I wasn’t aware that Andy Bostom had written this article when I posted about American Betrayal early this morning. Dr. Bostom originally submitted his piece to American Thinker, and, like Diana West, was rebuffed — further evidence of the long arm of The Invisible Man.
Jeff Lipkes, Hanson Baldwin, and The World War II “Second Front Debate”
by Andrew Bostom
Déjà vu all over again, Diana West has noted at her website how she was not permitted to respond to a new round of critiques of American Betrayal at The American Thinker, which astonishingly included letter “appendices” containing two more rounds of ad hominem attacks on her by Ron Radosh and David Horowitz.
My own response to American Thinker’s “military expert” editor J.R. Dunn provides an introduction to a staid essay that was also summarily rejected without any ethical, or factual justification.
From: Andrew Bostom
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2014 8:48 AM
To: J R Dunn
Subject: Ike’s quote and your “interpretation”
One last item, as an estimable (per your own mind) World War II (WWII) “authority,” you wrote, with typically inappropriate hubris:
Re: The “Aegean” issue arises from a single quote by Eisenhower and nothing else. Ike had to have been referring to Operation Accolade, one of the Brits’ attempts at the “Underbelly”, consisting of landings in the Dodecanese. (I know something about this…
The unsuccessful British Dodecanese efforts codenamed “Accolade” — which were apparently not very large troop deployments — at any rate took place between September 8 and November 22, 1943.
Eisenhower opined the following at Cairo on November 26, 1943, 2:30 PM, i.e., AFTER the failed Brit Dodecanese campaign, and focused primarily on the Po Valley, which mentioned (initial) “harrying operations” in the Aegean, followed by a sustained campaign only after other military objectives had been achieved within Italy/the Mediterranean theater, as reported in United States Department of State, Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers (FRUS), The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, (1943), pp. 359-60:
Italy was the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the valley of the Po. In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans and the Reich itself. Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany….
The next best method of harrying the enemy was to undertake operations in the Aegean. There are sufficient forces in the Mediterranean to take this area provided it is not done until after the Po line has been reached….The time to turn to the Aegean would be when the line north of Rome has been achieved. German reactions to our occupation of the islands had clearly proved how strongly they resented action on our part in this area. From here the Balkans could be kept aflame, Ploesti [Rumanian; a significant source of oil for Nazi Germany] would be threatened and the Dardanelles [a Turkish strait, connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara] might be opened. Sufficient forces should be used for operations in the Aegean and no unnecessary risks run. He considered that the earlier British occupation of the islands had been right and justified, but that the position was now different and strong German reactions could be expected. In either of the two assumptions it was essential to bring Turkey into the war at the moment that the operations in the Aegean were undertaken
You obviously compound your intellectual laziness — i.e. you NEVER bothered to read the relevant FRUS Diplomatic Papers, with a fundamental reading comprehension deficiency. This explains your non-sequiturs and generally confused, profoundly ignorant (albeit confidently asserted) “observations.” Seen in this light, although these errors are now understandable, they remain unacceptable. It is well past time for thoroughly incompetent, self-appointed “gatekeepers” like yourself to in fact be given the gate to the great benefit of intelligent readers, fully capable of separating wheat from chaff without your “remedial” censorship.
Installment two of Jeff Lipkes’ discussion of Diana West’s American Betrayal is entitled, “Diana and Ron: The Second Front.” Readers can decide for themselves whether or not Lipkes adequately represents Ms. West’s arguments by comparing his assessment to her own full chapter on the so-called “Second Front debate.” Regardless, I maintain readers wishing to understand this serious World War II (WWII) debate — and the post- WWII consensus about the geo-political consequences of its “resolution” — would do well to consider the historian Hanson Baldwin’s post-mortem assessment monograph, published shortly after WWII concluded.
Hanson W. Baldwin (d. 1991), was a military-affairs editor for The New York Times who authored over a dozen books on military and naval history and policy. Baldwin, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, joined The Times in 1929, and in 1943 won a Pulitzer Prize for his World War II reporting from the Pacific.
Before retiring from The Times, Baldwin reported on the strategy, tactics and weapons of war in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and other theaters. Earlier, after covering the European and Pacific battles of World War II, as well as the immediate postwar transition period, so astutely, Hanson Baldwin had already earned recognition as one of the nation’s leading authorities on military and naval affairs.
In 1950, Baldwin published a pellucid World War II strategic assessment monograph of 114 pages entitled Great Mistakes of the War. Baldwin’s summary analysis identifies, in his words, the four “great — and false — premises, certainly false in retrospect and seen by some to be false at the time,” as the following:
|1.||That the Politburo had abandoned (with the ostensible end of the Communist International) its policy of a world Communist revolution and was honestly interested in the maintenance of friendly relations with capitalist governments.|
|2.||That “Joe” Stalin was a “good fellow” and we could “get along with him.” This was primarily a Rooseveltian policy and was based in part on the judgments formed by Roosevelt as a result of his direct and indirect contacts with Stalin during the war. This belief was shaken in the last months of Roosevelt’s life, partly by the Soviet stand on Poland.|
|3.||That Russia might make a separate peace with Germany. Fear of this dominated the waking thoughts of our politico-strategists throughout all the early phases of the war, and some anticipated such an eventuality even after our landing in Normandy.|
|4.||That Russian entry into the war against Japan was either: a) essential to victory, or b) necessary to save thousands of American lives. Some of our military men clung to this concept even after the capture of the Marianas and Okinawa.
The common denominator for these basic misconceptions, Baldwin argues, excepting, perhaps the second, which became a stubbornly willful “Rooseveltian policy,” was,
…lack of adequate knowledge about Russian strengths, purposes, and motivations; and inadequate evaluation and interpretation of the knowledge we did possess, or failure to accept and apply it.
Baldwin reiterates his contention (i.e., regarding points 1 and 2) that American wartime policy hinged upon avoidable fallacious premises, which caused us to be victimized by our own hagiographic propaganda about Communism, Stalin, and the Soviet Union, observing:
Russian aims were good and noble, Communism had changed its stripes. A study of Marxian literature and of the speeches and writings of its high apostles, Lenin and Stalin, coupled with the expert knowledge of numerous American specialists, should have convinced an unbiased mind that international Communism had not altered its ultimate aim; the wolf had merely donned a sheep’s skin. Had we recognized this — and all past experience indicates we should have recognized it — our wartime alliance with Russia would have been understood for exactly what it was: a temporary marriage of expediency.
Baldwin concludes his introductory elucidation of the four false premises by returning to the misguided fear about the Soviet Union brokering a separate peace with Nazi Germany (in the latter stages of the war), and the disastrous U.S. policy of inducing Soviet entry into the Pacific theater war against Japan (when Japan’s defeat by the U.S. and Britain, without any Soviet assistance, was in fact clearly imminent).
[A] careful study of strategical facts and available military information should have indicated clearly the impossibility, from the Russian point of view [emphasis in the original], of a separate peace with Germany. Such a peace could only have been bought in the opening years of the war by major territorial concessions on Russia’s part, concessions which might well have imperiled the Stalin regime, and which, in any case, would have left the Russo-German conflict in the category of “unfinished business.” In the closing years of the war, when Russia had everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing the struggle to complete victory, a separate peace would have been politically ludicrous. [emphasis added]
Russia had everything to gain and nothing to lose by entering the Pacific war, particularly in 1944 and 1945 when the power of Germany was broken and Japan was beleaguered and in a strategically hopeless position. Yet again we begged and induced, though we, not Russia, occupied the commanding position. We should have tried to keep Russia out of the war against Japan instead of buying her entry.
Nearly six decades later, the former GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) officer Victor Suvorov’s Soviet primary source-based re-analysis of Stalin’s grand World War II strategy, The Chief Culprit (2008), provided striking independent confirmation of Baldwin’s 1950 arguments. For example, Suvorov demonstrates the remarkable success achieved by the well-planned Soviet blitzkrieg against a tottering Japan, to the lasting detriment of its erstwhile U.S. “ally’s” interests, and regional freedom:
On August 6, 1945 the American air force dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, and on August 9, over Nagasaki. Japan was on its deathbed. And at this moment, on August 9, 1945, the Red Army carried out its sudden and crushing attack against Japanese troops in Manchuria and China. The operations of all the armies were planned according to the principle of surprise attack and overpowering the enemy with the immediate use of gigantic force. Even in secondary locations, the actions took on an active and maneuvering character.
Officially, the Soviet military campaign in the Far East lasted twenty-four days, but battles only took place for twelve days. Not even two weeks had passed before a massive surrender of the Japanese troops began. Japanese losses numbered 84,000 killed and 594,000 taken prisoner. Among the prisoners were 148 Japanese generals. Unbelievable trophies were captured. The results of the operation were enviable. The United States fought against Japan for almost four years, and what did it receive? The Soviet Union fought against Japan for twelve days, and all of China, North Korea, and North Vietnam fell under the Soviet Union’s control. [emphasis added] Vasilevsky [Marshal of the Soviet Union/Chief of Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces] happily reported: “By delivering a crushing blow to the Japanese troops in Korea, the Soviet Army created favorable conditions for the activities of revolutionaries…In the northern section of the country, workers led by Communists began to build the first truly independent, democratic nation in Korean history…As a result of Japan’s defeat, favorable conditions were created in China, North Korea and North Vietnam for the victory of people’s revolutions…The Chinese People’s Army of Liberation received huge reserves of trophy arms, military equipment, and supplies…The defeat of Japanese militarism opened the way for national liberation movements throughout Asia. On September 2 , when the Japanese foreign affairs minister Sigemitsu and Chief of Staff Umezdu signed the pact of total capitulation, President Ho Chi Minh declared the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. On October 12 , the Laos patriots pronounced the birth of Phatet-Lao.”
Suvorov’s meticulous 2008 assessment of Stalin’s machinations for a quarter century, before and during World War II — which, again, validates Baldwin’s immediate post-World War II observations — opens with this ironic comparison of the Soviet Communist dictator, and his German Nazi counterpart, Hitler:
Hitler’s actions were seen by the world as the greatest of crimes, while Stalin’s actions were considered by the world as a struggle for peace and progress. The world hated Hitler, and commiserated with Stalin. Hitler conquered half of Europe, and the rest of the world declared war against him. Stalin conquered half of Europe, and the world sent him greetings. To ensure that Hitler could not hold on to the conquered European countries, the West sank German ships, bombed German cities, and then landed a massive and powerful army on the European continent. To enable Stalin to conquer and hold on to the other half of Europe, the West gave Stalin hundreds of warships, thousands of war planes and tanks, hundreds of thousands of the world’s best war vehicles, and millions of tons of its best fuel, ammunition, and supplies…For me, Hitler remains a heinous criminal. But if Hitler was a criminal, it does not all follow that Stalin was his innocent victim, as Communist propaganda portrayed him before the world.
Returning to Baldwin’s analysis, pages 25-45 drill down, objectively, on the so-called “Second Front” military debate, and its enduring geopolitical consequences, as a salient example of the operational impact of the four false premises (i.e., 1-3), he elucidated.
As is his wont, Baldwin immediately highlights one of the essential philosophical differences between the British and U.S. strategic outlooks:
…fundamentally, the British evaluation was politico-military; we [the U.S.] ignored the first part of that compound word.
Britain’s traditional policy, for centuries, Baldwin notes, “had been to check the expansionism of Russia.” He concedes that, “In 1942 and 1943, with the Russians in deep retreat and the Germans almost at the Caspian, the British may not have foreseen 1944 and 1945, with the Russians entering the Balkans…” However, Baldwin continues, the British,
…perceived clearly the political importance of this area [i.e., the Balkans], and they saw that an invasion there would preserve it — in the best possible manner by soldiers on the ground — against either Russian [emphasis added] or German interests…Thus the British believed Germany could be beaten and the peace won “by a series of attritions in northern Italy; in the eastern Mediterranean, in Greece, in the Balkans, in Rumania, and other satellite countries.”
Baldwin recounts an obvious impediment to the British forcefully promoting their sound political argument about thwarting Soviet hegemonic aspirations:
[I]n conferences which Russian representatives attended an effort had to be made to maintain the stability of the unnatural “Big Three” alliance that had been created. It must be remembered that during the latter part of the war it was Britain that filled the role the United States now occupies [circa 1950], of chief protagonist vis-à-vis Russia, in the battle for Europe.
As Baldwin also notes, the “British preoccupation with southern Europe” was not based exclusively on geopolitical arguments, emphasizing: “the British were never stupid enough to think they could win the peace by losing the war.” He observes,
Their military logic was good, although the difficult Balkan terrain did not help their arguments. They believed an invasion through the “soft underbelly” would catch the German Army in the rear, would find recruitment of strength from the doughty Slavs of the occupied countries, and would provide via the Danube a broad highway into Germany. But the British clearly were thinking of winning the peace as well as the war…
Despite the soundness of Churchill’s (representing the British) geopolitical and military arguments, Baldwin writes,
…on November 30, 1943, the invasion of Normandy was finally decided at [the] Tehran [Conference], and Stalin strongly supported the southern France invasion [emphasis in original], rather than a trans-Adriatic operation into the Balkans which was mentioned by Roosevelt and backed strongly by Churchill.
Major General John R. Deane was the head of the U.S. Military Mission in Moscow during WWII, and he attended the Tehran Conference in late 1943. Deane’s 1947 analysis, The Strange Alliance — The Story of Our Efforts at Wartime Cooperation with Russia, provides these additional telling observations about the “Second Front” discussions in Tehran, and the consequences of the course of action decided upon:
Stalin knew exactly what he wanted — the second front in France, and the quicker the better. Churchill based his argument on the disastrous effects of a long period of inactivity that would be necessary for most of the forces in the Mediterranean if they had to remain idle until the invasion took place…Stalin wanted the Anglo-American forces in Western, not Southern Europe; Churchill thought our postwar position would be improved and British interests best served if Anglo-Americans as well as the Russians participated in the occupation of the Balkans…From the political point of view hindsight on our part points to foresight on Churchill’s part. It will always be debatable whether Churchill might not have been right even though the action he proposed put an additional burden on our resources and probably would have prolonged the war.
Notwithstanding the Second Front military debate, Baldwin’s irrefragable characterization of the geopolitical landscape its “resolution” begot makes clear that the strategy was a geopolitical disaster:
…the dominant factor in the political complexion of Europe after the war was the presence of the Red Army soldiers in all countries east of the Trieste-Stettin line. The eruption of the Russians into the Danube basin gave them control over one of Europe’s greatest waterways, access to Central Europe’s granaries and great cities, and a strategical position of tremendous power at the center of Europe.
He then carefully and persuasively argues how a Southern European invasion might have averted this “unfortunate climax” to a war of alleged “liberation,” which left half of Europe enslaved by Soviet Communist totalitarianism:
Champions of the western invasion point out that attack from the south might have permitted the Russians to advance through northern Germany, almost unchecked, to the Low Countries, and perhaps even into France. This seems highly unlikely. [emphasis added] In the north the Nazis fought in defense of their own soil; in the south, of alien soil. The bitter last-ditch German defense on the Oder and the bloody battle of Berlin showed the type of fanatic resistance the Reichswehr [German army] offered in the north; in the Balkans, on the other hand, resistance was sporadic. A large-scale Mediterranean invasion might have been mounted some months sooner than the June, 1944, attack in Normandy; bases already were available in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy, and the dirty Channel winter weather was not a factor. There was a real chance, as Churchill believed, that a push from Belgrade up the Danube into Czechoslovakia, eastern Germany, and perhaps into Poland would have beaten the Red Armies to northern Europe. A southern invasion, in any case, presupposed a war of limited military objectives and definite political aims, not unconditional surrender or unlimited conquest. It implied a beaten Germany but also a weakened Russia. [emphasis added] And attack through the “soft underbelly” and invasion from the east were never mutually exclusive operations. One naturally complemented the other; this was particularly true after the successful invasion of Normandy. There can be little argument that the invasion of southern France two months after the Normandy attack had little military, and no political, significance; our main effort in the Mediterranean should have been transferred from France and Italy across the Adriatic. [emphases added]
All of this Churchill and the British had clearly foreseen; none of this insofar as the public record goes, did we foresee. Not all [emphasis in original] Americans, of course, were so completely bereft of political foresight. But those who possessed it were not in positions of power. A paper was actually written in the old Military Intelligence Division (G-2) of the War Department warning of the exact dangers which later developed. But the authors had their ears pinned back by a superior, who told them sharply: “The Russians have no political objectives in the Balkans; they were there for military reasons only.” [emphases added]
And Baldwin concludes, ruefully,
Today [circa 1949/50] some of the principal architects of our policy understand their mistakes; and many of our great military figures of the war now admit freely that the British were right and we were wrong. For we forgot that all wars have objectives and all victories conditions; we forgot that winning the peace is equally important as winning the war; we forgot that politico-military is a compound word.
Writing in 1949, Baldwin was not privy to the full record of the late November, 1943 Cairo Conference proceedings, which were not released in full, as Diana West notes in American Betrayal, until 1961. As I learned from reading American Betrayal, General Dwight D. Eisenhower extolled the suitability of both the Italian Po Valley, and the Aegean Sea “Second Front” approaches during the late November, 1943 Cairo Conference. Specifically, Ike opined the following at Cairo on November 26, 1943, as reported in United States Department of State, Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, (1943), pp. 359-60:
Italy was the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the valley of the Po. In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans and the Reich itself. Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany.
The next best method of harrying the enemy was to undertake operations in the Aegean…From here the Balkans could be kept aflame, Ploesti [Rumanian; a significant source of oil for Nazi Germany] would be threatened and the Dardanelles [a Turkish strait, connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara] might be opened.
Finally, West’s American Betrayal supplements Baldwin’s astute — and sobering — politico-military analysis with a disturbing exposition of the fanatically pro-Soviet influence operation orchestrated by FDR “Deputy-President” Harry Hopkins to extinguish support for the Mediterranean invasion approach advocated by Churchill and the British. Chapter 9 of American Betrayal is linked in full as a fitting updated epilogue to Baldwin’s conclusions published over six decades earlier, as a pdf file, here.
For links to previous articles about the controversy over American Betrayal, see the Diana West Archives.