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Friday, November 18, 2011

Decorum Means Acknowledging Error

  This is a post that I put on John Redwood's blog. John had written an intelligent post following Armistice Day more in sorry than anger about the waste of WW1 and European wars of the 20th C generally but containing the quoted bit. I intended to suggest that current leaders were not so different and that sometimes the cost of war is inescapable. I did rather expect to be edited on the final paragraph because it is so outspokenly supportive of the Serbs. John having been in cabinet at the time we first intervened in Yugoslavia but was surprised that he took the unusual step of censoring the entire thing.
“I still cannot accept the way the politicians and generals accepted death on such a huge scale. ”
Not that rare. After all throughout the cold war the politicians and generals accepted Mutual Assured destruction (MAD) which assumed deaths on a scale at least 10 times that of WW1. That was horrible and I think it was wrong because I do not believe the USSR ever wished to start and “win” a war – they just wanted to be left alone too. But if you accept that both the Soviets and the Kaiser were bent on world conquest, as were were told at the times, it is difficult to say we should not have accepted such casualties.
I used to be proud about how we stood against the horrors of Nazism but when we, merely to get German permission to opt out of the Euro, supported criminal regimes run by “ex-”Nazis in former Yugoslavia openly committed to the racial genocide of the Serbs I came to feel that our opposition to Hitler was more accidental and less principled than we are told. Certainly if our schools had taught the history of Nazi genocide against Soviets, Serbs and Gypsies instead of pretending the only victims were our Jewish allies I very much doubt if the British people would have supported our government’s promotion of atrocities against the Serbs more than matching Hitler’s in individual evil if not in pure numbers.

  Readers will understand that I respect John very much but when anybody is wrong I think they should consider and usually acknowledge it. That is the path to not doing it again.
  Some years ago in response to another commemoration article by him I suggested that the error in British tactics in WW1 was sending a massive army to the Western Front at all and that we should have instead put our resources into providing the best weapons to the Russian, Serbian and Italian armies - bringing them up to close to a technical equality with the Germans, in which case numbers would have overwhelmed them. That would have included armoured car squadrons to the Russian front where they would have had full room for manoieuvre. That would not have involved death on a mass scale, at least for Brits, but it would have been a policy aimed at success rather than one primarily aimed at lower casualties and the 2 tend to be incompatible. Ut would also have been in line with the traditional policy we pursued in Napoleonic times.

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