An online database
of WORLD WAR II
books and information
on the Web since 1995
New & forthcoming
Books by subjects
Murray, Williamson and Alan R. Millett (editors). Calculations: Net Assessment and the Coming of World War II. New York: The Free Press, 1992.
"Short of the costly and perilous audit of war itself, the problem of estimating the likely performance of one's armed forces against one's potential enemy is the most intractable problem of defense planning. The process is not newat least in its unstructured formbut in Western parlance it has now become known as "net assessment".
United Kingdom: Paul Kennedy
The state of British net assessment was, along with France, the most sophisticated at the time (and, while still comparatively primitive, most closely resembles today's formalized net assessment apparatus). The British government maintained effective intelligence organizations, a multi-tiered structure of committees and sub-committees, and a collaborative system of deliberation and decision-making far advanced from most of its potential friends and adversaries.
Behind everything, one suspects, there was a subconscious resentment at France because of the fact that it tied Britain to the Continent of Europe, whether or not there was any formal treaty of assistance. At the end of the day, the British knew that they could not let France fall; geography and strategy determined that. But this constraint did not foster warm feelings toward the French, the more especially when France's own obligations and treaties bound it (and by extension Britain) to the fate of countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland. Much of the British energies expended during the 1938 crisis were devoted to detaching France (which had to be defended) from Eastern Europe (which was negotiable).
Germany: Williamson Murray
Unlike Britain's elaborate net assessment organization, that of Germany tended very much to start and end with Adolf Hitler and his intuition. Despite the formal organizational structure of intelligence agencies, economic departments, and so on, little mattered beyond the Fuehrer and his immediate entourage.
Throughout those crucial years, Hitler rejected efforts to provide a more coherent and organized effort to assess the international environment. He fully understood that such bureaucratic assessments would limit his room for maneuver and his ability to make the decision for peace and war. His system of government from the moment of his appointment as Chancellor aimed to destroy the ability of the bureaucratic system to provide independent judgment on the strategic environment. Ironically, the intellectual perceptions and training of most of those in the diplomatic, the intelligence, and the military bureaucracies were all too close to Hitler's preconceptions. Their attitude made possible, in a direct sense, the triumphs of Hitler's early years and the catastrophes of the later years.
Italy: Brian R. Sullivan
Italian net assessment did not revolve quite so much around a single autocratic leader, but the difference was only one of degree. Fascist Italy may have retained more of the trappings of a liberal Western democracy than did Nazi Germany, but the intrusion of the Fascist party into every governmental office and military headquarters devalued an already weak assessment system. Sullivan points out how many of the highest ranking officials failed to speak the truth even on those few occasions when it was apparent to them.
Mussolini repeatedly changed his mind and surrendered to his burning desire to lead Italy into war. If he could not attack France, he believed he might take advantage of the crisis to invade Yugoslavia or Greece. News of the Nazi-Soviet Pact raised his hopes that it might deter Franco-British action. Behind Ciano's back, [Army Chief of Staff] Pariani argued in favor of Italian intervention in the impending conflict. At the same time, both Mussolini and Pariani were aware of the glaring deficiencies in the army yet simultaneously denied the truth to each other. [Air Force Chief of Staff] Valle engaged in the same game with Mussolini in regard to the air force. Italian net assessment had ceased to involve rational calculation and had come under the sway of wishful thinkingat least as far as Mussolini was concerned.
Certainly by the time Germany invaded France, the intricacies of net assessmentperceptions, process, producthad ceased to count for much: "Over the next few days, the irrational side of Mussolini's nature won out in his thinking. Thereafter he judged the situation primarily according to Fascist mysticism."
France: Steven Ross
Although French net assessment machinery was, with the British, the best of the nations surveyed in this book, the conclusion might almost be that the better the net assessment structure, the more likely that leaders will be unable to make the right decisions. France was another example of outstanding assessment that nevertheless reinforced the resolve of the decision-makers simply to avoid war no matter what the costs.
The unacceptability of war, however, overshadowed all other considerations. Unfavorable shifts in the strategic balance were less important to French leaders than the overriding need to avoid a new round of hostilities. Political leaders were in tune with popular sentiment when they chose the path of appeasement and accommodation rather than resistance, and popular opinion until the spring of 1939 supported rather than constrained French leaders in their resolve to avoid conflict with Germany. The post-Munich change in public opinion did not force the government's hand since the Republic's leaders were themselves reluctantly concluding that a change in policy toward German expansion was necessary. The argument that governments must lead and educate the public and not simply reflect popular moods may well be correct, but it goes well beyond the issue of net assessments and their influence on national policy. That a government has all the necessary information upon which to base decisions does not constitute a guarantee that the government will make the correct choice.
Soviet Union: Earl F. Ziemke
While it's safe to speculate that Soviet net assessment was controlled at least as tightly by Stalin as German net assessment was by Hitler, based strictly on a comparison of the material by Murray and Ziemke it also appears thatmurderous despot though he wasStalin was more prone to accept reasoned advice from competent subordinates. (Although that view can certainly be challenged by some highly competent historians as well as survivors of those executed without trial simply for disagreeing with the Boss.)
The Soviet net assessment process cannot be directly observed. Like a dark object in outer space, its probable nature can be discerned only from interaction with visible surroundings. Fortunately, its rigidly secret environment has been somewhat subject to such countervailing conditions. ... The resulting continuous stream of publications has yet to emit steady light, but it has intermittently given off illuminating flashes. Although those are closely regulated, they give some substantive information and more indirect guidance.
Despite the limitation of this indirect approach, Ziemke manages to shine some of these flashes into dark corners and uncovers some hidden information, such as the secret chancellery of the "Special Sector" for coordinating foreign and domestic intelligence. One element not mentioned here, by the way, in the fairly detailed discussion of how Soviet wargames affected policy and planning, is the secret February 1941 kriegspiel session featured prominently by Fugate and Dvoretsky in Thunder on the Dnepr.
United States: Calvin L. Christman
Franklin Delano Roosevelt wasby most accountsnot an autocratic despot, but his approach to bureaucratic infighting, alternative lines of communication, and overlapping areas of authority and responsibility was not unlike Hitler's. Roosevelt similarly positioned himself as the only authority with full access to all streams of net assessment input, and thus was able to say with justification that only he was in possession of all the facts and aware of all the ramifications of strategic decisions. The chief feature of American net assessment according to this account would seem to be presidential intuition.
Japan: Alvin D. Coox
The chapter on Japanese net assessment focuses for the most part on the decision-making process of the interlocking committees of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Imperial Japanese Army, and Foreign Ministry as they grappled in mid-1941 with formulating national policy.
The metaphor about persimmons was much in vogue in Tokyo at the time, though interpretations of the exact meaning varied widely. An impatient person might knock persimmons off the tree with a pole when the fruit started to ripen. Others might say that persimmons were ripe only if they fell when the tree was shaken. Still others meant that persimmons should be picked off the ground only after they had fallen of their own weight.
Available from mail order booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from The Free Press.
Read and submit feedback
Reviewed 26 October 1997
|We don't buy, stock, publish, or sell books or anything else.
NEWS BOOKS AUTHORS PUBLISHERS SELF-PUBLISHERS BOOKSELLERS.
|email@example.com||Copyright © 1995-2013 Bill Stone|