Saturday, January 27, 2007

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

This is a continuation of two previous posts with the same title, Part One and Part Two. This is the second and last post of the sub-heading:

Maybe No

To be sure, as long as Hitler is not defeated, Russia will not be able to demobilize, disarm and devote herself to the arts of peace. But ever since the establishment of the Soviet regime, Russia has maintained a very large military organization. So, it will not particularly bother Russia that she must continue to maintain a powerful armament—and even to replenish it. To maintain strong guards on the borders is infinitely less costly than to be fighting the biggest battles in history. Thus armed, Russia will wait to see what happens next, taking the military and political initiative as she may see fit.

Recognizing this situation, Germany might accept it as the best available to her. On the Russo-German border, Germany would post the necessary heavy guards and could then concentrate all her efforts on the Anglo-American threat. Her chief weapon is now the submarine. With this weapon she expects to keep a large part of the American military power from getting within striking distance. It will become impossible for us, she hopes, to transport the necessary 100 or 150 American divisions across the Atlantic. If the submarine can thus succeed in warding off full-scale American invasion, Germany’s two great fears must be 1) air bombardment, 2) blockade.

As for air bombardment, it may prove less than fatal to Germany. By concentrating our efforts on “the real bombing of Germany,” we could probably mutilate the German war machine this year. But our leaders have not chosen to adopt a policy of concentration—and presumably they have reasons.

And as for the blockade against Germany—there is simply no telling when it may prove finally effective. Similarly, with regard to the resistance of the conquered peoples—no one can accurately chart the curve of rising or falling resistance. Both the blockade and the resistance of conquered peoples are mighty allies for us when we move in toward victory. But they cannot be counted on as decisive factors in the struggle.

To summarize: Suppose that just for another 18 months, Germany is able to maintain the war economy of Europe; suppose that Russia is unwilling to march to Berlin at the cost of millions of lives; suppose the Nazi submarines do their worst and prevent an Anglo-American invasion of Germany—suppose, in short, Germany lasts another 18 months, then what?

The “then what” is that, in the meanwhile, too many bad things can happen for our side. China might be forced to yield to Japan—unless Russia intervenes. If we spend another year sending practically all our strength against Germany and fail to crack Germany; if we are unable or unwilling to launch a real campaign in Burma—then China, having received scarcely as much as an old shoe from the outside world, could only too understandably reach the end of physical power to resist. Japan then will be fighting only a one-front war—and that front a front with plenty of water between her and her enemies. Even with all our strength it would be a job to defeat Japan from over-the-water (and she with a subdued mainland behind her). But, with Germany still undefeated, we won’t be able to use our full strength against Japan.

And then the war becomes a long protracted war. And in long wars, when exhaustion sets in, when hope of victory is deferred, when the purposes of the war become obscured, and when friends and foes, true leaders and false, become hard to distinguish in the night—then in ways now almost inconceivable, dissension sets in among allies. Dissensions arising not merely from petty misunderstandings but serious divergences of interest and policy. And then—somehow—the war ends—or ends for a while—quite otherwise than we had promised ourselves at the beginning.


One more future post will wrap-up this editorial from LIFE. We will end with ‘The Challenge.

Life February 15, 1943

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