My first contribution to this or any history forum where I’ve been looking for somewhere to debate/understand things for a while and have watched all The Great War, Between Two Wars etc. so here goes.
Unfortunately, language is limited and has personal meaning for each of us - some of the discussion here seems to be with reference to the general / colloquial meaning of stupidity, hence why I think Spartacus has specifically tried to define "stupid" with F = T ∇ Sτ and measure against it as a “Question 1” and as a “Question 2” discuss if this is a “good” definition as his second question.
I’m going to answer the second question first as this will actually give the context for the first question. Is this a “good” definition of “stupid”?
Yes – in that it serves a purpose in getting this sort of discussion going and provides a base line to shape a conversation from and around.
No - in that it is:
Poorly defined. What “τ” time horizon are we specifiying? What do we really understand by “Temperature”, “Resources” etc.
Reductionist in trying to turn a qualitative view / meaning into a quantitative measurement. These are essentially different things and the nuances, detail, subtleties and different meanings of a qualitative approach get lost in this process. It’s like asking if you had a good holiday and you have to give a score of 1 -10. It’s a starter for a conversation – if you give a 7/10 I don’t know if your 7/10 matches with someone else’s 7/10 nor do I have any insight into what you did on your holiday (a beach or skiing trip or who you went with etc.). It serves a purpose but one that is very limited.
Tries to produce a binary and definitive yes / no or stupid / not stupid. This loses the sense that even these change over time, the measurement is time bound and we can say someone is stupid at one point in time and not stupid at another or else with retrospect is “stupid” but wasn’t at the time and our perspective with greater historical distance or the particular viewpoints or our own culture / social system / individual outlook will prejudice our conclusions which it can be more useful to own at the outset.
Conclusion : How do we define a “good” definition? It is A definition but we can only really engage with THIS definition by also acknowledging the limitations of it and then starting a discussion. As we’ve done here!
At the outset Spartacus has owned that he wants to prove Hitler was stupid so everything else is going to be constructed in that light. That’s cool as means he’s owning his bias from the start.
Was Hitler stupid according F = T ∇ Sτ ?
Spartacus owns that he’s trying to prove Hitler is “Stupid” by this definition. I’ll own that Hitler can be deemed “Stupid” or “Clever” by this definition dependent on your interpretation.
I’ll try and stick to the definition Spartacus has given where “Stupidty” measurement seems to have been equivalated with a Directed Force which is expressed as an output of “Temperature” with a directional vector (∇) and freedom of action over a defined time.
In this instance I am uncertain why freedom of action over time has been taken as an element of measurement in “stupidity” and with Alex Wissner-Gross being unfortunately not on hand to ask I have to make some assumption – I’m assuming that freedom of action provides room for manoeuvre to maximise alternative solutions to achieve the overall direction (∇) you’re wishing to move in over the given time horizon and hence why it is a factor.
Spartacus hasn’t defined the time horizon and that would have dramatic effects on our outcome (e.g. 1889 – 1945, 1933 – 1940 or 1942 vs. 1939 – 1945). So, I’m going to have to make another assumption. Spartacus might mean 1939 – 1945 as this is the WW2 forum so I’ll use that (but if measuring over all then his lifespan was 1889 – 1945, but of course he didn’t know that his life would end in 1945….)
So the measure seems to be F as a directed force and our output measure of “stupidity” with the more power we have to act, the stronger the force and the less “stupid” we are.
T is system temperature or work capability / resources :
Spartacus view : high score . But Spartacus also references Hitler’s “capability” – here we haven’t defined what we mean as “capability” so it’s difficult to comment on that.
My view : high score
We have to define what we mean as “resources”. Do we mean his personal qualities, education, skills? Or do we mean making use of the external resources available to him to further the “direction” (e.g. party organisation, the material / industrial riches of a conquered Europe in WW2 or the strategic / tactical political situation he could make use of)? These two would be interlinked anyway in that one’s personal education / skills / qualities would then limit one’s ability to utilise the material / industrial / political capabilities open to us.
Degree of personal resources – High (made good use of what he had, frequently saw things others didn’t and performed better than expected by a peer group).
He was poorly educated, from a disparate home in the Habsburg Empire and a homeless beggar in early life. However, he rose to be the leader of one of the most powerful economies in the world and lead his people and allied nations to conquer Europe and a large part of Russia. This is obviously not his sole individual achievement but he identified, exploited, motivated other groups and individuals to this end.
His strategic and tactical views / decisions and co-ordination brought (at times) greater insight / awareness than some of his professional staff officers (e.g. Halder) (understanding the need to remove Britain, need to secure oil supplies in caucasus vs. Halder and general staff driving on Moscow) or professional politicians (e.g. von Papen or perhaps Chamberlain) in seeing and exploiting the individual and structural weaknesses in the Reichstag and in the Allies relationships and strategy to preserve the balance of power. He appears to have strong “personal resources” in this regard.
However, He had all the manpower and industrial strength and wealth of the strongest industrial power base in the world in Western Europe and the granary basin of the Ukraine for a long period. Yet ,the industrial and economic might of Western Europe was not harnessed effectively to the German military and political machine. Aircraft, truck, tank etc output significantly lagged Britain alone when Germany culd have used all the production capacity of itself, France, Netherlands etc combined. Hitler never really identified the need for nor then harnessed all the possible resources via putting the entire European economy on a war footing. If this has been done then things might have been very different. His ability to identify the need for this appears to have been due to his overall strategy to fight a short war in conjunction with political manoeuvring to secure his aims. He was committed to this strategy from the outset and the nature of the gamble in it offered little Sτ “freedom of action” within the τ (tau) time horizon for progressing the “vision” he had (if we assume that vision as set out in Mein Kampf (Lebensraum, Greater Reich etc).
Sτ is the “freedom of action” of each state that can be reached by the intelligence within a τ (tau) time horizon
Spartacus view : very, very poor score
Spartacus relates this to a “vision” which seems something else again than simply freedom of action within a time horizon but I interpret as being the extent to which this freedom of action was in a direction that Hitler desired. That direction actually seems to be the component “∇” and not Sτ , hence it starts to appear that we can only consider “T ∇ Sτ” as a complete system not as separate variables. Spartacus starts to apply subjective aspects such as how he “should” have been able to change his mind or assumptions that were “blatantly false” which means were back moving from a quantitative assessment of stupidity to a qualitative again. So, to try and stick to the definitions.
My view 1 : Sτ could be low (same as Spartacus but different reasons)
Hitler’s visions were very long sighted with the thousand year Reich and a concept of completely overturning the entire Christian, democratic political / geographic and ethnic landscape. However, he chose to try and achieve this in a very short time frame (very low τ (tau)) both because of wanting to achieve something concrete in his own lifetime and also because he perceived both the British Empire and Soviet military and economy weak and hence an opportunity to be taken. The German army / navy envisaged the war being 5 years later than it occurred. The lower τ (tau) applied pressure that reduced the Sτ “freedom of action” within that time. This both resulted in him making dramatic gambles that initially paid off (Rhineland, Anschluss, Munich, Poland, France, early Russian campaigns) and also was probably driven by his personal comfort in making such gambles which initial success encouraged him to continue with (in which psychological bias confirmation he is no different to most other people). However, he had limited freedom of movement (Sτ) if these gambles hadn’t paid off and once they didn’t he was stuck. Once he had embarked on outright conflict and didn’t draw this to a conclusion very quickly (the most crucial being not removing Britain) he had no “Plan B” or a low Sτ score. He could have simply continued to dominate Europe, had some Lebensraum in Poland (but not the amount he wished) and not invaded Russia (which he gambled would fall through seeking terms (as they had done in the Russo-Japanese and Winter War) or else the regime collapsing (as per WW1). However, not invading Russia this would have left an enemy in being in Britain with global trade dominance (his theory seems to be that removing Russian would mean Britain would seek terms) and not have pursued his vision on the time frame he wished or he felt was dictated to him which was his entire purpose. In Mein Kampf he never saw the Eastern Front as a conflict that would “end” but one that would continue indefinitely but on a low level as a “proving ground” or German blood / warrior spirit and of sufficiently low risk to the Greater Riech as to not be an existential threat to it.
My view 2 : Sτ could be high
Hitler chose to try and achieve his “vision” in a very low τ (tau) as above. However, his perception that both the British Empire and Soviet military and economy were completely avoidant of war and / or weak was justified in light of British appeasement and Russian Russo – Japanese, Winter war, Polish- Soviet war and WW1 experience and the Rhineland, Anschluss, Munich, Poland, France, early Russian campaign of Barbarrossa and early Fall Blau - hence indicated was an opportunity to be taken before they strengthened. The lower τ (tau) before they rearmed then appears reasonable and reduced Sτ “freedom of action” less relevant if the increased Temperature “T” behind the “ ∇” direction would improve the “F” stupidity score.
∇ is the direction chosen
Spartacus view : low score
My view : low score
We see that Hitler had a vision of Nazi / German racial dominance of European and central Asian economic, cultural and political populations and territory through a Nazi system of society. If we stick with just the formula and trying to be quantitative not qualitative, then we can say that simply this was his direction. His chosen direction we can give a low score not through moral / ethical judgements (I agree with Spartaucs in that they are all flawed / repulsive!!!) but because they have a limited chance of success in that they relate to Sτ and the chance of these being delivered in the τ chosen for them and in light of the external factors and risks inherent in them.
Conclusion: By this formula, definition of variables and retrospective view of outcomes: Hitler was stupid if Sτ you deem to be low following retrospective insights.
By this formula, definition of variables and a view of outcomes form the time: Hitler was clever if Sτ you deem to be high by interpreting the information and assessments of likely outcomes based on the “intelligent” view of the time of likely outcomes.