Re-Thinking World War II

Perhaps you’re thinking I’ve really lost it.  Wasn’t World War II the unquestionably evil Nazi and Japanese regimes vs. the unquestionably justified and even righteous allies (the astute will probably acknowledge Russia was a not-so-righteous exception)?

I would submit that is not the case.  World War II was a continuance of and a result of an interventionist foreign policy started with World War I.  At the end of the Great War, (supposedly the war to end all wars) the late-coming United States took a leading role in crafting the Versailles Treaty, which many Germans viewed as harsh and unfair.  In their eyes, they had been wronged.

The Weimar Republic’s hyperinflationary policies lead to the rise of Hitler.  Those, for me, are the two big reasons for the rise of Nazi Germany: an interventionist foreign policy culminating in the Versailles Treaty (and League of Nations), coupled with poor government, characterized by hyperinflationary monetary policies.

Some recent non-fiction works have indicated the United States and Great Britain, including FDR and Winston Churchhill, were perhaps less than forthcoming about intents, motivations, and involvements leading up to the December 7, 1941 declaration of war.  And certainly our simplistic views of World War II have inaccuracies.

The recommended books are Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, The New Dealers’ War by Thomas Fleming, and the soon-to-be-released Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War” by Pat Buchanan.

Beware that in the case of Thomas Fleming and Pat Buchanan, the books, like many others, are examples of persuasive non-fiction, while Nicholson Baker’s patchwork documentary of the events leading up to US involvement in World War II would be considered by most to be more objective.

As with all war, the events are very complicated, and reading a book (or two or three) will in no way give complete comprehension.  But reading such books can certainly bring a new perspective.

They lead to such questions as: what if Japan had made peace overtures with the U.S. before Pearl Harbor, and were rebuffed?  What if Nazi Germany had made peace overtures with Britain before the Battle of Britain, and were rebuffed?  

To many, these questions are the historical equivalent of blasphemy.  But close-mindedness only encourages tunnel vision.  When is war good?  Could we have done more to prevent WWII from happening, or being as destructive as it was?  These are all important questions too many casually dismiss, assuming that World War II was a case of good vs. evil.  I submit it is much more complicated than that.  It is high time we re-think our common conceptions of many things, including US involvement in World War II, and these three books provide a way to do that.

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1 Comment

Filed under foreign policy

One response to “Re-Thinking World War II

  1. Darrell English

    This is almost like a skit n SNL back in the 70s “What if Wellinton had a B-52 at Waterloo”.We tend to rewright the part of history that we like to see,all the what if part are now comeing to a head.Have we not found all the unwriten history yet?We now have to fall back on things that did not happen.My god what are we teaching the young in school today!

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