Tomorrow is the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day and about a quarter of my day is spent at the History Channel which is running a week-long marathon on all D-Day things. Keep in mind, the week isn’t about WWII in general or even an overview of the Western Front. It’s hour after hour of the events directly leading up to D-Day, including the day itself. I think they’ve spent more time talking about these events than the time it took for the events to take place.
“Well, so what?” you ask. What does Austrian economics have to do with D-Day? Obviously, that’s a simple question—economics has to do with everything. But allow me to dwell on one point—knowledge. We Austrians love knowledge and according to the History Channel, just enough went right for the Allies so that D-Day succeeded and much of these advantages were knowledge in nature.
Allow me to focus on my favorite military operation: Operation Bodyguard—aimed to convince the Nazis that the Allied invasion would occur at Pas de Calais. Using double agents, fake tanks and, in one case, an actor pretending to be an Allied general, the Allies were able to convince the Nazis to move hundreds of thousands of troops, including the crucial Panzer tanks, precisely where the Allies wanted them to be—away from Normandy, away from Paris and away from Berlin. On D-Day, Allied troops lost less than ten thousand men, half what was expected. There is no doubt that without this operation, the Allies would have not been able to establish a foothold in Europe. D-Day changed the entire course of the war. The deception was so effective that after the success of D-Day, the Allies continued to send fake messages, convincing the Nazis (for a while) that the landing at Normandy was just a diversion.
A little bit of knowledge changes everything. By altering perceptions, it changes the means-ends framework, which completely changes the playing field. On the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, let us be reminded about the power of knowledge and its role in today’s society. This lesson is especially important to learn in our modern military—spy networks are more important than ever before because the nature of war is so different. No longer is it army versus army but cloaked insurgents versus army. As the fight against terrorism continues and we rapidly approach the June 30th handover date of Iraq, let us remember that one Austrian interpretation of D-Day tells us to favor focus on good intelligence and deception rather than brute force, a lesson that is all the more true now than it was sixty years ago.
(Correction: For some reason I thought it was the 5th rather than the 4th when I wrote this blog. Obviously, the anniversary is Sunday, not Saturday.)