Did the Germans win WW II?
Maneuver warfare, a modern updating of the infiltration tactics that led to the stunning German successes in 1939 through late 1941, is a better way to fight opposing military forces: Create a gap in the enemy defenses, penetrate into his rear areas, cause panic and chaos, and exploit before he can figure out what’s going on. Numbers become irrelevant and can even be a vulnerability once panic sets in.
Then what? Maneuver warfare advocates might say, “Not our job,” and they would be correct. But you’d like to think that all this fighting has accomplished something more than killing opposing troops. This is where Boyd’s insights prove useful because he considered the entire range of conflict, from the battlefield to the resulting peace. Surveying the spectrum of war, he concluded that although you can win through attrition warfare, maneuver has advantages:
- On one hand, as shown on the previous chart, the national goal and grand strategy tend to be constructive in nature. On the other hand, the strategic aim, strategy, grand tactics, and tactics are destructive in nature and operate over a shorter time frame.
- In this sense, the upper two and the latter four notions, as expressed, appear to be in disharmony with one another. Yet, application of these latter four strategic and tactical notions [CR note: essentially, maneuver warfare] permit real leadership to avoid high attrition, avoid widespread destruction, and gain a quick victory. This, combined with shattered cohesion, paralysis, and rapid collapse demonstrated by the existing adversary regime, makes it appear corrupt, incompetent, and unfit to govern. [CR note again: so far, so good for ISIS]
- Under these circumstances, leaders and statesmen offering generous terms can form the basis for a viable peace. In this sense, the first two and the latter four notions can be in harmony with one another. (Patterns of Conflict, p. 142)
Obviously, the last bullet was not what the Nazis had in mind for the conquered nations, especially on the eastern front, and from their videos, it doesn’t seem to be ISIS’s intention, either.
Nazi policies towards the defeated populations would have left the German army with its hands full, even after national governments surrendered or were eliminated. Martin van Creveld observed that had the Germans won and then partially demobilized, a million and a half troops would have been trying to control upwards of 300 million potential insurgents all over Europe. He concluded:
Like every occupation army that followed it, the Wehrmacht would have found most of its powerful weapons useless, or nearly so. … In all probability, the Germans would have floundered about just as subsequent conquerors did.” (The Changing Face of War, pp. 215-218.)
The end result would have been that the Germans would have been unable to keep most of their conquered territories. Interestingly, a senior German panzer commander, Hermann Balck, told Boyd the same thing, and, as van Creveld noted, Hitler himself had made a similar observation about the British Empire — and Hitler was, of course, proved right.
In other words, excellence on the battlefield can be trumped by failure of grand strategy. Chuck Spinney has a superb description of why this is so, and of grand strategy in general, on his blog at http://chuckspinney.blogspot.com/p/criteria-of-sensible-grand-strategy.html. I recommend you pause here and read his article carefully because it explains what is going to happen next.
The typical fate of occupiers in a hostile society will befall ISIS / ISIL / DAI-ISH. Iraq is not Saudi Arabia, and most Iraqis are not salafists. Iraqis are a more urban society, and Iraqi women and religious minorities are much more used to the freedoms they enjoyed under the Ba’athists. This will lead to a period of bloody guerrilla warfare between the ISIS occupiers and elements in the population who oppose their ideology. I’m assuming here that enough of the old Ba’athist structure survived, perhaps augmented by the remnants of the “Sons of Iraq,” to form the vanguard of the guerrilla movement. (Boyd has something to say about that process, also — see Patterns, pp. 93-99)
In the meantime, the Iraqi Army will continue to melt away until a capable core emerges to defend Baghdad (shades of the defense of Moscow in the winter of 1941!), but what ISIS gains through tactical, operational, and strategic superiority, they will lose because their grand strategy will fail. Not enough Iraqis will decide to become or to support the salafists, and ISIS rule will shrink to the conservative, rural hinterlands.