The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
FOR three centuries Americans have been accustomed to think of their world in continental terms. The land mass of the Western Hemisphere was the New World. Expansion meant moving west and settling land. Political and military control, in so far as it played a rôle in shaping national policy, was limited mainly to land control. The Monroe Doctrine was concerned with continents, not oceans. We wanted European nations to leave us alone, and to leave other parts of the Western Hemisphere alone. We favored freedom of the seas, but we were not interested in ruling the waves; and we did not often stop to notice how much we relied on the naval power of the country which did "rule" the waves to keep them open to our commerce.
This three-hundred-year period in American life has come to an end. It has been terminated by the juxtaposition of several historic events. The land has for the most part been settled. Communications by air and by sea have been revolutionized. And at the very moment when the economic, political and strategic consequences of these developments were becoming apparent, a militaristic Power, through its conquest of the entire European Continent, moved into position to put the Western World into a strait jacket, unless opposed by the full resources of the United States. The combination of these circumstances radically alters the position of the United States and requires a fundamental reëxamination of its world outlook and policy.
The purpose of the adjoining map is to indicate some of the factors to be taken into account when we plan our national policy, under these new circumstances, now and in the years ahead. The focus is no longer on land masses but on air and sea communications. The ocean has ceased to be a barrier and has become a highway for enemy attack. Our coastline is no longer the line of American defense. To paraphrase Nelson, our sea and air frontiers have become the shore-lines and air-lines of our enemies. Our freedom as a nation will depend, in the future, less upon our ability to execute land operations than upon our control of the sea and air approaches across the oceans.
This means that as long as Europe continues to be a source of actual or potential aggression against us, the air and water of the North Atlantic must be controlled by us or by our friends. A glance at the map will show the location of control points in this area. If control over the entire area is to be effective, the controlling forces must be in possession of Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles, Gibraltar, the Azores, Cape Verde Islands, and either Dakar or some nearby point on the West Coast of Africa. From the standpoint of the defense of the United States, these strong-points are our advance bases. Most important of them all, of course, are the British Isles.
The exercise of effective control over this area depends upon joint action by American-British sea and air power, since the armed forces of the United States are not at present strong enough to assume single-handed the responsibility which the British Navy assumed in the past. Joint action presupposes a powerful British Navy and Air Force in being and free to operate from their own bases. This obviously would not be the case if England, Scotland and Ireland were occupied by a continental enemy. Hence it is a paramount national interest of the United States to insure the continued and successful defense of the British Isles.
Another glance at the map will indicate what would happen if American-British forces were not able to control the air and water spaces in the eastern half of the North Atlantic. Suppose, for example, that the Germans were to establish themselves in force at Dakar, as they will do eventually -- perhaps this summer -- if not prevented. Obviously if the United States thereupon attempted to defend the Monroe Doctrine, it would be outflanked before its armed forces could go into action. Squadrons of German bombers could fly overnight from Dakar to Natal. Once established on the South American mainland, the Germans could shortly thereafter make an air attack upon the Panama Canal, with fair chances of hitting their target, assuming of course that they had made the same kind of thorough advance preparation in the countries supplying intermediate bases that they have always made in comparable European circumstances. If the Canal were blocked temporarily as a result of such an attack, the Germans would have a breathing spell within which to organize a series of other operations. That is all they would require in order to be able to move on South America below the bulge.
American-British control of the North Atlantic is essential for strategic reasons. It is equally imperative on other grounds. The North Atlantic area is the cradle of our civilization, and the survival of the American way of life depends upon the survival of this civilization. For more than a thousand years our fathers have been building a common society around the shores of the North Atlantic. They built it by labor, by faith, and, when necessary, by arms. It is a civilization based upon a belief in the essential dignity of man, as expressed through representative government, limited by a Bill of Rights. The Atlantic Ocean has become the ocean of freedom.
As long as control of the North Atlantic remains in our hands, and in the hands of those who share our material and spiritual interests, freedom, both political and economic, will have a chance to reassert itself in the world. If that control is lost we shall lose our freedom. That is the reason why we are beginning to assert control.