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Perun on the war in Ukraine

Perun is a gaming YouTuber who started making PowerPoint presentations on the war in Ukraine and they are so good that his channel has since become extremely successful.

The two most recent presentations are particularly good. In Who is winning? – Mythbusting the Ukraine-Russia war, Perun looks at claims of kills of each side vs. inventory (Russia’s overstatement is reaching its limits), the idea that attacking Kiev was a feint (a bad idea if so), various claims that Russia could do better if it wanted to (it is trying its hardest) and discussion of how well Russia is doing towards Russia’s own claimed goals (not well). All of this is done without sensationalism, with well-explained reasoning, with evidence where available and descriptions of the limitations of the evidence. There is no cheerleading here: claims that Ukraine has more tanks than before the war started are examined critically, as are Ukraine’s claimed successes.

However, as reasonable as it sounds to me, I am not very well placed to judge Perun’s military analysis. I think I understand some economics, though, and he makes a lot of sense in The Price of War – Can Russia afford a long conflict? Certainly the inverse of Gell-Mann amnesia applies. He points out that the price of the Ruble and the Russian stock market are at this point propped up by market interventions. “The Russian stock market is doing ok. But only because nobody’s bloody allowed to sell their shares.” (Did I mention Perun is Australian?)

He points out just how “hilariously” bigger the economies of all the Nato countries combined are compared to the Russian economy, and how that means that the West can continue to support Ukraine indefinitely while still growing, and Russia can only get poorer as the war goes on. He downplays the importance of Russian hydrocarbon exports to the West, because in the long term we can wean ourselves off them, and that leaves Russia selling them at a discount to India, and with a hefty bill to construct pipelines to China.

One aspect covered in both videos is the difficulty of Russia controlling the Donbass region in any useful way. Assuming Ukraine does not just give up and agree to hand it over, the Russians potentially have to defend it from attacks forever. That would make keeping it expensive and extracting any gas from beneath it difficult.

According to Perun, it does seem as if Western support for Ukraine and shunning of Russia, if kept up for long enough, will be very unpleasant for Russia. They would be better off giving up sooner rather than later, and even then Russia is in a bad way if the West pours aid and investment into Ukraine and does not return to investing in and trading with Russia. One possible problem with this is confidence:

The West needs to recognise its own strength. It’s always funny watching countries like Germany act really afraid of Russia, frankly, when economically Germany’s got about as much heft as the Russians do. Sure, Germany’s dependent on Russian gas but Russia is dependent on gas sales to Germany, too. The West seldom acts like it is the 40 trillion dollar gorilla that it is. It needs to acknowledge that is has muscle; it needs to be willing to use that economic muscle.

29 comments to Perun on the war in Ukraine

  • Patrick Crozier

    There is an idea I have heard expressed over the years – and I am getting echoes of it here – that such-and-such Evil Regime can’t afford to keep a war going for very long because it doesn’t have the money. Before the First World War, Norman Angell, a British academic, solemnly informed the world that a world war could last no longer than a couple of months; beyond that the participants would be bankrupt. He was wrong. Regimes can keep going for an awfully long time if their perceived vital interests are at stake, even without a great deal of public support.

  • Chester Draws

    a world war could last no longer than a couple of months; beyond that the participants would be bankrupt. He was wrong.

    It took 30 months for WWI to bring Tsarist Russia down. And it was economic, not military, collapse. Every empire that entered that war came out a lot worse.

    The signs are not good for Russia.

    The economic damage Putin is doing will take decades to recover from. On top of that, he will have destroyed the very armed forces that he thinks makes him powerful, both physically as the vehicles are destroyed, and morally. It’s clear that a rational man would withdraw now, even at the expense of losing face.

  • bobby b

    I find myself tending towards Perun’s view of who can sustain what’s happening.

    There’s only one thing that keeps me from embracing that view.

    Every contrary view that makes any sense gets cancelled on Youtube.

  • Jim

    “The West needs to recognise its own strength. It’s always funny watching countries like Germany act really afraid of Russia, frankly, when economically Germany’s got about as much heft as the Russians do.”

    Yes but economic heft doesn’t help much when the tanks are steaming through the Fulda Gap……..the massed ranks of computer programmers, graphic designers and baristas that form much of the West’s ‘economic heft’ aren’t much good then are they? The British Empire in June 1940 had plenty of economic heft, but little in the way of guns and ammunition. Without the Channel to save us, we’d have gone the same way as France.

  • Intercontinental Ballistic Dropbear

    Perun’s “day job” is (or was, not sure) involved with Australian government military procurement, so he’s not “just” a gamer 😀

  • Stephen Houghton

    Jim,

    But as pathetic as the German Army is, the evidence is that the Baltics and the Poles will prevent the Russians from reaching East Germany, never mind the Fulda Gap.

  • Mark

    @Jim, Stephen Houghton,

    We are being told that the Russian army is basically the keystone cops, scarcely able to operate even a few tens of miles from it’s own border.

    And that it is a massive threat to europe and the world.

    Two diametrically opposed lies from the same “western” sources (the general MSM narrative from the various talking heads I’ve seen). Which to believe?

    There are so many “geopolitical” analysts/analyses to choose from, and I’m sure all of them have some factual nugget or other to hang everything from. But it seems to be very much the case of this is the conclusion, how can I construct a narrative to get there.

    That said, there is something about Perun’s video that does strike a chord (or am I just looking for support for my own narrative?)

    Real question is – applicable to ALL parties: who is giving them “geopolitical” advice and what narratives do they need supporting? Given the various surreal lunacies they are trying to enforce – “climate change”, “woke”, “green” etc, tea leaves or chicken entrails would be more reassuring!

    Regarding 1940, the military heft Germany had available – the navy and luftwaffe – failed pretty miserably. The U boats later did better, but the real damage a naval blockade might have done in return was considerable reduced by the pact with Stalin.

    The German army was no threat directly to this country as it couldn’t get here. And for all its vaunted tactical skills, it’s logistical backup was pretty shite. Had the French government not surrendered, the German army would not have had an easy time conquering all of France had they had to actually fight for it.

  • Had the French government not surrendered, the German army would not have had an easy time conquering all of France had they had to actually fight for it. (Mark, April 16, 2022 at 4:57 am)

    I disagree. In June 1940, the Germans did see more clearly than the French the disadvantages to themselves if France fought on, but that was not from any doubt they could conquer what remained of Metropolitan France quickly, but from not wanting the French empire and the French fleet to continue in the war alongside Britain.

    The UK wanted the French fleet, the French empire and whatever else could escape of the French military to fight with them. The UK also reviewed trying to hold a fragment of mainland France – the Brittany peninsula – but concluded it was very doubtful that it was practical, and even if it were, it would consume British resources to hold it far more than it would tie down German ones.

    Thanks to the pact with Stalin, the German army had all the fuel and other resources they needed for the 1940s campaign, and their logistical arm was very well up to the easy task of transporting it from the German frontier into adjacent, well-roaded-and-rail-roaded France in summer.

  • There’s only one thing that keeps me from embracing that view. Every contrary view that makes any sense gets cancelled on Youtube. (bobby b, April 15, 2022)

    That is a sensible reason for caution. I do not admire my government for banning Russia Today. Churchill did not ban Lord Haw Haw, nor suggest that British people avoid listening to him (nor did they – he was regarded as prime-time entertainment by my grandfather; my mother, more of an intellectual, disliked listening to him). It was the same with the Iraqi Information Minister in the Gulf War. If he’d been banned, the glorious moment when he suddenly became a figure of fun would have been missed. Our leaders ban RT now from anti-free-speech habit – and because they are worse, so present more targets for propaganda. And that is a reason for caution.

    That said, I, like bobby b, am drawn to Perun’s view of who can more easily sustain what’s happening – but with a great deal of caution because I know the history Patrick Crozier (April 15, 2022 at 2:18 am) describes. (Indeed, I have read a revised edition of Norman Angell’s ‘The Great illusion‘, assuring everyone he had been fundamentally right and applying his reasoning to the situation when that second edition was published – in 1938. Bit ill-timed, I thought it. 🙂 )

    Throughout history, “It can’t go on like this”, has been often said by people who later write, “We now see there is a lot of ruin in a country”.

  • Patrick Crozier

    So, Angell wrote a revised edition!? LOL.

  • Patrick Crozier (April 16, 2022 at 2:38 pm), if you want another laugh, look at the wikipedia page for it, where the first edition is currently reinterpreted as a liberal-imperialist-inspired misinformation campaign aimed at discouraging Wilhelmine Germany – and the last is elided out of having to be mentioned.

    Partly, I guess the woke of every age have to explain-away the (in retrospect) arrogant and silly-looking woke of the previous age. And partly, it’s not that every sentence Angell wrote was wrong, but that someone needed to remind him that “Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm”.

    I’d better stop before I go still further off-topic.

  • Mark

    @Niall Kilmartin

    Look at the logistical problems the allies had in 1944 shifting supplies over the 400 miles or so from Normandy. And this was over the relatively flat country into Holland, with total air superiority (some of the problems, perversely, were due to this: the efficiency with the allied air forces had destroyed the infrastructure prior to invasion) and the backing of the practically limitless industrial capacity of the USA. Capturing a port would have helped of course, which is why the Germans did their damnest to hold on to them, or at least total those they were about to lose.

    The Germans would not have had air superiority, certainly not enough to be able to move unhindered. Capturing ports would have not have helped for the same reason (and the largest navy in the world at that time plus the French navy which was mot small). In 1940, many French units fought damned hard and there is nothing to suggest that they would not have continued to do so.

    The French government surrendered for reasons – which obviously made sense to them at the time – but the military position was far from hopeless, and the German army sweeping through the rest of France was not something it did, but something it was allowed to do.

    The French government thought it could do some sort of deal with Hitler, or at least find a place in his world. Not honourable, but given the devastation of the earlier spat, perhaps understandable. Never forget that the Vichy government was not an imposed nazi puppet, but was composed of much of the internationally recognised pre war government.

    Permit me to recommend some reading: “Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State”, Gotz Aly (kindle version only a tenner on amazon).

    Fascinating read. Not a book on politics or military matters as such, but quite an eye opener in the way – and the sheer ruthlessness – the nazis exploited their conquered territories. If the French had been aware of what was coming, I should imagine a lot more of the political class would have advocated fighting on. I’m not in any position, 80 odd years on, to judge their decisions, but I wonder if what the nazis were doing in Poland (and I don’t mean just the persecution of the jews) was totally unknown to the inner circles of the French and British governments.

  • Stephen Houghton

    Mark you seem very upset that I have judged the Russian Army to have proved itself inadequate. I base that judgement on the following comparison. The Germans invaded Poland starting on Sept 1, 1939. By September 8 Warsaw was under siege and by the 28th the city had fallen. The last Polish field forces surrendered on Oct 8th. That is 38 days from start to finish. Granted the Russian’s don’t have anyone to stab the Ukraine in the back, but still it is 51 days into the War and Kiev and Kharkov are not under siege. Mariupol while under siege still seems to still be holding out. All in all a pathetic performance.

  • Mark

    @Stephen Houghton

    I’m not upset at you, and please don’t think I am. I’m not upset, nor could I be, with anybody commenting here. It’s just a blog forum after all and we are simply exchanging opinions (which is done generally in a respectful manner).

    I really would like to know what is going on and what western aims in all this actually are. Any fool can pick a fight as Putin has just demonstrated. We have legion of fools who seem to want to pick a fight, and the disastrous results of the fights they have picked in the last 20 years don’t seem to deter them one bit.

    I have to confess that does perturb me a tad.

  • We have legion of fools who seem to want to pick a fight, and the disastrous results of the fights they have picked in the last 20 years don’t seem to deter them one bit.

    Militarily, they have not been disastrous at all. Politically on the other hand, it would be hard to imagine a more inept series of events. The big problem is America (and face it we are talking primarily about America here) keeps going to war without a good idea what their actual interests are.

    Afghanistan: they crushed the Taliban government and ejected it from Kabul. At that point, I fully expected them to emulate the successful Second British-Afghan War… put some local thug in power in Kabul, with a stern warning that if you piss us off, we will be back and do it again. And at at that point, declare victory and go… the… fuck… home (in the case of Britain, withdrawn back to India). But otherwise, do not try and direct Afghan affairs or culture (just as the British wisely removed their ‘resident’ from Afghanistan).

    Alas no. The USA stayed on and tried to change the fundamental nature of Afghanistan. Fuck.

  • bobby b

    When more societies are run on a rational basis – i.e., truly democratic, market-based, mediated by the negotiations between self-interested parties – there is generally less threat felt from other societies. This is because the society has its own stability that protects it from outside upsets. It doesn’t need to care if someone outside makes arguments against it.

    Once a society becomes an irrational, ideology-centric one, it faces more threats because it is less stable, more easily upset. What used to be differences become threats. Debate becomes existential attack. So it must attack first and stop the debates.

    Now that we have more ideologies than systems, we have more conflict.

  • Mark (April 16, 2022 at 4:40 pm), the Allies’ problems were because they had no functioning ports. That was Hitler’s strategy in 1944. The two sides drew opposite conclusions from the failure of the Dieppe raid in 1942.

    – The Germans decided to garrison the ports and hold them even if surrounded (and blast their facilities to bits before losing them – Cherbourg was comprehensively destroyed and out-of-action for ages). They thought that would strangle the invasion.

    – The Allies decided they had to be independent of ports, so created the mulberry harbours. This sufficed for the initial invasion, but the Germans were still holding the major ports (or else they were wrecked) by the time of the breakout and, to cap it all, when Monty’s forces rushed into Antwerp, taking the port facilities intact, he then had them rest up instead of clearing the Scheldt before German 15th army could get units across it, so clearing access to Antwerp became a slow grinding battle. (It was one of the very rare occasions when Monty afterwards conceded he had made a mistake.) Over time, Hitler’s strategy collapsed as ports were freed but it meant a period of constricted Allied supply. (However I would point out this became noticeable at the end of the post-Normandy breakout dash, by which time the Allies had overrun almost all France and then some.)

    By contrast, in 1940, German access to France was overland. They had no port problems and advanced so fast that the French did less than the Germans in 1944 to wreck railroad junctions, bridges, etc. – sometimes they did not even destroy supply dumps and civilian garage fuel stores. (Partly, this was because the French were less willing than the Germans to wreck French facilities.)

    > The Germans would not have had air superiority

    The rapidity of the German advance meant allied airfields were being overrun, pilots repeatedly having to relocate and supplies rebase, so the British and French airforces in France had more problem maintaining their logistical tale than the Germans. The rapidly-moving campaign was also a huge problem for the ill-designed French air-ground support process. This would have continued.

  • Mark

    @Niall Kilmartin

    Much of what you say is true, but I do recall reading descriptions of French units surrendering and the Germans would order them to place their weapons in a pile and after a tank had driven over it to render them unusable they were just told to go home.

    In many ways the fall of France was political rather than military and after the armistice there was a very real proxy civil war going on between those who thought they could come to terms with the nazis, and those who recognised that this was not really possible. I think something like 25000 were executed by the nazis in France during the war and I believe something like 20000 of these were betrayed by their fellow (or not!) Frenchmen.

    Very nasty business.

  • In many ways the fall of France was political rather than military

    No argument there. The French government could and should have fought on. Surrendering betrayed an explicit treaty obligation to Britain not to make a separate peace. (When the British, seeing they were going to do it anyway, offered a deal to release the French government from that obligation if the French fleet sailed for British or new world ports to be laid up, not French ports where the Germans might seize it, they refused that too.)

    By contrast, Japan reviewed the matter and decided not to complain when Germany finally surrendered in May 1945. They and Germany had a similar treaty never to make a separate peace, but when their diplomats (who returned via the Soviet Union, not yet then at war with Japan) described how the war ended, the Japanese government seems to have felt that the Germans had (for Europeans 🙂 ) made a reasonable effort. (At that time they did not yet foresee the effect the atom bomb would have on their own distaste for surrender.)

    My sole point is that, especially given the depleted war inventories of the French and British in summer 1940, I agree with the British study saying that trying to hold even just the Brittany peninsula would probably have led to a swift collapse and further loss as the Germans rushed in before the defence line was prepared, and if not would have seen the allies lose far more trying to sustain it than the Germans did.

    (The Germans didn’t need to worry about sustaining their ports in 1944. Their fortifications and supply dumps were well pre-prepared, and Hitler knew that either the strategy of strangling the invasion would work or they would all eventually fall.)

    You are likewise right about political conflict in France after the surrender. Under their orders over the next two years, French soldiers fought vigorously against the Free French at Dakar, the British in Syria and Madagascar, and finally the Allies in Morocco, etc., but never a shot against the Japanese in Indochina or the Germans when they broke the treaty and occupied Vichy France. The Vichy civilian authorities behaved similarly in metropolitan France.

  • Kirk

    “I have judged the Russian Army to have proved itself inadequate. I base that judgement on the following comparison. The Germans invaded Poland starting on Sept 1, 1939. By September 8 Warsaw was under siege and by the 28th the city had fallen. The last Polish field forces surrendered on Oct 8th. That is 38 days from start to finish.”

    You miss the far more significant fact with that timeline, namely its extension out to the Fall of France between May 9 and June 22 1940.

    The German military carefully analyzed what it had done wrong in Poland during that campaign, and what had gone right. Then, they spent the time in between October 8 of 1939 and the kickoff for the invasion of France actually, wonder of wonders, effectively fixing those things they’d done wrong, and reinforcing those they’d done right.

    The French and the British? LOL… Yeah; despite access to Polish refugees and copious intelligence about the course of the Polish campaign, they literally spent that time doing nothing effective about their own deficiencies. They talked about it, of course, but… Fixing things? Doing more effective training, planning how to overcome their own deficiencies? Not a damn thing that made a difference was done during those months.

    That’s why the Germans won, in 1940: They were an effective “learning organization” during that period, able to self-examine with forthright clarity and then take action to correct that which needed correcting. The Allies were not, and did not; thus, France 1940.

    This is a point that an awful lot of people either miss, or gloss over because it makes the Allied leadership and organizations look bad. It is, however, the truth: Hitler and the Germans were able to do what they did not because of German primacy or power, but because they were dealing with inept idiots. It’s like what Moshe Dayan said about Israel’s military reputation–They had it because they were fighting Arabs, not because they were particularly good.

    It took several years of on-the-job training before the Allies managed a level of military skill that managed to outmatch the Germans. Had they had that skillset in 1939, we’d have a very different history than the one we all learned in school.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Well, the Germans had their own problems. They knew about the potential of radar, but the higher command couldn’t be bothered developing it, or systematically exploiting it. We were lucky that they took so long developing the V1 and V2 projects- think how much worse the war would have been if these had been developed a year earlier! And we were lucky that they were so complacent about the ‘unbreakable’ Enigma machine. If they had been a bit more efficient in these areas….. I think the Nazis would still have lost, because of their warlord style of government, but it would have taken a lot longer!

  • Mark

    @ Nial Kilmartin

    Indeed and they did not just betray Britain, they betrayed France, or specifically the military which could likely have done a lot better. I believe at the armistice the France still had something like 1700 aircraft, tens of divisions and significant naval forces, all of very good quality, and a lot of which had hardly been used at all. How much of this ended up in British hands available for the continuing British war effort against what fell into German hands.

    French planning prior to the war – the essential rationale behind the subsequently derided Maginot line – was that France would hold the line until the British empire, and hopefully then the USA, had fully mobilised their resources. The Maginot line was undercut when Belgium revoked their treaty (they had their reasons) with France and the French plans – advancing in good time into Belgium to prepared positions – were in ruins

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XVHYg6gvWU

    De Gaulle’s whole being was essentially devoted to restoring the honour of France and he couldn’t accept the armistice the French (AKA Vichy) government signed. He was painfully aware of what they had done, and above all what they had done to the honour of France. After 1945, a narrative had to be constructed and the whole sordid affair swept under the carpet, and the bitterness of the proxy civil war went underground with it. There are those who argue that echoes of it can be heard even today.

    The position this country was put in from June 1940 was truly horrendous. Germany held the coast of western Europe from Spain (and Spain was a tad more than benevolently neutral as far as Germany was concerned) to the North cape; all of the resources of France available for plunder; a pact with Stalin which completed the negation of any blockade. Difficult to imagine how it could have ended up worse really (had Germany actually tried to invade – separate topic I know – it very likely would have ended disastrously for them)

    I suppose my overall point is the old adage about no plan surviving first contact with the enemy – and what happens when people have of necessity then to operate on the fly to some degree. Seems true in the case of Putin, but I’m wondering what plans there are on “our” side: Plans to do what, to what and made by whom?

    There is clearly a very considerable disparity between the collective west and Russia. Doesn’t mean it can’t all end up as a monumental clusterfuck alas.

  • Niall Kilmartin…”I do not admire my government for banning Russia Today. Churchill did not ban Lord Haw Haw, nor suggest that British people avoid listening to him (nor did they – he was regarded as prime-time entertainment by my grandfather; my mother, more of an intellectual, disliked listening to him). It was the same with the Iraqi Information Minister in the Gulf War. If he’d been banned, the glorious moment when he suddenly became a figure of fun would have been missed. Our leaders ban RT now from anti-free-speech habit – and because they are worse, so present more targets for propaganda. And that is a reason for caution.”

    I do not believe that either the US or the UK made any attempt to jam Soviet propaganda broadcasts, or to ban listening to them, at any time during the Cold War. Does anyone have any info on this, either way?

  • David Foster (April 17, 2022 at 4:05 pm), not only did no-one in the west waste time jamming them but I recall the BBC having a weekly radio programme (‘Five Continents’) that discussed foreign propaganda broadcasts, quoting highlights and analysing what hints they might give as to the background political state in the broadcasting countries. When I tell you that students once complained that the programme was not respectful enough to them, talking almost as if we did not push propaganda on the Soviet Union and China, you will appreciate it was not as woke and west-hating as the modern beeb.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Stephen Houghton
    That is 38 days from start to finish. … All in all a pathetic performance.

    Although I think you are right, I think there are two points worth making here:

    1. It is a mischaracterization to think this is a war between Ukraine and Russia. On the contrary it is a war between Ukraine backed by the whole might of western logistics and Russia. And as we all no doubt know logistics is the key to success in war. Had the west not been pumping in masses of materiel this war would have been over a month ago.

    2. I am very aware that it is very hard to know what is really going on. The reporting is very jingoistic and only seems to present positive to Ukraine news. That might be an accurate portrayal of the facts, but it seems unlikely to be so. I don’t trust the press at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. No doubt there are terrible things going on, but when Russian atrocities are portrayed as war crimes and Ukrainian ones as justified payback then I don’t think you are getting the whole story. God forbid that the western press might surpress information that doesn’t fit the narrative.

    I will also say I am a bit concerned with the “hero in khakis” presentation of Zelenskyy. Certainly he seems remarkably brave and could no doubt have scarpered with a plane full of money. But I don’t think we should lose sight of who he is. He is not some liberal democrat by any means. He is the sort of guy who arrests his political opponents, bans political parties that oppose him, shuts down press channels that don’t portray the party line, and who arrests young men at the border who are trying to flee to conscript them into the military.

    Maybe in a fight to the death for a state such things are necessary, but at what point have all the “things that are necessary” obliterated the whole purpose of freedom for which you are fighting?

  • Kirk

    Do a quick compare/contrast of Zelensky’s actions with Lincoln’s during the Civil War in the US. Lincoln did a whole lot of things that we would find highly objectionable today, in peacetime. How would it look if there were a second Civil War? Would we be OK with the sort of things Lincoln did, being done by a modern politician?

    As well, then take a look at FDR, Democratic Party saint: Care to imagine the howls if someone legitimately tried doing what he did, and got away with? Like, say, for example… Confiscating all the gold bullion in the country?

    Excoriate Zelensky all you like; the real test for Ukraine is if they manage to “get back to normal, again…” after the hostilities end. If it turns out to be “President-for-life Zelensky”, well that proves that he’s just another asshole. If not? It all remains to be seen.

  • If it turns out to be “President-for-life Zelensky”, well that proves that he’s just another asshole. If not? It all remains to be seen.

    I put that to a Ukrainian I know (who did not vote for Zelenskyy in last election as it happens) and he laughed, suggesting anyone thinking that doesn’t understand Ukrainian politics circa 2022. The only parties now banned in Ukraine are the pro-Putin ones, analogous to Britain banning the British Union of Fascists in 1939.

  • He is the sort of guy who arrests his political opponents, bans political parties that oppose him, shuts down press channels that don’t portray the party line, and who arrests young men at the border who are trying to flee to conscript them into the military.

    So, a lot like Britain in 1939 then. You do realise Ukraine is now on a total war footing, yes?

  • Kirk (April 19, 2022 at 5:11 am), +1 re your point about Lincoln during the American Civil War. It can be argued that the Lincoln administration’s handling of political opponents was sometimes both clumsy and constitutionally doubtful but, as was justly said at the time of the London Times’ (pro-Confederate) coverage of such issues, “They tended to ignore the fact that the Lincoln administration was fighting a war”.

    Perry de Havilland (London) (April 19, 2022 at 10:39 am), Sir Oswald Mosley was secretly monitored from before war started but was not detained until late May 1940, when Churchill decided he was too dangerous to leave at liberty – whereupon something like half the British aristocracy contacted their friends in government to say, “Are you mad? Don’t you realise his wife is a hundred times more dangerous?”, so they detained Diana (Mitford) a month later – her own sister Nancy was one of those telling the government they were crazy to lock up Oswald and leave Nancy free. (For the record, she always said she would not have betrayed Britain and her sister Unity’s behaviour in shooting herself on the outbreak of war does suggest a similar refusal to be an active traitor even as it suggests a lot else. However I can understand the government not taking that particular risk.) Churchill was always very aware they were detained without trial, and in time ameliorated their conditions and late in 1943 freed them despite its being unpopular (and not just with the mob; Jessica Mitford, on one of Churchill’s visits to the states, upbraided him for doing it and demanded he shoot them: “I had not realised the family animosities were so strongly felt”, he noted afterwards.). The British Union of Fascists was formally banned after the fall of France.

    Arguably less reasonable was the Home Office detaining numerous German-origin Jews on the immediate outbreak of war for fear they might be Nazi agents. Perhaps it would have required more knowledge than could be expected for them to appreciate right away that Nazis did not care to adopt false identities as Jews nor were likely to have successfully maintained them in the UK emigre community, so this screening could have been done both faster and with less need for actual detention. Certainly the US and Canadian governments would have needed a far more in-depth understanding of Japanese emigration patterns than any westerner was likely to have to appreciate how unlikely it was that a North American of Japanese ancestry would be pro-Japan in WWII (or indeed, how likely it was that a South American of Japanese ancestry would support Japan in WWII). But it can certainly be argued that the government should have known enough by mid-1945 not to stamp ‘Enemy Alien’ on the papers of German-born Jews coming to Britain after being liberated from concentration camps (Anita Lasker, the cellist of the Auschwitz concentration camp, notes feeling a bit miffed at the term ‘Enemy’ in her memoirs, though in the circumstances very much more pleased at the general turn of events to mind much).

    Openly pro-Hitler political activities by the hard-left. done on Stalin’s orders. continued through late 1940 into summer 1941, never being proscribed.