Saturday, June 07, 2008

What might have been (but thankfully wasn't)

At The Daily Mail, writer Ian Kershaw provides an excerpt from his book Ten Decisions That Changed The World, in which he describes a world after Hitler's army pressed the attack on Dunkirk in May 1940 before the Brits could evacuate.
Before the Brussels Conference, Hitler had stipulated three conditions for acceding to negotiations. Churchill must be replaced as prime minister and denied participation in the peace talks. Forced to hand in his resignation, Churchill and his family fled into exile to Canada the following day.

Second, neither the British nor French navies were to be moved from their present positions.

The third condition demanded the signing of the peace agreement in two locations. The British would sign at the war memorial on the Somme, where Hitler had fought and been wounded in 1916, while the French would sign in the same railway carriage in the forest of Compiegne, where the Armistice to end the Great War - the ultimate German humiliation from Hitler's point of view - had been approved in 1918.

[ ... ]

Although Hitler permitted the British Empire to survive, he reduced it to a mere semblance of what it had once been. British rights in the oil fields of the Middle East were to be ceded to Germany, along with the mandated territories in the region and control over the Suez Canal.

Backed by his bellicose foreign minister, Ribbentrop, Hitler insisted on acquiring a swathe of British, French and Belgian colonies in Africa, establishing German rule over much of the African continent.

With Malta, Gibraltar, Algeria and Tunisia in Mussolini's hands - his part of the spoils from the Brussels Conference - the Axis powers dominated the entire Mediterranean.

The complete subservience of the defeated Western democracies to the German Reich was most unmistakably advertised with the disbandment of the French and British navies.

[ ... ]

Soon it became abundantly clear that U.S. interests would be confined to the American hemisphere. Staying out of war was the crucial task.

The U.S. continued its rearmament in case a German-dominated Europe should at some point seek to attack America. But with Britain and France defeated, American interests lay squarely at home. There was to be no provocation of Hitler, no attempt to engage in a conflict in the Atlantic.

Roosevelt looked to secure a naval agreement with Hitler that provided for the demilitarisation of the western Atlantic, leaving the U. S. Navy to concentrate on the looming danger from Japan in the Pacific.

[ ... ]

By early August, German forces reached Moscow. Stalin fled from the city, leading to the complete demoralisation of a Soviet population further threatened by the news that Japanese forces attacking through Mongolia and into Siberia had prompted the Red Army's headlong retreat from its eastern front. Forced back on the Central Asian republics, Stalin saw no other option but to sue for terms.

The subsequent territorial subtractions made the calamitous concessions of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 look like minor losses.

Most important, the oil of the Caucasus fell to Germany. So did the granary of Ukraine.

[ ... ]

Japan also had greatly extended its material resources by virtue of its brutal occupation of much of South-East Asia.

Deprived of assistance from the Allies, Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek felt compelled to accept the harsh terms that the Japanese sought to impose.

These included China's joining the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the euphemism chosen by Japan to designate the huge area of its newly captured 'living space'.

[ ... ]

What has happened to the Jews remains unclear. They have disappeared from sight, rounded up by the Germans and their collaborators in the occupied territories of Western Europe and shipped eastward. No one is sure of their subsequent fate. Terrible rumours circulated by underground resistance movements and intercepted by U.S. intelligence indicate that up to 11 million have been exterminated.
Read the whole thing.

In my estimation, not too much of a stretch. Seemingly small things, such as Germany's hesitation in attacking Britain and her allies at Dunkirk -- or of prematurely declaring victory in Iraq and leaving -- can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.

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