Sunday, March 30, 2008

A response to comments

Thanks for the question about WW II, zacarrie. Based on the criteria I wrote about last time, was US involvement in WWII justifiable? The short answer is yes. However, we need to acknowledge the United State’s role in contributing to a situation where war could develop. As with any historical situation, it is impossible to speculate what might have been, but responsibility needs to be taken for the brutal terms forced on Germany at the end of WWI, and the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations, caused in-part by the US senate’s refusal to ratify its terms. Both of these contributed to an environment that allowed someone like Hitler come to power. As for the situation with Japan, there were other opportunities to avert war; prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor there was an ongoing negotiation with the Japanese government, which was being put under enormous pressure by several hostile US policies. There is evidence that FDR had worked out an agreement to be presented to the Japanese, which may have met some of their concerns. This was never presented, for reasons that are lost to us now.

Avoiding these missteps may or may not have averted war, we will never know. However, it is important to understand the way that WWII unfolded to see if our participation was merited. Points to consider:

1- The United States did not start the war. In both theaters the axis forces resorted to violence first. In other words, had the enemy not acted, had they not launched the ships, or put the tanks into action, there would have been no war.
2- The axis forces were actively attempting to conquer their enemies, and to become the political rulers of the conquered lands against the will of the citizens of those lands.
3- The enemy actually had the power to make these invasions stick. For example, had England not responded with violence, there was clear and convincing evidence that they would have been placed under Hitler’s rule.
4- It is true that the US had not been invaded by Hitler; however its territories had been violently attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. In the European theater, allies of the United States had been invaded and were in danger of collapse. I believe that aiding other countries in defense from invasion can possibly be used as one of the justifications of war. But only if careful consideration is given to the other conditions mentioned before, and it can’t stand alone as a sole justification.

A simple check for me is to boil it down to relationships with individuals. If I see someone in the act of trying to kill someone else, and the only way to prevent that murder is to kill the attacker, am I justified? I would argue yes. If you try and boil the justification for the Iraq war down in this way it would go something like this: The guy down the street has punched me in the nose and says he wants to kill me, and the guy across the street hates me. I know they hate each other, but they live on the same side of the street, so I’m going to kick down the door of the guy across the street and kill him before he gets any ideas. In our justice system I would rightly be charged with murder.