The 'Good' War

It never fails that when I write an article having to do with Iraq, the "War on Terror," or any other war, someone (no, make that some people) will write to me pointing out that I probably would have stood by during World War II and let Germany or Japan conquer America. One way or another, the "good war" is invoked to let me know that I’m a fool for opposing the war in Iraq or some other current crusade.

All right, let’s look at World War II.

And let’s forget about Franklin Roosevelt baiting the Japanese until they attacked Pearl Harbor – and we’ll ignore the fact that Hitler couldn’t even cross the English Channel to conquer England, let alone cross the Atlantic Ocean to conquer America – and we’ll overlook the fact that America’s entry into the war didn’t prevent six million Jews from being executed – and we’ll just pretend that Roosevelt’s ridiculous ideas of "unconditional surrender" and cozying up to Joe Stalin didn’t lead to half of Europe and all of China falling into Communist hands.

So if we leave all that out of the discussion and assume that World War II was the most noble, justified, glorious, humanitarian war ever fought in the history of the world, we’re still left with the question: So what???!!

What has World War II to do with Iraq, George Bush, the "War on Terror," or anything else going on today?

The very fact that it’s World War II that’s continually invoked (rather than the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Panama, or the War of the Roses) is an indication that World War II was unique. If it really was a "good war," the constant rhetorical resort to it is proof in and of itself that most wars aren’t good wars. So we can’t possibly believe that the mere fact that America entered World War II is a justification for America entering any other war.

But I can imagine that if George Bush decides to invade Canada tomorrow, and I write an article complaining about it, someone (no, make that some people) will write to me saying that if I’d had my way in the 1940s, we’d all be speaking German (or Japanese) today.

April 11, 2005

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts