Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Triumph of the Wild: World War Two"

World War Two is usually described as the triumph of one kind of human will over another kind of human will .

Victory is said to have come to the Allies because the minds/rationality/willpower of the free scientists of the democracies were much smarter than the fanatically-willed minds of the soldiers and scientists of Germany and Japan.

This despite the fact that almost everyone agrees that the Axis were the far tougher soldiers: scientific willpower trumped military willpower.

But the military staff of all the combatant nations found that their war plans rarely worked anywhere near as well as they were expected  ----the fog of war had never seemed thicker.

Unexpectedly, their plans' biggest failings were usually against the forces of nature rather than against the forces of man:

The constant ability of unexpected bad weather to delay offensives and the power of national harvest failures to push leaders into new, ever more foolish, invasions schemes.

The overwhelming consequences of rugged geography ,and vast distances in general, on logistical efforts.

The perpetual shortages of natural materials and energy (including- unexpectedly for modernists - shortages in human energy !)

The failures of man-made/synthetic substitutes to remedy Nature's shortfalls.

The inaccuracy of workmanlike Newtonian mechanics ,at distances longer than a Nelson broadside , the list goes on and on.

The world's biggest and most modern nations went into World War Two knowing it would be a very tough war - but were united, at least, in believing their only really tough opponents would be groups of other humans.

This is to say, they were all Modernists to the core and hence all students - perhaps unknowingly - of Sir Charles Lyell.

Nature was supposed to have been tamed within reasonable limits and only humans could hold up other humans in their goals.

But few Germans today are willing to rate Stalin's army as being a greater enemy than Russian winter and Russian mud and the sheer Russian expanse.

Even fewer of today's airforce staff officers still believe that German fighters and ack-ack
guns were the prime reason why massive numbers of Allied bombers failed to  permanently knock out any German power plants or oil refineries.

In a world war that ended up being as much being 'against the world' as being 'conducted all over the world', Modernity took a blow it never fully recovered from: "Wild Trumps Will, every time".

Nature bats last... but it bats long and it bats hard....

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