The good war

People call World War II “the good war”.  If one judges a war by its effect on the character of the victors, then WWII was certainly not a good war; it was a worse war than WWI.  WWI left us chastened and skeptical of schemes to redeem the world through bloodshed; WWII left us self-righteous and fanatical, prowling the world for demons to slay.  The lesson we took away from WWII is “never appease bullies”, which means “never compromise”, which means to become a bully oneself–all in the name of peace, of course.  WWII gave America, Europe, and the international Left a template for understanding the world:  the enemy is always Hitler.  The trouble is, this template hasn’t fit any situation since 1945.

Why do we remember the last great war so fondly?  I think it’s because it was the last time America and her intelligensia were on the same side.  We miss the days when our greatest authors and moviemakers were making propaganda for our side, rather than the enemy’s.  Also, the virtue of fighting with the Allies is the one point of American pride that our Marxist historians won’t touch.  Everything else in our history they have convinced us is tainted.  Suggest to an American that his country’s participation in WWII was wrong or foolish, and he will react with horror.  You would be taking away his one piece of evidence that his ancestors weren’t completely wicked, the one mark to unambiguously go on the positive side of the ledger.  I know; I was once one of these Americans.

Sure, Hitler was a bad guy.  (The average German, I’m sure , was no worse than the average American.)  But we shouldn’t base our collective self-image on having somebody worse than us that we thrashed.  (It was mostly the Red Army that thrashed him anyway.)  We shouldn’t be proud to be Americans.  Pride is a sin.  We should show piety toward America, our patria.  We do this not because of any particular past glory, and certainly not because it meets the Leftist ideal of communal virtue better than some other polities, but because it is our fatherland.  Like biological fatherhood (but in a much weaker sense), it is one of the symbols of God that He used in our formation, and we thus honor it for His sake.

4 Responses

  1. One has to wonder how pro-intervention Hollywood was in the early years of the war 1939-June 1941. It seems like Leftist Hollywood went into high gear only after the Worker’s Motherland was attacked in 1941.

  2. Hi Gneisenau,

    Good point. Not coincidentally, the 39-41 Eastern front doesn’t play a big part in our collective memory.

  3. I had a schoolmaster who was mad: he had an idée fixe about the origins of what he called, plausibly enough, the Second Thirty Years War (WWI & II).

    Like many madmen, he was immensely erudite and ingenious, nor was he one to heed Bacon’s warning about seeking the causes of causes. We boys learned a great deal of history from him – I can still discuss the troubles of 15th century Prussia, from the Battle of Grunwald to the Second Peace of Thorn quite intelligently, or why the Habsburg-Valois rivalry was fought out in Italy.

    His conclusion? It was the way in which the dominions of Louis the Pious were partitioned between his three sons by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The whole subsequent history of Europe could be traced back to that fatal event; a long march deathward, to the drum-beat of omen and prophecy.

    Well, one day, a boy remarked of WWII, “We did win, didn’t we, Sir?”

    “We went to war in 1914 to retain our command of the seas, to secure our tribute from India and to maintain our right to rule just over a quarter of the world’s inhabitants and just under a quarter of the earth’s surface – and we won? Won what? What do you mean, we won?”

  4. Excellent post bonald! I especially liked your point about the difference between pride and piety.

    The best cure for the over-romanticized version of WWII that I know of, at least for conservatives and reactionaries, is Evelyn Waugh’s “Sword of Honour” trilogy. All the non-fiction, historical revisionist books ever written about WWII, from the serious to the crackpot, simply can not compete with Waugh’s satirical novels which so effectively deflate the myth of the “good war”.

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