Friday 24 May 2024

Even moh Mearsheimer, plus WWII trivia

Piers Morgan's style veers too bombastic for my tastes, but he does dare to bring on interesting guests like Professor Mearsheimer. 

To his credit, he did directly challenge Mearsheimer on several points, which the professor handled with aplomb. Morgan was outclassed. 

One largely irrelevant (especially considering that the conversation touched on little things like the real possibility of, oh, I don't know, Global Thermonuclear War), but interesting point Mearsheimer made was around Allied military strategies during WWII. Mearsheimer held up the Soviet military's strategy to defeat Germany as being (largely) devoid of mass atrocities (such as carpet bombing and nuking cities), and one that the West might have followed. 

I don't think that was an option for the US or UK for two main reasons:

1) The Soviets suffered roughly 8.7 million military and 19 million civilian deaths fighting the Nazis. The Western democracies would not have been able to keep going in the face of such mass casualties, especially overseas, when the territorial integrity of the USA was not at risk.

2) The Allies did not have enough trained troops in 1942-1943 to launch an invasion of Northern Europe, so they turned to what they could do: bombing. At first they tried to hit military installations, but their bomb sights weren't up to the task, so they fell back on area bombing of civilian targets. This had secondary military impact, sucking up Luftwaffe resources. 

From Warfare History Network: 

"Total antiaircraft artillery personnel strength, including staffs and administration, grew to over one million, with hardware that included 9,000 heavy guns, 30,000 light guns, and 15,000 heavy searchlights... It caused the Germans to devote nearly one-fourth of their war production to antiaircraft protection and forced them to employ massive assets to defend a wide area, while the attackers could select targets, attack weak points, and overwhelm the system when and where they chose."

Without the bombing, all of that would have been on the front lines. 

Stalin repeatedly demanded Western military action against the Germans, and threatened to broker an armistice with Hitler if they didn't. Rather than sit on their hands, Roosevelt and Churchill elected for the ethically dubious (to put it mildly) bombing campaigns, in order to put pressure on Germany. 

It's worth noting that even at the time, Churchill was reluctant to be associated in any way with Bomber Harris. Bombing raids late in 1945 against Germany, which was already being occupied and in a state of collapse, likely did not serve any real military purpose. The back of the Luftwaffe had already been broken, the Germans had little fuel, and their rail system in disarray (admittedly partly from bombing rail hubs and the loss of freight cars).

Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan, was projected to have almost a million American KIA and many times that wounded (not to mention millions of Japanese casualties, both civilian and military). Would Japan have surrendered without the bomb drops? It's possible. Manchuria was quickly falling to the Soviets. On the other hand, stiff resistance on Okinawa thoroughly spooked the Americans, and Japan could muster millions of troops and thousands of Kamikaze planes to defend Kyushu.

I've seen compelling arguments on both sides. I don't know the answer. 

While it's true that the Soviets did not have much of a long range strategic air wing to conduct such attacks, if they did, I doubt they'd have refrained from area bombing on moral grounds. This is the regime that starved millions of its own citizens: would they really balk at bombing Germans? Additionally, some 3 million POWs died Soviet captivity, 542,911 after the war was over. Not exactly the humanitarian ideal, either.

Further, 125,000 civilians died in the Battle of Berlin, which is comparable to casualties from an Allied bombing raid, many of them killed by artillery. To be fair, just one atomic bomb drop killed 90,000-146,000, and the Allies flattened much of Germany's urban centres. On the other hand, Goebbels inflated casualty figures (of course he did) vastly, claiming some 200,000 died in the Dresden bombing. That figure has been reevaluated as being more in line with 20,000 (still an appalling number). 

We face far more serious problems today than arguing over history. 

Sadly, as Professor Mearsheimer notes, several nations have only bad choices in front of them.

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