The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Part IV: Military Lessons Applied in the Second World War

[This is part four following the three previous postings of "The New World War." Stay tuned for further sections].

The symptom of failure of all organizations, large or small, forces change–any change, like the US Army after the Vietnam War–back to a traditional core mission. Less change was needed for the other three services, whose overall purpose, design and doctrine survived Vietnam. What the Air Force, Navy and Marines learned from Vietnam was their basic operational methods were sound, within margins; they just needed newer equipment to maintain traditional doctrine–air and maritime supremacy, and maneuvering from sea to shore for expeditionary warfare. The four services’ (and the civil/military Coast Guard’s) basic purposes, roles, missions, weapons, and doctrines formed their “legacies” from the Second World War.
When businesses are in trouble, they change, re-invent, reform or structure. The alternative for any corporate body is to go out of business. For a nation at war, going out of business can mean defeat and/or occupation. For a nation’s military, in peace or war, the dollars always flow as long as the nation’s faith and credit survive. In turn, the immediate price for military failure is political and economic in upheaval, with results therefrom. The inevitable cost from failure in a major war, though, is greater payment in social and cultural stability and identity in the long run. Short term, people die–friends, enemies, and innocent. Property as well as people are destroyed or used up at an incredible rate. War is expensive and destructive in all its ways.
Institutions, like a military organization, tend to grow confident, arrogant, and conservative when experiencing any successes, or even if lacking experience of any sort. As with all institutions run by bureaucracy, a lack of innovation in the present to see a vision of the future conserves the traditional viewpoints. The peacetime management via comfortable and ignorant seniority tends to become too timid, even when expecting war. The corporate system inhibits personal innovation and professional risk management on the off chance of “getting it wrong.” It is usually safer to stick to the old methods. New methods based on history, experience, research and development receive no or little voice at first.
More often in a catastrophe, as America discovered AFTER the 1943 Kasserine battles in North Africa, do military corporations react to the dangers and implement change: Following the damage done. In the German counter-offensive in February 1943, Panzer Army Group Africa attacked the inexperienced American II Corps. American troops in the European Theater had not as yet confronted German units, which had fought hundreds of battles in three and a half years of warfare. Second Corps was overrun, and retreated. The troops performed poorly. The defeat was not necessarily the fault the soldiers themselves. It did crush national and military morale at home and on the front.
As the adage goes, there are no bad troops, just bad leadership. If that was true, then the solution would be better leadership. The commander of all America’s soldiers in Europe, General Eisenhower, recognized that fact. The II Corps commander was relieved and sent home. Soon-to-be Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr. replaced him. Immediate changes took effect. By focusing on basic discipline and self-confidence, training, and accountable leadership at all levels of command below him, Patton had II Corps in the thick again a month after Kasserine, and the troops responded, marching all the way to the coast of Tunis within two months.
Patton’s personality, methods and style may be debated by historians. His results, on the other hand, are indisputable. Strict in self-discipline and a believer in his own abilities, Patton was also an innovator in the army as a cavalryman during the First World War who adopted modern AirLand Battle operations into his battle-management for the Second. If Patton had a major failing, he lacked humility. Furthermore, he cared not about the politics of war and lacked personal diplomacy. Worst of all, from the 21st Century viewpoint, he glorified warfare as a code of glorious chivalry long lost to “civilized warfare,” living in an age when war was made on women and children as well as old and young men. The results, especially in command of 7th Army in Sicily and 3rd Army in France and Germany, proved that innovative leadership makes all the difference. When the conservative, old and traditional ways prove disastrous, realists leadership that reforms military shortcomings find their calling. The question then becomes: Why wasn’t Patton in command at Kasserine in the first place; or why do reformers, innovators, and visionaries not receive due opportunity before disaster? Thus is the central point, historically unanswerable.
In World War II overall for the United States, the necessary changes in how armies, navies and marines, and air forces needed to fight the next battle were learned, forgotten, and relearned, often in the matter of months. For example, after four near-catastrophic foul-ups in combined air, land, and sea assaults in the European theater–North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio–the lessons had been carefully applied in the toughest assault of all, Overlord–a.k.a. Normandy. That two and a half month campaign was more difficult than anticipated and closer to the brink of failure than commonly admitted. The blood wages of a test-commando raid at Dieppe, France, in 1942 paid for the success of gaining a second front. As the mostly Canadian soldiers at Dieppe discovered, unrealistic, conservative and two-dimensional leadership causes a s lot of dead people.
In the Pacific, lessons were learned immediately. In the first hour of the hostilities on December 7, 1941, battleships-of-the-line which had dominated naval warfare for three hundred and fifty years became in an instance obsolete as the platform of decision in naval operations. Pearl Harbor demonstrated the ability of carriers in combination with each other to launch masses of aircraft to dominate the skies and sink combat and support facilities and ships. The conservative “big gun” admirals who placed their faith in heavy ship-borne artillery and heavily armored decks and waterlines had dominated the naval thinking since the invention of ship-borne aircraft capability mid-way of the First World War.
Since the 1920-21 Washington Naval Conference, US reform admirals fought for every penney to give life and form to the doctrine and the equipment for aircraft carriers. Without those battleships sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor, carriers (the sole three in the Pacific absent from Pearl Harbor on December 7th) in small combinations with destroyers, cruisers, and submarines and support trains became the only effective weapon for the US to stem and reverse the tide of Japanese conquest in May and June 1942, in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Between the crushing naval victories on each side, Pearl Harbor for the Japanese, Midway for the US, Midway ultimately proved more decisive. Combining signals intelligence, and either plain stupid luck or divine providence, at Midway a combined task force of US ships at a 1-5 disadvantage in numbers defeated a Japanese fleet of 199 ships. How? The US naval air arm burned and sank four Japanese “fleet” class carriers, with Japanese losing over 400 of their most experienced and best carrier pilots. The US lost one carrier out of three and retained a core experience for carrier pilot expansion.
Air power dominated the ocean surface as well as the islands upon it. Even with carriers, escorts and fleet trains for support, islands were necessary for advance bases: both for supply but also for land-based air craft operating in support of maritime operations. Carriers are few and expensive and cannot be everywhere all the time. The crippling of the US Army Air Forces in the Philippines on December 8th demonstrated the futility of owning real estate amidst several million square miles of ocean without adequate air power. (The Army Air Force’s destruction in the Western Pacific resulted from the conservative, narrow-minded, and absolute poor leadership of General Douglas MacArthur). Within five and half months of Pearl Harbor, the US and its allies had to retreat all their forces out of the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia to either India or Australia. Air power’s example early in the Pacific war taught the overall lesson of an “operational network maneuver:” AirLand Battle applied equally to maritime operations in its own context of ships, marine infantry, and aircraft.
The operational lesson about air power was learned and applied in the flesh-slog battles to Japan’s home islands and toward its unconditional surrender. Taking islands for air and supply bases, though, would not prove easy. Air power just made it easier. The direct US Marine assault on Guadalcanal, on the Japanese-fortified island of Tarawa, and later the Pelileu assault, showed the need for better ship-to-shore craft, like amphibious tractors; better loading of gear beforehand to unload on shore when required; and more effective naval-air-marine (or army) command, control, coordination and communications during the assaults–all functions of logistics or informed command.
The bloody lessons on the islands themselves could be applied only at the level of small units on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, resulting in slow, methodical, bloodbaths through firepower. The Japanese fought fanatically and left few survivors to surrender. Overall, even that lesson was effectively, even brutally, implemented elsewhere in the overall strategy. Japanese held islands and bases got bypassed whenever possible. Important naval bases like Rabaul and Truk were pulverized and made inoperable by combined naval- and land-based air power.
The US submarine blockade became a weapon of indiscriminate warfare. The blockade left Japan starved of food, as well as raw materials for war industries. Significantly, Japan’s oil tankers were sunk in droves, without new replacements. Without oil reserves at their home bases, Japan’s few carriers and its surface and submarine fleets stayed more dispersed and closer to the source of fuel in Borneo and Indonesia. Pilots could not be trained at home adequately for lack of fuel. Most important, the Imperial Japanese Navy could not concentrate naval and air power for a counter-offensive under threat of Allied air power. In the last ship-to-ship fleet action of the war in October 1945, three Japanese fleets started from different directions. Neither fleet supported the other due to the timing and spacing involved. The US Seventh and Third Fleets sunk or turned back the Japanese attacks. Japan’s fleet at that point ceased to be a major factor in the war.
Other of the “hard and destructive” lessons of fighting the Japanese imposed moral questions. The US resorted to firebombing and nuclear combat instead of direct assault of Japan’s home islands themselves, or allowing the naval/air blockade to force Japan’s suit of peace. No one is competent or worthy to judge these decisions, for they belong to dead: Those who decided the fates and those who were killed–on both sides. All things combined to bring the military defeat of Japan and their unconditional surrender on September 2, 1945 (unconditional minus the emperor remaining the spiritual figurehead of their nation). And on a similar level of death and destruction through military means, the fate of Nazi-governed Germany was decided with similar consequences and results that previous May, without the atom bomb. Japan and Germany suffered millions of dead soldiers and civilians and millions more wounded. Furthermore, their defeat left their nations economically devastated. And a new age of world civilization followed the Allied victory.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Part III: Of War and Peace: Into the Future

This is the third installment of The "New" World War. The first two parts are listed below in this Clublog. This entire article is scheduled to appear in the next issue of The Cepia Club Strategy Review.

US history shows constant instances of re-fighting the current or “next war” using the same ideas, equipment, and policies used in the last war, a.k.a. the “victory syndrome.” Unfortunately, the technical and operational aspects of Iraq, Afghanistan, and “the global war” have many aspects of the “victory syndrome.” From the perspective of today’s historian, a slow evolution develops in the politics of war and peace, as well as the underpinning military economics, military institutions, and cultural mind-sets that make it possible.
One result of this process may be more than a revolution in military affairs that springs upon America’s friends AND enemies on the battlefield. The predicted changes in the current order could force a cultural revolution that overwhelms people in a universal shift in world view. Could the New Paradigms overthrow the common understanding people have of the natural laws of liberty, freedom, justice and peace to a world replaced by the basic survival instincts–a “state of nature” needing imposed order?
We are in an entirely new millennia, and the old ways of war and peace disappear, replaced by new and more dangerous ones. The conflicts themselves may be hold-overs from millennia past. But, they do proffer an entirely new framework for human civilization. One of two things might happen to bring about this paradigm shift in war and peace from the current wars in the first instance we examine: That of “learning lessons” from crisis or general defeat. Either the national civilian-military leadership already have implemented changes across the spectrum of United States unified strategy and they plan on introduce them at an opportune or appropriate time. Or, second, the change will be implemented by others from the other echelons of policy leadership after the failure to learn lessons, and apply they would apply lessons to better effectiveness.
These changes will inevitable also face to the world the problems of the second instance examined later: “What are the political, economic, societal, and cultural implications of these changes?”
The criteria for examination follow in general along the questions of: “What are these needed and/or expected changes and why are they important?” “How will they operate in doctrine and function in unified strategy?” To what effect will the new paradigms of warfare have on America and the world?”
The final, most important question will be reserved for the second instance of prime concern: “How can everyone of any race, class, or belief distinction in the world influence these paradigms for the greater good of all humankind?”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interlude: Lessons from Diplomacy, Short of War

This is the Second Installment of:
A “New” World War:
Politics of War and Peace in the 21st Century: United States Successes, Failures, & Solutions
[The full text will appear in an issue of The Cepia Club Strategy Review due out shortly. Part One is in the previous Clublog entry.)

Even an aggressive diplomacy in which a nation must back down can provide “lessons” to implement changes, at all levels of a unified strategy. In 1962, the Soviet Union found itself without the ability to challenge the US military in and around Cuba during the Missile Crisis. Russia possessed a small navy not capable of intervention in the Caribbean from bases in the Arctic Ocean, and the Baltic and Black seas. In addition, and known to President Kennedy’s advisors, the Soviets lacked a robust, long-range, strategic missile force to deter an American invasion of Cuba or, as was the case, a naval blockade of Cuba.
What few (70-90; still disputed) single warhead Inter-mediate Range and Medium Range Ballistic missiles-types the Soviet Union deployed on the island were useful more for “city busting” than tactical first strike weapons against American nuclear installations. In other words, the missiles would only be good for a holocaust second strike on the US. In that case, it meant the full and immediate obliteration of Soviet, nee Russian civilization–by the full brunt of the US nuclear arsenal. In 1962, Russia would have been hurt worse. Ideally (itself a cynical term), if there were a clear signal of war, as the “game theory” of nuclear combat was modeled, the Soviet Union would need a first strike capability. This is called a “counter-force,” meaning enough missiles or nuclear-armed bombers to knock out the US nuclear arsenals in their bases. In 1962 America, this meant largely B-52 and other bomber bases as there were only a few hundred intercontinental missiles in the US arsenal, and most based above ground. Silos used to protect a missile’s survivability had yet to come into widespread existence.
But by destroying an enemy’s offensive strategic missiles in a surprise, first-strike, counter-force attack, the attacked country could only retaliate against urban centers with whatever nuclear weapons survived, if any. In this game theory scenario, a country would invite the destruction by retaliation of its own cities, by the surviving weapons. In sum, preventing nuclear war via the “Mutually Assured Destruction” deterrence model, MAD, was the only “win-win” situation open to the nuclear-armed Superpowers. In nuclear combat of a strategic scale between the US and the Soviet Union, no side could rely on a 100% guaranteed destruction of enemy nuclear bases with the early generations of weapons possessed by either country. The inaccurate or unreliable missiles, or the vulnerable bombers, were the norm in the early age of nuclear combat doctrine.
Though the Soviets could launch a nuclear war in Europe in retaliation, it was doubtful that the primary diplomatic goal of the missile deployments to Cuba–threatening America with a second-strike threat against the population–could have been achieved without a thermonuclear war to keep the missiles in Cuba. The entire point of missiles in Cuba, therefore, was to deter the US from interfering in Russian diplomacy in Asia, Africa and Europe. The Soviet policy sought to avoid nuclear war via the same deterrence that the US imposed on the Soviets (like in the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the Berlin Crisis of 1961, for example). With Russia unprepared and at a disadvantage to play heavy-duty “rocket diplomacy,” they were forced to back down after 13 days on the brink in October 1962.
As a result of losing his prestige when forced to submit over Cuba, Soviet Premier Khrushchev lost his power within a year by a silent Politiburo-military coup. But the humiliation of failure in its diplomatic roll of the dice forced the USSR to build a more capable navy and, more important, a massive intercontinental ballistic missile force–into advancing generations of accurate missiles carrying theoretically up to 100 megaton equivalents of TNT. (Hiroshima was only around 20,000 kilotons. Do the math). This “learning” from diplomatic defeat led to the re-invention of Soviet military economics (again, LOGISTICS IS STRATEGY in the unified strategy theory). They investment in the navy and strategic missiles. In addition, the Soviets made a political policy decision for the operational level of their military planning. They decided to incorporate nuclear weapons INTO their war-fighting doctrine as a common and usable weapon, rather like normal artillery, as a first-strike weapon at both the tactical and global levels. By the time the US armed forces completed their “re-invention” following Vietnam between 1980 and 1989, the Soviets challenged US security interests world-wide in the 1970s and 1980s. The immunity mutually ensured against a holocaust allowed the Soviets to reach the pinnacle of their power and influence between 1978 and the end of 1980, before the US “re-invention” was complete.
The most dangerous “saber-rattling” confrontation happened in the third week of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war as the Soviets threatened to send an expeditionary force to enforce a UN cease-fire on behalf of the Soviet Arab client-states, Egypt and Syria. All up and down Africa, in cooperation with satellite Cuban and East German mercenaries, the Soviet navy and missile forces developed from the mid-1960s onward pushed the limits to which the US could effectively resist, politically, economically or militarily, without the outbreak of World War III. Such a war could only be a holocaust due to Western conventional inferiority.
For instance, the US and allied responses to the coup d’etat in Poland and the Red Army’s invasion of Afghanistan were ineffective sanctions and boycotts (wheat and other trade embargoes and the 1980 Olympics) which hurt and upset the US and allies more than the Soviet Union itself. With Soviet ability to operate against the US world-wide, the United States had only the option of mutual-assured-destruction (MAD) from thermo-nuclear holocaust or cynical consent.
Even without actual “hot” wars, those humiliated in diplomacy short of war can learn for the future–at the level of political strategy, without having to suffer death and destruction. Whereas the Germans failed to understand the lessons of World War I’s strategic political failures, the Russians learned an important one in 1962: To back aggressive diplomacy with credible force. From today’s perspective, that lesson carried them to survive past any reasonable life-expectancy as a Superpower until the 1991 collapse (another story in itself).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A “New” World War: Part ne

[Authors Note: This is the first installment of a larger article, one which will appear in further development on both the Clublog and in The Cepia Club Strategy Review V. 3, N. 9, due July 2008]

A “New” World War:
Politics of War and Peace in the 21st Century: United States Successes, Failures, & Solutions

Does the U.S. in the current global war “re-fight the last successful war?” Do we wage it effectively or at great peril, peril to American liberty, prosperity, stability, and culture? When any country has won or lost a war, or a diplomatic “saber rattling,” that country’s armed forces in most cases learn from the experience of a defeat and humiliation, and then reinvent their armed forces and their approach to diplomacy and conflict. The ultimate aim sets to improve capability for a future conflict, in war, peace, or in between. Sometimes, however, armed forces get bloated with success in war, and build for the future a better military to repeat a past performance. In short, leaders want to get the “little picture” right, if too late, to redeem a war lost or fight the next war even “more like the last ‘good’ war,” but do it even better. Success and failure can sometimes come at the same time, in the same conflict, in quick succession or on top of each other.
The lessons learned from defeat cause a more urgent look at what is wrong. Victory, on the other hand, produces a “victory disease,” thinking in the national security institutions, out of choice, to see wrongly where the future will take the politics and economics of conflict, seeing what one wants to see, not what really is. It is lack vision since the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991 to see how the future would which brings the US to a point of strategic disorder in the 21st Century as America fights, without success, the multiple issues challenging her security–criminals and terrorists, energy and climate transformation, mass destructive weapons proliferation, China, and Russia, etc., etc.
As might be the case with the US since 1991's Desert Shield/Storm, does America fight the next war the same as the last? Is there history behind it? Can the US do effectively in the 21st Century what it did in the 20th, by adapting in mid-war to a new national policy and military strategy? The entire context of the politics of war and peace since 9-11-2001 in no way resembles the how, why, what, who, when of Desert Shield/Storm. But that war, both the cause and effect of it, pointed toward the future. But the future is now, and the US was unprepared after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to face this. With great consequences, the many “little” successes AND failures since 1991 have not been accurately assessed and incorporated into America’s grand design for preserving its Superpower position or its core system of Constitutional government as a republic, based on the Natural Law of individual rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Wrong Lesson Applied Right?

The United States accomplished a “re-invention” by 1989, after a complete strategic defeat in Vietnam and greater Southeast Asia, despite tactical supremacy in the seas, fields, paddies, mountains and jungles of that region. Vietnam was in essence a “conventional” war fought unconventionally by the North Vietnamese enemy. The general politics of peace and war of Vietnam followed the same course of all modern conflict since the violent birth of nationalism and socialism as ideologies in 1790s revolutionary France. In the early 1970s, after withdrawal and abandonment, the US Army, in particular among the services, retooled from the presidential order of the previous decade to fight guerilla-terrorist wars of “national liberation,” (when the enemy was backed by the weapons of the opposing Superpower, the Soviet Union). Following Vietnam, the entire US military built an entirely new army, navy, marines, and air force without the draft, and far better equipped to fight in the main theater of decision in the Cold War–the Western Europe and the Atlantic bridge to it from the Western Hemisphere.
The US Army went back to what it knew best: Preparing to fight a conventional war in a conventional way, and against a conventional Soviet enemy. The new doctrines for operating the men (absent conscription), the material, and the machines–called by the Army component, AirLand Battle operations–resembled the experience of World War II, as invented by the Germans in their Blitzkrieg campaigns: With heavy armored systems like the M1 Abrams tank, M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles; massed volumes of heavy artillery, 155 mm and larger calibers, and also missiles; and ground-support aircraft, such as the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters (the US Air Force also built better ground-support aircraft, like the A-10 Thunderbolt). A World War II-invention in warfare now appeared in mass form, forming the decisive advantage of American quality over Soviet quantity, that of digital electronic processing–the computers and the codes that run them.
Lost to the US Army high command, to the nation’s misfortune, was the need to truly learn the lessons of the unconventional “revolutionary” war. Fighting revolutions requires patience, diligence, moral clarity, and a limitation of firepower and collateral devastation to a foreign country’s citizens and infrastructure. The institutional memory and experience of Vietnam was willfully forgotten in favor of more brute steel and storm.
“No more Vietnams” became a strategic mantra. Instead of fighting Soviet direct intervention or indirect aggression via sponsored revolutions, in Africa, Asia, and South America between Vietnam and Desert Storm, the US would rely on its conventional strength in Europe and at sea to deter aggression, and on clients such as Israel, South Africa, and Honduras to fight up front, backed by American finance, intelligence services, and a nuclear deterrent. It proved a rather good strategy, original to President Nixon’s doctrine in the last years of Vietnam. “No more Vietnams” also meant allowing the Soviets to act destructively to lives and peace, in remote places, like the Horn of Africa, Central America and Central Asia. In the end, the Nixon doctrine proved sufficient, including a thermonuclear war scare during the Arab-Israeli October War in 1973. With due credit to the Vietnam-era army reforms, the massive conventional, unconventional and nuclear buildup under President Reagan in the 1980s was never contested in the Central Front of Europe or upon the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
“Vietnams” were to be avoided, but since 1973 there have been many potential and real “little” Vietnams for the United States. Because the mantra-theory did not “learn” the right lesson–that irregular, guerrilla-terrorist unconventional wars would happen and affect US interests and ability to deter asymmetrical attacks–the US found itself unprepared for the New World War after September 2001. The little “Vietnams” the last 35 years prevented the application of “lightening war,” or a Total War effort of mass national commitment, sacrifice or nuclear suicide. When on the line, the US withdrew from places like Lebanon, Somalia, and Haiti. The policies of conventional war failed to permanently fix the Balkans in the 1990s, where US occupation troops remain 13 years after Dayton and 9 years after the Kosovo War. Not learning the right lesson from defeat (Vietnam) and preparing to fight more and more heavy-duty conventional wars like“Desert Storms,” a “success,” in effect proved no real learning at all. US troops and innocent people at the brunt of it pay with the lives and livelihoods today because of Iraq and Afghanistan and the strategic disorder in US policy.
Since the 1970s, the experience of Vietnam has only been rediscovered in mountains and deserts and savannahs and rainforests of four continents since 9-11-2001. Is the lesson being learned to any benefit?
Historical examination, first in learning from defeat in a war and then a diplomatic gamble gone awry, by two foreign countries who suffered humiliation, illustrates some broader meaning. Lessons in military economics (the pure strategy of logistics), or at the level of front-line tactics, need two other aspects to be a complete “revolution in military affairs. The first is an operational concept for unifying all levels of general strategy; hence the US AirLand Battle doctrine. Second, no matter how many lessons may be read from victory or defeat, it is the first and highest level of general strategy, in the broadest sense, that must be determined before organizing any action. This “first level” of general strategy is called Grand Strategy, or the union of political, economic, social and cultural policies in a nation’s politics governing war or peace.
After the two examples, the first of Germany from 1919 to 1945, and then of the Soviet Union from 1962 through 1991, the analysis follows with a review of 20th Century United States military policy and history to provide a sounder basis for looking at today’s world-wide war. The criteria for final judgements of this analysis are: First, how to measure progress at each stage of the presentn world war? Second, what potential exists for either a US/allied victory (not certain, by any measure) or ultimate defeat of the rule of law and western democracy by the forces arrayed against them? And finally, we must ask and answer the ultimate question in this review. Is the United States forgetting old lessons, misapplying wrong ones, or re-fighting a different war from the past which has no recognizable relevance to the one it is fighting now?

Germany: Right Answer, Wrong Question

After the World War I, as they did after their defeat by Napoleon’s Grand Army in 1806-07, the Prussian-dominated German military staff system engaged in a radical analysis of their failure to win decisive victory between 1914-1918 in World War I. The humiliating territorial and indemnity terms of the 1919 Versailles peace treaty, which also limited Germany’s ability to wage aggressive war (allowing only 100,000 men in uniform) egged Germany to prepare for an inevitable war against the victorious powers to revise the outcome of World War I. Even more, the horrible cost of material and human attrition in the trenches of France forced the innovative and visionary officers in the Weimar-era Germany Reichswehr (state armed forces) and the Nazi-era’s renamed Wehrmacht (war machine) to find solutions to avoid a repeat of their 1918 defeat in the inevitable “next” war.
The staff examination focused on restoring the battle of movement and firepower under cover deception and indirection, governed by leadership initiative at all levels of command. The goal stood to find an operational solution (inter-mediate strategy between the levels of military management and foot soldier) that would overwhelm Germany’s enemies quickly and avoid the “total war” Materielschlacht (battle of attrition) of World War I. For in that war, not only did the Allies when joined by the United States in 1917,grind down by sheer mass of production and manpower the German army’s ability to resist on the front-line; but the Allied maritime blockade led to the starvation diets of its citizens and the final collapse of Germany’s political system and military economics, i.e.“war socialism,” on the home front.
German military leaders understood that to win decisively and avoid a repeat of complete collapse, the “next war” need be short and lasting. For that, the political will of their enemies to resist must be broken hard and fast. This could only be achieved by destruction of Britain’s, France’s and the Soviet Union’s armed forces with a mass de manouevre (decisive force of mass) of combined arms. The combined arms included in their revolution in military affairs tank units, Panzer Kampf Wagen (PzKW), formed into divisions, corps, and later army-sized units in which infantry, and combat support (artillery and engineers) and combat service support (supply, maintenance, etc.) were incorporated and motorized, part and parcel of the same command operating as one.
This revolution in military affairs was driven into a real future by the persistence of one man possessed of unusual blends of theoretical, prophetic clarity and excellent leadership under fire. His name was Heinz Guderian. The armored schwerpunkt (tip of the main attack) aimed at a weak point of the enemy front-line to roam beyond into the “rear flank.” The Panzer units would be followed by regular foot-, rail- and horse- drawn infantry, artillery, and other support units to guard friendly flanks and rear areas.
Another revolution in military affairs ran concurrent to the Panzer mass de manouevre, in violation of the Versailles treaty. From 1919 Germany had built the seeds, plans and ideas of an independent air force, unleashed to the world’s surprise in 1935 as the Luftwaffe. Discarding its ability to build and operate an air arm capable of long-distance strategic bombing of an enemy’s industrial heartland, general staff officers of the new air arm determined that close-air combat bombardment of the enemy front-line defenses and the units behind them was the best and most feasible role for the service. In essence, Luftwaffe operational doctrine geared itself to the destruction of the enemy armed forces in direct aid to their land army, not on costly, inaccurate,a and ineffective attacks against the enemy population in defended cities.
Dominated by a nobility-military caste system of the Prussian tradition, German military education and leadership training since 1806 built a superb and deadly efficient system of war-making. The officer and non-commissioned officer selection and training process focused on nothing less than building precise skill and ability in their manpower. And the best performers in vigorous testing went onto great prestige in the Great General Staff, a political and military power center of all Europe between 1815 and 1945. With such leaders, Germany used in both peace and war a corporate-government union operating a totalitarian economy called “war socialism.” War socialism itself was an invention of the Great General Staff Quartermaster of World War I, General Erich Ludendorff (an early supporter of Hitler who marched in Munich during the November 9, 1923 “Beirkellar Putsch” by the National Socialist German Workers Party, N.S.D.A.P, a.k.a. the Nazi Party.)
In the 1920s, with rigorous study of the past, Kriegspiel (complex war games in conference rooms and in the fields) and internal, secret debate, the German military caste saw the future needs of the “next war” through the combination of its institutional memory (traditions) merged with modern management, science and technology. From the ascension of Hitler to the Chancellorship in January 1933 to the actual outbreak of war in September 1939, German diplomacy acted by threat and bluff. With audacious military deception at the vulnerable beginning of rearmament, Hitler’s gambles improved the “strategic destinies” which would gain for the Nazi movement a superior position in the middle of Europe (Mitteleuropa in the Nazi “geopolitical” theory).
From these additional platforms of strategic advantage, Nazism carried out the racist, murderous, and inhuman policies behind the same forces of nationalism and socialism which governed “revolutionary” movements since the 1790s. Beginning with the reoccupation of the Rhineland, through the Anchluss with Austria, and the diplomatic dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, Hitler had the active support from the military caste who wanted to wage a war to regain Germany’s dominance in continental Europe, but for reasons of nationalism. Hitler’s aggressive “peaceful” diplomacy gained better geographic ground, more GNP potential, and an enlarged population base (ethnic Germans, foreign sympathizers, and enslaved labor). These additions to his power enabled the “national socialist” Hitler to pursue his ultimate aim in the conquest of Slavic and Jewish lands in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and the extermination of all “undesirables.” In the New Order, “Aryan” Germanics and Anglo-Saxons would control the world, and all others needed to submit and be enslaved or be murdered to serve the interests of the “superior” race run by corporate-government “war socialism” economics.
By the time of invasion of Poland, the inauguration of the “lightening war” blitzkrieg, and all the victories from 1939 thru 1942, Germany’s armed forces conquered more land and far faster in history than all but the Mongolians. By applying 140 years of military experience to the use of internal combustion engines, wireless telegraphy, and the arts of industrial engineering (optics, metallurgy, chemicals, and electronics), Germany fielded an army equipped, trained, and led for a revolutionary type of warfare but in service of a revisionist political system of government-corporate fascism, one using racial elitism to murder and enslave others. Germany overran all of its enemies until, as Winston Churchill said, the tide turned with the entry of America as the decisive ally against Nazism.
In the course of the war and since, all of Germany’s enemies copied much of the German experience in the use of combined arms, with armored and motorized units supported by ground-attack aircraft. Even the technology and deployments of submarines used after the war by the victors came from defeated Germany’s U-boat arm. The deadlock of World War I, with infantry dug into sacrificial trench attacks for months or years, was avoided. Much more copied, especially by the Soviets, was the operational art of warfare.
It took almost the entire world to stem Nazism’s march of troops and ideas through Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Then the whole world crushed Nazi Germany into unconditional surrender. As with “reinventing” any army, air force or navy–indeed any corporate enterprise, public or private--the German military succeeded by witness of all other armed forces adapting their inventions and way of using them. So why did Germany lose?
German military leadership failed in World War II nonetheless to heed the most important lesson of World War I, that of the fourth strategic destiny which spelled Nazism’s doom. Germany’s cause was a moral evil, an absolute so honest as to be irrefutable. The absence of at least moral neutrality unhinged Hitler’s political policy. It fell victim, thank god, to the same political mistakes which guaranteed a repeat of their World War I defeat, but one far worse this time. With common folk (Volk) sirened by the saucey tongue of a deceptive, evil “Aryan” myth, the German military tried to benefit from the opportunity Nazism provided to serve its traditional nationalism–dominance of Mitteleuropa. The army leaders between 1933 and 1939 did not learn the “big” lesson of World War I. In grand strategy (political policy) and military economics (LOGISTICS IS STRATEGY), Germany could not win over the British Empire if America entered the balance while Russia remained a threat to the east.
The world was against Germany because the lies of Nazi racism and Prussian militarism were a moral wrong–absolute, without question. The rest of the world, indeed just the United States, had the advantages of better strategic destinies–demographic advantage, economic potential, geographic position, and the most important one, a willful commitment to universal individual liberty to defeat Nazism and militarism. The war ended in 1945 for Germans with one ally in the Pacific still fighting but with their own country divided for 46 years and in practical military occupation to the present time. As a German field marshal, Erich von Manstein, entitled his memoirs, civilian enthusiasm and military caste tolerance of Hitler and his Nazis led to “lost victories.”