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 » 02 Jul 2021 19:03

historygeek2021 wrote:
Then we're agreed that American ascendance was inevitable and none of the European powers stood a chance.
To the same extent that Jonathan Swift endorsed eating Irish babies.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 02 Jul 2021 20:50

steel.png
oil.png
Short of an alien space bat invasion, there is no plausible ATL in which America does not become the dominant global power in the 20th century.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 02 Jul 2021 21:27

historygeek2021 wrote:Short of an alien space bat invasion
+100 points for unlocking AHF groupthink level 2.

For level 3 you have to post pictures of knocked-out Tiger tanks, DESTROYING the myth of German invincibility (finally).
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KDF33
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by KDF33 » 03 Jul 2021 05:15

historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 20:50
Short of an alien space bat invasion, there is no plausible ATL in which America does not become the dominant global power in the 20th century.
What do you mean by 'dominant'?

If you imply the level of power it accrued post-1945, I think that is extremely contingent.
historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 16:40
Actually I'm gonna go with 1776. Once America became independent, all the old European powers were doomed to becoming subservient to American interests.
Why?

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 03 Jul 2021 06:17

KDF33 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 05:15
historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 20:50
Short of an alien space bat invasion, there is no plausible ATL in which America does not become the dominant global power in the 20th century.
What do you mean by 'dominant'?

If you imply the level of power it accrued post-1945, I think that is extremely contingent.
historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 16:40
Actually I'm gonna go with 1776. Once America became independent, all the old European powers were doomed to becoming subservient to American interests.
Why?
Because America's material resources and industrial output dwarfed that of the rest of the world, as I showed above. The only thing holding America back was its own political will or lack thereof to expand and dominate. But seeing as America was already going to war against continents on the other side of the ocean within a few decades of its founding, it's clear that will has always been there and just needed tapping. With America poking its nose everywhere it could, it was only a matter of time before a spark ignited America's ingrained popular militarism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimonoseki_campaign

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by KDF33 » 03 Jul 2021 07:16

historygeek2021 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 06:17
Because America's material resources and industrial output dwarfed that of the rest of the world, as I showed above.
I don't believe you showed that. You showed two tables, both for 1943: the one for steel production is plainly wrong, whereas the one for oil production, although IMO plausible, doesn't lead to the conclusion that America was bound to 'dominate'.

Besides, one could pick another year and get a completely different picture. If we compare the U.S. with the USSR in 1960, for instance, we get:

United States: 90,067,000 tons of steel and 7,035,000 barrels of crude per day
Soviet Union: 65,294,000 tons of steel and 2,972,000 barrels of crude per day

Or 1970:

United States: 119,309,000 tons of steel and 9,637,000 barrels of crude per day
Soviet Union: 116,000,000 tons of steel and 7,089,000 barrels of crude per day
historygeek2021 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 06:17
The only thing holding America back was its own political will or lack thereof to expand and dominate.
It is extremely difficult for any single country to 'dominate' to the extent you seem to have in mind. Even at its peak, U.S. dominance was dependent on the collaboration of its allies.

As for expansion, the U.S. had plenty of will for it, as its continental conquest illustrates. Transcontinental expansion, however, was and is still an altogether harder proposition. WWII presented the U.S. with a unique opportunity to establish a long-term major presence outside of the Americas.
historygeek2021 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 06:17
But seeing as America was already going to war against continents on the other side of the ocean within a few decades of its founding, it's clear that will has always been there and just needed tapping. With America poking its nose everywhere it could, it was only a matter of time before a spark ignited America's ingrained popular militarism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimonoseki_campaign
Putting aside the question of whether or not the U.S. had any 'ingrained popular militarism', the matter is less an issue of will than of distance, power projection and, ultimately, finite material capabilities.

Also, treating as 'wars against continents' operations against pirates as well as feudal Japan, both of which were limited to sending a few ships on a campaign in partnership with European powers, is incomprehensible to me.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 03 Jul 2021 11:47

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 12:55
Avalancheon wrote:If Germany acquired future information in early 1944, it wouldn't help them that much. They would still lose the war in all likelihood. But if they acquired future information in early 1941, then that would completely change the equation. They would almost certainly be able to leverage their knowledge enough to score a decisive victory.
On brief reflection, I see that your point is a lot deeper than I initially thought. Please excuse my reflexively dull initial take.
No worrys. We're all friends here :)
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.
Precisely. Germanys odds of winning the war decreased fairly steadily as the war went on from 1941, although there were dips and peaks. Their fate was determined largely on the Eastern front, with the strategic bombing campaigns and battle of the Atlantic playing a less significant role. Germanys odds of victory went up after Kiev 41', down after Moscow 41', up after Khrakov 42', way down after Stalingrad 43', and down again after Kursk 43'. Most reasonable historians would agree with this, perhaps with some quibbles. There are some die-hard fanatics who would argue that Germany had no chance of victory at all, and that their odds thus never fluctuated from beginning to end.

If the Nazis get access to future information in 1941, they only need to make a few correct decisions in order to put themselves on the path to victory. But if they don't get that future information until 1942, then their window of opportunity has shrunk, and they need to make more correct decisions in order to stay on the victory path. The Germans margin of error shrinks with every year the war goes on, until it crosses a certain point where no number of decisions they make can change their fate.

As for the specifics on how they can improve their odds of victory... A national war effort can be thought of in terms of front lines, and rear areas. On the front lines are where the war is actually fought: This is where tactics and operations determine the outcome of battles, and strategy determines the outcome of campaigns. In the rear areas are where the actions needed to sustain the war effort happen: This is the realm of foreign relations, domestic policy, monetary policy, war production, research and development, propaganda, etc.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
02 Jul 2021 12:55
Do you have a verdict on the thought experiment? I don't. I lean towards believing the feasibility window for Germany closes no later than June '41 when they invade the SU with fatuous planning and preparation but am open to arguments that the window was open into mid-'42.
David Glantz made a very good observation about the course of the war on the Eastern front. His summation was like this: Moscow determined that Germany would not win the war. Stalingrad determined that Germany would lose the war. And Kursk determined how quickly they would lose. I find alot of favour with his argument, but only within the confines of normal history. If you go into the realm of speculative fiction and introduce crazy stuff like time travel, then that changes the equation radically. Information is a massive force multiplier, and future information is the most valuable information of all. It provides the benefit of hindsight, to know about the direction that history takes.


I have been developing a work of alternate history set in WW2 that involves time travel. In it, the Nazis receive huge amounts of information in the form of books and microfilm, but nothing else besides that. No weapons, no technology, no personnel, nothing. Just information.

The point of departure is in April of 1941, when Adolf Hitler is visited by time travelers on his command train, the Amerika. I already have it fleshed out into an entire story with dozens of chapters. I have wanted to share it here on AxisHistory, but its settings seems to violate the rules for the 'what if' forum. [] Kindof a pity, I'd really like to get a chance for the posters on AHF to review it...

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by Avalancheon » 03 Jul 2021 13:01

historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 20:50
steel.png

oil.png
These figures are wrong, especially for the oil production. The figures for steel production are misleading: Germany had occupied France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, etc. So their production gets added to the German total.

We know the true resource production of the WW2 combatants. Here is is from The Economics of World War II, by Mark Harrison.

Steel production, 1943
Germany: 30.6 million tons. Italy: 1.7 million tons. Japan: 8.8 million tons.
United States: 82.2 million tons. Britain: 13.3 million tons. Russia: 8.5 million tons.

Oil production, 1943
Germany: 8.9 million tons. Italy: 0.01 million tons. Japan: 1.04 million tons.
United States: 199.6 million tons. Britain: 15.8 million tons. Russia: 18.0 million tons.
historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Jul 2021 20:50
Short of an alien space bat invasion, there is no plausible ATL in which America does not become the dominant global power in the 20th century.
Sure there is. Just have Germany win either WW1 or WW2. That provides a very significant counter-weight to the United States. It would ensure that Europe remains a viable competitor for the throne of world hedgemon.

Britain foolishly believed that they could maintain their status as a great power forever, even without the backing of continental Europe. This was willful stupidity, as history has shown. Their policy of keeping Europe weak and divided, and going to war against any continental bloc was self-defeating. The British were too obsessed with the possibility that they could be invaded.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 03 Jul 2021 14:31

historygeek2021 wrote: America's material resources and industrial output dwarfed that of the rest of the world, as I showed above.
In the past you've rolled your eyes at the mere mention of Youtube; now a single (blatantly wrong and misleading) Youtube graphic resolves all geopolitical questions.

What gives? In recent months you've been posting good, balanced analysis. Suddenly you're back to the most simplistic take I can imagine about WW2.

If war were a matter of simply looking at GDP tables, Germany stood no chance against France and the British Empire (not to mention Poland) in '39-'40.

If WW2 is really so uninteresting as you portray, why so much academic and other discussion of it and why do you participate in it?

I have to take this reductionism as a hiccup.
KDF33 wrote:It is extremely difficult for any single country to 'dominate' to the extent you seem to have in mind.
I too am flabbergasted by HG's contentions here. Postwar USA was stalemated by China, defeated by Vietnam, bullied by SU into abandoning Eastern Europe, lost "soft power" competition in India. It was hardly an uncontested hegemon.

An Axis Europe would have been a far greater competitor to USA than was the Eastern Bloc, which Germany massively weakened in WW2. Had Germany defeated the SU, America is opposing basically the Eastern Bloc plus nearly all of Europe.

HG apparently grew up (as did I) in the highly anomalous post-SU moment when American power was at its relative apogee; he projects this formative experience backwards 80 years. Even that moment was less triumphalist than we were told at the time.

HG21 - As you're once again open to Youtube, and seem to favor Adam Tooze, this lecture on American power in the 20th Century (and beyond) is a much more refined view than the one fed to us as kids.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 03 Jul 2021 15:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 03 Jul 2021 15:08

Avalancheon wrote:David Glantz made a very good observation about the course of the war on the Eastern front. His summation was like this: Moscow determined that Germany would not win the war. Stalingrad determined that Germany would lose the war. And Kursk determined how quickly they would lose.
I recall that Glantz quote too, can't remember from where. Glantz contradicts that view in explicit counterfactual analysis of Eastern Front scenarios in one chapter of If the Allies had Fallen, writing:
While there was still art in battle, in the end strength, will, instinct, and sheer power prevailed, rendering virtually all “what ifs” largely superfluous.
Glantz's writing in that book is painfully superficial. He considers numerous scenarios (Moscow September 41, Moscow 42, unsplit Blau) but, despite pointing to economic/demographic factors as dominant, nowhere notices that different Soviet territorial losses imply different Soviet economics and demographics. It's as if he never noticed that Barbarossa's territorial losses caused a ~40% decline in Soviet GDP.

It's also odd to cite "will" as a decisive factor in the East. While the Soviet peoples deserve endless praise for enduring probably the worst war ever, only one side saw literally millions of its people help the enemy, with thousands actively taking up arms with them. Only one side saw millions of PoW (prior to final collapse), including hundreds of thousands who weren't encircled.

Glantz has done great service digging through Soviet archives for English readers - and great disservice by taking a Soviet/Putinesque line on RKKA qualitative factors.
Avalancheon wrote:I have been developing a work of alternate history set in WW2 that involves time travel.
De gustibus non est disputandum but I prefer sticking to counterfactuals in linear time. I'd still be interested to read your work for the military analysis, will just have to translate the sci-fi stuff into my own dull terms. :)
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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 03 Jul 2021 16:38

KDF33 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 07:16

I don't believe you showed that. You showed two tables, both for 1943: the one for steel production is plainly wrong, whereas the one for oil production, although IMO plausible, doesn't lead to the conclusion that America was bound to 'dominate'.

Besides, one could pick another year and get a completely different picture. If we compare the U.S. with the USSR in 1960, for instance, we get:

United States: 90,067,000 tons of steel and 7,035,000 barrels of crude per day
Soviet Union: 65,294,000 tons of steel and 2,972,000 barrels of crude per day

Or 1970:

United States: 119,309,000 tons of steel and 9,637,000 barrels of crude per day
Soviet Union: 116,000,000 tons of steel and 7,089,000 barrels of crude per day
Sources?

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 03 Jul 2021 16:40

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
03 Jul 2021 14:31
historygeek2021 wrote: America's material resources and industrial output dwarfed that of the rest of the world, as I showed above.
In the past you've rolled your eyes at the mere mention of Youtube; now a single (blatantly wrong and misleading) Youtube graphic resolves all geopolitical questions.

What gives? In recent months you've been posting good, balanced analysis. Suddenly you're back to the most simplistic take I can imagine about WW2.

If war were a matter of simply looking at GDP tables, Germany stood no chance against France and the British Empire (not to mention Poland) in '39-'40.

If WW2 is really so uninteresting as you portray, why so much academic and other discussion of it and why do you participate in it?

I have to take this reductionism as a hiccup.
KDF33 wrote:It is extremely difficult for any single country to 'dominate' to the extent you seem to have in mind.
I too am flabbergasted by HG's contentions here. Postwar USA was stalemated by China, defeated by Vietnam, bullied by SU into abandoning Eastern Europe, lost "soft power" competition in India. It was hardly an uncontested hegemon.

An Axis Europe would have been a far greater competitor to USA than was the Eastern Bloc, which Germany massively weakened in WW2. Had Germany defeated the SU, America is opposing basically the Eastern Bloc plus nearly all of Europe.

HG apparently grew up (as did I) in the highly anomalous post-SU moment when American power was at its relative apogee; he projects this formative experience backwards 80 years. Even that moment was less triumphalist than we were told at the time.

HG21 - As you're once again open to Youtube, and seem to favor Adam Tooze, this lecture on American power in the 20th Century (and beyond) is a much more refined view than the one fed to us as kids.
So many ad hominems. Let me know when you want to discuss history and not each other.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 03 Jul 2021 16:54

Avalancheon wrote:
03 Jul 2021 13:01

These figures are wrong, especially for the oil production. The figures for steel production are misleading: Germany had occupied France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Poland, etc. So their production gets added to the German total.

We know the true resource production of the WW2 combatants. Here is is from The Economics of World War II, by Mark Harrison.

Steel production, 1943
Germany: 30.6 million tons. Italy: 1.7 million tons. Japan: 8.8 million tons.
United States: 82.2 million tons. Britain: 13.3 million tons. Russia: 8.5 million tons.

Oil production, 1943
Germany: 8.9 million tons. Italy: 0.01 million tons. Japan: 1.04 million tons.
United States: 199.6 million tons. Britain: 15.8 million tons. Russia: 18.0 million tons.
The ratios are basically the same as in the charts I provided. The United States dominated in both categories, as it did in basically everything else.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by KDF33 » 03 Jul 2021 17:33

historygeek2021 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 16:38
Sources?
Data for steel (both countries) comes from the Correlates of War project. Data for U.S. crude is from the U.S. energy administration, as reported here. Data for Soviet crude is from the following peer-reviewed article: 'Oil and Soviet Policy in the Middle East'.

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Re: Alternative history and its science fiction derivatives

Post by historygeek2021 » 03 Jul 2021 18:06

KDF33 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 17:33
historygeek2021 wrote:
03 Jul 2021 16:38
Sources?
Data for steel (both countries) comes from the Correlates of War project. Data for U.S. crude is from the U.S. energy administration, as reported here. Data for Soviet crude is from the following peer-reviewed article: 'Oil and Soviet Policy in the Middle East'.
Thanks. Where specifically in the Correlates of War website can we find the steel data? There are a lot of links and I'm having trouble navigating them.

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