikales talk radio und Breitbart zu etablieren. Dann stünden uns nämlich einige Jahrzehnte der gesellschaftlichen Selbstvergiftung und dysfunktionaler Politik bevor.
*: The initial order for DM11 was 5,000, which would barely be enough for a single sensible munitions mix combat load per in-use Leopard 2 of the German army. I don't think there was a 2nd order yet. **: The link shows the average age of party members (not voters) at the end of 2017.
... and their route to authoritarian government with oligarch-dominated economies:
I like to comment on the recent scandal that crashed the radical right's leadership in Austria:
This is the modus operandi of many radical right wing parties in Europe. They mix neoliberalism (which garners support by the very rich) with politics of aversion, solve no real problems for 90+% of the people and since they solve almost no real problems they need to exploit hate if not cheat to stay in power. The voters might otherwise try some political alternative in hope for better results.
The tendency to get in bed with the super rich leads to the rise of oligarchs who get unfair competitive advantages by their connections to law-disrespecting politicians.
The threat of losing elections leads to aggressive attacks on the non-aligned news media by right wingers (this already begun in Austria and is a well-known story in Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey, U.S.) while oligarchs provide a radical pro right wing "news" media alternative (Rupert et al/Sinclair, also Media control established in Russia, Hungary, Turkey) to support their political allies.
Later, the judicial branch begins to prosecute the corruption or at least to get in the way of unconstitutional laws and governance. This leads to radical right wing attacks on the independence of the judicial branch and the radical right attempts to politicise the judiciary branch in its own favour (see U.S., Turkey, Poland, Russia etc.).
A terminal stage for democracy by right wing radicals is then that political opponents are getting jailed (usual excuses are corruption or terrorism), gerrymandering, vote suppression, election fraud and sometimes when they misjudged how much they would achieve by cheating, they refuse to recognise election defeats and deny the orderly and peaceful transition of power to the political opponents.
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Some of those right wing radical governments benefited from rapid economic growth as their well-educated populations caught up in GDP per capita by modernising and enjoying capital influx. This was particularly true of Turkey, to a lesser extent Poland. Russia recovered economically by mere export commodity price luck. These largely unearned or unsustainable economic successes sometimes stabilise such far right governments long enough to enable them to dismantle the rule of law and establish an oligarchy with an unhealthy marriage of right wing radical politicians and billionaires.
The problem with this is that without the protective rule of law and political attention on developing the middle class and lower class (education, health, opportunities, security of businesses against the oligarchs' foul play) the nation's future economic growth potential suffers badly. The nations eventually begin to stagnate economically (just look at Russia's inability to build competitive industries outside of arms and gas turbines). Additionally, economic successes that were partially bubbles (such as in Turkey's debt-dependent development) threaten to collapse, which leads to frantic efforts by the right wing radicals to subjugate the remnants of democracy in order to stay in power.
The pattern is astonishingly universal. What differs between countries is merely the order of events and whether and how the right wing politicians achieve economic policy success for a couple years.
The variety in regard to economics shouldn't surprise, as neoliberalism isn't really a growth-inducing ideology unless the previous economic policy was truly awful in terms of making markets rigid and access to capital for investment scarce. Most cases for neoliberal policies depend on incomplete (kind of naive) analysis of what the consequences (example; privatisation of postal services) if not on outright wishful thinking (voodoo economics). The U.S. government these days use simple fiscal expansionism becuase its voodoo economics never work, and that's despite the very same politicians vilifying fiscal expansionism a few years ago when macroeconomics actually offered a good case for it due to the then depressed private demand.
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Well, it appears this cup passed away from Austria this time.
The Austrian right wing radicals got caught by some sting op (and it really doesn't matter by whom - what matters is their behaviour on the undisputed tape) at the "cuddling with oligarchs and plotting illegal favouritism (tilting the playing field in favour of oligarchs instead of rule of law)" stage.
Similarly, the judicial branches in Italy (Berlusconi), Spain (Correa), Israel (Netanyahu) and the U.S. (Trump) were or are being challenged very much by corrupt right wing politicians and those countries have not fallen completely to authoritarian radical right wing political systems with oligarch-controlled economies yet.
P.S.: It should be noted that neither CDU nor CSU are right wing radical parties as described in this article. (The AfD is such a party, though. It already employs neoliberalism ideology and began with the cuddling with rich people, illegal party financing and most of all attacks on non-aligned news media outlets.)
I still think of both CDU and CSU as awful. The CSU is awful because of the kind of politicians it brings to power (too many very poor character individuals) and the CDU is awful because it's a true conservative "reform nothing, only administrate" party, and we've had too much of that in the past 40 years. Merkel herself is not a true conservative; she does occasionally reform in order to vent problem pressure that built up and could become a risk to continued political dominance of the CDU. Her refugee policy was a most untypical attempt to make actual policy (and a poorly-devised one at that).
Both CDU and CSU fiddled with rigging the government in their favour together with industry captains a long time ago, but the young Western German democracy resisted this seemingly for good more than fifty years ago already. The CDU has since adopted neoliberalism, passes laws that benefit most of all a reliably right wing publishing house and had its party financing/corruption scandals, has always an ear for billionaires and industry captains, but it does nothing really in regard to straight march into authoritarianism.
About Czech Republic: I don't know enough about its politics to put ANO into the radical right wing category. It does partially fit mye description of those, and there are similarities between Babiš and Berlusconi.
I disagree completely, and I do so from the perspective of someone who appears to have normalized American foreign policy much less. The real end to Pax Americana didn't come in 2016-2019.
We seem to agree on the starting point; the foundation of the United Nations in 1944. One could trace back American efforts to establish a peaceful, rule-based an prospering world to much earlier dates, but they were of little consequence.
Back in 1939-1944 the United States' "greatest generation" did the most they could to establish a peaceful post-war (or at least post-WW2) order based on rules and diplomacy.
The problem is that they strayed from that path soon, just as it did around the First World War, when it let the League of Nations fall well short of its potential by not joining it in the first place.
As early as 1953 the United States turned towards the evil side by supporting an anti-democracy coup d'état in Iran. That one was really about big oil interests (which aren't nearly as often behind American policy as the stereotype suggests). Their turn away from being a champion of a rules-based peaceful world was completed at the latest with the overt support for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. That one was at least in large part about the red scare.
Ever since, international law, treaty obligations and the desire for a peaceful prospering world were pushed away by even slight desires to manipulate, disrupt, destroy, punish or kill. I'm talking about subverting democratically elected governments (example Chile 1973), about supporting tyrants, about covering up murder, about abductions, about torture (support for and doing it), about habitual bombing of countries, about supporting a war of aggression with military force (Gulf War) and about illegal invasions of countries (Laos, Grenada, Panama, Iraq) here.
I understand American readers are not really accustomed to see those historical actions described this way, but the preceding two passages are solidly supported by historical facts. Whether ends justify means is another question, but the means used were not in support of a rules-based international order for peace and prosperity.
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The Pax Americana wasn't sabotaged post 2016 by Trump. It had already been turned into a myth by the 1960's. Peace wasn't mostly maintained in the Western world by some American grand strategy, but by the common enemy Warsaw Pact and by European reconciliation and unification efforts since the mid 1950's.
Writers used to blather a lot about "global policeman", particularly in the 90's. That, too, ended in 1953. There's only been a couple global bullies of varying sizes since. UN blue helmet troops come the closest to 'global policeman' role, but they're rather some object security guards or border guards than policemen.
So in the end, I think Krugman looks at the history of the past sixty years through a rosy mythology lens and his partisanship only recently allowed him to see some shadows. Other authors and scholars (such as Bacevich) have a much more complete field of view and offered much better observations and opinions about American foreign policy. Krugman is worth having our attention in regard to trade economics and many other macroeconomic topics, though.