Sunday, July 23, 2006

Strange Defeat, by Marc Bloch

Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940, by Marc Bloch

Marc Bloch was an officer in the French army during both world wars, joined the Resistance after the German Blitzkrieg, and was executed by the Nazis in 1944. This short tome details his opinions about why the French were so unprepared for the war. His reasons are different from the classical ones; it wasn’t that they were overconfident in the Maginot Line but instead that the High Command was simply too stodgy and unimaginative to adapt to the obvious modernizations of warfare.

I’ve been told this is one of the classic historical texts of WWI, but I had a very difficult time finishing this. Bloch is clearly passionate about his beliefs and his patriotism is both obvious and admirable. However, this struck me as a ten page essay crammed into almost 200 pages. He makes his point about the incompetence of the military command quickly and then spends the rest of the book giving fact after fact after fact for illustration. I don’t disagree with his reasoning, but he had me at hello and plodding through the rest of the book was a chore.

One interesting point that he did make towards the end was that while the High Command should shoulder most of the blame for the French collapse, the trade unions are not without fault, either. He states that unions naturally want to do “as little as possible, for the shortest time possible, in return for as much money as possible. ... However legitimate that point of view may be at other times, it is cruelly out of place then the very existence of one’s country is at stake.” As I have a low opinion of unions and believe that with our modern laws they are largely unnecessary in this country, I found this passage both accurate and amusing.

First Sentence:
Will these pages ever be published?—I cannot tell.

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