Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why did Japan lose the World War II?

I dont know how I got interested in military strategy. But I picked up a book on it Wizards of Armageddon and out came a couple of gems of strategy-related thought.

In the Sixties the pattern of military thought was abolute retaliation in case of an attack. US generals thought of nothing beyond an all-out attack on USSR if war broke out. And that does seem to be a good idea. Promise all out retaliation in the hope the opponent gets deterred. And even if he as much as start a war, have complete retaliation. This was the idea until Bernard Brodie came along.

He framed the situation like this. USSR attacks a certain US base. US retaliates in toto, indulging in carpet bombing. But if USSR manages to hide even one atomic bomb and then uses it on US, it will be US who suffers. A retaliation mis-match would imply an escalated war and citizens of both nations lose through actions of belligerent generals.

The way out was to have a limited war. If USSR attacks a military base of US, then US should attack a few military bases in return, but not indulge in complete retaliation of wiping out all bases or bombing USSR cities. For if US inflicted large-scale damage on USSR, then USSR would have nothing to lose by going all out against US. In the final run, US will lose. The idea is to retaliate just enough to show the consequences of an "unlimited war" and yet at the same time not to push USSR to the brink. Neotiating through such a "limited war" and not "killing the hostage" will save the US nation from certain suicide.

At the same time one should signal the presence of a large Reserve Force that can be protected from surprise war attacks and that could signal effective retaliation. But the very act of building up a huge reserve force may force the opponent to attack. Also having a huge atomic/ hydrogen bomb base will do nothing to deter an enemey from a micro-war for nations definitely dont want to use atomic bombs for a border conflict. That means having a huge Army on the ground to stave off non-nuclear attacks.

And so the thought process went on ... till Vietnam happened where all this fancy strategising went for a toss. The enemy was not one monolithic rational thinking entity but citizen-guerillas. Then the interconnections between development and security became clear. That security was not primarily a military issue but also stemmed from development issues.

The other interesting one is about Japan in WWII!

Why did Japan quit in the WWII? Hiroshima and Nagaski got bombed. Seems simple. Actually the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did little to puncture Japan's military might and US had already exhausted its two atom bombs. So why did Japan quit?

Apparently because Japan did not know that US had finished its stock of two atomic bombs. This information gap was crucial for Japan to fear further atomic bomb attacks and quit the war. Actually this may seem obvious but I just thought it may be a good example of incomplete information.

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