In his essay, titled “The Impending Stalemate in Europe”, historian Bruce Russett argues that American participation in World War II did not yield many gains, and that the United States was “no more secure” (Stoler and Gustafson 2003, 23) by the end of the war than they would have been if they had not joined. He goes on to analyze the speculation that, after dominating Europe, Hitler would have gone on to attack and possibly conquer America. Though Russett uses several explanations as to why the U.S.’s entry into World War II was not necessary, I believe the evidence he uses is unconvincing.
He does agree that nonbelligerent American aid to the Allies helped to assure the survival of Great Britain, and that this aid could help Britain fight to a stalemate, but Russett does not analyze the idea of pouring millions in aid into Great Britain for an unknown amount of time. Had the United States not come to the military aid of the United Kingdom, the reign of Hitler in Germany would have continued for an unknown amount of time, and given his insatiable hunger for Lebensraum and inclination to war, there is no telling how long the United States would have been supporting Great Britain.
Russett also concludes that Hitler’s surprise attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, was “an admission that the war against Britain had gone badly” (Stoler and Gustafson 24). I do not believe this is a valid statement, because I believe Hitler attacked the Soviet Union because of his assurance that Great Britain was no longer a threat. Though I agree with what I believe is Russett’s most valid argument, that after the Battle of Stalingrad the Red Army took military initiative, there is no way of knowing if pushing back the German army all the way to Berlin would have been as successful had the United States and Great Britain provided as strong a second front in the West.
I argue that Russett strongly overlooks the undeniable action taken militarily by the United States, including the invasion of Italy, which would eventually take away Hitler’s strongest European ally despite Mussolini’s many military mistakes. The Allies, powered by the United States, prevented Hitler and the Axis from securing the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and because Russett provides the possibility that Germany attacked the Soviet Union for resources, it is hard to overlook the vast resource deposits in the Middle East.
One last point that I believe makes Russett’s essay unconvincing is the War in the Pacific. Had the United States taken Pearl Harbor in stride and stayed out of World War II, the sole power in Asia and Hitler’s ally, Imperial Japan, would have been available to attack the Soviet Union, and instead of Germany being in a two front war, it would have been the Soviet Union that may have collapsed, leaving the United States to fund lonely Great Britain against the Axis.
Stoler, Mark, and Melanie Gustafson. Major Problems in the History of World War II. New York: Wadsworth Publishing, 2003.