Sunday, October 02, 2005

Clash of the Titans

As most people know, I'm a pretty big WWII history buff. The whole military and historical scope of those 6 brief years in the early half of the 20th century have left an endelable mark on American society. Something on the order of 66 million people were killed as Hitler and Tojo unleashed a wave of destruction across Europe and Asia. Of all the militaries engaged in the titanic struggle, the Soviet Red Army suffered a toll that is utterly incomprehensible and totally dwarfs any other countries losses. Brad DeLong copies a chart from the book When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler that has accounted for all the Red Army's losses during 4 years of nightmarish battles against the Nazis. The final total: KIA/MIA - 10,008,434 and the wounded or sick - 18,190,693. To be clear that these numbers don't even begin to take into account the civilian losses (around 20 million by themselves). Simply unbelievable. Rightists tend to ignore these numbers as it somehow conflicts with their vehement anti-communist beliefs and leftists praise the numbers to the hilt and ignore all the horrors committed by the USSR because they long for its resurrection.

Those numbers only tell one part of the story though. Josef Stalin had most of the competent officer corp of the Red Army killed and thereby wiped out most of the knowledgable leadership. Stalin also instituted the same no retreat policy that Hitler had ordered and thus hundreds of thousands of troops were needlessly killed whenever the Germans encircled and cut them off. Stalin's policies of send infantry batallions with only rifles against Germans with tanks and heavy artillery would have been grounds for a war crimes tribunal. It's clear that because Stalin's Soviet Union was a totalitarian system, he was capable of doing far more than any Western leader would have even considered. Is there any wonder that during the Battle of Berlin, a great majority of Nazis sought out the Americans in order to surrender to because they knew they'd be treated humanely, whereas they would have certainly been raped, tortured and killed at the hands of the Soviets.