Litkicks Message Board Archive

deja vu

Posted to Poetry and Politics

This news item from 1944 was given to me yesterday by a friend who belongs to the pro war camp. You have to admit reading this is just a tad bit eerie.
Administration Split On Europe Invasion

Washington, April 3, 1944 (Reuters)

Fissures are starting to appear in the formerly united front within the Roosevelt administration on the upcoming decision of whether, where and how to invade Europe. Some influential voices within both the Democrat and Republican parties are starting to question the wisdom of toppling Adolf Hitler's regime, and potentially de stabilizing much of the region.

"It's one thing to liberate France and northwestern Europe, and teach the Germans a lesson, but invading a sovereign country and overthrowing its democratically-elected ruler would require a great deal more justification," said one well-connected former State Department official. "The President just hasn't made the case to the American people."

Indeed, some are querulous at the notion of invading France itself.

They argue, correctly, that the German-French Armistice of 1940 is a valid international treaty, and the Vichy government is widely recognized as the legitimate government of France, even by the US. (The British government doesn't recognize it, but much of that is a result of antipathy to the Germans from the Blitz.) Under this reading, German forces are thus legally stationed in France, per the request of its government, and by all observable indications, the Vichy government is supported by the "French street." More Frenchmen serve voluntarily in the Vichy militias than join the "underground" organizations supported by foreign intelligence services like MI5 and OSS.

It was pointed out to this reporter by a prominent former US ambassador to France that, "President Pétain was legally appointed by the last freely elected government of the Third Republic, and therefore is the legitimate democratically-chosen head of state. He has been governing by emergency decree under the appropriate provisions of the Third Republic Constitution. Surely there are grave issues of international law in any aggressive act against France."

In addition, some have proposed that, once the Russians take back Poland, it might make sense for them to stop at the German border. They argue that much, if not most, of Hitler's war-making capacity has been destroyed by the Allied bombing, and after we've taken back the Benelux countries, he'll only be a threat to his own people, and the ethnic minorities within Germany itself.

Others, however, contend that as long as he remains in power, he will be a continual threat to the region, and perhaps even the world, as there are rumors that he's frantically developing weapons of mass destruction greater than any the world has previously seen, and is building rockets with which to deliver them.

"For God's sake, the man is gassing Jews by the millions!" said one exasperated presidential advisor. "Do you think that he's going to be content to simply murder his own people if we let him stay in power?"

Concern is great that, in a total German defeat, or regime change, the results could have unpredictable and far-reaching consequences. Germany consists of a large number of ethnic groups antipathetic to each other, including Germans, Jews, Bohemians, Slavs and Gypsies. In the power vacuum created by the absence of a strong and stable central government, there is concern that it could split up into a number of fractious, balkanized countries, with the potential for renewed war and strife on European soil.

There has been little public discussion of what kind of government would replace the present Nazi reich, and many believe that, in the absence of a plan, it would be foolish to simply go in and topple the dictator.

The Administration has reportedly been talking to German dissidents, but they're hardly united in anything other than a desire to see the end of the Hitler regime. Many who know them well feel that there's little prospect for them forming a post-war consensus German government.

Others say, however, that the German people are well educated, and that if the shackles of the brutal regime that currently oppresses them could be thrown off, there are excellent prospects for one that would be friendly to the US and western values in general. Such a government, in a region in which it is so dominant, could provide a healthy example for the populace in some of the other troubled regimes in the area.

But despite such optimism among some advisors, many, particularly in Congress, are also frustrated by an apparent lack of an exit strategy. There is a great deal of concern, both within and outside the Administration, that should the German government be replaced, US troops might have to be stationed in Europe for five to ten years. Some have even suggested, improbably, that they could end up being there for decades.

One Senator who has been deeply involved in the discussions within the Administration said, off the record, that "we can't risk the chaos that could result from Hitler's removal. He's the only thing holding Germany together."

"Once we get into Alsace, and the Russians cross the Vistula, what we need to do is to establish a truce with him, and set up an arms inspection regime, so that he will never again be able to threaten his neighbors."

"We'll let the new planned United Nations organization handle it."