Brave New World

Chapter 2 (Part 1 of 4) of the book

The Discovery of First Principles, Volume 3

Edward J. Dodson

When humans lived in small groups, when our weapons were comparatively paltry, even an enraged warrior could kill only a few. As our technology improved, the means of war also improved. In the same brief interval, we also have improved. We have tempered our anger, frustration and despair with reason. We have ameliorated on a planetary scale injustices that only recently were global and endemic. But our weapons can now kill billions. Have we improved fast enough? Are we teaching reason as effectively as we can? Have we courageously studied the causes of war?[1] [Carl Sagan]

Late in November of 1939, Adolf Hitler brought his senior military officers together to instruct them on the future conduct of the war. The objective he set for them was to secure for the German people a permanently enlarged living space. To gain this Lebensraum, Hitler promised them total commitment of the nation's physical, material and emotional resources. "I shall shrink from nothing and shall annihilate everyone who is opposed to me,"[2] he announced. None doubted his sincerity nor his capacity to carry out such a threat. No such determined leadership or willingness to exercise absolute power existed among the French or British, the two European nations faced with the strategic responsibility of standing firm against German and Italian aggression. Only in the person of Josef Stalin did there exist a person capable of unleashing terror on others, externally or at home. In the East, the Japanese determination to expand their own empire by warfare was collective and ritualistic. Mussolini, the ex-socialist, had come to power in Italy as the agent of extreme conservativism and without fully dominating the will of the Italian people. The struggling constitutional republics of the Old World were nonetheless gravely challenged for control of the future. Political disagreements enabled individuals to collectively resist preparations for war, even those essential to defense against external aggression. As one who offered warnings early and frequently, Churchill would later write, "[t]he advantage which a Government bound by no law or treaty has over countries which derive their war impulse only after the criminal has struck, and have to plan accordingly, cannot be measured. It is enormous."[3]

When the German attack on Poland finally came, the French and British were paralyzed by dissention, unable to seize their opportunity to drive deep into the heart of Germany while the bulk of the German forces were engaged elsewhere. The British were totally unprepared for a war on the continent; they could put only a handful of poorly-trained divisions in the field. The French, holding on to burning memories of casualties endured in the First World War, refused to take on the Germans by themselves. The situation was further complicated by the defensive war opened by the Finns (trained and supplied by Germans) against the Soviets. Stalin had been pressuring the Finns to relinquish some territory that would move the border further to the west of Leningrad. The Finns steadfastly refused; then, before Stalin could assemble his army to march against them, the Finns took the initiative and opened fire on Soviet positions. Under the direction of Marshal Carl von Mannerheim, the Finns advanced and dug in against Soviet counterattacks. In much of Europe, the Finnish successes were hailed as a courageous defense of sovereignty by a small republic against the great evil of Bolshevism.

In the meantime, Poland was bombed mercilessly into a state of near destruction, after which the systematic enslavement of its population was initiated by the Nazi occupiers. Victorious for the moment, Hitler floated another round of peace propaganda directed toward the French and British, hoping his gains could be legitimized without an immediate expansion of the war. His generals were pleading for time to complete a full modernization of the armed forces. Ready or not, Daladier and Chamberlain finally held their ground. Even these two practitioners of appeasement realized there was no going back. They now understood that Hitler was determined to bring Nazism to all of the Old World and that he seemed to relish in the accomplishment of this endeavor by force. Survival of their cherished socio-political arrangements and institutions, they realized, depended on the total destruction of Nazism. From this point on, not even Hitler would be able to control by intrigue and bluster the course of the war. Still, there was nothing to be done for the defeated Poles except provide sanctuary for those who could make their way through the German lines. Remarkably, the French and Britain contemplated a joint expeditionary force to assist the Finns against the Soviets.

Before assistance could be mounted in Finland, a far more powerful and better prepared Soviet army renewed its advance into Finnish territory. Norway and Sweden suddenly became extremely important for both sides, inasmuch as Hitler was heavily dependent on Swedish iron ore and also needed Norwegian ports from which to mount a naval campaign against Allied shipping. Necessity and expediency demanded that the French and British treat the sovereignty of neutral nations with a degree of contempt they were reluctant to use. Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini honored such positions only so long as their own objectives were served. The Soviet success in Finland now threatened to upset the balance of power in Scandinavia, leading Hitler to decide that the German war effort required the control of Denmark and Norway.

When Finnish resistance collapsed in March of 1940, the Soviets enlarged their territorial buffer between themselves and the Germans. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, independent since 1923, were occupied by Soviet troops. Although German intelligence greatly underestimated Soviet military strength (an assessment bolstered by its poor initial performance against the Finns), Hitler was only so willing to share territorial booty with Stalin. Moreover, he was not about to wait for the British to reach an accord with the Norwegians and block delivery of Swedish iron ore for his munitions factories. On April 9, 1940 German troops moved into Denmark and Norway. Although the British had earlier mined the entrance to the Norwegian port of Narvik, this effort hardly slowed the German landings. Elsewhere, paratroops fell on the lightly-defended Norwegian nation, took Oslo and began to move northward. The German naval force guarding Narvik was engaged by the British and forced to retreat with heavy losses. Although the British followed with a landing of infantry, the Germans by this time had full control of the air and were moving north under air protection with tanks and artillery. The situation called for a far larger commitment of troops than Britain could spare. The fate of Norway was sealed on May 10, when the Germans opened their attack against France in the west through the Netherlands and Belgium.


The first day of the German advance had not yet ended before Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister in the British government. With hardly a moment's delay Winston Churchill was invited by the King to form a new wartime government. Responding to the call, Churchill went before the House of Commons on May 13 to let the nation know that the British were now engaged in a struggle for the very existence of their way of life:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, What is our policy? I will say: "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy." You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory -- victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for; no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. ...[4]

To the small number of transnationals scattered around the globe, what the British empire stood for (what any empire stood for) was not worthy of preservation. That admitted, after the attacks on Poland, Denmark and Norway, the opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime became widespread. American involvement seemed only a matter of time. And, with the industrial might and manpower of the United States brought into play, defeat of the Axis powers seemed only a matter of time - if Britain could just hold on until the might of the United States was brought into the conflict. Among those able to think of the distant future, some realized the next peace would provide a narrow window of opportunity to create some form of world organization - of governments or citizens -- with sufficient power to mandate and enforce peaceful resolution of conflicts. Clarence Streit continued to make the case for unification of English-speaking peoples as a first step toward a federation of the social democracies. His essays appeared throughout the way in major periodicals, and he was instrumental in the founding of a worldwide membership organization -- the Federal Union. Then, in 1941, Streit's second book, Union Now with Britain, was published. As with so many other idealists, Streit underestimated the hold that ethnic nationalism and cultural relativism had on people. Relinquishing sovereignty even in exchange for a much higher prospect of a peaceful future was not likely to occur for some time, and perhaps not for a century or longer.

Streit's efforts are indicative of the fact that Americans had the luxury of as yet being very far from the actual fighting. They could spend at least some of their time thinking more deeply than previously about what could have been done to prevent the rise of a Hitler, a Mussolini or a Stalin. Some would look anew at the lessons conveyed by Francis Neilson in How Diplomats Make War - lessons that had gone unheeded with very serious consequences. Now, it was really too late to secure justice by peaceful means. A generation of young men were about to engage in combat over matters few of them understood except at a very emotional level.

For the moment, the future from the perspective of the transnationals looked bleak indeed. Czechoslovakia and Poland now ceased to exist as sovereign states. The Baltic nations were under Soviet occupation. Denmark and Norway had been invaded, their governments dissolved and puppet regimes established under German control. And then, German armored divisions began to pour through the Ardennes. Hundreds of Stuka dive bombers devastated the French air force, while paratroops hit the Anglo-French armies from the rear. The Dutch government surrendered to the Germans on May 14, and their Queen and ministers joined the pre-war governments of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark and Norway as exiles in Britain. Ten days later a powerful armored force under General Heinz Guderian reached Calais, and the Germans closed in on the remaining Anglo-French troops retreating toward Dunkirk. Goering was given the responsibility for finishing them off, and Guderian's tanks halted to await the aerial assault. Bad weather delayed the Luftwaffe from carrying out its mission at Dunkirk; however, not until May 26 did Hitler finally rescind his order and direct Guderian to advance. Additional German troops were moved to the coast after capitulation of the Belgian army on May 28. The panzers and the infantry resumed their advance, but the long delay had allowed the Anglo-French forces time to prepare strong defensive positions supported by massed artillery. More than 190,000 British and French troops were successfully evacuated between May 27-31. In this battle, also, Britain's R.A.F. successfully prevented the Luftwaffe from dominating the skies. The remaining French troops held out until June 4, allowing an additional 140,000 men to make their escape across the Channel. Although severely beaten, these troops would live to fight again, and their escape proved to be an important stabilizing factor in the British war effort.

All hope for continuation of an organized French resistance soon vanished. Defeatism enveloped the French leadership. On June 16 the French Premier, Paul Reynaud, resigned in favor of Marshal Henri Petain, whose immediate act was to request an armistice from the Germans. Hitler, now buoyed by his dramatic victories, fully expected the British to come to terms as well. No plans had been developed for an assault on the British Isles; and, only after June became July with no signal from Churchill that Britain would discuss an end to hostilities did Hitler order his General Staff to begin preparations for a Channel crossing. Admiral Raeder argued strenuously against any such operation until the following May, when weather conditions would again be stable and sufficient landing craft constructed. Waiting, Hitler responded, would only give the British time to strengthen their defenses; in the meantime, the Luftwaffe would be unleashed against British military and industrial targets.

In addition to the Luftwaffe, the British also faced the very real possibility of having the French fleet captured by the Germans and used against the Royal Navy. Although a number of French ships were now under effective British control at bases in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Alexandria, Egypt, the remainder of the fleet remained anchored at Oran, in northwestern Algeria. Churchill and his General Staff argued successfully that these ships had to be brought under British command -- or destroyed, so they could not be used by the Germans or Italians as part of an invasion fleet. While Hitler and Goering ruminated over Churchill's foolhardy gestures of resistance, the British Prime Minister marshaled his naval forces to neutralize the French fleet. Afterward, he explained to the Members of Parliament (and the nation) the necessity for doing so:

As the House will remember, we offered to give full release to the French from their treaty obligations, although these were designed for precisely the case which arose, on one condition, namely, that the French Fleet should be sailed for British harbors before the separate armistice negotiations with the enemy were completed. This was not done, but on the contrary, in spite of every kind of private and personal promise and assurance given ..., an armistice was signed which was bound to place the French Fleet as effectively in the power of Germany and its Italian following as that portion of the French Fleet was placed in our power when many of them, being unable to reach African ports, came into the harbors of Portsmouth and Plymouth about ten days ago. ...

I said last week that we must now look with particular attention to our own salvation. I have never in my experience seen discussed in a Cabinet so grim and somber a question as what we were to do about the French Fleet. ...Accordingly, early yesterday morning, 3rd July, after all preparations had been made, we took the greater part of the French Fleet under our control, or else called upon them, with adequate force, to comply with our requirements. ...[5]

The mission was undertaken by the British fleet based at Gibraltar. After sailing to Algeria on July 3, prolonged attempts were made to peacefully secure control of the French ships. The French categorically refused to relinquish control of their fleet, and open battle ensued between the two forces. Three French battleships were sunk or run aground, while a new battle cruiser and several other ships escaped to the French naval base at Toulon. An attack was also made against a French battleship at Dakar in Senegal; however, in Alexandria and Martinique negotiations successfully neutralized the remainder of the French fleet without the use of force. As Churchill later wrote, this action gave a desperately needed lift to the British war effort. "Here was this Britain which so many had counted down and out, which strangers had supposed to be quivering on the brink of surrender to the mighty power arrayed against her, striking ruthlessly at her dearest friends of yesterday and securing for a while to herself the undisputed command of the sea. It was made plain that the British War Cabinet feared nothing and would stop at nothing."[6] Now that the Axis powers had demonstrated this would be a war without adherence to any standards of moral conduct, the British were finding such principles a heavy burden to carry in the face of threatened annihilation. This was only the first of many such tests the British were to face.

The official French reaction to the raid was one of outrage. Pierre Laval and Admiral Jean Darlan urged a declaration of war against Britain in defense of French pride. A confused and distraught French citizenry at first supported the new government established at Vichy, and Laval attempted to take advantage of this to dissolve Parliament, abandon republican government altogether and set himself up as head of a Fascist regime. "Parliamentary democracy lost the war," Laval declared. "It must give way to a new regime; audacious, authoritarian, social and national."[7] After the war, the Socialist leader Leon Blum attributed this attraction to totalitarian rule to a profound fear of external (i.e., German) domination. French socio-political institutions had not served the people very well and had revealed France to be a nation built on contradictions, of deeply-entrenched privilege existing in the face of tremendous want and a people hungry for substantive reform. French political leaders were now desperate to maintain even a modest degree of independence in the face of the German occupation. As a measure of their desperation, in the second week of July the deputies to the French Parliament voted to dissolve. Marshal Petain was given dictatorial powers. A very real possibility existed that the Fascist government of France would now join the Axis powers in the war against Britain. With no allies left in the Old World to fight alongside the British, Churchill fearfully turned to the United States to join Britain in this struggle for survival. To Churchill's chagrin, Britain would have to survive on its own for another nine months before any material assistance was forthcoming.

By mid-July, Goering was finally ready to unleash the Luftwaffe over Britain. From late July through August of 1940, German fighters and bombers relentlessly attacked British shipping in the Channel. Attacks were also directed against coastal radar stations and R.A.F. fighter bases. When these efforts failed to effectively diminish the retaliatory capacity of the R.A.F., Goering changed his strategy and initiated a campaign of massive daylight bombing designed to destroy Britain's industrial and military production. To accomplish this objective, on August 15 the Germans put almost 2,000 planes in the air. Returning with heavy losses and very limited success, Goering once again changed course and once again went after the R.A.F. directly. This proved the right strategy; and, by September, the Luftwaffe's superior numbers were pressing the R.A.F. to the breaking point.

And then suddenly Goering made his second tactical error, this one comparable in its consequences to Hitler's calling off the armored attack on Dunkirk on May 24. It saved the battered, reeling R.A.F. and marked one of the major turning points of history's first great battle in the air.

With the British fighter defense suffering losses in the air and on the ground which it could not for long sustain, the Luftwaffe switched its attack on September 7 to massive night bombings of London. The R.A.F. fighters were reprieved.[8]

One reason for the change in strategy was Hitler's demand that Goering retaliate for bombing raids conducted by the British on Berlin. British bombers were also having considerable success in disrupting assemblage of the invasion fleet along the French, Belgian and Dutch coasts. The Germans were showing themselves extremely vulnerable to well-devised defensive measures that made optimum use of even limited air and naval forces.

The price being paid by the German Luftwaffe pilots and crew over Britain kept increasing without any prospect for either a negotiated settlement or a British defeat. Faced with a still vibrant R.A.F and without the means for a full-scale invasion, Hitler settled for a temporary stalemate with Britain. The British presented no threat to his control of the continent, and an expansion of the U-boat fleet promised a low cost strategy for bringing Britain to her knees. Hitler now turned his attentions back to his objective of enlarging the German Reich at the expense of the Soviet Union -- the only remaining, independent military power to occupy territory (Lithuania) sharing a common border with Germany.

During August of 1940, Hitler ordered the first of many armored and infantry divisions to Poland and Finland. Additional troops crossed into Rumania early in October. By the end of 1940, Hitler's general plan of attack across Soviet territory was ready for implementation. Then, events elsewhere temporarily pulled German resources away from the East and toward the Mediterranean. Late in October, Mussolini (without consulting Hitler) marched into Greece, where his army met unexpectedly stiff resistance. The Greeks received support from the British, who earlier added an aircraft carrier and several other ships to the British fleet anchored at Alexandria in Egypt. Crete was also occupied and the British force on Malta strengthened. Then, on November 11 the British launched a successful air attack on the Italian fleet at its base at Taranto. By late November the Greeks successfully counter-attacked against the Italians, pushing them back through Albania. That was only part of the problem facing the Italians. With support provided by an infantry division brought in from India, a small British force was also in the process of driving the Italians out of western Egypt. By February of 1941 British forces took Libya and took some 160,000 Italian soldiers prisoner.

Admiral Raeder pressed hard on Hitler that the time had come for German intervention in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Hitler reluctantly responded by ordering part of his army based in Rumania (later to be employed against the Soviets in the Ukraine) to march through Bulgaria to support the Italians. When the Yugoslavs refused to submit to German demands for passage, Hitler unleashed his troops on them as well as on the Greeks. Belgrade was destroyed by aerial bombing, and the Germans advanced on Athens. An enormous price would eventually be paid by German soldiers for the time taken to teach the Yugoslavs this lesson. But, at the time, there seemed to be no enemy who could stand against the Wehrmacht. British support crumbled in the face of the superior German force, and a Dunkirk-like evacuation from the Balkans occurred. Left on their own, the Greeks were finally forced to capitulate.

Not much more time passed before German paratroops took Crete from the British. In North Africa, the British position was severely threatened following the arrival of General Erwin Rommel to take command of the German and Italian forces. By the beginning of April, Rommel's panzer divisions had retaken all of Libya and were advancing into Egypt. A concerted effort might have eliminated the British positions in the Middle East and materially strengthened the Axis hold over the Mediterranean. Fortunately for the British, Hitler was already anxious because of the amount of time lost in the Balkans campaign. His mind was now focused on the planned campaign against the Soviet Union. Once again, therefore, at another crucial moment in the war, Hitler foolishly gave the British a badly needed reprieve and set the stage for his own destruction.

Nationalists and Transnationalists Collide

The rapid collapse of French resistance surprised and shocked Franklin Roosevelt and others in the U.S. government. There had been little sentiment in the U.S. for providing assistance to the French, whose government was considered by many to be both inept and corrupt -- hardly a democracy in the full sense of the term. Support within the U.S. for Britain, now alone and fighting for the survival of democracy in the Old World, became more open and intense as the Battle of Britain progressed. Isolationists began to lose their hold over the Congress, and Roosevelt became more willing to act on his own to help Britain despite the fact that a Presidential election faced his party in November.

Another immediate dilemma faced U.S. political leaders; namely, whether to loosen the country's highly restrictive immigration policy in order to provide sanctuary for displaced Europeans. Where national interest or persons of special caliber or connection were involved, the laws were already being bent or circumvented. One result was that the U.S. became the beneficiary of considerable Old World scientific talent. European scientists and intellectuals, some of whom were of Jewish heritage, were finding their way to positions at universities in Britain, Canada and the United States. Although few in the government had any appreciation for the special importance of nuclear physics, the exiled scientists who practiced this discipline were to evolve into a unique group charged with development of an atomic weapon. Niels Bohr was Dutch; Lise Meitner, Austrian; Enrico Fermi, Italian; Leo Szilard, German; Edward Teller, Hungarian; and, Albert Einstein, the most famous of all physicists, German.

Einstein had been one of the first to leave Europe, accepting a position with the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Einstein had experienced first hand the Third Reich's anti-semitism and did what he could to sound the warning against Nazism. Abandoning his long-standing pacifism, he became a strong advocate of preparedness. When he learned of the advances in nuclear fission and the potential for developing nuclear weapons, he agreed to have a letter under his signature delivered to Franklin Roosevelt, "a letter destined to change the course of history"[9] in a way we have yet to experience fully. The crucial passages of the letter read as follows:

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable ... that it may become possible to set up nuclear chain reactions in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable -- though much less certain -- that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat or exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. ...

I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsacker, is attached to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut in Berlin, where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.[10]

Roosevelt, though troubled by Einstein's report, had other priorities to contend with. What he did in response to Einstein's warning was establish a three-person Advisory Committee on Uranium and allocate the vast sum of $6,000 toward further research. This low level response soon prompted a second letter from the expatriate European scientists, again signed by Einstein. The letter alerted Roosevelt that the German research effort was being intensified and urged that Allied scientists cease publishing the results of their own efforts. U.S. government support in the race for nuclear weapons intensified; not until early 1942, however, did the Manhattan Project begin to take shape. What emerged in the process, notes historians Gerard Clarfield and William Wiecek, was "nuclear power's intimate ties to the national security state, and the subordination of nonmilitary applications of nuclear power to military demands."[11] The scientists might have suggested to Roosevelt and his military advisers a plan to destroy Germany's research and engineering capability. They did not. Historian Paul Johnson, noting that many of the refugee scientists (as well as the senior U.S. scientist involved, J. Robert Oppenheimer) were Jewish, stresses that fear of Hitler and the Nazi program pushed them to the extreme effort. The "ideological and moral dimensions"[12] Johnson suggests played a dominant role in their exertions were real enough but not sufficiently well thought out. As scientists, their commitment to the expansion of knowledge - even knowledge with the potential use to destroy all of life on earth - was paramount. They could justify their actions because they would not be the final decision-makers regarding the actual creation and use of a bomb capable of unleashing a nuclear fire storm. Armed with a healthy fear of the Nazi willingness to make full use of whatever weapons their own scientists and engineers developed, the exiled community of physicists went to work determined to win the race. As the study of history has repeatedly revealed, we seem to possess a remarkable tolerance for wholesale destruction in the interest of short-run military or political advantage. How else does one explain the wanton destruction by Allied bombers of German civilian population centers -- at a time when war was nearing an end and the rebuilding of Europe's physical infrastructure was already being discussed. Once the atomic bomb was ready for use, the U.S. and British governments and military leaders gave almost no thought to the consequences of releasing into a politically unstable world the most extraordinarily destructive power ever possessed. The decision to use two of these weapons on largely civilian populations -- when they could have been just as easily dropped fifty miles away with the same military and political result -- is, to this writer, unconscionable. Saving the lives of Allied military personnel could have been achieved by demonstrating to the Japanese that further resistance would result in the wholesale destruction of their civilization - without needlessly killing nearly two hundred thousand people and totally destroying the infrastructure of two significant population centers.

Einstein had no direct knowledge of how far along the development of the atomic bomb had come until he heard of its use against the Japanese. Political scientists use a term -- disjointed incrementalism -- that describes very well the type of decision-making process that led to the use of the bomb. From 1942 on, as more and more financial, intellectual and technical resources were devoted to its construction, the inevitability of its use was virtually certain. The only questions remained against whom and in what fashion. Mortimer J. Adler, who was at the University of Chicago during the war, recalls how even Robert M. Hutchins, among the leaders of "America First," opened the University to the Manhattan Project:

It is paradoxical that he, a zealot for peace and a proponent of total disarmament, should have been the university president who so crucially committed his institution to the war effort, whereas the heads of three or four leading eastern universities, all of whom had spoken out in favor of our fighting Hitler, refused to accept responsibility for the Manhattan Project.[13]

Adler accepted that fighting the war was a terrible necessity. He was reasonably confident once the United States was fully mobilized that the Allies would emerge victorious. He set his sights and his thoughts on the future:

During 1944 and 1945, I took every opportunity to talk about world government. …I argued for universal suffrage and civil rights without any discrimination. I also made the point that democratic institutions could not prosper in a world at war; the future of democracy depended on the establishment of world peace through world government.[14]

As Mortimer Adler well understood, there were enormous socio-political and cultural obstacles in the way of achieving consensus on the form world government might take. Even the English-speaking peoples were seriously at odds over the appropriate nature of government, the advantages and disadvantages of a parliamentary system versus direct election of a President and Vice President as occurred in the United States. Responding in 1942 to a letter from John Maynard Keynes, Walter Lippmann told Keynes "[t]here is no general conception among [British representatives to the United States] which provides any political philosophy into which all of the mighty changes now going on in the world might fit."[15] About this same time, Wendell Willkie, leader of the Republican party in the United States, was already raising questions about the future role of the United States in international affairs. Senator Arthur Vandenberg, one of the isolationist leaders prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, outlined in his personal journal what he thought were the hopes and expectations of many Americans:

I think [the] average American wants … a realistic peace which puts an end to military aggression; …wants justice rather than force to rule the postwar world; …is willing to take his full share of responsibility in all of these directions; but … is perfectly sure that no one is going to look out for us … unless we look out for ourselves and … wants "enlightened selfishness" mixed with "generous idealism" when our course is chartered.[16]

Even before the entry of the United States in the war there were already serious issues challenging Vandenberg's expressed hope for "generous idealism." Refugees who somehow managed to escape from German-held territory and reach Britain or the neutral countries also brought with them the stories (and some documented evidence) of Nazi atrocities.[17] These reports began to personalize the war for many individuals in the U.S. Unfortunately, the level of concern was not sufficient to pressure the government to open the door for immigration (or even temporary asylum) for even a small fraction of the millions of refugees uprooted and destined to die in Nazi concentration camps. In an extension of the traditional isolationist policies followed by U.S. Presidents, Roosevelt merely promised to turn the U.S. into Fortress America; that is, a nation so strong that no foreign power would dare to challenge its sovereignty or hegemony in the western hemisphere.

As a short-run solution to the economic consequences of socio-political problems in the United States, Fortress America proved to be a most effective program. Spending for defense would create employment, and an invigorated and working population might soon forget the hardship of the 1930s. Already, a portion of the nation was reawakening to the American sense of manifest destiny -- and self-centered moral responsibility -- characteristic of the Progressive generations. Walter Lippmann, speaking to those assembled for the thirtieth reunion of the Harvard Class of 1910, gave voice to the sentiment increasingly held by the silent majority:

For twenty years the free people of the Western world have taken the easy way, ourselves more light-heartedly than any others. That is why we are stricken. That is why the defenses of Western civilization have crumbled. That is why we find ourselves ... knowing that we here in America may soon be the last stronghold of our civilization -- the isolated and beleaguered citadel of law and of liberty, of mercy and of charity, of justice among men and of love and of good will.

We mean to defend that citadel; we mean, I believe, to make it the center of the ultimate resistance to the evil which is devastating the world, and more than that, more than the center of resistance, we mean to make it the center of the resurrection, the source of the energies by which the men who believe as we do may be liberated, and the lands that are subjugated redeemed, and the world we live in purified and pacified once more. This is the American destiny, and unless we fulfill that destiny we shall have betrayed our own past and we shall make our own future meaningless, chaotic, and low.[18]

Lippmann was only one of many in a position to know who somehow failed to see that none of the nation's recent and severe economic problems had been structurally addressed. Not that everyone who now had a job no longer worried about the future. Socialists, libertarians, (the handful of) cooperative individualists, even some of the tenured economics professors of the new generation, warned that the legal and institutional reforms pushed through by Roosevelt were, for reasons each critic attempted to support, too little or wrongly directed. Economist Harry Scherman stepped out of the bounds of his profession to explore the degree to which privilege caused societal problems, writing that the "thoughtless blocking of exchanges, in the supposed interest of a predominating group or groups within the population, is still, as it has always been, the immemorial device of amoral and unintelligent rulers to bulwark themselves in their transitory power."[19] Protectionism might not have been the sole cause of global depression but without doubt was an important factor. Scherman joined other critics of industrial landlordism by pointing to the tendency of large corporations to enter into monopolistic agreements and form cartels. Whereas Scherman described corporate leaders and public officials as too frequently engaged in conspiracies to fulfill their economic promises, writers of a very different persuasion were arguing against the reliance on markets, advocating that the State limit and in some cases prevent competition in order to harness the material, financial and intellectual resources of the nation for specific purposes. An important spokesperson for this view was economist Joseph Schumpeter, who argued the case for powers such as eminent domain and condemnation as "methods for removing obstacles that the institution of private property puts in the path of progress."[20]

As the debate continued over the powers to be extended to government, taxation was also becoming recognized as an instrument of public policy and not merely a means of paying for government. From within the mainstream community of economists, Harvard professor Alvin Hansen was producing a cadre of disciples who would press for, refine and introduce mathematical equations to evaluate measures destined to carry the Keynesian label. For Roosevelt the challenge was neither theoretical nor ideological; at the outbreak of the Second World War some nine and a half million people were still unemployed. Only the largest corporations in the U.S. were, as a group, reasonably profitable, and the financial resources required for investment in new capital goods were just not forthcoming from that small portion of the public that held most of the nation's financial reserves. Yet, the republic had stood its greatest test since the attempted secession by the southern states; and, as Lippmann's Harvard speech suggested, a degree of optimism and commitment had returned. Government contracts were generating investment in plant and equipment, even if the actual output did not consist of goods destined for the peaceful pursuit of private pleasures.

The time was not yet at hand, however, when U.S. political leaders were willing to commit the nation and its young men to the Old World struggle. Even as the Eurasian continent west of the Soviet Union was falling under Fascist control, a vocal minority continued to oppose intervention. A last-minute plea by French Premier Paul Reynaud for U.S. intervention could not have been acted upon by Roosevelt had he wanted to. Time seemed to be running out for Churchill and his countrymen as well.

As the story goes, Britain now stood very much alone, separated from her dominions and her sources of raw materials by the oceans that for so long represented the might of the empire. Even more important now was Britain's dependence on the U.S. for weapons and ammunition. "Britain's Chiefs of Staff left Ministers in no doubt that there was a good chance of resisting ... an invasion," writes historian Roy Douglas, "so long as the navy and air force were not gravely weakened, and supplies continued to pour in from the United States."[21] Remarkably, the level of preparedness in the United States, even at this late date, remained unbelievably poor. Even had the isolationist voices suddenly fallen silent, there was little in the way of an effective U.S. army to put into the field or modern equipment being produced. A first step toward realizing Roosevelt's vision of Fortress America was, therefore, to organize a credible ground force. U.S. military leaders intensified their efforts to institute mandatory military service and lobbied the Congress and the Executive for meaningful expansion of military spending. Whether or not Britain held out, they argued, the U.S. had to arm in order to honor U.S. obligations and protect the nation from possible invasion. In practical terms, this had to be accomplished while simultaneously providing huge quantities of war goods to the British (and despite the fact that the financial reserves of the British government were nearly spent).

No longer was Churchill in a position to deliver gold in exchange for the materials Britain needed. Nor was there the political will to capture the rent fund controlled by Britain's landed. Unable to tax producers any more than was already occurring, Churchill could only hope the United States would choose not to collect on the debt incurred. Roosevelt responded, first, by agreeing to barter fifty reconditioned destroyers in return for long-term leases to British bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda. With this as the precedent, the policy of Lend-Lease was initiated. In the process, Roosevelt and his advisers knew they were risking German retaliation and the certainty of direct U.S. involvement in the war. A similar risk already existed in Asia.

Over the protests of Harold Ickes and others in his cabinet, Roosevelt had allowed the flow to Japan of crude oil, gasoline and scrap metals to continue. The Japanese desperately needed these raw materials to keep their war machine operating, and any threat of interruption deepened their determination to displace the U.S. and European powers from Asia. The Japanese military leaders saw the expanding war in the Atlantic as providing their best opportunity to expand southward out of Manchuria without effective interference. They would simultaneously protect themselves from U.S. intervention by taking control of the Philippines and key islands in the Malaysian archipelago. To accomplish these moves, the Japanese had built a modern and efficient navy that included ten aircraft carriers. Exaggerating the point somewhat, historian Samuel Eliot Morison compares the level of U.S. preparedness by making the analogy that the U.S. Navy "was like a city police force equipped only with high-powered rifles, but with no weapons to meet thugs jumping patrolmen at night with automatic pistols and blackjacks."[22] A prolonged absence of new construction had decimated the U.S. shipbuilding industry; and, although the fleet had grown during the 1930s by two aircraft carriers, a handful of submarines, light cruisers and destroyers, there were not enough personnel in uniform to operate these ships with real efficiency. Despite these immediate advantages, the window of opportunity available to the Japanese navy would remain open for only a very brief period. Japan's fleet commander, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, fully recognized that once war began the U.S. would be able to mobilize its industrial capacity without interference. Time would work against the Japanese, who would have to occupy and supply a far-flung chain of islands against a rapidly expanding and well-supplied U.S. military machine.

Within Japan, none but the very brave or the very foolish spoke against the Japanese militarists and their determination to drive all Europeans and the U.S. from Asia. The extremists had come to power after orchestrating a decade of violence and assassinations. Agrarian landlords were attacked by tenant farmers. Industrial strikes became commonplace. Land speculators, financiers and political leaders attached to Western socio-political ideas were particular targets. In 1936 both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were murdered. Militarists then took the nation to war against the Chinese in 1937 and in 1940 entered into an alliance with Germany and Italy. Still, there were limits to Japanese ambitions.

Early in 1941 (with the German offensives in Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union stalled by winter weather), the Japanese Foreign Minister, Yosuke Matsuoka, entered into a neutrality accord with Stalin in order to forestall the kind of land war Hitler relished. The Japanese respected the potential power of the Soviet Union's military and were already familiar with the difficulties of fighting in the coldness of a Siberian winter. Matsuoka also hoped to reach an accord with Roosevelt that would give Japan permanent control over Manchuria and bring the Asian war to a conclusion. The militarists would have none of it. Matsuoka was recalled, and plans went forward under Admiral Yamamoto for the surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. In the ensuing months tensions increased. The U.S. froze Japanese assets and placed an embargo on oil and gasoline exports. Thus, faced with the eventuality of their military machine coming to a grinding halt, the Japanese committed to war with the U.S. There was no turning back. Japan's survival, the militarists believed, demanded they take direct control of the oil fields in Indonesia and secure access to other vital natural resources. In November of 1941 a war cabinet was formed with General Hideki Tojo as Prime Minister. More than ever, the new leaders were united in their willingness to risk all to achieve the Japanese version of manifest destiny:

Her population was nearly half that of America and yet it was crammed into a tiny land bereft of important natural resources; moreover, that population was expanding at the rate of one million a year. Despite that, the United States had locked her doors to Japanese immigration. Most of Asia was divided up under colonial rule by Western nations and, consequently, closed to the Japanese. What, then, was wrong in her seeking room on the nearby Chinese continent? Hadn't the European powers done the same, with far less justification? Had not each nation the obligation to its own people of self-preservation and self-defense? So went the Japanese arguments.[23]

There are, of course, many ironies to be found in the conduct and outcome of the war between the U.S. and Japan. One is the way in which the Japanese have since the 1950s demonstrated that a society dependent upon the importation of raw materials can still produce enormous quantities of goods and services -- if there is a strong cooperative spirit and efficient systems of production; if there is a reasonable degree of individual liberty guaranteed under the system of law; if the opportunities for education and training are widespread and of high quality; and, if there is no military establishment to divert labor and capital goods from the production of wealth that more appropriately serves human needs. At the same time, the Japanese productivity miracle has not eliminated the condition of comparative scarcity for Japanese households. Protectionism and the private appropriation of nearly the entire rent fund attributable to locations has burdened the Japanese with very high prices for consumer goods and some of the highest location prices in the world. One result is that the Japanese as a whole remain among the poorest housed people in the industrialized world. Another has been the difficulty of recovering from the real estate (i.e., land market) crash and resulting bank insolvencies that finally (and inevitably) occurred in the late 1980s.

What the Second World War did for Japan was to accelerate the Great Cleansing and thrust the Japanese people into the Brave New World of global markets. Unconditional surrender also made possible a dependence on the United States for protection of Japanese sovereignty at little direct cost to Japanese producers. In this respect, and admittedly at a tremendous price in terms of human suffering, the Japanese were prevented from making the mistakes of imperial empires that had come into being during the nineteenth century and were about to collapse under the strain of military expenditures in the twentieth. Japan probably could have succeeded with an incremental program of moving Japanese settlers into sparsely-populated areas of Manchuria, using its military to defend those outposts of Japanese migration until they were able to function on their own. They were well-established there already. The lesson to be learned from history -- one the Japanese militarists ignored -- was the futility of attempting indefinitely to maintain a police state in order to control indigenous peoples. No external power had over the long haul successfully prevented a much larger population from forcibly regaining their independence. Foreign imperialists were increasingly facing very determined resistance by guerrilla forces able to live and operate under very difficult conditions.

In response to Japanese adventurism, the military leaders in the U.S. secured Roosevelt's support for a significant expansion of the naval fleet. Little was done to improve the defensive strength of the army based in the Philippines, however, and the navy was reluctant to expose many of its ships to Japanese attack by sending them to Manilla. For the time being, while the construction of modern fighting ships was underway, the best that could be done in the Pacific was to move the bulk of the fleet to Pearl Harbor and hope this would be a sufficient deterrent to Japanese aggression. Roosevelt ordered that the rest of the fleet remain in the Atlantic for convoy escort duty. With this in mind, some of the Japanese naval commanders became convinced they could deliver a knock-out blow against the U.S. fleet and in so doing give themselves enough of a free hand to build a strong chain of island bases from which they could repulse any U.S. force sent against them. Their plan was put into action on the morning of December 7, 1941 against the ships anchored at Pearl Harbor. The following day, Franklin Roosevelt went before the U.S. Congress, informing the people of the United States that the fleet had been attacked in Hawaii and that the nation was now at war with the Japanese empire. The British immediately declared war on Japan. Three days later Germany, along with Italy, honored their commitments to the Japanese and declared war on the U.S.

The Japanese attack sunk a large number of surface ships but missed the U.S. fleet's three aircraft carriers, which were out to sea. Equally important to the immediate U.S. war effort, the base itself and the supplies of fuel remained undamaged. The U.S. force in the Philippines was not so fortunate. There, the Japanese caught General Douglas MacArthur's B-17 bombers and most of the fighter planes still on the ground. The U.S. naval installation on Luzon was almost completely destroyed and its ships forced to withdraw to the south. Japanese troops quickly gained control of the Malay Peninsula, Hong Kong and the island of Guam. Two of Britain's most modern fighting ships, the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers. On December 11, 1941, Winston Churchill admitted to the House of Commons he could "not remember any naval blow so heavy or so painful as the sinking of" those "two vast, powerful ships."[24] Within only days of Pearl Harbor, therefore, the British, Dutch and U.S. positions lay prostrate in the face of the combined Japanese air, sea and land forces.

CH 1 CH 2 CH 3 CH 4 CH 5 CH 6
1.1 2.1 3.1 4.1 5.1 6.1
1.2 2.2 3.2 4.2 5.2 6.2
1.3 2.3 3.3 4.3 5.3 6.3
1.4 2.4 3.4 4.4 5.4 6.4