Who saved whom from what?

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February 15, 2003 by AK

Drezner on “we saved their cheese-eating asses”. (I stumbled on the link at vpostrel.com.) Here’s my two cents:

It’s simply incorrect to say that the US “saved France from Hitler” without mentioning the Allied war effort in general. Suppose an alliance of A, B and C were fighting against a common enemy, D, and it were agreed between A, B, C, that each member would assume responsibilty for a certain area. Suppose A were to fight D in country X, B were to counter D in Y, and C were to kick D out of Z. Finally, assume the ABC alliance succeeded on all three fronts. Would it be correct for A to take all the credit for liberating X? I don’t think so, unless Y and X were tiny pieces of land of no importance whatsoever.

Of course I can’t be quite impartial here. I believe it was the great battles on the Eastern Front — Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, etc., as well as Russia’s unrelenting onslaught against Germany in 1944-1945 — that made possible the Allies’ post-D-Day achievements in Western Europe. Why was Dunkirk a failure and Omaha beach a success, after all? That is, the French owe at least as much to Russians as they do to Americans when it comes to who “saved” them from Hitler.

What’s never mentioned, though, is that the US and Britain did save France — from Stalin.

Moreover, the primary reason for D-Day could have been the need to stop Stalin from advancing further westward. In June 1944, the Red Army was slowly but surely advancing eastward. The US had been supporting Russia both economically (the lend lease) and militarily (e.g., by fighting Japan and thus preventing it from invading the Soviet Far East) for almost three years. Despite its enormous losses, Russia still had enough resources to keep fighting for, say, two extra years. On the contrary, Germany’s resources were being quickly depleted. It’s true that Stalin had repeatedly asked the US and UK to open a “second front” — and with a good reason in 1941, 1942, and even 1943; but I suspect that already in late 1943 he cared more about preventing Allies from invading Europe in a wrong place (Greece?).

So how about a prospect of a Communized Europe — and with American assistance? Then Churchill comes forward and says, “Hey Joe, you asked us to intervene in Europe; we promised we would — now it’s time to deliver!”

And they delivered. Europe’s freedom would have been impossible without Omaha Beach (and the Marshall Plan). But that’s not the same as Hitler’s defeat.

Not to forget:

What’s in Virginia Postrel’s last name?


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