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COURSERA: The Modern World, Part Two: Global History since 1910, W4.01 Choosing Global War (1)

W4.01 Choosing Global War (1)

Welcome back. I'm going to start this week by focusing on a period of only about a year and a half in this presentation, between about June 1940 and the end of 1941. This is a period in which the Second World War is transformed. Think about it. Beginning of this period, you've got two regional wars. There is a war going on in Europe, the dictators are winning. There is a war going on in East Asia. Actually, that one started in 1937, with the Japanese all-out assault on China. The dictators are winning there, though it's not over yet. So, two big regional wars going on. In this year and a half, between the middle of 1940 and the end of -41, these two wars will merge, the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which were not in the war, are fully in it. The entire world, and all the inhabited continents, are pulled into the fight. How did this happen? You start in June 1940. I said this was the dawn of a new era. The totalitarian states are victorious all around. The totalitarians between them hold the balance of world power. Frankly, they can drive the action, unless they start fighting each other, perhaps out of complacency. Which is, thank goodness for the democracies, precisely what they do. How did that happen? Let's break down, again, choices that will change the course of world history that are made in a few world capitals. Starting with Berlin. What's happening in Berlin? Well, they have ideas. Remember Hitler's big ideas are about race and space, in German lebensraum, living room, in which the Germans are going to create a gigantic Eurasian empire, mainly by expanding eastward at the expense first of these countries in Eastern Europe, but also looking outward at the Soviet Union, subjugating and enslaving the inferior peoples, the Slavs, pushing away and somehow liquidating his mortal enemy, the Jews, and then, if necessary, fighting his enemies in the West who will try to keep him from doing that. So in the neighborhood of strategy, what are the big strategic ideas? Well one big idea would be concentrate on beating the British, concentrate on occupying their possessions, running into the Middle East, Southwest Asia, work with your Soviet allies to increase pressure on them. Actually, the Italians, the Japanese, they all actually urged Hitler to maybe even form a grand coalition, maybe even including the Soviets in a cooperative effort in which they'll start carving up the world between them. But, of course, to Hitler, this kind of thinking conflicts with his ideas about putting race and space foremost and his itch to have that final reckoning with the Soviet Union, with the Bolsheviks and the Jews that are over there to the East. So what then is the process by which Hitler makes these fateful choices? Well, there is a consultative process. He needs his military to write plans. But, this sure is a process dominated by one man. But when we analyze these key choices, I've explained again and again, it's useful to understand how people put together their policy options, if you will. Even if they know what it is they want to do, they have to formulate some absolutely critical assessments. So what are the key action judgments that the German High Command has to make? First, okay, you want to attack the Soviet Union. Well, is it feasible, militarily feasible? That really is a key assessment done by the German army. They started doing this work in the summer of 1940 for Hitler after the fall of France. And a key assessment that the German army takes the lead in forming is that they can beat the Soviets, indeed that they can beat them rapidly. Are they confident? Yes. Are they perhaps even a little bit overconfident? Of course, they look back at what happened with France. They had doubted their chances there. The F�hrer�s wisdom had turned out to be prescient. The F�hrer�s judgment now is something to which they're anxious to defer. But they're also caught up in a sense of confidence, even hubris, about what they've achieved so far. That's their professional military judgment. But there are other judgments that are going on. Like how hard will it be to beat the British? Because they're making this choice between concentrating on the Soviets or concentrating on the British, and another key assessment is the British problem is a difficult one. Well, at least for now. The Germans, in effect, launch a massive probe to check Britain's defenses. To invade Britain, they've got to cross the English Channel. The British army has lost a lot of it's heavy equipment. It's relatively weak. But, you have to cross that English Channel to get at it. To cross the English Channel, the Germans have to control the skies or else the British navy will block them. If they can control the skies, they can sink the British ships. To control the skies, they have to beat the Royal Air Force. What ensues, then, is a battle over Britain, the Battle of Britain, fought in the skies over England in the late summer and fall of 1940, that turns out to be very important. The German air force, the British air force lose thousands of machines and pilots battling in the skies. Fundamentally, the German effort to knock out the Royal Air Force fails. As Winston Churchill said, And frustrated, and resentful, especially now that the British are launching their own little pin prick bombing raids into Germany, the Germans begin the wholesale bombing of British cities, including London, beginning of the fall of 1940. But in doing that, it's also a way of saying we're not worrying so much about trying to get ready to invade Britain any more. Though the British are still extremely worried about that danger well into 1941. Instead, though, Hitler's primary attention is already shifting away from England as he's focusing more and more on his hopes for a plan to get at the Soviets. He's made a tentative decision to move in that direction by the end of July 1940, but his intentions harden in the second half of 1940 to full determination by the end of the year. Now it's time to look very hard at the plans of Germany's critical strategic partner: the Japanese, their allies in Tokyo. They, too, have ideas about what it is they want to achieve. That powerful pan-Asian empire, in which Japan will, of course, be the first among the Asian equals. That empire will be based on huge possessions on the Chinese mainland and perhaps even on raw materials that might be available in Southeast Asia in the old European colonies there. That means the Japanese have to look at their strategies. The Japanese hate the Soviet Union. In fact, they'd had big border clashes with the Soviets in 1939, as both sides tested each other's strength and the Japanese got a bloody nose. The Japanese, though, were looking for their chance maybe to get at the Soviets but, that's a tough nut. In 1940, they're looking more at opportunities elsewhere, in China and in Southeast Asia. They have a decision to make. Do we go North against the Soviets? Do we just concentrate on China? Or do we also plunge south and try to pick up some other low hanging fruit that might be there. The Japanese also have a process for making decisions. But there's no clear dictator who's in charge like there is in Berlin. Instead their process is a highly bureaucratic one, dominated above all by arguments between their army and their navy, and then the bureaucracies inside both of those huge organizations. Deadlocked, both among them and between them, about what they should do, it's very difficult for them to arrive at decisions. The civilian rulers are in favor of some sort of expansion, but people like Prince Konoe are trying to tread very cautiously for fear of getting into a war with the United States, which he does not want. So what are the key assessments in Tokyo in 1940? First, Germany's fortunes are rising. That's the side you want to be on. That's the model they want to follow. China, frustrating. They feel like the Chinese already should've surrendered by now but they keep staying on in the war. And the Japanese are irritated. They think the only reason the Chinese keep staying in the war is because people like the Americans and maybe the British let supplies flow into them and keep their hopes alive. That bothers them a lot. China is swallowing up huge resources of the Japanese empire and they can't bring it to a definitive conclusion. Meanwhile, another key assessment, my goodness look at the opportunities in Southeast Asia. Why look at the Dutch East Indies, and where is the Dutch government right now? Oh, sitting in exile in London. And where's the French government right now? Well, there's a German puppet government in Vichy, and there's a French government in exile also in London. So French Indochina looks ripe. As for the British, well they're battered and overstretched. So all of their rich, material possessions in Malaya and even the naval base of Singapore might be open for the picking. Their other key assessment, though, is, the big obstacle to our plans now is the United States of America. And the American problem for the Japanese, all through 1940, is just a really difficult one. They make a tentative first move. They start moving into the northern part of French Indochina, around Hanoi. The Americans already react with some moderate sanctions on the Japanese, almost as a warning shot. The stalemate in Tokyo over what to do next is going to continue all the way into the summer of 1941. And what about the United States of America? This was a really divided country. I'm struck, I read the diaries of the American historian Arthur Schlesinger, who was a young man in 1940. He'd lived through the huge protests and arguments over the Vietnam War later on. But to Schlesinger, looking back on it, the protests in the Vietnam War, how divided the country was then, still not comparable to how bitterly and deeply America had been divided in his youth, in this year, 1940 and in 1941. The most intense political arguments of his entire lifetime as he remembers it. Because there was a large group of Americans who believed, passionately, that America had to stand up to the dictatorships. And there was another really large group of Americans who believed passionately that the Americans needed to stay out of those wars, and in particular needed to stay out of the European war. Indeed, those Americans formed an America First Committee that had enormous public support, including from some of the best and brightest of the United States. Here is an example of an America First Rally. And you can see American flags, American flag bunting, hung everywhere before the crowd. Concentrate on the United States, don't be the servant of the British. Irish Americans who hated British were supporters staying out of the war. The America Firsters crossed all party lines. One important factor to keep in mind about the American people, who had really become more isolationist after the Depression hit in the 1930s, is that they were deeply influenced by their reading of history. Their reading of history was the reading of the history of World War One. They looked back in the 1930s on World War One, the way many Americans now look back on the Vietnam War. They look back on that as having been a huge mistake. And wanted to be sure we didn't do anything that would get us involved in a conflict like that again.


W4.01 Choosing Global War (1)

Welcome back. I'm going to start this week by focusing on a period of only about a year and a half in this presentation, between about June 1940 and the end of 1941. This is a period in which the Second World War is transformed. Think about it. Beginning of this period, you've got two regional wars. There is a war going on in Europe, the dictators are winning. There is a war going on in East Asia. Actually, that one started in 1937, with the Japanese all-out assault on China. The dictators are winning there, though it's not over yet. So, two big regional wars going on. In this year and a half, between the middle of 1940 and the end of -41, these two wars will merge, the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which were not in the war, are fully in it. The entire world, and all the inhabited continents, are pulled into the fight. How did this happen? You start in June 1940. I said this was the dawn of a new era. The totalitarian states are victorious all around. The totalitarians between them hold the balance of world power. Frankly, they can drive the action, unless they start fighting each other, perhaps out of complacency. Which is, thank goodness for the democracies, precisely what they do. How did that happen? Let's break down, again, choices that will change the course of world history that are made in a few world capitals. Starting with Berlin. What's happening in Berlin? Well, they have ideas. Remember Hitler's big ideas are about race and space, in German lebensraum, living room, in which the Germans are going to create a gigantic Eurasian empire, mainly by expanding eastward at the expense first of these countries in Eastern Europe, but also looking outward at the Soviet Union, subjugating and enslaving the inferior peoples, the Slavs, pushing away and somehow liquidating his mortal enemy, the Jews, and then, if necessary, fighting his enemies in the West who will try to keep him from doing that. So in the neighborhood of strategy, what are the big strategic ideas? Well one big idea would be concentrate on beating the British, concentrate on occupying their possessions, running into the Middle East, Southwest Asia, work with your Soviet allies to increase pressure on them. Actually, the Italians, the Japanese, they all actually urged Hitler to maybe even form a grand coalition, maybe even including the Soviets in a cooperative effort in which they'll start carving up the world between them. But, of course, to Hitler, this kind of thinking conflicts with his ideas about putting race and space foremost and his itch to have that final reckoning with the Soviet Union, with the Bolsheviks and the Jews that are over there to the East. So what then is the process by which Hitler makes these fateful choices? Well, there is a consultative process. He needs his military to write plans. But, this sure is a process dominated by one man. But when we analyze these key choices, I've explained again and again, it's useful to understand how people put together their policy options, if you will. Even if they know what it is they want to do, they have to formulate some absolutely critical assessments. So what are the key action judgments that the German High Command has to make? First, okay, you want to attack the Soviet Union. Well, is it feasible, militarily feasible? That really is a key assessment done by the German army. They started doing this work in the summer of 1940 for Hitler after the fall of France. And a key assessment that the German army takes the lead in forming is that they can beat the Soviets, indeed that they can beat them rapidly. Are they confident? Yes. Are they perhaps even a little bit overconfident? Of course, they look back at what happened with France. They had doubted their chances there. The F�hrer�s wisdom had turned out to be prescient. The F�hrer�s judgment now is something to which they're anxious to defer. But they're also caught up in a sense of confidence, even hubris, about what they've achieved so far. That's their professional military judgment. But there are other judgments that are going on. Like how hard will it be to beat the British? Because they're making this choice between concentrating on the Soviets or concentrating on the British, and another key assessment is the British problem is a difficult one. Well, at least for now. The Germans, in effect, launch a massive probe to check Britain's defenses. To invade Britain, they've got to cross the English Channel. The British army has lost a lot of it's heavy equipment. It's relatively weak. But, you have to cross that English Channel to get at it. To cross the English Channel, the Germans have to control the skies or else the British navy will block them. If they can control the skies, they can sink the British ships. To control the skies, they have to beat the Royal Air Force. What ensues, then, is a battle over Britain, the Battle of Britain, fought in the skies over England in the late summer and fall of 1940, that turns out to be very important. The German air force, the British air force lose thousands of machines and pilots battling in the skies. Fundamentally, the German effort to knock out the Royal Air Force fails. As Winston Churchill said, And frustrated, and resentful, especially now that the British are launching their own little pin prick bombing raids into Germany, the Germans begin the wholesale bombing of British cities, including London, beginning of the fall of 1940. But in doing that, it's also a way of saying we're not worrying so much about trying to get ready to invade Britain any more. Though the British are still extremely worried about that danger well into 1941. Instead, though, Hitler's primary attention is already shifting away from England as he's focusing more and more on his hopes for a plan to get at the Soviets. He's made a tentative decision to move in that direction by the end of July 1940, but his intentions harden in the second half of 1940 to full determination by the end of the year. Now it's time to look very hard at the plans of Germany's critical strategic partner: the Japanese, their allies in Tokyo. They, too, have ideas about what it is they want to achieve. That powerful pan-Asian empire, in which Japan will, of course, be the first among the Asian equals. That empire will be based on huge possessions on the Chinese mainland and perhaps even on raw materials that might be available in Southeast Asia in the old European colonies there. That means the Japanese have to look at their strategies. The Japanese hate the Soviet Union. In fact, they'd had big border clashes with the Soviets in 1939, as both sides tested each other's strength and the Japanese got a bloody nose. The Japanese, though, were looking for their chance maybe to get at the Soviets but, that's a tough nut. In 1940, they're looking more at opportunities elsewhere, in China and in Southeast Asia. They have a decision to make. Do we go North against the Soviets? Do we just concentrate on China? Or do we also plunge south and try to pick up some other low hanging fruit that might be there. The Japanese also have a process for making decisions. But there's no clear dictator who's in charge like there is in Berlin. Instead their process is a highly bureaucratic one, dominated above all by arguments between their army and their navy, and then the bureaucracies inside both of those huge organizations. Deadlocked, both among them and between them, about what they should do, it's very difficult for them to arrive at decisions. The civilian rulers are in favor of some sort of expansion, but people like Prince Konoe are trying to tread very cautiously for fear of getting into a war with the United States, which he does not want. So what are the key assessments in Tokyo in 1940? First, Germany's fortunes are rising. That's the side you want to be on. That's the model they want to follow. China, frustrating. They feel like the Chinese already should've surrendered by now but they keep staying on in the war. And the Japanese are irritated. They think the only reason the Chinese keep staying in the war is because people like the Americans and maybe the British let supplies flow into them and keep their hopes alive. That bothers them a lot. China is swallowing up huge resources of the Japanese empire and they can't bring it to a definitive conclusion. Meanwhile, another key assessment, my goodness look at the opportunities in Southeast Asia. Why look at the Dutch East Indies, and where is the Dutch government right now? Oh, sitting in exile in London. And where's the French government right now? Well, there's a German puppet government in Vichy, and there's a French government in exile also in London. So French Indochina looks ripe. As for the British, well they're battered and overstretched. So all of their rich, material possessions in Malaya and even the naval base of Singapore might be open for the picking. Their other key assessment, though, is, the big obstacle to our plans now is the United States of America. And the American problem for the Japanese, all through 1940, is just a really difficult one. They make a tentative first move. They start moving into the northern part of French Indochina, around Hanoi. The Americans already react with some moderate sanctions on the Japanese, almost as a warning shot. The stalemate in Tokyo over what to do next is going to continue all the way into the summer of 1941. And what about the United States of America? This was a really divided country. I'm struck, I read the diaries of the American historian Arthur Schlesinger, who was a young man in 1940. He'd lived through the huge protests and arguments over the Vietnam War later on. But to Schlesinger, looking back on it, the protests in the Vietnam War, how divided the country was then, still not comparable to how bitterly and deeply America had been divided in his youth, in this year, 1940 and in 1941. The most intense political arguments of his entire lifetime as he remembers it. Because there was a large group of Americans who believed, passionately, that America had to stand up to the dictatorships. And there was another really large group of Americans who believed passionately that the Americans needed to stay out of those wars, and in particular needed to stay out of the European war. Indeed, those Americans formed an America First Committee that had enormous public support, including from some of the best and brightest of the United States. Here is an example of an America First Rally. And you can see American flags, American flag bunting, hung everywhere before the crowd. Concentrate on the United States, don't be the servant of the British. Irish Americans who hated British were supporters staying out of the war. The America Firsters crossed all party lines. One important factor to keep in mind about the American people, who had really become more isolationist after the Depression hit in the 1930s, is that they were deeply influenced by their reading of history. Their reading of history was the reading of the history of World War One. They looked back in the 1930s on World War One, the way many Americans now look back on the Vietnam War. They look back on that as having been a huge mistake. And wanted to be sure we didn't do anything that would get us involved in a conflict like that again.