UI – Part 541 – Living in Friendship and Peace (1 of 5)
World War II
Recently I completed a read of the book Citizens of London by Lynn Olsen. It is a worthwhile historical perspective on the United Kingdom before America officially entered World War II (which was when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor). There were notable Americans in significant roles in the UK that experienced the effect of the German’s desire to occupy all of Europe and England’s staunch resistance. They made every attempt to inform Pres. Roosevelt at the time that America should be more involved as the success of Germany, if it occurred, would eventually have an impact on America that would be unforeseen, undesired, and devastating. The period covered is approximately from 1939 to 1945, with anecdotes post VE day, on the Americans that found London their home and place of work during this war. The title to this blog piece, “Living in Friendship and Peace,” was inspired by the book and a woman’s comments after the war in a letter written to CBS citing her respect for Edward R. Morrow whose broadcasts from London during the war kept the people informed and provided hope that the outcome would be favorable for the citizens of Britain. She expressed a concern that raises the question, “Can nations grow to understand one another and learn to live in friendship and peace?”
In every country the leadership and decision-making rests in the hands of a few. Prior to World War II it was Winston Churchill in the UK and Roosevelt in the USA. They each had advisers that expressed their views and provided some guidance on decisions to be made. There were military commanders, principally Eisenhower and Montgomery, representing their respective nations and commanding their respective armies. They had to work together to succeed in achieving the objective of victory. Taking credit for successes often failed to recognize the role of second or third parties, causing frustration and consternation. Diplomacy is the buzz word of Government, a skill members of government are to possess, yet history reflects all too often on major leaders ignoring the needs and advice of those they are attempting to aid. In World War II America was not as close to the situation in Europe as was Churchill and the British military that had been in the theater of operation for years prior to the entry of American soldiers. Citizens of the USA never experienced the lack of food, or needed utilities, or access to home goods that Europeans endured during and after. It was the American military leaders that made every effort to impose the strategy they felt would be most effective. Fortunately there were important times when the leaders did listen. Eisenhower, to his credit, continued to work in cooperation with the British General’s. He understood the combined forces working closely together would be much more effective than any individual army. Yet at the highest levels, when the three primary nations engaged met (at Yalta), Russia, Great Britain, and United States, Roosevelt appeared more closely engaged with Stalin than he did Churchill. But it was indeed Britain that held out in acquiescing to the demands of Hitler. Appeasement to obtain concessions felt favorable was anathema to Churchill. His famous quote, “You do not negotiate when your head is in the mouth of a Tiger!” Under his leadership, supported by the King, Churchill was the face of resisting Hitler’s attempted takeover of Europe.
There is much turmoil in the world today. Military engagement is costly, to both lives and treasuries. After WWII the focus of the free world was on communism. Stalin succeeded after the war in occupying Eastern Europe with few eyes from other parts of the world observing. If they did the oppression and savagery Russia imposed on the people of countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states would have made it clear Russia’s war agenda was to occupy and control large areas and millions of people, which they did, and they did so using inhumane tactics. If Roosevelt and other world leaders were upset with England’s colonization of many areas of the world, why did they allow Russia to occupy as they did? War weary and drained emotionally and financially did the free world allow Russia to consume the fruits of their choice. Churchill promised Poland its independence and sovereignty after the war, a promise he was unable to keep as a result of decisions made by Stalin and Roosevelt, the two having the majority voice of the three powers negotiating for the divisions of Europe and areas post victory. For many, those in oppressed areas, they never felt the war was won.
The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the fall of Russia, has enabled the countries that suffered under the red sickle of the USSR to be seen now for what they had to endure. Take a look at Poland and Hungary and East Germany, the people suffered, even Jews remained oppressed, and the outside world knew little. Where was the peace?
War is a significant part of history in all areas of the world, yet the outcomes, the results, have never, or may I say seldom, been what anyone, certainly not everyone, expected. Wars are costly. La belle époque (1872-1914), the period of the (British) Empire, ended with war, the first World War. Quoting Winston Churchill, “War now is nothing but toil, blood, death, and lying propaganda.” The aftermath of victory may result in peace for a period, yet animosity may continue to exist in the hearts and minds of the defeated, awaiting an opportunity for vengeance. Weary of engagements and the loss of life both sides will find little support by their population base for further conflict, while at the same time allowing, or ignoring, a rising threat behind the curtain of an opposing, even thwarted, warrior. Hidden in the embers is always the potential for a spark to reignite the fire.
…to be continued. Peace is too often elusive. Continue with this article in two days. There we discuss the Middle East chess board, concerns about Turkey, and the nature of the world as a whole. Is the animal kingdom peaceful?
Grace and Peace