BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
The 74th anniversary of the Normandy landings, D-Day, has come and went. The young men who stormed the beaches of France number among the Greatest Generation. Their heroism and bravery–and sacrifice–is a testament to the country and our commitment to freedom and liberty. However, the D-Day invasion itself represents a great strategic victory for the United States. You see, the landings could have been conducted possibly a year earlier than they were. America’s ally, the Soviet Union, had been clamoring for the United States and the United Kingdom to conduct the landings in early 1943. Yet, the British and Americans balked at the suggestion.
Europe’s Soft Underbelly
Instead of conducting the landings forthwith, the United States was convinced by Winston Churchill to hit North Africa and then push up the Mediterranean into Italy itself. Churchill viewed Italy as the “soft underbelly” to moving into Hitler’s Reich. Unfortunately for Churchill, the Alps which separated Italy from Austria would prove to be too difficult to surmount (and German resistance was heaviest there). Thus, Europe’s “soft underbelly” through Italy proved to be as impenetrable for Churchill as the sea walls at Gallipoli in 1915.
Churchill also wanted the Anglo-American forces to liberate Italy so as to pivot and liberate Greece, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe before the Soviet juggernaut could fully invade that part of Europe. Sir Winston fundamentally understood that, even as the Americans, British, and Soviets strove to end the Second World War, the next world conflict was shaping up. That war would be waged between the free world (represented predominantly by the United States and the United Kingdom) and the Communist bloc–and its battlefields would be in the areas of the world that the Reds took during the Second World War.
So, Churchill aimed to set the British and Americans up nicely for the next war. For his part, U.S. Army General Mark W. Clark, the man who led the American forces in liberating Italy from the fascists, believed as Churchill did, and fought with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied war effort in Europe, to allow him to expand into Eastern Europe at all costs.
Ultimately, the Italian front ended in the successful liberation of Italy from fascism, as well as the end of Benito Mussolini’s reign. However, it did not eventuate in an Allied liberation of Eastern Europe, Greece, or the invasion of the Third Reich from the south.
The months leading into the D-Day invasion were met with constant calls for implementation from the Soviets. The Western allies kept blaming bad weather for the delays. To be fair, the English Channel is not known for its stable, easy-to-traverse weather. The British and Americans were waiting for good weather. Although, it was not only the weather that the two allies were waiting on.
The British and American military planners, for the most part, understood that whatever the Soviets may have said about being friends with the West, Communism was a dangerous and aggressive ideology–as terrible as Fascism or Nazism were. Watching Stalin’s Soviet Union duke it out with Hitler’s Nazi Germany was akin to watching Marvel’s Thanos fight Loki in The Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part I: whoever won that fight, the heroes would have a massive headache to contend with thereafter.
On some level, both Washington, D.C. and London were keen to let the Soviets weaken themselves fighting an intensive ground war against the Nazis. The Reds had already suffered immense damage and casualties when the Nazis invaded their territory. With some assistance from the West, the Soviets managed to get back on their jackboots, and go marching into Europe, in order to return the favor to Hitler. They did. In spades. However, the fighting was so intense between the two sides that, ultimately, both Germany and Russia would be economically and industrially decimated and nearly 20 million Russians died in the fighting from 1941-45.
When the British and Americans finally did decide to launch the invasion, it was only after the Soviets had depleted vast scores of Germany’s fighting men and equipment on the ill-fated Eastern Front of the war. For their part, the Americans and British had been building their presence up for about a year in England, preparing for the inevitable wading onto European shores. The troops were well-equipped, prepared, and rested for the kind of fighting that would be necessary to decisively end the Third Reich.
On 6 June 1944, the D-Day landings commenced in earnest, and when they did an overwhelming mass of metal and men breached the Nazi defenses and didn’t stop until they reached the Rhine. All of this, however, was made possible, thanks to the strategic genius in essentially allowing the Reds to bleed both themselves and the Germans dry on the Eastern Front.
D-Day probably could have happened at least half a year earlier than it did. But, it didn’t occur, because neither the Americans nor British wanted to see the Soviets left with much capabilities at all–knowing full well that the postwar environment would better suit American and British interests if the Soviets were truly weakened by the war.
Into the Looking Glass
Today, the United States has abandoned any strategic sensibility whatsoever in its current conflicts. Whether speaking about the War in Afghanistan or Iraq, the United States entered into these conflicts with much bravado, but it refused to understand the geostrategic implications of its actions.
In the context of D-Day, the American intervention, for instance, in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks would have been akin to launching D-Day in 1943. While it might have ended the same way that the June 6, 1944 landings did, the fighting would have been even more intense for the British and Americans–and it would have reduced the burden on the Soviet Union.
Had that happened, the Soviets might have been able to divert some of their forces by 1945 to opening up the second front against Japan in the Pacific (and thereby taking more territory there than it did going into the Cold War), or it might have been able to save more of its forces for an inevitable conflict with the British and the Americans following the Second World War.
The Americans and British judiciously used time, geography, and force to their extreme advantage during World War II. In Afghanistan, however, the United States never took the time to analyze the situation from a strategic view. Rather than recognizing how America’s partners, such as Pakistan, could have fully assisted the war effort (had we simply made a deal with the Taliban, Pakistan’s client in Afghanistan) and remained tightly focused on al Qaeda, who knows how differently our history would have turned out?
America has been in the unfortunate position of simply responding to events on an ad hoc basis, and hoping things turn out better than they were. We’ve neglected fundamental concepts, such as burden sharing and buck-passing; and we’ve refused to adequately define a mission–and to tailor our force presence accordingly–to allow for a cost-effective, quick victory.
In the run-up to D-Day we understood how to use our allies to our advantage, and get them to do most of the nastiest dying. Nowadays, we insist that our people experience those hardships just so that we can “dictate” the course of the war.
Therefore, if we fought the Second World War by today’s standards, we’d either have not done D-Day at all, or we would have done it too early, and raised the costs and burdens on ourselves needlessly–only empowering our rivals in the process.