Back to: Forthcoming UK Audio Books | Forward to: Grand Guignol Tropes

Changing my mind on nuclear disarmament

I'm a child of the 1970s and 1980s; I grew up under the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Prior to the end of the cold war in 1989-91, I don't believe I ever lived more than 10 kilometres from a strategic nuclear target. (I grew up down the road from the biggest tank factory in Europe; went to university in London: subsequently lived and worked within the blast radius of the M62/M1 motorway junction and a regional airport.)

Trying to explain the psychological effects of this period to the young is difficult—all I can do is point then at Threads. However, despite the Lovecraftian horror lurking in the background—the constant awareness that coolly calculating intellects in distant countries might at any time decide out of game-theoretic considerations to rain thunderbolts and earthquakes on my world, effectively destroying it—I was not a supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

But times have changed and I'm reconsidering my position on that subject. Here's why.

The A-bomb, in 1945, must have been truly shocking; a device that could, with a single bomb, inflict as much damage as a thousand bomber raid. In an era of total war, the Manhattan Project (and its British counterpart, Tube Alloys, which was merged with it in 1943) seemed like a necessity, payback and escalation in the wake of the Blitz. For which we can ultimately thank General Douhet for his theory of air power and the [disproven] idea that shock and awe would cause civilian populations to rapidly cave in time of war.

The A-bomb promised to shorten wars by making it possible to destroy strategic targets such as weapons factories and armoured divisions with a single strike. But then it turned out to be surprisingly, dismayingly easy for other countries to build such devices. The focus switched from the A-bomb to the delivery system—first strategic bombers, then ballistic missiles, and finally cruise missiles and artillery. And in the meantime, better ways of destroying strategic targets came along: the H-bomb made possible the destruction of just about any hardened target, and then of an entire capital city. The term "balance of terror" was coined; by the time the USA and USSR began to gradually step back from the brink in the mid-1970s with the SALT arms limitation talks, the US nuclear forces were targeting individual sub-post-offices in Moscow with quarter megaton nukes.

The UK was caught in an odd position. It had proven, during the second world war, to have a vital strategic role as America's unsinkable aircraft carrier and resupply depot, moored 50 kilometres off the coast of Europe. In any US/Soviet war scenario, the UK played a critical role. Nor were the British political elite necessarily opposed to this. The Conservatives hated and feared the threat of Soviet communism; the Labour Party leadership hated and feared the Soviets even more (as first cousins once removed in the family tree of left wing ideology, they were seen as class traitors by the first generation of Bolsheviks). A post-war consensus saw the British government devote significant resources to developing nuclear weapons, and indeed the first British A-bomb test took place in 1952.

But the UK was the head of an empire in long-term decline. In 1956 the political elite in both the UK and France faced a crisis after the Suez crisis effectively slammed on the brakes on British imperial influence east of the Nile; the USA had asserted the primacy of its own interests. What to do? To paint with a very broad brush, the French response was, "we cannot rely on the perfidious Americans to back us up: we need to preserve the capability to act independently at all costs". The British response was, "we can no longer act alone without American support, so we need to preserve a good relationship with the Americans at all costs."

Prior to 1956, the British nuclear deterrent had the goal of preventing the USSR from threatening the UK by promising a nuclear counter-attack, in the absence of third-party support: it was independently built and operated, carried by the independently designed and operated V-bomber force. Their job, in accordance with established strategic bombing doctrine and the balance of terror theory, was simple: destroy Moscow. It made a certain sense, when the chief occupant of that city was a hyper-paranoid dictator with proven territorial ambitions; the point was to make the cost of direct aggression against the UK unthinkably high.

After 1960, however, the direction of British strategic nuclear thought shifted. The USSR was now run by committee, headed by a first among equals who could be deposed (as indeed Nikita Kruschev was in 1964); it was perhaps more stable and less likely to launch a surprise invasion, but deadly crises could still arise through miscalculation. Meanwhile, the significance of the Special Relationship continued to gather weight in the minds of British strategic planners. A decision was taken to replace the V-Force in the mid-1960s with a less vulnerable-to-missiles submarine force, carrying American-built Polaris missiles with British MRV warheads. And in the early 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, Margaret Thatcher's government decided to replace the aging Polaris submarines with new boats carrying the Trident D5. Again, the goal remained unchanged: "maintain the capability to destroy Moscow, independent of the United States, in order to deter the USSR from acts of aggression against the UK". (Note the "independent of the United States" clause. The constant fear of British war planners during the Cold War was that in some recondite USA/USSR stand-off, the USA might sacrifice their allies in order to avoid direct conflict with the enemy.)

And that's how things stood during the Cold War.

From my point of view as a native of Airstrip One, the existence of the British strategic deterrent didn't seem to make things significantly worse. Unilateral disarmament, though superficially attractive (was it conceivable that anyone would ever willingly use those missiles other than in a second strike? No. Would a second strike bring back the dead? No. So what's the point?), had the worrying problem that it wouldn't take the UK out of the firing line. Soviet nuclear doctrine, as we now know, saw nuclear war as a winnable battle; they expected to fight with nukes from the outset, and merely being part of the enemy alliance would be enough to draw down a tactical nuclear bombardment on the UK.

But then the Cold War ended. And we continued to maintain the Trident boats, even as the proximate justification for their existence went away. New justifications came along: we needed the capability in case a new threat emerged—a nuclear-armed China, or maybe Iraq, or even North Korea. (Leaving aside the fact that China is more interested in trade, Iraq was a paper tiger, and the UK has had no actual involvement in the Korean peninsula for the past sixty years.)

Meanwhile, it became apparent that the Vanguard boats were serving as an unofficial annex to the US Navy's Trident capability; the START treaties permit the US to operate 12 such submarines, but the UK effectively gives them another 4. The Royal Navy Trident rockets are maintained and refurbished from the same depot as the US Navy's missiles. The warheads are, according to some, built in the UK from designs supplied directly from the United States, and are effectively interchangeable with the American payloads. There are even rumours that some years ago the UK stopped independently building and maintaining warheads and now shares a common pool with the United States, complete with US built and operated permissive action links on the "British" missiles.

And in the meantime, the nature of warfare changed.

Let's remember those thousand-bomber raids and their original purpose: to put strategic targets out of operation. They were necessary because bombers were inaccurate. Horrendously so. In 1940, the RAF calculated that bombs dropped during night raids fell, on average, within 5 kilometres of their target. If that's an A-bomb, it may do some good; if it's a 500lb high explosive device, it's a joke. By the end of the war they had substantially improved their accuracy, but it still took either a huge raid or a highly trained elite squadron to put a major target out of commission.

Then came the new technologies. First LGBs; a single bomb that could take out a bridge, replacing multiple-squadron strength bomber forces with unguided bombs. Then came JDAMs. Cheap, droppable in any weather, harder to jam than an LGB. A single bomber with JDAMs could strike many targets scattered over a range of kilometres with a single pass! In the wake of the Kosovo war, which featured the first major bombing campaign mediated by stealth aircraft with JDAMs, I'm told that some bright sparks calculated what it would have taken to recapitulate the strategic impact of the RAF/USAAF 1943-45 heavy bombing campaign against Germany, and came up with the figure of: one squadron of F-117A Nighthawks with JDAMs, and six weeks, with a 50/50 probability of one hull loss.

As strategic weapons, it seems to me that nuclear weapons are obsolescent. Yes, they could do the door-breaking job of destroying factories and cities. But there are cheaper, less destructive ways of doing the same job—and the other methods are politically acceptable. Any nation that actually used strategic nuclear weapons in war-fighting these days would be a pariah state thereafter, with incalculable long-term consequences (none of them good). H-bombs only serve one purpose these days: state terrorism.

You can't use H-bombs in war. You can use JDAMs and LGBs and drones. So why is David Cameron so keen on spending £70Bn on replacing an aging weapons platform that is of no actual use to the British military and which sucks vital resources away from the bits of the Royal Navy that actually do things?

In claiming that North Korea could launch a nuclear strike at the UK, Cameron inadvertently blew the cover on why the current British political elite support maintenance of a vastly expensive nuclear weapons force. It's not to serve British interests; rather, it's to shore up the special relationship by supporting US interests. North Korea, outside of its immediate neighbours, is very much a US political shibboleth. The idea of a North Korean nuclear strike on the UK is so ludicrous as to be laughable; why would they bother, when Seoul is so much closer? (Or Tokyo, if they want to look for hated former colonial oppressors.)

The political purpose behind the drive to replace the V-class submarines is to provide a 25% boost to the US Navy's Trident force. And the thrust behind the construction of the Queen Elizabeth class Aircraft Carriers (the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy, just as the UK is declining to clear second-rank status as a global power) is to provide fill-in support for the US Navy's carrier force, which itself appears to be in long-term decline. And if it isn't obvious to you, I'd just like to note that this is a complete reversal of the pre-1956 logic underpinning the British independent nuclear deterrent—a shift from independent capability to its opposite.

As to why this might be, it's the logic of Suez coming home to roost: having given up on the idea of a UK that can operate without US support, our political elite have enthusiastically adopted Americanophilia as an ideological assumption. If they can just be American enough, maybe the Americans will forget that they're foreigners? Something like that. It wasn't a bad idea, in the wonder years of the 1950s to 1960s, when the United States could send Navy aviators to play golf on the Moon and bestrode the Earth like an economic colossus. But the United States today is visibly recapitulating the usual path of imperial decline, losing relative advantage in a 21st century that is now clearly coming into view: hot, crowded, dense, multipolar, dominated by international capital and labour flows. The idea of the monolithic anglophone superpower is a dangerous mast to nail your colours to, if you're a small island nation that lost its empire a lifetime ago.

Anyway, this is a long-winded explanation of how I've come to change my views on the British nuclear deterrent. I think that during the 1960s to 1980s, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were wrong, although I'll give them credit for idealism. But in the 21st century, I can see no convincing case for the UK retaining nuclear weapons. We should at most maintain a plutonium stockpile and a pool of expertise such that we could design and build new bombs from scratch if given a couple of years' notice, if circumstances change: but we don't need actually-existing nuclear weapons any more, and the money would be better spent elsewhere.

417 Comments

1:

Pretty much the same thing with the UKUSA intelligence agreement. Craig Murray suggests that it is the reason why the UK was spoon-fed bollocks during the run-up to the aggression against Iraq, provided its own contributions to it, and washed its hands of torture-tainted information.

2:

When I was a child, my parents were friends with a French Army colonel who worked with Pluton and Hadès missiles -- what the French called "pre-strategic" intermediate-range missiles: they'd blow up a Soviet armoured division in Germany, not to gain a tactical advantage, but to make them listen that things were about to get really nasty if they continued their drive West. It made for interesting fire-side chatter.

But my most vivid memory of the Cold War is this: my family lived above a nuclear shelter, and had a designated spot in case of war. My mother once told me that in case of nuclear war, she would not go down to the shelter to live in grim concrete for weeks, but would take me outside so we could die quickly from radiations. I was six, and less than keen at the prospect. After years of education, I knew just enough on radiation poisonning to grasp an idea of how criminally idiotic her stance was.

3:

If a material world power such as the UK de-armed I think that would have a substantial knock-on effect towards world peace as significant as the establishment of the EU. This is a profound idea, Charlie.

4:

Incidentally, in line with the port, I heartily recommand Hans Blix' "Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters".

http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/why-nuclear-disarmament-matters

5:

Frustratingly I can't find a link to it now, but a while ago I read an article on arms control wonk that made me reconsider nuclear disarmament in the other direction.

The idea is that if you get rid of all your nukes it's not just that you're "unprotected", as you still have the ability to manufacture nukes any enemy has a large incentive to nuke you before you do so. With the obvious difficulties of proving to unknown actors that you have not yet started manufacturing more nukes, this leads to some worrying instability.

The article I read was on arms control wonk, but searching for a specific article on disarmament on there is beyond my search skills. I think it was based on a book.

6:

What you didn't cover is the threat of non-missile nukes: what if country X decided for ideological reasons to nuke London via container ship?

I think nukes are a bit like firearms - a great leveler. You no longer need a thousand bombers or a massive army to threaten biblical-style destruction. So, until this has played out, I'd rather keep a small deterrent - enough to blot out significant strategic targets anywhere in the world.

7:

That still doesn't require a vastly expensive 24x365 Trident patrol capability, though.

We have around 12 SSNs, and they carry Tomahawk cruise missiles. The BGM-109 comes in a variety of models including nuclear-tipped variants. So: why not maintain a small but sufficient number of warheads, on land at a depot subject to international inspection, which can be installed on missiles carried by SSNs if a particular crisis emerges?

(Now someone is going to raise the ante by saying "but air defenses mean you can't trust a cruise missile to get through". And counter objections that "it takes just one H-bomb to trash a city" by saying "yes, but we can hypothesize an adversary with a sufficiently advanced air defense network to shoot down 99.9% of cruise missiles". And so on. You can see how this goes. I call bullshit; I'm pretty sure that if someone popped a brace of Tomahawks at Washington DC or Moscow right now 90% of them would get through. Real world air defense networks are not 99.9% effective, or even 90% effective; more like 10%, at best. 10% attrition of an attacking bomber force will put it out of business in a matter of days. But against nuclear-tipped cruise missiles it's effectively ineffective.)

8:

The argument in favour of retaining a nuclear deterrent that I've heard bandied around most is that it lets the UK retain its permanent seat on the UN Security Council despite a shrinking influence on global politics as nations like India develop further.

It does sound pretty unlikely that we'd get kicked off if we did get rid of our nuclear deterrent to me. Also, if we only get the seat through having access to the top tier of nasty toys rather than political or economic influence, surely that's a sign we probably shouldn't have it in the first place?

9:

I think a chunk of my argument boils down to this: in the modern world, the accuracy of delivery systems are far more important than the size of the payload. And we have delivery systems so accurate that during the Gulf War, RAF Tornados -- themselves a 25 year old platform -- were delivering bombs filled with concrete instead of explosives. If you hit a target dead-centre with a ton of cement traveling at 1000 kilometres per hour, it tends to disintegrate, and if you can hit a target with fifty-centimetre-accuracy every time, why risk damage to by-standers twenty metres away?

10:

The notion of firearms as "levelers" is a myth. If they really were, police forces would not need special intervention teams of trained hunks armed to the teeth; part-time squads of artritic old ladies with vintage Webley revolvers would suffice.

As for nuclear weapons: the Soviet Union is not going to destroy us -- it does not exist. The USA might eventually, but not in this way. The Chinese are no idiots, etc. There are the ones that can be deterred.

Now, assuming that some lunatics cannot be deterred (say the North Koreans): would we consider that a massive thermonuclear strike would be an appropriate response? We have everything we need to bring the regime to its knees with conventional weapons, and then some. Using H-bombs would only guarantee a quasi-genocide of people who are not only innocent of the first strike, but probably long-time victims of the regime themselves.

In short: in the world of 2013, those that nuclear weapons would deter already don't want to attack, and nuclear weapons are not useful to retaliate against those they do not deter.

11:

Disarmament always just strikes me as being another version of the prisoner's dilemma. Its absolutely the right thing to do, for every conceivable reason, but no one wants to be first :( Think about what that says about the morals of any given nation.

12:

I'm in two minds about this. I think that in the current world there is an argument for Europe to have an independent deterrent or at least the capability of deploying one at, at most, a few month's notice - e.g., if there was a resurgence of US isolationism.

On the other hand I think a direct replacement for Trident only makes sense, as you say, for crawling to the Americans.

One of the requirements of the non-proliferation treaty is that the existing nuclear powers move towards disarmament. Replacing Trident with a similar system sends a very direct signal that we have no intention of doing that for a very long time and so undermines the argument that currently non-nuclear states should honour the NPT.

Personally, I'd like to see Britain have a stock of small nuclear warheads that can be fitted to the cruise missiles on existing attack submarines. This (combined with the French nuclear capability) would be quite sufficient to make anybody think twice about using WMDs of any sort against any country in or around Europe.

It's also a plausibly scrappable system. Removing nuclear armaments from an attack submarine still leaves you with a useful attack submarine. Removing nuclear weapons from a Trident submarine leaves you with an expensive hole in the water.

What I don't know (and I've asked a couple of ex-diplomats who might be expected to know without getting any answer) is whether any treaty obligations prohibit us from having nuclear armed cruise missiles.

13:

I'm not sure that the UK having a seat on the Security Council is worth £1000 to me personally.

Maybe Europe (well, the EC) should have a seat on the Security Council.

14:

@12: "...combined with the French nuclear capability"

Erm. So, the French would keep their four stategic nuclear submarines and ~200 100kt warheads while the British would disarm? That's not commitment to disarmement, more like sub-contracting strategic deterrence.

I'd rather see a reduction in warheads and missiles leading to two French and two British submarines patrolling alternately. When time comes to replace the missiles and warheads, the British could even subscribe into the French programme to build a common European nuclear weapon. This would free two submarines in each country, useable either as submarine cruisers with hundreds of conventional cruise missile, or more exotic designs like submarine landing docks. It would also have the advantage of anchoring Britain to Europe, where it belongs, rather than to its former-colony-turned-bad. Not snowball's chance in hell, I know, but still...

15:

South Africa unilaterally ditched their nuclear weapons, with no negative consequences.

It can be done.

16:

It's not merely a seat on the UNSC: it's a seat with absolute veto power. One of four -- USA, France, USSR (now Russia), UK. Which is a historical legacy of the UN being the successor body to the allied powers of WW2.

Of course, in 20 years' time that might not be worth a warm bucket of piss. USSR: replaced by Russia, a shadow of its former self. USA: well-set in the late imperial decline sequence. UK: is to imperial power in the 21st century what Spain was to the 20th century. France: ditto.

In other words, the veto powers on the UNSC belong to a club of has-beens, with only one member who still matters (and who themselves are visibly on the slide). Circa 2050 it's going to look irrelevant, unless the veto moves on -- say to India, China, the USA, and the EU as a collective.

17:

@16: One of five, with China, no?

18:
it lets the UK retain its permanent seat on the UN Security Council despite a shrinking influence on global politics as nations like India develop further.

This begs the question of why it is so important for the UK to retain a UNSC veto. From http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2828985.stm :

The UK has gone out on a limb, by vetoing a resolution alone, only seven times. The most recent solo veto was in 1972 and all seven were on the situation in Rhodesia, later to become Zimbabwe.

In other words, it's been 40 years since the UK used its veto alone and there's no obvious prospect of it needing to in the future. But I guess it still needs the veto because of, I dunno, the Falkland Islands or something.

Incidentally, the 1982 Falklands war is an excellent example of how useless a nuclear deterrent is for, y'know, deterrence. The Argentine government of the time correctly calculated that the UK would not use a nuclear weapon on Buenos Aires in retaliation for an attack on the Falklands. Obviously, even Maggie Thatcher didn't want to kill several million innocent people and go down in history as a war criminal.

In practice, I think the UK wants nuclear weapons and a UNSC veto just for the sake of national penis-waving, and the ancient desire to not be outclassed by the French.

19:

The SSN solution to replace Trident won't work -- at the moment Trident can hit anywhere on the planet that's worth hitting FROM anywhere on the planet that's deepwater ocean and international waters in less than an hour from launch to impact with practically no chance of interception of the warhead.

A SLCM like Tomahawk has a maximum range of about 1200km in a straight line depending on payload which would mean that to attack Moscow or Beijing the SSN launching the missile would have to manoeuvre close to the coast of the enemy nation in time of war, perhaps taking several days to get into the area to start with through active defences which would be hunting for just such a launch platform. After launch the missile is prone to being tracked and intercepted by AA defences or fighter aircraft; they are not stealthy and can't carry enough jamming and ECW gear worth a damn without impacting on flight duration and payload.

The only real use for nuclear cruise missiles is to threaten your neighbours as in the NATO-Warsaw Pact standoff of the Cold War where the opponents were already positioned face-to-face and a prepositioned missile could be launched and reach its target in an hour or two. The US has retired all their nuclear-capable cruise missiles, both SLCM and ALCM models for these reasons.

20:

In the event of nuclear war my mum, a radiologist, was on some list to go and do something in some bunker somewhere. Which was ironic as she was an activist in the campaign against nuclear weapons.

She used to say “Bugger that, bugger them, as if I’d leave my kids behind. What we need is a shotgun and Geiger counter.” I found this comforting.

I remember a poster she had showing the likely pattern of fatally radioactive fall out from a very large nuclear attack on London stretching all the way up to Aberdeen where we lived. Genuinely scary stuff.

I have no idea who we would use a nuclear bomb on four minute notice on in the next twenty years. None of the traditional state actors seem that interested in picking a fight with us. If I lived in India or Pakistan I might be a bit worried about my next door neighbour going a bit nuts but I find the idea that Russia or China, France, the USA or India, Pakistan or Israel would attack us, let alone with nuclear weapons unconvincing. We owe China a huge amount of money we’d be unable to pay back if they killed us all. Russian oligarchs own a good chunk of London real estate and two London football clubs.

Trident is a bet that there are people who want to attack us, who can attack us and would be put off by our retaliation. That doesn’t seem like a good bet to me. Certainly not worth £70bn. Or £2.1bn a year in avoided interest costs. Which is about equilvalent to increasing the personal tax allowance to £10.4k. Or increasing by 50% in-work tax credits. Or reducing VAT by 0.4%.

North Korea seems unlikely to be able to reach us and has other people they don’t like much more than us and they seem to be using their bombs mainly to keep the USA from invading and to leverage some aid deal on the never never. (And a pre-emptive strike of parachuting in 50 million smart phones would probably be more effective and cheaper.)

If London was attacked with a nuclear weapon I think it is much more likely to come on a container ship or in a lorry as an act of terrorism. Who would we nuke then? Given that most terrorists who have operated in the UK in my life time have been born in the UK. Would we drop a nuclear bomb on Bradford or Belfast?

21:

Uhmmmmm... this day and age great power status is defined by possessing SSBN (and big aircraft carriers). More than anything else they are status symbols, or statements of intentions. I'd say that's why China and India are willing to build them.

And that's why Great Britain renouncing them would go far beyond its military implications. Renounce nuclear weapons and Britain becomes Japan, only smaller and weaker. Renounce the new aircraft carriers too and Britain becomes just another European big country, like Italy, Spain or Poland, its military second to France's, its economy second to Germany's.

It is perhaps the most rational course but I can't see Cameron and the Tories taking such a momentous decision without the equivalent of a new Suez crisis.

22:

The UK could tell the US that if it wants to use them to bend the rules on a treaty then the US should pony up for the cost. The US should say, "Psst, look here old buddy. Take these, they're mine but tell everybody they belong to you. Shh!"

The only real threat of nuclear weapons is state sponsored terrorism, but...
...state sponsored terrorism can be by proxy. How long before NK sells a truck or shipping container nuke to Al Qaeda? Wouldn't that put London in range?
Not that having nuclear subs would affect that.

Nukes and terrorism are here to stay and its only a matter of time before they mix. The faster we can all live in space RVs the better. Meanwhile, terrorists are likely to be very selective with any nukes they get, not wasting them on anything but the most important targets. So by staying out of major cities one can be pretty safe.

23:

Interestingly enough, the prisoner's dilemma game was originally conceived by game theorists working on the US Nuclear Strategy at RAND Corporation.

The original formulation of the game is Arm or Disarm, not Defect and Cooperate.

The original authors of the game argued that in a competition between two superpowers, if both arm, neither gains an advantage over the other, if both disarm, neither gains advantage AND they both save loads of money, and if one side disarms and the other arms, the one who arms gains an advantage.

I don't think that this situation exists any more. Strategic nuclear weapons are only useful for dissuading other people from waging strategic nuclear war against you, I'd argue that no capable state wants that any more.

Non-state or rogue state actors might conceivably attack us with nuclear weapons, but in that case, our nukes will neither deter them or help us fight back. We're hardly going to glass Pyongyang or Tehran if they set off a dirty bomb in London, and if we did, it wouldn't help.

24:

c.f. _Toolmaker Koan_, John MacLoughlin.

Hmm. ICBMs are stunningly expensive, so much so that the amount of resources required to maintain them in working order requires some degree of rationality. How much of this cost is in the warhead, and how much in the launch infrastructure and delivery vehicle? If you were prepared to deliver your warheads by kamikaze ship, does the cost drop sufficiently to be within reach of people who are willing to use them?

25:

Al Qaeda can't afford a North Korean nuke.

Suppose AQ sends $1 billion in cash to NK (which AQ doesn't really have, but imagine they did). What can the NK leadership spend it on? Porn and vintage cognac? They can get that already. Better technology, to feed their people and improve their industrial capacity? $1 billion wouldn't go very far, and anyway it would be impossible to conceal that kind of spending spree from intelligence agencies in the USA, China and elsewhere, who would start asking awkward questions.

Now, set that against what the Americans would do to them if New York was destroyed by a nuclear weapon which was ultimately traced back to NK. If NK was feeling that suicidal, it would be easier to nuke the Americans themselves.

26:

Thank you for this post. You have unassailably demonstrated that the UK Trident fleet is a waste of money. Now, when I need to argue why we should discontinue it, I shall simply link to here.

27:

I think it's a bad idea to put nukes on cruise missiles or on SSNs. If you do, you risk your conventional weapon launches being mistaken for nuclear war.

I'd support the idea of an EU deterrent: a system with about the capability of Trident, but independent of the US and with the cost distributed across the whole of the EU.

This way, the total number and expense of nukes in Europe goes down while the deterrent to attack anywhere in Europe in a strategic nuclear war is increased.

There are clearly problems to solve re: crewing, maintenance and launch authority, but I think they could probably be solved.

The launch authority would probably have to be a central EU body with clear rules to retaliate if any EU member is attacked such that the more powerful states don't retract protection from smaller members in a crisis.

28:

But then, I'd support a much more unified EU military presence in general. Maintain NATO, but at the same time try to create an EU force that is self-sufficient (capable of staging interventions without US support).

Again, there are all sorts of challenges in creating a force like that, but I think they could be overcome.

Of course, I'd like the UK and the EU to become more democratic before these steps were taken, but I won't hold out hope for either reforming meaningfully any time soon.

29:

Hey, Charlie, in the same way that your words on eBook DRM got to the heart of Tor and helped to change their minds...

Any chance somebody could get this to the heart of the UK government?

30:

No chance, the UK government is heartless.

31:

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but isn't it great to have a high-quality comment thread on a high-quality post?

First, a Disclaimer: I don't live in UK and have very few connections there, so I have absolutely zero skin in this game. I did, however, spend more than my fair share of time in the military, part of it even studying international relations.

One notable point is, that while it's obvious that disarmament is technically possible, SA is not a good example for political feasibility. After all, it was the black SA that got rid of white SA's nuke's, along with a lot of other stuff. While the territory and the population were mostly the same, it was a different country. It's almost like saying USA got rid of their king in 1776.

But my question is broader- under what circumstances would you consider the attainment and maintenance of nuclear weapons a reasonable policy decision for a current non-superpower country? It's obvious that India was afraid of China, and Pakistan is afraid of India, and Israel is afraid of basically everyone within earshot, but this is not a defensible policy argument. Given the known alternatives (accurate weapons) and their limitations (range, as stated in the comments, as well as limited destructive power when the target is large and/or buried in concrete), is there a non-nuclear threat that you perceive as justifying a nuclear arsenal?

32:

I doubt that any current nuclear power has any desire to actually use a nuclear weapon in anger; the US, UK, China, France, and Russia have no targets worth shooting at given the political fallout that would result. India and Pakistan are caught in a Cold-War like deterrence, but are very aware that neither can win a nuclear exchange (and unlike the US/USSR standoff, the rest of the world would go on without them quite well). For Israel, nuclear weapons are the final Sampson-smash of the temple; using them can only be an act of vengeance in the event of the their destruction as a nation, because using them will destroy them as a nation. Iran and North Korea want nuclear weapons as status symbols and bargaining chips in maintaining regional power; their primary targets would be the US or some US ally, and attacking same with conventional nuclear delivery systems or by any means tracible to them would be suicide.

As an interesting aside, notte that the US and Israel are responding to the Iranian nuclear "threat" by attacking their R&D capability with cyberweapons rather than bombing them. This has so far proved to be quite effective, very cheap, and easily deniable.

So it's in the interest of all current nuclear powers to reduce the likliehood of nuclear attack on anyone by non-conventional means (truck bombs, container bombs, dirty bombs, bombs mounted on surplus Chinese drones, etc.), and the simplest way to do this is to disarm themselves, reducing the political temptation for others to have nuclear weapons, and reducing the risk of others buying or stealing them.

33:

Oddly I was reading a piece the other day (lost the link) on the Lib-Dem report on alternatives to Trident that's due out later this week, which implied that the US government was briefing against the UK spending on Trident, as the current round of military cuts are severely impacting the UK ability to support US conventional forces.

So if that's the case, even more bloody-minded chauvinism by our so-called leaders.

34:

A common mistake is to think that the Security Council permanent seat with power of veto Britain holds is dependent on the demonstrable possession of nuclear weapons under national control. It is plausible in that all five permanent members now possess nukes, but India and Pakistan are not now and are unlikely to ever be permanent members despite representing a significant fraction of the world's population, and as for Israel, North Korea or apartheid South Africa... The Republic of China was a permanent member from 1946 to 1971 without nukes for that entire period but still had the power of veto.

Another common myth was that the British nuclear force was tactically or strategically subsumed into the US umbrella when in fact it was the other way around. The Soviets could have come to an accommodation with the US at any time during the Cold War leaving Europe to flap in the breeze but the Kremlin always had to consider the French and British nuclear deterrence forces when making plans since they were observably independent from US policy and overall control.

35:

That situation, with the DRM, was combination of the publisher starting to ask questions, and Charlie being somebody with some clearly-expressed answers.

Defence Procurement in the UK looks like a mess. The carriers may well be useless: they depend on an incredibly expensive aircraft going into production, because the UK government is not having them built with facilities for conventional aircraft. And the support for those expensive planes--things like an AEW aircraft--will not be conventional aircraft, and may not even be on the drawing board yet.

I reckon the politicians in the UK are incapable of asking sensible questions, or of understanding the answers. The French have been able to build their own carriers and their own aircraft, and they have been flying missions from the carriers over Afghanistan.

(Are the two British carriers a good idea? I'm not sure. But the project looks inherently incompetent. The government and the MoD have consistently gone for options which reduce the choices and increase the cost. If they were a good idea, the chance has been wasted.)

36:

Firstly, it bears mentioning that the USA has no control over the UK nuclear firing chain. The UK doesn't use a PAL system, and there is no dependence on US satellites.

Secondly, the UK deterrent includes a sub-strategic ability. Presumably one or more of the sixteen missiles on patrol has a single, smaller-yield warhead on board. This gives the ability to take on a protected site (e.g. launch site, or WMD production facility). Not every target can be taken on by a restricted-effect precision weapon; your example of the "laser-guided lump of concrete" only worked because it was aimed at an unprotected house. Compare that with the bunker-busting bombs needed in DESERT STORM, or the sheer scale of some of the targets. Consider also that you might not be able to deliver that conventional precision weapon; the S-300V successors are reckoned to be rather effective against aircraft and cruise missiles.

Thirdly, a nuclear deterrent is a very long-lead activity. It's the kind of thing that takes a couple of decades to build and deploy, in other words a rather longer period of time than it takes for a new threat to emerge. Argentina went from civilian democracy to military dictatorship to aggressive invader in seven years. What's the bets that Saudi Arabia will be a nuclear power within a very short time of any Iranian ability? Once Saudia Arabia has the bomb, what about Egypt and Turkey? What's keeping Syria from threatening the use of its chemical weapons stocks? This isn't a stable world; Russia and the Middle East each manage a coup or a war every decade, India and Pakistan manage a war every two decades. The weapons and the delivery systems are out there, and we have to make strategic plans on the basis of capabilities, not just current intentions.

Finally, the presence of France and the UK as "other nuclear powers in NATO" does mean that it's a bit more balanced.

This thread discusses the implementation of any deterrent (rather than the political need). Usual warnings apply about the Army Rumour Service, the wider site isn't always for the faint of heart.

http://www.arrse.co.uk/royal-navy/197102-nuclear-deterrent-reasons-its-replacement.html

37:

The launch authority would probably have to be a central EU body with clear rules to retaliate if any EU member is attacked

More sensibly: the Council of Ministers to set policy guidelines, and then a system like Dead Hand/Perimeter to execute. Oh, and no mechanism for launching a non-retaliatory strike without an order, issued unanimously, by the Council of Ministers (i.e. it would need unanimous consent from 25 national governments -- about as likely as monkeys flying out of my butt).

38:

No chance, the UK government is heartless.

Clarification: They're as heartless as Dick Cheney was, circa 2011-12. (Before his heart transplant, during the period he relied on an LVAD to keep his blood circulating.)

39:

AIUI it was the White SA that got rid of their nukes, in the run-up to handing over power. They didn't want their successors to have them. The successors have shown no subsequent desire to re-acquire them.

40:

is there a non-nuclear threat that you perceive as justifying a nuclear arsenal?

Earth-grazing asteroids.

(But there are huge problems with detection, interception, and deflection of asteroids -- note that the Chelyabinsk detonation of a few months ago wasn't even detected prior to re-entry, and had a roughly 400 kiloton yield when it broke up -- and a nuclear device for asteroid deflection bears about the same relationship to a regular ICBM that a road drill bears to a mining drill: superficial similarities but serious fundamental differences that mean one isn't really a suitable substitute for the other.)

41:

If North Korea was interested in earning some money on someone getting nuked then they could use the financial markets to set up a string of leveraged bets on the indexes.

The trouble with that plan is that Al Qaeda are far too unreliable people to give any serious hardware to. Al Qaeda must rely on luck, what talent here is tends to blow itself up and they are infused with heady ideology. Lots of random factors. When one has got a serious derivatives position it is just no good if the position expires with a margin call because of a heated theological debate over the afterlife merited by bombing Jerusalem or bombing New York. When one needs the money, one cannot afford to gamble like that. The North Koreans would have to do it themselves and that is hard to pull off - The North Korean leadership must be riddled with Chinese spies by now.

In any event, why blow up anything important? One will need functional financial markets to collect & launder the loot. For a "Long Chaos" trade to work, one really only needs a warhead suddenly going off *somewhere*, visible of course, without anyone claiming responsibility (lots will anyway, the collective mind hates a vacuum). Sticking the device in a shipping container and setting it off 40 km off the cost of the US would work perfectly fine.

A nuclear deterrent may deter a traditional state, it will not deter a "Long Chaos" operator (which may well be a state, dissatisfied with its assigned position in the New World Order). This is the bigger risk these days.

But it does generates Pork and Black Budgets, well within the scope of Camerons "visions" for how capitalism should work.

42:
A common mistake is to think that the Security Council permanent seat with power of veto Britain holds is dependent on the demonstrable possession of nuclear weapons under national control.

Of course there is no official, legal requirement for UNSC permanent members to have nuclear weapons. From 1945-49, *none* of them did except the USA, yet the UNSC existed anyway.

But in political terms, the UK's argument for retaining a permanent UNSC seat rests on its increasingly threadbare claim to be a first-rank military power. Nuclear weapons are a big part of that. If the UK disarms, it becomes harder to argue they should have a permanent seat and India, Brazil, or Germany shouldn't.

The other thing supporting the UK's retention of a UNSC veto is that the USA likes having a compliant ally in that position. India or Brazil, like France, would be significantly more unruly. But sooner or later, even the USA might calculate it's not worth supporting the UK's veto at the cost of annoying the up-and-coming powers.

43:

Question 1) How long does it take to knock up a nuke, if you know how?

Answer : Not very long

Question 2) How do you now that a former nuclear power doesn't have one hidden away?

Answer : You don't

The reality is that giving up nuclear weapons is only a symbolic act, best reserved for a symbolic general disarming of all states (israel included). Even then, you'd have to assume that anyone who wants one would have one. At least anyone capable of knocking up an enrichment facility.

I do agree with one thing. Playing with nuclear armed subs is pointless. Put the weapons into orbit, pointed down, instead. B*gger the treaties, it's more practical and cheaper - and concentrates the mind much more effectively.

44:

#25 - If anyone is in any doubt about what a GOP response to a nuclear detonation by $nation in a major US city could be, I strongly advise them to read Merchant Princes volume 6 before continuing in this conversation!

45:

This.

The US nuclear release system is asymmetrically weighted, at least since Nixon. It's designed to be very hard to initiate a nuclear attack ... unless it's a retaliatory strike for a WMD attack on US territory. In which case, it's all but mandatory.

46:

The Republic of China was a Permanent Member from 1946 through 1971 and it was in no way a first-rate world power, never mind being a non-nuclear state to this day.

There is no mechanism for removing a Permanent Member from the Council against its will. There has been talk of expanding the SC and possibly increasing the number of Permanent Members but again there is no mechanism in the laws and treaties concerning the UN for doing that either other than everyone agreeing to do it and writing up some kind of treaty or modifying the existing rules. That would obviously dilute the power of the existing Five and would likely be vetoed by one or more of them...

47:

AIUI it was the White SA that got rid of their nukes ...

Yes; the dismantling of the weapons took place in 1990 (though the existence of the program and its ending wasn't made public until 1993, I think); the elections that brought the ANC into power didn't take place until 1994.

48:

Came to post that, asteroids can probably be better deflected with paintballs to alter their albedo if you get sufficiently advanced warning, but it sure sounds good.

Alien invasions too! I bet those pesky aliens are just waiting for us to dismantle all our nukes before they swoop down on us. :)

49:
What's keeping Syria from threatening the use of its chemical weapons stocks?
The fact that Obama has told everyone the US will suddenly get Very Involved in Syria's future governance if they use them? That may not have stopped Assad, though...
50:

I sat an ethics course whilst a serving officer with a great lecturer (who worked on such things a nuke policy) who posited the question..
The opposition have launched a first strike. It is inbound. What do you do now?

Almost to a man they chorused out "retaliate"

To which he asked, "why?"

Given that nothing will stop the first strike, we are about to obliterated, what is the point? Following the first strike devastation who is coming to help afterwards?

Made for an interesting discussion.

51:

The fewer nukes the better, and if someone has balls enough to disarm more power to them.

I would note that the mentioned American aircraft carrier situation isn't the result of any sort of plan about the future of the Navy. Instead it's due to mandatory cuts to all discretionary spending caused by Congress refusing to pay for the budget they already passed.

52:

Because to not retaliate creates a world in which there is a real, genuine, historical example of a country not retaliating when attacked with nuclear weapons. Those retaliating wouldn't be helping themselves, but may well be saving many others in the future.

Anyway, to discuss another point, made by our host earlier ("just as the UK is declining to clear second-rank status as a global power"), whilst the UK is indeed a shadow of its former self, you can count on the fingers of one hand the nations in the world capable of sustained operations anywhere in the world. The US, the UK, France. I struggle to think of more. China has recently started getting some proper logistics ships and the reach of its navy is now massively increased, so they're heading that way. Russia just doesn't have the equipment (and possibly the expertise) to project power anywhere in the world for an extended time. Whilst the US is very much the current top tier, the second division is a very small division and there is a big gap to the third. Second-rank status is still extraordinarily powerful and influential.

53:
If North Korea was interested in earning some money on someone getting nuked then they could use the financial markets to set up a string of leveraged bets on the indexes.

I'll say it again -- what would they spend it on?

Suppose that NK sets up some financial bets through go-betweens and shell companies, and engineers a nuclear incident to make the bets pay off. Pretty implausible, and I doubt the NK leadership really think in those terms, but suppose for the sake of argument they did it.

Now, a Swiss bank account which is secretly under NK control contains $100 billion. Great. What can they do with it? $100 billion worth of industrial infrastructure would be nice, *if* anybody would sell it to them. I suppose they could try to operate as a sovereign wealth fund and invest their profits to make even more money. But in either case they would immediately attract attention from outside intelligence agencies, with probable dire consequences for NK.

54:

Because to not retaliate creates a world in which there is a real, genuine, historical example of a country not retaliating when attacked with nuclear weapons. Those retaliating wouldn't be helping themselves, but may well be saving many others in the future.

I strongly disagree. As OGH has pointed out there are more effective weapons for toppling regimes and destroying militaries than nuclear weapons. If a developed nation of the future did suffer a nuclear attack it would be better to use their militaries in a conventional way. What does dropping a nuclear weapon back achieve rather than killing hundreds of thousands to millions of civilians?

Rather than setting a precedent that will save future innocents this will set one where they are considered fair game in the name of war. This kind of total war, everyone-of-that-nationality-is-an-enemy-combatant mentality is barbaric and should be resigned to history.

55:

Given that my background and politics are, uh, slightly different from Charlie's, I was surprised that I agree in principle with Charlie's stance.

Besides the political suicide issue, nuclear weapons are only useful against concentrated, high-value targets. They're great if you can get all your enemies to stand conveniently together so you can take them all out with one gorgeous nuclear flash, but when they're dispersed, they're not so useful.

With modern delivery systems you can take a conventional bomb or smaller nuke to where it will do the job, instead of indiscriminately bombing an entire area.

I don't see nukes going away entirely, but like battleships and horse cavalry (both still existent in the US military) they're not an appropriate answer to current military needs, nor are they a rational use of limited defense funding.

56:

Does North Korea actually have the money to take substantial positions in the derivatives markets? The GDP of North Korea is about $40billion according to wikipedia.

57:

"...the French response was, "we cannot rely on the perfidious Americans to back us up: we need to preserve the capability to act independently at all costs"."

And they did. After the loss of Indochina and Algeria, the French shifted to an independent neo-colonial strategy focused on the newly independent Francophone nations of West and Sub-Saharan Africa. Having no pressing interests in Africa at the time, the US let the French cary the ball in this theater of the Cold War. It never made the headline here in America, but throughout the Cold War, France successfully put down one revolutionary movement after another in West Africa. Their recent successful intervention in Mali agains the AQ offshoot is just the latest example.

One could argue that via neo-colonialism (use of puppets and discrete military intervention) that the French African empire is still in existence.

58:

"A" nuke? Easy.

"A nuclear capability"? much, much, much harder. Your devices have to work, every (or at least most) times, and can't fizzle. It has to fit into a bomb or a missile. It has to endure launch and drop, and storage. It has to be maintainable, and ready to launch or drop when you need it. It has to be safe and secure to handle, store, maintain, and carry - without going fizzle or bang when you don't need it.

That's just the weapon - we haven't touched on the delivery aircraft or missile, getting the delivery system into a launch site, the guidance mechanism of the weapon, or the ability to draw up the target list. We haven't touched on the command and control aspects, nor the intelligence needed to decide whether to launch or not.

You now have to train everyone that will make it, store it, travel with it, and command it during its service. The deployment and launch crews need to practise with it. The pilots or missile batteries need to practise the rather different profiles that will be encountered when employing it. The supporting teams need to practise how to support it - frequently enough that they are credibly competent. The wider armed force has to understand how to operate post-strike, and have the equipment to do so.

If you look at the first UK atomic weapons, after a decade of experience and effectively unlimited resources, they barely fit into the bay of a V-bomber. Look at how hard the V-force had to work to become competent, and how many lives were lost doing so. If you look at North Korea and Pakistan as indicators, it took them multiple decades to develop the most basic of capabilities.

So yes, it's fairly easy to determine whether a country has a credible nuclear capability - these aren't things that you can hide in a corner and leave unrehearsed. South Africa had built some bombs - but what it abandoned was a development program, not a fully-fledged capability.

Getting rid of a nuclear capability is easy - getting it back takes much longer. That's why I agree with slowly reducing the ability, but keeping the CASD. If nothing else, we're a good example that you don't need to be able to make the whole world glow in the dark, just the bunkers and palaces of your enemies.

59:

On asteroids: Given that it'd take us at least a couple years to put a delivery system together, being two years out from making a bomb doesn't hurt.

60:

"But then it turned out to be surprisingly, dismayingly easy for other countries to build such devices."

Any truth to the rumors that the Germans tested a nuclear device on the island of Rugen in the Baltic in 1945? The available descriptions seem to indicate a behemoth incediary device rather than a nuclear bomb.

Could the Germans have developed what today we call a "dirty bomb" - radioactive material encasing a standard explosive designed to spread radiation and fallout? Simple, crude, but effectively a game changer against the Allied beachhead in Normandy or against Soviet tank spearheads.

Did the British commando raid on Telemark (Rjuken?) in Norway really save us from the above scenario, or was German heavy water research wrongheaded to begin with?

61:

"... it was perhaps more stable and less likely to launch a surprise invasion, but deadly crises could still arise through miscalculation."

Not just the Cuban Missile cris (which you link to), but Able Archer in 1983.

The world owes Col Pavlov of the Soviet Air Defense Force a debt of gratitude.

62:

"As strategic weapons, it seems to me that nuclear weapons are obsolescent."

Aside from use against aggressive invading space aliens, nukes have only one use - the retaliation against the first use of nukes by an enemy in wartime.

63:

"But the United States today is visibly recapitulating the usual path of imperial decline, losing relative advantage in a 21st century that is now clearly coming into view: hot, crowded, dense, multipolar, dominated by international capital and labour flows."

Have to disagree with you on this one.

Demographics alone ensure American dominance for the next century. China's disasterous one-baby policy ensures both a gender imbalance and a rapidly aging population which will get old before it truely gets rich. By mid century, there wil be 20 million fewer Japanese and 50 million fewer Russians. European demogrpahics are in steep decline. Even Hispanic and Islamic birth rates are collapsing (France has a higher TFR than Algeria or Iran).

Only America has both relatively high birth rates and an openness to immigrants. As Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, has said while China has a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, the U.S., given its historic openess, can draw talent from all 7 billion people in the world.

And given that robotic/AI factories can outproduce any Third World sweatshop at lower prices, insourcing is our biggest economic trend with factories coming back to the US. Our manufacturing sector has nothing to fear. Lastly, fracking is making America the world's #1 producer of oil and natural gas making the Middle East unimportant both economically and politically.

We got a long run ahead of us, even if it is only because everyone else is falling.

64:

Permanent membership of the UN Security Council is based on political considerations. There is no formal military or economic metric for qualification, but the letter of the law also means a lot less than you seem to think.

The Republic of China (RoC) is an interesting case. Eventually, a deal was done so that the People's Republic (PRC) would occupy the Chinese seat at the UN. Technically the RoC might have had the legal right to refuse to recognise this move. But really, what choice did they have? It was either go along quietly, or be humiliated as their representative was barred from entering the council chamber while the PRC and others got on with business. In the long run something quite similar could happen to the UK.

Another possibility is that the UNSC will simply become less relevant as the UK (and France, and Russia) become relatively less significant. The UK "veto" could end up as a quaint historical relic that no one takes very seriously, much like the British claim to the throne of France (only formally abandoned in the 19th century). This is quite plausible but would be a pity, as for all its faults the UN is the best attempt we have at an institution for addressing global problems.

65:

"But in the 21st century, I can see no convincing case for the UK retaining nuclear weapons."

Agreed, but what about a mutli-national European nuclear force under the European Defence Agency, independent of NATO and the US?

66:

"Herro Hans Brix!"

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

67:


"A" nuke? Easy.

"A nuclear capability"? much, much, much harder....

I can absolutely see where you're coming from in the case of a "cold start" like, say NK, but does that situation still hold if you give up the weapons but retain(and maintain, and regularly review) the blueprints, the tooling, the procedures documentation, the training manuals etc, etc along with at least a core team with the practical "know how" and the ability to ramp up a project if needed?

Not that I'm suggesting we could throw a Vanguard class SSBN together from blueprints in 6 months, but building a working free-fall bomb or a warhead to an existing tested, standardised design using stockpiled material which could be mated with an existing delivery system (say an "off the shelf" air launched cruise missile) within a strategically useful timescale doesn't seem totally implausible...

68:

"Earth-grazing asteroids."

And NASA plans to lasso an asteroid and pull it intolunar orbit. Meanwhile private space firms are working otu the technology and financials for asteroid mining.

Yeah, nothing could possibly go wrong with this...

69:

* Rolls eyes *

Demographics are not deterministic, nor do demographic trends necessarily repeat from one generation to the next, and demography is increasingly being decoupled from actual economic productivity. If we get anything resembling general AI, all bets are off -- we either end up with a global leisure society, or global civil war fought by the owners of capital against all others. And even if we don't get AGI, we have to deal with climate change -- a problem partly resulting from affluence and over-production. It may be that declining populations will be advantageous under such circumstances.

70:

Politically, a nuclear attack on US soil would pretty much require a nuclear retaliation, regardless of who is in power. 90% of the US public would demand it, it's just how we are. We're the only nation who have actually used nuclear weapons in combat, and on civilian populations at that. And that was in response to an attack on a clear military target in our island territories. We may have softened a bit since then, but not that much.

For a power like the UK, it doesn't make sense to keep a large nuclear arsenal. Perhaps a few, though it is hard to see what scenario they would be used in. If Russia decides to invade the EU maybe, or if everyone in the US goes insane...

For the US it makes more sense to have a good sized strategic arsenal. I don't agree that we're in decline in an absolute sense, but in a relative sense we are. It's sort of like France in the 18th and 19th century, seeing the rise of Britain and Germany where before it had been the only real Power in Western Europe.

71:
Any truth to the rumors that the Germans tested a nuclear device on the island of Rugen in the Baltic in 1945?

No truth. This surfaces every ten years or so (IIRC the last time was Pravda in 2010 - make of that what you will).

Could the Germans have developed what today we call a "dirty bomb" - radioactive material encasing a standard explosive designed to spread radiation and fallout?

It's possible, but there's no proof they even considered it.

Did the British commando raid on Telemark (Rjuken?) in Norway really save us from the above scenario, or was German heavy water research wrongheaded to begin with?

The latter, definitely. The Nazi nuclear research program was hampered by the perception that it was a Jewish idea, which meant they had to reverse-engineer everything Einstein and co. had publicly published in a way that would be politically acceptable.

By the end of the war they may have managed to carry out a self-sustaining chain reaction, but that was it - the reactor was a pitiful piece of work.

72:

I agree, and try to bring this sort of thing up when people bring out demographics as to why China or Japan, or Europe are doomed. In most of the world, the workforce is massively unproductive and under used. How many peasant farmers, housewives, and basic laborers are there who could easily be replaced by a more automated economy? China probably has more people like that than there are in the entire population of the EU.

Given the trend toward more automation and longer productive working lives, a declining or stagnant population might actually be a good thing. Lower margin labor is replaced by machines, freeing people to be used in higher value activities. The risk is social programs that encourage people to stop working too early, or live off the state. Though eventually that won't be a problem either -- it is quite possible that by 2113 90% of what people do for a living today will be better done by machines, or completely obsolete.

73:

Again, I'm afraid that I must disagree.

Utopian dreams of true AI (or any other technological wildcard) notwithstanding, demographic inertia ensures that the world’s population will peak around mid century and then (depending on model assumptions) either decline slowly or drop like a rock.

Educated urban women are not going to suddenly decide to start having more than 6 kids again. Economics alone make this a certainty. For the first time in history most humans live in cities (where children are economically no more than a hobby) instead of the country side (where children are traditionally an economic asset and necessity). Cultures don’t change overnight either. The Japanese are not going to become immigrant friendly anytime soon, and neither are most nations – except for the US.

We are in the midst of a demographic transition and there is no going back. Demographics really are destiny, at least for the foreseeable future.

A hundred years from now, who knows? If the world’s population decline reverses itself it will be because of traditional fundamentalist religious groups self selecting for large families in defiance of economic incentives. That is true of Mormons and Evangelicals in the US and the Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel (whose high birth rates are the reason for the hard right transformation of Israeli politics). As the grandson of Charles Darwin remarked, the future belongs to conservative religions.

See: http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/faith-equals-fertility

But I am now hopelessly off topic and shan’t speak of this again.

74:

I diverge only on one point: I think that unilateral disarmament is a silly way to get rid of them when we have the opportunity to reach an international agreement on how everybody else can stand down part or all of their arsenal at the same time.

We'd never achieve complete disarmament, but nobody needs the huge pile they're sitting on. We could get rid of a lot of the stupid things.

75:

Have to say I somewhat disagree on your answers to both of your own questions.

Various government agencies track interesting fissile materials pretty closely. I'm sure they don't know where it all is but losing enough to make a serious nuclear threat? Unlikely. Yes, for all the nuclear powers to disarm there would have to be a lot of checks built in to make sure lots of interested parties knew where the stuff was but it's certainly doable. Remember in The Merchant Princes, they basically left most of the material in situ so the US Army couldn't tell anything was up because they couldn't conceive of world-hopping humans and it was easy enough to just steal a nuke when (or if) you needed one. Randomly cobbling one together - it requires things most folks can't get.

That's not to say if you raided the local hospital or better yet the local university you couldn't get some nasty stuff to make a dirty bomb but not a nuke. One university I was at was near an Army base that flew helicopters in and out. The entire university campus was a no-fly zone because there were (and I assume still are) a lot of nasty radioactive sources there for research work. Crashing a helicopter into a school (still on one of the approach routes) was considered much better than vapourising and spreading some of the stuff in university labs.

As for time scales, I'm sure estimates vary. But when asked straight out, the Navy's expert on such things (that's the Royal Navy btw) suggested he was pretty sure North Korea's got medium range rockets and can make a nuclear weapon but there's not a process in place to do that on a scale to be a threat. He was willing to go on the record to say in his most paranoid nightmare he wouldn't expect anything like ICBMs rolling off the production lines for 30 years or longer and that there would be a lot of signs that the rest of the world could see in the build up.

76:

A "dirty bomb" during WWII would have been pointless -- this was a time when radium baths were still thought to be healthful for people. In the 1950s the US and UK performed nuclear weapons tests which included marching minimally-protected troops into the fallout zone immediately after the explosion.

After V-E day a number of German nuclear researchers were rounded up and held in a manor house in the UK, ostensibly not a prison. They were not informed the place was wired with microphones throughout. Their expressions of disbelief when they heard of the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki only a few months later was educational. They believed the ability of anyone to make and deploy nuclear weapons was decades away. In part this was because the German project was driven by scientists whereas the US-based Allied research programme at Los Alamos and elsewhere was headed by an engineer. The other factor was that they had no idea just how expensive a bomb programme was in terms of equipment, personnel, electricity etc.

77:

I have been told by someone who would know (but who wouldn't thank me for naming them) that the British Tridents can be launched without US approval. This doesn't weaken Charlie's argument, which I find convincing.

I vaguely remember a classic Cold War/proto-Clancy novel about a US hunter-killer sub tasked with following a British Trident sub and sinking it if it looked like it was preparing to launch without US approval. Fiction, and probably total bobbins.

@ cahth3iK (comment #10) - might still be "equalisers", but you don't want a 50/50 chance of the bad guys winning the fight?

78:

On the notion that we're unlikely to face any nuclear threat in the near future, how much warning did Iraq have that it was going to be invaded and "democratized"? A few years at most. How long would it take to restore nuclear capability? I don't know.

79:

Farm Hall. They were astounded by the news of Hiroshima. Also, iirc there is a place on the transcripts where they doubt the British had the technical capability to record their conversations.

80:

I understand that the British V-boat on deployment gets a Royal Navy SSN as an escort as they are regarded as being an asset worth the effort to protect. The V-boats also have torpedo tubes and are capable of self-defence but they wouldn't be put in harm's way in a role an SSN would normally occupy.

81:

Iraq had about 11 years of warning (1992-2003) that the USA considered them an enemy. But they couldn't do anything about it because their industry had been bombed to smithereens and placed under draconian UN sanctions.

Saddam's big mistakes were twofold: Attempting to fight a conventional war with the USA, and pissing off the entire world so that Iraq had no diplomatic protection from sanctions. With this degree of stupidity, no amount of nuclear know-how will save you.

OTOH, if a rich industrialised country with access to fissile material (say, Japan or Germany) decided to build a nuclear weapon, and made it a top national priority, I imagine they would have usable warheads in a few months.

82:

I agree with the central point, that a nuclear attack on the US would require one in retaliation. How you got there, though...

We didn't nuke Japan in revenge for Pearl Harbor. We nuked Japan because of the predictions generated from Operation Downfall, which was the plan to invade Japan at the end of WWII.

It's worth reading Richard Frank's Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire just to see how screwed up things were in Japan at the end of the war.

The short form is that the military ran the country, but any general or admiral who suggested peace was assassinated by mid-rank officers. After the Nagasaki bomb hit (and the Japanese knew enough from their own nuclear research to know what they'd been hit with), it still took most of a week for the Japanese leaders to bring themselves to surrender, and that primarily at the urging of the emperor. Even then, there was an aborted coup d'etat as the emperor recorded the surrender, and they had to smuggle the recording out of the palace and to the radio station to broadcast it. Then there was another week or more before the US was sure that Japanese soldiers would actually surrender.

Back to the story: Downfall? The American planners calculated something like six million Japanese dead (as did the Japanese planning for the invasion), and hundreds of thousand Allied soldiers killed as well, taking Japan (as an aside, they made so many purple hearts in preparation for Downfall that the US is still handing them out to wounded warriors to this day). Remember, this was after the taking of Okinawa, where the entire Japanese garrison fought and died to close to the last man. The Japanese believed that they could negotiate a surrender by making the cost of taking Japan too high for the US. They might even have been right, and the US planners knew this (as did the US public). Compared to that predicted bloodbath, the hundreds of thousands who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were seen at the time as a smaller price to pay.

Yes, the use of nuclear weapons has evolved quite a bit since then, but we need to remember that their first use was finely calculated and their success depended on a lot of luck. The bombings was not done in a spirit of bloody vengeance. While the bombing was done to lower the butcher's bill for conquering Japan, it was a matter of luck that the Japanese government got past its internal terror squads and misinformation campaigns and managed to surrender to the Allies at all.

Anyone who thinks Shock and Awe is a viable strategy based on our experience in Japan really should read what actually happened. I doubt any future uses of nukes will be any bit less complex.

The other lesson to take from this is that North Korea right now looks more than a bit like pre-war Imperial Japan. We have to take the noise coming out of Pyongyang as part of an ongoing clash between an overly ardent military and a dictator. We're quite lucky that North Korea is in such dire straits that the soldiers had to put down their weapons this week to help with the spring planting. Otherwise, they'd be pretty damn dangerous.

83:

80: Clearly the surrender was all the atomic bomb, and the various 'delays' and other things were due to infighting; and it had nothing to do with the Russians declaring war and taking Sakhalin some while after the bombing...

OP:

> Then came the new technologies. First LGBs; a single bomb that could take out a bridge, replacing multiple-squadron strength bomber forces with unguided bombs. Then came JDAMs. Cheap, droppable in any weather, harder to jam than an LGB. A single bomber with JDAMs could strike many targets scattered over a range of kilometres with a single pass! In the wake of the Kosovo war, which featured the first major bombing campaign mediated by stealth aircraft with JDAMs, I'm told that some bright sparks calculated what it would have taken to recapitulate the strategic impact of the RAF/USAAF 1943-45 heavy bombing campaign against Germany, and came up with the figure of: one squadron of F-117A Nighthawks with JDAMs, and six weeks, with a 50/50 probability of one hull loss.

Sounds interesting. Any citations?

84:

OTOH, if a rich industrialised country with access to fissile material (say, Japan or Germany) decided to build a nuclear weapon, and made it a top national priority, I imagine they would have usable warheads in a few months.

Germany or Japan? Hell, what about Italy?

It seems to me that building an ICBM is rather more demanding than building a uranium enrichment gas ultracentrifuge line, and if you squint at VEGA in the right light it sure looks a lot like a Minuteman III (with a satellite and liquid upper stage instead of those pesky warheads). And yes, Italy has a civil nuclear capability (although there's a lot of controversy surrounding it -- referenda rejecting nuclear power, phase-out attempts, attempts at reversal, etc). My money would be on Italy being able to go from zero to a single ICBM with 1-3 warheads inside a couple of years, and mass production a couple of years down the line.

Let's remember, folks: the A-bomb is 1940s technology. The ICBM is 1960s technology. These might be challenges for the likes of North Korea (sanctions; pop: 16 million, 9 million of whom are under arms, leaving just 7 million producers) or Iran (sanctions; pop: 70 million, around 40-50 million of whom are under 25), but not so much for anyone who is in the G20.

85:

Finally reality, not half baked, wishful fantasy. The leaders of UK after WW2 (LABOR)wanted atomic weapons. After all it was English idea. It was illegal for America to help and that made a lot of anti-Americanism. The nasty economic life of England after the war was dictated by your leaders making your own A-BOMB.

86:

You missed out the other huge factor in Japan's surrender: the Soviet-Japanese war of 1945, which started on August 9th and ended with the Japanese surrender on September 2nd.

The Japanese surrendered to the USA largely because the alternative was to surrender to Stalin.

87:

I can't find the original source, dammit. Hence the lack of a link in the original piece.

88:

Skipping most of the discussion (& disclaimer - I'm 67 - I REMEMBER the Cuba crisis - euw )
And yet.
All (almost) of Charlie's arguments make sense.
BUT
How do you deal with an insane "opponent" ?
The military heirachy in the theocracy of N Korea (the real puppet-masters there, in my opinion)
OR a country where (some of) it's leaders are prepared to scarifice all of their population to kill all the jews & bring the 13th Imam?
Or A N Other quasi-religious insanity?

Er, um, panic, run round in ever-decreasing circles, etc.

89:

but does that situation still hold if you give up the weapons but retain(and maintain, and regularly review) the blueprints, the tooling, the procedures documentation, the training manuals etc, etc along with at least a core team with the practical "know how" and the ability to ramp up a project if needed?

In anything but a dictatorship (and I doubt that one also) the bookkeepers start cutting funds for such "maintenance" as it's an easy cut. And since people working in this area are marking time anyone with brains gets out and finds a new job. It doesn't take long, 10 years?, for the documents to be mis-filed, lost, or shredded after a botched scanning job and all the folks who could reproduce the work to have moved on. Look at NASA for an example of how fast knowledge can be lost.

My father worked at a nuclear fuel plant as a production superintendent. Basically he was in charge of running the production lines when he retired. He worked for another 10 years as a consultant as the "new guys" who didn't grow up with the plant ran into issues "not in the books".

There were 3 of these plants built in the US, all at the same time in the early 50s, and it would be very difficult to build them again. Gassious diffusion tech. The were designed by the guys who were interns or interns of interns of engineers in the Manhattan project. Those guys, and their on the job experience, just don't exist anymore.

90:

Greg, irrational opponents are inefficient. Seriously. Remember Hitler and "Jew science"? NoKo is a paper tiger, in tech terms -- with nearly 9 million people in uniform, they've got only another 7 million in their population; they're so busy square-bashing and saluting Dear Leader that they don't have the personnel to do R&D. The Ayatollahs in Tehran aren't much cop, either -- the revolutionaries 30 years on are more concerned with lining their pockets for their impending retirement than in menacing the rest of the world.

91:

Let's remember, folks: the A-bomb is 1940s technology.

But that translates into 10,000 pound bombs. It requires real smarts to make them small. And reliable. I imagine the only thing worse for NK than dropping a nuke on SK would be dropping a fissile on SK.

92:

But that translates into 10,000 pound bombs. It requires real smarts to make them small. And reliable.

It took the USA 17 years to go from "Fat Man" to Davy Crockett, which pushed the physics about as far as it could go (both in terms of minimizing yield from a critical mass and in terms of minimizing weight -- the warhead weighed around 35Kg). Reliability is probably incompatible with low weight, anyway, when talking about nukes: radiation damages conventional explosives, spontaneous fission events contaminates ultra-pure fissile material with non-fissile products, and so on.

93:

There's the problem that the sort of enemies you'd want to use nuclear weapons on are likely to be conscripts, not volunteers(or any sort of weapons - I felt a lot of sympathy for the "enemy" in the Falklands conflict). I think there's an ethical problem there that's partly avoided by precision attacks that make them surrender rather than kill them?

94:

I see that the film of the Davy Crockett test is still on youtube; it's an entertaining piece of history.

Along with your observations about reliability - I don't know anything about the Davy Crockett's projected shelf life - there is also the question of accountability and privileges. I'm sure there would be resistance to giving nuclear release authority to whichever captain happened to be ass deep in Russian army that day.

95:

I think a chunk of my argument boils down to this: in the modern world, the accuracy of delivery systems are far more important than the size of the payload... if you can hit a target with fifty-centimetre-accuracy every time, why risk damage to by-standers twenty metres away?

This is why the US Air Force intends to keep flying its B-52s for another 30 years. They're no longer suited for their original mission, but they make a wonderful replacement for artillery to support anti-insurgent activities. Able to stand off at enough distance to be safe from the insurgents, hold that position all day, push the occasional smart bomb of the appropriate type out the door to take out one specific building or other position.

I don't expect that role to last the full 30 years. I expect the US will lose interest in fighting anti-insurgent campaigns around the world before then.

96:

“@12: "...combined with the French nuclear capability"

Erm. So, the French would keep their four stategic nuclear submarines and ~200 100kt warheads while the British would disarm?”

Sorry, I thought me post was quite clear - the “this” to be in combination the French capability would be UK submarine-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

97:

1. Convince everyone to disarm.
2. Rebuild nuclear capabilities first.
3. Nuke everyone who tries to follow in your step.
4. ???
5. Profit!

98:

>>>all bets are off -- we either end up with a global leisure society, or global civil war fought by the owners of capital against all others

It interesting how even though all bets are off, we only have 2 possibilities.

99:

It's also a *really good* idea to read the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War. Japan surrendered to the Allies (including the USSR), not to the US. Yes, this is a quibble, but it's an important one.

Yes, the Soviets entering the war was a major point, as was the belated realization that the Kwantung Army was not going to save them, as was highly effective US Naval blockade on all Japanese mercantile shipping, coastal and deep-water alike, as was the destruction of major ferries and bridges between the islands, as was the fire-bombing of many major cities, including Tokyo, along with propaganda which named the cities to be fired bombed before each raid (just to demonstrate how helpless the Japanese were). IIRC, the fire bombers caused more deaths than the atomic bombs did. By August 1945, they had no fuel for their navy, little fuel for their planes, no aluminum to make more planes in the few factories that had escaped American bombs, and mounting difficulties keeping their population from starving.

Japan's surrender was indeed about more than the atomic bombs or even America. The problem was that, between August 9 and August 15, it took time for the Japanese leaders to learn all this and for it to sink in. To cite one example, the governor of Hiroshima actively downplayed the level of destruction from the first bomb in his reports to Tokyo. Worse, military planners put special emphasis on "Japanese fighting spirit" as the critical determinant in battle, that immaterial something which would make the Japanese too crazy-mean to be defeated in an invasion. There was ample evidence to the contrary (see the fate of all banzai charges from 1942 on). Problem is their underlings believed that massed kamikaze assaults would keep the rest of the country from dying, and the underlings were willing to kill them rather than let them surrender. It was hard for them to surrender.

There are a bunch of lessons in there, but the one I want to point out is that Japan was getting pounded into rubble by August 1945, and it still took them a week to surrender after both atomic bombs and the USSR shredding them in Manchukuo, as well as another week to get the soldiers to stand down so they could sign the papers. That's a pretty messy story, but one worth remembering in the rhetoric over use of nuclear weapons, or anything involving shock and awe.

100:

Re: several comments on Israeli nuclear capabilities (yes, that's where I call home). While there is no official word on the subject, common assumptions say Israel holds several dozen warheads, including a second-strike capability (both land- and sea-based). But the problem for Israel is that it's a tiny country- over the 40 miles covering Tel Aviv and Jerusalem you have basically every major political, economic, military and (most) industrial institution in the country (not to mention culture and academia), as well as a large majority of the population. If Israel were to be attacked by modern-day nuclear weapons, it would be annihilated. Not "almost", not "virtually" not "all but". Gone. Therefore the Israeli "second strike" theory (which, by the way, I do not condone, but there's no public discussion on the subject here) claims that retaliation needs to be so out of proportion, that it would deter even the crazies from launching the first strike.

Back to #50's argument- in this case it even makes game-theoretic sense. You know that the missiles are in the air, but you don't know how many of them are actually nukes, you don't know their quality and strength, and you don't know what your air defenses will be able to block. But you do know that if you don't launch your second strike now, you will never be able to, at least not with nearly the same efficiency. If you survived the nuclear attack but didn't launch the second strike, you will still be crippled enough to be easy fodder for the other side's conventional armies. But all of this is pretty unique to the Israeli situation, and includes some assumptions about the threat that don't have much hold in reality nowadays.

So back to my question (asteroid deflections aside)- I can see very few (and very unlikely) global-political scenarios which justify a nuclear arsenal. If France suddenly turns very sour on Monaco, and threatens to overrun it with tanks or bomb it to extinction, a nuclear second-strike capability seems like a reasonable deterrent. But these scenarios require huge asymmetries between the sides. Even the US has very little real justification for its nuclear legacy, other than garden-variety paranoia and a "who will be the first to wink" game with Russia and China.

101:

... the US-based Allied research programme at Los Alamos and elsewhere was headed by an engineer

Both programs were headed by scientists: the American one by Oppenheimer, the German one by Heisenberg. The problem was that Heisenberg had erroneously calculated that several tons of fissionable material were needed for a single bomb, and there simply wasn't anyone else left in Central Europe[*] of sufficient scientific ability (or status) to figure out that he was wrong.

[*] One way to look at is that most of the scientists who could have contributed to a (non-Nazi) German nuclear project had ended up in Britain and the US...

102:

The argument is not totally clear as to whether you mean total nuclear disarmament, or just British disarmament.

If the latter, however rational your argument, you lay yourself open to the argument that Britain would then be free-riding on US nuclear weapons policy.

This doesn't come free, as it means the US may have to spend more resources on nuclear weapons, further degrading its ability to maintain the post WWII Pax Americana. While I don't like the idea of a "hyperpower" (talk about hype), I would prefer a westernized world.

Ideally, everyone would disarm, but I just don't see all nations agreeing to that for a while, until other, more potent weapons come on stream.

103:

The research program of the Manhattan Project was run by Oppenheimer but the bomb production program was run by General Groves. I don't think there was an equivalent to Groves in the German project, to their detriment.

104:

The Nazi nuclear research program was hampered by the perception that it was a Jewish idea, which meant they had to reverse-engineer everything Einstein and co. had publicly published in a way that would be politically acceptable.

Not really. The "Aryan science" movement never got enough traction to seriously affect German physics research (Heisenberg's connections with Himmler helped diffuse and weaken the movement's influence). The real problem the Nazis had was the fact that their policies forced so many of the very best scientists in Central Europe to leave[*] because said scientists had the wrong politics, or were Jewish, or were married to Jews, and hopelessly politicized the academic establishment. In addition, the German nuclear effort was split up among several jealous, competing bureaucracies (even the Post Office ended up funding some of the research, and failed to share it with anyone else), and they never attempted to devote the massive resources to the project that the US did.

[*] Mostly for Britain and the US, where many of them ended up working on Tube Alloys and/or the Mannhattan Project.

105:

As to Germany vs. the US nuclear programs in WWII. The US decided to DO IT NO MATTER WHAT and the Germans didn't. The efforts at Oak Ridge, Hanford, and Los Almos were each in their own right incredibly massive undertakings. The air wing put together for the stikes was huge and apparently caused a lot of colonels in other squadrons to ask a lot of questions about WTH?

Oppi at first said he could do it with 100 scientists and engineers. He wasn't held to that number. :)

106:

China's disasterous one-baby policy ensures both a gender imbalance and a rapidly aging population which will get old before it truely gets rich.

It also, in concert with major civil engineering projects and control over major watersheds in the Himalayas, ensures that China will have enough water when its population reaches its maximum. At least, that is what the Chinese government has calculated. If the population grows more than planned, they will have insufficient water.

This is based on verbal reports from a member of a scientific visit to China a few years ago. I have not looked for independent verification so this may be inaccurate.

107:

Real world air defense networks are not 99.9% effective, or even 90% effective; more like 10%, at best. 10% attrition of an attacking bomber force will put it out of business in a matter of days. But against nuclear-tipped cruise missiles it's effectively ineffective.

Two thoughts; firstly, no-one has taken on a properly-worked-up first world air defence network in a long time - it's all been conscripts running export versions. Technology moves on, and the balance sometimes tips. The Fairey Battle had a nasty surprise at the Meuse in 1940 (it encountered what for them were 50-80% effective AD systems), the IDF got a very nasty surprise in 1973 when it met SA-3 and SA-6 (see operation Doogman-5), the Iraqi Air Force didn't even attempt to take on the coalition in 1991. Missiles have moved on from valve-based or early digital technology, into much more reliable systems. The AIM-120 fired over Serbia had a much higher success rate than the Vietnam-era Sparrow or Sidewinder.

Secondly, it doesn't matter the actual AD system effectiveness; what matters is how effective the defender believes it to be, when forming their plans. If $TYRANT_NUTTER believes their own publicity, or sales brochures, they may actually believe that any cruise missiles launched at them (or perhaps only their little luxury bunker) can be shot down.

108:

err not sure I woudl buy that try treading "small wars" the 1930's USMC manual on how to invade the small Latin American country of your choice.

Ironically they ignored a lot of the advice of handling the post conflict stage in IRAQ :-)

109:

Yeah, the resources the US poured into the Manhattan Project was *crazy*, they effectively built several cities dedicated to the production of bomb materials and nothing else. My favorite detail along those lines is how due to wartime copper shortages they borrowed 14,700 tons of silver from the US Treasury to build the calutron used for uranium enrichment. While it's probably not too hard for a G20 nation to build a nuke if they really wanted to it would be hard to do so without anyone noticing.

110:

And to top it off the calutrons were a dead end and didn't really work at a practical level. :)

111:

It will be great if U.K and the rest of the world will work hard to nuclear disarmament and activating the global agreement.

112:

Interesting the comment (way back up) that without a big aircraft carrier or nuclear deterrent, the UK is just another big country in Europe. Isn't that what it is/all it is? How does spending a fortune on a military asset that would does more harm to the economy if its shot down/blown up make a country a world player?

In the 1940s and 1950s, Australia swung way over its weight due to its WW2 involvement. As an industrialised economy which had geared up for WW2, we still had two aircraft carriers, overseas deployments in Malaya etc. The reality of maintaining even remotely that level of military force in peacetime soon bought us back to heel as a middle power.

As an Australian who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, we felt like we were sheltering under the American nuclear umbrella (whatever that would have meant in reality, possibly just making us a target?). We also had a lot of residual feeling for "the Old Country", Queen and Empire and all that. But the UK while it is active on the world stage is no longer an Empire on which the sun never sets - any feeling in the Commonwealth is pure nostalgia - a place you go when you're doing your Grand Tour, work in pubs and meet people who talk funny, but who also watch Dr Who and Grand Designs.

Like the UK, we hitched our ride very closely to the American Empire, and have been 'deputised' somewhat to act in its name in the Pacific (see our East Timor involvement). The US are even beefing up their involvement in Australia, with a new marine base in Darwin plus moves towards deep water naval base in Western Australia. Our military is very much along American lines, we buy American tanks, ships and guns so we can integrate better (like in Iraq and Afghanistan). The new American involvement is very much China focused - North Korea may be the contemporary bete noir, but it is China's ascendance which has them rattled.

This last gasp of American imperialism in the Pacific (particularly as they ditched their bases in the Philippines) has ominous overtones. Personally, I prefer American imperialism to all the "interesting times" possibilities of Chinese imperialism.

113:

Well yes, nuclear disarmament is good but you have to replace it with something.

I propose that countries with international ambitions have more numerous types of new martial arts, like for instance sensha-do which scholgirls practice in Japan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lyl4UwXxTWc

Great way to get attention.

114:

The idea that a declining population is good for an economy is pretty hard to believe. That sounds like wishful thinking to me. Shrinking gdp's are generally a Bad Thing.

Nuclear weapons prevent great power wars. Without them, there would likely be great power wars.

115:

I love the idea of nuclear disarmament. I remember duck and cover drills (they were a good idea)in grade school. I just can't see it happening until man changes. The US spent a lot of time and money trying to make very small nukes that could stop S.U. tanks without destroying the country they were in. Never did. Now they don't need them. Modern fuel-air bombs can be almost tactical nuke size and nobody cares if you use the.

116:

The point I was making in my original posting is that there really isn't any such thing as disarmament for an existing nuclear weapon producing country, or a G8 type member.

Even if you publicly got rid of all weapons, every enemy would have to assume that you had such weapons, or could gain them very quickly. Therefore you would probably have to make sure they were right, so as to have an effective bargaining chip available, should you need it. At best you might be 'temporarily inconvenienced' on the nuclear weapon front.

The only reason for going away from an obvious nuclear deterrence is cost, and there are lower cost ways of having the capability/deterrence (like putting them in orbit). Or, being part of an obvious, public, general disarmament (which would still be a publicity stunt, but could at least clear out the mass numbers of weapons).

Oh, and as far maintaining capability is concerned, I think you might be VERY surprised at just how far and long term governments can be to keep that capability alive. The adjunct of this is to make sure you have control/tabs on the human capital capable of making nukes - such that it doesn't wander.

117:

what about keeping a few of the missiles in silos on shore?
be a lot cheaper than the subs surely?
I think we probably do need a decent carrier- but it looks like the government has screwed that up mightily.
maybe we could leapfrog a tech-level and have a drone-carrier?

118:

The answer to this is distressingly simple, and it is all too obvious when one looks at the core assumptions of game theory:

The insane cannot be deterred. They are, precisely because they are not rational, impossible to model in game theory. In short, dealing with a madman bears little or no relationship to one's own arsenal; it bears little or no relationship to one's own willingness to use what is in one's own arsenal. And that goes for a wide variety of "insanity."

The implication of this understanding is that holding a nuclear arsenal will not deter a madman, whether that's a recognized head of state like the current NK leader or a non-state actor like bin Laden or a theocrat like whoever is actually running things in Iran (and it's frightening how uncertain that is... I used to think I knew, and it was my job to know).

Nuclear deterrence is a game-theoretical construct that only works when all players in the game are rational. And that's true for any n>1 in the n-player game; even one irrational player, umm, blows it up.

Whether some of our recent-past Anglo-American leaders qualify as entirely rational, at least for this purpose, is disturbing. The less said about the leadership of other acknowledged nuclear powers, the better.

119:

It's not really a weapon system, but a public works program - it pumps cash into the economy, a lot of which goes to marginal constituencies.

As for the UK still being a second tier power, able to do meaningful force projection on its' own, the idea is utterly laughable. There a rusty old landing ship and a slightly newer helicopter ship, who could maybe put 1,500 troops eventually somewhere in the world, with a handful of armoured vehicles, and without any organic air cover. Even your run of the mill third world dictatorship would not lose too much sleep over that. Hell, you'd have trouble taking out Zimbabwe, even assuming it had a coastline. There is one and only one state capable of force projection at the moment, and that's the US.

So the choices seem to be between using the US strategic umbrella, or building something for which the only use is to be a retaliatory strike against a potentially rogue state. However, that's the state of play now - given the lifetime of the SSNs, who can predict what the landscape will look like then? Remember, the Berlin Wall only came down 24 years ago. The only thing you can say for sure is that you'll be wrong predicting what the world will look like 20 years - the Tealiban might win in the US, and some guy from Bradford sets a nuke off in NY, so maybe the SSNs would be a useful deterrent then? Who knows.

On that basis, and the economic stimulus from building them, I'm tempted to say replace Trident. I don't think the cruise missile route is as robust a deterrent.

120:

I'm afraid that shore-based silos are, on a launcher-by-launcher basis, just about as expensive as those on a sub. There's lot of logistics that go into both of them that are hidden away from view; in fact, the manpower that goes into those shore-based silos and their construction and support and maintenance is higher on a per-launcher basis.

121:

Charlie @88 Irrational opponents are inefficient, but that doesn't stop them doing a hell of a lot of damage to everyone else. Hitler is the obvious example.

cepetit @115 The insane cannot be deterred. Individually, maybe not. But we don't have any entirely insane societies. Any dictator or religious theocrat is at the top of a pyramid and most of the people underneath, if pushed, will not go along with their own destruction. If the insane leader goes too far, they either get killed by their own underlings in a coup, or some neighbour invades and the army doesn't protect them.

122:

Regarding the end of the Second World War in the Pacific: the Japanese wanted to capitulate, i.e. negociate their surrender against some concessions from the Allies. To the Americans, this was unacceptable: they wanted Japan to surrender unconditionnally (Charles puts it a bit bluntly in the "Merchant Princes": the USA cannot surrender, and cannot accept anything but unconditionnal surrender from their ennemies). As the Japanese would not subject themselves to that humiliation, it required some massive world-view-changing event to happen.

Hence the massive war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What apparently scarcely occurs to people discussing these events is that a diplomatic solution was always possible. What the Japanese wanted so much was to keep their emperor; it was a religious thing for them. The Americans insisted on breaking the country to thoroughfully that even this desire would crumble, and set out to redesign from scratch a Japan where Hiro-Hito would be emperor.

After the war, the USA even spent a considerable energy and good will from their allies to save Japanese war criminals from prosecution; this includes Masanobu Tsuji (who had masssacred American prisoners of war) and Shirō Ishii (of Unit 731 fame). Something that any sane Allied diplomat would have laugthed off in capitulation negotiations.

123:

A couple of points we tend to forget about the Manhattan Project:

1) Nobody had built a uranium enrichment or plutonium breeder infrastructure ever before, so there were a lot of unknowns and dead ends that had to be explored

2) Their approach to these critical path bottlenecks on the time-line was to explore all the possible paths to a bomb in parallel, cost-no-object

3) They were in a blinding hurry and needed to go straight to weapons-grade HEU (70% or better 235U); today a realistic weapons program would go to reactor-grade EU (3-5% 235U), use a reactor with a 238U blanket to breed 239Pu, then use chemical extraction to purify the 239Pu. Which is a much cheaper process, and produces vastly more fissile material at the end of the pipeline, but is also rather more time-consuming (years rather than months)

4) IIRC the world's then-largest industrial power devoted something like 5% of its electrical generating capacity and a visible percentage of its GDP for a couple of years to storming the problem through brute force ... in about 36 months. Not long thereafter (1947-52), the UK, a much smaller economy, devoted a much smaller proportion of its GDP to the task and got there in about 60 months. I conclude that the Manhattan project was rushed through on a cost-no-object basis because it was a wartime emergency; if you're not locked in a total war where every minute costs lives, you can do it on the cheap.

124:

No, you misunderstand.

We're all in for a dose of declining population once we get past 2050 or thereabouts. Demographic transition phase 4 has gone global; virtually nowhere is exempt from falling birthrates and rising life expectancy. Long term this means we either stabilize by continuing to extend life expectancy (meaning: we need serious longevity research), or we see a declining population, which is inherently deflationary and has other side-effects (reducing demand for housing, for example).

However, we're also going through a period in which first industrial and then intellectual/managerial jobs are automated out of existence. We don't need as many workers to maintain output, in other words. The big exceptions are personal service jobs that can't -- yet -- be automated, but there are signs that robotics are nearing the breakthrough point at which they become capable of offering practical alternatives.

If your population is shrinking but your output remains constant due to increasing automation, you end up with increasing GDP per capita but static or decreasing environmental footprint. Which is good, at least for a while.

It also decreases the reserves of young, fit, aggressive potential soldiers you need if you're going to wage a traditional war-of-invasion, although as warfare becomes ever more capital intensive that's not a very attractive strategy for enrichment: but anyway, it makes the kind of warfare that dominated up until 1945 and still occasionally breaks out (Falklands, 1982; Kuwait, 1990; Iraq 2003) increasingly less practical. Which is also a good thing.

The problem with this scenario is that if we succeed in automating even service jobs (robots changing depends on nursing home inmates, or waiting tables) then we really need to get to grips with Keynes' paradox of the leisure society, or we're going to have a population who are majority-unemployable by design -- like, 90% unemployable -- and the potential for massive unrest in the wake of such disenfranchisement should be obvious.

125:

Strummist @ 77
Farm Hall at Huntingdon/Godmanchester … a very attractive building – can be seen from the old main road!

Charlie @ 88
Agreed – irrationality is inefficient
It can still get an awful lot of people killed & a lot of landscape wasted – do we really want to go there?
No
The word is: “Insurance” – the question that immediately follows is: “And the premium on this insurance is … ?”
See also hugo fisher @ 118

Heteromeles @ 97
Broken Link!

Andyf @114
maybe we could leapfrog a tech-level and have a drone-carrier?
I think that is exactly what IS going to happen – retrofitted, along with the Frigates we now have …..

@ 115
Yes, I know this – why do you think I’m still scared?

126:

The point I was making in my original posting is that there really isn't any such thing as disarmament for an existing nuclear weapon producing country, or a G8 type member.

But there is a precedent (I thought of this while listening to BBC Radio 4's Today program on the subject of Syria).

In the 1940s, even the 1950s, Britain maintained a chemical weapon capability. We held stocks of such weapons, had used them in the past, and while we chose not to use them in WW2 could have done so.

During the Cold War, the UK decided to disarm itself of such weapons, even though the USSR was massively expanding its ability to deploy G-agents, and the US its V-agents (IIRC the rule of thumb was that Soviet artillery of 122mm or greater could fire chemical weapons; 152mm or greater and it could fire nuclear weapons).

We kept the research labs at Porton Down open, but only as a defensive research measure. The training and the equipment to store, deploy, and fire such weapons disappeared; no-one at a tactical level in the UK armed forces has the understanding of how to do so. You could walk into the NBC cell of any UK tactical headquarters, and the most you would find would be defensive planning abilities (i.e. the ability to detect and avoid) and precious little even of that in these post-Cold-War days.

The UK got rid of chemical weapons quite happily, because it believed it had no strategic need for them. No-one doubts that the UK got rid of them, and there is no implicit assumption that the ability could be somehow regenerated.

127:

That was 100% true 20 years ago, and mostly true 10 or even 5 years ago, but things are changing fast. After the end of the Cold War - in all probability not a coincidence - quite a few countries that didn't have have any long range force projection capacity became gradually interested in acquiring new, big amphibious assault ships (and big military transport aircraft too).

France (three 21,000 tons Mistral class, in service)
Japan (two 19,000 tons 22DDH class, from 2015)
Italy (two or three 20,000 tons LHD, from 2018)
Spain (one 27,000 tons Juan Carlos I class, in service)
Australia (two Spanish built 27,000 tons Canberra class, both launched and fitting out)
South Korea (four 14,000 tons Dokdo class, two in service)
China (three 20,000 tons Type 071 class, in service)
Russia (four French Mistral, two of them French built, from 2014)

And rumors surface once and again regarding other countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Brazil...

@110

You say "Interesting the comment (way back up) that without a big aircraft carrier or nuclear deterrent, the UK is just another big country in Europe. Isn't that what it is/all it is? How does spending a fortune on a military asset that would does more harm to the economy if its shot down/blown up make a country a world player?" and I agree (I'm Spaniard, by the way) but in my humble opinion British establishment - or at least, Tory establishment - is willing to do almost anything to reject that reality, be it threatening with leaving EU, if not actually leaving, following Bush II to the deepest hole in Hell searching for WMDs, or burying 60,000 millions in shiny trinkets. Becoming the third country in Europe, after Germany and France and almost tied with Italy? Unthinkable!

* * *

In other order of things, I'm starting to think 1914-1918 saw the emergence of a new military paradigm, based on aircraft and tanks on land, submarines and aircraft carriers at sea. That paradigm, still in its infancy, developed during the 20s and 30s and triumphed during 1939-45, and the end of the war added nuclear weapons to it.

For 70 years jet fighters, tanks, carriers, subs and nukes have ruled. But lately... when was the last time fighters fought fighters on the air, 1985-1990? When was the last time a sub sunk a ship, 1982? Or a ship fought a sub? Tanks, planes, subs... Wars today seem to demand a new paradigm, including simpler, cheaper weapons in much greater numbers. Drones, cheap, expendable, flexible, are the perfect example, and should drones replace human-crewed carriers suddenly start to seem like so many dinosaurs.

128:

I wonder how the U.S.A s development of Laser Cannon will affect this situation?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa9jXAYOYx8

I realise that the present generation of these weapons has serious limitations but I find it hard to belive that the next generation wont be more powerful ..and so on.

129:

Case study in support of this:-

Of my friends, only something like 60% are in long-term heterosexual relationships.
Of those 60%, only about 60% have children or definite plans for children.
Of those 60%, only about 5% have 3 or more children.

This against a known background of needing, with near 100% of the base population forming LTHRs, an average of something like 2.1 children per couple to have a stable population size.

130:

The key problem with laser weapons is thermodynamics; you can't build a 100% efficient laser. Indeed, efficiency usually tops out at or below 25%. Which means, for every kilowatt of beam energy, you need to dump at least 3 kW of waste heat. And to be effective at cutting/burning instead of blinding (illegal under international treaty law), battlefield lasers need beam energies in the 10s to 100s of kW.

Warships, of course, have access to an excellent heat sink -- it's called "the sea". It takes on the order of 2.25 GJ to vaporize a ton of water that's already close to boiling point, which is plenty to absorb the waste heat from some really serious laser weapons. Also, warships are able to carry the heavy equipment -- generators and heat exchangers as well as optics -- you need to run a big-ass laser.

Aircraft ... have access to plenty of power, but dumping the heat is a bit harder; however, if they're at altitude they have copious airflow at a temperature of -30 to -60 celsius. Weight is a problem, but there's a reason the F-35A is specc'd to carry a laser weapon in place of the regular rotary cannon in place of the bay where the F-35C has a fan for vertical landing.

Ground vehicles are a problem. No super-chilled high volume air flow, you can't use the ground effectively as a heat sink (poor thermal conductivity and contact), less energetic power sources than aviation, smaller than ships.

So my money is on lasers showing up first for point defense on warships, then maybe on aircraft (but it's pushing the envelope). Ground-based lasers are relatively impractical and I'm not sure we'll ever see them used for anything more than providing a curtain against battlefield infiltration by small drones.

131:

Note that France managed to do it in 36 months too, while suffering no wartime restrictions and dining on good wine and great cheese.

But they had the advantage of knowing by then (around 1957) what the blind alleys where and they also enjoyed the presence of a great number of nuclear scientists because of the Curie tradition.

132:

Two thoughts; firstly, no-one has taken on a properly-worked-up first world air defence network in a long time - it's all been conscripts running export versions.

You think?

Now, I've got no knowledge of who was guarding Moscow airspace on the 28th of May, 1987, or how well they were trained, but I'd guess they were not just some drafted yokels. Nonetheless, Mathias Rust - with his whopping 50 hours of flight time and rented Cessna 172 - wandered off course enough to get all the way to Red Square, which is not considered an airport by sane humans. His plane was detected, lost, and mis-identified several times on the way in (at least once being mistaken for a helicopter). A high-profile stunt is one way to get yourself known, and he certainly managed it.

But that's just the Russians, right? America or the UK would detect such an invader instantly, right? ...no.

Early in the morning of September 12th, 1994, the White House lawn was suddenly gifted with a Cessna 150. A guy named Frank Corder had started his evening by drinking alcohol and smoking crack; then he stole an airplane from an airport in Maryland and flew off into the sky. Air traffic controllers, who watch for crap like this, spotted the errant aircraft as anomalous at 0144 local time, when it was 6.5 miles north of the White House and descending rapidly. At 0149, Corder made a high-speed crash into a moderately open lawn, hitting a tree and a corner of the White House. The plane and Corder were both fatally damaged; no word on the tree.

Apparently the secret is "crazy guy in a Cessna."

133:

" Ground-based lasers are relatively impractical "

Understood, but here in the U.K. we have lots of this really excellent " Sea " stuff not far from the land and indeed we do have expertise in off shore installations of all kinds.

We are still the “Un-Sinkable Aircraft Carrier “so surely cooling would not be a problem? Extending that principle, I wonder if Japan could mount a laser cannon defence.

134:

I'm pretty sure that if someone popped a brace of Tomahawks at Washington DC or Moscow right now 90% of them would get through.

Well, if you view passenger airplanes as over-sized cruise missiles without a warhead, last time someone launched an attack on the Pentagon 100% got through.

135:

There is an even more obvious example: The USAF failed to intercept any of the hijacked airliners on September 11, 2001.

I imagine they have been training for such events and would do better today. But it goes to show that peacetime air-defence networks are not as alert as one might think.

136:

Interesting. We may be approaching a radical shift in what "power projection" means.

In the old days (roughly 1500-1900), it meant sending a gunboat and a few guys with swords and muskets (later rifles and bayonets). Anyone could do it, including relative minnows like Portugal and the Netherlands.

Then came the requirement for tanks, aircraft, etc. with accordingly more complex infrastructure and logistics. By about 1940 only a handful of powers (USA, Japan, UK, maybe France) could really fight a war overseas. Fast forward to 2003 and only the USA could consider it, and it was ruinously expensive even for them. Also, it's questionable how much the Iraq war counted as "overseas" given that the USA had a massive supply operation in Kuwait.

Now, if the tool of choice is a swarm of cheap, disposable drones which you can launch from a cargo ship, the calculus changes again. The objectives may change out of all recognition too, the old conquistador model of "shock and awe the natives so we can take their land/gold/oil/whatever" isn't working so well these days.

137:

So my money is on lasers showing up first for point defense on warships, then maybe on aircraft (but it's pushing the envelope). Ground-based lasers are relatively impractical and I'm not sure we'll ever see them used for anything more than providing a curtain against battlefield infiltration by small drones.

For use as weapons, lasers have all these problems. (And I agree with you; we've got really good guns now, and lasers don't yet offer convincing advantages.) Although if the power and heat sink issues can be handled, someone a few decades from now might kit-bash a laser air defense network all too easily. The mosquito laser is already at the functional prototype stage.

138:

There is an even more obvious example: The USAF failed to intercept any of the hijacked airliners on September 11, 2001.

No, that's not a very good example, for a historical point that some may miss. They didn't fail. They didn't try. The doctrine at the time was to let hijacked planes land and let it be sorted out on the ground, by negotiation or SWAT team, rather than endanger the passengers while the plane was in flight.

It was a good plan and worked quite well for decades. It just wasn't the plan for that specific threat.

The air traffic control networks and the military did need better realtime co-ordination, when it turned out there was more than one rogue aircraft on a kamikaze run. Since that had never happened before, the lack was by no means obvious.

139:

OK, up to a point. But even pre-9/11, I would think it was part of anti-terrorist doctrine to find out *where the hijacked aircraft was* and send fighters to escort it. They didn't even manage to do that.

140:

I recall seeing Jordin Kare giving a presentation on that laser back in ... 2009. With all due respect to him (and he's the husband of a friend), I think it's a solution that's gone looking for a problem when it's had a couple too many beers to drink.

141:

The Japanese work force is projected to be reduced by 50% in about 50 years (by 2060). That’s an average annual reduction of almost 1.5% compounded each year for 50 years. In order to just stay even, Japan has to compensate with equal annual percentage increases in per capita productivity so that they can do the same amount of production with half the work force.

Difficult, but not impossible.

However, Japanese workers will have the extra burden of caring for a 40% increase in pensioners. Productivity will have to increase at over 2.5% annually in order to maintain Japanese GDP levels AND ensure that the workers keep the same standard of living despite the increased social security tax burden.

That borders on the impossible.

And forget about increased standards of living under this scenario. The Japanese people will be lucky to stay even for the next half century. Near term, Japan can avoid immediate pain by depending on an export economy as their own consumer market dries up and by investing its pension funds overseas. But as everyone else’s population goes gray and then declines this strategy will no longer be tenable.

The above scenario, with varying degrees of decline and tax burden awaits every industrialized nation. America can avoid the worst of it because we are immigrant friendly (except for Republicans, of course). But even we will see our source of additional immigrants dry up as will our overseas markets. Its going to be much worse for those nations like Iran (whose birth rate has collapsed and is lower than that of France) and China who will get old before they get rich.

By 2050, elderly dependents will comprise nearly a third of the population of some Muslim nations, notably Iran — converging on America’s dependency ratio at mid-century. But it is one thing to face such a problem with America’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $40,000, and quite another to face it with Iran’s per capita GDP of $7,000 — especially given that Iran will stop exporting oil before the population crisis hits. The industrial nations face the prospective failure of their pension systems. But what will happen to countries that have no pension system, where traditional society assumes the care of the aged and infirm? In these cases it is traditional society that will break down, horribly and irretrievably so.

Demographics are destiny. They explain history and are our only tool for a reasonably accurate prediction of the future.

It ain’t going to be pretty.

142:

Hey! Portugal and the Netherlands were absolutely major world powers in the 1500s! Netherlands was the main European partner with Japan because of its massive naval capailities, and Portugal divided the world in two with Spain for them to colonise. Calling them minor powers is very 19th century-centric.

143:

Regarding dirty bombs and such, I sense an asymmetry in perceived danger. The radiological sources in f.e. hospitals have already been mentioned. But those are a few kilograms at most? What about entering a nuclear plant commando style, and destroying critical parts with shaped charges? Or using some sort of missile with conventional warhead? Then you have a very large dirty bomb, amplified by the few hundred tons of spent fuel. Fukushima and Tchernobyl didn't happen intentionally. Now imagine some party wanting to mess up those as hard as possible.
What do they need nukes for? They are already there! Just waiting to be blown up! Often easily accessible by river or sea, because of their watercooling demands. Not in some remote parts, but right between us. Imagine that, some plant blown up in the middle of a densely populated area in Europe.

144:

In the case of Frank Corder: I don't think that starting off from an airport inside the country itself really counts as "[taking] on a properly-worked-up first world air defence network".

(Matthias Rust did start off from Finland, so that one sort of counts.)

Keep in mind that Charlie's original hypothetical was British submarines launching cruise missiles against another country, one which had just attacked the UK and was thus presumably awake to the possibility of this sort of retaliation.

Unless the strategic defense scenario is something like "Britain will keep a small supply of portable nuclear weapons, and if they are attacked, they will retaliate by smuggling one of them into the enemy country, stealing one or more private planes at a local airport, and then...", I don't think the Frank Corder case is very relevant.

145:

So my money is on lasers showing up first for point defense on warships

Bad bet. Try google images with the terms "USS Dewey LaWS", they announced it two weeks ago :)

146:

They were major naval powers, yes. In terms of population they were puny compared to France or Spain, let alone China. That was really my point -- in those days you didn't need a massive population or industrial base to be a major seagoing power. No disrespect to the Dutch or Portuguese intended. :-)

147:

If only the US is capable of force projection nowadays, what would you call what France is doing in Mali?

IIRC Matthias Rust was buzzed by at least one MIG which had to almost stall in order to get a good look at him, they could have certainly shot him down if they had felt even remotely threatened by him.

148:

And here is where I leave the pregnant pause with regard to what is considered a chemical weapons capability ...

.
.
.

Personally, I'd say the capability to make, understand, optimise, model/predict and incorporate into a doctrine of operations a weapon would tend to count as a warfighting 'capability'. Whether a squaddie might know it is pretty unimportant - if someone felt the need to lob a chemical warfare shell at someone, then it could be done.

Knowledge is not generally 'given up'. It's only ever really 'lost'.

149:

Here is a truly stunning video of all the nuclear tests between 1945 - 1998. Probably needs updating!

150:

I think it's a solution that's gone looking for a problem when it's had a couple too many beers to drink.

I'm not so sure. I think it's more a case of "DARPA and the DoD spent a hundred billion bucks over twenty years on this technology and it can't hit a dustbin-sized target traveling at 20,000km/h at a range of 10,000km. But, hey, what if we apply the targeting algorithms to a target the size of a fly traveling at 0.005 km/h at a range of 0.001 km? Using off-the-shelf hardware recycled from DVD players?"

Which is to say, nobody in their right mind would spend $100Bn on anti-mosquito lasers, but recycling know-how from the SDI to spend $1M on anti-mosquito lasers is another matter.

151:

"How does spending a fortune on a military asset that would does more harm to the economy if its shot down/blown up make a country a world player? "

Well, for example, you can use that military asset to deploy force and the threat of force. If it's a particularly powerful military asset, you are a world player. The British have done this in, for example, Sierra Leone and Libya. The French in Mali. Various other in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.

That was such a simple answer that I suspect I've misunderstood the question.

152:

1. Direct attacks on civilian infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams and nuclear reactors with intent to cause mass casualties is recognized as a war crime these days.

2. Nuclear power plants tend to be physically robust, to the point of being designed to withstand the direct impact of a fully-laden wide body airliner at cruise speed. Yes, you could mess one up good with shaped charges if you had the expertise and time to site them properly, but it's going to take more than a few man-portable devices to do the job properly. More to the point, nobody who operates them is going to give you the time. (You know those nice friendly unarmed British police officers? There's a special force called the British Nuclear Police Civil Nuclear Constabulary. A big part of their mission is to ruin the party for any group of terrorists or special forces soldiers who try to seize or damage a reactor. They routinely carry full-auto weapons. And that's in the UK; I hate to think what the US or Russian equivalent security forces are equipped with.)

153:

And I strongly disagree in turn. If someone demonstrates that they are willing to use nuclear weapons in a first strike (and in the original example, it was a big strike) all bets are off. They are an irrational actor. Deterrence has had no effect. If they benefit from it once it's dangerous to think they won't do it again to the next sucker they disagree with.

There can be no conventional response because in fifteen minutes the unlucky victim will no longer exist. Any other nation that decides to try to take the irrational actor out of the game by conventional forces means is essentially hoping that the irrational actor has run out of nukes; a ridiculously foolish gamble.

Nuclear response should NOT lead to the all-out end-of-days WWIII you posit, as the remaining rational players in the game will see it for what it is; removing from play the guy who is willing to launch first-strike nuclear attacks. The guy against who deterrence does not work. To leave that actor in the game is to essentially tell him that he is free to launch nuclear weapons whenever he likes without fear of retaliation. Soon, there will be ANOTHER player willing to do that, as it's no longer irrational. Why not launch nukes? That guy did and nothing bad happened to him. Uh-oh; suddenly we have a world in which the deterrence effect has been removed. This, ironically, leads us closer to the doomsday scenario you are hoping to avoid.

154:

Hmm, looks like those things will eventually become good enough to fill out component position number 7 in the US Integrated Pest Management system:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_pest_management

155:

lower cost ways of having the capability/deterrence (like putting them in orbit)

You keep making this assertion. Calling it 'cheaper' when you're going to need a shuttle program to go up and collect the things for servicing is a little disingenuous. Or were you just hoping no servicing was required, because that ain't the way nuclear warheads are.

(You weren't just going to abandon them in low earth orbit, were you, 'cos I really, really don't like the idea of nuclear warheads randomly de-orbiting in a decade or few's time, not when you've designed these to survive re-entry.)

Of course you're going to need orbital launch facilities to get them up there in the first place because you're not going to hitch a launch on an Ariane or other hire craft.

156:

Yes, yes, I saw the video; it's a test-bed ship rather than an actual deployed operational warship. (But the trials looked rather promising and I'd expect actual deployment to happen sooner rather than later.)

157:

Did some re-reading of key passages in "The Age of Airpower" by Martin van Creveld. He makes a strong case for nuclear proliferation, not disarmament, on the grounds that nuclear powers can't fight destructive conventional wars.

Two examples are Israel and the surrounding Arab countries since 1973; and India and Pakistan today. In both examples there were large scale conventional wars every decade - until one side got nukes. No matter how much they still dislike each other, small scale unpleasantness is now all that can be risked.

I too lived through the Cold War, and often find myself trying to explain to younger people what it was like to live under that constant threat. But I'd bet that the generation before mine, living through actual bombings and invasions, would have swapped places with me and my angst in a heartbeat.

If a country just wants to be left alone, nukes may even be the most economical alternative. According to a story in The Register, the UK is looking at spending 20 billion pounds just on Eurofighters and over 5 billion pounds on carriers. (OK, these figures may not be exact, but I've seen nothing to suggest they're wildy wrong either.) Modern conventional weapons and platforms are efficient in terms of numbers required, but they are not cheap.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/11/mod_planning_round_analysis/page2.html

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/06/defence_committee_carrier_badness/

158:

It might appear to an alien observer, that in the 20th century there was a nuclear war between surface dwellers and nameless horrors under the Pacific and Novaya Zemyla.

159:

Alatriste, you're right about the changes in nations. I've been keeping up with China's advances in being able to seriously project, but I must admit I haven't paid as much attention to some of the other Euro nations.

I generally think (and this is very general) that the problem of logistics and global resupply is the last to be properly solved as each nation decides to bulk up its global reach (which makes a kind of sense - a global resupply capability is pointless without the forces and vessels to actually give the supplies to, but having forces and vessels constrained in range is still useful).

I also think that the majority of the nations you listed are currently working on, but have not yet finished; having the nice shiny amphib warships but not the logistical vessels and expertise makes one a nation working towards, but not yet at, global projection capability.

Totally agree, though, that in another decade there will be a lot more global players, once they've finished building their shiny new vessels AND the logistics support to go with it so they can operate for extended times anywhere in the world. Interesting times ahead.

160:

I meant to say this in post 156; I recently attended a lecture under the Chatham House rules in which a senior British naval officer stated that the UK government has recognised that its navy is now simply too small to do what they want from it. He implied that it will soon enough be bite-the-bullet time and the UK government will either have to commit to a whole bunch more ships and capability, or just decide to lose the global reach (which, arguably, they did as soon as we had no fixed-wing carrier aircraft, but since "JSF" was pencilled in as a late replacement, that is a planned gap in capability rather than the end of capability - makes no difference if you need the damn things now, but it was a way of kicking the decision down the road, I suppose).

161:

Stop and think for a minute or two just how much of that you already have, and how you could deal with the rest...

162:

@1 Would that really matter in the context of deterrence of some madman, terrorist, etc.?

@2 I'm aware of that, nonetheless, not impossible.

163:

None.

You're positing replacing a now known and costed (though very expensive) technology with an unknown one, in order to save money.

If there's one lesson from the history of UK defence procurement, it's that trying to solve a problem with an unknown technology is almost always vastly more expensive than estimated, and I have no reason to think your bomb in the sky idea would magically be an exception.

The huge advantage of the sub is stealth. That's why subs are used at all rather than just using surface ships. Your orbital bomb though, that's difficult to hide in this day and age, when fragments down to a few centimetres in size are being tracked.

164:

To Moschops - OK,point taken about the ability to project some force - I was thinking about having a meaningful capability to affect the policy of another major country. You may go and intervene in some 3rd world country, but to be frank Mali is not exactly a country of strategic importance to, well, anyone who isn't from there - it's more of a feel good exercise for an ex-colonial power. Libya was removing one unstable lunatic and replacing him with an unstable elected bunch, instead.

I think you'd be better of spending the cash on nuclear power, to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels, than making yourself feel better about your diminished place in the world by doing a version of "Team America, fuck yeah" on an insignificant nation 6,000 miles away.

165:

moschops @ 151
Exactly
This is where 20 megatons on Tel Aviv or any nuke on Seoul becomes scary ...
You then have to devise/have ready in place ..
a ralistic response that, at the same time, does not start an all-out free-flow nuke-exchange [ a.k.a. Spasm, or insensate war ]
& @ 158
I've heard rumours of that too!
About bloody time. RN of 30-40 ships is about the right size, I'd say .....
Just hope no-one jumps us until the rebuilds get going .....

A N other scary thought - this is a re-run ...
World-wide industrial slump, defence cuts (look up Invergordon mutiny) nasty "new" ideology threatening almost everyone in reach, proposals to start re-equipping armed forces (if only to provide jobs) as well as getting more modern, effective kit ....
How long, therefore?
Are we at 1931-2 (whew) or 1937 (with Syria doubling for Spain (euw)
Usual disclaimers apply.

166:

The other thing is, France has long-standing military bases and cooperation agreements in West Africa. They had resources already in place in Mali, Cote D'Ivoire, Senegal, etc. so they were not exactly marching into unknown territory.

Likewise Libya was within easy reach of air bases in southern France, and even easier from Sicily, so it wasn't exactly a long-range operation.

I would think of "projecting power" as something like Falklands 1983 or Afghanistan 2001 -- you want to intervene quickly and in force, in a location where you have few or no pre-existing military assets.

167:

I hate to think what the US or Russian equivalent security forces are equipped with.

AFAIK loaded M16s and bunkers near every entrance so they can shoot from protected positions. Of course the bunkers are ADA compliant due to federal regulations. (An example given of how you sometimes get to do the absurd at a continuing ed seminar on ADA compliance for architects.)

168:

I would think it was part of anti-terrorist doctrine to find out *where the hijacked aircraft was* and send fighters to escort it. They didn't even manage to do that.

Costs. Given the speed at which airliners fly the number of planes that would have to be kept fueled and ready to get into the air would be massive. And since they'd likely have to go supersonic if you wanted less planes you'd also need tankers all over the place to fill them back up soon after the intercepts.

As was mentioned, this was a threat no one was planning for.

169:

Understood, but here in the U.K. we have lots of this really excellent " Sea " stuff not far from the land and indeed we do have expertise in off shore installations of all kinds.

But that was the point. Piping the heat is not really practical. So what you're advocating is barges anchored off shore. I have to wonder how much more it would cost to just make them into ships.

170:

Regarding the end of the Second World War in the Pacific: the Japanese wanted to capitulate, i.e. negociate their surrender against some concessions from the Allies. To the Americans, this was unacceptable: they wanted Japan to surrender unconditionnally

From everything I've read those "some concessions" did not include disbanding their military or restructuring the government so the military wasn't running things. Which at the time was, yes, totally unacceptable to most everyone Japan had been fighting.

As for calling the nuclear strikes on Japan war crimes. If you walk down that path you get to war itself being a war crime. Unless winning is not the end objective.

171:

I agree with David on this one. The only way the Japanese would capitulate prior to August 15 was on their own terms, which left intact the military apparatus and Imperial cult that had started the whole mess. The Allies were pretty clear in the Potsdam Declaration that they wanted the Japanese people to decide how they should be ruled. Yes, they favored democracy, but Japan had been a democracy back in the 1920s.

Part of the problem is that "unconditional surrender" translated badly into the Japanese used by Imperial Japan. As Paul Linebarger noted in his seminal work on Psychological Warfare, the Allies had much better luck asking the Japanese to "cease honorable resistance" than to "surrender unconditionally." Part of this was that the soldiers had been taught to die rather than surrender, so if you pointed a gun at them and told them to surrender, they were trained to attack until shot. "Ceasing honorable resistance" gave them a way to lay their weapons down.

The problem with using nukes on Japan was NOT the use of the nuclear weapons themselves. By that point, US firebombing had killed more civilians and caused more damage, as had conventional weapons used in the island war leading to it. The evidence pretty clearly shows that the nuclear weapons were used to hasten the end of the war and avoid the millions of deaths the Japanese planned for in defending in an invasion of Japan. By any stretch, that is not a war crime. The idea of the A-bombs as war crimes came up while the paperwork around the decision was classified. Most of that material has since been declassified (which is why Downfall was written in 2001, not 1976), and there's no evidence to support any contention of war crimes.

As David noted, war is horrible, it contains activities that would be criminal outside a war zone, and it's almost always worth avoiding. I'll add that the problem with nukes wasn't the first use, it's that the damn things proliferated thereafter. I'd also add that this is true for other weapons systems as well. All too often, what was a game changer in one war becomes a bloody nuisance a decade or two later.

172:

Interesting article about the American military establishment, but it does talk about why the US has nukes: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2013/04/2013424113558268754.html

173:

Personally, I'd say the capability to make, understand, optimise, model/predict and incorporate into a doctrine of operations a weapon would tend to count as a warfighting 'capability'. Whether a squaddie might know it is pretty unimportant - if someone felt the need to lob a chemical warfare shell at someone, then it could be done.

I'd like to avoid getting into a terminology discussion... but when I say "warfighting capability", I mean "able to do it as a planned activity". Not "I'm sure we could figure out how to do it in a year or two, given some shells full of VX or thickened GD". It's why I stressed the difference between doing it once, at an indeterminate time and place; and being able to say with confidence "we can do it right there, right then". Only one of the two is truly useful, and there is a difference in years between the two states.

e.g. right now, the UK has no fixed-wing naval aviation capability; it has residual skills, but not the equipment. It has no offensive chemical weapon capability; it has neither the skills nor the equipment.

"Whether a squaddie might know it" is exactly the point if you're going to use chemical weapons offensively. What objective are you firing at? Why? Does the tactical or operational commander actually want a contaminated objective? What about any downwind hazard? How long before any non-persistent agent disperses? What happens if you mix Chemicals and HE or WP in your fireplan - success or dispersal? What about decontamination activity? What additional protective consumables do you need? What special precautions are there for storage and transit? Will the host nation supporting the operation allow it?

The USSR and USA both worked at how to wage a chemical war - and they felt the need to maintain a specialist arm of chemical weapons experts in order to do so. The UK has no such specialist service.

174:
As Paul Linebarger noted in his seminal work on Psychological Warfare, the Allies had much better luck asking the Japanese to "cease honorable resistance" than to "surrender unconditionally."

sorry if pointing out the obvious, but you mean this guy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordwainer_Smith

btw, when we are at literary trials of scientists...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leó_Szilárd#After_the_war

"When the European Molecular Biology Laboratory was established, the library was named The Szilárd Library and the library stamp features dolphins."

anybody been at embl lately?

175:
Of course the bunkers are ADA compliant due to federal regulations.

maybe there is some fridge brilliance with this, substituting 1m high straight stairs 3m wide with 10 meters of a serpentine wheelchair ramp open to machine gun fire might be handy sometimes...

176:

you didn't say if the various islamistic currents are the extreme european right including fascism or the european left including soviet communism in spain though.

ditto for some of our, err, "secular" forces, i guess the russians are testing part of their equipment in syria just like germany did in spain.

scnr.

177:

Yes, that's the same guy.

For a genre full of fascinating people, even he tends to stick out a bit.

178:

as we're talking about orbital weapons, i see some legal obstacles...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

now international law is somewhat controversial, according to one guy i know the only proof it works is the postal system, still, it might be a problem. especially as recently, wmd might include pressure cooker with black powder and steel balls...

179:

@171:

Not to be overly pedantic, but there's a big difference between "squaddie knows how to do" and "command structure provides authority to do." Until you've been on PRP yourself, and/or had to certify people as PRP-ready, you've got no idea just how the "authority to use" issues change the way that training has to be done for seemingly the simplest of tasks. When "ensure that steps 17 through 34 on page 3 of the manual have been followed to arm the chemical-munitions payload" has to be added to the 155mm NATO-standard-howitzer training, things get... interesting. Especially with squaddies who aren't used to reading long checklists as part of "routine" reloading!

@173:

That might make resupply of the bunkers, and maintenance of whatever weapons systems are in the bunkers (it ain't just M16s), easier... especially in foul weather. This was a standard requirement long before the ADA made it mandatory; the ADA and implementing regulations are just a bit more particular about things like the permissible slope, etc.

180:

btw, for a workaround:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional_Orbital_Bombardment_System

" The Outer Space Treaty banned nuclear weapons in Earth orbit. However, it did not ban systems that were capable of placing weapons in orbit, and the Soviet Union avoided violating the treaty by conducting tests of its FOBS system without live warheads."

err, if you excuse me, i have some headbanging to do on some nearby wall...

181:

How much, indeed? When the Off Shore /Wind Farm/ Redundant Oily Platforms/ Ancient Fortresses meant to Repel Bonaparte could be included in the equation of a Generation or So of weaponry? Down the line of History... you consider that Napoleon is Dead? And that HE is no longer a Threat? Well, THEY would say that wouldn’t They? HA!! Paranoid? Not Paranoid Enough!


http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_solentforts.htm

WE need Laser Cannon Fortresses to Repel... Them! As of Course do the People of Japan or Singapore or... wherever.

AND...I can Prove it! Dependent upon the Word ‘Prove ‘ which, after all, is Such a Small word.

As a representative of an entirely benign Armaments supplier I can say with some considerable Authority...You DO Need to Invest in Your Own Safety! Your Voters would - and Will at the next Election - expect no less of you... Bonaparte has these Invasion Barges you know ? AND, I have it on good Authority that Hannibal has Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Form of Pachyderms of Doom!! So, I put it to you... Can you afford to take the risk?

182:

@168:

Sadly, the whole "just war" issue (de Groot aka Grotius is just the tip of the iceberg) is a classic example of post hoc rationalization, in which both history and legal doctrine get written by the winners. The history behind what exactly is included in the Hague Convention and the Second Geneva Convention is rather horrifying. Now stir in the identity of accessions to those treaties — and, disturbingly, imputed accessions — and things get really... interesting. ("Interesting" in the sense of "I'm stuck in this graduate seminar, and a fellow student has just demonstrated a disturbing command of clever rhetoric to make a point not worth making but that might impress either the professor or that attractive fellow student over in the corner, and the I'm too polite to call it 'utter bullsh*t'.")

183:

HA! Evan as a teenager in the late 1960s, with access to the sophisticated bomb making info of the local Public Library, I could have knocked together something a bit more powerful than the Boston weapons of mass destruction. So could you...so could almost anyone these days. Or in Those days of yore...

" David Copeland (born 15 May 1976) is an English Neo-Nazi militant who became known as the "London Nail Bomber" after a 13-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities.[2] Widely labelled a terrorist, Copeland was a former member of two far right political groups, the British National Party and then the National Socialist Movement.

Over three successive weekends between 17 and 30 April, Copeland placed homemade nail bombs, each containing up to 1,500 four-inch nails, in holdalls that he left in public spaces around London. The first bomb was placed outside the Iceland supermarket in Electric Avenue, Brixton, an area of south London with a large black population. The second was in Brick Lane in the East End of London, which has a large Bangladeshi community. The third was inside the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho's Old Compton Street, the heart of London's gay community. The bombs killed three people, including a pregnant woman, and injured 139, four of whom lost limbs.

Copeland was diagnosed by five psychiatrists as having paranoid schizophrenia, while one diagnosed a personality disorder not serious enough to avoid a charge of murder. His plea of guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility was not accepted by the prosecution or jury.[3] He was convicted of murder on 30 June 2000, and given six concurrent life sentences.[2] In 2007 the High Court ruled that he must serve at least 50 years.[4]"

184:

there is a swiss military manual on civilian resistance that's banned in germany. might have to do with it being found with some of our leftist terrorists in the 70s, iirc the anarchist pendant to marxist-leninist raf.

btw,

Copeland was diagnosed by five psychiatrists as having paranoid schizophrenia, while one diagnosed a personality disorder not serious enough to avoid a charge of murder.

any idea which personality disorder that was? if schizotypal, the difference to schizophrenia is somewhat moot, depending on severity. if sociopath or borderline, that might be more important.

if one of the softies, e.g. histrionic and like, err, i always thought that one was a prequisite for activity in fandom or posting on blogs, even if under a pseudonym, err.

185:

Which precise disorder? Err...its not all that easy to define is it?

I do have distant and dim memories of a French Film that did - way back in the late 1960s when 16mm films projected by Bell Howell projectors really were State of The Art - try to depict the strange mental state of schizophrenia and so I did a quick web search...I refuse to use 'Google ' as a term for web search.. And I came across...

" 10 Fascinating Films About Schizophrenia "

http://whatculture.com/film/10-fascinating-films-about-schizophrenia.php

And do you know what...none of them is the, rather surreal, film that I recall. To which the only possible response is Oh Bugger! Unless you are suffering from schizophrenia and are off your medications in which case your response is likely to be...Surreal?

186:

i brought this up because the implications are somewhat different. note, i'm going by dsm, icd, some literature and quite a few personal acquintances, let's just say that after sharing an appartment with a young aspiring herbal products salesman, you get an idea where pkd got some of his ideas from, and assortative mating is fun when you behaviour at 12 gets labelled as "sometimes normal, sometimes fitting for someone in his 30s, sometimes a 4 year old". err.

schizophrenia and schizotypal pd might both include somewhat bizarre hallucinations and delusions, sometimes persecutory. there might be some difference in degree, with schizotypal the lighter one, but then, there are schizophrenics who can distinguish consensus reality and hallucinations to some degree, john nash comes to mind. while quite a few schizotypals seem to have only limited insight. also note that not all crimes by schizophrenics and schizotypals are rooted in delusions and like, both quite often lead to low socioeconomic status, whcih might make you prone to achieve your goals through strategies labelled criminal.

otoh, if somebody is diagnosed with schizophrenia, in general perception there is both some irrational fear and some consensus about some element of diminuished guilt that's absent when it's "only" a pd. especially if the deed is somewhat extreme. so the difference between labelling somebody schizophrenic or schizotypal might be more a political than a medicinal one in some cases, e.g. if some eccentric you share some ideas with plants a bomb, chances are you'll label him schizophrenic to other him. otoh, if you want him to stand full trial, go for the pd.

of course, the issue is somewhat different if the differential diagnosis is a sociopath, e.g. a pd that includes some damages in the guilt and empathy circuits, mimicking psychosis to get a less severe penalty.

and i mentioned borderline pd because while those afflicted usually have impulse control problems and cognitive disturbances assocated with emotional processing, which might translate to a higher incidence of some criminal behaviour and a general picture that might appear similar to psychosis, there are other issues here. for starters, especially with the highly intelligent ones a high level of insight when not in a catecholamine surge, though still quite a bit of limited culpability. let's just call it teenage years, extended, hmkay?

on a lighter note i just said i feel watched at work to my shrink and neither got my methylphenidate pulled down nor an antipsychotic on top. mentioning everybody seeing the cameras and the monitors in office might have helped...

187:

on the difference between sz and stpd, there is a case involving a anti-abortion murderer

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/salvi/salvihearing/salvihearing1.html

188:

Actually Charlie a lot of those doom and gloom scenarios have been revised it looks like birth rates in developed countries are on the rise again.

Funnily enough UN just released the revised projections this very day

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6038

it's really dangerous to try to extrapolate trends 35 years in the future

The reason why declining populations are so bad on economies is that production does not staty constant, declining populations mean elderly populations that consume a lot and don't produce much. They also mean shrinking tax bases. I have never heard a single economist say they are a good thing.

189:

@101:
I don't think there was an equivalent to Groves in the German project,
---
That was Albert Speer. We'd call both Speer and Groves "general contractors" now. Lavrenti Beria was the boss of the Soviet project. Beria was chief of the NKVD. I don't remember if the name of the chief of the Japanese project is known.

The key factor of the American project was that Groves had a literal "carte blanche" from Roosevelt. Groves appropriated any resources he needed, and spent money so freely that the Manhattan Engineer District consumed a sizeable (though debated) percentage of the American expenditure for the war. Uranium and plutonium were the active ingredients, but mostly it was huge piles of money that made it work...

Speer simply didn't have the resources to effectively go anywhere with an atomic bomb project. There were several more or less independent German projects competing for what resources there were, due mostly to the National Socialist patronage system.

Beria had control of the gulag system, which provided about 20% of the wartime Soviet GNP. He also had security; it made perfect Soviet sense to locate a new super-weapon project in a prison camp, and use political prisoners to do the work.

Churchill was still rather bitter about Tube Alloys when he wrote "The Second World War." He'd worked Makenzie King for all he was worth, and when King absolutely refused to take the project, he started wheedling Roosevelt, who resisted for some months before agreeing to assign some resources to it, apparently just to get Churchill to stop bugging him about it.

190:

Personally, I think of the more prosaic fridge brilliance of being to move equipment in and out on a hand-truck or pallet jack.

191:

There was a book called (I think) The Curve of Binding Energy." Its a must read if you are interested in the bomb or doing away with it. The subject of the book visited Los Amos and was shocked. In the rush to open old governmental secrets, the whole plan for making the first working bombs could be copied. The ex-designer ran off to have the whole section closed. But no one knew who had already been there. "Second World War in the Pacific: the Japanese wanted to capitulate, i.e. negotiate their surrender against some concessions from the Allies." Sure, sure. All we would have had to do was to leave those in power in power. And then what for the next war.

192:

Of course the terms of the Japanese were not acceptable as such. This is the reason why people negociate. If you negociate only with people to whose terms you agree, there is nothing to discuss. Alas, this notion is a bit lost to the public in this age of "no negociation with terrorists".

The nuclear strikes against Japan are war crimes as defined by the Hague convention ("usage of wanton desctruction on civilians"). Japan was not a signatory to the Hague Convention, but the Nuremberg tribunal held the Third Reich responsible for war crimes in a similar setting (with Hungary IIRC), stating that the Hague Convention defines basic Human behaviour that one is not to dispense with on mere technicalities; apparently this is true for Germany but not the USA.

193:

That was indeed the doctrine, and they did in fact redirect and/or scramble fighters. The fighters didn't know where to go though since no one knew where the hijacked airliners were. NORAD was designed with the assumption that aerial attacks would originate outside the United States. They tracked anything in the air, but if it was a commercial flight they noted it as a friendly and let the FAA handle all the other details. This specifically meant that NORAD didn't have any route or schedule information that would allow them to see that a plane wasn't where it was supposed to be. The FAA meanwhile was concerned with ensuring planes didn't fly into each other. Their system was therefore decentralized, with each control station only concerned about the planes in the airspace it monitored. The inability to figure where the hijacked planes were or even how many planes had been hijacked was a big factor in deciding to ground all civilian aircraft on 9-11.

194:

Yeah, regarding the capability for chemical warfare, I'm always amazed at how the anthrax attacks of 2001 had faded out of fashion after it was known that they did not originate from Al Qaeda. At the time, it was almost as trendy as the plane hijackings themselves.

195:

Absolutely. Even with smarter modern production making a nuclear weapon requires large-scale industry that's usually pretty conspicuous though. Nuclear reactors and large centrifuge cascades are difficult to hide, not that some people don't try.

196:

Trottelreiner @ 174
Wahabi/Salafist islamicism is almost identical to Nazism in many respects ... which should answer your question?

Arnold @ 182
Wasn't there a Hitchcock film, with sets designed by Salvador Dali on that theme? Ah: - Spellbound

cahth3iK @ 189
Oh yeah?
And YOUR solution to getting the officer-caste controlling the Empire of Nippon to surrender after Okinawa had been taken, & without using nukes, would have been? ..... What, precisely?
Remember that, otherwise you are going to have to invade the main islands of Japan, with AT LEAST another 4-6 million people killed.

197:

The key problem with laser weapons is thermodynamics; you can't build a 100% efficient laser. Indeed, efficiency usually tops out at or below 25%. Which means, for every kilowatt of beam energy, you need to dump at least 3 kW of waste heat. And to be effective at cutting/burning instead of blinding (illegal under international treaty law), battlefield lasers need beam energies in the 10s to 100s of kW.

This was once true. No longer. The DARPA Super High Efficiency Diode Sources program began in 2003 with the ambitious goal of 80% wall plug efficiency for high power diode lasers. They didn't reach the goal -- "only" 73% was achieved. And the diode sources are currently used to pump fiber or disk lasers with additional losses, rather than used directly, because this provides higher quality beams suited for distance weapons. Even with those caveats, electrically driven lasers are now available with militarily interesting output power and efficiency. That is why you are now seeing the beginnings of real laser weapons systems. Prior electrical systems were too inefficient for even ship-mounted use, and the alternative of chemical lasers just involved too expensive and hazardous materials (burning deuterium to deuterium fluoride?!).

Today even industrial fiber lasers can offer 33% wall plug efficiency. Much like in military applications the goal is more to reduce expensive cooling than to conserve electricity. In the long run it looks like technology from companies like TeraDiode will enable more direct use of diode lasers to form high quality beams, rather than relegating diodes to pumps for fibers or disks. That will further increase efficiency. Going from 70% efficient to 80% efficient is minor in terms of direct electricity consumption but major in terms of cooling.

There are some low-tech countermeasures available, like smoke screens. Or natural fog, rain, or atmospheric haze. For direct ablative protection, something like balsa wood impregnated with fire retardants. It takes a lot of energy to evaporate carbon when combustion reactions don't help out.

198:

The notion that nuclear strikes against Japan are war crimes is eagerly supported by Soviet symphatizers in Russia. Which is enough (for me, at least) to not consider them such. Or at least not as much more terrible than regular US firebombing was.

Of course, Soviet symphatizers talking about war crimes is pretty funny - you know, rooting for the guys who invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia to put down revolts there with deadly force? Yeah, totally not war crimes.

199:

You know, Soviet symphatizers in Russia also believe in evolution and that the Earth is round. It doesn't make it false.

Yes, of course, mass-bombing cities with incendiary weapons is *also* a war crime. Either that, or "not killing civilians" doesn't mean anything (but then what were the Nuremberg trials about, again?).

I conceded that in a world were an autocooker fill with nails and explosives is labelled a "weapon of mass destruction", it's difficult to retain a sense that words have a meaning.

200:

It was more than just Spear not getting the needed resources.

Speer simply didn't have the resources to effectively go anywhere with an atomic bomb project. There were several more or less independent German projects competing for what resources there were, due mostly to the National Socialist patronage system.

I read most (all?) of Spear's books a few decades back. He basically said that Germany didn't even switch to a war time economic system until 43 or 44 (my failing memory not Spear's). They were still making things like refrigerators and such for consumers as Hitler wanted everyone to think Germany could fight the war without imposing on the public. So basically Germany didn't switch a lot of consumer production to war time needs until they started loosing.

Whereas the US started the switch to all possible production to military needs around December 8th or 9th of 1941.

201:

stating that the Hague Convention defines basic Human behaviour that one is not to dispense with on mere technicalities; apparently this is true for Germany but not the USA.

Well since the allies one they got to define who was wrong. Hypocrisy or no.

But while there was a lot of terrible crap done by both sides, the US and UK didn't have it as official government policy to exterminate people groups or that people of other nationalities didn't deserve to live. A small but very important difference between our objectives.

I recently read where 25% of the casualties of Hiroshima were military personel. And the city was one of the last major ports operating. It was a military target. Just not one full of battleships parked neatly in rows.

202:

An SSBN isn't so useful right not, but an SSGN is very useful, as the US learned when the recast a number of their Ohio class boomers and cruise missile carriers. I believe they basically put a whole bunch of cruise missiles into each Trident cell giving them a magazine of several hundred.
This suggests a solution. Replace, over time, the existing SSN and SSBN fleet with a hybrid boat with perhaps only four Trident cells. Officially, the nukes are in storage ashore and the cells either have cruise missiles in them, or conventionally armed D5's. A non nuclear D5 provides a prompt global strike capacity to drop a non nuclear rock anywhere on the planet in a big hurry. It's a capacity the US cannot have, as they must have nuclear tipped Tridents, so one of theirs could by mistaken as a Nuke, but a Trident launch from a UK patrol area is unlikely to be a nuke - unlikely enough anyway that it's worth waiting and seeing what happens before doing anything stupid in response. The US would be very keen on an ally having that capability.
With that fleet, you have a very useful, versatile conventional force, and if things go bad, you can always nuclear tip them in a hurry, either as an announced escalation or discretely. MIRV then up to the gills and it's a very credible second strike force. It does require a new design, but you can replace the SSN's with it too as they age out. The resulting boat might be a bit big for an SSN (current SSBN are about twice the displacement of their SSN cousins) but every design is a compromise.

203:

I'm not sure what the point of all the war crimes talk is. Pretty much every major combatant in WW2 was gulty of War Crimes by the Hague definition

As far as negotiating with Japan, game theory would state that you do not negotiate with people if there is nothing to gain for you from the negotiation, especially if you have the power to compel an outcome with no loss to yourself.

204:

The nuclear strikes against Japan are war crimes as defined by the Hague convention ("usage of wanton desctruction on civilians").

In an ideal world, of course you're correct. But by this point in a World War, I suspect that pragmatism (as illustrated by the calculations that the use of atomic weapons saved tens of times as many civilians as it killed) was winning out over principle - and that the blame lies at the hands of the Japanese leadership.

The fears of HG Wells were realised by the Luftwaffe attempting to bomb the UK into submission; as OGH has pointed out, the inaccurate technology of the time didn't allow for discrimination between valid strategic target and nearby civilians. Look up the details of the 1941 attacks on Glasgow; the Clydebank Blitz left seven undamaged houses out of 12,000. The British population didn't cry foul when the same tactics were used later in the war against Hamburg, or Berlin, or Dresden - because it was seen as a case of "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind".

The Japanese had displayed just an attitude to China, killing hundreds of thousands over most of a decade of aggression. Look at Unit 731 and its use of biological weapons against civilians. No Japanese citizen should claim that Hiroshima/Nagasaki was a war crime, if they can't admit that the 1937 Rape of Nanking was at least as bad - after all, the Imperial Japanese Army killed just as many civilians in that six-week period, by bullet, sword, and beatings.

205:

Lowel L
The US did not switch instantly to munitions production. We kept producing consumer goods while we first build the munitions factories and the increased primary industrial facilities we needed.
I'm reading about America's rearmament now because it's the closest analogue to the coming currency readjustment caused reindustrialization.
I've got about four books open at this time, none of them very good for my purposes. I'll go over to the Hoover at Stanford University in a few days and rummage around there, see what they've got. Then maybe Jackson.
Today I'll wander around the net for a while. It would be nice if there was a web site about the coming renormalization of the American economy. And it would also be nice if I could find it.
Any ideas?

206:

Oops, that's David L, not Lowell L.

207:

I am quite agreed with "No Japanese citizen should claim that Hiroshima/Nagasaki was a war crime, if they can't admit that the 1937 Rape of Nanking was at least as bad", and in fact it is a general principle: just because the other side does worse does not mean it's all right to do bad oneself.

@fatal.error: "game theory would state that you do not negotiate with people if there is nothing to gain for you from the negotiation": if you believe that this applies to the end of the Second World War, then your starting hypothese is that to the US policy makers, the value of hundred of thousands of Japanese civilians was nil.

@David L: the problem, as I see it at least, is that lots of the legitimacy of the Allied struggle against the Axis powers and later against the Soviet Union during the Cold War was constructed on the notion that the West abided by the values heralded in the Nuremberg trials. The trials were always tainted by the retroactivity of notions like "crime against Humanity", but there is a case to say that the benefit for mankind are such that it is worth it, and touches to the realm of the "source of Law" or "natural Law", which is always a messy business but is the necessary set of axioms to build the rest. The problem is that these trials are not only quite dodgy from a legal point of view, but they were specifically tailored to exclude barbaric behaviour in which the Allies engaged, while condemning those of the Axis (somethings with hilarious blunders, like the thing about submarine warfare).

In our lifetime, the USA and their satellites have engaged in war of aggression, have adopted torture as an official policy, and still practice extrajudicial murder, unlimited extrajudicial detention and arbitrary repression of dissidents. Nothing of this is especially novel nor particularly intense, compared to what happened for instance in French-occupied Algeria; but French Algeria was supposed to be an abherration. I see a resurgence of barbaric behaviour that I though confined to History books, or to present-time backwater dictatorships. To understand the reason why, it is necessary to examin the origins of that myth of Western purity.

208:

well, the problem is that salafists et al. are a subset of religious extremists, which means the state is subject to religion, where some currents of fascism had an anti-clerical element to them, or thought religion subservient to the state. not that this works with all groups, e.g. the clericofascist on the balkan etc.

we could go on with the differences in theory, though i agree in practice the picture is similar. just like everytime hss social behaviour reaches the chimp 2.0 failure point of primate behaviour.

otoh, the syrian ba'ath party shows many signs of being fascist itself, e.g. extreme nationalism, leader system etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ba'athism#Allegations_of_being_fascist

in short, there are more similarities between fascism and ba'ath than between fascism and salafism. not that that makes the latter any more palatable, it just shows why godwin's law is still a worthwhile observation about usng comparisons in discussions.

personal take? well, if i'd be in one of my hypie temper tantrum, i'd start babbling about inviting them all to a nice enclosed area, with tv coverage (to paraphrase the motto of some game show, „I’m a freedom fighter...Get Me Out of Here!"), let everybody sign an organ donor card and hand out crystal meth and guns. not ethical, not feasable, but it calms somewhat. if you excuse me, where is my gwar cd? slaughterama...

209:

err, mods, if this incites somewhat, feel free to abridge or delete the text.

btw, i have been down with a gastroenteritis since friday morning, which hopefully explains the spelling errors. feeling better, though.

210:

I see a resurgence of barbaric behaviour that I though confined to History books, or to present-time backwater dictatorships. To understand the reason why, it is necessary to examin the origins of that myth of Western purity.

Nope, it's simpler than that.

Governments have always killed, and tortured, and repressed; less now than ever before, I would suggest. We are more aware, and more willing to question; and the progression isn't linear, or always forwards. Putting it down to the "USA and its satellites" seems to me to be as naive as blaming it all on "evil Communists" or "religious fanatics", or assuming it to be a planned or organised policy. I'd like to think that "my" side/country/group/belief system has right on its side, has largely good intentions, and behaves well - but I suspect that there are things done "in my name" that I would disagree with. Mostly because of disorganisation, complexity, incompetence, or carelessness, or allowing the wrong person too much power rather than any planning or active malice.

I have the consolation that we no longer wage wars on civilians; that we don't live in fear of a midnight knock on the door; and that we appear to be learning that however much "having a hammer makes every problem look like a nail", you don't solve political problems with a military solution - unless you feel that the alternatives are worse (I do wonder how hindsight will view our actions regarding Syria).

211:

Hiroshima is not a port; you might have meant Nagasaki which was both a port and a major shipbuilding and ship repair city. Of course the original target for the Fat Man plutonium bomb was the city of Kokura aka Kokura Arsenal which indicates why it was designated as a target.

Hiroshima was a major Army headquarters as well as being the main railway hub for the Kansai region and also a major manufacturing centre in its own right. The nuclear targetting decisions were being made in light of the forthcoming Allied invasion of the southern Home Island of Kyushu; Kokura and Nagasaki were close to the intended invasion area and knocking out the rail system passing through Hiroshima would limit the ability of the Japanese defenders to move troops and materiel to Kyushu once the landings started in October 1945.

213:

I've sailed from Hiroshima. Admittedly, that was a short-hop ferry to Miyajima from the far west of the city, not from the port, and you can still see Hiroshima from the other end of that crossing.

Hiroshima is a coastal Japanese city — it's almost inevitable it's also a port, if only because the Japanese fishers will want to land their catches. But if you look at how far the Bomb was dropped from the actual port — a couple of miles as the B-29 flies — I think you can tell that the port itself wasn't the actual target. If you're after ports, there are plenty of bigger ones in Japan.

(On trams in Hiroshima, the stops are, naturally, called out in Japanese. Except we noticed one that wasn't: Atomic Bomb Dome. That's the wrecked building at the hypocentre of the blast.)

214:

Actually, I'm not entirely sure that the bombing of Japan qualifies as a war crime by the Allies. Worse, if it does, the party at fault was arguably the Japanese government, for two reasons:

1. Unlike any other major party in WWII, the Japanese deliberately integrated military production into homes around their military plants. In most countries, there was some segregation between munitions plants and workers' homes. That was not the case in Japan, and it was done deliberately.

They also built those homes out of wood, and didn't invest much in fire protection for the city.

Combine this with inaccurate bombing (necessitated as much by the heavy cloud cover around Japan as by aerial defense of the country), and you have a recipe for mass casualties. The Allies could not destroy Japanese war factories without bombing an entire neighborhood. Worse, when they determined that much of the equipment was in people's homes (as in a metal lathe sitting in the middle of a burned-out home), they stopped trying to aim only for the factories.

You've got to ask who is to blame here, the officials who deliberately mixed civilians with munitions, or the soldiers who tried to destroy the capacity for making war. Either way, the Japanese people suffered horribly.

2. Certainly by the time the atomic bombs were dropped, the Japanese were training every civilian to die in defense of the country. This was done because they believed the Allies would not be willing to kill every single Japanese citizen, soldier or not, and that the government would therefore be able to negotiate an advantageous truce after a few million civilian deaths stopped the Allied invasion. This is what "no surrender" meant to them, and it wasn't about an honorable negotiation that respected the lives of their citizens, it was the failed concept of a banzai charge raised to cover the entire country.

In both cases, I place primary blame on the Japanese Imperial Military and the puppet government it ran. Whatever you think of the Allies and the huge number of Japanese soldiers and civilians they killed, the Japanese government treated their citizens as badly and deliberately put them in harms' way, often for no good reason. Prior to surrender, the government also deliberately destroyed as many documents as they could (including things like the numbers of POWs they had killed), which strongly suggests to me that all this was done knowingly and deliberately.

While I agree that the Allies' bombing killed a huge number of people horribly, the Japanese government was not innocent in those deaths. Ideally, both sides should have been prosecuted, but since McArthur deliberately protected the imperial family against prosecution (among other things), what came out was a sense of victor's justice and a distorted view of history on both sides.

215:

actually, i guess it'd be best to look up the paragraphs in question from the hague treaty of 1907. atm, i'm too dehydrated to read it through, but there is something about no attacks on unprotected habitations. which, well, is open to discussion.

oh, and to quote this alltime lawyers' favourite, there is a difference between just and justice...

216:

well, the problem with albert speer is i wouldn't trust him as far as i could throw göring on his fat morphine junkie days. for starters, he was involved with the kz worker system and still said he knew nothing about the holocaust. which imho would boil down the posibilities of him being either an idiot or a liar.

as such, when speer says he wasn't able to instigate a total war economy, there are at least three alternate explanations:

a) he wanted to downplay his commitment to weapons production, e.g. he was also involved with civilian production.
b) "well, not everything was bad. there were also the autobahn. and the refridgerators."
c) his side lost the war, but it was not his fault, but hitler et al.'s.

if these seem somewha contradictory, welcome to the funny world of post-ww2 german elites with nazi past.

217:

"@fatal.error: "game theory would state that you do not negotiate with people if there is nothing to gain for you from the negotiation": if you believe that this applies to the end of the Second World War, then your starting hypothese is that to the US policy makers, the value of hundred of thousands of Japanese civilians was nil."

Yes that is correct. The US government at that time did not care about the deaths of civilians. In general neither side of that war cared very much about civilian casualties. They did nto usually seek them out but they did not try to avoid them either

218:

Anybody know what the demand for "unconditional surrender really said in Japanese? Or just what the press and movies say it was? I've read that the bomb hit the corner of their Second Army's parade ground. After that no more Second Army. That's a military target! The thing to remember is everyone wanted to find the Germans guilty of something. A lot of them did what was always done in a war. They committed no crime by pre -war law. So Crimes against Humanity was made up.

219:

@fatal.error: "game theory would state that you do not negotiate with people if there is nothing to gain for you from the negotiation": if you believe that this applies to the end of the Second World War, then your starting hypothese is that to the US policy makers, the value of hundred of thousands of Japanese civilians was nil.

Yes. Can this honestly surprise anyone?

The US was trying to win the war, and keep as many of its own people alive as possible. Preserving Japanese civilians was the job of the Japanese government; it was categorically not the responsibility of anyone in the American government or military.

220:

War Crimes?

Why are some people so obsessed with this in re Hiroshima/Nagasaki?

BTW, definite "High Counting" the casulaties. Not to minimize the horror, but it was IIRC, Hiroshima, MAXIMUM 60,000 immdiate (and ? Near term, immdiate includes near term radiation poisening, flash burns, etc etc) and 40,000 Nagasaki. Millions it wasn't. Was this exageration to make us more evil?

EVERYONE scheduled to participate in the Invasion says, "Thank God for the Bomb" in their memoirs.

At some point, you need to define an in group and an out group. Me, I like and can respect (most) members of the League of Anglo-Saxon Awesomeness; Sign up NOW, (and The Japanese and Poles are pretty much in the "Honorary Anglo-Saxon" class these days).

People with Grandfathers named Mohamed? Not so much, individual applicants (only) will be considered (carefully). As a civilization, they just seem to keep making the wrong choices, I mean, shooting School Girls in the Head because they want to learn to read?

It's not the individual acts of Lunacy (We have enough of those here in Arkansas...), but the failure of the "culture" to denounce/condem them.

What's Europe going to do when the Egyptian economy melts down? And the knock on effect of those waves of refugees? It's one of those thirty years out issues, that may happen real soon, or later, possibly never, but don't bet that way. Right now it is looking like real soon. The problems of the Gaza Strip multiplied fifty fold.

(Gaza Population, 1.7 Million; Egypt, 85 million, more or less) (At least 40% entirely dependent on UN Humanitarian aid)

Even if someone provides enough subsidies to keep the economy ticking over in the near term, within thirty years the whole area is projected to have exhausted their fossil water resourses.

(Ref: Texas Drout, Dust Bowl)

And some of those people have nuclear weapons.

221:

Whhos:

Delivery Systems. Actually, the WW II B-29 program probalby cost about as much as the Manhatan Project. It's another case of not really knowing how much was spent, pushing the envelope of existing technologies.

Of course, these days a non-state actor could just charter cargo aircraft. Or stuff the thing in a container.

For a global technical history, see:

http://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Express-Political-History-Proliferation/dp/076033904X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367145230&sr=1-1&keywords=Reed+Stillman

For a while, there were remainders out there of the Hardcover for $2.95; Spectacular bad timing, published in early 2009, warning of the dire consequencesto our finacial system if "someone" nuked lower Manhatan. Oops. But fascinating technical history.

222:

I have the consolation that we no longer wage wars on civilians; that we don't live in fear of a midnight knock on the door; and that we appear to be learning that however much "having a hammer makes every problem look like a nail", you don't solve political problems with a military solution

Tell that to the 100,000+ dead civilians in Iraq. To the residents of Falujah. To the hundreds of thousands who died during the regime of international sanctions imposed on Iraq between 1992 and 2003. Tell that to Iranians dying of cancer because they can't buy chemotherapy agents. Tell that to Afghans and Pakistanis traumarized by the endless whine of the "hornets" circling overhead and occasionally dropping missiles on wedding parties or funerals.

The midnight knock on the door is an ever-present concern for muslims living in the west; Beria's nostrum, "if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear, comrade," rings just as hollow sixty years later. Or go ask the families of the disappeared and dead in Mexico, victims of drug wars spawned as a side-effect of western foreign policy. Or ask Ken Sarowira's family in Nigeria.

I will concede that there is less of this shit than there was some decades ago, but it's still happening, and a lot of it is happening in our name.

223:

You've got to ask who is to blame here, the officials who deliberately mixed civilians with munitions

So the UK never made components for Mosquito fighter-bombers in furniture workshops? By 1945 everybody -- except possibly the USA -- was doing that. Distributing component production to small businesses and houses was a sensible way to reserve the big plants for final assembly. Moreover, countries that didn't have lots of spare land or the sort of zoning laws segregating factories from homes that are typical of the USA don't have the luxury of focussing production on huge plants.

And before you reply, Japanese houses were traditionally of wood and paper construction: deadly in a fire, but much safer than stone, brick or plaster in event of an earthquake.

Prior to surrender, the government also deliberately destroyed as many documents as they could (including things like the numbers of POWs they had killed), which strongly suggests to me that all this was done knowingly and deliberately.

Disagree. That shit is still happening today, care of the US military: note for example the decision made in 2002 not to count Iraqi casualties, and the savage institutional crucifixion of Bradley Manning for leaking material that, at worst, sparked democratic uprisings in authoritarian Arab states, and that documented actual war crimes by US forces.

224:

In general neither side of that war cared very much about civilian casualties. They did nto usually seek them out but they did not try to avoid them either

Disagree. Air Marshall "Bomber" Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, had a clear hard-on for inflicting mass civilian casualties on Germany. This was to some extent a reaction to the London blitz, but he was also a follower of Douhet's doctrine of aerial bombardment: he thought if he could just kill enough civilians, morale would crumble and Hitler would have to back off. As he wrote:

The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive...should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany ... the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.

I'd say that's your smoking gun right here: the chief of RAF Bomber Command was intentionally trying to cause mass civilian fatalities.

See also: Curtis LeMay adopting Harris' playbook over Japan in 1945 and dropping mixed white phosphorus, magnesium, and napalm payloads over residential areas made of wood and paper.

225:

What's Europe going to do when the Egyptian economy melts down? And the knock on effect of those waves of refugees?

Funny you should ask that.

About three quarters of the refugees trying to get into the EU are coming via south-east Europe -- across the Med and through the Balkans. Dealing with them legally falls on the shoulders of the nation they first enter. Which mostly means Greece. Who (a) don't have spare cash for feeding refugees, and (b) have a police force mostly consisting of supporters of Golden Dawn, whose armband logo isn't a swastika, honest, it just looks a bit like one by accident.

As for the nukes, you need to look north of Egypt and south of Lebanon to see the main owner of such items in that region. Pakistan's are pointed elsewhere, i.e. at India.

226:

The main port for Hiroshima is Kure, a few kilometres south-east of the city centre. It's a major ferry and cargo port and shipbuilding/repair facility as well as being a base for the Japanese Maritime SDF. It's also where the battleship Yamato was built in the early 1940s. It houses the Yamato and JMSDF museums at the waterfront. Kure is close enough to Hiroshima that the mushroom cloud was visible from there after the bombing.

227:

'I'd say that's your smoking gun right here: the chief of RAF Bomber Command was intentionally trying to cause mass civilian fatalities.'
Bomber Harris should have been removed. He was killing his own aircrew. And the area bombing policy revisited. There were people in office who were concerned about losses, effectiveness and civilian casualties. He ought to have been stopped. Causing mass casualties was never official stated policy.

228:

I'll take those in reverse order.

One is that I think we both agree. The parallels between Imperial Japan and modern Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine are hard to miss. I'm not interested in defending the way the US and its modern allies currently wage war, because it's f***in' hard to defend.

All this noise over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is over the hyper-simplistic notion that the two atomic bombs were atrocities out of scale with the destruction that had been raining down on Japan for months by that time. They weren't, and while I've grown to detest nuclear warheads in general and in particular, their use in WWII arguably kept the death toll down on both sides. The planning for Operation Downfall (and the planned Japanese defense) assumed that the bloodbath on both sides would be enormous, with millions of Japanese civilians and hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides dead. I'm glad we managed to avoid that.

What saddens me is that so many nations seemed to have learned the wrong lessons from the Japanese and the Germans: mix your war manufacturing in with your civilian sector, blur the lines between civilians and combatants, and cover up or destroy all evidence of what you did, because a paper trail will be used to hang you in case you lose (this is an unintended consequence of the laws of war). Americans do this too, now.

Yes, there can be good reasons to mix manufacturing in with civilians, but IIRC, the Japanese did it not just to make the manufacturing more efficient, but also to make the production lines harder to hit. IIRC, the Allies first went after the factories, but when they saw the equipment in the ruins of nearby homes, they extended the bombing targets, not that they had precise targeting to begin with.

Additionally, the Japanese had nothing like the fire fighting capability they needed to deal with the fire-bombs, even though they knew full well how flammable traditional Japanese construction methods are. They worked from the initial assumption that the Japanese homeland could never be attacked, and when it was attacked, they did little to beef up their infrastructure protection or to move non-combatants away from military targets, at least until they had to move people because nothing was left where they had lived.

One good question is, what "should" the Japanese have done? Aside from not arranging for a treaty right after Pearl Harbor as Yamamoto had suggested, they would have done far better with little things like negotiating an honorable surrender after Okinawa fell, respecting the Geneva Convention, even training their soldiers that surrender was acceptable. In other words, they should have acted like the Japanese army that won wide acclaim between 1890 and WWI for its excellent discipline, humanitarian treatment of those it defeated, and better adherence to the western laws of war than many European armies. That whole system of excellence was discarded in the 1920s, to be replaced by the fascist ideology of the 1930s, and we're talking about the results right now.

229:

"I'd say that's your smoking gun right here: the chief of RAF Bomber Command was intentionally trying to cause mass civilian fatalities."

ok i buy that.

230:

One good question is, what "should" the Japanese have done?

Not invading Manchuria would have been a good start. No, wait ...

The fact that it took just a decade or two for the Japanese army to go from adherence to the Geneva conventions to death marches and mass executions of prisoners should be a warning to us all. The German armies took somewhat longer to describe the same downward trajectory (from 1871 through to 1941). Which leaves me more than a little worried about the US army this decade.

231:


Trottelreiner @ 174
"Wahabi/Salafist islamicism is almost identical to Nazism in many respects ... which should answer your question?"

Greg, it's comments like this which remind me to ignore anything that you say.

232:

There was so much bombing because in the 1930's no one wanted to have people in the trenches like WW-1. Once they had the bombers they had to use them. I've read repeatedly that one Eastern European scientist invented the Bomb. Even got a patent on it. On the run from Hitler in England, he was in great fear the German science would make them. But nobody believed it could work. He finally talked Eisenstein into writing a letter to FDR. And that's what really got America into making the Bomb. Remember that old discarded key man theory of history? Bombing the UK into submission did not work. So why did Bomber Harris still act like it would work. on it. He even would not let his bombers to help with the war on subs at a time when England was almost out of food. And the Americans would not do what Harris wanted them to do. They used daytime bombing so they could see what they hit. At a great cost of their lives. American studies after the war showed that did not work ether. They would have been better of making more tanks ect. But who knew then? There was a costly struggle against against the Soviet Union that no one here wanted, because they kept lying, taking over other countries and killing lots of people. A good case can be made that good old Joe was worse than Hitler. Orwell said something about no matter who said it was still true. Just because the Right Wing said does not make it untrue.

233:

'He finally talked Eisenstein into writing a letter to FDR.'

Eisenstein the film director? I thought he'd been murdered in Mexico on the orders of Stalin.

234:

One good question is, what "should" the Japanese have done?

Not invading Manchuria would have been a good start. No, wait ...

The fact that it took just a decade or two for the Japanese army to go from adherence to the Geneva conventions to death marches and mass executions of prisoners should be a warning to us all. The German armies took somewhat longer to describe the same downward trajectory (from 1871 through to 1941). Which leaves me more than a little worried about the US army this decade.

Thank you sir, I couldn't have said it myself. I share the same concerns, with a fair amount of justification. To pick one example, drones, cool as they are, are even better at distancing the decision makers from the people their decisions kill. We've got ample evidence of what this can do in history, and people are right to be worried.

My only quibble I'd actually have replaced Manchuria with Korea, but that only highlights the fact that the ultra-nationalist secret societies that corrupted the Japanese democracy in the 1920s were already active (as in assassinating a Korean queen) in the 1890s. Ultra-nationalist secret societies in any country (cough, US right, cough) seem to cause more harm than good in the long run. Trouble, is, blinded by their ideology as they are, they're still as slippery as cockroaches and twice as scum sucking.

235:

Ahem. If you're going to post gibberish interspersed with wild statements, perhaps, instead of saying "I've read repeatedly", you could actually manage a citation.

Just the one. Just this once. (Oh, and from a credible source, given that if you look hard enough you can find people who think the Earth is flat and others that it is hollow.)

236:

These last thirty or so comments have been god-awful depressing. How does disarmament square with various flavors of the NPT? My own personal belief is that the justification is shifting from a genuine concern for 'rogue states' getting the bomb to a genuine concern that 'rogue states' will no longer be dependent on the Western powers to run their own nuclear programs. Again imho, why not accept, say, the Iranian accounts at face value and applaud them for the far-sightedness that is so lacking in the usual political discourse?

237:

Again imho, why not accept, say, the Iranian accounts at face value and applaud them for the far-sightedness that is so lacking in the usual political discourse?

One word: Realpolitik. (Okay, that's one word in German. So I cheated!)

Seriously, Benjamin Netenyahu has been braying that Iran was 18-36 months away from having an atom bomb since something like 1992. There is a political agenda at work here -- a fairly nasty one. Iran is the one regional power within threat range of Israel that isn't a basket case -- it actually has some industrial infrastructure and manufactures stuff -- and Iran has good and sufficient reason to bear a grudge against the west, for whom Israel often serves as a regional force-projection proxy. (Some reading on the 1953 Iranian coup d'etat is rewarding. Or on the disgraceful history of the D'Arcy oil concession and subsequent British and American meddling in Iranian politics.) Iranians aren't dumb and know the oil is going to run out sooner or later; leveraging their technical skills into building an indigenous carbon-neutral nuclear power grid is the sort of thing that we'd be applauding if they were a democracy in southern Europe.

Colonialism: the ideology that keeps of shambling in search of brains to chow down on a century after it should have died.

238:

When I say "we", I mean that we can be happy that in a UK (where there are demonstrably murderous people attempting to kill the greatest number of people in support of Al Qaeda's confused and insane perversion of religion), that we don't appear to have set up a police state in response. People who have demonstrably been planning murder have been arrested and tried, not killed resisting arrest. I doubt that British Muslims fear the knock at the door, any more than the British of Irish extraction did prior to 1996.

Given that we both think that the invasion of Iraq was lunacy on stilts (although I was persuaded at the time, I'm happy to admit I was wrong - perhaps having seen the films of Halabja, I was convinced of Saddam's willingness to gain power at any cost)....

You mention Fallujah, you express your concern as to whether the US armed forces are at risk of the same slide into barbarism as the Germans and Japanese; and yet I would point out that the vast majority of civilian deaths in Iraq were at the hands of other Muslims, and the killing done because the victim was the wrong type of Muslim. Or done at the hands of those who worked for Iranians that wanted their proxy to be a power player, andnot just the perceived US proxy. You mention fear of Afghanistan and UAV strikes, but fail to mention the Pakistani elite who support "their" fanatics in the name of regional power politics, or the Afghan locals who see accusations to the Allies as a way to settle local scores, or remove competitors in the drugs trade.

You mention Iranians suffering from sanctions, but shouldn't some of the blame lie at the door of a theocracy that brooks no challenge, murders its own citizens, and has a Holocaust denier as a frontman? You mention Iraqis dying because of the 92-03 sanctions regime, but shouldn't the blame lie at the door of a dictator who used chemical weapons on his own people as well as neighbours, and in between murdering Kurds, Marsh Arabs, and political opponents took the time to invade both Iran and Kuwait? What should be done about Iraq and Iran? If military action is off the table, and sanctions are so blunt as to hurt civilians, what do you advise? Appeasement? Are the North Koreans suffering more for our inaction, did the former Yugoslavs suffer more because of our partial refusal to add more weapons to the warring mix, will the Syrians suffer more because we won't supply armaments?

Yes, I cringe when I hear of civilians killed by careless use of lethal force - be that a drone strike, or the firing of white phosphorous into a built-up area. I feel ashamed by the murder of Baha Mousa by British soldiers. But I'm also impressed by how the US and UK troops on the ground behave for the most part, a decade into a fairly vicious insurgency war.

IMHO you shouldn't worry about the US Army turning into the 1941 Wermacht; I'd suggest that they've learned faster over the past decade, and had less institutional arrogance, than the British Army. Remember that what Bradley Manning copied was the investigation files of the US Army's own internal prosecution organisation...

239:

As far as the time-scale of countries turning bad goes, it's not hard to find examples from the German Army in 1914. There's a description in Tuchman's The Guns of August.

The Nazis were little worse than the Kaiser's Army in Belgium. It's the Holocaust that was the big difference. They took hostages and shot them in both wars (and this is prohibited by the Hague Conventions).

Hypothesis: the "bad" armies can get away with it for a long time.

As for the US Army, don't forget My Lai.

(Some US history, I reckon that WW2 was the exception, a momentary beacon before so much lapsed into the enduring shadows. Wounded Knee, and Strange Fruit, and all that.)

240:

In turn, I'd suggest that Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran have learned the wrong lessons from the Japanese and Germans of WWII. Statecraft is a true craft, and not everyone is a master.

In any case, there's a real concern, going forward, that the US is moving towards dependence on special forces and black ops. This is a mixed issue. On the one hand, I agree that there's a need for operational security and highly flexible, SWAT-style raids. On the other hand, black budgets are notorious for covering up waste, fraud, and abuse, because there's so little oversight. There's a great example of the problems at http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/.

On the more pernicious side, Japan got into trouble when secret groups within and outside the military started driving policy at a time when their democratic institutions were floundering. We could certainly get into that situation in the US, and right now, our (para)military could easily be reconfigured in a more Wehrmacht fashion. Abu Ghraib certainly demonstrated that.

I'm not being unduly alarmist here. Instead, I just happen to agree that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance by a lot of smart and ethical citizens. Sometimes (as I did with the Iraq war) it means protesting in the streets. Sometimes it means supporting their actions. To me, democracy means staying involved in governance as a citizen. It's tedious, frustrating work, but it is absolutely necessary.

241:

You mention Iranians suffering from sanctions, but shouldn't some of the blame lie at the door of a theocracy that brooks no challenge, murders its own citizens, and has a Holocaust denier as a frontman? You mention Iraqis dying because of the 92-03 sanctions regime, but shouldn't the blame lie at the door of a dictator who used chemical weapons on his own people as well as neighbours, and in between murdering Kurds, Marsh Arabs, and political opponents took the time to invade both Iran and Kuwait?

That's a vexing problem indeed.

However, it should be obvious that sanctions don't generally hurt the decision-makers at the top of an authoritarian state. Kim Jong-Un is not notably short of iPads, champagne, and Mercedes limousines. Rather, sanctions hurt the vast majority of the population who get no say in setting the policies that the sanctions purport to address. These are dictatorships, and people who speak up against government policy tend to be silenced rather brutally. Maybe sanctions would work against a democracy, or against something with democratic elements like pre-1991 South Africa (with a large white minority who could be affected by sanctions); but against dictatorships? A blockade on munitions would be a good idea, but throttling the supply of medicines and baby milk is just punishing the victims.

(I tend to disagree with you, incidentally, in your dismissal of the way the British state treats its minorities. There's a lot of very ugly shit slopping around the bottom of the social pyramid, and I will just note how interesting it is that when white supremacists get arrested in possession of explosives they usually get single-digit years in prison under Victorian statutes relating to noxious substances, rather than the full might of the post-9/11 terrorism laws. And then there was Lord Denning's defense of the conviction of the Birmingham Six. Institutional racism: we have it. Maybe not on the level of the American deep south, but it's still a profound national disgrace.)

242:

For all that it was a despicable act, My Lai wasn't a commonplace act.

Yes, Ernest Medina and William Calley should be remembered forever as murdering scum. But remember Hugh Thompson, Glenn Andreotta, and Lawrence Colburn - who turned their weapons on US troops rather than stand by and watch civilians be murdered.

Wounded Knee was repeated in countries around the new world, where settlers grabbed aboriginal land. Strange Fruit still grows on trees around the world, driven by religious difference as much as skin colour. The US has a lot to be ashamed of (as does Britain) but in my experience, the average US soldier is quite a decent type - they've stepped away from the extremes of the desensitising approach to training that they used when turning civilians into soldiers in the shortest possible time, while running a mass conscript army.

If you want an Army of murderers, IMHO you need several things:
- an ideology that regards "other" as subhuman (isolation and anti-intellectualism helps)
- a level of common purpose across the population (nationalism helps)
- unwillingness to question authority
- a conscript army, full of impressionable young minds (these tend to directive control, because of a lack of experienced leaders)
- psychopaths at the top of the hierarchy.

So no, I don't see the US as a "bad" army.

243:

I don't disagree with you ref our recent ugly past, and please don't think I'm dismissing our treatment of minorities - I'm just suggesting that British Muslims don't need to fear the 2am knock on the door. Yes, there are very ugly aspects to our immigration (or more accurately, our deportation) policy, driven by politics rather than pragmatism...

I'll see your Denning (thank you, the West Midlands Regional Crime Squad) and raise you Widgery. The 1970s were a different country; we've discussed the effect that Thatcher had on British society, but let's not forget exactly how bigoted 1970s Britain could be - "Love Thy Neighbour" was challenging television back then, but we've changed for the better in many ways.

Yes, we don't treat our minorities as well as we should, but we're a sight better than we were. Do we treat minorities better than Germany, where it took years to notice that extremists were killing Turks? Or France, where you hardly see a non-white face presenting TV? What about the USA, where mixed marriage is much rarer than the UK?

I agree that I live in a rather comfortable middle-class bubble, but that bubble is a lot less depressing than it was.

244:

I'll shut up after this, I promise :)

A blockade on munitions would be a good idea, but throttling the supply of medicines and baby milk is just punishing the victims.

Apart from the problem of dual use (fertilisers and explosives; insecticides and nerve agents; electronics for industry, or for guidance and targeting systems)...

I do wonder whether there was really a ban on importing medicines and baby milk, or whether there was a refusal to deal with the individuals making the profits from such trades. After all, any self-respecting dictatorship has to keep its supporters sweet somehow, giving a chosen few the monopoly on food and medicine lets them fleece the oppressed...

Or perhaps it's seen as forcing a tyranny to make a choice; given a sanctioned economy with limited resources, it either scales back its spending on its military and reallocates towards health and welfare, or it carries on screwing over the repressed to the point where they see through the propaganda. How many times has the outside world caved in to the North Korean elite knowing that it's the only way to get food to their starving? How much UN aid went to FRY militias, just so that fewer civilians would die that winter? Consider the callous use of starving refugees as cover, recruiting ground, and PR tool by the Rwandan genocidaires...

While I don't doubt that children died in Iraq for lack of food, the "it was sanctions that did it" does ring of an effective external propaganda effort by a regime that had stolen billions and could afford decent PR and the occasional MP willing to salute their indefatigability.

245:

actually, the taking of hostages has a long tradition, and the execution of hostages was only outlawed in 1949. hostages were also shortly used by the british against the boers, and in some colonial conflicts:

http://www.crimesofwar.org/a-z-guide/hostages/

also note

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostages_Trial

"Regarding hostage taking, the tribunal came to the conclusion that under certain circumstances, hostage taking and even reprisal killings might constitute an allowed line of action against guerilla attacks. In the tribunal's opinion, taking hostages (and killing them in retaliation for guerilla attacks) was subject to several conditions. The tribunal also remarked that both the British Manual of Military Law and the U.S. Basic Field Manual (Rules of Land Warfare) permitted the taking of reprisals against a civilian population. (The British manual did not mention killing, but the US manual included killing as a possible reprisal.) "

note, international laws of war were created by politicians and militaries who wanted to heighten their survival in wartime and seem as somewhat humane. enlightened sociopathy is better than the usual brutal variant, but it's still sociopathy. which is why i react somewhat cynical when people think some atrocity is against human rights...

246:

Do we treat minorities better than Germany, where it took years to notice that extremists were killing Turks? Or France, where you hardly see a non-white face presenting TV? What about the USA, where mixed marriage is much rarer than the UK?

I'll grant you the UK is a lot better than it was. But ...

The German neo-nazi cell that was killing Turks went unnoticed for a decade. We congratulate ourselves on that sort of thing not happening here ... but how do we know it isn't? I haven't looked into this in detail yet, but there's been a persistent problem in the UK with black males dying in police custody at an alarming rate. At a minimum it indicates a serious deficiency in custodial processes for looking after psychiatric/drug arrests -- a major breakdown in the application of the duty of care: at the worst, it could be a systematic problem with lethal abuse. Again: if there was a neo-nazi cell murdering non-white people in the UK, we would only know about it if it had been identified and investigated. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

(The German issue, AIUI, is a side-effect of a longer-term problem; East Germany never de-Nazified itself to any great extent, Communism provided a handy salvationist doctrine for those who wanted such, and the merger with the vastly more prosperous West Germany set the east up for any number of very long term problems. And the former GDR is, as far as I know, where the neo-nazi problem is focussed.)

247:

The sanctions problem is a hard one. There's no obvious easy solution that targets the decision makers but not the masses. (About the only feasible technique -- assassination -- has multiple serious drawbacks; it's draconian, it violates international law, and it levels the playing field as even a relatively poor nation can afford to field large numbers of assassins by way of retaliation. Best not to go there, short of an active state of war being declared.)

248:

Obligatory sci-fi exploration of the idea: Poul Anderson's "A Man To My Wounding", which deals with a world where "politics by other means" means declared "states of assassination" rather than war - and where there's been a sudden theoretical breakthrough in targetting doctrine.

249:

well, there are other ways to boil up paranoia levels beside assasination attempts. e.g. the strangely specific and repetitive denial.

"we have no indication the general is plotting against the president. he hasn't been in talks with agents from our side. there was no meeting between him and our section chief when he was unaccounted for 1 hour en route to pancho mala last friday from 12 to 13 o'clock. there is no plan to use the b-3 bomber."

problem is, if the fate of chrustchev vs. stalin is any indication, homocidal maniac is not that indicative of short political survival.

250:

I don't get your Kruschev/Stalin point.

Stalin: had a stroke, died of hypothermia hours later -- everybody was terrified of intervening and failing to save him, or worse, of saving him and being blamed (hemilateral paralysis is a bitch). He died because everyone around him was terrified.

Kruschev: led a much more collegiate regime, attempted reform, downsized the gulag. Yes, he came up through the Party under Stalin and participated in the terror, but once in the driving seat he walked everything back. When his agricultural reforms tanked, the conspirators working against him -- effectively an intra-party coup d'etat -- who had also come up under Stalin, decided to set a precedent: and so K was deposed and sent into internal exile, but given a relatively cushy sinecure (managing a power station in Siberia, IIRC). It sure beat the Beria option (a bullet in the back of the skull) and, again, ramped down the internal fear and loathing at the top of the party by demonstrating that even if you were deposed in a coup, you could expect to be treated relatively mercifully.

Most people, even totalitarian political leaders, want to die peacefully in bed surrounded by their loved ones and friends, rather than going out like Hitler or Stalin.

251:

There's a UK entertainer called Derren Brown, who is extremely good at covertly manipulating people.

Now I know it's a TV act and there are limits to this, in principle it's extremely difficult but not impossible to manipulate hostile groups more effectively and with better outcomes than an assault, sanctions or assassinations.

I suspect that's the long-term future of "conflict" - the ancient art of making friends with people and giving them really bad advice.

252:

What impresses me about Thompson and his crew as well as their obvious decency and heroism is the far wider issue that he and his crew were part of a large group of people with a great deal in common and a generally shared ethical system.

Yet Thompson and his crew chose to act in a way that was different from the group. The Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments that everyone here is familiar with show that this sort of thing is rare. No matter what any of us think if we'd been there on the day, most of us would have gone along with the group or at best stood aside or "fired to miss"?

253:

well, the idea was that in spite of the terror etc., afair there was no coup against stalin, in contrast to krushev. and stalin was in it for nearly 30 years, compared to 11 for krushev. even though the economic in the ussr was worse under stalin than under krushev, afair there was no hunger catastrophe with krushev.

something similar has been described with haiti and some african countries, where the economically successful ones lead to higher education and new elites that became discontent, while haiti had neither and stayed the same.

if you look at the respective final fates of stalin and krushev, that might be somewhat different, of course, still, i'm not that sure which message dictators take away from it.

so, creating a paranoical homicidal maniac might be the final straw for an overthrow, but it might also mean we get an especially efficient paranoical homicidal maniac like stalin.

i somewhat wonder if some of the guys in the arab world were or are some of those, and how much of the problems we see at the moment e.g. in egypt are just an effect of things getting somewhat better. there is one school of thought that something similar happened with the race riots in the usa in the 60s.

on a more general scene, note that at least in germany, the leftist terrorists of the raf etc. formed in relation to a coalition gouvernment of social democrats and liberals, not the christian democrats. and the french revolution was with a somewhat liberal king. which, alas, were some of the things leo strauss took some lessons from. the false ones, btw.

to make a long story short, i think the relation between "political liberties, human rights and economic status" and stability is somewhat u-shaped. in contrast to what some neocons might think, i guess at the higher end liberty and stability are somewhat positively correlated. problem is, in the lower reaches, that is not necessarily so, and at some point, there might be a negative correlation.

254:

I said:
Whereas the US started the switch to all possible production to military needs around December 8th or 9th of 1941.

You said:
The US did not switch instantly to munitions production. We kept producing consumer goods while we first build the munitions factories and the increased primary industrial facilities we needed.

Yes. Tanks didn't roll of the auto lines on December 8. But the US government committed to a wartime economy from day one. And as needs were assessed orders were placed and consumer goods production was converted. And rationing was put into place for almost all consumer goods. Even those that didn't need to be rationed. The point being to impress on everyone that it was a total effort.

Germany waited till 43 or 44 to even start the switch to a total war economy.

255:

To understand the reason why, it is necessary to examin the origins of that myth of Western purity.

I never ever have argued that the west was pure in any endevors. All I've felt is once you're in a war you do what is needed to win. Assuming you are not just in it to beat the crap out of someone. And WWII was not that. As to the war crimes trials against the Axis powers, well the victors got to write the rules. And they put their thumb on the scales. But not totally. Germany and Japan had as a goal the slavery and/or extermination of entire ethnic/national groups. And pursued these goals with a vengeance.

Paraphrasing a line from Chinatown II, ABICR, "The allies were the lepers with the most fingers."

And given the expected causualty reports from an allied invasion of Japan (on both sides) the A bombs were very effective in reducing the deaths to end the war.

As to negotiations. The Japanese military (army mostly?) were brutish racist thugs who treated non Japanese as sub human objects to be used up and thrown away. Compared to Germany they got a pass for what they did in China, Korea, and other conquered areas plus the way they dealt with prisoners.

How do you negotiate with people who think of you as sub human?

256:

One good question is, what "should" the Japanese have done? Aside from not arranging for a treaty right after Pearl Harbor as Yamamoto had suggested,

They SHOULD have launched the rest of the attack and bombed the fuel depot and dry docks and such. If they had done this and lost all 4 carriers doing it they would have been in so much better shape than they were by leaving those facilities intact.

257:

Institutional racism: we have it. Maybe not on the level of the American deep south

I don't know if you know it or not. The major regional differences in racism in the US were that in the south the politicians and white folks were honest about it. In the rest of the country they did the same stuff and just pretended they didn't.

258:

well, the problem with albert speer is i wouldn't trust him as far as i could throw göring on his fat morphine junkie days. for starters, he was involved with the kz worker system and still said he knew nothing about the holocaust. which imho would boil down the posibilities of him being either an idiot or a liar.

Well it's been 25 years or more since I read his books and I don't have time to re-read hundred's of pages. But AIR once in prison for a few years he basically wrote, that he did it, he was guilty and he deserved what he got. And was lucky he wasn't executed. And I have a fuzzy memory of him saying he didn't know about a lot of things due to willful ignorance.

My memory is that he said the power and ego trip got to him and that others in similar situations should listen to his story.

But then again my memories are 25 years old and I'm not the same person I was then. A marriage and 2 grown kids later, a lot of my brain has been altered in the 25 years. :)

259:

Actually, I don't know that. IIRC, our president is black, and a majority of people (50.6%) voted for him over a very white man with a stable marriage.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/election-map-2012/president/

That's except in the South and some other places.

While I agree that racism isn't confined to the South, I think it's dishonest to say that southern politicians are simply mouthing what everyone feels.

Try providing some evidence before smearing the rest of us with that, um, stuff. Okay?

260:

Charlie @238 and 244

Sanctions don't affect the dictator at the top of the pyramid or their immediate family. But they do affect the army, the secret police, and the mid level bureaucrats. And for the most part the effect is to make them uncomfortable and aware that life would be better without the Glorious Leader, while not inflicting sufficient actual physical harm to unite them behind the Glorious Leader in revenge.

They also interfere with the propaganda and cult of personality that dictators rely on, especially these days. It's hard to argue that the Glorious Leader has saved the nation when TV and the Internet show what the neighbours have and you don't. (A big problem for North Korea now.)

And perhaps equally important sanctions are fairly non-corrosive to the societies applying them. (You could argue that showing a willingness to give up money for a cause shows social progress.) It does seem that sanctions generally don't encourage the downward slide of military behaviour that drone assassinations or outright invasions do.

A strict reading of the UN charter is that as long as a government doesn't invade others, it can do what it damn well pleases to the inhabitants. If doing nothing isn't acceptable, sanctions do seem like the best alternative.


261:

Charlie @234 wrote with respect to Iran
Colonialism: the ideology that keeps of shambling in search of brains to chow down on a century after it should have died.

It's the fault of the west that the government of Iran imprisons trade unionists?
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/30/iran-new-arrests-labor-activists

Or harasses gays and transgenders?
http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/15/iran-discrimination-and-violence-against-sexual-minorities

Anti-colonialism or anti-imperialism is not an excuse either.

262:

While I agree that racism isn't confined to the South, I think it's dishonest to say that southern politicians are simply mouthing what everyone feels.
Try providing some evidence before smearing the rest of us with that, um, stuff. Okay?

First off I used the past tense verb. Second I didn't say everyone. But I've lived in Ky, Penn, Conn, and NC. And I have friends who've lived in many other non southern and southern locals. Including the south side of Chicago and Detroit.

My point was not that everyone was a racist. Just that people in the south WERE more likely to admit to it.

But to be honest racism has seemed to be fairly uniform across the country in practical terms based on what I and my friends has seen/experienced. And that's not to say there are may pockets (some large) where racism is not much of an issue.

Oddly, here in the what was Jessie Helms central I was at an event this weekend that was mostly medical doctors and students. And there were several black-white couples and a dozen or so white/european-asian couples. This with less than 150 total people. Most if not all of these "mixed" appeared to be under 35.

263:

Well, I'd just be somewhat cautious when using Albert Speer as a source. Just as with all sources, of course. Sadly, I don't know if anybody has compared his books with actual economic statistics.

If we go for the factory metaphor, a friend of yours has a factory, his primary ceo dies in a somewhat strange accident, and you take over his job. 3 years later, the factory is going down in a torrent of enemy takeovers and legal measures. Now you write a book about it. I wouldn't be that surprised if you emphasized the incompetence of your predecessor and your co-workers and the positive impact of your ideas. Just an idea, and sadly, I've lost touch with the old WW2-afficionado/RPG/lan party crowd, so I'm not that up-to-date. Maybe I should change that...

As for Speer's creative use of, err, truth and truthiness, we could go with one of those who initially bought into his claim of being the "gentleman nazi", e.g. a German conservative historian called Joachim Fest who helped somewhat with Speer's autobiography and later wrote a biography of Hitler[1]:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_Fest

Still later, in 1999, he wrote his own Speer biography, "Speer: The final Verdict". And just a little later, shortly before his death in 2006, in 2005, there was an interview where he said he felt cheated by Speer about his knowledge and role in the Holocaust. Now all the fires of hell don't burn as hot as broken friendship, still, it indicates there might be some questions. There have also been some new sources, e.g. Wolters, an old underling of Speer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Wolters

Now, err, please remember, we're speaking about two seperate categories here, that Speer was complicit in the expropriation of Berlin Jews says something about his character, but it doesn't mean you can't use him as a source for economics. Actually, books by people with good characters are usually somewhat uninteresting, just as all happy families are alike.

The problem is that if I go with these allegations, he told some lies in the same text we use as a source for his economics. In this context, it doesn't matter if he had a threesome with Eva Braun and Mrs. Goebbels and told he didn't even know them or was the one who came up with the ideas of gas chambers, it just means we have caught him lying once, who's to say there are not more lies?

As an aside, it's always fun when some moral authority on the "German Left" has some skeletons in the closet, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Günter_Grass#Waffen-SS_revelations

And don't say he was conscripted, the guys he criticized were, too...

[1] One of his last works was about the last days of Hitler in the bunker. Which, alas was one of the sources one Bernd Eichinger used when writing a screenplay for a film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel called "Downfall", with Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler not so subtle loosing it. The rest is Internet history...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBO5dh9qrIQ

264:

I do see your point. But I've better things to do with my live than keep years of stacks of paper. I did try that but.. If I'm wrong I'm wrong. Where was I wrong?

265:

Actually, the immediate power structure will get somewhat priviledged treatment, not to the same extent as the elite, but still. Which means they will be loyal to the inner elite, since with any change, they will loose these privileges and likely face some reprisal. Also note that competition for privileges in the structure might make rule and divide an option.

The mass of the people won't be priviledged, they will just try to get on and be too tired to revolt. The sanctions also mean that there is little international commerce and few industries, so we have less people with international connections and education is not that important for skilled workers. Which also means a small middle class where, as we all know from Goldstein, revolutionaries are usually from this one. No, Fidel Castro's family were not exactly poor peasants. If there is any opposition, the lack of international connections means no diplomacy, no possibility to express one's side and, in the worst case scenario, some problems with organizing weapons etc. No need for education and general poverty has the nice side-effect that people don't even know it could be different, so the situation stays static.

If any of these is going to change, expect the population getting pulled kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat, e.g. a bloody revolt. Which, as an enlightened dictator, give you the added benefit of calmly saying "told you so, some people are just not fit for democracy and freedom" etc.

Oh, and you can explain your own economic incompetence with the sanctions, play the ethnic identity[1] card and label opponents as traitors.

I better stop this before I start fantasize about guys I want to see hanging from a crane again. Note I'm somewhat quoting Luttwak's "Coup D'Etat" on Haiti with some updates here, so the analysis might be flawed.

[1] what e.g. "different kind of Muslims" boils down to

266:

Further on #201 para 3 - Even before the "new" shopping centre was built, and the Singer sewing maching factory replaced by modern "industrial units", Clydebank was notable and unique amongst Clydeside communities for the lack of 1880s through 1945 buildings.

267:

#248 Para 1 - He's so good at manipulating people that he's managed to manipulate me, for one, into never watching any show that I know in advance that he's appearing on.

268:

Another drawback to assassinations -- sooner or later, you may want to make peace with somebody.

AIUI Israel has been assassinating senior Hamas leaders for some time, and the successors are younger, (even) angrier, and lacking in personal authority. So Hamas has no equivalent of Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness who might see the advantages of peace and have the ability to bring the rest of the organisation with him.

269:

Given that Hamas was covertly supported by Mossad during its infancy in the 1980s in order to undermine Fatah, the irony here is so heavy one could use it as ballast.

Luckily it appears that the Israeli political elite this decade don't want to negotiate -- they're just going through the motions for the peanut gallery while they build out the settlements in Bantustan. So they're not feeling any nostalgia for that nice Mr Arafat ...

270:

decicco.barry @ 228
Really?
Women’s place is church/children/kitchen – check
Kill all the jews – check
Our pure new way is better than decadent Western modernism – check
We want plenty of living space (Lebensraum) (this time around it’s everything ever “controlled” by islam) – check
We need a strong central leader - the “caliph” this time – check?
Sound familiar to you?

Charlie @ 238/244 & others
Indeed.
What DOES one do about sanctions/
It appears ( I stress appears) to have finally had an effect on Burma, but other places? I wonder, but there is the pressure to do SOMEWTHING about awful regimes that do ghastly things to their own populace & also threaten others. Er, um, N Korea.
[ I think the solution there was posited by John Brunner in “Who steals my purse” … but we’d have to get the PRC Air-force to fly cover over our transports doing the food-drops … ]

David L @ 252
Agreed - to the point that the Japs in China were so bad that you got people like The good Nazi of Nanking John Rabe, emerging. A neglected figure.
… & @ 255
Speer was also prey (as many of us are) to self-delusion, as well as the appalling groupthink that seemed to afflict not only the Nazis, but also the Imperial General Staff of Germany in 1911-14.

Heteromeles @ 256
Actually, your president is medium BROWN…. (ahem)

Trottelreiner @ 262
Funny that, how many more muslims are being killed by other muslims, for being the wrong type, that are ever even scratched by “the West”.
Just like the European 15-16th C “Wars of Religion” – which isn’t surprising, actually.


Charlie @ 266
Indeed, the current Israeli “leadership” seem to be making the same classic mistakes that some of their OT forebears did.
I mean, a Jewish state, failing to learn from history – you what?
In spite of a huge & vocal minority (but still, apparently a minority, unfortunately) wanting a proper land-for-peace deal …..

271:

Racism colours the worldview of racists, but it rarely isolates them completely from reality (remember: it is hard to take both power, and leave of one's senses). To give you an example, the French were pretty racist about the Viet-Namese and the Algerians; it didn't prevent them from recognising that they couldn't stay in Indochina after losing the war; and even didn't prevent them from recognising that they couldn't stay in Algeria after *winning* that war.

So, to answer about Japan, the Allies could have seated with the Japanese, carry out precision strikes to make points and obliterate the remaining assets of Japan, pointed out the Soviet advances, and manœuvered to favour those Japanese officials that had a grip on reality. The American had broken the Japanese codes and used it to great affect for military advantage, just not for diplomacy; they could have done much better to save Human lives if they had cared.

Nobody really intended to actually invade Japan; sure, plans were layed out and the grunts on the ground probably did believe they were in for that, but to anyone with an office and a map, it should have been clear that for Japan, even an attempt a last stand was hopeless. The firebombing of Japan was a war crime, so were the nuclear bombings; and saying that atomising Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved thousands of GIs (and, suddenly, thousands of those Japanese civilians that it's OK to boil alive in their own rivers...) from an invasion is a fallacy similar to wearing a purple hat in Mayfare to scare off crocodiles.

I'll grant you that American officials might have been themselves in a similar position to Japanese officials, overhauled by their own racist and infuriated populace, which had been drugged on propaganda for years ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Anti-Japanese_propaganda : it's not all quite politically-correct).
The problem is that just like naval aviation, codebreaking or combined arms, diplomacy is a technique to advance one's purposes; by framing it like it is abiding the enemy, the USA deprived themselves from a useful tool. It is a great US weakness to this day.

@239 "For all that it was a despicable act, My Lai wasn't a commonplace act": just YES IT WAS.
http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2013/04/25/review-nick-turses-kill-anything-that-moves-the-real-american-war-in-vietnam/


272:

Whilst I'm having breakfast....


"There was so much bombing because in the 1930's no one wanted to have people in the trenches like WW-1."

Not according to anything I have read; the bombing of cities came about long after the armies had ceased to have direct contact, and was done deliberately to flatten cities, the discredited "area bombing" strategy.

"Once they had the bombers they had to use them."
A truism worth no further comment.

"I've read repeatedly that one Eastern European scientist invented the Bomb. Even got a patent on it."
Not according to anything I have ever read. The bomb was not the work of one man alone.

"On the run from Hitler in England, he was in great fear the German science would make them. But nobody believed it could work. He finally talked Eisenstein into writing a letter to FDR."

Firstly, you mean Einstein, secondly you appear to be misremembering, he merely signed the letter, which was written by Leo Szilard, a Hungarian scientist who had patented the idea of a neutron chain reaction for power production. However he later assigned it to the BRitish Navy to maintain secrecy, and had been in England since 1933, so not exactly on the run from Hitler although he was worried the Germans would build a bomb.

"And that's what really got America into making the Bomb."
The letter is part of the story for the begining of the Manhattan project, but not the whole story, there were other things working towards it and various people pushing for it, hence to say that's what really got America into the bomb is simplistically wrong.


"So why did Bomber Harris still act like it would work."
Because he was wedded to outdated military doctrine and wanted revenge on the germans, and he was encouraged by the fact that at the time it appeared to many people that bombing was the only way to hit back at Germany.

"They used daytime bombing so they could see what they hit. At a great cost of their lives. American studies after the war showed that did not work ether."

Not exactly. The studies showed that bombing wasn't as effective as claimed, especially area bombing but then that was kind of known of during the war. Rather what really worked was true strategic bombing e.g. of synthetic oil plants and Romanian OIl fields and railway junctions and suchlike. This sort of thing materially helped the course of the war, the problem being that it took so long to get round to it. Also the American bombers stopped losing planes in daylight raids once they had long distance fighters.


"There was a costly struggle against against the Soviet Union that no one here wanted, because they kept lying, taking over other countries and killing lots of people."
I don't understand this bit it makes no sense to me, you need to explain when and who you are referring to.

"A good case can be made that good old Joe was worse than Hitler. Orwell said something about no matter who said it was still true. Just because the Right Wing said does not make it untrue."
This too lacks a comprehensible point.

273:

"Kill all the jews – check (...) We want plenty of living space (Lebensraum) (this time around it’s everything ever controlled” by islam) – check"

Oh, please. I can do that with pro-Israeli Christian fundamentalists. Comparisons are supposed to enlighten; that is treating them as an end in themselves and twisting reality around the comparison to make it fit. There is nothing remotely pertinent in comparing modern-day Jihadism with the Third Reich.

Remember two things:
1) "Nazi" and "pedophile" are the ultimate meaningless insult of modern times. In the 16th century it would have been "witch", and in the 18th, "parricide". If your aim is not to look delightfully dated to future archeologists, don't use these.
2) Many modern International Relation manual begin in 1945; that is because to present-time officials and deciders, the Second World War is relevant only in the background it defined. In other words, the modern world started in 1945, and the Nazis are dead and irrelevant for any actual purpose other than historiography. Any commentary on modern politics that alludes to them is just noise.

274:

How about, instead of saying there was this guy who patented the nuclear bomb, you actually point us at a source?

(Your apparent inability to name the most famous physicist of all time didn't help you credibility.)

For instance, Leó Szilárd got a patent on chain reactions back in 1936, though it was years before he actually got one to work. That's not a patent on the Bomb itself, but perhaps that's what you were thinking of.

275:

cahth3iK @ 270
I also suggest you look up the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (finally left Berlin in February 1945 IIRC) & his connections in both directions ....
And, having personally encountered Hizd-ul-tahrir (before they were banned) I can tell you that they really are not nice to know.
So, sorry, but the most extreme islamicists really DO tick the box for Nazis ....

Any commentary on modern politics that alludes to them is just noise.
Really?
Sure of that?
We have a political party here called the BNP & a predecessor called the NF, both of which had their origins in the pre-war British Union of Fascists.
There ARE real (very small, usually & fortunately) Nazi movements out there. Are you now claiming that they are figments of my imagination?

276:

I know of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. So what? Gandhi wrote a letter of congratulations to Hitler, that did not make him a Nazi. Germany was an international player and it is not unexpected for other players to try and take advantage of common enemies -- in this instance the commons enemy was the British Empire. Incidentally, you are not trying to insinuate that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had anything to do with modern jihadism, are you?

Jihadists are nothing like National-Socialists. For a start, Jihadists are internationalists, they do not believe in national boundaries and are in fact extremely tolerant towards foreigners, as long as they convert to Islam (see Jason Burke's "Al Qaida"). They are also not racist. Their anti-semitism is rooted in religion and geo-strategic frustrations rather than in some mystical arbitrary notion of "races".

Seriously, you hate Nazis and jihadists. Congratulation, I don't like either myself. But that's about the only thing they have in common.

277:

PS: the central kernel of Nazi ideology is actually the "Völklisch" movement. You do find Nazis who were only mildly interested in persecuting Jews, but they all shared a mythical and grandiose notion of the origins of Germany. I've never caught al-Zawahiri ranting about proto-pagan northern folklore, and I have the distinct feeling that it wouldn't fare very well as a conversation topic with him.

278:

So, to answer about Japan, the Allies could have seated with the Japanese, carry out precision strikes to make points and obliterate the remaining assets of Japan

Precision strikes were tried. They didn't work. Fighters could not escort bombers to Japan due to distance. And the jet stream made high altitude PRECISION bombing a joke. So they switch to night time (to avoid Japanese fighters) area fire bombing.

And as others have pointed out much of Japan's assets that were spread out into civilian housing and such.

Also just who were the allies supposed to sit down with? Again as others have pointed out even suggesting such a thing on the Japanese side of things would likely get you shot.

Nobody really intended to actually invade Japan; sure, plans were layed out and the grunts on the ground probably did believe they were in for that, but to anyone with an office and a map, it should have been clear that for Japan, even an attempt a last stand was hopeless.

Excuse me? What were all those supplies being shipped to the area for? Recreational training? There was so much stuff like jeeps that when the war did end it was dumped into the Pacific to keep it from depressing the peace time auto industry.

Marshall did express reservations about keeping the US public support during such an invasion with the expected losses but that not the same as not planning the invasion.

As to Japan and hopeless causes everything prior to the end of the war indicated they didn't care. When you are taught that surrender is much worse than suicide and really believe it why would you ever negotiate a peace that dismantled the military?

I think you, as are many others these days, looking back at 1945 Japan as if it's 2013 Japan with lower tech. It wasn't in any way shape or form.

279:

That story about the Japanese being incapable of surrendering is just a canard. For a start, they DID surrender. If their education had brainwashed them to the point that is often stated, the nuclear strikes should have just been only one of the means to effect the genocide that was the only possible outcome of the war. If you can shock someone into talking with nuclear strikes, you can probably shock them in other ways.

Again, the Americans could read Japanese communications. Their lack of understanding of Japanese officials is just weird; while the convenience of stopping the Soviets in their tracks and showing off to them was just too great.

"What were all those supplies being shipped to the area for?":
capability does not imply intention. In any case, there was no reason to keep all the personel unoccupied; giving the impression that an invasion was forthcoming, or at least possible, both to Americans and to Japanese, was sufficiently useful to warrant these efforts. It also built an actual force to carry out the actual invasion if, by extraordinary chance, it had turned out to be necessary. But I'm really not convinced that anyone seriously had the intention to do it.

280:

PS: this said, I hear your caution about anachronic notions on national politics. I just think that if I sin in this respect, it'd be more by thinking of 1945 United States as setting the background and as a precursor for McCarthyism, for Viet-Nam and even for the USA of the 2000s.

281:

PPS: as for precision bombing, you do not do that with B-29s. They are not made for that. But you can with carrier-based bombers. In 1945, there were US carriers sailing so ridiculously close to Japan that USS "Franklin" was almost sunk by a lone Japanese bomber. The Americans with a grip on things were not terrified of the Japanese; if anything, this sort of mistake indicates that they were a bit overconfident.

They could have moved these ships to a safe, militarily sensible distance, and launched airstrikes against things like shipyards. In 1945, Japan still have capital ships afloat; they certainly lacked the ammunitions, fuel and support to be of any usefulness militarily speaking, but they were still there -- which should be a hint that something else was considered a more tempting target.

282:

#275 and #278 - Ok, I'll give you that they were only bombing from about 20_000 feet (so below the jet stream) but 9 sqdn and 617 sqdn RAF both carried out precision raids against Germany in 1944 and 45, using very similar technology to the B-29 for navigation and bomb-aiming.

Following one raid, it was observed that 617 needed a means of de-synchronising their bombsights, in order to stop them dropping all the bombs into a single hole!

From a contemporary Japanese account of the Hiroshima raid (IIRC Saburo Sakai) "I saw a single B-29 with no escorts, and wished I'd had fuel for my 'plane... a single large bomb fell from the B-29, and exploded wit a blinding light at about 5_000 feet"

283:

First off, cahth3ik, please read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_downfall and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan. These are good summaries. I know it's fun arguing from ignorance, but you need to learn this history. Logic won't help you when you argue from ignorance and false assumptions.

Here's what happened to get Japan to the point of surrendering: after the Nagasaki bombing and Soviet declaration of war (August 9), the Emperor ORDERED the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (the 6-man leadership of Imperial Japan) to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. They had real trouble obeying this order. Why? "For the Japanese, surrender was unthinkable—Japan had never been invaded or lost a war in its history." (from the Wikipedia article) Only one member of the Supreme Council wanted to surrender on August 9. Despite this order from the Emperor, they continued to debate what to do until August 15.

The Emperor then faced an attempted military coup (August 12-15) by up to 1000 officers (led by a major) who thought the emperor's acts were dishonorable and wanted to quash the surrender before it was transmitted.

On August 14, the Allies detected increased military radio traffic (remember that cracking the coded messages took time), and in the absence of any sign of a surrender, commenced the largest shore bombardment and B-29 daylight raids to that date. The only reason to bring this up is that you seem to think that the atomic bombs were the biggest blows of the war. Japan received something like 153,000 tons of conventional bombs over the course of the war. The two atomic bombs were the equivalent of 37,000 tons of conventional explosive. They were horrible weapons, but they were less than 20% of the total aerial bombardment. Thinking they were special and different misses the true size of the bombardment.

On August 15, after the plotters had been defeated, the Imperial surrender was broadcast. It had been recorded on a record and smuggled out of the beseiged palace to the radio stations. Here's the Wikipedia summary of what happened next:

"The low quality of the recording, combined with the archaic court Japanese used by the Emperor in the Rescript, made the recording very difficult to understand for most listeners. Public reaction to the Emperor's speech varied–many Japanese simply listened to it, then went on with their lives as best they could, while some Army and Navy officers chose suicide over surrender. At a base north of Nagasaki, some Japanese Army officers, enraged at the prospect of surrender, pulled some 16 captured American airmen out of the base prison and hacked them to death with swords. A large, weeping crowd gathered in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, with their cries sometimes interrupted by the sound of gunshots as military officers present committed suicide."

So David is much closer to right than you are. The fortunate thing is that along with death over surrender, the entire military ran on the idea that all orders were given as if they were given by the emperor himself. When the emperor ordered surrender, their choices were to A) obey and surrender, B) argue if they were powerful enough (the council of six), C) commit suicide, or D) disbelieve the order. All four choices were followed (they fought the Soviets into September, and the last Japanese holdout in the Philippines surrendered in December 1974). Fortunately most chose option A.

But again, go read those two articles and learn.

284:

"no one wanted to have people in the trenches like WW-1." Using bombers to to avoid trenches came from Douhet's 1939 doctrine of aerial bombardment bombardment. Most of the Air Forces jumped on it so they could finally do something that made a difference. And to get money to make bombers. The trenches were still fresh in ever ones minds. Anything to avoid that seemed to be good. ...A after the war study showed that after the Brits bombed out the middle of a city, the workers came out and went to work in war plants. Their production rose after the bombings. But who knew then...."Americans would not do what Harris wanted them to do. They used daytime bombing" still true. its also true they still killed lots of people, but they tried....The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem started the the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem had anything to do with modern jihad on Jews. Once something starts its hard to stop.

285:

For a start, calling your interlocutor ignorant is not a good rhetorical technique to convince them. Then again, I have read more than Wikipedia articles on the subject.

I do not understand your point about conventional bombs. I said that the nuclear bombings were war crimes and were probably avoidable; I said the same thing of the massive firebombing of cities. You appear to be addressing a straw man.

Yes there were impressive displays in the populace and in the military, but none of that is a proof that it would have been impossible to convince these people of the necessity of a surrender. It is what happened in the end: Japan DID surrender. I see no reason to think that the nuclear bomb had something magical in them that made the impossible possible. Japan was doomed since Pearl Harbour, intelligent people knew it, and as the war unfolded this knowledge infused in more and more people; there is no reason why Japan would not have surrendered eventually. The statement that nuclear bombings saved lives is rooted in contemporary US propaganda.

286:

well, in byzanz, the defining characteristic in urban violence was belonging to different sport fan groups...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nika_riots

(come to think about it, are we there again?)

as hinted at, i don't see that much of a difference between the western secular concept of ethnic groups and "different kind of muslim". the results are similar, at least.

sorry, but to quote erich kästner, seen by light, man is still the old ape.

287:

Japan was doomed since Pearl Harbour, intelligent people knew it, and as the war unfolded this knowledge infused in more and more people; there is no reason why Japan would not have surrendered eventually.

I admire your optimism and humanity, but feel it to be naive and unsupportable in the face of history.

In every single engagement, right up to the end of the war, the Japanese armed forces demonstrated that the vast majority would not surrender at all - let alone "eventually". Japanese soldiers would die rather than surrender, kill rather than capture; they fought on while suffering from starvation, frequently to the last round and man. They regarded suicide attacks as an entirely reasonable tactic. They did so in the face of certain defeat, on every front, in every battle, against every enemy.

Consider specifically the example made by the capture of Okinawa in April 1945. Please note that the Okinawa prefecture has an ongoing argument with the Japanese central government over the wording of textbooks; the Okinawans want to keep making it clear that the Japanese Army had forced Okinawan civilians to perform mass suicides.

So: faced with "maybe, eventually" a surrender, and "definitely, right now" statistics from the Battle of Okinawa - no other choice was sensible, and the quickest end to the war would result in the least deaths.

You believe this to be propaganda; then please tell us how many civilians would have died by starvation once the military took their food (as demonstrated on Okinawa). How many civilians would have been pressed into service as human shields (as demonstrated on Okinawa) or forced to suicide (as demonstrated on Okinawa). The invasion of that one island cost between 50,000 to 150,000 civilian deaths. Why should the defeat of the Home Islands cost any fewer?

It's not even a simple choice of "let's not target civilians". Even in mid-1945 the Japanese controlled millions of civilians in Burma, China, and Korea, as well as tens of thousands of prisoners of war (I take it you are aware of how appallingly they treated local labour and Allied PoWs on the Burma railway). They made extensive use of forced labour (causing 80% death rates in some cases), not to mention the "comfort women". Why should the civilians and forced labourers in occupied territories suffer another year at the hands of the Japanese Army, so that the Allies could avoid having to bomb the heart out of the Japanese war economy?

288:

Somewhere in Tacitus, the Annals (of Rome), I think, there's a deadpan and offhand reference to riots and fighting between fans of rival ballet dancers.

Nothing as serious as the Nika riots but several members of the Urban Cohorts and, I think, a centurion were killed in attempting to control the disorder.

Apropos of nothing at all, but I always smile to think of it. Fighting between fans of rival ballet dancers, that's what I call a civilisation.:)

289:

Again, the Americans could read Japanese communications. Their lack of understanding of Japanese officials is just weird;

I'm constantly amazed how people think that 20/20 hindsight should give the same results as "head of the moment" analysis. Especially between two societies as different as the US/Europe and Japan.

Espcially in the days before the internet and TV and such. There was very little cross cultural interchange back in the 30s and 40s. And many of the "experts" brought a lot of baggage to the table.

PS: Most of the Japanese leaders had no idea how the US would respond to the war either.

290:

The proportion of military personel on Okinawa was not typical of a society. Indeed, the fact that some soldiers found it necessary to coerce civilians into suicide or to directly kill them is an indication that these civilians had not lost their will to live. Okinawa was a noteworthy and traumatising incident, but it cannot be considered typical.

In any society, you will find dedicated soldiers willing to fight to the last man or die in combat. This is true of Western societies as well. The Japanese certainly did have their cultural singularities, but suggesting that the entire country was willing to die is comes down to denying them basic human features.

To me, anything that qualifies the members of an enemy culture as having no value for human life including their own is highly suspect; when it is combined with bizarre statements like "nuclear bombings to save lives", it becomes difficult to hold as anything but wartime propaganda, borderline racist in nature, and designed to appease the consciousness of the perpretators.


291:

as for precision bombing, you do not do that with B-29s. They are not made for that. But you can with carrier-based bombers. In 1945, there were US carriers sailing so ridiculously close to Japan that USS "Franklin" was almost sunk by a lone Japanese bomber.

I somehow think the supply lines to make this work on more than an occasional raid were just not available.

The attack on Peral Harbor was 4 carriers against a few relatively closely spaced targets. Compared to targets on the Japanese mainland where your precision targets would be spread out over 1000s of miles. And the attack on Pearl was a go in, do it, get out, head home. Not sit off the coast of California and spend months raiding defense factories from Seattle to Long Beach.

And as I mentioned earlier if the Japanese had been a bit less timid and done the radi as planed they COULD have sued for peace after the raid and we (US) might have taken it. Or the war in the Pacific might have lasted longer (until the bomb) and we stopped after taking back the Philippines.

292:

'It's not even a simple choice of "let's not target civilians".'

Further to your point, just this one instance. I was reading a comprehensive collection of JG Ballard interviews last year. Something he picked up on at the time or realised subsequently, the Japanese guards at the Shanghai internment camp where he and his parents were held were preparing to slaughter their European captives. He was very definite that without the A-bombs he and his parents would have been shot or bayoneted.

No qualms at all about the A-bombs on his part.

293:

Certainly hindsight is an issue. Now, consider this: Litte Boy and Fat Man were the only two nuclear warheads in the US inventory; the next ones were months away, and the output would still have been a trickle. The threat of anihilation by systematic further nuclear bombing in the wake of Hiroshima was pure bluff. Had the Japanese called it, the USA would have been ridiculed and the war could have gone on for months.

Why would the US policy makers accept this, and how did they evaluate the risks? One possible explanation would be that they knew that Japan was on its knees and that the peace party was gaining traction. They would then have hurried to use of the nuclear devices before the surrender of Japan for a variety of reasons.

This is of course partly speculative, but it has the merit of taking into account the breaking of the Japanese codes; of not positing that humanitarian concerns motivating the targetting of a population centre, and after others have been systematicall and mercilessly destroyed before; of not reducing everything on a gamble; and of taking into account the larger geostrategic picture of the time, notably that the Allies had been more concerned about post-war planning than war itself since 1943 or 1944.

294:

Your comment is incredibly hard to read due to repeated words, poor grammar and not using the return key. PLease try harder.

Douhet and the idea of bombing things to bits had existed before 1939, you could say the German Blitzkreig was a reasonable implementation of it, using bombers as fast moving artillery.
However that is irrelevant when we are discussing area bombing of cities, as we are. So I fail to see that you have any point.

As for area bombing being fairly pointless, yes, I have read about that, e.g. J. F. C. Fuller's polemic on it in one of his books. He was armed with the information from after the war. What I'm having trouble locating is precise information regarding how much was known about the poor results of area bombing during the war. There was certainly a lot of internal argument between those who favoured area bombing and those who preferred accurate raids, and those who reckoned the bombs were better dropped on places other than cities.

What is not in doubt however, referring to "Bomber Command" by Max Hastings, is how Harris avoided as much as possible true strategic bombing even as late as November 1944, preferring to bomb cities and kill civilians, even although Portal was trying to reign him in but in the end did not do so. Harris was clearly out of control, demented even, and although he apparently did good work in the first year or two of the war, by the end he was wasting energy and lives on the pointless destruction of cities. Oh, and Douhet's doctrine had been spread by his 1921 book "The command of the air", not in 1939.

295:

Now, consider this: Litte Boy and Fat Man were the only two nuclear warheads in the US inventory; the next ones were months away, and the output would still have been a trickle.

Ah, NO.

I used to believe this also as it's the common theme promoted in popular books and history channel shows. But as was pointed out to me here on this blog about a year ago, de-classified documents show that the schedule was 1 bomb every 10 days or so starting in September or October.

Not a flood, but nowhere near a trickle. 3 per month would have been a pretty big stick.

296:

Back to the original point of this post.

While I can see a debate about the US keeping it's nuclear deterrent I see no real justification for boomers carrying 24x4 warheads on a patrol. This is just inertia.

297:

err, doing a google search on tacitus and riot, the only things i can find pertain to the notorious riot between pompeians and nucerians watching gladiatorial games in the amphitheatre of pompeii, 59 ad. now gladiatorial games were quite varied, i can't remember a ballet interlude, though. :-)

that being said, even roman theatre could be a somewhat coarse affair. i guess american pie would have been a big success then, though viewed as too artsy-partsy intellectual greek bullshit by some.

298:

Actually, it's quite simple to make civilians commit suicide en masse. All you have to do is tell them that the Americans are going to kill them all anyway, possibly after raping the women.

It helps to use American propaganda, such as the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anti-Japan2.png. According to Cordwainer Smith's Psychological Warfare, the Japanese did, in fact, do this.

Certainly, if I was told that an invading army regarded me as less than human, and was planning on invading my country and killing everyone, possibly after raping us, I'd fight to the death too. There's nothing inhuman about this, even if I hate my government for being stupid enough to put me into this position.

I should point out that there's an even worse possibility for WWII than atomic bombs: blockade. By August 1945, the Allies had effectively destroyed all shipping into Japan (via massive mining of the Japanese sea), and they'd destroyed most inter-island transport (via targeted bombings of bridges and ferries, plus more mining), and they'd destroyed most of the transportation infrastructure. If they'd wanted to avoid Downfall, the next best option might have been to simply sit back and let Japan starve. It would have taken perhaps six months, resulted in about as many deaths as Downfall, and destroyed Japan even more thoroughly.

Or, as Admiral Yonai told the Japanese emperor right before he surrendered: "I think the term is inappropriate, but the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war are, in a sense, divine gifts. This way we don't have to say that we have quit the war because of domestic circumstances." There had been a report in June 1945 that by the end of the year, Japan would have been unable to fight and unable to contain civil unrest.

Still, by your terms, such a blockade would have also been an atrocity, as the US would have caused millions of civilian casualties in the collapse.

It appears that your logic rests on the supposition that the US could not have defeated Japan without committing war crimes. Who are you again?

299:

What do you think Douhe was talking about? It was what Hitler and then Harris tried to do. It just did not work. Sorry my schooling is to low for you, I was making a living with hot iron.

300:

we are not concerned with any low or high schooling, it's just about trying to keep postings somewhat coherent. not that we all fail at that one sometimes, too.

if i went to a smelter or welder and tried to argue with him without even noticing the differences between iron, stainless steel or aluminium, imagine how most'd react to that?

301:

Yeah, it's a one or two sentence reference to a fracas of no historical significance and little detail given. Presumably the dancers were of the type that presented solo performances with musical and choral accompaniment. I'll see if I can find you a couple of links. Try Paris and Domitian for some scandalous stuff.

302:

Colonel Paul Tibbetts said that the core (pit) for the third bomb was on its way to San Diego from Los Alamos when the surrender was announced on the 15th of August. It could have been delivered to Tinian Field, integrated with a bomb housing and dropped on a Japanese city as early as the end of the month if they hadn't surrendered. I suspect Kokura Arsenal would have been the target since it was only spared because of bad weather there on the 9th when Bock's Car diverted to Nagasaki. It was an obvious place to bomb as a key railroad hub on the island of Kyushu where the invasion was to take place.

I've been to Kokura -- it's on the JR West shinkansen line that runs from Osaka through to Kagoshima-Chuo and it is still a major port to this day.

303:
written by Leo Szilard, a Hungarian scientist who had patented the idea of a neutron chain reaction for power production.

now the interesting question is, was szilard able to sue the russians, chinese etc. for patent infringement?

304:

Oh, and no mechanism for launching a non-retaliatory strike without an order, issued unanimously, by the Council of Ministers (i.e. it would need unanimous consent from 25 national governments -- about as likely as monkeys flying out of my butt)

This is basically cold-war era NATO. The North Atlantic Council could authorise SACEUR or SACLANT to release, in so far as the weapons specifically declared to NATO went. NAC acts by unanimity, and the national government concerned could theoretically overrule NATO and step out, although you're really getting weird there. UK strategic nuclear forces were always assigned to NATO under the Bermuda agreement with the proviso that an independent "supreme national interest" role exists.

305:

Wikipedia is shit but it's Tacitus Annals 1.77.

306:

Lacero up in comment #5 wrote:
Frustratingly I can't find a link to it now, but a while ago I read an article on arms control wonk that made me reconsider nuclear disarmament in the other direction.

The idea is that if you get rid of all your nukes it's not just that you're "unprotected", as you still have the ability to manufacture nukes any enemy has a large incentive to nuke you before you do so. With the obvious difficulties of proving to unknown actors that you have not yet started manufacturing more nukes, this leads to some worrying instability.

The article I read was on arms control wonk, but searching for a specific article on disarmament on there is beyond my search skills. I think it was based on a book.

This was an inopportune few days for me to be off doing other stuff.

I may have been the person you were thinking of, on ACW, although it's not new to me.

There's a form of that instability that Robert Jervis pointed out in "Psychology and Deterrence" about 15 years ago; there is a psychological inversion in a crisis situation, where once a certain crisis point hits, leaders start to see (many) previously stabilizing stabilizing activities as enemy-exhibiting-weakness and some previously destabilizing activities become stabilizing (flying armed aircraft on patrol, though not directly towards the enemy).

Deterrence theory was carefully calibrated in the Cold War, and has had a number of challenges since the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Soviet Union.

Among the challenges are historical reviews of crisis situations that did and did not lead to war, which show that irrational leader / leader group decisionmaking was quite common, and a common source of wars. And in some cases, rational behavior (with evident in retrospect causes and so forth) was completely misunderstood or misinterpreted. The Yom Kippur war, for example, was a case of Sadat wanting peace but having to appease his domestic pro-war party (recently embarrassed by the 1967 war) with what he thought was a short propaganda victory. Israel completely missed Sadat's internal political dynamic and thought he would never launch an attack which he would, in the long term, lose. (the situation wrt Syria and the Golan Heights was somewhat more complex but also a misjudgement on both sides of intentions and capabilities).

307:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Annals_(Tacitus)/Book_1#77

well, we all know pantomimes are often targeted by the Patrici^w, err, authorities.

btw., it seems like roman pantomimes were trying to express mythological and historical events with dancing, commented on by a choir. remembering we know from sueton people accused caesar of a homosexual relationship with the king of bithynia, i can guess where this went sometimes...

308:

What do you mean, "who I am" ?

I just do not believe in the notion of an entire people fighting to the death with bamboo spears or committing suicide. This did not happen in Germany in 1945; and the Germans were terrified of the Soviets, not without reasons: mass rapes did happen there; many lives were shattered, but the population as a whole endured and rebuilt the country.

Your point about the blockade is a good one, but you do not develop it to its full extent:
1) this blockade had in fact been happening for some time (incidentally, it is a lighter version of blockade, on petrol, that motivated the Japanese to start the war)
2) you make the point quite well that the invasion of Japan was not going to happen.

"War crime" is not something that you shout at something you dislinke, as an anathema; it is a legal concept, formally defined by articles of treaties like the Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions. Many things that the USA did at the time are clearly designed to maximise the death, injuries and suffering of civilians; these are war crimes, period. Stating that the mass murder of civilians was not a war crimes because it won the war (something of which I'm not convinced) is as legitimate as saying that the Japanese death marches were not war crimes because they only affected military personel.

The US tale featured too many inconstistancies to be credible. I understand and share the concern about jumping to conclusions, wild speculation and the similarity of often-stated conlusions to anti-American propaganda themes of the era. Nevertheless, "nukin' them for their own good" is too perversely paradoxical not to be viewed with suspicion (especially when targetting population centres and doubling the nuclear bombing immediately after, before Japan could possibly have surrendered), and the tale of bringing justice and eradicating evil while deliberately letting major war criminal off the hook simply does not hold water. I would like to believe that the USA were only resolute to winning the war because Imperial Japan was evil; but I simply cannot.

@292: I was thinking more or less in these numbers, in fact, but thank you for bringing actual figures; all right, I concede that "trickle" is a bit exagerated, and a poor choice of word in the context.


309:

cahth3iK @ 305
To nuke Japan or not in 1945 has been well covered over the years. A good accessible book is "The Decision to Drop the Bomb" by Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed. It's from 1967, so doesn't have every bit of info that has since come to light, but the basics were well known then.

"I just do not believe in the notion of an entire people fighting to the death with bamboo spears or committing suicide."

Neither did the Allied/USA governments until Okinawa in April-June 1945. It was regarded at the time, by both sides, as a trial run for the invasion of Japan. The US needed to know if they could invade a large heavily populated and defended area of Japan itself; the Japanese needed to know if their troops and kamikazes could inflict enough casualties to drive off the assault.

There was a civilian population of about 100,000 who were either Japanese or well assimilated and loyal subjects, and another 100,000 or so Japanese troops. After the invasion, there were about 10,000 of each left alive. The civilians committed suicide or were killed by the Japanese troops. The Japanese troops fought to the death.

Of course it wasn't entirely black and white. Some Japanese troops refused to kill civilians, instead helping them survive by hiding. Some Japanese troops surrendered when it became hopeless.

Still, when it ended, the Allied civilian and military commanders could predict that to invade a mainland Japanese island would kill 90% of the population.

"Many things that the USA did at the time are clearly designed to maximise the death, injuries and suffering of civilians; these are war crimes, period."

Yes, they were. That's what happens after four years of warfare against opponents who committed atrocities themselves. At that stage of the war both sides were locked into an ever-increasing spiral of casualties and there weren't any moral solutions left.

As to why not negotiate a surrender, that's because this is a rare case of learning from history. After WW I the Allies had left the militaristic German government in power without invasion or unconditional surrender. Result: Adolf Hitler and even more bloodshed. In WW II the Allies agreed early on not to repeat that mistake.

Dropping the atomic bombs shortened the war and minimised loss of life on both sides. By utilitarian standards it was the best option at the time, and still stands up today.

310:

As I said, Okinawa had a disproportionately large proportion of military personel to civilian population. I do not think that it can be taken as representative of Japan.

It is obviously true that the Japanese commited war crimes; I am not convinced that following in their steps was the only solution, or even useful, to win the war; that it was has become something of an American mantra, but it doesn't make it true. And in any case, it is illegal.

The militaristic government of Germany was not left in place after the First World War; it was replaced by the Weimar Republic, which was a relatively sound democracy but lacked popular support (it has been said to have been a "democracy without democrats"). The connection between the end of the First World War and even the Crisis of 1929, and the rise of Hitler to power, are overstated: There were times in the early 1930 where Germany could have turned out for the best. Things went tits up when Right-wing parties convinced the "Zentrum" to ally with Hitler's fringe group to block the Socialist and Communist parties.

You last paragraph is a straightforward expression of the mantra "nuclear bombing of population centres to save lives".

311:

I find it slightly amusing at one level as we see the beginnings of what may - MAY - be a South Korean decision that they are faced with an unacceptable threat in the North, lack of perceived effectiveness of the US nuclear deterrent shield, and that they need to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty and develop nuclear weapons.

Their opposition party policy guy, if I properly follow the role, was invited to talk at the recent Carnegie Institute for International Peace conference. At which he (in my interpretation) more or less indicated they're not confident in US, Chinese, Japanese, or combined ability to deter NK anymore, and that it's in their key national interest to be able to defend and deter themselves. And that they have the plutonium.

The question after from the Chinese Major General was quite illuminating.

Also, Saudi Arabia's more or less openly stated they'll build the bomb if Iran does, though they seem to be slightly less actively moving technically compared to South Korea.

312:

Perhaps England should sell its used Trident subs and missiles to South Korea.

313:

sorry, while i'm somewhat unsure on the issue of hiroshima being a war crime, as mentioned, one would need to read the hague convention, with nagasaki, problem is the primary target, kokura, was military...

the german government didn't stay in place after 1918, though germany more or less only went from a constitutional monarchy similar to victorian britain to a parliamentary democracy, though at least in the latter part of the war, we had a serious stint into military dictatorship with the supreme army command.

and while the begin of ww1 was something of a clusterfuck and discussions about who was at how much fault are still ongoing, the versailles treaty explicitly stated the sole fault with germany and the allies (funny to think, why does nobody mention austria-hungary with this one? it started because of them and serbia). which, alas, together with the reparations etc., was one of the rallying points of german national conservatives (funny how at the start of the 19th century, that would have been an oxymoron), which later led to the extreme right, which...

you know how this ends.

so, sorry, this is a very specific case of not learning from history.

on another note, which all cordial despising of the japanese military, but whoever put the exact same flag used by perry in the 1850s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_C._Perry#The_Perry_Expedition:_Opening_of_Japan.2C_1852-1854

on the uss missouri in 1945 was either high on sake and shabu or was interested in some other message...

314:

BTW, Szilard mused about the legality of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in one of his stories:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Trial_as_a_War_Criminal

I have a German translation in a collection of his works here, and it helps knowing some details of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, I guess.

315:

Never been that keen on ballet myself. These pantomime dancers seem to been the ones with the high social prestige and fanatical followings and the ones to which high society scandal attaches. Did you see my reference to Paris and Domitian at 298:? Banging the emperor's wife, not going to end well.
I think I would have enjoyed the mimes, the Roman coarse theatre, lively, colourful and mumble, mumble no clothes on mumble mumble.

316:

Neither have I, though maybe I should ask one of my more musical inclined relatives...

I didn't read up on Paris and Domitian, but will afterwards. Now up to work...

317:

As a last thought, I guess it'd be best to settle this discussion if all concerned collected their case and instituted a trial.

Laws used would be the Hague Conventions and the Nuremberg principles.

As for the judge, that's a tricky one.

318:

As I said, Okinawa had a disproportionately large proportion of military personel to civilian population. I do not think that it can be taken as representative of Japan

Of course you will believe that, because that's the only way your personal values (a belief in justice and humanity) can be held consistent with your view that the murder of civilians cannot be seen as anything other than horror and war crime. Okinawa must have been unique, or else there is a utilitarian argument that the atomic bomb somehow saved lives.

The Allies had no choice but to believe Okinawa to be a prediction, because it had just happened.

My comfortable view from hindsight is that the Allies had an awful choice; but the decision to bomb wasn't to save the Japanese, it was to twofold - it was punishment, and it was to hammer home the message that they had lost - with no doubts, no excuses. Unconditional surrender and occupation was necessary to display dominance; if the extremists tried to gain power again, people would either laugh bitterly in their faces, or throw stones at them. It's worked; seventy years on, in diplomatic terms, a very militaristic country is now a far more peaceful country. Japan hasn't invaded China, Korea, or Russia since.

One of the drivers for 1939 was the Dolchstosslegende - the ability of the German Nationalists to tell themselves that they were right, that 1918 was a betrayal (from within), and that they could keep their beliefs by suggesting that next time they would succeed. The Allies chose to accept the German conditional surrender in 1918 from a position of power - over the previous hundred days of the war, they had defeated and broken the German Army, and were moving into German territory in a blitzkrieg of their own. The Allies, and the German Government, knew that Germany had lost; but the German people could be convinced otherwise fifteen years later, and could be convinced to mobilise in their millions behind a regime that blamed and hated and murdered.

Had the Allies chosen to conquer Germany in 1918/19, and to accept only an unconditional surrender, then tens perhaps hundreds of thousands more soldiers and civilians on both sides would have died - but it might have prevented a second, greater, World War. This was the first lesson that the Allies took from 1919-1939. The other was that reparations and the resulting economic damage creates an environment of anger and frustration that makes easy prey for power-seeking ideologues...

But I suspect that you will view the Dolchstosslegende as unconnected with Hitler's rise to power, because that's the way you need to see it; you believe that it nearly turned out for the best in 1930, yet I would point out that you don't succeed in having a Kristallnacht if you haven't got mass tacit support, and you don't create that level of hatred in two years. Lots of people saw another war coming in the early 1930s - for all his flaws, Churchill was right on that one.

So, there is your justification for the existence of a nuclear deterrent, no matter how horrible. Their use against a civilian population would (now?) be a war crime; but in a way they are a "fleet in being", and their existence gives pause. It means that everyone treads slightly more carefully. They are concrete, not abstract; here, not a year away. A credible reminder that if an aggressor goes too far or too fast, their palace, or bunkers, or Holy Place might see a little drop of instant sunshine. It's realpolitik, risk analysis for international politics - likelihood small, impact severe.

319:

IIRC, there have been symbolic trials. The problem is that they typically feature philosophers and known Western dissidents who not only reach foregone conclusions, but pompously voice judgements of value without the slightest legal technical content. They are a case of dissidence decay by irrelevance.

I would love to see an actual international law technician ask a defendant for Truman et al pointed questions on the Hague Concention and the Nuremberg principles, yes.

As for the president, we'd only have to find a reputable judge from a country that has been neither infeoded nor alienated by the USA. Oh, darn.

320:

PS I had considered riffing on "lies that militaries tell themselves", but it would have been a distraction; extending the German Army's "they didn't really beat us in 1918" into the US Army's "we'd have won in Vietnam if the politicians and media had stayed away" and the British Army's "Northern Ireland means we've got nothing to learn about counter-insurgency warfare". Fortunately, the Japanese Army and Wehrmacht / Waffen SS got utterly and publically pwned, and while I despise Tom Kratman's brand of adoration, I don't have to fear it.

321:

On Weimar Germany...

I think you have to judge the Allied decision making on what was apparent at the time of the decision-making.

I happened to read Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". He was there, but he wrote that book with access to the documents captured at the end of the war. He met big-name Nazis, but he didn't read their diaries before 1045.

So I would suggest that Shirer's "Berlin Diary" might be a better source for how people thought of Germany at the time. If he wrote there about the authoritarian right-wing faction that was embedding in the Army, and got away with rather serious crimes in the Weimar period, it would fit with a general feeling that the end of WW1 was badly done. Certainly, it was thought by the US Government, in the 1920s, that the Versailles Treaty was, in some elements, too harsh.

So the WW2 policy choices were very different. But look at Italy. Unconditional Surrender wasn't a universal. Austria got different treatment to the rest of the Reich: there was a way out leading to an independent country which was politically acceptable.

And Austria was maybe part of the evidence for a bad job done in the end-of-WW2 peace treaties. Versailles wasn't the only treaty.

322:

US Army's "we'd have won in Vietnam if the politicians and media had stayed away"

You might want to read some of the Thunderchief pilots' accounts before dismissing that claim out of hand. Personally I'd start with Ed Rasimus' "When Thunder Rolled" as being a very good account of what it was like to fly a Thud, with the Vietnam War stuff added, rather than being a polemic.

323:

No, seriously: if you believe that an island with a 1:3 ratio of military to civilians is representative of anything, you fail political history, big time. And you do not reach governmental levels of authority by having no clue on statistics.

Contrary to what you posit, my personal values have nothing to do with the notion that "murder of civilians cannot be seen as anything other than horror and war crime". I have enough training in things like triage to know that death is part of life and that desperate measures are sometimes necessary for a lesser evil; so no, killing civilians is not necessarly horror in this sense in my book. On the other hand, the deliberate targetting of civilians is a war crime, and that has nothing to do with my beliefs, but with the Hague Conventions. It is inescapably, formally, technically defined as such.

On Germany, I am not saying that there is no connection between 1918-1919, and 1939; only that the connection is overstated and that the Second World War was far from ineluctably encoded in the end of the First.

I'd be careful on Churchill: he was an extremist and warmonger in his own right at his time, and is admired now because of hindsight. If I'd have to believe eveything he'd said, I'd think that storming Turkey with battleship was a good idea, that Britain was not free when Labour was in power after the war, and God knows what about gasing Iraqis.

The difference between deterrence and Hiroshima is that at Hiroshima, the bomb was actually used. Threatening to destroy population centres is probably bad form, bad taste and bad manners, but I don't reckon it is illegal; incinerating them is.


324:

No, seriously: if you believe that an island with a 1:3 ratio of military to civilians is representative of anything, you fail political history, big time.

At risk of diverting -- are you familiar with the military:civilian ratio of North Korea today? Total population: 24.5 million. Korean Peoples' Army: 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. That's not too far off the 1945 balance of civlian/military personnel on Okinawa. (You may assert that the current North Korean government is batshit insane; I will not dispute that.)

Mostly agreed on Churchill, with the caveat that Gallipoli was a close-run thing -- if the RN had done their job properly on the first few days and actually delivered the shore bombardment that the invasion plan required, it could well have allowed the invading force to overrun the defenders before they had time to reinforce and dig in. And the strategic goal -- to push the Ottoman empire out of the war, allowing a strategy of encirclement of the Central Powers -- was a reasonable one.)

325:

As I said, Okinawa had a disproportionately large proportion of military personel to civilian population. I do not think that it can be taken as representative of Japan.

It was the best representation that the Allies had. You can quibble about demographic skew as you wish; the decision had to be made given what the American military knew as of summer 1945, not what you might know in 2013.

You are flat out wrong about Hugo Fisher's comment, however; that a solution may be appropriate in a particular instance does not demonstrate its universal applicability, nor did Hugo suggest so.

326:

Austria was maybe part of the evidence for a bad job done in the end-of-WW2 peace treaties.

Could anyone elaborate on this?

327:

Its worth reflecting what the alternatives to Operation Downfall were: basically sitting it out.

With an army starving in Manchuria, no indigenous supplies of oil, aluminium, etc, a civilian population succumbing to hunger, and complete air and naval superiority on the allied side, the US could afford to blockade Japan into complete collapse and surrender.

That it didn't, and the bigger context, was Russia invading Manchuria. The post-war planning was well underway, and limiting Russia's land grab and demonstrating nuclear weaponry was as much part of the decision as allied losses.

328:

Sorry, I did not mean to insinuate that Hugo believes nuclear weapons to be a panacea; I was merely pointing out that he is in total agreement with the official stance of the US government and officials according to which, basically, the nuclear bombs were dropped to save Japanese lives. Again, I find, this argument to be an obscene paradox, and incredible considering the mass firebombing of population centres, and the immediate second nuclear attack before Japanese could materially have surrendered to the first.

I very much doubt that Okinawa was the best representation of Japan that the US had. Remember that the US could read ebcrypted Japanese communications. Furthermore, as much as we should indeed be wary of judging 1945 with our 2013 knowledge, we should be wary of the layers upon layers of self-serving propaganda that has been served since then to appologise and exhalt this massacre.

@Charlie: Ah, yes the Northern Koreans... Poor them.
Regarding Gallipoli, I was thinking more narrowly of how Allied battleships steamed blindly into Turkish defences; arguably, Admiral Courbet shares a good part of the blame for this. Indeed, on a the larger scale, the campaign to annoy the Ottomans makes more sense. It just compares very badly in terms of economy of means with the achievements of Colonel Lawrence.

329:

On the subject of hitting submarines, you can't just switch your heavy bomber force over to attacking submarines. To take out submarines, you need either to take out the submarine pens, or you need to hunt down the submarines and take them out at sea.

For the former, well, I was in Trondheim in January last year, and I saw the submarine pens there. They're still there all these decades later, basically because they are made of such thick concrete that the city authorities can't actually demolish them without risking taking out large chunks of their city. (And yes, 'historic' though they are, the damned things are sitting there taking up valuable shoreline real estate.) They were built to shrug off heavy bomber raids.

As for sub hunting at sea, you want long distance maritime patrol aircraft, not Lancs and Flying Forts. And a large part of the problem with WWII anti-submarine warfare is that the subs liked to lurk in the mid-Atlantic, way out of range of land-based airforces.

So, while the actual use of heavy bombers may have been inappropriate, and while the U-boats did threaten to strangle us, applying the one to the other was not the solution it might at first glance seem.

330:

Actually, it scarcely makes sense debating Nazism and leaving Fascism out...

For starters both were, right from the start, movements of war veterans led by decorated war veterans, and militarizing absolutely all aspects of civilian life was very high in their "to do" list. Uniforms, ranks, medals, flags, insignias, chains of command... were everywhere in both parties and all their satellite organizations, unions, women leagues, youth and sport movements, local organizations... down to slightly ridiculous outfits like the National Socialist Motor Corps.

Also something too easily forgotten, with that went youth. Mussolini was 39 in 1922, Hitler was 44 in 1933, Goering 40, Goebbels 36, Hess 39, Himmler 33, Heydrich 29... That would be young today, in the 20s and 30s was unheard of. And perhaps because of that youth, both Fascists and Nazis loved aircraft, fast cars, radio, movies... in short, they embraced adventure, speed, show and high tech. That was very much part of their appeal.

Further, both wanted another great war, a war of revenge (yes, Italy had been amongst the victors in 1918, but Italians felt as betrayed as Germans) but, more to the point, saw permanent war as something actually desirable.

And their utopias weren't for everyone. Unlike Communism (and Jihadism) that at least in theory can be joined by anyone, Hitler's Paradise was only for Germans, Mussolini's only for Italians.

And, last but not least, Nazis added antisemitism and "Völklisch" to the stew, while Fascists weren't that much in love with old Romans (too inclusive, perhaps?) and didn't give a damn about Jews.

* * *

In short, comparing Jihadism with Nazism is comparing watermelons with grapes; both are fruits and... and there are no more similarities. In other words, it takes a lot more than being against Enlightenment to make a Nazi.

331:

Hey, you can't leave us in the lurch like that! What did the Chinese Major General say?

332:

cahtk3iK @ 328, no problem about the misunderstanding

"total agreement with the official stance of the US government and officials according to which, basically, the nuclear bombs were dropped to save Japanese lives. "

Yes I am. It was a war crime. It was obscene. It still ended the war and saved lives.

Do you really think you're the first person to raise these issues? As the book I mentioned earlier shows, there was debate at the time, and debate ever since. We, the Western Allied nations that fought against Germany and Japan, do not regard the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as triumphs in the the way that, for example, the Normandy landings or El Alamein are remembered. We're not proud of them.

(Disclaimer: you can probably find some who are enthusiastic supporters of nuking Japan. They're a tiny minority, just like enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis.)

What you haven't provided, as none of the previous historians who've looked at the decision have been able to provide, is a different solution that A) would have killed less people and B) been accepted by both the US and Japanese governments.

You say that the US knew about the inner workings of the Japanese government from decryption? I agree, that is why they knew that negotiated surrender wasn't going to happen. And why even after the first atomic bomb there were factions in Japan who still wouldn't surrender, requiring a second.

It was horrible, immoral, and still the best alternative anyone at the time could think of.


333:

OK. I've forgotten how how to code paragraphs. I stopped posting for a time and now now I can't. Could somebody remind me, please. XXXXX BACK TO BASICS Ihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulio_
(In 1939.) “Douhet believed in the morale effects of bombing. Air power could break a people's will by destroying a country's "vital centers". Armies became superfluous because aircraft could overfly them and attack these centers of the government, military and industry with impunity, a principle later called "The bomber will always get through". Targeting was central to this strategy and he believed that air commanders would prove themselves by their choice of targets. These would vary from situation to situation, but Douhet identified the five basic target types as: industry, transport infrastructure, communications, government and "THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE”. The Nazis and Harris tried to make it work. It did not and hurt them by wasting lives and material.

334:

Leave empty lines between paragraphs to have them turned into HTML paragraphs.

If you want your name to stop turning up as alphabet soup, try logging in with the google option, not openID.

335:

I very much doubt that Okinawa was the best representation of Japan that the US had.

But you also can't apply Okinawa numbers to the whole of Japan. The invasion was to be in the south against one island initially. And there' were already a huge number of troops there to defend. I suspect the ratios of troops to civilians in that areas were similar to Okinawa before it was invaded.

Furthermore, as much as we should indeed be wary of judging 1945 with our 2013 knowledge, we should be wary of the layers upon layers of self-serving propaganda that has been served since then to appologise and exhalt this massacre.

I would say this cuts against your points as much as for. Maybe more.

336:

"It was horrible, immoral, and still the best alternative anyone at the time could think of."

I agree on this; given that it is what the US officials implemented at the time, it is almost a truism to say that it was the best that they could think of.

What I refuse to accept is that the people who killed at least half a million Japanese civilians by deliberately targetting city centres with incendiary weapons would suddenly have devised a cunning and paradoxical plan to save some of the remaining ones by spectacularly immolating a find hundred thousands more with nuclear weapons.

I'd find it much more credible, for instance, to think of the inhabitants of Hiroshima in the same terms as those of Guernica: assassinated by overkill to test experimental weapons designed for the next war to come. I am thanking nobody for using children for target practice.

"And why even after the first atomic bomb there were factions in Japan who still wouldn't surrender, requiring a second" -- nah. There was just not enough time. It was practically a race to blow up Nagasaki before the surrender.

337:

Had the Allies chosen to conquer Germany in 1918/19, and to accept only an unconditional surrender, then tens perhaps hundreds of thousands more soldiers and civilians on both sides would have died - but it might have prevented a second, greater, World War. This was the first lesson that the Allies took from 1919-1939. The other was that reparations and the resulting economic damage creates an environment of anger and frustration that makes easy prey for power-seeking ideologues...

A recent documentary on the year after WWI and the armistice planning by the allies pointed out that while the German generals knew they were loosing and individual commanders knew they were getting their teeth kicked in, the German population was told that overall they were wining and the armistice was initiated by the allies to allow them to not loose the war. There were even victory parades in Berlin and other major cities as the armies came home.

Mix in this kind of public thought with reparations and territory loses and yes I can see the public thinking they were sold out by the politicians. And make it easy for the resulting take over and planning for the next war by the Nazis to occur.

Anyone German history scholars out there who can confirm these "victory" parades?

338:

"As for sub hunting at sea, you want long distance maritime patrol aircraft, not Lancs and Flying Forts. And a large part of the problem with WWII anti-submarine warfare is that the subs liked to lurk in the mid-Atlantic, way out of range of land-based airforces."

Actually, the B-17 and B-24 Liberator, the two principal American bombers in the European theatre were maritime patrol aircraft, at least as originally designed anyway. That's why they had such long range, and why the B-17 had such a small bomb bay.

Also, the Liberators were used this way to close the Atlantic air gap and defeat the U-boats.

339:

No German expert but I've read somewhere of German demobbed troops being welcomed back to their home districts with brass bands and banners referring to 'our undefeated army'.

Googling under 'our undefeated army 1918' I found the following in a wikipedia article on The Stab in the Back Myth:

'Even provisional President Friedrich Ebert contributed to the myth when he saluted returning veterans with the oration that "no enemy has vanquished you" (kein Feind hat euch überwunden!) and "they returned undefeated from the battlefield (sie sind vom Schlachtfeld unbesiegt zurückgekehrt)" on November 10, 1918. The latter quote was shortened to im Felde unbesiegt as a semi-official slogan of the Reichswehr. Ebert had meant these sayings as a tribute to the German soldier, but it only contributed to the prevailing feeling.'

Here's the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stab-in-the-back_myth

340:

I was aware of the VLR B-24 Liberators (a rather different aircraft in many ways from the B-24s that were bombing Europe). I wasn't aware there was a B-17 equivalent.

341:

I just came across this and thought you might reconsider your opinion about the possibility of messing up things a little bit :-)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2013/04/29/the-prophets-of-oak-ridge/

342:

Well, not that much of a scholar of that period, but...

AFAIK the German population could feel it wasn't going that well, the supreme army command imposed some kind of war communism on the production, there were food rations, and later on protests and strikes.

OTOH, technically, the end of WW1 was an armistace, not a surrender, like the end of the Korean War and quite a few others. So I can see why there were celebrations in Germany in contrast to what you'd expect with a surrender. If you want to find out if this was a celebration of victory or a more sober realization of the whole mess being over, well, good luck with finding that one out in most cases.

As for the idea of the allies invading Germany and thus perventing WW2, that is somewhat how the Franco-Prussian War ended for France

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_War

and I don't really see how that prevented WW1.

On a final note, German history books usually talk about Wilson's 14 points

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_Points

and how most Germans expected a peace along these terms, and were somewhat disappointed with the Versailles treaty.

And last but not least...

In some way, the Hague conventions are just a more refined version of things like the Albanian kanuns reglementing blood feuds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanun

which is better then unreglemented blood feuds, but still somewhat bloody. And as already mentioned, hostages are somewhat permitted with Hague. As are reprisals of transgressions of the enemy. You are still allowed to throw a bomb at the guys orchestrating it, problem is, it's the law...

343:

Alatriste:
"Hey, you can't leave us in the lurch like that! What did the Chinese Major General say?"

http://carnegieendowment.org/files/0409carnegie-day2-morning-keynote.pdf

Q: Thank you, (Paal ?). Major General Yong Shu (ph) from China.
MR. CHUNG: You are guest media?
MR. PAAL: No, no, major general –
Q: No, no, I’m a major general –
MR. CHUNG: Oh, you’re a major general –
Q: – from People’s –
MR. CHUNG: I met you in Korea, right, before?
Q: We did. (Chuckles.)
[00:46:16]
So, very interesting and stimulating presentation, thank you. My present concern, in your
comment, your presentation about China’s role in the solution and China’s efforts in the solution of
the Korean – of the DPRK nuclear issue.
China has been setting up the six-party talks and hosting the six-party talks for several years.
And it seems to me that you blame China a lot for the situation that we are all in today. So, my
question is what is your general evaluation of China’s role in the – its effort – how do you evaluate
China’s effort to solve the DPRK nuclear issue? Is China helping the North Korean – North Korea
to buy time so that it can have nuclear weapons, or do you think it is really detrimental to China’s
interest to have a DPRK with nuclear weapons? Thank you.
[00:47:31]
MR. CHUNG: I hope I understand your question: whether North Korea is in China’s
interest or not. Is that your question?
MR. PAAL: I think that’s a good summary, yeah.
MR. CHUNG: OK. Well, if China thinks nuclear-armed North Korea does not matter for
China’s long-term interest, that’s very hard, very difficult to understand. If United States
government allow – (off mic) – to go nuclear, do you think that’s a sensible policy for U.S.? We
don’t think so.
China is already surrounded by nuclear states: Russia, India and Pakistan. So, Chinese
policymakers may think additional several primitive nuclear weapons produced by North Korea
cannot be – cannot really change the major – the basic power equation in East Asia. That’s not
correct. That’s very wrong. If North Korea remains nuclear, South Korea or even Japan should
consider nuclear option. Suppose you are president of South Korea or prime minister of Japan.
Don’t you think that’s a negligible – culpable – it can be a culpable negligence for those politicians
to do nothing against North Korea’s nuclear armament. South Korea and Japan should do
something if North Korea is determined to remain nuclear.
MR. PAAL: It seems to me the case – the question is always framed among China experts
that China really can’t decide between the priority being given to denuclearization or to stability in
Korea, and they again and again put the priority on Korea – stability over denuclearization.
MR. CHUNG: Well, that’s a good question, Doug. A nuclear-armed North Korea is not a
positive factor for the stability in East Asia in the long run.

344:

@ 323 & 324
Churchill, famously said that "Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War". However, IF a war had started, then you had better FIGHT it ...
Remember he had seen war, including in the trenches, so calling him a "warmoinger" won't actually wash.
He was one of the very few politicians, pre-Aug 1914 who KNEW what massed machine-guns could do. It was one reason he wanted an overwhemingly strong Navy, to try to avoid the land-war problem, actually.

Alatriste @ 330
Actually Non-Germans COULD join the Nazi ideals,]It helped if you were "nordic", but remember the muslim croat (Ustache?) death-squads & the aforementiond Grand Mufti - given the label "circassian" IIRC , so no banana.
( & yes, they were totally Upney )

@ 338
Not forgetting the mighty Short Sunderland ...("The flying porcupine" according to the opposition.

cahth3iK
Please stop
I suggest you read "Quartered safe out here"
Or accounts of the Burma Railway (my uncle survived it) & all the other horrors from Nanking & before, right on to the end.
The Japanese (government) brought it on themselves & their civilian population, unfortunately.
Deperately trying to prove that it was all the eeevillll USA's fault won't wash.
Yes, some things done then were truy horrible ... but it was late 1945 & after what had gone before, it was understandable, even if it was wrong.
And considerably less wrong than deeds performed by Imperial Nippon.
As someone else has noted - we are not proud of the nukings - just glad it's over.
As were people at the time.

345:

I am aware of Japanese attrocities. I think that the appropriate response is trial for the culprit, not descended to their level. What happened was symetric attrocities from the Allies, some sort of show trial for the officials who had annoyed the Allied, and no trial for atrocious criminals deemed potentially useful (Masanobu Tsuji or and Shirō Ishii, as I said earlier).

At some point, you have to wonder why you choose your side. I like to choose my side because it is morally superior to the other, not because I prefer burger over sushi. Victory is supposed to advance humanity, not simply favour a tribe in which you happen to be born.

346:

On the subject of hitting submarines, you can't just switch your heavy bomber force over to attacking submarines.

Except that's what the RAF, USAAF, USN did do...in 1942 44 Squadron Bomber Command, much to Arthur Harris' disgust, transferred 5 Lancasters to convoy escort duties - within four days a Lanc and its crew had found a U-boat and sank it.

This aircraft did not have air-to-surface radar, sonobuoys or any anti-sub equipment - and nor did most of the other aircraft used to sink U-boats.

Most MRP aircraft were converted bombers or flying boats, the Liberator and the Halifax being the most successful MRP aircraft of the WW2 heavy bombers.

The reason the Lancaster had such a long, uninterrupted bomb bay, was that it was originally designed to carry and drop depth charges and 18 inch torpedos.

I have absolutely no problem with the nukes being dropped on the Japanese, and after reading about Unit-731

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731

anyone would be much less sympathetic

Fleas in bubonic plague slurry, placed in bombs and dropped on Chinese civilians...they deserved all they got, and possibly more.

347:

And note that 5 aircraft was far less than the typical Bomber Command losses on an operational night at that time. Avergae loss rate over Germany in 1943 was 5.1%, and a raid involved several hundred bombers.

So Harris was squealing about a number which was lost in the noise of operational losses. A couple of squadrons of aircraft might be lost in one night. And, even if Bomber Command was as effective as Harris believed, the Battle of the Atlantic was the one we couldn't afford to lose.

An aircraft over a convoy did not need to be a hugely effective anti-submarine weapon. If they spotted the submarine, they could call in an escort. And the German wolf-pack system depended on U-boats tracking the convoy and reporting. Forcing a submarine to submerge was a win for the aircraft. The convoy could sustain a higher speed than a submerged submarine.

It's sometimes tricky to compare the ranges of different aircraft, and they always depend on payload, but the Liberator and the Lancaster were not hugely different. Practical operating radius depended on the intended patrol duration.

348:

'I think that the appropriate response is trial for the culprit'

LOL

349:

Sorry.

Typo.

Most of the countries created in Eastern Europe had been part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, and the ethnic minorities on the wrong side of one border or another were certainly an excuse for shenanigans.

350:

Certainly better performance from a Lanc or Lib than a Lockheed Hudson, Avro Anson or AW Whitley - none of which had the capacity to carry the big 450lb depth charges

Harris has to be one of the most myopic and monomaniacal British war leaders - but one of the most successful, paradoxically.

351:

I think that the appropriate response is trial for the culprit, not descended to their level

Still, if you think that Allied soldiers have sunk to their level, what can they be charged with, without bringing international law into disrepute?

It's always perplexed me why Stalin wanted show trials for the Nazis taken alive at the end of WWII

British government and public opinion on Nazi war criminals was more pragmatic...shoot them on sight...

352:

No paradox involved at all. In a situation of total war, monomania is extremely useful. The ability to drive yourself, your organisation and men etc. for years on end without getting exhausted, bored, or any annoying questioning causing a breakdown in effort or aims is extremely useful. See also many other successful leaders.
I'm not entirely sure about successful - the successes of bomber command came about despite Harris's specific policies rather than because of them.
Others were 2nd order ones, e.g. thousands of 88mm guns were kept in germany wasting shells firing at planes rather than destroying tanks in Russia and a correspondingly large army was manning them.
The downside is the lack of effect of area bombing as already noted.

353:

War IS atrocity, anyone who says otherwise is selling something. The difference is not so much in how you fight a war, all wars degrade to absolute war over time the only thing you can do is slow the degradation. The difference is in WHY you fight the war and what you do when it's over.

354:

the biggest second order effect of Churchill, Portal, Lindemann and Harris' area bombing policies were the Vergeltungswaffen - their consumption of manpower and raw materials crippled the Nazi war machine

With the resources involved they could have manufactured 24,000 single-engined fighters, or 16,000 twin-engined bombers.

And of course six hundred Bomber Command could drop the same tonnage of explosives in one night that six months of V2 launches could deliver

Just think of all that lovely rocket research and experimentation on live subjects the East and West obtained for free!

355:
I have absolutely no problem with the nukes being dropped on the Japanese, and after reading about Unit-731

you know, the funny thing with hostages, and what lead to them going somewhat out of fashion with the Geneva conventions after WW2, is that you're harming people who are not really in fault in the hope of a change of heart with or simply to punish the people at fault.

Which, in a way, is exactly what bombing more or less innocent civilians, some of those POWs and forced labourers, because of atrocities done by some military unit is about.

Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies.

356:

Well, not exactly POrtal's. And the point that was made after the war was that strategic bombing e.g. the synthetic oil plants, was much better - it doesn't matter if you make 50,000 fighters if you only have a thousand tonnes of oil a day coming out of the production plant. Basically Harris was so obsessed with murdering people and destroying cities that he deliberately maximised this policy against the other demands, and according to Hastings, Portal chickened out of reigning him in because of the politics. Thus Harris did not do as much 'good', especially later in the war, as people think he did.

357:

There's also the question of how much effort and resources went into the bomber overkill that could have been used for more immediately useful things such as better tank guns (At one point Britain had over 20,000 useless 2 pounder guns stockpiled and was producing more, despite the fact that they had no effect whatsoever upon german tanks), or as importantly, better tanks - a good tank was finally produced, just in time for the end of the war.

358:

I read in "germany from defeat to conquest" by W. M. Knight-patterson, that the stab int he back myth was promulgated by the german elite and right wingers. And even worse, there was a concerted campaign after the war to preserve the german military and flout the armistice agreements.
People often think that Hitler dragged germany into war, but the reality is that the upper class of germany, of businessmen and aristocrats and generals, were determined to keep germany militarily strong and ready for war. He was just a handy stooge for crushing the workers and guaranteeing profits for the owning class, only he had his own plans and ruthlessly carried them out, escaping the control of his patrons.

359:

The balloon fire bombs that reached America in WW-2 were tests to see if the plague bombs developed by Unit-731 and tested on Chinese civilians and pows. They were live dissected with out pain killers to see what the tests did. That's weapons of Mass Destruction. And today it can get you a A-Bomb in your yard. Oh, Little Boy was  dropped on Hiroshima August 6, 1945. On August 8 the Soviet Union officially declares war on Japan. The Japanese were totally surprised. We were reading their codes and knew.

360:
And even worse, there was a concerted campaign after the war to preserve the german military and flout the armistice agreements.

The main problem I see is trying to be somewhat fair about German military security feelings.

To try some comparisons, Versailles limited the German Reichswehr troops to about 115,000 active personal. Which is less than the current strenght of the Bundeswehr, with 188,921 active personal and 144,000 reserve. Normal size of the Army during the Empire was about 500,000.

For comparison, the Nazi Wehrmacht that invaded Poland in 1939 numbered 1,500,000 soldiers.

So, well, demanding a bigger German military might not have necessarily meant building an invasion force, but something more akin to the original early post-WW1 plans witht about 400,00 soldiers.

On a more general note, not every idea of the army command had bad results...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Poland_(1916–1918)

361:

Wtih a set of offences specifically tailored to their deeds whiles excluding those of the Allies, potentially inventing new offences apply retroactively for this purpose. Precisely what happened at Nuremberg.

At Nuremberg, not only were strategic bombardment carefully excluded, despite the British trauma from the Blitz and Coventry, but there was briefly an attempt to charge Doenitz with criminal warfare for offences related to submarine warfare, which were hastily dropped when it was realised that the Americans had done precisely the same thing to the Japanese.

Nuremberg was not merely a show trial. All sources of law are rooted in moral and judgements of values; "natural Rights" are a jokes, legally speaking. But they are the necessary foundations upon which the rest of a legal system can be built. Nuremberg constituted a fantastic opportunity to establish such a legal system for the benefit of all mankind. For years, it hang on the tip of a blade between becoming the founding event of a gentler world order, or a despicable instance of victor's justice.

The opportunity was wasted in the decades after; I think that the open and unashamed practice of torture by the USA in the 2000s might well be the final nail in the coffin of Nuremberg's trials.


362:

A standing short-service army of 400,000 men in peace-time quickly generates a reserve of 400,000 well-trained men deployable in wartime. Then another 400,000, then another. That's where the mass conscript armies of WWI came from.
WWI left Germany dominant on the European continent. Of the four prewar Great Powers, two had been eliminated, Austria-Hungary and Russia. France could not stand against a rearmed Germany alone and thought purely in defensive terms. The offshore Great Power, the British Empire, had no mass conscript army to deploy.

363:

Okay, so the reason we don't hear of them being used in that role was not that they couldn't be, but that they mostly just weren't?

Hmm, in-flight refuelling was a viable technology at the time, and one that would have made sense in extending such missions.

364:

You learn something new every day; I thought that this was wrong, but apparently the only reason the Cobham/FRL hose and grapnel system wasn't used on missions against Japan was that Japan surrendered ebfore the relevant aircraft were deployed!

365:

The Liberator was the main MRP of RAF Coastal Command during the latter stages WWII, and the Avro Lancaster GR.3 was the main MRP of Coastal Command after the war.

A specialised US Navy version, the Privateer, was also made.

They had to find a use for all those Lancs now they weren't using them to flatten Essen - and surprise, surprise they were perfect for the job...

A Lancaster derivative, the Avro Shackleton, [same wing/modified fuselage/ four or six more powerful engines] was the RAFs main MRP up to the 1970s.

366:

My source is of course a bit biased, but the impression I get is that the people who maintained the army etc weren't worried about security so much as germany being weak instead of strong as it should be since it had been the dominant power and felt it had rights over other countries etc.
Maybe you can find less biased sources. I personally distinguish between doing something because you feel insecure and doing something because you want to be strong because you should be because you are the best country/ race out there.

367:

The 4-engined (never 6-engined) Shackleton was operational into the 90s as a stopgap for the muchly-delayed MRA4 Nimrod. There was great rejoicing in the aviation restoration world when they were finally retired as that freed up a large number of Griffon engines and spares kept in reserve to keep them flying. Funny fact -- nearly all of the aircraft had names derived from the children's TV series "The Magic Roundabout".

368:

Just to add, given the strategic situation, the course of events once Germany rearmed looks so-so inevitable.

Germant wakes up, sees nothing but petty and undeveloped states confronting it, bar one state with a bit of heft to it cowering and whimpering in a corner and says, 'Fuck it, I'll take it all.'

It's a good question as to when Russia returns to the Great Power board. Early 30s? Late 30s? 40s even?

369:

the Avro Shackleton MR.3 [Phase 3] was the only six-engined aircraft ever operated by the RAF, AFAIK - four Rolls-Royce Griffons and two Armstrong-Siddeley Viper jets

the example at IWM Duxford is one of the six-engined variety

the AEW variant of the Shack served into the late 80s IIRC, until it was replaced by the Boeing E-3 Sentry

the version of the Nimrod was the ill-fated AEW-3 - the MRA-4 was the version scrapped by the current government - the idiots...

370:

Lancasters were also used post-war by the French - they were given/sold late-war production examples not needed for Tiger Force in the Far East. One is now preserved in NZ (after service in French Polynesia).

371:

Muhahaha, the strange attractors have taken effect...

Funny fact -- nearly all of the aircraft had names derived from the children's TV series "The Magic Roundabout".

Nope, all of them by the end.

As a young air cadet, I spent a week in the early 1980s staying at RAF Lossiemouth where the Shackleton AEW of 8 Sqn were based, along with the Buccaneers of 12 Sqn.

Each of the four Griffon engines on the Shackleton had a pair of counter-rotating airscrews - the old RAF name for a propellor; the Buccaneer had a pair of jet engines. Hence the 8 Sqn sticker of the time that suggested that "eight screws are better than two blow..." (redacted to avoid offending those of a youthful and nervous disposition). One retort implied that the Shackleton was basically 10,000 rivets flying in close formation.

Apparently, the current 8 Sqn aircraft fleet of seven E-3D are named after the seven dwarves...

372:

and one ex-Aeronavale Lanc is preserved in Lincolnshire - and I've been inside it [on the ground]

http://www.lancaster-archive.com/lanc-pic-nx611-4.jpg

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/photos/59/54/595435_5c924c73.jpg

373:

Para 5, Sentence 3 - Shouldn't that read "...rivets flying in loose formation."?

374:

GEORGE ORWELL ON THE BOMB, 1945. Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state. If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult to produce as a battleship, it is likelier TO PUT A END TO LARGE LARGE-SCALE WARS at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a ‘peace that is no peace’. http://orwell.ru/library/articles/ABomb/english/e_abomb looks like Orwell was right again.

375:

Cahth3iK
And, err … HOW, precisely do you get the IJN to surrender or even “honourably cease futile resistance” so that they could be tried ….given what we know now, never mind the more limited information at the time?
They WOULD NOT – this has already been discussed, & you’ve ignored it.
Now, please try to join the very unpleasant real world?

& @ 361
Not so. There was a “round-robin” petition signed by many RN officers, protesting the prosecution of both Döenitz & Raeder, who were regarded as fierce but “honourable” enemies.

Von hichtofen @ 269
No
Not idiots: - traitors.

@ 374
Correct
Surprise? Not.

376:

HOW, precisely do you get the IJN to surrender or even “honourably cease futile resistance” so that they could be tried ….given what we know now, never mind the more limited information at the time?

quite, though it was the IJA you had to worry about - considering the number of holdouts they had...2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda didn't surrender until 1974...

By February 1945 the war was over for the Japanese. They had three choices: burn; starve; or surrender.

They chose the first.

You can't blame your allies for the choices made by your enemies.

Totally agree with you Greg, regarding this government and the Nimrods - far, far, FAR worse than TSR-2.

377:

yes, but this somewhat makes the 100.000 men army even smaller, since it was made up of professional soldiers, with a term of over 12 years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Versailles#Military_restrictions

as for the relative strength of the french side, the occupation of the ruhr involved between 60 and 100,000 soldiers,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Ruhr

i don't know how this relates to the forces in the rhine region:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Rhineland

there was also the maginot line, a heavy defense against germany. also note that the entente between the french and the british was still much better than the situation for the french before 1904.

also note that france was not the only power on the continent, there were also poland and, well, italy was still somewhat on the allied side.

soviet russia was seen by the allies as a possible common enemy with germany, we know this played out differently.

also note that most neighbouring countries had strong german minorities, with minority rights just a new bleeding heart liberal idea, so there was plenty of possible conflicts beside france. these conflicts were playes up by the nazis, but they were there, nonetheless. for starters, pilsudski might have been a dictator, but imagine a poland under dmowski...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Dmowski

as for how the germans might have used a bigger army during weimar...

professional soldiers, especially if somewhat stratefied towards conservative noble or rural populations like the small reichswehr, are soldiers and often think of war as a continuation of politics, just look at some of the names mentioned in this thread for the shit that blows up into the higher echelons, politicians might view it more like a big stick one carries but doesn't use.

also note that there is no reason not to think of the actual reichswehr as both too small for germans' feelings of security and organized the wrong way for a lasting peace; one of the arguments for a conscript bundeswehr was always how non-conscript reichswehr played out. also the restraints on higher command might have meant higher reliance on old elites.

as for the weaker france in europe after the german reunification of 1871, yeah, shit for the bully of being no bully anymore, eh, so he has to play along with the smaller players and become something of a guarantee for their safety. at the time, this was still the country that had yielded napoleon a little more than 100 years ago.

err, back to the idea of an invasion of germany after ww1, exceeding what happpened on the rhein, err.

as already mentioned, this is somewhat how the franco-prussian war ended for france, where the war was declared by france, btw, though if your contrary is arch-chessmaster bismarck, chances are wha you just do what he wants you to do.
the result was a lasting french animosity towards germany, with some nice stints into anti-semitism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_affair

378:

sorry for the spelling errors etc., i'm writing this on a small tablet device. hope it's somewhat readable still.

and then, funny to defend germany, since my sympathies are more with poland, actually. pilsudski might have been a dictator, but one of the nicer variety.

379:

'yes, but this somewhat makes the 100.000 men army even smaller, since it was made up of professional soldiers, with a term of over 12 years:'

Yep, that's the point. They had to insist on making the army long service because with short service you build up a sizable reservoir of trained reservists very quickly. Twelve years would be the period of maximum fitness for front line military duty (18-30?) so discharged soldiers would come out at 30+.

I have simplified enormously. But if we look at the course of the war we may be impressed the swift efficiency of the German army, the competence and ability of its military planners and generals in the field, but that's all at the operational level. At the strategic level it was water running downhill.

Until Russia, which proves to be a far more robust state and capable of mobilising far greater resources than anyone had imagined.

380:

PS could we not talk about the Roman ballet again? I hate this stuff, to be honest. There are some interesting articles if you google under 'Pantomime Riots AD14'

381:
PS could we not talk about the Roman ballet again?

I agree. Though at the risk of making this thread even more unpleasant, let me remark there is some Japanese crossing of the streams with a not Ballet, but Manga representation of the Interwar period called Hetalia...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hetalia:_Axis_Powers

As for the riots, there is a paper on that one from 1986, according to

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~byzaus/byzaust/byzaus5.html

E. J. Jory - The Early Pantomime Riots

382:

But if we look at the course of the war we may be impressed the swift efficiency of the German army, the competence and ability of its military planners and generals in the field, but that's all at the operational level. At the strategic level it was water running downhill.

Strictly speaking, they impressed at the tactical level (i.e. up to corps level), but from late 1942, the Axis got hammered at the operational level (after the initial successes against unprepared enemies came Stalingrad and Kursk) and were simply outclassed at the strategic and grand strategic levels of war.

The German Army excelled at the tactical level. But as the Vietnamese Colonel put it "that may be true; but it is also irrelevant".

383:
As for the president, we'd only have to find a reputable judge from a country that has been neither infeoded nor alienated by the USA. Oh, darn.

Or one of their allies. Or got no supply from the Japanese. It might be the Indian judge at the Tokyo trial was something of a Subchas Chandras Bose fanboy. Err.

OK, first of, as already mentioned, I'd opt for limiting the indictments to things forbidden by the legal documents of the time. This boils down to the Hague conventions, which, incidentally, are from 1907 and thus have no mention of airplanes, but of balloons in an optional annex. For a wider scope, we could use the Nuremberg principles, which were already agreed on befor Hiroshima.

For the persecution, I guess going for "inflicting damage and pain on civilians" is not a productive strategy, since both Hiroshima and Nagasaki had some military targets, and one could argue that if the only purpose was terrorizing the population or they targeted the chimney of an orphanage in a city with no military installations, it's somewhat difficult to prove. They were not primary military targets, but then, what was left of those in Japan at the time, especially given that the army wanted a target somewhat spared by previous attacks.

I guess these previous attacks are a thing to build on, since during the fire bombings, allied bombers threw leaflets with the targeted cities. No such thing happened with Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Though that might be difficult.

On the side of the defense, demonstrating the continuity of the nuclear bombings with the previous conventional ones seems prudent.

And I guess I'd try to keep order in the court by draconian means.

On issues on "bombing for their own good", there is a novel by Lem that marries this one to plain old gunboat diplomacy. With a solar-powered laser capable of slicing the upper crust away, btw.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiasco_(novel)

AFAIR, the more or less only sane voices are a Japanese and a quite sympathetic RC friar. If you know how Lem thought about religion, that surprises somewhat...

384:

E. J. Jory - The Early Pantomime Riots

Seems to be the go-to guy for Pantomime Riots, have to get hold of that.

385:

I'll try the same. Hope it's worthwhile.

Come to think about it, I once thought about a collection of academical "Kellerleichen", the German term for "skeletons in the closet". Guess it was when reading about a joint paper by Julian Huxley, Ernst Mayr, Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer on the genetics of schizophrenia.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v204/n4955/abs/204220a0.html

No idea if it was when reading Huxley's or Mayr's autobiography. Guess celebration when the paper was accepted was, err, interesting.

There was a tempting sidenote of being careful with youth reading Ernst Jünger,

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/lsd/child7.htm

but that one has a tangent back to the topic we want to get away from, err.

386:
There was a tempting sidenote of being careful with youth

Especially if she has still some of your SF books, btw. ;)

387:

Until Russia, which proves to be a far more robust state and capable of mobilising far greater resources than anyone had imagined.

It's amazing what a country can do if you have a large population and decide the only way to win is to treat 1/3 of them like ammunition to be fired off and forgotten. While the rest are waaaaaaaay back from the front training and building tanks and such.

When those who got to stay to the east of the Urals during the first two+ years finally were put into the lines they did kick ass.

388:

I'm REALLY tired of the "War Crime" argument. Apologies, but go be a Human Shield in Syria or something equally futile, or research the issues a LOT more throughly.

We Won, They Lost, Good for Us, Sad for them.

The Next American Bomb was planned to be dropped on Aug 17/18, therafter one every ten days or so (Reed & Stillman, The Nuclear Express); Nagasaki may have been what convinced the Japanese, the Japanese had enough of a bomb program to analyse the Debris at Hiroshima and figure out that it was a U-235 Device, and say, OK, cool (What is "cool" in Japanese?), it is (Probably) a one off. But Nagasaki, oops- Plutonium? That means they have an industrial capability, and are (probably) building more. Which is why the various Nuclear programs are so problemetical, once the industrial infrastructure is cranked up, how do you turn it off?

The Russian Attack (in Manchuria) was originally scheduled for around August 15th; Hiroshima caused them to accelerate their operations...Starting early does not seem to have had much negative effects.

Accidently, I picked up an older book on the B-29 in my local Public Library. (Birdsall, Saga of the Superfortress, Doubleday, 1980). What we would consider shocking (American) casulaties in the conventional (Daylight) operations. Almost mind numbing anecdotal history, no statistical analysis at all. Each aircraft that disappeared on a raid was eleven young men gone forever. Lots of aircraft lost with all crew. Remember, that book was written when the veterans were still active adults.

The Past really is a foreign country.

Once there was a B-29 Program, the imperitive to use them was not even questioned.

The Versailles Treaty 1000,000 man German Army was intended (calculated?) to be just strong enough to keep the Poles honest. It even spelled out how many Machineguns and Artillery Pieces the Germans were allowed. Of course they (The Germans) cheated, so did the Vichy French (post 1940), something to consider when discussing arms limitations treaties.

389:

Unidentified Short Story, Kid (Teen) visits the mall, the Old Folks handing out their Sky is Falling Literature (Nonsense obviously, the world isn't goint to end), kid goes to see an old B&W Movie at a Revival House, "Doctor Strangelove"; Afterwards, politely accpets the old lady's leaflet.

More or less.

But not quite Grand Guignol.

I did once (circa 1979?) pin a piece of colored acetate with the "Radius at Which a 100Kt Bomb would render multi story brick apartment buildings uninhabitable" overlay with peacetime V Corps (US) HQ as Ground Zero on a tactical map (1:50,000); Would have pretty much obliterated Frankfurt.

390:

The Past really is a foreign country.

It sure is - the US government wouldn't tolerate the fifteen B-52s lost on "Linebacker" II in 1972 - four men crew X 15 = 60 dead/MIA/POW...

let alone the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission of October 1943 - 60 aircraft lost

60 X 10 man crew = six hundred dead/MIA/POW in an afternoon

In many WWII bombing raids more human beings in the attacking aircraft died than human beings on the ground

The first RAF bombing raid to kill more than a thousand people will have its seventieth anniversary in fifteen days

the Dambusters...

391:

60 X 10 man crew = six hundred dead/MIA/POW in an afternoon

That's as nothing against the first day of the first Battle of the Somme -- IIRC 30,000 British dead and over 100,000 wounded in one day!

That's your yardstick for the air campaign casualties. RAF Bomber Command lost 60,000 dead during the entire war. That's less than a week's toll by the standards of some of the big first world war battles.

(I sincerely hope we never see their like again.)

392:

On the first day of the Somme the British army suffered, according to official figures, 19,240 killed out of 57,470 casualties.

393:

The infantry battles are pretty much the worst numbers of casualties a military can endure, even dropping a tactical nuke on a tank division in in the Fulda gap wouldn't create such horrific numbers

But no modern government or air force could sustain losing six hundred men on just one mission the way the USAAF did at Schweinfurt-Regensburg, or the RAF did at Nuremberg in March 1944 - six hundred and seventy two dead or missing

Even the amphibious landings at Anzio - a relatively small battle in a less important theatre - cost 7000 lives!

any military operation that produced those kinds death tolls in a day would be condemned as a failure, even if the other side lost a thousand troops or civilians...

In 1943-1944 they scarcely changed tactics, and pressed on...

394:

In 1943-1944 they scarcely changed tactics, and pressed on...

First Chechen War. According to different sources, the Russians suffered between 5000 and 14,000 deaths, and between 17,000 and 50,000 casualties. Needless to say, the Chechens suffered more.

395:
People often think that Hitler dragged germany into war, but the reality is that the upper class of germany, of businessmen and aristocrats and generals, were determined to keep germany militarily strong and ready for war. He was just a handy stooge for crushing the workers and guaranteeing profits for the owning class, only he had his own plans and ruthlessly carried them out, escaping the control of his patrons.

Surely you're not saying the perfidious Mr. H. was a Tea-partyer ;-)

396:

Its a well known fact that people who lived, later hold scorn for the horrible, immoral people who kept them safe. Just look at what Kipling said about Tommy the Brut.

397:

When he joined the proto-Nazi party, he was apparently under orders from Army Intelligence. There's some evidence that some of his initial support within the Party was other new members run by the same outfit, while there was a shadowy Right-wing group of business/aristocratic origin that was also backing the Party, and saw Hitler as a potential stooge. They saw the fake support as real, and Hitler may not have realised that the applause at meetings was essentially fake.

Shirer may have reported a little too much of the official version of Hitler's pre-1924 life. The powers-that-be were trying to set up a worker's party for their own ends, and Hitler wasn't as controllable as they thought.

398:

@ 395 onwards
Yes.
Their convenient puppet-stooge got away from them & had a life of his own!
Alan Bullock's "Hitler & Stalin: Parallel Lives" is very clear on this.
The period between Jan-feb 1933 & June-July 1934 is very interesting, where Adolf had to manoeuver very carefully indeed. Of course, after 30th June '34 that was not a problem any more & Adolf was in charge, completely.

399:

Blame my memory. I'm probably conflating the British casualty count with the total first-day casualties on all sides. Or the first week British casualty count. Either way, it's still a monstrous butcher's bill. And they did it all without benefit of gas (a subsequent innovation), nukes, or aircraft.

400:

Also: the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. First world war grade casualties between the combatant powers; I don't think it's possible to understand modern Iranian politics without understanding the consequences of this war (coming as it did on top of the revolution).

Western European/North American representative democracies might not tolerate this kind of casualty toll in actual war-fighting today, but other people put up with it; and if you consider the number of people killed on the road in automobile accidents, it suggests we develop a blind spot to high death toll activities if they persist in the background for long enough.

401:

I think you may underestimate Hitler's abilities as a charismatic orator. Certainly by the time of his treason trial in 1924 he was able to deliver a powerful closing speech for the defense; reading it sends shivers up my spine, and I'm pretty much the kind of person he wanted in his gun-sights.

402:

Charlie ...
never mind reading it, try listem/watching him on You Tube from historical recordings.
Really, truly deeply scary .....

403:

the problem is that quite early in his career, the nice mr. hilter was building at his, err, legend. add to this that he seems to have been something of a loner, so we don't have that many witnesses, and it's somewhat difficult to work out his development. there has lately been some debate about hitler's early years, iirc with kershaw et al.

the infiltration job on the german worker's party was in july 1919, and before that, it gets stranger still; there is a photo of hitler with the thousands of people at kurt eisner's funeral, where eisner was the very leftist president of bavaria, and it seems like hitler was somewhat involved with the munich räterepublik.

there are multple interpretations, e.g. hitler was an informant for the rightist military all along, or he was first somewhat unpolitical, dabbled into leftist politics and was offered amnesty for informations after the revolution failed, became a throwaway agent, infiltrated the dap, with later becoming the mask.

as for the dap, i would put it more with the folkish movement than the socialists, though i agree it's somewhat muddled here.

btw...
i'm realy tired of psychowhatevering hitler, but when you look at his performances, it's him and the audience working each other up, which reminds me somewhat of the things said about suggestible people, e.g. with mpd and such. which would make hitler something of a mirror than an actor...

404:

I have occasionally speculated -- but not in fiction -- that there was another fellow in Berlin in 1918/19 who would have fitted the bill eerily well. Born in Austria to a mid-ranked civil servant father and hen-pecked mother at about the same time, went to the big city to become an artist, ran to sign up in 1914 when the shit hit the fan, wounded and decorated in battle, mustered out in Berlin after the war! The parallels are eerie, and but for an accident of fate the DAP might have been infiltrated at the behest of the army intelligence folks not by Adolf Hitler, but by Fritz Lang ...

405:

Hm, the idea has something to it, I guess I'll look somewhat closer at that one...

Come to think about it, it's not that surprising many similar people running around, from reasons related to Bayes to the fact politicians many can relate to are somewhat more popular.

On another note, reading about the "conservative revolution" guys makes for strange thoughts when reminiscencing about those long hours beer and/or coffee discussion nights with the usual young suspects of my late twenties. One of the guys having one grandpa with the Waffen SS and being able to make aliyah makes for even stranger ones, err. And when not speaking about sex, drugs, Rock'n'Roll, SF or RPGs, Futurism was quite popular.

As for the idea of Hitler as a quasi-MPD case, I found this idea interesting for two reasons. First of, it sidesteps somewhat the whole issue of Nazism being the most extreme form of fascism, mostly thanks to Hitler, being hard to square with Hitler as banality in person. With this, there are no evil hidden depths in Hitler, just a highly suggestible person playing along, similar to an iatrogenic multiple personality.
Second of, well, let's give this one to Peter Watts and see what he makes of it. ;)

406:

The suggestion I saw is that the time when he was being supported as a front-man gave him an easier start in oratory. I'm not sure where I saw it but there's a suggestion that his talent was polished while he was in Landsberg prison. He was allowed a secretary, and got some tutoring (which all sounds a bit strange), and wrote what became Mein Kampf.

Of course it always seems to be somebody else who did something significant, when these stories were told, after WW2, and some people, who left Germany before the war, were maybe trying to talk up their own importance.

407:

or, to summarize the idea somewhat and cross the streams with anime, "nazism, the stand alone complex"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_in_the_Shell_(philosophy)#Stand_Alone_Complex

back to the original posting...
the spread of force projection equipment like amphibious landing ships etc. is interesting, though imho those are most interesting with enemies from a certain category, e.g. countries with internal strife like libya or somalia (come to think about it, that one is still up? maybe somebody wants to have an dismal example to nosestomp anarcho-capitalists on...).

where nukes might be of little use, and as afaik already mentioned doing a false-flag operation with your enemy getting the fuck bombed out seems a very interesting tactic.

so, what else to do? parachute smartphone with a preconfigured ebay account and some paypal money, lots of food and clothing? it would be cheaper than any war, i guess, wreck havov on the economy and seem somewhat humane. please remember that haldane advocated chemical warfare as more humane than bullets.

408:

I can't find my source, but I did read years ago that Hitler was making a living as a intelligence agent looking into possibly dangerous groups. And Goring may have been his commander. He investigated the Nazies. They looked like they could be useful against the left. And he may have taken it over with with someones big money. In other words the Nazis likely would have starved out without those funds. If the story is true

409:

I'm not sure about that, but it is pretty clear that by the late 20's Hitler and the party were living on someone elses money, and the surviving evidence points to it being some big industrialists, wanting an anti-socialist catspaw.

410:

@ 409
Specifically: Thyssen, with a side-order from Krupp.

411:

and BASF, IG Farben, Daimler-Benz, and Auto-Union [and Ford and General Motors]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Thyssen#Nazi_Germany

Fritz Thyssen was among the first to realise what a disaster Hitler was going to be for the German people and economy, reneged on his support and sent to Sachsenhausen for doing so.

412:

Actually BASF was part of the IG Farben empire, which supported the Nazis not for anti-socialist reasons, but because the Nazis were advocates of autarky.

Even back in the 1920s, far-sighted IG Farben had been worried about Peak Oil, and had developed the Fischer-Tropsch process to make oil from coal. Unfortunately, Fischer-Tropsch oil was not competitive with imported oil, so IG Farben needed a protectionist government to get a return on their R&D investment.

413:

The first Nazis were socialist, sort of. to get the big money from big industrialists he killed the Storm Troopers who were full of his early supporters. In the Night of the Long Knives, the SS killed them all. Then the Nazis got the really big money.

414:

Oh no, it's starting again...

The first Nazis were socialist, sort of.

It depends somewhat on your definition of "socialist", which is somewhat murky even with historians. Also note that in Europe, state intervention into economics, state ownership of industries etc. is also something with the right, e.g. some conservatives.

And actually, if you look for their peers, the early Nazis were more of an offshot of what is called the "völkisch" movement:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Völkisch_movement

Not that early social democracy doesn't have its anti-semitic skeletons in the closet, though:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugen_Dühring

As for the idea of "National Socialism", if we look for other groups using this combination as a name, there is the "Nationalsozialer Verein",

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National-Social_Association

though those were not in the closer ancestry of the Nazis, being somewhat similar to Disraeli in tieing colonial expansion to social reform:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premiership_of_Benjamin_Disraeli#Second_government_.281874_.E2.80.93_1880.29

Incidentally, the founder, Naumann, is mainly remembered for giving his name to a foundation[1] close to the FDP, our Liberals/Libertarians. Yeah, it might seem strange...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Naumann_Foundation

Somewhat closer to Weimar, we have the last years of WW1, where Germany was running into heavy problems thanks to the blockade,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_Germany#Effects_During_the_War

which lead to the institution of what has sometimes been called "Kriegssozialismus" or "war socialism", with food rations and state administration of industries. Feel free to think about 1984, err, the actual food rations in 1948 that were worked into the book by Orwell.

One of the architects of the Imperial war economy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_economy#World_War_I_2

was Rathenau

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walther_Rathenau

who was later on targeted by the rightist press more or less for being Jewish and murdered, which tells you something about German graditude.

Quite generally, if you look at late WW1 in Germany, the "Oberste Heeresleitung(OHL)", or "supreme army command" was running quite a bit of the show in all areas, making for a stint into military dictatorship. There is a nice article on German wiki

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Wirtschaftsgeschichte_im_Ersten_Weltkrieg

BTW, @OGH, there are some books about new relgious and political movements in Weimar Germany by a historian called Ulrich Linse, though most of the thing I could find are only in German:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulrich_Linse
http://www.gs.hm.edu/professorenseiten/linse/linse_1.de.html

The university link includes an e-mail, though, as a last resort when looking for English translations.

Sadly, there is only a German article in those on wiki:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflationsheiliger

The most well known of those is, of course, Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy

which has somewhat alarming connections to German politics, especially, but not exclusive, the Greens.

[1] BTW the only German party foundation that is a foundation sensu strictu, e.g. with a founding capital.

415:

The biography you're after is that of Karl Mayr, who was literally Hitler's army intelligence handler, and later the Nazis' top fundraiser, doing the rounds of rich old ladies in Munich and being the Völkischer Beobachter's diplomatic correspondent, before he became disillusioned with Hitler and helped organise the SPD's loyalist paramilitary, as well as running a scandal sheet investigating prominent Nazis.

He fled to Paris after 1933, but was still there in June 1940 and was arrested by a special Gestapo task force. They stuck him in Dachau where he was listed as a "special category detainee, refer to Adolf Hitler personally". Or rather, not listed - as a result he wasn't in the main card-index. He was shot in February 1945 with a lot of the other high-value prisoners, or possibly killed in an air raid.

It is apparently known that he took his newspaper's and the Reichsbanner intel cell's files with him into exile, but their fate is very much unknown...[insert squid here]

He is officially an Interesting Guy (he served in Turkey and the Caucasus in 1918, among other stuff).

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Mayr_%28SPD%29

416:

I've into how the world got into this mess for longer than many of you have been alive. "Germany Between the Wars" would answer a lot of the posts questions It has many sources and they mach what I found. I agree with it so it must be true, right.

417:

You're right that the UK currently has no need to deter a nuclear attack, because there's no realistic risk of such, a state of affairs that will continue for the foreseeable future, but how long is that?

The chances of a new Stalin gaining full dictatorial power in the USA or China within the next 20 years seem pretty small, but what about the next 50 years, possibly in countries not currently great powers?

Hopefully, such a development, or any other change in world affairs that left the UK needing a nuclear capability, wouldn't take the Foreign Office completely by surprise. A few years warning seems reasonable.

At that point, if we've disarmed, we've got just a few years to reacquire a nuclear capability, before its needed, which might not be enough time, and rearming might well aggravate the global situation.

If we haven't disarmed, on the other hand, the UK has to pay to maintain the capability, but it's there when we need it.

Basically, then, it's insurance against the global situation turning steeply downhill. We'll probably never need it, just as we'll probably never claim on our insurance, but it's still worth having, just in case.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 25, 2013 7:33 AM.

Forthcoming UK Audio Books was the previous entry in this blog.

Grand Guignol Tropes is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda