Sunday, January 31, 2010

Barbarossa, etc.

I recently began rewatching one of the best, if not the best, documentaries ever produced on World War II, "World at War." I remember watching it while in high school in the mid-1970s in, of all places, Germany. If you're not familiar with the series, consider this my strong suggestion that you locate and watch it soon; you won't regret it.

One fact that I had forgotten from my first viewing of the episode "Barbarossa," the invasion of Russia, was that Hitler actually planned on defeating Russia in about four months. What a stupendous miscalculation and reckless bet, and one that (thankfully) cost Hitler the war.

Just think about it: the Nazi army, arguably the finest in the world at that time, whose skill at war was matched only by its evil deeds and purpose, was supposed to invade an immense country, occupy thousands upon thousands of square miles, fight an indigenous army inferior in training but almost limitless in number, and triumph in four months. This must qualify as the very definition of stupidity, not to mention hubris.

Many of his generals, apparently, knew this and tried to persuade Herr Hitler to err on the side of caution because of the inherent danger to Germany should the invasion fail to meet its timetable. Hitler, believing in his own strategic infallibility, based on his past successes and strokes of luck in Western Europe in recent years, eschewed all sound advice and stepped into the abyss anyway. Perhaps the phrase "Past performance is no guarantee of future returns" had not been yet coined.

Theories of alternate outcomes abound on what might have happened had Hitler not chosen this course. I won't indulge in that specualtion here, although any thinking person has to wonder. Suffice it to say he did do it and that history has shown his choice to be the worst of all those possbile.

Take care.

P.S. There is a belief amongst many Americans that America defeated Nazi Germany. Although America contributed mightily to Germany's defeat in terms of material, it was Russia who actually ripped the guts and gears out of the Wermacht. This is not to take anything away from those Americans and British who fought on the Western front, for battle is battle, and their efforts are worthy of our utmost respect. But from a cold, hard look at numbers, the Russian front is where Germany suffered two-thirds of all its military casualties, and Russia lost untold millions.

I mention this only because it's dangerous for Americans to believe that wars can be won, as opposed to just fought ad infinitum as the US now seems content to prosecute wars, without huge casualties, even with force multipliers. I'm not so sure Americans would be willing to support an all-out effort to eradicate Islamofacism in the Middle East if it cost the lives of 100,000+ American soldiers. Of course, that's going the conventional-warfare route. If we were to speak of the nuclear option, many American lives could be spared, but the cost in the lives of people in the countries supporting Islamofacism would be staggering.

Still, I'd say it's a fair trade-off. Either nuke 'em or go home. Any US politician who protests this should be tried for treason for putting the lives of another country's citizens above the lives of his own country's citizens, as is being done now.

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