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What we can learn from the twentieth century’s greatest diplomatic disaster – the Munich conference

by Speranza ( 152 Comments › )
Filed under Afghanistan, France, Germany, History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Japan, John Kerry, Nazism, Syria, UK, World War II at January 16th, 2014 - 5:00 pm

As the author states, democracy was introduced into Japan and Germany at the point of a gun after those two nations were utterly devastated and had to submit to foreign occupations. No such thing has ever happened to any Islamic nation.  “Nation building” in Iraq and Afghanistan never had a chance in hell of succeeding. The analogies to Munich 1938 are interesting but often misleading.

by Bruce Thornton

During the recent foreign policy crises over Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, the Munich analogy was heard from both sides of the political spectrum. Arguing for airstrikes against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the nation faced a “Munich moment.” A few months later, numerous critics of Barack Obama’s diplomatic discussions with Iran evoked Neville Chamberlain’s naïve negotiations with Adolph Hitler. “This wretched deal,” Middle East historian Daniel Pipes said, “offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid.” The widespread resort to the Munich analogy raises the question: When, if ever, are historical analogies useful for understanding present circumstances?

  what economic recovery
Photo credit: Anna Newman

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, one important purpose of describing historical events was to provide models for posterity. Around 395 B.C., Thucydides wrote that his history was for “those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” [........]

Both historians believed the past could inform and instruct the present because they assumed that human nature would remain constant in its passions, weaknesses, and interests despite changes in the political, social, or technological environment. As Thucydides writes of the horrors of revolution and civil war, “The sufferings . . . were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases.”  [.........]

In contrast, the modern idea of progress––the notion that greater knowledge of human motivation and behavior, and more sophisticated technology, are changing and improving human nature––suggests that events of the past have little utility in describing the present, and so every historical analogy is at some level false. The differences between two events separated by time and different levels of intellectual and technological sophistication will necessarily outweigh any usefulness. [......]

An example of a historical analogy that failed because it neglected important differences was one popular among those supporting the Bush Doctrine during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush Doctrine was embodied in the president’s 2005 inaugural speech: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” Promoting democracy and political freedom in the Middle East was believed to be the way to eliminate the political, social, and economic dysfunctions that presumably breed Islamic terrorism. Supporters of this view frequently invoked the transformation of Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union from aggressive tyrannies into peaceful democracies to argue for nation building in the Muslim Middle East.

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, used this analogy in his 2004 book The Case for Democracy, which was an important influence on President Bush’s thinking. Yet in citing the examples of Russia, Germany, and Japan as proof that democracy could take root in any cultural soil, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sharansky overlooked some key differences. Under Soviet communism, a highly religious Russian people were subjected to an atheist regime radically at odds with the beliefs of the masses. Communism could only promise material goods, and when it serially failed to do so, it collapsed. As for Germany and Japan, both countries were devastated by World War II, their cities and industries destroyed, the ruins standing as stark reminders of the folly of the political ideologies that wreaked such havoc. Both countries were occupied for years by the victors, who had the power and scope to build a new political order enforced by the occupying troops. As political philosopher Michael Mandelbaum reminds us, in Germany and Japan, democracy was introduced at gunpoint.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of these important conditions existed when U.S. forces invaded. The leaders of these countries are Muslim, thus establishing an important connection with the mass of their people. Unlike Nazism and communism, which were political fads, Islam is the faith of 1.5 billion people, and boasts a proud, fourteen-centuries-long history of success and conquest. For millions of pious Muslims, the answer to their modern difficulties lies not in embracing a foreign political system like democracy, but in returning to the purity of faith that created one of the world’s greatest empires. Moreover, no Muslim country has suffered the dramatic physical destruction that Germany and Japan did, which would illuminate the costs of Islam’s failure to adapt to the modern world. Finally, such analogies downplay the complex social and economic values, habits, and attitudes––many contrary to traditional Islamic doctrine––that are the preconditions for a truly democratic regime.

More recently, people are invoking the Munich analogy to describe the Syria and Iran crises. But these critics of Obama’s foreign policy misunderstand the Munich negotiations and their context. The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, arguing that Obama’s agreement with Iran is worse than the English and French betrayal of Czechoslovakia, based his assessment on his belief that “neither Neville Chamberlain nor [French prime minister] Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. ‘Peace for our time’ it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.”

Stephens, however, is missing an important historical detail that calls into question this interpretation. France in fact did have the “military wherewithal” to fight the Germans. The Maginot line had 860,000 soldiers manning it––nearly six times the number of Germans on the unfinished “Western Wall” of defensive fortifications facing the French—and another 400,000 troops elsewhere in France. Any move east by the French would have presented Germany with a two-front war it was not prepared to fight. Nor would Czechoslovakia have been an easy foe for Hitler. As Churchill wrote in The Gathering Storm, the Czechs had “a million and a half men armed behind the strongest fortress line in Europe [in the mountainous Sudetenland on Germany’s eastern border] and equipped by a highly organized and powerful industrial machine,” including the Skoda works, “the second most important arsenal in Central Europe.” Finally, the web of military agreements among England, France, Poland, and the Soviet Union was dependent on England backing France, which would not fight otherwise, and without the French, the Poles and the Soviets would not fight either. Had England lived up to its commitment to France, Hitler would have faced a two-front war against the overwhelming combined military superiority of the Allies. And he would have lost.

The lessons of Munich, and its value as a historical analogy, have nothing to do with a material calculation. Rather, the capitulation of the British and the French illustrates the perennial truth that conflict is about morale. On that point Stephens is correct when he writes that Chamberlain and Daladier did not have “public support,” and he emphasizes the role of morale in foreign policy. A people who have lost the confidence in the goodness of their way of life will not be saved by the material superiority of arms or money. And, as Munich also shows, that failure of nerve will not be mitigated by diplomatic negotiations. Talking to an enemy bent on aggression will only buy him time for achieving his aims. Thus Munich exposes the fallacy of diplomatic engagement that periodically has compromised Western foreign policy. Rather than a means of avoiding the unavoidable brutal costs of conflict, diplomatic words often create the illusion of action, while in reality avoiding the necessary military deeds. For diplomacy to work, the enemy must believe that his opponent will use punishing force to back up the agreement.

This truth gives force to the Munich analogy when applied to diplomacy with Iran. Hitler correctly judged that what he called the “little worms” of Munich, France and England, would not use such force, and were only looking for a politically palatable way to avoid a war. Similarly today, the mullahs in Iran are confident that America will not use force to stop the nuclear weapons program. Iran’s leaders are shrewd enough to understand that the Obama administration needs a diplomatic fig leaf to hide its capitulation to their nuclear ambitions, given his doubts about the rightness of America’s global dominance, and the war-weariness evident among the American people.  [........]

The weakening faith in American goodness that afflicts millions of Americans, and the use of diplomacy to camouflage that failure of nerve and provide political cover for the leaders charged with protecting our security and interests, are a reprise of England and France’s sacrifice of Czechoslovakia in 1938. That similarity and the lessons it can teach about the dangers of the collapse of national morale and the risky reliance on words rather than deeds are what continue to make Munich a useful historical analogy.

Read the rest - The lessons of Munich

 

Canadian causes trouble at Japan’s Yasukuni shrine

by Rodan ( 135 Comments › )
Filed under Japan, World War II at December 27th, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Regardless of the controversial nature of Japan’s Yasukuni shrine, only an idiot would go there and start trouble. That is exactly what some German Canadian tourist did. He went in to try to shame the Japanese there and instead was lucky to get out with his life.

This German Canadian guy really had some nerve and balls to go to a Japanese shrine and cause the trouble he did.

(Hat Tip: Military Photos)

Update:) Per Guggi, the man in the video was Canadian.

Woe to America’s allies

by Speranza ( 114 Comments › )
Filed under Barack Obama, Iran, Israel, Japan, Joe Biden, Russia, South Korea at December 9th, 2013 - 9:04 am

As an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister recently stated (paraphrasing) “We have 2 1/2 more years of Obama, we need to hold out and then he will be gone”.

by Charles Krauthammer

Three crises, one president, many bewildered friends.

The first crisis, barely noticed here, is Ukraine’s sudden turn away from Europe and back to the Russian embrace.

After years of negotiations for a major trading agreement with the European Union, Ukraine succumbed to characteristically blunt and brutal economic threats from Russia and abruptly walked away. Ukraine is instead considering joining the Moscow-centered Customs Union with Russia’s fellow dictatorships Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This is no trivial matter. Ukraine is not just the largest European country, it’s the linchpin for Vladimir Putin’s dream of a renewed imperial Russia, hegemonic in its neighborhood and rolling back the quarter-century advancement of the “Europe whole and free” bequeathed by America’s victory in the Cold War.

The U.S. response? Almost imperceptible. As with Iran’s ruthlessly crushed Green Revolution of 2009, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who’ve turned out to reverse this betrayal of Ukrainian independence have found no voice in Washington. Can’t this administration even rhetorically support those seeking a democratic future, as we did during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004?

A Post online headline explains: “With Russia in mind, U.S. takes cautious approach on Ukraine unrest.” We must not offend Putin. We must not jeopardize Obama’s precious “reset,” a farce that has yielded nothing but the well-earned distrust of allies such as Poland and the Czech Republicwhom we wantonly undercut in a vain effort to appease Russia on missile defense.

[......]

The second crisis is the Middle East — the collapse of confidence of U.S. allies as America romances Iran.

The Gulf Arabs are stunned at their double abandonment. In the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the U.S. has overthrown seven years of Security Council resolutions prohibiting uranium enrichment and effectively recognized Iran as a threshold nuclear state. This follows our near-abandonment of the Syrian revolution and de facto recognition of both the Assad regime and Iran’s “Shiite Crescent” of client states stretching to the Mediterranean.

Equally dumbfounded are the Israelis, now trapped by an agreement designed less to stop the Iranian nuclear program than to prevent the Israeli Air Force from stopping the Iranian nuclear program.

[........]

Better diplomacy than war, say Obama’s apologists, an adolescent response implying that all diplomacy is the same, as if a diplomacy of capitulation is no different from a diplomacy of pressure.

What to do? Apply pressure. Congress should immediately pass punishing new sanctions to be implemented exactly six months hence — when the current interim accord is supposed to end — if the Iranians have not lived up to the agreement and refuse to negotiate a final deal that fully liquidates their nuclear weapons program.

The third crisis is unfolding over the East China Sea, where, in open challenge to Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” China has brazenly declared a huge expansion of its airspace into waters claimed by Japan and South Korea.

Obama’s first response — sending B-52s through that airspace without acknowledging the Chinese — was quick and firm. Japan and South Korea followed suit. But when Japan then told its civilian carriers not to comply with Chinese demands for identification, the State Department (and FAA) told U.S. air carriers to submit.

[......]

Again leaving our friends stunned. They need an ally, not an intermediary. Here is the U.S. again going over the heads of allies to accommodate a common adversary. We should be declaring the Chinese claim null and void, ordering our commercial airlines to join Japan in acting accordingly, and supplying them with joint military escorts if necessary.

This would not be an exercise in belligerence but a demonstration that if other countries unilaterally overturn the status quo, they will meet a firm, united, multilateral response from the West.

Led by us. From in front.

No one’s asking for a JFK-like commitment to “bear any burden” to “assure the . . . success of liberty.” Or a Reaganesque tearing down of walls. Or even a Clintonian assertion of America as the indispensable nation. America’s allies are seeking simply a reconsideration of the policy of retreat that marks this administration’s response to red-line challenges all over the world — and leaves them naked.

Read the rest – Woe to U.S. Allies

Japan Launches Largest Warship since WWII

by Macker ( 44 Comments › )
Filed under Asia, China, Japan, North Korea, World War II at August 7th, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Escort Aircraft Carrier? Or Destroyer…as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force calls her? You be the judge:

(CNN) — Japan on Tuesday unveiled its largest warship since World War II, an 820-foot-long, 19,500-ton flattop capable of carrying 14 helicopters, according to media reports.
The ship, named the Izumo, is classified as a helicopter destroyer, though its flattop design makes it look like an aircraft carrier.
But the Japanese Defense Ministry says the ship is not intended to be used as an aircraft carrier and will not be used to launch fighter jets, state broadcaster NHK reported.
The launch of the $1.2 billion warship at a Yokohama dockyard comes at a time of increased military tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
“The destroyer is aimed at better responding to various contingencies in waters near Japan,” NHK reported.

Given the current dispute between Japan, China, and Taiwan over a certain island chain, and especially in light of the continued belligerence of North Korea, I can certainly understand Japan building and launching this ship. Coincidentally (?)…she was launched on the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
Has the time now arrived for Japan to rearm itself?

Mega-WHAT???? OOT

by Macker ( 61 Comments › )
Filed under Asia, China, Entertainment, Humor, Japan, OOT, South Korea at June 28th, 2013 - 11:00 pm

I present, you decide. CAUTION: May be NSFW….

Those Japanese, they’re always up to something! Or is it the Chinese? The South Koreans?
Who Cares! It’s The Overnight Open Thread!

Energy Noodles

Japan – a land without Muslims

by Speranza ( 125 Comments › )
Filed under Islam, Japan at May 23rd, 2013 - 7:00 am

All I can say is “Lucky Japan”! The world needs to stop romanticizing the Religion of Peace because it is an aggressive and  subversive force.

by Dr. Mordecai Kedar

There are countries in the world, mainly in Europe, that are presently undergoing significant cultural transformations as a result of Muslim immigration. France, Germany, Belgium and Holland are interesting examples of cases where immigration from Muslim countries, together with the Muslims’ high fertility rate, effects every area of life.

It is interesting to know that there is a country in the world whose official and public approach to the Muslim matter is totally different. This country is Japan. This country keeps a very low profile on all levels regarding the Muslim matter: On the diplomatic level, senior political figures from Islamic countries almost never visit Japan, and Japanese leaders rarely visit Muslim countries. The relations with Muslim countries are based on concerns such as oil and gas, which Japan imports from some Muslim countries. The official policy of Japan is not to give citizenship to Muslims who come to Japan, and even permits for permanent residency are given sparingly to Muslims.

Japan forbids exhorting people to adopt the religion of Islam (Dawah), and any Muslim who actively encourages conversion to Islam is seen as proselytizing to a foreign and undesirable culture. Few academic institutions teach the Arabic language. It is very difficult to import books of the Qur’an to Japan, and Muslims who come to Japan, are usually employees of foreign companies. In Japan there are very few mosques. The official policy of the Japanese authorities is to make every effort not to allow entry to Muslims, even if they are physicians, engineers and managers sent by foreign companies that are active in the region. Japanese society expects Muslim men to pray at home.

Japanese companies seeking foreign workers specifically note that they are not interested in Muslim workers. And any Muslim who does manage to enter Japan will find it very difficult  to rent an apartment. [.......]

In contrast with what is happening in Europe, very few Japanese are drawn to Islam. If a Japanese woman marries a Muslim, she will be considered an outcast by her social and familial environment. There is no application of Shari’a law in Japan. There is some food in Japan that is halal, kosher according to Islamic law, but it is not easy to find it in the supermarket.

The Japanese approach to Muslims is also evidenced by the numbers: in Japan there are 127 million residents, but only ten thousand Muslims, less than one hundredth of a percent. The number of Japanese who have converted is thought to be few. In Japan there are a few tens of thousands of foreign workers who are Muslim, mainly from Pakistan, who have managed to enter Japan as workers with construction companies.  [.......]

There are several reasons for this situation:

First, the Japanese tend to lump all Muslims together as fundamentalists who are unwilling to give up their traditional point of view and adopt modern ways of thinking and behavior. In Japan, Islam is perceived as a strange religion, that any intelligent person should avoid.

Second, most Japanese have no religion, but behaviors connected with the Shinto religion along with elements of Buddhism are integrated into national customs . In Japan, religion is connected to the nationalist concept, and prejudices exist towards foreigners whether they are Chinese, Korean, Malaysian or Indonesian, and Westerners don’t escape this phenomenon either. [......]

And Third, the Japanese dismiss the concept of monotheism and faith in an abstract god,  because their world concept is apparently connected to the material, not to faith and emotions.  [......]Christianity exists in Japan and is not regarded negatively, apparently because the image of Jesus perceived in Japan is like the images of Buddha and Shinto.

The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam. They make a clear distinction between their economic interest in resources of oil and gas from Muslim countries, which behooves Japan to maintain good relations with these countries on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Japanese nationalist viewpoints, which see Islam as something that is suitable for others, not for Japan, and therefore the Muslims must remain outside.

Because the Japanese have a gentle temperament, and project serenity and tranquility toward foreigners, foreigners tend to relate to the Japanese with politeness and respect. A Japanese diplomat would never raise his voice or speak rudely in the presence of foreigners, therefore foreigners relate to the Japanese with respect, despite their racism and discrimination against Muslims in the matter of immigration. A Japanese official who is presented with an embarrassing question regarding the way the Japanese relate to Muslims, will usually refrain from answering, because he knows that a truthful answer would arouse anger, and he is both unable and unwilling to give an answer that is not true. [......]

Japan manages to remain a country almost without a Muslim presence because Japan’s negative attitude toward Islam and Muslims pervades every level of the population, from the man in the street to organizations and companies to senior officialdom. In Japan, contrary to the situation in other countries, there are no “human rights” organizations to offer support to Muslims’ claims against the government’s position. In Japan no one illegally smuggles Muslims into the country to earn a few yen, and almost no one gives them the legal support they would  need in order to get permits for temporary or permanent residency or citizenship.

Another thing that helps the Japanese keep Muslim immigration to their shores to a minimum is the Japanese attitude toward the employee and employment. Migrant workers are perceived negatively in Japan, because they take the place of Japanese workers. A Japanese employer feels obligated to employ Japanese workers even if it costs much more than it would to employ foreign workers. The traditional connection between an employee and employer in Japan is much stronger than in the West, and the employer and employee feel a mutual commitment to each other: an employer feels obligated to give his employee a livelihood, and the employee feels obligated to give the employer the fruit of his labor.  [......]

The fact that the public and the officials are united in their attitude against Muslim immigration has created a sort of iron wall around Japan that Muslims lack both the permission and the capability to overcome. This iron wall silences the world’s criticism of Japan in this matter, because the world understands that there is no point in criticizing the Japanese, since criticism will not convince them to open the gates of Japan to Muslim immigration.

Japan is teaching the whole world an interesting lesson: there is a direct correlation between national heritage and permission to immigrate: a people that has a solid and clear national heritage and identity will not allow the unemployed of the world to enter its country; and a people whose cultural heritage and national identity is weak and fragile, has no defense mechanisms to prevent a foreign culture from penetrating into its country and its land.

Read the rest - The Land without Muslims

 

 

 

From Pearl Harbor to the Eastern Front to Korea – the lessons of history

by Speranza ( 137 Comments › )
Filed under China, France, Germany, History, Japan, Military, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, United Nations, World War II at December 23rd, 2012 - 8:00 pm

VDH analyzes three pivotal events in the 20th century. I am glad to see that he recognizes the German failure to win the war against the U.S.S.R. in 1941 was largely due to the fact that  they lacked motorized transport – something that so many people ignore or are ignorant of.  Also Hitler never factored in the notion that the RedA rmy would fight a lot harder on its own territory then it would in Finland. As for Korea he points out that we were fortunate to have had Matthew B. Ridgway replace the shell shocked Douglas MacArthur (Ridgway, not David Petraeus) was our greatest commander since World War II.

by Victor Davis Hanson

From time to time, I take a break from opinion writing here at Works and Days[1] and turn to history — on this occasion, I am prompted by the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Here are a few of the most common questions that I have encountered while teaching the wars of the 20th century over the last twenty years.

I. Pearl Harbor — December 7, 1941

Q. Why did the Japanese so foolishly attack Pearl Harbor?

A. The Japanese did not see it as foolish at all. What in retrospect seems suicidal did not necessarily seem so at the time. In hindsight, the wiser Japanese course would have been to absorb the orphaned colonial Far Eastern possessions of France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain that were largely defenseless after June 1941. By carefully avoiding the Philippines and Pearl Harbor, the Japanese might have inherited the European colonial empire in the Pacific without starting a war with the United States. And had the Japanese and Germans coordinated strategy, the two might have attacked Russia simultaneously in June 1941 without prompting a wider war with the United States, or in the case of Japan, an immediate conflict necessarily with Great Britain.

But in the Japanese view, the Soviets had proved stubborn opponents in a series of border wars, and it was felt wiser to achieve a secure rear in Manchuria to divert attention to the west (the Russians, in fact, honored their non-aggression pact with the Japanese until late 1945) — especially given the fact that the Wehrmacht in December 1941 seemed likely to knock the Soviet Union out of the war in a few weeks or by early 1942.

In the Japanese mind, the moment was everything: it was high time to get in on the easy pickings in the Pacific before Germany ended the war altogether.

While the United States had belatedly begun rearming in the late 1930s, the Japanese were still convinced that in a naval war, their ships, planes, and personnel were at least as modern and plentiful, if not more numerous and qualitatively better than what was available to the United States. [......]

Japanese intelligence about American productive potential was about as limited as German knowledge of the Soviet Union. In Tokyo’s view, if Japanese naval forces took out the American Pacific carriers at Pearl Harbor, there was simply no way for America, at least in the immediate future, to contradict any of their Pacific agendas. Nor on December 7 could the Japanese even imagine that Germany might lose the war on the eastern front; more likely, Hitler seemed about to take Moscow, ending the continental ground conflict in Eurasia, and allowing him at last to finish off Great Britain. Britain’s fall, then, would mean that everything from India to Burma would soon be orphaned in the Pacific, and Japan would only have to deal with a vastly crippled and solitary United States. In short, for the Japanese, December 1941 seemed a good time to attack the United States — a provocation that would either likely be negotiated or end in a military defeat for the U.S.

II. The Russian Front — June 22, 1941

Q. Why did the Germans attack the Soviet Union so recklessly at a time when they had all but won the war?

A. Once more, what seems foolhardy to us may not have seemed so to Nazi Germany[3]. True, the Germans each month were receiving generously priced Soviet products, many on credit; but Hitler (wrongly) felt that he could nevertheless steal food, fuel, and raw materials from the east more cheaply than buying them. And while the Germans were paranoid about opening a two-front war — like the one that had plagued them between late 1914 and 1917 — Hitler argued that the western front was all but somnolent. British strategic bombing in 1941, remember, was still mostly erratic and ineffective.

In any case, Hitler was more paranoid about a British embargo and blockade that might cut off fuel and food in the manner of 1918; with the acquisition of the great natural reserves of the Soviet Union, especially its Caucasian oil, the Nazis believed that they would become immune from the effects of a maritime blockade.

In addition, the war was never intended to be entirely rational in the purely strategic sense; instead, it was seen also as a National Socialist ideological crusade in which the complete destruction or enslavement of Europe’s supposed Untermenschen was impossible without access to the huge populations of Jews and Slavs in Russia. To Hitler, Marxism was a Jewish perversity and Operation Barbarossa meant that he could kill two birds with one stone. The perverse notion that a Germany with 30% more territory and a population of 80 million — similar to its population today — still could not live without “Lebensraum” apparently appealed to many German elites who had visions of eastern estates and baronies, worked by serfs, with vacation trips on super-autobahns to the Crimean beaches — at least if all that cost only a month of war.

[........]There was no reason to believe that the United States would enter the war; if America had not declared war to aid Britain, it most certainly would not do so to save the communist Soviet Union.

Moreover, the German army had proved almost superhuman in its invasion of Poland and Western Europe; even the messy conflicts in the Balkans, Crete, and the recent deployments to North Africa had not slowed the Wehrmacht’s progress. Hitler, just to be sure, took no chances and assembled the largest invasion force the world had yet seen, over three million Germans and 500,000 allies. Operation Barbarossa was truly a multilateral effort, with contingents from most of Eastern Europe, Spain, and Italy joining the German effort. [......]Such technological superiority blinded Hitler to the reality that there were few modern roads in Russia, and most of the invasion would still be powered by horses, with inadequate air, train, and truck transport.

Still, in contrast to Germany’s string of successes, the Soviet Union’s recent military record was dismal. Stalin had liquidated many of the officer class (although not as large a percentage as was once thought). The Red Army had not performed well in carving up Poland in September 1939 and appeared almost incompetent in the early stages of the Soviet invasion of Finland in late 1939 (Hitler foolishly did not distinguish between the Red Army when fighting on home soil and when it was deployed abroad). [......] Given poor German intelligence about the quality and production of Russian artillery, tank (cf. the new T-34[4] that was about to go into full production), and aircraft, the Germans assumed that Russia would fall rather easily — relying on a comparative World War I calculus. France had held out for four years, while Russia had fallen in about three; thus, the next time around in 1940, France’s fall in about seven weeks suggested a Russian collapse in about four.

Japan, at war in the east with Russia during 1938-1939, had felt betrayed when its Axis partner had signed without warning the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, effectively ensuring the Soviets could focus on one front against the Japanese. A defeated Japan repaid the treachery in kind, by signing a similar neutrality pact with Russia in April 1941. That bargain assured Stalin, in turn, that the Soviets would have only a one-front war should Hitler break his agreements — a fact that might have saved Moscow as reinforcements from the east poured in.

In short, had Hitler maintained his pact with Stalin and focused instead on North Africa and the Persian Gulf oil fields, perhaps in conjunction with the Japanese advancing toward India and Suez, Great Britain would have probably lost the war. But by invading Russia, and declaring war on the United States on December 11 (when Army Group Center seemed on the verge of taking Moscow, when Japan seemingly had destroyed the Pacific fleet and had ensured both Britain and America a two-front war, and when U-boat commanders assured the Nazi high command that with free rein to attack the East Coast of the United States they could destroy the shipping lanes of the convoy system between North America and Great Britain), Hitler chose about the only two courses of action that could have lost him the war.

III. A Divided Korea?

Q. Why did the United States stop after spring 1951 at the 38th Parallel, thereby ensuring a subsequent sixty-year Cold War and resulting in chronic worries about a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons and poised to invade its neighbor to the south?

A. Americans were haunted by the nightmare of November 1950 to February 1951. After the brilliant Inchon invasion, and MacArthur’s inspired rapid advance to the Yalu River and the Chinese border, the sudden entrance of an initial quarter-million Chinese Red Army troops, with hundreds of thousands to follow, had sent the Americans reeling hundreds of miles to the south (in the longest retreat in American military history), back across the 38th Parallel, with Seoul soon being lost to the communists yet again. Matthew Ridgway had arrived in December 1950 to try to save the war, and had done just that by April 1951, when he was replaced as senior ground commander by Gen. Van Fleet and in turn took over the theater command from the relieved MacArthur. But the Americans had been permanently traumatized by the Chinese entry and the North Korean recovery after the all-but-declared American victory of October 1950.

Ridgway, after the UN forces’ amazing recovery in early 1951, was in no mood to go much farther across the 38th Parallel. From his study of MacArthur’s debacle in Fall 1950, he knew well that the peninsula in the north became more rugged and expansive and would swallow thousands of troops as they neared the Chinese and Russian borders, and had to be supplied from hundreds of miles to the rear. [.......]

Moreover, the UN coalition had been created under quasi-coercive premises in Fall 1950. The war was seen as about over, and allied deployment might well amount to only garrison duty. European participation in Korea was also predicated on ensuring an American commitment to keeping the Soviets out of Western Europe. But by the time UN troops arrived in Korea, the Chinese were invading and slaughtering the coalition in the retreat to the south. Most European participants simply wanted a truce at any cost and an end to the war.

Further, the U.S. had been drawn into a depressing propaganda war. We were responsible for rebirthing Japan, Italy, and Germany as pro-Western democracies, while Russian and Chinese communists posed as the true allies of the war’s victims that were continuing their war against fascism, against a capitalist American Empire that had joined the old Axis. In the case of Korea, Americans took over constabulary duties from Japanese militarists and supported South Korean authoritarians, while Soviet and Chinese-backed hardened communists in the North posed as agrarian reformers — or so the global leftist narrative went. [.......]

Was that stalemate wise, given the later trajectory of North Korea to the present insanity? Perhaps not — but the American effort nonetheless jumpstarted the South, which eventually evolved into a nation with consensual government and the world free-market powerhouse of today.

Lessons?

As historians we must remember not to evaluate what happened solely on the basis of what we now know in hindsight, but rather weigh the information available to the warring parties of the time — albeit with ample attention paid to their own shortcomings and prejudices.

Moreover, most blunders in war follow from the fruits of perceived success (e.g., Germany after victories in the West, Japan after sensing the colonial powers were all through in the Pacific, MacArthur after Inchon, the Chinese after successfully crossing into Korea, and perhaps even the United States in Iraq after the quick victory over the Taliban and the three-week disposal of Saddam Hussein’s regime), when the winning side rarely evaluates its ongoing success in terms of tactical means and strategic ends, the changing tides of war, and the advantages that will soon begin to accrue to the defenders. Few dared challenge the purported genius Hitler in 1941, or the supposedly all-knowing Isoroku Yamamoto in late 1941, or the brilliant MacArthur after Inchon.

Finally, no one can quite predict what will happen when the shooting starts, as even the past can be a deceptive guide. Hitler believed that the Czar’s Russians, who did not fight as stubbornly as the French in World War I, would collapse like the French did in June 1940. When the Chinese crossed the 38th Parallel, they did not anticipate that their communist supermen were subject to the same facts — long, vulnerable supply lines, bad weather, and an enemy with easier logistics — that had plagued the Americans on the way to the Yalu. And while Hitler may have had grounds to doubt the initial effectiveness of the U.S. Army, its sudden mobilization, and its inadequate equipment, he had no appreciation of lethal American fighter-bombers or a growing strategic bombing arm, no appreciation of the brilliance of American generals at the corps and division level, and no appreciation of what Henry Kaiser and Charles Sorensen were up to back in the United States.

Read the rest – War’s Paradoxes: From Pearl Harbor to the Russian Front to the 38th Parallel

WE REMEMBER – 7 December 1941

by Bunk X ( 66 Comments › )
Filed under History, Japan, Military, U.S. Navy, World, World War II at December 7th, 2012 - 2:00 am

Hawaii Time 7:53AM Sunday 7 December 1941

There was NO Declaration of War until after the attack.

 

The Road to Kamakura OOT

by savage ( 14 Comments › )
Filed under Japan, OOT at September 1st, 2012 - 11:00 pm

In 1955, my father was stationed on the USS Princeton as a LtJG and during a naval port visit to Yokusuka he took this photo of the road from Tokyo to Kamakura. Japan was much more rural in those days then it is now.

Please enjoy this Japanese OOT.

Caturday: Police Cat in Japan

by 1389AD ( 57 Comments › )
Filed under Caturday, Japan, Open thread at May 5th, 2012 - 3:00 pm

Police Station Cat
This charming police station cat goes along on calls to assist elderly people who are being targeted by financial con-men.

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