Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday miscellany

-- The bombings in Quetta: analysis.

-- P. Kennedy vs. P. Kennedy?: Paul Kennedy's new book on WW2, Engineers of Victory, due to be released at the end of this month, is reviewed very favorably in the current Foreign Affairs by Lawrence Freedman. The book's focus is the contribution to the Allied victory of (quoting Freedman's capsule review) "middle managers, such as...logisticians, engineers, and operational analysts...." So it wasn't just the top commanders or "superior productivity" that led to success. Now this is interesting, because if I had to sum up, in one oversimplified line, what I took away from Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers when I read it some years ago, it would be: Superior productivity explains just about everything when it comes to war, or at least great-power war, in the industrial age.
[note: edited slightly after initial posting]


hank_F_M said...


Do you think that it is remotely possible that it was a synergy of a number of factors such as the ones you mention and many others that won the war?

Any one missing would have changed things.

Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

LFC said...

I think it fairly likely that it was a synergy of a number of factors. The point of this post, if it had one, was simply to tweak a famous, prolific historian.

Now in order to have done this properly I would've had to go back to 'Rise and Fall' and check precisely what Kennedy said there about WW2. Which I didn't do. But I have the book on my desk now as I'm typing and here is what he says on p.343:
He notes the importance of Pearl Harbor (and Hitler's "gratuitous declaration of war" on the U.S.) b/c it brought into the war the world's most powerful country.

"To be sure, industrial productivity alone could not ensure military effectiveness...but the Grand Alliance, as Churchill fondly called it, was so superior in matériel terms to the Axis and its productive bases were so far away from the German and Japanese armed forces that it had the resources and the opportunity to build up an overwhelming military strength which none of the earlier opponents of fascist aggression could have hoped to possess."

Now is there a contradiction (as opposed to shift in emphasis maybe) betw what he says there and what he apparently says in the new book? No. Does he have every right to cash in on the insatiable market for WW2 books by writing one, esp. if it is "superb" as Freedman says? Yes, he does.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the middle managers turn out to be the key to productivity?

LFC said...

I think there could be a connection there, though, from glancing at the table of contents on Amazon, Engineers of Victory seems mainly concerned with, e.g., the logistical problems of moving large numbers of men and equipment over long distances, etc.

Anonymous said...

Makes sense. Production does little good if it sits an ocean away from the battlefront.

I'm reading Bergerud's book on the South Pacific land fighting, and supply was an excruciating problem.