Courtesy Reuters

Planning for Victory

THE past year has given ample evidence of the grim truth that in the making of total war the totalitarian state enjoys considerable initial advantages over a democratic adversary. These advantages in preparation and initiative have always lain with absolute rulers. The free nation has found compensation in its greater staying power, its ability to retrieve disaster, and its higher morale under defeat. So true has this been, that since the invention of firearms (which made the common foot-soldier superior to the armored knight) there has not been, until last year, any instance of a strong and well-established republic being conquered and enslaved by an absolutist power; while there have been many instances of peoples determined to be free wrenching their freedom by force from tyrants, even well-intrenched ones, or maintaining it against absolutist assault.

Until last year. The date is significant. For just as firearms helped make possible the emancipation of burgher and peasant from feudal slavery, so now it is a question whether the mechanization of warfare -- and particularly the development of those weapons of which the internal combustion engine is the heart -- has not produced another revolutionary change affecting not only the conduct of war but its political consequences. Has the speed, range and power of the offensive become so great that initial disaster may be made irretrievable? Has the disparity in armament between the victor who has his force intact and the vanquished who has lost his equipment (and may temporarily be deprived of the means of making more) become so great that no amount of higher morale can be relied on gradually to compensate for such disadvantages? It seems quite possible that these things are true. In other words, the tempo of war, like other human activities, may have been so accelerated by the Machine Age as to require a complete recasting of our theories of national defense, of security, of the maintenance of peace and, in general, of the conduct of international relations.

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