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Alternate History General Discussion

Walpurgisnacht

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Especially if, a not unreasonable assumption given the Axis's constant resource shortages and huge position behind the Allies in nuclear research IOTL, they're just unable to make anything beyond an OTL Cold War China minimum viable deterrent period.
This is a fair point, but I do feel like any situation where the Axis ended up with an OTL Cold War superpower amount of nukes is absolutely one where humanity goes extinct. Fascism is fundamentally predicated on martyrdom and death-worship--what could be more attractive than burning the world, to men raised on Gotterdammerung and the revolution of destruction, the Hagakure and the kamikaze?
 

Avian Overlord

Mystical American Freedom Bird
what could be more attractive than burning the world, to men raised on Gotterdammerung and the revolution of destruction, the Hagakure and the kamikaze?
Getting to keep all our nice stuff, of course. Also, I don't think the cult of martyrdom would be get quite as crazy as it did in OTL in a timeline where the war went well for the fascists. It's not like the Japanese broke out the kamikaze on day one, they were a desperation measure. It's probably still more likely to go hot than commies vs liberals, but I wouldn't say that much more.
 

JesterBL

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Yeah. Except neither Liberal Democracy or Communism actually, literally, runs on eternal war and cultic insanity
Nazi Germany was built on plunder and pillage and genocide on a massive, industrial scale- but there's no telling what a victorious Nazi Germany would ultimately end up looking like or what they would actually want out of a world at cold, bitter peace. I don't think it is correct to assume they would rush into mutually assured nuclear oblivion. And that is to say nothing of either Fascist Italy or Imperial Japan which were both far more grounded in reality than was Nazi Germany. I think the Axis would certainly make a run at acquiring nuclear weapons once they know the Allies have them, but I don't think they would be in a rush to actively use them. But Washington-London-Sydney could very well believe they are!
 

Japhy

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Nazi Germany was built on plunder and pillage and genocide on a massive, industrial scale- but there's no telling what a victorious Nazi Germany would ultimately end up looking like or what they would actually want out of a world at cold, bitter peace. I don't think it is correct to assume they would rush into mutually assured nuclear oblivion. And that is to say nothing of either Fascist Italy or Imperial Japan which were both far more grounded in reality than was Nazi Germany. I think the Axis would certainly make a run at acquiring nuclear weapons once they know the Allies have them, but I don't think they would be in a rush to actively use them. But Washington-London-Sydney could very well believe they are!
I think that's a very profound misunderstanding of what Fascism actually is.
 

JesterBL

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I think that's a very profound misunderstanding of what Fascism actually is.
I personally think a conception of fascism as being performed by a mass of unthinking robots rather than by plenty of thinking humans is itself a huge misunderstanding of fascism and of the Axis powers of World War 2. If Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy get to a peace that is to their liking (which is the fundamental premise of an Axis victory, the plausibility of which can be argued all day) there is no reason to believe they would be destined to throw it all away shortly after on a nuclear gamble.
 

ChrisNuttall

Well-known member
I wrote this as an intro and afterword to something and i was curious to see what people thought:

As a general rule, most people come to alternate history through science-fiction and thriller reading, which serves as a gateway to alternate history books like The Guns of the South, Island in the Sea of Time, Weapons of Choice and other works that are more action-adventure pulpy rather than thoughtful studies of how history might have changed at a specific Point of Divergence (POD). The alternate history flavours the stew, to use a basic metaphor, but the stew isn’t wholly based on alternate history; the reader does not need to know history in any great detail to enjoy the book. There is no major difference, reading wise, between a war story set in the historical period or the alternate history period.

These books often lead the reader deeper and deeper into alternate history. When they go online, as I did when I became interested myself, they find the majority of more serious alternate history works consist of essays, timelines and – sometimes – professionally published alternate history textbooks, ranging from an amateurish list of dates and times to incredibly detailed works, from scenarios to campaign histories that could pass for OTL if it was clear they didn’t come from an alternate world. It is easy to feel that these are not intended for the casual reader, as some can be quite intimidating, but if you are deeply interested in alternate history they can be very interesting indeed.

The more detailed the essay, the harder they are to write. One must have an idea of how history ebbed and flowed and how events in one part of the world influenced events elsewhere. Dale Cozort, the undoubted king of alternate history scenarios (some of his timelines are available on KU), postulated that a delay in launching Operation Torch in 1942 would give the Germans an excellent chance of escaping disaster at Stalingrad, as they wouldn’t have to divert vast numbers of fighter and transport planes to trying to keep their forces in North Africa alive. Those units would be sent to Stalingrad instead, giving the Germans a better chance to escape and, more importantly, giving Hitler political cover for abandoning North Africa. Alternatively, if we postulate that Hitler escapes jail after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, there is a reasonable chance he’d have been dragged into the infighting that threatened to destroy the Nazi Party, instead of being able to remain above the fray and pick up the reins again when he was released. Would this keep Hitler from ultimate power? It is impossible to say, but it is at least arguable.

I have mixed feelings on the more detailed essays. On one hand, studying alternate versions of history can and does give you a better sense of how and why history developed the way it did. On the other, at some point, there is no way to say with any great certainty what would really happen and the essay becomes a piece of worldbuilding rather than anything more serious. This can lead to conflicts between generalist and purist writers; the generalist wants to draw in readers and sees no harm in including characters from OTL (Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman), while the purist argues that they’d be no recognisable characters from our world a hundred years or so after the POD. The generalist can also afford to ignore matters the purist cannot. SM Stirling put forwards a largely arbitrary timeline for his Domination of the Draka series, which has sparked an astonishing number of essays arguing the timeline simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t, but the generalist doesn’t care. The idea is to create a setting for a story, not a plausible world.
If you want to get a good flame war going on an alternate history forum, the easiest way to do it is ask what would have happened if Operation Sealion had been launched in 1940? There are, alas, many newcomers to the field who see Sealion as the great missed opportunity for Adolf Hitler to win the war and don’t grasp that Sealion, far from being a simple river crossing, would have been an incredibly difficult operation and the odds of victory would have been extremely poor. Kenneth Macksey wrote a campaign history of a successful Sealion in 1980 (Invasion; a condensed version is included in The Hitler Options(1995)), but a wargame that was carried out at Sandhurst in 1974 concluded the invasion would have been a complete disaster. Even with matters heavily and unrealistically slanted towards the Germans, they still lost. This wargame was later dramatised as Sea Lion (Richard Cox 1974).

This is not immediately apparent to newcomers, and it can lead to bitter resentment when a newcomer, posing an innocent question, is swarmed by dozens of more experienced alternate historians who have heard the question so many times they are thoroughly sick of it. I know quite a few prospective newcomers who felt they were driven away, rather than having the question treated seriously, and allowed bitterness to destroy their interest in something that once called to them.

The problems facing the Germans were immense. Britain was probably at her weakest in July 1940, and even a small German force making a successful landing might be enough to force the government to sue for peace, but the Germans would find it incredibly difficult to land even a handful of soldiers. The Germans had done almost no planning for an invasion of England and, more practically, lost considerable amounts of men and material in Norway and Holland. The shortage of transport planes alone would be enough to put paid to the German plans. It is possible, of course, to postulate a timeline in which Germany chose not to invade Norway and Holland, stabbing straight into France rather than the low countries, but that would have other effects. There would be, I think, much less confusion in France if the Germans proceed with their original plans for war. The downside of this, of course, is that Chamberlain would still be Prime Minister and, while he wasn’t as weak and foolish as he is often portrayed, he lacked the backbone he so desperately needed.

Germany’s window of opportunity, as tiny as it was, rapidly closed as Britain recovered from France’s fall and prepared to continue the war. The Germans could not drive the Royal Air Force out of the battlespace, nor could they rely on submarines and aircraft to sink the Royal Navy. Their ability to land troops was very poor, dependent more on makeshift barges rather than proper transport ships. Each month saw Britain growing stronger, with more and more anti-invasion defences in place. The British army was not yet capable of taking on the Germans on equal terms, but it would not have had to. The invasion force would be in shambles before it even landed on British soil, the men seasick and the panzers rapidly running short of ammunition and fuel. By late 1940, even Hitler conceded as much and directed his attention to Russia instead. In doing so, I think, he avoided a defeat that would have changed the course of history.

This does not, of course, stop writers from speculating on what might have happened if Hitler did invade and occupy Britain. Nor should it.
 

History Learner

Well-known member
An Allied-Axis Cold War is a non-event. A pause while both sides develop their Nuclear Stockpiles. No real chance that Fascists don't try to use them the moment they feel they have an advantage.
I've seen this one a lot too, but I think the counter to it is obvious: Why didn't Nazi Germany use Tabun and its other chemical weapons, even as it was collapsing in 1945, then?
 

Mark

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I've seen this one a lot too, but I think the counter to it is obvious: Why didn't Nazi Germany use Tabun and its other chemical weapons, even as it was collapsing in 1945, then?
Wasn't that Hitler's personal choice. He did not like poison gas from his experience in WWI. So does that affect his view of nukes?

After he goes then that view might not be held.
 

Coiler

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Time for my pet aviation divergence, and one that I'm wondering how "hard" it could have been made: Improving the commercial success/technical performance of the Soviet/Russian civilian aviation sector. Essentially turning its post-1991 sector into a sort of "Cyrillic Embraer" where it doesn't make as many high-end parts itself but can use cheaper labor for the final assembly. But even that is predicated on an unrealistic (in hindsight) degree of political/economic stability, so I dunno.
 

Avian Overlord

Mystical American Freedom Bird
I mean, we have a fascist nuclear power right now at least in the form of Russia (and China is getting there). While Russia's been pretty aggressive, "nuclear war ASAP" isn't its strategy.
 

Walpurgisnacht

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I mean, we have a fascist nuclear power right now at least in the form of Russia
...no we don't.

Putin is a dictator who makes appeals to nationalism, but that doesn't make Russia fascist any more than Argentina under Peron, a dictator who made appeals to the concept of labour and wealth distribution, was communist.
 
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