Sunday, April 17, 2011

Too many defensive histories of WWII ; too few explanations...

This blog and its eponymous website were created because I believe that there has been far too few books written about World War Two.

At first, or even second glance, this seems to be a totally untenable position to defend.

'Glut' is the usual word used to describe the mini-industry of books, movies and TV shows produced about WWII.

But I hold that all the books about the war, to date, have come in two (distinctly biased) thirty five year long 'chunks'.

The first 'chunk', produced during the war itself and on until the late 1970s, were written by participants, middle aged or older in 1940, who had started and sustained the war but who were too old to actually fight in the foxholes.

(These people were born mostly between about 1885 and 1900.)

Their books defended the specific positions and decisions they and their allies had taken during that war.

By the 1980s most were dead or in their mid eighties and their publishing careers were over.

Then starting around 1980, we got a second glut of books - this 'chunk' written by people who had been teenagers in 1939 and so hadn't started or run the war but who, thanks to their frontline bravery, finally ended the bloodshed.

These people had been born between about 1914 and 1929.

They stoutly defended their nation's overall goals during the war, while feeling free to criticize specific activities - after all, they had been too young to actually order any of those 'wrong-in-hindsight' decisions.

Now the youngest of them, in turn, are in their mid eighties and their publishing efforts have almost fallen silent.

What is most notable about all these books, in both chunks, is their defensive cast.

All these authors somehow sensed that the generations who hadn't been participants in the war failed to see it as a clear cut case of Good against Evil.

But I think that in the course of assembling a quick argument to dismiss such an absurd claim, all of these authors found some merit in the later generations' case.

They were then reduced to defending ,or explaining away, actions that were hard to condone in normal times, as regrettable actions taken at the nadir of a Total War they felt they were losing.

I will be 60 this year and came of age when the Cold War, let alone the Second World War, was at its moral ebb.

Seventy years of distance from the wartime deluge of propaganda should allow me and others of my generation (and younger) to finally seek explanations of WWII that do not, in advance, seek to explain away actions taken by any side or person in this conflict.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think I would be writing about WWII - growing up, that seemed as something for grandfather's and father's generations to do.

I came at the war obliquely after a lifetime of interest in Eugenics and Modernity - Eugenic Modernity, for short.

One should always strive to see that Eugenics and Modernity in America, Russia, Japan and German had a mixture of things they did or believed in common and a mixture of things they did or believed differently.

But after 70 years of books focussed on the differences between Communism, Capitalism and Fascism one does long for and hunger for a bit of balance and redress where their similarities are also compared and evaluated.

Fair is fair.

My bias in advance:

I see World War Two as a war that the educated in America, Japan,Russia,Germany (and in all other countries) had predicted would come, should come, must come : a biologically-scientifically proven battle that must take place between 'the fittest of the fit societies' for survival.

A war between humans, with the world present only as an inert backdrop.

That is not to say that most of them also didn't fear and dread it and wish it won't happen.

It is just that, as Richard Overy claims in his book "THE MORBID AGE", they expected it was about to happen because modern science had proven it had to happen - it was in our genes.

Evolution, Natural Selection,Progress , Genetics had all foredained it would be so.

So by June 1940, the ground rules for this drama had been laid out.

Against a totally inert backdrop of Nature, six huge military empires (the British Empire,America,German-occupied Europe,Russia, Japan and China) would fight it out over six vast continents - and as it turns out in a neat trick in symmetry, over six long years.

A mind war (martial spirits), not a material war (motor spirits).

In the beginning, Japan and Germany , tiny nations with few natural resources but abundant will-to-power in science and warfare, bested the bigger empires.

Did their military or scientific vigor falter during the war, leading to their defeat?

Few military men who ever directly engaged the forces of those two comparatively small nations felt that the Germans or Japanese fighters could be bested by the Allied side, one on one.

Our will-to-freedom simply couldn't reliably best their will-to-power.

This view is held by virtually all the world's public -  that the average German or Japanese soldier, as individual fighters, were fiercer than Allied soldiers, on average.

So perhaps Allied Science bested Axis Science. Much of the public -at least the older public - still believes this.

Interestingly, few scientists or historians who have studied the matter, do so.

So we are left with the consensus view that while Blitzkreig wars strike hard and fast, they also strike short.

That is to say, that the Japanese and German Blitzkreig in the Spring of 1942 fell short by only conquering about 8% of the world each, when what they really needed to do to be ultimately successful was to conquer about a half the world each.

Specifically German troops had occupy Britain and Japanese had to occupy Australia and both had to have met in Tehran and at the Urals Mountains by Spring 1942.

Under these conditions, America would have to resign itself to dominating the Americas and the southern half of Africa, but not seriously attempting to defeat Japan and Germany.

But the land and naval Blitzkreigs only conquered about one sixth of the world's surface and eventually the resources of the other five sixths defeated the Axis in a long slow war of attrition.

Thus accepting that the human factors failed to explain the ultimate defeat of the Axis ( the Allied morale/courage and scientific ability not being better enough in themselves to defeat the Japanese or Germans ) , the consensus view is forced back upon a material explanation for the war's outcome.

A explanation, from our best educated, for the outcome of the war that is totally at variance with the explanation for the start of the war, again from the world's best educated.

The Germans and the Japanese didn't lack ambition - they planned and agreed to meet in Tehran and on the Urals.

 They bested all the human enemies they ever met.

So why did they fail? Why did Tojo, Hitler and Mussolini, ham actors all, fail to chew the scenery?

Why did the scenery prove much less than an inert backdrop, why did the scenery end up chewing the actors ?

Now I include such ham actors as Churchill and FDR, Portal and Hap Arnold and all those other Allied proponents of a swift Air based victory.

This because if the German armoured tank based Blitzkreig failed to deliver what it promised and the carrier & landing craft based Japanese Naval Blitzkreig failed to deliver, so did those B-17s and Norden bombsights and their Aerial Blitzkreig.

Three separate Blitzkreigs - three separate failures that crossed the Allied-Axis divide.

Why did they all fail?

These are some of the questions I hope to raise and hope to begin to answer.

There have been many accounts of the world war, I hope this one is a GREEN account - one that looks at least as much as the world's part in the war as we have given the humans' part in the war to date.....

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