Ukrainian Mobilization

I started a chat with ChatGPT today. Here is how it went.

Me: “In 1914, France had about the same population as Ukraine has today. The French army in 1914 had over 4 million men in it. How were the French in 1914 able to mobilize so many more men than the Ukrainians today?”

ChatGPT: “The ability of France in 1914 to mobilize over 4 million men compared to Ukraine’s mobilization efforts today can be attributed to several factors rooted in the historical, social, and technological context of the time:

  1. National Conscription Laws: France, like many European nations at the time, had national conscription laws that required all able-bodied men of a certain age group to serve in the military. The French conscription system, established in the 19th century, was designed to provide a large pool of military manpower that could be mobilized quickly in the event of war. This system was a product of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, which emphasized mass armies drawn from the citizenry.
  2. Pre-War Military Planning: The period before World War I was marked by intense military planning and preparation, especially in Europe, where the complex web of alliances and a prevailing belief in the inevitability of a large-scale war led countries to prepare extensively for mobilization. France, in particular, had detailed plans for rapid mobilization as part of its strategic planning against Germany.
  3. Societal Mobilization: The societal context in 1914 France was one where there was a strong sense of nationalism and duty towards the country, partly fueled by the desire to avenge the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. This cultural mindset made it more feasible for the government to mobilize large numbers of men.
  4. Lack of Modern Technological Constraints: Unlike today, where military effectiveness relies heavily on advanced technology, training, and equipment, armies in 1914 relied more on sheer numbers. The nature of warfare at the time allowed for the mass mobilization of men with relatively basic training and equipment.
  5. Different Economic and Social Structures: The economic and social structures of early 20th century France were vastly different from those in modern Ukraine. France’s population was more rural and agrarian, which meant that a larger portion of the population was available for military service, as opposed to being engaged in specialized, non-transferable professions that are more common today.
  6. International Context and the Scale of World War I: The scale of World War I and the existential threat it posed to nations involved led to mobilization on a scale previously unseen. The war was expected to be short but required full national effort, leading to the mobilization of vast portions of the population.
  7. Current Challenges in Ukraine: Ukraine today faces different challenges in mobilization, including political, economic, and social constraints, as well as the need to balance military needs with the preservation of its economy and societal function. Modern warfare also demands highly trained and specialized personnel, limiting the ability to mobilize large portions of the population quickly.

In summary, the ability of France to mobilize over 4 million men in 1914 was the result of a combination of conscription laws, pre-war planning, societal attitudes towards national service, the technological and tactical nature of warfare at the time, and the specific historical context. These factors are significantly different from the challenges and conditions facing Ukraine today, affecting the scale and nature of mobilization efforts.”

End of exchange for the moment

I feel like I just got the PoliSci grad student B+ don’t really know much about it answer. Help me rip this paper up.

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No Ukrainian Dunkirk

President Zelensky made a personal visit to Avdiivka in late December in order to shore up morale and make a general statement regarding his resolve to keep the place under Ukrainian ownership. Six weeks later it’s in Russian hands. Evidently President Zelensky repeatedly ignored military advice to prepare for evacuation. He also seems to have way overestimated the resources available to successfully reinforce the defenses in that area. When it was finally obvious to everyone that the siege was ending with the Ukrainians being trapped or swept out, Zelensky did not mount a Dunkirk effort. Instead, he blames the rout on American lack of support. He looks at us and says, “You think your Afghanistan withdrawal was a humiliating disaster? Hold my beer.”

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Avdiivka Fallen?

It appears that today might be chalked up as the day Avdiivka fell to the Russian Army.  Something tells me that battle will reveal itself as a significant event in the history of sieges, and that there are particular and consequential lessons to discover from it.  I hope somebody out there has been doing a careful job figuring out the mix and sequence of decisions, and the orchestration of effort and resources for the besieged and besiegers. Anybody out there know who might be in the lead right now as far as getting something trustworthy and comprehensive written?

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Regarding Propriety at Liberty Bristles

Unlike other sites, ad-hominem (personal) attacks are allowable (even welcome) and will not be a cause for denying or unauthorizing a post or comment. You may make nasty hateful comments if you wish, as long as they are within bounds. Of course, by ‘in bounds’ I mean they cannot be untoward, though they may be indelicate. For instance, let’s say you’re commenting on some of the drivel Geoff Demarest posts. You are well within our style guide to call him idiot, ignorant, insane, reprobate or even ‘poo-poo head’.  All innocent enough and likely. On the other hand, your comment will be deleted or adjusted if you use the s, f or n words on him (as they fall into a category policed from afar by AI), nor may you call him racist, warmonger, pedophile or democrat. The latter, more or less synonymous, are beyond the pale as they too readily impel broad social derision and canceling. In some cases, they might even spark legal consequences as actionable slander. Geoff has an entire law firm backing him up on this. As Amy Vanderbilt famously said, “Refrain from calling your visitor ‘thief’ unless you can prove she stole the spoon. Remember, she’s still as ass.”

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Policy Objectives for US and Israel – Gaza

WHAT IS THE END STATE? ASSESSING ISRAEL’S OBJECTIVES FOR A GAZA CAMPAIGN
Kevin Benson | 10.19.23

posted on the USM Modern War Institute website https://mwi.westpoint.edu/

“Tell me how this ends.”
This was what David Petraeus, then commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, famously said to journalist Rick Atkinson in 2003. It was still early in the Iraq War, when the overwhelmingly superior US-led coalition had crushed its Iraqi adversaries fighting conventionally, but just as the country was beginning its descent into sectarian bloodletting and becoming a magnet for jihadists.


The same sentiment must surely be dominating conversations among policymakers and planners in Israel at this moment. Because war is an extension of policy through other means. A nation embarking upon execution of a war must have policy objectives in mind before starting the war. The government and its armed forces must also bear in mind that any operational plan will not be able to project with any degree of certainty how the campaign will proceed after making initial contact with its enemy’s main force or main line of resistance. These thoughts well and truly apply to the situation facing the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).


Multiple statements issued by both IDF and Israeli government officials speak of the total destruction of Hamas. Emotions run high, understandably so, as Hamas’s actions on October 7 evoked images of pogrom. The word alone causes chills. All the more reason to have firm policy objectives in mind and recognize that as conditions on the battlefield and in the information domain change, the conduct of the campaign must adjust. Hamas’s brutality during its attacks against Israel and Israeli civilians may well have been savage, murderous, and criminal, but the Israeli government cannot afford to be viewed in the same light. This war, like any war conducted in the social media age, will be fought under constant observation. Images will sway opinion, and images can be altered for maximum effect. Information wars will tend to the Clausewitzian extreme faster than actual actions in combat.
A good start point for an analysis of Israeli strategic objectives, a tried and true method, is to first look at the war from the perspective of the enemy.


Net Assessment from the Hamas Viewpoint
The Hamas leadership’s ultimate war aims are the destruction of Israel and the retention of power in Gaza. Hamas will exert a total level of effort—diplomatically, economically, politically, and militarily—in order to win, or, more accurately, to not lose. Hamas obviously views its existence as vital; however, this view may not be held by the majority of the Gaza populace, which Hamas would gladly offer as human shields against attacking forces. Hamas exerts severe control of the Gaza population through its security and intelligence network. Hamas might not have the loyalty of Gaza’s people unless they see the defense of Hamas as their only option for survival. Because Hamas views the Israeli war aims as unlimited, with its complete destruction as Israel’s goal, it will try to convince the people of Gaza that this translates to their destruction as well.
So, Hamas will try to convince its Arab neighbors that any attack against Hamas is an attack against Islam and the Palestinian people. Hamas and its supporters will use the media to foster the image, especially when an Israeli ground offensive gets underway, of a merciless assault on the people of Gaza. Hamas will attempt to garner some civilian resistance to an attack, while concurrently trying to create a level of fear that results in refugee traffic and lines of communication blockage. Hamas would prefer to score some wins early, but as has been shown since Hamas took control of Gaza, the organization’s leadership remains committed to a long-term effort regardless of the negative impact on the people of Gaza.
Israel, Hamas believes, will be vulnerable to international measures to stop the war. As such, the group will use information and cyber means try to prevent widespread support for Israel because. Hamas perceives that the United States cannot politically withstand a portrayal of Israeli actions as ruthless assaults on innocent Palestinians and is counting on the notion that the the public in the United States, and in other countries whose governments support Israel, will not believe that the group’s removal has a high enough value to justify large numbers of casualties or the expenditure of vast resources. Hamas and its supporters, primarily Iran, are counting on the images of dead innocents in Gaza and the proposition of a long war to prevent or limit Israeli action over time. Ultimately, Hamas sees the US level of effort supporting Israel as limited because it does not believe full commitment of resources will be expended against Hamas due to competing resource requirements from other US operations.


US Policy Objectives
To a certain extent, Hamas is correct in viewing the specific level of US support for Israel as a critical variable. President Biden and the secretaries of state and defense have all reiterated America’s support, describing it as “rock solid” and “ironclad.” While the United States is not actually using force it is supplying the means of war to Israel. This form of using force must also bear in mind policy objectives. Based on both official US government statements and what a variety of US government officials have said during media appearance, the following set of assumed US policy objectives takes shape:
Support for Israel will reinforce the standing of the U.S. as a reliable and constant ally in the face of grave threats to peace.
Support for Israel will reaffirm the US determination to oppose the use of terrorism and the unjust use of force as a legitimate means of statecraft.
Successful conclusion of the war against Hamas will offers a means to restore the impending normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the state of Israel and a stepping stone to a wider, durable political solution for the region.


Israeli Policy
With this assessment of Hamas interests and specific US policy objectives in mind, it is possible to elucidate like Israeli objectives, both strategic and with respect to the looming military campaign. Given the stated goal of destroying Hamas, both the Israeli government and the IDF must consider how the war ends as well as how it is conducted. The Israeli government knows, or should know, what force can and cannot do. Its policy objectives will require a true whole-of-government effort. What are those objectives likely to be?
Policy/Strategic Objectives of Operations in Gaza
A stable Gaza, with a broad-based government that renounces the use of terrorism to threaten Israel or the Israeli people.
Outcomes in Gaza that can be leveraged to convince or compel other countries in the region to cease support to terrorists.
A restoration process to reach an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, and an expansion of the Abraham Accords.
Because policy guides strategy and the conduct of operations, and bearing in mind what force can realistically accomplish, these policy objectives give shape to a set of IDF military objectives.
Military Objectives of Operations in Gaza
Destabilize, isolate, and destroy Hamas and provide support to a new, broad-based government in Gaza.
Destroy Hamas’s military capability and infrastructure.
Protect Israel from Gaza-based threats and attacks.
Destroy Hamas and supporting nations’ terrorist networks, gather intelligence on regional and global terrorism, capture or kill terrorists and war criminals, and free hostages unjustly detained under the Hamas regime.
Concluding the Campaign
Conducting this campaign as simply a punitive expedition, destroying Hamas and then leaving Gaza, will not serve the policy of either the United States or Israeli governments. The final result of this campaign must establish conditions for a better peace in the region. Removing Hamas must include providing a path to peace not only for Israel but for the Palestinians. There must be hope.


At the end of the campaign in Gaza the rebuilding effort should be under the control of the UN, through a civilian special representative of the secretary general. A security force will need to be put in place—placing it under the command of, for instance the Saudi armed forces (and encouraging the governments of other predominantly Sunni nations like Bangladesh and Malaysia to be the principal troop contributors) will enhance the prospects of building lasting peace. At a point to be determined by the UN special representative, a Gaza-wide open election must be held to produce a government that is truly representative of Gaza’s people and their interests.


These are just one person’s reflections on the policy that ought to guide what will undoubtedly be a brutal, hard-fought campaign. The IDF must fight in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, even as Hamas will not. Adherence to these laws is what distinguishes professional soldiers from barbarians. Above all, this campaign must be waged with the end state of a better peace in mind. It is the only way that it can conceivably end with sustainable political and security outcomes.

Kevin Benson, PhD, is a retired US Army colonel who commanded from company to battalion level and served as a general staff officer from corps to field army. He was the CFLCC J5 (Plans) at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the director of the School of Advanced Military Studies.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

The opinions Kevin expresses above are not those of Liberty Bristles. His article does serve as a great prompt for commentary on US policy toward Israel and the region. Have at it! Meanwhile, check out Kevin’s latest book, Expectation of Valor: Planning the Iraq War. It can be pre-ordered at Expectation of Valor – Casemate Publishers US and on Amazon.

Check the “books” page for a description of his book.

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A Strategy Observation about the Ukraine War

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The contest was over from the start. Below are ten strategic points why, most of them obvious from the git-go. (For efficiency purposes, I’m defining “git-go” as mid-February 2022, two years ago, but I agree with you if you hold that this whole thing began well before that.)

  1. Russia has three times the population, 30 times the land and ten times the economic output. To call Ukraine an underdog is a understatement.
  2. For the Russian military, the consequential military distances from potential battlefields in Ukraine vary from zero miles to maybe five hundred. The consequential military distances for the United States military vary from a few hundred to a several thousand.
  3. Russia’s leader knew what his goals were and made them pretty obvious. Ukraine was going to be controlled from Moscow, was not going to be part of NATO and was not going to be the locus of anti-Russian military forces.
  4. Ukraine’s leaders could state a clear goal of kicking the Russians out, but it was a goal whose attainment was entirely dependent on outside help. Why did they even think they could count on American support?  Maybe because the corruption schemes and secrets so indicted high-level American government and party individuals that high-level Ukrainian corruptionists figured they had some omerta impunity leverage.
  5. The Ukraine is new as country entities are concerned; its statehood not won but gifted to it by the Russian government. The current regime didn’t come to power organically, either. Power was evidently lent to it by foreigners. As such, the intensity and sincerity of national identity, and popular loyalty to the regime, can be legitimately questioned region-by-region within the Ukraine. They are obviously not all-in. This is not to say that no Ukrainian national fervor existed. It did and does, and the enthusiasm explains some of the mistake, but the sense of defending the homeland was and is not evenly spread or universal.
  6. The Ukrainian government leadership and ruling elite were and are no more democratic or less corrupt than the regime in Russia. It was easily predictable that they would divert much of whatever help came in. That the US government made so little effort to audit US aid did nothing to ameliorate the look of mutual corruption.
  7. The notion that somehow Ukrainian territory was essential to US security was clearly absurd on its face. The backup argument was dominoes – that if the Russians were allowed to take Ukraine, they would take Germany or something. That argument was as absurd as the first. The US government cloaked the absurdities using the standard, albeit effective, technique of repeating them very loudly and shaming anyone who disagreed. For critical thinkers, this was just another tell. The foggy disingenuity coming out of the White House made it seem that the Democrat regime’s goals for Ukraine were actually to maintain a shady business partner and to guard impunity for whatever had been going on there.
  8. Economic sanctions are known to be nearly always counterproductive. As the Russian economy continued to improve and European economies continued to weaken, sanction talk should have faded, but it did not.
  9. The Nordstream pipeline bombing made so little sense, it too came across as some kind of Hail Mary play and a ponderous illegal mistake.
  10. The sham of NATO unity was exposed by the decisions of the Turkish president.

The Afghanistan debacle just wasn’t enough. Now it seems the Democrats want to at least affect the timing of Russian victory in Ukraine so as to avoid yet another in-our-faces reminder of Democrat strategic fecklessness right before the elections.

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An Observation About Possible Military Lessons from the Ukraine War

Today, 7 February 2024, it is becoming clear that military prospects are turning quickly in favor of the Russians, this for reasons that I’ve noted in past posts and will address again in the near future. Now, however, seems a good time to write down some initial observations regarding things our Army will necessarily be looking as, hopefully, ‘lessons learned.’

There’s a lot to consider from a purely military standpoint.  By ‘purely’ I mean trying to distance oneself from the politics and geopolitics of the thing. Some phenomena are obvious enough even for those of us who cannot have been on the ground there and who have no access to information gleaned from high end intelligence systems or trusted agents. In other words, there are at least of few things that can be said by someone admittedly ignorant of what might be the “good stuff.”

Here, then is what I see:

Along the front lines in Eastern Ukraine the death of a Russian soldier (or at least the destruction of a vehicle he’s riding in) became the elemental proxy for mapping Russian military progress or loss. Conversely the Ukrainians. The community of “mappers” of the war figure that if a Ukrainian drone, artillery or missile strike against a Russian target is reported with video proof, then, if geolocated, it well represents how far the Russians gotten – key to the logic being that a Ukrainian doesn’t blow up one of his own and publish the video. Conversely the Russians. Obvious enough maybe, but I don’t remember a war in which there was so much near-term public aerial video reporting that an information standard could be established for broad geographic and temporal proof. It makes a lot of sense, though. The website Military Summary Channel has been following the rubric for a long time now. One of the consequences is an enjoyable exposure of deceptive propaganda by both sides. We are allowed a pretty good idea where the front is, giving a few thousand yards and a week or two one way or the other.

The drones did that (crushed the Bagdad Bobs), but maybe the neocons will forgive us for arguing that the drones’ lethality is more consequential than their reportage. The two are linked. A small drone can only bomb a little, but it can call to its 155 mm big brother.  And there are so many drones. There are horrifying high-def videos out there of individual soldiers trying to hide from some drone operator, even begging to be spared. Then they are not spared; they get blown to pieces. The moral hazard is evidently less for a drone sniper than for the classic one.

Drone warfare has evolved before our eyes. Drone on drone combat, use of drones against older aircraft types, use of drones to enter buildings and holes, drone-based leaps in electronic warfare, drone swarm attacks, long distance swarm attacks. The price points for these things are so relatively low that calling them a “game changer” just doesn’t cut it. Not just the machine costs are way less. The pilots. And the manufacturing base. The probability of distributing their manufacture to cottage industries (the way the Colombian FARC did landmines) is too certain. Their impact has been rapid and frightening enough that efforts to counter them technologically are being pressed at the greatest speed. Lasers, they say. Jeeze, the infantryman has never been fond of all the metal things those other people send to kill him on the battlefield. He sure isn’t going to like high energy lasers, even if they rid his life of the drones.

Which brings us to what might be the most significant of all the observations we have to process from the Ukraine War: The surface is so dangerous, as well as the sky above it, that the only readily available answer for keeping the kid alive is several yards of dirt, rock and concrete over his head – mole life. We don’t read much about the progress being made in digging machines, but it’s out there. A key issue in underground combat movement: How do you get back out of the ground without their noticing?

In the middle of the Ukraine War, Hamas attacked Israel. We can pin the disheartening normalization of atrocity on Hamas. Other than that wicked innovation, all the things I mentioned above about the Ukraine War ditto for the Hamas War. Two examples should be enough. Ground combat changed pdq.

One other thought, that might be premature, but probably not by much.  There are plenty of historical examples of wars in which regular formations maneuvering on the battlefield could not resolve the contest, could not win the war. The side less able to prevail in position and maneuver warfare (but nevertheless having the resolve and other wherewithal to carry on) refused to submit and devolved the contest into an ugly, drawn-out, debilitating guerrilla fight. That might be where things are headed in the Ukraine.

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Ukraine as Football Season Begins

Well, it’s time for another update on Ukraine. I repeat my position. I was right. The war was over months ago. The United States has been helping or forcing the Zelenskyists to keep the bloodshed going, but the outcome was set. The blog I follow daily on the progress of the war (The Military Summary Channel) noted something today (2August) that was especially disconcerting and at the same time humorous. (A New “Armored Fist”, A New Pandemic And Old Depleted Uranium Rounds. Military Summary For 2023.9.02 – YouTube ) Word in that part of the world is that the US administration is designing a new pandemic for this fall and winter. Shocked I am. According to the blogger, one purpose is to slow things down in the Ukraine War, maybe cover up its shameful, embarrassing conclusion. Well, the populations of Eastern Europe are evidently not gonna buy it. Done with that bulls..t. So I refer readers to another blog, that of the inestimable James Howard Kunstler (Happenings Await – Kunstler) Go there now. He says of Russia that in the coming months, “it will just quietly take charge of its successfully neutralized neighbor, make provision for some sort of administration over what remains of the rump state…”   The rest of his commentary and prediction is excellent as well. I think he is spot on. His is the best prediction. I can only say that this Kunstler fellow must have gotten that from me through some form of telepathy or other. By the time of the elections of 2024, the Democrats will have slipped away from the Ukraine and probably from the Joe, figuring to blame it all on something-or-other or creating new crises, or something, but their options are shrinking. Racism and Trump of course, but this time it won’t be enough. The truth is coming.

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Ukraine War Sadly Continues

Well, I haven’t been good about posting.  Been trying to do some other writing, in particular an update/summary/advert for On Multiform War. Anyhow, the Ukraine War continues, even though it has long been over as far as Ukrainian prospects are concerned. I’ve taken to following a YouTube website called Military Summary. The young blogger who runs the thing always starts out with “Hello my good friends.” Military Summary – YouTube  I like it because he makes available the whole history of his twice-daily videos, which are distillations with some commentary of a small universe of other blogger reports (mostly Russian-language) based on propaganda from both Russian and Ukrainian militaries plus a number of reports from soldiers and units on both sides. The site is not pretentious or over-confident, and from what I can tell is sincerely trying to show what is going on, especially where the actual front is and what losses are being suffered.  This is especially useful as it allows one to compare changes he shows on his blog to the much more blatantly propagandistic reports coming out on the usual suspect media. Anyhow, it appears that the Ruskies played rope-a-dope for a few months, with the Ukes expending themselves without reward. Actually, it’s more like the Biden/Zelenski regimes expended Ukrainian lives in vain. The strategic basics remain. Russia is a vast land with a robust military industry. It holds terrain, internal lines of communication and shorter risk distances.  Additionally, Zelensky has made some poor decisions, this past week included, having given the Russians all the excuse they needed to end the grain deal that had allowed Ukraine to continue its valuable exports. Now the Russians are proving that the Black Sea is theirs and Odesa will operate as a port only at their pleasure. The idea that the West is weakening Russia militarily/strategically seems nuts at best. And if the notion was to keep the Ukrainians fighting in order to improve their bargaining position, that error is proving to be disastrous. The opposite seems true. The Ukrainian regime is flirting with becoming a land-locked rump state.  NATO countries have not been clear about the purposes and goals of the fighting. Defending democracy does not cut it. Sadly, logically, the Democratic Party can’t want to give up the war and concede defeat to Russia before their next ballot theft. But another fourteen months of slowly losing another war?  Blame Trump might somehow still work, but I kinda doubt it.

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Worrisome news

If you have not become aware of Seymour Hersh’s expose in which he accuses the United States government of blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline, you’ll want to check that out. If true, not good, and we need to find out. The FBI wading into the Catholic Church fishing for extremists is another sad revelation the dimensions of which we need to find. The same government might have misdirected millions of dollars in Covid money to Planned Parenthood. Can’t see how that’s legal. Speaking of scamdemic, Sasha Latypova is on fire, has connected a lot of dots. Speaking of receipts, Elon Musk has been doing the world an immense favor in the release of files showing the sad reality of widespread organized, taxpayer funded, totally illegal government participation in fake news. So much. The year is getting going with a lot of awful, with truth of the poop leaking out to a growing number of concerned voters. My hope is that the bad guys get punished. I don’t think they will, but I hope.

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