sábado, 18 de setembro de 2010

Wy study Winston Churchill?

Quoting the Churchill Centre:

Why study Winston Churchill? What makes him relevant in the 21st century? Members of the Churchill family and the Churchill Centre answer the question in this video short.

domingo, 5 de setembro de 2010

Triumph des Willens

John S. D. Eisenhower ponders about Hitler's isolation and the "Triumph des Willens", after the assassination attempt of July 20.
[...] Except for his left arm, his slight injuries had healed by now; but he remained weak. He was confined to bed for most of the day by order of his personal physician, leaving it only occasionally to receive important visitors.
This confinement was the culmination of Hitler's progressive removal from a life that had once almost completely public. The withdraw actually began soon after the coming of war. After 1940 he made fewer and fewer appearances, leaving the speechmaking largely to Josef Goebbels. Preoccupied with the details of the conduct of military operations, he saw only the highest officials. Now, at Rastenburg, the process was complete. The Wolf did not leave his lair, and his life had narrowed down to the manipulation of symbols on a map, representations that progressively were less associated with units made up of human beings. Reality was rapidly being replaced by a sort of dream.
After the attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, of course, the situation was greatly exacerbated. Now bot the field marshals or the commanding generals of the Heer of the officers of the General Staff Corps could be entrusted with strategic operations. What had been dislike of the officer class turned into bitter distrust. Only to associates of proven loyalty such as Jodl and Keitel were Hitler's plans revealed, and to them only gradually.
By the summer of 1944 many surviving German officers of the highest rank had come to believe, or had convinced themselves, that Hitler possessed keen insight into the nature of war and could produce strategic concepts of striking originality. This was, of course, Hitler's view of himself: "A war leader," he said after his Russian victories, "is what I am against my own will. If I apply my mind to military problems, that's because for the moment I know that nobody would succeed better at this than I can".
The fact is that Hitler had a unusual memory, and because of his extensive reading and continual discussion with experts, he had acquired a fund of knowledge in specialized areas often superior to that of the majority of the senior staff officers. Even Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, one of the few who disagreed openly with Hitler on occasion and survived, continued to respect Hitler's military learning.
But it is one thing acquire a fund of information; it is another to apply that tool with common sense, reason, and discipline.  Herein lay the basic cleavage between Hitler and the members of the professional German Officer Corps. The qualities of hardheaded reason and thoroughness that the General Staff embodied carried little weight with Hitler. The quality most important to a leader, at least to the top of a great nation, was the mystical quality that he termed "fanaticism."
The conception Hitler had of "fanaticism" has little to do with the English or American definition of the word. Americans would agree that Hitler was a fanatic, but they would not understand what he meant by calling himself so. To Hitler a fanatic was a man who believed in the wonder-working providences of his own will. And the fascinating feature of Hitler's personality, the quality that converted skeptics into followers, was precisely power of will. To this his associates attributed the rise and the eventual triumph of Nazism out of obscurity and disgrace [...]
What made Hitler a "revolutionary" in his thinking was a perversion of German romantic idealism, e. g.: man discovers the truth of existence whenever he molds the outside world into conformity with an idea. To live most deeply is to overcome obstacles, to give shape to the recalcitrant world in which one finds oneself.
This during his rise to power Hitler set himself and his followers objectives that seemed impossible to realize, believing that while premeditated calculations would immediately jump the rails, the impossible could always be reached through the energies generated on one's own side and the general paralysis on the enemy's. Hitler held that we must make a dream work - then it will be as real as a panther tank.
When Hitler's obsession with the "primacy of will" is taken into consideration, many of his attitudes and actions can be better understood. It accounts for his supreme confidence in himself as a military leader and for two of the chief tenets in his military doctrine: (1) "Attack is the best defense," a notion that he praised Clausewitz for expressing, and (2) "Troops should never be made to feel uncertain by withdrawal." If only the will to resist is flexible, most requests for withdrawal are superfluous. The German military found that preparing a precautionary defensive line behind the line of present contact was usually impossible, for Hitler normally refused to allow any commander to look over his shoulder. Commanders were defeatists unless the looked for new forward positions to which to advance.
Einsenhower, John S. D.  The battle of the bulge. Pages 106-109.

quarta-feira, 1 de setembro de 2010

Coalition II

John S. D. Eisenhower cites Pogue:

A word of caution is necessary for the reader who may be unduly impressed by the accounts of controversy and difference of opinion which arose between commanders of the same nationality, officers of different nationalities, and heads of government... When the discussions of the participants in Allied conferences are seen in cold print, without the benefit of the smile which softened a strong argument or the wry shrug which made clear that the debate was for the record, and when there is no transcript of the friendly conversation which followed the official conference, the reader may get the impression that constant argument and heated controversy marked most meetings between  Allied leaders... It is inevitable that a study of such discussions will emphasize the disagreements and spell out the problems in reaching accords. The numerous basic decisions which were reached with only minor debate attract less attention...
The success of ... an alliance is to be judged ... not by the amount of heat which may be engendered between the powers in their attempts to find a course of action which will most nearly preserve their individual aims while gaining a common goal, but rather by the degree to which the powers, while frankly working on a basis of self-interest, manage to achieve the one aim for which their forces were brought together. On that basis the Western Powers forged a unit seldom, if ever, achieved in the history of grand alliances. Their commanders, while striving to preserve national identity and gain individual honors for their forces, still waged a victorious war.
Eisenhower, John S. D. The battle of the Bulge. Page 99.


About the coalitions, John S. D. Eisenhower says:

Yet in the case of High Command in France, another factor had to be given careful consideration - feelings of national pride. Pride in country and tradition is not to be discouraged; a soldier cannot fight without it. But in the highest command echelons of nations that have combined their resources to fight a common enemy, this feeling must often be subordinated to the goo of the whole.
This is not easy. Napoleon's detractors have pointed out that his brilliant campaigns were fought largely against coalitions. The coalition between the British and the Americans in World War II was not automatic, It could be injured, conceivably fatally, despite the fact that the two national political leaders were joint signatories of the Atlantic Charter and despite the intense admiration that Americans felt for Britain as she stood alone in 1940. For this reason, General Eisenhower ruefully concluded when writing his memories in 1948, the concealment of projected command arrangements was a mistake,
 Eisenhower, John S. D. The battle of the Bulge. Page 66.

Never in history was there a coalition like that of our enemies, composed of such  heterogeneous elements with such divergent aims... Even now these states are at loggerheads, and, if we can deliver a few more heavy blows, then this artificially bolstered common front may suddenly collapse with a gigantic clap of thunder.
Adolf Hitler
(upon the ordering the attack through the Ardennes)