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The United States, The Balance of


Power, and World War II: Was Spykman
Right?
Robert J. Art
Published online: 23 Feb 2011.

To cite this article: Robert J. Art (2005) The United States, The Balance of Power, and World War II:
Was Spykman Right?, Security Studies, 14:3, 365-406, DOI: 10.1080/09636410500323120
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Security Studies 14, no. 3 ( JulySeptember 2005): 365406


Copyright Taylor & Francis Inc.
DOI: 10.1080/09636410500323120

The United States, The Balance of Power,


and World War II: Was Spykman Right?

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ROBERT J. ART
American foreign policy analysts have generally viewed World
War II as the most important of the six wars the country fought
in the twentieth century. By entering this war, so the argument
goes, the United States prevented the gravest geopolitical threat to
its securityGerman and Japanese hegemonies in Eurasiafrom
materializing. Careful reexamination of the best case for U.S. entry
into World War II, made by Nicholas Spykman in 1942, demonstrates that the traditional view is misplaced: the United States could
have remained secure over the long term had it not entered the war
and had it allowed Germany and Japan to win. Its standard of
living and its way of life, however, would most likely have suffered.
Avoidance of those two outcomes was the real reason to have entered the war. The implications of this analysis for balance of power
theory and current American grand strategy are spelled out.

For most analysts of American foreign policy, it is easy to justify the countrys
entry into World War II. Of the six wars the United States became embroiled
in during the twentieth century, this is the one where the geopolitical threat
to the United States was the gravest. The other five wars the United States
foughtWorld War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War,
and the Kosovo Warthreatened various American interests, some of them
seriously, but none entailed stakes as high for the United States as World

Robert J. Art is Christian A. Herter Professor of International Relations at Brandeis University, where he teaches international relations and specializes in national security affairs and
American foreign policy. He is also research associate at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies
at Harvard University, senior advisor at the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and director of MITs Seminar XXI Program.
For their particularly helpful comments and general assistance on this article, I thank
Loren Cass, Owen Cote, Christopher Layne, Sue Peterson, Harvey Sapolsky, William Wohlforth,
Micah Zenko, and two anonymous reviewers for Security Studies (especially the really tough
one).
365

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War II. None, not even World War I, removed as serious a threat to the
physical security of the American homeland as World War II. By entering that
war, so the argument goes, the United States prevented Germany and Japan
from establishing hegemonies at either end of Eurasia, thereby removing the
strategic threat to the Western Hemisphere that those two hegemonies would
have produced. In the process, the United States also helped rid the world
of two of the most heinous great power regimes of the twentieth century.
Thus, even though isolationists and interventionists debated intensely before
Americas entry into World War II, after the United States and its allies won, the
consensus on the need for Americas participation in this war has remained
strong. The same cannot be said for the other five wars that the United States
fought in the twentieth century.
Indeed, so powerful has been this consensus that few analysts have
challenged it. Bruce Russett of Yale University is among the very few to
have done so. In his provocative No Clear and Present Danger, Russett argued that the United States did not need to have actually entered the war in
order to protect itself.1 To prevent German and Japanese hegemonies, the
United States did not need to defeat either country; instead, it only needed
to prevent them from winning. In Europe, that could have been accomplished simply by sending sufficient aid to England and the Soviet Union in
order to keep them in the war. Without a clear German victory over both
states, Russett argued that the war would have ended in a draw and negotiated settlement or would have gone on for a decade or two with several
breathing spells.2 In East Asia, even less would have been required of the
United States. Japan would have remained bogged down in China and could
never have ruled a country seven times its size in population. With economic
and military assistance aid from the United States and Russia, the Chinese
Nationalists and Communists could have continued to resist for years.3 In
Russetts view, then, neither Germany nor Japan could have emerged victorious hegemons in their respective parts of Eurasia so long as the British,
Russians, and Chinese were not defeated; that outcome would have been
ensured so long as the United States sent across the seas the economic and
military aid needed to keep their war machines running. Cannon fodder was
needed to prevent the emergence of German and Japanese hegemonies, but
it did not have to be American cannon fodder, only British, Russian, and
Chinese.4
1 See No Clear and Present Danger: A Skeptical View of the United States Entry into World War II
(New York: Harper and Row, 1972).
2 Ibid., 2430.
3 Ibid., 62.
4 There is a second possible scenario that Russett did not put forth. Under this scenario, Germany
and Japan would have won a complete victory, vanquishing Britain, the Soviet Union, and China, but
then they would have turned against each another and fought for the redivision of the Eurasian spoils.
Neither, however, would have achieved a decisive victory, so both would have been consumed with

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Whether Russetts scenarios about what would have happened in Europe


and East Asia had the United States not entered the war are correct need
not concern us. What does is this: his provocative counterfactual argument
about World War II actually falls into the mainstream view about the war.
After all, implicit in Russetts analysis is an acceptance of the view that a
Japanese victory in East Asia, and especially a German victory in Europe,
would have constituted a grave strategic geopolitical threat to the United
States. Otherwise, why go to such lengths to argue that neither hegemon
would have emerged had the United States taken the necessary steps short of
entry into the war to prevent their respective victories? In short, if hegemony
was not a problem, why prevent it? Not even Russett, therefore, challenges
the geopolitical strategic threat that the consensus view of World War II
holds about German and Japanese hegemonies: victorious on the continent,
Germany and Japan could have aggregated the resources of Eurasia and built
such a powerful military machine that they could have crossed the oceans
with it and ultimately defeated the United States.
Is this geopolitical logic correct? What would have been in store for
the United States had it not entered the war and had the Nazis and the
Japanese militarists won? If the Germans and the Japanese had harnessed
the resources of the conquered territories to their war machines and then
turned them against the United States in its New World redoubt, would the
country have eventually gone down in defeat?
To answer these questions, I turn to Nicholas Spykmans masterful book,
Americas Strategy in World Politics, which came out in 1942, during some of
the darkest days of World War II when the outcome was still up for grabs.5 In
his day, Spykman was the most prominent American academic practitioner
of the realist geopolitical school of analysis (Walter Lippmann was the most
prominent journalistic practitioner).6 Spykmans central purpose in this book
either fighting each other or making preparations to fight each other. Under this scenario neither would
have threatened the United States because they would be consumed with fighting each other.
5 Nicholas John Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of
Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942). The crux of the analysis comes in chaps. 1016.
For Spykmans analysis of the shape of the future when Americas victory was no longer in doubt, see
Nicholas John Spykman, The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944).
6 Spykman was also the most prominent member of the Yale school of international relations and
was the first director of the Yale Institute of International Studies founded in 1935. Other famous members
of the Yale school included A. Whitney Griswold and George T. Davies. This school stressed the role
that power played in international relations because international society is. . . a society without a central
authority to preserve law and order, and without an official agency to protect its members in the enjoyment
of their rights [Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics, 7]. The Yale school also followed the lines
of geopolitical analysis, which stressed the interaction between political and geographical factors in
international relations. The most famous English practitioner was Halford J. Mackinder, but the modern
founders of that school are the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kiellen and the German geographer
Friedrich Ratzel. For a good discussion of the meaning and origins of the geopolitical school, see Geoffrey
Parker, Geopolitics Past, Present and, Future (London: Pinter, 1998), chaps. 1 and 2. For Lippmanns
geopolitical analysis of World War II, see Walter Lippmann, U.S. War Aims (Boston: Little, Brown and
Company, 1944).

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was to show that eventually the United States would have been defeated by
the Germans and Japanese had they been victorious in World War II. His argument is the most comprehensive, imaginative, and sophisticated available: it
makes the best case for the geopolitical threat that the German and Japanese
hegemonies would have posed to the United States. By assessing Spykmans
argument, therefore, we can determine the validity of the geopolitical threat
embedded in the consensus view about World War II.
There are two additional benefits of this assessment of Spykmans argument, which I conduct as a thought experiment based on a combination
of logic, counterfactual reasoning, argument by analogy, and marshalling of
datasome available at the time and some not. Not only does this assessment
help us understand balance of power theory better, especially the conservative nature of state decision making in a balance of power world, it also
sheds some light on the recurring (and current) debate in American grand
strategy between those who argue for isolationism and offshore balancing,
on the one hand, and those who argue for selective engagement and forward
defense, on the other.7 By retracing Spykmans reasoning, we can see why
decision makers err on the side of safety in their power calculations, how
adverse changes in the international environment affect not only a states
security but also the quality of the economic and political life of its citizenry,
and why a state can act defensively to protect its way of life even when its
immediate security is not severely threatened.
I proceed as follows in my analysis. In the second section of this article,
I lay out Spykmans geopolitical nightmare. In the third and fourth sections,
respectively, I demonstrate that Spykmans military analysis was correct but
show that his economic analysis was faulty. Consequently, I conclude that
Spykman was wrongthe United States did not need to enter World War
II in order to protect its security. In the fifth section, I raise challenges to
my analysis of Spykmans argument and respond to them. Finally, in the
last section, I reflect on whether Spykman was ultimately correct even if his
analysis was faulty, and then I draw some implications from this thought
experiment for both balance of power theory and the contemporary policy
debate between offshore balancers and selective engagers.

SPYKMANS GEOPOLITICAL NIGHTMARE


In Americas Strategy in World Politics Spykman made four big arguments:
1. Once Germany and Japan conquered Eurasia, they could not swiftly defeat
the United States because it was too strong.
7 I adhere in the current policy debates on American grand strategy to the forward defense and
selective engagement school. See Robert J. Art, A Grand Strategy for America (Ithaca NY: Cornell University
Press, 2003).

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2. They therefore would first have to weaken it by slapping a strengthsapping global blockade and embargo on it.8
3. Once the combined blockade and embargo wreaked its effects, Germany
and Japan could (and would) deliver the decisive military blow.
4. To avert this outcome, the United States had to fight immediately while it
still had powerful allies with which to defeat these two; otherwise, later
on, it would be isolated and alone and would go down in defeat.
In sum, Spykmans argument boiled down to two propositions: military conquest of the United States without prior strangulation was impossible, but
conquest with it was inevitable. Why did Spykman reach these two conclusions, and were they valid?
Swift military defeat was not in the cards, argued Spykman, because the
United States was too powerful and because it had the advantages of the
defender. The feat of invading, much less conquering, a continental-sized
state from across two oceans was so daunting that neither was likely. In his
view, the United States could mount a viable defense for these reasons: it
could occupy and hold a number of bases strategically situated far away from
its shores; these bases would enable it to hold at bay the enemys long-range
airpower; then, from these bases it could use its own long-range aircraft and
naval power in turn to destroy any invading armadas. Spykman calculated the
effective combat zone radius for bombers at 1,000 land miles and the battle
fleet combat zone radius at 2,500 land miles. In the Pacific, this put Americas
combat interception reach out beyond Wake Island; in the Atlantic, this put
its reach nearly to the Azores and 60 percent of the way to the western bulge
of Africa.9 As he argued:
In terms of present-day technology, transoceanic airpower cannot be a
serious threat unless it can count on friendly air bases on this side of
the water ready to welcome and service the invader. Bombing attacks by
planes from carriers can probably not be prevented entirely but because
of the limited capacity of carriers, the damage caused by such raids will
be smaller than that inflicted by large land-based bomber fleets.
Future developments will undoubtedly change this picture and reduce the protective value of distance. . . . But even when this is achieved,
the bombers will still have to come over without the protection of
accompanying fighter planes. If the strategic zones are prepared with
well-defended air bases, and held by strong concentrations of long-range
pursuit planes, the air defense of the hemisphere can be made fairly

8 A blockade prevents goods from either entering the state being blockaded or from leaving it. An
embargo is an edict of a government that prohibits the entry or departure of ships of commerce (its own
or the enemys) from its own ports or the ports of other territories that it controls. A state blockades the
ports or airfields of the enemy state, but embargoes its own ports or airfields.
9 See the maps following pages 414 and 424 in Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics.

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secure. Air invasion of the American mainland and attack by means


of land-based aircraft is still a thing of the future, and, until that time,
invasion must come in ships in the traditional form of an overseas
expeditionary force.
Invasion by water is, however, no longer as easy as it used to
be. . . . No fleet can enter a hostile coastal zone with any security unless it
has established air supremacy. [But] the attacking fleet is dependent on
its carriers to transport its planes, and the largest of these carry only from
seventy to a hundred planes. The approaching fleet should be sighted
by one of the long-range patrol bombers of the navy or one of the great
four-engined bombers of the air force when it is still a long steaming distance from the shore and this reconnaissance, if successful, offers plenty
of opportunity to concentrate an overwhelming land-based air force on
the exposed shore. They can be brought from great distances in plenty
of time because of the difference in speed of travel between ships and
planes. No carrier-borne air force can be a match for land-based forces,
and fleets move, therefore, into more and more dangerous zones as they
approach an enemy coast.10

In sum, naval and, especially, air power would be the great equalizers for the
United States. As a consequence, Spykman concluded that invasion under
conditions of modern warfare is very difficult if the defender is a highly
industrialized nation with a modern and effective navy, air force, and army
at her disposal and an adequate system of coastal defense.11
Sanguine as he was about a viable defense, Spykman did not think it
could be sustained indefinitely. At some point, the global embargo imposed
on the United States by the German and Japanese hegemons would cause the
country to experience a severe shortage in strategic raw materials. Strategic
materials were those essential to the war effort but whose supply, in whole
or in part, came from outside the continental United States. They were distinguished from critical materialsthose that, while essential to defense, were
less important to the war effort, that could be produced domestically, and
for which conservation would help assure adequate supplies.12 The shortage of strategic raw materials would, in turn, hamper Americas industrial
production and defense output and, unless rectified, eventually cripple its

10

Ibid., 39192, and 397.


Ibid., 412.
12 Ibid., 293. Spykmans discussion of raw materials needed for the war effort was based in part on
an Army-Navy Munitions Board report, published 7 January 1939, that assessed the raw materials supply situation for the United States should war come. The Board identified three types of raw materials:
strategic, critical, and essential. Strategic and critical materials are defined in the above text. The report
defined essential raw materials as those that were neither critical nor strategic and included those materials essential to the national defense for which no procurement problems in war are anticipated, but
whose status is such as to require constant surveillance because future developments may necessitate
reclassification as strategic or critical.
11

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military machine. The United States, however, could do nothing to remedy


the shortage or even alleviate it.
There were two reasons why the shortage would be inevitable and irreversible. First, the United States could not break the global embargo imposed
on it; hence, it could not obtain the needed raw materials from overseas.
By conquering the Soviet Union, Britain, and France, Germany and Japan
would dominate not only western, central, and eastern Eurasia but also
Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. (Germany and Japan would have
inherited Britains and Frances overseas colonial possessions.) As a consequence, Germany and Japan would control all the significant land masses on
earth outside the Western Hemisphere and, hence, could prevent shipment
of needed materials from these areas to the United States. Any attempt by
the United States to break the embargo with force would be futile. Without
powerful allies overseas, it could not establish the footholds necessary to
attack the Germans and the Japanese on their own turf. Global encirclement
would render a military breakout from the embargo impossible.
Second, stymied abroad, the United States could not rectify the raw
material shortage from sources in the Western Hemisphere. Spykman did
not believe the United States could obtain the political allegiance of the
entire hemisphere nor necessarily defend all of it; instead, he envisioned
a quarter sphere defense. He arrived at the quarter sphere is this manner.
Lost through military action would be northern Canada, the Aleutians, Alaska,
and Greenland; lost through German economic warfare would be Argentina,
Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and southern Brazil. Economically, the most valuable
area lost would be the southern part of the Equidistant Zone.13 As he put it:
Germany might obtain dominion over the southern part of the Equidistant
Zone without having to send an expeditionary force, by the simple device
of dictating conditions under which products of the Argentine would
be permitted to enter the European markets. It is quite likely that the
acceptance of a fascist regime friendly to Germany would be one of
those conditions. . . . military occupation [of this area by Germany] would
simply register the result of surrender induced by economic warfare.14

The quarter sphere included southern Canada, the Caribbean and its
island outposts, Mexico, the Central American states, and South America
down to the line that runs from the southern most point of Ecuador in the

13 Ibid., 456. The Equidistant Zone was Spykmans name for the part of South America that stretches
from Patagonia to the bulge of Brazil, and by the southern part of the Equidistant Zone, he mean primarily
Argentina. Ibid., 453.
14 Ibid., 454. Spykman considered the Equidistant Zone to be the most important area of South
America because it contained the most productive agriculture, the greatest military potential, and the
greatest sources of needed raw materials. It was also the area with the closest economic ties with
Europe, and is the most skeptical about hemisphere solidarity (ibid., 407).

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west through the bulge of Brazil in the east (which meant South America
down roughly through northern Brazil). The United States could easily defend southern Canada and Mexico because both were contiguous to the
heart of American military power. It could defend the Caribbean and Central
America through its naval power and control of the outlying Caribbean islands, and it could defend the northern third of South America because the
Amazon jungle would form a natural barrier against an upward thrust by the
Germans and the Japanese.
The problem with the quarter sphere, therefore, was not its military
defensibility but its economic viability: it lacked the strategic raw materials
for self-sufficiency. As Spykman put it:
From the purely military point of view, quarter sphere defense is a feasible policy, but from an economic point of view, the restricted area is
even less viable than the hemisphere as a whole. . . . It has been suggested
that, on the basis of the whole hemisphere, with all the resources of all
the countries at our disposal, we might eventually arrive, after years of labor and great sacrifice, at an approximation of self-sufficiency in strategic
raw materials. But this is not possible without the full participation of the
temperate zone of South America [called the South American Equidistant Zone]. Without the tin and the tungsten of Bolivia, the copper of
Chile, and tungsten, wool, and tanning products of the Argentine, our
war industries would be seriously crippled even if we could produce in
northern Brazil the materials which now come from the tropical zones
of Asia and Africa. The quarter-sphere does not contain the power potential necessary for an adequate system of defense against the complete
encirclement which would then prevail.15

Thus, the United States could not defend the quarter sphere indefinitely, but
indefinite defense was what the situation required.
Here, in sum, was Spykmans geopolitical nightmare. The areas of the
Western Hemisphere that could be defended by the United States did not
have the raw materials required to fuel its industrial-military machine, while
the areas that did have them would be under German and Japanese control.
Consequently, subject to a global embargo, Americas military strength would
ebb to the point where the two Eurasian hegemons could deliver the decisive
military blow. In the battle of the continents, so concluded Spykman, the
Eurasian hegemons would prevail.
Carefully constructed as his nightmare was, Spykman was only half right
in his geopolitical analysis. He was correct to argue that the United States
could have defended itself militarily if it had had sufficient raw materials, but
wrong that it could not have gotten them. Had the battle of the continents
taken place, the United States could have held its own.
15

Ibid., 456.

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How can we show this to be the case? Clearly, we cannot prove hypotheticals to be true or false. We can, however, show that indefinite defense
would have been a good bet by doing two things. First, we can use the
German Empire at its peak in 1942 as a standard of measure by which to
argue that the would-be American quarter sphere would not have been easy
to defeat. By doing so, we can reinforce Spykmans argument that the United
States could have held its own militarily against the German and Japanese
empires in Eurasia. Second, we can demonstrate that nearly all of the strategic raw materials required for a viable defense could have been found in
the quarter sphere or else obtained through means of synthetic production,
substitution, or conservation within the continental United States. By doing
so, we can make a plausible argument that the United States could have sustained a viable defense over the long term against the German and Japanese
hegemons.

MILITARY DEFENSE OF THE QUARTER SPHERE


The 1942 German Empire serves as a reasonable standard by which to measure the quarter spheres vulnerability. The comparison is by no means exact,
but it is similar enough in four important ways to be useful. First, the 1942
empire compares favorably in terms of power potential, measured by both
population size and gross domestic product (GDP), although not in territorial
size, to what the quarter sphere would have encompassed. The German Empire in 1942 had a population of roughly 250 million and a GDP of $60$65
billion, and encompassed 1.7 million square miles; the quarter sphere would
have had a population of 215 million and a GDP of $78 billion, and would
have encompassed 9 million square miles.16 Second, the German Empire had
to fight a two-front war (three fronts if the Italian campaign is included), just
as defense of the American quarter sphere would have required at least two
fronts (against the Germans in the east and the Japanese in the west), and
maybe three (against both from the north). Third, the German Empire had to
be invaded from the sea to be defeated, just as conquest of the quarter sphere
would have required. Finally, both the 1942 German Empire and the putative
quarter sphere were inferior in GDP in a roughly comparable fashion to their
respective adversaries. (GDP serves as a good measure of wealth and hence of
potential military power.) The ratio of the 1942 German Empires GDP to that

16 Population and GDP figures are computed for 1938, the last year of peace, in order to avoid the
distortions caused by the war. I have used the following sources to compute population, GDP, and territory
of the 1942 German Empire and the putative quarter sphere: W. S. Woytinsky and E. S. Woytinsky, World
Population and Production: Trends and Outlook (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1953), 7, 389,
and 395; Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics, 48485, app. II; Mark Harrison, ed., The Economics
of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1998), 1011; and Colliers World Atlas and Gazetteer (New York: P.F. Collier and Son, 1955), 89.

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of its three adversaries Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States
was somewhere between 1:3.2 and 1:1.6 (or 1:2.4 if we average the two),
depending on which methodology is used.17 The GDP ratio of the quarter
sphere to the German and Japanese empires in 1945 is impossible to know
because those empires did not materialize and because we cannot know
what the wars economic aftermath would have been without U.S. entry, but
using 1938 GDP figures yields a GDP ratio of 1:2.3 for the quarter sphere versus
the German and Japanese hegemons.18 Thus, on four dimensions crucial for
military successpopulation and GDP, several fronts to defend, the need to
counter seaborne invasion, and an approximately similar inferiority in productive power compared to adversariesthe 1942 German Empire and the
putative American quarter sphere are similar enough to make a comparison
about their relative military vulnerability viable.
Now we must compare the two cases. What factors led to the defeat
of the German Empire, and would those same factors have applied to the
American quarter sphere and to the same degree? 19
17

If we use John Mearsheimers methodology, the ratio is 1:3.2. Mearsheimer uses a surrogate for
wealth and GDP, which is the amount of iron/steel production and energy consumption produced by a
country. In 1942, the German Empire (which includes Germany and the lands it conquered in Europe)
had 23 percent of the relative share of wealth produced by it, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the
United Kingdom combined, while the United States had 58 percent, the Soviet Union 7 percent, and the
United Kingdom 9 percent. This yields a ratio of 23 percent to 74 percent, or roughly 1:3.2 in the allies
favor. See John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), 73,
table 3.4. [This 1:3.2 ratio accords reasonably well with Harrisons 1942 GDP figures: the German Empire
(figures only for Germany, France, and Austria) $560 billion, the United States $1.235 trillion, the Soviet
Union $318 billion, and the United Kingdom $353 billion. This yields a ratio of $560 billion to $1.9 trillion,
or about 1:3.4. Harrison, The Economics of World War II, 10. GDP figures for the German Empire in 1942
are difficult to come by due to the lack of data on GDP for the German occupied territories.] If we use
1938 GDP figures, then we get a GDP ratio of 1:1.6. The 1942 German Empire (in 1938 dollars) had a GDP
of $6065 billion, while the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the United States had a combined
GDP of $100 billion. In assessing the 1:1.6 ratio, remember that the United States was still in depression in
138, whereas Germany was not. See Woytinsky and Woytinsky, World Population and Production, 389;
and Harrison, The Economics of World War II, 8. To arrive at an estimate of the GDP and population of
the Soviet Union under Soviet control in 1942, I have relied on Harrison. I deducted the population of
the German occupied part of the Soviet Union from the total allied population and one-third of the Soviet
Unions 1938 GDP from the total allied GDP to account for Germanys partial conquest of the Soviet
Union. Harrison gives exact figures for the number of Soviet citizens under German occupation in 1942
(in 1938 figures), but the figure for the Soviet GDP controlled by the Germans is in 1990 dollars. Thus, in
order to estimate the part of the Soviet Unions GDP controlled by the Soviets, I have deducted a third of
the Soviet Unions 1938 GDP from the allied total.
18 In 1938 dollars, the income of the quarter sphere would have been $78 billion while the income
of the rest of the world, which the German and Japanese hegemons would have controlled in Spykmans
scenario of the global blockade, would have been $182 billion, yielding a ratio of 1:2.3. See Woytinsky
and Woytinsky, World Population and Production, 395. Again, remember that in 1938 the United States
was still in the depression, whereas the Germany and Japan were not.
19 In making this comparison, I am employing John Stuart Mills method of differencecases similar in initial characteristics but different in their outcomes. There is, however, an added twist: one of
the two cases is a hypothetical. Despite this, the comparison remains useful enough to enable us to locate
the factors that account for the hypothesized difference in outcomesthe defeat of the German Empire
and the presumed successful defense of the American quarter sphere. For an excellent primer on case

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In fighting its great power opponents, the German Empire suffered from
six crucial disadvantages. First, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States
together outclassed the German Empire in population, but especially in gross
economic production and wartime weapons production. At its peak strength,
the empire included continental Western Europe (except Spain, Portugal, and
Switzerland), all of Central Europe, Scandinavia (except for Sweden), a good
chunk of the Soviet Union, and a large swath of North Africa. The combined
population of the three allies was about 285 million, whereas the German
Empire at its peak was about 250 milliona 12 percent advantage for the
allies. The gross national product of the peak German Empire to that of its
three great power adversaries combined was somewhere between 1:3.2 and
1:1.6, as stated above.20
Figures on wartime weapons production are more telling. In every category, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States out-produced Germany
by wide margins. For example, at peak aircraft production in 1944, Germany
produced 39,807 planes, but Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States
produced, respectively, 26,461, 40,300, and 96,318, for a total of 160,000
a four-to-one advantage. During the two years of peak tank production,
Germany produced 22,000 (1944), but Britain produced 7,500 (1943), the
Soviet Union 29,000 (1944), and the United States 29,500 (1943), for a total
of 66,000, or a three-to-one advantage. The story is roughly the same for
ships and artillery.21
Second, the allies had a powerful enemy state contiguous to Germany
to grind down its land forces. Between 1941 and 1945, over four hundred
Soviet and German divisions fought along a front over one thousand miles
long. In those years the Red Army destroyed or disabled an estimated 607
Axis divisions. Unless the Soviets had first weakened the German army, the
British-American invasion of France would not have succeeded.
Third, the allies had another state (Britain) close enough to Germany to
serve as a secure base from which to bomb and severely degrade its productive capacity. Between 1942 and 1945, American and British bombers
relentlessly pounded Germanys cities. Although strategic bombing by itself did not end the war, it did weaken Germanys military effort through
both its destructive and diversionary effects. Direct destruction of industrial
comparison, see Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methodology for Students of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1997), memo 2.
20 Population is in 1938 Figures. For the basis of the range of GDP ratios, see note 17.
21 Weapons production figures come from Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (London: Jonathan
Cape, 1995), 33132. Overys book is a marvelous account of why the allies won World War II. The order
of magnitude of allied superiority over Germany in weapons production generally accorded with the
estimates of Alfred Mierzejewski, though he attributed a greater allied superiority in both population and
productive capacity than I think the evidence warrants. Still, the fact of allied superiority is not in dispute,
only the order of magnitude. See Alfred C. Mierzejewski, The Collapse of the German War Economy,
19441945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 66. See also R. J. Overy, War and
Economy in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

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production took its toll. For example, in January 1945, Albert Speer, Hitlers
war production czar, and his colleagues met to assess what allied bombing had done to the war effort in 1944. They concluded that it had caused
Germany to produce 35 percent fewer tanks than planned, 31 percent fewer
aircraft, and 42 percent fewer trucks. The diversionary effects were equally
crippling. Bombing caused Germany to channel more resources into homeland defense against allied bombers, thereby taking resources away from
the production of items like tanks, aircraft, and artillery for the eastern and
western fronts. In 1942, for example, half of Germanys combat aircraft built
were bombers, which proved quite destructive to Soviet forces on the eastern
front; in 1944, however, only 18 percent were bombers because resources had
been diverted to producing fighters to attack allied bombers over Germany.
In 1944, for another example, 33 percent of all German artillery production
went for anti-aircraft guns, and an estimated two million Germans were engaged in anti-aircraft defense. In total, through both direct destruction and
diversion of resources, the British-American bombing effort denied German
forces on the eastern and western fronts of about half the weapons and
equipment they needed.22
Fourth, the Germans failed in their attempt to deny the British and the
Americans command of the Atlantic. Initially, the German submarine war
devastated British shipping and allied convoys across the Atlantic. In the first
two years of the war, for example, Britain lost over two thousands ships to
German submarines and aircraft and over 8 million tons of supplies. In 1938
Britain imported 68 million tons but in 1941, only 26 million. By late 1941
Britains merchant fleet was steadily declining. Between January and April
1942, the British and the Americans lost more ships to submarines than had
been lost in the Atlantic for all of 1941. In mid-1943, however, after three years
of hard effort, the allies finally hit upon the means to stalemate the submarine
wolf packs. They changed tactics and began to use carrier-based aircraft and
land-based, long-range aircraft to protect their convoys against the submarine
wolf packs. Aircraft proved so devastating to German submarines that the
allies deliberately steered their convoys into the submarine wolf packs in
order to destroy them. Between June and December of 1943, the allies lost
only fifty-seven ships and 157,000 tons of shipping, only 3 percent of what
they had suffered in 1942, while the Germans lost 141 submarines.23 By

22 The statistics in this paragraph come from Overy, Why the Allies Won, 129, 131, and 321. Overys
assessment about the effects of strategic bombing on Germany differed from that of from Robert Pape,
who wrote the best book we have on the effectiveness of strategic bombing in the twentieth century. Pape
concludes that strategic bombing had little effect on Germanys economy and its ability to sustain the war
effort. Pape, however, ignored Speers evidence and also misses the diversionary effects of bombing. See
Robert Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996),
28182.
23 Overy, Why the Allies Won, 26, 31, 47, and 58. See chap. 2 for Overys account of how the Battle
of the Atlantic was won. For a full analysis of the submarine in twentieth-century warfare, see Karl

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the end of 1943, the Atlantic had been effectively cleared of the submarine
threat.
Allied command of the seas was vital to winning the war. If the allies
had not secured command of the seas, Britain would have been defeated.24
Without Britain, the United States would not have had a secure staging area
from which to bomb and then invade western Eurasia, and without the invasion of France, Germany could have diverted more of its military might to
the eastern front and likely fought the Soviet Union to a draw. The lifeline to
Britain, the buildup for the invasion of France, the actual invasion of France,
and the second front were all feasible only because the allies won the Battle
of the Atlantic.25 Command of the seas was essential to defeat the German
Empire.
Fifth, the Germans lost control of the air to the allies. The British and
the Americans established air superiority over Western Europe in two ways.
First, their strategic bombing of Germany disrupted aircraft production and
reduced the number of fighters Germany could put in the air. Second, and
probably more important, after the allies equipped their fighters with external
disposable fuel tanks, they were able to accompany the bombers and shot
down the German fighters that were attempting to shoot down the allied
bombers. Allied defense of their strategic bombers destroyed the German
fighter force. After extending the ranges of their fighters in early 1944, the
allies shot down over four thousand German planes between January and
March, decimated the German air force, and thereby achieved decisive air
superiority over the Luftwaffe. So overwhelming was their command of the
air that the battle to secure the Normandy beachhead saw 12,000 British and
American aircraft, including 5,600 fighters, pitted against a mere 170 German
aircraft in northern France.26
Sixth and last, the allies had both a secure staging area close by the
continent from which to invade it and a secure transit to the continent. The
staging area and the transit were both made possible by allied command of
Lautenschlager, The Submarine in Naval Warfare, 19012001, International Security 11, no. 3 (winter
198687): 94141.
24 From 1940 through 1944, Britain imported about 146 million tons. See Kevin Smith, Conflict
over Convoys: Anglo-American Logistics Diplomacy in the Second World War (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996), 249. Smith covers in detail the wartime needs of Britain, its shipping losses to
German submarines, and British-American conflicts over the resupply of Britain.
25 The invasion of France required that the United States ship 9 million tons of supplies and 800,000
troops to Britain between January and June 1944. See Overy, Why the Allies Won, 146.
26 Ibid., 162 and 12324. Overy recounted that it was technically feasible quite early in the war to
put disposable, external fuel tanks under the wings of fighters to extend their ranges, but this was not
done until much later because for too long it was assumed that heavily armed bombers could defend
themselves. In fact, bombers were like unescorted merchant ships: to deliver their bomb cargoes they
needed to be convoyed (ibid., 131). The extra tanks were put on the P-38 Lightning and the P-47
Thunderbolt and the range of both fighters was increased from 500 to 2,000 miles. By March of 1944,
the P-51 Mustang with a maximum range of 1,800 miles came into the force and could accompany the
bombers to Berlin and back. See also Pape, Bombing to Win, 274.

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the seas and the skies. The Battle of the Atlantic also secured naval command
of the English Channel; the strategic bombing campaign over Germany secured command of the air over western Eurasia, the Channel, and Britain.
Without secure staging and secure transit, the Normandy invasion would
have ended in disaster.27
Would the six vulnerabilities that largely explain the German Empires
defeatinferiority in productive capacity, a contiguous powerful enemy, sustained strategic bombing, loss of command of the seas, loss of control of the
air, and a secure base and transit for invasionhave plagued the American
quarter sphere? The answer is: only the first would have, but even here, not
with the same devastating effects that it had on the German Empire.
First, the United States was blessed with two weak contiguous states,
Canada and Mexico. The second most powerful state in the Western
Hemisphere at the time, Argentina, was further from the United States than
Europe was. The two Eurasian hegemons, therefore, would not have had a
powerful ally contiguous to the United States to grind it down for several
years preparatory to their invasion. Consequently, the United States would
have remained at full military strength to meet the two invaders.
Second, the United States would not have lost to the hegemons the
command-of-the-sea approaches to the quarter sphere. A combination of
fighter escorted land-based bombers, massed carrier formations, and submarines would have devastated German and Japanese naval forces and convoys operating close to Americas own shores and to the quarter spheres
defensive perimeter. To develop a defensive ring extending into the Atlantic
and Pacific oceans, the United States would have had to do the following:
(1) built the carrier fleets necessary to defend against German and Japanese
carrier fleets; (2) built the type of land-based aircraft that at the time was
most useful for sinking shipsnot long-range bombers with only horizontal bombing capability, but aircraft capable of dive bombing and torpedo
bombing; (3) built the fighter escorts necessary to defend these land-based
27 To these four allied advantages we can add a fifth: deception. Operation Overlord (the Normandy
invasion) was a much riskier affair than commonly thought and by no means assured simply because
the allies had superiority in gross power. The commander of the Normandy forces, General Montgomery,
told one of his commanders shortly after the invasion that had Rommel used his operational reserve, he
could have defeated the allies on the beaches and driven them back into the sea, in spite of the fact that
Rommel faced complete allied control of the air. Rommel had thirty-four divisions under his command to
use against the five British and American divisions landing at Normandy, but Hitler refused to allow him
to commit most of them against these five divisions because he was convinced that Overlord was a feint
and that the main invasion force would come instead across the narrow neck of the English Channel,
from Dover to Calais. Hitler therefore ordered Rommel to keep the 15th German army in the Calais area,
awaiting the main attack. Only on 7 August 1944 did he allow Rommel to commit his reserves, but by then
the allied foothold at Normandy was too firmly entrenched to dislodge. That Hitler thought Normandy
a feint bespeaks of the success of the allied deception effort. Codenamed FUSAG, this effort involved
a ruse so elaborate that false troop camps were set up in southeastern England and one of Americas
best war fighters, George Patton, was put in charge of them. See Overy, Why the Allies Won, 15064; and
Charles Cruickshank, Deception in World War II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), chap. 12.

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bombers against the hegemons carrier-based fighters; (4) built the fighter
aircraft forces of sufficient size, range, and lethality to defend against any
enemy carrier-based aircraft that made it to the American homeland; and
(5) spread these land-based air and naval assets in ways that would protect
the quarter sphere from invasion.28 There is no reason to suppose that the
United States would not have done these things.
Third, the United States would not have lost command of the skies
in the strategic air zones contiguous to it. Distance would have worked in
Americas favor. Its two adversaries would be operating their New World
air bases at the end of long and tenuous supply lines from overseas, while
the United States would be operating at the end of shorter and more secure
lines of supply. Moreover, with sufficient fighter escort, Americas long-range
airpower could have crippled or destroyed whatever bomber bases the two
hegemons managed to establish. Those bombers that managed to survive
American bombardment would have to run the gauntlet of American air
defenses, especially fighter aircraft, but German and Japanese fighter aircraft
escorting their bombers from their New World bases would be operating
at long ranges and would be at a distinct disadvantage in both numbers
and ranges compared to American fighters. For these reasons, the United
States could have established an effective protective air screen for the quarter
sphere against enemy airpower.
Fourth and fifth, without having secured both command-of-the-sea and
air approaches to the New World, the two hegemons could not have implemented a sustained strategic bombing campaign against the United States,
nor established a secure staging area for invasion. Both sustained bombing and invasion would have required huge amounts of resources to be
shipped to the Western Hemisphere, which could have been done only by
sea. These seaborne supplies, however, would have been drastically attrited
on the three to five thousand mile ocean journey by American submarine
and naval air power operating at great distances from Americas shores, and
whatever did manage to get through to the hegemons New World bases
would have been subject to Americas massive air bombardment.29 Shorn of
28 I am indebted to Owen Cote of Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Security Studies Program
for pointing out to me the difference in effectiveness between horizontal bombing and dive bombing to
sink ships and for educating me on the differences between the European and Pacific theaters during
World War II regarding the effectiveness of land-based versus naval-based airpower. For a discussion
of the merits of land-based versus carrier-based airpower, see Bernard Brodie, A Laymans Guide to
Naval Strategy, 2nd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943), chaps. 6 and 8. This book was later
published as A Guide to Naval Strategy.
29 Quite early in World War II in the European theater, Germany demonstrated the lethality of longrange, land-based airpower against surface ships and especially merchant shipping. In 1941, Germanys
land-based aircraft operating from continental coastal bases sunk over one million tons of British shipping,
more than British shipyards could replace. See Overy, Why the Allies Won, 30. Japanese land-based
airpower proved less effective in the Pacific against ships because of the large distances involved, the
inability of the Japanese to defend everywhere, and the ability of the United States to mass carrier airpower

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the ability to establish, strengthen, and constantly resupply strategic bases


close enough to the United States, the two hegemons would have found it
nearly impossible to project a sufficient amount of air, land, and naval power
against the quarter sphere to invade and defeat it.
The American quarter sphere, therefore, would have had only one disadvantage in common with the German Empirethe roughly similar disparity in
productive capacity compared to its two adversaries. It is by no means clear,
however, that this disparity would have disadvantaged the United States the
way it disadvantaged Germany. Five factors would have offset the Eurasian
hegemons productive superiority.
First, superiority in productive capacity alone did not enable the allies to defeat the German Empire. Productive superiority combined with the
five advantages noted above to produce the Empires defeat. In reviewing
the quarter spheres strengths and the Eurasian hegemons weaknesses, therefore, it is important to remember synergy. In the allies war effort against the
German Empire, none of the six advantages operated in isolation from one
another but, in fact, reinforced one another. For example, the Soviet effort
on the eastern front drew German forces away from the defense of France,
while the British-American strategic bombing campaign drew German forces
away from the eastern front. Synergy produced cumulative effects that piled
up against the German Empire and in favor of the allies. Similarly, just as synergy and cumulativity magnified the allies offensive advantages against the
German Empire, synergy and cumulativity would have magnified the quarter
spheres defensive advantages against the German-Japanese hegemons.
Second, the two hegemons productive superiority could not have easily made up for the great gauntlet they would have to run in projecting
their power across the oceans. Distance would have diminished their power.
Third, Americas great defensive advantages would have compensated for the
Eurasian hegemons presumed gross productive superiority. Defense does
not require superiority in resources; usually, the offense does.
Fourth, the United States may well have narrowed the productive gap
significantly. Americas productive power in 1938, the baseline used in the
above analysis, was low because the United States was still in depression.
Its potential productive power was enormous and as World War II demonstrated, still untapped. Between 1939 and 1944 Americas gross national product increased from $88 billion to $135 billion, an astounding 53 percent
increase, while between 1941 and 1945 its industrial production doubled,
an astounding 100 percent increase.30 Finally, fifth, the United States in its
at selected points to overwhelm Japanese land-based air assets. The United States created carrier task
forces in the Pacific of a size and capability not seen in the European theater. I am indebted to Owen
Cote for making me aware of the differences in the land- versus sea-based air situations in the Pacific
versus the Atlantic theaters. Also see Brodie, A Laymans Guide to Naval Strategy, chaps. 6 and 8.
30 See Alan S. Milward, War, Economy, and Society, 19391945 (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1977), 63; and Overy, Why the Allies Won, 192. Woytinsky and Woytinsky report an even larger

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quarter sphere had enormous reserves of strategic raw materials and energy
supplies (discussed next), something the German Empire never came close
to possessing. The quarter sphere therefore would have had a greater staying
power and a stronger sustainable defense than the German Empire did.
The synergistic effects of the advantages enjoyed by the United States
weak contiguous neighbors, a defensive posture, great distance from Eurasia,
interdiction power yielded by long-range land-based aircraft and massed
carrier groups, mass productive potential, and raw material abundanceall
made military defense of the quarter sphere viable. On this score Spykman
was right.

ECONOMIC SELF-SUFFICIENCY OF THE QUARTER SPHERE


Where Spykman went awry was in the second half of his analysis. America
was in for neither a swift military defeat nor a slow economic strangulation.
For starters, the United States was self-sufficient in food and energy. It
was a net exporter of agricultural products and had coal and oil reserves to
last it indefinitely. Should the United States somehow become low on energy,
plentiful oil supplies were available from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela
all well within the quarter sphere defensive zone. Thus, the Eurasian hegemons could have neither starved the United States out nor run its energy
supplies down to empty.
The case for strangulation therefore turns on the availability of eleven
strategic raw materials considered at the time to be essential for military defense: aluminum, antimony, chrome, manganese, mica, nickel, quartz crystal,
quicksilver, tin, tungsten, and rubber. These eleven items are drawn from a
list of seventeen materials the Army-Navy Munitions Board considered strategic in its 1939 report. In addition to these eleven items, the Board included
optical glass, which was a manufactured product, not a raw material, and five
other agricultural productscoconut shell char, manila fiber, quinine, silk,
and woolin addition to rubber.31 I have excluded optical glass and the five
additional agricultural products from the list of strategic raw materials for the
following reasons.
First, surely the United States would have had no difficulty in producing
its own optical glass if needed. Second, of the six agricultural products listed
as strategic by the Army-Navy Munitions Board, none appeared beyond the
ability of the United States to find or produce in the quarter sphere, for
reasons Spykman himself made clear. For starters, he pointed out that manila
fiber, which was imported from the Philippines and was useful for making
naval cordage, could have been grown in Panama and other sections of
increase in Americas GNP: from $67 billion in 1938 to $184 billion in 1944. See Woytinsky and Woytinsky,
World Population and Production, 383, table 180.
31 Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics, 294.

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the American tropics. Quinine was essential at the time for dealing with
malaria and was imported from the Asian tropics, but it could have been
grown in Columbia, although it would take nearly seven years before the
quinine could be extracted from the cinchona tree. Spykman noted that in the
meantime, the drug industry was developing effective substitutes. Of course,
if the United States were not fighting in the tropics, the demand for quinine
would have been less. Silk had many industrial and military uses and came
from Japan and Japanese controlled areas, but Spykman pointed out that
there was an enormous stockpile on hand and that synthetic products, like
rayon and nylon, could have substituted for the many military uses of silk.
Finally, I conclude that wool production could have easily been increased
in the United States. This leaves coconut shell char, which Spykman did
not discuss at all, presumably because he did not consider it important.32
I have not analyzed the supply situation of critical raw materials and those
considered neither critical nor strategic because they were, by definition,
amply available.
Spykman argued that the United States did not have adequate domestic reserves of any of these eleven strategic raw materials and, furthermore,
that it could not have obtained sufficient amounts from elsewhere within
the quarter sphere.33 Spykman was wrong. Through a variety of measures
substitution, synthetic production, expanded domestic production, conservation, recycling, and imports from sources within the quarter spherethe
United States could have acquired what it needed. These eleven strategic raw
materials, together with an accounting of where they could be obtained, are
listed in Table 1.34 Let us consider each in turn.
During the period under consideration, more than 90 percent of the
tungsten consumed in the United States went into the manufacture of highspeed cutting tools. Molybdenum could have served as a substitute for
tungsten in this case, and the United States had a superabundant supply
32

Ibid., 31013.
Spykman chose the year 1937 as his baseline to evaluate the strategic raw materials situation of
the United States for reasons he does not specify, but presumably it had something to do with avoiding
the distortions caused by the mobilization and stockpiling efforts that began to take effect in 1938 and
1939. I follow his convention and use 1937 as the baseline for assessing the supply situation of the United
States in my analysis.
34 The main sources used to reach the conclusion about quarter sphere self sufficiency are listed in
table 1. Additional useful sources are Eugene Staley, Raw Materials in Peace and War (New York: Council
on Foreign Relations, 1937); John B. DeMille, Strategic Minerals: A Summary of Uses, World Output,
Stockpiles, Procurement (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947); Arthur H. Westing, ed., Global Resources and
International Conflict: Environmental Factors in Strategic Policy and Action (New York: Oxford, 1986);
Kenneth A. Kessel, Strategic Minerals: U.S. Alternatives (Washington, DC: National Defense University
Press, 1990); Lance N. Antrim et al., Strategic Materials: Technologies to Reduce US Import Vulnerability,
Office of Technology Assessment, OTA-ITE-248 (Washington, DC: OTA, May 1985); G.A. Roush, Strategic
Mineral Supplies (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1939); Herman Kranold, The International Distribution of Raw
Materials (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1939), especially the statistical tables; and Henry William
Spiegel, The Economics of Total War (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1942), chap. 8.
33

The United States, The Balance of Power, and World War II

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TABLE 1 Quarter sphere self-sufficiency in strategic raw materials, 19331945

Raw material
Aluminum and
bauxite

47

138

129

.05

18

46

Mica

70

72

Nickel

.05

100

Quartz crystal
Quicksilver
(mercury)
Tin

0
47

100
61

31

Tungsten

56

108

Antimony

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Latin American,
Canadian, and U.S.
production as
U.S. Production
as percentage of percentage of U.S.
U.S. consumption consumption (1937
(1937 figures)
figures)

Chrome

Manganese

Rubber

Quarter sphere sources


(193445 figures)
Bauxite available from British
and Dutch Guiana (E),
Jamaica (VR), and Canada
(BOM) (Venezuela later found
to have large reserves VR)
U.S. self-sufficiency by secondary
recovery and unexploited
domestic deposits (E); Mexico
also a source (BOM)
Cuba, Brazil, Canada,
Guatemala (S, BR, BOM);
Huge U.S. production from
large low-grade reserves
(E & S); conserve by stopping
decorative use
Cuba and Brazil have large
untapped reserves (S, E,
BOM)
Canada, Brazil, Columbia; easy
substitutes in glass and
plastics (S)
Canadian supplies inexhaustible
(E & BOM); Canada produced
89% of worlds nickel in 1937
and 208% of U.S. consumption
in 1937 (S)
100% from Brazil (S)
Venezuela; domestic production
easy to expand (S)
Most uses for convenience
(tin-plating cans), not
necessity; stop such use,
recycle, and conserve (S & E)
Unexploited low-grade reserves
in U.S.; can use as a substitute
the metal molybdenum in
which U.S. is self-sufficient (E)
Synthetic production

Sources: For columns 2 and 3, data for the year 1937 from Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics,
302. For column 4, (S) is data from Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics, 279, 297-98, and 300
310; (E) is data from Brooks Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials, 22, 25, 4284, 92102, and 172; (BR)
is data from H. Foster Bain and Thomas Thornton Read, Ores and Industry in South America (New York:
Harper and Brothers, 1934), 58159; (BOM) is data from U.S. Bureau of Mines, Mineral Raw Materials, 2,
14, 139, and passim; (VR) is data from W. C. J. van Rensburg, Strategic Minerals, 428 and 450.

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of it.35 Had the United States not chosen to use molybdenum, however, it
could have mined its large reserves of low grade tungsten ore. During World
War II, the U.S. Bureau of Mines located twenty-seven properties with tungsten deposits amounting to 1.5 million tons of good milling ore. Based on a
peak World War II consumption rate of about 10,000 short tons per year, the
United States would have had sufficient supplies of tungsten, even without
the use of molybdenum, to last a long, long time.36
Rubber was a strategic material because every type of war machine ran
on it. Rubber was an excellent exemplar of how necessity fathered invention: synthetic production easily made up for the loss of the Southeast Asian
supplies of natural rubber.37 In the case of mica, substitutes like glass and
plastics were readily available.
Chrome was among the three or four most essential materials and was
critical in making steel and in manufacturing armor plate and projectiles.
Americas needs would have been met by a combination of four measures:
conservation, substitution, imports from within the quarter sphere, and increased domestic production. First, a great deal of chrome was used for both
convenience and decorative purposes, such as stainless steel, car bumpers,
and hotel railings. In wartime, convenience and decoration would yield to
necessity, and conservation would have released chrome for the most essential uses.38
Second, one of the most important uses of chrome at the time was to
make heat-resistant linings (refractories) for furnaces that produced steel.
(Approximately 37 percent of the chromite consumed was in the manufacture of refractories.) Magnesite and dolomite, which the United States had in
abundance, could be used instead for refractory production.39 Third, additional supplies of chromite could be obtained from Cuba (large deposits of

35 Brooks Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials: A Study of America in Peace and War (New York:
Macmillan, 1934), 77 and 82. Canada also had molybdenum; in 1980, it was the second largest producer of
molybdenum, the United States being first. See Rae Weston, Strategic Materials: A World Survey (London:
Croom Helm, 1984), 6465.
36 DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 51718.
37 The technique for making synthetic rubber was well known at the time, and included two basic
ingredients, alcohol or oil. The United States put in motion its program for synthetic production in the
winter and early spring of 1942. For details on of how the United States dealt with the cutoff of natural
rubber from Southeast Asia during World War II, see Donald M. Nelson, Arsenal of Democracy: The Story
of American War Production (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946), chap. 15.
38 Some sense of the savings to be gained by eliminating the use of chrome for non-essential purposes
can be gained by looking at chromium use in the 1980s. Van Evera noted that 57 percent of American
chrome consumption at this time went to produce stainless steel. Only about 20 percent of stainless steel,
however, was used in environments where its use was considered critical; the remaining 80 percent was
for convenience or decorative purposes. Restricting the use of stainless steel only to critical environments
would eliminate 80 percent of stainless steel production, which, in turn, would reduce Americas chrome
consumption by 46 percent. See Stephen Van Evera, Why Europe Matters, Why the Third World Doesnt:
American Grand Strategy After the Cold War, Security Studies 13, no. 2 (June 1990): 20.
39 Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials, 65; and DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 118.

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low-grade ore), Guatemala (high-grade ore), Alaska (132,000 short tons of


shipping ore), and Canada (scattered deposits).40
Fourth, domestic production of chrome could have easily expanded because the United States had large amounts of low-grade chromite that were
exploitable at the right price.41 Mines are brought on line according to their
profitability, which is determined by their costs of extraction compared to
those of the least-cost world producers. As a consequence, production of
minerals is not fixed, but a function of price (in an economists terms, the
supply elasticity is high). If the price is increased (or if production is subsidized) to the point where the mining of low-grade ores becomes profitable,
then more supply comes on line. This is exactly what happened in the United
States during World War II. Chrome production went from 4,000 short tons
in 1939 to 113,000 in 1942 and 161,000 in 1943.42 Finally, during World War
II the Bureau of Mines explored twenty properties in the United States that
were found to include 5.37 million tons of low-grade chromic oxide, and
submarginal chromite resources (available at a high price) were estimated to
be adequate for five to twenty-five years.43
This same storyexpanded domestic production when the price was
rightalso held true for bauxite (to produce aluminum) and tungsten. In
1937, the Bureau of Mines estimated Americas commercial-grade bauxite
supplies would last thirty to forty years at then-present rates of consumption.
British and Dutch Guiana and Jamaica, all within the quarter sphere, also
had considerable reserves of bauxite.44 In 1939, the United States produced
381,000 metric tons; in 1942, 2.5 million tons; and in 1943, 6.1 million tons.45
Domestic production of tungsten more than doubled between 1939 and 1943,
going from 4,287 to 11,935 short tons, primarily by exploiting submarginal
domestic sources.46 Supply rose to meet the price.
Manganese, specifically ferro-grade ore, was essential to the production
of steel. In 1937, Americas wartime needs were estimated to be 800,000
long tons per year, with domestic reserves estimated at 4.35 million long
40

Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials, 68.


Emeny estimated that Americas domestic reserves of low-grade ore in 1934 at 1,252,000 long tons,
with an annual wartime use of 150,000 long tons per year, or enough for eight years if no substitution or
recycling were instituted. Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials, 65.
42 Milward, War, Economy, and Society, 69.
43 DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 11920 and 122. During World War II the Bureau of Mines estimated
that 60 percent of Americas expanded wartime production in 1943 could have been met from only two
low-grade ore areas, when normally domestic production supplied only 3 percent of domestic use.
44 U.S. Bureau of Mines, Mineral Raw Materials: Survey of Commerce and Sources in Major Industrial
Countries (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1937), 28; and W. C. J. van Rensburg, Strategic Minerals, Vol. 1, Major
Mineral-Exporting Regions of the World (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986), 452. Van Rensburg
reported that these three countries in 1986 (then called Jamaica, Suriname, and Guyana) accounted for
18.8 percent of free world production of bauxite. Jamaica alone had 2 billion metric tons of bauxite
reserves. Van Rensburg, Strategic Minerals, 450.
45 DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 84; and Milward, War, Economy, and Society, 69.
46 DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 519.
41

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tons, enough to last five years.47 During World War II, however, the Bureau
of Mines found forty-six properties that contained 26.5 million tons of ore
averaging about 12 percent manganese; moreover, production techniques
for the recovery of substantial tonnages of ferro-grade ore from low-grade
sources were invented. As a consequence of new finds and new separation techniques, Americas reserves were dramatically expanded, making
self-sufficiency possible in a long war.48 Finally, Cuba, Mexico, and especially Brazil, all within the quarter sphere defensive zone, could have supplemented Americas shortages. Brazil alone was estimated to have 30 million
tons of high-grade ore.49
Except in the case of tin, for all the remaining items on the list
antimony, nickel, quartz crystal, and mercuryadequate supplies were obtainable through conservation, expanded domestic supplies, and imports
from secure areas within the quarter sphere defensive zone. Table 1 shows
which measures applied for these four items.
Tin appears to be the one strategic material for which neither domestic
supplies nor imports from the quarter sphere would have been adequate.
(Alaska, Canada, and Mexico did produce small amounts of tin.) Tin was
also the metal of which the United States experienced the most critical metal
shortages during World War II. Four measures could have been taken (and
were during World War II) to stretch supplies.
First, much of the tin used in the United States went for tinplating cans,
a convenience but certainly not a necessity. As with the case of chrome,
civilian convenience would yield to wartime necessity as substitutes were
found.50 Second, new techniques for more efficient use of tin, to stretch out
supplies, would come on line, as happened during World War II.51 Third, tin
could be recycled, which it was during World War II. Through substitution
measures alone, the United States could have cut its consumption of tin by 74
percent, based on 1941 usage figures.52 Finally, if these three measures did
not suffice, there were always the large tin reserves of Bolivia. If the United
States could not have held Bolivia within the quarter sphere, then it could
have undertaken a crash program of stockpiling tin from Bolivian sources
47

Emeny, The Strategy of Raw Materials, 51.


DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 30002.One source at the Bureau of Mines estimated Americas manganese reserves could last between one and five hundred years at 193539 rates of consumption.
49 DeMille, Strategic Minerals, 308 and 311. In 1941, for example, DeMille reported that the United
States imported 316,000 tons of manganese from Brazil and 243,000 from Cuba. In 1980, Brazil was one
of the worlds major producers of manganese. See Weston, Strategic Minerals, 61.
50 In 1941, 45,000 tons of tin out of a total domestic use of 135,000 tons were used for tin plate. See
De Mille, Strategic Minerals, 484.
51 Electrolytic tin-plating was developed during World War II, and this process saved between onehalf and one-third the weight of tin compared to the previous methods. See ibid.
52 Ibid. In 1941, the United States consumed 135,000 long tons of tin, of which 45,000 went for tin
plate, 28,000 for solder, 23,000 for bronze and brass, and 4,000 for foil. Substitutes for all these uses were
or could have been found.
48

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before the country fell into the Eurasian hegemons hands. Thus, although
assuring adequate tin supplies would not have been as easy to guarantee as
was the case for the other ten strategic materials, it could, nevertheless, have
been done. Surely, Americas war machine would not have ground to a halt
because of a shortage of tin.
In sum, in terms of his own argument and data, Spykman was wrong.
Continental-sized powers are nearly impossible to defeat, especially when
they are an ocean away from their would-be conquerors. The United States
would have been able to defend itself, if not indefinitely, then at least for a
long time.

CHALLENGES AND RESPONSES


There are five important counters to the line of analysis presented above, and
each involves a counterfactual claim. Counterfactuals can be neither proved
nor disproved nor, of course, can the responses to them. In dealing with
these five challenges, therefore, the best that can be done is to engage in
some informed speculation and to exercise some logic.
The first counterargument concerns military defense: the Germans and
the Japanese would have found other ways to threaten and attack the United
States from afar, without the necessity of relying simply on bombers that
would be easy to shoot down or on a naval armada that could be easily sunk. The second concerns the technological viability of the American
economy: it would not have remained technologically competitive with the
German and the Japanese empires because it would have been operating
on a much smaller economic scale than those two, and therefore it would
not have been able to generate the advanced military technology necessary
for defense. The third concerns the resource sustainability of the quarter
sphere: it may have contained enough of the strategic raw materials for
the United States to sustain the huge defense effort required for maybe a
decade at most, but not much more, so that eventually Spykmans economic
strangulation scenario would have come to pass. The fourth concerns the
political cohesion of the quarter sphere: Germany and Japan would have
been able, through economic inducements and military threat, to peel off
some states of the quarter sphere and thereby undermine its resource sustainability. The fifth and last concerns the political and psychological costs
to the American people: faced with two hostile and ruthless empires globally encircling it, the United States might have become a garrison state,
or the American people, feeling isolated and insecure, would have succumbed to the appeal of demagogues; either eventuality would have entailed severe costs to Americas freedoms. I examine each counterargument in
turn.

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Military Defense of the Quarter Sphere


The counterargument about military defense runs as follows. If Spykman
understood that land-based long-range bombers dominated naval-based air,
then, so, too, would the Germans and the Japanese. They would not have
launched an across-the-ocean suicidal invasion; instead, they would have
devised other means of attacking the United States from afar. One obvious
means would have been intercontinental ballistic missiles, but unless these
were nuclear-armed, they could not have collapsed Americas economy, destroyed its war production, or undermined the citizenrys morale. Germanys
missile bombardment of England failed to produce any of these effects; there
is no reason to believe that such a conventional bombardment from afar
against a much bigger country, with much greater potential for dispersion
of population and especially of industry, would have either.53 Consequently,
the only real military threat from a distance that the two Eurasian hegemons
could have posed would have been an intercontinental nuclear threat. Here
we enter the realm of nuclear defense and nuclear deterrence.
It is reasonable to argue that the United States would have had nuclear
weapons at the end of World War II had it not entered the war. In fact, one
might argue that had it not entered the war, it would in all likelihood have
produced the bomb more quickly because it would have been able to divert more resources to it. The United States began its program to produce
the atomic bomb (the Manhattan Project) on 9 October 1941, two months
before it entered the war. The reason is clear, as McGeorge Bundy explains:
First and foremost, if the thing [building the atomic bomb] could be done,
it was vital that Hitler not do it first.54 It is also likely that the United States
would have had the bomb before the Germans because their program lagged
considerably behind that of the United States due to errors and miscalculations the German scientists had made in their bomb efforts.55 Thus, without

53 Michael Neufeld described the German army rocket program as follows: . . . compared with AngloAmerican conventional strategic bombing, the V-2s results were pathetic. The total explosive yield of all
A-4s fired in anger was scarcely more than a single large RAF air raid! . . . The missiles psychological and
material impact on the Allied war effort was equally unimpressive . . . By the estimate of the United States
Strategic Bombing Survey, V-weapons production in 194445 alone cost the Third Reich the equivalent of
twenty-four thousand fighters at a time when the annual aircraft production was only thirty-six thousand.
In short, German missile development shortened the war; just as its [German] advocates said it would,
but in favor of the Allies. See Michael J. Neufeld, The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemunde and the Coming
of the Ballistic Missile Era (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 27374.
54 McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (New
York: Random House, 1988), 2829; also see 2953 for the full details on the basic decision to launch the
Manhattan Project.
55 See Jeremy Bernstein, Hitlers Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall (Woodbury NY:
American Institute of Physics Press, 1996) for details on why the Germans made slow progress. After the
war in Europe was over, Germanys nuclear scientists were stunned by the news about Hiroshima, given
their own slow progress. They had not even built a self-sustaining nuclear reactor. I am indebted to Owen
Cote for pointing out Bernsteins book to me. The Japanese apparently had an atomic weapons program,

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entering the war, the United States may have had nuclear weapons sooner
than 1945 and certainly before Germany.
If the United States would have had nuclear weapons before the
Germans and the Japanese, what would it have done with them? One clear
use would have been for defense. If Spykmans case for a successful conventional defense against a conventional invasion attempt is strong, as argued
above, then the case for a nuclear defense against it is even stronger. A nuclear attack on an invading armada would have destroyed it. The threat to use
nuclear weapons in this manner to deter an armada would also have been
highly credible because little or no harm to the continental United States
would have occurred had the weapons been dropped far enough out at sea.
Thus, the ability to nuke invading armadas would have likely have created
an impregnable defense. Similarly, the United States could have launched nuclear bombing raids against any German and Japanese long-range air assets
based in the Aleutians, Alaska, or Greenland should conventional bombing
of those bases not have been sufficient to destroy them and the bombers
based on them.
Moreover, the United States could have credibly threatened or used nuclear weapons for such a defense had the Germans and the Japanese acquired
their own nuclear weapons. If the United States used its nuclear weapons
only against German and Japanese naval armadas and New World bomber
bases, it would have avoided striking the German and Japanese homelands
and thereby held them hostage to a retaliatory attack. The Germans and
Japanese, however, would have been restrained from using their nuclear
forces against Americas conventional military forces, or against Americas
nuclear forces, because that would have necessitated using nuclear weapons
on American soil, thereby inviting Americas nuclear retaliation against their
homelands. Thus, by virtue of the geographic realities at the time, the United
States could engage in active use of nuclear weapons for defense without
provoking retaliation against its homeland, whereas the Germans and the
Japanese would have provoked a homeland attack had they tried to use
nuclear weapons for offense. Geography favored the United States for nuclear use. Finally, because nuclear weapons are much cheaper to produce
and field than large conventional forces, both nuclear defense and homeland
deterrence would have been relatively inexpensive for the United States to
sustain over the long term compared to the cost of maintaining large standing
conventional forces.56
but it lagged far behind the German one, getting only as far as uranium separation on a laboratory scale.
The United States was unaware of the program during the war and destroyed it during a bombing raid
on Tokyo in April 1945. See Dan Reiter, Preventive Attacks against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical
Weapons Programs: The Track Record, in Striking Discourse: Preventive Military Force in U.S. Security
Strategy, ed. William W. Keller and Gordon R, Mitchell, 97 (unpublished manuscript).
56 According to Stephen Schwartz, the United States spent just shy of $5.5 trillion dollars on its nuclear
weapons program from 19401996, which is 29 percent of the $18.7 trillion of total military spending for

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Thus, once it had nuclear weapons and could deliver them through intercontinental means, either by bombers or missiles, the United States would
have had a credible nuclear defense against invasion and a credible deterrent
against nuclear use on its own territory. The question then becomes: would it
have had some type of retaliatory capability against the German and Japanese
homelands (not simply against the nations they had subjugated) before or,
at least, at the same time as the Germans and the Japanese?
First, assume that both sides had nuclear weapons, but that neither side
had intercontinental ballistic missiles and hence that both had to rely on airpower, either land-based or carrier-based, to deliver their nuclear weapons.
If Spykman was correct in his view that the United States would have lost
northern Canada, Alaska, the Aleutians, and Greenland through German
and Japanese military action, the Germans and the Japanese would still not
have had a clear and decisive advantage in the range of their nuclear striking power. Although they could have threatened nuclear attacks on part of
the American homeland through long-range bombers flying from their New
World bases, or from naval carrier battle groups, the United States would
have been able to retaliate against both their homelands from the continental United States with the B-36 bomber as early as 1947 or 1948. In early
1941, when the Army Air Corps became concerned that Britain might fall
to Germany, the United States established the design specifications for the
B-36 bomber, which called for the capability to hit Europe from the United
States in the event the Germans conquered Britain.57 Given the pace of the
German nuclear program, it is highly unlikely that it would have had the
bomb before 1947 or 1948. (As a benchmark, the Soviet Union exploded its
bomb in August 1949.) Thus, the nuclear-armed B-36 could make the round
trip to Germany from the United States; it could also make the round trip to
Japan from Hawaii (if the United States held on to Hawaii) or hit Japan from
the continental United States, although retrieval of the crew at sea on the return home would have been necessary had Hawaii been lost.58 In the highly
unlikely event that the Germans did get the bomb before the B-36 became
the same period (both figures in 1996 dollars). See Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and
Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1998), 3.
The 29 percent figure probably understates the percentage that nuclear weapons consumed of the total
defense budget during the Cold War because of the huge costs of fighting World War II. See ibid., 4, table
1 for the breakdown on the costs of the nuclear program.
57 See Michael E. Brown, Flying Blind: The Politics of the U.S. Strategic Bomber Program (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1992), 108. An Air Force press release in 1948 stated that the B-36 was designed
to carry 10,000 pounds of bombs 10,000 miles, and can carry up to 72,000 pounds of bombs shorter
distances. Department of the Air Force, Air Information Division, Press Section, No. 37, press release,
5 September 1948, quoted in Paul Y. Hammond, Super Carriers and the B-36 Bombers: Appropriations,
Strategy and Politics, in Harold Stein, ed., American Civil-Military Decisions: A Book of Case Studies
(Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1963), 486 and 559. I am indebted to Owen Cote for
making me aware that the B-36 bomber had intercontinental range.
58 The 5 September 1948 Air Force release also stated: In tests during the summer [of 1948], a B-36
carried a sizeable useful load of bombs approximately 8,000 miles, and later took off on a flight at a

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operational, the United States would have had to mount a carrier-based retaliatory strike force during the one- to two-year transition period. This would
have been a riskier and more uncertain course, but not impossible, since the
bombers would have had some naval fighter escort and since only a small
number of bombers would have to get through in order to deter German use
of nuclear weapons.
Clearly, bombers are a more vulnerable means of delivery than intercontinental ballistic missiles; consequently, American bombers, either longrange land-based or carrier-based, would have been vulnerable to German
and Japanese air defenses. The same holds true for German and Japanese
bombers: flying from either their New World bases or from their carrier forces,
these bombers would have been vulnerable to American air defenses, especially to fighters. The Germans and the Japanese might have had a slight
edge in their ability to penetrate American air defenses because their landbased bombers could have flown from New World bases, whereas Americas
would have had to fly from the continental United States. They could never
be certain, however, that they could shoot down all of Americas incoming
long-range land-based and carrier-based bombers, and, as a consequence,
they could never be assured that their use of nuclear weapons against the
United States would be free from American retaliation. Thus, for all these
reasons, it is hard to make an argument that the United States would have
been subject to nuclear blackmail when it had only bomber delivery of its
nuclear weapons, even if the Germans and the Japanese had established air
bases in the New World.
The best means of assured retaliation is through intercontinental ballistic
missile delivery. At the end of World War II, the Germans had a lead in
rocket technology over the United States, and they would probably have
exploited this lead to the extent that they could.59 In fact, early in the war the
German rocket scientists at Peenemunde, the German armys rocket center,
thought about a possible design for an America rocket but at that time the
technology was not available to execute the design because, among other
things, the guidance requirements were extreme, the aerodynamics were
unknown, and the material did not yet exist to prevent the upper stage from
burning up during reentry into the atmosphere.60 Had they developed an
intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the United States, the Germans
would still have had the problem of developing the atomic bomb and then
fashioning a warhead to fit on the missile.
The United States began work in earnest on intercontinental ballistic
missiles in the early 1950s, and it began deploying an operational force by
gross weight exceeding 300,000 pounds and flew approximately 6,000 miles at an average air speed of
more than 300 miles per hour. Stein, American Civil-Military Decisions, 486.
59 See Neufeld, The Rocket and the Reich for the history of the German rocket program.
60 Ibid., 138.

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the end of that decade, both land- and sea-based, in the form of the Atlas
and Polaris, respectively.61 The United States could probably have deployed
a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile sooner than it did (although
probably not a sea-based one) had it instituted a crash program to race
against the Germans, but as it happened, it did not put a high priority on a
crash program right after World War II because its long-range bomber technology was so good, because it had easy access to overseas bomber bases
ringing the Soviet Union, and because the Air Force preferred long-range
bombers over missiles. As a consequence, in the late 1940s and into the
early 1950s, ballistic missile development was ranked fourth in order of priority, after bomber launched air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, surface-tosurface missiles of a 150 mile range, and surface-to-air and fighter-launched
air-to-air missiles. Some promising ballistic missile programs were cancelled,
and, in general, significant funds were not devoted to ballistic missile development until about 1954. In the early 1950s the Air Staff refused to provide
effective funding for the Atlas project, Americas first deployed-based ballistic missile, on the grounds that the weapon would never work or would
become available so far in the future that funding now was unnecessary or
even wasteful.62 It was not until late fall of 1954 that intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM) development enjoyed the highest priority within the Air Force
and not until the fall of 1955, the highest priority by presidential directive,
in the nations military arsenal.63 Had the United States perceived itself in a
race with the Germans to develop ballistic missile technology after the war, it
would have instituted the crash program and had a land-based ICBM earlier
than it did.64

61

The transfer of German rocket technology to the United States was crucial in early Air Force
work on intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ibid., 271. For good studies on Americas land- and sea-based
ballistic missile programs, see Ed Beard, Developing the ICBM: A Study in Bureaucratic Politics (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1976); and Harvey M. Sapolsky, The Polaris System Development: Bureaucratic
and Programmatic Success in Government (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972).
62 Beard, Developing the ICBM, 15455. A RAND report in February 1954 concluded that not enough
funds were being expended on the ballistic missile program, that excessively stringent performance
requirements were making the weapon appear nearly impossible, and that both were producing no
sense of urgency. The report also concluded that if performance requirements were relaxed, the presumed
problems in guidance, propulsion, and reentry could all be solved within the limits of then current
technology. Ibid., 16263.
63 Ibid., 61, 178, 193, 201, 204, 206, and chaps. 2, 3, and 7 passim.
64 By May 1948, after the Sandstone tests with atomic weapons demonstrated that new and lighter
types of warheads were possible and practical and that there would be an era of nuclear plenty, there was
no technological impediment to putting significant numbers of atomic warheads on land-based ballistic
missiles. The development of thermonuclear weapons in 1952 made the task of fitting warheads on
ballistic missiles even more feasible. Ibid., 14142. The United States, however, would have had a harder
time deploying a sea-based ballistic missile sooner than it did, although that program moved quite rapidly
once it began. It took only about five years from when the program was started to when the first Polaris
missile was deployed. The major constraint on the Polaris missile was fashioning a nuclear warhead small
enough to fit on it. Land-based ballistic missiles were bigger and more powerful and could therefore carry

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Thus, in this hypothetical world, the Germans would have had a lead in
rocket technology at the end of World War II and the United States, a lead
in nuclear weapons. Whether the Germans could have developed atomic
weapons to put on ballistic missiles faster than the United States could have
developed ballistic missiles to carry their atomic weapons is not clear. What is
clear is this: the United States would have had a nuclear retaliatory capability
based on long-range bombers until it had developed its intercontinental missile force; it would have developed that intercontinental ballistic force much
earlier than it actually did; and under either eventuality, it would have possessed an assured retaliatory capability that would have prevented German
nuclear blackmail.
In sum, it is hard to envision how the United States could have been
militarily defeated by the German and Japanese hegemons, either through
conventional or nuclear means. In fact, on strictly military grounds alone,
once it had developed nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them
overseas, the United States, for all practical purpose, was undefeatable. Nuclear weapons are, above all else, weapons of defense. Spykman did not
envision nuclear weapons because he was writing in a conventionally armed
world, but Americas possession of an intercontinental nuclear force, whether
bomber- or missile-based, only makes Spykmans argument about the United
States unconquerability all the stronger.

Technological Viability of the Quarter Sphere


The second counterargument has to do with the relation between economies
of scale and technological innovation. The argument here is that the Germans
and the Japanese would have been operating on such a larger scale economically than the United States that they would have been better able to
innovate than the United States in its quarter sphere defensive zone. That,
in turn, would have enabled them to pull sufficiently ahead of the United
States technologically to create the advanced weapons that would have done
in the United States.
Three responses can be made to this argument. First, there is no necessary relation between the size of an economy and its ability to innovate,
nor is there even a necessary relation between the size of a firm and its
ability to innovate. In the former case, the nature of the economy matters as
much as its size.65 In the latter case, small firms in the United States have
often proved to be the most innovative, and large firms often innovate by

a larger warhead. I am indebted to Harvey Sapolsky, director of MITs Security Studies Program, for these
details on the Polaris system.
65 On the subject of national competitiveness, see David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of
NationsWhy Some Nations Are So Rich and Some So Poor (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998); and Michael
E. Porter, The Competitive Advantage of Nations (New York: The Free Press, 1990).

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buying up the smaller innovative ones once their innovations have proved
both commercially viable and threatening to the large firms.
Second, throughout most of its history, the United States was relatively
uninvolved economically with the rest of the world if measured by exports
and imports as a percentage of GDP. Together, they constituted a total of 8
to 10 percent of Americas GDP well into the 1970s, and trade with Canada
and Mexico alone constituted 28 percent of Americas merchandise exports
(goods not services) in 1970.66 For the first thirty years of the Cold War,
the United States dependence on trade was low, but the countrys rate of
technological innovation was high, much of it fostered by the Department
of Defense. The increasing degree of interaction with the world economy
that the United States began to experience in the late 1970s was not a matter
of necessity, but of choice. The United States undertook to break down the
remaining barriers to trade in goods, began to tackle those in services, and
in the 1980s began to work for the free movement of capital because it believed it would benefit, and it has. A quarter sphere scale of economic activity
would have probably entailed some loss of economic dynamism, some loss
of technological innovation in the American economy, some loss in productive efficiency, and hence some loss in living standards. It is hard, however, to
make the argument that a vigorous governmental effort directed at militarytechnological innovation in government labs and a vigorous program to provide incentives for private sector innovation could not have counteracted
some of the loss of technological dynamism due to operations on a quarter
sphere scale. After all, the Soviet Union was a relatively closed economy during the Cold War, and even as a command economy, it was able to maintain
a relatively high level of technological innovation in its military sector for
nearly forty years. Thus, if the United States had been able to maintain its
free enterprise system (see below), then there is every reason to believe that
it could have sustained sufficient technological innovation in the crucial military sphere far longer than the Soviet Union, with its clearly inferior economic
system.
The third response, of course, is that the United States would have had
nuclear weapons, and if nuclear defense and deterrence were involved, it is
hard to see how any loss of technological competitiveness could have done
in the United States. In spite of repeated attempts, considerable sums, and
intensive efforts by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the
Cold War to undermine the nuclear revolution through technological means,
largely through building defenses against ballistic missile attack, they each
failed. The nuclear revolution has proved remarkably durable and would
most likely have remained so in the alternative world we are portraying. The
66 See Art, A Grand Strategy for America, 124; and U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the
Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, various
dates), table U.S. Exports, Imports, and Merchandise Trade Balance.

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United States could have fallen behind in some areas of military technology, but as long as it retained an invulnerable nuclear deterrent, it was not
conquerable.

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Resource Sustainability of the Quarter Sphere


The third counterargument is that my analysis overestimates the sustainability of the quarter sphere because it fails to account for the huge increases in the consumption of strategic raw materials that a large conventional defense would have entailed. Using 1937 rates of consumption for
these raw materials is not reasonable; they grossly understate the requirements of the quarter sphere in a warlike situation. Stocks that look sustainable by peacetime consumption rates would quickly become exhausted if
the United States had to ward off attacks against the two hegemons or maintain a formidable conventional defense in order to be in a position to deflect
them.
There is some merit to this critique, but it is difficult to know how much
merit and whether it dooms the case for a quarter sphere conventional defense. For starters, extrapolating the future consumption needs of a military
force of an undetermined size for an indeterminate length of time is akin to
an exercise in futility. It is also difficult to make such calculations because the
availability of raw materials is as much a function of price as it is of physical
endowment. As argued above, for example, mines that are uneconomical
at low prices come on line when the price rises sufficiently to make them
profitable. Furthermore, the stocks of many of the strategic raw materials
analyzed earlier could have lasted a very, very long time, even at considerably larger rates of annual consumption, according to the sources previously
presented.67 Such a critique also does not take into account the possibilities
for substitution and the ability to stretch out supplies through recycling and
conservation.68 In addition, what was considered strategic in 1937, or even
during World War II, might not have been considered strategic a decade later.
Forecasting what would be the strategic raw materials of the future without
knowing the course of technological innovation is well nigh impossible.
As a benchmark, however, it is useful to take a snapshot of the non-fuel
strategic mineral import situation of the United States in 1985, near the end of
the Cold War. This was the period when Americas dependency on imports
of strategic minerals had grown considerably, when the American economy

67 For several of the raw materials that Spykman listed as strategic in 1942, the United States, after
nearly forty years of production that included World War II and most of the Cold War, was still one of
the worlds major producers. This was true for tungsten, molybdenum, nickel, and mercury. See Weston,
Strategic Materials, 83, 64, 67, and 63.
68 For a discussion of the possibilities for substitution and recycling of the most important industrial
raw materials, see ibid., chap. 4.

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had dramatically increased its exposure to the world economy, and when
the technological situation of the United States had changed considerably
from Spykmans days. Even in this situation, the availability of strategic raw
materials in what would have been Spykmans quarter sphere presents a
favorable picture, although no definitive statement can be made about how
long these supplies would have lasted in the absence of serious substitution,
conservation, and recycling measures.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines data, the United States was dependent on imports for twenty-nine significant non-fuel minerals in 1984. The
major sources for these twenty-nine mineral imports were from countries all
over the world; for nineteen of them, however, Canada was one of the major
providers, and four countries in what would have been Spykmans quarter
sphere were also major sources.69 For the six remaining minerals, the quarter sphere was not a major source, but it could have been for most of them.
Cuba had chromium reserves, but the United States did not trade with Cuba
due to its Cold War embargo (although it could have out of necessity). Brazil
also had chromite reserves. The quarter sphere was not a major source for
either mercury or barite. The United States, however, was the worlds third
largest producer of mercury in 1980. Mexico also had significant reserves of
mercury, and barite, a mineral common in metallic veins, was also found
there. For three mineralsmica, platinum, and tinthe quarter sphere was
not a major source of imports, but Canada probably had exploitable reserves
of mica for the right price, and it did produce platinum as a by-product of
its nickel production (the United States also produced small amounts of platinum).70 This leaves only tin absent from the would-be quarter sphere, as it
was before World War II.
It is also important to note that Americas dependence on imports of
strategic minerals by the 1980s was, in part, as much a question of choice
and price as it was physical availability within the United States. As van
Rensburg noted in 1986:
69 Americas import dependence ran from 5 to 100 percent, depending on the mineral. See Kessel,
Strategic Minerals, 16, figure 3, which is based on 1984 data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Kessel
was not concerned with the amounts imported from Canada or the quarter sphere, but more generally
with the areas from which the United States imported the twenty-nine strategic minerals. I have calculated
these numbers for Canada and the quarter sphere from the Bureau of Mines data displayed in figure 3.
70 Van Rensburg, Strategic Minerals, 380 and 395; Raymond Mikesell, Non-Fuel Minerals: Foreign
Dependency and National Security (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1987), 181; Weston,
Strategic Materials, 51, 63, and 72. Much the same result is obtained by analyzing the data provided by
Raymond Mikesell on the foreign origins of twenty-six non-fuel minerals that the United States imported:
most of them could be found in Canada and the rest of the quarter sphere. See Mikesell, Non-Fuel
Minerals , 158, table 71. For a slightly more pessimistic picture of Americas import dependence on a
smaller number of non-fuel minerals, see Mikesell, Non-Fuel Minerals, 17781, app.; and L. Harold Bullis
and James E. Mielke, Strategic and Critical Raw Materials (Boulder: Westview Press, 1985), 10626. In
my view these two more pessimistic pictures do not take into account potential supplies from Cuba and
Canada, the possibilities of substitution and conservation, and the bringing on line of poorer grade and
hence more-expensive-to-extract U.S. supplies if that proved necessary.

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One reason why the U.S. imports more minerals now than it once did
is because domestic production of certain minerals has fallen. This is
a key issue. If the United States were to produce all the minerals now
found in this country, current levels of import dependence could fall
significantly for many minerals. Of course, geological constraints and
economic considerations would limit the extent of a U.S. turn to greater
mineral self-sufficiency. Yet the point holds true: The United States could
lower its import dependence, and perhaps vulnerability, if it were to
produce more minerals domestically. . . . However, the United States has
missed many opportunities to do that. Environmental regulations have
drawn out the predevelopment phase of proposed mines to 10 years or
more in many instances. As a result of high taxes, high operating costs,
uncertain product prices, and returns on investment only decades in the
future, many firms have turned away from otherwise worthy mineral development schemes.71

The conclusion to be drawn from this snapshot of non-fuel mineral imports is clear: the United States is a continental-sized country, richly endowed
with raw materials in abundance. So, too, is Canada. Together, it is hard to
envision both of these states not having available, at some price, the great
bulk of whatever raw materials a sustained conventional defense would have
required, and nearly all of what those two did not contain could have been
obtained from Spykmans quarter sphere, although how long these reserves
would have lasted is difficult to judge without knowing rates of consumption, price, and other significant variables. Thus, a snapshot of an America in
a quarter sphere defense about forty-five years after Spykman wrote yields a
reasonably optimistic picture regarding the availability within that sphere of
the minerals crucial to industry and defense in the mid 1980s.
What does the picture look like for oil? After World War II the United
States began to import oil in the late 1940s (for example, 420,000 barrels
a day in 1949, out of a total domestic production of 5.05 million barrels a
day). These imports remained below one million barrels a day until 1960
and below 1.5 million barrels a day until 1971; those levels constituted 13.6
percent of total U.S. consumption at their peak in the 1950s and 15.3 percent at
their peak in the 1960s. Until 1970, the great bulk of these imports came from
Canada and Venezuela. (Seventy percent of those imports came from these
two states in 1970, the year the United States imported the largest amount of
oil since 1940.) Also in 1970 Americas domestic production peaked at 9.64
million barrels a day.72 After 1970, imports began to increase significantly,

71

Van Rensburg, Strategic Minerals, 68.


Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Annual Energy Review1991 (June
1992), 119 and 127; Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Monthly Energy Review, September 1994, 4243; and Basic Petroleum Data Book, vol. 19, no. 2 (Washington, DC: American
Petroleum Institute, July 1999), sec. 9.
72

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both absolutely and as a percentage of total U.S. consumption; more and more
imports came from outside the Western Hemisphere, although Mexico also
became a large exporter to the United States.
None of these facts, however, means the United States would quickly
have run out of oil to sustain the quarter sphere defense. It could have
stretched its domestic supplies longer if it had put in place early serious
conservation and mass transportation policies. It could have expanded its
supplies of oil by developing new technologies for oil extraction, such as
extracting oil from shale. It could have built more nuclear power plants to
generate electricity, instead of wasting precious oil for so many years to
fuel its conventional power plants. Finally, it could have relied on Canada
and Mexico if it somehow lost supplies from Venezuela to supplement its
domestic supplies. All these steps would have considerably extended the life
of Americas oil resources. Hence, Americas profligate consumption of oil
since 1945 should not be taken as the example of what could have happened
had it seen the strategic need to institute and maintain a rigorous policy of
oil conservation.
In sum, had the United States been forced to rely on a conventional
defense, then, depending on the military technology at the time, there may
have come a point when the quarter sphere could not produce the necessary amounts of needed strategic raw materials. Without knowing what
the nature of that technology would be, what would be the size of its conventional forces, how often it would be at war, and what the annual consumption of the eras strategic raw materials were, we cannot say when
that point would be reached. The best my analysis can do is to take Spykman on his own terms: if we were to consider what he called strategic in
1937 and then project those needs into the future at larger than peacetime
rates of consumption, we are likely to come up with a quarter sphere defense that looked more sustainable than Spykman gave it credit. For how
long is unknownindefinitely, no, but for many decades, probably. If,
however, we assume the United States could adequately defend and deter against a conventional (and nuclear) attack with the nuclear weapons it
would most definitely have had, then we can say that the quarter sphere was
defensible probably indefinitely, and the United States would have remained
unconquerable.

Political Cohesion of the Quarter Sphere


The fourth counterargument to my line of analysis has to do with the political
cohesion of the quarter sphere. The United States may have been able to
defend itself within the quarter sphere if it held together, but would it have
held together for long? Would the Germans and the Japanese have been able
to peel off parts of the sphere from American influence? This is something

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Spykman clearly worried about, especially the political influence Germany


could wield in South America:
There is, however, little likelihood that the New World would remain
united long enough to have an opportunity to practice common defense.
Hemisphere solidarity would have been broken up by the other weapons
long before the final military assault. With a social and ideological structure in Latin American predisposed in many ways toward the fascist ideology, with an abundance of ancient hatreds and present conflict patterns,
and a complete dependence in many sections on the European market,
propaganda, the psychological attack, and economic warfare would have
a much better chance of success. Germany might obtain dominion over
the southern part of the Equidistant Zone [southeastern Brazil and Argentina] without having to send an expeditionary force, by the simple
device of dictating the conditions under which products of the Argentine
would be permitted to enter the European markets. It is quite likely that
the acceptance of a fascist regime friendly to Germany would be one
of those conditions and that the Argentine would be asked to have her
armies trained by a large force of German military instructors accompanied by the necessary aides and technicians. In that case, military occupation would simply register the result of surrender induced by economic
warfare. . . . As in other regions of the world, military occupation would
be merely the last step in a campaign of total warfare.73

Spykman here was speaking of South America, not the quarter sphere,
and he was especially concerned about the loss of Argentina because of the
large number of strategic raw materials it contained.74 More generally, he
thought that the United States could never achieve the economic integration
of the entire Western Hemisphere that would be necessary to hold off the
German and Japanese hegemons. While the United States could increase its
purchases of the agricultural products of Latin America in wartime, these
increased purchases would
not solve the basic problem of hemispheric economy which lies in a
surplus of agrarian productivity that the United States could never absorb. The New World produces an abundance of wheat, corn, beef, and
meat products, cotton, coffee, wool, and sugar that must find a market
in Europe. . . . Germany could then make these purchases the instrument
of political intervention in large parts of the hemisphere. . . . Hitler would
probably trade with the Argentine only on condition that she ship all
her products to Europe and withhold all strategic raw materials from
us. . . . In the struggle for hegemony over South America, the power of
economic coercion possessed by the United States would be inadequate
73
74

Spykman, Americas Strategy in World Politics, 454.


Ibid., 340.

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to neutralize the strength of a German-controlled transatlantic zone. When


the German-Japanese Alliance obtains control over the transatlantic zone,
we have lost the battle for South America.75

As a consequence, because he did not think the political-economic integration of the Western Hemisphere could work, Spykman concluded: There
is no possibility of achieving an adequate integration of the states of the New
World in the face of German opposition. . . . 76 This is why he reverted to the
quarter sphere defense, but he did not think that even this region would be
immune to the hegemons manipulations. We could continue to control the
states of the American Mediterranean [the states contiguous to the Caribbean]
and might attempt for a while to buy the co-operation of nations farther south
by the purchase of exports we could not consume, but this program could
not last indefinitely.77
Would the quarter sphere have politically disintegrated in much the same
way Spykman saw happening for the Equidistant Zone? Logically, one of two
things could have happened. If the United States had purchased sufficient
agricultural products and raw materials from the quarter sphere states to keep
them economically satisfied, then either the states of the quarter sphere would
have feared Germany and Japan more than they chafed under American
tutelage and thus remained politically loyal to the United States, or they would
have chafed sufficiently under American leadership to become susceptible
to German-Japanese political-economic persuasion or military threat.
If the quarter sphere states chafed under American leadership, then the
United States would have had, in essence, to garrison them and hold the
states within the quarter sphere largely against their will. That would have
necessitated a more formal control over the states in Central and northern
Latin America than they or the United States had been accustomed to, not
to mention the political subjugation of Canada should that also prove necessary. The United States may well have had to acquire a more formal empire
in the quarter sphere to sustain its political cohesion. That, in turn, would
have required the generation of more military resources and the likely development of a garrison state, an even more centralized federal government,
and more command and control than a free market economy, with all the
potentially subversive dangers that such developments could have had on
American democracy over the long term.
We cannot be certain which of the two scenarios would have transpired,
but if balance of power theory is of any help, it would seem to suggest that
the states of the quarter sphere would have likely remained in it. Balance of
power theorizes that states do not succumb to bandwagoning so much as
75
76
77

Ibid., 334, 34041.


Ibid., 457.
Ibid., 341.

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they balance against threats. They tilt to the weaker side, and in the battle of
the continental hegemons, the United States was the weaker side. Although
balance of power theory is generally applied to great powers, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it applies to medium-sized and smaller states
also, if they have a great power with which to ally. We cannot, however, be
certain this would have been the case, and that suggests that the counterargument regarding political cohesion has more validity than the previous
three counterarguments.

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Psychology of the American People in the Quarter Sphere


The final counterargument to my line of analysis has to do with the political psychology of the American people, and here we are on even less solid
ground. If the quarter sphere defense could have been maintained indefinitely, what would have happened to the American publics psyche? Would
Americans have been able to sustain their faith in their democratic way of
life? Would they have maintained the sacrifices necessary to sustain a robust
conventional defense against the ever-present potential threat of a German
and Japanese invasion in a world where they were literally surrounded and
encircled? Would Americans have felt safe, secure, and comfortable in a world
where the bulk of it was painted black by Nazi totalitarianism and Japanese
militarism, even if they had a secure nuclear defense and deterrent? In such
a world, would Americans have felt so alone and so lonely that they would
ultimately have lost faith in their way of life and succumbed to the inevitable
demagogues that such situations would bring forth? What would an America,
secure against physical attack and economic strangulation, but globally encircled by two menacing and brutal empires, have looked like after a number
of years?
Obviously, no definitive answer to these questions is possible, but the
ruminations of an astute diplomat in a different setting and at a later date
are worth recounting. In his memoirs, George Kennan pondered the effects
that the loss of Western Europe to the Soviet Union in the early stages of the
Cold War would have had on the United States:
We would be placing ourselves in the position of a lonely country, culturally and politically. To maintain confidence in our own traditions and
institutions we would henceforth have to whistle loudly in the dark. I am
not sure that whistling could be loud enough to do the trick.78

A populaces political psychology is a non-tangible but nonetheless vital


ingredient in its willingness to bear hardship and stay the course. In this most
78 George F. Kennan, Memoirs, 19251950, vol. 1 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967), 31819. I am indebted
to Christopher Layne for having pointed out this passage in Kennans memoirs to me.

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intangible of all factors, there is no clear answer, but throughout history, those
who have been convinced that the tides are running in their favor have had
a powerful morale booster, while those who have not been so convinced
have had a much harder time of it. It would have taken great confidence and
great faith on the part of Americans to believe that the tides of history favored
America when the tides of totalitarianism and militarism were washing over
most of the globe. In the last analysis, if the United States were able to handle
the military, economic, and external political threats to the quarter sphere
defense, then the internal political threatsthe dangers to democracy posed
by the garrison state or the loss of confidence in the American waywould
have been the most serious threats to the United States.

HISTORICAL, THEORETICAL, AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS


In this essay, I have questioned what I consider to be the most powerful and
comprehensive realist argument ever made as to why the United States should
have entered World War II. Spykmans case was based on cold strategic
logicon the security of the United Statesnot on the morality of the war
and not on Americas economic interests. His concern was with security in the
sense that we should use the term: security denotes the ability of the United
States to defend its territory and its political sovereignty from attack, invasion,
conquest, and destruction by foreign powers. I have argued that Spykman
was right to believe that the quarter sphere was militarily defensible against
the German and Japanese hegemons, but wrong to think that it would have
been subject to slow economic strangulation through their global embargo.
By extension, therefore, I have made a case that the geopolitical argument
traditionally made for Americas entry into World War II is not as strong
as has been generally thought. If my argument has validity, then there are
reasonable grounds to believe that the United States could have defended
itself in the quarter sphere against the German and Japanese hegemons with
conventional means for considerably longer than Spykman thought possible
and perhaps even longermaybe indefinitelywith nuclear weapons.
Does this mean the United States should not have entered World War
II? Should it have been supremely indifferent to Japans conquest of China
and Southeast Asia and Germanys conquest of Europe and Russia? Is there
no basis whatsoever for Americas entry into World War II?
There are, in fact, two arguments for entrya security one and a nonsecurity one. The security argument is this: even though the United States
could have been secure had it stayed out of the war, the country ended
up being more secure for having entered it. In this view, the history that
unfoldedthe Cold War with the Soviet Unionlooks better for the United
States than a world in which it was hunkered down in the quarter sphere,
warily eyeing the Japanese and German hegemons and armed to the teeth

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against them. Why is this the case? By fighting in World War II and helping to
defeat Germany and Japan, the United States, in effect, established forward
operating bases against the Soviet Union in the form of Western Europe and
Japan. Having these economic-industrial areas, together with Persian Gulf
oil, on Americas side led to the Soviet Unions encirclement, rather than
Americas, which would have been the case had it not entered the war.
Simply on security grounds, therefore, it is always more advantageous to be
the one encircling than the one encircled.
The advantage of being the encircler, not the encircled, still holds even
when the United States and the Soviet Union both had nuclear weapons.
Why should this be the case? The answer has to do with the fact that neither
country put complete faith in nuclear weapons as the basis for its security.
In addition to their large tactical and strategic nuclear forces, both the United
States and the Soviet Union maintained large conventional forces to counter
the other in case nuclear deterrence failed. Each also tried to use its conventional forces to gain political leverage over the other. In this competitive
conventional world they inhabited during the Cold War, alongside the nuclear
world in which they also lived, economic power, access to industrial-raw material resources, and allies mattered. By having the additional increments of
power (Western Europe, Japan, and the Persian Gulf) added to its side of the
scales, the global balance of power was tipped in favor of the United States.
For these reasons, the United States was probably more secure with a
forward defense posture during the Cold War than it would have been in its
quarter sphere fortress had it stayed out of World War II. Of course, it could
not have been in that more favorable situation unless it had entered the war
to defeat the Germans and the Japanese; so, the United States had to defeat
these two in order to get to the more secure world of the Cold War. How
much more secure the United States was during the Cold War than it would
have been in its quarter sphere fortress is not quantifiable, but existing in the
former situation had two advantages over the latter one: the United States
possessed more resources than the adversary, and the United States encircled
its adversary rather than being encircled by it.
Second, there are other reasons to wage war than security alone, at least
in my view. As I argued above, there could have been significant economic
and political costs to the United States with a quarter sphere defense of long
duration. The United States would have had to spend a lot on its military
forces, probably more than required during the Cold War, although we cannot
know that with certainty, and clearly it would have operated economically
on a much smaller scaleon a partial hemispheric, not a global scale. As
a consequence, there would have been a greater risk to its political way of
life at home, and it would most likely have experienced lower economic
growth and a lower standard of living. There would also have been the
dangers of loss of morale and self-confidence that Kennan referred to when
he was trying to think through the risks of not undertaking a containment

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policy of the Soviet Union. Standard of living, quality of political life, and
psychological outlooks are not as vital as security, but that does not, as a
consequence, make them trivial considerations.
In sum, I have made three arguments: (1) it was not essential for
Americas security to have entered World War II to defeat the Germans and
the Japanese; (2) as it turned out, the United States was probably better off in
terms of its security by being in the Cold War world that its entry into World
War II produced than it would have been in the quarter sphere world had
it stayed out of the war; and (3) the security issue aside, there were powerful non-security reasons to have entered the war. Thus, I conclude that
Spykman was ultimately right: the United States should have entered World
War II, even if the reason he adduced for entryslow strangulation of the
quarter spherewas wrong.
Two additional reflections flow from this discussion of Spykman and
World War II. One concerns balance of power theory; the other, the policy
debate between offshore balancers and selective engagers.
Traditionally, international relations theorists have conceived of balance
of power in rather narrow terms. They have confined its usage to military
factors and to the security of states in the sense defined above. If the analysis here has any import, we should think about balance of power a bit
more expansively in terms of its scope and effects. Balances and imbalances
of power shape the international environment within which states coexist
and that environment, in turn, has effects on what happens within states as
well as among them. More to the point for our purposes, the nature of the
international environmentwho has power, what the powerful look like,
what they do with their powerdoes affect what goes on inside states, even
when those states remain reasonably secure from outside attack. It is perfectly reasonable, therefore, to argue that an adverse balance of power may
not significantly threaten a given states security, while at the same time maintaining that that balance can adversely affect what goes on within the state.
When we conceive of balance of power, therefore, we need to be sensitive
to how it affects not simply the relations among states but also the developments within states. Such a conception will turn us away from an overly
narrow focus on security when assessing the effects of prevailing power relationships in the international arena and cause us to look at such non-security
factors as psychological comfort, standard of living, quality of political life,
and the like. This is not to demean the importance of security for a state;
it simply underlines that statesor better put, their citizenrylive for more
than security alone.
Note that in order to make this case for a broader view of balance
of power, we need not assume that states seek to maximize their power,
as offensive realists claim.79 All we have to assume is that states prefer a
79 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001), especially chap. 2. Mearsheimer is the most prominent and powerful exponent of this view.

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world in which they feel more secure to one in which they feel less secure.
Security is not an absolute, either-or thing; rather, there are degrees of it. The
assumption that states seek to maximize their power, especially their military
power, does not make sense. If this were the case, then life in most states
would be intolerable because the citizenry would be slaves to the states,
working in the salt mines, and being taxed mercilessly. Most states, not even
totalitarian ones, do this to their citizenry; they have to balance the needs
of the external environment with the internal needs of their citizenry. The
former is given priority over the latter only when the state faces a dire security
threat, but this is not the condition in which most states most of the time
find themselves. Most states are therefore security satisfiers, not power
maximizers. They seek enough power to make themselves more or less
secure, with a comfortable margin of safety if they can afford it; they do not
seek maximum power for absolute security. In this vein, defeating Germany
and Japan did not require the United States to dominate the Eurasian land
mass. The choice it made to enter World War II can be seen as a decision
to seek a more secure existence than the quarter sphere would have offered
and not a decision to maximize its power globally.
The second reflection concerns the relevance of the foregoing analysis
to the present debate in American grand strategy between those who advocate offshore balancing and those who advocate selective engagement.
Throughout its history, but certainly since the turn of the twentieth century,
debates over Americas grand strategy have turned on the proper relations of
a continental-sized state, far removed geographically from the other power
centers of the world, to those power centers. Isolationists before World War
II believed that the United States had no security stakes in what happened
in Europe and Asia, that its trade with those regions could prosper without
committing American power to ordering the relations among the states within
them, and that democracy at home would be endangered by entanglements
abroad. Internationalists at that time believed the reverse: the United States
had a security stake in what happened in Eurasia, and its economic interests and way of life were threatened by the adverse turn of developments in
Eurasia, especially in Europe.
The policy debate today between offshore balancers and selective engagers parallels that earlier debate in important ways. Offshore balancers
argue that the United States should get out of Eurasia militarily because there
is no security reason to be there in the current circumstances, and being there
increases the risks to Americas security.80 They argue further that Americas
economic interests do not require the projection of American military power
abroad and that the only compelling reason to project that power to Eurasia is to stop a hegemon from arising there. Since that is not likely for the
80 Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006). Layne is the most prominent exponent of offshore balancing
today. Also see Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chap. 10.

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foreseeable future, the United States can bring its troops home. Finally, like
the pre-World War II isolationists, offshore balancers argue that military embroilments abroad endanger the freedom Americans enjoy at home. Selective
engagers today believe that the United States cannot be indifferent to what
happens abroad in military, economic, and political terms, even if those
developmentsat least among statesdo not directly threaten Americas security. Just as I argued that there were compelling non-security reasons for
the United States to go to war in 1941, it can be argued that today there are
compelling non-security reasons for the United States to be abroad militarily,
even if there is little or no case to be made for doing so strictly on security
grounds.81
This is where balance of power analysis and American grand strategy
converge. Power relations are pervasive in international politics; balance of
power, understood in terms of the broader effects defined earlier, influences
not only what states can do internationally, it also affects in significant ways,
especially in this increasingly globalized and interdependent world today,
what happens inside them. The projection of American military power overseas helps shape what happens abroad not just militarily but also economically and politically, and those developments abroad, in turn, have effects
ultimately on what happens within the United States. If there were compelling
reasons other than security to enter World War II and shape its outcome, so,
too, are there compelling non-security reasons for America to be abroad
militarily today to shape the outcomes of the international environment.

81

See Art, A Grand Strategy for America, especially chaps. 3 and 6 for elaboration of these points.