This afternoon someone wrote, then deleted, a very good diary on the idea of a "Good War". This diary is a based on a comment I posted there.
In our political mythology, World War II was the "Good War". Hitler's threat to the world was so overwhelming and his evil in Germany itself was so poisonous, that the Allies had to act. WWII was a rare case of black and white, pure good vs. pure evil.
But was that really the case?
History says WWII may have been unavoidable, neccessary, inevitable or the best of a bunch of bad options. But it was not "Good".
World War II's Legacy
50 to 60 million people died saving Western Europe from Nazi totalitarianism, just to condemn Eastern Europe and most of Asia to Communist totalitarianism.
Britain and France declared war on Germany for the noble cause of freeing Poland from Nazi occupiers. But at the end of WWII, the Allies
happily gave Poland, East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe over to Russia occupiers.
We sided with Stalin, who had already killed at least 10 million of his own people, to defeat Hitler, who had not yet embarked on his genocide.
Even if the Hiroshima bombing was militarily justified, in Nagasaki Truman killed almost 75,000 people just to show the Russians we had more than one bomb. To this day, the US is the only country to ever use nuclear weapons and we used them on civilian targets. Our enemies still use that to justify their terror and attacks.
"We had to fight!"
Before WWII, Germany and Russia had been playing high-stakes brinksmanship games for years. Hitler wanted more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germany race and he was looking east to get it. Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, simply to buy Russia time to prepare for war. Germany was also buying time, building their strength for the coming war.
Left to themselves, Germany and Russia likely would have fought each other to exhaustion. That would have devastated the region but there would have been no need to take the whole world to war. The Communist takeover of Eastern Europe and Asia would never have happened.
Saving The Jews
We like to talk about the Holocaust as a justification for WWII. But the truth is that before and during most of the war, none of the Allied powers gave a damn about the Jews. If WWII was about saving the Jews, it was too little, too late. Most of European Jewry was already dead by the end.
You can prove anything you want by spinning alternative histories. But there is a strong case that we could have avoided decades of meddling in the Middle East, South America and Africa. Those people would be much better off today if they had just been left alone.
There may have been no Cold War. Without the Cold War there would have been no Operation Ajax. Without Operation Ajax, Iran would have been a Western-leaning democracy. That means no hostage crisis, no Iran/Iraq War, no key shaped birthday cake for Saddam, no Gulf War I and no Gulf War II. No Osama and no Global War on Terror.
I'm not saying the world would be a perfect place today if we had let Germany and Russia duke it out. We certainly would have faced a totally different set of crises. But given how recent history has played out, it's easy to imagine better worlds.