Thursday, April 05, 2007


Rewriting history

More comments on forums recently to the effect that the US came to the rescue of Britain in WW2, and we (UK) should be thoroughly grateful for this selfless sacrifice. Let's be clear, as someone who has never had to go to war for his country, I admire those who do without reservation. It's the suggestion that the US entered WW2 as a sort of charitable gesture, rescuing Britons from imminent slavery in German work camps at a heavy cost in the lives of US servicemen and women, that I take issue with.

The thinking behind this thesis seems to be that if Britain had surrendered to Germany, the US would have been okay. It was, after all, the strong Isolationist movement that kept the US out of the war for so long - appeasement at a distance, perhaps. But playing out a scenario from that point seems to argue very much the opposite. Germany would in effect have conquered Europe - okay, had they not opened a second front in Russia when they did. But if Germany had had a solid European dominance, their technological capability would have enabled them to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads by - say - 1960. What would America have had to respond with, given that its rocketry and nuclear science base grew in large part from what it (or others) captured from Germany? What if Germany had allied itself with Japan, and put the US in an inter-continental pincer movement?

Let's add to that the secrets - radar, code-breaking, computing - that the US got, for free, from or via the UK as a war ally. Just how much of today's US intellectual property can be traced back to freebies like that? The post-war US consumer boom was based in part on manufacturing capability ramped up by war supply needs. The US airliner industry grew from the capacity and techniques developed by the likes of Boeing for - WW2 Europe.

So how about we rephrase that as: today's USA would not have been possible without Britain's resistance to German might in WW2?


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