Some of the questions often asked about wars is were they necessary or avoidable. Here historians make various cases for the different wars and opinions vary widely. Some argues that all wars are wrong and unecessary. European wars until recent times were dynastic in character and thus the case can be made that they were unecessary. The Reformation thrugh a wrikle in this pattern as some European wars became religious in nature and involved people fighting for their beliefs, such as the Wars for Dutch independence (17th century). The French Revolution further changed this calculation when nationalism and political ideology became important. Thus assessing modrn wars is often more complicated. The Aerican Civil War seems to have been both unavoible and necessary. Most historians, on the other hand, see World War I as both unecessary and avoidable. Historians tend to see World War II as both necessary an unavoidable. This is our opinion, primarily because the totlitarian powers (Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union) had achieved alevel of military power superior to that of the democracies (America, Britain and France). There are individuals who do not think the War was either necessary or unavoidable.
Some of the questions often asked about wars is were they necessary or avoidable. Here historians make various cases for the different wars and opinions vary widely. Some argues that all wars are wrong and unecessary. European wars until recent times were dynastic in character and thus the case can be made that they were unecessary. The Reformation thrugh a wrikle in this pattern as some European wars became religious in nature and involved people fighting for their beliefs, such as the Wars for Dutch independence (17th century). The French Revolution further changed this calculation when nationalism and political ideology became important. Thus assessing modrn wars is often more complicated. The Aerican Civil War seems to have been both unavoible and necessary. Most historians, on the other hand, see World War I as both unecessary and avoidable.
Historians tend to see World War II as both necessary an unavoidable. There are individuals who do not think the War was either necessary or unavoidable, but they are a clear minority. We agree that the War was both necessary and unavoidable. This is our opinion, primarily because the totlitarian powers (Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union) had achieved a level of military power superior to that of the democracies (America, Britain and France). Thus they were in a position to change the world order built by Britain and the Royal Navy and supported by the Unted States. This included a world order that had broken up the great Europan empires (Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian) and created many new nation states. The NAZIs and Soviets were attempting to reserect the old imperial structures. And the totalitarian powers were in a position to do just that. It was Hitler's decesion to invade the Soviet Union that broke apart the totalitarian alliance, allowing the democracies to survive and eventually prevail.
World War II was in many ways a continuation of World War I. It was also a result of the emergence of political parties, primarily Fascist parties, which idealized war. Despite the experience of World War I, the Fascists idealized war. The Fascists were willing to employ coercion in international affairs much as they employed as part of their policies domestically. This commitment to war was normally disguised in part propganda. While not as committed ideologically to war, the Communist were quite willingto employ coercion both domestically and iternationally. Fascism and Communism are often seen as opposite ends of the political spectrum. In fact there are many similarities. It was not accident that until June 1941, Hitler and Stalin were partners.
World War II was the culmination of the greatest geo-political crisis in Western civilization--the rise of the totalitarians. Following World War I, three totalitarians groups seized controlled of some of the post important countries in the world. First the Communists seized control of Russia (1917). Then the Fascists seized control of Italy and subsequently German Fascists seized control of that country (1933). Japanese militarists a kind of Shinto Fascism seized control of Japan (1930s). The countries as a whole had enormous scientific, industrial, human, and natural resources. With the NAZI victories in Europe, especially the defeat of France (1940), the balance of world power swing to the totalitarian powers. The totalitarian powers in 1940 controlled almost all of Europe, wedding the industrial potential of Europe with the natural resources of the Soviet Union.
There are individuals who do not think the War was either necessary or unavoidable. One author writes, "I dedicate this book to the memory of Clarence Pickett and other American and British pacifists. They've never relly gotten their due. They tried to save Jewish refugees, feed Europe, recoincile the United States and Japan, nd stop the war from happening. They failed, but they were right." [Baker] I am not surejust what Baker thinks the pacifists were right about. They certainly were right that war was terrible and that millions of peope suffered and wee killed. But that is an argument against all war, not World War II specfically. In fact, stopping the NAZIS and Japanese militarists not only saved millions of lives, but prevent suffering on a vast scale in the New Order that they were instituting in their new empires. The NAZI Occupied East was just a taste of the future. Just a the Holocaust targetting the Jews was just the first step in the horific NAZI plan to remake the ethnic makeup of Europe.
That the war was necessary there can be no doubt. The NAZI goal was not just acquiring land, but genocide on an unimaginable scale. Your term "racial imperialism" would not be understood by many to mean what it was--murder on a huge scale. Too many people think the Holocaust was aimed just at the Jews. In fact what Hitler was seeking to fundamentally change the ethnic make up of Europe and this involved killing the Slavs in large numbers and converting the remainder into uneducated slaves. That alone would explain why the War was both inevitable and necessary. Of course the pacifists as most people at the time did not understand this. I supose one could say that American and Britain did not need to intervene to stop this. Hitler ws prepared to allow Britain to keep its empire in exchange for a free hand in Europe. And the Japanese woyld not have attacked America if we would have allowed them a free had in Asia. A free hand of course meant racial imprealism and the death of millions. But if the moral argument is not persuasive, jus what do you think would have happened when the NAZIs began to exploit te vast resources of the Soviet Union and industrial capacity of Europe. Even before the War began, Van Braun had begun working on balistic missles. Hitler did not have the resources to build a strategic air force. If he had een allowed to dominate Rurope and he Soviet Union, he would have had the necessary resources. Thus even hard headed realist must see that the war was necessary.
Responsibility for many wars is elusive. In other cases there is a clear agressor state. The responsibility for World War II is not elusive. It was clearly the agressor states. Most historians focus on the Axis. One historian writes, "Citizens of the United States and Britain might entertain the possibility tht the war ws 'unecessary," provided , of course, they were willing to cede Asia to Japan and Europe to Germany. For the other beligerants, wa was unavoidable because they lay in the path of Japanese and German racial imperialism." [Sheehan, p. 11.] While we do not disagree that the Axis were the cear agressors, we think that it is important to note that they were not the only agressors. What Dr. Shhehan and all to many Western historians miss is that there was a third major power in the equation--the Soviet Union. The War was made possible by the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 1939). Poland was not just invaded by the NAZIs, but also the Soviet Union (September 17). The Soviets then proceeded to invade Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. And would have invaded Romania had the Romanians no ceded a substantial part of their territory. The Soviet aggressions were not more extensive only because the NAZIs limited their actions. And what happened in the Soviet occupation areas was only slightly less heinous than what the NAZIs did. Here their motivation was not primarily racial in nature, but ethnic Poles and Balts suffered terribly. Dr. Sheehan justifies his view that Germany and Japan were responsible for the War by claiming that Stalin would not on his own have launched the War. He writes, "Would the Soviets have gone to war in 1939 without the Nazis? I don't think so. That they did everything you said and more is certainly true, but I will stick by my statement on why the war began." [Sheehan- eMail.] For some reason he does not ask the other obvious question, "Would the NAZIs have gone to war in 1939 without the Soviets? This is of course debateable. Hitler was, however, a creature of World War I and he repeatedly stated before the failure of Barbarossa that he would never make the World War I mistake of a two-front war.
Baker, Nicholson. Human Smoke: The Beginning of World War II, the End of Civilization (Simon & Schuster, 2008), 566p.
Sheehan, James J. "How good a war?" Book World (March 30, 2008), p. 11.
Sheehan, James J. E-mail, March 31, 2008.
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