Sometimes an attempt to understand some things directly, head-on, leads to not entirely correct results. Sometimes it is customary to perceive tactics and strategy as directly related things, but at different levels. And it is customary to somehow assume that the battles won by themselves somehow lead to victory in the war. It is precisely at the junction of strategy and tactics that the “paradox of the German army” is hidden in two world wars.
You can talk as you please and anything, but World War I and World War II (especially at the initial stage) brought glory to the German arms and German military equipment. However, that and the other war for the Germans ended in complete and devastating defeat.
This is what creates such a well-defined paradox, such a “cognitive dissonance”: the Germans fought brilliantly, but in the end lost. In principle, this result is not unprecedented: the legendary Hannibal, for example, scored a series of brilliant victories in battles with the Roman army, and neither before him nor after him did anyone succeed in repeating the same against the Romans, but he lost the second Punic outright.
Nestykovochka this occurs in the head of those who are trying to learn history: brilliant victories on the battlefields - and the complete and final defeat of the results. Moreover, the legendary and “memic” Napoleon Bonaparte is famous for practically the same: a long series of brilliant victories on the European battlefields, followed by the inglorious collapse of the empire. And we must honestly (honestly) recognize that the Napoleonic army was the best in Europe.
And Napoleon Bonaparte as a tactician did not know his equal. That is, it was either extremely difficult or even impossible to defeat him on the battlefield. And Kutuzov's strategy (to avoid a general battle at all costs) was not offered by them alone and carried a sufficiently sound grain: to arrange general battles with Bonaparte is the right way to death. Approximately the same reasoning was done by Fabius Cunctator (Slow), and it was on his behalf that the expression Fabian tactics arose (in fact, strategy).
It was he who, after an ingloriously lost battle at Lake Trasimene, categorically refused to get involved in decisive battles with the army of Hannibal. Hannibal could tear and throw and burn with the fire of the estate of wealthy Romans, but he could not get so much desired by him the general battle in the field. Smash Hannibal from the Romans turned out exactly one time: the battle of Zama. But this was enough to win.
Of course, we have the story that we have. But to analyze one and only one scenario is meaningless. Here some definite predestination is manifested, fate, evil fate, Kismet ... We, as it were, are actively moving from politics and the military sphere into the realm of mysticism and religion.
That is, it turns out, since Rome won, then all the actions of Hannibal from the very beginning were absolutely meaningless? He had to capitulate from Rome from the very beginning, or simply “suicide against the wall”? So it turns out? Or what? That is, if Hannibal lost in real life, then it was “predetermined”?
It is clear that there were wars / military operations that had no chance of success from the very beginning. A lot of them - the darkness. But I must say that here concerning Hannibal, he had fought 16 for years in Italy and the Romans could not beat him in open battle ... You say he had no chance? Yes, he could not realize his qualitative tactical advantage, but this does not mean that the chances quite did not have. In the words of his associate, Hannibal knew how to win, but not use victory.
No, when a war comes from the very beginning, it is a repentance and ends in defeat, then everything is clear. Examples of Hannibal, Bonaparte, Wilhelm II and many others testify just to the lost victories.
And even the Hundred Years War: until a certain point, the Britons won outright all, but the French’s refusal at a certain stage of major battles and the transition to the tactic of minor skirmishes suddenly turned the situation in no way in favor of the British. Yes, Clausewitz was certainly right that "only great decisive victories lead to great decisive results." But what if “great victories are unattainable”? Give up?
Napoleon Bonaparte had a powerful all-European army, and he had no equal as a “warlord” in the sense of being able to lead a battle, his final and crushing defeat seems to be a rather unlikely outcome. Unless we, of course, use mysticism and predestination in analysis.
The trouble of historians is that when analyzing historical events they use the “after-knowledge” too actively, that is, if Bonaparte lost, then so be it (analyzing the Italian campaign, they already have Waterloo in mind). A kind of "scientific religion." The misfortune and tragedy of Napoleon Bonaparte were precisely in the categorical inability to transform their victories into a final peace favorable to France. That is why in the 1815 year (100 days of Bonaparte) many of his experienced generals did not support this escapade. Everything is simple - they have already filled their fill ...
And it was already extremely clear to them that Napoleon could fight endlessly. They themselves were not ready to fight endlessly. As in principle, most of the soldiers / officers. That is, the problem was not in Waterloo, the problem was that by Waterloo, Napoleon had already “gotten” both the French and Europeans in general. It became clear to everyone in Europe that Napoleon is an endless war, this is one of the reasons for his defeat.
Regarding Willy II: Germany at the time of 1914 was the strongest European power - the strongest army, the second most powerful fleet, the most advanced science in the world, the most powerful after the American industry. It is very difficult to say where this inevitable defeat is seen here. And yet the German army won a series of brilliant victories both in the east and in the west. But it all ended with surrender. As a matter of fact, after 30 years after 1914, Germany was crushed "in the trash."
As for the "protracted war" - on the one hand, the February revolution in Russia was not inevitable, on the other, riots in the French army began in 1917, almost there Petain himself pacified them ... To say that even in the summer of 1918, the situation of the allies was brilliant and the Central Powers are absolutely hopeless, the language does not turn. The allies, despite the superiority in resources, had their own big problems in the rear. Both in England and in France people are very tired of war.
It should be mentioned that the German army was the best among those who were fighting for organization / management and the losses there were lower than those of the French / British. So the ranting about the terrible superiority of the Allies over the Central Powers is somewhat exaggerated and somewhat emotionally expressed. That is, even in the long run (in conditions of lack of food and resources) the position of Germany was not completely hopeless.
But this is in the long run, but in the summer of 1914, the situation was not entirely in favor of the Allies ... As, however, in the fall. Theoretically, the Germans in 1914 might well have taken Paris, and that changed everything. They could win on the Western Front, but ... something prevented them. There was a superiority in the training, organization, preparation of the Kaiser troops, but the Germans could not extract any positive aspects in the strategy area during the initial period of the war. And the paradox turns out: the German army was better, but she lost ... The author strongly disagrees with the thesis that the army that won is always the best.
Once again: tactical superiority, even expressed in decisive victories over the enemy on the battlefield, does not in itself mean anything. This is just the material from which to build a big overall victory. With the “material”, the Germans had no particular problems either in the First World War or in the Second ... but with “construction”, “construction” there were serious questions.
But this in no way means that, being limited in resources, the Germans were initially doomed to defeat. Rather, they had certain difficulties with strategic planning ... As a result, their superbly organized army was faced with the need endlessly gain tactical victories with an increasingly unfavorable balance of power.
Achieve a common victory by destroying all enemy divisions are a bit over the top. As a result, they do not quite correctly conclude from the two world wars that no matter how strong the enemy is, he can be detained, exhausted, withstand before his onslaught, and defeated. Not entirely correct: if at the strategic level the same Germans, and the Japanese, were as strong as in tactics ...
A vivid example of “strategic madness” is the endless war of the Japanese Imperial Army in China. That is, one victory followed another, the Chinese fled ... but the most attentive observers soon noticed that all these numerous victories of the Japanese could not turn into one big general victory. For which, of course, both political (diplomatic) efforts and the work of the special services were needed, and much more. But first and foremost, proper strategic planning: outline a large real goal, to throw at her achievement all the means and achieve it.
But at the tactical level, the Japanese were almost invincible. That was misleading the Japanese generals. But is it really bad: after the victory, the victory ... But for some reason they “did not add up”. That is, the "massacre in Nanjing" is certainly "impressive", only a complete defeat of the Chinese army would have impressed much more. Or some "intermediate world". But did not grow together ...
And what if it was so impossible? Under the conditions of semi-feudal strife in China and the “all against all” war? Instead, in the conditions of the war against Britain and the United States, the Japanese were forced to spend a lot of resources on China, without receiving any reasonable returns and even without such a prospect.
And, for example, for the hypothetical "capture of Australia" they simply did not have enough free divisions ... Already at the beginning of the 1942 year, when the allies did nothing but drag off. But the "hypothetical seizure of Australia" (and even the opening of the land front there) would have been far more serious for the results of the war than any success in China. It is clear that in reality such an operation seems to be of little practical, but at the beginning of 1942, there was simply nothing to plan for it: almost the entire land army is fighting in China.
And even the breakthrough of Japanese on India by land (initially successful!) Was limited by the banal shortage of combat-ready units (who fought endlessly in the Middle Kingdom or were preparing to attack the USSR!). What if the Japanese had successfully invaded India on 1942? And if a popular uprising began there (prepared by Japanese agents?). And Rommel goes to Suezu ...
But the Japanese generals were “interesting people” - we have a “successful” war in China, and we will fight there ... And we don’t like the USSR either ... But in India the British didn’t have too many intelligent troops. And Australia is not a “bastion of freedom”.
This very “Chinese escapade” after 7 in December 1941 looked very strange: China, torn by civil war, was in no way capable of active offensive actions, Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists, left alone, would immediately cling to each other's throats ... but the Japanese continued to fight in China and even to win convincing victories ... For what, sorry, damn? In fact, the Japanese Empire waged two (!) Great wars, unrelated to each other (and was preparing to start a third!).
As a result, during the world (!) War, active offensive actions were conducted mainly by the Japanese fleet, the Japanese army fought in the "pampas", that is, in China. “Eh, Yamashita-san (a friendly clap on the shoulder), let's kill all the Chinese, what kind of life will come for true samurai ...”
That is, the paradox of brilliant victories / complete defeat at the end is a paradox only at first glance. Brilliant victories (which, of course, will be included in the history and military textbooks) for the sensible commander, politics (!) Are just steps towards some big goal. By themselves, they are for the most part completely meaningless. You can not live and fight for the history book.
There are many “lost victories” in this life, but no less victories than senseless ones: in the ancient world there are few competitors to Alexander the Great, as a commander on the battlefield, and yes, he was almost perfect on the battlefield, and the army did not let him down to India, to India (!), Karl - this is already beyond good and evil ... Taking into account the management capabilities of that era, what kind of solutions could there be for India, even in the case of its successful capture?
And the question of the complete and final finishing of Darius, and the heroic march through the outskirts of the former Persian Empire, also raise many questions. Alexander seemed to be a very educated man for his era — Aristotle himself “formed it,” so it would be much more logical to expect more modest and cautious actions in Asia. It was absolutely impossible to hold such vast and culturally alien spaces to the Greeks, relying on the very limited human resources of Greece (not very loyal to the kings of Macedonia!).
Alexander was, of course, another “brilliant tactician”, but whether he was a strategist is a separate question. In general, the well-known fact that during his insane march through the Asian back streets, he managed to “make friends” with the former Persian nobility (ready to kiss the dust before him) and quarrel (without quotes) with his Macedonian comrades in arms (who are not ready to kiss ), already testifies to the "enormous intelligence." He certainly could win, but use his brilliant victories he turned out much worse (and was it even possible at such distances and the existing logistics?).
To his happiness or “happiness,” he remained invincible on the battlefield (if he lost one of the decisive battles to Darius, historians would explain this “easily” and “logically”), but take serious political dividends he got much worse. Smash the enemy army and conquer the enemy country - things are a little different. Certainly, if Alexander did not suffer such a sudden death, he could have gone west and conquered both Rome and Carthage (an interesting reversal of the story?), But it would not whom (information and logistics component would be lame in both legs). Then why?
Thus, strategic decisions in no way derive from tactical decisions, and victories / defeats themselves on the battlefields are still not “automatically” converted into anything. That is, the most brilliant tactical victory, as a rule, is meaningless outside the framework of the implementation of the strategic plan. And, oddly enough, cunning diplomats / sneaky special services / two-faced politicians may in some cases be much more useful than the most well-trained army and the most intelligent generals. “Strikes below the belt” has not been canceled yet (recall at least the memorable Berlin Congress). However, the “silver snuffboxes” have not yet come out of fashion.