historygeek2021 wrote:So many ad hominems. Let me know when you want to discuss history and not each other.
Apologies. I was busy, was being lazy, and didn't want to discuss the broad issues with the depth and effort necessary to make a point. I'm still hesitant for those reasons but will give it a try.
I'm not clear on what your meta-view of the determinants of military/strategic power are:
- 1. Is it that the bigger GDP is always more powerful? Probably not, but where's the line?
- 2. Is a 50% GDP advantage (or steel/coal/oil) always determinative?
- 3. Is 900% always determinative?
I'd say no to (1) and (2), yes to (3). Depending on where your answer shifts from no to maybe/yes, we could then discuss which non-GDP (or other macro econ stats) also influence war/power, such as:
- A. Geography and, therefore, relative logistical/tactical burden.
- B. Combat effectiveness - all factors bearing on the efficiency of translating production and manpower into battlefield power.
- C. "Warlikeness"
The Axis (and later the Eastern Bloc) had advantages on factors A-C, relative to USA.
A. Geography and, therefore, relative logistical/tactical burden.
The US was far from the battlefield. That shipping is efficient doesn't change the fact that it's an expense born by US but not by continental powers in reaching European battlefields. 8.7% of US production went to merchant shipping (O'Brien). After naval escorts, port facilities, and arming merchant men, total US spending on just getting to the right hemisphere was at least twice that and probably approached 20%.
There was also an essay written by, IIRC, US or UK military pointing out that improvements in rail transport meant that overland empires were no longer at a disadvantage. Anybody recall the cite? This was perhaps when shipping was least efficient, relative to rail, because break-bulk unloading practices were primitive prior to containerization.
Please note that this is NOT an argument about who was "better" at logistics (not for you but this being AHF, one has to preempt flag-waiving juvenilia). It's about who faces a disproportionate geographical/logistical disadvantage.
B. Combat effectiveness - all factors bearing on the efficiency of translating production and manpower into battlefield power.
There are two senses to this broad category: battlefield effectiveness and, basically, tooth/tail ratio.
As you're probably aware, all quantitative analyses of battlefield effectiveness show a German edge over US ranging from 20-50%. The lower ends of those estimates come from1944 when Germany's manpower quality had significantly declined and do not correct for US air superiority.
The tooth/tail ratio relates, IMO, to my next category so I'll address it there.
Basically the US (and UK) fought blood-cheap, material-heavy in WW2. An aversion to large land armies caused adoption of inefficient strategic means; that aversion makes unlikely (and/or too late) any change to a more effective but bloody strategy.
The most prominent example is the emphasis on air power. Given past comments from you (e.g. Germany should have built zero bombers), I take it you agree that air power was an inefficient means of waging war in the 1940's.
Tooth/tail connects to "warlikeness," IMO, because American society was such that soldiers would not be sent into battle absent comfort and provision levels far beyond other countries. This exacerbated our swollen "tail," causing American divisional slices to be ~3x Germany's. The US Army internally bemoaned this dynamic throughout the war and tried to fix it. For whatever reasons (politics, morale, geography), they could not fix it. For all its might, US never has had as many divisions as did France in 1940.
Most controversially for you (I gather from past exchanges) is overall willingness to fight at the political level. Germany, SU, and Japan demonstrated they were willing to spend millions of lives to achieve national goals. US/UK did not so demonstrate. Absence of proof isn't conclusive but postwar American behavior is one good data point: We allowed China/Korea to stalemate us and Vietnam to defeat us, rather than press on amidst greater national sacrifice. In Korea we made peace with an odious regime not far from Hitlerish evil. Was our national character profoundly different in 1952? Doubtful. If anything we were more militarist in '52 than earlier.
Combining all the foregoing factors - geographic penalty, lower combat effectiveness, lower combat proportion (tooth/tail), inefficient strategic means, and lower national commitment to war - would give us an "X" factor translating abstract warmaking potential (GDP and population) into "real" battlefield prowess.
Mulptilying X * (GDP and population) would give us a more sophisticated measure of military power than simply GDP and population.
For clarity of discussion, do you agree that additional non-GDP/population factors (the ones I list and/or others) influence military power?
Having set out a framework for better analyzing military power, we could then look at parameters in different cases (including counterfactual cases).
The labor resources of an Axis-controlled Europe (defeated SU ATL) I've discussed elsewhere
. I posit Axis European GDP being ~70% of the Anglosphere's in ATL 1944, had SU fallen.
Now, you can agree or disagree with that analysis... But if Anglosphere had only a ~50% GDP edge over Axis Europe, would you still find Anglo victory inevitable?
On the factors laid out above (and other reasoning) I don't: US loses ~15-20% of production just getting to Europe, loses ~half of manpower (relative to Germany) due to tooth/tail issues, loses significant prowess by being too air-focused (this being more difficult to quantify).
Taking those factors together, Germany's battlefield strength in ATL Europe is far greater than American on my modified GDP/population analysis.
TMP bookmark: basic framework for GDP->military power analysis