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Remembering World War II

Victor Davis Hanson has a wonderful article about how the history of World War II is being rewritten:
The German novelist Gunter Grass — who served in the Wehrmacht — recently lectured in the New York Times about postwar “power blocs,” in terms that suggested the Soviets and the Americans had been morally equivalent. German problems of reunification, he tells us, were mostly due to a capitalist West, not a Communist East that caused them.

Grass advances the odd idea that Germany was not liberated from American hegemony (“unconditional subservience”) until Mr. Schroeder’s recent anti-Bush campaign distanced the Germans from the United States. To read this ahistorical sophistry of Grass is to forget recent European and Russian complicity in arming Saddam, their forging of sweetheart oil deals with the Baathist dictatorship, and the disturbing German anti-Semitic rhetoric that followed Schroeder’s antics. Unmentioned are the billions of American dollars and years of vigilance that kept the Red Army out of Western Germany, or the paradox that the United States is ready to leave Germany on a moment’s notice — which might explain the efforts of the Schroeder government to keep our troops there.

There is a pattern here. Western elites — the beneficiaries of 60 years of peace and prosperity achieved by the sacrifices to defeat fascism and Communism — are unhappy in their late middle age, and show little gratitude for, or any idea about, what gave them such latitude. If they cannot find perfection in history, they see no good at all. So leisured American academics tell us that Iwo Jima was unnecessary, if not a racist campaign, that Hiroshima had little military value but instead was a strategic ploy to impress Stalin, and that the GI was racist, undisciplined, and reliant only on money and material largess.

There are two disturbing things about the current revisionism that transcend the human need to question orthodoxy. The first is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Whatever mistakes and lapses committed by the Allies, they pale in comparison to the savagery of the Axis or the Communists. Post-facto critics never tell us what they would have done instead — lay off the German cities and send more ground troops into a pristine Third Reich; don’t bomb, but invade, an untouched Japan in 1946; keep out of WWII entirely; or in its aftermath invade the Soviet Union?

Lost also is any sense of small gratitude. A West German intellectual like Grass does not inform us that he was always free to migrate to East Germany to live in socialist splendor rather than remain unhappy in capitalist “subservience” in an American-protected West Germany — or that some readers of the New York Times who opposed Hitler might not enjoy lectures about their moral failings from someone who once fought for him. Such revisionists never ask whether they could have written so freely in the Third Reich, Tojo’s Japan, Mussolini’s Italy, Soviet Russia, Communist Eastern Europe — or today in such egalitarian utopias as China, Cuba, or Venezuela.


After all, this was a week in which thousands of the once-enslaved Dutch in Maastricht were protesting the visit of a president of the nation that once liberated their fathers, while thousands of neo-Nazis were back in the streets of Berlin. A Swedish EU official recently blamed the Second World War on "nationalistic pride and greed, and…international rivalry for wealth and power" — the new mantra that Hitler was merely confused or perhaps had some “issues” with his neighbors. Perhaps her own opportunistic nation that once profited (“greed”?) from the Third Reich itself was not somehow complicit in fueling the Holocaust.

How odd that Swedes and Spaniards who were either neutrals or pro-Nazi during World War II now so often lecture the United States not just about present morality but about the World War II past as well.

If there were any justice in the world, we would have the ability to transport our most severe critics across time and space to plop them down on Omaha Beach or put them in an overloaded B-29 taking off from Tinian, with the crew on amphetamines to keep awake for their 15-hour mission over Tokyo.

But alas, we cannot. Instead, the beneficiaries of those who sacrificed now ankle-bite their dead betters. Even more strangely, they have somehow convinced us that in their politically-correct hindsight, they could have done much better in World War II.

Yet from every indication of their own behavior over the last 30 years, we suspect that the generation who came of age in the 1960s would have not just have done far worse but failed entirely.
My Friday mornings would be a waste without Hansons' amazing understanding of history and the personalities that shape it.


Anonymous said...

This revisionism is probably a psychological necessity. How would you feel if you were French and your parents and grandparents were willing collaborators with the Nazis? Or Belgium and they put up only the faintest resistance before throwing their arms in the air in surrender. The Norwegians maintained a belligerant neutrality, refusing a British request to put its troops ashore to cut off the iron ore supply needed for the Nazis war machine. But when the Germans invaded, they packed up the government and royalty and sought refuge in -- you guessed it -- England. You could go down the list of these countries, most of them critical today of their liberators, and find example after example.

Ivan said...

Don't speak for all of us 60's guys. I served in the RCAF in the 60's. I was only a lowly enlisted guy, but we did our job and were ready. I worked for the CO of the 416 squadron out of Chatham NB. Our guys were on 5 min. alert 24/7. The bears would come down the coast of Greenland and our guys would go up and make sure they did not cause any trouble. Most of my uncles were in WW II, some in hot spots and others not, but they did what they had to do. You can not ask more of mortal men.