Saturday, January 27, 2007

Will we be surprised by what we read from WWII? Part Four

This is the final post for this World War II editorial from LIFE Magazine.

The Challenge

What was it that we promised ourselves at the war’s beginning? Did we not promise ourselves something called “total victory?”

Whatever anybody’s views had been before Pearl Harbor, after Pearl Harbor we all agreed that we would lick “those bastards” and Hitler too—lick them so thoroughly that the military power of their nations could never again threaten us.

And we promised ourselves more than that. We promised ourselves that this time we would so thoroughly finish the job that “this” could never happen again—not, at any rate, for a long, long time.

That is what we meant by victory. Remember? That is what we meant by victory—when all we were getting was defeat and more defeats.

And, now that we are getting some victories, what is it that could ultimately stand in the way of the total victory we promised ourselves? Obviously, it would be a falling out among the “victorious” Allies—it would be the failure of the Allies to achieve that degree of unity of policy and purpose which would be required to organize a “just and durable peace.”

But the very same thing—a falling out among the Allies—is the danger most to be feared in the picture we have just given of how we might not win the war.

And so, if we really want to know the score—the score of destiny—the thing to watch is not merely the lines of battle. The thing to watch is the relations of the Allies. Are the Allies really united? Or only superficially so? Only with polite and weasel words? Only for military expediency?

The whole problem of the global war—and of the Peace, if any, to come—can be summed up as a problem in the creation of enduring unity among the Allies. Strategy, policy, statesmanship should all be directed to the creation of genuine unity between Allies. To the extent that genuine unity is achieved, the Allies will stick together even through reverses and postponement of victory—and their togetherness will be the sufficient promise of a good peace.

To the extent that genuine unity is not achieved—with this ally or with that one or with all of them—to that extent they are likely to fall apart in the fluctuations of war and thereby encompass their own defeats.

The Editors of LIFE believe that America has still a great job to do in bringing the Allies closer together in fundamental and indestructible agreement. Let Americans remember the victory they promised themselves—a just and durable peace so that “this” will not happen again for a long, long time. That victory is, of course, inconceivable without fundamental unity of policies and purposes.

And it is not true to say that it will be easier tomorrow than today to take important steps toward unity. That is the merest wishful thinking. Tomorrow may be harder.

In sum it comes to this. Today, we seem to be winning—we are winning. Time is on our side now. Time may be on our side for a year or so. But time will not be on our side forever. In a year, or in two years, or perhaps three, time may only too likely turn against us—and will make impossible the winning of the total victory to which we pledged ourselves.

Therefore, this talk of winning the war in 1943 or 1944 ought to be very solemn talk. Let this talk not be used between us as the speech of comfort. It must be spoken in the accent of urgent and terrible challenge. For unity must be won now—or it may never be won. There is the challenge to American statesmanship. It is a challenge to the will of the American people—a challenge to their full part in bringing about the unity among the peoples of the earth which alone will ensure victory, no matter what the hazards, and which alone will ensure that victory will be what we Americans mean it to be.

This is the job yet to be done. And the time to do it is now.

Life February 15, 1943

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