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Thursday, January 29, 2009
This is the type of question which begets ex post narratives and, from there, finger pointing and the "blame game." This seems to be the case with President Bush and Iraq II - people are quick to point out that there seemed to be little at stake or at least not enough to justify the war. Perhaps. But as an empiricist I strive to formulate not just the null but also the alternative hypothesis - but then that is my job.
During World War II, much like in World War I, the Russian armed forces were used as cannon fodder to take the pressure off the western front. In the winter of 1942 the U.S. hadn't yet invaded Europe but Joseph Stalin ordered the Russian Army to attack the German armies at Stalingrad. The result was that the German 6th Army was surrounded and eventually destroyed and its remnants surrendered in Feb of 1943.
I am reading "Life and Fate" by Vassily Grossman. On page 646-647 of my version he has the following things to say about our question of "what was at stake?":
This was his [Stalin's] hour of strength. What was being decided now, what was at stake, was the fate for the State Lenin had founded: now the rational, centralized force of the Party would be able to realize itself in the construction of huge factories, atomic power stations, jet planes, intercontinental missiles, space rockets, immense buildings and palaces of culture, new canals and seas, new roads and cities north of the Arctic Circle.
Sometimes it is natural to ask what was at stake when a gamble doesn't seem to pay off. However, Grossman so aptly points out that the victory at Stalingrad led to a lot of downside over the following years.
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