The attack, whatever it may have gained from a tactical point of view, was a failure in that it solidified the country. But we'll lose lots of ships for a while.Spot on. Of course, many other people predicted that the United States would crush Japan, including Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the whole American leadership.
What about the European war? Hastings describes a conference held in Berlin in late November, 1941. Chaired by Fritz Todt, the chief of armaments production, it included the top executives of German heavy industry and leading Nazis. It concluded that winning the war against Russia was "no longer possible." Having failed to win a quick knock-out, Germany could not prevail in a long conflict because its industrial production was not up to the job. Todt advised Hitler that he should seek a negotiated end to the conflict.
Did the industrial czars know, or were they just guessing? Governments produce lots of reports, and some on them are bound to be right. As Hastings says, the military leaders of the US and Britain went on thinking all through 1942 that Germany would defeat the Soviets. Other westerners disagreed, including George Orwell, who thought Hitler had signed his death warrant by attacking Russia before finishing Britain.
I find myself wondering if, perhaps, World War II really was more predictable than other events. Because it was a total war, it came down in the end to who had the most factories and the most men. The Germans outfought and out-thought the Soviets at almost every level, but it the end they were crushed by the sheer number of Russian soldiers and tanks. In 1942, Germany produced 4,800 armored vehicles, while the Soviets produced 24,000 and the Americans, still warming up, 25,000. The entry of America on the allied side made the imbalance severe; in 1944, the United States produced twice as many military aircraft as Germany and Japan combined.
This kind of analysis depends, though, on accurate knowledge. One reason the British and Americans over-rated Hitler's chances in Russia was that they consistently over-rated German industrial capabilities. Hitler convinced much of the world that Germany was a hyper-modern industrial powerhouse, whereas really the efficiency of its heavy industries lagged behind American and Soviet standards, and much of its agriculture was still in the hands of peasants. His own armaments chiefs had a clearer view of German industry.
I tend to think that given the alignment of the two sides, and the determination of Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt to fight through to the end, the result of the war was never really in doubt, and Hitler could only have prevailed by finding some way to fight his enemies one at a time.