Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rethinking the Good War (Laurence Vance)

On this, the 70th anniversary of Germany' invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II, Laurence Vance has published an excellent essay on why the "Good War" was actually "...the most destructive thing to life, liberty, and property that the world has ever seen":

"Rarely in history has a war seemed so just to so many." ~ Michael Bess

"Participation in the war against Hitler remains almost wholly sacrosanct, nearly in the realm of theology." ~ Bruce Russett

On September 1, 1939 – 70 years ago – Germany attacked Poland and officially began World War II. Although over 50 million people died in the war – including 405,000 Americans – it is considered to be the Good War. The fact that most of deaths were on the Allied side (the "good" side), the majority of those killed were civilians, hundreds of millions were wounded – including 671,000 Americans – and/or made refugees, homeless, widows, or orphans, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of property was destroyed, hundreds of billions of dollars more were wasted on armaments, and untold millions underwent an incomprehensible amount of suffering, misery, and loss doesn’t seem to matter either. World War II is still universally recognized as the Good War.

How is it possible to make such a description of such carnage on a grand scale?

As John V. Denson explains in his essay "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the First Shot" in his book A Century of War: Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt:

Part of the mythology that surrounds this war is that it was the "last good war." It was a "just" war because it was defensive. Despite President Roosevelt’s supreme efforts to keep America neutral regarding controversies in Europe and Asia, the Japanese launched an unprovoked surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby "forcing" America into the fray. It was also a "noble" war because America fought evil tyrannies known as Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy and Japan.

From the American point of view, World War II is basically considered to be the Good War for two reasons: Pearl Harbor and Hitler.

But setting aside for a moment the facts of Roosevelt’s duplicity and culpability, as well as the U.S. provocation of Japan: Was it necessary for 405,000 American soldiers to die to avenge the 2,400 (1,177 were from one ship, the USS Arizona) who were killed at Pearl Harbor? Was it moral to incinerate hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japanese cities because Japan bombed the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, a military target? And setting aside for another moment the folly of U.S. intervention in World War I, which prevented a dictated peace settlement and paved the way for the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, thus facilitating the rise of Hitler: Was it necessary that tens of millions were slaughtered to prevent Hitler from slaughtering millions? Was it wise to join forces with a brutal dictator like Stalin, who had already killed millions, with the result that he enslaved half of Europe under communism?

It is time to rethink the Good War.

Read the rest or buy the booklet.

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