tv Assessing Victory Defeat CSPAN December 17, 2018 10:15pm-11:16pm EST
next, the author of allure of battle, a history of how wars are won and lost looks at the ways historians have evaluated war victories and defeats and a few challenges -- and he challenges many of their conclusions. this talk was part of a conference hosted by the national world war ii museum. three it is now my pleasure to ask the museum's senior historian and executive director of the institute for the study of war and democracy, doctor rob that you know, to introduce our next speaker, the whole nolan. bigmouth claude dielna books himself rob is well aware of what new and important works are out there. since i started here i have
heard in praising the title that we are about to discuss. with that, rob, would you like to take over? >> thank you. welcome back, everyone that we are here in the attritional endurance phase of the international, annual international commerce. i have been talking to so many of you out in the hall i know is there that equal parts of exhilaration and now that kind of exhaustion as we head into the home stretch we have to keep going. we have to keep moving with a great amount of energy. we have some fantastic speakers and authors and events for you before this ends. i'm really, really pleased to be up here right now to introduce my new friend, doctor a whole nolan, an associate professor of history at boston university for doctor nolan is an award- winning teacher, a scholar of military and international history, but his most recent book, i would say, the allure of battle, a history of how
wars are won and lost has generated a real buzz in historical circles. i have been carrying this book around and quoting it to people since it came out, which has done marvelous ends for my social life but i want you to know that. it is a very provocative book. and is so good and i think so compelling that it is receiving this year's guilder limit price for military history. it does mean that he has promised to buy me a drink tonight. i don't feel bad about that at all. very good. it is recognizes the best book on military history in the english-speaking world distinguished by its scholarship, contribution to the literature, and appeal to both a general and an academic audience. i read it and every word of that description is true. please join me in welcoming to the podium doctor call nolan here to speak on the allure of
the battle. >> i have been asked to speak about a topic that is quite a bit broader than i think most of the speakers that i have heard yesterday and today -- bear with me. it is not a happy topic. let me start with a couple of comments about the state of the historical profession in which many of the people in this room a work. i will be telling you nothing you don't know. too many in my profession are today indifferent to military history. quite a few are openly hostile. or they redefine history of war as a branch of social and cultural history that looks at its effects on the armies and the societies that wage it rather than looking at war itself in the face. the trend is to dismiss big claims of older military histories. this trend is reinforced in the wider historical profession by a broad turn that has been
underway now for several decades. a broad turn away from the idea of large narratives of decision. a turn towards gentler histories , smaller foe, littler things, of everyday circumstance, daily living, and even of domestic materials. yet, as everyone in this room knows, war remains hugely important in explaining world history. indeed, and i say this with no pleasure at all, it may be the most important thing. major wars have altered the deep course of world history at least a critical modern junctures, the middle of the 17th century, the terms of the 18th and 19th centuries, and of course, the first half of the 20th. dutch warfield times have shown yet again that war is the most expensive, complex, physically, emotionally, and morally demanding enterprise that we humans collectively undertake.
nothing else we do, not particle accelerators, the building up cathedrals or mosques or temples, nothing else we do sees even a fraction of the resources and moral effort we put into the making of war, the recovery from war, and preparing to fight again. yet, i think we hardly control it at all. this comes through in military history as well. too often in this profession i think we look to battles to decide wars and wepoint to decide wars and we .2 genius generals who say they won the battles therefore they won the war >> i think partly because we fear indecision and tragedy with no moral uplift in the trench mud, in the role calls of the dead, in the accumulation of suffering over years of effort and of endurance . perhaps responding to this broad public demand we historians, it varies by
country to country, but i think the powder is there in every country, we historians have tended to raise battles to summits of heroism and commanding generals to levels of identified genius that real history simply does not support. winning decisively in war is the aspiration of all professional military practice also a main subject of concern to military historians. and yet, it is the single hardest thing there is to do. to translate combat into lasting political achievement. from at least the 17th century, though perhaps across all history, wars among the major powers at the very least the major powers have been far more than a tale of decisive battles. far more than victory or defeat during a hard day or the course of a red summer. they were long contests of endurance in which early defeat did not necessarily mean final defeat. most often in history wars result has been clouded.
neither full of triumph nor final defeat but more often they have been called arenas, gray outcomes where a lack of a final resolution means they happen all over again as your resolution encourages a new war and war begets more war. we fight we fight before some great decision of an enemy that we fall short. we pause to recover and to rearm a. we fight all over again and again and again. yet, much military history brushes that aside, i think, to easily and focuses instead even on failed campaign as evidence that war is filled by glory and by geniuses. prussia is wrecked and frederick is that registered germans.
france is beaten and we name the age for louis xiv for kids beaten again and another age is called napoleonic procurer of lies and ruin in 1945 and even today books are published arguing that the german generals displayed genius with panzers. we need to cast a colder eye on military history. we need to look straight at the grim reality that in the great power wars over the last several centuries, and certainly in the 20th century, victory was achieved in the end in the biggest and most important wars by material and moral attrition. let me step right in it, by mass slaughter. winning at war is far harder than winning a battle or even a campaign. it takes far longer to win wars than those who plan the open battles almost ever hope or expect winning lopsided battles
across history does not ensure victory in the wars of which they are the most famous part. hannibal one at can i. henry v one at austin corbett napoleon one at austerlitz. hitler one at kyiv. carthage lost to rome, england lost to france, napoleon lost to the grand alliance, and is -- and hitler lost it all in the end catastrophically as his short word delusions ran into longmore attrition and the allies capacity for endurance of defeat. there were exceptions. of course, there are always exceptions. woke the -- sedan and meds over the french. these bill for victories i think we also has learned more from the american civil war. we do see now and look back and see the american civil war and see that it was a precursor of
what was to come along with the crimea in the 20th century brick that is not the conclusion they made at the topic unfortunate, the civil war ended in 65 and the austrians were defeated in seven weeks in 1876 and the french in 1870. those are the wars that then dominated military imagination heading into the 20 does the 20th century. in other words, the german victories of the midcentury point to the 19 century. i think it did so much damage to world military thinking and german military thinking of diplomacy in particular, i'm following in your footsteps very largely, but the entire german officer corps and almost the entire german political class ignored and dismissed the lessons that woke himself preach to him when he came onto the conclusion that what he had done could not be repeated. and he specifically wanted them in a speech to the reich stag, his retirement speech, essentially, he wanted them my quick victories cannot be
repeated. do not attempt it. instead, the successors spent 20 years planning and testing and all of the rest of it and revising and revising the war plans that will be implemented in 1914 . the generals staff in 1914 took out of it like to save and then implemented a plan that proposed to invade france, a great power. working from models that were literally based on what hannibal had done at can i 2400 years earlier. and what napoleon had done at elm 105 years earlier. who does that? germans. the plans all broke down. you know this but i'm telling you what you know. millions of germans, millions then slogged it out for four years in the mud and the trenches with their leaders,
military and civilian, having no strategy to win the longmore they had started. 452 month -- the long war they had started. for 52 months min clawed at each other. no means in a rising tide of hate and whose wife we are all still living. they fought through seas of mud and blood, through mutual slaughter and reckless mayhem. they fought to the ruin of nations, dissolution of empires, and an end to law. german leaders had succumbed to the allure of battle. to the delusion that their tactical and operational skill was sufficient to win right at the outset. all at once. there is no need for strategic planning beyond winning the opening as they called it, battle of annihilation.
they were so committed to this that even after that failed catastrophically for them along the marne in 1914 they did it again and again and again brick they have lurched west in 1914 . the a looked for the annihilation battle in the east in 19 team they turned back to the west in 1916. they turned east again in 1970. finally, defeated and exhausted russia and lost it all by lurching back to the west in 1918. didn't even stop there. the war to end all war, as hg wells called the fight that broke out in 1914, wilson borrowed the phrase, the war to end all war in a real sense did not stop until 1945. it was prelude, the second and greater war that is commemorated in this enormous and great site for the second and greater war filled with worst wars went on to kill 10 times as many as the
great war, as it was called by the generation that fought it for the two wars are so intimately connected i think we can usefully begin to call them, as charles de gaulle suggested many years ago, the 30 years war of the 20th century . 1914 - 1945. through it all germans were trapped inside an offensive culture that completely gripped their military imagination. they were trapped even as a threefold large-scale and global military revolution, if you like, was emerging war was being revealed. throughout the 19th century accommodating at the beginning of the 20th century we can all see it clearly, defensive firepower had so enhanced that if you -- the defense that the offense of mess infantry attacks was so overmatched by machine guns and the artillery and the fixed positional defense that any mass infantry attack
almost inescapably led to carnage but they kept trying it for the ghost of napoleon was in the memos for the ghost of napoleon was in the doctrine. it was locked into german operational thinking. the eternal offensive it wrote down any doubters. secondly more materially, everybody now had a mass conscript armies. not even hundreds of thousands, they had half 1 million in 1966 or 1970. multimillion man armies before the first shot was fired. such huge armors militated against the plan that so we can move masses of men with operational dexterity. we can would -- maneuver around and find the blank and enveloped. no you can't. you cannot move as germans know. the germans actually knew before they started the war in 1914, you cannot move 2 million
met with that dexterity that is required. you cannot. the armies are destined to smash into each other, to bog down, and then to -- and then to slug it out. these armies were in place from the very start. in 1914 the germans attacked with all the reserves in the opening attack. they thought this is going to be a short war. we give everything all at once and we win it all at once. that meant the reserves of entire nations and now also even of empires were rushed to the front on the trains at the very outset before the first units and a skull met. literally, millions of men in red blue and fresh and brown rushed to the fronts they crashed into each other like lumbering sumo wrestlers. they struggled in attritional warfare until finally 4 1/2 years later one of the great
armies finally fell down, virtually exhausted. just before most of the others were about to. the third factor that made all of this certain, and this is what woke warned them against, was that the german victories of 1866 and 1870 have to promote anti-german coalitions into existence, which meant that germany could not hope to isolate austria as it had done and 66 or friends as it had done diplomatically in 1870. now the war began germany would be facing a massive great power coalition arrayed against it from the first day. bulk actually warned in that famous speech of 1890, he explicitly said to the germans listening, they paid no attention, he said, if you tried , he warned, i'm paraphrasing, but very close to a quotation, you will be beginning a new seven years war. and that he paused and said, for even -- or even a new 30
years war. they tried it anyway. twice. they did it because of german civilian and military leaders knew they could not win through to their ambition of world power any other way. they rolled what fittingly enough, a german autobahn bismarck had called the iron dice of war. they rolled it. they gambled for what was the best? we strike we strike while the window of opportunity is open. we think it will close somewhere around 1920. we strike now. we become the true world power or we fall back into ruin. they struck. plans failed for they slogged it out. they lost. they lost. german armies in france and in flanders only looked upright in november in france and in flanders only looked upright in november 1918
to the veterans who comprise them. who said to each other we are still unbeaten. we are still standing in foreign lands but no foreign boots anywhere touched german soil. in fact, it is a mris for the kaiser here was militarily finished. notwithstanding the lies that its generals told, notwithstanding the lies that the told about betrayal and denial that they had been defeated. morale had in fact collapsed in the german army over the summer of 1918 with it german military effort began to flag it took the form of what is sometimes returned -- referred to as a hidden military strike inside the german armies, the western field armies over those last month's. german soldiers had done more for longer than i suspect any other army could have achieved. in the great war they won many battles. they lost even more and they lost virtually all the important ones. in the last summer of war they
were totally exhausted. by numbers of men, by volumes of material being brought to fight them by this grand global coalition of empires. the russian empire, the french empire, the british empire, and by 1918 the american empire were all arrayed against the germans. it wasn't much of a bet. and they learned nothing. they learned nothing about how to win long wars. immediately afterward in their general studies, staff studies and plantings and discussions they focused instead, as they always did and always gone -- and always had going back to frederick on how to win a short war. how do we went a short work week of the battle of annihilation at the outset. that's the only way we can win. we must fight and win immediately. they doubled down.
they doubled it down again and again. almost like a drunk rolling the iron dice in vegas. take my word for it, the commander of the german field armies in 1918, eric von ludendorff, basically co- military dictator of germany from 1916 - 1918, he was once asked what is the essence of german tactical doctrine? what is this german genius for war as some people have called it? he said and i quote, we punch a hole and see what develops,". they had no strategy to win world war i. 1914 was the punch of the whole and what developed was attritional warfare. they had no strategy. on september 10, 1914 in order goes out from the prussian war ministry to the german for the same day the germans were told turn away from peers and start retracing looking for fixed positions we can defend. on the same day the order goes
out saying, essentially, scavenge everything. they were told to remove the uniforms from there dead dead german infantry were to be buried only in their underwear. take the boots, belts, pants, coats. saddles from the horses, harnesses, take it all. reason they gave the order was they had no production in line. they had no war industry, they were not geared for a long war for they had just lost a short war and they knew it. they had no strategy to win world war ii either. they started that work or what they thought would be a series of smaller wars, but merged into world war ii. they started that war with a mere variation of their old password doctrine with more delusions that now rode alongside hubris and the panzers . more racing through operational holes -- more death
, more vanity, more defeat. i won't talk but just a couple of brief words about the paris settlement. that's a whole different talk. as you know, stability and recovery should have been at center stage in paris in 1919. instead, the elites were focusing on territorial swabs, the colonial adjustments, lost or one imperial prestige my heavens, the british actually regarded the french as her cardinal international rivalry in 1919 through about 1922 and their policy was countering and blocking the french. were doing just woodrow wilson was looking to a new security order based on illegal patients he cannot even persuade his own people to join. based on self-determination of nations and ideas that denied history of europe. instead of empires around
germany some new system of military containment in lieu of the broken empires, perhaps. they left weak and quarrelsome states all around germany's, eastern and southern borders. they left germany surrounded by temptation . the they left germans open to another seduction by the allure of the battle for it happened. the same short delusion that led them into the trenches in 1914 led them into a second world war in 1939. the defeats of 1939 - 41 of the western powers called this issue, but i think they should only cloud the issue not force us not to see it i think it can be argued, i think the evidence supports, that the allies drew the correct strategic conclusions from their defeats of 1940 - 1970, and in 1918. they concluded the only way to defeat a large power like germany was through a long war
of attrition. they plan for it. certainly, russia did. certainly, france did. british and americans, maybe not so much. in germany they did not plan for a long war at all. again, they planned on you roll the dice and win short or we lose everything. world power. world power or ruin. -- pointed to the same way that the successor armies would also lose the second world war in the end. through the separation of german tactical and operational doctrine and dexterity on the when had from any serious strategy at all to win if the opening campaign failed. if the planned short war went long instead. just punch another hole and see what develops. they did it in 1914, made a big hole in flanders in france with
the sleep plan, intending to then swing east and do it all over in russia in a matter of 45 days. instead they were trapped in a long war even they knew they could not win. they did it again in 1939 against a minor power in poland and they won easily because it was a minor power. that only deepened their radical delusions of racial and operational superiority. they did it again against a great power in 1940 in france. i will get argument on this i'm sure, they got lucky. they did it again in 1941 in the soviet union and they got what they deserved. all they have learned from the defeat of 1918 was how to better use combined arms. how to combine aircraft and radios and take and superior movement doctrine for it gave them a temporary advantage and they employed it to win several smallish wars against smaller enemies. yugoslavia, poland,
france, i think, was accidental but had no idea and no knowledge on how to win long wars or understanding of why they always lost them. we have the panzers. they punch better holes. we can move through them like we couldn't in 1914 or 15 per didn't they know that in a long war everyone would eventually have tanks? the germans by the end of world war ii's -- world war ii had something like 21 tiger ones and tiger two >> the russians build 30,000 the americans 50,000 germans. as a stall and said, quantity has a quality all its own. there was precedent for all of this. the germans, the great general staff of the prussian army and denigrate german staff army had more than any other staff. they had reputation for
studding prior examples and they were fixated on the polling for much of this but more than the french were. they didn't get, and the british did understand, that even napoleon had never really understood and had never really had a strategy to win his wars either. that's a good reason why he lost. you never understood that winning a day of battle is not enough for you have to win the campaign. then you have to win the year. that you have to win the decade. victory must usher in political prominence but napoleon thought his personal challenge was -- talent was enough and he always looked to the next battle after he lost one. the next one. or at most the next campaign. he lost it all because he never understood the role of attrition . in spain he was out thought and out thought by russia in 1812. again in germany and inside france in 1813 - 1814. waterloo was not the moment of
napoleon's decisive defeat, which had, a year earlier in strategic terms. waterloo was anti-climactic. alike germany's enemies his enemies refused to accept that there defeat in battle, hence defeat in the war. they came at them over and over again in long wearing campaigns and attrition and spain and russia. britain hardly fought big battles in napoleonic wars, yet it one because it was part of a coalition of deep strategic endurance. germans repeated napoleon's error because they so fixated on tactical and operational dexterity, they misunderstood the core strategic cause of his ultimate if he, which was also the cause of their own. their enemies one because they had a strategic capacity to absorb the first losses. to lose battles and even campaigns , but to hold on and grind down the lesser power over time. the winners of, the winning
coalitions of the two world wars absorbed defeat after defeat, yet they kept fighting. they overcame surprise for they overcame the first terrible setback >> they outlasted the dashed entering of german and then japanese operations. in the end they crushed the always lesser military powers that comprised the axis. i have a few more comments on attrition, but i stop here. doing me to go ahead? all right. attrition is usually presented. i have done it myself in class, it is presented to the public as an immoral strategy. unless of course we can inflicted on the enemy, and then it's fine. it is a tale of lines of led by donkeys, chbteau generals and carnage over courage, of tragedies of whole generations sacrificed to the sales tactics that are sometimes pointed to and said, that's what explains why the war went long. we
didn't have the maneuverability. we didn't have the forward artillery. we didn't have whatever it was that would have enabled us to go long. i think that misses the point. i also think we may be mistaking the tragedy of the core immorality of all war for what is only one of its methods for forgive me for saying this and forgive us all if we do it, but there's a more argument to be made for strategies of attrition. we say it is wrong that attrition reduces the soldier to a statistic. it does brick no more than the battle also reduces soldiers to numbers. there is as much room for personal courage and moral character inside attrition as there is in any battle. there was character aplenty on both sides at fair done on you was yuma, the harkin force, the sacrifices along the marne, kharkov, and juno beach. none of those were mina, small,
or morally useless acts, even though as a framed them here none of them were decisive and they took place inside massive wars of attrition and to slaughter. attrition does not annihilate all moral or human meaning for the men and women who suffer it and to carry it out brick it is us for it is our politics and our people that grow restless with attrition and complained that it is appalling and slow and wasteful as if all war isn't appalling and wasteful. we proclaim that attrition is morally indefensible. attrition in the end was how the union army operated slavery and allied and soviet armies broke the nasty. -- the . attrition is how most big wars have been won over the last several centuries practice how aggressors have been defeated in the world remade for good and for ill. we might better accept this
reality at the start of the next war. we should explain that it is coming to the heavily armed teenagers we send out to kill in our name and in our place and then only choose to fight the wars that we deem worth that awful price. if we decide together that the next war is just, or just necessary, we should try to resist the allure of the battle. the siren song of the short war delusion. if we are more honest about how wars are actually fought and won , how long they really tended to last, and the real price to be paid by our youth we might even pray does praise piece more and practice more or less but i rather doubt it. thank you. >> [ applause ] >>
>> the best part of any presentation here at our international conference, i have always thought, is a questions from the floor. i imagine we have our folks with microphones. i see hands raising. jeremy, do your thing. >> we will start to left with tom. about halfway back on the far left, please. age of nuclear weas >> >> my question in this day and age of nuclear weapons and, if you will, not nations state war, but terrorism if you want to use that word for the moment. do your rules apply? >> ci only have an opinion on this. my research my writing stops and 45 with some overlap. and i always get this question.
prefacing but it's only my view not my study view. yes, i think they do. i think we are still subject to the delusion of a short war. i can see for instance some great powers inking it has developed an emt for strike capability that will knock out the entire defense capability thinking we are going to win the war in a flash and then finding they are in a war. and we go on and on and on and eventually send flesh to war. that i answer? >> in the center section toward your right, please. >> what you think it says about our country that the three leaders of the biggest wars in our history, revolutionary civil war, world war ii, elected ly our president of the united dates?
>> more than that, i've done this some time with my students, count up the number of american presidents who have been generals. washington, jackson, grant, eisenhower and then who did i leave out? right, and then there are all the others who were captains or majors or kernels and you had to have a military career to run for office. it says that the united states is more like other countries than it likes to think. [ laughter ] that's an american non-exceptionalism. >> it says that we have a taste for celebrity including celebrity generals, we also looked at people who absolve military problems and that's legitimate. i have absolutely no problems with general eisenhower. >> didn't both parties want him? >> so i just, it is commonly
repeated in other countries. >> in the center section, straight ahead. >> one of your comments was is that we may think of the first half of the 20th century as another 30 years war. another speaker here said that really things were going quite well in 1920s and world war ii might well not have happened if we didn't have the economic collapse of the 1930s. please comment. >> is a perfectly reasonable argument, you should have a conference on it. [ laughter ] >> watch would you ask for. >> i would come down on the side that the fundamental outcome of the first world war was indeterminate. that is that world war i was militarily, the germans were decisively ivdefeated.
but politically and diplomatically and culturally, the refused to accept the defeat and the allied have them at a conference and there was no occupation of german territory and so on and so forth. i do not think that, in that case the first world war was absolutely indecisive on the only issue that really mattered. which was, what the german- speaking people epof europe wou accept as their properly place and role in world affairs. it took a second world war to say, you are not a "weltmacht" , world power. >> i would like the two of you to possibly address defeat, which william takes a little bit of umbrage to with regard
to poland. and the fact that they weren't defeated, but they were indeed handed over to stalin in 1945. would either of you like to comment on maybe the word of the deep in military history and the polls in general? >> quite right, poland was not defeated in 1945, it was defeated in 1939. it was just the fact it was invaded from both sides. it was invaded twice in september 1939, the two invading powers, the soviet union and nazi germany , using the words they said that poland is extinct. and then they proceeded to wipe out its population in good measure. i think, i have dealt with this kind of question before interestingly enough. but the facts of world war ii's military history is that poland was defeated, it paid the price
of the defeat in horrific terms from 39-45 and that appeal to different price for being on the wrong side of the victorious division line in 1945. i don't think these are even disputable backs. >> and i also throw in if there was ever a justifiable world that says war it was the pole and war in 1945. if there is ever an example of heroism it might be poland from 1939. >> and the extraordinary moral heroism of the polls who went on to fight, they were migrated through romanian, they just came down and joined the british and north africa. there were holes fighting in africa. >> gentlemen tom gives to your left in the far back. >> great presentation doctor miller. my question is, general
eisenhower, president eisenhower in his farewell address that his deep concern was the growth of the military industrial complex. today, our federal budget is about one half of for defense spending. how do you see the progress of this in world history, as a sustainable option for a republic or a democracy? >> current spending levels, not getting into the politics of it, clearly are not sustainable. you can sustain a military spending levels only by choosing to cut other desirable spending items. it is a choice that you will have to make. as far as eisenhower and the military industrial complex speech, he lost the argument. that is close. i bet eisenhower's small town,
kansas, governments we intervene only when we have to, even in the semi-isolationist tradition, and so on. but that argument, that 70 years ago. that argument is closed. the unit states is whether it wants to be or not, is a great power and a superpower and it is engaged in the world. the war washes up on our shores on an almost daily basis. >> i hope we never conflate defense spending with national capabilities. that's the coin often in washington and that is how it is often phrased but whatever we are spending on it hopefully we are getting the bang for the buck. >> all the way in the back to your right, please. >> was there a lack of supervision of the provisions of the versailles treaty or the american concerned with the
depression a factor in this buildup of massive by germany initiating world war ii? >> on versailles, i do think that this is one of the most routinely missed taught items in the teaching of modern history. treaties neither cause nor end wars. they codify with the wars caused and shaped. bursae did not do a very good job of that, in fact i've had a personal criticism of oversight it wasn't harsh enough. either you have a harsh piece that imposes the defeat and makes the defeat -- defeated sides recognize it has lost, don't do it again. or you go for peace of reconciliation. it was too harsh to succeed as a piece of reconciliation and to indeterminate and too gentle
to succeed as a piece of imposition. >> there was also the question of the depression, certainly in the 1930s it's easy to say the democracy you took a strong stand against hitler that took rearmament, that took large numbers of financial resources from the domestic sector to the military secretary. it is a tough time. we say that the depression, along with the great collapse of the global economy. in britain, 22 percent almost 35 percent in germany. all over the world it seemed the wheel had come off the economy. so it's always easy to and say they should've been spending more money on arms but there was a huge need for social programs on a scale never before known. >> i would agree with all of that and would only add a footnote that the money spent on arms that put the world out
of the great depression. but then arms were not being spent as a deterrent but for war capabilities. >> gentlemen to your left in the front? >> interim -- interesting note you had about moltke's warning. very thought-provoking but interestingly if you look at the reddish side, church hill obviously had about a 45 year history of military. he had been involved in it, he had been a lower ateral he had a long-standing relationship with the military. and one of the things he was famous for was certainly firing, cajoling, harassing his generals. but it was also noted that he never overruled his generals. in other words he pushed them to think everything through. on the other side on the world war ii --part on the german sid i would offer that possibly the
generals there had learned something, but unlike church hill, hitler did listen to them. so he overruled them so maybe they have learned and one of the things they told him not to do was going to russia. >> i disagree with that fundamentally. the german generals, i think at part of the one big lies of the 20th century. the general said that at the nuremberg trials, the two big lies that they got away with for 45 years is that they had nothing to do with the holocaust. >> and if you come to my why the germans lost talk, why don't i just defer to that? [ laughter ] >> to your right. >> but the german generals agreed morally politically, and strategically vastly more than they disagreed with him. would you agree with that? >> to your right, gentlemen. >> the us has managed to
stumble into several wars in the last inhalf-century, korea, vietnam and now we are stuck in a were seemingly with no end at iraq and afghanistan. what advice if you had been asked would you have given george w butte bush on september 12, 2001. >> i'm not going to do that. i am not qualified. i can tell you about 18 months ago i was out of the army command school at fort leavenworth and chatting with the doctrine writing committee and other people there, i had some input. i asked them if they thought we were in a new 30 years war. they didn't bat an eye. so i said what about a new 100- years war? a lot of nodding. they are in your 18 of the ongoing 30-years war. i was told to expect to be and
afghanistan 30 years from now which would make it a 50-years war. and also one group panel i went to, it was the lessons learned committee that writes the lessons learned for the army. i asked them if they have learned any lessons and they're very short answer was we have, the politicians have not. >> i would throw one thing into supplement to that. the political pressures in 2001 to do something were enormous. the two most dangerous words in washington were do something. and something it was kind of half baked incomes up quickly and before you know it you are locked into 18-19-20 years of combat in the middle east. but again if you say what would you advise the president, we ought to do something. it's not a calm discussion is usually a pretty panicked
discussion. >> in the center toward the front. >> i think this is a fascinating conversation in light of the fact that we lost george h.w. bush, so i'm not necessarily looking at what advice you would give his son, but i am curious as to how you view both of those presidents' decision about starting the war and ending the war. whether the first president bush was correct in his assessment that he went in and started the war and ended it, it was done. or his son was correct when he began the second d,gulf war and said this is a war that will not end soon? >> you're asking me the same question in different words. [ laughter ] i was wrong at the time, too. i thought that they should have
gone to baghdad in the first gulf war and if you're going to fight it, completed and so on. but on the other hand the war was over in 100 hours there were fewer than 200 american casualties in a form when said spectacular triumph and like everyone who did know anything i concluded that the iraqi government could not possibly survive such a catastrophic military device. i was wrong, most of us were wrong it was a very popular war. as for the second part of it, i guess the sun was, i don't know why i can cycle analyze why the son did it but surely was strategic thinking beer that he wanted to finish a war that we were stuck and because, don't forget the no-fly zones were in effect for 12-14 years. there were troops on the ground around the airbases and so
forth. but as a historian i have the luxury of hindsight like most of the country which also supported that war. including majorities in both houses of congress. including folks at the united nations. it had bipartisan support. but it was a catastrophic mistake. >> back left >> yes i have a question for both of you perhaps if you could comment on john f. kennedy wrote a book why england slept and it was before he got into politics. but he was talking about the decline of spending in england prior to world war ii and the rise of germany and hitler and the increase of military spending. but the conclusion was at the end, he said a democracy in order to prevent war needs to always be prepared for war.
so i didn't know if you had a comment on that. >> there are many things that britain and america have been common historically culturally militarily. they have water between themselves and the germans. [ laughter ] they have the channel and they have the atlantic. and that has enormous political, psychological strategic effects. because you don't have to build a permanent fortification called the marginal line. you don't have to have a 90-100 man division. the french did. the british could sit back and say well,, it's not that they were military -- were not militarily spending. the americans were another course. before world war i, we were chasing poncho villa in mexico.
and america ranks below portugal in military spending. >> we say romania here. one of those countries. and by the way there are only 50 countries in the world then. >> if you really want peace you have to prepare for war is neither an american or british innovation. but the exact phrase dates back to the romans so folks that knew a lot of war and peace, maybe more of the former than the latter. but in the roman context they prepared for war so they got war after war after war. it was really their national industry. >> the other one from spinoza that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it to which some clever wag added but those who do learn from history are prone to make new mistakes. >> what history has so many
lessons. history has lessons but the lessons are so complicated and the realities we deal with are so complex that we don't know which lessons apply to our problems. for example, the lesson of the second world war that we should not allow an aggressor to get away with attacking a little country, czechoslovakia came known in the first war of excess year of the cold war as the unit analogy or the dominoes theory. and it got us into both korea and that that's just vietnam. >> i would like to take the privilege of the presenters and i want to ask you a question if you don't mind. >> i can't object. >> or you don't get fed. [ laughter ] >> you made a moral argument which i thought was provocative for war serve attrition. but let me bring it away from the moral context for moment. isn't it true cathat wars of attrition we can't really talk about because it's a political dated? can you imagine any president
of the united states telling folks at the beginning of world war one or anywhere that it's going to kill millions of us and at the end we hope we are the last man standing? >> it's politically impossible. and that is why we are in a trap. we are trapped in the political impulse, if you promise weapon systems policies that will either prevent the war and we make mistakes and we get one anyway, or that will allow us to win it in short order. in the american case historically it has been a delusion that we are winning airpower. repeatedly. and i don't think there is any way around that. there is no way a recruiting officer can go out and say give me your son, we are going to wage a war of attrition. you can't do it. i think also we have an obligation to say hard truth, regardless if people don't want to hear it. if you want to hear that world
war i and world war ii was one by this battalion or that battalion or the navy seals or whatever, the seabees or whatever, they contributed, they were part of it it was a massive effort. but i'm not persuaded. >> in my own lifetime decapitation strategy, shock and awe, there has been one phrase to promise a win in just 15 minutes. >> it's the current military if you look at the professional military literature. it is absolutely dominated with a term that was invented by late medieval and modern historians, the military revolution. and if you look at the military literature, everything is a military revolution. >> remember you are in a family meeting. >> military revolution and targeting. and they are not
really revolution, their technical advantages which the other side has. and again i think it's the same looking for the quick x, the technical fix to strategical geopolitical problems which are may be beyond our capacity. >> but what does that really mean? >> we have time for one, possibly two e questions before the break. you're right. >> two more questions and you guys are going to be as depressed as my students. [ laughter ] this is happy talk. >> doctor you talked about the long shadow of the lessons of the franco-prussian war that we were cast on world war i and world war ii. i'm curious, there was a more recent war before world war i was a war of attrition that involved over 1 million men and arms, a french war with machine guns, why do you think the boer war did not create the same
lessons as the franco-prussian work? >> the reason the boer war didn't have the same impression is because you could dismiss it as an imperial power fighting a frontier campaign. so it's a colonial war. the russo japanese war was harder to dismiss because there is two significant power that has powers and is the first time that both sides had machine guns and massive all tillery on both sides. and massive casualties. but they did their best to dismiss it because they were locked into the short war. i will put it in a nutshell. the reason that the germans clung to and the japanese also i think, clung to the idea of a short war is not because they were stupid and thought oh well, i didn't think they could get into a long war. it is because they knew that if the war went long, they must
lose. so the only way they can win is the short war, that's why i used bismarck's metaphor. they gambled. and the gamble was extreme. it was we win everything, or we lose everything. world power ruins. >> thank you very much for your conversation and to doctor nolan for great presentation. [ applause ] >> i would like to thank dr. nolan one more time for great discussion. [ applause ] this week on american history tv prime time. tuesday we will look at the united states immigration commission formed in 1907 at a time when an influx of immigrants was seen by many as a national crisis. wednesday, political history with a discussion on populism and its role in the history of
american politics. on thursday, co-authors bob drury and tom clayman talk about their book valley forge, describing how they defeated continental army lasted to the harsh winter of 1777 and 1778. and friday night, our american artifacts series which takes viewers to museums and historical sites around the country. we toured the american exhibit at the national museum of the american indian in washington dc. military scholars describe the careers of several lesser- known world war ii commanders list includes leaders from america, france and poland. this 80 minute program was part of a conference hosted by the national world war ii museum in new -- lonew orleans. good afternoon, everyone