May 13, 2006


What's a little debt between friends? (Finlo Rohrer, 5/12/06, BBC News Magazine)

The UK is about to pay off the last of its World War II loans from the US. But it hasn't always been so fastidious.

On 31 December, the UK will make a payment of about $83m (£45.5m) to the US and so discharge the last of its loans from World War II from its transatlantic ally.

It is hard from a modern viewpoint to appreciate the astronomical costs and economic damage caused by this conflict. In 1945, Britain badly needed money to pay for reconstruction and also to import food for a nation worn down after years of rationing.

"In a nutshell, everything we got from America in World War II was free," says economic historian Professor Mark Harrison, of Warwick University.

We did them no good by propping up their socialist welfare system at a time when bankruptcy could have broken it--but the failure to defeat the other totalitarians in WWII led us to do many foolish things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 13, 2006 9:56 AM

"We," the powers that be at that time, admired their socialism and aspired to emulate them ASAP.

Posted by: erp at May 13, 2006 10:35 AM

That denial would have seemed to be rather churlish behavior. You are thinking rationally, not emotionally, and at that time, after the sacrifices the British had endured during that war - I'm sorry sir, denial was politically impossible. As foreign policy, it would have been disastrous.

Posted by: Mikey at May 13, 2006 10:54 AM

Um, Mikey, at the time the British empire was seen as the world's hyperpower. We could have gone isolationist quite easily, I'm thinking.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 11:15 AM


We made sacrifices. They didn't.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 12:32 PM

So, Britain's paid off, I think Chermany's paid off, frogistan isn't, IIRC.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 13, 2006 1:01 PM

They didn't make sacrifices? Excuse me, Mr. Judd, but you are so full of it your eyes are brown.

Go look at their cemetaries. They are full of "non-sacrifices"; men women, and children. Don't insult me by stating that the blood they lost was not a sacrifice, that the cities that were ruined and destroyed was not a sacrifice, that the treasure they spent was not a sacrifice.

They bled and died worse than we did, sir. For shame, to spit on that, to spit on that steadiness, that courage, that dedication. For shame.

If you had any beyond ideology.

Posted by: Mikey at May 13, 2006 6:33 PM

Sacrifice would have been going to help Poland, as they were pledged to. Easily absorbing a feeble attack by Hitler was no biggie.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 6:39 PM

OK, here we go. Who is bringing the guacamole?

Posted by: Peter B at May 13, 2006 6:46 PM

Mikey is correct. In WWII, the U.K. lost 382,600 military dead and 67,800 civilian dead. On a per capita basis, that was nearly three times U.S. deaths.

Does anyone else around here think it's odd that OJ regularly downplays such things as England's suffering in WWII, the danger of Hitler posed to Western civilization, and the cost of OJ's preferred course to attack the USSR after WWII, yet sees Darwinism as a huge threat? It reminds me of the folks on the left (and many libertarians, I'm embarrassed to admit) who think jihadism is an overhyped danger but wet their pants at the idea that the NSA gathers "envelope data" regarding who calls who. Proportion, folks, proportion.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 13, 2006 8:07 PM

Gentle souls, words have meanings. The British suffered in WWII, but they did not sacrifice. If they had stood by their word and defended their allies, it would have been a sacrifice. Because they acted in bad faith, the war came to them, and they suffered terribly. Because we acted in bad faith at the end of WWII, millions suffered. A small sacrifice on our part would have stopped the suffering. We didn't, and the Cold War came anyway.
Sacrifice is active, and we commend. Suffering is passive, and we feel your pain.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 8:17 PM



The Nazis were no threat to the U.S. precisely because their philosophy was Applied Darwinism, too obviously rotten an ideology to endure. WQe should have let them and the Marxists kill each other off--that's simple Social Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 8:45 PM

I've made this point before, but again: it really doesn't matter if Nazism, jihadism, or rule-by-Mongol-hordism will fail as a system of government in the long run, if they are a threat to your society in the short run.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 13, 2006 9:41 PM

PapayaSF, you forgot Communism. I think that OJ's point is that Communism and Nazism were dealing with each other just fine before we picked sides and proped up the Commies in WWII and for 30+ years after.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 13, 2006 9:51 PM

Which is where the notion of Hitler as a threat fails conclusively. The Battle of Britain was a joke and when he turned East the Reich was over.

Posted by: oj at May 13, 2006 9:54 PM

Peter: I'll bring the Tequila if you have limes.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 13, 2006 11:02 PM

Suppose Hitler didn't repeat Napoleon's mistake and actually fought a proper war in the East? Had the Germans attacked in April instead of 6/22, or if they had been prepared for winter, or if they had built a hard line behind the front and not been surprised in Dec. 1941, things would have been different.

After all, had the Japanese launched a second wave at Pearl and blown up the oil depot(s) and sunk all the tenders in the harbor, the war in the Pacific would have been different (longer, perhaps up to a year).

The Battle of Britian was important because it showed that the Germans were not unstoppable. In fact, their petulance and immaturity in switching tactics to bomb the cities showed that Goering was a poltroon. England wasn't going to invade the continent by herself, but the Germans weren't going to end the war as easily as they thought.

Posted by: ratbert at May 13, 2006 11:23 PM

Ratbert: Indeed, it's not hard to construct scenarios where if just a few things went differently, Britain would have been lost. D-Day was a too-close-for-comfort operation as it was, but imagine trying to invade Nazi-occupied Europe and England from Iceland.

Robert, I'm not forgetting the USSR. Sure the Reds and Nazis were destined to be at one another's throats sooner or later, but that doesn't really help us, if it means all of Europe (and then Asia and Africa) falls under the bootheels of the winner. And it also is small consolation to say the victor's system would inevitably crumble, if it took generations to do so. Oh, and I think your suffering/sacrifice distinct here is hairsplitting and rather insulting to the people at the time who certainly did both.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 14, 2006 2:09 AM

It would have been very difficult for Germany to successfully invade Britain.

The RAF was shooting down the Luftwaffe far faster than German factories could churn out aircraft, not to mention trained pilots.

Invading without air cover would have been a doomed act of desperation.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at May 14, 2006 4:17 AM


Actually it's impossible to do so.

D-Day was an asinine and pointless risk and done only at the beck and call of Stalin.

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 8:37 AM


Had Germany defeated Russia they'd have been crippled because they didn't have the men or material to administer it. They didn't even have enough to take all of France or attack Spain or cross the channel. War isn't like Risk--you can't leave one army behind and turn left.

Your Japan admission is dispositive--best case scenario they delay their defeat a year.

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 8:56 AM

Even if the Japanese had attacked a week later and sunk the Enterprise at Pearl, they weren't going to win the war. But another 12-18 months of fighting, or a successful Japanese invasion of any part of mainland Alaska (remember, they held a few Aleut islands for almost 2 years), and things would have been different. Probably no raid on Tokyo in April 1942, and things on the West Coast would have been much worse than they were. Perhaps no luck at Midway.

For another thing, we would have been supplicating Stalin to fight in the East a whole lot earlier.

Noam: the Germans were losing planes faster, but the Brits had no reserve (on either material or pilots). Had the Luftwaffe pressed the attack on the RAF through the fall of 1940, the RAF would have been finished. That would not have automatically meant invasion, but it would have meant something. Perhaps a Nazi-inspired revolt in Ireland, perhaps some encouragement to Stalin to stir up trouble in England, perhaps the withdrawal of troops from India or the Middle East.

OJ: the Germans didn't have to take all of France - the French took care of the rest for them. Regarding Spain, I suspect Hitler saw how Franco fought in 1936/7, and knew that he was not a pussycat.

Posted by: ratbert at May 14, 2006 9:49 AM


Exactly, Hitler couldn't even take on Franco and you have fever dreams of him dominating the planet?

Alaska? Oh, no....

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 9:54 AM

Ratbert, how is that different from what happened after the war? The English went for Nationalized industry and dumped all their wards overseas. All we had to do was open our borders to the refugees.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 12:05 PM

Granted that Japan could not have defeated us, but Ratbert is correct that the RAF was very nearly defeated in 1940. A channel crossing by the Nazis would then not have been out of the question.

Yes, Stalin was planning to attack Hitler after Hitler took the U.K. But that scenario still leaves us with either Hitler or Stalin in control of Europe. And why would Hitler need to take on Franco? He would be an ally, had Hitler won.

And all this discussion proves my point in the other thread: OJ's argument boils down to: "Darwin's ideas are terribly dangerous because they inspired the Applied Darwinist Hitler, who wasn't really much of a danger."

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 14, 2006 2:18 PM

PapayaSF, I think you are missing the context. How was Hitler more dangerous then Stalin, who we were happy to ally with, and then 'contain'? Leave both in place, or take out both. Favoring one over the other was the least moral choice.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 3:07 PM


They weren't close to being defeated and the Channel crossing still would have been impossible for the Nazis.

Franco wasn't an ally, denying Hitler access to Gibraltar and thereby control of the Med.

Stalin couldn't have dominated all of Europe either. These are just scary stories you use to convince yourself the war wasn't a mistake. No democracy can acknowledge it erred because we indict ourselves.

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 7:03 PM

Stalin couldn't have dominated Europe without our help, which we did seem eager to give....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 7:43 PM

Robert, politics is a messy business. If one tries too hard to make perfectly consistent moral choices at every step, one often gets tied up in knots and ends up with something less moral overall: see Carter's foreign policy, for example. At the time ('41), Hitler was more dangerous because he was overrunning Western Europe. Sure, Stalin was a greater long-term threat, but wasn't an immediate danger. So we allied with him on enemy-of-my-enemy grounds. Distateful but necessary.

OJ, if I recall correctly, the RAF was within weeks of being disabled when Hitler ordered Goering to stop attacking RAF bases and switch to bombing cities. That saved the RAF by giving them time to recover.

Franco wasn't a full Axis ally, true. He nearly was at first, but apparently made so many demands that he ticked off Hitler. However, Franco did send Hitler about 45,000 troops and 100,000 civilian workers, and allowed the Abwehr to operate in Spain. That's how the British got the famous "Man Who Never Was" disinformation operation to work. So Franco was certainly a partial ally of Hitler.

And your concluding paragraph again proves my point. You seem to be saying: "Hitler and Stalin scary? Naw, they'd have never gotten far. But Darwin, that's a dangerous guy!"

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 14, 2006 7:59 PM


You recall incorrectly.

Darwin is dangerous but only to those who believe him, which fortunately hasn't ever been us.

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 8:05 PM

Thanks for your thoughts PapayaSF. Stalin and Hitler were overrunning Europe, Hitler-Stalin Pact, remember? We didn't get involved until the pact was broken and they were fighting each other, yes? So why was allying with Stalin necessary? If he was the greater threat, why didn't we move againest him?
Carter's foreign policy was and is to suck up to monsters. I don't see any knots there.
As far as Franco, he worked less with the Nazi's then anyone else in Europe. The Swiss, the British, the French were all more accomodating to Hitler then Franco was. He also saved many Jews during the war. I would say that Franco was not an ally of Hitler, rather he was an example of how to stop the Nazis cold. Make Passive-Aggresive work for you.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 8:19 PM

The Germans were far too anal-retentive (and addicted to administration) to dominate anything. But in July 1940, they were on top in almost every way. The French had just surrendered and were already collaborating. The RAF punctured the German balloon in those crucial months in the summer of 1940.

I don't believe the Germans would (or could) have invaded England. But if they had polished off the RAF (and bombed Hawker and Supermarine into ahses), the Brits would have been in the box. Churchill may not have endured. Cairo and the Suez canal may have fallen. The British Army may have been recalled from India. The Royal Navy may have been reduced to shelling Peenemunde.

The big question might have been - what does the US do, with three hostile powers romping about? Do we ally with Stalin against the Japanese (whom we were going to fight regardless)? Would we have tried to broker a peace between England and Germany?

Would we have gone to war with Germany if they had invaded England?

Posted by: ratbert at May 14, 2006 11:07 PM

Hopefully, not. That's the point.

Posted by: oj at May 14, 2006 11:52 PM

Why would the Nazis invade a crippled England with the Soviets behind them?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 15, 2006 12:09 AM

I recall incorrectly, huh?

It is widely believed that had the Germans succeeded in their aim of destroying the RAF, they would have been able to invade Britain relatively easily. This was, after all, at a time when the country was the only European power resisting Nazi Germany, even though she did enjoy massive support from her Commonwealth partners.

That conclusion is shared by John Keegan and Len Deighton. Maybe it's one of those mass delusions shared by all but Orrin.

Robert, as I said, Hitler was near a position to take all of Western Europe and England in '41. Stalin wasn't, short-term at least. Germany, not the USSR, was attacking England. So you think we should have declared war on Stalin after Hitler declared war on us? Be serious.

And the idea that the Brits were more accommodating to Hitler than Franco is absurd. Did the Brits let the Abwehr operate in England? Did they send tens of thousands of troops to fight for the Germans?

Why would the Nazis invade a crippled England with the Soviets behind them? Easy: because Hitler made lots of stupid, egomaniacal decisions, and because that one wouldn't have been near the stupidest thing he ever did. If Hitler had made it to England in '41, Stalin might well have attacked him, sure. But Stalin wouldn't have gotten very far: the Germans had vastly superior armed forces at the time. Fighting a defensive battle on the Eastern front would have been relatively easy for them. That front became difficult for the Germans only after huge losses cause by years of Hitler's poor offensive moves.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 15, 2006 2:40 AM

Where's the mystery? FDR and the missus and everyone who surrounded them supported the Soviets because they bought into socialism/communism call it what you will and aspired to bring it to the U.S. Had Hitler not turned on them and stuck to running amok over the rest of Europe, we would stayed out of his way.

England and Churchill be damned.

Posted by: erp at May 15, 2006 7:27 AM


The BBC? Of course they engage in patriotic mythmaking. But note that even they only argue that "had the Germans destroyed the RAF", not that they ever came close. Had I grown two feet taller I'd be eight feet tall.

Posted by: oj at May 15, 2006 8:43 AM

The BBC said it was "widely believed," which it is. I believe it, along with Churchill, Keegan, and Deighton, to name three more. I'm at least pointing to people who support my contention. You're just waving your hands.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 15, 2006 1:16 PM

And Keynes, Galbrath and FDR believe socialism worked.

The facts in both cases are otherwise.

Posted by: oj at May 15, 2006 1:20 PM

The Luftwaffe didn't have to grow 8 feet tall - they just had to keep fighting the appropriate targets. But they didn't.

Look, the Germans weren't supermen. But they had a huge headstart on re-arming, training, material, and logistics. Some of their officers were actually brilliant (like Rommel and Guderian). But just as they were hitting their stride (as it were), they went off the rails. They devoted themselves to the Final Solution. They drove into the Balkans for no apparent reason. Their uptightness, combined with the overall evil/insanity of the Nazis, meant that their 'success' couldn't last. And it didn't.

Posted by: ratbert at May 15, 2006 3:33 PM

People always overestimate the effectiveness of aerial war, but your point that they were too poorly led to wage a war effectively is spot on.

Posted by: oj at May 15, 2006 3:37 PM

C'mon - you'd be first in line to talk about air supremacy if Harry started boasting about the Red Army roaring towards the Atlantic (well, second in line - after me). And, as I recall, you have this dream about mushrooms over Moscow; isn't that an air 'war'? :>)

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 15, 2006 10:53 PM


Air is useful to the exact extent that it enables you to move troops below more easily or when used as an assassination weapon. Nukes aren't exactly aerial weapons.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2006 7:53 AM

They were in 1945.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 16, 2006 8:00 AM

They lost the war in 1940.

Posted by: oj at May 16, 2006 8:05 AM