Monday, May 7, 2018

November 7, 1943: Problems at the Time of Victory

Article by Opa for Manhattan, Kansas Newspaper: Mercury Chronicle


Moscow Conference May Mean Beginning Of A New World

By Thomas W Doeppner

The most astounding result of the Moscow conference was the amount of information published. Even the greatest optimists did not expect more than a few generalizations. How great, then, was their surprise when the three statesmen came out with a detailed program which even included some concrete post-war proposals.

The importance of the first part of the Moscow agreement has been exaggerated in most newspapers. The fact that the belligerent countries will fight together against their common enemy, is not a result of the conference, but was one of the fundamental corner stones upon which the conference was built. The conference was to determine the means by which to act together, not whether cooperation was necessary.

Great Concessions

Interesting and of utmost importance is the declaration by Russia, England, China, and the United States that they are going to establish some sort of a general intentional organization. Cordell Hull, without having to ask a semi-isolationist Congress for permission, promises America's cooperation in a new league of nations.

It can only be hoped that this time the promise may be kept. A nucleus of this new international organization has been formed in Moscow. A new European Advisory Commission will meet permanently in London to study the problems which will arise at the time of victory. It is possible that the findings of this commission will be used in the creation of the New Europe.

A few specific items concerning post-war world structure were made. In the first place, Austria shall be liberated from German domination. This was probably one of Russia's suggestions, since it has always been the policy of England and the United States to grant every people the right of self-determination. It might be that the Austrian people want to be separated from Germany; it might be that, in a post-war Germany, conditions will be such that it will be advantageous for Austria, both for political and economic reasons to remain a part of Germany. Anyhow, it would be more in line with the United Nations' war aims to let the Austrain people make their own decisions.

Revolt is Asked

There is one very outstanding sentence in the prophecy of Austria's post-war status. In the final settlement, account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.

In other words, the Allies ask the Austrian people for the first time to revolt against their invaders. If the Austrian people are aware of the inevitability of Germany's defeat, this call for an uprising might become very helpful.

"Forgive" Fascists

Italy is going to get her democracy back, according to the triumvirate. No punishment against the Fascists as a whole has been provided for. It might be hoped that other satellite nations understand the hint and follow Italy's example before it is too late for them.

Naturally, any military decisions which have been reached in Moscow have not even been hinted at. It is suspected, though, that Russia and the Anglo-Americans have come to some sort of an understanding concerning the Second Front, because Stalin would hardly have conceded in so many political points if this question had not been settled satisfactorily.

So many things going on here! I know I've mentioned it before but this framework of war is such a foreign concept to my generation born after WW2, after the shifting tactics seen in Vietnam. We are a generation that cannot possibly keep track of battles and fronts, because wars are now fought in secret ambushes, drone attacks, isolated targets of groups instead of nations. The old mentality of lined up soldiers and massive offensive pushes is no longer a reality. Almost every military event today feels like a secret. We didn't know anything about the capture of Bin Laden until it was over, and even then we didn't know much. As a nation, we don't even fully know who we are at war with. There is no collective effort of buying war bonds or conserving supplies that could be used in war. Rather, we have a large military budget and a sort of ignorance (blissful or intended by the military). It's so different from reading a play by play event in the newspaper. 

Opa is following the political and military events, which of course go hand-in-hand. In hindsight we understand how important these meetings were, not so much for the speed of victory, but for the post-war European geo-political landscape. Everyone seems to understand this even in 1943. I loved Opa's quote that they had a commission to study "the problems which will arise at the time of victory." That's about the best premonition-laden statement about what happens after the war. 

Of course there are problems and complications. Germany had essentially taken over large portions of Europe and whipped it into a large Nazi empire omelet. The question for after the war is: who draws the lines back in on the map? The Russians are playing a tight game to be a major player in this line-drawing. That's part of why Opa thinks they were the ones who suggested Austria be separate from Germany (whether they want to or not). 

Who gets to be victor and who pays for their war crimes? The political decision to give Italy a "pass" based on their turn-around is a savvy one that hopes other countries will join the effort for their own free pass. The Allies aren't hard to please, just lend us your temporary word to fight with us (or not against us) and you've got a hall pass for a painless route through the aftermath. 

Opa deduces that Russia has won some major political points, which might mean that they won't be a major player in this Second Front ordeal. (From what I can tell, Opa was right, D-day happens without a huge campaign on the Eastern front from Russia... historians- please correct me if I'm wrong.)

In 1943, the nations' leaders are already trying to finagle and manipulate the solutions to the "problems at the time of victory." Honestly, I can appreciate how difficult these discussions must have been. Where would we draw the lines now if the European continent became an omelet again? How about the Middle East, or the Eastern hemisphere with Russia, Asia, and all the other countries most Americans don't know the names of? Who would determine that, and why? It's a tough question, and our current national boundaries are a direct byproduct of those decisions made.

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