General Eisenhower jokingly called it "the great, transatlantic essay contest," though it was hardly a joking matter. The issues were serious, emotions ran high, and distrust often ran deep. Some questioned others' motives and commitment, yet they had to find ways to work together. On one side were calls for a massive, direct assault aimed at the heart of the problem. On the other side were calls for cautious, indirect action on the periphery.
It was the spring and summer 1942 and "the great, transatlantic essay contest" was about how to get from Here to There.
Fortunately for history, they didn't ask the
Professor of Astrology Janitor. He took a brief, shivering glance up at the stars this morning to bring you the weekend outlook. Brrrr.
More below the fold....
Here and There (Plus Kossascopes)
The simultaneous Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Malaysia, and the Philippines in December 1941 propelled the U.S. into World War II. But U.S. war plans called for a primary focus against Germany, rather than Japan. Whether there was enough popular support for war with Germany became a moot question when Germany declared war on the U.S. four days after Pearl Harbor. Despite some objections, the U.S. and Britain very quickly agreed on a grand strategy of "Germany first." They didn't agree on much else.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was an unapologetic imperialist whose objective was to preserve and if possible expand the British Empire. President Franklin Roosevelt and other U.S. military leaders didn't want to spill U.S. blood to restore European empires. Many senior British officers thought their American counterparts were "talented amateurs" at best, if not bumbling dilettantes with "no concept of strategy." Conversely, many senior U.S. officers saw the British as "too defensive," focused on "preserving their empire rather than whipping the Germans."
There were political concerns as well. President Roosevelt had midterm elections coming in 1942 and voters wanted to see progress, or at see our troops engaging the enemy. In Moscow, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin wanted a second front, immediately, to divert German strength from Russia.
All of these impulses coalesced around the argument of whether the Anglo-American alliance would launch an invasion of France by 1943 at the latest - as most American leaders demanded - or instead focus on what Prime Minister Churchill called "the soft underbelly of Europe" and strike in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans.
Here was an Anglo-American alliance with no toehold in Europe. There was a Germany at the peak of her military power and able to operate on interior lines. As British military staff wonks argued with reams of analysis and statistics, the Allies did not yet have anywhere near the troops or landing craft for a direct route from Here to There. President Roosevelt was finally persuaded, even if some of his military chiefs were not.
The first U.S. troops to fight and die in the "European" theatre in World War II would not land in Europe. Indeed at first they would not be fighting Germans or even Italians. They would land in North Africa, and the first of them would die fighting Vichy French forces. It wasn't a direct course from Here to There, but it was a first step that matched the resources at hand. Despite President Roosevelt's urging, the operation couldn't be launched by the midterms. Yet he still won handily. The Allies didn't invade France until the summer of 1944, yet their actions on the periphery - and logistical support - helped the Russians survive the German onslaught.
Then and Now.
I see many parallels between "the great, transatlantic essay contest" and recent debates among progressive Democrats. As we discussed last week, coalitions are often contentious. We don't all have exactly the same vision of There. Sometimes, like British and American officers who evaluated resources and contingencies differently, we disagree on our visions of Here. Even when we agree on a Here and a There, we may disagree on the best route to take. And sometimes, like those British and American officers, we distrust each others' motives and courage.
Ultimately, the Anglo-American alliance worked reasonably well from 1942-1945. There were strategic missteps, and the intramural friction never entirely disappeared. By August 1944, Hitler realized Germany could only win if the Anglo-American alliance fractured, and that was his objective with the December offensive that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. That exposed bitter divisions in the high command. Field Marshall Montgomery was nearly dismissed for insubordination. But General Eisenhower and others found ways to hold the coalition together, and by May of 1945 the Allies got There ... by a circuitous route from Here that started in North Africa fighting Vichy French.
And Now ... Kossascopes will have to wait until Then ... which is now Now, Here....
Capricorn - The weather Here belongs There, or Somewhere. But not Here.
Aquarius - You can't get There from Here. You have to go Somewhere Else first.
Pisces - The team from Here will beat the team from There, or so the people There insist.
Aries - The coffee belongs Here and the bagels belong There, or so the cups insist.
Taurus - The bagels belong Here and the coffee belongs There, or so the plates insist.
Gemini - Both the coffee and bagels belong Here, or so the stomach insists.
Cancer - Both the coffee and bagels will end up There, or so the digestive tract insists.
Leo - If you mix Here and There, do you get hair there, or their hair?
Virgo - Each Here can be sorted within a There, Somewhere.
Libra - We hear your Here is their There.
Scorpio - Okay, we'll stop There.
Sagittarius - If you'll stop Here.