GENERAL ARTICLES

The Turning Point

Says this writer : It is now well within the bounds of likelihood that Italy may be knocked clean out of the war

DOUGLAS REED February 1 1941
GENERAL ARTICLES

The Turning Point

Says this writer : It is now well within the bounds of likelihood that Italy may be knocked clean out of the war

DOUGLAS REED February 1 1941

The Turning Point

Says this writer : It is now well within the bounds of likelihood that Italy may be knocked clean out of the war

DOUGLAS REED

LCNDON. (By Air Mail—Delayed)—As I write this article, ten days before Christmas, 1940. the stars in their courses are proclaiming that Hitler means belatedly to launch his invasion within the next few days. I say “the stars in their courses” because it is a fact, of which I have evidence, that Hitler puts much faith in astrology and has often allowed this science the last word in his decisions. The method has been so successful in the past that he must have almost complete faith in his star today.

Several of his major coups—for instance, the seizure of the Rhineland, the invasion of Austria, and the decision not to attack in the West in the autumn of 1939—were carried out against the advice of some of his most important counsellors, and I have reason to believe that on these occasions Hitler was much influenced by the reading of the stars which his astrologers gave him.

The same consideration may have led him to withhold the attack on Britain which we expected in the summer and autumn of this year. At all events, it is a fact that the stars were unfavorable for him then. It is also a fact that they are very favorable to him about the 20th of December of this year, 1940.

By the time this article appears, Canadian readers will know whether Hitler, this time again, has followed his star or not. For my part, I cannot bring myself, now, to feel anything but hope that he may attempt it. Last summer, as I wandered along deserted and defenseless English beaches, I found the invasion a terrifying prospect, and in the autumn it still seemed a daunting one. But we have now had so much time to prepare that, unless all the sap has gone from the British oak, which I do not believe, we ought to be able to destroy a German invasion as completely as Drake defeated the Spanish Armada and Nelson the French fleet at Trafalgar. The defense of these islands, as I wrote in an earlier article, ought to be a strategist’s dream, and from what I have been able to see as a layman, lecturing to soldiers along our coasts, or strolling about the shellbattered streets of Dover, we are ready enough.

If the invaders should come, we ought to be able to hurl them back into the sea. If we hurl them back into the sea, the war is over bar the shouting. Hitler, it is true, is ready to sacrifice the lives of “two million Germans” in the attempt; he has said so. and he has always been lavish with other lives than his own. like all heroes of his kidney. But we ought to be able to defeat any invasion now, and an unsuccessful invasion would mean the end of the war, and that is why I cannot believe that one will now be attempted, whatever Hitler’s stars tell him. Better a few more months or years of power, he will think, even with defeat at the end of them, than disaster now.

But failure to attempt an invasion is defeat just as certain for Hitler in the long run—Canadian readers should remember this—as an unsuccessful attempt to invade is defeat in the short run.

On the Upward Grade

BY THE time this article is read, Canadian readers may judge for themselves which course Hitler has chosen, for by all human reckoning this is the last chance for Hitler’s invasion—if it still is a chance, as I do not believe. The decisive battle of this war. as I am sure, was fought in September last, when Hitler failed to drive the British Air Force from the skies and therewith lost the chance to launch his invasion while the prospects were still fairly good for it. That was his defeat. But a boxer is not knocked out until he has been counted out, and how quickly we reap our victory, how many rounds we still must fight, depends on our resolution, cunning and punch.

Such is the general picture of the war as this is written. The great calamity has been averted; we are once more, at long last, on the upward grade.

But how the background of the picture has changed to our advantage in this last month ! When I last wrote, a month ago, I mentioned the discomfort with which I noticed that those people who were most irresponsibly optimistic about the outlook up to the very outbreak of war, were now becoming irresponsibly pessimistic about the prospects of winning it. because in these people, and in their frame of mind, I saw the spectre of that ignoble thing, miscalled “appeasement.” looming up once more. A month ago I could see, with surprise but with jubilation, that our prospects of winning the war were far better than I had ever hoped them to be at this juncture, far better indeed than we had ever deserved. I am glad that the astonishing events of the past month have proved me right.

It is almost ludicrous today to recall that, but a month ago, the late American Ambassador to London, Mr. Joseph Kennedy, who is beyond question a good friend of this country and the Empire, but in his way of thinking is akin to the strange school of which I have just spoken, was declaring, “off the record,” that Britain was “virtually defeated.”

Athens, Not Eton

IF WE win a Waterloo :n this war. we may have to record that it was won. not on the playing fields of Eton, but in Athens. As a student of the Balkans I should not have chosen the Greek Army as the one most likely to rout the

forces of a Great Power, even when that power is Italy, but the Greeks have done just this. Their pursuit of the Italians in Albania seems, as I write, to have slackened, and they may yet suffer reverses, but their achievement is one of the most brilliant in military history.

When the present King George II of Greece was restored to his throne five years ago. he told me that his first preoccupation would be to reorganize and improve the Greek Army, but few sober observers, even in their wildest dreams, would have expected that army to do the things it has done against the Italians. King George and his premier-dictator, General Ioannis Metaxas, have inscribed themselves in imperishable letters in the Balkan roll of fame.

Of General Metaxas, I recall that he told me how, during the last World War, he advised Lord Kitchener to follow a different strategy for the forcing of the Dardanelles from that which was actually used. Metaxas thought a flank descent from the north more likely to succeed than the head-on, frontal method which was employed. The brilliant success of Greek strategy against the Italians makes one regret in retrospect, that the counsel of so great a master of Balkan warfare was not followed.

The far-reaching effects of this Greek success in the far Balkans may be difficult for readers at a distance to grasp, but they are enormous, and may decisively influence the course of the war. First, one of the two tin idols has been shown to have feet of clay, and is tottering on them. How cheap and almost ludicrous those much-vaunted Italian successes in Abyssinia and Albania look now that the Fascists, for the first time, are having to fight against even a few valiant men ! For the first time, one of the two pickpockets is being made to give up territory cheaply pilfered during some quiet week-end of the “âppeasement” era.

But the entire situation of the war is changed by this

development. Only a month or two ago it seemed that Germany and Italy, using the synchroniz.ed. double-drive technique, would be descending jointly from the north upon the Balkans, Egypt. Syria and Palestine. In England, a Ministry of Information spokesman hinted that Egypt might have to be abandoned, that the people of this country might once again have to hear the detested words “withdrawal” or “retreat” or “evacuation.” Hitler seemed likely to strike swiftly through Bulgaria toward Turkey, which, like Roumania, was to have the choice of submitting to intimidation or fighting, while Russia, terrified of Germany, stood helplessly aloof. Italy was to strike at Egypt. Hitler, again, was expected to come through Spain to Gibraltar and the North African coast.

Now all is changed. If Hitler still means to do any of these things, he will need, first, to get his Italian ally out of a mess, or even to occupy Italy and thus gravely to increase his unlimited territorial liabilities. Because, for the first time, the British forces, or rather the Allied forces now grouped under the British flag, have seized an opportunity. In addition to the decisive help given to Greece by the British Navy and Air Force, the British forces in Egypt have, as I write, taken advantage of the troubles which beset Mussolini across the water, in Albania, to strike at his forces in Egypt, to drive them, by a most brilliant stroke out of Egypt and far into Italian Libya! For the first time the British newspapers are able to print the word "Victory !” Here, at last, is the British fighting spirit at its best, a spectacle to uplift the hearts of tríen throughout the world. The effects of this brilliant double operation in Albania and in Libya are incalculable. A month ago, Italy still looked most formidable. Today, almost incredible though this may seem, it is well within the bounds of likelihood that she may be knocked clean through the ropes and out of the war. This is not more than we can achieve if we follow up with equal spirit and skill the successes that have been achieved.

Seldom was so great a change in the fortunes of war. and I am glad to admit that it transcends anything I ever hoped for in my most optimistic moments. The fact is that the Italians realize much more clearly than most people in the British Empire that the failure to invade Britain means defeat, sooner or later inexorable defeat, for Germany—and therewith for Italy.

Possible Consequences

LET ME explain some of the immense consequences of these events.

First Russia, who a few weeks ago was so terrified of Gemranv that she was prepared to yield to almost any demand for war supplies, is stiffening and becoming more difficult to intimidate.

Second. Turkey, who if the Italians had slickly overrun Greece might have followed the Roumanian example and submitted to German intimidation, will now fight if an onslaught comes from the north—and that means that Hitler would have two million more soldiers against him.

Third, Jugoslavia, relieved by the humiliation of Italy from the threat on one side, turns with renewed confidence to face the threat from the other side, from the north, from Hitler; she too may fight now, if she is attacked.

Fourth, these events may ultimately lead to the re-entry of France into the war. Marshal Pétain is playing an extraordinarily clever double game, in which his trump card is Marshal Weygand, whom he has sent to Morocco. As long as that great French soldier is in Morocco, at the head of a French army still strong. Hitler will hesitate to occupy the rest of France. There is another strong French army in Syria, which also still wonders which foot to come down on —for the British star is in the ascendant, and they hear with respect and longing of its successes and of the successes in Central Africa of General de Gaulle, whose fame is beginning to increase among them. De Gaulle’s Frenchmen have shared in the British achievement in Libya, and one of De Gaulle’s best men, General Catroux, a French patriot in the grand tradition and a man with long colonial experience, is on the borders of Syria.

Unfortunately, Hitler holds in his hands, as hostages, two million French prisoners, as well as a large part of France, or the re-entry into the war of these large French forces, and of the remaining French fleet, might come very soon.

Where’s Our Fifth Column?

THE one department of the war in which the Pritish effort still lags, and this from failure to understand its importance, is the vital fourth arm. which for want of a better name one may call our Fifth Column. Hitler’s greatest liability in this war (apart from his ally) is the foreign territory he holds, with its populations. It is there that our victory could be prepared, and the cost of that victory in blood reduced, by the fomenting of conspiracy, by the encouragement of sabotage, by the instigation of discontent, by the organization of secret armies.

This has been in the past a thing more theoretical than practical—because Hitler’s successes and the strength of his arms were so dazzling, the prospects of the Allies so poor, that the captive populations could not be i expected to risk anything in such a forlorn cause. With matters as they were, the Archangel Gabriel himself could not have moved them to resistance or uprising. What was needed to change their minds, to reawaken in them hope and the fighting spirit, was a success for the arms of Britain and of their countrymen who are fighting in the British armies.

But we have now had this success, or are having it! The time has come to organize that great host of our allies inside Hitler’s ! concentration camp, by radio, by secret j emissary smuggled in or dropped from j above, by subvention and subversion, by every possible means.

This is our most important weapon in the war against Hitler, a weapon even more important than the army, navy or air force, though useless without those. If any reader cannot understand its importance, let him think of Hitler’s cheapest and most brilliant success—the invasion and conquest of Norway—which was mainly achieved by the organization and exploitation of treachery inside Norway. Hitler’s friends inside Norway opened the j gates to him. But those friends of his numbered at the outside five per cent of the Norwegian peoples. The other ninety-five per cent are our allies. This should show the possibilities that are open to us.

Hitler’s Three Courses

HITLER, as I write, has three courses open to him. He may (1) attempt the invasion, which has become much more hazardous since the summer; (2) attempt a Balkan and Middle Eastern campaign, which has become much more hazardous ; since the Italian fiasco in Albania; (3) launch a peace offer.

In my opinion, the last of these three alternatives is still the most dangerous for Britain and the British Empire. If it succeeded, it would be another Munich, it would mean that Hitler could yet win a war which he has now lost. It would mean the end of hopes of peace in our time, and it would mean, in the long run, success in that invasion and subjugation of Britain which Hitler, in my opinion, cannot now achieve. It is the one thing that need still be feared—not greatly feared, perhaps, but j still feared a little, because those deluded or traitorous people who miscall themselves “appeasers” still exist. For my part, I cannot now conceive that this three-card trick could again be played upon the peoples of the world, and I know that, if we use our opportunities, victory (and really peace) can now be had at a far cheaper price than seemed likely even a few weeks ago.