Cooperation under Fire

Cooperation under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint during World War II

Jeffrey W. Legro
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Cooperation under Fire
    Book Description:

    Why do nations cooperate even as they try to destroy each other? Jeffrey Legro explores this question in the context of World War II, the "total" war that in fact wasn't. During the war, combatant states attempted to sustain agreements limiting the use of three forms of combat considered barbarous-submarine attacks against civilian ships, strategic bombing of civilian targets, and chemical warfare. Looking at how these restraints worked or failed to work between such fierce enemies as Hitler's Third Reich and Churchill's Britain, Legro offers a new understanding of the dynamics of World War II and the sources of international cooperation.

    While traditional explanations of cooperation focus on the relations between actors, Cooperation under Fire examines what warring nations seek and why they seek it-the "preference formation" that undergirds international interaction. Scholars and statesmen debate whether it is the balance of power or the influence of international norms that most directly shapes foreign policy goals. Critically assessing both explanations, Legro argues that it was, rather, the organizational cultures of military bureaucracies-their beliefs and customs in waging war-that decided national priorities for limiting the use of force in World War II.

    Drawing on documents from Germany, Britain, the United States, and the former Soviet Union, Legro provides a compelling account of how military cultures molded state preferences and affected the success of cooperation. In its clear and cogent analysis, this book has significant implications for the theory and practice of international relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6991-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jeffrey W. Legro
  4. 1 Theories of Cooperation
    (pp. 1-34)

    Even enemies can cooperate. Churchill and Hitler were bitter opponents, and their countries fought an unforgiving fight. Nonetheless, Britain and Germany reached accords on the use of force, and some of those agreements endured the bloodshed of the Second World War. This cooperation involved three means of warfare—submarine attacks against merchant ships, aerial bombing of nonmilitary targets, and use of poison gas—that in the interwar years were denigrated as especially inhumane, illegitimate, and ʺunthinkable.ʺ¹ At the start of World War II, countries explicitly wanted a firebreak between restraint and escalation in each of these three militarily significant means...

  5. 2 Submarine Warfare
    (pp. 35-93)

    The submarine today is accepted along with tanks, airplanes, and artillery as a standard item in the armed forces of the world. Yet the underwater boat has an infamous history. In the 1920s and 1930s, the submarine—known as the ʺviper of the seaʺ— was viewed as one of the more heinous tools of combat.¹ It was a favorite target of proposals for abolition or limitation in the interwar years, yet was one of the first means used in the ensuing clash. It was not so much the weapon itself that was stigmatized but its employment against civilian ships and...

  6. 3 Strategic Bombing
    (pp. 94-143)

    From 20,000 feet the familiar surroundings of life—buildings, homes, cars—appear unnaturally small. ʺThe people look like ants!ʺ is a commonly heard refrain among first-time airline passengers. Perhaps it was this perspective which made it easier for the young aviators of World War II to flatten the homes of enemy civilians hundreds of miles behind the front lines, much as one might squash a nest of pesky insects. Although this practice became commonplace during the war, in the 1920s and 1930s it was considered barbaric and potentially avoidable.

    Statesmen made considerable efforts in the interwar years both to reduce...

  7. 4 Chemical Warfare
    (pp. 144-216)

    One of the most intriguing questions in the history of warfare is why chemical weapons were not used in the Second World War. Poison gas was employed on a massive scale in the First World War, especially in its latter stages. In the 1920s and 1930s, nations expected, and went to considerable efforts preparing for, chemical warfare in a future conflict. Yet in the midst of the ʺtotal warʺ conditions of World War II, even states facing imminent political extinction did not take advantage of all the defenses available to them. The major combatants never purposefully employed chemical weapons.¹ To...

  8. 5 Explaining Cooperation
    (pp. 217-235)

    Restraint in the use of force in World War II was a form of collusion. In some areas it endured, in others it failed. In this chapter I attempt to account for this variation in cooperation ʺunder fire.ʺ First, I summarize the empirical findings and relative explanatory value of the three perspectives. I argue that organizational culture provides the best explanation for the variation in cooperation in World War II, but also recognize the influence of realist and institutionalist factors. This discussion suggests the explanatory potential of a conceptual synthesis among the three schools, and I offer an outline of...

  9. Epilogue: The Future of Restraint
    (pp. 236-241)

    Although some have argued that major-power war is obsolete, historyʹs record of repetitive conflict suggests otherwise.¹ Restraint continues to demand attention. Some of the taboos discussed in the interwar period remain intact to varying degrees today. Chemical and biological warfare are still stigmatized. And given the general concern over civilian casualties in the Gulf War, so too is strategic bombing. The most striking distinction between World War II and the modern age is the appearance of the immensely destructive force of nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the mere existence of nuclear arms has done much to suppress disputes...

  10. Appendix: The Laws and Rules of Warfare
    (pp. 242-246)
  11. Index
    (pp. 247-256)