Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stephen Green of Vodkapundit has posted that monster essay he's been promising for the last couple weeks. It's not bad, but the repeated cries of "media war" "media war" has brought something to the top of my mind from the festering stews out back.

Ernest May wrote a book about the quick and unexpected victory of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1940 called Strange Victory which was mostly about French intelligence failures and French planning failures, but one of the lesser points, which I think is currently quite apt, is the notable British strategic and logistical failures of that spring.

The British military intellectuals were determined to not fight the last war again. Contrary to the usual myths about Western allied doctrinal failures and the legends of the Maginot Line, the militaries of the West were determined to never fight those bloody ground-stalemates again, a sort of decades-long fear of Benet's spectral soldiers:
All night they marched, the infantrymen under pack,
But the hands gripping the rifles were naked bone
And the hollow pits of the eyes stared, vacant and black,
When the moonlight shone.

The gas mask lay like a blot on the empty chest,
The slanting helmets were spattered with rust and mold,
But they burrowed the hill for the machine gun nest
As they had of old.

And the guns rolled, and the tanks, but there was no sound,
Never the gasp or rustle of living men
Where the skeletons strung their wire on disputed ground....
I knew them, then.

"It is eighteen years," I cried. "You must come no more."
"We know your names. We know that you are the dead.
Must you march forever from France and the last, blind war?"
"Fool! From the next!" they said.

Strange Victory shows in passing the calculating British economists in ill-fitting uniform, calculating the resources and the logistics and the essential weaknesses of the Axis over the long-term. They calculated that they would fight a long war behind an expected ground stalemate and the armored walls of the British Navy, they calculated they could wage what Green calls in passing a "macroeconomic war". There was nothing wrong with their calculations - they all added up, and they dictated the wasteful expansion and diversion of their war to Norway, to interdict German logistical supplies.

The problem, of course, was that there would be no ground stalemate, no time in which to wage the expected future-war, no planned economic-war. While the British soldier-economists plotted their long term, far-sighted strategy, they let pass the unforgiving minute. They learned that wars were still fought with bullets, and chests, and bodies to stop the cannon-blasted breaches.

The cries of "media war, media war" make me think of those wise warrior-economists, who made the mistake of planning, not for the last war, but for the war after the next.

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