Sunday, July 25, 2004

Writing in the Guardian, John Galbraith makes the following bizzare claim:

At the end of the second world war, I was the director for overall effects of the United States strategic bombing survey - Usbus, as it was known. I led a large professional economic staff in assessment of the industrial and military effects of the bombing of Germany. The strategic bombing of German industry, transportation and cities, was gravely disappointing. Attacks on factories that made such seemingly crucial components as ball bearings, and even attacks on aircraft plants, were sadly useless. With plant and machinery relocation and more determined management, fighter aircraft production actually increased in early 1944 after major bombing. In the cities, the random cruelty and death inflicted from the sky had no appreciable effect on war production or the war.

These findings were vigorously resisted by the Allied armed services - especially, needless to say, the air command, even though they were the work of the most capable scholars and were supported by German industry officials and impeccable German statistics, as well as by the director of German arms production, Albert Speer.

This is a serious misrepresentation of Speer's position. In his book, Speer complains much of the difficulties presented to him by allied bombing, specifically the bombing of ball bearing plants. According to Speer, the allies came astonishingly close to shutting down the German production of tanks entirely in 1943 via the destruction of several ball bearing plants. It is only because these plants were restored with a few months of work and because they were not bombed again that German wartime production continued.

Precisely because of the success of the targeted bombing, Speer proposed to Hitler to bomb Russian ball bearing plants. Several weeks later an envoy of the air force presented him with pictures documenting the success of the operation. However, when Speer showed these pictures to his ball bearings expert, he found out that despite the devastation shown in the pictures it was possible to get the plant running again in only a month. Only a sustained bombing campaign where the site would be bombed a few times, with a couple of weeks passing between bombings, would shut down the plant permanently. Speer speculated in his book that perhaps unawareness of this on the part of the Americans had been the reason why the ball bearing plants were not bombed again and why German tank production had managed to continue.

On the whole the Galbraith column, subtitled "Corporate power is the driving force behind US foreign policy - and the slaughter in Iraq," is rather insipid. Its logic can be reduced to:

1. The US spends a lot of money on the military
2. Most of the weapons are built and developed by corporations.
3. Corporations don't care about the environment, are difficult to hold accountable, and are generally very, very bad.


At 6:20 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Interesting stuff. I found your site when you linked to me: it's really great. I'm adding you to my blogroll next time I update it.

Keep up the good work!

At 10:19 PM, Blogger alex said...

Thanks! I appreciate the encouragement - I am just an opinionated math student with a politics obsession. I hope you keep posting as well - always interesting to see things on your site that are usually passed over elsewhere.


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