Tuesday, November 22, 2022

When Will the West Call for the Wooden Badger?

One of the more difficult things for me to work through is a certain intolerance at my core that is easily triggered, and I have to make a conscious effort to not be petty, mean, and flinty towards people an institutions who put it in my face. 

To be more specific, I have a very short fuse when people act shocked today when something happens that they have been warned about - and even suffered from - in the past that they could have avoided repeating in the future if they took basic and clear steps to learn their lesson.

Let's go back to 2011, almost a dozen years ago;

Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time, according to senior NATO and U.S. officials.

The shortage of European munitions, along with the limited number of aircraft available, has raised doubts among some officials about whether the United States can continue to avoid returning to the air campaign if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi hangs on to power for several more months.


The six countries conducting the air attacks, led by Britain and France, were unsuccessful at a meeting this week in Berlin in persuading more alliance members to join them.

NATO officials said that their operational tempo has not decreased since the United States relinquished command of the Libya operation and withdrew its strike aircraft at the beginning of April. More planes, they said, would not necessarily result immediately in more strike missions.

But, they said, the current bombing rate by the participating nations is not sustainable. “The reason we need more capability isn’t because we aren’t hitting what we see — it’s so that we can sustain the ability to do so. One problem is flight time, the other is munitions,” ...

Libya “has not been a very big war. If [the Europeans] would run out of these munitions this early in such a small operation, you have to wonder what kind of war they were planning on fighting,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense think tank. “Maybe they were just planning on using their air force for air shows.”

Despite U.S. badgering, European allies have been slow in some cases to modify their planes and other weapons systems so they can accommodate U.S. bombs. Retooling these fighter jets so that they are compatible with U.S. systems requires money, and all European militaries have faced significant cuts in recent years.

And so here we are, at the end of 2022;

Top defense officials in Europe say arms shortages among Ukraine’s Western allies are forcing difficult conversations about how to balance support for Ukraine with concerns Russia may target them next.

NATO members that have sent billions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment are discussing what stockpile levels they need to meet their obligations under the mutual defense treaty. Decisions facing them now could have consequences for their their own security and for Ukraine, in its fight to repel Russia’s nine-month-old invasion.

The strain on stockpiles is “across the board,” and particularly sharp for ammunition, he said. In the years before some countries donated to Ukraine, they maintained stockpiles at half capacity or less because they saw little risk or couldn’t afford more, and took a “just-in-time, just-enough,” approach to the defense industry.

“So the urgency now is seen and understood, I think in most of the nations,” Bauer said.

Really? Now they'll get it?

It’s an acute challenge for some of NATO’s smallest members, like the Netherlands, which even before its donation of more than $800 million’s worth of aid to Ukraine, was straining to meet its NATO obligations. Gen. Onno Eichelsheim, chief of defense of the Netherlands, said Dutch stocks were “not that high” when the Netherlands opted to send Ukraine 155mm howitzer ammunition and air defense missiles.

“We started with stocks that were not completely filled, that were not completely ready, did not have all the materiel to support what we needed for NATO,” Eichelsheim said. “It means that I immediately have to get stocks filled up by getting contracts with industry, which we started, luckily, a year ago.”

The Dutch government and other European allies have been having discussions with industry about their long-term procurement plans to incentivize production increases ― and how to prioritize deliveries based on which country needs a weapon most. One aim is to build Europe’s defense industry and not depend too much on the U.S.

This isn't an industry problem, this is a people problem.

In Europe and North America we continue to promote people, priorities, and budgets for the wrong reasons. We have incentives and disincentives that reward myopic behavior and promote people who don't really understand what their job actually is. 

This is not a new problem. It has existed throughout human written history. In peace, we like people and policies that seem easy (and inexpensive) and really hope that we don't have to be prepared for the worse, because that is sad to think about. No, we need to be comfortable and look peaceful so people (we for some reason value) will say nice things about us and our priorities. 

Of course, reality always regresses to the mean. War is a constant in our species. Always has been. Always will be. The question, as always, is which society will gain when the next war comes? Will it be a society that a Westerner would call "progressive," "liberal," or based on "individual liberty," or will it be some autocratic force who will bring another period of darkness - the boot smashing the face etc.

Those who know their history, and what is needed to keep the global order from regression in to barbarity, need to speak up more. They need to support each other more. They need not be cowed. Care not what names you are called. Be not bothered the invitations you do not receive. They need to be open in their argument - clear in their purpose.

Once again, we have a small war (in 2011) warning us about a critical vulnerability. We now have a medium war (in 2022) yelling a little louder about this critical vulnerability.

History is trying to warn us, again, about what can undermine the Western project when the next big war comes.

There is no honorable or logical argument for shallow magazines, but the argument for deeper magazines will not win on its own. It needs advocates, it needs argument, it needs funding.

There also needs for a fair bit of "calling out" those who ignored warnings for so long. Fear and shame are great motivators - we should not be shy about using them.

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