A World to Gain: The Battle for Global Domination and Why America Entered WWII
By Thomas Toughill
Review by Daniel Hindes
I’m not sure exactly why this book caught my attention. I’ve read a lot of books on World War Two. Most go into great detail in some area or other. They touch on the bigger questions, but few have done what this one does, and that is to focus relentlessly on only the big – the really big – questions. How did the globe get to look how it did? Was there any intention behind the outcome, or did things “just happen that way”?
Toughill makes a clear and well-supported case that there was an intention that the conflict end as it did, and lays most of the responsibility for this at the feet of Franklin Roosevelt. First Toughill lays out the geopolitical strategic reasons why Nazi Germany and the United States were on a collision course. These were economic, rather than ideological; Roosevelt, according to Toughill, recognized that when one power dominated Eurasia and Northern Africa, it would in short order become economically more powerful than the country that dominated the American continents, and with economic power comes military power. Hitler had to be stopped, preemptively, but not because he was crazy, not because he was evil, not because he was killing millions, but because if he won, he would threaten the United States within 20 years. Hitler’s policies telegraphed his intentions. Economically he diligently pursued a policy of self-sufficiency, scorning international financial markets. The long-term strategic outcome was clear to Roosevelt: North America vs Europe, with America at a serious disadvantage in both population and natural resources.
To continue summarizing Toughill’s thesis, Roosevelt then plotted for war. War had to be sooner, rather than later, even if the population and Congress were firmly against it. But Roosevelt had a problem, and a big one: Hitler was adamant about avoiding Germany’s mistake of WWI – angering the US to the point of war. Hitler was strict with his navy – they were to swallow all USs provocations and avoid conflict. Roosevelt tried – going well beyond the Constitution – to provoke war in the Atlantic, but did not succeed in the short term. But Roosevelt had other tricks up his sleeve, and here Toughill introduces two less-known figures: William “Wild Bill” Donovan, and Douglas Miller.
Donovan became Roosevelt’s head of foreign intelligence, leading the OSS, which later evolved into the CIA. In this role he prepared an extensive psychological profile of Hitler. It was determined that Hitler’s egotism was his weak point, and so the Allies set about systematically exploiting it. One step was Yugoslavia in 1940. Hitler pressured the Yugoslavian government into an alliance. Donovan orchestrated a Serbian revolt. Hitler took it as a personal affront to his honor, and was so outraged that he sent the German army to crush tiny Yugoslavia. This diversion, however, delayed Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s surprise invasion of the Soviet Union, from May to July of 1941. That delay in all probability cost Hitler Russia, and the entire war. Point for Allied intelligence. Toughill is clear that this was the intentional outcome; the Allies had cracked the Nazi Enigma code, and knew of the imminent invasion of the Soviet Union. Stalin was warned, but was secure in his non-Aggression pact with Hitler, and thought he was being played.
Douglas Miller wrote a popular book titled “You Can’t Do Business With Hitler”. It was in the top 10 non-fiction bestseller list for 1941. The remarkable thing about this book was that it detailed a step by step plan for removing Hitler, and that actual events the followed this exactly. This was not entirely coincidence; Roosevelt read a copy and then publicly recommended that the country read it – before Pearl Harbor. Miller subsequently worked for Donovan at the OSS.
Roosevelt was so far unsuccessful in provoking war in the Atlantic. So he turned to Japan, which had signed a treaty of mutual support with Germany. For most of 1940 and 1941 Roosevelt provoked Japan. Toughill does not go so far as to claim that Roosevelt knew of Pearl Harbor in advance, but he does state unequivocally that war with Japan was a goal. The reason, again, was to draw Germany into a war. Late in 1941 it was becoming clear that war with Japan would be achieved, but it was not clear that Germany would declare war the US as a result. Using the psychological insights compiled by Donovan, Roosevelt made his move three days before Pearl Harbor. It was determined that Hitler would never allow war to be declared on him; if there was going to be a war, Hitler would be the one to declare it. Since the late 1930’s General George Marshall had, on Roosevelt’s orders, been preparing for an invasion of Germany. The detailed plans had been drawn up, with an invasion date of 1943. Only 5 copies existed. Yet somehow, a copy was delivered to Senator Wheeler, a staunch isolationist, who promptly leaked it to the press. “US plans 1943 invasion of Germany” ran the headlines. Hitler was furious for days. And it was in this condition that he was informed that Japan had declared war on the United States. Now the terms of the treaty did not oblige Germany to declare war, but Hitler had been provoked beyond the point of reason, and true to the psychological profile, went to the Reichstag the next day to deliver his declaration of war on the United States. The clapping was polite, but restrained. Roosevelt had finally succeeded at phase one: the United States was at war with Hitler’s Germany.
The next phase was to maneuver for the best possible outcome. From a geopolitical, selfishly American perspective, what would be the best possible outcome? The combatants had to completely exhaust themselves, and the war had to end with no strong powers on the European continent, so that the United States could dominate, economically and politically, from a distance. Roosevelt maneuvered to achieve this in the following way. To ensure that the war continued to a bitter end, Roosevelt announced the policy of “unconditional surrender”. Roosevelt snuck it past Churchill by announcing that a large press conference in Casablanca with Winston Churchill sitting at his side that the two of them had just discussed it and come to that conclusion. In fact they had not discussed it at all, and Roosevelt put Winston Churchill on the spot and Churchill opted to go along. In that way Roosevelt pushed through the policy of “unconditional surrender”. (Toughill has all sorts of documentation to establish this sequence of events.)
The policy of “unconditional surrender” is so much a part of the history of World War II that we can forget how radical it was. For the British, removing Hitler would probably have been sufficient. A more rational German regime would have been acceptable. But this did not fit Roosevelt’s long-term goals. For the United States to dominate Europe there could be no strong powers remaining. Germany had to be utterly destroyed. The demand of unconditional surrender put the Germans on notice that it was not just Hitler against whom the Allies fought, but rather their entire country and culture. This had the intended effect of preventing any coups, and allowing the war to continue until the total destruction of Germany’s military and industrial capacity was complete. This meant that the war was longer and deadlier than it had to be, but in the long-term ensured that the United States had the ability to control the continent.
The United States also delayed the end of the war by attacking Germany across France, and moving at a conservative pace. Why would the United States move slowly? To allow the Russians and the Germans as much time as possible to fight on the Eastern front. In the end, for every American GI that died, eight Russian soldiers did. This was Roosevelt’s way of weakening Russia, again so that the United States would be capable of dictating the terms of the peace to the European continent.
For the most part, Roosevelt’s plan worked amazingly well. There appears to be only one area where Roosevelt miscalculated. Roosevelt appears to have underestimated both Stalin personally and the Soviet Union as a whole. Roosevelt died before the war ended, and so he never had an opportunity to evaluate the outcome. When the war ended, Europe was divided between the American and Soviet spheres of influence. The Soviet Union was indeed severely weakened, but probably not as much as Roosevelt intended. It was left to Truman to pick up the pieces and be responsible for the start of the Cold War. Western Europe was rebuilt with American money to the benefit of the American economy, and Eastern Europe stayed under Soviet control.
So this is a brief summary of Toughill’s thesis. Such a quick overview does not do justice to the depth of his research or the amount of documentary evidence if he brings to support his ideas. The book is very well written, direct an easy to read. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in this period of history.