November 9, 2017

Was World War 2 a “good war?”

The supposed positive outcomes of WW2 are vastly overrated Retweet

By Perry Willis

I’ve been reviewing the results of U.S. wars. So far I’ve covered…

I’m hoping to persuade you of 3 points…

  1. Our “patriotic holidays” need to honor soldiers without mischaracterizing U.S. wars.
  2. The claim that U.S. soldiers “defended our freedom” is sweet-sounding but false. Freedom may be what they wanted to defend, but that’s not how our politicians actually used them.
  3. We must curtail the ability of politicians to wage war.

As you read what follows, please remember this crucial point — I am not blaming America for anything, but I am blaming U.S. politicians for lots of things. With that in mind, here comes the most important and controversial article in the series…

Was World War 2 a “good war?”Pearl Harbor

WW2 is “Exhibit A” for anyone who wants to make a case for foreign military intervention. That’s because people are sure they understand what the payoff was. They assume that we defeated Japan and Germany, thereby ending a wave of conquest and tyranny. This “understanding” is partly true but completely superficial.

  • The U.S. did stop Japanese imperialism. But too many people assume that war was the best path to that goal, and that the Pacific basin was better off because of that war.
  • We did help defeat Hitler, but we actually saved only a small corner of Europe. U.S. politicians sold the rest of Europe into tyranny.

Let’s look at these claims in detail, starting with the Pacific War…

There was a possible peaceful path to avoiding Japanese imperialism.

In other words, if U.S. politicians had set a good example instead of a bad one, maybe there would have been no conquering Japanese empire to worry about. Instead, U.S. politicians did absolutely everything wrong, and Japan emulated us! In addition…

It’s possible that U.S. politicians actually chose the more evil side in the conflict between Japan and China.

I’ve already shown how U.S. politicians made exactly this mistake in WW1. Well, a case can be made that U.S. politicians did it again with Japan and China. But first, you have to understand how we became involved in the Sino-Japanese conflict. The Japanese didn’t attack Pearl Harbor for no reason. There was a lot of prelude…

  • FDR began imposing trade restrictions on Japan in 1939
  • In 1940, he began organizing fighter pilots to send to China (they became know as the Flying Tigers)
  • FDR also sent numerous ships into Japanese waters hoping to provoke an event that would lead to war
  • When that failed, FDR imposed an oil embargo on Japan. That provoked the response he wanted — an attack on the United States. Pearl Harbor ended up being the target.

So the question is…

Was FDR right to defend China against Japan?

It’s important to understand that FDR was not mainly defending the Chinese people. He was really defending China’s ruler, Chiang Kai-shek, who may actually have been worse than the Japanese. Consider…

Professor R. J. Rummel is the world’s leading expert on democide (death by The State). He has researched the number of murders committed by 20th Century rulers independent of those they caused through war. Look at his findings for Chiang vs. Japan…

By that measure Chiang was more evil than the Japanese and FDR was wrong to choose Chiang’s side. This is a mistake that both U.S. politicians and the American people have made repeatedly. Too many Americans assume that every conflict must have a good side and a bad side. But more often than not both sides are bad. That was certainly the case both in WW1 and with Chiang Kai-shek versus Japan.

Adults realize that some situations are unfixable. You just have to wait them out because any effort to intervene just makes matters worse. But sadly, the closer you look, the worse the U.S. war with Japan becomes. If you’re going to pick a fight with someone, as FDR did with Japan, and then sacrifice vast wealth and innocent young lives to that purpose, you had better make damned sure you leave things better than you found them. But FDR achieves the exact opposite in the Pacific.

  • China ended up worse
  • Korea ended up worse
  • Vietnam ended up worse

In fact, so far as I can tell from my extensive reading about WW2, neither FDR nor his generals, nor Harry Truman, gave much thought to how things would be in Asia after they defeated Japan. Instead, our so-called leaders were incredibly simple-minded. Once they had their war with Japan, they focused exclusively on winning that war, with hardly any thought for what would come after.

Korea is the “poster child” for that error.

Do you want to know where North Korea came from? It’s really simple — U.S. politicians created it!

Bam! The result is North Korea and the Korean war that followed. Both were “Made in the USA” by U.S. politicians. But the worst was yet to come. Instead of losing to the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek lost to Mao’s communists. The result? Mao delivered another 50-80 million Chinese corpses. In short, the U.S. war against Japan was mostly a disaster. Its only accomplishment was the end of Japanese militarism. All its other consequences were calamitous. So…

What about the European Theater?

We tell ourselves we defeated Hitler. This claim largely ignores the Soviet contribution. If there was one book I wish every American would read about the European theater, it’s this one — No Simple Victory by Norman Davies. Mr. Davies compares the Soviet contribution versus that of the U.S. and Britain. After you review his evidence you’ll likely reach two conclusions…

  • The U.S. contribution to Hitler’s defeat was relatively small compared to the Soviets
  • Hitler was probably doomed the moment he invaded the Soviet Union, whether the U.S. entered the war or not

One way you can know this, short of reading Davies’ book, is by looking at two dates…

  1. The historical consensus is that Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad was the turning point in the war. From that point on the Nazis were in constant retreat. The Germans surrendered at Stalingrad happened on February 2, 1943.
  2. Significant U.S. and British ground forces didn’t reach Europe until D-Day, June 6, 1944 — nearly a year-and-a-half after the German retreat began. There were U.S. forces fighting German troops in Italy prior to that, but their numbers were small relative to the Eastern Front, and they were bogged down by the Italian terrain.

So you should ask yourself some questions…

  • Would the Nazi retreat have stopped if either D-Day had failed or never happened?
  • Or would the Soviets have continued rolling forward, all the way into Berlin, even without the Normandy invasion?

I think the Soviets were going to defeat the Nazis whether D-Day happened or not. So the real U.S. accomplishment in WW2 was not defeating Hitler. It was something else entirely.

The real U.S. accomplishment was preventing Stalin from rolling all the way to the English Channel

Our intervention in WW2 saved West Germany, Italy, France, and the Benelux countries from Stalin. That’s an important achievement! Unfortunately, that positive result is almost perfectly counterbalanced by the fact that we…

  • Allied ourselves with Stalin
  • Aided Stalin
  • Requested nothing in return for that aid, and thereby…
  • Helped Stalin conquer Eastern Europe, while giving him North Korea as a bonus prize

Bottomline: We saved Western Europe but doomed Eastern Europe. I call that a zero-sum outcome.

Worst of all, none of this would have happened had the U.S. not intervened in WW1 in the first place. (See how U.S. intervention in WW1 helped give rise to both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany).

So look where we find ourselves after reviewing all the major U.S. wars up to WW2…

  • Did U.S. wars defend freedom? Clearly not.
  • Did U.S. wars make Americans more secure? No, they made us profoundly less safe.
  • Did U.S. wars make the world better? The evidence is overwhelming that U.S. interventions made the world profoundly worse. They led to tens of millions of unintended deaths, trillions in lost wealth, and untold suffering.

What should we conclude from this? I suggest two things…

  1. We must find ways to severely limit how politicians use the military.
  2. We must stop using patriotic holidays to offer false platitudes about how U.S. politicians employed the soldiers under their control. Those soldiers certainly wanted to defend America, defend freedom, and improve the world, but that’s not how the politicians used them. We must find more honest ways to honor our soldiers lest we contribute to more needless suffering.

If you find these articles valuable, please share them with others. Start a conversation about the correct way to honor veterans and the war dead. We believe it should be possible to celebrate their courage and mourn their loss, without telling lies about how the political class misused them. And if you’re new to our work, and you like what you see, please subscribe using the form near the bottom of our homepage! It’s free!

Thank you for being an ACTIVE DC Downsizer. If you like our work please consider making a contribution or starting a monthly pledge here.

Perry Willis
Co-founder, Downsize DC
Co-creator, Zero Aggression Project

PS: Please remember the three points I am trying to demonstrate with these articles…

  1. Our “patriotic holidays” need to honor soldiers without mischaracterizing U.S. wars.
  2. The claim that U.S. soldiers “defended our freedom” is sweet-sounding but false. Freedom may be what our soldiers wanted to defend, but that’s not how our politicians actually used them.
  3. We must curtail the future ability of politicians to aggress against foreign countries.

Please also remember this crucial point — I’m not blaming America for anything, but I am blaming U.S. politicians for lots of things.

PPS: Here’s a list of books I’ve consulted in this series.

If you buy these books using the links below, Downsize DC will get credit we can use to expand our research library. Thank you for your interest and support.

World War 2

No Simple Victory by Norman Davies
Day of Deceit by Robert Stinnett
End of Empire by Chandler, Cribb, and Narango
New Dealer’s War by Thomas Fleming
World War II by Richard Maybury
Death by Government by R.J. Rummel

The impact of WW1 on the Islamic world

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan

Impact of U.S. policies on the rise of Nazi Germany

Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
The Forgotten Depression by James Grant

The Russian Revolution

Comrades by Brian Moynahan
Russia Leaves the War by George F. Kennan

World War 1

The Illusion of Victory by Thomas Fleming
World War I by Richard Maybury
The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson
The Forgotten Depression by James Grant

The Spanish-American War, the conquest of the Philippines, and Teddy Roosevelt’s betrayal of Korea…

Bully Boy by Jim Powell
The Politics of War by Walter Karp
The War Lovers by Evan Thomas
Honor in the Dust by Gregg Jones
The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley

The Mexican War

A Wicked War by Amy S. Greenberg

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  1. Rob
    Posted November 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    1. Veteran’s Day IS NOT “harmful to soldiers”!
    2. U.S. involvement in WW2 definitely made the world better! Without our involvement, Europe and the rest of the world would have been subjected to the tyranny of the Nazi’s and the Japanese Fascists!

    • David
      Posted May 26, 2018 at 4:53 am | Permalink


      I struggle to connect your comment with the writings above. Did you actually read them?

  2. Sean Holland
    Posted November 14, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    You are forgetting the enormous value that the Lend-Lease Program provided to the Soviet Union. Without that aid from the US and the UK (which could only afford it because of help from the US the UK was receiving), the Soviets would not have been able to drive the Nazi out. They might have been able to hold them back but little more.

    • Perry Willis
      Posted December 9, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      It’s a good point. Definitely something to consider. But every wargame I’ve ever seen that looks at this scenario still has the Nazies losing. I think it’s more likely that our aid simply helped Stalin to conquer Eastern Europe.

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