Among all American conceits, the most supreme is that we--the Yanks, with a minor assist from the Brits--won the Second World War. It fills our high school texts, floods Barnes and Nobles' military-history shelves, and consumes our screens, both large and small--our national memory, duly inscribed and cinematically recreated, that of Ike, Patton and Monty whipping the Nazis in Europe (as rugged Charlton Heston in "Midway" and handsome Robert Conrad as Pappy Boyington mopped up the Pacific sideshow).
Such is our national remembrance. We launched in North Africa, struck mightily in Sicily and Italy, then got serious on D-Day and finished the Nazi bastards in that magnificent Bulge.
It's an inspiring tale, one that speaks to America's everlastingly unanswerable firepower, which the ill schooled, meaning the neoconservatively educated, are itching to unleash again. They don't come right out and say that, of course, since they're just schooled enough to read public-opinion polls, which abhor the spectre of combative U.S. boots on European ground--specifically, Ukrainian ground.
Their preliminary recommendations, however--garrote Russia with Grahamite "nooses," aggressively push NATO eastward, deploy military maneuvers galore--would, in short order, get us there. To the neocons, it's all so simple. Hell we whipped the Nazis, the most savage military power the world had ever suffered, as it gobbled up every square inch of ethnic Germany, and far more. And we can do something like that again, against what neocons see as a similar threat.
There is, however, a problem with the premise. We didn't defeat the Nazis and win the Second World War. The Russians did.
In what British military historian Andrew Roberts calls the central statistic of WWII, "It was the Russians who provided the oceans of blood necessary to defeat Germany, and it cannot be reiterated enough that out of every five Germans killed in combat--that is, on the battlefield rather than in aerial bombing or through other means--four died on the Eastern Front." Fellow British historian Max Hastings roughly concurs: "The Eastern Front, where 90 percent of all Germans killed in combat met their fate, overwhelmingly dominated the struggle against Hitler."
Why all the history this Thursday morning? First, it is to put in perspective (while in no way detracting, it should go without saying, from our and Great Britain's immense sacrifices) the West's actual role in crushing Europe's greatest threat ever, notwithstanding our proudest of flawed memories--as well as to put those groaning neocon memories in their place.
But more than that, it is to help explain why a senior Obama administration official so flatly told the NY Times that the "American people are not going to war with Russia over Ukraine, full stop." From the chairman of Stratfor, "a strategic risk analysis company," a bit of backup: "The Germans lost World War II in the Ukraine. You’re fighting on the Russian doorstep with limited resources in the place that’s been a graveyard of other military ambitions."
Now that's what I call some excellent absolutism and some rather good "strategic risk analysis."