In the Event of a general conflict, only one country can win. That country is the Soviet Union.Adolf Hitler, 19 November 1937
(conversation with Lord Halifax)
According to Viktor Suvorov, “Everything in the Soviet Union relating to the beginning of World War II is concealed by the impenetrable darkness of state secrecy.” Suvorov’s words are as true today as when they were written. What is Moscow concealing about the Soviet Union’s entry into World War II? The answer is simple. If we understood the Kremlin strategy before World War II, we might understand the Kremlin’s strategy today.
To summarize the opening phase of the war: On 23 August 1939, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed by the German and Soviet foreign ministers, Stalin could not contain his elation. “I have deceived him. I have deceived Hitler,” he reportedly said. This is what Nikita Khrushchev records in his memoirs. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact led Hitler into the error of thinking he could invade Poland without triggering a war with the Western Allies. In this matter Hitler had miscalculated, especially since his own long-term policy called for an alliance with Great Britain.
As noted earlier, Hitler was strategically insightful. Yet he lacked the discipline, patience, and self-control to follow through on his own insights. In 1923, while a prisoner in the fortress of Landsberg, Hitler meditated on the causes of Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Looking at a map of the world and noticing the extensive Anglo-Saxon domains on four continents, he wrote, “No sacrifice should have been considered too great if it was a necessary means of gaining England’s friendship.” But now Hitler had ruined his chances. He had partnered with Moscow instead of London.
According to Suvorov, “It was only in the summer of 1940 that Hitler realized … he had been taken in.” How did that realization dawn on him? It wasn’t so easy for Hitler to see the problem at first. In 1940, Stalin was helping Hitler in every way imaginable – sending large shipments of grain and oil to Germany, and using Communist Party activists in France and Britain to undermine the Allied war effort. Even in America, the communists agitated against the Allies – accusing France and Britain of warmongering. This is seldom referred to in histories of the period, yet it is a crucial fact.
The communists of today love to portray themselves as enemies of Nazism and racism. But that is not the whole truth. From 23 August 1939 until 22 June 1941, the communists actively helped Hitler. They supported Nazism. And if a Communist Party member refused to help Hitler they were threatened with expulsion from the Communist Party.
As political parties go, the communist parties of the non-communist world are small in size, but more than compensate for this numerical weakness with iron discipline. These parties are not like the Republican or the Democratic parties. “It must be kept in mind that the Communist party is organized on a totalitarian basis,” noted Benjamin Gitlow, “Members are not permitted to voice criticism against the leadership and its policies. To utter an exclamation against Stalin brought about one’s expulsion from the party. The members came together to take orders and carry them out, not to voice an opinion.”
It was no small thing, in August 1939, when the entire communist movement flipped from opposing Hitler to supporting him. Because of this “flip,” the Communist Party USA lost 15,000 of its 100,000 members. According to Gitlow, the leaders of the Jewish communist organizations in New York were ordered to attend a secret meeting led by then former Communist Party Chairman William Z. Foster, who defended Stalin’s pact with Hitler by launching “into a sharp attack upon the Jews, declaring that they were narrow and chauvinistic in their viewpoint on the Pact. The Jews in the Party, he charged, because of Hitler’s anti-Semitism … had lost sight of the bigger and by far more important political considerations involved.” Foster demanded the Jews act as communists rather than Jews. He called for an immediate vote, and everyone present knew that a negative vote meant expulsion from their beloved Communist Party. The iron discipline of the Party was no joke. According to Gitlow, “Many [of the Jewish leaders] showed the strain of great mental … agitation – hands clutched the chairs in front of them tightly. The top leaders of the Party had come to club the Jewish leaders into submission, not to argue the question with them.” An immediate vote was held. Browbeaten and abused, they voted to accept Stalin’s plan of helping Hitler. The same iron discipline applied to all sections of the Communist Party USA, to the British and French communists, and more.
Here was an obedient, totalitarian instrument at Stalin’s command. No other world leader at the time had anything to compare with Stalin’s global reach. None had the power to subvert, infiltrate and influence other countries as Stalin had. We will return to this theme throughout this short history of the Second World War; for as we shall see, it colored the entire course of the war.
In 1940 Hitler could see that the Communist Parties around the world were attempting to undermine the Allied war effort. This was comforting to Hitler, yet it was all part of Stalin’s deception. At the same time, German military intelligence was increasingly alarmed at the actions of Soviet agents in the occupied countries. By 30 June 1940 the picture they were beginning to paint of Soviet active measures, in Poland and Scandinavia, was alarming. Stalin’s secret agents were working to undermine the morale of the German Army.
Consider the following discussion, which occurred between Molotov and Georgi Dimitrov, who was then General Secretary of the Comintern: “We are pursuing a course of demoralizing the German troops that are occupying various countries,“ Molotov explained. Dimitrov then asked, “But won’t this interfere with [the] Soviet policy [of supporting Germany]?” Molotov answered: “Of course. But it must be done anyway. We wouldn’t be Communists if we didn’t follow such a course. It’s only that it must be done quietly.” (See Albert Weeks’s account, footnoted below, p. 76.)
When the Armistice with France was concluded on 22 June 1940, Hitler was still in a trusting mood. As Suvorov’s research shows, “Hitler ordered a drastic reduction in [the] German armed forces. The reduction was widespread and intense, for there were no plans, hints, or foresight indicating that a war with the Soviet Union might be approaching. And all at once came the Soviet strike against Romania.” Here was a turning point in Hitler’s thinking. When Ribbentrop negotiated the Pact in August 1939 the Germans had overlooked a small detail. Stalin had inserted a paragraph: “With regard to Southeastern Europe, attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterestedness in these areas.” The Germans almost assuredly did not realize they were agreeing to a full-on Soviet invasion of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. On June 28, while Hitler’s armies were occupying France, Soviet armies began to occupy parts of Romania. Moscow had given the Romanian government an ultimatum on 26 June 1940. After consultations with the Germans, the Romanians wisely withdrew their forces to avoid a direct conflict with Moscow, which might have had disastrous results. Now Soviet tanks were in easy striking distance of the Romanian oil fields on which the German military depended. According to Suvorov, the invasion of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina caused “chaos in German headquarters.” If the Soviet tanks did not stop their advance, Germany would lose her main source of oil. Hitler began to worry about Stalin’s ultimate intentions.
According to Suvorov, “On July 21, 1940, Hitler for the first time … uttered the idea of the ‘Russian problem.’” On that same day General Field Marshal W. Brauchitsch was ordered to develop plans for a war with the Soviet Union. The job of drawing up the plan was given to Major General Erich Marcks, who began his work on 29 July 1940.
The Military drama of 1940
To fully appreciate the strategic dilemma Hitler faced in July 1940, a brief chronological account is in order. With respect to everything that happened, Stalin’s calculations only fell short regarding German military efficiency. Everyone had underestimated the Wehrmacht, including Hitler and the German generals. By no means did the Germans foresee their easy victories of 1940. When we look back at German military assessments in early 1940, they were hardly optimistic. In fact, they were quite grim. Germany was in serious trouble, especially because of the British blockade.
After Hitler conquered Poland in September 1939 the French and British were unhappy with their passive position. A more aggressive strategy was wanted. A direct assault on Germany’s West Wall being impractical, London and Paris opted for an indirect strategy aiming to cripple Germany’s war economy. This would be accomplished by an invasion of Scandinavia to cut Germany’s principal sources of iron ore. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the British prepared a series of landings on the Norwegian coast for the third week of March 1940, but weather forced them to postpone their invasion. Hitler had intelligence of an Allied strike into Scandinavia and was determined to invade preemptively. What followed was an imaginative and impromptu German invasion of Denmark and Norway, which began on 9 April 1940. The Germans successfully forestalled British efforts to gain a foothold in Norway, and won an unexpected victory through the use of naval and airpower. Norway and Denmark were occupied by the Germans.
On 10 May 1940 the main event began. Two German army groups launched an assault into the low countries and France. Unexpectedly the German panzer divisions broke through the French line at Sedan enveloping the British and French divisions moving to aid the Belgians. (The map below illustrates the maneuver by which France was conquered by Germany in 1940.)
Having been outflanked, British troops fled to the Channel where most of the British Expeditionary Force was successfully evacuated at Dunkirk. To make matters worse, Benito Mussolini declared war on France and Britain, telling Marshal Badoglio, “I only need a few thousand dead so I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought.” Meanwhile, Paris fell to the Germans as the French military position crumbled. France was defeated, signing an armistice on 22 June 1940.
According to Grand Admiral Raeder, the Naval War Staff lost no time. They began concentrating on how the war could then be pressed against England. In truth, the German Navy was as surprised as everyone else by the success of the German Army. Admiral Raeder wrote in his memoirs, “an armed conflict with Britain had not been considered [before the war].” Now that an unexpected war had unfolded in an unexpected way, Germany was confronted with a surprising opportunity. Prior to the defeat of France, Raeder’s strategy had been to counter Britain’s blockade of Germany with a blockade in kind, using U-boats and pocket battleships. Sink British merchant shipping and strangle Britain in turn. With the fall of France, however, Raeder saw the possibility of an entirely different answer. England might be directly invaded.
According to Raeder, an invasion of England by Germany would require naval transport on “a colossal scale.” Tremendous sacrifices would have to be made if the barges and ships were to be mobilized from the civilian economy. Looking at these and other logistical problems, Raeder’s staff would be responsible for deciding whether an invasion was feasible or not. The task of studying the problem was given to Vice Admiral Schniewind, chief of the Naval War Staff, and to Rear Admiral Fricke, Chief of the Operations Department. With the understanding that there was little time to spare, Raeder brought Schiewind and Fricke’s “invasion study” to Hitler. His motive was to forestall an impromptu invasion plan “by some irresponsible person.” According to Raeder, “Hitler might jump at the idea, with the result that the Navy would be faced with impossible tasks. All my experience with Hitler had convinced me of the importance of giving him our own opinions of a situation before less qualified people could gain his ear.”
Raeder feared that an invasion of England might appear to be a simple matter to the Army. Raeder wrote, “we had just completed a most successful amphibious operation, over wide waters, against Norway, and many people might get the idea that a similar move could be equally successful against England.”
On a clear day, England could be seen from across the Channel. It looked like a very short distance for an invasion when compared to Norway. Why not jump the Channel and finish off the British? According to Raeder, “any experienced naval leader would know that … a long and careful preparation was absolutely necessary.” At the same time, however, the British military was growing stronger by the day. Soon an invasion would be impractical. Raeder informed Hitler on 20 June 1940 that “a landing would be extremely difficult and [would be] attended by the gravest risks. However, the development of the airplane for both combat and transport purposes had brought a new element…. A powerful and effective Air Force might create conditions favorable for an invasion….” Raeder said everything depended on the German Air Force (i.e., the Luftwaffe); and, therefore, the final determination rested with Field Marshal Hermann Goering.
Thinking over his options, Hitler gave no immediate orders for the Navy to prepare an invasion. He took time to think and to consult with Goering. To Raeder’s surprise, on 15 July 1940 “the Naval War Staff was informed verbally that preparations for the operation were to be so expedited that it could be put into motion any day from 15 August on.” The very next day, “all three branches of the armed forces received a directive signed by Hitler, which ordered all-out preparations for an invasion of England. The directive indicated that the operation was to take the form of a surprise amphibious landing on a broad front, and the unexpectedly early date had obviously been selected because the Army General Staff knew that suitable weather could not be expected after the beginning of October.”
Hitler had decided to move against England. But Grand Admiral Raeder believed an invasion could not be properly organized in so short a time. Raeder met with the top German generals. His intention was to frighten them with facts. Amphibious warfare was dangerous, he told them. This would not be like invading Norway. Germany’s entire invasion force could be destroyed on sea or on land if the German Navy or Air Force failed to hold both sea and air. He further explained that the French ports, from which the invasion would be launched, were damaged in the battle for France. The invasion could not be launched until mid-September, giving them only two weeks of good weather to secure a major undamaged port in England. Worse still, the Army’s favored invasion sites were known for poor weather conditions, unfavorable tides and rough water; and the Navy had no amphibious landing craft for bringing heavy equipment onto the beaches.
The German generals tended to think the Navy was obligated to solve these problems; but Hitler was impressed by Raeder’s arguments. He reset the date of the invasion, code named “Operation Sea Lion,” to 16 September 1940. As wrangling between the Army and Navy escalated, the original plan of invading with 25 to 40 divisions was scaled down to 13. This greatly unnerved the Army, which demanded landing zones along on a broad front. Raeder’s admirals said this was “impossible.” The German Navy was too small to guard a long stretch of coast against superior British sea power.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Stalin seemed to be helping Hitler all the more. In reality, Stalin was helping himself – to a chunk of war-torn Britain. In William J. West’s book, Spymaster: The Betrayal of M15, we happen upon a curious piece of intelligence related to the invasion of England in 1940. “America in the twentieth century has mercifully escaped two of the most serious threats that can confront a country – invasion from without, and violent revolution from within,” wrote West. “In 1940 and early 1941 Britain faced both of these dangers in real earnest.” According to West, the British Communist Party was instructed to prepare a communist revolution.
As West explained, “When Stalin’s Russia … signed the Nazi-Soviet pact in August 1939 and effectively made common cause with the German Nazi Government, supervision of the Communists in Britain should have been all the more vital.” But it wasn’t; and worse still, the MI5 officer in charge of watching the British Communist Party was Roger Hollis, a Soviet double agent. The communist plan for revolution was simple. Everything was to culminate in “a would-be revolutionary assembly which took place in London. Delegates representing over a million people were intent on bringing about a revolutionary change with a ‘People’s Government’ passing motions which they hoped would start a movement parallel to that which had taken place in Russia in 1917. The movement was coordinated between Moscow and Berlin.” The idea was to make “a people’s peace.”
Observers like George Orwell saw this “People’s Convention” as a cynical attempt by Moscow to help Germany defeat Britain. The policy of the Communists was called “revolutionary defeatism.” As West noted, “Orwell was never forgiven by the Communist Party or their sympathizers” for publicly blowing the whistle on them. The communists were so influential in wartime Britain, the Ministry of Information (MOI) retaliated by banning Orwell’s anti-communist book, Animal Farm, in 1944. As we shall see, communist subversion of British and American institutions was a problem during the Second World War.
During those very days when Grand Admiral Raeder, the German generals, and Hitler were planning to invade England, the British Communists were working to undermine Winston Churchill’s Government. Six days after the British evacuation from Dunkirk, Communist MP William Gallagher “expressed the opinion in the House of Commons that ‘the time has come for a complete reorganization of the Government in the form of a People’s Government.’” The communists were agitating for “peace” – for the victory of the dictators who had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. As West commented, “A more demoralizing program in a country at war could not be imagined.”
West suggested that nothing was done about this communist treason for six months because Roger Hollis of MI5, who was tasked with monitoring this activity, downplayed the danger it posed. (After Britain and the Soviet Union became allies in June 1941, added West, “the whole episode became embarrassing to all sides: to the Communists because they had been acting with Berlin to bring the war to a rapid end, to the right because any idea that a revolutionary movement could exist in modern Britain in whatever guise was anathema.”)
When the Battle of Britain began, and bombing raids occurred in London, the communists spread terrifying reports of gangsters breaking up “deep shelter committees.” Communist agitators in the British press were relentless. It was the worst kind of sedition at the worst possible moment. But the British people did not accept the communists’ peace propaganda. Consequently, the would-be communist revolution failed to gain popular support and collapsed in failure.
Back on the continent, the Germans were finalizing their invasion strategy. Admiral Raeder, convinced that an invasion was too dangerous to attempt, subtly worked on the other German military leaders. The German Air Force would have to gain absolute air supremacy, he said. Failing that, the invasion plan would have to be scrapped. Raeder sowed doubts in everyone. He told Hitler the invasion should be postponed until May 1941. As if to slap Raeder down, Hitler advanced the invasion date by one day, 15 September 1940. Everything would depend on the Luftwaffe’s offensive to defeat the Royal Air Force (RAF). At first, after a week of bruising German attacks, it looked like German airpower would win the day. While German generals and admirals yelled at each other about the breadth of the landing zones in England, the German air offensive slowly devolved into a battle of attrition. In the end, the Luftwaffe failed to subdue the RAF. As Raeder reported in his memoir, “Our own antiaircraft defense was not good enough to prevent continuous enemy air activity over the Channel ports, with the result that our congregating shipping and our embarkation areas were under stead observation and attack. On 13 September alone we lost 80 transport barges to enemy air attacks.”
On 17 September Hitler called off the invasion, but told Raeder to continue his preparations if only to keep England under pressure. Then, on 12 October Hitler issued a secret order to all service branches formally cancelling the invasion of Britain. The boats that Raeder had gathered for the invasion were returned to the civilian economy, which desperately needed them.
Next, Hitler met with Spanish leader Francisco Franco on 23 October 1940 at a French railway station near the Spanish-French border. Hitler invited Franco to join the Axis. Franco demanded food and oil. After seven hours of talks, Hitler was exasperated. With the British blockade he could spare neither food nor oil – two things he had in short supply. Spain would remain neutral.
On 28 October Hitler was enraged to learn that his fascist partner, Benito Mussolini, had invaded Greece without consulting him. The invasion was a disaster. The Italians attacked Greece from Albania and were driven into the Albanian mountains where they starved and froze over the winter. Hitler now had the problem of rescuing his Italian ally in the spring. A joke then became current in the German Army. A general tells Hitler that Italy entered the war. Hitler calmly says, “Send a panzer division.” The general says, “No, my Fuhrer, Italy has entered the war on our side.” Hitler exclaims, “Oh my God, send ten panzer divisions!”
As one difficulty piled on another, Hitler reflected on what Stalin had done to him – maneuvering him into a war he could never win. Revealing his worries, on 4 November, Hitler told General Halder that Russia was going to be a problem. “Everything must be done so that we are ready for the final showdown,” Hitler said. According to Ernst Topitsch, “In Germany the idea of a military clash with the Soviet Union was steadily taking root.”
On 12 November 1940 Molotov came to Berlin and met with Hitler and Ribbentrop. Molotov made several extortionate demands. Hitler urged the Soviets to move south against British positions in India and the Persian Gulf. At one point Hitler made a slip, saying he was in a death struggle with Britain. Molotov was amused by this German admission of weakness, saying that Germany was obviously fighting for its life because Churchill was out to destroy Germany. Hitler and Ribbentrop attempted to charm Molotov, but the Soviet foreign minister was reserved and unsympathetic. Finally, after Hitler and Ribbentrop had gotten nowhere, Molotov began making demands. Topitsch summarized the exchange as follows: “[Molotov] first demanded that Finland be handed over, then expressed his displeasure at the German guarantee to Romania and wanted to know Germany’s attitude regarding a similar Soviet guarantee to Bulgaria; [then] a further demand referred to bases in the region of the Dardanelles.”
Molotov then began to shower Hitler with impertinent questions. Hitler’s chief translator, Paul Schmitt, later said, “No foreign visitor had [ever] spoken to him like this in my presence.” Hitler was a very cool customer throughout, never losing his temper. According to Topitsch, the German dictator “was gentleness and politeness itself.” But Molotov continued to make demands and ask rude questions. There is little doubt Hitler’s hostility to the Soviet Union was strengthened.
On 5 December 1940, General Marcks’s invasion plan for the Soviet Union, which Hitler had ordered under the codename “Operation Otto,” was presented. On looking it over, Hitler was displeased. Many of his closest advisors warned against attacking Russia; but Hitler realized that war with Russia was now unavoidable. If he did not attack Stalin, the Soviet dictator was bound to launch a crippling invasion of Romania, cutting off Germany’s oil.
On 18 December Hitler ordered a revised plan for the invasion of Russia, calling it “Operation Barbarossa.” Therefore, the stage was set for a “final showdown” between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1941.
Additional Comments on Ends and Means
Now that we have covered the first phase of the war, a postscript is in order. The connection made earlier, between grand strategy and morality, between ends and means, comes into focus when we look at great power behavior. Many writers have commented on the immorality of great power politics, but few have attempted a full synthesis. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to tie a few key ideas together.
When we think of moral principles, we often recall the moral platitudes taught to us as children. These are often simple and do not provide direction in complex situations which occur in adulthood. Politics and war involve us in a further layer of moral complexity. The complexity is so great, in fact, that there are wide areas of moral/political disagreement. These disagreements stem from philosophical and religious ideas. In terms of the ideas influencing Soviet strategy, these can be said to directly flow from Marx and Lenin’s philosophy of dialectical materialism. Nazi strategy came directly from Hitler’s mind, which was that of a Darwinian racial pantheist (see footnote on Richard Weikart’s study, Hitler’s Religion). Allied strategy followed from democratic liberalism; but as the war progressed the Allies increasingly adopted strategies that empowered the Soviet Union. We find, in the history of World War II, intellectual confusion on the part of German and Allied policy-makers, especially in grand strategy. We also see the moral depravity and instrumentalist nihilism of Soviet strategy. The combination of these strategies produced the worst calamity in human history. What is alarming, today, is the continued persistence of this same pathological policy-making pattern from World War II; to repeat, the pattern of Intellectual error and confusion in the Western countries, and a continuation of instrumentalist nihilism in the strategies of Russia and China.
The victors in the war – the western Allies and the Soviet Union – have consistently presented the conflict as a crusade against evil. This propaganda has been used to cover a host of sins and inconsistencies. Every side in the Second World War made moralistic arguments for what they did. Every side in the war committed atrocities, though Hitler’s atrocities are generally regarded as more barbaric than those committed by the Allies and Soviets. It is not easy to assess the moral claims of the combatants. It is safe to say that all sides behaved with brutality; all sides broke the rules of war, and none came out with clean hands. I believe we have not been honest with ourselves about the dangerous nature of government bureaucracies, the blindness and stupidity of people who are under the spell of propaganda, and the sheer mendacity of those who wish to avoid responsibility for horrific acts. From all this it seems that the Second World War was a contest in wickedness; though all wickedness is not created equal.
Germany justified her war in terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the broken promises of the Allies in 1918, and the suffering of civilians from the Allied blockade which continued after the war into 1919 and resulted in the death, from malnutrition, of more than 800,000 German children. The day after the peace terms were delivered to Germany in 1919, Reich President Friedrich Ebert (of the Social Democratic Party, SPD) made the following complaint, which was later echoed by Hitler: “The honest will for peace of our hardship-enduring people received its first response in the extremely tough ceasefire terms. The German people have laid down their weapons and honestly fulfilled all the obligations of the ceasefire. Nevertheless, our opponents for six months have continued the war by maintaining the hunger blockade. The German people bore all these burdens with trust in the commitment, given by the Allies in the note of 5 November, that the peace would be a just and lawful peace based on Wilson’s 14 Points. What we are now offered instead in the peace terms contradicts the promised commitment, [and] is for the German people intolerable, and also unattainable, for [it is] beyond our powers. Violence without measure or limits is to be done to the German people. From such a forced peace there must arise new hatred between people and new killing in the course of history.”
These words were prophetic. The moralistic Allied war propaganda from 1914-1918 had so demonized the Germans that peace could not be declared without exacting harsh punishment. The fiasco of the war, which had cost so many lives, was not strategically justifiable. Neither was it morally justifiable. Somebody had to be blamed. Somebody had to pay. The British and French declared that the Germans were guilty of starting the war, with no guilt accruing to the French or Russians or British. Germany was saddled with large reparation payments. In fact, Germany made its last war reparation payment from the 1919 Versailles Treaty on 3 October 2010.
The Allied policy of 1919 was not only wicked; it was stupid. Many observers, like Reich President Ebert, saw in the Versailles Treaty the seeds of a future war. All that silly rhetoric about fighting a “war to end all wars” was demagogic self-deceit. It was a lie given by elected politicians to gullible citizens who would fight and die in yet another world war – the Second World War. It built one fiasco on the basis of another.
The Allies, of course, justified their entry into the Second World War on the basis of Hitler’s broken promises regarding Czechoslovakia and his aggression against Poland. Meanwhile, Moscow justified aggression against Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania as the “strengthening of [Soviet] western frontier security.” In fact, most histories say that the Soviet Union entered World War II on 22 June 1941 as Hitler’s victim. But this is a distortion of the facts. As Viktor Suvorov ironically remarked, “A Polish soldier killed in battle on Polish territory against the Red Army [in 1939] is considered a participant in World War II, as well as its victim, while the Soviet soldier who killed him is regarded as ‘neutral.’ If in the same battle a Soviet soldier is killed, then it is judged that he has not been killed in wartime but in peacetime – in the ‘pre-war period.’”
What strategy should the West have followed in 1939? Patrick Buchanan offered his own unique view of this question when he said that Churchill “had been a great man – at the cost of his country’s greatness.” Britain had been the “indispensable nation” and Churchill had been the “indispensable man”; but British interference in European politics had turned the war of 1914 into a world war. British interference in 1939 turned the German-Polish dispute into a second world war. In the end, the British Empire, which had guaranteed freedom of the seas and stability around the world, bankrupted itself and fell to pieces because it overreached. America would unsuccessfully attempt to fill the gap left by Britain’s post-war collapse, muddling through a series of inconclusive or failed wars. As for France, the history of the Algerian War and the Indochina War revealed the French Fourth Republic’s fundamental incapacity. The unraveling of the West therefore has continued under American mismanagement to the present day, with an ambitious communist China now emerging as the would-be global hegemon.
In terms of grand strategy all these developments indicate a series of strategic failures, coupled with mendacious moralizing, followed by the seemingly inevitable victory of something very dark. The moral vision we thought we were following, was part self-deception, part sincerity, yet entirely inconsistent in terms of ends and means. Britain and France began the Second World War to keep Hitler from taking Poland. They ended the war giving Poland to Stalin – and giving East Germany to Stalin, and Hungary, and Czechoslovaki, and Romania, and Bulgaria, etc. Turning to Asia and the Pacific, America, in its turn, antagonized Japan in 1941 for the sake of China’s freedom and independence; yet we did everything at the end of the war to assure the entry of Soviet troops into Manchuria, and then, we undermined the Nationalist Government in favor of Mao’s communists.
In truth, we should not have fought the Second World War if this was to be the outcome (Eastern Europe under Stalin, China under Mao, North Korea under Kim). This legacy is with us to this very day, and it is a bleak legacy indeed; for the missiles of Russia, China and North Korea are aimed at the United States – and nothing in this situation is likely to change). In 1938 we had Germany and Japan as a bulwark against communism in Europe and Asia. Look at the weakness of Germany today. Look at the vulnerability of Japan. Why did we destroy those countries that were preventing Stalin from expanding his empire? Was it realistic to think we could defend the world virtually by ourselves? Did we have the will to resist communism in Asia? Judging by the outcome of the Vietnam War, we did not. We do not even possess, at present, the wherewithal to keep communism out of the Caribbean. (As anyone can see from looking at the situation in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.)
Western strategists were guilty of at least two failings: First was the moral inconsistency behind their shifting “national object,” – fighting one form of tyranny (Nazism) to empower another (communism); second was the West’s strategic mishandling of pre-war crises in Europe and the Far East. It may be argued that the leaders of the West showed little foresight in two additional respects: They pampered Hitler with appeasement. Next, having thoroughly misled Hitler as to their willingness to fight, they pushed Hitler into Stalin’s waiting arms in 1939, placing themselves in a shooting gallery.
In the West we are no longer the masters of great ideas, but have become – in our politics – the slaves of idiotic humbug. “The war to end all wars,” “Peace for our time,” and “unconditional surrender,” are three disastrous slogans that come to mind. Socrates once pointed out that people who say stupid things out of ignorance are more dangerous than people who lie while knowing the truth. There is a sense in which the West’s intellectual and moral confusion, growing greater with each decade, stems from a cultivated and willful ignorance. We now believe in lies because ignorance is our bliss. We simply do not care to know anything. Indeed, ignorance is somehow seen as an honored place of safety in our ruling bureaucratic anthills. If you do not know, then you cannot be held responsible. But that formula places one ignorance upon another. Bad policies, which result in mass casualties, cannot be excused on the grounds of ignorance or inattention. Underscoring Socrates’ point, if you are pulled over by a policeman for running a red light you did not see, is the policeman going to let you off? It is my belief that the inattentive driver is more dangerous than the driver who runs a red light on purpose; for the driver who intentionally runs the light has probably looked both ways before breaking the law. The oblivious driver is the truly dangerous driver. And what we see in the history of Western strategy, is an increasingly oblivious driver.
Glancing toward the present occupant of the White House, the word oblivious picks up an altogether more sinister connotation. In terms of that crude biological weapon “innocently leaked” from China’s Wuhan lab, the casualty figures could mount into the tens or hundreds of millions; – not because the Chinese made a killer virus, but on account of the West’s self-annihilating lock-downs and vaccinations. It is what I have called “the bungle factor.” From the Second World War to the present, this factor has proved ever more decisive. To collapse one’s own economy to stop a virus is a cure worse than the disease. To offer a vaccine that does not prevent the vaccinated from getting or transmitting a virus, is inane. Here is the twilight of the West. The Second World War was merely a foretaste.
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Notes and Links
Suvorov, Icebreaker, p. 46.
J.F.C. Fuller, The Second World War (New York: De Capo Press, 1993), p. 83.
Suvorov, p. 37.
Benjamin Gitlow, The Whole of Their Lives (Boston: Western Islands, 1965), pp. 302-315.
Albert L. Weeks, Stalin’s Other War: Soviet Grand Strategy, 1939-1941 (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), pp. 76-77.
Viktor Suvorov, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II (Naval Institute Press, 2008), pp. 155-156.
Erich Raeder (translated by Henry W. Drexel), Grand Admiral (United States Naval Institute, 2001), pp. 319-330.
William J. West, Spymaster: The Betrayal of MI5 (New York: Berkley Publishing Inc., 1992), pp. 55-83.
Topitsch, Stalin’s War, p. 76.
Ibid, p. 85.
Gerd Schultze-Ronhof (translated by George F. Held), 1939 – The War That Had Many Fathers: The Long Run-up to the Second World War (Munich: Olzog Verlag GmbH, 2011), p. 90.
Survorov, Icebreaker, p. 38.
Patrick Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), p. 412.