The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
ON November 8, 1942, a powerful armada landed American and British forces along the African coast from Casablanca to Algiers. This famous operation, which was to mark the decisive turn of the Second World War, was by no means a picnic. Anyone who may be tempted to forget this fact because the operation was such a perfect success should reread General Eisenhower's "Crusade in Europe" or General Mark Clark's "Calculated Risk." Formidable contingencies were to be reckoned with. There might have been tenacious resistance from the French Army, bound in principle by its oath to Marshal Pétain. There was the risk that the Axis could stage a crushing counterattack. Finally, there was the threat from Spain; for though she was counted upon to maintain neutrality, the U.S. Fifth Army, deployed in the north of Morocco, had orders from the start to be ready if need be to seize Spanish Morocco.
One anxiety, however, seems never to have entered the minds of the leaders of this expedition: they seem never to have been worried about the possible attitude of the natives in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. This may be taken as an advance compliment for France's achievement in Africa. And the actual experience of the Allied leaders did in fact justify their confidence.
It is unnecessary to recall the sequel of "Operation Torch"-- the blow against the "soft underbelly" of the axis, in Churchill's phrase, which was to lead the Allies to Rome and would, no doubt, have opened the way for them to Vienna had it been possible to broaden the strategic concept once it was already in process of execution. In any event, the leap into Europe from the African springboard considerably facilitated the breaking of the Atlantic Wall and the formation of a second front; nor would that front have been as effective if it had not stretched from the Adriatic to the Channel, welded together by the Allied forces coming from Africa through Provence. There could be no more vivid illustration of North Africa's strategic importance for Europe. And to complete the picture, North Africa afterwards developed into an unequalled base of manœuvre and in addition supplied valuable fighting reserves.
If tomorrow there should be another war, North Africa would resume its same all-important rôle, derived from the fact of its central position at the spot where the Mediterranean and African façades of the European and African continents meet. Without North Africa, Europe cannot breathe and cannot act unless it be to retreat. Far from being an obstacle to intercourse between the two continents, the Mediterranean is an element of economic and social unity. Moreover, as in the days of the thalas-socracies, control of this inland sea is an essential condition to the acquisition of strategic supremacy. The real frontier of Europe, then, is the ancient Roman limes bordering the Sahara. From Casablanca to Berlin, from Kiel to Gabès, everything interlocks, and because it does the whole area constitutes a single and indivisible theater of war.
We must be sure that we understand our terms of reference, however, for their meaning has changed and broadened as a result of the enlarged area of modern conflicts and the development of new weapons. If another war comes there will hardly be room for neutrality. When we speak of theaters of operations, therefore, our strategic concept must take into consideration the entire globe.
When we look at a polar projection of the Northern Hemisphere we see that Soviet Russia and her satellites are surrounded by the free nations. Paradoxically, however, it is the besiegers who are on the defensive all around the circle, and this is true whether the war remains cold or becomes hot. This defense is divided into three theaters of war: the Arctic theater, where the two giants, America and Russia, face each other across the North Pole; the Pacific theater, from the Bering Strait to the Indian Ocean, with Indo-China as its approximate center; and the Atlantic theater, reaching from northern Scandinavia down through the Middle East as far as the Persian Gulf. Each of these theaters of war is divided into theaters of operation, requiring a common strategy and unified direction of land, sea and air power.
The unity of the Atlantic theater of war is even more sharply defined than that of the two others. Its center is the European peninsula and its Western base is the ocean--which in present-day terms (range of aircraft, naval support) really brings it to America. Its battlefront toward Asia is narrower than that of either of the two other theaters of war. Further, because of the variety and fighting qualities of the races living there it is the theater where the struggle will be the most intense. Finally--and this should be especially underlined--it is the theater of war where what happens in any one of the component theaters of operations would have the most immediate and decisive repercussions in the others. This is true because it is so populous, has such a great economic potential, possesses such an integrated communications system and is so well suited to the development of an infrastructure. Existing treaties have arbitrarily set the southern limits of the Atlantic theater of war at the Tropic of Cancer. In practice, however, it would necessarily include all Africa; for if Russia were permitted to extend her influence to the African continent, either before or after the start of hostilities, the besiegers of this world siege would become the besieged.
The nature of a theater of operations can be deduced easily from the foregoing. It is a sector of land, sea and air space of such size and shape that it permits offensive and defensive actions in the pursuit of a determined mission as well as the establishment of the necessary supporting services. Since it demands unity of action, it presupposes the possibility of an effective unified command of the ensemble. Obviously this concept differs from that of former times when the sea and air spaces did not have the importance which the power and range of modern weapons give them today. In land terms alone such a theater of operations would be merely a "front," like that of the Rhine (and even a "front" must be understood as requiring sufficient depth for the manœuvre of armies).
Within the third of the globe which we have allotted to the Atlantic theater of war we distinguish three theaters of operations having the characteristics described: the North Atlantic, with its front following the line of the Scandinavian countries and its center in England; Europe; and the Middle East.
The Middle Eastern theater of operations should comprise all the Islamic countries from Pakistan to Lybia. Its wealth of oil, as we know, makes it one of the highest prizes in the cold war and will in part determine the pattern of a hot war. Not to keep the unity of this theater of operations would mean to open an enormous gap in the lines surrounding Soviet Russia--a gap through which she might break out either toward the West and the Atlantic or toward the East and the Pacific. In the latter case, travelling the road of the great empires of ancient history, she would win the tremendous human resources of India. Some might be tempted to raise this theater of operations to the rank of a theater of war. But it would lack the strategic base which the other three threaters of war find overseas in America.
Another consideration in the elementary security of Europe is that the active part of the European theater of operations necessarily centers on the Eastern Mediterranean, where pass the shortest lines of communication from continent to continent, strategic tributaries to the Atlantic. The natural base of the Eastern Mediterranean is Egypt, with its inestimable asset, the Suez Canal; Turkey is the northern bastion, alike toward Iran and Central Europe; Greece, the fortified curtain of the Balkans, is the link with the West. Turkey, Greece and Jugoslavia form an essential turntable in the Atlantic system; and the Eastern Mediterranean as a whole cannot be separated from it.
Here in the Eastern Mediterranean the Russian and Atlantic peripheric strategies meet. The Russian strategy is to seek to reach the interior of the Atlantic front by land, thus cutting the umbilical cord which supplies Europe with life blood from the United States, and by seizing Casablanca and Dakar to threaten all the interior of Europe with its bombers. The Atlantic strategy, greatly aided by possession of the incomparable air and naval bases of Africa, is to reach the Caucasian oil fields by air directly; while from the Balkans it can launch a counteroffensive against the flanks and rear of the Soviet invasion of the European peninsula.
The European theater of operations is customarily divided into two parts--Central Europe, limited to the peninsula proper, and South Europe, including the Eastern Mediterranean. In the second of these areas, due to the fact that the Levantine countries and Egypt do not participate in the European system, Turkey stands at the very tip of a narrow line of sea and air communications, with Greece at the relay point and Italy in support.
To state the problem in such simplified terms accentuates the fact that a principal question remains unsettled: What is to become of North Africa, with its naval bases at Dakar, Mers el Kebir and Bizerta, its communications system from Casablanca to Gabès, its vast material and human resources? This area--as a glance at the map reveals--has a vital rôle to play in frustrating the two sections of the Soviet "lobster claw" manœuvre.
The so-called South European theater of operations (better named the East Mediterranean theater) is actually composed of advanced positions. As for Central Europe, it is a body without lungs, arms or feet. It has none of the characteristics that make a theater of operations. According to the definitions mentioned above, it represents only a "front," as becomes obvious when one studies its dimensions: 650 miles from the Baltic to the Adriatic, 500 miles from the North Sea to the Gulf of Lions, 250
miles from there to the Gulf of Gascogne (the southeast angle of the Bay of Biscay). In depth, from Berlin to Brest, at the top of the Bay of Biscay, or to Biarritz, at the bottom, is it only 875 miles. In these circumstances, it would seem ill-advised to refuse to make use of the fortress which lies at the end of this avenue-- Spain. But even if Central Europe be extended to include Spain it could not be called a real theater of operations, since it still would lack the space on land, sea and in the air indispensable for offensive and defensive actions in the execution of a determined mission as well as the room required for the necessary supporting services. North Africa and Europe form one and the same body, and the Mediterranean is its circulatory system. In strategic terms, the real cover for this body is the Sahara.
The theater thus defined, with one end at Berlin and the other at Casablanca, has admirable unity. Its front stretches from Kiel to Gabès; and it can receive American reserves on the Atlantic coast from Brest to Agadir. One segment of it is ranged against the Soviet frontal manœuvre--the mass movement from the Russian steppes to the beaches of the Gulf of Gascogne, the road of the great Germanic and Mongol invasions. The other bars the way to a Soviet advance along the road of the Islamic invasions. At the intersection of the two segments lies Spain, the true bridge between the two continents. The specific connecting point is at the Columns of Hercules, on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar. The theater has two lateral lines of communication. The forward one consists of the Rhine Valley and the Italian peninsula, on either side of the mole formed by the Alps; the one at the rear runs through Spain and Morocco. As in a fan, the manœuvres can be reversed from one branch to the other.
There is no better way of indicating the degree of unity required in this ensemble than to invoke again the experience mentioned at the beginning of this article. If the remarkable results which the Allies obtained at the time of the Italian campaign could not be properly exploited, and if the manœuvre of the second front in France perhaps lacked speed once the point of application had been chosen, it was because there were two theaters where there should have been only one. The base of manœuvre for Western Europe, then, must be French North Africa, with its unequalled grouping of land, sea and air bases, all of them beyond the range of Russian medium bombers--Casablanca, on the Atlantic; La Sénia and Mers el Kébir in Oran; Algiers, Maison Carrée and Blida in Algeria; and Tunis and Bizerta in Tunisia. This convenient infrastructure can be supplemented, moreover, by logistic installations in the region of Oujda, Sidi-Bel-Abbès and Blida in Algeria and Tebourba in Tunisia.
But besides being a logistical springboard, French North Africa is also a considerable reservoir of manpower and raw materials. It contains a population of 20,000,000, the source of the African Army which so fully justified the confidence placed in it by the Allied leaders in the last war. Further, although it is traditionally a rural area given over to wheat, vineyards, vegetables and fruit, it also possesses important mineral resources which could be the basis for industrialization. About 60,000 tons of phosphates are extracted each year in this area. Iron is extracted in the open air in the Tunisian mines of Ouenza. Morocco and Tunisia also have lead, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc. To supplement the insufficient coal of Kenadsa and Djerada, and pending the exploitation of the recently discovered oil, hydraulic power is being utilized to the maximum. Cement factories, canning factories, paper mills and textile mills have also been built. And, before long, it
is expected that cast iron and steel will be made from the Ouenza iron with imported coal.
These resources may seem small compared to those of Europe. It should also be remembered, however, that the European coal and iron are dangerously situated on the northern plain which has always been a favorite route of invaders from the east. In opposition to the laws of economics, military imperatives demand that there be iron and steel plants far from the great concentrations on the Rhine and not directly vulnerable to enemy attack. North Africa provides an ideal field for this sort of deconcentration, outside the zone of operations in which the Ruhr and Lorraine are situated. In developing a heavy industry there we would be following the example of the Russians, creating a "Urals" in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and a "Siberia" in Central Africa. Without these adjuncts, and unless we reconcile ourselves to the possibility of a retreat across the Mediterranean, we risk having our operations stifled on the European continent. In terms of modern strategy, there no longer are three separate and distinct continents--Europe, Asia and Africa. There are only Eurasia and Eurafrica.
North Africa is the redoubt of Eurafrica, and it is made almost impregnable by its situation between sea and desert, regardless of whether an attack comes from the Middle East or from Europe. In the reverse sense, also, it is a strong support not only for the traditional strategic operation north of the Alps, that of Foch and Eisenhower, but also for the more audacious operation favored by Franchet d'Esperey and Churchill, who wished to turn the flank of the Central European fortress by the Ljubljana Gap or, better still, by the valleys of the Morava and Vardar.
This account of the innate strength of North Africa's position is not to be taken, however, as implying that without land, sea and air support from Europe it may not succumb eventually before Soviet attacks, either of a direct nature from the Middle East or by internal subversion.
In a mass war the resources of the Maghreb (as the Arab world calls North Africa) are of special importance, since the population in addition to being numerous possesses fighting qualities esteemed throughout history. Thanks to the French, this tactical asset has a name: the African Army. It is not a force of mercenaries, to be used here or there according to need, but the natural and logical product of a civilizing program. At first it was the instrument of this program; now it has become its symbol, the property and pride of all who have taken part in its accomplishments, regardless of race.[i] Compared with the million or more Moslem soldiers and veterans of the African Army the so-called "nationalists" of French North Africa sink into insignificance.
There can be but one system of French national defense on the two sides of the Mediterranean, as the African Army's part in the two recent world wars demonstrated. Had it not been for the African Army the French forces would have been unable to await the arrival of British reinforcements in 1914; and without it the Allied armies would have been unable to hold out until the arrival of the American forces in 1917. In 1942, though reduced and disarmed, the African Army helped gain the necessary time for the Anglo-American deployment towards Tunisia. The quality of its action in 1944 can be best described by those who employed it, Generals Clark and Alexander. Though France was erased from the map of free countries, the French achievement survived. On both sides of the Mediterranean, then, we have the fact: France. Whether one wishes or not, it is an essential fact in the understanding of European strategy. France makes Eurafrica.
The Soviets know only too well that the Eurafrican fortress may develop into a turntable against the Middle East, and they try to capture it in advance. "Corrupt before you take," said Lenin, and we can see his admonition being followed. It already has prevented the Middle Eastern theater from being set up in its proper form. In this game Russia holds a powerful trump card: the spell of Islam, the true link between the various nationalisms which derive from a millenary anarchy. People say glibly that the religion of Mahomet is essentially opposed to Communism. But all over the world it has been proved that religious barriers, whatever their nature, are incapable of preventing the infiltration by which the Soviets achieve domination. The same invisible Soviet hands which set fire to the oil in Iran and to the European installations in Cairo now are fanning the ashes of conflict in the Maghreb--Islam's extreme western wing, and Europe's essential redoubt. Are they to be allowed to destroy the best bases of Atlantic defense?
North Africa must look to one side or the other. If it turns toward the East, then there will no longer be the desert to protect Eurafrica--a fact sufficient in itself to show that we would fall into grave psychological error if our strategic plan attached North Africa to an Eastern theater. Only the West can protect North Africa, simultaneously linking it to Western defense and disciplining the anarchic internal forces which will otherwise condemn it to new slavery. Strategy in this instance serves the democratic ideal as well as our own salvation.
[i] There are not separate Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian armies; units from all three often serve in one division (as happened in the Third Algero-Tunisian Division of the French Expeditionary Corps in Italy).