Sunday, February 15, 2015

Scientism wins (and loses) WWII's victory legacy

Despite the many, many high tech weapons of death first used (and first perfected) in WWI, we still tend to recall it as a war of "elan" and of long lines of terribly brave doomed men charging machine gun posts with only their bayonets or horses.

By contrast, one can almost forget that there were any foot soldiers involved in the various famous victories of WWII, particularly among the victories of the western Allies and the Axis.

Instead, according to the omnipresent newsreels, their WWII seemingly only featured  white middle class men driving (or designing) modern day mechanical steeds such as aircraft, tanks, battleships, aircraft carriers, submarines or firing (and designing) ever-longer range guns, torpedoes and rockets.

Now a quick look at the demographic data of 1940 confirms that the British empire had by far the world's biggest pool of manpower .

Far greater than the empires of Germany, Japan, America, Russia or any of the three contesting chunks of the Chinese empire, let alone the French, Italian and Dutch empires.

But instead the British left and right elites melted together as one in claiming they ('they' in their mind seemingly reduced to the Home Counties of England) simply didn't have the manpower to have a foot soldier army anywhere near the size of Poland or France let alone match those of Russia, Japan, Germany and America.

By contrast, the Great Russians ruling the Russian empire, faced by the prospect of losing to Germany and then being put to the sword en masse by murderous Nazis, swallowed their racial prejudice and conscripted endless numbers of soldiers from all of the dozens and dozens of sub ethnicities in their vast empire.

They also embraced the idea - albeit reluctantly - of women in combat roles.

True, Stalin and his generals then needlessly killed millions of their resulting vast armies of ordinary soldiers in crude frontal attacks against the Germans but they did redeem themselves by their unwillingness to invent new high tech weapons during the war.

Instead they selected the cheapest and most reliable of their existing conventional weapons and then set about making them even more cheaply, more quickly and in truly mountainous numbers.

All the other empires very reluctantly recruited from minorities (aka 'coloreds') within their existing empires and newly conquered territories (in some cases such as British India, the 'minorities' vastly outnumbered the majority !)

They tended to mistrust these colonial troops even more than the enemy, to give them second rate weapons and third rate leadership and then denied them meaningful combat roles.

The clearest example is the unspeakable French, who would rather delay the liberation of metropolitan France and the defeat of Germany than let their own well tested colonial (aka 'colored') troops lead the attack.

Letting the coloreds lead the final attack would recall all too vividly how quickly their abject white European masters had surrendered France and the Empire in 1940 and 1941.

Churchill felt likewise about letting his six million man volunteer Indian army ( still the biggest volunteer army in history) anywhere near North Western Europe.

He'd rather Russia swallowed up half of Europe and the Americans the other half than left Indians led the British empire to victory over his fellow white Europeans.

Colored minorities weren't the only groups that the various upper middle class imperial elites were reluctant to see granted the entry card into full citizenship : being a veteran of combat.

They denied it to women as well of course.

But this is all relatively well known : the Americans, for example, being desperately short of ground troops during the critical Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 , all because they had resisted letting women do war factory jobs and resisted letting black, latino and native men serve in combat.

Not so accepted is the claim that the elites of the Democracies (so called) grew tired of the idea of mass national armies marching as one being a symbol and creator of mass united nationalities.

Conscripting vast numbers of working class soldiers turned them into vast armies of of 'our noble veterans' all demanding redress and entitlements , to be paid mostly by the older richer part of the tax paying body, the part that generally got to stay home and had only full bank accounts instead of full chests of medals to show for it.

Substituting middle class driven war machines for working class foot soldiers would ensure that veterans' pensions and veterans' moral power would at least remain among the well off taxpayers' children and keep the bolshie workers out beyond the Pale.

So, at various times, military America had more aircraft in its Tables or Organization than it had MOS 475s (bog ordinary riflemen) in its combat frontlines.

We all know the resulting war-ending victory scripts.

For WWI , it is of images of infantry assault troops during the famous Hundred Days, breaking the German lines and ensuring Germany's defeat a few months later.

For WWII, it is of the backroom boffins and scientists who designed the war-winning radars, aircraft, rockets, proximity fuses and A-Bombs that alone enabled the hard pressed Allies to defeat the top quality German and Japanese infantry forces.

A famous victory for modernity, the enlightenment project and for science - but it soon proved to be a famous pyhrric victory.

True, it was bog ordinary infantrymen who bayonetted all the innocent at Nanking and all through South East Asia or shot hundreds of thousands of Jews in cold blood at close range.

But strangely we barely remember such horrors - we choose to recall the high tech scientific deaths of Coventry, Hamburg, Dresden, Auschwitz, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Putting entire cities to the sword was old news in Jesus's time but a single bomb killing an entire city in a single instance seemed new (which it was) and extraordinarily barbaric (which it was not - morally, murder is murder).

Growing up as a boomer or transitional generation kid I heard  both takes on WWII and Science.

It left me well and truly conflicted - did science try to keep humanity alive or did it try its darndest to kill it --- or both ??

Scientism's victory in WWII gave Modernity's thirty years of glory - but it also sunk a postmodernist-promoting shaft in its chest nothing could pull out..

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