My latest Sea Lion Press blog article is on one of my favorite Cold War footnotes, the Circle Trigon Aggressors.
One serious proposal for a standing “UN Legion” got me thinking. How would it compare to its most likely [conventional] opponent? The UN Legion (highly unlikely to be deployed in its entirety) would compare on the high-end to a Light OPFOR (conceived around the same time) mechanized force.
- The two have a comparable mix of equipment, however the Legion’s equipment is likely to be newer but lighter (their heaviest vehicles are MGS/ERC-style wheeled ‘tank destroyers’). The Legion’s IFVs are considerably better, being newer wheeled ones, while the Light OPFOR division will be lucky to get older BMPs.
- The biggest divergence is in heavy weapons. The Light OPFOR division has no organic aviation while the Legion has a sizable helicopter force. However, the entire Legion has only 18 towed artillery pieces, while a single mechanized brigade has that many self-propelled ones.
Kenneth Pollack’s Armies of Sand, and its thesis predecessor, “The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military Effectiveness”, is fascinating not just for its core claim, but also in how, culture aside, politicization and underdevelopment worked in theory and practice.
Pollack listed three main types of excessive politicization for militaries.
- “Praetorianism”, where the military is more interested in politics and/or gaining power than preparing for serious combat.
- “Commissarism” or ‘coup-proofing’, where the military is subject to measures designed to neutralize it as a political threat.
- “Palace Guard” where the military is designed more for combating internal threats than for high-intensity combat.
The three can easily blend together. Praetorianism can be followed by commissarism as the winner of a power struggle consolidates, and commissarism and palace-guardism can be tied as the regime and country blur.
Palace-Guardism appears to be the least worst of the options, because in many cases an internal threat is far more urgent and far more credible than an external one, and because the common separate palace-guard forces (think the Republican Guard) are frequently benchmarked against the regular army and thus serve as the strongest conventional force.
Pollack’s description, which he backs up with evidence and case studies from several heavily politicized armies, is that politicization frequently leads to wildly uneven performance and affects the politically vulnerably upper ranks far more than it hits the lower, more obscure, or safe lower ones. Sometimes it can be downplayed, particularly in commissarist systems, if the regime lucks into a few high-ranking officers who are both militarily capable and politically friendly. And it often doesn’t need that many (For instance, a sample Light OPFOR Expeditionary Army needs only one army and three to five division commanders)
It’s an interesting study, as overly politicized armies will exist as long as politics and armies do, and it shows both the similarities and differences in every incarnation of it.
I’ve long had a strange love of the “OPFORs”, those exercise-fodder wrestling heel countries, and an even stranger desire to read documents that were hundreds of pages long and written in field-manualese for fun. So it’s no surprise that my collection of un/declassified documents grew bigger and bigger.
After my latest finds, I decided that the time was right to share them, so I made an official post detailing the “OPFOR Volume 3” and containing the access at Baloogan Campaign.
I had to collate them. In part because all of them were just too big to fit into one folder effectively, and in part because, even if I could handle the size, it would be too “jumbly”. Thankfully, I was able to come up with three categories. The first was “fake countries, the OPFOR manuals” I’d used in the first two volumes. The second was specific intelligence assessments on real countries at the time-ie, the famous FM 100-2 manual series on the Soviet Army. The third was miscellaneous commentaries that, even though most did apply to the “real countries”, didn’t quite have the same theme.
So they’re ordered and ready for your perusal.
My newest ebook, Paint The Force Red, is now released on Kindle. It can be purchased here.
I’ll admit this “e-pamphlet” was one of the most challenging to write. While my past ebooks have been written solely on my own whim, this was intended as a (somewhat) serious guide. I struggled with how much to add, and how rigid I should be. In the end, I settled on a cheap, brief guide to hopefully guide readers with the basics-after all, every country is different.
I am proud to present you my newest ebook. This, at times both a winking parody of and affectionate homage to the OPFOR manuals I’ve spent so much time consuming, is the Volunteer Force Threat Brief.
It is available on Kindle here.
My love of useless graphs and a desire to do some practice with Excel led to me creating this simple chart on the fake exercise punching bag-I mean nations.
(For information on the OPFORs in question, see my posts on the subject at Baloogan Campaign. )
Now for the “data” (quotations deliberate). This is based on wild guesses and gut feelings, is oversimplified, and only deals in “conventional” threats. Quibbles include.
- Whether there was too small a leap from the non-state opponents to the state ones.
- How to group the Basic Forces and Heavy OPFOR, as they’re both benchmarking the same force. I gave the latter a slightly higher score, as it takes the first step to Mobile Forces organization.
- How much greater the “Mobile Forces” are at the top from their closest rivals.
I did not include any “Hybrid” opponents, nor did I include any historical comparisons. These are purely in relation to each other.