Last Ditch

Various responses have led me to think about what nations are willing to do in the last extremity, when they see doom impending. Over the Cold War, now apparently forgotten, major nations seemed willing to take the enemy down with them, more or less completely. Thousands of nuclear weapons can do that.

You don’t always get the chance – if the front collapses and the enemy is suddenly at the gates, a state may be beaten before it really knows what’s happening [ France 1940 ]. It’s more the sort of thing that happens in a long war. When you have time to think, and despair.

A state may reach deep down into its socks and find ways to fight back. After Cannae, Rome raised another army, fought defensively, and waited for something to turn up. The Byzantines picked up Greek fire from a refugee Syrian alchemist. I suspect that the Soviets used tularemia at Stalingrad in 1942, but many seem to think that the natural default hypothesis is that Stalin would never have done such a thing. Churchill was ready with anthrax if the Germany ever managed to cross the channel.

Sometimes desperation means taking measures that seem perfectly practical to us, but strike at the heart of the state’s ideology. Very late in the game (too late), the Confederacy decided to raise black troops – but if they were good soldiers, the whole theory of the Confederacy was wrong. Which is one more example showing the folly of being a ‘proposition nation’. Heraclius paid for his war against Chosroes by melting down all the gold and silver in the churches – not an easy thing to do in the Age of Faith. In WWII, Stalin made major concessions to Russian nationalism, the peasantry, and the Orthodox Church – sure, he was more Communist than the Pope, but hey, better pink than dead.

Sometimes a remnant retreats to the hills and continues to fight: ‘Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener, courage the more, as our might lessens.’ Usually they lose. But, sometimes, they eventually win – like Covadonga.

Sometimes a state takes the path of radical reorganization – Byzantine themes Alfred the Great and the burhs.

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160 Responses to Last Ditch

  1. Amputation. Scorched earth. Sacrifice of innocents, or at least of those probably innocent, and certainly of all doubtful persons. Danegeld. Suicide bombers. Booby traps. Fake surrenders. Possibly even folk dancing.

  2. “if they were good soldiers, the whole theory of the Confederacy was wrong”

    If they were ‘good soldiers- with white officers’ I don’t think anyone in period would have even taken that to discredit the widespread enslavement of coloureds.

    • Yudi says:

      I always considered the Confederates to be lacking in imagination on this topic–the Islamic world made heavy use of slave armies. If they really deemed it necessary, they could easily have invented an explanation for black armies consistent with their racial ideology–just appeal to the British imperial idea of “martial races”, and claim that black soldiers who served well were examples of such a race. Luckily, they were too stupid, and the planters too unwilling to give up their slaves, for these ideas to spread and become useful to the war effort.

      I’d be interested in hearing the reasons for Greg’s skepticism of proposition nations and what a feasible alternative to them could be.

      • georgesdelatour says:

        In the 19th century British imperial armies were not fighting first world industrialised powers comparable to Lincoln’s Union. As Hilaire Belloc put it, “whatever happens, we have got / the Maxim gun, and they have not”.
        Countries are, for the most part, mutual self-interest / self-defence arrangements for their present populations and their descendants. If that’s ALL they are, it’s far better than if they’re motivated by some global ideology, like spreading Islam, communism or even democracy to the rest of the planet.

        Here’s part of the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, in which the Scottish barons appealed to the Pope against the English king then trying to annex their country:

        “May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him… to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own.”

      • I think Greg’s point is that the proposition in a proposition nation is merely a rationalization of the nation-state. The nation exists whatever ideology one invents to justify its existence. If this is true, then people will continue to display loyalty to the nation even if the nation’s leaders sacrifice allegedly core elements of the proposition. Ultimately, what motivates people to act is preservation of their collective, rather than abstract ideological principle.

      • Icepick says:

        After Nat Turner’s Rebellion, the idea of arming slaves would not have appealed to Southerners.

      • syonredux says:

        “I’d be interested in hearing the reasons for Greg’s skepticism of proposition nations”

        Just check out what happened to the USSR once people lost faith in communism (the proposition that held the whole thing together).

      • Gabriel M says:

        “I’d be interested in hearing the reasons for Greg’s skepticism of proposition nations and what a feasible alternative to them could be.”

        Well, among other things, there’s every single country in the history of the world except the USA.

        • deuce says:

          Exactly. Even for the US, the idea of it being a ‘proposition nation’ was fairly late in the game and nowhere is this ‘proposition’ really explicated. We are seeing the results of subscribing to such a fairy tale now.

          • Darien says:

            US as “proposition nation” was invented during the Cold War against USSR, the ultimate proposition nation. If you are in an ideological war, you need some ideology.
            And the results was decisive victory – US proposition was more attractive and sold better to the whole world, including the Soviet Union itself.

            • giovanni says:

              Darien wrote:

              US as “proposition nation” was invented during the Cold War against USSR

              Lincoln wrote:

              our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition …

              So I think it was a little earlier than the cold war.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Most of the propositions considered part of the current US canon were invented fairly recently.

                Worse yet, most of them are wrong.

              • Gabriel M says:

                “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

                WRONG!

              • JerryC says:

                It’s interesting, every country in western europe has become a de facto “proposition nation” over the 30 or 40 years without there ever being any discussion of what the proposition might be. There’s a sort of universalist mania across the entire western world in which homogenous ethnic nation-states that took half a millenium or more to build are being undone in a generation or two by mass immigration from the Third World. It’s all so strange and I really don’t understand what’s driving it.

            • Tarl says:

              every country in western europe has become a de facto “proposition nation” over the 30 or 40 years without there ever being any discussion of what the proposition might be.

              The proposition in every European nation (and the US, Canada, Australia/NZ) is “fuck you, white proles”.

          • Peter Akuleyev says:

            The easy explanation for Europe’s willingness to discard the nation state model, just when it seemed to be getting useful, is that large sections of the European elite have never really bought into it. Especially in Germany and Italy. German and Italian nationalism was mostly a middle class movement in the 19th century, and had to contend both with fierce resistance from aristocrats and the Catholic Church as well as a great deal of apathy from the peasants. The fact that both Germany and Italy fell victim to disastrous hypernationalism in the middle of the 20th century probably speaks more to the underlying weakness of national feeling in both countries – an overcorrection to mask a nagging insecurity. The sort of aristocrat or want-to-be aristocrat who sees the Habsburg empire as the way things ought to be tends to be overrepresented among Europe’s political, and in particular administrative, elites.

            • Frau Katze says:

              Do people (the “proles”) in Europe really object to other Europeans moving to their country, or is it more an objection to people from incompatible and vastly different cultures (particularly Islamic) moving in? I’m only going by comments but I haven’t seen complaints about the former (except for Gypsies).

              I agree that in the 1930s nationalism was based on narrow nationalism.

              It should also be noted that even with the best immigrant, a sudden huge influx will lead to overcrowding (a country like England isn’t very big) and that will be accompanied by stress on infrastructure (traffic jams and even worse, insane housing costs.) This has been noted in Vancouver, Canada. In this case, it’s an excess of wealthy Chinese looking to park their money (acquired in Communist China) in real estate in Vancouver. House prices can only be called insane. (Geography constrains the city from easily expanding).

    • pyrrhus says:

      The Indian Army, which fought well in WW1 once the Brits got around to using it, had British officers but perhaps Indian NCOs. The famous Gurkhas had British officers, but again probably Nepalese NCOs…No one had a problem with that back in the day, but it probably did undermine the narrative a bit.

      • dearieme says:

        The Indian Army certainly had Indian NCOs; it had Indian officers too. Before that war the Indian officers were “Viceroy’s commissioned officers” (VCOs) who could command only Indian troops. During that war Indians were made eligible for the King’s commission; vacancies were opened for Indians at Sandhurst, the Military Academy in Britain. The graduates were “King’s commissioned officers” (KCOs) and could command both Indian and British troops. As far as I can see (I’m no expert; this is all off the web) none of the KCOs finished training before the war ended. Indian troops won 12 Victoria Crosses in the war.

        Moving on to the next war: according to WEKPD “during the Second World War the Indian Army would become the largest all-volunteer force in history, …”

        • AppSocRes says:

          I get most of my knowledge of the Raj’s military from Kipling. The Gurkhas weren’t Indian. My impression is that the remainder of the military forces were drawn from the Sikh and Moslem populations and a few other more war-like Indian sub-populations (Gudjarratis maybe).

          The British conquered India in the days of smooth bore muskets and cold steel. Arthur Wellesley — later the Duke of Wellington — defeated Indian troops armed with modern weaponry, trained with European methods, and under European discipline the old fashioned way: He demoralized them with English troops that retained discipline under withering fire and then put them to flight with Scottish troops that charged and cut to pieces anything in their way.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            weaponizing the NW euro weakness for alcohol

            rum > maxim gun

          • dearieme says:

            “The Gurkhas weren’t Indian.” Yep, they’re from Nepal.

            • The British colonial authorities brought Gurkhas to Malaya during Sukarno’s ‘konfrontasi’ era to fight in the jungles of Borneo. They made mince-meat of the poor untrained saps the Indonesians sent into battle. It was a slaughter. As soon as Sukarno was check-mated by Suharto the matter was settled and Malaysia was left with its two northern provinces.

              Which it has proceeded to denude (80% plus turned into palm oil plantations).

    • Gabriel M says:

      “If they were ‘good soldiers- with white officers’ I don’t think anyone in period would have even taken that to discredit the widespread enslavement of coloureds.”

      I’m from this period, I think, and I also don’t understand Cochran’s point.

      The basic case was of Confederate propagandists was that mass importation of African slaves to do work in hot conditions that Whites are biologically unsuited for was an historical fact that no-one could undo. You might think it a good thing, but even if you considered it very bad, freeing them and admitting them to capitalist society wasn’t going to do anyone any good, because Blacks are, for the most part, unintelligent and have poor impulse control. On top of that it would crash the whole southern economy and destroy any semblance of good relations that existed between the races.

      History sure proved them wrong. Science too.

      • spottedtoad says:

        That must be why Lincoln’s election under a platform of preventing the expansion of slavery into new states but leaving it where it already existed caused them to secede.

        Your argument also makes no sense given that slavery was reasonably widespread in the North until the early 19th century. There wasn’t actually a hard line between slave and free states until later.

        • syonredux says:

          “Your argument also makes no sense given that slavery was reasonably widespread in the North until the early 19th century. There wasn’t actually a hard line between slave and free states until later.”

          Slavery was essentially finished in the North by 1804.

          • spottedtoad says:

            Well, yes and no. I’ve heard that I. 1860 there were still 18 slaves in New Jersey according to the Census, for example. In any case, the point is that the South was not uniquely saddled with an enslaved population, which they grudgingly acquiesced to keeping enslaved, as the original comment suggested, but dedicated to slavery as a way of life. Lincoln’s election was a threat not because he promised or threatened abolition- he didn’t and it was in no way a realistic outcome of the 1860 election in the absence of secession- but because the election of a Party that viewed slavery as a great sin and was committed to its containment was too much for the South to bear.

            • syonredux says:

              “Well, yes and no. I’ve heard that I. 1860 there were still 18 slaves in New Jersey according to the Census, for example.”

              New Jersey adopted a gradual emancipation law, one which freed children who were born to slave mothers after July 4, 1804

              .” In any case, the point is that the South was not uniquely saddled with an enslaved population,”

              Actually, they were. As your comment notes, there were only a handful of slaves in NJ. In 1860, South Carolina had 402,406 (out of a total population numbering 703,708). When differences in degree are that vast, they become differences in kind.

            • Gabriel M says:

              “Lincoln’s election was a threat not because he promised or threatened abolition- he didn’t and it was in no way a realistic outcome of the 1860 election in the absence of secession- but because the election of a Party that viewed slavery as a great sin and was committed to its containment was too much for the South to bear.”

              If they wanted containment then they would have been satisfied with secession.

              A good rule of thumb in history is this: if there are two sides, each of which is accusing the other of aggressive expansionism, the one that subsequently conquers the other is probably BSing.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Nonsense. A country that lets regions withdraw at will is no country, soon enough. The Republicans wanted to contain slavery, but also to preserve the Union and prevent future major wars from being played out on the North American continent, as had happened repeatedly in the past.

              • Gabriel M says:

                “The Republicans wanted to contain slavery, but also to preserve the Union and prevent future major wars from being played out on the North American continent, as had happened repeatedly in the past.”

                Good job they nipped that one in the bud, hell 600,000 thousand people might have died.

                “A country that lets regions withdraw at will is no country, soon enough.”

                Imagine, America would only have been 500 times larger than most countries.

                Unionist propaganda has a lot in common with paranoid SJWism, because Unionist propaganda is paranoid SJWism.

              • gcochran9 says:

                France and Germany have been in a number of wars, if memory serves. Keeping the Union together made sure that there would only be one major war on the North American continent for the indefinite future.

                I can add. I guess you can’t.

              • ziel says:

                “Good job they nipped that one in the bud, hell 600,000 thousand people might have died.”
                You know, if we hadn’t fought the war, I bet they’d have died anyway – it was 150 years ago, so yeah I’m pretty sure of that. As an American, I’m pretty happy Lincoln fought to preserve the Union.

                When you’re a nation, you need to make hard decisions sometimes to preserve yourself, and sometimes those decisions involve terrible loss of life and treasure. Going to war can be an awfully tough call, but when the survival of your nation is directly threatened, it’s usually a pretty easy one.

              • Darien says:

                “France and Germany have been in a number of wars, if memory serves. Keeping the Union together made sure that there would only be one major war on the North American continent for the indefinite future.”

                If only US won war of 1812 and captured Canada, then all the bloody wars between US and Canada would be avoided.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Canada wasn’t big enough to be a threat to the US, just as Belgium wasn’t big enough to be a threat to Germany.

              • Gabriel M says:

                “France and Germany have been in a number of wars”

                “You know, if we hadn’t fought the war, I bet they’d have died anyway – it was 150 years ago”

                When intelligent people make weird arguments like this it’s a hint that their case is ludicrously untenable.

                Look, either you support crusades by fanatic Leftist-puritan zealots to impose their demonstrably false beliefs on the world at the cost of over a million (taking into account starvation) lives or you don’t. But if you do, why are you still complaining about Lewontin’s fallacy and trivial stuff like this.

              • gcochran9 says:

                So, in your view, the Confederacy would been unlike other nations: it would not have conflicts of interest with the remaining United States, would not have gotten entangled in world wars, etc. European wars wouldn’t have played out along the Mason-Dixon line. The Seven Years War, King George’s War, King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812 – they didn’t really happen.

                Perhaps you discovered this through a priori reasoning.

              • Darien says:

                ““You know, if we hadn’t fought the war, I bet they’d have died anyway – it was 150 years ago”
                When intelligent people make weird arguments like this it’s a hint that their case is ludicrously untenable.”

                Defenders of Stalin i met on the internuts (the more honest and more crass ones) make exactly the same argument. The people who died, died for a good cause. What else shall one want in life?

              • Gabriel M says:

                I think we can all be grateful that the magnanimous decision to subjugate the secessionists prevented America from being entangled in further European wars. Who knows how that might have turned out?

              • gcochran9 says:

                You know, the point was about those wars being fought – or not – in the United States, on our territory. Or are you too stupid to understand that?

                Having the war fought in your own territory can be pretty unpleasant. Ask the Poles, the French, the Germans, the Spanish, the Italians, the Belgians. Probably the Russians have something to say about this as well.

              • Gabriel M says:

                “You know, the point was about those wars being fought – or not – in the United States, on our territory. Or are you too stupid to understand that?”

                I understand paranoid projection very well. America’s had a tough job defending herself: first you need to conquer a continent to stop some imagined problem 60 years down the line, then another and pretty soon you’ve conquered the whole world. All in self-defense.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Right now, judging from military spending, it’s fair to say that the US worries way more about exterior threats than is justified. At least in the short run. But if you think that splitting into two fairly incompatible nations wouldn’t have resulted in repeated conflict, you are an idiot. Try to say something less idiotic: I’m hoping for insight, God knows why. Hope springs eternal.

      • Marduc says:

        If blacks are unintelligent and have poor impulse control, they should not make good soldiers. I believe that is Cochran’s point.

        That war does not give any real evidence that blacks made good soldiers, however, mostly because they weren’t involved in any of the major actions on either side. Some partisans will argue that that is because whites wanted to deny them the glory; other partisans may argue that it was a result of them demonstrating lower efficiency than white troops during training.

        • melendwyr says:

          Being unintelligent and having poor impulse control aren’t necessarily obstacles to being a “good soldier”. If you’re easily dominated and follow orders given by people who ARE intelligent and well-controlled, you’d do very well in most armies.

          There’s a reason the symbol of the Roman model of governance was a bundle of twigs bound tightly to an axe handle.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      Most Confederates did thnk that. Cochran is paraphrasing a statement from General Cobb, former Gov. of Georgia.

      • j says:

        Greg is saying that the American Civil War was more about protection the union than about protecting slavery. Secession would have caused perpetual conflict. 150 years after, it is clear that the ferocious repression of secession was necessary and that it worked. Applying the concept to today’s Europe, Brexit should be punished to ensure a better European union. Since it looks that the Europeans are about to leave Britain go, others like Italy are planning to follow. No union can survive on a voluntary basis, there needs to be enforcement. Let see if today’s Germans are up to it.

        • gcochran9 says:

          For the North, more about preserving union than destroying slavery. For the South, mostly about protecting slavery, but also about a growing nationalism based on a different way of life – one based on slavery. Slavery Slavery Slavery.

          For a long time, southerners have talked about ‘states rights’ and the tariff, but that’s all crap of course. Before the the War of the Rebellion, tariffs were around 25% and paid for most of the Federal budget, which was a tiny fraction of GDP ( 1.7% !). The only reason that the Republicans managed to pass higher tariffs in 1861 was the walkout of Southern representatives in Congress. They talk about tariffs and ‘states rights’ because the truth is unpalatable.

          People don’ talk about it all that much, but secession was pure craziness. There was no imminent threat to their stupid way of life, and if they hadn’t been crazy with war fever, you’d think someone would have considered the possible bad consequences of a war – i.e., they might lose. Not that Southerners were unique in that respect: plenty of times whole countries go off the rails and do self-destructive things.

          • Yudi says:

            What are some good books on slavery, the South, and the Civil War (the causes behind it rather than the battles)?

            • Gabriel M says:

              “Applying the concept to today’s Europe, Brexit should be punished to ensure a better European union. Since it looks that the Europeans are about to leave Britain go, others like Italy are planning to follow. No union can survive on a voluntary basis, there needs to be enforcement. Let see if today’s Germans are up to it.”

              This is in most respects a fair analogy, fortunately Obama-Junker are to Lincoln what Gorbachev was to Stalin, so we will not have to witness such a bloodbath.

              “and if they hadn’t been crazy with war fever, you’d think someone would have considered the possible bad consequences of a war – i.e., they might lose”

              That I agree with, if you are married to the local Sheriff and he’s a habitually violent schizo, you don’t start waving copies of your prenup around, you make damn sure dinner is in the table when he gets home.

              “But if you think that splitting into two fairly incompatible nations wouldn’t have resulted in repeated conflict, you are an idiot.”

              Why? Has mankind no experience of somewhat hostile countries living side by side without killing 5% of their population? There’s no reason to think that, if America had simply accepted that thanks to decades of jerkdom it was going to be merely the most powerful of 4 nations in North America, rather than a continental hegemon and taken action to prevent its religious lunatics provoking hostilities, that actual fighting couldn’t have been limited to border skirmishes and the occasional limited war. What exactly are you worried about that would have been worse than what actually happened? One counterfactual you could posit is that the credible threat of trouble on the southern border might have swung the balance toward the Isolationists and thus 116,00 Americans wouldn’t have died defending the inalienable right of Serbian nationalists to assassinate foreign heads of state, or whatever, and 400,000 wouldn’t have died affirming Stalin’s right to rule Poland and Mao’s right to rule China. Perhaps if the possibility of enlisting America in the war to end all wars had not been everpresent, Europe’s powers would have entered a negotiated peace and combined to crush Bolshevism.

              Whatmighthavebeenery is pointless though,the simple fact is the war happened because American elites wanted maximum power and the abolitionists wanted their jihad. Either you think that justifies the level of bloodshed or not.

              • gcochran9 says:

                “Has mankind no experience of somewhat hostile countries living side by side without killing 5% of their population?” Not much, no. I find myself at a disadvantage in this kind of argument, since my head is filling up with all the bloody noise of history, far faster than I can type. There are a few hundred books you should read that might give you more perspective on this, but why not start with Thucydides?

                Now things are better today than they were, partly because of the revulsion you get after a truly big war [ World I/II ] , which lasts almost two generations, but probably
                more because of the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons.

                People talk about the Antonine period of the Roman Empire, the Good Emperors, because it was so unusual: not much serious war, at least inside the Empire. Of course that was the fruit of a big unification, like the US. Back in the Civil War the educated people knew about classical history, as well as recent European history.

                American intervention in WWI had an obvious practical reason: to prevent German domination of Europe.

                In WWII, somewhat the same, except that the Germans had changed, from obnoxious to poisonous. American intervention in WWII ensured that only half of Europe would be run by poisonous dictators, instead of all of it.

                Now everyone should understand why i had Ginny reading about Stalingrad when she was ten. By the way, she is ok: hadn’t yet gone into work at Ohio State when that Somali struck. She went in to finish the slides for her talk a couple of hours later: for some reason, she didn’t need to curl up into a ball and watch movies of puppies after just missing out on being a victim. Born that way, probably.

              • another fred says:

                “American intervention in WWI had an obvious practical reason: to prevent German domination of Europe.”

                I don’t participate in these arguments much (re: past history), but one can imagine a much better world for us in the US (if not more of the world) if we had been able to resist this impulse. The Soviet Union and its millions of dead only existed behind the curtain of a ruined Germany (sure, the US tried to intervene, a day late and a dollar short).

                If Germany dominated Europe after the 1920s, history would have taken some different course, but would it have been worse?

                I may misread you, Prof Cochran, or “read in” things that are not there, but when you argue that the US entry into WWI was “practical,” do you mean that this was in some way “beneficial” or just predictable and understandable?

              • gcochran9 says:

                In 1914, the great majority of the world’s productive capacity was in Europe. Any country that dominated the continent would been the number one world power. If you value your national independence, you don’t want that. So: when somebody threatens to take over Europe, you oppose them. The same reason that England, and other nations, opposed Imperial Spain at its height – it threatened to dominate Europe. For the same reason that England and others opposed France for a couple of hundred years: the same reason that people resisted Germany, the same reason nations resisted the Soviet Union. Why did Sparta oppose Athens? It’s still the same old story.

                Here I thought that all of my audience read the Cambridge Modern History while waiting in the dentists’s office. Boy was I wrong!

              • another fred says:

                Re: gcochran9 Nov 30 4:06 pm

                Thank you for the reply, I appreciate understanding more about your point of view.

                “If you value your national dependence, you don’t want that. So: when somebody threatens to take over Europe, you oppose them.”

                I assume you meant “independence.”

                FWIW, it does not follow (for me) that the domination of Europe by Germany means the subjugation of the US. I think that Germany would have had its hands quite full with the rest of the shitstorm in the world without f***king with us (yes, I know about the Zimmerman letter, but that was during war and, IMO, the US attempt to control Latin America was overreach).

                I understand the arguments about “the same old story” and agree that they hold true, but I argue that is only IFF one holds that we are not approaching a crisis that will alter the course of history, which it seems to me we are.

                FYI, my “priors” are different from most you will encounter. I believe we are headed for a drastic reduction in population (“because Nature”), but I do try to base that “assumption” on rational examination of the world. I do try to avoid confirmation bias (if I can, but, you know, I’m only human).

                My comment was based on my assumption that we are approaching the “last extremity” of your original premise and how we might have positioned ourselves better.

              • Gabriel M says:

                So first, we learn that the existence of four, rather than three, countries on a single continent was an existential threat to the US that makes 600,000 war dead and starvation of millions seem trivial in comparison. Then we learn that a German victory in WW1, and – who knows? – perhaps even a negotiated peace, would have meant the end of the US’s national independence. Then we learn that 1648-1789 and 1815-1914 was some big figment of our imagination and it’s actually impossible for countries to engage in limited tactical conflicts governed by acknowledged rules of law and the only way to be safe is just to conquer everything in sight.

                American nationalism is one hell of a drug.

              • gcochran9 says:

                The reason for the relative restraint in the war of the Old Regime in Europe was reaction to the horrors before – mainly the 30 Years War.

                That kind of restraint fades with time. As we have seen.

                There was no ‘starvation of millions’ in or after the Civil War. Where do you get your nonsense? Regardless, there shall be no more of it.

              • Gabriel M says:

                “There was no ‘starvation of millions’ in or after the Civil War.”

                https://www.amazon.com/Sick-Freedom-African-American-Suffering-Reconstruction/dp/0190218266

                I was off by an order of 1. Apologies.

              • gcochran9 says:

                You don’t know jack. Banned.

              • Bla says:

                “Then we learn that 1648-1789 … was some big figment of our imagination and it’s actually impossible for countries to engage in limited tactical conflicts… ” What made them mostly limited was the ability to form coalitions against the most powerful actor (France in the western Europe, Sweden in the northern Europe) and block or try to roll back their expansions. Even then, some of those wars could hardly be described as limited. And then there were Ottoman-Habsburg wars… And let’s not forget that small or no territorial changes in Europe could mean a big ones outside Europe.

          • Anchises says:

            Mark Twain put most of the blame for Secession on Sir Walter Scott, and it’s not a completely crazy hypothesis. Scott’s brand of Romanticism valorized manly honour and fighting spirit in the service of hopeless lost causes, and his novels were wildly popular in the Antebellum South. Carolina Fire-Eaters bragged themselves into a corner with swaggering talk, then felt honour-bound to follow through on their ill-considered threats.

            • another fred says:

              “…it’s not a completely crazy hypothesis. Scott’s brand of Romanticism valorized manly honour and fighting spirit…”

              But, without that “fighting spirit”, would Western Civilization exist? There is a fair argument that it met its limit (or a limit due to circumstance) but would the West exist without it?

              Somewhat like the Peter Principle, values serve until they no longer serve.

              • Anchises says:

                Fighting spirit is very important, but so is rationally calculating the plausible odds of victory. 19th-century Romantics weren’t inclined to let harsh reality interfere with runaway noble passions.

                In fairness to the misguided Southern martial spirit, it’s astonishing that they lasted as long as they did. A more sensible, rational country would probably have given up or collapsed in mid-1863; the Southrons fought for two more years on nothing but sheer ferocity and cussed stubbornness.

              • gcochran9 says:

                The South had a not-crazy hope that the North would tire of the war and elect McClellan. But after the results of the 1864 elections, they had nothing more to hope for. And should have quit.

          • iffen says:

            Expansion of slavery into new states and territories was essential if the cotton boom was to continue. Rice growing was in serious decline before 1860, tobacco was trending down as well. I don’t know the balance, but much of the profit from slavery was coming from the inflation in the sale value of a slave. Some of the slave owners were probably making more money from the natural increase in the numbers of their slaves than from their agriculture. Stop territorial expansion of slave land and you bust the bubble.

  3. Most thought-provoking. I live in Indonesia, a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society that from its outset attempted to balance the interests of a huge Muslim majority (85% plus) against minorities critical to the economic success and development of the nation (Chinese-Indonesians, through whose hands passes nearly 90’% of the cash money in circulation – very few of the ethnic Chinese are Muslim). There has been in recent years the rise of a hard-edged, uncompromising Islamist segment which after the fall of the dictator Soeharto (a rather laid-back Muslim, supported vigorously by the Christian, Hindu and Chinese-Indonesian power-brokers whom he protected in return) has determined to use the democratic process to destroy democracy (“Pancasila democracy” – look it up if you’re interested, as it is interesting).
    The work of Nicholas Nassim Taleb, whose premise is that “The West is committing suicide”, points to the uncompromising spread of Shariah Islam throughout Europe. In every country it is racheted to take power click by click, and never to back up whatsoever on its determined path to conquest.
    The lassitude, quarreling and overly-tolerant acceptance of the majority is hugely taken advantage of, military-style. In the UK and Sweden they practically welcome their conquerers.

    • AppSocRes says:

      I think it is no accident that Professor Cochrane mentioned Covadonga. The European nations and the the USA have opened themselves to invasion by mohammed worshipping thugs*. Unless this ceases almost immediately the native populations of these countries will be dealing with exactly the issues you raise. If Europe’s and the USA’s leadership don’t halt this invasion and expel or force the assimilation of its vanguard then the question becomes will the native populations ultimately resist or give up. If they choose to resist at a point much later than a decade or two from now we are looking at a race-war/civil war with genocide or expulsion waiting for the losers and collaborators.

      Mildly off topic but I was chatting with young woman recently and learned that she was teaching a course in “Spain’s Golden Age” at a nearby University. I am mildly interested in Spanish poetry in translation and mentioned some of my favorites from what is commonly known as the Golden Age. From the disturbed look on her face I quickly realized we were talking at cross purposes. She was Jewish and her course focused on the 700 year period of off-again-on-again Jewish-Muslim collaboration during the Umayyad occupation.

      Today, orthodoxy in this so-called religion consists of unreasoning and irrational adherence primarily to the Haditha, followed by the same for the Quran, with a heavy overlay of barbarous and savage tribal customs. The Haditha are supposed to be contemporary reports of Mohamed’s behavior and sayings. They are self-contradictory and do not stand up to the slightest historical analysis. The Quran is a farrago of vicious nonsense. It may read like poetry in archaic Arabic but in translation it has neither the sublimity, universality, or underlying ethical nature retained by other foundational scriptures. The tribal customs involve ruthless subjugation of women, sexual perversions, and other barbarities. The existence of this primitive ideology among large numbers of residents in our countries is an existential threat to our continued existence. I therefor refuse any longer to legitimize this evil nonsense as a “religion of peace”, i.e., Islam, or by any other term that suggests it is anything other than a dangerous congeries of blood-thirsty superstitions.

      • AppSocRes says:

        The last paragraph above is meant as a footnote referenced by the earlier *.

      • Jim says:

        Isn’t it the case that many linguists believe that the language of the Koran indicates that it was not written in Mohammed’s lifetime but was set down at a later time based on oral traditions?

        • dearieme says:

          There’s even speculation that bits of it were written before The Prophet lived. In other words, that whoever compiled it used bits and bobs from different places and times.

          The Old Testament seems to have been compiled from bits of Egyptian religion, Mesopotamian folk tales, Canaanite yarns, and Lord knows what else – plenty of vivid imagination too I expect.

          The parts of the New Testament that seem to me to be the most obvious poppycock are the two nativity stories, obvious Greek inventions shoved into a story written about a Jewish milieu.

    • Abelard Lindsey says:

      Yes, I’m familiar with Pancasila. If the Indonesian government ditches pancasila in favor of some kind of Islamist ideology, things will get really bad. Those overseas Chinese will either transfer their wealth out of the country and leave. Or they might just move over to Bali. Same with the Christians and other religious minorities. Perhaps Indonesia (which is really a Javanese empire) will break apart, or least become ungovernable on the national level. If things get real bad, Malaysia can expect lots of refugees from Indonesia, particularly Sumatra, to wash up on their shores. The Malaysians are fit to be tied over this scenario, given their general attitude towards Indonesians (I lived in an Indonesian “ghetto” in Penang for a while).

      • Interesting, Abelard. Thanks for the reply. As for Malaysia, my [admittedly superficial] impression is that it is a time bomb ready to go off, another product of the iniquitous English bottling up enemy tribes (Bumiputera~Chinese~Tamil) into a single “nation”. Having Islam as their “state religion” is a bad start; put the fanatics in Kelantan against the ethnic Chinese who run the economy and you have trouble on your hands. UMNO is rotten to the core but shows no signs of collapsing (at least until the entire global economy goes comatose).

        Foreign businessmen here in Jakarta occasionally ask me whether the Indonesian nation is viable, in the long run. I tell them that while I’ve been here quite a long time, have studied history and speak the language I have no idea. I think that if the Islamists / Salafists managed to seize power (government / military) you’d see a rapid breakup: North Sulawesi proposing to join the (mostly Christian) Philippines, Catholic East Nusa Tenggara pulling out and looking for foreign support. If the Islamists targeted Hindu Bali I think it not impossible that India would send down its Navy to effect a protective cordon.

        Then there is the new brute on the block: China’s blue-water navy could very well intervene in Malaysia or Indonesia if the ethnic Chinese stand in danger of being slaughtered (part of the Islamist playbook). Uncle would protest but I doubt if you’d see serious naval combat. The Chinese government would set up temporary protectorates in a region they see as their back lot in any case; these would soon harden into permanent enclaves, welcomed by both local ethnic Chinese and other minorities fearful of Islamist terror.

        China would end up as the sole bulwark against the screwball notion of a Salafist caliphate. Exciting times ahead, alas.

        • another fred says:

          There was an essay something like 20 years ago (Walter Russell Meade, IIRC) about how states these days are just nominal, like kids all getting blue ribbons in kindergarten (my simile, not his). Many, if not most of the states in the world exist because they have been awarded that status by the UN, not because they were forged in blood and iron, and not because they can secure their borders or control their people.

          IMV, these states can survive only in the calm seas of the Pax Americana (the UN being an artifact of said Pax), and the Pax is itself floating on the largest, most interconnected, sea of credit bubbles the world has ever seen.

          As you say, exciting times ahead. The cascading collapses of the credit bubbles will bring the next phase, but that will not be the last of it.

          • I have a piece of fiction in mind around this theme. Sixth Fleet docks in Surabaya. Purchasing & Supply Officer is desperately trying to source food & fuel for Uncle’s ships. Indonesians politely demur at accepting L/Cs or even cash dollars, considering the unclear situation in Washington and London. Gold bullion for payment is suggested.

            P & S Officer tries to work this out urgently but gets the run-around from the Pentagon. Nobody wants to admit it or take the fall, but it turns out Fort Knox is as empty as if Auric Goldfinger had motored off with his trucks laden down.

            Gold’s in China. Dollar’s in the toilet. Sixth Fleet starts to host a wave of rumors. There is first a trickle of AWOLs (crews on shore leave – nobody comes back) then whole ships only end up with skeleton crews. Lifeboats discreetly slip away in the night. The order comes down: shoot any Navy man who leaves a vessel without written permission from the Admiral.

            Where’s the Admiral? Where’s the Admiral? In high-level talks with the Chinese Ambassador. It’s getting down to “Nukes for Nuggets” – ha ha ha, as if the Navy had the authority to sell off its warheads.

            Meanwhile everything is running out. Communication with Washington is sporadic; what does come through may be interpreted as a roundabout intimation that “You’re on your own.”

            Ah, China’s blue-water navy to the rescue. A flotilla of supply ships steam into Surabaya Harbour, flags fluttering proudly, to save the awkward situation.

            No payment is required from “our American friends”. Fresh food, fuel – everything but ammo – is passed over to the starving Yanks, with a kind smile.

            It is the ultimate humiliation. But the Sixth Fleet, once proudly patrolling the Taiwan Strait in defiant defense of Chancre Jack and his pack of thieving generals, is reduced to taking charity from an erstwhile adversary. On credit, of course: “the American way”.

            Once the Chinese navy settles in, they do not plan on going anywhere anyway. Southeast Asia is their neighbor, in any case. Smiles all around.

          • Jim says:

            Of course nearly all the so-called nations of Sub-Saharan Africa are fictions.

  4. STEM Finance says:

    One of the things I really enjoy about this blog is when you give book recommendations, especially in time for xmas (makes it easy to buy presents for my friends, in-laws and myself). Any chance you’ll be doing that this year?

    • another fred says:

      I know you were asking Prof. Cochran, but for my 2 cents I recommend “The Great Rebalancing” by Michael Pettis. It is short enough and in plain language and lays out how the excesses of trade surpluses based on export models (mostly in Germany and China) have led to the excessive debt balances both within those countries and in the countries with negative trade/capital balances and the difficulty we will have rebalancing the world.

      He is more optimistic than I am (who isn’t), but lays the facts out very clearly – if you accept the premise that the imbalances and credit growth cannot go on forever. He makes his argument for why he thinks they cannot, but not vigorously.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Seems like a good idea.

  5. What might the Cathedral do, last ditch?

    • Jim says:

      Or the what will the European elite do to preserve their power? They are talking now about having a European army. Will they send that army into Greece to collect the debts the Greeks owe them? Is it physically possible to even squeeze that much wealth out of Greece even if the Wehrmacht is sent in?

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        They’ll try to create a Janissary army to complete the “project” before the EU falls apart. If they succeed their Janissaries will turn on them at some point – quite quickly i’d imagine.

        After that who knows.

      • st says:

        You mean the Greek government cannot cover the debt of 300 billion $ by selling a single average sized aegean island (from which they have one thousand) on its market price without having this transaction imposed by an army? I doubt it.
        Now, the thing is IMF have them covered. How do you think the middle eastern immigrants got their free pass (about 2 million of them) to cross Greece? I mean, do you think it was a free pass?Don’t worry, it’s all been paid, no need to sell out no islands and certainly no Wehrmacht marching Greece. All good, good deal.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “You mean the Greek government cannot cover the debt of 300 billion $ by…”

          They don’t want the debt covered. They want to keep it rolling over so they can loot the entire country.

          So if the EU (as enforcers of the banks) run out of Greek leaders who can be bought they’ll need an army to keep the looting going.

  6. another fred says:

    “Various responses have led me to think about what nations are willing to do in the last extremity, when they see doom impending.”

    The fact that CRISPR will soon make access to bio-weapons available to non-state actors expands the realm of impending doom. Without starting a routine of finger pointing, suffice it to say that I can think of many groups who feel their survival threatened by others – others who may be operating logically or illogically – and feel justified in unleashing biological weapons.

    We are headed inexorably for a financial train wreck. Under “normal” circumstances this would lead to defaults, bankruptcies, and a general re-setting of the board, but with a population of 7.5 billion (and growing) that is mostly dependent on the structures of society for its daily bread, we will be playing an entirely new game. States will find it difficult (impossible for some) to default on obligations to citizens.

    The raison d’etre of Leviathan is order. With CRISPR, as it (in its various guises) seeks to impose order on an overpopulated world, it will meet resistance such as has never been.

    Busy, busy, busy.

  7. Thomas says:

    Too much reification. A nation is a geographic area ruled by a government. It’s not the people, who have varied views, if any, about such matters as mutual assured destruction. In fact, there are varied views within the halls of government, but they’re either suppressed, repressed, or overruled by the person or cabal in charge.

  8. Maciano says:

    Greg, do you think we’re doomed?

    I sometimes fear so. The toxic mess is just overwhelming. It’s not just low birth rates, PC, feminism, LGBT, diversity quota, leftist media, Islamism, third world immigration and dozens other separate similar issues — but the sum of all these things together scares me a lot. It points to self-destruction. It will lead to collapse because no fundament will be left in a couple of generations to prevent shocks or misfortune.

    Conservatives counter this “decline” by constantly hammering Russian imperialism or how Salafists must learn to respect gays. In short: useless. The only forces stopping it, are the populists and the nationalists who bring other problems with them — and they face formidable opposition. Other times, I think we aren’t doomed, because of technology, science and ability of cultures to adapt. I fear there’s too little common sense for things to change for the better any time soon.

    • Conservatives? Salafists? Gays? Got your wires crossed there, Ginger. Although I must admit that the category “conservative” has lost all precision in the current hurricane of attack-and-retaliate.

      I thought it was the prevailing regimes of the NWO that force fanatics to leave homosexuals alone. Immigrants to the Netherlands are presented photographs showing men kissing and told “Shape up or ship out”.

      Speaking of which, we haven’t heard a peep from the ‘Log Cabin Republicans’ for awhile. Endangered species? Gone extinct? Conservatives gone underground?

      As for the Salafists, they are classical fall guys, set up to fail. Propose / encourage / fund / arm – then destroy triumphantly, as the cameras are rolling.

      Start all over again. As one poser succinctly put it: ‘Destroy-Rebuild-Destroy’.
      (Those of us posting are neatly out of the line of fire in any case.)

      • Maciano says:

        I’m from Europe, Netherlands to be exact. Conservatives attack Islam mostly on liberal issues like gay rights, equality between the sexes, freedom of speech and secularism. Immigration of muslims or social trust are rarely mentioned.

        And, while the Netherlands is actually pretty good on integration, it’s probably not enough to force-feed Salafists into civilized citizens. On the contrary, Salafists are unassimilable; they’re totalitarians who will never give up.

        • JerryC says:

          Immigration of muslims or social trust are rarely mentioned.

          Isn’t Wilders in rather a lot of trouble for saying he wants less Morroccan immigration?

    • Frau Katze says:

      Yep, we’re doomed, but it will take a while yet. I doubt I’ll see it in my remaining years; my children, maybe; my grandchildren, probably.

      To keep order among all these groups, many conflicting with others, governments will become more and more authoritarian. At least, that appears to be the case in the UK. Throwing people in jail for “hate speech” as an example.

      It’s not much at the moment but it shows the direction things will go.

      • Have any UK Muslims been prosecuted and jailed for hate speech? I’ve yet to hear of a case – and boy do they know how to hate.

      • another fred says:

        “Yep, we’re doomed, but it will take a while yet. I doubt I’ll see it in my remaining years; my children, maybe; my grandchildren, probably.”

        I think Didier Sornette and others who study self organizing critical states are on the right track. Sornette is an optimist and thinks we can see a phase change in the system that will not be so destructive, but he sees “something” coming. His projections center around a 2045 +/- time frame, but he notes that systems usually find a trigger to go critical well before ultimate stress.

        As we approach the ultimate critical state we should see larger and larger excursions from the normal path until one excursion goes fully out of control.

        Sornette started out in geophysics studying earthquakes but branched into critical systems in general. Having dealt with log periodic and log-probability dynamics in my own work he rings true to me.

        If you consider that we are dealing with that kind of a system it illustrates why Krugman was asking such a dumb question when he asked why alarm bells weren’t ringing about the financial “crisis” (we haven’t seen the crisis yet). As the system builds greater and greater stress it takes less and less of a trigger to send things askew.

  9. MawBTS says:

    In mid-1944 Dietrich von Choltitz got a cable from Hitler, ordering him to raze Paris to the ground before the enemy recaptured it. Obviously, he disobeyed the order. Didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who destroyed Paris.

  10. Pending doom for a nation ain’t what it used to be. Everybody with money just up and leaves leaving the suffering masses holding the bag. The suffering masses are screwed of course but they don’t attack, they just fill the neighboring countries with desperate refugees.

    Various nations can and will beat the drums of war to con the stupid masses into rallying around the flag, kind of North Korean like. It is almost impossible to anticipate who is going to actually follow through with battle, lots of barkers, few biters.

    China is going to get huffy now and then but actually starting a war will be like Walmart shooting their shoppers. Russia has some devious assholes who will grab what they can when they can, but
    they will only bully someone easy to bully.

    Plenty of small time warlords out there raising hell locally in desperate poor parts of the world, but they won’t visit us and we will only visit them with “peace keeping” drones.

    The rest of the world is most scared of the United States, especially with a tough talking guy that looks like a drunken clown in charge. Don’t worry rest of the world. Yes we are now officially 51% dumbshits. Yes we are going to waste our money on ridiculous defense like we have since 1945. Yes we be arrogant idiots. But our clown president isn’t going to attack anybody. Only presidents coming from the state of Texas start big stupid wars. New Yorkers just bitch a lot.

    • ursiform says:

      Whom does your 51% number include?

    • cold anagram says:

      Dave, your posts are so reliably stupid it might actually be lucrative to bet on the exact opposite of what you say. You’re like a compass that points south.

      • Stupid tongue in cheek speculation, tis true. Betting is never lucrative by the way, unless you are the bookie.

        • another fred says:

          “Is this a game of chance, Mr. Fields?”

          “Not the way I play it.”

          There are people who do quite well at pari-mutuel and pooled bet gambling, the key being having enough fools in the pool making bad bets.

          • Gambling amuses me. It is never a good investment. Very bright people who can win at gambling long run know it isn’t even a zero sum game, which stinks, it’s a negative five or ten percent game. So why would they bother with it? The answer is they don’t. Now they might do it for amusement like I do but this is a rare blog site where shit don’t fly…..often.

            • another fred says:

              “where shit don’t fly…..often.”

              That seems kind of rude since it is a direct reply to my comment.

              Your premise that the bookies (the “House” generically) are the ones that profit from gambling is surely correct in the main. If you do not know that there is a small population of gamblers who live, pretty well, off the ignorance of the general gambling population then you don’t “know it all.”

              I learned long ago that if I sat down at a table and could not identify the “pigeon”, then I was the pigeon. I don’t “gamble” for a living, but here are those who do. Whether or not they are “gambling” is a matter of semantics.

    • George Greene says:

      So New Yorkers just complain and Texans do something about it?

  11. st says:

    You are scaring people, Greg, there is no need of mutually assured destruction b/n the elites and their subject peoples. All it takes is mass voting on the elections, not weapons for mass destruction. WMD are designed to destroy the masses by definition anyway, not the elites, they are immune. Now a mass vote would delegitimize the lefty elites. The majority in each country is still common sensed, they just forget to vote most of the time.

  12. Thomas notes that individuals have varied motives. A single individual also has varied motives. There may be one core survival motive that is the last card to play, but people can drop 20% of their belief to support a motive that is 30% of their core. They do it all the time: they get divorced, they move to another country, they refuse to let a child back in the house. In the example of the Confederacy, for example, the initial and stated value was deeply intertwined with slavery. But “you can’t tell us what to do” was also a motive, and black soldiers might have been acceptable to preserve that.

  13. sainchuck says:

    this is somewhat off topic, but We (the people?) would like to hear your thoughts on this Nassim Taleb statistics paper on violence and casualties of war (https://arxiv.org/pdf/1505.04722.pdf) bashing Pinker and war statistics in general.

  14. Jim Given says:

    Greg, you suggest the Soviets used tularemia at Stalingrad. It does seem they would have had many uses for biological weapons in WWII. But why not typhus? I have long wondered whether the Soviets used typhus, both on the Eastern Front, and in Nazi slave labor camps (which were after all a military asset.)

    • gcochran9 says:

      Typhus epidemics are the default in a war, unless you work hard to prevent them. Typhus is always waiting in the wings: let me explain why.

      Unlike many infectious diseases, typhus has a carrier state. A few people have a lingering infection which can flare up a long time later: Brill-Zinsser disease.

      Anytime people are crowded, malnourished, and lousy, you’re asking for a typhus epidemic.

      There are some other diseases like this. Typhoid [Typhoid Mary], chickenpox [ singles], vivax malaria, and tuberculosis can re-emerge after many years.

      While tularemia isn’t even transmitted from one person to another. similarly, if you see lots of people suddenly get pulmonary anthrax, think germ warfare.

      • Would there not be the same reluctance to use bio-warfare as military strategists felt about poison gas? I recall reading how clouds of chlorine (or mustard) were unpredictable and blew back onto the German side after they themselves launched them. Similarly, a highly-infectious disease might spread uncontrollably into surrounding friendly populations, unless everyone had been inoculated – an impractical scenario.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Tularemia is not spread person-to-person.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          that’s why last ditch

        • dearieme says:

          Even deterrence has its price: from WKPD –

          Through a tragic coincidence intended by neither of the opposing sides in World War II, Bari gained the unwelcome distinction of being the only European city to experience chemical warfare in the course of that war.

          On the night of December 2, 1943, 105 German Junkers Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari, which was a key supply centre for Allied forces fighting their way up the Italian Peninsula. Over 20 Allied ships were sunk in the overcrowded harbour, including the U.S. Liberty ship John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas; mustard gas was also reported to have been stacked on the quayside awaiting transport (the chemical agent was intended for retaliation if German forces had initiated chemical warfare.) The presence of the gas was highly classified and the U.S. had not informed the British military authorities in the city of its existence. This increased the number of fatalities, since British physicians—who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas—prescribed treatment proper for those suffering from exposure and immersion, which proved fatal in many cases. Because rescuers were unaware they were dealing with gas casualties, many additional casualties were caused among the rescuers, through contact with the contaminated skin and clothing of those more directly exposed to the gas.

          • MawBTS says:

            Interesting. Though deterrence would only be effective if the Germans knew they had it.

            As a rule soldiers and LEO know fuck all about treating chemical injuries. The Portland PD recently sent out a tweet advising people to treat tear gas with water and fresh air (should be liquid antacid/milk/maalox).

            • dearieme says:

              I assume the point was to deter a second German use of poison gas because, as you say, a secret supply couldn’t deter a first use.

              As I understand it, what deterred Hitler from using gas early in the war was the assumption that the British would have the same poison gases available to them.

              • Quite a few of Der Furrier’s orders were ignored, marginalized or intentionally misunderstood by the Wehrmacht, particularly after mid-1944 when it became pretty clear was GAME OVER for the side. Goebbels proposed shooting POWs as well, which was naturally resisted by the military as it would set a precedent for the enemy to follow.

                It was interesting however that even in the “downfall” days in the bunker no order was given to use poison gas (as far as I’ve read, anyway). Even when the Generals themselves plan on suicide they maintain a certain consideration for the rules of war (such as they are). The awkward experience of WW I would also be known to them, obviously.

                In terms of nuclear exchange I would not at all be surprised to hear of sub commanders, silo operators or others disobeying an order to launch, particularly if it came in an atmosphere of a conflicting chain of command or suspicious source. (Reference the controversial Okinawa event during the October 1962 crisis, where an apparently berserk unit commander ordered a launch, then rescinded it).

                The famous Russian officer Vasili Arkhipov stands as an example of one whose conscience resisted the order to fire.

            • dearieme says:

              On second thoughts maybe the mustard gas was there for first use if it looked as if the allies would be defeated in Italy. That makes more sense, I suppose, would explain why the gas was secret even from the British, and gets us back to the blog post’s original point.

              • gcochran9 says:

                After the initial landings, the Allies didn’t worry about losing in Italy ( although Anzio was a problem for a while). The Germans always knew that the Allies had war gases available, in every theatre: but there was no point in letting them know exactly where.

                The Germans had far deadlier versions – nerve gas – but did not use them, partly because they assumed that the Allies also had nerve gas, which was incorrect.

                As for being kept secret from the British, that was likely just reflexive secrecy. Stupid.

      • gyddyn says:

        Area around lower Volga is a natural reservoir for tularemia. You don’t need evil russkies unleashing BW to get thousands of soldiers hurt. Just live in dirt there, with mice and other rodents near.

  15. dearieme says:

    Russian troops occupied an airfield during Mr Clinton’s merry little war against Serbia. The American commander ordered British troops to expel them. The British commander refused, saying “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.”

  16. Cpluskx says:

    TIMSS 2015 results announced: http://timss2015.org/

  17. j says:

    In extremity, human societies create fighting suicide corps formed by homosexuals.That was the conclusion of Frank Herbert in “The Dosadi Experiment” that examined the “Last Ditch” question. The Sacred Band of Thebes and the Spartiate Homoioi seem to illustrate his hypothesis. The WaffenSS may be a more recent example.

    • gcochran9 says:

      As far as I can tell, Sodomy wasn’t evil enough to fully engage the attention of the Waffen SS.

      Frank Herbert wrote fiction. Some of it was readable.

    • MawBTS says:

      The SS made homosexuality punishable by death in 1941.

      There’s been pseudohistorical books claiming that the Nazi party was network of homosexuals, and surely there were a few actual cases. Mostly I think it’s back-projection. Homosexuals today often fetishize pop-Nazism (uniforms, leather, showy militarism). But that doesn’t mean the actual Nazis were gay!

      The Sacred Band of Thebes and the Spartiate Homoioi seem to illustrate his hypothesis

      I’ve often wondered how tolerant classical Greeks and Romans were of homosexuality. Various germ carriers say it was an LGBT paradise, but when you look at their writings, they’re full homophobic insults (cf Catallus’s “I will fuck you in the ass and in the mouth, respectively; Aurelius, you sodomized ass pony and Furius, you cock-sucking pervert.”) Plato apparently despised homosexuality and proposed laws to regulate it.

  18. Toddy Cat says:

    I think that the doubts about Stalin using Tularemia still reflect, at least partially, the double standard that many people, (even Right-wingers) have with regard to Communism and Nazism. Most everyone knows that Stalin was a mass-murderer in the same category as Hitler, and almost everyone knows that Communism had more victims than Nazism, if only because it lasted longer and spread to more countries; but there is still this residual feeling that Communism was somehow more respectable. I mean, if there was indirect evidence to indicate that Hitler had used Tabun in the Ardennes or at Lake Balaton, very few people would be saying “oh, no Hitler never would have done THAT!”. Yet somehow, with Stalin, it’s different. And let’s face it – if Nazi troops had been on the outskirts of Washington DC, the US would have used whatever was necessary to repel them. I don’t see why the USSR would have been any different.

    • gcochran9 says:

      If panzers were deep into your country, damn near anyone would try anything and everything, including throwing the kitchen sink, to try to expel them. It is not that complicated.

      • Byron Black says:

        I would agree in principle. The contrary example of Berlin 1945 then stands puzzling. Why did Hitler not give the order to use bio-warfare on the advancing Russians? Was he perhaps aware of the potential reluctance or resistance of his senior officers to carry out such a command, since they knew full well the jig was up? Had his direct order been disobeyed then clearly the game was up for him as well.

        This hypothetical situation has also been raised in regard to the purported immorality of the USA in attacking Japan with nuclear weapons when (according to one school of thought) the Japanese knew the cause was finished and were ready to surrender. The question was posed as “Would Germany, Italy, the USSR or Japan have used nuclear weapons on civilian targets in a similar situation?”

        I think the answer to that one is pretty clear, based on what we know of the military / totalitarian mentality.

      • dearieme says:

        The French didn’t in 1940. They were beaten and knew it. They had more sense than to try resistance on any substantial scale until it could be of some value to the allied invaders (and when it was obvious that the allies were going to win). Otherwise resistance led just to retaliation that was on an unbearable scale.

  19. Steven WIlson says:

    Even Robert Conquest who chronicled the enormity that was Stalin and the Communists in Russia determined that Naziism was the greater evil, though not by much. I think he essentially decided that with Stalin mass murder was a means to an end while with Nazis mass murder was the end. That ultimately Stalin ended up with a higher score was due to longevity and the number of people under his feet. Not much to choose from and the prime folly is to regard totalitarian states as being opposite each other on the ideological spectrum. They may be regional or global rivals, but with all power centralized in a authoritarian figure, political ideas and ideals are merely window dressing.

    • Jim says:

      The difference is that while Stalin was horrifically brutal, his brutality wasn’t directed at people of a certain ethnicity simply because of their ethnicity. At the end he seems to have been planning a campaign against Russian Jewry but even then he was probably motivated by a belief that the Jews were not politically reliable rather than by something like Hitler’s deep hatred of Jews.

  20. dearieme says:

    “while Stalin was horrifically brutal, his brutality wasn’t directed at people of a certain ethnicity simply because of their ethnicity.” Wrong.

    (i) The Ukrainians were deliberately targeted for starvation.

    (ii) But even if you were right, so what? How on earth can you think that murdering 6 million people on grounds of, say, class, or religion, is any better than killing 6 million on grounds of race?

    • Jim says:

      I don’t think that the Ukrainians were targeted for simply being Ukrainian. Stalin would probably have been equally indifferent to the starvation of Russian peasants or for that matter Georgian peasants if they were an obstacle to his schemes. I didn’t say that I thought Stalin was better than Hitler. I was just pointing out the difference which may explain some people’s reactions.

      • Peter Akuleyev says:

        In fact Stalin also starved millions of Kazakhs to death for resisting collectivization. In terms of percentages, the Kazakh holocaust was even worse than the Ukrainian. There had also been a major famine in the Volga region of Russia in 1921, also killing perhaps 6 to 7 million people, so Stalin probably realized there wasn’t much point in killing those people again.

    • ursiform says:

      Ukraine was targeted because it resisted collectivization, not because if was full of Ukrainians. The Georgian Stalin would have had little reason to think Ukrainians were much different from Russians. He probably couldn’t tell them apart!

      • st says:

        Correct. Moreover, it was not even full of Ukrainians at the times of collectivisation – in the 30-es Ukraine was not even located where it is located nowadays. It became full of Ukrainians when Stalin & Hitler divided Poland among themselves. It is less than well known and understood that instead of returning the occupied polish lands at the end of WWII, USSR moved Polish borders west – compensating Poland for what they took east with german lands west. The former polish lands became what is now western Ukraine along with millions of inhabitants. The sharp division line between millions catholic “ukrainians” born polish and eastern orthodox “ukrainians” never closed and is the central reason for the tension from the last 10 years. It has always been there, like time bomb. They are basically two nations, clearly separated historically, religiously and geographically – one leaning west and the other leaning Russia. To say that Stalin exercised ethnic cleansing on Ukrainians that were not even presented there during holodomor is a politically correct total absurd. But we live in absurd times anyway, so, whatever.
        Historical Ukraine (name means “Periphery”, “border lands”) is analogous to the wild west in usa – just for real. Formally under tzars jurisdiction, but each settler there would be given a free status by the tsars (cossacks) against the duty to protect russian empire against the ottomans and tattar magnates; became melting point for opportunists and adventurists from all over eurasia – because of the freedom this land was given by the tzars (the peasant who would escape their feudal lords in Russia (boliars) would be given a status of free men if settle in Ukraine – and are of orthodox faith or if convert to it . It was a gray land for two centuries. “Western Ukraine” has not much to do with it. So do not expect the troubles there to end soon; creating two stateles would not be much of surprise.

        • j says:

          Stalin was the Bolshevik faction’s expert in nationalities. He apparently considered Ukrainians to be undifferentiated mujiks who spoke bad Russian.

          • Jim says:

            My understanding is that Stalin himself spoke Russian with a very strong foreign accent. Of course I doubt anybody mentioned that to him.

          • st says:

            j, there is something funny about Georgians; I mean, they seem to have formed the ruling classes in several neighbouring states – Reza Pahlavi clan, the last rulers of imperial Iran were georgian immigrants, and so is Erdogan, the contemporary ruler of Turkey, whose ethnicity is mingrelian. So, do not underestimate georgian smart in Stalin when it comes to nationality or identity politics. He knew.

        • Jim says:

          Most of the borders in Eastern Europe owe their present position to the vagaries of recent history. There’s nothing very stable about most of them.

    • iffen says:

      It is more civilized to kill people for what they think rather than for an accident of birth.

  21. Pale Primate says:

    You say that Churchill was ready to use Anthrax if Germans crossed the channel. What is your source for this? I only thing I could find regarding Churchill and Anthrax was during the 1944-45 period, with bombs supplied by USA, well after Germany had any hope of crossing the channel.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1987-01-07/news/mn-2514_1_bombs

    Thanks for the great blog, btw.

  22. Dale Force says:

    The South did use free black soldiers (and officers) while the North did not use black soldiers until the middle of the war (Frederick Douglas complained to Lincoln about it). Slaves could enlist if their owners freed them (at the start of the war when it was expected to last a short time there was no expectation that slaves would be freed if the North won, so that was a way to guarantee freedom).
    Check old books, this information is not PC so it is often covered up.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The South did not use free black soldiers. Black enlistment was authorized late in the war, out of desperation, but only a few were recruited and they never saw combat.

      You’re 100% wrong.

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