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Ink blot madness… or how not to win in Iraq

Sometimes people are shown ink blots in the hope of finding clues as to their mental characteristics. If the ink blots remind you of the ‘wrong’ things then you may have problems.

However, a different form of “ink blot madness” has been doing the rounds for some time: The ink blot strategy.

The ink blot strategy holds that the British won in Malaya (now Malaysia and the independent city state of Singapore) not by killing, capturing or driving out the communists, but by taking bits of Malaya and making life “so good” in these bits that people “did not want to fight the British any more” and then expanding these bits “like ink blots”. By copying this strategy we can all win in Iraq – or so it is claimed.

There are various problems with this idea. Firstly it is not what the British army did in Malaya – whatever some people may say they did. In reality the men went out and fought the enemy (in the jungle or elsewhere). Certainly there were ‘protected villages’ and so on, but Malaya was a fight (it was not a welfare project).

Further the British did not give vast amounts of aid to Malaya. Britain did not have this sort of money to give away in the early 1950’s and it would not have really improved economic life anyway (more on that below). In so far as economic life did improve in Malaya during the “Emergency” British aid was not the real reason.

And, of course, the (mostly ethnic Chinese) communists in Malays were not fighting for “better socio-economic conditions” anyway – they were fighting for communism (hint, that is why they were called ‘communists’). Try asking someone who knows something about Vietnam how all the welfare statism there did not make the VC or NVA vanish (nor was ‘support’ for them among civilians based upon poor social or economic conditions, such support was based on terror – you helped the communists or you and your family would be killed)

How can someone be so plain daft as to suppose that the reason someone becomes a suicide bomber in Iraq (whether they are from Iraq or from outside) is because they turned on the light one day and it did not go on. “Oh if only the electricity and the water supply worked better, then I would not strap a lot of explosives to myself and go blow up a bus full of school children”.

Also physics teaches us that it is less difficult to destroy that to create. The terrorists left undisturbed (under the ink blot strategy) in ‘their’ bits of Iraq will find it less difficult to come in and blow things up in ‘ink blot land’ than the U.S. Army (or anyone else) will find it to build nice services.

The ink blots will not ‘spread, they will shrink. Going on the defensive is sign that one has no real will to win – and would mean that soldiers being killed would be dying for nothing (as the poltical choice to give up had already been made – sound familar?).

Then there is the assumption that government can make the lives of people Iraq “so good they will not fight”, it is not just that the terrorists are fighting because they would like nicer ‘public services’ (which is absurd), but the whole idea that the government can make so many millions of people have such happy lives.

One does not have to a libertarian to see the absurdity of this idea. The government can not (for example) make the lives of Compton in greater Los Angeles. “So good they will not want to fight” (after so many decades of welfare schemes and ‘urban renewal’ schemes) – so how is going to that in Iraq?

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, the ‘ink blot strategy’ is stupid. And whoever the military officers and politicans who are behind may be, it is time they shut up. If the war is justified then fighting should continue (i.e. the enemy, especially the leadership, should be hunted down and killed or caputured), and if the war is not justified then the troops should come home.

But there is no ‘socio-economic road’ to victory.

43 comments to Ink blot madness… or how not to win in Iraq

  • Well said. Malaya was ‘my war’ (did some pretty pioneering things with helicopters, even if I say so myself) and we won it by getting into the green stuff and killing a lot of people at bayonet range as well as bombing all hell out of anywhere we detected a concentration of the enemy. We certainly did not win by focusing on ‘force protection’ at the expense of ‘enemy killing’ and it was very much a case of “when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”: the hearts and minds stuff (which was trivial to be honest: does anyone think we asked nicely before relocating people to protected villages?) was a reward rather than an inducement.

    I am often amazed how little people understand how ruthless we were in order to win there (rightly so, I might add).

  • James

    I thought the “ink blot” part of “ink blot strategy” was to refer to “seeing” victory in any situation, even if bad. In other words, painting defeat as a victory. But I guess not. Maybe next time.

  • “Ink blot” is just another way to describe what Lyautey described as an “oil slick” strategy, but Lyautey saw the expanding edges of the oil slick as a vigorous military campaign.

    You intrude into the enemy’s territory and establish several strongholds, you then gradually link them up, like a series of expanding oil slicks, killing the enemy relentlessly and smothering his areas of support. Lyautey did this very effectively in North Africa and it had little to do with hearts and minds.

  • Verity

    Whoaaah, Old Jack Tar. There is no bigger fan than me of what the Brits and Aussies accomplished in Malaysia, but You intrude into the enemy’s territory and establish several strongholds, you then gradually link them up, like a series of expanding oil slicks,

    At the time of these – very effective – exercises, had anyone heard of an ‘oil slick’ never mind an expanding series of them? I’m betting not, but correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, I don’t see oil slick in arid N Africa. I just think it is an inapt analogy. But what we did in Malaya was effective. When I lived in Malaysia, comparatively recently, you may be interested to know that a lot of the city maps of KL are misleading. On the outer edges, the roads mapped are non-existent or lead you back into the city. Even now.

    Which demonstrates the seriousness of the threat of the communists.

  • I’m betting not, but correct me if I’m wrong.

    That is indeed the analogue Lyautey used: expanding pools that gradually covered everything. If you ran into stiff resistance, the ‘oil slick’ went around it and cut it off from any support. Lyautey has always been much quoted and much misunderstood in COIN circles. Still to this day, it would seem.

    If the Americans really are going to do a ‘Lyautay’ in Iraq, they are going to get stuck in and kill a lot of people. The real “oil slick” or “ink blot” or whatever, is about ruthlessly strangling an enemy by getting in his face and bringing what passes for ‘normal life’ in Iraq to a complete standstill… and making no apologies for that.

    Everyone had better understand that there are no soft options if you want to win a war like this. It makes me wonder if the Yugoslavia/Kosovo air campaign has causes a softening of certain brains. If Paul Marks is right and they think we “bought” victory in Malaya by giving mosquito nets away to the protected villages or that was the meaning of the “ink blot” approach, they they need to fire the Pentagon’s entire military history staff and start again.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    My mum, who grew up in Malaya during the insurrection, told me stories of how the commies would steal the chickens from the family farm.

    That did wonders for their PR.

  • chuck

    The inkblot strategy is a lovely fantasy, but as far as I can tell it has nothing to do with how the war is being fought. Indeed, the reporter is really reaching to imply that it has been endorsed by Bush. Anyone who takes a newspaper article on military matters seriously is not quite right, if you know what I mean ;^)

    PS, this is also called the oilspot strategy. It was not proposed by the military nor endorsed by the White House but comes from an article in Foreign Affairs. As far as I can tell, things are going OK in Iraq, the panic is mostly confined to those bizarre and crazy souls who speak of guagmire. In short, Democrats, academics, journalists, and Europeans. Not a very impressive bunch, I am afraid.

  • Whatever the name, this sounds like the strategy we abandoned early last year. I think this Krepinevich is just trying to make some hay.

  • Chris Harper

    This idea that attitudes can be changed by improving the economic circumstances is an example of how marxian attitudes dominates even right wing thinking; even that of those who claim to reject marxism.

    Leftish thought is coming to dominate ALL discussion, apparently.

  • Luniversal

    I visited Gerald Templer’s grave in Wilsford churchyard, Wiltshire, some years ago. It was overgrown and neglected. Few remember the first western commander to win a Third World war against communist guerillas, but if the Americans had heeded his example they would not have got so badly mauled in Vietnam.

    In Malaya, Britain called Chin Peng’s bluff. The MCP was not supported by the majority. It ruled by fear. We were seen as a colonial power on its way out, doing the locals a last service. We won them over. Lady T, who did sterling humanitarian work, was no small part of the good impression we left.

    In Vietnam the communists, who were as much nationalists as marxists, did have majority support. They had the huge prestige of Dienbienphu. They would have won the 1956 elections and united the country. America insisted on replacing France as the quasi-colonal master of Indochina, driving locals into Ho Chi Minh’s arms and propping up a corrupt tyranny in Saigon.

    As a case study in neo-imperial bungling, Iraq falls halfway between Malaya and Vietnam. Most locals were delighted to be rid of Saddam and have responded warmly to the invitation to be democrats, but have no wish for a USA bound hand and foot to Israel to become their permanent Big Brother. In December’s poll BB’s candidates bit the dust. An insurgency which would have died out quickly if the Americans had withdrawn to the ME periphery after ‘Mission Accomplished’ has been given artificial resuscitation by their clumsy, ill-planned and punitive attempts to make Iraq into exactly the sort of government that best suits neoconservative objectives.

    Contrary to some predictions, the so-called Arab street did not rise up in violent protest against the occupation, but it has signalled its dislike of pseudo-imperialism at the ballot box. The freest elections yet held in Iran, Iraq and now Palestine have all produced unexpected ‘hard line’ Islamist outcomes. It is not enough to say that these were popular protests against establishment corruption within these countries. They also send America a message.

    For the Pentagon to be conducting studies of ground war against Iran against such a background indicates how deaf Washington still is to that message. Templer could have taught the neocons a thing or two about the judicious deployment of sticks and carrots.

  • Paul Marks

    I hope I did not imply that President Bush supported the stupid plan. I am not a great fan of the President (as people round this site know), but I would never excuse him of that.

    Colonel K., Senator McCain and all the usual suspects are playing their normal game of second guessing the men in command and the men in the field.

    If they were not second guessing the men doing the fighting I would not stick my nose in (I am not a soldier).

    I have no lack of respect for men like Senator McCain (I would not like to have been held by the communists in Vietnam), but I suspect that his support for Colonel K. is just part of his feud with the Secretary of Defence.

    As for the Democrats and the media – well their “help” is best avoided in any situation.

    A word in defence of the United States miltary in Vietnam.

    For all the bad judgements made (and most of these were at the political-strategic level – not the military-tactical level). It was a different war to Malaya.

    I am sure I would not have lasted long against the communists in Malaya (so I have the greatest respect for Old Jack Tar), but in Vietnam there were two enemies.

    There was indeed the V.C. (or N.L.F.) and they were (in some periods) much like the communists in Malaya – but there was also the N.V.A. (the regular army of the communists in North Vietnam) – after 1968 most of the “V.C.” were really N.V.A. (and a lot of V.C. before 1968 were really N.V.A.).

    General Giap admitted losing one million regular troops in the war. I doubt whether the British in Malaya killed a million (plus) enemy – only to find more millions in the field against them.

    The only way to even block the movement of the communists into the Republic of Vietnam would have been to go into Laos with the United States Army (not just the Air Force and the C.I.A.) to physically block enemy movement (moving into Cambodia alone does not guard the flank).

    Korea was different – the sea covered the flank.

    Without physically blocking enemy supplies and reenforcement, the communists could pop up anywhere (and in any strength).

    Even so the Army of the Republic of Vietnam defeated a full scale communist invasion in 1973 (the Easter Invasion) without American ground troops (just supplies and air support).

    In 1975 (indeed before this) air support and proper levels of supples were denied by Congress (both to the Republic of Vietnam and to Cambodia) thus dooming resistance (with horrible consequences for millions of people in Indo China).

    The above being said – I grant you all that Templer would not have been caught by surprise by the 1968 Tet Offensive.

    However, remember the truth of what happened then (not the media presentation). The United States armed forces fought back and virtually wiped the V.C. units.

    The media loved showing the men in black dancing about all over the place – but a while later those darlings of the media were dead.

    Sadly Giap and the rest of the leadership in the North just sent in more men later. Actually they had promised a big N.V.A. offensive to come to the aid of the V.C. at the time, but it did not happen. There were some attacks, but not the vast offensive Giap had promised (some of said that the Communist leadership in the North actually wanted to get rid of local leaders – as they might be rivals for power).

    Still, by the standards of Malaya the United States miltary and the military of the Republic of Vietnam clearly defeated the Tet offensive. The enemy were killed – but there were millions of more enemies organizing in the North (with massive amounts of hardware – inculding Mig fighters, tanks and so on) not the same situation as Malaya.

    One thing to bare to keep in mind – more civilians were killed by SAM anti aircraft missiles comming down to earth than by U.S. bombs going off target during President Nixon’s “Christmas bombing” of the enemy capital (as is well known the United States Army was not allowed to invade North Vietnam for political reasons – so the enemy had a safe area to organize in).

    Thousands of missiles were fired (they brought down six B52’s) – supplied (like so much else) by the Soviets and the Chinese (and their little helpers).

    There were even both Soviet and Chinese military forces helping in North Vietnam whilst the Soviets and Chinese forces clashed on their mutal border (somehow this did not bother them).

    On Iraq:

    There must be no “safe areas” for the enemy to organize in (to recruit-conscript, arm, train and plan), no “invisible lines” that the army is not allowed to cross. And no clever-clever “socio-economic” schemes.

  • niconoclast

    So Churchill was wrong.Instead of carpet bombing Dresden he should have air dropped carpets for the German people and won their hearts and mind ye Gods.

    Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it…..

  • Paul Marks

    I never mentioned Churchill. Actually he was only one of many key people in favour of area bombing in cities (the old view of “Churchill as dictator” was discredited years ago as the various documents came out bit-by-bit, although it was nice for people who wanted to shove all responsibilty for harsh things on him).

    Was it useful to bomb German cities – yes. But remember the opportunity cost – the men and resources devoted to bombing the cities could have been doing other useful things.

    So even if one does not care about enemy civilians it is not certain that this use of airmen and resources was the most sensible one.

    One of the main arguments in the very late period of the war for bombing the cities was not about destroying factories (which often were not destroyed anyway) but about diverting German men from the front by keeping them in an antiaircraft role.

    How effective this policy was in shortening the war I do not know. But again, one must remember that resources deployed destroying German cities are resources taken from other useful tasks – which might have shortened the war more.

    I am not a kindly person. But I want to be convinced that killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is the best use of military men and resources (also remember thousands of Bomber Command men were killed on these missions) before I say it was good idea.

    If there is any reasonable doubt then it is not acceptable.

    It is the same as my view of the atomic bombing of the Japanese (although one must remember than conventional bombing killed more Japanese than the two atomic bombs did).

    It has often been said that a demonstration on an unhibated island would not have convinced the Japanese to give up – I tend to AGREE with that.

    However, I might have given it a go anyway (I repeat that I am not a kindly person – but the consequences of the bombings do bother me, although I do understand that more civilians would have been killed if a conventional invasion of Japan had been tried).

    The argument against a test on an unhibated island (with Japanese observers under the protection of the Red Cross….) is that one then loses the element of surprise.

    Actually the Japanese war is one where Churchill looks rather bad.

    Firstly he refused (when he was Chancellor back in the 1920’s) to grant the money to improve far eastern defences (espeically those of Singapore) and then claimed suprise when it turned out that Singapore’s land defences were very weak in 1941-1942.

    This was particularly bad as (under the advice of Beaverbrook [sorry for my spelling]) Churchill had agreed to send the Spitfires earmarked for Singapore to the Soviet Union (although almost the whole cabinet was in “anything for Uncle Joe” mood).

    It was Japanese superiority in the air (NOT Japanese numbers on the ground) that doomed Malaya in 1941-1942.

    Even at sea: The Repulse and the Prince of Wales were destroyed by Japanese airpower (although the Japanese pilots were highly impressed by the performance of the Captain and men of the Repluse – they are supposed to have thrown that big old ship about as if it was a M.T.B. – dodging torpedo after torpedo, but there was just too many of them and no help came).

    At one point Churchill had ordered an Aircraft Carrier to the Far East – but it had engine trouble and did not get there. Too little, too late.

    I am not saying that the British commanders in the area were much good (unlike Slim later – he was a remarkable soldier), but it was London that really messed things up.

  • Paul Marks

    My apologies to any Navy people. I should have, of course, used the word “she” (not “it”) when I mentioned the Repulse.

    I also apologize for any other errors I may have made.

  • Euan Gray

    Was it useful to bomb German cities – yes

    No, it wasn’t. It completely failed in its objectives and was a complete waste of resources.

    How effective this policy was in shortening the war I do not know

    Not at all.

    then claimed suprise when it turned out that Singapore’s land defences were very weak in 1941-1942

    Singapore’s land defence scheme was predicated on the assumption that any attack would have come from the sea to the south, not from the mainland to the north. In the case of an attack from the north it was virtually defenceless. The Japanese had the lack of tact to ignore British military and political planning & failed to attack from the south.


  • Paul Marks

    For once Euan has supported the side I would tend to rather more strongly than I dared to myself.

    It might be overstressing the case to say that the bombing of German cities achieved nothing, but it did not achieve what was promised for it. And the men and military resources might well have been better used in other tasks.

    On Singapore there had been many proposals to build land defences over the years. However, when resources were not made available the military and civilian authorities did indeed come out with the line that Euan describes – well we do not need them anyway.

    In the 1941-1942 campaign even ad hoc defences were rejected (by the senior commander – General Percival?) when suggested by junior commanders. Various excuses were made for not doing much – but the real reason was that (without modern aircraft) the top commanders believed the defence was hopeless.

    Oddly enough the Japanese commander (I forget his name) did not agree. He was very aware of how tight resources were for him and made clear (in private) that some of his behaviour at the surrender talks (shouting at the top of his voice, marching about and so on) was not just “Japanese bluster”, but a fear that the British would not surrender.

    He wanted to put on show – to make his opponents think he was stonger than he thought he was.

    One of the mad things about the final stages of campaign was how British and Empire (Austalian, Indian and other) troops kept being shipped into Singapore (even though, as there was no modern air cover, the local commanders were not planning to hold the area).

    By the time of the surrender British Empire troops greatly outnumbered the Japanese.

  • Luniversal

    The idea that communists somehow played dirty in the Vietnam War because they were prepared to take far more casualties (e.g. in Tet) is a quaint revival of Nazi Germany’s exculpation for losing the war in the East: that Stalin was so much more callous in throwing his men into the battle.

    The point, however, is whether and why men will fight. As the Tsar found in 1917, and the nationalist Chinese in the late 1940s, all the coercion in the world cannot compel men to battle. They have to think something– their native soil, or a creed– is worth the risk. And then all the coercion in the world cannot make them stop fighting, even when they face certain death.

    Vietnam was a single country, artificially divided by alien exploiters, which refused to remain so. The communism of its leaders, as subsequent developments have demonstrated, was not of the rigid Castroite or Kim Jong Il kind but more akin to Mao’s: an ideological schwerpunkt for patriotism which can be drastically modified once it has done its work. Writers such as Graham Greene who understand the human heart saw this more plainly than the Macnamaras and Bundys feeding data about villages being ‘75.3pc hostile’ into their IBMs.

    Ditto the unideological peasants who were the backbone of the USSR’s resistance to Hitler: the most excruciatingly gallant epic of modern warfare. Some may have died with Stalin’s name on their lips or in hopes that they were forwarding world revolution. Many more invoked God or their mother or Russia.

    The fatal neocon error is to suppose that people other than theorists rooted only to their desks are moved by slogans and isms– ‘democracy’, ‘liberty, even ‘modernity’ for pity’s sake– rather than the tangibles of blood, faith and soil. The mistake has been painfully discovered again in Iraq, one of the most kinship-oriented countries on earth, where more than half the men marry first or second cousins. What chance do the murderous abstractions of the multicultural persecutor stand against such geodesic fidelity to the real?

  • Euan Gray

    On Singapore there had been many proposals to build land defences over the years.

    Singapore had plenty of land defences, and impressive they were.

    They just pointed the wrong way, that’s all.


  • J

    ” What chance do the murderous abstractions of the multicultural persecutor stand against such geodesic fidelity to the real?”


    That said, I agree with your comment, if not the language used to express it 🙂


  • “geodesic fidelity” !?!?!?

    Employment of a vocabulary one has no mastery of is a sure sign of fidelity to a doctrine of bullshit.

  • Paul Marks

    Euan is quite correct. However, there had been many proposals for defences on the land side (as I tried to point out – although I did not explain myself well).

    On Vietnam – for Luniveral.

    First of all I am no neocon (i.e. a social democrat). I am no neo anything. I am a libertarian.

    The idea that Uncle Ho really cared about the unity of Vietnam is false. He was a Communist – if dividing the area (there have been many Empires in Indo China) had been the only way he could some of it for Communism he would have gone along with it .

    But he and the rest of the Communist leadership thought they could get the whole area (and they did in the end – although now they are most likely spinning in Hell as Vietnam goes soft on the Marxism which was the only thing Uncle Ho ever really believed in).

    Ho was picked up in Hong Kong back in the 1930’s – did he think Hong Kong was part of a “greater Vietnam”? No he was just working for the Comintern and happened to be there. He was born in Vietnam so he was given a job to there later on – he did not give a toss about the place. Any more that Mao did about China (Mao neither cared about Chinese traditions or the Chinese people) or that half mad tartar Lenin cared Russia (he despised Russia and Russians).

    They worked in the countries they were born in – because they knew them best, not because they cared about them.

    Did the Communists “fight dirty” – well yes they did. The vast majority of civilian murders in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were done by them (right from the 1940’s) – not something that “liberals” like to be reminded of.

    The murder process often included slow cruelity and mutliation that even the worst G.I. on drugs (and most G.I.s were not murders or on drugs – especially not in the field as that was a good way to get killed) would not have thought of in his darkest dreams.

    Why did people fight for the Communists? Because if they did not they and their families would be sadistically killed. Western concepts like nationalism may have influenced some people (although Uncle Ho and the rest, as good Marxists, depised “nationalism” remember), but terror was always their weapon of choice.

    As for the Soviet Union – five million Soviet troops surrendered to the Germans. How does that fit with your case?

    Certainly the Germans created problems for themselves – when they went in they were recieved with bread and salt, but then they made clear that they considered slavs “sub human” and treated them accordingly.

    So the Communist minority were able to gain some more support (because that mad swine Hitler GAVE them that chance). Without the crimes of Hitler, and those that followed him, their own terror State (which had already murdered tens of millions of people) would have crashed down.

    A mixutre of terror, miltary mistakes by the Germans (such as not driving on Moscow till too late in the year [this was not the Moscow of 1812, this was the vital capital of a police state] and not getting the Japanese to attack in the east), vast numbers – and (yes) some appeals to Holy Mother Russia did help defeat the Germans.

    So did vast aid from Britian and the United States. Very large numbers of British sailers lie on the bottom of the northern seas because they were bringing supplies in the Artic Convoys (this was the reality of the “factories beyond the Urals” – sure they were beyond the Urals, the world is round, a lot of them were in Birmingham and Detroit).

    Before the invasion of 1941 a Russian (or a member of another nationality in the Soviet Empire – remember Russians were only the largest group) could be shot (or much worse) for “nationalism” or for other devotion to the old ways.

    But after a while Radio Moscow was indeed broadcasting “Save Holy Mother Russia” to the people. But that only had an impact because the German National Socialists made it have an impact.

    As for the Republic of Vietnam (it was never “South Vietnam” remember). I agree that it might have unified the country.

    The U.S. and Republic of Vietnam forces (and there allies) could have moved and hanged “Uncle Ho” and his fellow scum. And if Mao had objected he should have been told to jump into his favourate river and stay there.

    One did not need to do that to that to win the war – just move in to Laos (on the ground with the army – not try it from the air or woth the C.I.A.) and cut the supply lines (but liberating the North would have been no bad thing).

    “But that would have meant war with China” – oh yes? A country with no long range misiles at all (at that time).

    And a nation where Mao was busy murdering tens of millions of people (or have you forgotten that Mao was the greatest mass murderer of all time).

    Saving China from a creature like Mao (and his comrades) is harldy a downside to the policy.

    Not a needed military move – but it could have been done.

    By the way how do you explain Communist operations in Laos and Cambodia – were they trying to “unify the country” also?

    Pol Pot really loved the people of Cambodia – which is why he sent a third of them to a better world (and would have sent most of them there if he had a bit more time).

    Are you saying he was kept in power by “popular support” – was it mass suicide?

    He was just a more extreme verison of Mao and when Mao died (well a few years later) the pro Soviet Communists in Vietnam could move in

    Pro Chinese, Pro Soviet (both Soviets and Chinese operated in North Vietnam during the war – although the Vietnamese Communists and the Chinese ones fell out in 1978). They were all Communists and their faction fights always played second to there desire to kill or enslave all noncommunists.

    Yes ALL – In the United States as well.

    Inculding Murry Rothbard and everyone else who said that the American government was the worst government in the world – saying that would not have saved them.

    The Vietnam war may have been a mistake. But to say that most people in Vietnam or in Laos or in Cambodia wanted to be ruled by the Communists is not true. Everytime people had a chance the vast majority ran towards antiCommunist forces (American, Australian, A.R.V.N. and so on) not away from them. Why did civilians run NORTH?

    And even after 1975 – have we forgotten the boat people so soon?

    To claim that the Communists won by popular support is an insult to the millions of people the Communists murdered in Indo China.

    And it is an insult to the tens of millions people murdered by the Soviet Communists and to the tens of millions of people murdered by the Chinese Communists.

    Whatever we think about Iraq or “neocons” let us not forget that Communism was the greatest evil mankind has ever seen.

  • It might be overstressing the case to say that the bombing of German cities achieved nothing, but it did not achieve what was promised for it. And the men and military resources might well have been better used in other tasks.

    The best thing that can be said for the strategic air war generally prior to Spaatz’s “oil plan” was that it forced the deployment of a large chunk of the Luftwaffe in defence of Germany, without which it is unlikely the Soviet VVS would ever have have gained air parity let alone air superiority in the East. Bombing cities was fairly close to worthless within the terms of what they were actually intending to do and most of the benefits it bought the allied war effort were either secondary or unintentional.

  • Paul Marks

    My question was, of course, why did civilains NOT run north? Of course the vast majority of movement was always moved away from the Communists and towards noncommunists – whenever people could.

    I apologize for my error and for even more typing errors than normal (words left out, letters banged in wrong – and so on).

    It is just so disgusting to see (even after all these years) someone come up with the same old stuff – downplaying the Marxism of Mao (the greatest mass murderer of all time), pretending the Communists won in Vietnam because of “popular support” and all the rest of it.

    It is like being back in the days before either the Killing Fields of Cambodia or the Boat People of Vietnam had made people think again about there “America is always wrong position”.

    I particularly “liked” that bit about Nicky II finding out that “no amount of coercion” can make men fight.

    How would a weakling like Nicky ever find that out?

    Lenin had no trouble using coercion to make men fight. Threats to the families could make officers fight (the familes could then be killed after the Civil War anyway) and the men could be kept moving forward by double o’s in the rear with orders to kill anyone who did attack (yes that is where Ian Flemming got the idea from for “OO license to kill”). The Checka and all the other names that the Organs have used have never had any trouble using coecion to make men fight.

    As for Chang in China.

    Inspite of hyperinflation (caused by following the advice of American Keysianians) and the wreak the Japanese had made of his forces. Chang still moved into Manchuria in 1946.

    The Communists (those unbeatable supermen) were losing – but then General Marshall stuck his nose in and said that the K.M.T. had to pull out and have “talks” with the Communists (or all American supplies would be cut off).

    The “talks” continued till the Communists were ready to defeat the K.M.T.

    Do you now understand why some “paranoid” Americans rather disliked General Marshal and his “liberal” friends in the government?

    Have a think about what happened to the Chinese (not just the tens of millions that were murdered, but the others to) because of those “talks”.

  • Jacob

    “Was it useful to bomb German cities – yes”

    Yes, though maybe not in a strict military (tactical) sense. We must remember that at the time people were under a trauma as far as Germany was concerned. After it started and then lost the terrible WW1, it it rose from defeat after 30 years and started another hell. People wanted to make sure Germany won’t start a WW3. Germany was not invaded in WW1, and it’s civilians didn’t taste the horrors of war, and that contributed maybe to it’s continuing militarism. People thought that the bombing might cure them of their militarist tastes.
    Then. a little revenge was in order, too. It’s only human, and just too.

  • Paul Marks

    I understand what Jacob has said. But I am still unconvinced about the choice to destroy the German cities.

    Yes it was useful – some men (although many were very old or boys) were diverted from the front to man anti aircraft defences.

    And yes many aircraft were diverted to help defend the cities.

    Finally some factories and other useful military material were destroyed (although not nearly the amount that was promised).

    But the men of Bomber Command and the materials used for the campaign could have been used for other military purposes – which might have brought better results.

    For example, more ground attack pilots and aircraft to help the army. Although inflential people in London and Washington did not want the Western Allies to be the first to Berlin.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians are a heavy weight in the scales of judgement – and the babies did not vote for Hitler.

    On the horrors of war point: Well the Hunger Blockade of World War One was carried on into 1919 (although the fighting stopped in 1918). A lot of Germans who remembered seing people die of hunger, or more often, die of sickness because they were weakened by hunger thought they had seen the horrors of war – of course they had not.

    Perhaps we should have fought our way into Germany in 1918-1919, or perhaps (on the other hand) we should not have forced such harsh peace terms on the Germans (Hitler found these terms a useful thing to whine on about later on).

    Or perhaps we should have not just cut the country into two bits (due to the access to the sea given to Poland), but cut it into many bits – tried to reverse the work of Bismark (as many French thinkers wanted to do).

    I do not know.

    But I do know that deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is wrong. And it will take a lot to convice me that it should have been done.

  • My favorite olive farmer, Victor Davis Hanson, has the theory which properly applies to the bombing of German cities: A proper victory is on where the vanquished is exhausted, humiliated, and demoralized (I’m paraphrasing). This goes to Jacob’s WWIII comment.

    In Japan, on the other hand, the industry was far more decentralized and intermixed with residential areas. And, with everything made of wood and paper, any use of incendiaries (which are also, in the age of non-precision weapons, quite useful for purely industrial areas as well) made total torching of cities inevitable.

  • Jacob

    But I do know that deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is wrong. .

    I agree with this.

    And it will take a lot to convice me that it should have been done

    Maybe. I’m not sure I could have done it. Still, after the fact, I can’t say I’m terribly sorry for it. I’m somehow not so terribly sorry.

    The problem with the rise of Germany after WW1 was not that the Versailles terms were too harsh, it was that they were not harsh enough (did not include dismembering of the german state) , and not properly enforced. If the allied powers had enforced in time the ban on new armaments there would not have been a WW2.

    So killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is a poor way of trying to correct your past errors.
    Still, it is, in some way, understandable. The urge for revenge is not beautiful, but it is very strong.

  • Luniversal

    deleted by admin due to previous ban

  • niconoclast

    Poor innocent Germans who just happened to vote for Hitler -in their sleep perhaps? Sorry, they got everything they deserved.Dresden was our finest hour.We finally brought the war home to them.They caused it,we finished it.End of.

    Almost. Think of the hundred of millions who died because of the evil Satanic Germans -and then put that beside the deaths of Dresden. Swallowing camels and straining at gnats comes to mind.

  • Euan Gray

    The problem with the rise of Germany after WW1 was not that the Versailles terms were too harsh

    That was EXACTLY the problem. The terms caused widespread popular resentment, which might have been manageable but for the fact that they also greatly exacerbated the economic problems of the late 1920s since they imposed reparations but removed much of the means to earn the money to pay them. Versailles was an extremely stupid agreement, insisted upon by a naive and legalistic US against the wishes of just about everyone else. It more or less made WW2 inevitable – in fact, it has often been said that WW2 started the day Versailles was signed.

    Vae victis is really, really dumb, as is lex talionis. They jusy make things worse. Revenge is NOT a good thing.

    Tripe. The idea that a cabal of bourgeois ideologues in the USSR, China or Indochina can somehow mesmerise or intimidate millions of ordinary people into killing and dying indefinitely is an illusion of the deskbound.

    Obviously you’ve never heard of the NKVD “special” battalions, then? Soviet soldiers had a stark choice – fight the Germans and face a high probability of death, or retreat and face the certainty of death.

    It worked.


  • Why do these discussions of strategy in Iraq always devolve into re-fighting every war of the last century?

    Isn’t the “inkblot strategy” actually half the reason we went into Iraq in the first place? To make Iraqis lives better and to bring democracy, thus removing and defeating the state-sponsored terrorism of people like Saddam? (The other half being to keep madman Saddam from acquiring WMD. Now we have a madman next door actually able to acquire them. Oh well, our intentions were good). Why else are we spending billions to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure? We have already seen the results of bringing democracy to the Middle East (a hard-line Islamic state in Palestine).

  • Luniversal

    Deleted: Previously banned. Sod off

  • rosignol

    That was EXACTLY the problem. The terms caused widespread popular resentment, which might have been manageable but for the fact that they also greatly exacerbated the economic problems of the late 1920s since they imposed reparations but removed much of the means to earn the money to pay them. Versailles was an extremely stupid agreement, insisted upon by a naive and legalistic US against the wishes of just about everyone else. It more or less made WW2 inevitable – in fact, it has often been said that WW2 started the day Versailles was signed.

    I’ll agree, with the caveat that it wasn’t the ‘naive and legalistic US” that was imposing harsh terms against the will of the other (presumably more enlightened, sophisticated, and possibly ‘nuanced’) negotiators.

    Really, Euan, you should know better.


    […]France’s Clemenceau was the most vigorous in his pursuit of revenge against Germany, the Western Front of the war having been fought chiefly on French soil. Other provisions included the loss of the German colonial empire and loss of some territories Germany had annexed or conquered in the relatively recent past: [list of territories]…


    Not only did France want to punish Germany, it wanted to preserve its empire and colonies. While America put forward a belief in national or ethnic “self-determination”, France and Britain were also strongly motivated by a desire to hold onto their empires. Clemenceau largely represented the people of France in that he (and many other Frenchmen) wanted revenge upon the German nation. Clemenceau also wanted to protect secret treaties and impose naval blockades around Germany, so that France could control trade imported to and exported from the defeated country. In effect, Clemenceau and many other French wanted to impose policies deliberately meant to cripple Germany militarily, politically, and economically. He was the most radical member of the Big Three, and received the nickname “Le Tigre” for this reason.

    While I realize that blaming America for things that are the European’s own damn fault is something of a hobby over there, that does not mean I am in any way obliged to tolerate it.

  • Luniversal

    Deleted: Previously banned. Sod off

  • You beat me to it, rosignol. But to pay heed to Ivan’s kvetch, and bring this back to Iraq, we might also consider the European powers’ rejection of Wilson’s twelfth point:

    XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob has argued the case of many French writers – that Germany should have been destroyed (or the old states restored to freedom, of one prefers) after the Great War.

    And Euan has argued the case of many British and American writers – that Germany should have been treated decently (no reperations, or cutting of the country into seperate bits).

    I do not know who is right. But I do no that the compromise between the two positions (the V. treaty) worked very badly.

    Sometimes a compromise is worse than either alternative.

    Luniversal has (I believe) said something to the effect that millions of people in the Soviet Union and China were communists.

    That may well be true. But I do not agree that most people were, and (as Euan has pointed out) getting people to fight for a regime they do not like is not difficult (it has been done many times in history) – it just requires total ruthlessness. A quality the Communists (unlike, for example, Nickolas II) had in spades.

    On “popular support” the old point about the crowd springs to mind. Everyone in the crowd shouts long live the leader (or death to the traitors, or whatever) because each individual has been led to believe that the other people in the crowd believe this (and will tear him to bits if he does not shout it).

    In reality only a small minority of the crowd may believe in the regime – perhaps none of them at all (man A “I have to kill this man, otherwise the others will kill me” – man B “see how ruthless that killer is, if I do not serve he will surely turn of me”).

    The practical point of the Vanguard doctrine is how a revolutionary elite can manipulate a great mass of people who may not share their cause.

    Murry Rothbard used to sometimes talk about a Leninist version of libertarianism (a Vanguard doctrine and all the rest of it), but when he talked (or wrote) like this is simply showed that he did not understand the historical and philosophical background – the revolutionary elite is not basically about talking, it is about killing and terror (not something that fits with the nonaggression principle).

    In his last work “An Austrian Perspective of the History of Economic Thought: Volume II, The Classical School”. Rothbard seems to understand the above. He leaves economics to read and examine (in about five chapters) the full range of Marx’s writings and those of preMarxists (even the poetry).

    Rothbard then sees how aspects of these writings directly inspired men like Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    Perhaps rather late in the day Rothbard did come to see that there were worse things in the world than the American government (or even wicked Britian – a nation he had often had a rather negative view of ), and that Leninist talk and organizational methods are part of a Marxist context.

    One can not really adapt them for peaceful politics (still less for libertarian debating society style “politics”).

    Our foes are not really “economists” at all. Their economic talk and writings have always been secondary to their basic philosophical aims (things that can be seen in Marx’s manuscripts from the early 1840’s and even from before this time and from before Marx himself).

    As for Iraq.

    The die is cast now. The war has been underway for years and the tactics are set by the men in command. An “I have a cunning plan” change of tactics is not going to achieve anything good.

    Either the United States military will win or it will lose. Actually (although I was deeply unimpressed by the arguments for war) I suspect that it will win – and should be left to get on with it.

    I fully understand that the British armed forces are in Iraq – but I am of the opinion that relative numbers put the Americans (and, hopefully, the new army and police of Iraq) in the driving seat. And for better or worse the United States military (nor the forces of Iraq) are not very good at subtle cunning plans.

    When the tool in question is a hammer one should not try and do very delicate work with it.

    Last point:

    Yes I know that many Germans did terrible things during World War II, but that (on its own) does not justify doing terrible things to German civilians.

    “You can not understand what they did” – perhaps not (I was not born at the time), but some of my relatives were turned into soap.

  • niconoclast

    The reason some people were turned into soap is because they were as naieve as you are about the’German civilians’. At least they had an excuse -what’s yours?

    Not only were the’German civilians’ a totally legitimate target,but had we had Nukes they would have been the most deserving recipients in all history, Mr Marx.

  • Either the United States military will win or it will lose.

    How will we know when that has happened? They can’t say they’ve won until they leave, and they can’t leave until they’ve won.

  • T. J. Madison

    >>But I do know that deliberately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians is wrong. And it will take a lot to convice me that it should have been done.

    Hear hear.

    >>Not only were the’German civilians’ a totally legitimate target,but had we had Nukes they would have been the most deserving recipients in all history, Mr Marx.

    I know of another population who recently failed to prevent an expansionist fascist dictatorship from coming to power and ruling it for decades. >1 million people were killed by this dictatorship. Should the USG have nuked Bagdad, Mosul, and Basra to punish the Iraqi people for their failure to depose Saddam?

    In many respects the German people were the Nazi regime’s primary victims — most particularly those Germans who happened to be Jews and Jehovah’s witnessess, but also many others as well. Lots of people were drafted (enslaved) by the fascist regime and sent off to die. Vast amounts of resources were stolen from the local population to fuel the war machine and the police state. Some actively supported the Nazis, but most were along for the ride.

  • Luniversal

    Paul Marks: “Luniversal has (I believe) said something to the effect that millions of people in the Soviet Union and China were communists.”

    They may or may not have been. What I said was that most fought for family, faith and soil, and at best the ideology which inspired the governing elite was able to harness these fundamentals. But only against an external enemy– hardly a hand was raised to defend communism in the late 1980s except for a few putschists. Once communism no longer served its purpose– safeguarding the Russian Empire– it was jettisoned painlessly.

    Hope you see this before the libertarian thought police make me an unperson again;-)

  • Paul Marks

    On Luniversal’s point. I think we must remember that this site is private property (I believe it belongs to Perry), I seem to remember some comments of my own about Mr “Bill” Gates vanishing from the site – I did not complain because this site does not does not belong to me.

    After all any of us can set up a blog if we wish to do so.

    On the question about Communists using nationalism for their advantage (i.e. not caring themselves – but getting ordinary folk to fight). Well yes you are correct (hence “Save Holy Mother Russia”), but the National Socialists did play into their hands.

    Had the slavs not been treated as “subhumans” the “nationalist” propaganda from the Communists would have much less effect.

    However, (of course) coercion remained important in getting men to fight. N.K.V.D. blocking detachments and all that.

    Coercion was also vital to the Communists in Vietnam (although the internal politics of the United States proved even more useful to them).

    As for the Germans.

    When I was young a German family lived a few miles from mine in Northamptonshire.

    The lady of the house told me that she had known that Jews were being murdered during the war, but had not had the courage to protest.

    Does this mean that she and her husband should have been burned to death with fire bombs?

    For those who say “yes”, I simply state that I do not agree with you.

  • T.J. Madison: as far as I am aware, Hitler was democratically elected by a majority of Germans, Saddam was not elected by Iraqis.

  • Luniversal