In a previous article, I provided a summary of wars the U.S. should have avoided fighting to avoid tragic and unforeseen consequences that served to create new enemies, making the United States much less safe and secure. Here is a list of a few major wars, that in retrospect, the United States should have fought very differently to produce a far more positive outcome from a U.S. national security perspective:
World War II (1941-1945)
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) should not have provoked Imperial Japan to attack Pearl Harbor with his joint U.S.-UK-Dutch oil embargo in August 1941, but once the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Adolf Hitler declared war on the United States, the U.S. had no choice but to fight both Nazi Germany and Japan. Engaging in an unholy alliance with the Soviet Empire and providing it with tens of thousands of tanks and combat aircraft as well as massive military-industrial assistance contributed to a Communist takeover of one-third of the world’s territory within four years of the war’s end. This proved to be one of the most tragic strategic blunders in U.S. history. A far better and more morally justifiable alternative would have been for the United States to have signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviets and supplied them with non-military, non-industrial assistance, including food and fuel, and raced them for control of Central and Eastern Europe, likely enabling the United States to liberate all of Central and most of Eastern Europe in advance of the Red Army.
There is a much overlooked, yet historically intriguing possibility, which could have won the war against Nazi Germany for the Western Allies in a matter of months rather than years: refraining from demanding Germany’s unconditional surrender. FDR was aware of the lenient terms of Hitler’s peace offer to Britain in May 1941 and could have pressured British prime minister Winston Churchill to join the United States in negotiating a peace agreement with Nazi Germany on that basis in early 1942, including a full German military withdrawal from France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Yugoslavia, Greece, Libya, and Egypt. In return for these German concessions, the United States and United Kingdom would pledge not to provide military assistance to the Soviet Union. This could have served to liberate western and northern Europe without a drop of American blood being shed. Without German military support, Italy would also be forced to make peace with the Allies and saved millions of lives. Given that Hitler wanted to forcibly expel the Jews from Europe to Palestine, their resettlement would likely have saved the lives of 12-15 million people, including virtually all of the five to six million Jews who were mass murdered by the Nazis, potentially increasing the population of the future State of Israel many times over.
After Germany had completed its military withdrawals, the United States and United Kingdom could have provided large-scale military aid to France, Belgium, and Holland to help them to defend against potential future German aggression. In addition, the Western Allies could have embargoed the sale of strategic materials including steel, aluminum, oil, and industrial equipment to Nazi Germany to limit its military-industrial potential and applied the embargo to the Soviet Union as well in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement, providing them only non-military and non-industrial assistance such as foodstuffs, medicine, and military uniforms. Then the Western Allies could have watched on the sidelines as their two enemies, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, exhausted each other militarily over a period of many years. Furthermore, the United States and UK could have secretly supported the efforts of the German resistance to overthrow Hitler and the Nazis after the German military withdrawals had been completed. Were Hitler to violate the terms of the peace treaty in any material way, the United States and the United Kingdom could have resumed the war against Nazi Germany on much more advantageous terms.
Alternatively, the United States and the United Kingdom could have accepted German resistance leader Admiral Wilhelm Canaris’ offer to overthrow the Nazis and surrender to the Western Allies. His offer was actually accepted by the heads of U.S. and British intelligence in June 1943, but was subsequently rejected by both FDR and Churchill. Once Hitler and the Nazis had been overthrown and the United States and the United Kingdom had accepted Germany’s surrender, the Germans would have to accept Stalin’s May 1943 offer of an armistice based upon the restoration of the USSR’s August 1939 borders, effectively reversing the Soviet annexations of eastern Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the eastern half of Poland and northeastern Romania which they had conducted from September 1939-July 1940.
Under the terms of the peace agreement, the Germans would be forced to de-Nazify and hold immediate democratic elections while senior Nazi leaders would be tried for war crimes. Germany would have to permanently demilitarize the Rhineland and withdraw its troops from every country in Europe except Estonia and Latvia, which border on the Soviet Union. Germany would be forced to restore Czech and Polish independence and give up all of the territories it annexed since the war began with it being restored to its prewar borders which had been the official Allied war aim until the Casablanca Conference of January 1943. Danzig and the Polish Corridor would become a jointly controlled German-Polish condominium administered for the benefit of both nations. Germany would then have to sign mutual defense pacts with all the countries bordering the Soviet Union including Finland, the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria in what would effectively amount to a reverse Warsaw Pact. Britain, France, and Italy would have been encouraged to join this new collective security agreement in order to enable Europe to defend itself against future Soviet aggression. This would have enabled the United States to transfer all of its troops home from Europe to the Pacific to win the war against Japan much more rapidly, while the United States provided a nuclear umbrella for Europe against the Soviet Union from July 1945 onward. It also would have ended the war up to two years earlier and saved the lives of 15-20 million people, including several million Jews.
Five days after the United States imposed its total oil embargo on August 1, 1941, Japan offered to withdraw its military forces from Indochina and accept U.S. mediation to negotiate an end to the Second Sino-Japanese War, which would entail the withdrawal of Japanese forces from most or all of Chinese territory outside of Manchuria, Jehol province, and Formosa (which Japan had annexed in 1895). They made a few subsequent peace offers along similar lines to avoid war with the United States but FDR ignored and refused them all. Tens of millions of lives would have been saved if the United States had accepted Japan’s peace offer and ended the Pacific War before it began. If FDR opted for war with Japan as in actual history, he could have accepted one of Japan’s peace offers as General Douglas MacArthur recommended he do in his January 1945 Memorandum. Japanese troops could have remained in Manchuria until Nationalist Chinese forces could arrive to accept their surrender and take over all of their military equipment along with tens of thousands of tanks and combat aircraft that the United States gave to the Soviets in actual history. Without Soviet intervention in World War II, which enabled them to occupy Manchuria and northern Korea, the Nationalist Chinese may have even defeated Mao Zedong’s Communist Chinese forces and won the Chinese Civil War, ensuring that Communist China and North Korea would never have existed, and so on. That would have prevented the Korean and Vietnam Wars from ever taking place, saving the lives of nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers across those two wars.
Korean War (1950-1953)
The Korean War was the first major war in history in which the United States failed to achieve victory. Rather than firing General Douglas MacArthur for wanting to win the war, President Harry Truman should have approved his request to bomb the Yalu River bridges, Chinese rail stations, and staging bases in Manchuria to drastically curtail the number of Chinese troops that were able to enter Korea to make sure that the war ended with a unified, democratic Korea and Communist North Korea ceased to exist. The commanding general of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stated after the war that he would never have sent Chinese troops to cross the Yalu River into Korea if he hadn’t been assured that Truman would not allow MacArthur to retaliate by attacking Chinese territory.
Afghan War (2001-2021)
While U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan was justified in the wake of Al Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, once the Taliban had been overthrown and Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had been chased out of most of Afghanistan, U.S. military forces should have been withdrawn. Instead, the United States didn’t withdraw its troops for twenty years, ten years after bin Laden had been killed, with the end result being that the Taliban seized control of the country anyway. The estimated death toll from the Afghan war has been up to 212,000 people and cost the United States trillions.