August 6th was the 70th anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima and there was a lot of the usual hand-wringing about the deed from the usual suspects – Arthur K over at Ace has a good round up of counter-arguments to that sentiment. Most notably the fact that those who complain about the bombing aren’t those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who would have had to invade Japan in November of 1945 if the Bomb hadn’t done the trick. I admit to a bias in this area as one of the Marines who would have had to hit the Japanese beaches was my father. There is a high probability that I wouldn’t exist if the Bomb hadn’t been dropped.
People also tend to just not know how savage the Pacific War was. I recently for the first time watched Flags of Our Fathers. It was a bit of a disjointed movie and I won’t put it down as one of Eastwood’s best efforts, but there is a scene in there which moved me nearly to tears. It is when the son of one of the Marines who raise the flag on Suribachi is talking to his aged, now-dying father in the hospital. It reminded me terribly of the last few days I had my father with me. As the story goes, that son never really knew what his father had done in World War Two – he only really found out by going through his father’s things after he died. I never even got that much.
My father never told me about the war. The only thing I ever got out of him was, “it smelled like blood and shit”. His battle was Saipan. Nearly 14,000 American casualties, including more than 3,400 dead – in less than a month of fighting. Japanese dead ran above 50,000, including around 20,000 civilian dead, many of whom committed suicide rather than fall into our hands, because the Japanese military told them we’d murder them all if captured. That is more than 53,000 dead in less than a month in an area less than 45 square miles. Just try, for a moment, to imagine what the place looked like on July 9th, 1944 when the island was declared secure. There must have been bodies just everywhere – and as it was war, the bodies would have been in quite a horrible state. Even if dad didn’t have to engage in hand-to-hand fighting, what his 17 year old eyes must have seen had to have been grim beyond description. Six months prior he was a high school boy living the sheltered life of the United States. And he carried that with him for 65 years. I wondered why he was so distant at times. But I think, now, I understand.
The people we sent off to fight the great World War Two were splendid people. They did things and put up with things which we just can’t understand. It was a terrible war, even on the level of understanding that war is bad. The Japanese and Germans were acting like blood crazed savages. They were killing people – often in quite nasty ways – for no valid reason. Just to be cruel and frighten people and lord it over them. Given the way they were conducting the war, there was no reproach that could be made to our military personnel in what they dished out in return. Yes, the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden were bad. But they didn’t even pay back a percent of what the Germans and Japanese had done – and had done simply because they could and they were convinced they’d win and never have to atone for their actions. And for all those Germans and Japanese who claimed after the war that they didn’t know what was going on all I can say is that they should have found out.
I can say that because of the example of Traudl Junge – one of Hitler’s secretaries. She had the guts after the war to admit to being ashamed of liking one of the most evil men who ever lived. But there’s more than that – upon a time after the war she saw a plaque placed in honor of a German woman who had been executed by the Nazis for anti-Nazi activities. The woman had been executed right around the time Ms. Junge was employed by Hitler. It hit her: that young woman had bothered to find out what was going on and paid for the knowledge with her life. There is no excuse. If you are an adult member of society in possession of your mental faculties, you are responsible to a degree with what goes on, even if you aren’t the person giving the orders. The Germans and the Japanese paid a high price – but, then again, a little less Banzai and Sieg Heil in the 30’s, a bit more questioning about where this was all leading, and the war might not have happened, and there would have been no price to pay.
And, so, I’m not terribly interested in retrospectives of the war which try to make out that we were the bad guys – or, at least, weren’t very good guys. It was our men and women who put a stop to Buchenwald and Bataan Death Marches, and there’s an end on it. But there still is the question we should ask ourselves: did we do the war right? That is, in exchange for all the blood and treasure – and people carrying around the war for the rest of their lives – did we get any sort of world we wanted to have?
We did get a short-lived absence of fighting. And thanks to the fact that we had blown to pieces our major economic competitors, we also got two decades of fabulous economic growth. But we didn’t get peace. Peace would have meant no Korea or Vietnam – and no building up a nuclear arsenal which could have incinerated civilization in 30 minutes. Peace would have meant complete and long-term demobilization. Perhaps a short period of occupation of Japan and Germany as we recast their political institutions in a manner which suited us, but by 1950, at the latest, all the boys home…and an army reduced to maybe a couple hundred thousand men engaged in peacetime routine. Instead, we had to garrison the whole world, lest the evil we set out to destroy in WWII take over the world…because that evil wasn’t just Hitler, it was the very idea that one nation or one ideology should dominate the world by force. With Stalin still ruling Russia, there was no peace…and could be no peace because two sides with exactly opposite ideas of what is good cannot coexist in peace.
The long and short of it is that after expending vast sums of blood and treasure – after our military performed feats of valor unequaled in history – we got nothing. We beat the Germans and the Japanese, but we lost the war. Fundamentally we lost the war because we decided to treat Stalin’s USSR as an ally, rather than as a co-beligerant, to be struck down at the earliest opportunity once Hitler was done. We could still have sent all the military aid we wanted to the USSR to keep them fighting and tying down German troops – but we didn’t have to make Stalin’s Russia into our “Red Russian Allies” and pretend that what Stalin wanted post-war was remotely what we wanted.
For anyone who wants to claim that without the USSR we could not have beaten the German I merely point out that such a view is not just wrong, but rather stupidly wrong. Between Britain and the United States we outnumbered the Germans by about 2 to 1 in population – and that doesn’t count the man power Britain could draw upon from their Empire. As for military material, we were producing more war material than all of the Axis powers, combined. Russia out of the war would have made the matter more difficult, but the end result would have in no ways been different…and if the war extended into 1946, then it would have been German cities being obliterated by atomic bombs (it is also useful to point out that without us, Russia could not have remained in the war – the USSR heavily downplayed it post-war, but the amount of material we provided the USSR made the difference…heck, just in food supplies our contribution to the USSR was decisive in allowing Russia to fight).
The troops were brave, but the way the war was conducted was absurd – and being allied with the USSR was just one of the more glaring aspects of Anglo-American shortsightedness. We landed an Army in Morocco, rather than Tunisia even though Tunisia was the place to be to drive the nail in the Afrika Corps coffin. We slugged our way up the boot of Italy starting from the toe – we only once tried a real amphibious end-run and then blew it, and never tried it again, in spite of absolute command of the seas and vastly more resources than the Germans. We invaded France at Normandy, even though the only thing you could do in Normandy is liberate Paris…and then have to drive hundreds of miles east to get to a place where you could put some real strategic pressure on Germany. And then after we did that drive, we paused just long enough to allow the Germans to put together a defense which held us up for months. Once we broke into Germany, we simply failed to take Berlin – leaving it to the Russians! We got to the Elbe 5 days before the Russians even started their assault on the Oder and there was pretty much nothing between us and Berlin, and not much German military force in Berlin, itself. We had an airborne op all ready to go which would have dropped three divisions on Berlin within 24 hours of “go”, and within 48 hours of the drop we could have had a full American Army in Berlin. War over. We didn’t do it. Bradley and Ike cooked up some post-war bull about not wanting to incur casualties (this from the men who got caught with their pants down in the Ardennes to the cost of 19,000 dead) to cover their mistake…and so the Russians got to take Berlin, at astounding cost in human life, both German and Russian. Stupid. The whole war went like that, especially in Europe…pounding away at the enemy’s strongest points, and then when we did get the opportunity to crush them, we let it pass.
The war against Japan was better run. Partially because no one had a political axe to grind in the Pacific War but mostly because America was blessed by commanders like MacArthur and Nimitz. But, even here, one wonders – why the demand for unconditional surrender? Why was Roosevelt’s plan to make China our partner in the post-war world? We can figure that FDR’s desire for the USSR to be a partner in the post-war world was one part blindness, the other part careful propaganda by the Soviet agents in his Administration…but why Chiang’s China? What could China do for us? Who in eastern Asia wanted a powerful China? A weak China not in control of its old imperial territories would be best. Sure, the Japanese puppet State in Manchuria had to go – but did anyone think to ask for a moment if the Manchurians wanted to exchange Japanese overlordship for Chinese? No on asked. We were just going to beat the Japanese to their knees…and then, what? Our proper goal in Asia and the Pacific was to make sure that no one nation could ever become overwhelmingly dominant in the region. Well, here we are in 2015, and China is rapidly becoming overwhelmingly dominant in the region. This is an improvement over Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in what strategic way?
In Europe, from Day One, the goal of the Anglo-American armies was Berlin, Vienna and Prague – and Warsaw, if things went very well. All four of those prime, strategic targets were left to the Russians…who had to slog their way across half of Europe, commanded by generals who wasted lives on a titanic scale because they lacked the strategic and tactical understanding of how to really break through an enemy defense (they really did just pour out the blood – their only help was Hitler’s insane “fight to the death” orders to his troops, which forced the Germans armies to hang on to untenable positions…even in 1945 when they went at Berlin, their main thrust was directed at the strongest German position on the eastern front; upwards of 30,000 Russians paid the full blood price for that bit of idiocy). To be sure, the landing in France may have been the result not just of American strategic folly, but the carefully orchestrated “Second Front” campaign inspired by the USSR…which really, really wanted us to land in France because then we’d tied down large Germans armies and yet be very far away from anywhere we needed to be. But even with all the mistakes, we still here just 40 miles or so from Berlin when the Germans surrendered and a crisp order from us, backed up by atomic bombs, could have got the Russians to the eastern side of the Curzon Line (ie, outside of Poland). Its not like Russia had much of an army left in 1945 – they were bled white. But, nothing doing – and even when Stalin committed and act of war over Berlin in 1948, we didn’t call him on it. Its almost as if we wanted to have nothing but trouble in the world.
In 1945, half of Europe fell to enemy powers. China fell in 1949. Indochina in 1975. Russia was around to create all kinds of havoc in the world. Forgotten in the crush of events is that the terrorism which plagues the world was largely a Russian creation…it has morphed now into a distinctly Islamist thing, of course, but the basic concept (and original funding and training) for it came from the bowels of the KGB. I was reading up on the former East German Stasi the other day – one thing which struck me was how the Stasi recorded the conversations of some West German politicians and then leaked them to German media…blaming American intelligence for gathering the information. Apparently, and understandably, the Germans people believed it – and had another reason to be anti-American. One wonders just how many crimes laid at our door were actually the concoction of the USSR and its cat’s paws? Think of all the bad things which have gone on and are going on and try to think of them happening in a world which ended World War Two not in 1945 with the surrender of Germany and Japan, but in 1947 with the surrender of the USSR.
No Korea. No Vietnam. No massive bloodletting in Africa for decades as Soviet pawns tried to take control. No Arab-Israeli war – or, at least, a lot fewer of them – because the Arabs wouldn’t have been armed with Soviet weapons. Don’t like Assad’s dictatorship in Syria? Keep in mind that his dad was a Soviet client. So was Saddam in Iraq.
Che Guevara and Fidel Castro? You would never have heard of them. Remember, a defeated USSR would have had its archives opened just as a defeated Nazi Germany had it’s exposed to the world. Also, GULAG would have been on film. The mass graves of Stalin’s NKVD would have been opened (as an aside, we wouldn’t have had the clown show at Nuremberg where the USSR was allowed to try to pin Stalin’s Katyn Massacre on the Nazis). In other words, we had “red diaper babies” to create the New Left in the 60’s because the left wasn’t utterly discredited. But where were the “brown diaper babies”…while there were only about 10,000 active member of the German-American Bund, that wasn’t too much smaller than the active membership of the Communist Party USA. Bottom line, there weren’t children of Bundists trying to revive Nazism in 1960 because it was utterly discredited and no one wanted anything to do with it…it would have been the same for communism in 1960 had the crimes of communism been fully exposed by the defeat of the USSR. In other words, had we won the war then the basic ideology of a totalitarian system, any totalitarian system, would have been discredited…it would have been seen that communist words about “rights” and “freedom” were masks for death camps and mass graves. It would have been over and done with – people of leftwing opinion would be as marginalized and kooky as neo-Nazis are today.
America is not the world’s policeman – we hear especially our Progressives say this. And it is actually true, but not in the sense that Progressives mean it. Progressives mean we’re not to stop things that Progressives want to happen. Progressives didn’t want us to, say, police communist aggression in Central America because the Progressives wanted a communist Central America…not caring a whit about the number of people who would be murdered by the communists, of course. That was just a bit of egg-breaking to get to the omelet, right? The proper sense of us not being a policeman is that we’re not supposed to go into nation and interfere with their purely internal affairs. But as long as there are ideologies out there which seek to impose their will on nations, then we’re not dealing with purely internal affairs. That a revolutionary movement wants to get rid of the local dictator is no concern of ours – that they want to get rid of him so they can impose a foreign-controlled, new dictatorship upon the nation, is. And, indeed, the concern of all people of good will. Post-World War Two, we had this all over the world – revolutionary movements which were funded and armed by the USSR (or their allies) and which sought not national self-determination and freedom, but to turn their nations into new satellites of the USSR and to crush all self-determination among their own people. We had to fight them – of course, what we really had to fight was the USSR. But we never got to that; because especially by 1960, taking out the USSR via war was too risky given nuclear realities.
We got Reagan and got lucky – the USSR was done away with. But the poison wasn’t. It is still with us. To a certain extent, it has re-infected Russia, and now we see Putin trying to re-create the Soviet Empire. China is still communist and now seeks to become the power in the world. Iran’s ideology spreads apace. Progressives in the West continually try to suppress free speech, free association, property rights…and don’t hold back at all in trying to impose the Western, Progressive vision on Third World nations. We still have a world where people are trying to impose their ideology upon others. The lesson we were supposed to have given the world in 1945 wasn’t actually given. All we did was convince people not to be Nazis. Heck, the recent rise in anti-Semitism shows we didn’t even teach people not to hate Jews. Really all we did was tell people not to use the Swastika as your emblem. Since the war wasn’t ended as it should have been, it really hasn’t been ended, at all. It could well be that 200 years from now, a historian writes a monumental work of history about the 150 Year’s War: 1914-2064. Because, of course, World War Two was really just World War One, Continued. I’ve gone on long enough here, so I won’t get into the bone-headry of the leaders of World War One. But suffice it to say, had we ended that war properly, we wouldn’t have got World War Two.
I read that Pope Francis said that the best way to win a war is to not fight it. Indeed; much wisdom in that. The war shouldn’t have ever started – and had just a few people exercised a bit of common sense in 1914, it wouldn’t have started (well, really, the period 1878 to 1914 was when the idiocy was built up, leading to World War One). But what are we to do with the war we’ve got? I think that it has to be fought out. We have to find out who wins and thus who gets to be around…those who just want to live and let live, or those who for a variety of reasons want to tell everyone how to live? It would be nice to end the war – it would be nice if World War Two was over. But it isn’t, and it won’t be until the forces of freedom face up to the fact that those who want slavery – be it gentle or cruel slavery – cannot be turned into friends. Eventually a time comes when the battle will have to be joined, and the truth told. Maybe it comes next year. Maybe in ten years. But the crunch time will come and the world will have it out.