JF Ptak Science Books Post 1371
"Understanding, n. A cerebral secretion that enables one having it to know a house from a horse by the roof on the house. Its nature and laws have been exhaustively expounded by Locke, who rode a house, and Kant, who lived in a horse." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
"The German experience in reordering an industrial economy for total war in the midst of conflict offers insights into planning for postattack conditions"--Stanford Research Institute, 1967
If such is the case for understanding, then I think that those responsible for the pamphlet German Wartime Industrial Controls: an Analogy to Recovery from Nuclear Attack intended to ride their house in the Kentucky Derby and upgrade the kitchen in their horse. After all, ideas are just connections among words, though it seems that here it might be just between words, or suggestions between letters, although the words might all be privately defined. [The original document is available form our blog bookstore, here.]
This pamphlet is another one of those monuments of living proof showing the impossibility of defining where the "bottom" might be in the well of bad ideas--even when you strangle this Nazi business into its own, narrowly-defined category, trying to extricate the logic of its titanically bad idea, the pamphlet instantly ignites when removed from its ether-y vacuum of under- and over-think and exposed to oxygen.
It was the Stanford Research Institute (Menlo Park, California) that produced this thing, carved whole and with precision from a quivering block of fat and federal dollars. If the title doesn't stop time, the first page will. There we are introduced to Albert Speer (1905-1981), Minister of Armaments and War Production and architectural joyboy for Adolph Hitler. We are told about the basis for his exceptional achievement in reordering the German economy to all-out war production thus:
"...a vast armament production would have to be obtained through scrupulous attention to increased production efficiencies and the most effective use of fixed supplies and essential materials and skilled labor. Speer developed a unique variant of conventional economic planning for a controlled economy and applied it successfully..." (from page 1.)
Speer, a high-ranking Nazi party member since 1931 and intimate of Hitler, was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, and sentenced to 20 years at Spandau prison, not the least of which was for his broad and acknowledged use of slave labor. The "P" in the square standing on its edge at the top of this post is the symbol worn by a Polish slave laborer--there were some 12 million people abducted/arrested/stolen by the Nazis to work on various parts of German society.
Perhaps this was part of the "scrupulous" detail and the "effective use" of fixed supplies that the author of the Stanford paper was writing about? Surely anyone studying Speer's methods would have known this--that the author would chose to ignore this sets every moral compass everywhere into free spin.
But such is the realm of the coin in the ugly, a bubbling bulk of post-attack scenario scripting done at the taxpayers' vast expense in waging the Cold War is littered with vocabulary meant to redirect the attention, essentially to change the meaning of words in discussing the outcomes of vast nuclear war. For example, we find the phrases "period of fractionation", "the break in traditional economic time series" and "production degradation" in certain documents (which I discuss in an earlier post here) used to describe the breakdown of the American social and industrial base following a nuclear war.. These are just three of thousands of such examples, not the least of which is nuclear "exchange", which is a conceit suggesting something less than the U.S. and the Soviet Union blasting away at one another with spectacularly deadly weapons. (Perhaps the thinking is that such a situation wouldn't necessarily be a "war", and so it is something less than that, like the Korean War really wasn't one but a U.N. policing action.)
But enough of this, were not even a full page into the report, which I remind you tells us we can find useful lessons in Hitler's monstrosity, particularly about war production--that is producing materials post-attack so that we can either defend ourselves or attack again, all by taking a look at Germany, and particularly "the improvisation by gifted industrialists driven to the limits of their power and imagination" (page 12 of the report). It is difficult to want to read this report because everywhere I look there are Orwellian Ghosts--half-referenced facts wrapped in Newspeak, available at random. For example, on page 31, in discussing oil and rubber production, I find:"The output of the new synthetic Buna-s rubber was increased to 22,000 tons in 1939 and to 69,000 tons ion 1942 by accelerated production of new plant." The "new plant" is the think tank version of "new plants" (the plural is left off of many things for unknown reasons but I guess mostly for a form that seems to have more economo-cache than the simple English expedient), which is a very simplistic way of telling of the enormous production battles in Germany to come up with their own, home-brewed (and not foreign-dependent) rubber (the super-necessity of all things military).1 The other part not mentioned here in what seems to be a disingenuous appraisal of Nazi rubber production is the increase in 1943/1944, particularly from the "new plant" at Monowitz, which was also known as the Buna Works, and better known yet at Auschwitz III, where slave laborers were put into work-or-die situations producing Buna-s as part of the overall Auschwitz complex of forty camps and subsidiaries.
Here's another example, tying Hiter and (Fritz) Todt and Speer together--Todt was "one of Hitler's most important administrators", who would be replaced by Speer "who had been an assistant to Todt"--though not mentioning that Todt had used millions of slave laborers (Zwangsarbeiter) in doing his "administrating". Speer would do the same.
ANd so on and on this paper crawls until it reaches its end, which is published on detachable sheets on pages one through three, pullaways for the executive summary so that the text and subsequent documentation and analysis could be discarded. It seems to have been a waste of detachable paper when the whole thing could be thrown away at once. The author makes a case for studying the Nazi situation because it was the closest thing in modern times to use as an analogy to the possible scenario in America after nuclear war, and then launches into an analysis of Nazi "competitiveness". The author never comes close to making a compelling argument for the closeness of fit for its major assumption, though, and as far as I can tell the logic of it just doesn't work,which makes the rest of what follows unnecessary. I guess they could've kept their federal grant by identifying ideas that wouldn't work as America post-attack analogies--which is also useful--and could've easily used what they had here for that purpose. But at that point I'm not sure what is the more ridiculously-titled idea--I couldn't imagine someone reading the report on why Nazi industrial controls weren't a good analogy, because it seems tautological and unnecessary; and yet the opposite is what gets thought about and published, in all of its error and omission, swimming in its own turgid muck. This is what people were thinking about in 1967 when, evidently, houses didn't have roofs.
1. Germans were forbidden to import chemicals and food from 1933-1937, forcing Germany industry to come up with their own versions of things like rubber, meaning that there were many new places in which Buna-s (BUtdiane & NAtrium) was produced. That rubber production increased so much was a function also of not being able to import the stuff.