On the revealing character of strategic error
Translation: Paola Vagioni
Strategic issues rarely interest non-specialists. This is explained by the interest the latter show in the present without realizing the proximity and importance of the future. However quid of the strategic errors that allow the understanding of present reality without having to make the effort of the conception of the future? This type of error allows the grasping of the mental reality of the person who committed it. It is more revealing than the tactical or operational error because it is deeper on cognitive terms. Let us consider the strategic error committed by Adolf Hitler in mid-August 1941. His troops had captured Smolensk and his generals wanted to charge directly into Moscow, which they considered it takeable even if this could not happen without difficulties. However, Adolf Hitler broke their momentum because he wanted first to finish with Leningrad and Ukraine. This dispersion of the front caused serious logistical problems and the delay of the German army was exacerbated by the autumn rains and winter snows. This strategic error was further reinforced by the decision to delay the trains with warm uniforms, which would have allowed soldiers to resist the legendary cold; all this for the sake of trains with ammunition. Nevertheless firepower wouldn’t have made sense except with men capable of sustaining it. No matter since this is not our purpose. We want to attach ourselves on the revealing character of strategic error. Why does the Nazi machine at its peak slow down the attack at the heart of the Russian resistance namely Moscow and primarily desires to finish with Ukraine? Wasn’t the latter accused of collaboration in a global way even if this is unjustified? So why pick on a potential ally and instead of this to want to crush it? Why sign a pact with Joseph Stalin if he was only an enemy? Admittedly, the usual explanation is that the Nazi machine did not want to have two open fronts. So why commit the strategic error of delaying an attack on the core and waste time on its extension? In reality the problem is not ideological as we want to believe it. It is primarily military and therefore strategic. Adolf Hitler had no confidence whatsoever towards the Ukrainians, no more than the Russians. For him, they were all Communists within the Soviet Union, so he had to make no distinction. Therefore, he could not penetrate the Russian front and make a quick breakthrough without protecting his rear. He did not regard Ukraine as a favorable environment to the Third Reich. Also, he had to eliminate the least possible resistance before attacking the core of the Soviet Union. Thus the strategic error of Adolf Hitler comes from the Ukrainian reality. We can therefore indiscrimately accuse Ukraine for everything and nothing. However, whoever is at the source of this type of critique has been very clear. His opinion of the Ukrainians was so negative that he preferred to eliminate them a priori as an obstacle to his grand strategy, even if this made him commit a strategic error that became thereafter historical and one of the reasons for his final defeat.