Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
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TheMarcksPlan
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 04 Jul 2021 07:28

KDF33 wrote:I meant
Yeah just TMP riffing on a KDF theme.

---------------------------

On the theme of greater combat manpower generally, and its relation to combat power...

I've been trying to develop a framework for analyzing combat power vs. manpower and material, such as here.

The basic idea seems straightforward and sort of obvious to me: material production has diminishing marginal returns to combat power, holding manpower constant (in land warfare). WW2 armored div equipment, for example, cost ~5x as much as Inf.div equipment but armored divisions aren't worth 5 infantry divisions each. The same concept would go for increased logistical support (beyond a minimum to ensure basic survival and mobility) because the 101st shell fired generally has lower marginal value than the 100th, and so on. Likewise fuel for maneuvers that you need to do is more valuable than fuel for everything you'd like, ideally, to do.

Oil is particular instance of diminishing marginal returns. That the Allies had ~80x the oil resources of Axis certainly didn't equate to 80x the combat power (just imagine conquering 80 Germany's). The 1,000th hour of pilot training isn't getting you a pilot twice as good as one with 500 hours.

To determine where a nation/military is, broadly speaking, on the marginal returns curve, we'd have to look at combat munitions (and other supplies) per soldier. Harrison gives rough figures per soldier in Resource Mobilization for World War 2:

Image

So Germany was always at higher points on the marginal returns curve than its opponents (except SU towards the end). This makes intuitive sense: it's easy to see another 1,000 tanks being a big deal in Barbarossa, very difficult to see those tanks changing the war's course if given to the Allies in, say, 1943.

By contrast, US soldiers had 3-6x as much weaponry per soldier (and similar numbers of soldiers) but, again, try to imagine the US conquering 3-6 Germany's at once. Obviously it saw diminishing returns to all that weaponry.

A lot WW2 economic reductionism ignores or fails to recognize diminishing marginal returns. Philips O'Brien and, e.g., historygeek seem simply to equate production/GDP and combat power. I've listed other reasons why that's not true above, held off on raising the marginal returns issue to do something else and because folks don't seem to pick it up when I raise it.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 17:46

The original question I responded to in this thread was this:
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 12:55

As I read it, you're doing a thought experiment that would, as one output, ascertain the moment when contingency disappears from the outcome-based narrative of WW2: If the Germans make a few more correct decisions in 41 they win; by 44 they lose even if they make all the correct decisions. Somewhere in between is a point where German victory requires such comprehensively correct decisionmaking that, even if victory is analytically possible, it's infeasible as a matter of general human fallibility.
My answer was that as soon as U.S. involvement as a belligerent became inevitable, Germany's fate was sealed. In some sense, we can see U.S. involvement becoming likely as far back as 1914 or even 1776, but that's an unnecessary distraction, since you aren't positing that Germany makes correct diplomatic choices that avoid war with the United States. Rather, you believe that Germany could have made correct military choices that would have allowed it to survive indefinitely in a war against the United States, assuming, as you've previously stated, that the United States does not use nuclear weapons.

This really just comes down to 2 threads we've gone in endless circles over in the past: (1) can Germany completely knock the Soviet Union out of the war by an "early enough" date in order to (2) survive an air war against Britain and the United States. We've discussed both issues at length previously, so I don't see the point of going through it all over again here.

Without getting into those two questions, my initial answer was based on the overwhelming material and industrial advantages of the United States, giving the example of its dominance by several orders of magnitude in two critical resources, steel and oil, and subsequently supplemented by additional information showing its dominance, combined with the British Empire, in every other category of raw material necessary for prosecuting the war. Ellis' databook shows that the United States was able to translate this advantage in raw materials and industry into vastly superior output in every category of weapons during the war. Thus, I don't see the need to formulate an equation or model that attempts to calculate the relative combat power of each belligerent, nor do I think such models have much utility. It isn't necessary because we know that the military power of the United States dwarfed that of Germany. And I don't think such models have much utility because they are an oversimplification of the type of real data that I presented in this thread. There is no need for models when we have real numbers showing U.S. dominance in every single category.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 04 Jul 2021 18:28

historygeek2021 wrote:nor do I think such models have much utility. It isn't necessary because we know that the military power of the United States dwarfed that of Germany.
I don't need to consider other arguments because I know I'm right.

...which is fine but also why I was hesitant to respond. But it was a productive exercise, bookmarked for future reference and development.

It's just odd - your confidence in American infallibility given the US president's opinion, shared by all his generals (see signature).

Ah well. Happy 4th! Spending it with folks who include my Grandpa, who shipped off to fight the Nazis. And grandma, who still worships MacArthur and helped feed Filipino guerillas.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 18:52

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 18:28

I don't need to consider other arguments because I know I'm right.
I don't make these little quips at you or other posters. Please cut it out and just discuss history.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 04 Jul 2021 19:43

historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 18:52
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 18:28

I don't need to consider other arguments because I know I'm right.
I don't make these little quips at you or other posters. Please cut it out and just discuss history.


It is an accurate summary of your position, With which I find no inherent fault. I have not for instance considered every possible argument that the world is flat, yet I know it is not. I know I am right I don't want to hear further arguments.

You believe that GDP determines that the US would always prevail in any conflict with Germany. You find that the issues my arguments and/or models address have already been resolved by looking at the GDP tables. To deny This is akin to denying that the world is round - It's just that self Evident.

That is fine. We all need to stop an argument somewhere.This is where you do so.

Happy 4th
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 19:48

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 19:43
historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 18:52
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 18:28

I don't need to consider other arguments because I know I'm right.
I don't make these little quips at you or other posters. Please cut it out and just discuss history.


It is an accurate summary of your position, With which I find no inherent fault.
No, it's not. Paraphrasing someone as "I don't need to consider other arguments because I know I'm right" is disrespectful and insulting. Your continued insistence on discussing the other poster and not the subject matter of the thread poisons and disrupts too many threads on this forum.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by paulrward » 04 Jul 2021 20:11

Hello All ;

Mr. TheMarcksPlan stated :
You believe that GDP determines that the US would always prevail in any conflict with
Germany. You find that the issues my arguments and/or models address have already been
resolved by looking at the GDP tables. To deny This is akin to denying that the world is round -
It's just that self Evident.
While it is certainly true that, in a long, protracted war, the nation which has a larger disposable
GDP will have a significant advantage, there have been many cases where a smaller, more
competent nation with a lesser GDP has succeeded in defeating a larger, wealthier nation.

In the latter part of the 18th century, 13 small, relatively unpopulated colonies with almost no
industrial base succeeded, with the help of allies, in defeating Great Britain.

In 1904-1906, Japan essentially beat Russia like a government mule in a two year war that
involved four major naval victories, a successful siege, and a large land battle, all of which
were defeats for Russia. This was despite that fact that Russia had a GDP almost three times
the size of Japan's.

Finally, in the 1950s-1970s, VietNam defeated first France, and then the United States,
Australia, and Korea in a war that lasted more than two decades. Anyone want to
compare GDP sizes ?

If a nation has a well equipped, well trained, and motivated army, it can often be victorious.
If it is opposed by forces that are armed with weapons supplied by the lowest bidding, highest
bribing contractor, who are poorly trained conscripts, and whose only motivation is to avoid being
sent to prison, the smaller nation can even win a long, protracted war.

Respectfully :

Paul R. Ward

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

Rudyard Kipling
Information not shared, is information lost
Voices that are banned, are voices who cannot share information....
Discussions that are silenced, are discussions that will occur elsewhere !

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 04 Jul 2021 20:26

historygeek2021 wrote:Thus, I don't see the need to formulate an equation or model that attempts to calculate the relative combat power of each belligerent... because we know that the military power of the United States dwarfed that of Germany
This is the specific statement I'm addressing.

My model relates to how to measure military power, argues that US's is lower than Germany's in certain conditions. You say it's unnecessary because we already know the answer to the question the model purports to address, and in all cases.

That is either a statement that you don't want even to consider the model (again, fine) or it's circular reasoning.

Why circular? Because you're responding to an argument challenging the premises underlying your conclusion with a statement that the conclusion is correct, which you then use to rebut challenges to your premises. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Rather than go through the tedious task of unfurling circular logic, I made the IMO more generous assumption that you simply wanted to end the argument.

As for "addressing the poster..."

Pointing out logical flaws - or the logical implications of one's statements - is essential to any intellectual discussion. It's a sign of respect to assume the other can take intellectual critique for intellectual critique. It's the exact opposite of posters before ideas - ideas take precedence over feelings. That's also a sign of respect for another's ability to put ideas first; my feelings would be more hurt to be treated otherwise. I prefer to be told when my reasoning is flawed or I've missed something entailed by my statements.

Is that a standard everyone meets always, including me? Of course not. But it should be the goal.

‐---------

Note that I was trying to disengage from this argument and grant you space to assume I'm a flat-earther for agreeing with FDR that our victory over Germany depended on the SU.

Happy 4th
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 20:41

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 20:26
historygeek2021 wrote:Thus, I don't see the need to formulate an equation or model that attempts to calculate the relative combat power of each belligerent... because we know that the military power of the United States dwarfed that of Germany
This is the specific statement I'm addressing.

My model relates to how to measure military power, argues that US's is lower than Germany's in certain conditions. You say it's unnecessary because we already know the answer to the question the model purports to address, and in all cases.

That is either a statement that you don't want even to consider the model (again, fine) or it's circular reasoning.

Why circular? Because you're responding to an argument challenging the premises underlying your conclusion with a statement that the conclusion is correct, which you then use to rebut challenges to your premises. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

Rather than go through the tedious task of unfurling circular logic, I made the IMO more generous assumption that you simply wanted to end the argument.

As for "addressing the poster..."

Pointing out logical flaws - or the logical implications of one's statements - is essential to any intellectual discussion. It's a sign of respect to assume the other can take intellectual critique for intellectual critique. It's the exact opposite of posters before ideas - ideas take precedence over feelings. That's also a sign of respect for another's ability to put ideas first; my feelings would be more hurt to be treated otherwise. I prefer to be told when my reasoning is flawed or I've missed something entailed by my statements.

Is that a standard everyone meets always, including me? Of course not. But it should be the goal.

‐---------

Note that I was trying to disengage from this argument and grant you space to assume I'm a flat-earther for agreeing with FDR that our victory over Germany depended on the SU.

Happy 4th
Instead of writing about rules of logic that we all know, you could just defend your model and provide reasons for its utility, just as I provided reasons for its lack of utility. If you want to walk away from an argument, don't leave an insulting quip as you do so.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 20:56

paulrward wrote:
04 Jul 2021 20:11

While it is certainly true that, in a long, protracted war, the nation which has a larger disposable
GDP will have a significant advantage, there have been many cases where a smaller, more
competent nation with a lesser GDP has succeeded in defeating a larger, wealthier nation.

In the latter part of the 18th century, 13 small, relatively unpopulated colonies with almost no
industrial base succeeded, with the help of allies, in defeating Great Britain.

In 1904-1906, Japan essentially beat Russia like a government mule in a two year war that
involved four major naval victories, a successful siege, and a large land battle, all of which
were defeats for Russia. This was despite that fact that Russia had a GDP almost three times
the size of Japan's.

Finally, in the 1950s-1970s, VietNam defeated first France, and then the United States,
Australia, and Korea in a war that lasted more than two decades. Anyone want to
compare GDP sizes ?

If a nation has a well equipped, well trained, and motivated army, it can often be victorious.
If it is opposed by forces that are armed with weapons supplied by the lowest bidding, highest
bribing contractor, who are poorly trained conscripts, and whose only motivation is to avoid being
sent to prison, the smaller nation can even win a long, protracted war.
I didn't cite GDP. I cited output of raw materials and industrial goods. GDP is an economic abstraction that takes into account, among other things, services. Looking at the details of material output, as I did, rather than rely on an overall abstraction, gives a better picture of economic and military capabilities.

Obviously there are other factors at play in war besides raw physical output. The examples you gave rely on a combination of extreme distance (given the capabilities of the countries at the time) and lack of political will. The Revolutionary War was deeply unpopular in Britain and largely forced upon the country by the king. It was also at a time before the power of industrialization completely dominated wars, as was the case by WW2. Likewise, the war against Japan was unpopular in Russia, which was contending with domestic revolution, and whatever material advantage Russia had, it was not large enough to overcome the annihilation of its forces in battle. By WW2, the Soviet Union's industrialization was so far more advanced that it could survive the repeated annihilation of its forces in battle.

Vietnam was mainly a lack of political will, combined with material aid from the Soviet Union and China. Political will in the United States was so weak that it never even invaded North Vietnam.

Thus, WW2 is distinguishable from all of these conflicts. Industrialization had changed the nature of war from what it was in 1776 or even 1904, and there was overwhelming popular support to rid the world of the Nazis.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by KDF33 » 04 Jul 2021 21:00

historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 17:46
There is no need for models when we have real numbers showing U.S. dominance in every single category.
As I see it, the problem here lays in treating the 'outputs' of the respective belligerents as a given, rather than for what they are, that is a reflection of the distribution of inputs.

Germany, like the Soviet Union, but quite unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, allocated a disproportionate share of its manpower to its armed forces. From various sources, I've created a comparison between non-agricultural workforces of the U.S. and Germany, without and with their respective militaries. German figures include permanent casualties, whereas those for the U.S. don't, but then U.S. permanent casualties were negligible before mid-1944.

Mid-year, Germany / U.S., without military:

1942: 24,065,000 / 42,300,000 = 57%
1943: 25,226,000 / 43,600,000 = 58%
1944: 24,646,000 / 43,600,000 = 57%

Mid-year, Germany / U.S., with military:

1942: 33,691,733 / 45,200,000 = 75%
1943: 37,602,394 / 51,900,000 = 73%
1944: 38,611,414 / 54,500,000 = 71%

Had Germany structured its war effort along U.S. lines, here is what its non-agricultural civilian workforce would have been:

Mid-year, hypothetical German non-agricultural civilian workforce (difference with historical figures):

1942: 31,530,095 (+ 7,465,095)
1943: 31,588,909 (+ 6,362,909)
1944: 30,889,131 (+ 6,243,131)

For reference's sake, in mid-1944 the entire transport/energy/basic materials/metalworking nexus of Germany, of which a significant fraction was still geared toward civilian production, employed a total of 10,335,000 workers.

My question: had Germany structured its war effort along those lines, do you think the gap between U.S. and German production would have significantly narrowed or stayed the same?
historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 17:46
Without getting into those two questions
Precisely because those two questions are intimately tied to how the U.S. and Germany structured their war efforts, they cannot be ignored.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 Jul 2021 21:22

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 20:26
grant you space to assume I'm a flat-earther for agreeing with FDR that our victory over Germany depended on the SU.
Other folks, on the other hand, might reasonably agree with that other well-known Allied leader who wrote to the Australian Prime Minister on 12 December 1941 that the accession of the United States as a ‘full war partner makes amends for all and makes the end certain’.

He also wrote though that:
Victory is traditionally elusive. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made. Sometimes right things turn out wrong and wrong things turn out right. War is very difficult, especially to those who are taking part in it or conducting it.
Not something that many What-if threads seem to take sufficient account of in my humble opinion but hindsight is a wonderful thing for excessive counter-factual certainty.

Anyway, happy Independence Day to all our US colleagues on AHF. :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 04 Jul 2021 23:22

historygeek2021 wrote:defend your model and provide reasons for its utility,
Honestly what is the defense against a circular argument except to point out circularity? The substantive points have already been made. And ignored. Which is fine!

So much effort to portray me as a big meanie. I'm a nerd who likes to nerd out about economics, history, and logic.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 23:24

KDF33 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 21:00
historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 17:46
There is no need for models when we have real numbers showing U.S. dominance in every single category.
As I see it, the problem here lays in treating the 'outputs' of the respective belligerents as a given, rather than for what they are, that is a reflection of the distribution of inputs.

Germany, like the Soviet Union, but quite unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, allocated a disproportionate share of its manpower to its armed forces. From various sources, I've created a comparison between non-agricultural workforces of the U.S. and Germany, without and with their respective militaries. German figures include permanent casualties, whereas those for the U.S. don't, but then U.S. permanent casualties were negligible before mid-1944.

Mid-year, Germany / U.S., without military:

1942: 24,065,000 / 42,300,000 = 57%
1943: 25,226,000 / 43,600,000 = 58%
1944: 24,646,000 / 43,600,000 = 57%

Mid-year, Germany / U.S., with military:

1942: 33,691,733 / 45,200,000 = 75%
1943: 37,602,394 / 51,900,000 = 73%
1944: 38,611,414 / 54,500,000 = 71%

Had Germany structured its war effort along U.S. lines, here is what its non-agricultural civilian workforce would have been:

Mid-year, hypothetical German non-agricultural civilian workforce (difference with historical figures):

1942: 31,530,095 (+ 7,465,095)
1943: 31,588,909 (+ 6,362,909)
1944: 30,889,131 (+ 6,243,131)

For reference's sake, in mid-1944 the entire transport/energy/basic materials/metalworking nexus of Germany, of which a significant fraction was still geared toward civilian production, employed a total of 10,335,000 workers.

My question: had Germany structured its war effort along those lines, do you think the gap between U.S. and German production would have significantly narrowed or stayed the same?
historygeek2021 wrote:
04 Jul 2021 17:46
Without getting into those two questions
Precisely because those two questions are intimately tied to how the U.S. and Germany structured their war efforts, they cannot be ignored.
What are your sources? USSBS gives Germany's pre-war non-agricultural labor force as 30.25 million (male and female combined). How do you get from that to the numbers you listed? What source are you using for the U.S. labor force?

Note that, per USSBS, only 11.2 million Germans were employed in industry prior to the war.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id= ... 1up&seq=41

Let me know if you have a good source for industrial employment in the United States.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 04 Jul 2021 23:27

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
04 Jul 2021 23:22
historygeek2021 wrote:defend your model and provide reasons for its utility,
Honestly what is the defense against a circular argument except to point out circularity? The substantive points have already been made. And ignored. Which is fine!

So much effort to portray me as a big meanie. I'm a nerd who likes to nerd out about economics, history, and logic.
99% of internet arguments consist of people accusing each other of logical fallacies. Let's drop it and get back to discussing history.

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