J. Bradford DeLong
I wonder what the range of those "proposed policies"
Governing a vast territory like the USSR, which even in the 1940s
hurting from their own nationalities problems (now surfacing
vengeance), might have absorbed 100% of Hitler's energies. One
imagine constant resistance, a kind of Mao-like guerrilla warfare
the Nazi conquerors.
The word "governing" makes me think that you haven't
grasped the essence of Nazism. Not that I blame you: I have a
very hard time grasping the essence of Nazism, and find myself
often slipping into the error of regarding it as just another
mid-century totalitarian regime. Remember: the principal Nazi
aim in the war in the east was not to stomp out Bolshevism, or
to install a pro-German regime in Moscow, or to open Russia for
German trade and investment, or even to install German satraps
and levy taxes.
The principal Nazi aim in the war in the east was to set the
stage for the demographic replacement of slavic by "aryan"
populations in Belorussia and the Ukraine. I do not believe that
the Nazis had decided between the "serf" model (in
which slavic populations work for German overlords at a population
density perhaps half that of the prewar period) and the "Canadian"
model (in which German farmers use technology and machines to
farm, and in which the slavic population density would have been
a very small fraction of that of the prewar period).
Think of what went on in the General Government of Poland
during the war, only on a much larger scale, at a much greater
intensity, and for a much longer time period.
Stalin and Mao, absolute masters of their domains in the middle
of the twentieth century, became charter members of the thirty-million
club: that small, elite group of people who have ruled in a way
that caused the death of more than thirty million of their fellow
human beings. Hitler is the third of this century's members of
the thirty-million club, but he had bigger ambitions: had he
not been stopped, it seems clear that he was going to try to
found the hundred-million club as well...
I have a very hard time understanding the Japanese decision
to launch the war in the Pacific. Already embroiled in their
Asian quagmire, they open a second front (against the Commonwealth)
and a third front (against the United States) and thus embroil
themselves in a three-front war with the two global superpowers
that together have twenty times their heavy industrial production
capacity. Akira Iriye's _The Origins of World War II in Asia
and the Pacific_ advances the position that it was simply due
to the Japanese military's sense of honor: that it would have
been dishonorable to simply announce that China had been punished
enough for the Marco Polo bridge incident and go home, and that
the only other option was to declare war on the world.
Given that an Axis victory in World War II would have strengthened
the Japanese military, it seems fair to conclude that sooner
or later something else would have led them to think that they
had no honorable choice but to go conquer something else, so
I do see an Axis victory in World War II as leading to renewed
Japanese offensives in the following decades.
I think that in the aftermath of an Axis victory, there would
have been no independent Italian foreign policy...
While it is possible to imagine a victorious post-World War
II Nazi Germany satiated with blood from the abbatoir in the
east, it seems to me that the odds are against it. South American
allies, a long-term naval building program, adventures in the
Middle East to restore Nazi clients in Iraq and create some in
I think that at bottom the isolationist case was that the
Atlantic Ocean was wide, the U.S. navy strong, and the U.S. industrial
base to build up the navy immense: that as of the late 1930s
there was no threat to U.S. national security possible from Eurasia.
But what the isolationists didn't think of was new technology:
rockets, jets, and a-bombs...
It's enough to make you get down on your knees and thank God
that the twentieth century turned out as well as it did.
>So, I would be very reluctant to categorize US policy
>"throughout the course of the war in Europe as well
>Pacific" as "misguided." The leaders and peoples
>Allied nations at the time could see no way of destroying
>dangerous enemies without an unprecedented use of violence.
>In retrospect, I cannot see what alternative existed. Are
>suggesting that victory in WWII was not worth the cost? Are
>we suggesting that there was a way to gain victory without
>doing grievous injury to our opponents? If so, I think it's
>necessary to define terms carefully. And I also hope there
>are sweating palms.
We all believe that the Nazi regime was the _most_ evil of
which we have knowledge that has _ever_ existed on the planet.
In the words of the historian Norman Davies, "even its [vision
of] utopia was vile": no redeeming value whatsoever--and
a bodycount as a result of the Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, and
other holocausts plus the war dead that may reach 50,000,000.
Following behind Hitler come Stalin and Mao: also candidate
members of the fifty-million-club--the select club of those political
leaders whose policies have led to the violent and cruel deaths
of more than fifty million of their fellow human beings. These
three regimes are the Himalayan peaks of slaughter in the twentieth
century--although there are some others (Pol Pot, and perhaps
Kim Il Sung?) that have failed to match them only because of
lack or loss of opportunity).
We all know that the Imperial Japanese regime of the 1930s
and 1940s--presided over by Konoe and Tojo, in the name of the
Showa Empire--was a cruel, brutal, and genocidal regime as well:
perhaps five million Chinese civilians died at the hands of the
Japanese army between 1931 and 1945. Many more would have died
in a military-dictatorship run East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere
in the generation after 1945, had the U.S. not conquered Japan,
suppressed the regime, and hanged Tojo higher than Haman.
Almost any price was worth paying in order to destroy Hitler's
and Tojo's regimes--even close alliance with Stalin, and acquiescence
in the post-WWII installation of Stalinist regimes in Eastern
Europe and in pieces of Asia.
All honor is due to those who fought on the side of the angels
in World War II--especially to those who died, and whose ultimate
sacrifice has given us the post-WWII world in which we have lived,
rather than a world in which Japanese battleships stalk the Pacific
at the command of the descendants of those who gave us the Rape
of Shanghai, and in which the U.S. watches uneasily across an
Atlantic DMZ while Nazi Europe carries on genocide in Africa
and in Eastern Europe. All honor is especially due to the soldiers
of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, who broke the back of the
German army during World War II. All honor is due to the Polish
people and to the pre-WWII government, who were the first to
decide to die on their feet rather than submit on their knees.
All honor is due to Winston Churchill and to Edmond Daladier,
who made Britain and France the only countries to declare war
on Hitler--everyone else waited for Hitler to declare war on
them. All honor is due to Franklin D. Roosevelt, for bringing
an isolationist country to the recognition of the stakes at hand.
But there are old doctrines about justice in war: about "innocents"
and "non-combatants". And there are old principles
to the effect that actions that kill and maim innocents and non-combatants
are justified only to the extent that they fulfill the purpose
of shortening the war and, ultimately, saving the lives of others.
I had thought that it was pretty well established since the
immediate post-WWII strategic bombing survey that the U.S. and
British bombing campaigns, especially the British night-time
aerial bombing campaign, did more to stiffen German civilian
morale and hatred of the allies than they did to erode Germany's
war potential--hence were not acts that anyone could say met
the tests of ius in bello. (Notice that I exempt tactical bombing,
and the air interdiction campaign before D-Day.)
I had thought that the B-29s in the Pacific were the harder
case--that both the incendiaries and the A-bombs may well have
shortened the war in the Pacific, depending on how you judge
the nuances involved in the process leading up to the Japanese
decision to surrender. But on balance I had concluded that it
was more likely than not that in the Pacific, too, the war-shortening
and combatant life-saving benefits of the strategic bombing campaign
were _disproportionately_smaller_ than the civilian deaths caused.
And I would include in that list of acts that did not meet the
tests of ius in bello the firebombing of Tokyo, as well as the
nuclear detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And I do think that the allies--the United States, NATO, whatever--were
the good guys, and are the good guys. And that we had better
damn well behave better than the bad guys.
I would welcome hearing from anyone who thinks I have made
an error in the chain of reasoning above...
Brad De Long
> Well, the usual story that I have heard about
>and Japan and oil in WW II is not that the US needed it
>because we had it then. We were the Saudi Arabia of the
>world at that time, the great Saudi fields only having just
>begun to be developed in 1936. It was the 1950s when we
>became a net importer.
> Rather the story was that FDR wanted to get into the
>war but knew that he could only do so if it involved a
>conflict with Japan. Cutting off oil exports to Japan
>would force the Japanese to attack the then-Dutch East
>Indies, now Indonesia, the only source of oil in the
>vicinity of any significance at that time. FDR figured
>that this would involve an initial attack on the then-US
>colony of the Philippines and that that would trigger US
>entry into the war.
Well, the U.S. had been slowly turning up the pressure for
a while--telling Japan to stop trying to conquer China or the
U.S. would feel that it had to take further steps to put more
pressure on Japan. Prohibiting the export of iron and steel scrap
was one stage. Prohibiting the export of oil from the U.S. to
Japan--and leaning on the Dutch government-in-exile to prohibit
the export of oil from Indonesia to Japan--was another step,
taken in the summer of 1941.
It is not clear--even today--whether Roosevelt wanted to prohibit
or just reduce the export of oil to Japan. It is clear that Roosevelt's
directive, as implemented by Assistant Secretary of State Dean
Acheson, amounted to an export ban.
U.S. military and diplomatic planners thought that the Japanese
might respond to the export prohibition in one of three ways:
(Y1) first, sign a face-saving treaty with China, begin pulling
back their army, and then appeal for the lifting of sanctions;
(Y2) second, hunker down by greatly restricting civilian (and
military) consumption of oil while still pressing for a decision
in China; (Y3) third, attack south to conquer what is now Indonesia
(and probably attack the Philippines along the way) thus providing
the U.S. with a casus belli for entering World War II against
Japan (and, Roosevelt would have hoped, Germany).
It's false to the history to assume that people knew in advance
that move X would call forth response Y. From Roosevelt's perspective
(and from the Chinese perspective, and from my perspective) the
genocidal course (maybe 5 million Chinese civilians dead? Maybe
10 million? We really don't know) of the Japanese invasion of
China was a bad thing, and the mid-1941 oil embargo promised
to do some good no matter which of the three likely responses
the Japanese military decided upon.
Of course, the Japanese did not respond to X with Y1, Y2,
or Y3, but with Z--a full-scale offensive not just south to Indonesia
but one east to Pearl Harbor that came very close to crippling
the U.S. Pacific fleet.
And we know now--or, at least, Akira Iriye thinks--that the
U.S. embargo of oil to Japan did a great deal more good for the
world than Roosevelt had intended. For the move that the Japanese
military was planning in the summer of 1941 was a strike north
from Manchuria to conquer Russia's Maritime province. This strike--that
would have kept Siberian reserves out of the Battle of Moscow--was
cancelled once the fact of the oil embargo became clear.
So it is very possible that the Battle of Moscow--one of the
key turning points of World War II--was one with a stroke of
Dean Acheson's pen in the State, War, and Navy Building at 1700
Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.