I write these words on September 3, 2009, seventy years to the day since Britain and France declared war on Germany — an occasion observed, if not exactly celebrated by the leaders and opinion-makers of the West, as the beginning of "the good war." The War Party just loves WWII because it’s the one war where all agree we had no choice but to fight and win a war to the death. Well, not quite all, but on this question dissent is simply not tolerated.
Take, for example, Pat Buchanan, who marks this anniversary with a reiteration of the theme of his excellent book, The Unnecessary War, which makes the case that war was never inevitable, and that only the pernicious idea of "collective security" — the Franco-British "guarantee" to Poland — made it so. Buchanan also makes the indisputable point that if only the Poles had given Danzig back to Germany, from whom it had been taken in the wake of the disastrous Treaty of Versailles, a negotiated peace would have been the result — a much more desirable one than 56,125,262 deaths and the incalculable toll taken by the war in terms of resources and pure human misery.
Oh, but no: to the "bloggers," left and right, this is a case of "Pat Buchanan, Hitler Apologist." In the political culture constructed by these pygmies, any challenge to the conventional wisdom — especially one that involves questioning WWII, the Sacred War — is something close to a criminal act, one that separates out the perpetrator from the realm of polite society and consigns him to an intellectual Coventry, where he can do no harm. And of course attacking US entry into WWII is considered a "hate crime" because — well, what are you, some kind of "Hitler apologist"?!
But of course WWII was not inevitable, and Hitler was indeed amenable to negotiations: he never wanted to go to war with the British — whom he admired — and the French, whose influential native fascist movement had good relations with their German co-thinkers. Instead, his gaze was fixed on the East, specifically the Soviet Union, and the lands of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is stated quite plainly in Mein Kampf, where the whole idea of lebensraum was broached: Hitler envisioned the Nazi empire bestriding the Eurasian landmass, basically replacing Russia as the preeminent transcontinental power.
As it was, antiwar sentiment in the years prior to Pearl Harbor was the dominant trend in America, so much so that not even Franklin Roosevelt dared go up against it: in the course of the 1940 election, with war a looming possibility, he infamously declared:
"I have said before, but I shall say it again and again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
FDR was a much better liar than George W. Bush, but you’ll never get anyone over at TPM or the Center for American Progress to admit it. Or, maybe you will: maybe they’ll take the line of historian Thomas A. Bailey, who admired Roosevelt and wrote: "Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor." Oh but it was a Good Lie, because: "He was faced with a terrible dilemma. If he let the people slumber in a fog of isolationism, they might fall prey to Hitler. If he came out unequivocally for intervention, he would be defeated" in the 1940 election. The people need to be lied to by a Wise Leader if it’s for their own good: that’s the consensus in Washington, D.C., at any rate, and nothing appears to have changed since that time.
In any case, the "Good War" was neither good nor inevitable: it was, instead, a war that saw its prelude in the Spanish Civil War, where the international left actively supported the Spanish "Republicans," i.e. Stalinist Communists and their socialist and left-anarchist allies, and labored mightily to get the West to intervene on their comrades’ behalf. In spite of the official Communist party line that WWII was an "imperialist war," the groundwork for a fulsomely pro-war tack had already been laid as the commies and their liberal-leftie friends agitated mightily on behalf of "Republican" Spain and drummed up Western ire against Japan in the form of economic boycotts and attempted economic strangulation (a tactic that limned the later US embargo on steel and oil imports and provoked the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor).
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.