On the Other Hand...
by Jim Davies
The "Good" War
There's a sad kind of confused hypocrisy in the land, around the time of Memorial Day. We solemnly honor the memory and heroism of those killed in the government's wars, yet do nothing to elect politicians who credibly swear never again to intervene abroad with military force - to use it only in strict defense of these United States, which is all that the Constitution allows.
Instead, we keep electing ones who maintain a force many, many times stronger and more expensive than is needed to repel any credible foreign invasion, and who casually throw American might around the globe as if they owned it. The memory of those who died would surely be so much better honored if we put a permanent stop to their arrogant and murderous interventionism.
The confusion comes quite largely from a widespread belief that sometimes, intervention abroad is right and proper. True, most people now recognize Vietnam as a "mistake", but most also persist in regarding World War Two, for example, as a "Good War"; one in which America, the White Knight, rode to the rescue of a world headed towards the darkness of dictatorship. I'll do my part to honor the fallen, this week, by starting to demolish that silly fiction.
That is, to me, a totally fascinating question because when we answer it honestly the result is a basketful of valuable lessons for the present and the future. How true it is that "those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes." Tragedy is, that for five decades we have been taught the wrong history about the Second World War; and so may well let our government blunder eventually into a third.
It was NOT caused primarily by Hitler, it was NOT necessary for the US or (probably) the UK ever to be involved in it, it would NOT have marked the end of Western Civilization if those two governments had stayed neutral, and it was NOT waged to rescue the Jews. Aside from all that, the textbooks are okay.
The Holocaust, terrible though it was, was absolutely not the reason the US/UK alliance went to war; that was merely the excuse after the event, paraded to provide a moral justification. The ugly fact is that at the time (1940) the US Government was busy refusing to accept Jewish refugees.
Nor was there a shred of defensive need for either country to go to war. The idea that Germany could, in 1941, pose a credible threat to the coast of Maine when she was already fighting furiously in North Africa and Russia is arrant nonsense. The idea that Japan had the slightest unprovoked intention to invade the United States is, likewise, absurd on its face. Even when heavily and deliberately provoked as she was in March 1941 by Roosevelt's Navy blockade of her vital oil shipping routes, her only objective was to sink that Navy and so break that blockade. Tojo's greedy eyes were on mainland Asia.
As for Britain and France, while it's true that they would have been wise to build a strong defense against possible future attack, in 1939 there was no credible threat there either - and postwar studies confirmed that Hitler did not then have even a contingency plan to invade either country before 1943. So it was that for eight months after Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, barely a shot was fired by either side; neither government was ready.
What if, then, Chamberlain had never given his famous Polish Guarantee in April 1939, nor his fateful ultimatum on September 1st? - and what if, a year and a half later, FDR had never intervened with the blockade on Japanese shipping?
Conventional wisdom - regurgitated, alas, by the "historians" of 1995 - is that but for US/UK intervention, Hitler would have overrun the Soviet Union from the West and Tojo from the East, and then that the former would have turned West and the latter, East so as to attack and dominate, respectively, Western Europe and the United States. Result: a world under two (or three, counting Mussolini) dictators. This work of fiction overlooks a few practical realities.
I've space to point out two of them. The first is that every occupying power always has its work cut out. The more formerly free territory that is taken, the more soldiers are needed to prevent a popular upsrising. The work of the French Resistance is, in that regard, legendary. Point is, the more resources are absorbed in policing existing victims, the fewer are available for conquering fresh ones - at the very stage when those new victims, alarmed by the fate of the existing ones, are much better prepared than before to resist. The notion that Hitler could have conquered Western Europe (still less, the Eastern United States!) while holding down the whole of Eastern Europe is credible only to those who have decided in advance what to believe.
The second is that even if I'm wrong! and a German-Japanese alliance really had taken over the whole of Europe and America, the resulting dictatorial duopoly would long before now have imploded, as certainly as did the actual Soviet Union in 1989. That's because freedom works, and authority does not.
Except for the unfortunate Russians, people in all that territory had a long, strong tradition of relatively free enterprise. They would have very quickly found that government plans do not produce wealth, they only destroy it. And they would remember the former days of prosperous freedom, and make the connection, and resist... and, lacking a free-price mechanism, the government "command" economy would have collapsed, as such always have and will.
It took the Soviet one 70 years to collapse, but the Russians had no such memory. In France, Britain, Holland, or the USA (making the absurd assumption that they did succumb) no Socialist Empire could ever have lasted half as long.
So, there is no way the "Good War" was necessary. Let's honor our dead by ensuring there is never another; that we allow force only in strict defense.
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