Sunday, November 02, 2008

Second World War (1)

Several generations must pass before a war can be assessed objectively. My parents thought that the First World War was a noble cause. They had to believe this, because their fathers had fought in Europe. Now we are able to assess this war more objectively.

When I studied the causes of World War 1 at high school, it quickly became obvious that the First World War was a costly and pointless war. The whole thing was a great mess. The leaders of Europe blundered into war, with no understanding of what it would cost and what they hoped to achieve. The First World War is now widely viewed as a terrible mistake.

The accepted wisdom is that World War 2 was a good war. Hitler was going to take over the entire world. If we had not won this war, the entire world would be speaking German and greeting each other with “Heil Hitler”.

This caricature is even sharper in the United States. Americans rescued the foolish Europeans by defeating Hitler and making the world safe for democracy. Walter Lind sums up the common view.

At present, most Americans know only a comic-book version of history, one in which Germany deliberately started both World Wars as part of a drive to conquer the world, a drive stopped when valiant American armies defeated the German army. And, oh yes, some Brit named Churchill beat the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. Thanks to the victories of the freedom-loving allies, we now live in the best of all possible worlds, where everyone can be a "democracy"
Not only is this view widely accepted among Christians, it is used as a justification for the just war theory. World War 2 is the good war that proves that Christian militarists are right.

We are now beginning to get a clearer view of the Second World War. Sufficient time has passed for a more objective evaluation of the war to emerge. Two recent books that will upset some people, contribute to better understanding of the causes and conduct of this war. When the dust settles, I believe that we will be less certain that this war was a good and just war.

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