Men want to engage in righteous combat

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Men want to engage in righteous combat:

They want it more than they want sex or VP titles. They fantasize about getting the casus belli to defend themselves against armed thugs that will never come, they spend billions of dollars on movies and TV about everymen in implausible circumstances where EA calculus demands they use supernatural powers for combat, they daydream about fantastical, spartan settings where war is omnipresent and fights are personal and dramatic and intellectually interesting, and they’re basically incapable of resisting the urge to glorify their nation and people’s past battles, even the ones they claim to disagree with intellectually. You cannot understand much of modern culture until you’ve recognized that the state’s blunt suppression of the male instinct for glory has caused widespread symptoms of pica that dominate our politics, media, and online interactions.

And make no mistake — our half-hearted policy of deeming all such tendencies “toxic masculinity”, and refusing men the option to engage in reciprocal or consensual violence against each other, has been a bigger failure than the war on drugs. Lots of ink has been spilled on sphere of influence conspiracy theories that attempt to interpret America’s foreign adventures as rational power-seeking behavior. But the real truth is that men naturally form gangs, political cliques, and military theologies that attempt to justify violence within their existing legal and moral landscapes independent of any external incentives to do so. What they really want from all this is not some policy outcome but the self-actualization that comes from fighting the enemy, and the dearth of opportunities for them to challenge their opponents’ honor on the battlefield in a rights-respecting way is a much more important misandrist failing than child custody bias or divorce law or anything I’ve seen red pill people argue on the internet about. Men who are down especially bad will take absurd pay cuts to join artificial and economically unmotivated criminal sects, solely so they get the opportunity to pick mortal battles with other people who’ve opted into the same social systems they have.

There is no true modern substitute for these ambitions, with all of their cultural and social significance.

Leadership explains the differences in the performance of nearly all armies at all times

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

The Battle of Kasserine Pass occupies a special place in the mythology of American wars, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II):

It was the most staggering and unequivocal defeat in American history, with the exception of the Union debacle at Chancellorsville in the Civil War. But at Chancellorsville Americans were fighting themselves. Analysts of that battle focused on the incompetence of Union General Joe Hooker compared to the brilliance of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. They didn’t raise questions about the quality of the American fighting man. After Kasserine, however, a crisis of confidence shook the Allied military. American morale plummeted, and doubts arose about the quality of American soldiers, especially among the British.

Actually the failure at Kasserine could be traced, as at Chancellorsville, to the quality of leadership they received. Leadership explains the differences in the performance of nearly all armies at all times. At Kasserine a Hooker-level incompetent named Lloyd R. Fredendall had the misfortune to come up against Erwin Rommel, the one true military genius to emerge in World War II.

Chancellorsville and Kasserine demonstrate that the outcome of battles depends upon leadership. But laying full responsibility on the commander is difficult for human beings to accept. Most people assume that groups arrive at decisions by the interaction of their members. This leads many to attribute a defeat (or victory) to the alleged inherent nature of the soldiers or their nation, not the leaders.

After Kasserine British officers and men condemned Americans as “our Italians,” implying Americans were inferior soldiers, as they felt the Italians were. The Italians did perform poorly, but the British forgot that the failures were not due to the soldiers but to their leaders, who sent Italian armies into battle with grossly inferior equipment and under incredibly poor commanders. In the few cases where Italians had good leadership they performed well, sometimes in spite of their atrocious weapons.

Kasserine taught a lesson all wars teach: a military organization must make life-and-death choices. It does not arrive at these choices by consensus. Seeking consensus leads first to debate, then to disintegration, since some will accept hard choices, while others will not. Military forces work only when decisions are made by commanders. If commanders are wrong, the units will likely fail. If they are right, they may succeed.

Kasserine taught another lesson: envious or blind officers on one’s own side can nullify the insight of a great general and prevent him from achieving a decisive victory.


General Fredendall had played into Rommel’s hand. Although Eisenhower had instructed him to set up a mobile reserve behind a screen of reconnaissance forces and light delaying elements, Fredendall had lumped his infantry on isolated djebels, or hills, along the line and scattered his reserves in bits and pieces.


To assist 21st Panzer, Rommel asked Arnim to send down 10th Panzer Division, with 110 tanks, plus a dozen Tiger tanks. But Arnim envied Rommel’s fame and did not want to help him gain more. He provided only one tank battalion and four Tigers, and withdrew these shortly afterward for an attack he was planning farther north.


Rommel’s whole operation killed or wounded 3,000 Americans and netted more than 4,000 prisoners and 200 destroyed Allied tanks, against fewer than a thousand Axis casualties and far lower tank losses. But, if Arnim had cooperated and the Comando Supremo had shown any vision, the Axis gains could have been immensely greater.

Logical reasoning and de-escalation won’t work

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Greg Ellifritz watched this video of a recent convenience store robbery, and it caused him to think about how common criminal attacks are fundamentally changing:

Multiple attackers: The attacks most people face are no longer from a lone drug user. In the attacks I’m researching, three attackers seem to be the bare minimum along with larger groups of 10 or more criminals working together on occasion. These criminals are organized and they have a plan to handle any resistance in the areas they are robbing. They also have lookouts and people assigned to confront witnesses and store security staff to ensure their robberies are unimpeded.

A merging of the distinction between process and resource predators: In the book Facing Violence, Rory Miller categorized predators as being two basic types. Resource predators are looking to take your things. It could be your watch, your purse, your car, or the goods stocked on a store shelf. Process predators aren’t interested in your stuff. They get pleasure out of the process of victimization. They revel in the act of causing pain and misery.

Historically, process predators have been comparatively rare. Most attacks were committed by resource predators. The bad guys wanted your stuff. They didn’t want to hurt you unless it was necessary to get what they were targeting. Today’s criminals seem to mix the two categories. They want your stuff, but they also take an obscene amount of pleasure in hurting you during the act of taking it.

Compliance will not guarantee your safety: Building on the point above, complying with the attacker will not necessarily keep you safe. In fact, it may embolden the criminals and make it more likely for them to physically attack or pepper spray you even after taking all your stuff.


The store clerk in that case did not resist at all. Despite the fact that she complied, the robbers selected one of their members to punch, kick, and stomp the woman for the duration of their crime.

Younger attackers; Today’s attackers are often young teens or even pre-teens. How would you feel about shooting or striking a 12-year old kid? Those kids know that you will hesitate more when attacked by a child. They also know that the court system isn’t likely to impose serious consequences for such young offenders. Are you prepared to shoot a kid if you have to?


Logical reasoning and de-escalation won’t work: Lots of police agencies and self defense classes are currently focusing on teaching verbal de-escalation skills. In my experience, verbal de-escalation seldom works in attacks involving group violence. Your singular efforts to de-escalate can’t compete with the efforts of several other group members who are trying to escalate. The group demands violence for its amusement. You likely won’t be able to prevent that violence no matter what magic words you utter.

On video: Everything you do will be recorded. The criminals are recording their own attacks for amusement purposes. Almost all commercial public areas are covered by surveillance cameras. Everything you do in the middle of the chaotic attack will be reviewed by people who don’t understand criminal violence and have weeks or years of calm contemplation to decide if you’ve made the correct choice.

Many prosecutors aren’t interested in filing charges against the violent kids who attacked your or stole your stuff. They won’t hesitate a bit to prosecute you if you make what they perceive is an unreasonable self defense decision.

A super-skilled AI might negate any risk of jamming and enable fleets of smart FPV drones to attack simultaneously without human operators

Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

An AI racing drone recently beat human pilots, raising the question of when AI drones will transform warfare:

“The AI is superhuman because it discovers and flies the best maneuvers, also it is consistent and precise, which humans are not,” says Scaramuzza. He notes that, as with AlphaGo, Swift was able to use moves — in this case flight trajectories — which the human champions did not even think were possible.


A $400 FPV with the warhead from an RPG rocket launcher can knock out a tank, personnel carrier or artillery piece from several miles away, or chase down and destroy a truck traveling at high speed. They are cheap enough to use against individual footsoldiers and can dive into trenches. But it requires a skilled human pilot. Ukrainian sources say the training takes around a month to achieve proficiency, and many people fail the course.

FPV success rates appear to vary wildly, with different sources citing 20%, 30%, 50% or 70% — much appears to depend on the exact situation, the presence of jamming, and the skill of the pilot. A super-skilled AI might push that rate far above 70%, negate any risk of jamming and enable fleets of smart FPV drones to attack simultaneously without human operators.


Swift relies on having reliable information on the speed, location and orientation of the drone in real time. This is far more challenging outdoors where there are changes of illumination, wind gusts and other variables to contend with.

Also, Swift has to learn the course ahead of time to work out its flight path.

“The current system only works for drone racing and for a specific racing track of which you perfectly know the map,” says Scaramuzza.

The neural network which navigates through the gates is trained specifically for that layout . The other problem is that Swift trains on a specific setup and if conditions change – for example the wind changes direction – all its learning may be wasted.

“Swift’s perception system and physics model assumes that the appearance of the environment and its physics are both consistent with what was observed during training,” says Scaramuzza. “If this assumption fails, the system can fail.”

This gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini time to make a stupendous military error

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

As the winter rainy season began, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), General Eisenhower decided to hold up the North African offensive till the weather improved:

This gave Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini time to make a stupendous military error. They commenced shipping in more and more troops, altogether about 150,000 men. Yet the Allies had assembled overwhelming sea and air forces — many times more than had ever threatened Rommel — and could throttle the German-Italian army by cutting off its supplies. Sooner or later its fuel, ammunition, and food would be exhausted and it would have to surrender, leaving few Axis troops to defend Sicily and Italy.

Erwin Rommel noted dryly afterward that, if Hitler had sent him in the spring of 1942 only a fraction of the troops he poured into Tunisia, he could have conquered Egypt, the Suez, and the Middle East, and virtually ruled out an Allied invasion of northwest Africa.


Because of poor food, many Axis troops had become sick. Rommel was one of the casualties, and in September he went back to Europe for treatment and rest. He was replaced by General Georg Stumme, while General Wilhelm von Thoma took over Africa Corps. Both were from the Russian front and were unused to desert conditions. On the first day of the attack, Stumme drove to the front, ran into heavy fire, and died from a heart attack. Rommel, convalescing in Austria, flew back on October 25 and resumed command of a front already heaving from British attacks.

Montgomery took no advantage of his overwhelming strength by sweeping around the Axis positions. Instead, he launched a frontal attack near the coast, which led to a bloody, protracted struggle. British armor pushed a narrow six-mile wedge into the Axis line.


Rommel decided to fall back to Fuka, 55 miles west, but Hitler issued his familiar call to hold existing positions at all costs. Rommel recalled the columns already on the way — a decision he regretted bitterly, writing that if he had evaded Hitler’s “victory or death” order he could have saved the army.


Rommel proposed the correct strategic solution to his superiors — withdraw at once all the way to Wadi Akarit, 225 miles west of Tripoli near Gabès, Tunisia, and 45 miles beyond the Mareth line, a fortified barrier built by the French in 1939–1940. Wadi Akarit was much more defensible than the Mareth line, having only a fourteen-mile frontage between the sea and a salt marsh inland. But Mussolini and Hitler rejected the recommendation and insisted on holding one defensive line after another— Mersa el Brega, Buerat, and Tarhuna-Homs. Yet the work of fortifying these lines was useless, because the British could swing around the flank of all of them.

“If only the Italian infantry had gone straight back to the Gabès line and begun immediately with its construction, if only all those useless mines we laid in Libya had been put down at Gabès, all this work and material could ultimately have been of very great value,” Rommel wrote.

In hopes of getting the Fuehrer to face reality, Rommel flew to his headquarters at Rastenburg on November 28, 1942. He got a chilly reception, and when he suggested that the wisest course would be to evacuate North Africa, in order to save the soldiers to fight again, “the mere broaching of this strategic question had the effect of a spark in a powder keg.” Hitler flew into a rage, accusing members of the panzer army of throwing away their weapons.

“I protested strongly, and said in straight terms that it was impossible to judge the weight of the battle from here in Europe,” Rommel wrote afterward. “Our weapons had simply been battered to pieces by the British bombers, tanks, and artillery, and it was nothing short of a miracle that we had been able to escape with all the German motorized forces, especially in view of the desperate fuel shortage.”

But Hitler would listen to no further argument.

“I began to realize that Adolf Hitler simply did not want to see the situation as it was,” Rommel wrote in his journal.

Putting medical boots on the ground

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

The conflict in Ukraine presents an opportunity for the US to prepare for future potential conflicts with near-peer adversaries (NPAs), including medical care:

Injury in NPA conflict

  • Current US military body armor will likely be insufficient against NPA arsenals with ballistic components that can hit laterally, above, or below standard issue armor plates from multiple angles due to the larger number of accurately impacting munitions.
  • Concussive injury and TBI will be far more prevalent when facing NPA arsenals that can accurately deliver large volumes of more devastating fire.
  • NPA arsenals will be capable of causing significant multisystem trauma to far greater numbers of US personnel.

Providing care for injured in NPA conflict

  • Medical facilities are not safe areas to provide care, even if they are hundreds of kilometers from the line of ground fighting.
  • The resources needed to adequately provide lifesaving care will be far greater than what the US has allocated for in the past.
  • Air, ground, and sea–based medical evacuation will be practically impossible due to very long range and accurate fire capabilities of NPA arsenals; forward surgical teams should be established in hardened structures, possibly underground, capable of withstanding direct attack by NPA munitions.

Preparation and training of US medical teams for NPA conflict

  • Forward medical/surgical capabilities by US personnel will need to be able to handle more casualties simultaneously.
  • Prolonged field care should be a routine part of the medical training curriculum, because evacuation may be delayed or impossible in an NPA conflict.
  • In a future NPA conflict, communications may be limited or nonexistent due to jamming by the NPA or for operational security reasons, preventing advanced notice of casualty arrivals, a scenario that should be practiced regularly (no-notice casualty loads with extensive high-fidelity, situation-based training).

System-level preparation of the US military medical system and structure for future NPA conflict

  • Given electronic jamming by NPA adversaries, robust and redundant command and control of medical assets should be able to be delegated further into the field.
  • Cadres of qualified and capable surgeons need to be developed so that they are ready, able, and willing to deploy to forward locations in a future NPA conflict.
  • Surgeons with expertise in damage control surgery and resuscitation are limited, but this gap may be filled through specialty training, either in person by groups like GSMSG or remotely through programs like the M-Course provided by the ACS.
  • NPAs may ignore international laws against attacking medical resources, medical evacuation platforms, and infrastructure.
  • A database like the US Joint Trauma Registry needs to be implemented for process improvement in the war against Russia, but the US could implement its already established data collection protocol in a future NPA conflict.

How the US Army confronted its racial crisis in the Vietnam era

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Beth Bailey’s Army Afire: How the US Army Confronted Its Racial Crisis in the Vietnam Era opens with a litany of incidents that she presents as protests:

It is a stretch. Major Merritt, for example, was clearly a crank. The written statement he distributed to the press contained gratuitous sexual insults directed at the “seventy-five percent” of white officers who were raised by “mammy who was also his fathers [sic] mistress.” Subordinates told investigators that Merritt’s constant racial badgering included his claim that “once a white woman had a negro she would never go back to a white man.”

Bailey insists that the senseless death of Cpl. Bankston must be seen in the light of rising racial tensions at Camp Lejeune. She repeats, rather irresponsibly, a rumor than white Marines had beat a black man to death the year before and never been prosecuted. The source of this rumor is a LIFE magazine article from 1969 that says the author heard about it from black Marines, who gave no further details except that the man’s death was “attributed to natural causes” by authorities.

Searching Bailey’s book for verified incidents where white servicemen were the aggressors, one finds only a handful of cases. “In 1970, at Fort Carson, Colorado, a white soldier—working part-time as a filling station attendant—murdered the head of the local university’s Black studies program,” she writes. Bailey omits the relevant details: Roosevelt Hill Jr. was filling up his car with gas when Ellis L. Little of Kentucky called to check the validity of his credit card, which was a type Little did not recognize. A passenger in Hill’s car suggested Little might be calling the police, so Hill rushed into the station and attacked him, shouting obscenities. With Hill’s hands around his neck, Little drew a gun from a drawer and shot him in the chest. A grand jury declined to charge Little with any crime.

Germany was a hotbed of racial violence in the 1970s, with soldiers afraid to go out at night due to rampant attacks, but it is hard to determine exactly what were the grievances at issue. “White soldiers were being randomly attacked under cover of darkness,” Bailey writes. “Black soldiers had taken to carrying intimidating ‘soul sticks’ on base, cutting to the front of the mess hall line, blatantly ignoring regulations.” More than 1,000 crimes of violence by black soldiers against whites were reported in Germany in the first nine months of 1971. If this was a protest, what were they protesting?

Disparities in punishment was the complaint cited most frequently. Black soldiers were 14 percent of U.S. troops in Germany but received 80 percent of prosecutions for serious crimes, such as robbery, assault, and rape. One report found 2,984 crimes of violence by black soldiers during a period when white soldiers committed 740. Bailey does not consider the possibility that this reflected reality rather than prejudice.

The Finns have camouflaged the road with pines hanging in the air

Saturday, September 16th, 2023

When tiny Finland faced Stalin’s Soviet Union, it camouflaged everything with trees and foliage:

According to the caption that Hedenström attached to the photo, “The Finns have camouflaged the road to Raate, about 10 km from Russia, with pines hanging in the air, because right on the border there is an observation tower erected by the Russians.”

Finnish Road Camouflaged with Trees

The lines of trees wouldn’t obscure the road from a plane flying overhead, but it could block the view from a tower. From a low perspective, down the road, the lines gave the illusion of an uninterrupted sequence of trees. Upon scrutiny, it is possible to see wires connected to a series of poles on the right side of the road. The whole pines were hung from such poles or other trees with cables. Due to Hedenström’s angle, viewers can’t see the attachments of the first row of trees, so they seem to be floating in the air. (The weird shape on the top of the photo is just a defect in the negative.)


“The Finns didn’t have funds to buy artificial camouflage such as nets in vast quantities,” says Colonel Petteri Jouko, a military historian at Finnish National Defence University, “so they used trees, leaves, and foliage to confuse the enemy. They were accustomed to wilderness and took advantage of the forest, unlike the German soldiers operating in northern Finland.”

Finnish ShipCamouflaged with Trees

Finnish Bicycle Camouflaged with Trees

Finnish Airfield Camouflaged with Trees

The decision to turn to the Mediterranean aroused dark suspicions among American planners

Thursday, September 14th, 2023

American and British leaders knew they couldn’t defeat Germany without the Soviets, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), but Stalin kept complaining that they were leaving the fighting to the Red Army and started putting out peace feelers in Stockholm:

Western leaders didn’t think these feelers would amount to much if they attacked the Germans directly and took pressure off the Soviet Union, as Stalin had been demanding for months. But the British and Americans were virtually immobilized by an acrimonious dispute about what they should do.

The Americans, led by George C. Marshall, army chief of staff, wanted a direct advance by a five-division amphibious landing around Cherbourg in Normandy in 1942 (Operation Sledgehammer).

But the British pressed for an indirect or peripheral strategy, a combination of massive air attacks on German cities and smaller, less-dangerous invasions in the Mediterranean.


Torch at once gained the advantage Roosevelt was hoping for: when Stalin heard about it, he stopped complaining about a second front. But the decision to turn to the Mediterranean aroused dark suspicions among American planners that Churchill was maneuvering the United States into the “soft underbelly” strategy. They feared this would lead to the invasion of Italy, and perhaps Greece, and fatally undermine the plan to collide with the Germans on the beaches of France.

President Roosevelt was less worried, because he hoped “an air war plus the Russians” could defeat Hitler, and a cross-Channel assault might not be necessary.

Storytelling needs to be practiced, just like flying or marksmanship

Monday, September 11th, 2023

Ian Strebel and Matt McKenzie are intelligence officers in the United States Army and Navy, respectively, who have found that creating a compelling narrative takes practice, which traditional military training does not provide:

This can be a big problem for military intelligence professionals — they are trained to deliver intelligence, not to tell stories, so the stories that commanders tell themselves win out. Despite studies showing people are far more likely to remember stories than statistics, the military trains new intelligence professionals to brief intelligence through rote memorization and presentation of information. Neither of us ever received formal training in how to present information and intelligence as a story. This breeds uncreative military intelligence professionals concerned more with being “right” or having all the facts than whether their information is absorbed. Often, when information is presented in this manner, without context, commanders don’t remember what is important or, more importantly, why something is important.


Militaries have used wargames to train ever since Lieutenant Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann von Reisswitz introduced the concept to an initially skeptical Prussian General Staff in the early nineteenth century. Very simply, a traditional wargame is a board game that simulates some aspects of military combat. The popular game of Risk is a very simple wargame, while chess can be considered as one of the oldest. Wargames can be successful mediums for training, in part, because the narrative holds players responsible for their actions and emotionally attaches them to the game’s results. Tabletop role-playing games are just the modern evolution of the classic wargame.


Tabletop role-playing games are unique from traditional wargames because the collaborative nature of the game means that almost anything can happen. The rules of these games only help structure the narrative and determine the consequences of actions. Players are free, even encouraged, to try anything they can imagine within the limits of that narrative. Most tabletop role-playing games have several rulebooks, but, as with military doctrine, the rules do not and cannot account for every eventuality. Instead, games such as Dungeons & Dragons rely on players’ creativity and flexibility to develop and adapt rules as they go. One of the most essential aspects of such games is the application of chance, usually employed by rolling various-sided polyhedral dice, which encourages out-of-the-box thinking for players and Dungeon Masters, especially in the face of catastrophic failure or, just as critical, catastrophic success.

These rules, when applied to wargames, can make them better — we have firsthand experience with this. Ian acted as an observer during a 2023 joint wargame using the Marine Corps’ Operational Wargame System. During the wargame, an experienced aviator wrestled with the decision of whether to use an exquisite munition to attack a threat reconnaissance drone or let the drone continue unimpeded. Recalling recent footage showing a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a U.S. surveillance drone, which downed the MQ-9 into the Black Sea, the aviator said he’d do the same. The wargame moderator said it was a “nice try” but that the move was outside the rules. If, instead, they’d abided by tabletop role-playing game rules, the aviator and moderator would play out the situation. Most likely, the moderator or Dungeon Master would determine, on the fly, the probability of the move’s success based on the game-defined attributes of the two aircraft and ask the aviator to roll a die. The Dungeon Master would use the die results to determine success or failure.

An experienced Dungeon Master might further adjudicate the results by applying a range of outcomes based on the die roll. For example, on a twenty-sided die, a roll of a “1” (critical failure) might result in the loss of the friendly aircraft with no damage to the drone, while a roll of “20” (critical success) might down the drone with minimal fuel loss and allow recovery of the drone sensor equipment. Rolls in between could result in varying degrees and combinations of damage and fuel loss to both the friendly aircraft and drone, as deemed reasonable by the Dungeon Master. Simultaneously, the Dungeon Master would determine the enemy’s reaction to this unanticipated event, both tactically and strategically, as well as the opposing force’s long-term adaptation to this move.

This is not so different from a military intelligence professional’s job: think like the enemy, understand their capabilities, develop possible scenarios, and then play the adversary as operators run through their plans. As previously discussed, while service intelligence schools generally teach presenting just a few courses of action, in a real conflict, there are infinite threat scenarios. Modern intelligence professionals must be flexible, responsive, and creative, in both planning and ad hoc operations. The problem is, short of an actual conflict, there are practically no opportunities for these personnel to practice working in a wide-open world — this is where tabletop role-playing games could prove valuable. As Dungeon Masters, military intelligence professionals can build worlds and scenarios and act as the enemy, or red, force. Most importantly, they will learn to respond spontaneously to unexpected player actions — regardless of whether those actions are incredibly clever or incredibly stupid.

In the Netflix series The Diplomat, Keri Russell succinctly described the problem of intelligence storytelling in three short sentences: “Intelligence is a story. A story based on incomplete facts. Life or death decisions turn on whether people buy the story.”


Dr. James Fielder explained that when games are designed correctly, a synthetic environment is created that becomes real to the players. In such an environment, the learning becomes real even if the risk is not — at least not yet. This is the challenge for both Dungeon Masters and military intelligence professionals. Telling a compelling story that enables others to envision combat environments and the threats within them accurately can be the difference between success and failure.


Storytelling needs to be practiced, just like flying or marksmanship. Pilots can safely make mistakes in simulators or with instructors in the cockpit. Shooters can miss targets on a range until they understand the weapon firing process. Similarly, Dungeons & Dragons provides intelligence personnel the opportunity to practice storytelling with the ability to make and learn from mistakes. After all, if a dragon kills a party of adventurers because the Dungeon Master wasn’t clear, they can simply try again. There are no second chances when giving an operational intelligence briefing before a strike mission.

Wargaming has seen a resurgence in professional military education, something we wholeheartedly support; games make learning fun, effective, and memorable. But integrating games into this education isn’t enough. The armed services only send a military intelligence professional to formal training a few times over a long military career. Comparatively, tabletop role-playing games can provide regular practice for the skills needed in exercises, wargaming, and the real world. After all, as James Sterrett, chief of the Simulation Education Division at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, said, “Experience is a great teacher and well-designed games can deliver experiences that are tailored to drive home learning.”

They make a better argument for a “free” Kriegsspiel or a Braunstein Game than for D&D, but the basic argument is sound.

Stop robbing the little delivery robots

Sunday, September 10th, 2023

Since Los Angeles and Greenville, North Carolina are not Japan, their residents must be asked to stop robbing the little delivery robots that bring groceries and meals to customers:

Los Angeles TV station KTLA5 has recently reported on a number of robot theft and vandalism incidents in West Hollywood, where some robots have been robbed of the goods they’re delivering, including food. The robots are used by local restaurants and are built by Serve Robotics, which pointed out to KTLA5 that despite some incidents the robots still have a 99.9% delivery completion rate.


Early on delivery robot developers have tried to allay commercial customers’ concerns over the potential for theft from robots, showcasing locked compartments and plenty of surveillance tech on the robots themselves, in addition to loud sirens. After a honeymoon period of sorts early on in the pandemic where robots were generally left alone, this is no longer the case, and sirens aren’t stopping acts of theft and vandalism in all cases.

But Los Angeles isn’t the only place where robots are encountering safety issues. The campus of East Carolina University has also seen instances of vandalism against GrubHub robots, made by Starship, earlier this year.


As with far more widespread instances of front porch package thieves or shoplifters, despite the volume of video evidence the robots can produce the police have to actually take some investigative steps to identify and locate the suspects.

He didn’t want to give up his summer conquests, ephemeral as they were

Thursday, September 7th, 2023

As the Stalingrad campaign came to an ignominious end, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), Manstein presented to Hitler and the OKH a plan that would “convert a large-scale withdrawal into an envelopment operation” that would push the Russians against the Sea of Azov and destroy them:

Manstein’s idea would have thrown the enemy on the defensive and transformed the situation in the south. But Hitler refused. He didn’t want to give up his summer conquests, ephemeral as they were. He wanted to keep his troops not only at Stalingrad but in the Caucasus.

Manstein came to have wide personal experience with Hitler’s thinking about war and concluded that he “actually recoiled from risks in the military field.” Hitler refused to allow temporary surrender of territory. He could not see that, in the wide reaches of Russia, the enemy could always mass forces at one point and break through. Only in mobile operations could the superiority of German staffs and fighting troops be exploited. The brilliant holding action of the 48th Panzer Corps along the Chir River demonstrated how superior German leadership and flexible responses, if applied by the whole German army, almost certainly could have stopped Soviet advances and brought about a stalemate. But such a policy was beyond Hitler’s grasp.

Manstein also found that Hitler feared to denude secondary fronts to gain superiority at the point where a decision had to fall. For example, the failure to assemble a large army to relieve Stalingrad had proved disastrous. Hitler could not make rapid decisions. In most cases he finally released too few troops, and sent them too late.

“Obstinate defense of every foot of ground gradually became the be all and end all” of Hitler’s leadership, Manstein wrote. “Hitler thought the arcanum of success lay in clinging at all costs to what he already possessed.” He could never be brought to renounce this notion.

Write what I have spoken

Wednesday, September 6th, 2023

In 1905, famed Apache warrior Geronimo began dictating his story, through a native interpreter, to S. M. Barrett, then superintendent of schools in Lawton, Oklahoma. When, at the end of the first session, Barrett posed a question, the only answer he received was, “Write what I have spoken.”

In Chapter 20, Geronimo explains some of the unwritten laws of the Apache, starting with a description of their trial system

When an Indian has been wronged by a member of his tribe he may, if he does not wish to settle the difficulty personally, make complaint to the Chieftain. If he is unable to meet the offending parties in a personal encounter, and disdains to make complaint, anyone may in his stead inform the chief of this conduct, and then it becomes necessary to have an investigation or trial. Both the accused and the accuser are entitled to witnesses, and their witnesses are not interrupted in any way by questions, but simply say what they wish to say in regard to the matter. The witnesses are not placed under oath, because it is not believed that they will give false testimony in a matter relating to their own people.

The chief of the tribe presides during these trials, but if it is a serious offense he asks two or three leaders to sit with him. These simply determine whether or not the man is guilty. If he is not guilty the matter is ended, and the complaining party has forfeited his right to take personal vengeance, for if he wishes to take vengeance himself, he must object to the trial which would prevent it. If the accused is found guilty the injured party fixes the penalty, which is generally confirmed by the chief and his associates.

Preparation of a Warrior:

To be admitted as a warrior a youth must have gone with the warriors of his tribe four separate times on the warpath.

On the first trip he will be given only very inferior food. With this he must be contented without murmuring. On none of the four trips is he allowed to select his food as the warriors do, but must eat such food as he is permitted to have.

On each of these expeditions he acts as servant, cares for the horses, cooks the food, and does whatever duties he should do without being told. He knows what things are to be done, and without waiting to be told is to do them. He is not allowed to speak to any warrior except in answer to questions or when told to speak.

During these four wars he is expected to learn the sacred names of everything used in war, for after the tribe enters upon the warpath no common names are used in referring to anything appertaining to war in any way. War is a solemn religious matter.

If, after four expeditions, all the warriors are satisfied that the youth has been industrious, has not spoken out of order, has been discreet in all things, has shown courage in battle, has borne all hardships uncomplainingly, and has exhibited no color of cowardice, or weakness of any kind, he may by vote of the council be admitted as a warrior; but if any warrior objects to him upon any account he will be subjected to further tests, and if he meets these courageously, his name may again be proposed. When he has proven beyond question that he can bear hardships without complaint, and that he is a stranger to fear, he is admitted to the council of the warriors in the lowest rank. After this there is no formal test for promotions, but by common consent he assumes a station on the battlefield, and if that position is maintained with honor, he is allowed to keep it, and may be asked, or may volunteer, to take a higher station, but no warrior would presume to take a higher station unless he had assurance from the leaders of the tribe that his [Pg 190]conduct in the first position was worthy of commendation.

From this point upward the only election by the council in formal assembly is the election of the chief.

Old men are not allowed to lead in battle, but their advice is always respected. Old age means loss of physical power and is fatal to active leadership.

Scalp Dance:

After a war party has returned, a modification of the war dance is held. The warriors who have brought scalps from the battles exhibit them to the tribe, and when the dance begins these scalps, elevated on poles or spears, are carried around the camp fires while the dance is in progress. During this dance there is still some of the solemnity of the war dance. There are yells and war whoops, frequently accompanied by discharge of firearms, but there is always more levity than would be permitted at a war dance. After the scalp dance is over the scalps are thrown away. No Apache would keep them, for they are considered defiling.

The transparent battlefield has changed everything

Monday, September 4th, 2023

The War in Ukraine, Edward Luttwak notes, is a war that must be fought by sheer, grinding, attrition, just like the First World War on the Western Front, with almost none of the maneuver warfare exploits that made celebrities of Guderian, Rommel, Patton, and Rokossovsky in the Second World War, and Arik Sharon in 1967 and 1973:

All those masters of war won disproportionate victories with surprise offensives. Arriving in fast-moving columns, their forces greatly outnumbered and overwhelmed a specific sector, while the bulk of the enemy, distributed across an entire front, could not intervene in time.

In other words, “manoeuvre warfare” depends entirely on surprise. Even in the Second World War, there was reliable aerial photography, so that pre-battle concentrations of tanks, trucks and artillery tractors could not escape detection as they gathered over a period of weeks. But once the offensive columns moved, it was hard to keep them under observation, let alone predict their destination. Photography was impeded by night, clouds and enemy fighters, leaving more than enough uncertainty to deceive enemies with decoys, simulated radio traffic, and the false tales of double agents.

This is how it came to be that on D-Day, 6 June 1944, the strongest German Panzer columns ended up being massed behind Calais to face Patton’s fictional First United States Army Group, while the Allies were landing in Normandy 230 miles away. Douglas MacArthur’s Inchon landings in September 1950, which nullified a string of North Korean victories in the preceding months, likewise achieved total surprise by very elaborately simulating a landing at Kunsan, 100 miles to the south.

None of this could happen now. The Americans, Russians and other military powers have observation satellites equipped with synthetic-aperture radars, capable of revealing single tanks, let alone any large grouping of forces, regardless of visibility, while their returns are refreshed often enough to detect troop movements in hours if not in minutes. Any other information drawn from intercepts, aerial reconnaissance or ground observation merely supplements this reliable intelligence. It is enough to make the battlefield transparent and operational surprise impossible, killing off the manoeuvre warfare that can win battles quickly and without mounds of casualties.

In early summer, when the Ukrainians deployed the precious “operational reserve” they had built up, there was no great mystery as to what they would do with it: attack somewhere south of Zaporizhzhia and fight their way down to the Black Sea.


While the Ukrainians were training and deploying, the Russians south of the Dnipro were digging trench lines shielded by minefields that stretch roughly 625 miles — 185 miles longer than the Western Front at its greatest extent. Napoleon called this style of linear defence a “cordon”, a thick rope made of infantry to hold the enemy along a long front. And, in his own time, he rightly explained why cordons were the stupidest way of defending a front: the enemy would arrive in columns and easily cut through the few troops holding the particular sector they attacked.

But once again the transparent battlefield has changed everything. Watching the Ukrainians advance in real time, the Russians could send their forces to intercept them in equal if not greater numbers. And even if the numbers were equal, the combat would be unequal because the Russians would be shielded by their minefields and by their trenches.

People think that satellites are secure

Saturday, September 2nd, 2023

In a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Johannes Willbold, a PhD student at Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum, explained he had studied three types of satellites and found that many were utterly defenseless against remote takeover because they lack the most basic security systems:

“People think that satellites are secure,” he said. “Those are expensive assets and they should have encryption and authentication. I assume that criminals think the same and they are too hard to target and you need to be some kind of cryptography genius. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to give this talk.”

Satellite operators have been lucky so far. The prevailing wisdom is that hacking this kit would be prohibitively expensive due to the high cost of ground stations that communicate with the orbital birds, and that such hardware benefited from security by obscurity — that getting hold of the details of the firmware would be too difficult. Neither is true, the research indicates.

For example, both AWS and Microsoft’s Azure now offer Ground Station as a Service (GSaaS) to communicate with LEO satellites, so communication is simply a matter of plonking down a credit card. As for getting details on firmware, the commercial space industry has flourished in recent years and many of the components used on multiple platforms are easy to buy and study. Willbold estimated a hacker could build their own ground station for around $10,000 in parts.

As an academic, Willbold took a more direct approach. He just asked satellite operators for the relevant details for his paper [PDF]. Some of them agreed (although he did have to sign an NDA in one case) and the results somewhat mirrored the early computing days, when security was sidelined because of the lack of computing power and memory.

He studied three different types of satellite: an ESTCube-1, a tiny CubeSat 2013 running an Arm Cortex-M3 processor, a larger CubeSat OPS-SAT operated by the European Space Agency as an orbital research platform, and the so-called Flying Laptop – a larger and more advanced satellite run by the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart.

The results were depressing. Both the CubeSats failed at a most basic level, with no authentication protocols, and they were broadcasting signals without encryption. With some code Willbold would have been able to take over the satellites’ basic control functions and lock out the legitimate owner, which he demonstrated during the talk with a simulation.

The Flying Laptop was a different case, however. It had basic security systems in place and tried to isolate core functions from interference. However, with some skill, code, and standard techniques, this satellite too proved vulnerable.