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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:05 pm 
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Francis Urquhart wrote:
HMS Warspite wrote:
Rot. It was causing problems with communist agitators and their "mainstream" apologists, who, while more important than the Bolshevik army, were not actually all that important. The idea that Britain couldn't find 6,000 men who actually wanted to fight communism in the whole Empire is obvious bunk. The dirty truth is that communism was quite popular in the allied elite, in a similar way Islam is today.

Once again, you are completely wrong. The opposition to any further extension of the war was very widespread and spread across class and political barriers. Once again, read Tooze. It was a combination of war-weariness, casualties and the effects of realizing what the war in the trenches was really like. It wasn't communism that was popular in the allied elites, it was pacifism muddied up with the knowledge of what the next time around would be like..

Many of the problems the UK had fighting the Third Afghan War comes to mind. Disaffection amongst British (ie, from GB) troops in India and assigned to the Afghan theater was very high. They, frankly, wanted to go home and resume normal life. Few of those units assigned to India had seen sizable combat (most of the British part of the Indian Army was reassigned and replaced with TA, New Army and conscript formations). However, even garrison duty was more than enough for them, and they were none too keen to go up the Khyber. The War was over, and they wanted to go home.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:40 pm 
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Warspite, I think you're operating on a moderns idea of presenting a crystal ball to those a century ago and then screaming at them that if they don't stop Communism NOW they're going to pay even with it through their teeth.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:22 am 
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Also the thing you have to remember in Russia is just how nasty the regime Lenin et al were replacing was. The Kerensky government is essentially irrelevant in this as it was but a short interlude. The Tsar was an absolute monarch, but he was also a religious zealot and a fool. He and the Tsarina deserved everything they got in 1918. His children were innocent victims, but he and his wife reaped the whirlwind.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:58 am 
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David Newton wrote:
Also the thing you have to remember in Russia is just how nasty the regime Lenin et al were replacing was. The Kerensky government is essentially irrelevant in this as it was but a short interlude. The Tsar was an absolute monarch, but he was also a religious zealot and a fool. He and the Tsarina deserved everything they got in 1918. His children were innocent victims, but he and his wife reaped the whirlwind.

This is a very perceptive insight and one that Tooze also makes in Deluge. Right from the start of WW1 (and possibly before it) Tsarist Russia was a strategic embarrassment. Worse than that, it was an incompetent strategic embarrassment. WW1 was being pitched (worldwide but primarily in the USA) as a battle of Democracies against Absolutist Autocracies. And the Tsar was the Absolute Autocrat to end all Absolute Autocrats. that was a problem the Germans weren't slow to pick up. The arrival of the Kerensky Government was a Godsend from that point of view. It made the Democracies against Autocrats narrative much more convincing and the French and British grabbed it and ran with it.

This is where I would disagree with the assumption that Kerensky was a short irrelevant interlude. From a strategic point of view, it was exceptionally important because it clearly delineated the political grounds of WW1. It was also important because in doing so it secured British and French support for the anti-Tsarist forces. This also discountenanced Wilson because his over-arching aim was "Peace without Victors" Those three words come up over and over again and they are critical in understanding the end of WW1. Woodrow Wilson did not want the allies to win WW1 even after US forces had entered the conflict. He wanted an end to the war that did not strengthen any of the participants and would preferably leave them all greatly weakened. One of the points Tooze makes is that Kerensky's downfall was largely engineered by Wilson on the grounds that Russia's exit from the war would increase the possibility of an unbreakable deadlock on the western front and end with "Peace without victors".

The internal situation in Russia was also very complex. Trotsky, for all his faults, was essentially pro-Entente and wanted to keep up the relationships with Britain and France. Lenin wanted an alliance with Germany. Now, for reasons various, the Germans were perfectly well aware of that. (Now their support for Lenin falls into place does it not? And the post-war cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union?) There weren't two sides in Russia there were at least four and they all had internal divisions.

Now we come to the Intervention. This was also a problem because of its objectives. essentially these were:

A - To secure the vast quantities of war material that had been delivered to Russian ports and to prevent the capture of that material by hostile or undesirable forces

B - To maintain at least some form of Eastern Front against Germany that would prevent wholesale movements of troops from the eastern front to the western front.

In the short term, those objectives were obtained. In the longer term the second collapsed because of the failure of the Kerensky government. That left a bit of a problem when somebody asked the question "who do we support now?". There was an added factor here; nobody in the exalted spheres of Entente government really liked the Bolsheviks but equally nobody took them that seriously. there is a long European history of people like the Bolsheviks starting revolutions and then getting killed by them. There was no reason to believe that the Bolsheviks would be any different. It's usually said that the Allied intervention force supported the Whites but that's a residual of Bolshevik propaganda. They deliberately depicted the Whites as being the tools of foreigners who wanted to reimpose the Tsar and thus consolidated Russian support behind the Bolsheviks. Most particularly, it concentrated Russian support behind the faction of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin - who wanted to be (and became) a German ally.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:01 am 
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Francis Urquhart wrote:
As to the civil unrest in Germany, it was mainly the work of relatively small groups of street thugs much closer in concept to street gangs than armies.


In today's politics, AntiFa.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:41 am 
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edgeplay_cgo wrote:
In today's politics, AntiFa.


Exactly!!!!

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 11:59 am 
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Anti-Communism per se was not a particularly big ideology in the West in 1919. A few years later, that would change. In 1919, it would mean finding six thousand soldiers still willing to fight for the love of fighting or because they couldn't get other jobs. Mind you, that would only support half that number on active service with the remainder held back to provide replacements. Even twice that many would not be enough to make much more of a difference than the historical deployment. The British contingent would also be competing with one other major recruiter - the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Special Reserve ("Black and Tans") and the Auxiliary Division got nearly twelve thousand men, many of questionable motivation, quality and discipline.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:28 pm 
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I don't mean that the Kerensky government was irrelevant to the course of the war. What I mean is that in the grand sweep of Russian history it went from the nasty Tsarist government to the nasty Soviet government with an interlude of a few months, followed by 5 years of civil war. In that the Kerensky government was just a very, very small footnote. The Russian people didn't get any chance to understand what real freedom means, and at the time I don't think many people realised that the Bolsheviks were just Tsar Mk II so far as oppression went. By the time they realised what the Bolsheviks were it was too late.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:50 pm 
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David Newton wrote:
I don't mean that the Kerensky government was irrelevant to the course of the war. What I mean is that in the grand sweep of Russian history it went from the nasty Tsarist government to the nasty Soviet government with an interlude of a few months, followed by 5 years of civil war. In that the Kerensky government was just a very, very small footnote. The Russian people didn't get any chance to understand what real freedom means, and at the time I don't think many people realised that the Bolsheviks were just Tsar Mk II so far as oppression went. By the time they realised what the Bolsheviks were it was too late.

Got you. Very well-argued and I stand corrected.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 1:19 pm 
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Looking at the incompetence of the Russian government and state apparatus it's interesting to look at the political and military propaganda of the time about what the Russians would do.

The perception and party line was that the Russians were like a steamroller: slow to get going but unstoppable once they were actually going. The reality was that the Russians actually managed to mobilise much faster than was thought possible, but against a competent military force that was well lead (Ludendorff and Hindenburg) they were completely smashed at the Battle of Tannenberg. The Nazis made a lot about that engagement and used it for a great deal of propaganda, and the later rise of the duo to effective military dictators in Germany can be linked to what they did to the Russians during the engagement (they milked it for all it was worth and probably a bit more than that). It really was a catastrophic defeat, and had Germany been fighting Russia alone then the Russians would have been in far more trouble than they ended up being in.

The really, really scary thing is that the Russians were a lot more competent than the Austrians! The Austrians kept having to be bailed out by the Germans and they came very, very close to collapse in Galicia on a couple of occasions. What on earth that says about how Austria had developed as a military power and political entity can have volumes written on it.

The Germans fought and beat the Russians with one-and-a-half hands tied behind their back. One hand tied behind their back is having to fight the French on land and British at sea and later on land. The half hand tied behind their back was being stuck with the Turks and Austrians as allies and constantly having to bail them out. I don't know how competent the Bulgarians were militarily, but they were such a small component of the Central Powers' forces I don't think it enormously matters.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:14 pm 
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The Germans did say that they were shackled to a corpse. The Turks weren't quite so bad as the Austrians; a lot of it depended on where one was. I think the problems with the Turks was that they had a really small professional army and most of their troops were basically militia tasked with keeping the Arabs in order. Not something that requires great military expertise.

What is striking is how completely the Germans fell apart in 1918. They brought the troops from the Eastern Front over for the Kaiserschlacht which gave them a numerical advantage on the western front for the first time since 1915. Yet, once that transient advantage had played out, the bulk of army collapsed into a rout. They had a 90 percent desertion rate by the end of October 1918 with only 350,000 men on the books as present and active by the first week in November. Most of those were the crust I mentioned. It seems as if the troops in contact with the French and British held steady but only those troops. Everybody else departed with the quickness.

Much the same thing happened up by Leningrad in 1944 by the way; once the German Army Group North was defeated outside the Leningrad defense lines, its collapse was as bad as anything the Austro-Hungarians committed three decades before.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:33 pm 
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Are there comparable "imminent defeat = mass desertion" events in other militaries? I can't really think of one for the US, but most of the time the US avoided such a situation, either through dumb luck, geography or military skill, pick your poison.

I can think of Bataan as one event where imminent defeat did not equal mass desertion, but I'm not sure its equivalent. I know the US and Filipino troops were on starvation rations, but I don't recall if they were actually starving to death before they surrendered.

In North Africa does Tobruk count? I doubt it, as one time there was a ferocious defense and the other time the surrender was pretty quick, wasn't it?

I may be making the mistake of confusing tactical/strategic defeats vs existential defeats. Can someone edify me?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:00 pm 
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Not that I can recall in the last 120 years or so. Id have to double check the 1872 Frank-German war.

Prior to 1600 or so, I believe it was fairly common, especially close to home. Upon a significant defeat, leave. In the medieval period, this was more reflected in the knights and lower lords taking their levies home rather than individual departure. In the bronze and early iron ages, the rout was almost routine.

Thus the saying that the true test of a General was to keep his army together in a siege and a defeat.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:42 pm 
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Belushi TD wrote:
Are there comparable "imminent defeat = mass desertion" events in other militaries? I can't really think of one for the US, but most of the time the US avoided such a situation, either through dumb luck, geography or military skill, pick your poison.

I can think of Bataan as one event where imminent defeat did not equal mass desertion, but I'm not sure its equivalent. I know the US and Filipino troops were on starvation rations, but I don't recall if they were actually starving to death before they surrendered.

In North Africa does Tobruk count? I doubt it, as one time there was a ferocious defense and the other time the surrender was pretty quick, wasn't it?

I may be making the mistake of confusing tactical/strategic defeats vs existential defeats. Can someone edify me?

Thanks

Belushi TD

Yes, the retreat to Appomattox. Lee had about 60,000 effectives when he evacuated Petersburg. He had 28,000 or so when he surrendered. Most of his units just evaporated when the Union hit them, and could not be reconstituted.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:32 pm 
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Other than the Civil War example mentioned above I think that the nearest the US military has come to collapsing like that was the initial stages of the Korean War. That wasn't mass desertions, but it certainly saw unit cohesion collapse on a very large scale.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:32 pm 
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Johnnie Lyle wrote:
Yes, the retreat to Appomattox. Lee had about 60,000 effectives when he evacuated Petersburg. He had 28,000 or so when he surrendered. Most of his units just evaporated when the Union hit them, and could not be reconstituted.


That sounds the same sort of thing albeit on a much smaller scale. During the "100 days" the German Army went from approx. 4.3 million to 350,000 men, mostly desertions. It's what you say, units evaporating rather than going back into the line. That's why the Germans were in a hurry to get whatever terms they could; they knew very well if they waited any longer there wouldn't be an Army between the French and British and Berlin. Army Group North's retreat from Leningrad seems to be another example. Thinking about it, the common factor seems to be a really long, bloody period of siege warfare followed by a shattering defeat.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:35 pm 
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Would the Russian defeat at Port Arthur count? I don't know enough about that war or time period to be able to offer an opinion.

In fact, I don't think I even know how many surrendered at port Arthur. My guess is between 80 and 100K. But that's not really the same, as it was a siege in a very small area and there was nowhere to run to. What happened to the units on the other side of the Japanese Army?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:44 am 
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Nice to know that Wilson was willing to send Americans to die in Europe in the hope the best result would be deadlock. In other words their deaths would be in vain.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:59 am 
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Bernard Woolley wrote:
Nice to know that Wilson was willing to send Americans to die in Europe in the hope the best result would be deadlock. In other words their deaths would be in vain.

It's not quite as easy as that. Wilson didn't want to send US troops to Europe at all. His grand strategy was to let the European powers exhaust themselves in the war and then dictate his "peace without victors" settlement that would leave all of them gravely weakened. The problem was that his position was drifting steadily apart from that of the public and the consensus in both the House and Senate. In effect, Wilson was going one way while the US Government in tune with public opinion as a marching in the opposite direction. I hate to keep saying this but Tooze covers this rather well although it is very hard work reading Deluge.

Behind all of this is something else. American Grand Strategy is based on the perception that Europe, even a united Europe, is not really a threat to the USA since although it has the potential economic power to rival the US, it lacks the natural advantages (space, size, population, diversity and availability of resources etc etc) to turn that potential power in to reality. Europe, as a rival can be seen as having a position of being a US rival within its reach but not within its grasp.

Russia, on the other hand, is a strategic rival to the US. It has the population, size and the natural resources but lacks the ability to turn its natural advantages into solid reality. Following the example above, we can say that Russia as a rival can be seen as having the position of being a US rival within its grasp but not within its reach.

The big issue comes if Russia and Europe start to come together. Then, with their combination of economic power, population and natural advantages, they would have the ability to rival the USA with its reach and its grasp. Thus, it follows with great clarity that the US grand strategy must always be to keep Russia and Europe apart. That was probably the case from just after the American Civil War and certainly is still the case today. This is also way the idea of the Entente paying (which in 1918 meant the US paying) the German Army to go whooping and hollerin' into Russia (again) is so adorable.

This is the real importance of the Brest-Litovsk treaty. It was the nascent form of the much-feared linkage between Russia and Europe. In its essentials, Brest-Litovsk was the absorption of most of the critical parts of Russia by Germany. If Germany also managed to absorb the most critical parts of Europe, then the formation of a Europe-Russian power block would have been achieved - and worse it would have been achieved under a power-crazed and highly aggressive leadership. The Germans actually managed to confirm this with their 1917 "peace proposals" that were actually a demand for the surrender of the Entente and its acceptance of the extent of German occupation as the new boundaries within Europe. The US Government saw that instantly; Woodrow Wilson predictably did not.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:21 am 
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Belushi TD wrote:
I can think of Bataan as one event where imminent defeat did not equal mass desertion, but I'm not sure its equivalent.


Where would an American on Bataan desert to? There were a few who bugged out, but most of them wound up fighting with the Filipino Guerillas.

It was the same thing in the retreat to Pusan. Entire units bugged out, but there was nowhere to desert to, so they retreated en masse until the perimeter could be set up and reinforced. In WW-I and WW-II, there was no one to reinforce.

There were a lot of mass surrenders on the Western Front in WW-II, as the Germans decided the war was lost, and wanted to surrender to the Americans rather than be captured by the Russians. In view of the ends of WW-I and WW-II, maybe we should be talking about wurst eating German surrender monkeys. But they were better off than than if they had pulled Iwo Jimas, with the same terminal result for their country.

I remember a book by a person who was in the Hitler Jugend for most of the war. At the end, he was a crewman on a flakvierling overlooking Remagen. German troops were retreating through their position, pursued by US troops. They were giving covering fire to the retreating Germans. Their sergeant told them that, when the last German units had retreated through their position, they would destroy their weapon and melt into the crowd. "There will be no Stalingrads, here."

The end stages of failed movements are never pretty.

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