fredag 29 april 2022

Review: The Art of War (van Creveld 2000)

Hereby a review of a rather fine book. Being an illustrated volume it nonetheless is readable; for the keen student of "rigorist history" it is something of a treat. If you enjoy historical and conceptual essays on war and history, you might enjoy this too.

This is a review of the following book. -- Martin van Creveld. The Art of War – War and Military Thought. London: Cassell & Co, 2000.

And what, indeed, have we here...? We have an essay discussing military thought from olden times to our times, even including ancient Chinese and Greco-Roman thinkers. For an illustrated coffee-table volume it is rather fine; the photos and battlefield sketches are at least tolerable and the text is mostly thoughtful and vivid. Being a popular survey there is nonetheless the ambition to cover a wide field, in space and time, and in the process we get the odd reference to some not-so-famous military thinkers along with the classics. You could say: van Creveld might not always be right but he is rather seldom wrong...

With that, we mean that we now have reviewed the book. Now for a summary of it; voilà a brief look at the history of the art of war, mirrored in books on military theory and outright handbooks. We will start with the Chinese.


Rather early Chinese military men started to reflect about the nature of war. The 400s BCE, the Warring States Period, saw the emergence of a state of war of rather long duration. This gave rise to handbooks on war that also had a unique, conceptual, holistic grasp; in the West, or in India at the same time, there is nothing quite like it. You could say: the Chinese school of war, judged by its doctrines, has flashes of theoretic brilliance, often of eternal validity. A kind of “Clausewitzian grasp” can be seen in its best wisdoms.

According to van Creveld in the book at hand, what characterized the Chinese school of war? – It saw war as a necessary evil, disrupting the cosmic harmony of Tao. To restore this sacred Tao was needed a virtuous general, a general possessing Tao. “You should cultivate your Virtue ... and observe the Tao of Heaven” (Ta’i Kung quoted after van Creveld, p. 24). This kind of “mindful generalship” is also seen in Sun Tzu, stressing the need for the people to be in harmony with their leaders.

This focus on harmony didn’t mean that ancient Chinese armies were some new age summer camps; no, fierce discipline and capital punishment for wrongdoers was the norm. The ideal army should be imbued by the general’s personality; thus the general would not have to worry about punishments or rewards, instead the army would be one efficient war machine – it would, as an instrument of war, be in harmony with its commander and thus (remembering the religious Chinese adherence to harmony) Tao would also be served...! van Creveld: “Governed by necessity, the best-disciplined army is so good that it requires neither rewards nor punishments. Behaving as it were a single personality, it will follow its commander of its own accord ...” (p. 25)

This aspect of harmony and Tao must be remembered when looking at ancient Chinese military thought. Sun Tzu himself often spoke about winning without fighting battles, winning by using stratagems and deception and diplomacy, but in the last instance force was also needed, the ability to strike and strike hard. We also see this strain in the words of the wiseman Sima (freely translated after Pettersson, Sun Tzis krigskonst, 2010): “He who likes to make war will go under; he who forgets war will end up in danger.” – You could say: be fierce but be balanced is the lesson for the use of military might, now and forever. “Go all the way, then step back,” as Harley Earl said. When building an army make sure it becomes a sharp sword, but use it with moderation.

From the same source (Pettersson) we get a similar wisdom of the harmonic kind. It is given us by Wei Liao Zi: for a state to gain stability the civil and the military must walk hand in hand. This is like Clausewitz, 2000 years before him; this is being conscious of military might as a tool of the state, as an instrument of statecraft, and not just a means in itself. This is the unique Chinese brand of grasping the totality of war, politics and everything; it is grand strategy of the ancient kind.


Now for a look into van Creveld’s chapter about the Greco-Roman antiquity and its military thought. He praises the historical approach of writers like Thucydides, Sallust, Caesar, and Josephus, yea, even Horodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, and Livy; historical narratives of war and warfare they have given us, often thoughtful and enlightening, but in the case of military theory per se the Greco-Roman world has not so much to offer. Great generals there were (Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar etc.) but systematic treatises on the art of war, like the Chinese have given us, are lacking. The works we have are of the practical handbook type, interesting as such, but maybe not as conceptually stimulating and “rather timeless” as for example Sun Tzu.

Nevertheless, for the record we will now say something of them, with van Creveld as a guide.

Starting with Aeneas the Tactician (300s BCE) his only surviving treatise on war is about how to defend a besieged city against attack. From Babylon to Bourges all ancient cities were walled so this was a mainstay of ancient warfare and Aeneas seems to have had hands-on experience of it; How to Survive Under Siege is a handbook written by a technical expert, interesting for those who think that siege warfare is worth studying.

Aeneas at least was a military man; the next in line in this survey, Asclepiodotus who wrote Outline of Tactics, belongs firmly in the “armchair general” category. For instance, his focus is on the Greek phalanx, though in his day – first century BCE – it was long gone from the battlefield, the Roman legion being the current norm. Asclepiodotus speaks about the length of the phalanx soldiers’ spears, the width of their shields, and how to make them turn left or right; he also has something to say of light infantry, cavalry, and chariots. But there are no real-life examples or discussions on how to coordinate different services of arms, that which makes an army into an army. So, as intimated, this book has “a smell of the lamp”. It has been seen as “an exercise in rhetoric,” which might justify its existence.


Another ancient writer on the art of war is Onasander who wrote Ho Strategos (The General, 1st century CE). In it he for instance says that a good commander, among other things, if possible, should be a father of children. Interesting. Onasander also strays into the realm of “mindful generalship” by elaborating upon the other qualities a general should have, like self-restraint, vigilance, toughness, et cetera. Then follow chapters about how to raise and maintain an army, including the use of soothsayers and omens. Onasander seems to know what he is talking about; however, like Asclepidotus, his ideal army is of the phalanx model; Alexander the Great’s influence was rather immense back then. And he gives no examples, overall making his style rather dry.

Onasander was rather much studied in later times, during the early modern European era. And so were two other ancient writers on war, Frontinus (1st century CE) and Vegetius (400s CE). Frontinus had military experience in fighting tribes in what is now Wales. And in his Strategmata we read of tactical tricks and feints, illuminated by historical examples, like mentioning that Caesar in words and deeds favored his Tenth Legion, creating a mood of competition among the units of the army. This, we mean, might be the first historical conceptualization of the need for elite forces.

Vegetius wrote Epitoma Rei Militaris (A Summary of Military Matters). Looking back on late Republican and early Imperial times his work “stands in a class all of his own” (van Creveld p. 51), “presenting us with a remarkably coherent whole” (ibid). What we get is a handbook on how to raise a Roman legion, from recruiting the rank and file through organizing the sub-units in many details, and distributing it for battle and even fighting; this, and some authoritative advice on “how to do it, and how not to do it,” raises his book above the merely descriptive. (A final chapter, probably written by another author, deals with fortifications and naval warfare.) In early modern Europe this was seen as the best military handbook of them all.


Two documents of war theory of Byzantine origin, are Strategikon (600-700s) and Taktika (800-900s). Primarily we mention them because they intimate the origin of two extant core concepts of war theory, strategy and tactics. – By Clausewitz strategy was defined as “the employment of battles to gain the end of war”. Etymologically strategy is of classical Greek stratos meaning army, and agein, to lead. Strategos means general. Strategikon would then mean generalship. – Tactics is from Greek tassein, “to set in order”, from whence is derived concepts like tagma, battalion, and taktika, “the art of drawing up soldiers in array,” in other words, pretty much what we today call tactics.

Looking at Strategikon as an opus we get an authoritative handbook over the Byzantine way of war, where stirrup cavalry had become the basic fighting unit, replacing the Roman legion. In all an impressive work, covering many aspects of warfare, including “blessing the flags,” a mindful aspect of war that must not be forgotten. However, Strategikon in my eyes is mostly of ancient historical interest, because of this: medieval and early modern Europe knew no Greek and thus it has a rather limited “history of reception” in our culture, the Faustian.

Taktika, for its part, is based on Strategikon and Onasander. Then came some other Byzantine essays, and van Creveld summarizes them all in this way: “All these volumes reflect the workings of highly sophisticated, articulated armed force with numerous subdivisions and an emphasis on combined arms. As might perhaps be expected from the ‘Byzantines’, all of them also display a strong penchant for secrecy, flexibility, cunning and guile in order to achieve victory. In this respect they resemble the Chinese classics; however, since war is regarded purely as an instrument in the hands of the emperor, the underlying humanitarianism which makes the Chinese works so attractive is entirely absent.” (p. 55).

The ancient Chinese provided “a coherent philosophy of war. In the West, the only writer who met that demand was Clausewitz.” (p. 65) – Onwards, therefore, to military thought of early modern and modern times; we will look at the writers preceding him and succeeding him.


Our review of the early modern era will begin with Machiavelli, putting us firmly into the Faustian-European context.

To be sure, Machiavelli’s lasting contribution as a writer was in realist politics (qv. The Prince); his military thought was rather unoriginal. And van Creveld duly notes it. Thus, L’Arte della Guerra (1521) is mostly a curiosity. Machiavelli was stuck in the ancient republican Roman pattern: his “model army” would have no fire arms; there would be infantry with swords and shields (and no lances); and conscripts, no mercenaries. As an overall military ideal for the 1600s this has “a smell of the lamp”. (More about Machiavelli and The Prince can be read in my essay Rigorism.)

We will now focus on a man named Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707), who wrote about the construction of fortifications and how to conquer them in a siege; he knew his stuff. Creveld: “[T]hanks largely to the fact that of all types of military operations siege warfare was the easiest to reduce to rules, it was a model of its kind which others sought to emulate.” (p. 82)

Another curiosity might be Jacques François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur (1655-1743), who in 1720 wrote L’Art de la guerre par des principes et des règles (The Art of War by Principles and Rules). It covers everything but fighting: things like conducting marches, constructing camps, foraging et cetera is in focus, not the actual interaction of two enemy armies fighting it out on the battlefield. Marechal de Saxe (aka. Marshal de Saxe, aka. Moritz of Saxony, 1696-1750) partly wrote Rêveries in 1732 as a reaction to the clinical approach of Puysegur. For instance, de Saxe says that 50,000 is the maximum that can be handled by a general, which is rather feasible. However, De Saxe also was into this “theatrical, ritualistic” way of war when speaking about maneuvering as a way to win wars whereby tangible field battles could be avoided; “battle was to be engaged in only as a last resort, and then only when the prospects for victory appeared certain.” (p. 87)

de Saxe advocated the subdivision of armies into a kind of brigades called legions; at 3,582 men they were to include infantry, cavalry, artillery, HQ, engineers and all. This pointed ahead to the division, used by the French at the end of the Seven Years’ War, a way to get a more manageable unit than a whole, undivided army. – General observation by Creveld: “[N]o more than his contemporaries did de Saxe ... distinguish between strategy and tactics.” (p. 88)


Frederick the Great in one of his writings described Prussia “as an artificial country, spread over much of Germany and Poland, and held together as a work of art” (p. 88). In fact the army held it all together; this was the backbone of the state. “The officers were to be drawn exclusively from the nobility: ‘the one factor which can make men march into the cannon that are trained at them is honour’, and honour was to be found among nobles alone.” (p. 90) The rank and file was to be kept down by a ferocious discipline, having them “fear their officers more than the enemy,” Frederick meant (ibid).

More could be said about Frederick but that is a subject for another time. Suffice to say that we are now in the age of horse and musket, the pre-revolutionary era the French call “la guerre en dentelles” (= “war in lace”). In general its military thinkers now began seeking after the essence of war, basic principles, universal rules. But only Vauban, and maybe de Saxe, focusing on narrow subjects without strategic and political aspects involved, succeeded in writing viable documents with this approach. Otherwise the “lace era” systems of war were mostly groping in the dark; in vain they tried to capture war in a succinct formula.

In general, the pre-revolutionary days saw the end of the self-taught officer who put up a regiment he paid for and raised himself; the new style was for the ambitious soldier to attend a military academy and getting a commission that way, and maybe also attending a staff college after that. This was the new kind of military establishment that military doctrine was to be aimed at (p. 93).


In military thought of the Coalition War era (= Revolution-and-Napoleonic era) we first meet Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, who in 1772 published Essai tactique générale. Based on the Seven Years’ War, when the French army despite numerical and economic advantage achieved very little, his essay would show how to do better next time (p. 97). He disowned the standing army and instead spoke of things like conscription, patriotic vigor, armies feeding themselves in enemy land; also, the field army was to be divided into independent subunits, like those practiced by French commander de Broglie during the latter years of the Seven Years’ War; the division was born. de Guibert also tangibly took part in the new way of war, on the eve of the revolution being called to serve in the War Office; however, he died already in 1790.

de Guibert didn’t himself use the concept of strategy. But another Frenchman did, Joly de Maizeroy. He saw tactics as the more basic action of fighting and strategy as the “overall conduct of military operations against the enemy – a field which hitherto had been left almost entirely to the general’s intuition.” (p. 98)

Going further into conceptual clarity we will now meet Adam Heinrich Dietrich von Bülow (1757-1807) who wrote Geist des neuern Kriegssystems (Spirit of the Modern System of War, 1799). By this time usable systems of maps were becoming available and Bülow’s thought implies this; conducting a war on the strategic level is now mainly done in an office on the surface of a map, not by sitting on a horse looking out over a field. Base, line of operation, objective; these new concepts were coined by von Bülow. Along the lines flowed supplies and reinforcements in one direction, and wounded, sick, and prisoners in the other. Further: two lines of advance, starting at the flanks of the base, should converge at the objective by forming a right angle; if the angle is more acute than this the objective is too far away, risking the advancing forces to be attacked and cut off.

This was an elegant way of making war looking like an exercise of geometrics; Clausewitz later criticized it. However, if Bülow’s approach looks a bit too pat it nevertheless was the first attempt of conceptually grasping the larger operations of war. It was more than the mere handbook style of “raising an army, equipping it, marching it here and there and building camps for it,” that hitherto had been the focus of military writers. From now on, Bülow’s inventions base, line of operation, objective became core concepts of strategy (“line of operation” could also be called “line of communication” to make it more up-to-date for modern thought). And Clausewitz also admitted that these concepts per se were helpful for military thought.


Antoine Henri Jomini (1779-1869) was a contemporary of Clausewitz, though less known; however, Jomini had some conceptual aces up his sleeve. By birth a Swiss citizen, he served under Napoleon and became chief of staff to Marshal Ney. How to maneuver in a real-world terrain of rivers, forests, mountains et cetera, and not the theoretical chessboard that Bülow seemed to have in mind? In answering this Jomini also strived for a system; the conceptual space of base, line of communication, objective was made into a Zone of Operations, and with several armies in the field in different directions you got several Theatres of Operations.

As for the lines of communications commanders such as Alexander, Caesar, Gustavus, and Charles XII could sometimes do without them, Creveld means: “Now, ... the whole point of the art of war was to cut one’s enemy’s lines of operations without exposing one’s own; this would lead either to the enemy’s surrender (as actually happened to the Austrians at Ulm in 1805) or to a battle in which he would be placed at a grave disadvantage (as happened to the Austrians at Marengo in 1800 and to the Prussians at Jena in 1806). Thus was born the manoeuvre sur les derrières, a method of operation by which one part of the army would hold the enemy while the other, if possible while using some natural obstacle in order to conceal and protect itself, would march around him and fall upon his rear.” (p. 107-108)

Jomini analyzed the theory of such a tactical move. He also spoke about operating on the internal lines, like in reality Napoleon did in his Italian campaign in 1796, Nazi Germany in 1944-45, and Israel in its wars against its Arab neighbors. As intimated, in olden times there were no lines of communications to be cut; as André Beaufre once said, the typical army operation, Army A at war with Army B, had the character of “one point in search of another point,” and battles only occurred as if by chance or by mutual consent. With the larger armies made possible by general conscription (France 1793), armies subdivided into corps and divisions, you had a larger “repertoire of strategic manoeuvres, which in turn were put into systematic form and codified by Jomini.” (p. 110)


A towering gestalt of military thought is Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). And van Creveld has some appreciation for him, seeing him as a conceptual giant; as the first Europan thinker Clausewitz succeeds in capturing the essence of war, not just giving handbook-style advice on "how to do it". Clausewitz's On War (Vom Kriege, 1832) approaches war holistically: what is war for the statesman, the general, the people...? - Answer: it is both a political instrument, it is a creative activity, and it is a force of nature... No one had said this before. War is an act of violence that can be both rational and irrational – rational in its aims and means, irrational in its destruction and violence.

Clausweitz could need a more thorough survey but we won't deliver that now. We will just give you some informal remarks -- like -- in the last book of On War is discussed absolute war, war stripped of social restraints (Kant is said to have inspired this “absolute” approach). Danger, friction, uncertainty... Clausewitz vocabulary: tactics, the art of winning battles; strategy, “the art of using battles in order to gain the objectives of the campaign” (p. 116) Be strong, attack the decisive point; to win by maneuver only is nonsense...


Between the age of Hellenism, like the Battle of Raffa in 217 BCE, and Waterloo in 1815, pitched battles were rather similar: armies of about 30-40.000 opposing each other. The appearance of firearms changed the face of battle, but only slightly, for battles were still fought with the opposing armies in sight of each other, with the men standing up, all of it taking place in a well-defined space (say 5 times 5 kilometers) and time (mostly, a day).

The next milestone in this development came in the mid-1800s, with the appearance of rifles, with a decidedly longer range of fire than muskets; at the same time the artillery saw the old muzzle-loader being replaced by ordnance that were breech-loaded and had rifled barrels, resulting in quicker rate of fire and longer range. Tactically, this resulted in a period of experimentation (American Civil War, Prussia’s wars of unification); it took some time to bring the lesson home that, for instance, charging against a line of infantry, protected by some obstacle (stone wall, earth wall) and armed with rifles, was tantamount to suicide. However, a commander like Prussia’s Helmuth von Moltke knew this and adapted his way of warfare to this.

He also knew of the need for railways when mobilizing the new, vast conscript armies. A railroad was a tangible, cast-iron form of the previously rather vaguely conceived “line of communication”. To plan for novelties like railroads, mobilization, maps, and telegraphic communications the Prussian General Staff, until then just a department inside the War Department, responsible for peace-time training and armament, grew into a vast bureaucracy. – At Königgrätz in 1866 the dispersed Prussian advance eventually turned into a virtue; the enemy was encircled, “the highest feat which strategy can achieve”, Moltke said in 1873 in a letter to von Treitschke (p. 136). This victory foreshadowed the Kesselschlacht of Sedan, which in turn became a conceptual obsession of von Schlieffen.

In other words, strategic offensive, tactical defensive was the recipe for victory. It still might be.

Strategic offensive, tactical defense: psychologically it is easy to make soldiers advance, to go on the offensive; conversely, to then hold them back might be hard, mirrored in what van Creveld says about Moltke’s concept: “Thus, strategically speaking, Moltke, intended his armies to take the offensive. Tactically the troops were supposed to make use of their firepower and remain on the defensive, although in practice that order was not always obeyed.” [p. 136] – This might be based on the situation at Königgrätz, which was a rather vast, hard-to-survey battle. It was also true of the operations of 1870, where Prussian armies often needlessly attacked strong French positions. However, in the final Kesselschlacht Moltke effected, Sedan, everything was more tight; there we had Prussian artillery surrounding the French captured in the town of Sedan. The battle was essentially won by the artillery.

Further in Moltke’s world... – In order for orders inter alia not becoming wire-tapped they should be kept short, telling the sub-commanders what to do, not how to do it. These kind of short “Sesselbefehle” (orders from the saddle) implied a well-trained army kept together by mutual trust, unified by a single goal and spirit, mirrored in the 1936 version of Truppenführung where it read, “war demands the free independent commitment of every soldier from the private to the general” (quoted after van Creveld p. 137).


By the time Alfred von Schlieffen became chief of the General Staff it was no longer an obscure bureau of the War Department, it was a core institution of the Reich. Schlieffen’s thought focused on things like war on two fronts, strike out France before Russia because France would be quicker to mobilize and the country having lesser maneuver depth, enabling a Kesselschlacht à la Cannae... Schlieffen wrote a 3-page essay on Cannae after he had resigned, in 1906. In other of his writings (The Warlord; War in the Modern Age) we for instance were given the vision of “the empty battlefield” we later saw realized in the Western Front no man’s land of WWI.

von Schlieffen realized that the longer ranges of fire from rifles and cannon necessitated dispersion of the troops. Thus, no more colorful uniforms, no compact formations led by the general on a hill; instead modern battles meant vast, seemingly empty fields where you only could catch glimpses of troop formations, fortifications, and artillery batteries, the latter mostly visible by night by its muzzle flames. However, Schlieffen died before he could see this realized in WWI; he lived 1833-1913.


Concepts of naval war is a vast era... And armies and land warfare are what we favor, not chasing after wind on the oceans. Nevertheless, A. T. Mahan (1840-1914) for his part spoke about large, modern navies meeting in a great sea battle; no politics was involved. But the British Julian Corbett (1854-1922) took this, politics, into consideration when discussing naval power historically. Corbett also saw the navy’s prime task as shipping armies to the zone of operation, quite a heretical view for a Brit (where the lauding of the navy per se is a long-standing tradition).


The inter-war period of 1919-1939 was interesting, but we won't go into it here. Suffice to say that in his book van Creveld covers it comparatively well. Maybe some other time we ourselves will speak about the historical etc. meaning of Guilio Douhet, J. F. C. Fuller, Liddell Hart, and other military thinkers of this era.


OK, one military thinker of this period we will highlight: Erich Ludendorff and his 1936 book Der totale Krieg. In the latter half of WWI Ludendorff led Germany into the realm of total war and in his book in question he formulated it conceptually. – He meant: war is more than fighting battles; it is about total mobilization (cf. Jünger, Die totale Mobilmachung) of a nation’s resources. Even Hoche and Carnot knew this back in the 1790s. Everything would be mobilized for the war effort, even the people’s morale, more efficiently than what Imperial Germany had done, Ludendorff meant, in this following the cue of Hitler in Mein Kampf (1925); for his part, Hitler criticized the Wilhelmine way of propaganda, deeming the British way of “psychic war” more exemplary.

Ludendorff also tangibly approached Hitler in politics; however, as it turned out, in the long run the old General couldn’t cooperate with Hitler, not after the failed 1923 coup. That said, Ludendorff’s Totale Krieg ideas are pretty much a blue print for the major players in WWII, along the whole gamut: Nazi Germany, US-UK, Soviet Russia. Dictatorship (or “democracy with regimentation and no freedom of expression,” which is virtually the same thing) was needed to curb the natural independence of industrial leaders, union leaders, generals, and the citizens, etc., all in order for waging total war.


We now come to the post-war era, the era from 1945 and onwards. Post-war conflicts were rather often asymmetrical, having modern states fight third-rate military powers; however, the latter could sometimes strike back and win by using guerilla warfare as part of a total defense system, having guerillas fight alongside conventional forces (China; Vietnam).

This van Creveld holds. It will serve as a symbolical wisdom of what he says of modern military thought, which we will not go into right now. However, to give an illuminating quote of his from the modern era we for instance have this: “[T]he 1980s saw a revival of conventional warfare theory centring around such ideas as ‘manoeuvre warfare’ and ‘air-land battle’. As these terms imply, both focused on strategy and the operational art while all but ignoring grand strategy. Manoeuvre warfare took the German campaigns of the Second World War as its model, so much so that for some ten years ‘German’ and ‘excellent’ were considered synonymous, and ex-Wehrmacht generals were treated to free lunches at the Pentagon. Air-land battle could barely be distinguished from, say, what Patton and his supporting VIIth Tactical Air Force had done to the Wehrmacht at Falaise in 1944.” (p. 188)


It is useless to prophecy about the future of war, or about a possible impending era of peace – for, as Plato said, the only people who will no longer see war are the dead. This is referred to by van Creveld on p. 213 and it is a fine coda to his book.


Hereby the chapter headlines of Creveld’s book:

1. Chinese Military Thought. 2. From Antiquity to the Middle Ages. 3. From 1500 to 1763. 4. Guibert to Clausewitz. 5. The Nineteenth Century. 6. Naval Warfare. 7. The Interwar Period. 8. From 1945 to the Present.


Finally, hereby what strikes us as a rather timeless van Creveld wisdom: “In military science as in so many others, attention to detail is absolutely vital and cannot be dispensed with. In military science as in so many others, attention to detail is not enough and does not automatically translate into genius.” (p. 42)

Rigorism (2022)
Burning Magnesium
Heinlein and My SF Study

söndag 24 april 2022

Golden Yoga: Life as Art

Hereby a philosophical discussion. It has some connection to Actionism. -- Edit November 2023: the below text is now included in my essay Astral War, available on Amazon etc.

Actionism is of course a bare-bones, practical philosophy of life. Memento Mori, willpower and Action as Being tells in no uncertain terms about shaping up and becoming a real individual. However, in all this the style of Actionism must not be ignored. Actionism has a healthy relationship to art and stylishness, to zest and vigor, to “revolt into style”. In this post I will try to conceptualize the artistic element being an integral part of the Actionist experience. The name for this “spiritual aestheticism,” this “mythopoetic approach to life,” will be Golden Yoga.

A. Setting the Scene

Let us start with a quote. It is from Richard Wagner, one of the greatest composers ever. I wrote a bio about him in 2015. To be sure, the following saying by him wasn’t included there. However, it is a fine summation of art-as-religion:
I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, and likewise their disciples and apostles; – I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art; – I believe that this Art proceeds from God, and lives within the hearts of all illumined men; – I believe that he who once has bathed in the sublime delights of this high Art, is consecrate to Her forever, and never can deny Her; – I believe that through Art all men are saved.
Art is essential to man’s existence. Art is imbued in the creation. Plotinus (q.v. Borderline) meant that creation itself is a beautiful artwork and that artists approach that essential beauty when they create.

This attitude to art, that of the artist as an entranced revealer of metaphysical truth, has lived on in the Western world ever since Plotinus. Q.v. for example the thought of Goethe and Schelling. The latter spoke of “aesthetic intuition” and this is something an Actionist must have. He must not ignore the power of intuition anywhere, including the realm of art.


Art and Actionism, Golden Yoga: what it is about is having the Dreamer’s Description of the world. Apply this and everything becomes free and fluid. “Dream-dream-dream, and the colors will come naturally...”

To create art, apart from some basic talent you must have this: aesthetic intuition, being able to daydream systematically (as Baudelaire said), and just letting it flow. Be open. “When I’m closed I am Brion Gysin; when I am open I am the artist” as the author Brion Gysin said.


Mishima had an idea of “turning your life into a line of poetry”. He said: “Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.”

I'd say, this stage is reached by the artist if he has been in the game long enough. Then it comes naturally. Having spent a life stylizing his art, this soon leads to a stylization of himself.

A great self-stylizer in this vein was Nietzsche. Write to live, live to write. The two are inseparable. The same may be seen in the life and work of Ernst Jünger. More of him in my 2014 bio; more of Nietzsche in Borderline.


I am talking about the Dreamer’s Description of the world. Of the esoteric worldview, the astral worldview, with an artistic tinge.

Astral worldview... this is what Serrano discussed in the Golden Cord, that man must consciously make contact with the astral world. The world of dreams and legends, stories and fairy tales. If you spontaneously can relate to this then you are on the way to artistic lifemanship.


God created the world with willpower and vision. And the artist creates his work with willpower and vision. And the Actionist creates his life with willpower and vision.

Willpower is the leading, active element. Vision is the passive element. As such, vision is akin to thought. And, Will and Thought are the basics of Actionist metaphysics, as shown in the 2017 book. There is no conflict between will and reason in the Actionist system. In fact, they make a great couple, the strongest force in the universe when merged in Actionist fashion.

Will and thought, will and vision. You have to merge will with this passive-yet-essential side of things. Do it, and become invincible.

Will and vision, a clarification... Like: I see before me a bright future; now I want it to become reality.

That is the gist of “willpower and vision”. In artistic terms: I see before me this artwork (novel, picture, even “my life lived as an artwork”). And, with my will, I realize it. I make it real, I implement it into tangible reality. All it takes is constant meditation on the mantra, “willpower and vision”.

B. The 2017 Document

Actionism – How to Become a Responsible Man is the basic document of Actionism; I refer to it as “the 2017 book” etc. And even in that book I spoke about art, as in “living your life like a work of art”. As in Chapter 3, speaking of making “acting into an art,” acting like an artist in trance: “Anchored in being, the Actionist performs actions. As an artist he operates as if in a trance, seeking rest in action and peace in performing.” [Svensson 2017 p. 32]

In the same chapter I spoke of ennobling “every act, turning away from its immediately material purpose and making action into a l’art-pour-l’art.” [ibid p. 34] “The Actionist makes action into an art, a way of life.” [p. 37]

This makes you think of “the way is the goal, the action is its own reward”. And having an artistic attitude to everything helps achieving this mode of life.

Next in the 2017 book we have Chapter 8, labeled “Actionist Art”. It spoke of three aspects clarifying what Actionist Art is. And those three aspects were vision, musicality and symbol. – Of vision was said that this is what an artist has:
He sees something with his inner eye, then he realizes the vision to the public. Ideally, an artist is a pathfinder for man, a guide into future vistas. This is conceptualized as “artistic vision is the avantgarde of man” = art must go before everyday reality, as a glorified scouting patrol = art can envision things that ”are not real” but in time may become real.

[p 61]
Next, of music was said things like, “Without music, life would be a mistake” (Nietzsche) and the need of mixing a little musicality into one’s stringency. And in this vein I come to think of the following: in the old Russian Empire the ability to play a musical instrument was considered beneficial to a governmental official’s general competence.

Next, Chapter 8 of the 2017 book spoke of symbols. The artist is a visionary because of his ability to see the true nature of things, their eidoi, thus having “an advantage over the common man who only sees the ephemeral and the subjective.” [p 62-63] Goethe, for his part, meant that he could see the eidos directly. Goethe was portrayed in Borderline and his esoteric ability, in science and art, remains an inspiring gestalt of Actionism.

C. Art as a Way of Wisdom

You say: avoid excess, remain sane...!

I say: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Atasthalía...!

I say: as an artist you’re basically fighting elemental forces, fighting chaos, and then you have to mobilize all the powers you’ve got. You struggle to give shape to the chaos of images besetting you.

Remain sane... OK, true, willpower must be in charge, excess should be avoided in your everyday, human practice – but otherwise it’s all about burning magnesium, fire and movement, hubris and megalomania, fanaticism and hysteria...!

Don’t lecture me about what works and what doesn’t. I tread a fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime and I know it. The only thing carrying me through is wanting to be carried through – wanting to succeed – wanting to complete the task at hand. I do, I overdo; then some sane deliberation will have to sort it out. But only when the work is done. To deliberate too much before the event leads nowhere.

You can’t plan a perfect artwork in every detail. After the initial framework is sketched out you have to get going and shape the whole thing.

You say: write about fine, edifying stuff. Don’t worship war and death; worship life...!

To this I say: ideals you must have, true. I am one of the few mindful authors out there today, mindful with an artistic tinge. And that artistic tinge, artistic attitude mustn’t be quelled by overriding commands of the “write edifying stuff, educate the reader, enlighten the world”-kind...

I will rather burn down the world than write a text that is sane and perfect from some brainy, rational point of view.

The aestheticism of the late 19th century had its value: the rebellion of the soul against the spirit; be a sleepwalker led by Providence; the inner voice and inner lantern must lead the way. Remain sane but otherwise, let yourself be led on by invisible forces, then you’ll succeed.

This is the artist’s commandment, now and forever.

And this strain was seen in writers like Wilde, George, Nietzsche.


“Art unites and science disconnects. Art gives form to things, science dissects.” – H. S. Chamberlain, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, Vol. I, Introduction, p. lx


This whole artistic lifestyle, this artistic philosophy of life, this “art as a way of wisdom,” this creative attitude, guided by inner light and intuition – it can, as I said, be called, Golden Yoga.

Golden Yoga implies an artistic approach to life and everything. It is the Actionist yoga, the Actionist way. It is a spiritual alchemy mixing fire and movement, will and thought.

Golden Yoga is about art as life and life as art. About expressing thought in symbolic form. About philosophy having to have an enduring, alluring, artistic form.

In the spirit of Alice Bailey Golden Yoga is about reaching “harmony through conflict”... That is, the artwork is a paragon of harmony – but – in order to reach it you have to stage a conflict. – This, then, is the alchemy of Golden Yoga, this is how to make spiritual gold...!

D. Some Words on Nietzsche

In this post Nietzsche has been mentioned several times. He was a philosopher who understood one aspect of Golden Yoga, the need for style, the strain of life as art and art as life, the need for Selbst-stilisierung (self-stylization).

This touches on Nietzsche’s existential approach: letting your life be an embodiment of what you advocate, letting your being reflect your thought; being and thought is the same in his opus. To this, at most seen only in glimpses in other existential thinkers (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Weil, Sartre), we have the stylistic will, the “will to style” (Ger. Stilwille). Like the true artist is his artwork the true philosopher is his opus. He must express himself in a style reflecting his unique being. He must have a will to express himself; he can’t write for the academy, in ordered periods and passages; he must use any mode of expression to utter his own conceptual-cum-existential vision. This will lead him into art – and out of the academy.

Case in point: in Nietzsche’s first work, Geburt der Tragödie, he construed a maybe fanciful but workable juxtaposition of Apollonian and Dionysian attitudes, said to have existed in antiquity; however, Nietzsche doesn’t support his thesis with ordinary research, he supports it with style.

L’homme et la style, c’est la même... le philosophe et la style, c’est la même.

E. Symbolism

Golden Yoga is “art as a creed”. And for creating art you need symbols. Hereby a deliberation on symbols and symbolism.


In Thoth’s Emerald Tablets, XIV, we read this on symbols: “Hidden in darkness, veiled in symbols, // always the way to the portal will be found.”

Symbolism, expressed in nuce: the thing becomes a symbol when being shines through.

Mankind expresses itself symbolically. Energy patterns in its mind are projected into architecture, art, religion, politics, everything. The mind of man is symbolically projected into tangibly visible creations. Robert Graves on symbolism:
Symbolism or allegory is ‘truer’ than realism in that the former allows more possibilities or interpretations. And more possibilities—implying greater freedom and less context dependence—translate to a greater truth. Accordingly, it has been said, ‘The more numerous the poetic meanings that could be concentrated in a sacred name; the greater was its power.’”

[quoted after the foreword of translator Christopher Jones in Otto Rahn, Crusade Against the Grail. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions 2006 -- Jones adds after quote: “In this way, the Grāl is perhaps the most powerful symbol of all for a simple reason: nobody has ever seen it.]”
More about symbolism we find in Rudolf Steiner, Atlantis and Lemuria, 1904, about the Atlanteans not thinking in ideas and abstract concepts but in tangible images and visions:
The man of the present day has the advantage over the Atlantean of possessing a logical understanding and an aptitude for combination; but on the other hand his memory power has waned. We now think in ideas, the Atlantean thought in pictures; and when a picture rose in his mind he remembered many other similar pictures which he had formerly seen, and then formed his judgment accordingly. Consequently all education then was quite different from that of later times. It was not intended to provide the child with rules or to sharpen his wits. Rather was life presented to him in comprehensive pictures, so that subsequently he could call to remembrance as much as possible, when dealing with this or that circumstance.
It's like hieroglyphic writing. Ideograms. Communicating not with abstractions but with relatable symbols. Like Jünger and myself.

The gist of symbolism, captured by Andrei Tarkovsky: “A poet is someone who uses a single image to express a universal message.”

It’s about the adamitic view of language: unity between the thing and the thought. Thus it was in the time of Adam. It’s like William Carlos Williams: “no thought except in things; say it!”

F. Actionism Always

Myth, math, and metaphor... symbol... creativity as a way of life, as a way of transcendence... that is, Golden Yoga, the theme for this paper... and on the subject of Golden Yoga I have more, a lot more.

Golden Yoga is the esoteric worldview, the astral worldview, with an artistic tinge.

Golden Yoga is an artistic approach to life and everything. It is the Actionist yoga, the Actionist way. A spiritual alchemy mixing fire and movement, will and thought.


Actionism, actionism always...!

That’s my motto. A motto for the strong life, the responsible life.

This is my creed, my philosophy. It’s about Actionism. It’s about energy, action, toughness, rigor = rigorism.

It’s about elitism, supermanism, superomismo... to raise yourself and become something more than you are... “be all that you can be,” as the US Army slogan said.

So I’m heroic and godly and whatnot... I live the authentic life, the real life, the responsible life – the shiny, radiant, creative, Faustian-heroic life...

I’m a virtual man-god giving everything I see and touch its meaning. Everything I say is revelation, everything I do is revelation; everything I see is the eidos, the idea, the essence.


Man-god: I’m a man, a physical body needing fuel and sleep... but in that body a soul is also dwelling, a refined soul having a divine spark in it. That’s what makes me divine.

You could say that I’m a god, lower case g, acknowledging the top God.

I face up to everything I can, I even master it: life and death, fear and superstition... I control every thought, every emotion, every muscle, every nerve...

I’m a self-ordained god-man, realizing I have God within.

G. Diverse

Heart of gold, golden yoga...


“The only rule governing creativity is the act of creation itself” (Frank Herbert, Children of Dune, p. 354, NEL 1984)... the only purpose of an artwork is proving that it could be done.


Golden yoga is a spiritual aestheticism.


I’m an example of the aesthetic-heroic man, untouched by the critical reason.


God bless piety and esotericism – but – a wholly pious man can’t create art. An artist has to be ruthless, he must be true to his vision. In the same way as an all too prudent and perfect woman isn’t sexy. She needs to be a little dirty, if only marginally, in order to have some sexual allure. – I’d say, 100% piety is the death of art.

H. Nordic Midsummer Night

Andrei Tarkovsky was referred to above. And hereby another of his wisdoms. About the artist himself turning into a work of art. And this will be the pay-off to this chapter entitled, “Turning Your Life Into Art”; it will be the conclusion of this chapter about Golden Yoga, about a phenomenon at the intersection between life, ethics, ontology, and art.

The quote we now will examine concerns Tarkovsky’s 1985 film The Sacrifice.

The scene is the villa, the country house. In the never-ending Nordic midsummer night the medical doctor, Victor, and some friends are sitting by a table out in the open. And at 1.32-1.33 he says the following:
As I understood Alexander’s words, he meant that it is peculiar for a man, to change, of his own free will, into a work of art. Generally, the result of all poetic striving lies so far from its author that one can hardly believe that it is a man-made creation. In the case of the actor, though, the reverse is true. The actor is, himself, his own creation, his own work of art.
My comment on this: an actor (or an artist conscious of his worth), unifies immanence with transcendence. The artwork, almost a supernatural occurrence, something transcendent, is revealed in himself, in his earthly, bodily gestalt – in something immanent.

He is a living wonder, a one-man university, a wonder revealed... everything he does becomes myth, legend, Holy Writ. Everything he touches becomes gold.


And the pay-off to all this, would be: I am -- I am art -- I am god.

Astral War
Borderline (2016)
Actionism (2017)
Nietzschean Superman

onsdag 20 april 2022

Ny podd med mig

In Swedish. -- En ny podd har lagts upp. Jag är med i den. Och du finner den här.

Jalle Horn kör vidare med sin poddserie. "På gamla och nya stigar" heter den. Som bekant. Och nu har Jalle och jag gjort ett avsnitt om det gamla indiska eposet Mahabharata.

Mahabharata är ett tämligen omfångsrikt verk. Men i stort sett kan det beskrivas som Indiens svar på Iliaden och Odysséen.

Du får veta allt du behöver veta i podden ifråga.

Mycket nöje.

Mahabharata behandlas av Jalle och Svensson
Podd med mig om Jünger
Podd med mig från 2017 -- Red Ice -- på engelska -- om "sf från höger"
Referat av Mahabharata (på engelska)

onsdag 13 april 2022

Riches, Riches Everywhere (poem)

Good evening. Hereby a poem about gold and other riches. -- I'd say, you have probably never read anything like this before. The thing of it is, no poet is naïve enough to say that he likes gold... no, it is always about saying how vain it is to seek gold. No poet "gets the feeling" of gold... no one but me... I humbly say... judge for yourself.

Treasure Island --

The Treasure of Sierra Madre --

Mackenna's Gold --

King Solomon's Mines (Haggard 1885)...

In other words: gold, gold, gold...

Riches, Riches Everywhere...!


The Mines of King Solomon (Barks 1957) -- The Seven Cities of Cibola --
tons of gold... in baskets of gold...

Gold and riches, like The Emeralds of Gopo-Gopo... and the caves of Raṣtrakūta...

Rasmus Nalle i Aladdins grotta --

Golden Oldies --

Dark Crystal --

The Golden Compass --

Kanaka -- suvarna -- hiraṇya... [Note 1]


'Gold' is a metaphor --
for the alchemy --
of consciousness --
and time...

Every memory turns to gold...
that's "the alchemy of consciousness
and time"...


... pañca ratnāni mukhyāni
coparatna catuṣtayam
likhyante cātra sambhedya
yathā maulyam yathā guṇam
... [Note 2]


The Twenty-Four Carat Moon...

Every tree was made of gold...

Here we are living in paradise...

hiraṇya śrī... hiraṇya śrī... [Note 3]


Some are rich -- some are poor --
but I'm so glad -- cos I am rich...!

I have nice things...
and from the sky it's raining flowers...
khāt petuḥ puṣpa-vṛṣṭayaḥ... [Note 4]

1. "Kanaka -- suvarna -- hiraṇya" are different Sanskrit names for gold.
2. "Pañca ratnāni mukhyāni / coparatna catuṣtayam / likhyante cātra sambhedya / yathā maulyam yathā guṇam": this is the first verse of an ancient Indian handbook on gems, Agastīyā Ratnaparīkṣā. Translation: "Here are described the five main precious stones and the four semi-precious stones, regarding their value and qualities."
3. "Hiraṇya śrī": the lustre of gold.
4. "Khāt petuḥ puṣpa-vṛṣṭayaḥ": a line from Bhāgavata Purāṇa meaning, "from the sky it' s raining flowers".

Another poem: Comfortably Strong
Secret history of Egypt

söndag 3 april 2022

Recension: Putin rustar Ryssland (Elfving 2014)

In Swedish. -- Ryssland är på tapeten. I och med Ukrainakriget. Jag bloggade nyss om en annan aspekt av "rysk krigsmakt", nämligen Afghanistankriget 1979-1989. Härmed något liknande men mer aktuellt: den reformering och förstärkning av den ryska krigsmakten som skett efter 2008.

Detta är recension av följande bok: Jörgen Elfving. Putin rustar Ryssland – den ryska björnen vaknar till liv. Stockholm: SMB, 2014.

Denna bok beskriver ryska militärreformer från 1992 och framåt. Författaren, Jörgen Elfving, är före detta officer i svenska armén (övlt). I denna bok har han täckt in hela det ryska försvaret, från armé och flygvapen till marin mm. Hur såg ryska försvarsmakten ut 2014 i ljuset av den modernisering som pågick? Denna fråga besvaras i boken. Och det hela torde kunna intressera även dagens läsare.

Det inlägg ni nu läser rubriceras ”recension”. Och för att få recenserandet undanstökat kan det sägas att Elfvings bok i stort sett är rekommendabel. Att skriva neutralt och ”evidensbaserat” om Ryssland är idag inte lätt, inte ens 2014 då boken kom var det lätt, men Elfving lyckas överlag med det. Boken är faktaspäckad och är delvis skriven i formulärform; dock piggas man upp av strängt taget onödiga, men roande tillbakablickar på tsartidens armé-, flyg- och flottväsen. Sovjettiden som bakgrund belyses också nöjaktigt.

I det följande kommer jag att gå igenom bokens innehåll; jag återger fakta och synvinklar som både kan vara nyttiga för dagslägets syn samt vara intressanta i vid mening. Fokus ligger på armén men vi kollar även in de andra vapengrenarna i den mån vi känner för det. Därtill kommer vi att inflika reflektioner och fakta från källor som uppstått efter 2014. Så det nedanstående är en vid diskussion om Rysslands krigsmakt av idag; Elfvings framställning är utgångspunkten och huvudkällan. På slutet en strategisk slutsats av undertecknad.

Utvecklingen 1991-2008

Ryssland är historiskt en fastlandsmakt och har alltid haft prio på armén, även om sjö- och flygstridskrafter också varit nämnvärda. I sin studie säger sig Elfving ha utgått från ”öppna källor som följts under en längre tid. ... [T]ill skillnad från sovjettiden är idag den ryska öppenheten betydande.” [s. 7] (Min LS kommentar till detta är: sovjettiden är idag onekligen historia – men – vad gäller läget i Ryssland så var öppenheten kanske större 2014 än idag, 2022; jag tänker här på krigstillståndet till följd av Ukrainakriget.)

Sovjetunionen upphörde formellt 1991. Dess femton delrepubliker blev då alla självständiga stater. Den största, lika med Sovjets forna kärnland, Ryssland, blev den i sammanhanget dominerande staten; på ruinerna av det som varit Sovjetunionen blev Ryssland hegemonen, den stat som utövade hegemoni, dvs. ett slags informell dominans.

Ryssland av idag kallas ”Ryska federationen” eller ”Russian Federation”. Det har man hetat sedan 1991, då Sovjetunionen upplöstes. Sedan 1993 är man en federal presidentstyrd republik, under Putin med markant auktoritära drag.

Det nya Rysslands armé har länge varit i ett betänkligt skick, visat bl.a i Tjetjenienkrigen 1994-1996 och 1999-2000. Problemet med ryska armén denna tid var generellt/doktrinärt en för stor och omodern armé med därtill för stor förlitan på kärnvapen.


Rysslands förste ledare, Boris Jeltsin, försökte hålla militären på gott humör samtidigt som han inte gav dem några nämnvärda resurser för modernisering mm. Vladimir Putin, som ledde Ryssland under det andra Tjetjenienkriget, hade dock större gehör för försvarsmaktens behov. Några omedelbara resultat i upprustning och reformering kom dock ej förrän efter Georgienkriget i augusti 2008. Elfving: ”[Georgienkriget] blev en viktig strategisk seger för Ryssland och satte stopp för planerna på en utvidgning av NATO med Georgien och Ukraina som möjliga nya medlemmar i alliansen.” [s. 11]

Georgien-kriget varade cirka en vecka i augusti 2008. Jätten Ryssland vann förvisso mot dvärgen Georgien men det hela gick inte som på räls. Strategiskt vann man Georgienkriget men taktiskt-operativt var läget dåligt. Ty kriget ”uppenbarade på ett obarmhärtigt, och genant, sätt bristerna i de ryska stridskrafternas utrustning, organisation och förmåga. Trots att kriget kunde betraktas som en framgång fanns det brister, i första hand avseende ledningssystem, underrättelsetjänst, samband, elektronisk krigföring, med mera.” [s. 11-12] Med andra ord, ryska armén släpade efter inom sektorn C3I, command, control, communications and intelligence.


2008: Ryssland insåg att man måste bättra sig inom C3I.

Elfving nämner inte uttryckligen det följande – men – läget var sådant att ryska armén nu måste modernisera sig med datorer och elektronik, så som NATO gjort för länge sedan. Under Gulfkriget 1990-91 excellerade väst i sina C3I-förmågor och långt om länge måste Ryssland ta efter detta mönster; det insåg ryssarna själva.

Ryssland beslutade sig därför, hösten 2008 i Georgienkrigets kölvatten, för att modernisera försvaret. Man kallade det inte uttryckligen ”reform”, det ordet var lite utslitet då i dessa sammanhang, så man talade om ”att ge de ryska stridskrafterna ett nytt utseende” [Elfving s. 12].

Nåväl, ett långsiktigt reformprogram inleddes. Brigad skulle bland annat bli arméns grundenhet; mönstret regemente-division-armé, med sovjetrysk tradition, avskaffades. Det visade sig dock svårt att få till funktionella brigader så det hela resulterade i att nivån under brigad, bataljon/bataljonsstridsgrupp, ofta blev grundenhet. Antalet officerare minskades liksom antalet skolor; man kan gissa att de senare ofta hade dubbleringar (olika skolor undervisade i samma ämnen) så detta var i så fall förnuftigt. Dessutom avskaffades bruket med fredstida regementen/kaderförband; alla förband skulle nu ha samma höga beredskap/tillgänglighet.

Målet var en försvarsmakt (alltså armé, flotta, flyg – allt) år 2012 som omfattade en miljon man. Det hela innebar också upprustning och modernisering; åtskilliga triljoner rubler skulle tillföras försvaret. Dessa rubler blev också tillgängliga; under 2010-talet tjänade Ryssland en hel del på att sälja gas och olja. Och själva huvudskälet till denna upprustning var att man kände sig hotade av NATO’s utvidgning; den västliga försvarsalliansen stod och står under 2000-talet bokstavligen vid Rysslands gränser. Visst kunde de forna lydstaterna som de i Baltikum plus Polen känna trygghet av att vara med i NATO, det hör förstås också till bilden. Förtrycket av randstater under Sovjettiden ska inte historiskt glömmas bort.

Läget idag (2014-)

För en översikt över det ryska försvaret idag, låt oss börja med att se på armén, de ryska markstridskrafterna. De indelas i följande truppslag: motoriserat infanteri, stridsvagnsförband, artilleri- och raketförband, luftvärnsförband samt underhållsförband. Därtill kommer ”specialförband” till vilka bl.a. räknas spaningsförband, ingenjörsförband, NBC-skyddsförband och telekrigsförband. För markstridstrupp har man dessutom ett fristående vapenslag i form av de luftburna trupperna, VDV, varom mer nedan.

En nutida rysk motoriserad skyttebataljon kan [enligt Elfving s. 79] ha tre kompanier motoriserat infanteri, ett granatkastarkompani, en sk. granatsprutepluton, en pv-pluton samt stab, spaningspluton, pionjärpluton samt tross- och sjukvårdspluton. I strid tillförs i regel en stridsvagnspluton; detta var iaf. en sovjetisk specialitet och traditioner dör långsamt. Och även utseende i övrigt för en sådan här motoriserad skbat var detsamma under sovjettiden. – Pansarbataljon har tre pansarkompanier mm.; också här är strukturen i stort som under sovjettiden. Det nya är tillförseln av datoriserade ledningssystem.

Det vanligaste handeldvapnet för den ryske soldaten är AK-74M med 5,45 mm kaliber. En nyligen införd AK är AK-12. Sedan finns förstås allt som behövs i vapen- och stridsfordonsväg för en nutida armé: ksp, pansarvärn, stridsvagnar (med modell Armata som en nyhet efter T-72 och T-90) samt pansarbandvagnar mm. mm., i stort sett av modernt och uppdaterat slag. Stridsvagnar av typ T-54 och T-62 har utgått, men T-72:or torde ännu användas. – På s. 105 i Elfvings bok finns en bild på vad som ser ut som en svensk Bv 206 (se bild ovan); dock är detta fordon ryskt och heter GAZ-3351. Elfving säger inget mer om den men enligt Wikipedia är denna bandvagns förekomst i Ryssland lika med en överföring av Hägglunds koncept; fordonet tillverkas på licens av ryska GAZ Group. Fordonstypen torde endast ha marginell användning i ryska armén, såsom fraktfordon för ingenjörsförband mm.


Vi övergår nu till en titt på ryska flottan [Elfving s. 110ff]. Under den tidiga sovjetepoken spelade marinen liten roll. Det fanns inget direkt marint hot och de före detta tsarryska sjöofficerarna ansågs opålitliga. På 30-talet (andra femårsplanen, 1933-37) inleddes dock ett marint förnyelseprogram, men andra världskriget hejdade det hela. Under Stora fosterländska kriget spelade sovjetmarinen en underordnad roll. Det enda slagskepp man hade i Östersjön var Marat, som sänktes av Stukapiloten Hans-Ulrich Rudel i en legendarisk räd, 23 september 1941 (han fällde en av de två 1000-kg bomberna ifråga). Några ryska slagskepp har sedan aldrig sjösatts eller opererat i Östersjön, endast kryssare.

Efter Tysklands nederlag 1945 kunde sovjetmarinen överta rätt många före detta tyska fartyg. – På s. 111 anges den sovjetiska marina utvecklingen (i stort, inte bara i Östersjön) enligt dessa hållpunkter:
. 1945-1955: stöd av markstridskrafterna.
. 1955-1960: bryta motståndarens sjöförbindelser.
. 1960-1970: nedkämpa motståndarens hangarfartygsgrupper och landbaserade resurser.
. 1970-1985: nedkämpa motståndarens hangarfartygsgrupper och landbaserade resurser.
. 1985-1991: nedkämpa motståndarens hangarfartygsgrupper och landbaserade resurser genom vedergällningsangrepp.
1985 nådde sovjetflottan sin styrkemässiga kulmen. Enligt västkällor hade man god förmåga inom bland annat ”minkrigföring, sjömålsrobotar och taktiska landstigningar” [s.112].

Efter Sovjets fall övertog Ryssland huvuddelen av den ryska flottan men det hela var till föga nytta. Gamla fartyg rostade bort och skrotades, nybyggnationen avstannade och övningsverksamheten var låg.


Ryssland har alltså idag hämtat sig ur 1990-talets/tidiga 2000-talets svacka. Likt det övriga försvaret har flottan upprustats; även om sovjetiska nivåer inte uppnåtts så har förvisso ryska marinen stärkts. I marinen ingår idag både över- och undervattensfartyg, marininfanteri och marinflyg. Den är uppdelad på Norra marinen (Murmansk), Östersjömarinen (Leningrad), Svartahavsmarinen (Sevastopol) och Stillahavsmarinen (Vladivostok). Därtill har man Medelhavseskadern, ”vilken i februari 2014 omfattade 12 fartyg. Fartygen i eskadern roteras ur samtliga mariner och en liknande styrka fanns i Medelhavet under sovjetperioden och fram till 1992.” [s. 113] LS: denna styrka, 5th Operational Squadron, var grunden för den ryska insatsen i Syrien 2015-2017. Den är baserad i Tartus (antikens Antardus) i Syrien samt i Sevastopol.

Ryska flottans flaggskepp idag är hangarfartyget Amiral Kuznetsov. Det har anor från sovjettiden (sjösatt 1985) men blev fullt operativt först 1995; som en kuriositet kan nämnas att det är oljeeldat, ej atomdrivet. Övriga nämnvärda ryska örlogsfartyg av idag är till exempel svartahavsmarinens flaggskepp, robotkryssaren Moskva, samt Norra marinens fregatt Viceamiral Kulakov. Mer i detalj så har marinen förnyats under 2010-talet med tillförsel av nya fartyg, framför allt ubåtar. De två amfibieattackfartyg man beställde av Frankrike fick man dock i slutändan inte köpa, och detta av politiska skäl (Ukrainakrisen 2014); de såldes istället till Egypten. – Det ryska marininfanteriet var för sin del 2014 förhållandevis svagt, med föga toppmodern materiel.


Vidare i Elfvings bok, nu om flygvapnet [s. 129 ff]. Det sovjetiska flygvapnet (närmare bestämt dess marinflygsdetalj) sägs ha bombat Berlin i augusti 1941, men det var en engångsföreteelse. Liksom marinen var flygets roll i stort under Stora fosterländska kriget att stödja markstridskrafterna. I övrigt kan nämnas att luftkriget på östfronten, jämfört med hur det var på västfronten, var lågintensivt.

Efter kriget tillkom en ny luftkrigs-vapengren, fjärrflyg lika med strategiskt bombflyg. Därtill var transportflyget ett eget flygslag. Därtill fanns frontflyget, avsett för understöd av markstriden. Man kom snabbt in i jetåldern; 1952 sägs flygplanparken till 85,5% ha bestått av jetflygplan [s. 130]. 1990 hade sovjetflyget 6.079 flygplan av olika typer, däribland stridshelikoptrar som Mi-8 och Mi-24.

Likt armén förnyades det ryska flygvapnet efter Georgienkriget 2008. En del system har förvisso sovjetursprung men har moderniserats, på samma sätt som USA moderniserat exempelvis F-18 Hornet från 70-talet fram till idag. Fjärrflyg: Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, Tu-160, hkp Mi-8. Jaktflyg: Su-30SM, Su-35S, Mig-29SMT, Mig-35S, T-50/PAK FA. Attackflyg: Su-25-SM (modernisering av gamla Frogfoot), Su-34 (av detta plan ska man ha cirka 150-200 stycken). Arméflyg: hkp Ka-51, Mi-28H ”Nattjägaren”, Mi-35M (modernisering av gamla trotjänaren Mi-24), Mi-8-MTSj.


Elfving har ett helt kapitel om ”bemanning”, om manskap och officerare i dagens ryska försvar. – Kort kan sägas om armén härvid: förr, under sovjettiden, var arméns manskap värnpliktigt. Idag ska det vara både yrkessoldater och värnpliktiga. Yrkessoldater fanns redan under Georgienkriget, men de gjorde enligt uppgift inte så bra ifrån sig där. [Källan för detta är en analys av Georgienkriget 2008, utrett på engelska av ett förmodligen svenskt författarpar, Carolina Vendil Pallin och Fredrik Westerlund; se här.]

Yrkessoldater är alltså inget universalmedel för att uppnå målet ”smal men vass armé”. Men en kombination yrkessoldater-vpl är dock bra för att ha kontinuitet i organisationen, ha ständig tillgänglighet/beredskap för förbanden. Däremot, med endast värnpliktiga, tenderar man att få toppar och dalar i tillgängligheten.

För försvaret som helhet gällde för 2014 (när Elfving skrev sin bok) att allmän värnplikt rådde för män mellan 18 och 27 år (2009 var tiden för grundutbildning 12 månader lång). För kontraktsanställda/yrkessoldater gällde att de skulle vara mellan 19-35 år gamla och ha någon form av gymnasieutbildning.

Övriga vapengrenar

Förutom armé, flygstridskrafter och marin har Rysslands försvar dessa vapengrenar: strategiska robottrupper, rymd- och luftförsvarstrupper, samt VDV, lika med luftlandsättningstrupper. Härmed något om dessa.

Först robottrupperna. Enligt Elfving s. 39ff är dessa del i den ryska sk. kärnvapentriaden, där de andra två delarna är marinens kärnvapenbärande ubåtar samt fjärrflygets bombplan. Grunden till robottrupperna las med erövrade tyska V2-raketer samt tvångsenrollerade tyska ingenjörers arbete från avk:s slut och in på 50-talet. Kapustin Jar blev robotskjutfält. Man utvecklade ballistiska robotar beväpnade med stridsspetsar av kärnvapentyp eller konventionell typ. Själva vapenslaget ”robottrupper” bildades 17 december 1959. Nya robotar utvecklades under hela sovjeteran. Efter Sovjets upplösning fick vissa före detta sovjetrepubliker, nu självständiga stater, kärnvapen på sin lott. Men 1996 hade samtliga kärnvapen överförts till Ryssland.

Byråkrati: ”År 1997 slogs de strategiska robottrupperna samman med rymdstridskrafterna och luftförsvarets rymd- och robotförsvarstrupper, men delades i juni 2001 upp i de strategiska robottrupperna respektive de kosmiska trupperna.” [s. 42]

Fler byråkratiska penndrag: de sistnämnda kosmiska trupperna blev 2011 grund för en ny vapengren, rymd- och luftförsvarstrupperna. Man skulle möta både hot från luften och rymden; att Europa samtidigt planerade att skaffa ett amerikanskt antirobotförsvar sägs ha bidragit. [s. 48]. USA tycks ha tagit efter Ryssland genom att 2019 skapa en liknande rymdförsvars-vapengren, US Space Force. (Den blev därmed USA:s sjätte vapengren jämte armé, flygvapen, flotta, marinkår och kustbevakning.)

Rysslands rymd- och luftförsvar, som alltså är ännu en vapengren jämte robottrupper, armé, flyg och flotta mm, ska [s. 48]:
. upptäcka uppskjutningar av ballistiska robotar
. förvarna om robotangrepp
. bekämpa fientliga robotar
. skydda stats- och försvarsinstallationer, stridskraftsgrupperingar, städer och industrier
. följa föremål i rymden
. upptäcka hot mot Ryssland i och från rymden
. skjuta upp satelliter för både militär och civil användning
Rymdförsvarets material utgörs av radarstationer, luftvärnsrobotar och antiballistiska robotar. [s. 52] För försvaret av Ryssland använder man luftvärnsrobotar med kort, medellång och lång räckvidd [s. 49]. Vissa luftvärnsrobotförband tillhör dock flygvapnet [s. 51].


Så något om VDV: luftlandsättningstrupperna. Efter Elfving s. 58 ff.

Sovjet var tidigt ute med att sätta upp luftburen trupp. Det mest spektakulära var fallskärmsförband och redan 1930 genomfördes en övning för detta: soldater med fallskärm på ryggen hoppade från ett bombplan typ TB-3 [s. 58]. Man satte upp flera fallskärmsförband med inalles 50.000 man, men under Stora fosterländska kriget genomfördes rätt få luftlandsättningar. En gjordes under slaget om Moskva vintern 1941-1942; den sista gjordes ”i slutet av september 1943 i samband med övergången av Dnjepr då en tillfälligt sammansatt fallskärmskår med tre brigader med mera fälldes i syfte att hejda tillförsel av tyska förstärkningar och underlätta Voronezjfrontens anfall över och söder Dnjepr” [s. 59-60]. Denna styrka sägs ha landat mitt i en tysk pansarstöt varmed den, fallskärmsstyrkan, blev förintad.

Att så få fallskärmsoperationer gjordes berodde generellt på bristen på tillgång till transportflygplan. Det fanns även ”brister i förmågan att planera och genomföra luftlandsättningsoperationer” [s. 60]. – 1946 avskildes luftlandsättningsförbanden ur flygvapnet och blev del av Stavkas reserv, vilket torde kunna ha inneburit att de nu blev en egen vapengren. På sikt tillkom stora transportplan samt pansarskyttefordon som kunde fällas med fallskärm. Sådan ”llpsk” såsom BMD-1 kunde fällas med två man sittande i den; den första dylika fällningen skedde 5 januari 1973 med löjtnant Margelov ombord. Han var son till general Margelov, som på 50-talet blev chef för luftlandsättningsförbanden. Som tack för sina stora insatser för vapengrenen kom generalen att kallas ”fallskärmssoldat nummer 1” [s. 61].

Under sovjettiden var luftlandsättningstruppen talrik (cirka 100.000 man). Även under postsovjetisk tid har de utmärkt sig; i Tjetjenien, Georgien samt som fredsbevarande trupp Jugoslavien. Intressant var att man i Georgien 2008 inte uppträdde ”som divisioner och regementen utan i form av bataljonsstridsgrupper” [s. 62]. Med andra ord, bataljonsstridsgruppen, ”BTG”, Battalion Tactical Group, är numera grundformen för all högre stridsverksamhet, vilket enligt mig är en tendens i hela världens moderna arméer. En bataljon har tillräckligt med eldkraft för att kunna operera tämligen självständigt.

Huvudfordonet för VDV var 2014 psk-vagnen BMD-2, som då hade 40 år på nacken (s. 65). Sedan kom bl.a BMD-4.

Elfvings bok kom alltså 2014. En uppgift från 2015 som jag inhämtat är att VDV räknar 45.000 man. Det är en halvering jämfört med sovjettiden men ändå en aktningsvärd styrka – en styrka som Rysslands grannar alltså måste ta med i sina beräkningar, jämte den upprustade ryska armén och allt annat.


Slutsatsen då, om Ryssland militära förmåga idag? Elfvings bok är som sagt upplysande och jag baserar det följande på den samt diverse ur egen fatabur.

Som antytts har ryska arméns modernisering i mångt och mycket handlat om att förbättra ledning och sambandselement. Ökad användning av datorer och elektronik (såsom ”införande av datorstödda ledningssystem”) samt göra förbanden ”smalare men vassare”; detta är, så vitt jag kan se, ledmotivet. Man har så att säga på ett tekniskt-praktiskt plan ”Nato-iserat” armén, gjort den modernare; gjort den till mindre av en klubba, mer till ett svärd. Idén från sovjettiden med stora, delvis omoderna pansarförband, stödda av talrikt artilleri och (potentiellt) kärnvapeninsats, har övergetts; nu gäller mindre men eldkraftigare bataljonsstridsgrupper ledda inom en brigadstruktur.

Kärnvapnen finns ännu kvar men under dessa är man kapabla till ”flexible response”, ett behov man såg redan under FN-insatsen i forna Jugoslavien på 1990-talet. Läxan ”flexible response”, alltså förmågan hos en försvarsmakt att kunna utkämpa krig av skilda slag, gjorde NATO redan i början av 1960-talet. Sovjet, tryggt i sin kontinentala fästning, hade då inget behov av att frångå sin doktrin med en massarmé med stora mängder pansar; den tjänade landet väl, såsom i Tjeckoslovakien 1968, som ju var en sovjetrysk ockupation av ett grannland, utförd med pansardivisioner i spetsen. Senare (1979) invaderade Sovjeryssland Afghanistan och då märktes att den massiva pansaramén var ett trubbigt instrument för aktuell krigsskådeplats. Men man anpassade sig taktiskt (ett exempel på sk. tactical adaption); efter inledningsskedet nyttjade man i huvudsak Spetsnaz och lokala förband för att strida mot gerillan.

Post-sovjetiska försök att stärka försvaret gjordes enligt idén om en smalare och vassare försvarsmakt. Målet har, i stort sett, uppnåtts idag år 2022. Det ekonomiska uppsvinget under 2010-talet möjliggjorde iaf. höjda försvarsbudgetar. Men riktigt hur djupt reformer och materielförnyelse nått är svårt att säga. Hur Ukrainakriget ska utvecklas är tämligen svårt att i skrivande stund (april 2022) sia om.

Men man kan åtminstone säga detta: sedan Tuchatjevskis arméreformer på 1920-talet har den ständiga ryska strävan varit att föra kriget in på fiendens territorium. Och det ser vi exempel på i Ukraina idag 2022. Ryssland är en geopolitiskt fokuserad, expansiv makt. Och då är slutsatsen att Rysslands grannar, inklusive Sverige, bör hålla garden uppe mot denna makt. Särskilt idag, då man tydligen stärkt sig efter svackan som rådde under 1990- och tidigt 2000-tal.

Afghanistankriget 1979-1989
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