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May 07, 2005

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I don't know who's more responsible for defeating the Nazis, but give the Russians their due. According to the google cite, the median estimate of total war dead for the USSR is 20 mil.; the median estimate for total US dead is 300,000. We're talking about a couple orders of magnitude here.

yes, by all means let's give the USSR its due.

But, man, it's hard to choke out even a pro forma "thanks" when Putin says things like this:

"Our people not only defended their homeland, they liberated 11 European countries."

Well, I would say that the Soviets could have defeated the Nazis on their own. The scale of warfare on the Eastern Front was staggering compared to tiddly-wink battles like Alamein. There was actually no need for Normandy other than to prevent the Soviets from taking over Western Europe.

praktike--

you mean "liberating" Western Europe.

Well, Answers.com tells me 80% of the German was effort was on the Eastern Front, so Russia has a fairly good claim to being the designated winner.

I don't think it really matters who played a bigger role. There was more than enough glory to go around. And while I the Russians didn't liberate anyone as I understand the term, I suspect that Soviet occupation was better than Nazi, at least in the countries outside the former Soviet Union.

Anyway, I think the second debate is a little besides the point. Why all these sour grapes when they should be celebrating the victory over Nazism? It seems a little tone-deaf to criticize the Russians just at the moment.

I'm reading a biography of the Mitford sisters and it's remarkable how this debate mirrors the debate during the 1920s and 1930s regarding the relative merits and/or evils of Nazism and Soviet Communism.

The Mitford's, of course, conducted the debate in the shallowest and callowest of terms, kind of Evelyn Waugh (a family friend, not surprisingly) meets Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks meets Bertie and Jeeves conniving against Himmler's advances toward Bertie's girlfriend's eastern front.

Putin has a country to run. What's the big surprise that he demagogues a little nationalism in the attempt.
Would chaos be better?

Yes, World War II could not have been won without the nationalism of Soviet soldiers. And, the U.S. soldier would not have given his all if the stakes had been the
future choice between MacDonalds and Burger King.

Wendy's? Maybe.

Well, what do the German's say?

I largely agree with mac that this sort argument seems beside the point when remembering the victory. Still, I do think Russia played a larger role than the US, though I'm dubious of praktike's claim that they could have won by themselves.

Credit for victory is not zero-sum. As your high school coach explained, everyone contributes. It wasn't even just the US and the Soviets. What about the British role? Can anyone say that it did not matter at the margin, which after all is what counts?

"I largely agree with mac that this sort argument seems beside the point when remembering the victory."

Yes. But as someone who has expressed grave doubts about Bush's real commitment to spreading democracy, I have to give him credit for his willingness to irritate Putin on this score.

After all, his commitment to democracy usually ends exactly at the border of our most expedient non-democratic allies--he has heaped praise on such model democracies as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc., and that is why he has so little credibility on this issue throughout the world.

If Bush were *not* saying something like this right now, I would probably take it as further evidence of how little he really values democracy--so I suppose I ought to give him a little bit of credit.

Now, if he were willing to promote democracy even when it conflicts with something he really *cares* about, e.g. cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, then I would be completely persuaded.

From the full text of the speech:

As we mark a victory of six days ago — six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. VE Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.

The President is speaking in Riga--hardly the place where one would expect a warm reception to anything resembling praise of the Soviet Union. That colors the tone of the speech a lot.

Still, I find it interesting that Bush calls the agreement at Yalta one of the greatest wrongs in history. Is he claiming we should have gone to war with Russia then and there (as Patton wanted)? It sounds like more than a bit of a reach. All of our allies had a great deal of rebuilding to do. I'm not convinced that we could have gone it alone against the Russian army. Plus, had we done it, it would have cost a great deal, and our current economic domination is largely a result of the head-start we had on all of the European countries who had to regroup and rebuild while we could grab as much market share as possible. Had we extended the war we could very well have quashed our own economic recovery while Europe rebuilt itself, resulting in a much closer balance of economic power between the US and Europe.

And as for the greatest wrongs for which we need to apologize, I think that given the circumstances and what could be done, the two biggest and most easily avoidable evils in the closing days of the war would have to be the firebombing of Dresden and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All three were completely unnecessary. I'm not sure the same can be said of the unfortunate decision at Yalta.

Just a few thoughts. I trust any historians on the board can correct any incorrect assumptions here.

The Ruskies.

No eastern front, no Normandie, conceivably no england!

Nah, if Hitler hadn't invaded Russia, he still would have had to develop a fleet to invade England. That would have taken till around 1944 at the earliest. That's assuming that Stalin wouldn't have invaded Germany in the meantime.

This is a silly argument. Of course more Germans soldiers died fighting Russians, but what would the result have been if Germany had not been fighting the Americans and Brits in Africa and then Europe? And, more to the point, what would Russia have done without US war material.

It's a silly debate because in a collaborative enterprise -- even where allies are more like co-belligerents -- everyone's responsible.

We all won, the only question is who paid the most: China. Or is it Russia? Maybe Poland? It's not the US . . .

I can't agree that bombing Hiroshima is in the same category as either Nagasaki or Dresden. Sure the victims are just as dead, and the majority of people involkved just as innocent. But there had to bee a live demonstration of the atomic bomb, and it had to be a city. I don't think anything else would have ended the war so quickly.

Nagasaki I'm less sure of. Maybe a second demonstration was needed. Regarding Dresden, I have no doubt at all. Remove that attack, and nothing changes at all in the trajectory of the war. Nothing in Brelin, nothing along the Rhine, nothing in Eastern Germany (or wherever the Red army was by then). Nothing was demonstrated in Dresden: no lesson was intended or learned. Just death.

There were iirc, 1-2 german divisions in north africa with few tanks and very little supplies. This is dwarfed by the armies which clashed on the eastern front. We had roughly 8 million men and women in uniform during WW II. Without Russia, we would have had to quadruple that number at least, simply to field similar forces to what the Germans could deploy.

Russia could probably have won the war on it's own if it continued recieving supplies from the US. Lend-Lease motorized the Russian army, allowing russian factories to concentrate on pumping out T-34's and fighters. After the German attack at Kursk failed in '43, the German position was pretty much untenable.

Considering what the people thought at the time, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were completely necessary. Estimates for casualties from an invasion ranged from 500,000-1 million in US casualties alone. Those two nukes probably saved more japanese lives than they took.

The bombing of Dresden was one of the reasons that the head of the UK's bomber command was the only high level wartime leader of England to not get knighted after the war.

"Well, I would say that the Soviets could have defeated the Nazis on their own"

Oh, don't be such a twit.

- The presence of the US in England kept 1,000,000 German troops away from the Eastern front.

- Massive material support from the US to the USSR

- The USAF shredded German infrastructure and industry.

Take away any *one* of those things and the Germans would have defeated the USSR.

On the other hand, the US could have defeated Germany even had the USSR remained a Nazi-aligned noncombatant. By the simple expedient of nuking German cities until they gave up.

I am in the column that the USSR could have won the war on their own against Germany. The only time German commitments elsewhere made a difference was in 1941 and somewhat in 1942, but at those times the other commitments were not that great. By 1943, the Germans had very little chance (unless they had developed an A-Bomb) whether or not the other Allies were involved. Clearly, US and English involvement eased the burden on the Russians, but they could have shouldered it alone at an even greater catastrophic cost. By 1944, most of the German army was in the East, and it was utterly crushed by the Russians that year. And it wasn't just a matter of numbers (the Russians vastly outnumbered the Germans in all categories of men and equipment) -- Russian equipment was rugged and Russian leadership and fighting ability was dogged and tough.

Lend-lease was useful to the Russians but hardly critical. Despite the large amount of tonnage shipped, it was puny in comparison to Russian production (including trucks, though the Russians loved American trucks and jeeps). Shipment of strategic metals was probably the most useful thing, along with basic vehicles. Allied strategic bombing had very little impact on German industrial production. Its primary effect was to wear out the Luftwaffe, and pin down large segments in Germany. Allied tactical bombing and interdiction of transportation had a far greater impact on the German war effort. Pinning dowen the Luftwaffe in Germany was very important (the Russians had air supremacy in the East by 1944 largely due to this), but by 1944, the combined US and USSR plane production was probably 10 times that of Germany anyway. By 1944, the Germans enjoyed very few advantages in equipment, or to the extent that they produced better equipment, it was at such a greater cost than US/USSR equipment that the superior equipment did not offset the numerical disadvantage.

German sweeping successes early in the war was primarily due to doctrinal superiority, but their enemies learned quickly. That advantage was largely gone by 1943.

Edward--

Books flying here, too. We're just one big happy family!

I say it was a team effort. The rape of Eastern Germany after the Soviets invaded, however, wasn't.

And by "rape of Eastern Germany", I mean rape of Eastern German women.

And by "rape of Eastern Germany", I mean rape of Eastern German women.

Payback is a bitch!

It's silly to even contemplate the "what if" of Hitler not going to war against the Soviets. Hitler hated the Russians and saw the lands to the east as his growing room. The Germans should have never had the early successes they did in 1941 and even '42 until Stalingrad. But undoubtedly Eastern Europe suffered more in World War II than Western Europe. Most of the blood was shed there. The true toll will probably never be known. There is little doubt that the Soviet Union understated its death toll by at least 10 million, but of course of lot of the death toll was because they really didn't care much about reducing casulties.

"what would the result have been if Germany had not been fighting the Americans and Brits in Africa and then Europe?"

The Russians would still have won. North Africa was a sideshow. Seriously. Hitler never gave Rommel the resources he needed, and the Italians sucked. The Eastern Front was the thing. Russia moved basically its entire war industry east of the Volga, came out with the T-34, stopped the Germans at Stalingrad and destroyed the 6th Army ... and the rest, as they say, was history.

Well, what do the German's say?

"Wait, what are you talking about? Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and..."
"We were invited. Punch vas served. Check vit Poland."

- Family Guy

On the other hand, the US could have defeated Germany even had the USSR remained a Nazi-aligned noncombatant. By the simple expedient of nuking German cities until they gave up.

A truly viable strategy in 1939...

Don Quijote

Re: your 10:54 comment, your website may only be 38% evil, but you're pushing 100% personally.

Agreed, crionna.

I was crossing my fingers hoping it was a tasteless joke and therefore not worthy of comment. But since everyone else is throwing their hats in the ring: me too, crionna and Slarti.

I don't think we had all that much plutonium to go around, either.

Perhaps a more interesting question is simply to concede that the Russian sacrifices and victories were truly massive, and ask - would they have survived and overcome the first (truly devastating) Nazi onslaught, or would the government have simply ceded the country West of the Volga in 1942 were Stalin not maintaining his murderous grip on the army and what remained of the country? This is not an apologetic for Stalin or Stalinism, but I do wonder, in this connection, how history would have been different if the Soviets had fallen apart, and Hitler had been able to send most of those 8 million troops, including his best armor and infantry and the vast bulk of his tactical airforce, back to France to await the Allies. History is full of such uncomfortable questions.

Oh, and DQ - you are an ass.

But since everyone else is throwing their hats in the ring: me too, crionna and Slarti.

You know, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that while DQ's comment was an extremely harsh way of putting it, the boo-hooing about the depredations of the Red Army does seem to ignore a bit of contemporary history.

The behavior of Soviet troops in Germany toward civilians was often outrageous, even bestial -- but no less outrageous and bestial was the behavior of the Einsatztruppen on the way eastward. What would be the bounds of our rage against an enemy who had slaughtered millions of us so casually?

Retaliation against the innocent is never justified, but let's not pretend that these atrocities happened in a vacuum.

This is not an apologetic for Stalin or Stalinism, but I do wonder, in this connection, how history would have been different if the Soviets had fallen apart, and Hitler had been able to send most of those 8 million troops, including his best armor and infantry and the vast bulk of his tactical airforce, back to France to await the Allies.

One of the reasons that I don't generally get involved in these type of counterfactual questions concerning the Eastern Front is that it's impossible to extricate the situation from the men who created it. Hitler and Stalin are the Eastern Front war in a way that no other war has ever been; to ask what might have happened is thus either cunning way to attempt to mindread the two psychotics or a complete waste of time.

The short answer is: there may be history there, Jim, but it's not history as we know it.

Retaliation against the innocent is never justified, but let's not pretend that these atrocities happened in a vacuum.
Nobody is pretending any such thing, but the Red Army's retaliatory fury of murder and rape deserves better than smug cant about how "payback's a bitch."

As an example, your own description served quite well - DQ apparently was not up to such an effort, and preferred for reasons unknown, to posture hard and play the tough guy. He's an ass.

Retaliation against the innocent is never justified, but let's not pretend that these atrocities happened in a vacuum.

For my part, the problem isn't that the Einstazgruppen didn't deserve what was coming to them, it's that what came didn't stick merely to them -- or even primarily to them. Bluntly, the Einsatzgruppen weren't the ones getting raped. I understand, in many ways, the fury of the Red Army's march to the west; that's different from making snide jokes about it on an open forum.

Or, what st just said.

As for this:

What would be the bounds of our rage against an enemy who had slaughtered millions of us so casually?

Do you really have to ask? Do you really want to ask?

Hitler and Stalin are the Eastern Front war in a way that no other war has ever been
I don't know about this; certainly Hitler was not the first European tyrant to charge headlong east into the steppes; not even the first German tyrant to do so. Neither were Hitler's reasons for doing so particularly unique to him, though he cloaked them in rhetoric about racial superiority and leibensraum. While surely the specific historical moment belongs to them, it does not take much mindreading to examine the accounts of the period and gauge just how close Hitler came, and just how extreme were the measures taken by Stalin to keep fighting (for example, moving entire armament and airplane factories hundreds of miles using men and horses).

Well, never mind. It may be that we have different ideas of what constitutes a waste of time.

Anyone else find it a bit rich to compare Yalta to Molotov-Ribbentrop?

It's not like Bush doesn't know about making alliances of convenience with brutal dictators. He's often done it when the necessity wasn't nearly as great as was the WW2 alliance with Stalin.

Don Quijote

Re: your 10:54 comment, your website may only be 38% evil, but you're pushing 100% personally.

Posted by: crionna | May 7, 2005 11:47 PM

Agreed, crionna.

Posted by: Slartibartfast | May 8, 2005 12:02 AM

I was crossing my fingers hoping it was a tasteless joke and therefore not worthy of comment. But since everyone else is throwing their hats in the ring: me too, crionna and Slarti.

I can't help but be amused by you deep concern for a bunch of dead germans who supported the most violent & repressive regime in the twentieth century. A regime that had no problem killing 6 million jews (men, women & children), a regime that started a war of aggression that killed tens of millions of people, a regime that set the standard for industrial inhumanity.

This is even more humor in that this concern is coming from citizens of what is now the single most aggressive country in the world, one that is now in the process of destroying another country and killing it's citizens by the truck load.

Being a nice guy, I won't mention the estimated three million that the US killed in Vietnam, nor the legacy of agent Orange on the citizens of said country.

But I just did!

Are you afraid that payback is in your future?

PS. I can't be 100% evil, I never voted for Shrub.

Okay, Don Quijote goes on my list of people worth ignoring; if he or she makes a good point, I can catch it quoted or wait for someone less endorsing of revenge to make it.

As to the question in the topic, I'll side with those saying "the Soviets, plus help from everyone else". That seems to me to most fully capture the situation. The Eastern Front was necessary in a way that the Western Front wasn't, but the Allies' efforts in the west at a minimum helped hasten things along, and led to a better life for those west of the Elbe.

Anyone else find it a bit rich to compare Yalta to Molotov-Ribbentrop?

Bush is taking any opportunity he can to paint FDR badly. It's sad

Bush is taking any opportunity he can to paint FDR badly. It's sad

And you are surprised on account of ?

Okay, Don Quijote goes on my list of people worth ignoring; if he or she makes a good point, I can catch it quoted or wait for someone less endorsing of revenge to make it.

Wasn't revenge one of the motivating factors used by Shrub and his war monguers to sell the Operation Iraqi Liberation?

After all what's the difference between one Arab and another (Iraqi, Saudi, Syrian what's the difference)? Quite a bit as we are suddenly discovering!

Not sure I'm qualified to comment on who won the war, but right now I'm halfway through Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad by William Craig, and I gotta say that there was nothing comparable in the west comparable to the Russian war effort. Put me in the column who say that the Soviets (not the Russians) would have probably been able to deal with the Germans alone.

dpu: Read Beevor's Stalingrad when you're done, if you haven't already. There's something about Beevor's matter-of-fact tone that makes the descriptions even more intense.

And DQ? *plonk*

Concerning dq's tasteless and possibly amoral statement, there is a question about the responsibility of ordinary people for the actions of their leaders. I have long contended it is part of the strategy of the right, in the project of alienating voters from their government, to allow ordinary grunts and citizens to distance themselves absolutely from bad wars and atrocities, even when they are the tools and agents. Lindley England is so deeply bewildered and resentful that the judge won't accept a guilty plea. Course dim Lindley was just following her immediate superior, who was some kind of insane rogue outlier, as determined by the acquital of the whole chain of command.

I don't blame her. It is hard to determine the rules here. The Russian troops are individually responsible for the rapes and atrocties on the way west, well, of course they are. But the German people and troops, who benefited in many ways from the aggressive wars, are in no way responsible for the crimes of Hitler who had their enthusiastic support for a decade.

1) It's "Lynndie", bob.

2) I don't understand your second paragraph. Of course the German people and troops bear some responsibility for Hitler's crimes. Some, however, bear more than others. Responsibility is neither zero-sum, binaristic nor Manichean -- there's enough of it to go around as need be -- so the real question is whether the punishment fit the crime. In the case of Lynndie England, I don't think it did; in the case of the Soviet march to the west and their depredations, I'm sure it didn't.

Re DQ

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think we should tolerate somebody in our midst, who is openly legitimizing rape as a form of retributive justice, ridiculing and dehumanizing the victims and excusing the perpetrators.

btw, this book review might be of interest to some

Bush is taking any opportunity he can to paint FDR badly

"Now there are some who would like to rewrite history -- revisionist historians is what I like to call them."
W

btw, this book review might be of interest to some

I read the first couple of chapters of Berlin in an airport bookstore a few years back but never had the chance to (*cough*buy or*cough*) finish it. It's on my list for this summer, however.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think we should tolerate somebody in our midst, who is openly legitimizing rape as a form of retributive justice, ridiculing and dehumanizing the victims and excusing the perpetrators.<\i>

I do none of the above, I just observe and state the obvious.

My mother was born in France in 1940, my grand father spent the war in Germany as a prisoner of war and came back from the experience a broken man, so you'll have to excuse me if I have very little sympathy for the WWII era Germans!

(1) Amateur WW2 buff that I am, count me in the "Russia could have won" column. I do think a negotiated peace might've been more likely had, say, Britain gone with Halifax & folded in 1940. The Germans would've invaded, been beaten back, and it would've been the same bloody mess, but Stalin might've come to terms, assuming Hitler wasn't too crazy to take them (big "if").

(2) DQ's tastelessness aside, I concur with Bob McManus above; the responsibility of civilian populations for the deeds of their governments is a big question, and if anyone's seen a good book or journal article on the topic, please post its citation. The topic has plenty of relevance today: if the people of Iraq wouldn't liberate themselves from Saddam, was it legit for us to do it for them? Cf. Romania & Ceaucescu (sp?).

The last 20 years or so of research have, I think, pretty well exploded the myth of Nazi Germany as the perfect Big Brother totalitarian state. The entire SS couldn't have put down a general German revolt against the Nazis. Among the reasons such a revolt didn't happen, one must include near the top the fact that most Germans either favored Hitler or didn't think stopping his crimes was worth any skin off their backs.

If I join Hitler in invading Russia, participate in some slaughters of Jews and of Russian peasants, butcher some prisoners, survive the war, & come home to find the Russians raped and murdered my family, exactly how much moral indignation am I entitled to?

There should be room for a 100 different Ph.D. dissertations on how to begin to answer such questions in detail.

I agree with both the statements that what DQ said was tasteless, and the statement that payback is a bitch. I would probably feel more sympathy for the Germans in question if they hadn't elected Hitler. Judgement can be a harsh thing.

As for the original question...there are two questions really, "who was more important in defeating Nazi Germany, the Russians or the rest of the world put together?" and, "could the Russians have defeated the Germans on their own?".

On question 1, the Russians were the decisive factor. That is pretty undeniable. On question 2, the Russians could probably have defeated the Germans on their own, it can't be denied that whatever tiny contribution the other Allies made helped.

The other question would be, "Did the UK hold back, and convince the US to hold back the Western offensive while waiting on two enemies to destroy each other? Did millions of Russians die while waiting for the help promised to them year after year"?

Yep.

Anderson: & come home to find the Russians raped and murdered my family, exactly how much moral indignation am I entitled to?

Not picking on Anderson particularly, he's just the last comment I read on this topic, but, you know: When a woman or a child is raped, it's really not the men of her family who are the primary ones injured.

Don Q's comment in response to Slartibartfast is possibly the most offensive in this whole thread on that topic - whatever else can be said of women in Nazi Germany, they did not commit rape when invading Russia, nor, I suspect, did they urge their husbands/fathers/sons to do so.

DonQ: I do none of the above, I just observe and state the obvious.

Were we in the same room, I would ask you to leave it. As we're not, I'm formally giving you warning that unless you apologize, I'm going to ask the ObWing administration to ban you.

Anderson--

"If I join Hitler in invading Russia...& find the Russians raped and murdered my family, exactly how much moral indignation am I entitled to?"

At least in my case, to understand what I found offensive about DQ's original remark it is more useful to ask how much moral indignation your *family* is entitled to.

To treat the rape and murder of civilians as a transaction between the soldiers of one nation and the soldiers of another nation is to leave out something rather important, sc. the civilians involved. It is *their* suffering which is profaned by saying that it is a "payback" for the sins of their co-national soldiers.

Sorry, Jesurgislac--I wrote my 1:02 before seeing your 12:56. Agreed, and seconded.

1. There is moral responsibility and there is legal responsibility--or to be more precise, the type of responsibility that justified the state or a private party or another country in retaliating against you. They are separate levels.

I have a responsibility as an American citizen to do what I can to stop my government from torturing people. It does not follow that if I fail to meet that responsibility, or if I do my best but fail to succeed in stopping the government, that a terrorist is entitled to blow me up at the mall. I don't care if it's someone who was held at Guantanamo personally.

2. Just because they collectively could have revolted without getting killed doesn't mean that they individually could have done so. Moreover, you don't actually know what an individual German did. It could be Oskar Schindler's wife you're raping. Not at all likely, but it's possible. You just don't know. You've made yourself judge, jury, and executioner.

3. Phrasing the question this way stacks the deck:

"If I join Hitler in invading Russia, participate in some slaughters of Jews and of Russian peasants, butcher some prisoners, survive the war, & come home to find the Russians raped and murdered my family, exactly how much moral indignation am I entitled to?"

Maybe you're not entitled to moral indignation. It does not follow that your wife and children are not entitled to moral indignation. Treason shall work no corruption of blood, as I am fond of saying. Maybe KSM has no right to complain about his kids being taken hostage given that he has participated in the murder of other people's children--but, that doesn't mean his kids have no right to complain.

4. I have more sympathy for acts of retaliation that carry some element of incapacitation--e.g., the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia. Rape and torture do not prevent anyone from harming you. They inflict pain for the sake of inflicting pain.

5. It is always worse to commit a crime against the innocent than against the guilty, but very rarely is a crime not a crime because it is committed against a bad person. (Killing in wartime or self-defense is a different question--it's not that your enemy is morally bad, it's that he's trying to kill you too.) This goes for countries too at some level...I bet most of us regard the firebombing of Dresden as not-as-wrong as if we just up and firebombed London tomorrow, but it was still wrong.

6. I tend to find criminal law full of useful analogies for thinking about wartime morality. The analogy here is: if you commit homicide in revenge against someone who has recently assaulted, raped or murdered a relative of yours, the charge is downgraded from murder to voluntary manslaughter. The circumstances may mitigate the crime but they do not erase it.

Needless to say, if you go and rape another man's wife because he raped yours--it does nothing to mitigate your sentence.

(cross-posted, obviously.)

You can put me in the hitherto under-represented rape is never 'understandable' group. People did we really let a thread on the importance of Russia devolve into seriously questioning whether rape campaigns are understandable or justifiable as a response to war crimes? Seriously? This is just disgusting.

To treat the rape and murder of civilians as a transaction between the soldiers of one nation and the soldiers of another nation is to leave out something rather important, sc. the civilians involved.

Oh, did the Nazis take into consideration the civilians involved when they invaded Russia?

I think you are missing the point here. Payback is, undeniably, a bitch.

Sebastian's right...I've gotten so used to trying to respond dispassionately to collective guilt arguments that it's become a habit, but the first "what the hell is wrong with you" reaction to our one man far-left-equivalent-of-LGF-section (whoops--two man) is better in a lot of ways.

felixrayman--

I think it is you who miss the point. You still seem to think that one can "pay back" the war crimes of soldiers by abusing civilians. This is only slightly less irrelevant and addled than if one were to think we could have "paid back" the Japanese for Pearl Harbor by firebombing Dubuque. (Or avenged 9/11 by invading Iraq, but don't get me started).

Nothing in my post could plausibly be construed as offering exculpation of the Nazi soldiers' war-crimes and abuses. I don't see why you think that is relevant, unless you are continuing to make the mistake of thinking that the rape of civilians is justified by the crimes committed by their co-national soldiers. It is not.

You still seem to think that one can "pay back" the war crimes of soldiers by abusing civilians.

Abuse of civilans was returned with more of the same. That was payback. Are you denying that it was a bitch?

The entire SS couldn't have put down a general German revolt against the Nazis.

How many regimes has that ever been true of, though? I can't think of a single one off-hand where a despot's Praetorian Guard (or whatever the correct term for his personal paramilitary organization is) could have put down a popular insurrection.* The key to despotic rule is always control of the army; and I don't think there are any disputes that the Wehrmacht could have crushed anything short of total rebellion with little difficulty.

* Presuming there's a distinction between the army-at-large and the dictator's personal troops, which AFAIK there invariably is.

Among the reasons such a revolt didn't happen, one must include near the top the fact that most Germans either favored Hitler or didn't think stopping his crimes was worth any skin off their backs.

Or, more pointedly, that resistance would literally cost them the skin off their backs. [See, e.g., Mauthausen.] Don't confuse current knowledge with contemporary understanding.

Felixrayman-
Russia would not have triumphed without the massive economic aid provided by the US. The US sent both money, heavy factory equiptment, and managment experts over to the USSR early in the war to upgrade their factories. This resulted in the Soviets being able to mobilize 105 % of their economy and direct it toward the war. The US on the other hand dedicated roughly 50% of their output to it.

Also, there was really no possibility of a major landing in Europe anytime prior to mid-1944. There were insufficient dedicated landing craft available, and there were not enough troops available to exploit any such landing. Any landing in France before 1944 would simply have resulted in the slaughter of the invading force.

Also, there was really no possibility of a major landing in Europe anytime prior to mid-1944. There were insufficient dedicated landing craft available, and there were not enough troops available to exploit any such landing. Any landing in France before 1944 would simply have resulted in the slaughter of the invading force.

That could be true I guess. Wasn't what they told Stalin, now was it? Why not?

Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson, in his book An Army At Dawn notes that re: the Africa campaign The result was what Josef Goebbels called a "second Stalingrad"; after Tunisia, the tide of war rolled one way: toward Berlin.

I read the book and while the US wanted to get on with the assault of Europe immediately, the Brits pushed for Africa first for a number of reasons, amphibious vehicle availability and the greenness of US troops are two of many reasons it made sense.

felixrayman: I think you are missing the point here. Payback is, undeniably, a bitch.

Oh, for heaven's sake. I never thought I'd have to complain about two people who are supposedly on my "side", but anyone believe that it's appropriate for soldiers to rape "enemy civilians" because the soldiers of the enemy raped "their" women, and describes this as "payback" is not on my side.

Jes: ...but anyone believe that it's appropriate for soldiers to rape "enemy civilians" because the soldiers of the enemy raped "their" women, and describes this as "payback" is not on my side.

I seem to have missed where anyone has described rape (or for that matter "payback") as appropriate behavior.

Well, I didn't look at this thread before, since I really don't know enough about the military/economic history of WW2 to know. But now that I have, let me just echo what Katherine said (all of it.) And I can't believe felix and Don Q are still arguing as though raping someone's wife or daughter is just 'payback' for the fact that that person raped your wife or daughter. I wouldn't have thought the point that this doesn't involve only the soldiers' interests needed to be made at all, but it has been, many times, and why it doesn't seem to have sunk in, I can't imagine.

Unlike Jes, though, I never imagined I wouldn't have to complain about people on my side. In my experience, while sometimes one side or another attracts more than its share of jerks and idiots, no side is immune. (I do not mean this sentence to imply that I think anyone here is (acting like) a jerk or an idiot. Or, for that matter, that I don't.)

Felixrayman-
Well, both FDR and Churchill knew that they had to keep Stalin in the war. The USSR signing a separate peace would have doomed the rest of the war effort in the west. Stalin could have signed a treaty if he wished in 1943 which would have left germany significantly weakened, but still intact.

So, FDR and Churchill pledged to Stalin that they would open up a second front as soon as possible. In the meantime they sent invasion forces against N. Africa and later Italy. Possibly the biggest reassurance to Stalin was the bombing campaign, which he apparently loved. I could see that sort of indiscriminate slaughter appealing to Stalin quite a bit.

but anyone believe that it's appropriate

Well, you lost me on the appropriate part. Don't know what I said that made you think that was my stance.

Atrocities by the Germans made atrocities by the Russians more likely. This is an assertion that can be agreed with or disagreed with. And payback is a bitch. This is an assertion that is pretty hard to disagree with, to the point that of all the posts attacking the original poster of the assertion, none has disagreed with the factual content therein. If hilzoy or Katherine would like to argue that the atrocities of the Germans were no factor whatsoever in the consequent behavior of the Russians, they can feel free to make that argument, or they can feel free to spew random insults, burn straw men, etc. That's all fine, though I do not see what purpose it serves.

As for taking sides...that's silliness.

Oddly enough the original point stands uncontested, no one is as of yet asserting that payback is not a bitch.

So, FDR and Churchill pledged to Stalin that they would open up a second front as soon as possible.

If I remember my history correctly, they repeatedly pledged to take specific actions, then reneged. I have remember incorrectly before, though...

Resorting to the concept of "payback", in my view, distorts the question. Hard men with callous contempt for human life commit acts such as rape, torture, and murder; and total war produces such men. Indeed, I think just keeping any kind of moral sanity in the horrific meat grinder of the Russian-German war rates as major heroism. I find it difficult to imagine how anyone could survive the Russian Front (physically or psychologically) without developing a hardness and contempt for human life. That so many soldiers kept (or reclaimed) their humanity says a lot about human resilience.

I measure the effects of total war with the quote from Nicholas Monsarrat; his writings reveal a decent person, but in his notes from the convoy battles in the Atlantic, published as H. M. Corvette, he speaks casually of the possibility that the U-boats kept "a Pole or a Jew" to fire out a torpedo tube in the hope of escaping by fooling the attacking surface ships into thinking they had sunk. Total war produces this casual brutality, in thought and, too often, in action.

We take for granted the idea that victims have the right to do what it takes to survive; I think we should (from our safe distance) consider the possibility that young men conscripted and flung into the meat grinder of total war also count as victims with that right. In any case, whatever moral judgments we reach, we can hardly expect to change the reality that soldiers who survive to the end of an utterly pitiless war will by definition have formed the attitudes and attributes necessary to survive. If you find those attribute unpleasant, if you prefer to live with people who do not consider justice and decency either idealistic dreams or bad jokes, then avoid total war. Don't rely on the threat of it, don't elect leaders who promise it, and express the appropriate contempt for people who advocate it.

If monsters fight that kind of war, it probably happens because war (or that kind of war) makes monsters.

Two points:

First, one Russian historian (name forgotten) said that in the Second World War "The British gave time, the Americans gave money, the Russians gave blood." Sums it up rather well. Without any of the three the war would have been lost.

Second, it's probably true that only Stalin (in the sense of a totalitarian war economy) could have won against Germany, given the state Russia was in in 1941-2. But, of course, it was Stalin's fault that Russia was in that condition in the first place; occupying Poland and thus removing a buffer state between the Reich and the USSR; trusting Hitler right up to the invasion; killing most of his own army high command and paralysing the army with obsolete tactics; showing such brutality in the Ukraine that the Germans were welcomed there as liberators... The man was a disaster. If he had actually been a paid agent of the Nazis, it's difficult to think of anything he would have done differently between 1938 and 1942.

Hilzoy: Unlike Jes, though, I never imagined I wouldn't have to complain about people on my side. In my experience, while sometimes one side or another attracts more than its share of jerks and idiots, no side is immune.

Maybe, but this degree of "not on my side"? Arguing that when women on one side are raped by soldiers on the other side, it's just "payback" when women on the other side are raped as revenge? That's the kind of justification I expect to see when of the kind of people who defend Abu Ghraib - "payback's a bitch", right?

That's the kind of justification I expect to see when of the kind of people who defend Abu Ghraib - "payback's a bitch", right?

One of these days, American Soldiers are going to be captured by insugents in Iraq, How do you think those insurgents will treat the Americans?

Considering Abu Graib, the amount of civilian casualties and the total disregard for Iraqi life that we have shown, I would not want to be that American! And when you go whining to the world about the treatment of US soldiers by Iraqis, the world will shrug it's shoulders and tell you that Payback is a bitch.

This is only slightly less irrelevant and addled than if one were to think we could have "paid back" the Japanese for Pearl Harbor by firebombing Dubuque. (Or avenged 9/11 by invading Iraq, but don't get me started).

No we just firebombed Tokyo, and Nuked Hiroshima & Nagasaky? How many dead civilians did we cause?

As for Iraq, well that was one of the ways it was sold to the American Public, who in turn reelected the liars who sold the war under false premises.

I've gotten so used to trying to respond dispassionately to collective guilt arguments that it's become a habit
And yes, Katherine there is such a thing as National guilt, you, I and every single American are responsible for the actions of our goverment! When we let the Goverment torture people, invade defenseless countries or finance Death Squads, we US citizens are responsible. It is done with our money and in our name!

Of interest may be this article It gives the quote that Ajay has for the three contributions to victory as being Stalin's.

And Don, I find that using exclamation points is the point where one might think about taking a walk around the internet.

Don Q: One of these days, American Soldiers are going to be captured by insugents in Iraq, How do you think those insurgents will treat the Americans?

That's a different situation. The situation you were implicitly defending by your comment "payback's a bitch" with regard to Soviet soldiers raping German woman, is equivalent to an Iraqi insurgent raping (for example) Katherine or Hilzoy. That's why your comment disgusted me: you were implicitly advocating revenge of atrocities committed by soldiers against "their" women. Do I need to explain why that's offensive? Exactly as offensive as people arguing that Arabs "deserve" to be tortured because of "9/11" - they too are making the argument that "payback's a bitch" and ignoring the point that the "payback" is against people who had not done the harm for which revenge is being taken.

Please, apologize. Or at least, quit digging.

DQ, Felixrayman, just in case English is not your first language, the phrase "payback is a bitch" typically carries a strong connotation of justification. Basically, it's saying "you got what you deserved, so stop whining."

That is why people are having a hard time believing you when you say that you are not trying to justify the atrocities committed in the Soviet conquest of Germany.

I must add my displeasure with the "payback is a bitch" notion. It does connote a deserved fate, and as such in this context is really distasteful.

Lots of interesting responses. I wish I hadn't framed my example so that the family was raped and then *murdered*, since that left only the survivor's "moral indignation" to be considered.

But what I think I was trying to get at is this: how much of the culpability for the Russians' atrocities is on the Russians, and how much on the Germans? You surprise-attack a supposed ally, you behave with the utmost brutality, frankly proposing to murder or enslave the entire population, and then the war turns against you, the "underhumans" enter Germany ... and you expected what?

So I would argue that, to a considerable extent at least, the Germans' support of Hitler and of aggressive war made them culpable for much or most of what befell them. How does this apply to little 6-mo.-old Hans whom Russian soldiers used for bayonet practice? Obviously he did nothing to deserve this; but his parents may have, and little Lizaveta didn't deserve to be burned to death, or shot with her parents, etc.

My overall point was that I'm not sure our ordinary moral categories really help much with such questions. Katherine's well-thought-out response does not change my mind on that. In a sense, Americans *are* responsible for Abu Ghraib & extraordinary renditions. Unless this isn't a democracy any more? If my family were blown up by someone whose family was killed in an American bomb raid, I'd be angry, but part of that anger would be at my own government. I would have a difficult time explaining to the perpetrator that the killing of *his* family was a morally useful act whereas killing *mine* was reprehensible and wrong.

And even though Nazi Germany wasn't a democracy, its crimes were sufficiently egregious that (I'll argue) the population had a moral duty to revolt.

Individual Germans resisted to some extent or other, which makes it all the more terrible that some of them were doubtless incinerated at Hamburg, Dresden, etc. Yet it's clear that the great majority of Germans found Hitler either admirable or tolerable. "National guilt" is a really blunt instrument. This is yet another argument against getting into wars in the 1st place.

(Btw, "national responsibility" is also the only way I've ever been able to halfway justify Hiroshima, Tokyo, Hamburg et al. Possibly they shouldn't be justified in the first place ....)

"One of these days, American Soldiers are going to be captured by insugents in Iraq, How do you think those insurgents will treat the Americans?

Considering Abu Graib, the amount of civilian casualties and the total disregard for Iraqi life that we have shown, I would not want to be that American! And when you go whining to the world about the treatment of US soldiers by Iraqis, the world will shrug it's shoulders and tell you that Payback is a bitch."

Considering how Islamists and the insurgents (to the extent that they are different I both with including both) treated civilians when captured even before Abu Graib, I can't worry about payback hurting too much. But the analogy is poor anyway. The rape scenario involves raping what was by definition non-soldiers as some kind of collective guilt (German women deserve to be raped because they were German) or in a social concept where women are merely an extension of men (German men deserve to have the women they own raped just like the women us Russians owned were raped).

As noted above, the concept of "payback" routinely has a strong element of deserving it behind it that is totally inappropriate and morally perverted.

Er, while I follow what you're trying to say, there's a real difference between saying "X, who committed atrocities, is less entitled to complain when Y commits atrocities that impinge on X," and "Because X committed atrocities, atrocities that impinge on X are less wrong -- Y is in a sense entitled to commit such atrocities." Everyone who's jumping on you is hearing you say the second -- and they're right to jump on you for it, it's a horrible position to take. "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind," as the man said.

If what you mean is something more like the first: "I don't want to hear German nationalists complain about the crimes the Red Army committed against Germany, given that Germany committed equal or greater crimes against Russia. Nonetheless, the Red Army soldiers who raped and murdered, and the generals who allowed or ordered it to happen, are criminals in exactly the same way as the Germans who committed or allowed similar atrocities," then I think you might be able to calm down the conversation by rephrasing a little.

Sorry, that was to Anderson and felixrayman.

The winning of WWII was a team effort with Russia playing the part of Kobe and US was Shak. Or maybe the other way. Anyway, things would have gotten thornier if the Germans had managed to capture the Soviet Union's oil fields in the south. I know that Sgt Schultz would much prefer to suffer indignities at the hands of Col Hogan than have to go to the Eastern Front. If German dread is a metric we have to give the nod the Soviet Union.

I pulled up the comments box and was going to wade into this, as an argumentative challenge, to see if in some sense the "is" in Don Quixote's original thought is merely the result of a certain type of eye surveying the spectacle of human nature, but like an exasperated Sancho Panza, I got into the convoluted waters to about ankle depth, rolled my eyes, and quickly made my retreat back to shore.

My shoes were missing.

Violence begets violence, incivility begets incivility.

Lowlife, I think the Russians were Shaq. :) Or maybe it's more of a Michael Jordan v. Scottie Pippen thing. Except, of course, that after the game Scottie & Michael each moved in with half the Western conference team, and Michael held them hostage in their own home, while Scottie was a polite & extremely helpful house guest.

"One of these days, American Soldiers are going to be captured by insugents in Iraq, How do you think those insurgents will treat the Americans?"

I don't know where you've been, but Zarqawi has brutalized and tortured and beheaded or otherwise murdered a number of innocent civilians since well before Abu Ghraib. It's not "payback" if he'd do it as readily to Margaret Hassan as Charles Graner.

"And yes, Katherine there is such a thing as National guilt, you, I and every single American are responsible for the actions of our goverment! When we let the Goverment torture people, invade defenseless countries or finance Death Squads, we US citizens are responsible. It is done with our money and in our name!"

Which I said, in the very same comment you responded to. However, "collective guilt" connotes not only shared moral responsibility, but shared criminal culpability that justify collective retaliation even against civilians. It has led countries into disaster over and over and over and over again.

Compare the histories of Zimbabwe and South Africa since the beginning of majority rule. Compare the treatment of East Germany and West Germany after World War II.

And, you know, I actually am trying to do something about it. And there are few things that are LESS helpful in that effort than American citizens using the same things I am trying to stop to argue that the innocent people murdered on September 11 had it coming to them. It makes a "right v. wrong" argument into an "Us v. Them" argument, and of course people are going to choose Us over Them if it is phrased that way--I certainly would. But that's not really the choice here.

It's probably a good thing that I haven't RTFC above, well , not all of them, but seeing where this has gone I want to weigh in on the collective guilt thing, it's a topic I've given quite some thought to for a long time now.

Before that however, the Soviets were the primary actors in the defeat of the Nazis.

Now, I categorically reject notions of collective or national guilt. That's an absolute for moral arguments attempting to assign blame for the actions of states, governments, armies, militias, etc. In fact I pretty much see such arguments as beneath contempt. There is a definite logical progression and connection between such thinking and genocide. (See, among other texts Michael Sells, A Bridge Betrayed). The evidence for this is overwhelming.

My personal take on this involves a critique of language and its marked tendency to make generalization easy over and against contextualization. I won't elaborate here.

At the same time, as an American by accident of birth, I do feel personally some measure of responsibility and guilt over the atrocities being perpetrated in my name in the Middle East, (as I did for similar atrocities committed with American aid or acquiescence in S and C America, S Africa in the 80's and Turkey in the 90's as well as far too many other places).

I think that responsibility is real and that it is a good thing. But I categorically reject it as a basis for a moral argument demanding "payback," retribution, vengeance, or what have you.

There is a quote from William S. Burroughs (who really saw this all too clearly) that I read so long ago and for years now I've been trying to track it down. It went something along the lines of how our American creature comforts, cheap gas, coffee, etc, was possible only with the enslavement of millions, and the torture and murder of countless hundreds of thousands.

Yet that doesn't make the terror attacks on the WTC justifiable, it doesn't make the three thousand murdered that day "little Eichmanns" (as an aside I might well be the only person here who not only knew who Ward Churchill before the latest brouhaha but also have a number of his books on my sagging shelves), though it might make them "little good Germans." Certainly I feel now, post-Abu Ghraib and post-confirmation of AG Gonzales that is the case. But that in no way justifies killing. Justice does not call out for that.

It is important to use precision in language in such discussions. "Understandable" =/= "Justifiable"
I regard that as pretty much fundamental here. Anyone who doesn't find the mass raping by the Red Army of German women after the conquest of Berlin understandable has little or no knowledge of the war on the Eastern Front, or the fact that the Russians prior to entering Berlin liberated a number of concentration and death camps. On the other hand anyone who makes the claim that same was justifiable on that account is going to get an argument from me among others.

"though it might make them "little good Germans." Certainly I feel now, post-Abu Ghraib and post-confirmation of AG Gonzales that is the case."

No, it doesn't. None of us any idea how any of the people murdered that day would have reacted had they made it out alive. Some of them would have tolerated Abu Ghraib and some of them would not have. In what proportion, who knows. The fact that they were American isn't much basis for even an educated guess. The fact that they were New Yorkers--or at least from the NY suburbs--might be more revelant; so might their job titles and salary; so might the fact that they would have likely encountered people from other countries all the time & not seen them as members of another species. (I visited the WTC once as a kid, and I remember my mom trying to keep me from whining on line by counting the number of languages I heard spoken in the lobby.) In the end though none of us is very useful; we can't know either what proportion would have reacted what way or which individuals would have, because they were murdered several years before.

If you murdered 3000 New Yorkers today (or insert geographical location here) you would once again have no idea at all how they reacted to Abu Ghraib & the various torture allegations. For all you know, the attorneys from the ACLU or the Center for Constitutional Rights might have been in blast radius.

"Understandable" tends to confuse the issue because it has two separate connotations: one is "excusable" and the other is something more like "empirically more likely." I agree with the latter connotation but not the former connotation.

Seb: As noted above, the concept of "payback" routinely has a strong element of deserving it behind it that is totally inappropriate and morally perverted.

I'm not sure whether or not this says what you actually mean, but since I agree with it, I'll run with it.

Dictionary.com:

payback n 1: financial return or reward (especially returns equal to the initial investment) 2: the act of taking revenge (harming someone in retaliation for something harmful that they have done) especially in the next life; "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"--Romans 12:19; "For vengeance I would do nothing. This nation is too great to look for mere revenge"--James Garfield; "he swore vengeance on the man who betrayed him"; "the swiftness of divine retribution" [syn: vengeance, retribution]

Since we aren't talking about financial return here, I would suggest that we are talking about a synonym for vengeance or retribution, both of which have a definite punitive quality. While there is a certain equitability in the concept, (You poured a martini on my laptop therefore I will pour scotch into your dvd player -- You frogs don't support our war therefore we will boycott your products -- Saddam is a bad man therefore we punish the Iraqi's with economic sanctions -- you pushed me first!), I don't find the concept of doing something wrong to match another's (perceived) wrongdoing fits my concept of justice, or to be a just act. Payback, or the eye for an eye philosophy, does indeed have "a strong element of deserving it" (at least as perceived by the one doing the payback), but at least according to my standards it is also "totally inappropriate and morally perverted." To my way of thnking, payback is a pejorative, reflecting poorly on the one who engages in it.

gee, I may actually have agreed with a conservative....

Well, payback is a bitch. Of that we can all agree. Also true is that we can all expect that the payee probably had nothing to do with the initial outrage and that the circle will be unbroken. I didn't take DQ's comment to be more than expressed anxiety over American sins and in those anxieties I share. But it is kinda cold not to regret the excesses of Soviet troops. Just like it's kinda cold not to regret the deaths of tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Iraqi deaths in Bush's escapade in Iraq. I've made similarly cold summations of war's unhappy results in justifiing Hiroshima and Dresden. I'm sure that I was wrong. But death and destruction is what war is. You don't serve war as an entree and then neglect the side dishes of rape and torture and murder. I'd like to know how we can put people into extreme situations without expecting them to behave - extremely? It's beyond my understanding how some people can attack DQ for his/her comments yet support this administration's policies in the Middle East.

Katherine:

I think in part you're misreading me. But the litany of atrocities, of crimes, murder, and torture do not begin with Abu Ghraib or even Gitmo, they go back decades. Also you're getting a little too hung up on my specific example, one which I would never have chosen but for its prominence in recent debate, and now regret having done so- the remarks about other nationalities are nit-picking in this context (though I do agree with your specific arguments and have made them myself) and don't address what I was trying to raise in using it.

"Understandable" only confuses the issue because it is wilfully so confused. The whole push-back and character assassination on anyone who discussed "root-causes" is part of this.
Understandable simply means that one can account for the behavior as going back to certain causes (historical, psychological, etc.) and has nothing to do with it being justifiable or excusable. I think it is very important to resist this blurring, it serves a cause, an ignoble one at that. Otherwise one is left in the realm of the irrational, in which notions of collective guilt seem eminently reasonable.

LJ-- Nice link. That picture of Dresden and the figure of 600,000 German civilian deaths puts some things in perspective, since it is ten times the total civilian casualties that Britain suffered for the entire war. The attack on Dresden inflicted roughly half the total of British civilian casualties in one attack on the Germans.

And--slightly off topic again--to my earlier mention of Hiroshima, Chris P's and others' oft repeated figure that the bombing saved the lives of upwards of 1,000,000 US soldiers who were predicted to be lost in an invasion of Japan...

According to the NAPF timeline:

June 15, 1945-- Joint War Plans Committee (JWPC), an advisory committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concludes that about 40,000 Americans would die in the planned two stage assault on Japan.

...

June 18
...
General Marshall believes that an invasion of Kyushu, the southern-most Japanese island, "will not cost us in casualties more than 63,000 of the 190,000 combatant troops estimated as necessary for the operation."

...

July 7
Truman leaves for Potsdam on the Augusta accompanied by Secretary of State Byrnes. They are one day at sea, when Byrnes receives telegram from Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew describing a peace overture from the Japanese military attaché in Stockholm. The attaché offered a negotiated settlement of the war if the US would guarantee the reign of the Emperor.

July 10
At a meeting of the Supreme War Direction Council, Emperor Hirohito urges haste in moves to mediate the peace through Russia.

July 13
Washington intercepts and decodes a cable from Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo to his Ambassador in Moscow that states, "Unconditional surrender is the only obstacle to peace…."

The Japanese were already prepared to sue for peace and were willing to surrended so long as the Allies promised to spare the life of the emperor. Truman would not accept a conditional surrender. We dropped the bomb and killed "Some 90,000 to 100,000 persons", mostly civilians, in order to ensure an unconditional surrender after which we spared the life of the Emperor. We killed more civilians with those two bombs than our generals estimated military casualties (not deaths) for an invasion.

The common reasons cited for the dropping of the atomic bombs are myths and retroactive justifications. So much of what has been written and accepted is coming uraveled under current scholarship. And, no doubt, the same will hold true of much of what is written about current events as well.

Nous is right about LJ's link. The money quote belongs to Stalin. In defeating the Nazis, "England provided the time, America provided the money, and Russia provided the blood."

Barry--as a matter of linguistics, understandable DOES have both connotations, I have used it in both connotations myself in everyday conversations about family arguments, and your listeners can honestly and in good faith think you mean "excusable" even if you honestly and in good faith don't.

As for the rest of it, my main point was not that 9/11 happened before Abu Ghraib but that if you randomly select a group of 3000 people out of hundreds of millions, you have little or no idea what they thought or tried to do about various wrongs committed by their country. In light of that "good Germans" is really offensive and I'm going to lose my temper if you repeat that characterization. You. don't. know.

nous_athanatos,
You might be interested Doug Long's page that has the debate on H-Japan about the atomic bombing of Japan, prompted by Gar Alperovitz's book. Really fascinating stuff.

I have to disagree with you about the potential of US losses in Japan. In Okinawa, 1/3rd of the Okinawan invasion force were casualties, and the kamikaze campaign, had it been used for the home islands, may have unleashed a terrible toll. It was also estimated that the invasion forces would not have any numeric advantage over the Japanese, in large part because the suitable beaches for a landing in Kyushu are limited. I also believe that Marshall's calculations were based on the idea of using atomic weapons (the US was slated to have 7 by November of 1945) to soften up the beaches, which obviously ignores the effects of radiation.

This link discusses the invasion of Kyushu and specifically mentions Marshall's estimates.

Now, this is particularly interesting because, in recent years, some historians have promoted the idea that Marshall's staff believed an invasion of Japan would have been essentially a walk-over. To bolster their argument, they point to highly qualified- and limited- casualty projections in a variety of documents produced in May and June 1945, roughly half a year before the first invasion operation, Olympic, was to commence. Unfortunately, the numbers in these documents- usually 30-day estimates- have been grossly misrepresented by individuals with little understanding of how the estimates were made, exactly what they represent, and how the various documents are connected. In effect, it is as if someone during World War II came across casualty estimates for the invasion of Sicily, and then declared that the numbers would represent casualties from the entire Italian campaign. Then, having gone this far, announced with complete confidence that the numbers actually represented likely casualties for the balance of the war with Germany. Of course, back then, such a notion would be dismissed as being laughably absurd, and the flow of battle would speedily move beyond the single event the original estimates- be they good or bad- were for. That, however, was fifty-plus years ago. Today, historians doing much the same thing, win the plaudits of their peers, receive copious grants, and affect the decisions of major institutions.

As you note, nothing has (or probably ever will be) settled. That's why I prefer to go back to 1920 and imagine avoiding the war altogether.

"Understandable simply means that one can account for the behavior as going back to certain causes (historical, psychological, etc.) and has nothing to do with it being justifiable or excusable."

I don't buy it in this context. Almost anything can be 'understandable' in that meaning. Even Hitler or Stalin are understandable in those terms. Understandable vs. completely mysterious is rarely the subtext of these conversations.

Whenever someone is talking about the morality of a situation and uses the term 'understandable' he is either very likely to be mistaken for partially excusing the act in question or is actually partially excusing it. In a probability sense the term may be correct, but in the payback is a bitch sense there is definitely a strong subtext of commentary on deserving what was done. If that isn't intended, you should be aware that using the term is going to project something you don't want. Pairing 'understandable' in the context of a discussion about the payback comment really makes it look like you are using understandable in the excuse-making sense.

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