Tag Archives: strategy

When the Tigers Broke Free – Rape in World War Two

I am afraid that the top side is not completely satisfied with my work… They are naturally disappointed that I failed to chase the Hun out of Italy but there was no military reason why I should have been able to do so. In fact there is no military reason for “Shingle”. – Major General John P. Lucas

 

 

The Royal Fusiliers Company C were not the only men sacrificed for the imbibing hereditary duke beyond the Cliffs of Dover. The Battle of Monte Cassino and its sub theaters were a great multicultural event.

The last time so many nations had uplifted and hurled themselves at an object was before black powder had been harnessed, and the destination was Jerusalem.

Marocchinate, used against Italian women, was not simply an Arab disease. The greatest amount of rape was yet to come, and if Hitler was correct to place over 90% of his forces to the East, we should have a good reason why after reading this article.

When discussing World War Two, Americans generally know very little. First of all, we think that we defeated Germany and that the French gave up and let gallant SS officers parade their finest Parisian women through the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Blitzkrieg shot down the nations of the continent like dominoes. The Brits had a sea between them and the Panzers. We had an ocean.

It was the Eastern Front where National Socialism and International Communism were waging a war of absolute annihilation where it was impossible that both were to be left standing, and it was here were 95% of German soldier casualties would transpire.

Japanese surrender in the Pacific Theater was also contingent on the Soviets halting their expansion beyond Manchuria.

What was so bad about the Russians? They were, after all, our allies.

Well lets take a look at the perception of some of their victims. The Ukraine had been starved to death without remorse during the 30′s. Was this the fate that awaited any resistor to Stalin?

It wasn’t only Americans that had gasped in horror about life under the Hammer and Sickles. There were already millions of people who had experienced it first hand.

After the War, Eisenhower marched German children through Belsen to make then feel bad, collectively. In order to feel bad about war crimes, you need to have a conscious to begin with. No one has wasted their time with this method in Russia.

Back to Monte Cassino, the soldiers who raised the flag over the monastery there were Polish. Remember that country? It had been provocative with Germany before the war, but thought the good men on the Thames had their back, and how did that work out for them? It was cut in half by the two most powerful armies in the world, and decapitated of its intellectual elite in the frozen tundra of Katyn.

Churchill saw Poland as a pawn, but who didn’t he see this way? When we view him cajoling others to thrust themselves into machine gun fire, it is not only Roger Water’s father at Ansio.

But a cemetery of the victims of this man could rival that of any other tyrant in history. Yet his side won, so we won’t be able to topple his bronze statues for quite some time, if ever. Churchill built his empire shooting men with spears, and lost it to men with guns. Now lets return to the East.

Last month, an art student in Gdansk erected a statue memorializing the rape victims of the Red Army. But he is Polish, weren’t the victims German women? No, hundreds of thousands were Polish women from 8 to 80.

This was the liberation that Poland received by the allies of Churchill, not to mention another 45 years of Soviet occupation.

Churchill gave Poland to Stalin on a silver platter. Trusting this man proved as fatal to a nation as any other time in history. His peers disabused him of power almost immediately after the war. Unfortunately the rest of Europe couldn’t undo his errors so easily.

The Christ of Nations, 1920

In Polish history, war usually comes down to two conflicting scripts. From the Polish side, pushing geographical boundaries out in all directions, as far as possible. From the opposing side: eliminating the irritating roadblock begrudgingly acknowledged as “Poland.” This theme is perennial.

It has not only been steel and fire that has determined if the land of the White Eagle was to be a flesh and blood state, or merely a state of mind; it was also the petitioning of the fighting spirit through ideological appeal.

Literature in Poland has served such a purpose. Polish literature is not meant to appeal to outsiders. It is generally so nationalistic that neighboring nations, even the most tolerant and enlightened, would feel a certain hostility emanating from its pages.

This is not to condemn Polish literature. The nonpareil polish bard, Adam Mickiewicz wrote his magnum opus, Pan Tadeusz, as an exile in France, when his drawn nation had been quartered by standing armies from neighbor states. The loot went to Vienna, Moscow and Berlin, but the heart went to Paris.

National Messianism, as a political ideology, grew from ethereal to concrete when General Pilsudski took this doctrine to the field, playing immovable object vs. unstoppable force, a.k.a the Russian Bear, immediately after the First World War.

Interestingly enough, however, national messianism had already been translated to the East. If Western readers ever confront this strain of thought, it probably will first be through Dostoevsky, an ardent Russian Slavophile who saw his nation as a victim of Prussian and Polish military aggression. In Dostoevsky, it is Russia, not Poland, that is to suffer for humanity, and teach the nations the righteousness of his ever-expanding enlightened empire.

Russia had become the Christ of Nations, filled with millions of little Christs ready to pick up the bayonet in the mud and charge forward.

Did these two competing messianic visions go toe-to-toe?

Rewind to November 21st, 1919. Out of the ashes of the Austrian and Russian empires, arise new nations, still wet from blood-soaked trenches. Two of these nations are Poland and the Ukraine who had just met each other in battle and are now signing an armistice.

Fast forward to April, 1920. Pilsudski launches an offensive into the Ukraine as a preemptive strike to halt Soviet expansion. May, 1920 – Polish forces take Kiev.

If anyone is the victim of these scrambles for land (and oil fields) it is the Ukraine, who is now partitioned between competing forces; Red Russians, White Russians, Poland, and Romania.

That Pilsudski believed in the Polish Messianic doctrine is not in dispute.

That Lenin’s boys in the field, Trotsky and Stalin, believed in the reactionary Slavophile ideal would be harder to prove.

Trotsky was active in trying to make Poland a Russian dacha-land for Soviet Party members. He would become a symbol on both sides in the propaganda war, yet both sides would utilize traditionalist Christian imagery to appeal to the peasantry and recruits, as the idea of an atheistic world-brotherhood of workers had yet to sink in with the illiterate icon-praising Russian bumpkin.

The Soviet propagandists utilized traditionalist, Slavophile, and Messianic motifs in their early deployments. Their appeal to their own soldiers was often reactionary and messianic.

The Polish-Soviet War was intense. It was also ideological. It lasted less than two years, but took more lives on each side than America lost in Vietnam or Korea. And we are talking 1920 technology and weaponry. This suggests a fiercely personalized battle between belligerents.

19 years later World War Two would start, and 95% of German deaths would be claimed by Eastern European ravens, not by Anglo-American hardware.

As always, ideological struggles prove the most bloodthirsty. The playing ground of red and white goal posts was between the Vistula and the Volga. World history, either before nor since, has never seen such a merciless score.

Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon

Here is a link to an excellent review of Nicholas Lambert’s Planning Armageddon a new book about British strategic planning prior to WWI.  It sounds like an excellent read and a book that has to go on my wish list.

Berlin-1945

Barbarossa/Eatern Front Timeline in WWII

Over the past few days I have had an email conversation with Mr. George Toomes, one of my readers, and he brought up a very interesting question. It started with asking if I had or knew where to find a map of the Russian counter-attack outside Moscow in the winter of 1941. In a follow up he mentioned that he was trying to get an idea of when and where the Germans and Russians stopped in their various offensives and counter-offensives in the war in the East.

Russia-1941
Russia-1941

I don’t think I have ever seen a video or graphic that lays out the back and forth of the eastern front in the way this question asks. One thing is certain, the Eastern Front in World War II was dynamic throughout the entire war. From the massive gains of the Germans during the first year of the invasion to the equally massive gains by the Russians in the last, the front was always in motion somewhere. One of the difficulties when discussing the War in the East is the sheer scale of the operational area. The Eastern Theater of the war encompassed an area almost 1,500km deep by roughly 2,000km north-south., an area of roughly 3 million km2.

Best animation of the front movements of WWII I have found freely available. It is from Wikimedia Commons and unfortuantely for English speakers the labelling is in German.

During the 4 years that the war was fought the Germans started from just east of Warsaw and went almost to Moscow before being stopped and then being ground back to Berlin over the subsequent 3 years. It is not that simple though, there were constant ebbs and flows as the front line moved constantly from the huge gains of major offensives by both sides to small tactical adjustments at battalion and even company level.

Berlin-1945
Berlin-1945

The volatility, to borrow a term from the stock market, of the Eastern Front is breathtaking if one takes the time to really look at it. There are several good books post USSR that utilize newly available archives to tell the story of the Eastern Front in even greater detail than before and the most distinguished author writing on the Russo-German War is David Glantz whose best titles include: When Titans Clashed and Stumbling Colossus.

Honey or Salt?

There is an old adage that “you can catch more flies with honey than with salt.” The truth of that adage is being put to the test daily in Afghanistan and being to shown to be false under certain circumstances at least. ISAF is not winning currently, but they are not exactly losing either. At best from what I read, see, and hear ISAF is fighting a delaying action against the inevitable fall of the central government and rise of whatever Islamic extremist group bubbles up out of the morass of internal Afghan politics. I can almost guarantee it won´t be the Taliban, but probably someone very much like them.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was back from his current tour in Afghanistan for R&R, I got the opportunity to sit down and talk to him a little about what is going on in his unit´s AO and it was not heartening. That talk, combined with the generally dismal news coming out of that Godforsaken country has really started me wondering if we can achieve our goals there. I don´t think we need to pull out and wash our hands of Afghanistan just yet but the time is rapidly approaching when I may start advocating that.

It is obvious that COIN doctrine is a complete failure in the fractured society of Afghanistan. Mainly I think that is because above the level of the clan the average Afghan cannot really conceive of having loyalty to anything. That goes double for something as amorphous as a national state. The central government has not really done anything for them and furthermore, is almost nonexistent outside of the provincial capitals and bigger towns. The Taliban are everywhere though, what´s more, their justice is swift and uncompromising, and they can actually enforce their edicts.

ISAF Patch

The essential question right now for the US and the rest of ISAF is what is the way forward? Are they really only looking to 2014 and an exit strategy? What are the plans when/not if another pro-terrorist or tolerant regime comes to power? Lastly, if we are only looking to get out, are we achieving anything in terms of training and development right now that justifies staying for another two years? All are questions without good answers that I can see.

Getting back to the title of the post, is current COIN doctrine working in Afghanistan? From where I sit, the answer seems to be a resounding no. The number of incidents in which supposedly friendly Afghan troops turn their weapons on the ISAF troops they are working with is amazing as a simple Google search for ana-isaf shootings shows.  It also does not help that simple YouTube search for U.S. Army Soldiers Helmet Cam Firefights, turns up a legion of videos that the Taliban can use to examine our squad level TTPs or Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures.  These videos are a major OPSEC failure at a minimum and the guys posting them are putting themselves and all their comrades in danger no matter how cool or exciting the videos may be.

It is apparent to me that what the US and by extension the rest of ISAF has tried to do is take what worked in Iraq and transplant it to Afghanistan and it has signally failed as a doctrine for the conditions in Afghanistan. Perhaps ISAF needs to fight more as the Taliban do, and by that, I do not mean fighting from the shadows. I mean perhaps ISAF should start going after the thing that Afghans value the most, the families of known insurgents. We do not need to necessarily kill them; it would probably be enough to sequester them. I am thinking something more along the lines of what the British did in the Boer War, the original concentration camps.

With proper planning, ISAF could eliminate a source of support for the insurgents while at the same time applying pressure to the insurgents to come to an accommodation with the central government. They could also get the NGOs involved in running such camps helping to ensure the the people are treated well and the rest of the world knows that.  Credible threats to apply a policy of collective guilt, a concept known in Islam, can also be used. It would probably take some executions of family members to make the insurgents realize ISAF was serious, but you can´t make an omelet without breaking eggs and aid to insurgents is virtually the same thing as detonating an IED. The family and other supporters of insurgents are just as responsible for violence as are the insurgents themselves. Some type of scorched earth policy would probably also be necessary.

What is even better is that such a plan has some chance of success because I does not treat the Afghans as if they are poor Westerners, which is the mistake Westerners often make when dealing with people of other cultures.  Of course, if such a plan were implemented the Bleeding Hearts like Amnesty International and other likeminded groups would scream bloody murder.  It would also be hard for Western governments to ignore these groups, there tentacles are so deep in the political left of the West.

In the end, I don’t think that Western Governments have the will to do what they have to do to achieve victory in Afghanistan and we are wasting our time and soldiers lives for an enterprise that is ultimately futile.  I would love to see us win or at least eliminate the potential for radical Islamism to come out of Afghanistan again.  I just don’t see that in the cards given the nature of Western politics and the established that elected leaders really plan no farther than the next election.

I sincerely hope that I am wrong though.  That is something that only time will tell.  I am pretty goo at describing the past but my powers of predicting the future are often not that great.  May this prediction be one of those.  Otherwise, I fear that the West will be back in that corner of the world in the not too distant future essentially trying to do the same thing we are doing now.

Ralph Peters had an excellent piece on RCP a few weeks ago that both elegantly and not so elegantly expresses the frustration that people with military backgrounds and no political ax to grind have with the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. His not so elegant yet oh so apt summation is “In war, soldiers die. But they shouldn’t die for bullshit.” The full piece is here: Soldiers Murder Afghans, Generals Murder Soldiers

It is not that I don’t think we should fight.  I just think that if we are going to fight this war then lets fight to win and not fight to find a “honorable exit” similar to what we supposedly achieved in Vietnam in 1973.