Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feel-good family hit of the summer!

Having finished Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin while I was out of town last weekend, I'm now working on Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization.

Sure, the author's a hippie pacifist who doesn't believe in any such thing as a just war, not even to stop the Nazis, but it's a handy reminder that there was plenty of nastiness to go around in the Big War, and "But they started it!" sometimes offers only cold comfort.

It's some chilling reading...

19 comments:

Tango Juliet said...

To quote Gen. Bradley, "War is hell."

Ed Rasimus said...

TJ, look to William Tecumseh Sherman for that cliche.

leaddog said...

R E Lee said, "It is good war is so terrible, else men would become too fond of it."

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

And so it goes.

Britt said...

I'm a history nut, and Bloodlands is draining. I took a break to read through the Ringo/Weber Prince Roger series, where the men are dashing and the women are beautiful and the good guys triumph, albeit at cost.

Anonymous said...

I believe it was a (very) senior American AirForce officer, while touring Germany post WWII, who remarked quite candidly duringa moment of introspection that if the Allies had lost WWII that he and lot of allied generals and politicians would have been hung as war criminals.

Not (just) because the germans were being vindictive, but because there was good basis in Geneva convention of the time for a significant number of allied ( and we'll leave the russian aside right now) acts being, at the very least, "arguably" beyond the pale.

Specifically he was considering the destruction wrought upon German cities & civil population by carpet bombings.

Don't take my word for it, what he was refering to is the Geneva convention in force circa 1939-1945, and allied bombing of cities ( even if not specifically targeted such, massive collateral damage counts) can quite reasonably read as a prima facie no-no.

As he put it "thank god we won."

Jenny said...

what was that "... you create a policy maker" quote again Tams?

' sucks.

Just sometimes sucks less than the alternative. Thanks to y'all that stood in the gap.

Ed Foster said...

Leaddog, let's not forget Patton's famous line, looking out over a field of smoking tanks and field ambulances. "God help me, but I love this so".

Myself, I would put the beginning of the interregnum as World War One, when Europe (along with it's colonies) turned on itself, leaving the here-to-for rediculous seeming Marxists a continent of shell-shocked proleteriat to subborn, but it still fits with the Bloodlands meme, as WWII was mostly a continuation of WWI.

The staggering numbers of people killed become lessened in effect with the passing of time. "One man's death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic", Joe Stalin.

What I find stunning about World War One is that it actually changed the genetics of a large part of the human race. Per Capita, the British took the largest casualties in the war by far. Not suprising, as they were usually the ones attacking, and the Germans defending.

Only at Verdun did the Germans deviate from their pre-war strategy of staying on the defensive and bleeding the allies, and the chance of taking Paris probably justified the risk that one time.

But so many young British men were killed that marriage between women in their teens and twenties and men in their fourties, fifties, and sixties became common. A result of this was that twice as many male babies as female babies were born to the age differentiated couples (a study published in Discover magazine several years ago).

Evidently a genetic holdover from times past. Caucasian men in their fourties and older maintain essentially the same sperm count at 60 as they had at 30. Other races don't. It would seem Europe has had a few earlier massive die-offs to face and they adapted, but nobody realized it until a few years ago.

I can't think of any other change quite so dramatic since the Viking age. The various Viking brotherhoods, usually about as much Slav as Norse, basically used up the Baltic region's supply of XYY's as berserkers.

The incidence of XYY births in Sweden is 1 in 2,000. In Norway and Denmark 1 in 3,000. In Scotland and Ireland, where thay were selectively bred as "King's Champions", it's about 1 in 100, or 3,000% more common.

The larger incidence of 20 year olds in the 1940's no doubt helped the British war effort quite a bit.

As for the XYY thing, it is probably logical in Ireland and Scotland to be extra polite to red-haired men in the six and a half to seven foot range.

Tam said...

Jenny,

"what was that "... you create a policy maker" quote again Tams?"

"When you send out a man with a gun, you create a policy maker. When his ass is on the line, he will do whatever he needs to do to save it. And if the implications of that bother you, the time to worry about it is before you send him out." -David Drake

Firehand said...

In Chuck Yeager's biography he tells of his squadron being given a 50x50mile square and being told to patrol it and shoot anything that moved, be it a truck or tank or somebody on a bicycle. Can't remember the exact words, but he told another guy "We do stuff like this we'd better win the war!"

Cybrludite said...

I'll never understand how someone who can look at what the Nazi's did & say it wasn't worth a war to stop them can simultaneously look their reflection in the eyes when they go to shave in the morning. There's very few people who I'd actively shun, but if this writer believes that it was not worth it to stop the Nazis, he's going to the top of that list.

Anonymous said...

Cyberludite, well said.

And as for being bad guys during WWII, most of the world tried very, very hard to not get into this war. Chamberlin bent over to not get the UK into another war, one had been enough. Yet it was forced upon us all.

And I am not yet 45 years of age, but I grew up in a city which was still struggling to recover from the devastation wrought upon us by the Nazis.

If the choice be between the moral and tactical high ground when fighting those that would clense you by race or religion if you lose, well I know what way I would jump.

Rusty

Tam said...

Rusty,

I'm sure that's somewhat of a comfort when incinerating women and children in their beds from 30,000 feet.

Ben said...

That one's been on my TBR list for awhile, Tam. Baker can flat write. I'll move it up the list.

staghounds said...

Thirty seconds of it, any random page, is frightening.

Anonymous said...

"Sure, the author's a hippie pacifist who doesn't believe in any such thing as a just war, not even to stop the Nazis, "

There's many reasons I'd question WWII qualifying as a "just war". One, it was a war fought by our country for FDR's political benefit. Two, because of reason one, we gave an awful lot of land to Stalin and the Soviets where a lot of very bad things subsequently happened. Three, because powerful and influential Americans directly supported the Nazis and got away with it.

The Nazi's were a mad bunch of tweakers. They would have burned out all on their own.

Tam said...

There was also that little bit about a Navy base getting bombed, Anon...

Cond0010 said...

One thing that seems to be forgotten in this era of Pax Americana is that rebuilding your enemies country is almost uniquely a trait of the 2nd Anglo Empire (The USofA).

Cond0010 said...

It will be a sad day when the US is no longer top dog. Though there will be people who disagree with me, I am sure it would be among those who do not read history or are the next ascendent civilization.