The War From Hitler's Angle
A Grave German Miscalculation
BRITAIN'S ability to withstand, without incurring considerable damage, the weight of nearly two Continents under the highly efficient German leadership (for this is what the GermanItalian-Russian-Spanish Axis at its present stage really amounts to) has undoubtedly taken the world by surprise. The most surprised people of all are probably the Italians and the Spaniards, both of whom have long been taught that Britain is hopelessly decadent and her Empire ripe for the picking. For them the collapse of France (which was even more rapid than they had anticipated) was simply the prelude to an equally dramatic collapse of the senior partner of the alliance. But the least surprised people, we suggest, were the responsible German leaders. Hitler is shrewd enough never to have underrated Britain. and there is good reason for believing that he genuinely admires and respects this country. His frequent attempts to buy us off were probably sincere. In the first place he knew better than anyone else (perhaps better than we did) how tough a nut to crack we should prove, and he does not like cracking the kind of nuts that will smash some of his teeth. Secondly his imperial dreams have remained consistently continental, and he has judged (rightly) that his continental ambitions must depend upon the friendship of the world's greatest sea Power, for even the conquest of this Power would leave him with immense problems on his hands for which he and his people are not prepared. Lastly (in answer to those who suggest that Hitler was only bidding for time in the course of which he could build up a powerful Navy) it is unlikely that even he contemplates, as a practical possibility, the rousing of Germany to yet a third war within the next ten years or so. But Hitler's well-founded suspicions cut both ways. If be was realist enough to make us an honest peace offer which left the Empire virtually unbroken, it could only be because he understood the secret of our strength. And it was precisely this strength which has enabled us to go on resisting with good hope of ultimately smashing a power which we believe not only to be dangerous to ourselves, but evil in itself.
(1) PUZZLING STRATEGY THE whole German strategy since the war began is something of a puzzle, and it does not altogether correspond with the popular views about Hitler and Nazism. It is extremely difficult to understand, for example, why Hitler did not launch his air attacks at the beginning of the war. Was it that he genuinely wished to avoid the massacre of civilians that must result from this form of warfare?
Did he fear the effect on his own people of our reprisals? It. is impossible to square the first reason with the air massacres of Poland and other Nazi ruthlessness, and the second seems fantastic if such an air attack promised quick success—as it certainly did at that time, as compared with a similar air attack today, when our preparations for meeting it are incalculably stronger. Surprising too was his failure to bring Mussolini into the war at a much earlier date. What evidence we have seems to show that real German pressure on Italy only began some weeks before Italy actually came in. Italian interference in the Eastern Mediterranean and Italian action in Africa would also have been more awkward for us at the beginning and before the first winter season than they are today when our dispositions to meet them have been made. It is true that Italy would at that date have had France to contend with, but Hitler had surely taken France's measure when he decided on war. More puzzling still has been the extreme slowness of Germany's preparations to launch a full-scale attack on us either immediately after the fall of Holland or since the fall of France. It is no exaggeration to say that every week that has gone by since then has been worth a victory to us and that. whatever Hitler may be doing now or be proposing to do in the future, he must work ten times as hard to achieve any sort of success. In fact the only two reasonable explanations of his conduct are, first, that he really did not want to launch a full-scale war against us, if he could possibly help it; and, second, that he rated our powers of resistance so highly that he refused to act until he was assured that the whole weight of German might was fully organised again and thrown in behind his one great effort to smash us. The two reasons are to some extent complementary, hut, if he held his hand for many months because he really thought that he could buy us off, he miscalculated and gravely prejudiced his chances of ultimate success by delaying the blitzkrieg until we had in fact acquired the immediate strength we needed in order to ward off his hammer blows, and thus enable the resources of the Empire to come into play with a fair chance of strangling Germany and her friends.
BRITAIN'S ECONOMIC STRENGTH TT would seem, in other words, that Hitler has all along considered Z the strength of Britain to have been actually greater than it was, and he is now paying for his caution by having in the end to meet just what he was all the time fearing to meet and would not have had to meet, if he had been bolder. And this is entirely consistent with all his past actions. Until he risked the invasion of France. he always prepared the ground so carefully that his act of force. when the time came for it, was comparable to a sledge-hammer slaying a fly. In the case of France we can only suppose that his intelligence and multitude of official and unofficial agents in that country had given him a very shrewd idea of the true state of affairs there, his chief concern being to cut off the B.E.F., which was effected by the surprise invasion of Holland as well as Belgium. Even so, flushed with victory, he did not dare turn at once on Britain during the critical weeks when we were feverishly adapting ourselves to the new and apparently disastrous change in our fortunes. Whence then comes this astonishing respect for a Power whom his paid propagandists daily revile as already off the effective map of the world and as cruelly deceived by a handful of capitalist and semi-Jewish politicians? It would appear to arise from Hitler's shrewd appreciation of Britain's immense economic power. Most of us are easily deceived by thinking in terms of maps and of mere quantities. When we consider that nearly all Europe and a vast part of Asia are directly or indirectly fighting against a tiny island, actually cut off except by the perilous journeys of a few ships from its overseas possessions and from such countries as sympathise with its cause, we are apt to get the shivers. But it is doubtful if Hitler thinks that way. He sees a very different picture. For all his ideal of economic nationalism, he sees a world covered bee a multitude of vital lines of communication, blood vessels carrying life and the necessities of life to every part, to every German, to every friend of Germany, to himself. And he sees that these lines are so arranged and linked as to concentrate into infinitely complex junctions, by far the biggest and most vital of which are in Britain and in the United States. However large an area of the world you may select, even if it include two whole Continents, its life will diminish and slowly wither up, if it is cut off from these hearts of the whole system. And from Hitler's point of view the worst of it is that, whereas Britain and the United States can carry on in fair prosperity when cut off from these Continents, since the vital part of the circulation is across the seas linking up the chief sources of the world's raw materials with the home manufacturing centres, Europe and Northern Asia together would need many years of peace to build up a more or less self-sufficient system of their own. lit follows that in a very real sense every shot aimed at Britain and at British sea power must ultimately come back like a boomerang and injure Germany and the Continent which it dominates. Thus it was only common sense on Hitler's part to plan a short war, in the course of which he could gain the political and economic mastery of Europe. while leaving Britain's vital commercial power and experience uninjured in the hope that after the war it could subserve Europe's economic needs. This explains too Hitler's tremendous anxiety to force our present politicians out of office and to replace them by such as would consent to a division of spoils between Germany and Britain.
BALANCING OF STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS
IF this is the true explanation of the puzzling features of the war between Germany and Britain, it reveals two things: Britain's inherent strength and Germany's inherent weakness. Britain's inherent strength consists in her command of the sea which protects not only her own shores, but the world-wide commercial system that serves the essential needs of the whole world under modern conditions of life. Germany's inherent weakness a weakness increased rather than diminished by her continental conquests—consists in her inability, especially in time of war, to organise a self-sufficient continental economic system that will provide even a minimum of the requirements of the people for whom she is responsible and the needs of the States she controls or " protects." This inherent strength and this inherent weakness contrast very sharply with the accidental weakness of Britain and the accidental strength of Germany. The accidental weakness of Britain lies, of course, in her great vulnerability to attack by air or by invasion, in the long lines of far-flung colonial possessions and in her sea communications. Germany's accidental strength lies in her centralised position, her large population, and her immense army and air force. The war so far has been a delicate balancing of these two aspects, the one against the other. Germany appears to have hesitated to use her full accidental strength against our accidental weakness lest she increase her own inherent weakness by undermining too completely our inherent strength. She has been playing us, as a fisherman plays a salmon, in the hope of landing us uninjured. But she has signally failed, and it looks as though she were now forced to throw her whole weight against us in order to achieve any kind of victory before she herself begins. to crumble owing to the long period during which she has been cut off from the vital lines of commercial life which we control. But her failure to land us intact and the time she has wasted in the attempt have greatly changed the situation. Our inherent strength has not been notably impaired, while our accidental weakness has been very notably lessened.
"MISSING THE BUS" AP 1ER so many false accusations of " Hitler having missed the bus," no one is going to repeat the phrase too glibly, but there is at present every indication that Hitler's strength today is not sufficient to beat down in time our vastly increased powers of resistance. There is no sort of doubt, for example, that he has lost the first stages of the great air battle and that this loss has gravely handicapped any attempts at invasion which he may be forced to make. Apart from this phase of the war. there still remains the halo-German attack on Egypt and the great Arabian lands which form a very important junction in our lines of communication and which would, if held by the enemy, vastly improve his economic position. If we can also hold out there, we may look upon the future with confidence; for it will then be certain that Hitler's empire cannot endure. It may not fall very fast, for the internal power of modem dictators is terrific and our offensive power comparatively weak, but we can hasten the inevitable end and save ourselves from the perils of a protracted war by assuring Hitler's subject peoples that the fall of their tyrant will not mean anarchy and chaos, but a constructive settlement for the economic good of all.