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I I n 1898 there was published in Paris a six-volume work entitled La Gumre Future; uux points de vue technique, economique et politique. This was a translation of a series of articles which had been appearing in Russia, the fruit of collective research but masterminded and written by one of the leading figures in the world of Russian financeand industry, Ivan (orJeande) Bloch (1836-1902). Sometimes described as "a Polish banker," Bloch was in fact an entrepreneur almost on the scale of the Rothschilds in Western Europe or Carnegie in the United States. He had made his money in railroad promotion, and then turned to investment on a large scale, promoting and sharing in the great boom in the Russian economyof the 1890s. He had writtenprolificallyabout the economic problems of the Russian Empire, and was increasingly alarmedby the degree to which they were complicated, then as now, by the military need to keep abreast, in an age of rapidly developingtechnology, with the wealthier and more advanced states of the West. Having been responsible for organizing the railway supply for the Russian armies in their war with the Ottoman Empire in 1877-78, Bloch had an unusual grasp of military logistics. And he brought to the study of war an entirely new sort of mind, one in which the analytical skills of the engineer, the economist, and the sociologist were all combined. His book was in fact the first work of modern operationalanalysis, and nothing written since has equalled it for its combination of rigor and scope. Only the last of the six volumes was translated into English, under the title Is War Now Impossible?' This volume conveniently summarizes the argument of the entire work, and it was itself summarized by the author in an interview with the English journalist W.T. Stead which is printed as an introductionto the book. Bloch began by statinghis conclusions:war between great states was now impossible--or, rather, suicidal. "The dimensions of modem armaments and the organisation of society have rendered its prosMichael Howard is Regius Professor of History at Oxford University. This paper was written while he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centerfor Scholars in Washington, D.C. 1. Jeande Bloch, Is War Now Impossible? The Future of War in its Technical, Economic and Political Relations (London and Boston, 1899). International Security, Summer 1984 (Vol. 9, No. 1) 0162-2889/84/010011-17$02.50/1 0 1984by the President and Fellows of Haward College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Tcxhnology. 41 International Security 1 42 ecution an economic impossibility."* This could be almost mathematically demonstrated. The range, accuracy, and rate of fire of modern firearmsrifles lethal at 2000 meters, artillery at 6000-made the "decisive battles" which had hitherto determined the outcome of wars now impossible. Neither the infantry could charge with the bayonet nor cavalry with the saber. To protect themselves against the lethal storm of fire which would be unleashed on the modern battlefield, armies would have to dig themselves in: "the spade will be as indispensable to the soldier as his rifle. . . . That is one reason why it will be impossible for the battle of the future to be fought out rapidly. . . . Battles will last for days, and at the end it is very doubtful whether any decisive victory can be gained."3 Thus far Bloch was not breaking new ground. He was only setting out a problem which intelligent officers in all European armies had been studying ever since the experiencesof the Franco-Prussian War in 1870and the RussoTurkish War in 1877-78 had shown (quite as clearly as, and rather more immediately than, those of the American Civil War) the effect of modern firearms on the battlefield. The introduction of "smokeless powder" in the 1880s, increasing the range and accuracy of all firearms and making possible the near invisibility of their users, would, it was generallyagreed, complicate the difficulties of the attack yet further. But even these, it was widely assumed , would not change the fundamental nature of the problem. The answer, it was believed, lay in the development of the firepower of the assailant, especially of his artillery. The assaulting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 41-57
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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