MARS GONE BARMY
You can't win atomic war, says this eminent military strategist. The victor's take would be one gigantic dust bowl—if any victor were left
Maj.-Gen. J. F. C. Fuller
THIS is an age in which man is obsessed by quantities, magnitudes and measurements, and in consequence, the immense, the monstrous, and the prodigious mold his mind. During six years of war he was taught to measure victory in terms of material things—their tonnage or dollarage—until, like Attila, he saw physical destruction as the sole aim in war. Thus, logically, “Unconditional Surrender” became his slogan, admitting of no terms, it compelled annihilation.
Such is the popular framework in which the atomic bomb is set; the newest of the weapons of devastation which, on Aug. 5, “Vaporized”—as the saying goesHiroshima and the bulk of its inhabitants in a fraction of a second. Incidentally—though as yet little
noticed—it also knocked great chunks off Potsdam and San Francisco. And in accomplishing these several things it changed both the face of war and the face of peace.
War, in whatever form it may take, has hitherto and with few exceptions been fought to achieve a more profitable peace than the one it broke. What does profitable mean? The answer depends on the state of society at the time. Should the society be utterly barbarous, as in a primitive hunting community, the military aim is to exterminate the enemy and the political aim to occupy his land. If less barbarous, as in a primitive agricultural community, then the first aim becomes the capture of the enemy—killing being purely incidental and to be avoided—and the second his enslavement. At once it will be seen that in both instances the fundamental cause and aim of war are economic, in the one case the want and winning of hunting fields and in the other of field hands. It has always been so and so it remains: economics are at the bottom of war.
In our existing and highly organized industrial civilization the struggle has progressed a step or two farther. In it the causes of war are raw materials, foreign markets, tariffs, embargoes and favored nation clauses, not forgetting the minus factors— unfavorable trade balances and unemployment. Therefore the aim of war is still the acquisition of wealth. But there is this difference: whereas in an agricultural civilization a country can be rich without trading, in an industrial civilization, the wealth of one nation depends on that of all other nations, as in a community the health of one individual depends on the health of all other individuals. Therefore to obliterate an enemy’s wealth is as foolish as it would be in a slave hunt to kill off the enemy, or in a territorial hunt to fail to occupy the conquered lands.
Winner Take Nothing?
CLEARLY, then, granted that an atomic bomb can win a war, it must also be granted that, in a machine civilization, it cannot win a profitable peace. Even war as a whole cannot do so, unless it is looked upon as a surgical operation and not as mere butchery. Whereas the aim of a surgeon is to cut out a tumor, etc., (causes of war) at the least loss in blood and vitality (wealth) to his patient (enemy), the aim of a butcher is to kill an animal (enemy) as quickly as possible in order to get all blood and vitality out of it. But should the butcher slaughter his stock in such a way that good mutton and beef are vaporized into molecules, rightly he would be certified insane, because the result (victory) would be not porterhouse steak (a profitable peace) but a meat famine (an unprofitable one). Yet, metaphorically speaking, this is the very position the world faces today.
Had statesmen only consulted Clausewitz, of whose work 10% is still pure gold, they could not have fallen into what I will call the Churehillian error of mistaking military means for political ends. For Clausewitz war to the statesman and war to the soldier are different things. For the former, “War is a continuation of state policy by other means”; for the latter, “War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.” In the case of one, war is a “continuation of political commerce,” and in the other the “destruction of the enemy’s military forces is the object of all combats.” Though these aspects of war are complementary , their respective aims are antagonistic. That of the first is moderation; that of the second is violence. Therefore, should the second eclipse the first, it will cease to be its instrument and instead become its master, and a return to the moderation which peace demands will become impossible.
Clausewitz wrote: “The subordination of the
military point of view to the political is, therefore, the only thing which is possible.”
Until 1914‘British military policy w;fs based on this subordination, and up to then all Britain’s wars, from the days of Cromwell, were fought to preserve the balance of power and to prevent any single continental nation establishing a hegemony over Europe. Therefore England allied herself to the second strongest, or to a group of powers. Her war aim was not to annihilate the strongest, because that would permanently have upset the balance, but instead to reduce the strength of the strongest to whatever point she deemed would re-establish the balance, and when that point was reached to negotiate peace.
In the first world war the annihilation of Germany as a military power was substituted for the maintenance of the balance of power, and, in order to complete this aim, once the Allied blockade had compelled capitulation, a peace of economic ruin was imposed on her. This unwisdom, coupled with a return to the gold standard, led to a world economic collapse in 1929-1931, out of which Hitler and the Nazi system emerged.
No sooner was Hitler in power than he broke away from gold and based Germany’s finance on production and her foreign trade on a subsidized barter system. These innovations were so successful that it became clearly apparent to the gold standard nations that their own financial and economic systems would eventually be ruined if the Germans continued on this course.
For instance, on Dec. 2, 1938, the Rt. Hon. R. S. Hudson, Secretary for British Overseas Trade, stated: “Her (Germany’s) methods are destroying trade and are unsettling conditions throughout the world. They must be countered.”
Fearing economic encirclement, Hitler accelerated his Lebensraum policy, the aim of which was to establish a German economic hegemony in Europe. As this struck directly at British and American foreign trade, a clash was inevitable, and in September, 1939, it came, for on the first of that month Hitler invaded Poland. As his policy was to establish a German Isebensraum, it logically followed that his military aim was to overrun Europe, not only as rapidly as he could, but at the least economic damage to his enemies. In contradistinction to this policy, from May 1, 1940, onward, Mr. Churchill’s was purely a military and therefore a destructive one, for his aim wus the annihilation of Hitler and Germany.
Next Hitler turned upon Russia in order to complete his economic aim before the United States officially entered the war. He failed in his attempt, and by July, 1943, when Italy collapsed, it was clearly apparent to his enemies that he had lost the war. Had Mr. Churchill been a Chatham, he would have then negotiated peace on the terms that Germany abandon all her conquests, and doubly so would he have done this because by then it was also equally apparent that to continue the policy of annihilation could only lead to the establishment of a Russian hegemony in lieu of a German. But unfortunately for Britain and the world in general the military aim of “Unconditional Surrender,” adopted at Casablanca in January, 1943, stood as an unscalable precipice to this piece of political sanity. Thus it came about that from then onward the political point of view was extinguished by the military, and, in consequence, destruction as a means became the end itself.
Throughout, the point, to note is that destruction as a war aim is in itself a political negation, because a war policy to be profitable must be creative or at least constructive. Yet NO obwsHed were the Allied Powers by destruction as the one and only aim in war that from the moment the first atomic bomb exploded they and their respective |»copies could not see that its destructiveness was so prodigious that a war based on it could in no circumstances be subordinated to any conceivable san«1 political point of view. In fact, total war, which was never fully waged in Germany, but throughout by the Allied Powers, and more particularly by Great Britain and the United States, was by atomic energy reduced to as absurd a position as that of the insane butcher whose means of slaughter vaporized his beef and mutton.
Old Lessons Forgotten
WAS this an unprecedented situation1' Not at all.
Not only had Attila proved its falsity, but so also had the Thirty Years' War. In that insane ideological conflict —“Better a desert than a people ruled by heretics” —the devastation wrought by the armed rabbles which surged over central Europe was, comparatively speaking, certainly equal to the destruction effected in the recent war by Allied bombers. In 1648 did this mean that pure vandalism as the aim in war had come to stay? Not to our late 17th and early 18th century ancestors, because they realized that unless the senseless horrors and ravagings of war were restricted by rules, as the crimes of peace are by laws, civilized society must flounder. What, then, did they do? They restricted fighting to highly trained armies led by aristocrats, and prohibited the common folk taking part in war on their own. Further they replaced pillage by depots and drew up rules of war which were adhered to until the outbreak of the French Revolution. They laid down, too, that “neither justice nor right, nor any of the great passions that move a people should be mixed up with wars,” because the bullet is no answer to an idea, and should it be considered an answer then there could be no termination to a war other than mutual ruin.
Is equal wisdom possible in the present age of propaganda-fed masses? That is so unlikely that it may forthwith be dismissed, for destruction as the aim of war is so firmly embedded in man’s emotions that no reasoning is likely to dislodge it. This is confirmed by the most
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popular justification for the use of the atomic bomb—namely, that it saved the lives of Americans by destroying the lives of Japanese, as if saving and destroying lives were aims of war: if so, why go to war at all? Clearly, if a war could be won without any damage to life and property, the easier would it be for the victor to establish peace on whatever terms he desired. Peace, and not saving or taking life, is the aim of war.
Among the suggestions made to control the manufacture and use of the new weapon, the most popular, and therefore the most irrational, is that civilization can only he prevented from committing suicide by handing the invention over to an international authority with sole powers to manufacture it. But there is no such superstate, nor is there likely to he one for years to come if ever. For instance, is it rational to suppose that the United States would agree to scrap her existing atomic plants and hand all uranium over to such a world power, and is it likely that Russia will agree to forego experimentation in the production of atomic energy — now the greatest potential prime mover in the world?
Such grasping at straws by a world drowning in its own emotionalism is utterly fantastic. Instead, what may be expected is that hence onward uranium, now the most essential raw material in war, will be fought for by the nations, as in the past they have fought for gold, iron, coal and oil. Therefore it may be accepted that so long as greed for material things dominates the lives of men peace is likely to last just long enough for the nations to recover from the recent war and prepare for the next one.
Accepting this likelihood, what are the probable influences (he atomic bond) will exert on war and existing fighting organizations?
To begin with: what of the bomb itself? On reliable authority we have been informed that the bomb can eventually be made “a thousand times as powerful (as it now is) . . . if only a few per cent of atomic mass can be converted into energy instead of the present 0.1',.” Tins would make the bombs’ blasting power equal to that of 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. and therefore makes any form of war ot her than a war of nerves completely ridiculous.
It is clear that the recent war is already as out of date as the Peloponnesian, and that so long as the aim of war remains destruct ion every military, naval and air quantity today must be relegated to the scrap heap. For in a war of laboratories what place is there for navies, armies and air forces; for conscription or voluntary service; for tanks, flame throwers and bazookas; for fortifications, defended frontiers and strategic railways; for military academies, schools and staff colleges, and for generals, admirals and air marshals, because in war there will be only one policy and one means -
BLAST!— and very few men.
Yet in what may be called “Clausewitzian warfare”—that is, in conflicts in which war is “a continuation of political commerce”—it is clear that the atomic bomb is so destructive that few situations could or would warrant its use. To repel the aggressor the defender will have to blast his own country into smithereens, and once the defender is annihilated all the aggressor will win isa dust bowl.
Nevertheless, in this pronouncedly amoral age. I think I am right in excluding even a fainthearted return to the wisdom of Clausewitz, let alone
to the limiting of war as practiced by j our J Bí h century ancestors and their medieval forebears. F ven were rules of war elaborated and sworn to by the nation of today, would any single I one trust the rest? Certainly not; therefore,’ in spite of their affirmations and ratifications, all would either secretly or openly prepare to wage the war they adjured, and on the sacred principle of self-defense launch it.
War in the Void
Instead of cities being walled in, as I happened in the Viking age, whole ¡ countries will be girt about by radar sets, ceaselessly “listening in” for the first jazz note of the broadcast of devastation. In the vicinity of these i instruments will be hidden away two tactical organizations of atom-charged and propelled rockets the one offen¡ sive and the other defensive. The first will be ranged on every great foreign I city in the world, because before the war is launched to declare it would he j sheer madness no single nation will j know who among the rest is its true j enemy. The second organization will ! be directed by the radar sets, and so soon as they signal a flight of offensive j rockets speeding toward them, the defensive rockets will automatically be released by radar, to speed into the heavens and burst, like depth charges, in whatever cubic space in the stratosphere radar decides the enemy’s offensive rockets will enter.
Then, hundreds of miles above the surface of the earth, completely noiseless battles will be fought between blast and counterblast. Now and again an invader will get through, and up will go London, Montreal or New York in vapor, and as nobody will know what is happening above or : beyond, or be certain who is fighting I whom, lot alone what for, the war will ; go on in a kind of bellicose perpetual j motion until the last laboratory explodes. Then, should any life be left [ on earth, undoubtedly a conference will hi* held to decide who was victor and who was vanquished, the latter being forthwith liquidated by the former as war criminals.
At the moment, this picture of Mars gone barmy is as good as any other. Yet the point to note in it is that it. does not matter how atomic wars are fought, for what matters is that as all nations will be prepared to iigbt t hem for t he small will then be as puissant as the large this potentiality will dangle like t he sword of Damocles oxer the world's head. Its thread may ; be cut wilfully, but. on account, of the tension in which all nations will be living, it is far more likely to be severed accidentally; perhaps a maniac may press the button, or a defectivi' fuse set the whole thing going. What, then, is to be done about this cataclysmic though as yet—fortunately ; hypot het ical future?
Before I turn to this problem, let us ! suppose that I am entirely wrong, and that by some little suspected magic a superstate is created to brood over the atomic eggs; will then the sword of Damocles be relegated to the scrap heap? “Yes,” should these Fillers of Zion, or whatever they call themselves, eliminate the economic causes of war, and “no,” should they fail to do so, because, generally speaking, foreign wars are waged in order to prevent these causes leading to internal revolutions and civil wars. All that j will have happened is that one type of conflict will be exchanged for another
a type universally accepted as the worst. Instead of the human world blowing up like one immense volcano, it will be shaken to pieces by an unending series of disruptive social earth¡
quakes, in which knuckle-dusters, ! tommy guns, razor blades and blackjacks will prove more practical if not so immediately devastating as atomicbombs. In fact, a state of affairs may i arise in which wars of atomic bombs will be looked upon as a blessing rather than a curse.
The truth is that, in spite of six ! years of shameful warfare, the beast in man has been so little tamed that, instead of setting forth to free his civilization from the economic diseases which precipitated the war, man, like a demented surgeon, is now once again busily engaged in binding up these I poisons in the war wounds. Here is an j example, out. of many, of this inverted surgery.
Recently the Foreign Trade Sub! committee of the U. S. Department of j Commerce pointed out that as the j United States now possess half the I world’s industrial capacity, in order to ! maintain full employment, $10 billions ! worth of goods must be exported. Rut i that, as the American foreign market is only capable of absorbing $7 billions worth of imports, an export surplus of $3 billions worth will remain.
As this surplus will represent not an exchange of goods but instead a source I of employment in the United States, clearly it must result in an equivalent source of unemployment in the foreign countries which receive these goods. And as those countries will have to be lent the price of the goods in order to purchase them, they will not merely I have workers thrown into unemploy! ment (out of purchasing power) hut will l>e put into unpayable debt to the ; United States.
As this form of usury was one of the main causes of the recent war. it cannot fail to be one of the main causes
of the next. Is then wardom, for that is what present civilization really is, indefinitely to continue?
Too Rich to Fight
Not necessarily, because the atomicbomb points to a way outno1 in making war impossible, but in making the economics of wardom ridiculous. 1 low is this magic to be performed?
The answer is as clear as sunlight. It is that because the atom has now been split the secret of solar energy is man’s, and though its first, use was to destroy, inevitably greed and want will, sooner or later, impel it to create. For if a few ounces of uranium can demolish a great city, a ton or two can build 20,000.
Soon a time will come when atomicenergy will be harnessed, because, as Mr. Stimson has recently informed us. scientists have already discovered means of “releasing atomic energy in regulated amounts” that is, other than explosive. Already they can change some elements into other elements. Therefore the day is likely to dawn when they will he able to change all elements into other elements and thereby give to humanity not only unlimited power of locomotion but also every imaginable material thing.
When the age of total abundance becomes a fact, what place will there be in it for gold standards, loans, debts, foreign markets, tariff’s, embargoes, full employment and all the magic of the age of snatch and grab? Every nation will have everything it wants at so low a price in human labor that the garden of the Hesperides will no longer he a myth but a reality. The dragon of toil will have been slain by the newborn Hercules the Mighty Atom