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Posted on 04/04/2007 9:58:35 AM PDT by IrishMike
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Some did not smile.
I cannot blame the Belgians for 1940. Belgium is a tiny country. It could not be expected to stand up to the might of Nazi Germany.
No, that role was the duty of the major Western powers: France, Britain and the United States. France failed because of a combination of atrocious strategy and moral fear of a replay of the devastation of World War I. Britain also failed in the field in 1940, but was saved by her “walls of water” and by German strategic blunders in the air war.
But the greatest failure was that of the Americans, who pretended that the fate of free Europe had nothing to do with America, that America could remain aloof and out of the picture and not be attacked. Of course this was always ridiculous, and when the Americans were finally attacked, they proved as militarily incompetent, initially, as the French and the British: an entire US Army surrendered in short order in the Philippines, and most of the US Navy was blown up at the pier, caught utterly unprepared at Pearl Harbor. America, too, was protected by her walls of water long enough to recover and get her production on-line. France had no walls of water, and had no room to recover from the surprise: Paris is only a bit over 100 miles from the border.
What SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED, had the French, British and Americans had any courage and intestinal fortitude, was that all three should have intervened when Hitler rearmed the Rhineland in violation of the World War I Armistice. But none had the courage. The US turned its eyes aside and Britain and France caved diplomatically for the Anschluss. Only with the invasion of Poland did Britain and France finally bestir themselves to the inevitable war, but even then the Americans played the coward and remained out of the war.
If America could not bestir herself to resist the Nazis in 1936, or 1937, or 1938, or 1939, or 1940, or even 1941, how could little Belgium be expected to do anything effective against them.
The behavior of all of the Western powers: Britain with Chamberlain, France with Maginot, and the US with cowardly ostrich-hood, were all equally contemptible. Hoping that little Belgium could hold any line when the three great Western powers were cowering, wetting their pants, or pretending that the conquest of the world by evil was not their concern, was as foolish as the American, British and French strategy of the period.
What sticks in my craw is that Americans think that French performance in 1940 is to be crowed from the rooftops as an example of French weakness, while forgetting that the AMERICAN performance in 1940 was a display of even worse moral cowardice. PRETENDING that Hitler was of no concern to America - and that’s all it was, pretence - was not simply an “error” by the Americans, it was moral cowardice of the rankest sort. France lost in 1940, but she FOUGHT. America cowered in her cave and hoped the crocodile would eat her last. She finally got hers at Pearl Harbor and Bataan, but it would have been better had all three Western Powers stood up like men and FACED the threat before it became a calamity.
‘”Throughout, we have taken a measured approach, firm but calm, not negotiating but not confronting, either.” ‘
That’s because we (US) saved your bloomin’ arse. Again.
The Nimitz is heading for battle formation in the P. Gulf. And President Tom & the mullahs know it.
Teddy Roosevelt’s “speak softly” fell to Tony Blair, and W’s Nimitz was the Big Stick. Jeez. All this so Pres. Tom can “save face” while he proclaims to the world how he wore down the Brits.
Next time, Tony, go beg the EU to save your people.
Exactly. Sorry, I posted before reading yours.
there seems to be a cyclic pattern of war and peace
I percieve this British "catch and release" stunt by Oddmanojob as a diplomatic tool to buy more time in order to keep the centrifuges spinning.
So sad that, once again, all we can do is sit and wait for the first punch to be thrown
But you are correct, the Allies should have stepped in when when Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland.
But that would have caused hard feelings, France was Germany's second largest trading partner.
I think you are applying 100% hindsight to judging American in 1936-40. Yes, I wish that everyone had shaken off their peacetime stupor and listened to Churchill, but there were very few voices of foresight anywhere in the world then. It was not a case of “moral cowardice” then for America — it was a combination of distance, ignorance, and peacetime complacency. Europe had basically flipped the bird to America since 1919 and made it clear no US involvement in European affairs was wanted or needed...... and Americans largely reciprocated the attitude..... since Europe was viewed as its own entity with its own problems and Europeans themselves (with few exceptions) were not expecting or seeking any help from America until it was just about too late. Why do you demand that 1930s Americans have vastly more strategic insight than everyone in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, central Europe, etc.? If European governments were not screaming for US intervention, why exactly was the USA supposed to have so much more insight and “moral courage” than the millions of people living directly in Hitler’s shadow?
If virtually all of the leadership and populations of Germany’s neighbors were as monumentally ignorant and complacent as we know them to have been, how exactly were Americans living 3000-6000 miles from the scene supposed to be far more cognizant of the threat? Sure, it would have been great had there been budding Churchills everywhere then, but the fact remains that the countries facing the greatest and most immediate threat were, with a few notable exceptions, immensely naive, gullible, fatuous, and servile toward Hitler’s Germany until it was too late (and definitely too late for tens of millions).
Blame the ostrich mentality of European political parties, journalists, and leaders throughout the 1930s first, please.
fwiw, a good part of my family is from Belgium and was living there in 1940, becoming war refugees in May 1940 because they refused to live under Hitler’s rule and were fortunate enough to be able to escape (no one was of military age - my grandfather was a WWI veteran and his children were under age 14). We don’t let the Belgian government off the hook so easily, either — the obsession with a hopeless neutrality led them to decline to make any signficant preparations to coordinate military defences with France and the UK, which guaranteed that when the allied armies rushed north to try to meet the invasion onslaught they were in grave danger of being carved to pieces (even if they hadn’t been completely surprised by the Ardennes offensive). The Belgian leadership had a lot to answer for too, although as you note they had no chance without the big powers - but they did nothing to improve the prospects of successful French and British aid because they were so wobbly before Hitler.
“Why do you demand that 1930s Americans have vastly more strategic insight than everyone in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, central Europe, etc.?”
Honestly? I don’t.
What I demand is that 2007 Americans, who were not a gleam in their GRANDPARENTS’ eyes in 1940, stop talking about the French defeat in 1940 - which was, mind you, a disaster for the UNITED STATES also, and for the whole world, because IT was the primary enabling event that allowed Hitler to run absolutely amok - as though this discredits France TODAY, 67 years and two generations later. I tire of the abusive ignorance directed at France and the French because of 1940. 1940 is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to 2007 and Franco-American relations, but it is resorted to in EVERY SINGLE DISCUSSION that involves France among Americans, two generations on - Americans who were NOT IN ANY WAY responsible for the glories of the United States in the 1940s.
If Americans today are going to keep trotting out this “’We’ saved your ass” crap, as though that is a LEGITIMATE point (and believe me, EVERY time Europe is mentioned by Americans on this site, this comes up), then a response is required.
First of, YOU didn’t save ANYBODY’S ass. Your grandparents or great-grandparents saved the freedom-loving people of Europe’s asses (the fascist-loving people of Europe didn’t appreciate the intervention). YOU didn’t do a damned thing, and YOU don’t get one ounce of credit for what other people before you did. Nor did the PRESENT generation, nor even the past TWO generations, of Western Europeans, lose any wars, put anybody in gas chambers, collapse, fail to defend themselves in the field, etc. Grandparents or great-grandparents did, but the grandchildren or great-grandchildren live in a completely different world. We are responsible for what WE do. The legacy of the past may be an anchor chain that everybody drags along, but I will be damned if anybody who didn’t do ANYTHING for Europe is going to sit in 2007 and denigrate modern Europeans for what his great-grandparents did for (and to) their great-grandparents.
I hear about “gratitude”. Just to be clear: MODERN Europeans, in 2007, don’t “owe” MODERN Americans, in 2007, a damned thing for what their great-grandparents did to each other.
Now, there probably would BE more gratitude, because people know history, if modern Americans, who had nothing to do with the Americans who liberated Europe long ago, weren’t invoking the debt of gratitude all the time. But even invoking the debt of gratitude would not really be so terrible. What is terrible is the nasty, snarky, insulting references to 1940 and the disastrous collapse of the France of back then, and simply telescoping that into the modern day as some sort of basis for American superiority over the French.
I don’t bring up 1940. I ALSO don’t bring up all of the American military disasters and defeats SINCE 1940...in Korea, where the lone nuclear superpower fought to a bare draw against a bunch of World-War-I-armed peasants, in Cuba, where the Americans were humiliated; in Vietnam, where the Americans were humiliated and retreated in defeat and disgrace; in Lebanon, where the Americans fled in defeat; in Somalia, where the Americans fled in defeat. America won the Gulf War, but France was in that war too, and French forces, on the far left wing, penetrated more deeply into Iraq than any of the other forces in the war.
But if the French disaster of 1940 is such a hot topic of conversation of Americans whenever there is any discussion of France, then I become irritated enough to say that I can understand well why it is that the modern generation of Americans like to settle back on the laurels of their great-grandparents in World War II, because SINCE THEN the Americans haven’t been able to win a goddamned thing.
I don’t think 1940 is relevant to anything today, but Americans DO, and keep bringing it up, to insult the French. My response, then, is to look back at 1940 and note that the French at least fought Hitler, while the Americans didn’t do a damned thing for almost two years, until America was attacked.
Truthfully, remaining in the present is the proper thing to do. When we go waltzing into the past to use the acts of long-dead people to try and justify our present position, it just demonstrates that we don’t have a pot to piss in. And this is what Americans do, all the time, when it comes to Europe and France, especially. Americans, British, Canadians, French, Poles, Dutch, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, North Africans, West Indians, and many other nations all liberated Western Europe in 1944-45. The Americans played the leading role in that effort. This was a good thing. And ever since then, the Western Allies have banded together under the guise of NATO. And still are. So, in the modern day, France disagrees with the American invasion of Iraq.
And let’s be clear, France has troops in Afghanistan. The French disagreement over Iraq was partly based on politics and economics, but also heavily based on the impression that the Americans CAN’T WIN ANYTHING anymore. The Americans haven’t convincingly won a war since 1945. The Gulf War, in which France was also present, liberated Kuwait, but left the madman in charge in Baghdad. The French feared that the Americans would invade, would get mired in the Middle East, would not be able to win, and would eventually collapse, as in Vietnam, and leave the Middle East a more dangerous place than ever in the aftermath. That WAS the fear, and it still IS the fear, and from every indication, the French understanding of the strategic situation was better than the Americans from the beginning, because that is PRECISELY what seems to be happening before our eyes. The Americans have not won in Iraq, and the only question is whether they can stabilize the Iraqi regime enough that it manages to survive after the American will to fight collapses and the US troops are called home. The French assessment is that if Iran is not defanged of its nuclear ambitions, no, the Iraqi government propped up by the US will fall once the Americans have left, and the whole of Mesopotamia will tip over to Teheran, which is in every sense a worse situation than the one that had Saddam Hussein, bad as he was, in Iraq. That was always the strategic problem.
What does 1940 have to do with that? Nothing.
So, why do Americans bring up 1940?
Because it makes them feel good to bash the French and remember the last war America was able to win (with plenty of help from Russians and British and French and Poles and Indians and...)
And once 1940 is in play, you bring up the point that the Americans in 1940 were not cowards. You say that they were remote and blind to the dangers, didn’t understand, so they stayed out out of ignorance. Yes, there is truth in that. The Americans were ignorant of what was going on in Europe in 1940, and so they made the collossal strategic blunder of ignoring it, and its importance to them.
And in 2003-2007? Well, the Americans DID go to war, but apparently in ignorance, once again, of what they were doing when they entered the Middle East. The French opposed American war plans because they were a fantasy. They were unrealistic. And they WERE unrealistic. Look at the mess now. This was not unforeseeable or unforeseen.
What I WANT is for Americans to get off the high-and-mighty horse of “We’re the superpower, and we wiped everyone’s ass off the map in 1945, and the French were pansies and lost.” It’s irrelevant, and it is aggravating. If we want to talk about the present, those taunts do no good. If we want to talk about the past, then America’s performance in 1940, and since World War II, were not very brilliant. Less pride and more humility would be good.
What I see is the braggadocio of the people of an empire in decline, who had a glorious relatively distant past, and know it, but who are trying to conjure the ghosts of past victories to comfort them in the present not-very-glorious times. And all that braggadocio does is make people who are otherwise inclined to be favorable to America want to see the Americans get their asses kicked. Again.
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