Sunday, August 26, 2012

BOOK REVIEW of Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War (Princeton University Press)

Most historians seem to agree that WWI was the key folly of the 20th century -- a folly that ultimately led to both the Hitler and Stalin disasters -- but how and why did it all happen? There are many answers to that but the review below by Richard Koenigsberg highlights a surprising but cogent explanation in terms of the war immediately preceding it: The Russo-Japanese war. That war -- resulting in the crushing and totally surprising defeat of a major European power by an Asian nation -- did make a huge impact at the time so it all fits that it should have been the key to WWI thinking.

Japan and Britain were allied at the time so there were considerable numbers of British observers embedded with the Japanese forces -- so what went on in the various battles was reported in detail in the British press and also therefore in the European press

Battles occurred when massive numbers of troops got out of their trench and attacked the opposing trench. Modris Eksteins describes the fundamental pattern:
"The victimized crowd of attackers in No Man’s Land has become one of the supreme images of this war. Attackers moved forward usually without seeking cover and were mowed down in rows, with the mechanical efficiency of a scythe, like so many blades of grass. “We were very surprised to see them walking,” wrote a German machine-gunner of his experience of a British attack at the Somme. “The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in the hundreds. You didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them.”

By the time the war ended in November 1918, casualties had been staggering. Matthew White’s table summarizes the results: 65 million soldiers were mobilized to fight of which 9.5 million were dead, over 21 million wounded, and nearly 8 million taken prisoner or missing. Total casualties were over 37 million: 57.7% of all forces mobilized.

The mind boggles at these statistics. What could have been at stake to justify this massive episode of slaughter?

Howard suggests that it was neither the Boer War nor the American Civil War nor even the Franco-Prussian War that established the template for the First World War. Surprisingly, the 1905 Russo-Japanese war provided the model that France, Great Britain and other nations sought to emulate.

In February 1904, the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. It took the Japanese army a year to establish themselves in the disputed province of Manchuria, capturing Port Arthur by land assault in a two-week battle involving over half a million men.

The general consensus of European observers-who followed this war closely-was that infantry assaults with bayonets were still not only possible but necessary. The Japanese had carried them out time and again, and were ultimately successful. In spite of enormous losses in these assaults (Japan suffered an estimated 85,000 casualties during the war); soldiers had broken through the enemy line against machine gun fire and other obstacles. Bodies were heaped on the ground as one wave of troops followed the next, but the attacks eventually resulted in victory.

Japanese bayonet assaults came, it was true, only at the end of a long and careful advance. A French observer described one Japanese attack:
"The whole Japanese line is now lit up with the glitter of steel flashing from the scabbard. Once again officers quit shelter with ringing shouts of "Banzai!" wildly echoed by all the rank and file. Slowly, but not to be denied, they make headway, in spite of the barbed wire, mines and pitfalls, and the merciless hail of bullets. Whole units are destroyed-others take their places; the advancing wave pauses for a moment, but sweeps ever onward. Already they are within a few yards of the trenches. Then, on the Russian side, the long grey line of Siberian Fusiliers forms up in turn, and delivers one last volley before scurrying down the far side of the hill."

Japanese losses in these assaults were heavy, but they succeeded; and so, European theorists argued, such tactics would succeed again. "The Manchurian experience," one British military theorist wrote, showed over and over again that the bayonet was "in no sense an obsolete weapon. The assault is the supreme moment of the fight. From these glorious examples it may be deduced that no duty, however difficult, should be regarded as impossible by well-trained infantry of good morale and discipline."

It was the "morale and discipline" of the Japanese armed forces, Howard tells us, that all observers stressed. They were equally unanimous in stressing that these qualities characterized not only the armed forces but the entire Japanese nation. General Alexei Kuropatkin, the commander of the Russian forces, noted in his memoirs that his nation's defeat was due not to mistakes in generalship, but Russia's inferiority in "moral strength." Lacking "moral exaltation" and the "heroic impulse," Russia did not have sufficient resolution to conquer the Japanese.

The issue of national morale and will was a central concern of European leaders who studied the War. British General Sir Ian Hamilton stated that the Russo-Japanese war should cause European statesman anxiety. People seemed to forget that millions "outside the charmed circle of Western Civilization are ready to pluck the scepter from nerveless hands as soon as the old spirit is allowed to degenerate." Much as some worry today that China might become the "greatest country in the world," supplanting the United States, so European leaders at the turn of the century worried that Japan might supplant Western nations as the greatest country.

The basis of national greatness was, essentially, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Hamilton said that England still had time to "put her military house in order;" to "implant and cherish the military in the hearts of children." It would be necessary to impress upon the minds of the next generation of British boys and girls a "feeling of reverence and admiration for the patriotic spirit of their ancestors." The cult of the offensive, it would appear, represented a desire to make manifest the national will-the capacity for self-sacrifice-and therefore to demonstrate the greatness of one's nation.

In the following report, British Brigadier-General Hubert Rees describes a battle in which his own brigade was massacred as they advanced on German lines:
They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine-gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines, which advanced in such admirable order melting away under fire.

Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back. I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports from the very few survivors of this marvelous advance bear out what I saw with my own eyes: that hardly a man of ours got to the German Front line.

In spite of the total failure of this attack, it is evident that General Rees regarded the destruction of his brigade in a positive light. He observed that not a man “shirked” in the face of the machine-gun and rifle fire. He was proud that even though his troops were “melting away under fire,” they continued to advance “in admirable order.” His men did not waver, break ranks, or attempt to retreat. The General gushed that he had never seen such a magnificent display of “gallantry, discipline and determination.”

His soldiers were slaughtered and “hardly a man got to the German Front line.” However, the General does not evaluate the battle in terms of success or failure. Rather, his reflections revolve around the morale and spirit demonstrated by his troops. The fact that his soldiers continued to advance despite being riddled with bullets leads General Rees to conclude that the attack had been “marvelous.”

Excerpt from a review received by email from Library of Social Science.

I concur that national pride was at the root of the war. The long peace created by Bismarck (after Von Moltke's decisive victory over the French at Sedan in 1870) had enabled huge economic advances in Europe and these advances inspired great pride in the countries concerned. That everyone else was doing well tended to be overlooked. So the nations of Europe all believed in their own greatness and thought they would win any war in a pushover. They were spoiling for a fight and it took only the assasination of an Austrian Archduke to bring one on -- JR


American middle class hit by 10% drop in worth from double whammy of falling income and house prices

With more and more of the workforce diverted into useless bureaucracies, the total supply of useful goods and services has diminished

The middle class has shrunk drastically over the last 10 years as Americans' net worth has plunged, wages declined and standards of living slipped away, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Middle-income earners, long seen as the solid center of the country, are pessimistic and place the blame squarely on US lawmakers, banks and big business, the findings by the Pew Research Center showed.

'America's middle class has endured its worst decade in modern history,' researchers wrote.

In all, 85 percent of middle-class Americans say it is more difficult now than a decade ago to maintain their standard of living. Since 2001, median household income has fallen from $72,956 to $69,487 in 2010 -- a 4.75 percent drop, the report said.

The median household net worth, which is the value of assets minus debt, dropped from $129,582 to $93,150 over the same 10-year period, according to Pew, which analyzed US data along with its own survey of nearly 1,300 adults who consider themselves middle class.



Breivik found sane, faces life imprisonment

Breivik once again gave the Communist salute in court, which the media universally described as Right-wing!

THE Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has been found responsible for his crimes and faces life in prison. A panel of five judges led by Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen, who read the judgment, declared their verdict to be unanimous.

Breivik smiled briefly when he heard the verdict of guilt over terrorism offences and premeditated murder.

The judges effectively found that Breivik was sane when he slaughtered 77 people last year and sentenced him to "preventive detention". This is different to a normal prison sentence, which carries a maximum of 21 years. Breivik will be assessed after 21 years and his sentence could be extended if he is considered to still be a threat to society.

The victims' families had wanted him to be found sane so he could be held responsible for what they saw as a political crime. Seventy per cent of Norwegians polled shared this view.

After the verdict a survivor, Eivind Rindal, told a Norwegian newspaper: "The most important thing is that he never gets out. There are many who share his extreme views in our society."

There is a growing consensus in Norway that the feeling of national unity, symbolised by the huge "rose marches" in which hundreds of thousands marched in defiance during the aftermath of the attacks, has slowly ebbed away as the country becomes divided over the issues of rising immigration and cultural integration.



Economic Inequality is a Small Price to Pay for Staying Human

By Oleg Atbashian (Oleg is a former Soviet citizen)

To paraphrase Baudelaire, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world of the moral superiority of collectivism. According to Ayn Rand, if we don't convince the world otherwise, nothing else will work. Our greatest ally in this fight is human nature. Our greatest asset is morality itself, which is really, truly, undeniably, and absolutely on our side.

Today's political debates often end up in the following compromise: capitalism may be more economically efficient, but it's no moral match to economic equality that benefits most people. But the only way economic equality can benefit people is by pandering to their class envy. In all other aspects -- economical, political, cultural, philosophical, and spiritual -- it's a dastardly, immoral cause.

To begin with, it is the efficiency of capitalism that benefits most people. Among other things, it raises everyone's living standards and quality of life; expands consumer choices; boosts innovation that reduces the share of low-paying, mind-numbing manual jobs; increases the pool of well-paid professional jobs; gives the poor access to things that only the rich could enjoy a short while ago; promotes the creation of new cures of diseases; extends life expectancy and makes old age much more enjoyable.

The alternative to capitalism -- whatever one would like to call it -- is the loss of freedom, loss of choices, government corruption, and moral decay. What do we get in return? The vague promise of economic equality.

But in human reality, complete economic equality cannot be achieved. A century of collectivist social experiments around the world has proven three undeniable facts: One, government-enforced economic equality results in a forced inequality of a powerless, impoverished populace ruled by a corrupt elite. Two, the main obstacle to economic equality is human nature. Three, human nature cannot be changed, no matter the effort to re-educate, indoctrinate, or punish the violators.

An essential part of everyone's human nature is what collectivists are maligning as greed. Generally speaking, it is a normal desire of all humans to achieve a better life for themselves and their children. In a free capitalist system, "greed-driven" achievers engage in lawful productive work, start businesses, and build things. In a restrictive socialist system, to achieve a better station in life, one must either join the corrupt government apparatus, or become part of the criminal underworld with its vast shadow economy. The alternative is to succumb to misery and, very likely, alcoholism or worse. In the end, capitalism brings out the best in people; socialism brings out the worst.

How worthy and moral can an ideal be that punishes achievement and criminalizes human nature?

Proponents of economic equality are either willfully blind, or are themselves sociopathic megalomaniacs, trying to create a restrictive system in which they envision themselves to be part of the powerful ruling elite. Both are willing to go to extremes in order to achieve their goal. As they spin their tale of an imminent paradise, they never say what it will cost us to get there -- and, frankly, they don't give a damn. Individual human sacrifice is never an obstacle for collectivists; their glorious end justifies any unsightly means.

It is up to us then to examine just what exactly we will have to give up for the promise of economic equality -- something that has been proven to not exist.

At first we will have to accept restrictions on certain consumer choices and products in exchange for letting the government take care of our personal well-being. Then come restrictions on speech and activities: a price for maintaining the national well-being. Eventually all dissent is suppressed and criminalized, as the media falls under the government control, young people are indoctrinated in the "new ways," businesses pay enormous taxes, more and more families descend into misery and live off government subsidies, the economy crumbles, and shortages create long lines at the supermarket.

The leaders shift the blame to "enemies of the people," saying that this country would have been a dreamland if it weren't for a few greedy reactionaries. With no one left to object, desperate citizens succumb to the hatred and accept the idea that eliminating the few is a fair price to pay for improving the lives of the many. Then they accept the idea that eliminating an entire class of people is a small price to pay. But despite all the bloodletting, the promised collectivist paradise never arrives and the misery only increases. By now the demoralized, destitute masses are fully separated from the ruling elites by an impenetrable wall of privilege.

The ultimate price -- the relentless sacrifice of millions of people: their work, careers, ambitions, property, and lives -- has been paid to reach an unattainable economic mirage, a phantom concocted in the feverish minds of a few maniacs obsessed with class envy.

In contrast, the price of living in a free and prosperous capitalist society is merely to accept economic inequality as a natural extension of human nature. Without doubt, it's a small price to pay for remaining a free, productive, and moral people who live in harmony with objectively true moral principles, otherwise known as the natural moral law.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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