The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

The core claim is that as one's economy goes, so goes one's military. Over time, history shows the superannuation of older Great Powers and their replacement by faster-growing and larger economies.

Where this breaks down is in the identification and economics of these Powers. With the Spanish Empire or the Habsburgs, it seems fairly straightforward to identify where the empire and its productive capacities lay. Can we say the same for the American Empire?

And of the empires, how did they work? Kennedy tries to track the levels of autarky, trade, and productivity across them, however each needs its own separate history of the processes by which those empires initially prospered and then later diminished (if only relatively). Although Kennedy puts these concerns outside of this book's remit (and recommends Michael Doyle's Empires), without these workings it seems impossible to make his model predictive.

Finally, Kennedy needed an economics editor. For example, mainstream economics had acknowledged the Triffin Dilemma (even back in 1989):

Along with these difficulties affecting American manufacturing and agriculture there are unprecedented turbulences in the nations finances. The uncompetitiveness of U.S. industrial products abroad and the declining sales of agricultural exports have together produced staggering deficits in visible trade$160 billion in the twelve months to May 1986 but what is more alarming is that such a gap can no longer be covered by American earnings on invisibles, which is the traditional recourse of a mature economy (e.g., Great Britain before 1914). On the contrary, the only way the United States can pay its way in the world is by importing ever-larger sums of capital, which has transformed it from being the worlds largest creditor to the worlds largest debtor nation in the space of a few years. Compounding this problem in the view of many critics, causing this problem 235 have been the budgetary policies of the U.S. government itself. Even in the 1960s, there was a tendency for Washington to rely upon deficit finance, rather than additional taxes, to pay for the increasing cost of defense and social programs.
The relative strengths of the leading nations in world affairs never remain constant, principally because of the uneven rate of growth among different societies and of the technological and organizational breakthroughs which bring a greater advantage to one society than to another. For example, the coming of the long-range gunned sailing ship and the rise of the Atlantic trades after 1500 was not uniformly beneficial to all the states of Europeit boosted some much more than others. In the same way, the later development of steam power and of the coal and metal resources upon which it relied massively increased the relative power of certain nations, and thereby decreased the relative power of others. Once their productive capacity was enhanced, countries would normally find it easier to sustain the burdens of paying for large-scale armaments in peacetime and of maintaining and supplying large armies and fleets in wartime. It sounds crudely mercantilistc to express it this! way, but wealth is usually needed to underpin military power, and military power is usually needed to acquire and protect wealth. If, however, too large a proportion of the states resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a state overextends itself strategicallyby, say, the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly warsit runs the risk that the potential benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it alla dilemma which becomes acute if the nation concerned has entered a period of relative economic decline. The history of the rise and later fall of the leading countries in the Great Power system since the advance of western Europe in the sixteenth centurythat is, of nations such as Spain, the Netherlands, France, the British Empire, and currently the United Statesshows a very significant correlation over the longer term between productive and revenue-raising capacities on the one hand and military strength on the other.
It is also not a book about theories of empire, and about how imperial control is effected (as is dealt with in Michael Doyles recent book Empires), or whether empires contribute to national strength
Despite this books abiding interest in tracing the larger tendencies in world affairs over the past five centuries, it is not arguing that economics determines every event, or is the sole reason for the success and failure of each nation. There simply is too much evidence pointing to other things: geography, military organization, national morale, the alliance system, and many other factors can all affect the relative power of the members of the states system. In the eighteenth century, for example, the United Provinces were the richest parts of Europe, and Russia the poorestyet the Dutch fell, and the Russians rose. Individual folly (like Hitlers) and extremely high battlefield competence (whether of the Spanish regiments in the sixteenth century or of the German infantry in this century) also go a long way to explain individual victories and defeats. What does seem incontestable, however, is that in a long-drawn-out Great Power (and usually coalition) war, v! ictory has repeatedly gone to the side with the more flourishing productive baseor, as the Spanish captains used to say, to him who has the last escudo. Much of what follows will confirm that cynical but essentially correct judgment.
An early model for the present book was the 1833 essay of the famous Prussian historian Leopold von Ranke upon die grossen Mchte (the great powers), in which he surveyed the ups and downs of the international power balances since the decline of Spain, and tried to show why certain countries had risen to prominence and then fallen away. Ranke concluded his essay with an analysis of his contemporary world, and what was happening in it following the defeat of the French bid for supremacy in the Napoleonic War.
Cheng Hos great warships were laid up and rotted away. Despite all the opportunities which beckoned overseas, China had decided to turn its back on the world. There was, to be sure, a plausible strategical reason for this decision. The northern frontiers of the empire were again under some pressure from the Mongols, and it may have seemed prudent to concentrate military resources in this more vulnerable area. Under such circumstances a large navy was an expensive luxury, and in any case, the attempted Chinese expansion southward into Annam (Vietnam) was proving fruitless and costly. Yet this quite valid reasoning does not appear to have been reconsidered when the disadvantages of naval retrenchment later became clear: within a century or so, the Chinese coastline and even cities on the Yangtze were being attacked by Japanese pirates, but there was no serious rebuilding of an imperial navy. Even the repeated appearance of Portuguese vessels off the China coast did not force a reassessment. *
Apart from the costs and other disincentives involved, therefore, a key element in Chinas retreat was the sheer conservatism of the Confucian bureaucracy6a conservatism heightened in the Ming period by resentment at the changes earlier forced upon them by the Mongols. In this Restoration atmosphere, the all-important officialdom was concerned to preserve and recapture the past, not to create a brighter future based upon overseas expansion and commerce. According to the Confucian code, warfare itself was a deplorable activity and armed forces were made necessary only by the fear of barbarian attacks or internal revolts. The mandarins dislike of the army (and the navy) was accompanied by a suspicion of the trader.
Printing was restricted to scholarly works and not employed for the widespread dissemination of practical knowledge, much less for social criticism. The use of paper currency was discontinued. Chinese cities were never allowed the autonomy of those in the West; there were no Chinese burghers, with all that that term implied; when the location of the emperors court was altered, the capital city had to move as well. Yet without official encouragement, merchants and other entrepreneurs could not thrive; and even those who did acquire wealth tended to spend it on land and education, rather than investing in protoindustrial development. Similarly, the banning of overseas trade and fishing took away another potential stimulus to sustained economic expansion; such foreign trade as did occur with the Portuguese and Dutch in the following centuries was in luxury goods and (although there were doubtless many evasions) controlled by officials.
Even in the Near East there was no quiet flank, thanks to a disastrous religious split in the Muslim world which occurred when the Shiite branch, based in Iraq and then in Persia, challenged the prevailing Sunni practices and teachings. At times, the situation was not unlike that of the contemporary religious struggles in Germany, and the sultan could maintain his dominance only by crushing Shiite dissidents with force. However, across the border the Shiite kingdom of Persia under Abbas the Great was quite prepared to ally with European states against the Ottomans, just as France had worked with the infidel Turk against the Holy Roman Empire. With this array of adversaries, the Ottoman Empire would have needed remarkable leadership to have maintained its growth; but after 1566 there reigned thirteen incompetent sultans in succession. External enemies and personal failings do not, however, provide the full explanation. The system as a whole, like that of Ming China, increasingly suffered from some of the defects of being centralized, despotic, and severely orthodox in its attitude toward initiative, dissent, and commerce. An idiot sultan could paralyze the Ottoman Empire in the way that a pope or Holy Roman emperor could never do for all Europe. Without clear directives from above, the arteries of the bureaucracy hardened, preferring conservatism to change, and stifling innovation.
The lack of territorial expansion and accompanying booty after 1550, together with the vast rise in prices, caused discontented janissaries to turn to internal plunder. Merchants and entrepreneurs (nearly all of whom were foreigners), who earlier had been encouraged, now found themselves subject to unpredictable taxes and outright seizures of property. Ever higher dues ruined trade and depopulated towns. Perhaps worst affected of all were the peasants, whose lands and stock were preyed upon by the soldiers. As the situation deteriorated, civilian officials also turned to plunder, demanding bribes and confiscating stocks of goods. The costs of war and the loss of Asiatic trade during the struggle with Persia intensified the governments desperate search for new revenues, which in turn gave greater powers to unscrupulous tax farmers. 9
To a distinct degree, the fierce response to the Shiite religious challenge reflected and anticipated a hardening of official attitudes toward all forms of free thought. The printing press was forbidden because it might disseminate dangerous opinions. Economic notions remained primitive: imports of western wares were desired, but exports were forbidden; the guilds were supported in their efforts to check innovation and the rise of capitalist producers; religious criticism of traders intensified. Contemptuous of European ideas and practices, the Turks declined to adopt newer methods for containing plagues; consequently, their populations suffered more from severe epidemics.
But the Mogul rule could scarcely be compared with administration by the Indian Civil Service. The brilliant courts were centers of conspicuous consumption on a scale which the Sun King at Versailles might have thought excessive. Thousands of servants and hangers-on, extravagant clothes and jewels and harems and menageries, vast arrays of bodyguards, could be paid for only by the creation of a systematic plunder machine. Tax collectors, required to provide fixed sums for their masters, preyed mercilessly upon peasant and merchant alike; whatever the state of the harvest or trade, the money had to come in. There being no constitutional or other checksapart from rebellionupon such depredations, it was not surprising that taxation was known as eating. For this colossal annual tribute, the population received next to nothing. There was little improvement in communications, and no machinery for assistance in the event of famine, flood, and plaguewhich were, of cour! se, fairly regular occurrences. All this makes the Ming dynasty appear benign, almost progressive, by comparison. Technically, the Mogul Empire was to decline because it became increasingly difficult to maintain itself against the Marathas in the south, the Afghanis in the north, and, finally, the East India Company. In reality, the causes of its decay were much more internal than external. Two
The fact was that in Europe there were always some princes and local lords willing to tolerate merchants and their ways even when others plundered and expelled them; and, as the record shows, oppressed Jewish traders, ruined Flemish textile workers, persecuted Huguenots, moved on and took their expertise with them. A Rhineland baron who overtaxed commercial travelers would find that the trade routes had gone elsewhere, and with it his revenues. A monarch who repudiated his debts would have immense difficulties raising a loan when the next war threatened and funds were quickly needed to equip his armies and fleets. Bankers and arms dealers and artisans were essential, not peripheral, members of society. Gradually, unevenly, most of the regimes of Europe entered into a symbiotic relationship with the market economy, providing for it domestic order and a nonarbitrary legal system (even for foreigners), and receiving in taxes a share of the growing profits from trade.
The latent wealth of France was clearly demonstrated in the early seventeenth century, when Henry IVs great minister Sully was supervising the economy and state finances. Apart from the paulette (which was the sale of, and tax on, hereditary offices), Sully introduced no new fiscal devices; what he did do was to overhaul the tax-collecting machinery, flush out thousands of individuals illegally claiming exemption, recover crown lands and income, and renegotiate the interest rates on the national debt. Within a few years after 1600, the states budget was in balance. In addition, Sullyanticipating Louis XIVs minister, Colberttried to aid industry and agriculture by various means: reducing the taille, building bridges, roads, and canals to assist the transport of goods, encouraging cloth production, setting up royal factories to produce luxury wares which would replace imports, and so on. Not all of these measures worked to the extent hoped for, but the contrast! with Philip IIIs Spain was a marked one. 57
To a large if incalculable degree, in fact, Napoleonic imperialism was paid for by plunder. This process had begun internally, with the confiscation and sale of the property of the proclaimed enemies of the Revolution. 85 When the military campaigns in defense of that revolution had carried the French armies into neighboring lands, it seemed altogether natural that the foreigner should pay for it. War, to put it bluntly, would support war. By confiscations of crown and feudal properties in defeated countries; by spoils taken directly from the enemys armies, garrisons, museums, and treasuries; by imposing war indemnities in money or in kind; and by quartering French regiments upon satellite states and requiring the latter to supply contingents, Napoleon not only covered his enormous military expenditures, he actually produced considerable profits for Franceand himself. The sums acquired by the administrators of this domaine extraordinaire in the period of France! s zenith were quite remarkable and in some ways foreshadow Nazi Germanys plunder of its satellites and conquered foes during the Second World War. Prussia, for example, had to pay a penalty of 311 million francs after Jena, which was equal to half of the French governments ordinary revenue. At each defeat, the Habsburg Empire was forced to cede territories and to pay a large indemnity. In Italy between 1805 and 1812 about half of the taxes raised went to the French. All this had the twin advantage of keeping much of the colossal French army outside the homeland, and of protecting the French taxpayer from the full costs of the war.
What the Prussians, Russians, Swedes, Austrians, and others then needed was a ready supply of the rifles, boots, and clothingnot to mention the moneywhich the British were already providing to their Portuguese and Spanish allies. Thus, the security of the British Isles and its relative prosperity on the one hand, and the overstretched and increasingly grasping nature of French rule on the other, at last interacted to begin to bring down Napoleons empire.
Similarly, the seizure of Santo Domingowhich had been responsible for a remarkable three-quarters of Frances colonial trade before the Revolutionwas by the late 1790s a valuable market for British goods and a great source of British re-exports. In addition, not only were these overseas markets in North America, the West Indies, Latin America, India, and the Orient growing faster than those in Europe, but such long-haul trades were also usually more profitable and a greater stimulus to the shipping, commodity-dealing, marine insurance, bill-clearing, and banking activities which so enhanced Londons position as the new financial center of the world. 100 Despite recent writings which have questioned the rate of growth of the British economy in the eighteenth century and the role of foreign trade in that growth, 101 the fact remains that overseas expansion had given the country unchallenged access to vast new wealth which its rivals did not enjoy. Controlling most of! Europes colonies by 1815, dominating the maritime routes and the profitable re-export trades, and well ahead of other societies in the process of industrialization, the British were now the richest nation in per capita terms.
It was not the case, as was once fancied, that the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America lived a happy, ideal existence prior to the impact of western man. The elemental truth must be stressed that the characteristic of any country before its industrial revolution and modernization is poverty. with low productivity, low output per head, in traditional agriculture, any economy which has agriculture as the main constituent of its national income does not produce much of a surplus above the immediate requirements of consumption.
The long peace and the easy availability of capital in the United Kingdom, together with the improvements in the countrys financial institutions, stimulated Britons to invest abroad as never before: the 6 million or so which was annually exported in the decade following Waterloo had risen to over 30 million a year by midcentury, and to a staggering 75 million a year between 1870 and 1875. The resultant income to Britain from such interest and dividends, which had totaled a handy 8 million each year in the late 1830s, was over 50 million a year by the 1870s; but most of that was promptly reinvested overseas, in a sort of virtuous upward spiral which not only made Britain ever wealthier but gave a continual stimulus to global trade and communications.
If the Crimean War had shocked the British, that was nothing compared to the blow which had been delivered to Russias power and self-esteemnot to mention the losses caused by the 480,000 deaths. We cannot deceive ourselves any longer, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich flatly stated. we are both weaker and poorer than the first-class powers, and furthermore poorer not only in material but also in mental resources, especially in matters of administration. 75 This knowledge drove the reformers in the Russian state toward a whole series of radical changes, most notably the abolition of serfdom.
The Prussian military revolution of the 1860s, soon to produce what Disraeli would grandly term the German revolution in European affairs, was based upon a number of interrelated elements. The first of these was a unique short-service system, pushed through by the new King Wilhelm I and his war minister against their Liberal opponents, which involved three years obligatory service in the regular army and then another four in the reserve before each man passed into the Landwehrwhich meant that the fully mobilized Prussian army had seven annual intakes. * Since no substitutes were permitted, and the Landwehr could take over most garrison and rear area duties, such a system gave Prussia a far larger front-line army relative to its population than any other Great Power had.
Ostensibly, France still appeared the stronger. Its population was much larger than Prussias (although the total number of German-speakers in Europe was greater). The French army had gained experience in the Crimea, Italy, and overseas. It possessed the best rifle in the world, the Chassepot, which far outranged the Prussian needlegun; and it had a new secret weapon, the mitrailleuse, a machine gun which could fire 150 rounds a minute. Its navy was far superior; and help was expected from Austria-Hungary and Italy. When the time came in July 1870 to chastise the Prussians for their effrontery (i.e., Bismarcks devious diplomacy over the future of Luxembourg, and over a possible Hohenzollern candidate to the Spanish throne), few Frenchmen had doubts about the outcome.
Yet all of these warswhether fought in the Tennessee Valley or the Bohemian plain, in the Crimean Peninsula or the fields of Lorrainepointed to one general conclusion: the powers which were defeated were those that had failed to adopt to the military revolution of the mid-nineteenth century, the acquisition of new weapons, the mobilizing and equipping of large armies, the use of improved communications offered by the railway, the steamship, and the telegraph, and a productive industrial base to sustain the armed forces. In all of these conflicts, grievous blunders were to be committed on the battlefield by the generals and armies of the winning side from time to timebut they were never enough to cancel out the advantages which that belligerent possessed in terms of trained manpower, supply, organization, and economic base.
The most noticeable feature of these prognostications was the revival of de Tocquevilles idea that the United States and Russia would be the two great World Powers of the future. Not surprisingly, this view had lost ground at the time of Russias Crimean disaster and its mediocre showing in the 1877 war against Turkey, and during the American Civil War and then in the introspective decades of reconstruction and westward expansion. By the late nineteenth century, however, the industrial and agricultural expansion of the United States and the military expansion of Russia in Asia were causing various European observers to worry about a twentieth-century world order which would, as the saying went, be dominated by the Russian knout and American moneybags.
Japan had been fortunate to have fought an even more backward China and a czarist Russia which was militarily top-heavy and disadvantaged by the immense distance between St. Petersburg and the Far East. Furthermore, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 had allowed it to fight on its home ground without interference from third powers. Its navy had relied upon British-built battleships, its army upon Krupp guns. Most important of all, it had found the immense costs of the war impossible to finance from its own resources and yet had been able to rely upon loans floated in the United States and Britain. 44 As it turned out, Japan was close to bankruptcy by the end of 1905, when the peace negotiations with Russia got under way.
Only a few details of Germanys explosive economic growth can be offered here. 46 Its population had soared from 49 million in 1890 to 66 million in 1913, second only in Europe to Russiasbut since Germans enjoyed far higher levels of education, social provision, and per capita income than Russians, the nation was strong both in the quantity and the quality of its population. Whereas, according to an Italian source, 330 out of 1,000 recruits entering its army were illiterate, the corresponding ratios were 220/1,000 in Austria-Hungary, 68/1,000 in France, and an astonishing 1/1,000 in Germany.
This relative backwardness might have been compensated for by a high degree of national-cultural cohesion, such as existed in Japan or France; but, alas, Vienna controlled the most ethnically diverse cluster of peoples in Europe 74when war came in 1914, for example, the mobilization order was given in fifteen different languages. The age-old tension between German speakers and Czech speakers in Bohemia was not the most serious of the problems facing Emperor Francis Joseph and his advisers, even if the Young Czech movement was making it sound so. The strained relations with Hungary, which despite its post-1867 status as an equal partner clashed with Vienna again and again over such issues as tariffs, treatment of ethnic minorities, Magyarization of the army, and so on, were such that by 1899, western observers feared the breakup of the entire empire and the French foreign minister, Delcass, secretly renegotiated the terms of the Dual Alliance with Russia in o! rder to prevent Germany from succeeding to the Austrian lands and access to the Adriatic coast. By 1905, indeed, the general staff in Vienna was quietly preparing a contingency plan for the military occupation of Hungary should the crisis worsen
Finally, there was the undeniable fact that France was immensely rich in terms of mobile capital, which could be (and systematically was) applied to serve the interests of the countrys diplomacy and strategy. The most impressive sign of this had been the very rapid paying off the German indemnity of 1871, which, in Bismarcks erroneous calculation, was supposed to cripple Frances strength for many years to come.
The larger social costs of this unhealthy combination of agrarian backwardness, industrialization, and top-heavy military expenditures are easy to imagine. In 1913, while 970 million rubles were allocated by the Russian government to the armed forces, a mere 154 million rubles were spent upon health and education; and since the administrative structure did not give the localities the fiscal powers of the American states or English local government, that inadequacy could not be made up elsewhere. In the fast-growing cities, the workers had to contend with no sewerage, health hazards, appalling housing conditions, and high rents. There were fantastic levels of drunkennessa short-term escape from brute reality. The mortality rate was the highest in Europe.
After the epic 1905 unrest, things cooled off for a while; but in the three years 19121914 the incidence of strikes, mass protests, police arrests, and killings was spiraling to an alarming degree. 138 Yet that sort of ferment paled by comparison with the issue which has frightened all Russian leaders from Catherine the Great to the present regimethe peasant question. When bad harvests and high prices occurred, they interacted with the deep resentments against high rents and grim working conditions to produce vast outbreaks of agrarian unrest. After 1900, the historian Norman Stone records: The provinces of Poltyra and Tambov were, for the greater part, devastated; manor houses burned down, animals mutilated. In 1901 there were 155 interventions by troops (as against 36 in 1898) and in 1903, 322, involving 295 squadrons of cavalry and 300 battalions of infantry, some with artillery. 1902 was the high point of the whole thing. Troops were used to crush the peasantry on 365 occasions. In 1903, for internal order, a force far greater than the army of 1812 was mustered. In sixty-eight of the seventy-five districts of the central Black Earth there were troublesfifty-four estates wrecked. The worst area was Saratov.
From 1909 onward the Germans committed themselves to Austria-Hungary, not just diplomatically but militarily, to a degree which Bismarck had never contemplated. Furthermore, the German operations plan now involved an immediate and massive assault upon France, via Belgium, whatever the specific cause of the war. By contrast, Viennas military planners still dithered between the various fronts, but the determination to get a first blow in at Serbia was growing. Boosted by French funds, Russia pledged itself to an ever-swifter mobilization and westward strike should war come; while, with even less cause, the French in 1911 adopted the famous Plan XVII, involving a headlong rush into Alsace-Lorraine. And whereas the likelihood that Italy would fight alongside its Triple Alliance partners was now much decreased, a British military intervention in Europe had become the more probable in the event of a German attack upon Belgium and France. Needless to say, in each of the general ! staffs there was the unquestioned assumption that speed was of the essence; that is, as soon as a clash seemed likely, it was vital to mobilize ones own forces and to get them up to and over the border before the foe had a chance to do the same. If this was especially true in Berlin, where the army had committed itself to delivering a knockout blow in the west and then returning to the east to meet the slower-moving Russians, the same sort of thinking prevailed elsewhere. If and when a really great crisis occurred, the diplomats were not going to have much time before the strategic planners took over.
The final twist in the Hindenburg Program was the chronic neglect of agriculture. Here, even more than in France or Russia, men and horses and fuel were taken from the land and directed toward the needs of the army or the munitions industryan insane imbalance, since Germany could not (like France) compensate for such planning errors by obtaining foodstuffs from overseas to make up the difference. While agricultural production plummeted in Germany, food prices spiraled and people everywhere complained about the scarcity of food supplies. In one scholars severe judgment, by concentrating lopsidedly on producing munitions, the military managers of the German economy thus brought the country to the verge of starvation by the end of 1918.
The material costs of the war were also unprecedented and seemed, to those who viewed the devastated landscapes of northern France, Poland, and Serbia, even more shocking: hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed, farms gutted, roads and railways and telegraph lines blown up, livestock slaughtered, forests pulverized, and vast tracts of land rendered unfit for farming because of unexploded shells and mines. When the shipping losses, the direct and indirect costs of mobilization, and the monies raised by the combatants are added to the list, the total charge becomes so huge as to be virtually incomprehensible: in fact, some $260 billion, which, according to one calculation, represented about six and a half times the sum of all the national debt accumulated in the world from the end of the eighteenth century up to the eve of the First World War.
Ironically, therefore, the Leagues actual contribution turned out to be not deterring aggressors, but confusing the democracies. It was immensely popular with war-wearied public opinion in the West, but its very creation then permitted many the argument that there was no need for national defense forces since the League would somehow prevent future wars. In consequence, the existence of the League caused cabinets and foreign ministers to wobble between the old and the new diplomacy, usually securing the benefits of neither, as the Manchurian and Abyssinian cases amply demonstrated.
Indeed, a little over 10 percent of national income and as much as one-third of government income was devoted to the armed forces by the mid-1930s, which in absolute figures was more than was spent by Britain or France, and much more than the American totals. Smart new battleships were being laid down, to rival the French navy and the British Mediterranean Fleet, and to support Mussolinis claim that the Mediterranean was indeed mare nostrum. When Italy entered the war it possessed 113 submarinesthe largest submarine force in the world except perhaps that of the Soviet Union.
While the navy anticipated a future war with either Britain or the United States, the armys eyes were fixed exclusively upon the Asian continent and the threat to Japanese interests there posed by the Soviet Union. Since the army was much more influential in Japanese politics and also dominated imperial general headquarters, its views generally prevailed. There was no effective opposition, from either the navy or the foreign office, although both were reluctant, when in 1937 the army insisted upon taking further action against China following the contrived Marco Polo Bridge incident. Despite a large-scale invasion of northern China from Manchurian soil, and landings along the Chinese coast, the Japanese army found it impossible to achieve a decisive victory. While losing great numbers of troops, Chiang Kai-shek kept up the struggle and moved even farther inland, pursued by Japanese striking columns and aircraft. The problem for Imperial General Headquarters was not so mu! ch the losses this campaigning involvedthe army probably suffered only 70,000 casualtiesbut the stupendous costs of such inconclusive and extended warfare. By the end of 1937, there were over 700,000 Japanese troops in China, a number which steadily increased (though Willmotts figure of 1.5 million by 1938 seems far too high) 64 without ever managing to force the Chinese to surrender. The China Incident, as Tokyo referred to it, was now costing $5 million a day and causing an even larger rise in defense spending. Rationing was introduced in 1938, as were a whole series of enactments which virtually put Japan onto a total war mobilization. The national debt spiraled upward at an alarming rate as the government borrowed more and more to pay for the enormous defense expenditures.
This led to the gravest problem of all. Given the armed strength which they had built up by the late 1930s, the Japanese could easily sweep the French out of Indochina and the Dutch out of the East Indies. Even the British Empire would have found it difficult to hold its own against Japan, as the strategic planners in Whitehall secretly admitted during the 1930s; and by the time war had broken out in Europe, a full British commitment to the Far East was impossible. It was quite another thing, however, for the Japanese to go to war against either Russia or the United States. In the prolonged and bloody border clashes with the Red Army around Nomonhan between May and August 1939, for example, Imperial General Headquarters was alarmed at the clear superiority of Soviet artillery and aircraft, and at the firepower of the much larger Russian tanks. 67 With the Kwantung (Manchuria) army possessing only half the number of divisions that the Russians had placed in Mongolia and Sibe! ria, and with large forces increasingly bogged down in China, even the more extremist army officers recognized that war against the USSR had to be avoidedat least until the international circumstances were more favorable.
Because the German armed forces had rearmed so rapidly that they severely strained the economy, there was a massive temptation on Hitlers part to resort to war in order to obviate such economic difficulties. As he well knew, the acquisition of Austria brought with it not only another five divisions of troops, some iron ore and oil fields, and a considerable metal industry, but also $200 million in gold and foreign-exchange reserves. 88 The Sudetenland was less useful economically (though it did have coal deposits), and by early 1939 the Reichs foreign currency position was critical. It was scarcely surprising, therefore, that Hitler was greedily eyeing the rest of Czechoslovakia and rushed to Prague in March 1939 to examine the booty once the occupation occurred. Apart from the gold and currency assets held by the Czech national bank, the Germans also seized large stocks of ores and metals, which were swiftly used to aid German industry; while the large and profitable ! Czech arms industry could now be exploited to earn currency for Germany by selling (or bartering) its products to clients in the Balkans. The aircraft, tanks, and weapons of the substantial Czech army were also taken, partly to equip new German divisions, and partly to be sold for foreign currency. All this, together with Czechoslovakias industrial production, was a great boost to German power in Europe, and permitted Hitlers hectic (if somewhat hand-to-mouth) rearmament program to continueuntil the next crisis. As Tim Mason has pointed out, the only solution open to this regime of the structural tensions and crises produced by dictatorship and rearmament was more dictatorship and rearmament
With this swiftly weakening economy, and with the debt charges and the outlay for 1914-1918 war pensions composing half the total public expenditure, it was impossible for France to reequip its three armed forces satisfactorily even when, as in 1937 and 1938, it spent over 30 percent of its budget upon defense.
Although French intelligence provided lots of information about what the Germans were thinking, it was all ignored; there was open disbelief in the efficacy of using large-scale armored formations, as the Germans were doing in their maneuvers; and all the copies of translations of Guderians Achtung Panzer sent to every garrison library in France remained unread. 102 What this meant was that even when French industry was galvanized into producing considerable numbers of tanksmany, like the SOMUA-35, of very good qualitythere was no proper doctrine for their use.
Furthermore, Russia, like France, was a victim of heavy investment in aircraft and tank types of the early 1930s. When the Spanish Civil War showed the limits, in speed, maneuverability, range, and toughness, of these first-generation weapons, the race to build faster aircraft and more powerful tanks was accelerated. But the Soviet arms industry, like a large vessel at sea, could not change course swiftly; and it seemed folly to stop production on existing types while newer models were being built and tested. (In this connection, it is interesting to note that of the 24,000 Russian tanks operational in June 1941, only 967 were of a new design equivalent or superior to the German tanks of that time.) 136 On top of this, there came the purges. The decapitation of the Red Army90 percent of all generals and 80 percent of all colonels suffered in Stalins manic drivenot only had the overall effect of destroying so many trained officers, but had specific results which badly hurt the armed forces. By wiping out Tukhachevsky and the modern warfare enthusiasts, by eliminating those who studied German methods and British theories, the purges left the army in the hands of such politically safe but intellectually retarded figures as Voroshilov and Kuluk. One early result was the disbanding of the seven mechanized corps, a decision influenced by the argument that the Spanish Civil War had shown that tank formations could play no independ! ent offensive role on the battlefield and that the vehicles should be distributed to rifle battalions in order to support the infantry. In much the same way it was decided that the TB-3 strategic bombers were of little use to the USSR
On the Japanese side, because the United States was taken more seriously, the calculations were more precise: thus, the Japanese navy estimated that whereas its warship strength would be a respectable 70 percent of the American navy in late 1941, this would fall to 65 percent in 1942, to 50 percent in 1943, and to a disastrous 30 percent in 1944. 165 Like Germany, Japan also had a powerful strategical incentive to move soon if it was going to escape from its fate as a middleweight nation in a world increasingly overshadowed by the superpowers.
But it is clear that when a regional crisis arose, the statesmen in each of the leading capitals were compelled to view such events in the light both of the larger diplomatic scene and, perhaps especially, of their pressing domestic problems. The British prime minister, MacDonald, put this nicely to his colleague Baldwin, after the 1931 Manchurian affair had interacted with the sterling crisis and the collapse of the second Labor government: We have all been so distracted by day to day troubles that we never had a chance of surveying the whole situation and hammering out a policy regarding it, but have had to live from agitation to agitation.
In the German case, this ranged from relatively small-scale decisions, like pouring reinforcements into North Africa in early 1943, just in time for them to be captured, to the appallingly stupid as well as criminal treatment of the Ukrainian and other non-Russian minorities in the USSR, who were happy to escape from the Stalinist embrace until checked by Nazi atrocities. It ran from the arrogance of assuming that the Enigma codes could never be broken to the ideological prejudice against employing German women in munitions factories, whereas all Germanys foes willingly exploited that largely untapped labor pool. It was compounded by rivalries within the higher echelons of the army itself, which made it ineffective in resisting Hitlers manic urge for overambitious offensives like Stalingrad and Kursk. Above all, there was what scholars refer to as the polycratic chaos of rivaling ministries and subempires (the army, the SS, the Gauleiter, the economics ministry)! , which prevented any coherent assessment and allocation of resources, let alone the hammering-out of what elsewhere would be termed a grand strategy.
Because Japan was carrying out a continental strategy in which the armys influence predominated, its operations in the Pacific and Southeast Asia had been implemented with a minimum of forceonly eleven divisions, compared with the thirteen in Manchuria and the twenty-two in China. Yet even when the American counteroffensive in the central Pacific was under way, Japanese troop and aerial reinforcements to that region were far too tardy and far too smallespecially as compared with the resources allocated for the massive China offensives of 19431944. Ironically, even when Nimitzs forces were closing upon Japan in early 1945, and its cities were being pulverized from the air, there were still 1 million soldiers in China and another 780,000 or so in Manchurianow incapable of being withdrawn because of the effectiveness of the American submarine campaign. Yet the Imperial Japanese Navy, too, needs to take its share of the blame. The operational handling of key battles like Midway was riddled with errors, but even when the aircraft carrier was proving itself supreme in Pacific warfare, many Japanese admirals after Yamamotos death were wedded to the battleship and still looked for the chance to fight a second Tsushimaas the 1944 Leyte Gulf operation and, even more symbolically, the one-way suicide trip of the Yamato revealed. Japanese submarines, with their formidable torpedoes, were utterly misused as scouts for the battle fleet or in running supplies to beleaguered island garrisons, rather than being deployed against the enemys lines of communication. By contrast, the navy failed to protect its own merchant marine, and was quite backward in developing convoy systems, antisubmarine techniques, escort carriers, and hunter-killer groups, although Japan was even more dependent than Britain upon imported materials. 13
A quite different problem, but one equally important for the sustaining of a proper grand strategy, concerns the impact of slow economic growth upon the American social/political consensus. To a degree which amazes most Europeans, the United States in the twentieth century has managed to avoid ostensible class politics.