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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Looks that way to me

In a column earlier this year titled  Days of Future Past  Jonah Goldberg included this:
All around the world, authoritarianism of one bent or another is in vogue. From Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt to Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the Communist party’s China, statism is an idea whose time has come, again. “Over the past few months,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote recently, “we’ve seen the beginning of a global battle of regimes, an intellectual contest between centralized authoritarian capitalism and decentralized liberal democratic capitalism.”

Of course, the yearning for authoritarianism is ancient. I would argue that it is baked into the human condition, which is why it must be constantly fought. But even this latest outbreak did not just emerge ex nihilo over the last few months. The heavy intellectual work has been done in plain view for years (indeed, I offer something of a survey of such impulses in my 2008 book Liberal Fascism). How many columns has Thomas Friedman written extolling the superiority of the Chinese way? “There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy,” Friedman has written, “and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.”

How many times has Barack Obama, Friedman’s most influential reader, invoked China’s economic planning as something we need to emulate? How many remoras of the Leviathan have offered similar encomiums to statism? “The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model — so successful in the 20th century — is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century,” declared former SEIU president Andy Stern in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.

Again, this is nothing new. Similar sentences were written countless times in the 20th century, insisting that the free-market fundamentalism of the 19th century was being thrown onto the same trash heap. Anne Morrow Lindbergh famously coined the phrase “wave of the future” to describe the inevitability of collectivism in 1940. The lesson here is not that history proved them wrong, because history doesn’t do anything. They were proved wrong because people proved them wrong.

That is the lesson to take away: The wave of the future isn’t a wave at all, but an eternal tide that champions of freedom must fight against, constantly. For if they stop, even briefly, the tide will push them back to the shores of the natural human condition, and the state of nature is not liberal-democratic capitalism but tribal, thuggish authoritarianism. On this point Orban was absolutely right. “The point of the future is that anything can happen,” he said. “That means it could easily be that our time will come.”
 
In another column title  Freedom  he made the point: 
It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding. (emphasis mine)

Blogger Bird Dog at Maggie's Farm  excerpted the following from Klaven  
Whatever its pretensions, whatever its claims, statism — progressivism, leftism, socialism — is based on the idea that a small elite intelligentsia can run your life better than you can. They know how to spend your money. They know how to educate your children. They know how to run your health care. They know how to protect you from yourself.

You do not have to talk to a statist very long before he will profess an intense dislike, distrust and even fear of ordinary people. Ordinary people spend money on what they want (TV’s restaurants and cars) rather than what the elite know they ought to want (aluminum foil climate change reversers). Ordinary people teach their children that God created the world rather than a random pattern of mathematic realities that came into being through another random pattern that came…  well, the elite know: it’s random patterns all the way down! Ordinary people will give jobs and business to those who earn them rather than those the elite, in their greater understanding, know are historically deserving because of past oppression. And so on.

Now, of course, with the very elite of the elite running the country, we find that — what do you know? — this statism dodge doesn’t really work all that well. And there are two reasons for this. The first is that the statist premise is wrong. In fact, ordinary people left at liberty to do as they will are actually better at running their lives and businesses and country than the geniuses in Washington. Central planning works great in the imaginations of the elite, but in the real world…  not so much.

And the second problem is that the elite are stupid. No, really. They’re educated and sophisticated and they dress well and speak well. They may even have high IQs. But in the immortal words of Forrest Gump’s mother: “Stupid is as stupid does.” And the elite are stupid.

 Even though I have plenty of friends who would consider themselves part of the elite, the ideas expressed above nail it!

51 comments:

Peter said...

Of course, the yearning for authoritarianism is ancient. I would argue that it is baked into the human condition

That's certainly very different than the belief that the yearning for freedom lies beating in the heart of people the world over and that we should be doing what we can to liberate them from the shackles of tyrants and despots. It's also far removed from what the likes of George Bush and Natan Sharansky were saying a decade ago.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

Please, don't point out such inconsistencies between discourse and practice we've been witnessing these years. It'll ruin all those nice arguments.


I also share the sharp condemnation of tribalism that Howard endorses in this piece. Yet, looking back on previous arguments here at GGW, I can point out at least one example of tribalism being endorsed: any criticism of Israel gets flogged. For entirely tribal reasons, I suspect.

erp said...

Thanks Howard. My horoscope said something would make me smile today.

Freedom is addictive. Once you taste it, you aren't satisfied with anything else.

Clovis, really? Israel = tribalism. Are you confusing modern day Israel with the biblical 12 tribes?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

If you polish a bit your text interpretation skills, you'll see that I implied "unwillingness to accept criticism" = "tribalism".

erp said...

Sorry your comment makes no sense other than the usual anti-Semitism.

Tribalism does not mean unwillingness to accept criticism and in fact, of all the Middle East, only Israel is the opposite of tribal embracing as it does people of all races, faiths and ethnicities.

Clovis e Adri said...

Already playing the anti-Semitic card, Erp?

Thanks for promptly proving my point, I knew I could always count on you.

Howard said...

erp,

Glad I could add some sunshine to your day.

Peter,

Not all, but many people would like to be free, but aren't willing to pay the price.


Regarding Israel, for a long time I took a fair-minded approach, criticizing when appropriate. After Arafat rejected a pretty good offer, I was less prone to condemn Israel. (Arafat admitted that if he accepted the deal he would have been assassinated by more radical elements -what a small price to pay for a chance at peace.) Now political correctness has many people automatically framing every incident in the oppressed/oppressor perspective. That inclines me to reframe things as civilized vs barbaric. A few years ago I started asking critics of Israel what other nation lives under constant threat of annihilation from sworn enemies. That usually gives them pause. I will return to a more even handed approach when more of the world wakes up. At the least, that will require the death of PC.

erp said...

Clovis, See Howard's comment above... and explain tribalism when only Israel of the entire Middle East welcomes people of all religions and races... and yes, you can always count on me to call 'em like I see 'em.

Anti-Semitism is the only thing that makes sense in your comment. It's very trendy now everywhere and probably Xanudu is no different.

Harry Eagar said...

Orban, no lefty, has declared that the time of liberal democracy is past and something along the line of Russia's strong state is the future.

While you may be on to something regarding authoritarianism (I'll withhold endorsement), you are badly confused if you think it is a feature of the Left.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Mr. Eagar

Authoritarianism is the entire point of the "Left", to be the authority that tells people what to do, what to buy, how to live.

Harry Eagar said...

Really? When Jeane Kirkpatricl said the US should distinguish between despotic and authoritarian regimes and support the authoritarian ones, she was trying to get her boss, Reagan, to go left?

erp said...

Authoritarian and despotic are synonyms. The difference, like beauty, lies only in the eye of the beholder.

Clovis e Adri said...

Howard,

Thanks for the honest answer.

I take from it that you withhold speaking your truest views due to the acts of others. Is it that much different from the Arafat act you mention?

Harry Eagar said...

I agree completely, erp. It was the dictator-lover Kirkpatrick and her dictator-loving boss Reagan who went to such pains to tell Americans there was a difference.

You really should have been paying attention. America is a much more interesting place if you pay attention.

erp said...

When you make a comment that makes sense, I sure will pay attention, it'll be such a shock.

Harry Eagar said...

'Freedom' as endorsed by American rightists looks rather different if you are on the receiving end.

Over the last century and a quarter, the only period during which the US was more or less consistent in supporting freedom elsewhere was 1933-45.

I suppose erp doesn't know who Kirkpatrick was. She was more honest about supporting dictators than any other public figure except Kissinger. Neither of them regard themselves or are regarded by anybody else as collectivists or leftists.

It is bizarre to complain about elites in a democracy.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Mr. Eagar;

Ah, another answer of "squirrel!".

the only period during which the US was more or less consistent in supporting freedom elsewhere was 1933-45

You think the Potsdam agreement was supporting freedom? Hmmm, on second though, you probably do think handing over eastern Europe to the uSSR was supporting freedom. I had forgotten we were using Eagar-speak. Nevermind!

Harry Eagar said...

It wasn't ours to hand over. Russia defeated Germany, with minor help from us. We were mighty late to antinazism, thanks mostly to rightwingers.

Since 1945, the US has almost entirely supported dictatorships.

erp said...

Harry, just for my own edification, why in your world is nazism bad but communism good?

Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, an array of communist despots in Africa, Asia and Latin America killed and enslaved multitudes more people than Hitler and if the Soviets defeated Germany practically single-handedly, why did Frankie contrive to force the American people to agree to jump in to defend Stalin when Hitler attacked. It’s widely believed that U.S. intelligence knew about the Japanese plan to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Had Hitler not marched on the Russias, the Axis would have followed their game plan, Germany could have concentrated on western Europe; Russia on eastern Europe; Japan in Asia and then probably destroyed each other fighting it out for king of the hill, thereby saving the lives of tens of thousands of our heroes and kept all our treasure for ourselves. Of course, a lot of furriners would have died, but then a lot died anyway – no harm, no foul.

We did save some of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan and left the rest of world to the gentle ministrations of communists with the predictable results. As for us, our home-grown fifth column would have taken us into the Soviet sphere in a bloodless coup as they almost did anyway – thanks Ronnie.

Seventy years later, communism having proven itself totally corrupt and unworkable, the left is championing Islam, even more inimitable to human life and … wait for it … blaming the Jews!!!!

What is it about you lefties that you are so enamored of brutality? It’s really laughable that you Harry claim to mourn for the cruel treatment of slaves in southern plantations in the U.S. as depicted in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and can’t let it go even after 150 years and tens of thousands of lives lost in the Civil War, and trillions in reparations but find fault only with Christians – that’s the definition of rightwinger you can’t quite spell out – whom you hate with such an overweening passion.

You must have had one heck of childhood!

Harry Eagar said...

When did I ever say Stalinism was good? Never.

Roosevelt and Churchill thought, and I agree, that Germany was a threat to international order because of its aggression, while Russia was not.

The nations of eastern Europe were all rightwing fascist dictatorships before the curtain went up in 1939 (except for Yugoslavia for about a week in 1941 and the medieval principality of Zog) and they would all have been rightwing fascist dictatorships afterward if it hadn't been for the Red Army (except Finland).

We know this because of the 5 eastern countries that were not occupied by the Red Army, 2 became rightwing fascist dictatorships, 1 became a leftwing fascist dictatorship and 1 wanted to revert to naziism.

Why do people like you favor rightwing dictatorships and endless atrocities?

Annoying Old Guy said...

We were mighty late to antinazism, thanks mostly to rightwingers.

No, it was the American Left that was pro-Nazi until 1941. The Right was far more about isolationism.

It wasn't ours to hand over

That is, the USA was being realistic in coming to terms with brutal foreign dictatorial regimes, not being "more or less consistent in supporting freedom elsewhere". I see.

Harry Eagar said...

erp is that stupid, but you are being disingenuous. The independent left was antinazi from the get-go, the stalinist left was antinazi except for 18 months.

The right was pronazi through and through. So much so that McCarthy was able to make political hay with pronaziism as late as 1949.

As for eastern Europe, Russia had the world's biggest and most powerful army. And who would we have fought for? There weren't any democrats east of the Elbe.

Then there was this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/us/in-cold-war-us-spy-agencies-used-1000-nazis.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

erp said...

... firstly, I believe you are answering aog's comment, not mine. Second time in recent days you've made that mistake. I hesitate to take credit for his comments as he's far better informed and articulate than I, but I do thank you for the compliment.

Stalin was pro-nazi long enough for him to get Frankie to get us into the war to defeat his enemy. Churchill was in the line of fire, we weren't.

BTW - was Stalin's army the biggest and bestest in the same way that Soviet production, food distribution system, economy, innovation, science, space program ... was the biggest and the bestest? How about its toothpaste supply? Just asking? :-)

BTW2 - NYT links are no-go's. I already know too much about its propaganda to voluntarily look for more.

Bret said...

Howard wrote: "Not all, but many people would like to be free, but aren't willing to pay the price."

Over my last decade of observing it now looks to me to be more a "freedom for me, but not for thee" sort of attitude and "if freedom for me requires freedom for thee forget it."

In fact, I think the vast majority of the populace thinks freedom is a bad thing or at least doesn't have much value. I think that most people prefer security and predictability far more than freedom.

Harry Eagar said...

Bret, are you going as Orrin this Halloween?

I'd agree with you mostly and note that it was the left that opposed colonies and the right that set them up, so, yeah, there were plenty of people who thought that freedom for other people was a silly idea.

erp, look at it this way. In summer 1944, the western allies in France and the Red Army's Second Belorussian Front each was opposed by about 45 German divisions. By the end of the year, the Germans in the west had withdrawn in good order behind strong defensive lines. In the east, 30 of the 45 German divisions were destroyed so completely that to this day nobody knows what happened to them.

And the Second Belorussian Front was much less than half the Red Army.

Stalin beat Hitler without any help from us, some from Britain (but not much) and a crucial sacrifice by the Serbs.

erp said...

That's certainly the conventional wisdom, but the CW was also that the Soviets were on par with us when Reagan pushed the envelope and we learned different.

erp said...

Harry, what right set up which colonies?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret wrote:

"I think that most people prefer security and predictability far more than freedom."

That's probably true if by security you include basic survival things.

It is a modern delusion to believe otherwise. Throughout history, free spirits were usually regarded as exceptions.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I don't really want to defend Stalin here, but the Russians did lose far too many millions of their own to defeat Hitler. It is sad to see you denying their role in WWII. Given your age, you should know better.

erp said...

I do know better. I'm not denying that Russians died, only that they defeated Hitler single-handedly.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

That depends on defining terms that both you and Harry didn't define.

Had the Russians much direct support from the West? No.

Would they ever defeat Germany alone in one-to-one? I'd bet my money on "no!", but that's an alternative history best left for someone as good as Ken Follet.

erp said...

The left is far more inventive than Ken Follett in rewriting history. The CW is that the Soviets defeated Hitler, but I remember the shape of the Russian soldiers after the war and they didn't look like victorious warriors. We actually knew soldiers returning from the war who, you know, to quote Harry, "actually were there and knew what was what."

Bret said...

I've always rather doubted that Hitler could've sustained a victory against Russia and the Russian winter. Eventually, the Russians would've beat the Germans even with no help from anyone else, in my opinion, though it might of taken many years or even decades. It's hard to hold vast, inhospitable tracts of land for long stretches of time/

The only people able to defeat the Russians are the Russians themselves and they are oh-so-good at it.

erp said...

Bret, agreed. I don't think Hitler could have defeated and occupied Russia. Winning victories isn't the same as defeating a vast territory.

My best friend in grade school’s family came to NY from Germany because her father had some specialized skill needed for a job and stayed when the war started. Even though they were very anti-nazi, they were treated abominably by the neighbors and her mother didn’t leave the house for years. It was disgraceful. The only people who were kind to her were the Orthodox Jews in the area.

After the war, they heard from their relatives in Germany what was what, especially about the Russians and their terrible cruelty and the privations of the people.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Mr. Eagar;

As for eastern Europe, Russia had the world's biggest and most powerful army. And who would we have fought for? There weren't any democrats east of the Elbe.

That is, the USA was being realistic in coming to terms with brutal foreign dictatorial regimes, not being "more or less consistent in supporting freedom elsewhere". Your point is that it is acceptable to temper such support with political realities is understood. I'll be sure to note this in the future.

Clovis;

Had the Russians much direct support from the West? No.

Incorrect. The Russian war effort would have collapsed without material aid from the West. See here for a start.

erp said...

Let's be accurate. First of all, it was a Soviet army, led by Soviets, not Russians and one of things most reported by returning soldiers were the condition of Soviet soldiers. They were unshod, starving and in rags. Another reason for the massive losses as reported at the time, now lost in historical revisionism, is the savagery of the battles -- take no prisoners wasn't a punch line in a joke -- and famine.

Harry Eagar said...

As General Georg Thomas, the head of the economics department of the OKW, tried to tell the High Command before the invasion, Germany could take only a million casualties before it would be unable to replace losses.

The millionth casualty in Russia occurred in September 1941. Russia had won, it remained only to grind out the conclusion.

The United states had nothing to do with it.

erp said...

Harry, on planet Earth, it ain't over 'till it's over and when it was over the Soviets were on their knees. Without us on the western front, they would have been cut off at the knees many months (years) earlier. They had the excess people to spare, but were very low on supplies.

Sorry to break it to you but, even though Soviets they were very caring bosses and polite to their workers and said please and thank you, their production techniques didn't quite make the grade.

Bummer.

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter:] That's certainly very different than the belief that the yearning for freedom lies beating in the heart of people the world over …


[Harry:] When Jeane Kirkpatricl said the US should distinguish between [totalitarian] and authoritarian regimes and support the authoritarian ones, she was trying to get her boss, Reagan, to go left?

FIFY.

What is it with you and uncaused effects?

Russia defeated Germany, with minor help from us.

erp is that stupid …

Considering how often you trot out assertions that are transparently false, irrelevant, or deceptive, and your perfect record of "squirrel" every time you are called out, you really need to learn some humility.

[Harry:] erp, look at it this way. In summer 1944, the western allies in France and the Red Army's Second Belorussian Front each was opposed by about 45 German divisions …

Harry, look at it this way. In the years preceding Barbarossa, Stalin had much of his professional officer corps killed. In the weeks preceding Barbarossa, Stalin ignored detailed warnings of the impending Nazi invasion. In fighting the German invasion, Stalin utterly failed to understand the nature of his strategic position, and take advantage of it.

So, it is indeed true that, ultimately and at great cost, the Soviet Army prevailed. But it took a great deal of murderous incompetence to not have crushed Barbarossa at the outset.

[Harry:] The millionth casualty in Russia occurred in September 1941. Russia had won, it remained only to grind out the conclusion.

Clearly, you haven't given a moment's thought to how things would have turned out differently had the Nazis developed a nuclear bomb in the much greater time it would have taken for the Soviets to beat Hitler, if not for a massive diversion of resources to the Western front.

Peter said...

The millionth casualty in Russia occurred in September 1941. Russia had won, it remained only to grind out the conclusion.



Harry, seeing as there were only 250,000 German casualties in all theatres between June and September 1941, I assume you are including Russian dead, which kind of undermines your point. Should we consider Stalingrad and Kursk as mopping up operations?

Harry Eagar said...

Wayward link, but Overy says a million by September and other printed sources as well.

As for Skipper's worries about a German A-bomb, Germany wasn't ever going to make one. It didn't have the industrial capacity and in particular it did not have the only supply of naturally rich ore that the Allies bought up.

Hooray for capitalism.

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry,

---
As for Skipper's worries about a German A-bomb, Germany wasn't ever going to make one.
---
Sorry but I beg to disagree .

They had far less people and resources on this than Manhattan project, so Skipper is right that, had they not to fight the West, they could have arrived at the Bomb before anyone else.

In fact, Heisenberg - that famous Physicist you've probably heard about before - was the chief of their atomic project. He explicitly recommended an energy reactor based atomic project - instead of one focused on bombs - due the his belief that the war effort would not allow him the necessary resources.

It is a most fortuitous coincidence that a genius like Heisenberg made one of the biggest mistakes of his career at this point: he calculated the critical mass necessary for a bomb with an order of magnitude of error. Had he done the right calculation, he would have realized that even within the War, the Bomb was possible. I wonder if Ken Follet will ever write that alternative history...

erp said...

Maybe it wasn't a mistake?

Harry Eagar said...

Heisenberg was always cagey about his position, but the most thorough investigation concluded that he probably stayed where he was in order to prevent Hitler from getting a bomb; but wouldn't admit that because of his nationalistic feelings.

However that may be, there was one, and only one, supply of very high 235 ore (over 20 times richer than the Czech ore Germany had access to, and the Allies bought it. That shortened the time to the uranium bomb by, probably, years.

I do not believe Germany could have made a plutonium bomb.

(We can maybe estimate the time gained by having the rich African ore by the delay the Russians had using their ordinary ore -- about 4 years.)

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry & Erp,

That's one of those unknowables, but the version I find more credible points to Heisenberg's mistake (ans yes, it was really a mistake in the hypotheses he used in a technical calculation) being the main thing to influence him.

Had he believed he'd need more like 10kg of critical mass, instead of 100kg, he could be a lot more tempted to try it.

---
I do not believe Germany could have made a plutonium bomb.
---
I do believe you greatly underestimate them.

Heisenberg was locked up in a wholly wired up Farm in England with the other German scientists involved in the atomic project. All their conversations were being taped by the British secret service. So they purposefully introduced a radio in the house so they could hear the news about the bomb, right when it was dropped in Japan.

It took one day for Heisenberg to reproduce all the main aspects of the bomb, from material production to assembling lines. He gave a lecture to every one in the house a few days later, the transcript is a wonderful thing to behold. It is a master class, from a master genius, and you need to be very naive to think they were as behind as you believe.

erp said...

Harry, why do you use the word, Russian, when describing the Soviets? Are you no longer proud of their achievements in the fields of fairness, income redistribution, population control, etc.?

erp said...

Clovis, Heisenberg was also known to have warned Jewish friends and colleagues to leave the country while they could.

After the fact, he of course was free to show off his intellect when it didn't matter. It's not impossible for anyone to make a simple mistake, but one that momentous and at such a critical time might defy credulity.

Harry Eagar said...

I use Russian because the defeat of Germany was accomplished by an army of Great Russians (according to Overy, but since you don't read history you wouldn't know that).

Clovis, I suspect the 'error' was likely a confabulation cooked up by Heisenberg to cover his twin goals of being an actual obstacle to nazi ambitions and maintaining his status as a German nationalist.

It does not matter how good the Germans' theory was, they did not have enough electricity to make a plutonium or an uranium bomb. Fuel was short for all purposes.

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry,

---
It does not matter how good the Germans' theory was, they did not have enough electricity to make a plutonium or an uranium bomb. Fuel was short for all purposes.
---
But then you forget this started as an exercise in alternative history. The initial question was who would win if it was Germany against Russia alone.

Had the Germans not to deal with dominating almost all of Europe, their efforts to defeat Russia would be much more concentrated. Resources wouldn't be scarce. And contrary to Russia, they did have enough good people to make the Bomb happen.


---
Clovis, I suspect the 'error' was likely a confabulation cooked up by Heisenberg
---
Yeah, you give the same wild guess as Erp's. You both are wrong.

I am taking it from some deep and far away place of my memory, but if I well remember Heisenberg's error was due to a mistaken boundary condition in solving the neutron's diffusion equation: he took the boundary condition as air, instead of a reflector for neutrons to bounce back. That's really a honest mistake, not an error you do on purporse. In fact, no one was checking his calculations for that, he was the sole man in charge of giving his verdict.

Let me try it in more mundane words: Heisenberg did his calculations assuming a ball of fissile material being ignited in open air. But what you need to make the bomb is to achieve the critical density where you have neutrons enough splitting other neutrons before they go away. So it is much smarter to place something to reflect neutrons back to the source to help that happen. When you do so, you get 10 times less critical mass necessary for the bomb.

See, it is less an error of calculation and more of project idealization. The kind of thing that - had the Germans more time and resources, coming from not fighting the whole world at the same time - would be easily adjusted while they tried to achieve the bomb.

Harry Eagar said...

I don't consider that the initial question was, who would win if it was Germany against Russia alone. We know who won, and when: Russia.

Russia was not quite alone. If the Germans had had another month of dry weather, they could likely have reached Moscow, and the lesson of the civil war was that controlling Moscow was the key to controlling the country.

Germany didn't get dry weather because it took time out to crush the Serbs. It did not have to do that but it choose to. There was no strategic purpose, only political, as Hitler reacted poorly to defiance and felt that for political reasons he could not let Mussolini suffer a reverse.

On such choices empires rise and fall.

I have a bit of a hard time imagining Heisenberg imagining a sphere of U235 in air. It is easier to imagine him crafting a plausible story that would fool most of the people most of the time.



Harry Eagar said...

For what it's worth, Thomas Powers' 'Heisenberg's War' is part of the basis of my judgment of Heisenberg's notions; plus the consideration (which Powers does not really address) that Heisenberg never showed any of the naziphile tendencies of some of the other German nobelists like Lenard.

The stuff about Germany's economic capacities comes from no one source.