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09 February 2016


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I stand corrected. Clearly the claims made by David Edgerton about relative British strength and confidence in the Thirties are decisively refuted by the fact that Britain was 'running of her gold reserves by the end of 1940s.' Stupid of me not to grasp this.

"It is legitimate to judge an event by its outcome, for this is the soundest criterion"(c)
Carl Von Clausewitz, "Vom Kriege".

Both Churchill's daughter and, if my memory doesn't fail me, Sir Winston's dentist, Lord Moran, told about the bouts of jealousy Churchill's had when dealing with FDR and Stalin, because he understood that his position was increasingly weak within this alliance. I wonder why? Didn't he consult David Edgerton that there was no reasons to feel this way? I am being facetious, of course. As this blog not for once stated--the real outcome is forged on the battlefields. I am keenly aware of when Barnett's masterpiece was published, there is also the reason that it remains a seminal work of history. And as any seminal work of history it is subjected to reviews and disagreements. But fact, and undeniable one, remains--GB came out of WWII bankrupt and removed to the periphery of the emerging bi-polar global politics. On the jacket (sadly, my copy misses it) of Wolf Hackmann's Rommel's War In Africa there is a remarkable admission by one of the leading Anglophone military historian (can not recall from the top of my head who) that "Rommel The Great was pretty much the figment of imagination of Churchill and Monty, who greatly talked up Rommel's talents in order to emphasize own importance". An excellent summary. While there is no diminishing of heroism and sacrifice of people of Great Britain, of its soldiers and sailors, it is an established fact, that the moment United States entered the fray, GB would inevitably fail the "test".

Both, during the war and after, British approach to strategy and operational issues was a subject of scathing critique by both US Army's professionals and historians. From Stephen Ambrose to David Eisenhower, to even Barnett himself it was, indeed, as General Embick stated, "being led by the primrose path".


To deny these facts is to obfuscate the history of WW II. Barnett is spot on, corroborated by leading American historians, when concludes that GB, spreading its limited resources, essentially ensured its own demise to still very important but secondary power. I want to underscore yet again, all this in no way reflects badly on people of GB who deserve the highest of praises for their contribution, but the reasons GB ended where it ended are to be found inside Great Britain of time period, in her elites, in her imperial and military policies. In the end, Churchill The Great Strategist is a myth for the consumption of a general public, not people who have a clue.


Sorry sir, sadly that is not even a real photo of Dresden, but a badly concocted fake. The background is a drawing to boot, just a very poor paste-up job.

Where I'm going - the Dresden story is contrived fantasy, totally blown out of proportion. There was bombing there, but nothing like all the fake photos, or rather drawings, would sell you.

So "we" didn't do it and even if we did, they had earned it many times over.


Yes, he paled in comparison to his illustrious ancestor, John (the first Duke of Marlborough).


>The British variety of 'the Borg' is in part the product of a bizarre coming together of the 'Marxism Today' crowd and the dregs of the Cambridge right – who were associated with a college called Peterhouse.

I, sir, went to Peterhouse, had Maurice Cowling as my tutor, and agree with every word you say.

I quite enjoyed Egerton's early piece "England and the Aeroplane" but by "Britain's War Machine" he was flogging a dead horse.

Why is it that everywhere there is cant and/or disgusting behaviour going on in contemporary England (or, to be more accurate, London), is it always being conducted on the Right by slippery ex-Petreans, and on the left by slippery ex-Trots?

Peter Oborne is indeed an honourable and courageous patriot.

And I am not, never have been and never will be an academic.

David Habakkuk


First you tell me that the claims made by David Edgerton about relative British strength and confidence in the Thirties are refuted by the fact that Britain was running out of gold reserves at the end of Forties.

Now you appear to be suggesting that they are refuted by the fact that Churchill, in the Forties, had to face up to an inevitable consequence of what had been a key strategic objective of his all along – to bring the United States into the war – and didn't like it.

What conceivable relevance does that have to anything that Edgerton has written?

If I may be facetious in my turn, I begin to understand how the windmills must have felt, when they were being attacked by Don Quixote.


Hmm, hadn't thought about that. In German it would be pretty similar to example 2 and 3. Depending on local variances. Southern would be closer to the second. Up North 3.




Ghana? Really/ I assume you may be an expat of some kind. No? I do not care if it is Dresden or not. I lived in Germany as a small boy in the immediate post-war period and the destruction was every bit as bad as this in many cities. I don't really care if the victims of strategic bombing were Germans, Japanese, Ruritanians or whatever. The concept of bombing populations into submission is abominable. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

Much of Osborn's essay seems true, but some of it is plainly wrong. True, the right-wing of the Tory party is in power. Were they that keen to intervene in Syria? I am not so sure. They know British public opinion and Parliament are not that keen on it because of Iraq and Afghanistan. They said they wanted to intervene but were perhaps secretly relieved when Parliament said 'no', initially: it gave Cameron an excuse to do nothing. There is an isolationist and insular undercurrent in the old Tory right that should not be underestimated: we are alright at home and damn all those foreigners!... Why should we get involved?

To say nothing has changed is absurd (since Iraq, I mean). First of all, Tony Blair is totally discredited because of his lies on Iraq. That is also why Labor lost the general election last time round. That is also why there is not that much appetite for foreign intervention in the UK. Granted, the UK is now involved in Syria: the pressure of events made it inevitable, eventually (refugee crisis, Turkish factor, ISIS massacres, etc.).

On the Left, the rise of J Corbyn and his pacifist stance is largely a consequence of the fact T Blair and the right-wing pro-American Blairites are discredited, and that is a consequence of the Iraq fiasco. To say Iraq has had no effect is thus misleading. Now, outside Labor, J Corbyn is not popular and stands no chance of being elected as PM, ever: but that's another issue. He would not be head of Labor without the rejection of Blairite politics, itself linked to the Iraq war.

And why is the Tory Right supported by British public opinion (English voters, really)? Because ultimately they are trusted on the economy and appear to have made less of a mess than what Labor did: Labor got blamed for the 2008 economic crisis and appeared particularly cowardly and mendacious when they stubbornly refused to admit that they were at least partly responsible for the financial debacle, which they were. That's primarily why Labor did not get elected.

I should think that the typical UK voter does not know exactly where Syria is and could not tell Syria from Jordan or even Pakistan. They don't really know, and they don't really care. Do they not care more about jobs, inflation, interest rates, etc.?

It's the UK ruling class and the media that feel that UK should play a role out there. If you left it to the UK Electorate , I reckon no one would want her to touch those issues with a barge-pole.

My understanding has been that the English don't understand Europe, let alone the Middle East, and, because they don't understand, they don't give a monkey's: they're not interested in understanding. They just want the whole thing to go away. A bit like the Irish Troubles back in the 1970s/1980s.


OK, let's start again. Below is your statement. Made, I remind you, in response to my post about the state of Wehrmacht at D-Day, which, in its turn was a response to your statement of air superiority, by mentioning the rise and fall of both Sledgehammer and, eventually, Roundup. Both were risky and both were buried by Churchill and his people, who, if you are not in the know, both on ARCADIA and 2nd Washington Conference, both in words of Ike and historians, behaved arrogantly and in condescending manner towards the Americans. Here is what you wrote.

Of critical importance is the image of a weak and vacillating Britain failing to rearm. Unfortunately, I have not had time to do more than dip into David Edgerton's 2012 study 'Britain's War Machine', but reviews make its arguments clear.

There was NO "image", it was the real state of the affairs that proved GB totally inadequate and, indeed, weak for dealing with Nazi Germany (or Axis). Everyone knows the results, from fall of Singapore, to failures in North Africa, to, in the end, Dunkirk and even Dieppe. If we are to discuss here some revisionist fantasy that in 1930s GB felt itself so important and, actually, rearmed, it certainly didn't pan out in purely strategic and operational senses, except for Battle of Britain. I am, frankly, not very interested in discussing the hubris and incompetence of British elites in 1930s. The image of junior French and British officers arriving to Moscow to a high-level meetings on Collective Security speaks volumes. Alexander Werth and same Barnett give it an appropriate (and the only proper) assessment.

Now you appear to be suggesting that they are refuted by the fact that Churchill, in the Forties, had to face up to an inevitable consequence of what had been a key strategic objective of his all along – to bring the United States into the war – and didn't like it.

1. I am lost in this mental acrobatics, obviously we are talking about completely different things. But NO, the key strategic point of GB, even before US got involved was preservation of imperial possessions. See the volume of US Army in WW II on strategic discussions, namely ABC-1. Once US got involved, GB was pursuing exactly what Embick, Stimpson and others openly articulated. GB was in it not to fight Wehrmacht head on.

2. Whatever Churchill thought in terms of "facing up to consequences" is absolutely irrelevant to the fact of Barnett giving very precise and correct definition of what happened (and why) with GB. In regards to Servantes and his masterpiece, I do not find it to be correct, but it is your conclusion, not mine. You brought this irrelevant issue of "A whole range of different matters here. It is a major problem with strategic argument in the post-war West that it has continued to be dominated by interpretations of the 'Thirties which turn out on inspection to be wrong."(c) to the discussion of the fact that even without "decisive" air superiority Allies would have done OK on D-Day. And if the image of "a weak and vacillating Britain failing to rearm" is of "critical importance" to you, then strategic and operational realities are of "critical importance" to me. In this case, I would rather be fighting wind mills.


"There was area bombing and there was strategic bombing."

Area bombing is a subcategory of strategic bombing.

It was considered by the RAF the only variant available after the high losses in 1940/41 during day time raids and the low precision of the night raids.

The picture changed later with the availability of long range escort fighters which had a decent chance against the Messerschmidts.


"Tooze also refreshes our understanding of the Anglo-American bombing campaign of 1942-45. The raids on the Ruhr region, he argues, dealt a mortal blow to Germany's military-industrial complex."

No, there is no evidence that there was a mortal blow. To accept this opinion means ignoring research on this topic. Neither production was hit hard nor the morale of the population. The air campaign was, considering the losses and the huge share of resources the bomber command needed a failure.

The best it achieves was an slower rate of production INCRERASE, but nothing substantial in 1943.

The game braker was the extremly high attrition rate on the east front in combination with Italy, that led to an dramatic increase of the tank ratio (from 1:3 in 1943 to 1:10(!) in 1944) on the east fronts with the destruction of Heeresgruppe Mitte as result.

Babak Makkinejad

I met a German woman whom I trust who was in Dresden at the time.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

It was hell on earth, and was meant to be.

But, as I have tried to explain to others on this thread, they might usefully read the interview with Tami Biddle.

Her account of the background to Dresden is at

http://ww2history.com/experts/Tami_Biddle/Dresden .


Any relation to Peter Wehner?


"Mr. Wehner served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations prior to becoming deputy director of speech writing for President George W. Bush in 2001. In 2002, he was asked to head the Office of Strategic Initiatives, where he generated policy ideas, reached out to public intellectuals, published op-eds and essays, and provided counsel on a range of domestic and international issues."

Chris Rogers

Then your understanding of history and reality must be zero, suffice to say the first to suffer under Hitler were the German's, most notably Communists and other leftwing political activists, trades unionists and religious leaders in the Lutheran Church. Not all Germans were Hitler's willing executioners and most who opposed his rule were killed by the regime or once real war commenced with Russia, sent to the bloody Russian Front to let the Russians kill them.

Babak Makkinejad

Dyson claimed that it was a fluke, the only time that they succeeded in creating "Hell on Earth".

David Habakkuk


'To accept this opinion means ignoring research on this topic.'

As it happens, I have just referred you to an 832-page study by Adam Tooze, an economic historian who, when he wrote it, was at Cambridge (UK) and is now a professor at Columbia.

As I also noted, its conclusions were accepted by Professor Tami Biddle of the U.S. Army War College, although they seem to have contradicted her earlier account, as well as Professor David Edgerton.

The latter was founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College, London – which, as you may know, is one of the leading scientific institutions in the U.K. And he is rather rare among British historians, in being a scientist by background. His first degree is in chemistry.

It has always seemed to me a basic requirement, alike for academics and journalists, that if they want to contest an opinion, they should produce evidence, rather than assertion.

If you tell me that to accept the opinions of Tooze, Biddle and Edgerton means 'ignoring research on this topic', I expect to see references to the research in question.

As it happens, these are matters on which I both have no claim whatsoever to have looked in detail at the evidence, and frankly, at the present moment, do not have time to do so.

But that inclines me to be even more intolerant of people who simply produce assertions about what 'research' shows, without making it as easy as possible for those whose are arguments are being contested to evaluate whether the contest has any rational basis.

David Habakkuk


This particular windmill has better ways of wasting his time.

As may be apparent, if you have followed recent threads, I have spent a great deal of time attempting to expose the frame-up of Andrei Lugovoi and the Russian authorities over the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

I have taken time from this endeavour to try to have an exchange of views with you. It is a mistake I do not intend to repeat.

David Habakkuk


I am fascinated to know that you had Cowling as a tutor.

There is something which has always puzzled me. By reputation, he was supposed to be a scourge of liberalism.

But the 'Henry Jackson Society' are messianic liberals.

There is something here I cannot quite figure out, although I am still trying.


Churchill was, definitely, not a stupid man, he also was a remarkable man in many important respects. GB has to feel proud that this man took his place at the helm of GB in the most difficult time for the nation, when GB, indeed, faced Hitler alone. For that, Sir Winston will forever be remembered with admiration by very many, yours truly included. But his persona as strategist was blown out of proportion, not least by himself, and not least through his highly self-serving memoirs. Granted, of course, that most of memoirs are usually serf-serving. So, he is not alone here, with the exception, of course, of the scale. But by Tehran Conference it was clear to both USSR and USA that cross-channel attack MUST be headed by American. Russians wanted George C. Marshall, undeniably one of the greatest military leaders of the XX century, the choice was made in favor of Ike, though. In the end, it was this issue of "contributions and costs" and the storm of American criticism towards their British colleagues on the account of European Theater is well documented. It is, of course, a very contentious point about probability of success of Sledgehammer (which was deemed very low) and Roundup, many historians reject the feasibility of at least Sledgehammer outright, but what they fail to mention is the spirit in which both Marshall and Ike developed Roundup. This can not be ignored nor forgotten. It was daring and it was truly Allied in the highest sense of this word.


As may be apparent, if you have followed recent threads, I have spent a great deal of time attempting to expose the frame-up of Andrei Lugovoi and the Russian authorities over the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

What this has anything to do with Corelli Barnett and strategic and operational realities of the Western Front?


I'd say that Cowling admired opportunists and dirty deeds done in the dark. He had quite a lot of time for anyone, including Labour politicians, who displayed such qualities. I remember him once walking around in a haze of love and admiration after Dick Crossman gave a talk at the college.

Trots also admire ruthless opportunism and despise normal morality. Cowling was a sort of Trot of the right.

As for the despicable HJS, it came really after Cowling's time. I suspect that it was "liberal" mainly because in the nineties the great neo-conservative god in the sky was Tony Blair - liberal in his social policies, neo-con in his foreign policy, and neo-liberal in his economics. It has become quite trendy on the right to be socially liberal - gay marriage, identity politics. Just look at the Telegraph on line and its filled with as many "feminists" as The Guardian. It could be said that while the "Left" swallowed neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism, the "Right" swallowed social liberalism and together merged into the seamless Borg.




Note that all of the "successes" listed under the USSBS occurred in 1944-45. Among the "failures" listed were aviation and armored vehicle production.

The Ruhr air campaign that reached its climax in June 1943 curtailed the planned increase in steel production to an actual increase of 20% over 1943. However, the USSBS noted that steel availability was not limiting to the German war effort. Armored vehicle production was limited by the availability of molybdenum to make steel suitably resilient for armor. That was not an industrial capacity issue, it was a primary resource issue. Soviet testing of German tanks captured at Kursk revealed that the German producers were already skimping on the molybdenum content of their armor. That was an exploitable weakness that influenced Soviet doctrine.

The oil campaign, which ultimately turned out to be critical in defeating the German war economy, was not given utmost priority until mid-1944. The early days of the campaign showed the accuracy of nighttime bombing inadequate to be effective.


The viability of the Roundup plan for 1943 is discounted for a variety of reasons - a still vital Luftwaffe, condition of the Wehrmacht, limitations on transatlantic tonnage, and so forth. I'm not so sure of those arguments, and I suspect that there's some post-facto justification for the Italian campaign involved. It's not been widely acknowledged, but German ground forces in the north of France were stronger in 1944 than in 1943.


Col. sir,

The "concept" of starving enemy populations & depriving them of much needed medicines thru economic blockade/sanction prior to "indiscriminate" bombing is even worse.

What do these lala-land planners hope to achieve?, that these despots would 'give in' upon seeing the miseries inflicted on their citoyen?, that they'd shed tears for 'em?

We are talking about vicious despots & ruthless tyrants here, yes?

I find these "concepts" of war (& planning) most abominable... & lacking in "result" (other than the needless & ceaseless suffering of millions).

Just a couple days ago, I heard they're gonna impose 'nother round of sanctions on the norks...

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