Gonzo, boy-genius, e-cynic Andrew “Webstar” Metzger recently asked me this question.
As a science-fiction writer I had two immediate responses:
“That three-player Cold War would be much more interesting than the actual one.”
“How could this have come to pass, in the simplest form, perhaps as a time-traveler killing a major figure?”
As a sci-fi writer I have a difficult time imagining an alternative timeline without being able to cite a reason for the divergence.
Do we whack Churchill, Hitler, Stalin or FDR? In other words, which one of the major players other than Japan would be the least like Japan, in terms of national leaders being on the same hegemonic page, and which leader/nation takes the most away from the table if removed?
My hunch is that removing FDR—perhaps permitting his wheelchair to carry him to the bottom of a health spa pool—would have the most impact.
Andrew was specifically wondering what it would take not to have Hitler pursue the ruinous war with the Soviet Union. So, is Nazi Germany better off with no U.S. backing of the Soviet Union, or with no Stalin to insure a Soviet versus Third Reich showdown?
Andrew’s basic idea, was if Germany contented itself with Fortress Europe, and did not head into Soviet Russia [and I think also, not going into Africa and losing 300,000 of the best Germans] and not go after Great Britain until after the U-Boat fleet was fully built, how would such a resulting Cold War between the U.S. and Britain on one side and the Third Reich and a Greater Japan with the Dutch East Indies, Korea and Manchuria—involved in a necessarily hot Chinese conflict—on the other side, evolve into a hot war of dissolve as the U.S. versus Soviet Cold war did?
Would nuclear exchange be more likely, and if so, in what decade: the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s?
I can’t resist using this idea for a fiction setting and was wondering if any of the history buffs that come to this site have any ideas as to the progress of such an alternative history and what single event would be most likely to facilitate it.