Ludwig Beck

Eastern front disasters predicted

Ludwig Beck was right

Von Clausewitz  stated in his book “Vom Kriege” that war is only a continuation of state policy by other means. “Der Krieg ist … ein Akt der Gewalt, um den Gegner zur Erfüllung unseres Willens zu zwingen” War … is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will …

Violence, that is to say (for there is no moral force without the conception of states and law), is therefore the means; the compulsory submission of the enemy to our will is the ultimate object. In order to attain this object fully, the enemy must be disarmed, and disarmament therefore becomes the immediate object of hostilities in theory. It takes the place of the final object, and puts it aside as something we can eliminate from our calculations.

Von Clausewitz comes to the following conclusion:
The war of a community – of whole nations, and particularly of civilized nations – always starts from a political condition and is called forth by a political motive. It is therefore a political act. Now if it was a perfect, unrestrained, and absolute expression of force, as we had to deduce it from its mere conception, then the moment it is called forth by policy it would step into the place of policy, and as something quite independent of it would set it aside, and only follow its own laws … War in the real world … is not an extreme thing which expends itself at one single discharge;

it is the operation of powers which do not develop themselves completely in the same manner and in the same measure, but which at one time expand sufficiently to overcome the resistance opposed by inertia or friction, while at another they are too weak to produce an effect;  it is therefore, in a certain measure, a pulsation of violent force more or less vehement, consequently making its discharges and exhausting its powers more or less quickly – in other words, conducting more or less quickly to the aim, but always lasting long enough to admit of influence being exerted on it in its course, so as to give it this or that direction, in short, to be subject to the will of guiding intelligence.

Now, if we reflect that war has it root in a political object, then naturally this original motive which called into existence should also continue the first and highest consideration in its conduct. Still, the political object is no despotic lawgiver on that account; it must accomodate itself to the nature of the means, and though changes in these means may involve modification in the political objective, the latter always retains a prior right to consideration. Policy, therefore, is interwoven with the whole action of war, and must exercise a continuous influence upon it, as far as the nature of the forces liberated by it will permit …

We see therefore, that war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to war relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the art of war in general and the commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a triffling one. But however powerfully this react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object. War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

This in mind, Gehlen wrote in his memoirs:

… dass es sicherlich nicht von Übel gewesen wäre, wenn sich Hitler, so wie es Lenin getan hat, nach den Clausewitzchen Lehren gerichtet und danach gehandelt hätte …

“Schon Generaloberst Beck, der Vorgänger Halders als Chef des Generalstabes des Heeres, hatte im Frühjahr 1938 in einer Denkschrift darauf aufmerksam gemacht, dass die Politik Hitlers zwangsläuftig zum Weltkriege unter Beteiligung der USA führen müsse un dass Deutschland in dieser Auseinandersetzung notwendigerweise unterliegen werde, da es einfach nicht über die notwendigen Mittel, d. h. das notwendige Kräftepotential, verfüge. Er hatte im Sinne Clausewitzens gedacht: “Dass die Richtungen un Absichten der Politik mit diesen Mitteln nicht in Widerspruch treten, das kann die Kriegskunst im allgemeinen und der Feldherr in dem einzelnen Falle fordern … ” und war dafür verabschiedet worden.
Aber auch der Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, Feldmarschall von Brauchitsch, und der Chef des Generalstabes, Generaloberst Halder, hatten bereits im Zuge der Plannung des Russlandfeldzuges Hitler ihre Bedenken über unbegrenzte Feldzugziele im russischen Raum, unter anderem auch im Hinblick auf die Schwierigkeiten der Lösung aller Nachschubprobleme, vorgetragen. Hitler schien jedoch davon überzeugt zu sein, die Widerstandskraft der Sowjets innerhalb von wenigen Wochen entscheidend brechen zu können. Er weigerte sich sogar mit den Einwänden im einzelnen auseinanderzusetzen. Auch der militärische personelle Ersatz, der nur die Ausfälle eines Blitzkrieges zu decken vermochte, erschien nach den Vorstellungen Hitlers ausreichend.

As early as the spring of 1938 General Ludwig Beck, Halder’s predecessor as chief of staff, had pointed out in a study for Hitler that his policies would inevitably lead to world war involving the United States, and that equally inevitably Germany was bound to emerge as the loser in the conflict as she simply was not strong enough. This was directly in line with Clausewitz’s thinking, “that the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the art of war in general and the commander in each particular case may demand … ”

During the planning of the Russian campaign the commander in chief of the army, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, and his chief of staff also expressed to Hitler their concern about launching a campaign with limitless objectives deep into Russia because of the sheer logistical problems, if for no other other reason. Hitler however was apparently convinced he could smash all Russian resistance within few weeks. He even refused to involve himself in any discussion on the detailed objections raised by his advisers.  Even the output of replacement personnel, which would have sufficed to replace the losses in a blitzkrieg type of war at most, seemed adequate to Hitler.   -R. Gehlen

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