I really must knuckle down this weekend and make some more progress on the PowerPoint design of my talk on How the Japanese Lost WWII in the First Six Months which I am due to give in September. It's a fascinating, complicated and exciting tale but somehow, in some way, everytime I think about it I feel like running repeatedly head first into the nearest brick wall. I had similar feelings when I designed my earlier talk How the Germans Lost WWI in the First Six Weeks. Over and over again I found myself slumped back in my chair and muttering, "The fools, the fools, how could they be so stupid?" I know, I know, that hindsight is always 20/20 but even so, the sheer folly and hubris of the main players is almost beyond belief.
It is best expressed by the Japanese Emperor who, prior to Pearl Harbour, actually set both his army and navy staffs seperately the task of evaluating the likely outcome of war with the USA. Both of these organisations were, in their own terms, a mixture of the militaristic and the bombastic. Their senior officers, like their counterparts worldwide and throughout time, were eager for glory, not just for their nation but for their own reputations in the history books. Who would not wish to go down in history as one of the 'Great Captains' alongside Alexander, Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great and Bonaparte? But, and this is doubly extraordinary given their bitter rivalry with each other, both the army and the navy came to the same doubting conclusion, that if the war lasted more than 18 months Japan would lose. In other words they had to cripple American giant in the first year. And yet . . . and yet . . . they went ahead and took what was a screamingly obvious and highly doubtful gamble.
Exactly the same type of thinking occurred in Wilhelmine Germany. There a psychotic Emperor with delusions of grandeur based on feelings of inferiority and stoked by a fear which fed itself, aided and abetted his own phantasy . Again, it was all based on a giant gamble - the Schlieffen Plan - which was predicted(!) to knock France out of the war in 42 days! And virtually no-one stood up and shouted out loud that this was more than nonsense, it was verging on the idiotic.
I am prompted to take these somewhat gloomy historical thoughts and bring them into the present. Earlier this week an American academic suggested that it would be a benefit if Iran did succeed in aquiring nuclear weapons. I am only going on the reports of his reasoning because I have not yet read his own words but it seems that he thinks it would bring a sort of repeat of the frozen strategic position in Europe during the Cold War. Of course, it was a 'cold' war in Europe(!) precisely because neither side could see any chance of advantage over their opponent. It was called, somewhat inapropriately, MAD, standing for Mutually Assured Destruction. Apparently this professor reckons the same thing will occur in the Middle East. I beg to differ!
In the west, religion, which by its very nature is irrational, has virtually ceased to be an important factor in guiding international affairs (or even internal affairs, come to that!) but that is not the case in Islamic countries. There, religion, which is drummed into children from a very young age with whole slabs of text to be memorised, is a major factor in their world view. Just as in early Christianity, martyrdom is considered the highest of virtues. Also, it needs to be remembered that Islam is riven by a fault line in exactly the same way that Christianity was between Catholic and Protestant. It's not so much Israel that needs to fear but Saudi Arabia because the split and the hatred between Sunni and Shiite is dangerously high. If and when Iran possesses nuclear weapons then the Saudis will instantly call in their IOUs from Pakistan. Thus, we will have a region of the world armed with nukes and nerve gas with a population not averse to the idea of martyrdom.
I know it will give our poor old globe a tremendous economic shock but in my view it is better by far that the Israelis with American help take out the Iranian nuclear capacity before it is established. Does that make me as nutty as von Schlieffen and Yamamoto? Don't answer that question!