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Pacifists' Reasoning: World War II was an Allied mistake

by zoe Fri Apr 25th, 2008 at 10:37:30 AM EST

I don't expect this diary to be without controversy, but I think that this point of view is important enough to be widely discussed.  

In Today's Guardian, Peter Wilby, the former editor of the new Stateman, sets out the Pacifists' case against WWII in Europe (with which he does not agree btw) by paraphrasing some of the points made by Nicholas Baker in his book "Human Smoke".

The whole point of the exercise is to destroy the last *effective" leg of the Iraqi war supporters who claim that eliminating Saddam Hussein was like eliminating Hitler prior to the Second World War.  

You can find his editorial here:


Without wanting to get into a long series of citations from the article, allow me to just quote the paragraphs I believe summarize Baker's argument:

Baker's account, however, reminds us that the war was not fought for humanitarian or democratic ends. Britain fought Germany for the same reason it had always fought wars in Europe: to maintain the balance of power and prevent a single state dominating the continent. America fought Japan to stop the growth of a powerful rival in the Pacific.

The book ends on December 31 1941. At that moment, he says, "most of the people who died in the second world war were still alive". They included nearly all victims of what we now call the Holocaust. Did waging the war "help anyone who needed help"? Baker asks rhetorically, and gives his answer through a series of documentary snapshots. But, historically, it's the wrong question. The war wasn't supposed to "help" anybody.

Food for thought.  The book is bound to create a controversy when it appears in the UK next month.  

Would it make a difference which war invented the idea that you should fight to 'overthrow tyranny', and whether it was projected backwards or forwards in order to create a just cause?

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.
by Ephemera on Fri Apr 25th, 2008 at 11:06:56 AM EST
Yes, waging the war did help people. If Hitler had beaten Britain The Holocaust would have been extended to eliminate Slavic populations and the less useful Brits. (The remaining upper classes would have likely reached an accomodation after surrender.)

Hitler had no chance of winning a war on two fronts. But if he could have concentrated forces on Russia after defeating the UK there was a reasonable possibility of winning significant land concessions - possibly pushing them far into the east where the remains of the USSR could have been contained with help from the Japanese.

The rest of the Soviet Union would have been turned into agricultural land for Germans, dotted with farms and heavy industry manned by captured slave labour.

The US would have been isolated, and without help from British scientists its unlikely the Bomb would have been ready as soon as it was, so the US might well have faced mainland fighting.

Hitler was - notoriously - funded by both the US and German mil-ind complex, so those are the people directly responsible for WWII. But once the war started the mil-inds lost control of Hitler, and if he hadn't been stopped the world would be a much less pleasant place for very many more people than it was after WWII.

WWII was nothing like Iraq, which is an incredibly inept attempt at a war of aggression and occupation without any moral complications.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 25th, 2008 at 06:10:40 PM EST
You're right about what would have happened to the Slavs, though I doubt you're correct about the Brits. They were higher up on the racial hierarchy and the Germans weren't interested in settlement in Western Europe anyways.

 I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say the US military industrial complex funded Hitler. First of all it didn't really exist at the time - US military spending was tiny until they began building up at the end of the thirties. The mil-ind complex that we know and love today only really came into being with Korea and the onset of the permanent large scale military that came with the Cold War. Secondly, even if you mean industry in general, you're wrong.  They had no problem trading with Nazi Germany, but that's about it. And if you're talking about the US subsidiaries in Germany, the only real alternative would have been to just write them off since Nazi Germany had pretty strict restrictions on repatriating profits.  Now, if you want to argue that they funded Weimar, you'd have more of a point - loans to Germany funded its huge current account deficit and allowed them to pay reparations to France and Britain which let them pay off loans to the US which then went back to Germany. This was conscious policy on the part of the US and its business elites. Plus there was large scale direct investment. But the whole game began breaking down in the late twenties and the Depression killed it off.

As far as German industry goes, it is true that they were quite happy to work with Hitler, but even there the Nazis were a second choice. They would have preferred a standard issue conservative dictatorship, which is why they tended to support the DNVP before 1933. When it became clear that they needed his popular appeal,they (and the also very powerful agricultural lobby and the military and civil service elites) still thought they would be able to control him. They were wrong. Hitler did clamp down on the anti-capitalist wing of the NSDAP in 1934, but in return he got to run the show with the old elites in a very much subordinate position. They got to make tons of money and not deal with those pesky unions and voters, in return they did what they were told.

by MarekNYC on Sat Apr 26th, 2008 at 02:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A useful link.

I agree it's too strong to say it was the US milinds who funded Hitler exclusively. But there was certainly sympathy for (what was seen as) his anti-communist stand among The Money.

It wouldn't be a surprise to discover that the Prescott Bush project wasn't the only one of its kind.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 11:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some strange historical assertions here.  I have read a LOT of history books about WWII and there are very few of your arguments that I find true.

  1. Britain was not much of a target for Germany.  After the Battle of Britain, the Germans decided that there was little on that island worth having so they turned their attention east.

  2. It is VERY unlikely the Germans could have ever won against USSR.  If you measure battles by people involved and casualties, 95% of what is called WW II was between USSR and Germany.  The "contributions" toward the defeat of the Wehrmacht by the Western countries were barely important.  And only the delusional would consider Montgomery's efforts meaningful.

  3. The contributions of the so-called Western mil-ind complex in building up German power was tiny.  Just remember, the provisions in the Versailles Treaty were extracting wealth from Germany at FAR greater rates than the monetary flows in the opposite direction.  Remember also that German industrialization had blown by England's long before 1914 so they hardly needed western mil-ind "help."

The outcome of WW II would have been to total domination of Europe by Stalin's forces if USA and Britain had stayed out of the conflict after Barbarossa.  I really do not see how the history of the era can be read any other way.  Of course, that doesn't mean other histories are not told.  In fact, it is a rare American who even KNOWS the USSR was involved in WW II--much less the role of the Red Army in the defeat of the Wehrmacht.  Unfortunately, it sounds like the "history" taught in Britain is just as goofy as the history we were taught.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 11:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1. Britain was a propaganda target as well as a physical target. The UK still had an empire, and bringing down that empire would have created more than a few ripples. It would have meant the literal end of Europe.

Strategically the UK supported the European resistance movements, provided a useful airstrip for mainland bomber attacks, and also controlled access to the Atlantic. The Nazis managed to battle their way through some of the time, but with Britain defeated, Germany would have had unlimited naval options, supported by unlimited air power for Barbarossa.

There was nothing goofy about the UK's role. With the UK defeated, Hitler would have had far more resources with which to push eastwards.

2. Montgomery is an open question - for every book claiming he's delusional there's another claiming he was a genius. And the Nazis didn't need to beat the USSR. All they needed to do was beat the Russians back from the prime industrial and agricultural resources in the West.

There's a good case to be made for Hitler personally losing on the Eastern Front because he was about as comptetent a general as Dubya is. But without the UK as a distraction, the Luftwaffe could have been moved East, making it possible to push for a grab for Russian factories and oil as well as, rather than instead of, Stalingrad. With much of the industrial base gone, Stalin would have had a much tougher time offering credible opposition.

It's likely the two sides would have fought themselves to a standstill in a war of attrition eventually, but it would have been further East, with a much more uncertain outcome.

Also, don't forget Germany had a huge lead in technology - computing, rocketry jet propulsion were all ahead of anything the allies had. As I said, without the UK the Manhattan Project would either never have happened or happened much more slowly, so there's a not-quite-zero possibility of the Nazis developing the Bomb before anyone else.

Germany with the Bomb would have been invincible.

3. See previous link.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 27th, 2008 at 12:00:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Today's Guardian, Peter Wilby, the former editor of the new Stateman, sets out the Pacifists' case against WWII in Europe

It is important for pacifists to denigrate WWII because it is viewed in the public mind as a "good" war, one that was entirely justified, both at the time and since. So, if there can be one "good" war, the pacifist position is seriously undermined.

Therefore they must destroy the idea of a "good" war.

As to the correctness of the case, I find it hard to believe. The idea that nazism was merely a competitive imperialism and resisting it was hypocritical is ridiculous; that is the case against WWI, not II.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 11:51:16 AM EST

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