Friday, September 7, 2012

AH - "The League of Nations Triumphant" (2001, 2012) by Jordan S. Bassior

"The League of Nations Triumphant!"

An Alternate History

(c) 2001, 2012


Jordan S. Bassior


This timeline is taken to 1964, and it details a world in which the League of Nations was an effective organization and, as a result, there was no global Second World War. The League of Nations dominates the world of 1964, though it is challenged by the Japanese and by colonized nations yearning for independence.  This version of the history incorporates valuable comments by Joseph Major, Logan Ferree and Johnny 1A.

I. The 1920's -- Global Recovery

In this timeline, Woodrow Wilson accepted better political advice than in OTL in handling both other nations and the US Congress. As a result, both the Versailles Treaty and the Charter of the League of Nations were better composed; Wilson paid greater attention to securing Congressional support for his policy, and in 1920 he succeeded in getting the US Senate to ratify American membership in the League of Nations.  Among his efforts included the formation of a League Council able to authorize actions on a two-thirds supermajority rather than requiring unanimous consent as in OTL.

Wilson died in 1921, worn out by the efforts of the hard shuttle diplomacy and politicking needed to secure passage of the treaty. He was mourned by a grateful nation as the man who had given his life in the service of victory and peace. His vice-president, Thomas Marshall, served out the remainder of Wilson's term, but was unable to win the 1924 Presidential election.

Under first the corrupt Harding and the competent but laissez-faire Coolidge Administrations, American financial interests saw the opportunities for investment in Germany, and lobbied to further reduce the harsher strictures of the Versailles Treaty. This accorded well with Britsh interests, and the British supported the amendment of the treaty terms. The French did not like this, but went along with it, since their security depended in part on Anglo-American support.

Treated well by the West, the Weimar Republic gained the respect of all but the most extreme German factions. Germany, like the rest of the West, enjoyed an economic boom during the decade, and both the extreme right and left were politically marginalized. Even the French fears began to fade as it became obvious that this happy and prosperous Germany was not about to attempt another invasion. The lights, all over Europe, were plainly coming back on.

By the mid-1920's, however, it could be plainly seen  that the Communists were going to be able to hold onto power in Russia. With Germany growing more cooperative, the fears of the free world became fixed upon the Communist menace. American and British diplomats saw Germany as the obvious Eastern bulwark of the League's world order.

During the late 1920's, a series of treaties were signed committing the Western Great Powers (America, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy) to guarantee the collective security of all Europe against a possible Russian attack. Restrictions on the German military were relaxed, and ultimately lifted. Mutual extradition treaties eased multi-national cooperation against agents of the Comintern. Finally, in 1928, the Alliance of Democratic States was formally created, its headquarters in the Hague, to cement the containment of Communism in Europe.

The Panic of 1928, which began in the New York Stock Market, momentarily raised fears that the good times were over. But J. P. Morgan, Jr. successfully engineered large international loans, especially from the Bank of London and the Deutschebank, to prevent any serious financial collapse. The crisis never got beyond a short American recession. By 1930, American economic growth had resumed, fuelled by the free trade common throughout the world.

II. The Early 1930's -- Fall of Communism

During the early 1930's, reports filtering out from the Soviet Union made it apparent that the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, was a psychopathic mass murderer on a scale dwarfing Genghis Khan. World opinion was outraged by the revelation of engineered mass famines and deportations which had resulted in the deaths of millions of people in the Ukraine alone.

These revelations, coupled with the growth of an increasingly prosperous middle class in virtually all the democracies, destroyed what remained of the reputation of Soviet Communism, even among democratic socialists. Intellectuals repudiated Communism en masse, and those who did not were marginalized. George Bernard Shaw spoke for a whole disillusioned class when he said: "I have been to the Soviet Union, and I have seen a nightmarish past reborn."

The crucial conceptual step was a speech by Winston Churchill in 1935. "An Iron Curtain must descend across the eastern boundary of Europe," he said, "to starve out Stalin and his foul Bolshevik order. The free world must shun the monster, and cast him out into the darkness." The League, answering his call, imposed a total embargo upon Russia, already suffering grievously from the engineered famine. And, covertly, the Alliance began contacting key elements among both the Red Army leadership, and among the ethnic minorites.

In the winter of 1934-35, with the Russian economy collapsing and famine threatening Moscow itself, Stalin ordered the Red Army to strip all the outer provinces of food and fuel, to sustain the center. Furthermore, he began preparations to purge the Army leadership itself, intending to use this command as a test to determine who was truly loyal.

Pressed by the embargo, Stalin had moved too fast. With the officers in fear for their lives, and the ethnic minorites among the enlisted men aware that Stalin's orders would mean the deaths of many of their relatives, the Red Army mutinied.

It began on a small scale, as enlisted men rose in protest, and officers joining them partially because if they didn't they would be shot on the spot by their own men. Commissars who tried to quell the mutiny were shot; sometimes hung; occasionally torn to bits.

Since any disloyalty meant death, units which even expressed dissent quickly moved to open rebellion. The mutiny began in Leningrad, and spread like wildfire. NKVD attempts to suppress knowledge of the revolt failed miserably, as individual agitators carried the word by train, motorcar, and aeroplane. The Alliance-financed "Voice of Democracy," broadcasting from Poland, made it impossible to keep the secret in Byelorussia or the Ukraine. As border units
joined the revolt, the "Iron Curtain" was lifted to allow copious quantities of Alliance-supplied munitions, food, fuel, and other supplies to flow to the rebel forces.

Russians, though crushed by over a decade of Communism, everywhere rediscovered their courage and turned on the tyrant (In Kiev, a local Party official named Nikita Krushchev attracted wide admiration, and assumed a leading role in the revolt, when he subverted a loyalist column by climbing on the leading armored car, banging on its hatch with his boot until the confused commander opened it to hear what was going on, and then haranguing the troops until they cheered him, joining the rebels whom they had previously been prepared to gun down!)
The "Russian Federation" was declared, and the Federal forces marched on Moscow from all sides.

By the spring of 1935, the forces loyal to Stalin (mostly secret police) were being mopped up, and Stalin cowered in a bunker beneath the Kremlin as the Federal armies battled his last forces in the streets of Moscow. Stalin's fate is uncertain; the legend is that Molotov shot him with his sidearm and then burned the corpse with a petrol bomb improvised from a vodka bottle and a scarf (1). A badly charred corpse was later discovered, but it was so damaged that it was difficult to discern its identity. Fanciful rumors persist that his head is being kept alive in a jar somewhere -- perhaps in Japan.

The disastrous 16 1/2 year episode of Communism was over, and Russia breathed a sigh of relief. A surviving Romanov was found to serve as a figurehead for the Russian Federation. At last, Russia could begin to recover from the disaster that had befallen her over 20 years ago when she first marched off to war.

Fortunately, Communism had not lasted long enough to completely demoralize the society, and by 1940, Russia was definitely on the path to the same prosperity enjoyed by the rest of the democratic world.

The one good thing that came out of the Russian ordeal was the concept of "crimes against humanity." When the archives of the NKVD and the gates of the gulags were opened, the world was horrified to realize the magnitude of the Communist atrocities. The peoples of the League, including many in the new Russian Federation, demanded that the Bolshevik leaders be punished for their actions.

The St. Petersberg Trials, held from 1936 to 1937, saw many of the top Communists called before a special tribunal sanctioned by the World Court. Some were sentenced to long prison terms; others (such as the loathsome Yekov and sadistic Beria) were hung. Many have since complained that others (including some not in Russia at the time, such as Trotsky) also deserved punishment, and that the sentences of many were later commuted to help build support in the
subsequent crisis, but it was a start towards a recognition of the principle that justice is superior to sovereignty.

This, of course, completed the ruin of the reputation of Communism. On the college campuses, this was the "White Decade," in which even legitimate criticism of the Romanovs tended to be ignored amidst the hagiography, and capitalism enjoyed the highest reputation ever (2). "Commie" became a standard imprecation, sometimes used against even non-Communists with whom a speaker disagreed.

With Russia now a member both of the League and the Alliance, the balance had tipped decisively in favor of League global dominion. The Italian conquest of Ethiopia, which had occurred while the League was preoccupied with the liberation and reconstruction of Russia, did not seriously disturb this dominion, especially as the League customarily sided with the colonial powers -- unpopular in America, but a necessary compromise to secure Anglo-Franco-Italian support on more important issues.

III. Late 1930's -- The Gathering Storm
The great fly in the ointment was Japan, which had used the same period of distraction to invade Eastern Siberia, seizing Vladivostok; then marched from Korea to secure Manchuria, under the pretexed of putting down warlord attacks on Japanese and their properties. The League protested these aggressions, but the Japanese insisted that control of these areas was vital to their national security.

In 1937, the League compromised: Japanese "protectorship" of "Manchuko" and Korea would be acknowledged as a League Mandate, if the Japanese withdrew their "Army of Assistance" from Russian territory. Eastern Siberia was returned to the Russian Federation, and only China (and to some extent America) was concerned by the Japanese conquest of Manchuria. The Japanese might have continued to enjoy their territorial gains, if their easy success hadn't rendered them overconfident.

Basically, the Japanese didn't believe that the League could -- or even would -- fight.

They had observed the Russian Crisis with interest, and had noticed that League interference had been limited to the embargo, propaganda, and arms shipments. They were certain that an embargo could not prevent a Japanese conquest of China, because they had adequate coal to move their troop trains, plenty of metals and timber in Manchuria, and could get food by stripping China bare to feed their own population. They knew that Japan did not pose the sort of ideological threat to the democracies that the Soviet Union had, and were skeptical of the ability of any embargo to last very long. America and Russia were hostile to Japan, but American leadership was resented by the French and Italians, and Russia was still weak from her sufferings under Stalin.

The Japanese began pushing China further and further. In 1939, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, provoked by the Japanese, was used as the excuse to launch a massive invasion of China proper. When League mediation was spurned by Japan, the League imposed a global embargo on the Japanese Empire. The stage was now set for a wider war.

IV. Early 1940's -- The Chinese War

Everything, for Japan, depended upon a rapid victory. American and other Western business interests were deeply opposed to the loss of trade which the embargo entailed; if China's ports could be secured, Japan would effectively control the China trade as well, adding to the financial pressures on the Alliance governments. The key would be a Chinese surrender on terms: as long as the war continued, a lifting of the embargo would be perceived as "defeat" in the eyes of the populations, and hence be too politically unpopular to contemplate, no matter how much corporate money poured into dovish coffers.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, the Chinese did not submit so easily. The Nationalist regime had been receiving considerable aid from the League even before the Japanese attack, owing to the persistence of unregenerate Communist rebels, led by the murderous Mao Tse-Tung. With outright Japanese defiance of the League, this assistance was increased.  Encouraged by League support, the Chinese refused to surrender. Though forced to retreat from the coastal provinces time and time again by better-organized and better-led Japanese forces, they continued the fight from the interior. It became a war of attrition -- and while the Japanese were killing many Chinese for every Japanese soldier who fell, the Chinese could afford the casualties, while the Japanese could not.
Clearly, decisive victory would require the ability to achieve rapid and sudden penetrations, to shatter the Chinese headquarters, and disrupt the supply lines from the rest of the League. It had been demonstrated by the Russian Crisis and was being demonstrated again on the battlefields of China that the only way to do this was with massed air and motorized forces. The Japanese began building more trucks, tanks, and aircraft.

But these vehicles needed oil, not coal, to operate. Now, the limitations of Japanese pretension to autarky were laid bare: their Empire did not contain any oil wells, and the many Western corporate-backed tankers which secretly supplied them -- in defiance of the League embargo -- were inadequate to support the thirsty Japanese spearhead forces.

In 1941, the use of new raiden-go  ("lightning-victory") tactics enabled the Japanese to knock the Chinese back onto the ropes, but most of the new-style forces were now obliged to go over to the defensive, as army oil stockpiles dipped dangerously low. It became mathematically certain that, if the Empire could not find any new oil supplies within a year, the Japanese would have no
choice but to withdraw from China by 1943 at the latest.

This realization led the Japanese to a desperate act. The oil they needed was available in Dutch Indonesia, but (as the embargo tightened) the Dutch were now effectively closing the tap on those reserves.

The Japanese decided that a swift, decisive naval strike on Indonesia could seize the oil wells, and secure the supplies they needed to win the war with China.

The Netherlands were weak: their navy had no chance against the Japanese (even given the oil shortage). But Holland was not only a League member, but the seat of the Alliance. And America, the most powerful member of the League, had bases in the Philippines, directly athwart the Japanese supply lines.

Would the League intervene? Would America?

The Japanese thought not. The "Alliance of Democratic Nations" had never actually fought a war. America, in particular, was known for her pacifism. The decision was made to attack Indonesia without first knocking out the powerful American Pacific Fleet.

It was a decision the Japanese would regret.

V. Early to Mid 1940's -- The Pacific War

The Japanese invasion of Indonesia commenced on June 6th, 1942. Consternation reigned in the League Council chamber. The League had already embargoed Japan, and supported China. What else was there to do? But, no matter how many weapons they gave the Dutch, there was no way that the tiny Netherlands could hope to defeat Japan, given their small population and distance from the theater of conflict.

It was then that the Russian Ambassador -- that same Nikita Krushchev who had performed so bravely in the streets of Kiev, changed history. Removing his shoe, he pounded it on the table, rivetting the attention of all the representatives.

"What are we afraid of?" he snorted contemptuously. "We are the whole world: Japan is but a few islands. Japan, we will bury you!!!"

The cheers resounded deafeningly.

On July 18th, the League declared its sanction for "a war to preserve the peace in the Pacific." American, British, Dutch, French, and Russian fleets launched a coordinated series of attacks against the Japanese naval and transport forces. In a daring raid, American carrier-based aircraft caught the main fleet of Admiral Nagumo in port at Okinawa, sinking many battleships before they could fire a shot.

Japanese Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto called this a "day of infamy," but it was clear that the Japanese war plan had gone very wrong. Though the IJN fought well in some night actions, the Alliance forces defeated them in battle after battle, gaining mastery in, above, and under the Western Pacific waters. The IJN was hamstrung at every point by its lack of oil reserves.

In December 1942, Operation Torch -- the Allied amphibious landings in Southern China -- began. Though defects in doctrine were revealed, the Allies were everywhere able to secure their beachheads and march inland, linking-up with Chinese forces. The Japanese motorized forces, thirsty for oil, could only sluggishly react to these moves, and in most cases the Japanese forces were fixed and defeated in detail.

In the spring of 1943, Russian forces drove down into Manchuria, severing the land supply routes from Korea to China. Meanwhile, the Allies advanced up the Chinese coasts, using submarines and light craft to raid as far as Japanese itself. Heavy bombers, operating from Chinese and Manchurian bases, attacked targets in Korea and Kyushu. By August 1943, China and Korea were both liberated, and the way was now clear for the final Japan against Japan herself.

Amazingly, Japan did not sue for peace. Faced with the hostility of the whole world, any other nation would have done so, but the Japanese were lost in a dream-world of propaganda and Shinto-inspired fanaticism. Japanese forces, even when surrounded, fought to the last man. And the Japanese people placed their faith that bushido spirit and the ancient gods of their homeland would somehow save them from an enemy whom they believed utterly merciless.

In the spring of 1944, the final campaigns of the war began. A pan-Allied force comprising largely of American, Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch, and French elements invaded Kyushu, while a Russian force staged a diversionary invasion of Hokkaido. The fighting was extremely fierce; suicide planes and boats attacked the Allied fleets, while civilian militia and guerilla forces
launched desperate attacks on the well-armed Allied troops and tanks.

But the Japanese resistance was hopeless -- all it did was to further anger the Allies, leading to a relaxation of all the rules of war. The new giant Boeing and Tupolev strategic bombers launched mass incendiary bombardments of Japanese cities, triggering terrible firestorms, killing tens of thousands of civilians. More Allied forces mobilized, and by the summer of 1944 Kyushu was firmly in Allied hands, as was most of Hokkaido.

Honshu, the main Japanese homeland, was now endangered from two directions. If the Japanese resisted on Honshu as they had on the lesser islands, the carnage among Japanese civilians would truly be terrible.
At this point, a coup toppled the Japanese junta. The Emperor himself took the unprecedented stop of appealing personally to his people on the radio, declaring that he desired that his Ministers sue for peace. They did so.

The League gladly consented. The civilian death toll on Kyushu had horrified public opinion; it was already being whispered that to do what would be needed to take Honshu would "make us as bad as the Commies." An Armistice was declared on August 14th, 1944.

The Pacific War was over, though the treaty negotiations would stretch into 1945, and some of the subordinate clauses would take a decade to hammer out. The Japanese turned certain of the generals most obviously responsible for war crimes over to the League Tribunal, though many simply committed suicide. And the world returned to peace.

The war had proven beyond any doubt that the League was willing to fight, if need be, to keep the peace. The power of the democracies had been demonstrated, and without wrecking the world on the scale of the Great War. The peoples of the Earth could now proceed, as Winston Churchill exultantly declared, "into the bright sunny uplands of a new dawning."

VI. Late 1940's to the Present - The League Mandate

These new "uplands," however, were tainted by colonialism.

The Great War, the Russian Crisis, and the Pacific War had all bred a distaste for ruthless measures on the part of the democracies. It had not escaped the attention of the more progressive Western thinkers that what the Europeans had done to each other on the Western Front; what the Communists had done to the Russians; and what the Japanese had done to the East Asians; were simply special cases of a more general evil which the democracies of the League, even now, were not entirely innocent.

The Britrish ruled India and much of Africa essentially through the threat of force. The French rule over Indochina and North Africa was nakedly brutal. Even America, anti-colonialist and proudly pointing to her recent grant of independence to the Philippines, oppressed her own Negro population.

Agitation was growing for reform. India asked for independence, pointing to Britain's own democratic traditions and the loyal service of Indians in the Pacific War. Rebel movements grew against the French in Indochina and Algeria. In America, liberal lawyers pointed to elements in both the League's resolutions and the American Constitution to support their demands for Negro
civil rights.

Right after the Great War, the League had dealt with the question of captured Turkish territories by issuing "mandates" to govern their disposal. Now, a movement grew to govern the colonial issue in much the same fashion.

America, which possessed no colonies, was of course in the forefront of this movement, both out of idealism and in order to take the moral high ground from her diplomatic competitors. Of the colonial powers, Britain was divided: the Tories (led by Churchill and Halifax) vehemently opposing such mandates, and the Liberals (and tiny Labour Party) (3) strongly supporting them. The French didn't want to disgorge their colonies: they had a powerful nationalist wing
which outright insisted on maintaining the French mission civilatrice. Russia insisted that with the coming of the Federation, the "nationalities" were no longer "colonies," but rather, inherent parts of "Greater Russia."

The debate over this issue continues to this very day (1964), though the liberals seem to be slowly but surely winning. Britain led the way, by embarking upon a phased program of decolonialization, starting with the granting of Dominion status to India in 1948, and full independence in 1956 (4). The former colonies, such as India, Egypt, and Korea, as they attained
League Membership status, have gradually shifted the weight of the Council to support the Decolonization Mandates.

VII. Early 1950's -- A New Peril Emerges

In 1936, German scientists had split the uranium atom (5). In 1942, the first experimental uranium fission reactor was turned on in an East Prussian research facility; the resultant meltdown killed half the research team, and rendered the facility unusable. Undaunted, the Germans persevered, and in 1944 – too late to affect the Pacific War -- they succeeded in creating a stable, self-sustatining uranium fission reaction.

Atomic power offers great prospects for Mankind: a new source of energy, requiring very little fuel and producing very little pollution. The most daring thinkers even hope that it can be harnessed to rocketry, someday enabling us to fly into orbit!

However, from the start, it was realized that the Einsteinian equation also implies the possibility of tremendously destructive weapons. An atomic explosion could concentrate the force of a whole air force's high-explosive payload into a single package, producing a bomb theoretically capable of destroying a whole city in a single detonation.

The League had no interest in developing such weapons. Their members already dominated the world, and a war between the democracies was deemed unthinkable. Nobody wanted to see a replay of the Great War, let alone one employing such frightful engines of destruction.

Thus, it was an unpleasant surprise to the world when, on May 15th, 1953, the Japanese announced to the world that they had succeeded in detonating a 20-kiloton atomic explosive device, in northern Hokkaido. Stunned populations watched the films. Several League scientists were taken on a (carefully supervised) tour of the test site, and verified that the detonation had indeed taken place.

What was worse, the Japanese admitted that this had been but one of three identical weapons they had constructed. Japanese science had stolen a march upon the world, they stated with smiles, and henceforth Japan would expect greater respect from the League Council, or there would be "fearful consequences."

On May 29th, however, the Japanese ambassador to Germany found himself invited, along with some other prominent Japanese nationals, to a bunker in the wilds east of Koningsberg. There, they donned tinted glasses, and were given the privilege of witnessing the detonation of the first German atomic bomb, a 40-kiloton device, and a more portable one at that. They were then informed that the plans to build such weapons were, even now, being revealed to the other Great Powers of the League, and that Germany, in cooperation with the Alliance, could easily outproduce the Japanese in both such devices and the aircraft needed to deliver them.  There were some suicides in Tokyo, a wholly unjustified persecution of the Ainu, and the brief Japanese atomic monopoly was over.


(1) - Which is why this weapon became known as a "Molotov Cocktail."

(2) - This was true even in popular culture, where the first full-length animated movie, Disney's Anastasia (1939) represented Lenin as a Satanist vampire.

(3) - Labour had once looked as if it would replace the Liberals as the major British party of the Left, but a quarter-century of prosperity coupled with the disgrace of Communism sapped its support.

(4) - The independence of India is widely considered proof of the superiority of the British decolonialization program, as it was accomplished virtually without loss of life despite intense religious hostilities, thanks to the British retaining operational control over Indian army and police forces well into the 1950's.

(5) - German scientific dominance has been profound through the century, and Germany has also led in many other cultural areas. One undoubted reason for this is her large and highly talented Jewish minority, which amounted by 1964 to some one and a half millions. They included some of the world's greatest physicists, chemists, psychologists, writers, and artists.

No comments:

Post a Comment