Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Video Games: (4) Mai Shiranui – Fatal Fury / King of Fighters (1992)

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF VIDEO GAMES: (4) MAI SHIRANUI – FATAL FURY / KING OF FIGHTERS (1992)

 

I do like my ninja girls!

 

Not surprisingly, they are a staple of the fighting game genre of video games. Mai Shiranui is yet another ninja girl or kunoichi. And as usual for ninja girls in popular culture, her signature fighting costume seems distinctly un-ninja-like or particularly conspicuous for a ninja (that highly visible ninja trope again). Firstly, there’s not much of it, all the better to display her, ah, jiggle physics (literally her trademark fighting stance – or bounce). Indeed, it was a challenge finding art that wasn’t, ah, exploitative. (Apparently that aspect of her character was inspired by tales of kunoichi using their bodies for seduction and distraction – I’m certainly distracted!). Secondly, it’s red – and rather weird in its design, not least in those weird tassel and ball things (although I like her little ninja footwear or tabi).

 

The many faces of Mai Shirunai. Actually, they’re pretty much the same face

 

She made her debut in the Fatal Fury fighting game series in 1992 – a series which consistently features that usual plot excuse of martial arts action set pieces, a martial arts tournament (which also strangely seem to be run by crime lords). The original game was set in the imaginatively named South Town in the United State (with its protagonist Bogard brothers, one of whom is the object of Mai’s infatuation). From there, it becomes insanely complicated – as the Fatal Fury characters then featured in King of Fighters, a crossover series combining the company’s other fighting game series.

 

 

The development of her character is quite intriguing, from her intended origin as a “sexy and beautiful kunoichi” (with her official character description in games as the “Gorgeous Ninja” or the “Knock-Out Ninja”). Apparently, her, ah, bust and buttocks were modelled after two different Japanese actresses (and her costumes certainly don’t let them go to waste). Otherwise, she “represents the ideal of a Japanese woman – or Yamato nadeshiko. Her profile lists her height, weight and measurements, because of course it does (1.64 m or 5’4”, 48 kg or 106 pounds and 87-55-91 or 34-22-36).

 

 

Her first name Mai is the Japanese word for dance and her surname is the Japanese word for an atmospheric ‘ghost-light’ phenomenon, referencing her pyrokinetic abilities. She has the ability to create and control fire – which she can use to cloak herself in fire, channel it through her clothes or weapons and cause explosions. Speaking of weapons, her weapon of choice is the characteristic kunoichi set of folding fans or tessen.

 

Cosplay by Giorgia Vecchini

 

“Largely due to her sex appeal, Mai has become one of the most popular, recognizable and celebrated female characters of the fighting game genre and video gaming in general, especially in Japan, China and some other East Asian countries”.

 

 

She has been a recurring character in the franchise as it has crossed into other games or media – anime, comics and the usual mediocre live-action film loosely based on the game, as well as the ubiquitous cosplay. In the words of Anime News Network – “Like it or not, Mai Shiranui is the most popular character from The King of Fighters…it’s Mai that everyone remembers for one reason or another” (I can think of at least two reasons). “And it’s Mai who gets the most merchandise, Mai whose absence from The King of Fighters XII set off a fan chorus of “No Mai, no buy,” and Mai who crosses over to other series” – indeed, to other characters, as according to Hardcore Gamers magazine, Mai became a “leading figure in fighting games to the point that many fighting games characters feature characters looking oddly like her” (not least one other top ten entry, Kasumi from Dead or Alive).

 

That’s one of her folding fans, by the way

 

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (10) They Sucked on the Western Front Too

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (10) THEY SUCKED ON THE WESTERN FRONT TOO

 

On the other hand, Wehraboos also tend to flaunt Nazi Germany’s defense of its Western Front, again presented as German tactical proficiency or competence against Allied material superiority.

 

As we’ve seen, the Anglo-American alliance faced the issues of mobilizing armies while at the same time gaining air and naval superiority, but there was a further fundamental issue when it came to actually landing on continental Europe. With the advent of mechanized transport in the twentieth century, maritime means of transport were at a disadvantage to means of transport on land, particularly western Europe with its developed railways and roads. In short, a defender on land had an inherent advantage over any invader by sea – “an ability to bring superior force to bear on a beachhead by virtue of lines of communication” that were “intrinsically superior” (as well as reinforcing and supplying that force).

 

And yet, the Anglo-American alliance pulled off this achievement against Nazi Germany – three times (that is, in major invasions, not counting minor operations). There were other factors but they did this partly by increasing naval and air superiority as well as by brilliant counter-intelligence. As a general rule, Allied intelligence ran rings about German intelligence – and in this case Allied intelligence was able to distract German attention from targets that should have been obvious. In Operation Torch, it was mostly the surprise of invading French North Africa, although the Allied intention should have alerted itself to any astute German intelligence. Sicily should have been obvious as the next target due to its geographic position, but Allied counter-intelligence – notably posing a corpse as a dead officer with false invasion plans – persuaded German leadership otherwise. The crowning achievement was Normandy, where Allied counter-intelligence effectively deceived German leadership that the obvious target in Normandy was only a feint while the real invasion was to occur at the Pas de Calais. This – combined with Allied air and naval supremacy leading to the ability to isolate the beachhead from German counter-attack or reinforcement as well as superior logistics and planning combined with extraordinary deficiencies in German strategic direction and planning won D-Day for the Allies.

 

However, Wehraboos tend to flaunt the protracted defense of the Normandy invasion as an example of Nazi Germany’s military excellence. The reality is otherwise. “In Normandy, the Wehrmacht did indeed display formidable powers of resistance but under a specific set of circumstances – in a static battle on ground of its own choosing in terrain well suited to the defense against a beachhead with few lines of advance into the interior and against Allied armies unable to develop their full offensive power until the second half of July”. Furthermore, “the Wehrmacht was no more effective in fighting a mobile battle than had been the French army in 1940 and its relative success in the static battle around the Normandy beachhead in June and early July owed much to the fact that by this stage of the war the defense had acquired a power and effectiveness denied it at earlier stages of the conflict”.

 

Indeed, the Allied campaign in France in 1944 well deserves to be compared as equal in success to the German campaign in France in 1940. Sure, in six and half weeks, Nazi Germany had overrun Belgium, the Netherlands and about three-fifths of France – but in a campaign “that was developed from a secure base across a land frontier that was some 500 miles in length and over a largely intact communications network”. On the other hand, in three months the Allies liberated most of France, Belgium, the southern Netherlands and entered Germany itself – but “in the course of a campaign mounted from a base that could not stocked beforehand and had a restricted frontage of some 70 miles”, prosecuted over a shattered communications network and costing the Wehrmacht some 500,000 casualties.

 

And that’s not the only comparison that might be drawn between the two campaigns. Nazi Germany’s last gasp on the Western Front, its Ardennes counter-offensive or the so-called Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, eerily replayed its original 1940 offensive through the Ardennes, with the Americans in the role of the French. To extent, its 1944 offensive reenacted the surprise and shock impact of its original offensive falling on the Americans. However, this time the Allies had air superiority (with the Germans attacking in cloudy weather to avoid Allied superiority, as opposed to their 1940 offensive in clear weather to use their own air superiority), operational doctrine and technique of mobile offensive warfare (with a fully motorized army to match – even at their peak, the Germans had a mostly horse-drawn army), defensive firepower, General Patton and such basic strategic concepts as a reserve (conspicuously absent from the French army in 1940). And this time, after some initial success, the German counter-offensive failed utterly, weakening their Western Front to the Allied advance into Germany itself. As American General McAuliffe replied to a German demand for surrender during the Ardennes offensive – “Nuts!”

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (9) They Sucked on the Eastern Front

The Eastern Front circa 1945. Also known as Berlin.

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (9) THEY SUCKED ON THE EASTERN FRONT

 

As we’ve noted previously, Wehraboos particularly tend to flaunt Nazi Germany’s defense of the Eastern Front – which they present as a narrative of tactical proficiency or competence that was simply swamped by the brute force of Soviet material and numerical superiority. (“Asiatic hordes!”)

 

As Willmott counters, “claims of tactical competence count for little against the fact that German armies were consistently outfought at the strategic and operational levels”. However, the historical reality is even more marked in that “the Wehrmacht was outfought at every level” in the Eastern Front in 1944. Indeed, it was the Soviet army that had originated (prior to the war) the true ‘blitzkrieg’ of the war in the concept of the ‘deep battle’ or ‘deep space battle’ – a strategy aimed at destroying enemy command and control centers as well as lines of communication. However, it had lacked the means to fight and win this strategy until 1944 – when it had sufficient armored and mechanized formations as well as the logistics to support them.

 

And oh boy, it showed! The Soviet Union launched its Operation Bagration, named for a Russian general in the Napoleonic Wars, on the anniversary of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June. The Red Army took one of Nazi Germany’s three army groups on the Eastern Front, Army Group Center in Belorussia and Poland, completely by surprise – effectively destroying or routing it, while exposing Army Group North to siege in the Baltic states and Army Group South to attack in the Balkans. Operation Bagration well deserves to be compared as equal to the success of Operation Barbarossa for Nazi Germany, but without the same sting of ultimate defeat – particularly when you add the success of subsequent operations against Army Group South, capturing Romania (and Germany’s last supply of oil outside its own synthetic production of oil) and Bulgaria, while routing the rest of German forces from the Balkans.

 

Indeed, by 1945, it is possible to argue the complete transposition of the German and Soviet armies in terms of military proficiency. By 1945, “the operational and technical quality of the Soviet army was at least the equal of the Werhmacht at its peak” (with the Soviet Vistula-Oder offensive in January 1945 “perhaps the peak of Soviet military achievement in the course of the European war”). On the other hand, “the German army of 1944-45, for all its reputation, had the characteristics so meticulously catalogued when displayed by the Soviet army in 1941: erratic and inconsistent direction, a high command packed with place-men and stripped of operational talent, the dead hand of blind obedience imposed by political commissars upon an officer corps despised and distrusted by its political master, failure at every level of command and operations”.

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (8) Fortress Europa was Overrated

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (8) FORTRESS EUROPA WAS OVERRATED

 

Of course, after its failure to defeat the Soviet Union and declaration of war on the United States, Nazi Germany faced its inevitable defeat – but Wehraboos often claim its military excellence from its ability to defend Europe for so long (from 1942 to 1945). Again, this is another of my pet hates within my general pet hate for the myth of German military excellence, particularly when it is expressed in such hyperbole as Germany fighting off the world. If true, the fact that Germany found itself fighting the world would simply reinforce that Germany was not very good at war. However, it is simply not true. Such hyperbole ignores that Germany also had its conquests (from its victories from its previous superiority), as well as its allies, notably Japan. Of course, the fact that it failed to have effective allies, or to coordinate with them effectively – or both – again reinforces that while Germany was good at fighting, it was not very good at war.

 

And let’s not overestimate Nazi Germany’s skill at fighting in its defence either. Yes, part of its protracted defence is owed to its tactical proficiency and technique (or Allied deficiencies) as Wehraboos claim, but those claims ignore other important factors. The United States only entered the war in December 1941 and had only introduced the draft shortly before – Britain was in a similar position in 1939. So the newly-formed Anglo-American alliance had to mobilize its armies essentially from scratch or minimal peacetime establishments (while also building up its air forces and navies), then equip and supply them while shipping the majority to Britain or the European theater from its center of gravity in the United States or elsewhere outside Europe (such as the various Dominions or possessions of the British Empire). And it had to do so while fighting the German submarine war against Allied shipping – while also fighting the greatest naval war in history against Japan in the Pacific Ocean – as well as fighting an air war with Germany in Europe, as naval and air superiority were necessary preconditions to any invasion of Europe. Ultimately, the Anglo-American alliance achieved not just superiority, but supremacy. The Soviet Union was in a somewhat similar position at it had to mobilize reserves for new forces to replace its losses in Barbarossa – while also mobilizing its industry beyond the Urals, particularly from factories moved from territory attacked by German forces.

 

And there was a more fundamental reason. As we’ve seen, German success in 1939-1942 owed much to the increase in offensive firepower (and mobility) over defensive firepower. However, in 1942-1943, the pendulum swung back to defensive firepower – in artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank defences – as seen in the battles of El Alamein and Kursk, so that a greater degree of offensive firepower was required to overcome it. “By 1943, the scale of conflict had reached a level that effectively marked the end of the superiority of the offence over the defence”. As a result, Anglo-American forces “were to experience to the full the difficulties of breaking through a position defended in depth and where surprise and manoeuver were of limited value”. However, the main manifestations of this development were on the Eastern Front – “where, by 1945, the increase of defensive firepower and the increased vulnerability of armor to anti-tank systems were such that the Soviet army calculated that an 8:1 superiority of armor was needed to overcome a prepared defensive position”.

 

Indeed, “it is at least arguable that the position that Germany enjoyed relative to her enemies in 1939-1941 was not equalled by those enemies relative to Germany until about mid-1944 – at which time Germany still retained the greater part of the conquests she had made between 1939 and 1942…the obvious question is, what is left of German military proficiency in light of the Allied conquest in one year of both the German homeland itself and the territories that Germany had conquered before 1943 and which she had held for consolidation purposes for a minimum of two years?”

 

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (7) Operation Barbarossa is Overrated

 

Nazi Germany only got one, maybe two time zones, tops – the Soviet Union had eleven of them, comrade

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (7) OPERATION BARBAROSSA WAS OVERRATED

 

Operation Barbarossa. This is the big one – the mistake that cost Nazi Germany the war, as it spent the rest of it being relentlessly pounded by the Soviet Union. Put simply, the Soviet Union was too big for blitzkrieg – unlike France, it had the resources, space, time and will to survive a blitzkrieg attack, indeed several blitzkrieg attacks. By invading the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941, Nazi Germany raised the war to levels it could not sustain and doomed it to defeat – but “herein lies a paradox: before the campaign, there would seem to be no means whereby Germany could prevail, yet once the campaign started it would seem to have been impossible for her to lose”.

 

Of course, Wehraboo fanboys cite this paradox as evidence of Nazi Germany’s military excellence, or at least proficiency. And while some of the explanation indeed lay in its tactical proficiency and technique, part of it also lay in good luck and timing, as well as taking the Soviet Union by surprise. The Red Army was in a shambolic state – characteristically of much else in the Soviet Union throughout its history, it appeared better on paper than it was in reality.

 

In numerical strength on a simple formation count as at June 1941, the Soviet Union could meet the combined forces of Germany and its ally Finland on the basis of equality without calling on reserves. However, with its other allies (Hungary, Italy and Rumania, along with more minor contributions from nations such as Slovakia and Spain), Germany had numerical superiority in the border areas at the outset of the campaign, although that was somewhat marginal and would evaporate as the Soviet Union drew on its reserves – hence Germany’s strategy of wishful thinking that it would destroy the Red Army before the Soviet Union did so.

 

In terms of numbers of tanks and aircraft, the Soviet Union held advantages of 3:1 or 4:1 over Nazi Germany…but “the advantage of superior numbers was largely illusory because of the obsolescence of much Soviet equipment, the slow rate of delivery of new aircraft and tanks to field forces and the low rates of serviceability in front-line units”. The last was demonstrated by an “estimated 74% of all front-line armor undergoing repair or major overhaul at any time in spring 1941”, as well as the new, powerful tanks (KV and T-34 tanks) only entering service slowly and in small numbers. Accordingly, “the Soviet armies in the border areas, for all their nominal strength, probably held no advantage in overall numbers and were massively inferior to German forces on selected axes of advance”. Very few defensive positions and fortifications had been prepared in the new Soviet border areas, while the Soviet divisions in those areas “lacked adequate signals equipment, were poorly trained at all levels and, by definition, were inferior to their opposite numbers in terms of combat experience”. This was compounded in that the Red Army was in the middle of reorganizing its armor into tank divisions on the German model, resulting in very uneven quality of Soviet formations, and its weaknesses of leadership and command following Stalin’s purges of its officer corps. If Nazi Germany had attacked, say, a year or so later, it would have been a very different proposition.

 

As it was, the Red Army fought back from the outset and it fought back hard, “if not skilfully then desperately, and with increasing effect as it acquired technique the hard way” – imposing delays on the German advance and inflicting a rate of casualties that drained German forces of their front-line strength. This brings me to another pet hate (yes, a pet hate within my general pet hate of the myth of German military excellence) – the trite Wehraboo observation that the German forces were defeated by the Russian winter. Given that Nazi Germany invaded in mid-summer, this has led some to drily quip that the Russian winter starts on 23 June. Of course, if true, then underestimating your enemy’s terrain or weather is as bad as underestimating your enemy, but the German forces were defeated by a number of factors, not least of which was the continued resistance of the Red Army. Indeed, the Red Army fought its most crucial battles in its history without any clear material advantage over its enemy (due to losses and the temporary exhaustion of reserves) and its counter-offensive of December 1941 – which drove German forces back 50 to 200 miles from Moscow, never to return – was due to superb strategic timing against a German offensive that had exhausted itself (and which had failed to detect the Soviet movement of three complete armies into the line in front of Moscow in readiness for the counter-offensive).

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting in WW2: (6) Rommel was a Choker

 

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING IN WW2: (6) ROMMEL WAS A CHOKER

 

There – I said it. Rommel was overrated. Sure, he was good when he was winning glory for himself, but when the chips were down and it came down to solid, unglamorous defence, well…

 

He pulled a sickie back to Germany on the eve of defeat in North Africa, leaving it to his successor General Messe to surrender North Africa to the Allies. He then sought the usual glory in repelling the Allied invasion of France, except that he was in the wrong place – he was back in Germany on D-Day, and then, like most of the German command due to brilliant Allied counter-intelligence, expecting the ‘main’ invasion at the Pas-de-Calais, while the real invasion came ashore at Normandy, as all the beach obstacles Rommel had laid out as part of his vaunted efforts on the Atlantic Wall, were exposed at low tide. Rommel was famously an advocate that the Allies had to be defeated at the beaches, while this was opposed by the German Commander-in-Chief West, von Runstedt, who argued that Germany needed to concentrate its forces against the Allies inland, to avoid Allied naval gunfire. And von Runstedt had a point – in opposing the Allied invasion, Germany was characteristically on the horns of a strategic dilemma to which there was no easy answer, and its panzers didn’t do too well at the pointy end of a shell from a battleship.

 

Fans of the Wehrmacht (or Nazi Germany) have a fetish with Rommel, such that he is mockingly enshrined as the patron saint of Wehraboos. (Although I have seen a mock theory propose that Wehraboos should be divided up into a western Catholic church of Rommel and an eastern Orthodox church of Manstein – on this issue I would side with the latter, as Manstein was obviously the better general).

 

Rommel was an effective tactical commander, particularly at a smaller level and on the offensive, but in many ways he embodied the strategic and logistical flaws of Nazi Germany itself – and his North African campaign in 1941-1943 was a microcosm of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Rommel would have been better off sticking to his original orders to remain on the  defensive (with the occasional spoiling offensive to disrupt the British), just as Germany would have been better off not going to war at all. Of course, he didn’t – with the benefit of good luck and timing. When he first arrived in North Africa, Italy was flailing in defeat – but Britain halted its offensive and withdrew forces to counter Germany in Greece. Rommel then struck their weakened forces – with the added benefit of capturing General O’Connor, who had effectively led the successful British offensive against the Italians – until he was stopped by the Australians at Tobruk, because they were that damn good, although he continued to consistently outfight numerically superior British forces.

 

And yet Germany (and any historical fantasies of a ‘Mediterranean strategy’) had limited means in its logistics and supply to North Africa – there was only so much Italian shipping (and only so many Italian naval forces to protect it from attack) to North Africa, only so much North African port facilities could carry, and most of all, only so much fuel trucks could carry before they started consuming it themselves. Hence the extent to which the North African theater would see-saw between both sides depending on their supply lines. Effectively, there was only so far Rommel’s forces could go and only so much they could achieve due to their logistics and supplies (against the superior logistics and resources of the Allies) – and nothing of strategic consequence for Germany, although like Germany, Rommel tended to dismiss the problems of logistics or supplies with wishful thinking (or blame them on his Italian allies).

 

Finally, as Willmott observes in passing, Italian intelligence was able to pass on to Rommel, often on a daily basis, reports of British deployment, strength and intentions from a compromised American source (Colonel Bonner Fellers, the US military attache in Egypt) – which “obviously poses the question of how much is left of Rommel’s reputation if he was so informed in the period of his greatest success – the end of which coincided with the loss of this insight into the British orders of battle”

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons Why Nazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (5) It Picked Curb Stomp Battles – Yugoslavia & Greece

Nazi war rhino in action in Greece. Of course, they didn’t actually have war rhinos, but neither did the Persians

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (5) IT PICKED CURB STOMP BATTLES – YUGOSLAVIA AND GREECE

 

Once again, Nazi Germany went back to doing what it did best – curb stomping smaller and weaker nations in Europe, in this case Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. And this time, it brought a gang – Hungary and Italy against Yugoslavia, Italy and Bulgaria against Greece. Admittedly, these allies were not terribly effective, here or anywhere else, and indeed Italy’s failure invading Greece in the first place was a large part of the reason for Germany invading these countries now, but at least Germany’s allies tied down opposing forces. So Germany and its allies had numerical superiority over Yugoslavia and Greece. Worse, Greece was at half strength after fighting against Italy and Yugoslavia was only about half mobilized. Their numerical inferiority was compounded by their material inferiority in tanks and airpower (which Germany exploited to bomb Belgrade).

 

And it kept getting worse. For political reasons, Yugoslavia was forced to attempt its defence at its frontiers rather than concentrate in its interior – its frontier “was 1,020 miles long and was indefensible over much of its length”, so that its defence resembled “a series of gaps with the occasional formation”. Those same political reasons – “division along racial, religious and cultural lines between bitterly opposed nationalities, who had little in common but their hatred for one another” – meant that Yugoslavia was ready to (and did) fragment upon attack (as it also did half a century later). Moreover, Yugoslavia and Greece were unable to support each other – and, critically, Macedonia was covered by neither, inviting German attack against this point of obvious weakness.

Gone with the Wehraboo – 10 Reasons WhyNazi Germany was Full of Crap Fighting WW2: (4) Their Victory Over France was Overrated

But what do you expect of a nation whose symbol is the chicken? Well, rooster, but still

 

GONE WITH THE WEHRABOO – 10 REASONS WHY NAZI GERMANY WAS FULL OF CRAP FIGHTING WW2: (4) THEIR VICTORY OVER FRANCE WAS OVERRATED

 

Yeah – I can’t back that up, not fully anyway. Nazi Germany’s victory over France in 1940 is correctly rated as its greatest military victory, the pivot of its success in the Second World War – “few campaigns in history have been so swift and conclusive as the German spring offensive of 1940, and in the course of the Second World War only the Japanese campaign in south-east Asia between December 1941 and April 1942 stands comparison in terms of speed of execution, comprehensiveness and a finality that went with the ultimate defeat of the victor”. Of course that’s an important caveat at the end there and we’ll come back to it, but for now it was indeed one of Nazi Germany’s finest demonstrations in the art of war, in which it combined effective strategy with its tactical proficiency to achieve victory, albeit also with good luck and timing.

 

What’s even more impressive is that it was achieved without numerical superiority – and certainly not the numerical superiority usually associated with overcoming the defence.  It is one of the “best known facts in history” (but perhaps less so in popular culture) that the Allies – Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands (I think we can safely discount Luxembourg) – actually held a margin of superiority in overall numbers of men, tanks and artillery, while the number of divisions was the same as that for Germany.

 

And yet, Germany did have some important advantages that contributed to its victory. Germany had a clear material superiority in airpower – and thus combined with overwhelming superiority in anti-aircraft guns, could secure “general command of the air, operate effectively against Allied positions and lines of communication and, critically, deny the Allies a significant reconnaissance capability’, particularly over the Ardennes, the area for the surprise main thrust of the German offensive. The Allied numerical strength was reduced in combat effectiveness as it was divided between the four nations, two of them clinging to their neutrality – “with the consequent lack of standardization of equipment and doctrine, the absence of a common command structure, and of critical importance, the failure of the four democracies to align themselves together and coordinate their policies before the start of the campaign”. And what combat effectiveness they did have was further reduced by its qualitative inferiority, particularly in operational doctrine (in so far as the French had any operational doctrine) and dissipation of its armored units (none of which were more than four months old).

 

The fall of France as portrayed by contemporary British cartoonist Illingsworth

 

Ultimately, France was also a smaller, weaker neighbour curb stomped by Germany in terms of population and economic base, although it had masked this by its victory in the First World War and mobilization for the Second – the costs of both of which ironically reinforced its demoralization and defeatism. Like Poland before it, France was defeated before the fighting began, albeit for different reasons – “France, in military terms, was beaten in the first four days of this campaign, but her defeat was as much political and psychological as it was military”. France lacked the resources, space, time and will to recover from what was essentially one armored thrust (through the Ardennes). The French – pfft! In the words of gonzo author John Birmingham, the only decent resistance in France was Patton.

 

Which brings us back to that caveat and the ultimate irony of Germany’s victory over France – that France was, uniquely, the only major adversary that Germany could actually defeat. It lacked the airpower and seapower to defeat Britain, whereas the Soviet Union was simply too big for blitzkrieg – unlike France, it did have the resources, space, time and will to survive a blitzkrieg attack, indeed several blitzkrieg attacks. The United States, of course, combined the worst features of both for Germany. Which is why German strategy floundered after its victory, at worst combining incoherence and wishful thinking – that Britain would conveniently surrender and the Soviet Union would conveniently collapse. It’s as if they had invested all their planning into achieving the victory over France that eluded them in the First World War, without any thought for anything else after that.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

The Art of War: 5 Ways of Winning Without Fighting (As Proved by The USA)

Bruce-Lee

 

THE ART OF WAR: 5 WAYS OF WINNING WITHOUT FIGHTING (AS PROVED BY THE USA)

 

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is the cult classic of military strategy. And yet Sun Tzu often comes across as a pinko pacifist pussy, quoting poetry to hide that when he’s not being obvious, he’s being obtuse. I mean, come on – “The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course” and “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon”. What?! Of course, part of this is because The Art of War is thoroughly imbued with Taoist philosophy, including my personal favorite principle of ‘wu wei’ or the art of doing nothing effectively. Nowhere is this more evident than in its defining principle that the true art of war lies in winning without fighting. Well obviously, but how? It brings to mind Bart Simpson’s response when his karate teacher gives him a copy for his first lesson – “Um, I already know how not to hit a guy”.

 

In fairness, Sun Tzu does explain how to win without fighting, when you cut away all the poetry. However, as usual, history shows it much more bluntly, as proved by the United States of America. Of course, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that this superpower excelled at the art of war (at least until recently)  – as opposed to, say, Germany, which despite (or perhaps because of) its reputed military professionalism, proved that it was very good at fighting but not very good at war. (All it achieved in two world wars was encirclement and attrition by enemies with superior resources). So how does history show the art of war in winning without fighting? Let me count the ways…

 

3monkeys

 

(1) SPLENDID ISOLATIONISM (OR STAYING OUT OF WARS)

 

Now this one should be a no-brainer, as it is Sun Tzu’s apparent eagerness to avoid war that makes him seem such a pacifistic pussy. Wars are costly and destructive, especially big or long wars of attrition, and even when you win, you often lose. So, the best strategy lies in avoiding wars in the first place, if possible – and the worst place to be in war is at the front line. The best place to be in war is sitting it out at the sidelines, ideally playing the balance of power and making money through financing or supplying your favored side – and only entering, if at all, to tilt the balance of power in your direction. This pretty much defines the historical foreign policy of Britain towards continental Europe – they coined the phrase ‘splendid isolationism’ and it served them pretty well, until you know, they fought two world wars too many.

 

To - ah - just forget about it

To – ah – just forget about it

 

USA! USA! USA!

 

The Brits might have coined the phrase, but the United States historically defined itself by isolationism. George Washington declared it in his Farewell Address in 1796 and Thomas Jefferson similarly announced in his Inaugural Address in 1801 the policy of “entangling alliances with none”. Isolationism suited the United States pretty well, generally avoiding war with European powers until, you know, it was big enough to win – and the above strategy of sitting it out on the sidelines also essentially defines American foreign policy in the world wars. After the Second World War, it was a different story, as isolationism got a bit of bad press, although critics of American foreign policy on both left and right would argue that the United States has not been isolationist enough. It is even arguable that the United States fought the First World War to “make the world safe for democracy”, only to make it safe for fascism – then fought the Second World War against fascism only to make it safe for communism.

 

Of course, like most things in life and history, there’s a catch to isolationism – the luck of geography. No doubt Belgium would have loved splendid isolationism, but the geography of being wedged between France and Germany was against it. The isolationist ideal is to effectively have a continent to yourself, like the United States – or better yet, to actually have a continent to yourself:

 

Guarded by its navy of sharks and crocodiles

Guarded by its navy of sharks and crocodiles

 

Islands are the next best thing, particularly as historically you could get by with a strong navy instead of a standing army. We’ve already mentioned Britain, but another example was Japan (to the point that it closed itself off from the world from 1641 to 1853), which did pretty well until, you know, it fell victim to the most famous of classic blunders by getting involved in land wars in Asia. Of course, you can’t just sit around in your isolationism like some shut-in crazy cat lady, you have to do things so as to win without fighting. What to do? Well…

 

 

hippies

 

(2) MAKE LOVE NOT WAR

 

The hippies were right! Well, half right – as it should be make babies, not war. War isn’t purely a population numbers game, but it’s hard to beat a big population (and ideally the land area to go with it) – just look at China or Russia. At the very least, you have reserves. Also, there’s nothing quite like a population change in your favor (both between nations and between groups within nations) to tilt the balance of power your way without firing a shot. Historians will probably always debate the causes for the fall of the Roman Empire (or even when and if it fell), but at least one factor was its declining population, particularly as opposed to the increasing population of German tribes. And so the Roman Empire slowly became…German (or more precisely the western Roman Empire slowly became a number of German kingdoms). History never repeats but sometimes it rhymes, and in the modern era, France was eclipsed as the predominant power in Europe when the more populous Germany was united under Prussia (and even more so with France’s declining birthrate and demographic demoralisation between the world wars).

 

Population growth can basically be your baby BOOM!

 

USA! USA! USA!

 

Again, war is not purely a population numbers game, so it’s hard to be definitive about it, but it is no coincidence that the rise of the United States to superpower was linked to its rise to the most populous Western nation, fuelled by massive immigration. Even in its origin, one hypothetical example might be whether the United States could have effectively won the American Revolution without firing a shot by just waiting until its population outgrew that of Britain – or indeed, if it had secured parliamentary representation instead of revolution whether it would have ended up running Britain and the British Empire.

 

Giving rise to the Britannian Empire in Code Geass - where everyone is FABULOUS!

Giving rise to the Britannian Empire in Code Geass – where everyone is FABULOUS!

 

However, there is one cold, hard example that has recurred throughout history whenever hunter-gatherers have come up against agricultural societies, which can feed more mouths (and have more diseases) – the Indian Wars. The United States basically steamrollered its manifest destiny from coast to coast over the native American tribes as a function of population growth – while most of its population barely noticed. (The United States population that is – the native American population noticed a lot).

 

So population helps, but there is another set of numbers that usually counts for even more…

 

dollar

 

(3) MAKE MONEY NOT WAR

 

There is a military adage “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics” – and ultimately logistics are a matter of money, so nations with money are hard to beat. Sun Tzu bemoaned the daily cost of keeping an army in the field (“a thousand ounces of silver a day”) – and that was when armies could forage and loot much of their supplies. Wars are costly and expensive, especially with modern industrial technology. As we’ve seen, the best place to be in war is sitting on the sidelines – making money from trade and financing or supplying your side of choice (and entering, if at all, to win it so they can pay you back), or effectively fighting with money by subsidizing other nations. Even better, money is a means to become powerful without fighting at all – through trade, finance, investment and influence. Germany dominates Europe today and Japan rose to power through money more effectively than they ever did by war, while China has risen to superpower through making money more than it ever did through its military and nuclear bluster under Mao.

 

money-best-superpower-ever

USA! USA! USA!

 

Need we say more? Money has been the fundamental American art of war. Who says money can’t buy superpower? Just ask Batman…and the United States has been the goddamn Batman of the world – crimefighting with cash, gadgets and firepower. For starters, the United States simply bought large parts of its territory, most notably the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1804 and Alaska from Russia in 1867.

 

I'll take the green part to go - and could you throw Alaska in a doggy bag?

I’ll take the green part to go – and could you throw Alaska in a doggy bag?

 

When it has come to wars, the United States has relied on its economic, financial and industrial strength – from the victory of the North over the South in the Civil War to victory in the world wars. As Stalin is reputed to have said of the victory in the Second World War (and if he didn’t, he should have) – England provided the time, Russia provided the blood and America provided the money. That’s how you win without fighting and that’s what Germany got for trying to be a Nietzschean Superman, trying to fight its way to victory (“he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterward looks for victory”), rather than being Batman like the United States. (It also goes to show who would really win between Batman and Superman. Even in the comics Batman could just pay Wonder Woman to beat up Superman or cut a deal with Lex Luthor, all while getting rich from shares in kryptonite). And for the ultimate money shot of winning without fighting, there’s the Cold War, where the United States won when the Soviets essentially ran out of money.

 

Of course, historically speaking, sooner or later in your rise to power through becoming populous and rich (indeed often as obstacles during it), you will face wars with adversaries or rivals. So, how do you win them without fighting?

 

 

images

 

PICK CURB STOMP BATTLES

 

It’s simple – you should pick battles that are so ridiculously one-sided in your favor that they have their own trope, like stomping someone into the curb. Monty Python demonstrates the basic principle:

 

 

Empires are generally built by big or powerful nations stomping on small or weak ones. Picking curb stomp battles or “winning with ease” is the essence of Sun Tzu’s strategist – “hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage”. Typically, this is a matter of numerical superiority, as Sun Tzu himself emphasized – “though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force”. However, it is very often a matter of qualitative superiority (from what in military lingo is termed force multipliers) – such as superior training or technique but most demonstrably superior technology, the historical equivalent of beating opponents who bring knives to gunfights. This is how the Europeans curb stomped their colonial empires – as Hillaire Belloc wrote, “whatever happens, we have got. The Maxim gun and they have not”. The Anglo-Zanzibar War lasted the whole of 38 minutes on 27 August 1896, as British ships used the Zanzibari sultan’s palace for target practice from 9.02 am to 9.40 am. (Part of the terms of peace was that the Zanzabaris had to repay the cost of the shells).

 

BEP1

 

USA! USA! USA!

O land of the free and home of the brave – but one has to admit, this is kind of how the United States won its smaller wars. H. L. Mencken typically mocked this in his essay “The Anglo-Saxon”, but as we’ve seen, it is the essence of clever strategy and all nations like to do it if they can, even Mencken’s beloved Prussian Germany, which lost when it took on opponents bigger than itself – the world in general and the Soviet Union in particular. Sure, the United States started off big, as the potential stompee against the British Empire in the American Revolution (and its sequel, the war of 1812), but after that it curb stomped its manifest destiny across the continent. We’ve already talked about the Indian Wars, but there was also the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, which Ulysses S. Grant – no pinko pacifist pussy – called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger on a weaker nation” (and added about half of Mexico to the United States).

 

What?! They weren't using it anyway!

What?! They weren’t using it anyway!

 

The debut of the United States into the international scene with a war against a European power was equally as sordid, as it pounced upon an enfeebled Spain in 1898 and snatched the last decent remnants of the declining Spanish empire (like the Philippines and Cuba), leaving Spain with such gems as the Spanish Sahara and Fernando Poo. (No, really – Fernando Poo). The Mexican-American War and Spanish-American War typified many American wars south of the border and across the waters, from the so-called Banana Wars through Panama and Grenada to the first Iraqi War.

 

And for that matter, even the bigger wars of the United States have something of this character. Such was the economic strength and resources of the United States in the world wars, that they were really a foregone conclusion after its entry, especially when you throw in the other allies – and as the United States swarmed Japan with its ships and planes in the Second World War, it did indeed have some actual curb stomp battles, such as the ‘Great Marianas Turkey Shoot’ in June 1944, labelled by American naval aviators for the ease with which they shot down the remnants of Japanese carrier aviation (prompting Japan to resort to kamikazes). Also, although the American Civil War – a war that the Pacific War oddly resembled in many ways – was hardly a curb stomp battle, the North had such advantages in population and resources over the South that its victory was virtually a foregone conclusion as well.

 

Of course, sooner or later, you will face adversaries or rivals with which you are more evenly matched and which would involve wars of attrition, which Sun Tzu labelled the worst possible wars. How do you win without fighting?

 

 

003-girls-img_2927

 

(5) HAVE OTHERS DO THE FIGHTING FOR YOU

 

Again, it’s simple – sit back while others do the fighting for you. This essentially comes in two versions. There’s the adversarial version, in which you sit back while your adversaries or rivals destroy or exhaust themselves fighting each other, although that’s often as much a matter of good luck as good strategy. One reason for the Islamic conquest of the remaining eastern Roman or Byzantine empire and the Persian empire is that they were exhausted from decades (or centuries) slugging it out against each other like glazed-eyed punch-drunk boxers. Alternatively, there’s the allied version, which is much the same except you sit back while your allies bear the brunt of the fighting, although typically you’ll have to finance or supply them or at least do some cheerleading.

 

clothlands

 

USA! USA! USA!

 

Again, one has to admit that, through good luck or good strategy, this is kind of how the United States has won its bigger wars. Perhaps its biggest war, at least in terms of the disparity with its adversary, was the American Revolution, so it was just as well France fought it for them – not just France but Spain and the Netherlands as well, in what was essentially a world war against Britain. The sequel War of 1812 was somewhat similar, as the United States was mostly a distraction from Britain’s main concern with, in the words of H. L. Mencken, “an enterprising Corsican gentleman, Bonaparte by name”. The world wars were even more of the same. The United States entered the First World War at the tail end of it, when every other combatant was exhausted by years of fighting, with far fewer casualties as a result. In the Second World War, it came in about halfway, but it was the Soviet Union that did most of the fighting against Nazi Germany, as well as most of the dying – at least 20-30 MILLION dead (albeit mostly as civilians or captured prisoners) as opposed to about 420,000 dead for the United States.

 

So yeah, it was more like saving Private Ivan

So yeah, it was more like saving Private Ivan

 

The biggest exception to the rule was the war it fought against itself, the American Civil War, which is why it involved the most casualties of any American war.

 

Again, like most things, there’s a catch. The adversarial version needs good judgment – in correctly judging that your adversaries will destroy each other, rather than one defeating the other and becoming stronger or more dangerous to you as a result. The allied version on the other hand has a problem all of its own – namely that your uppity allies, having done the fighting, might think that they should do the winning as well. Once again, the United States has excelled at putting an end to this crap. France went broke from its spending in the American Revolution and had a revolution of its own, while Spain had similar problems and lost its American colonies. Virtually everyone was exhausted, broke and owed money to the United States or swallowed up by revolution or civil war at the end of the First World War. The biggest exception was the Second World War, with the Soviet Union claiming its spoils of victory. It just took a bit longer – and the United States winning the Cold War by making money – for them to be exhausted and broke as well. Although there was also something Sun Tzu didn’t see coming, which luckily turned into one last way of winning without fighting (and hopefully has helped the world turn away from fighting), because fighting would mean everyone losing…

 

abomb

 

Apostles of the Goddess & Saints of Pagan Catholicism – Fantasy

magdalena2907172-14

*

APOSTLES OF THE GODDESS & SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM – FANTASY

*

These are my apostles of the goddess and saints of pagan catholicism from the genre of fantasy.

Of course, all poets and writers of fantasy are by their nature saints of my pagan catholicism – but some more so than others and I have only canonized the former, including those saints who dance with the goddess as her apostles.

 

APOSTLES OF THE GODDESS

 

 

ST. NEIL GAIMAN

 

St. Gaiman is as goddess-saturated as any other apostle, maybe even more so. His works of fantasy consistently evoke goddess or goddess-like figures (including faery queens and witches), even if they are dark as often as not. Bonus points that these figures are often drawn from actual goddesses of pagan mythology or folklore.

 

The epitome of this is arguably (because I’d also argue for American Gods) his magnum opus, the Sandman series. There’s its abundance of actual goddesses and mythological figures – indeed even evoking that metaphoric apostolic trait, dancing with the goddess, in the form of Ishtar. There are the feminine figures of the Endless themselves – Death (everyone’s favorite and my image for this entry), Desire, Despair and Delirium (who rivals Death as my personal favorite), who indeed outnumber the male figures (particularly with the abdication of Destruction), although balance is achieved in the androgynous and shifting gender of Desire.

 

Above all, there are the recurring trinities of female figures that evoke the Triple Goddess or trope of the Hecate Sisters (and Three Faces of Eve), not least the Hecatae themselves as well as the Fates and Furies. Indeed, they recur in his other works as well, such as the Hempstocks in The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

 

And of course there is his evocation of the goddess in American Gods (even if it is somewhat tongue in trickster cheek).

 

 

O yes!

 

SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM (FEAST DAY SAINTS)

 

ST. J.R.R. TOLKIEN OF MIDDLE-EARTH

 

St. Tolkien earns his feast day as the patron saint of fantasy, with The Lord of The Rings defining modern literary fantasy. Indeed, what he identified as his ‘legendarium’ of Middle Earth is a reconstruction of English mythos in modern fantasy, such that it was one of two modern mythologies – along with Wicca – to originate in England in the twentieth-century, except that it infused literary fantasy rather than religion. As a result, modern literary fantasy is thoroughly infused with Tolkien’s ‘fairy stories’ (as he classified literary fantasy in his famous essay On Fairy Stories) and Nordic mythology.

 

Bonus points for pagan catholicism as his legendarium is literally pagan catholicism – his native Roman Catholicism infused with those same ‘fairy stories’ and Nordic mythology. There are his elves as angelic and otherworldly beings (along with other more angelic and otherworldly beings, some of them fallen). There is the Lady of Lothlorien. And there is his trinity of Christ figures – Frodo (as crucified or sacrificial Christ), Gandalf (as resurrected Christ) and Aragorn (as messianic Christ or Christ the king).

 

ST. STEPHEN KING

 

St. King is not often overtly pagan, even if he did write of Pan in The Lawnmower Man – not that you would be aware of that or anything from the original story from its abominable cinematic adaptation.

 

However, he earns his feast day from having created his own modern mythos that resonates throughout popular culture, particularly as a result of cinematic or screen adaptations – a mythos that is overarching and overlapping throughout his individual works and might well be identified as a story universe (the Kingverse) centered in King’s home state of Maine. Of course, that was most demonstrable when King deliberately sought to do so through welding much of his canon into his Dark Tower multiverse.

 

However, it was and is evident before and after (as well as outside) the Dark Tower in the way in which his works crossover from each other. Personally, I prefer his precursors to his Dark Tower multiverse (although they were also ultimately linked into it) of The Stand and The Talisman. The former has been observed to be King’s American The Lord of the Rings, but in my view it is the latter that is his equivalent of the mythic fantasy quest across the United States.

 

ST. RICHARD KADREY OF STARK

 

One way of earning your feast day as one of my saints of pagan catholicism is a suitably subversive take on Christian mythos – and it doesn’t get much more subversive than St. Kadrey’s Sandman Slim (or James Stark – hence his pagan saint title). No simple revenant clawing his way out of the grave, Stark claws his way like a badass out of hell, only to find himself trying to keep one step ahead of the magical forces – celestial, infernal and terrestrial that would like to see him back there or worse (the latter arguably including ruling it as its new Lucifer).

 

Bonus points for God being a lot more, ah, multi-sided, than might be expected.

 

Further bonus points for succeeding to the position of Lucifer’s own scribe, in the continuation of that character in comics as commenced by St. Gaiman (and St. Carey).

 

ST. JAMES MORROW

 

St. Morrow earns his feast day for taking theology and making it flesh in the form of absurdist (and humanist) fantasy, particularly in his Godhead trilogy – where he takes St. Nietzsche’s philosophical theme that God is dead and makes it flesh, literally in form of a two mile long corpse or Corpus Dei in the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Bonus points for the second book of the trilogy, Blameless in Abaddon, in which theodicy is made flesh in the form of a trial in which humanity is the plaintiff and God is the defendant (and in which the mind of God is made over into Plato’s Cave).

 

SAINTS OF PAGAN CATHOLICISM

 

ST. SIMON KURT UNSWORTH

 

St. Unsworth doesn’t quite earn his feast day, but after vigorous case presentation by his devil’s advocate has earned his canonization as a saint of pagan catholicism – for his subversion of hell (and heaven) in his posthumous fantasy of The Devil’s Detective and its sequel.

 

Bonus points for also giving hell its hero and champion of justice, even if he has to harrow all hell to be it – Thomas Fool