Avoiding D-Day?

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, which marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy. Thousands of Americans were killed just in the first few hours of the initial D-Day landing, and according to the Wikipedia article, American casualties for the Battle of Normandy eventually totalled 29,000 dead, and 106,000 wounded and missing.

It's tough for most Americans to imagine casualty figures like that today. Yet the country has twice the population as it did in World War II.

It's easy to analyze these things retrospectively, but it's pretty clear that the awful casualties in the war against Nazi Germany would have been far fewer had Hitler been engaged earlier instead of appeased and allowed to grow stronger.

In a famous 1940 radio broadcast on the illusory nature of appeasement, Winston Churchill warned that "each one hopes that if it feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."

Churchill was right.

And I think Churchill was right about this too:

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
At least, I certainly hope he was right.

I think the reason why Americans like to exhaust all other possibilities before doing the right thing is that if you do the right thing and prevent an awful thing too early, and then the awful thing never happens, people will focus on whether it was ever necessary to do the right thing. Thus, had the Americans lept into an early war against Hitler and taken him out before he grew strong, there'd have been a massive denunciation of an evil and illegitimate war -- and no one would have known that World War II had been avoided. The paradox is that we might be successfully avoiding a larger war right now without even knowing it, but there's no way to know.

So, we might be able to avoid another D-Day and we might not be. Either way, I think it's important that we remember.

posted by Eric on 06.06.07 at 12:46 PM


We did avoid another D-Day--the one that would have happened in late '45 or early '46, in Japan. To this day we have people whining about whether it was worth it. Just goes to show, I suppose.

Aaron Davies   ·  June 6, 2007 1:10 PM

It's kinda funny because I just happened to watch a documentary on the Six-Day War and I was struck about how, even forty years later, things are repeating themselves and we seem oblivious to the lessons of history. And what's more frustrating is now the stakes have been raised considering Iran's coming nuclear capability. Yet here we are with something bigger then an elephant in the room and we still stress dimplomacy it what is needed. Is there a point where exhausting all other options will exhuast the only option? And I can only pray that a cloud over Israel or a US city is the point which we say to ourselves "enough" and finally do that right thing.

CTDeLude   ·  June 6, 2007 2:03 PM

It's brings two things to mind...

One, the ending plot of Final Fantasy 1 where by defeating the last boss 2000 years in the past (via a time loop), no one save the heroes will have any memory of the great service the heroes did for the world - since none of it will actually have happened.

Two, the plot of Command & Conquer: Red Alert.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_%26_Conquer:_Red_Alert_series or my extension of it at http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2006/12/23/red-alert-style-alternate-history-and-gods-wisdom/

Scott   ·  June 7, 2007 1:13 AM

During any war before about 1950, if anybody in the media had questioned the necessity of going to war, he would have been stopped by wartime censors, jailed for sedition, or both. Indeed, wartime censorship of war news went way beyond keeping sensitive information out of enemy hands -- it was also quite openly done for reasons of "morale" (that is, maintaining public support for the war). A newsreel or front page that emphasized our losses would never have been allowed to be published.

The advent of color television in the 1950s often gets the credit/blame (take your pick) for the abolition of this rule, but in fact, most countries in the world still practice this kind of wartime censorship, and we need to resume it. If we don't, the American public will never allow us to prosecute a war to a successful conclusion ever again, no matter how necessary that war is.

It's arguable whether our opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan were/are genocidal maniacs comparable to Hitler, although I'd argue in the affirmative (including religious hatred as their motivation). But if they're not, our next opponents probably will be.

John David Galt   ·  June 10, 2007 10:01 PM


Bill   ·  June 12, 2007 2:10 PM


Bill   ·  June 12, 2007 2:10 PM

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