Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meanwhile, in Bizarroland... Part II

"...until recently, it was politically incorrect in the West to admit that we defeated one genocidal dictator with the help of another."
"Politically incorrect"? To who?

Look, Anne, our president referred to the Soviets as an "evil empire" almost thirty years ago and unless you were actually standing in a network TV studio or on a college campus when he said it, you wouldn't have heard any gasps of shock.

I understand that in the interim some of the less hardcore fellow travellers in the intelligentsia watched Bob Hoskins be mean to Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates and decided that maybe Uncle Joe wasn't that cuddly after all, but none of this should have come as a shock to anybody who hasn't spent the last three decades drinking bongwater in a broom closet at Berkeley.


Firehand said...

Few years back, when someone wondered why the Ukraine thought about keeping some of the Soviet tactical nukes left behind when the USSR fell apart, I said "Because they remember what happened once before, and want something that might make the Russians pause if they think about coming back in." Then had to explain the famines, because they'd never heard of them.

Once again, the Nazis decided, the produce of Ukraine’s collective farms would be confiscated and redistributed: “Socialism in one country would be supplanted by socialism for the German race.” At least she makes note of the fact that it was socialists on both sides of this mess.

staghounds said...

Stalin's and Hitlers acts have a culturally different vibe in the West- as someone once said, the fruit of spending the ad budget on PR versus graphic design.

And having old communists, rather than old nazis, infesting media, academia, and government.

It would be better to have said

"... it remains politically incorrect in the West- in fact it immediately causes a storm of attack against the speaker- to assert that the genocidal dictator who found himself on our side was fully as bad as the ones we fought against."

perlhaqr said...

At least she makes note of the fact that it was socialists on both sides of this mess.

But gosh, Firehand, don't you know that when the Nazis named themselves that, they didn't really mean, y'know, socialism. Nazis are totally right-wing. The left keeps saying so, so it must be true.

Alan J. said...

"Politically Incorrect" My G**, how I hate that term. Although I will give it credit for brevity in description; it's mostly a weak-willed watered-down wussified way saying that you just don't want to offend someone's 'pwecious feewings...' when you'd like to tell them a few home truths about the reality of the world.

In this case, I'm glad that Ann was willing to put her own sense of political correctness aside and write a great review of these two history books. They both show just how horrific the regimes of Stalin and Hitler were and how alike they were in committing atrocities.

I hope that our modern day Socialists can take a lesson from these books and see how out of control big governments can potentially become; which is why the rest of us prefer small and limited governments.

Steve Skubinna said...

Lefties always mistake their cozy echo chamber for reality.

Consider the comment attributed to Pauline Kael concerning Nixon - "He couldn't have been elected - nobody I know voted for him!"

Britt said...

I'm reading Bloodlands right now. It's excellent, but obviously not a pleasant book. The only annoying thing is Snyder retains a trace, a slight one, of that old academic's attitude toward Stalin and the Soviet Union. So we get lots of context for Stalin's actions, lots of the rationale behind it. It's really infuriating at times because Stalin starved millions of people to death on purpose, and Snyder doesn't shy away from that, but he continually inserts little paragraphs about rapid industrialization as though tractor factories somehow makes up for the cannibalism and the rest of the horrors.

The only bright spot in the book is when Stalin executes the Ukrainian famine era NKVD to replace them with the Great Terror NKVD, and then executes them to make way for the next NKVD.

irishdutchuncle said...

Hitler, the Soviets and the CHICOMs were johnny-come-latelys to the evil empire business. the "Brits" out did all the others prior to WWI. (although i will agree, the Spanish deserve an "Honorable Mention")

commoncents said...

THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! I always love visiting your blog...

Common Cents

Borepatch said...

+1 to Britt and +1 to "Bloodlands". The people of the Ukraine initially welcomed the Wehrmacht as liberators, that's how bad Stalin was.

And as to the "until recently" bit, even Pete Seeger is anti-Stalin:

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe,
He ruled with an iron hand
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land
He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back
Right in the same nasty place

I got the Big Joe Blues
(Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast)
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Do this job, no questions asked)
I got the Big Joe Blues.

When you're to the left of Pete Seeger, you're not in the mainstream ...

Alan J. said...

Tam, Anne has another great quote in her review.

She says, "We really did win the war against one genocidal dictator with the help of another. There was a happy end for us, but not for everybody. This does not make us bad—there were limitations, reasons, legitimate explanations for what happened. But it does make us less exceptional. And it does make World War II less exceptional, more morally ambiguous, and thus more similar to the wars that followed."

I disagree with her about American and British exceptionalism. We REALLY were the 'Good Guys,' even if she thinks we weren't as good as we should have been.

I wonder how long it'll be before some academics writes a book saying that Patton was right with the argument that after knocking off Hitler, we should have been helping the Germans to eliminate Stalin.

Tam said...



Anonymous said...

One of the best predictors of national prosperity and political freedom is to have been a former English speaking subject of the old Empire. That includes India,Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Yanks, the Scots, Aussies and the Kiwis. Scratch Zimbabwe...always an outlier in any sample.

Living in Babylon said...


I'm preparing a Weird War II campaign for the players in my gaming group and reading about the Eastern front as research. And as I'm reading it, I keep thinking "Man, they don't need zombies and haunted tanks to make this a horror story."

Also, no one drinks bongwater. The concept is rather like a stoner snipe hunt. You encourage fresh faced chumps to do it by telling them "Yeah, d00d, it totally gets you fucked up."

It doesn't get you fucked up. It just tastes like shit.

Firehand said...

There's Kamenev, Zinoviev,
Bukharin and the rest
We're sharpening our pitchforks
And we're heating up the ends
We've got a few surprises
For the mate when he appears
I hope he likes the next few million years

And it's kind of hot and smoky
In this anteroom to Hell
And I won't make up a story
'Cause you know the truth so well
It's much too late to worry
That we never had a chance
And when Joe the Georgian gets here
We will dance, dance dance
When Joe the Georgian gets here
We will dance

From Al Stewart's 'Joe the Georgian'

Anthony said...

Yeah, some lefties are miffed at Stalin, but that's not because they oppose Communism. It's because they think Stalin messed up a system that otherwise would have produced Happiness for Everyone.

@Alan J
Yeah, but I think Patton seriously underestimated the size of the Red Army and the monumental difficulty of invading and defeating Russia. Would have made the sacrifices of Omaha Beach look like a picnic outing, and would not necessarily have been successful. Though you can argue we would have won that fight with nukes - in which case we'd have been liberating people from Communism by means of incineration.

Anonymous said...



Certainly, the most obscure "aged rocker documents Stalin's arrival in hell" reference this month

Anonymous said...

I don't know about drinking it but don't spill the bong water on your apartment rug or you'll never ever see your security deposit returned.

Not that that happen to anyone I know.


Old NFO said...

Um... Tam, we weren't politically correct back in the day, we pretty much called it like we saw it (well, those that weren't stoned anyway)... I routinely get in trouble for not playing the PC game!

Hunter said...

Thanks for linking this, Tam. I've just ordered "Bloodlands". Yet another book to keep me from getting any work done. Yay.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Gee, some Leftie Book Reviewer says that Stalinism might have been as bad as Nazism, yet somehow, it's America's fault? How 'bout we name names,eh? Franklin D. Roosevelt would be a start. Remember, Churchill was screaming to keep the Russians as far to the east as possible, but Frankie boy trusted his good Socialist buddy Joe, both before and after the War. But would that be Politically Incorrect to tell the Lefties that one of their Gods didn't care what happened in the Bloodlands? Or that Roosevelt had no problem building and using Nukes?

My father grew up in Hungary during World War 2, fought in the October Revolution of 1956, and made it out by the skin of his teeth. You should have heard him screaming at the TeeWee in the '60s whenever the Hippies were shown on the news waving their Commie Flags. Now those same punks are in the White House. Crom help us all.

Ancient Woodsman said...

Bubblehead, I'm not quite sure how FDR could trust Stalin after the war or use nukes, for that matter.

On another note...that ain't bongwater.

Stretch said...

Operation Unthinkable - Churchill's question: What will it take to impose UK and US will upon the USSR?
Short answer: More than we are willing to pay.
Full declassified records at:

I learned of this from NRO's The Corner posting by Peter Robinson.

Anonymous said...

Nazis were vanquished and are represented in America only by a few wannabes meetin' and plannin' and plottin'...and are about as real and scary as your average flock of high school emo chicks.

Commies on the other hand? They live among us and off of us and occupy many if not most of the seats inside Hollywood, Ivy walls, the Fourth Estate, and of course all the Houses of gov. Now that's scary.

It ain't Political Correctness that kept focus on the former while the latter loot and always, follow the money/power.


wv: frade...yes, be frade; be very frade.

staghounds said...

And of course there's that "with the help" locution.

Umm, Stalin didn't do any helping until the Germans invaded Russia. Well, no helping of the allies, th USR was shipping stuff to Germany until Hitlers tanks rolled.

And "helping" sounds particularly odd coming from an American, since the U. S. didn't actually get in the war against Hitler until he declared it four days after Pearl Harbor.

When the Germans were almost within sight of the Kremlin, having killed or captured what, five or six million Russian soldiers and who knows how many civilians.

And there's that death toll, too.

Sounds as though Franklin was helping Joe and not the other way around.

Steve Skubinna said...

Funny how so many Irish have a self image as tragic warrior poets descended from kings, and yet so many come across as self destructive drunken losers.

Yo, uncle, I just got a call from the real Irish: they want you to STFU. Apparently they think you're making them look stupid.

Britt said...

The US Army in 45 could have whipped the Red Army. You have to remember, the Red Army rode to Berlin in the back of American trucks. Studebaker, in particular, sold them (the US taxpayer paid for them) thousands of trucks, which were moved on convoys escorted by American naval ships. The Soviets had lots of men, and somewhat fewer guns, but they were absolutely dependent on American aid for a large portion of their logistics capability. Add in American airpower, seapower, and the nuclear monopoly, and I think we would have beaten them. Wouldn't have been easy, but it could have been done.

D.W. Drang said...

In Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II, the author describes how Patton was directly responsible for nixing the opportunity in 1943 to replace all the Shermans in the ETO with the far more capable Pershing.
By the end of the the summer of 1944, the US Armor Forces were towing Shermans back to the rear nightly, hosing them out, grinding off the German AT round even with the hull or turret, painting them over, and re-issuing them the next morning.
By January of 1945, they were rolling five-man Shermans with a three or two man crew, few of whom were trained tankers, because of a severe shortage of soldiers.
W might have been able to beat the USSR in 1948, but we would have had to retake Europe to do it.

Anthony said...

Yes, the Russians would have missed American trucks. Along with American high octane aviation fuel, winter felt boots, and bauxite.
But I'm not at all confident that it would have been the walkover you suggest. Read the staff study that Stretch linked to above - the Western allies themselves were hardly confident of the outcome of such a conflict.
We would have been vastly outnumbered, to begin with. If you look historically at all the "invincible" armies that came to grief trying to defeat the Russians, I'd say the 1945 Red Army was about as strong as the Russians have ever been, in relative terms, and the US Army was certainly no stronger (in relative terms) than the Grand Armee or the Wehrmacht.
Not to mention, the question whether the British and US people would have tolerated a new, and vastly bloodier campaign against the people who until last week had been our allies.
You do make the point that we had the nukes, and I suppose they could have been decisive in such a conflict. But then we're back to nuking vast swaths of Central and Eastern Europe, plus the Ukraine, Belorussia, and Russia itself - all in order to liberate them from Communism.
Total up the body count from that exercise, plus all the ongoing suffering from radiation effects, and I'm not so sure we come out as the Good Guys in that campaign.

Anonymous said...

"The US Army in 45 could have whipped the Red Army."

Err. No.

The US could have fought them to a stand still, and might have, given a year or two (and massive diversion of resources from Japan) turned the tide.

But US Air dominance would not immediately have made up for the fact the Russian had better & more tanks, and very experienced army willing to take casualties in a scale that makes real-world US western front rates look like a footnote. I'd be afraid the Russian steam roller would simply have overwhelmed the allies, and thrown them back to the sea, at massive cost, granted.

When you look at German vs. Allies in the West you realize it was pale side show to the main event out east. And comparing American to Germans ain't inthe cards, the germanswere fighting defensively, the US would have to advance across a compeltely demolished infrastructure as attacker. Yuck. No Blitz for YOU!

I'd love to wargame it.

( assuming no nukes, though losing Moscow and Joe might actually have improved Soviet operations.)

Tam said...

D.W. Drang,

Although it's worth a book on its own, the Sherman, especially the later M4A3 with the long 76 and wet ammo stowage, is one of the most unfairly maligned tanks in history.

I'd hate to be the person pointing that out to a WW2 vet, just like I'd hate to be the person telling a Vietnam vet that the M16 wasn't the worst rifle ever, though.

The Other Guy always has better gear, and certain Sherman "facts", like "it took five Shermans to knock out a Panther", have been accepted so long that they've become truisms. (In the Ardennes fighting the Germans lost 180 out of 415 Panthers and only 45 percent of the survivors were operational, whereas the US suffered a little over 300 Sherman losses of all models, with only 9 percent of the survivors deadlined.)

The Panther did not have a separate observation scope for the gunner, or an independent turret traverse control for the commander. The only reason they could sometimes win the "see-first/shoot-first" fight was that they were more frequently on the defensive.

Incidentally, several spearhead Soviet Guards Armored units in the final assault on Germany were equipped with Shermans, and the M4A3E8 mopped the floor with T-34/85s whenever they went head-to-head in Korea and the Middle East...

tomcatshanger said...

I love your history lessons Tam. They are a thing of beauty.

Don Meaker said...

I am glad the war against the Soviets never happened. Having said that, Soviet dependence on US trucks would not have mattered, in part because we shipped them truck factories, in part because they had a bunch of trucks already.

I am probably a minority in that I think the Sherman was superior to any other tank of the war. 76mm tungsten armor piercing shot, 100mm frontal armor basis made it as good as any other. Stabilized guns, Ethelene glycol water jackets around the ammunition, and fast electric traverse made it better. T-34s and Panthers both had brittle armor, ammunition that detonated rather than burned and no practical ability to shoot on the move, which counted against them. Panther had hydraulic traverse which required coordination between driver and gunner even when sitting in ambush. The US 75 and 76mm HE rounds were superior to the late war 85mm HE rounds of the T-34.

Don Meaker said...

Sorry Tam, you posted before I did.

All I can say now is "yup!"

Don Meaker said...

I don't see how it is a disadvantage for the US to advance across the demolished infrastructure of Germany, without being a disadvantage for the Soviets also. Soviet advances would have created vulnerable flanks, US/UK amphibious invasions could have exploited them. The Rhine and Alsace-Lorraine barrier would have provided a good barrier vs. Soviets. Soviet high losses were due to their slow tempo of operations. As Geo. Patton Jr would say, they spend a lot of time in preparation for breaking the crust, and got little pie from each operation. US operations tended to be continuous, with the exception of the pause caused by diversion of resources to move Lee's zone of communications from Normandy to Paris.

Borepatch said...

Anonymous, if you wargame the "US vs. USSR in 1945" scenario, I hope the simulation includes the feelings on the Home Front once the Red propaganda machine cranks up.

Combine Stalin's utter disregard for Red Army casualties with his utter disregard for Home Front opinion, and our extreme regard for both, and the outcome is pre-determined.

D.W. Drang said...

The Sherman may have been better than it is given credit for, but that does not meliorate the personnel shortages we had, vs. the effectively endless supply of cannon fodder Stalin had. Even adding in the two or three Army's worth of troops no longer needed to invade Japan, I doubt we would have had enough.
OTOH, that "Operation UNTHINKABLE" staff study was pre-VJ Day, and was clearly written by people who did not know of th A-Bomb. (Did anyone in the British Empire before it was used?)

Tam said...

"the effectively endless supply of cannon fodder Stalin had."

Largely a result of postwar Soviet propaganda.

In 1945 the Soviet Union was bled as white as anybody else, if not more so. For forty years after the war it was a rarity to find an un-gimped male between the ages of 20 and 60 west of the Volga...

Tam said...

"(Did anyone in the British Empire before it was used?)"

Yes. British physicists helped with the Manhattan Project, after all...

Don Meaker said...

Stalin may not have cared for homefront opinion, but he knew that homefront opinion cared about him.

Stalin worked hard to keep people misinformed, all to keep his homefront position strong. His casualty figures were hidden or falsified, production numbers inflated or deflated, German casualty reports twisted to meet his need of the day. His murder of the Poles while USSR was a German ally was carefully hidden, and strongly denied after the ("Shocked! Shocked I say") Germans found the evidence.

Considering Stalin started the war as an ally of Germany against Poland, then lucked into getting the US as a generous ally against Germany, even the secret police might have had a good reason to remove him if he got into another war.

docjim505 said...

WTF is Applebaum on about??? I think that publicly stating that Stalin was a bloodthirsty dictator has been "politically correct" in the vast majority of the United States since... oh... 1947 or so.

That being said, I recall a moment of surprise (dismay?) in a graduate-level Euro history class. We got 'round to talking about the "totalitarian era", and the vast majority of my classmates - again, GRADUATE students - had no idea that Uncle Joe was quite the monster that he was. Oh, they knew that he was not a nice guy, but they were shocked when confronted by the numbers: when it comes to mass murder, Hitler was strictly bush league.

D.W.Drang - [T]he author describes how Patton was directly responsible for nixing the opportunity in 1943 to replace all the Shermans in the ETO with the far more capable Pershing.

I don't claim to be an expert on World War II US tanks, but this sounds to me like a historian trying to make a bit of a name for himself by attacking a dead man and rewriting history.

1. It presupposes that Patton, only an army commander in 1943, had decisive influence over US tank doctrine AND that he would have favored the heavy tank. My recollection of his notes on tank design in War As I Knew It indicates that, to the contrary, he wanted more machineguns in US tanks, the better to chew up enemy infantry and AT guns, not a bigger cannon or more armor;

2. It presupposes that the Pershing was ready for mass-production in 1943;

3. It pre-supposes that the Pershing was really "far more capable" than the Sherman. There is no question that the later tank had a more powerful gun and better armor, but I think that the Sherman was really a good design for the sort of fast-moving warfare that the Army saw in France after the Normandy breakout.

I think that Tam and Don Meaker cover the rest of the case for the Sherman (and thanks to both of them for the history lesson).

Robin said...

docjim505, Patton did not delay the Pershing deployment by himself but his opinion was consulted. This is documented by several historians. For various reasons, the Allies had not noticed in the Italian campaign that the German heavies were almost immune to US tank gun fire from the frontal aspect. The Normandy campaign brought home this fact.

Among the reason that Patton gave was that the Pershing would be less mobile off road, which is an odd reason since Patton understood ground pressure in tanks - and the Pershing's was less than the Sherman's.

That said, you are correct that the Pershing was not really developmentally mature much earlier than it showed up in ETO. The real villain was Gen. Leslie McNair who saddled the US Army early in WWII with a ridiculous armor / tank destroyer doctrine and did not understand the race between armor and main guns that was going on in the Eastern Front and leaving the US Army behind.

Most of the advantage that the M4A3E8 Sherman had over the T34/85 post WWII was from better trained crews. As an aside, the 76mm gun actually had a lot of problems with its ammunition - a problem called "shatter gap" where there was a slot of ranges where the AP round shattered on armor even though it would penetrate at greater distances. It was not well understood in WWII and was a big reason for the poor performance.

We were actually lucky that there were so few tank v. tank battles in the western ETO.

docjim505 said...


I can understand why Patton might have been consulted both for his experience as a wartime commander and because he was closely associated with tanks through his career starting in the Great War. But there's quite a gap between "Patton didn't think that deploying the Pershing was a good idea" and "Patton single-handedly killed it".

From what I've read, I agree that McNair was the prime opponent of the Pershing. Why did he latch onto the whole tank / TD mix? It seems silly to build two very similar vehicles when one could be built that could do both jobs.

Tam said...


Not to belabor the point, but there's a lot more to tank warfare than guns and armor.

If armored battles were decided by tanks squaring off glacis-to-glacis at 1000 yards and duking it out, then we'd all be speaking German...

(And the Pershing was less mobile off-road, not due to ground pressure but due to size and weight and mechanical reliability issues, which is why US tank crews in Korea preferred the "Easy 8" over the M26 once the threat of Nork armor had been eliminated early in the war.)

German tanks had gasoline engines, just like ours, were more prone to ammunition fires when the armor was penetrated, suffered from poor-quality increasingly-brittle steel as the war went on, were maintenance nightmares, had poor ergonomics and mediocre visibility for the crews (except the commander) but they look sexy and have thicker armor and bigger guns, which is most of what counts in Advanced Squad Leader or Steel Panthers...

Justthisguy said...

I think I have read (about, at least) people calling other people Dicks on this blog, so in the interest of equal time for gendered rude remarks, may I say that PC does not stand for Politically Correct, but for Police Cunt. (as the British would use the "C"-noun.

Justthisguy said...

Sorry, I forgot to close the parenthesis.

Charles Pergiel said...

When I got my first history lessons in school, nobody mentioned anything bad about the Stalin, only that he was our ally during WWII, and that sort of seemed to be the general consensus. It was only later that I started hearing about how horrible things had been under Stalin. I suspect Stalin's misdeeds weren't publicized way back when because we (the US) weren't prepared to do anything about them, but we did do something about Hitler, so we wanted to get all the positive publicity we could.

Information did not flow as freely back then, and it still does not flow as freely as you might think.