Politics: the gap between official statements and reality- Analysis of a meeting between Hitler and C.G.E. Mannerheim.
A Finnish friend of mine forwarded me yesterday a recording of a conversation between Adolf Hitler and Marshall Mannerheim, taped on 4th June 1942 at the occasion of Mannerheim's birthday.
Here is the link to the recording: (Yle).
Although the sound is rather poor and difficult to understand for non-native speakers, following points can be underlined:
-A first part is composed of the official statement of both Hitler and Mannerheim, who both promise backing each other in their war against the Soviet Union.
-A second part is Hitler's monolog on WWII and many considerations, which show, beyond some strategic analysis, the importance of a sound and accurate intelligence and preparation for war.
With some hindsight, Hitler needed to convince Mannerheim of a stronger support of the Wehrmacht in the siege of Leningrad, so that the city supply lines could be cut off. However Mannerheim firmly limited the Finnish war goals to the reconquest of Carelia and the recovery of Finnish territorial integrity. A common explanation is that his deep knowledge of Russia let him guess that Finnland would anyway have to cope with Russia after war.
What first conclusion is to be drawn out of this?
Pretty often, I can read press articles or blog articles making a superficial reading of official statements, taking as granted what is said. I fell into the trap, and sometimes want to believe in the sincerity of an official statement. Usually they rather express an intend, a goal (to be reached if the circumstances permit, one day, maybe...). Or simply, in order not to hamper future discussions, the lecturer remains at a very general level, being sure that no statement could be seen later on as a binding engagement.
In Hitler's monolog, I retain his surprise about the huge number of Soviet tanks the Wehrmacht was confronted to. As well he shares having been impressed by the Soviet military production capacities, e.g in the Donetsk area. Both points reveal a weak strategic assessment of the enemy. In addition to this, he even reveals that the German equipment was not conceived for harsh winter conditions.
Of course, all of this is well known. Nevertheless, this confession to an ally seems to be a mistake as it shows, less than one year after the beginning of operation Barbarossa, how this war was ill-planned!
What would be the second conclusion?
As Clausewitz wrote, war is the domain of uncertainty. Notwithstanding, what part of uncertainty is to be accepted when attacking such an enemy?
To sum up:
-Never trust an official statement, unless it is followed by binding engagements that you can follow up (which is risky for the politician, unless everything is arranged beforehand).
-Uncertainty, vague knowledge of the situation is so to say impossible to avoid at war.
-However strategic intelligence cannot exclusively on military assets, but should include force regeneration, industrial capabilities, and every domain which could influence our own action.
-This global intelligence is of paramount importance in the initial assessment before waging any large scale military operation.
-Before deciding to wage war, please make sure that your own army fits to your plans !
Now, have a look on recent military operations, try and assess how this basic principles are applied.