The Question of Motivation and Interior Forces

For one alternate half-fantastical daydream war scenario I’d created (that I may or may not be simming further), I had one fictional country’s interior ministry forces fight harder and better than their regular army did. This despite them not being really designed for conventional war at all and having nothing heavier than box-APCs and crew-served weapons. Part of it was good mountainous terrain that played to the strengths of lighter forces (like them, particularly their commando units) while weakening heavier ones (like the attackers). But then it got me thinking to other parts.

  • Being all-volunteer (even if only for pay) compared to the mostly draftee military.
  • Being a sort of counterbalance to the regular army that put them on alert. (This is why they’d have antitank weapons and training, for instance…)
  • Finally and more crucially, being tied to the regime rather than the country. This meant they had more to lose in the event of a defeat.

Making a WW3 contemporary

So, Walt Gragg’s The Red Line is a book whose influence on this blog and my understanding of conventional World War IIIs in general was underappreciated. In fact, at the time I didn’t even know it. I just saw a World War III thriller that was clearly set in a Cold War gone hot but had its setting clumsily and obviously pushed into being “contemporary”.

Over two years and countless books later, I saw just how rare (to the point of being essentially nonexistent) mainstream World War III novels were that:

  • Took place after the Vietnam War.
  • Took place a significant time before the publication date of the book.
  • Were mostly conventional.

This also extends to Larry Bond-style “big war thrillers” in general. To appeal to more than a niche, they have to either piggyback on a well-known historical conflict (ie World War II), or be contemporary in some form. And after looking at and studying the issue, I’ve found that it really isn’t that hard to adapt any kind of missile-age war to a contemporary setting. And the beginning of the “missile age” can be roughly put as around the time of the…. Vietnam War. How about that?!?

For a start, the same geopolitical rivals have been more or less there for some time, and the absolute most you have to do is some kind of post-1991 technothriller enemy gimmick. Second, if it’s known that the audience won’t know/care about the technical details and/or inaccuracies, swapping names and using the same basic “feel” can be done with relative ease. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of military platforms have served for a very long period of time (just look at the B-52) in a way that the ones of the World Wars mostly didn’t.

Big Guns in Big Units

The corps/army level artillery mission hasn’t really changed that much since World War I, at least from what I’ve seen.

  • Counter-battery
  • Deep strike
  • Supporting the right effort at the right time.

As always, the Soviets were the most explicit in spelling it out, as one set of field regulations shows.

The American FM 100-15, from a similar time, had a similar statement.

As far back as 1923, the regulations explicitly state:

“The primary mission of corps artillery is the destruction or neutralization of hostile batteries, the destruction of hostile defenses, and long-range interdiction fire.”

As technology has consistently improved, command has “flattened”, and the understanding of its role has become more obviously apparent, more recent documents don’t spell it out so exactly. But the general concept is still there and present.

The Sum Of All My-Next Lives?

So bizarre crossover fanfics are nothing new. Yet this ultra-bizarre crossover fanfic idea/fusion has just leapt into my mind after seeing a few strange similarities and having my eyes light up. It’s My Next Life As A Villainess/Hamefura and-the “Ryanverse”, specifically (gulp) The Sum of All Fears. Granted, part of the appeal is just the strangeness.

The first spark is the reincarnation of “Monkey Girl” (her pre-reincarnation proper name is never given but that nickname is) being weirdly crossover-friendly. It’s impressive that it’s character-focused. Take a good-natured and sometimes right-twice-a-day (her obsession with farming, thinking she would have to fend for herself, was actually sound) but clueless about human relationships person who thinks the world runs on video game logic, and there’s a surprisingly high number of things you can do with it.

The second was how the original pre-reincarnation Katarina was a vindictive, hate-sink villainess. Who else fit that bill? Elizabeth Elliot, whose novelty made her one of my favorite technothriller antagonists. So there was a bizarre mutual overlap already. But my brain didn’t stop there. Oh no, because of the thought of bringing otome game logic to one of the most male genres in existence just felt amazing. So The Sum of All Hearts would star analyst Cathy Ryan. She’d have a man named Jack as one of several love interests, having to pursue one of them while at the same time trying to stop a nuclear war. It would be something.

Granted, the specifics would probably wreck it, but why worry about such things as “details” and “plausibility” when you have such a delightfully mushed-up concept? And hey, it’s not really any farther from Clancy’s original tone than some of the other “Tom Clancy’s” label franchises are.

(Come to think of it, “Rainbow Six” [with that number of love interests] could be the title of a romantic game…)

The Conventional Guerilla Army

Yes, I know this title sounds like a contradiction. Yet the irregular opponent operates in tiers.

At the “bottom” tier of organization, as per Training Circular 7-100.3, Irregular Opposing Forces (source of diagram), there is what that document calls “insurgents”, ones devoted purely to doing damage.

Next are what it calls “Guerillas”. The definition is “

“A guerrilla force is a group of irregular, predominantly indigenous personnel organized along military lines to conduct military and paramilitary operations in enemy-held, hostile, or denied territory (JP 3-05). Thus, guerrilla units are an irregular force, but structured similar to regular military forces. They resemble military forces in their command and control (C2) and can use military-like tactics and techniques.”

(Bolding added by me)

The document holds “guerillas” to be more organized and more capable of conventional-ish action than “insurgents.” It lists (obviously rough) organizations up to brigade size.

Then it gets trickier. Then there emerges “regular forces” that are intended to fight and hold ground conventionally. The Vietnam-era “Handbook on Aggressor Insurgent War” (FM 30-104, 1967) has a sample regiment of these regular forces organized as follows.

FM 30-104 rightly notes that these are organized similar to conventional Aggressor rifle regiments, only with lighter equipment. This flows right into the highest tier, consisting of…

  • Forces trained and equipped similarly to their external patrons (since very few unconventional forces can grow this powerful without outside backing). These are less interesting from an organizational standpoint, as the only things really distinguishing them are the origins of their forces and sometimes skill.
  • Irregular forces that have the size and equipment to succeed at conventional operations. These will have de facto infantry, motor vehicles (the infamous “technicals” ) and a smattering of supplied/captured AFVs, operable in what would be considered “detachments” in more structured armies in terms of their size and (lack of) organization.

The Monster Rocket

I give you the Type 762 rocket launcher, a fairly old and obscure Chinese self-propelled artillery piece. This is well, if you combined a FROG, a TOS-1, and a Giant Viper all into one platform, you’d get this.

From its stated (as always, take with a grain of salt) statistics, it has a pair of very short range (around only a kilometer!) thermobaric rockets (like the TOS-1), that are huge at 425mm diameter (only somewhat thinner than the FROGs) and which are primarily meant for clearing minefields (like the Giant Viper). Although with a rocket that big, I’m guessing that it’ll “clear” more than just land mines in the area it hits.

Truly an oddball.

Weird Wargaming: T-64 APCs

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a bunch of T-64 tanks, everything looks like it could work with a T-64. As it stood, the independent Ukraine inherited a gargantuan number of those tanks after the breakup of the USSR. As the beginning of the Donbass War showed all too vividly, it had very little else. Since the bureau that designed and the plant that built it were also in Ukraine, then… well, the hammer was even more prominent.

So, there’s the BMP-64, essentially an eastern Bradley on a tank platform. It has similar dimensions and a similar role as the famous American IFV (although a lot more dismounts). Note on the same brochure there’s more vehicles on the T-64 chassis and other tanks fitted with infantry compartments. The latter ones I’ve always envisioned as (at least theoretically) being more suited for a western armored cavalry structure. They can do the same things a tank in armored cav units can do, but they also have a few scouts to dismount when need be.

Then there’s the BMP-K-64, using the tank chassis for a wheeled APC. I find it simultaneously weird, interesting, questionable, and somehow impressive. This would be used like any other Stryker/BTR-style wheeled troop carrier, albeit with its thick front armor taken into account.

These desperation-born oddballs are the kind of armored vehicles I have a soft spot for.

Differing Fandoms, And What That Means For Alternate History

Seeing a post on the different “Eagle” and “Sparrow” fandoms made me think of this blog. After all, it started off trying to be small and selective to a small and selective group of literature. And then it ended up reviewing lots and lots of fiction in genres anything but those. Now, that post has its issues, but the general trends hold up.

Wargaming is an ideal “Eagle” fandom, small, selective, and often focused on exact details and quality. In contrast, cheap thrillers are a perfect “sparrow” fandom, where many are simply interchangeable and quite a few readers aren’t picky at all. Neither of these are bad things in the slightest. One can enjoy a deep simulator and a shallow mobile game just as much. But they are clearly different.

In conventional World War III fiction, it’s very easy to see the spectrum from “Eagles” (War That Never Was, wargames, especially advanced ones, etc…) to “Sparrows” (Ian Slater, other trend-hopping fiction). For all my criticism of Larry Bond, an underappreciated advantage of his books is an ability to balance between the extremes, making, or at least sincerely trying to make, something that’s technically adept enough for the “eagles” and relatable enough for the “sparrows”.

But where I’ve seen the biggest dichotomy is in alternate history. Like any other genre/type of fiction, it has its “eagles” and “sparrows”, and it’s made worse in my eyes from inherent divisions. IE, the same person is unlikely to consume Brad Smith’s World War 1985, Bridgerton, and Hotline Miami just because they’re all “alternate history”.

And internet alternate history, starting off as a pretty obvious “eagle”, has gradually changed. If I had to describe a lot of it, I’d use the term “a sparrow with the trappings of an eagle”, a sort of Mimikyu. There’s exposition, stock photos, and wikiboxes with exact details and little/no effort to make a broadly appealing narratives. Yet a lot of these events are contrived, ill-researched-and accepted.

The reason why I found New Deal Coalition Retained‘s conventional World War III so legitimately fascinating and not just bad was because it embodied this trend and (negatively) stood out so much from the Fuldapocalypses I knew so much about. Military alternate history (especially the American Civil War and World War II) has this reputation for being more “eagle-y” than a coordinated F-15 flyover of Lincoln Financial Field.

Here comes this war with absolutely no thought put into its logic beyond the absolute basic trappings of Clancy/Bond (which I think might have been copies of copies), a knockoff of World War II, and a desire for BIG CASUALTY NUMBERS. Yet it’s broad-scope told in a pseudo-Hackett way of pure exposition mixed with a handful of vignettes. While the most extreme example, it illustrates the strange evolution of internet alternate history through its blatant and noticeable issues.

Having A Pile of Unread Books

I’ve come around to actually liking having piles of unread books (and yes, for me that means both metaphorical and literal piles of them.) There have been times when I’ve actually “succeeded” in reading through all the books I’ve wanted to. And it’s a weirdly unsatisfying feeling.

Whereas having a variety of books in various degrees of “Ok, maybe sometime I’ll start them” means that when I do have the time and desire to read one, I can just grab one that’s ready to go. And that’s a weirdly satisfying feeling.

The Breach

One of the most difficult military operations (although to be fair, none could be considered truly “easy”), and one I’ve recently been looking at in my armchair studies, is the breaching operation. Requiring firepower and engineering in massive and coordinated amounts, its challenge is emphasized in everything that talks about it. Yet what’s equally interesting is that defending against such an attack requires just as much in the way of perfectly synced combined arms as launching it.

It’s a counterintuitive paradox that fortifications (the official term for preparing them called “survivability” ) are important to manuever war and mobile counterattacks are equally important to positional warfare. For the former, I’ll just say that artillery hasn’t exactly gotten less effective since World War I. For the latter, any position can be eventually reduced and overwhelmed with firepower if the opponent is given the chance.