Thursday, May 12, 2005

Was WWII Worth It?

Pat Buchanan asks this question in a current column. This follows up on his earlier isolationist musings that "Hitler wasn't so bad."

Has Buchanan lost his mind? Has he become a Nazi apologist? No. His column is based on the notion that Stalin was worse than Hitler. If Stalin won the war and eastern Europe was under Russia's control then Buchanan thinks that western Europe lost the war.
If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?
Buchanan makes a couple of mistaken assumptions here. The biggest one is that western Europe had a real choice about entering the war. Germany invaded country after country. Granted it was expanding to the east to start with, but would Hitler have been satisfied with that? Once he gained some room for his Aryans from the Slavs, wouldn't he want to do the same to the Gauls? He wanted to expand in all directions. War was inevitable.

And war between German and Russia happened independent of the actions of western Europe. Stalin didn't declare war because Churchill asked him to, Russia was invaded.

When Hitler attacked Russia he knew that he was attacking a larger country with greater economic resources. He hoped to seize Moscow before resistance could be organized. He failed and Russia counter-attacked.

Given Russia's greater manpower and resources, it is likely that it could have won the war all by itself. If England and the US were not involved then we can only speculate about how much of Europe Hitler would have conquered before losing to Stalin. At he least, all of Germany, Austria, and possibly Italy would have come under communist control. Had Hitler conquered France then Stalin would have controlled Europe all the way to the English Channel. That's a rather frightening thought.

Possibly Buchanan thinks that the US and England should have allied with Hitler to defeat Stalin. This is even more horrifying since Hitler would surely have turned on his allies. Also, Hitler was invading other countries outright. Except for the countries that Russia occupied through WWII, Stalin was never as blatant about his conquests.

Buchanan condemns the US for not immediately turning on an ally and starting a new war. This could never have happened. There was no support in the US for a new total war no r is it sure that we would have won. Russia was a bigger, stronger country than Germany. The country was sick of war by 1945. It did not have the heart for a new, longer struggle. Also, there were a lot of influential communists in the US, organized by the Kremlin - tens of thousands. They would have made it political suicide to attack Russia. A dying Roosevelt had no desire for a new war and Truman was not liked well enough for this fight, either.

Then there was Japan to worry about. VJ Day came months later. We had already made peace with Russia and the European army was preparing to transfer out - either home or to the Pacific theater.

I hesitate to who was worse Stalin or Hitler. Stalin had much more time in control and a larger population to kill off. That makes it harder to compare body counts which Buchanan tries to do anyway. Also, Hitler's ethnic cleansing still horrifies modern generations.

WWII was a declared war and the countries that declared war on us surrendered unconditionally. That is why we won. Because the other side lost. Yes, this started a long undeclared war but it was a different conflict, fought differently. Don't confuse the two.

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