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Editorial – The Science of War

7 December 1940

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 07 December 1940

The Science of War

The Germans have made an angry protest against the publication in Switzerland of the plain truth about the bombing war, and the contrast’ between the murderous concentration of the Nazi bombers on civilian slaughter with the comparatively chivalrous restriction of British bombing to; strictly military objectives.

They do not deny that this is so, they deny the right of a small weak State to take note of their infamy and to comment on it. So far from denying that mass murder is their policy and method, they describe it as “industrial warfare” and label it the ” science; of war.”

The mass raids on’ Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool, Bristol, and other provincial cities are for them a new’ phase of the Blitzkrieg, a new chapter of the war,” a new tactic in the battle for Britain. They realise that the reduction of London is a slow process—they had not allowed; for the immense size, strength, versatility, and resource of the capital. While continuing their assaults on the metropolis, they are looking for quicker, more spectacular, and more encouraging results from the devastation of cities and towns small enough to be knocked out in one or two raids.

London’s staying power, they say, is greater than that of, provincial cities with only a few hundred thousand inhabitants. ” When these towns are shattered, they are as useless to England as if they were occupied by enemy troops; they are even more dangerous, for their dissolution creates problems, which ought to be solved but will not be, because Churchill and his underlings’ mistake the science of war for the art of killing the enemy with words.”

Nobody has given more assiduous attention to the art of “killing the enemy with words ” than has Hitler and his underlings, but there is enough of substance in these brutal theories to give us food for reflection. The Germans are tragically wrong about this as in most of their theories regarding the English, but there is an intelligent principle in their fell purpose. In their “science of war” there is no room for humanity, chivalry or mercy. The devastation of a city and the massacre of its inhabitants is a part of military tactics in no way differing from the destruction of military forces. They are cunning enough to see that in a fight uncontrolled by a referee, the foulest fighter must have the advantage.

Our own reluctance to adopt their tactics, to repay them in kind, to blast and burn their cities and to strike at the economic life of, helpless communities, and to create those ” dangerous” problems for which democracies have no ready solution, is of great value to them, and so long as we are content to fight with one hand tied, they will press us ever harder and closer with foul tactics. It is useless to complain of this, for we are at war with a nation as amoral as a wild beast, knowing no law and no limit to its rage and cruelty.

How far the Germans are right in their estimate of the effect of mass night bombing on our morale and our economic strength, we know better than they do. Doubtless they express more confidence than they feel, and it is certain that the material and moral damage they have done is not nearly’ so important as they would have their own people believed. After the initial shock of these great onslaughts the cream of the assaulted community has reacted and rallied miraculously, and recovery has been swift.

These terrific blows under the belt have caused hurt and anguish, and so long as the Germans are assured that they will not be returned and that we shall go on leading the orthodox  left – to their widely distributed bases and , war plants, we must expect many more such vicious blows. So long as the struggle is in the main restricted to bombing duels, the Germans are confident that our civilian morale will crack before their war machine can he put out of action. Even if and when, in the agony of our hurts, we turn our attention to their civilians and deprive them of further immunity, the Germans will rely on the advantage which an authoritarian regime possesses of regimenting and disciplining their masses. Hitler is utterly indifferent to slaughter—whether of German or Jew, soldier or civilian, so long as the object to be gained justifies the price to be paid and is attainable at the price.

His satellites are as merciless, and have the same deep contempt of the herd. So long as we refrain from reprisals they fight at an advantage which they are ready to press to the utmost; they are totally indifferent to moral considerations or to public opinion within their own country or elsewhere. They have bedevilled half the civilised world, and have shocked into silence all that remains outside the British Empire. They know that they have utterly forfeited beyond all redemption, the respect of mankind, but they are content to forfeit respect so long as they can impose their will by dread and fear. They know that they have no future apart from mastery, and that when their strength fails they will be set upon and torn to pieces by their allies as well as by their enemies.

Meanwhile these monsters have to be fought and overcome, and it is time to consider whether we can afford to concede them the slightest unnecessary advantage—either of nicety or inefficiency. The whole German nation is welded into a single weapon; we are still clumsily gathering up our strength and co-ordinating our forces. The spirit of free men dwelling amid free institutions counts for much but it will not be decisive in this war against a slave State as tough and indurated as Germany until it has reached totality of effort and discipline.

There is a time for liberty and a time for discipline, and history is strewn with instances of the loss of the former for lack of the latter. For the latest instance we have not far to look; the weakness of France is patent to all now, but the German diagnosed it and relied upon it long before we suspected it.

Even now we have not fully digested its lessons.