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moif
Recently I purchased a 2 disk edition of Steven Spielbergs film, 'Saving Private Ryan'. I've long been interested in the Second World War and I like this film because it blends a gritty faux-realism with the themes of sacrifice and the search for humanity amongst chaos.

Watching the film however I am aware of something odd which is further underlined in Spielbergs other epic World War Two endeavours; 'Schindlers List' and 'Band of Brothers' which is a Jewish emphasis.

Given the subject matter, its understandable that 'Schindlers List' has this emphasis, but I find it odd that both 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Band of Brothers' should contain so many Jewish aspects. Not because I am opposed to these or because I suspect Spielberg of some conspiracy or other but rather because they seem to be implying something unusual about the Second World War. Namely that it was fought for altruistic reasons, especially by the USA. By itself 'Schindlers List' does not convey this idea, but when considered along side 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Band of Brothers', it seems a pattern emerges.

This pattern is best illustrated in the 9th episode of 'Band of Brothers' which is called 'Why we fight'. This is also the title of the chapter of Steven E. Ambrose's original book upon which the series was based. In this chapter we see the 506th discover a concentration/work camp. The subject matter and the title combine to convey the idea that the war was fought, at least from the American perspective, to end the tyranny of the Third Reich.

I've seen this sentiment conveyed quite a few times in online debate fora as well. Its often accompanied by pointless arguments about who was the most responsible for winning the war.

The Second World War only lasted 5 years or so, but it must stand out as the most influential political and historical 'event' of the modern period. How long its influence will last is of course a matter of conjecture but standing on the cusp of time and looking backwards, its difficult to see any event since 1492 that has had a greater impact on the shape of the world today.

But what was the war really about? Are Ambrose and Spielberg correct in their apparent notion that the war was fought to put an end to tyranny? A great many nations participated in the war and few fought for the same reasons, even if they were on the same side. The Soviet Union and the United States had very little in common and in my estimation, even the British had a different agenda from the Americans.

So, what was the Second World War actually about?

Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons?

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?



Incidently, if there are any fans of 'Band of Brothers' here, you may be interested to hear about another similar series, to deal with the war in the Pacific and set for release in 2006. 'The Pacific War'
And here is a forum that deals with both this series and a Clint Eastwood film called 'Flags of our forefathers'.
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Amlord
moif, you do realize that Spielberg is Jewish and has donated extensively to Jewish and Holocaust survivor's causes?

So, what was the Second World War actually about?

An immense question, which has been the subject of hundreds of books.

In short, it was the reaction to an aggressive, expansionist totalitarianism.

Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Too numerous to mention. For the most part, European countries entered because they were aggressors (Italy, Germany) or they were defending themselves. The United States was also attacked and although some Americans had Nazi ties, when the Axis attacked the United States, there was little doubt as to what the response should be.

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons?

Is self-defense altruistic? If it is, then the Allies had altruistic reasons. The Axis of course entered for selfish reasons.

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?

Considering that the Holocaust did not start until the war was well engaged, I'd say that it played a negligible role. In hindsight, the Holocaust gave doubters the proof positive that stopping the German state (in addition to the Japanese empire) was the right thing to do.
moif
QUOTE(Amlord)
moif, you do realize that Spielberg is Jewish and has donated extensively to Jewish and Holocaust survivor's causes?
Yes, of course, and as I said in the opening, I'm not opposed to the Jewish bias of Spielbergs work.

I merely drew attention to the Jewish aspect because Spielberg himself is doing so and in such a manner as to promote the notion that a motivating factor of the war was the desire to end the tyranny of the Third Reich.

Julian
So, what was the Second World War actually about?

Like Amlord, I'd say it was a response to aggressive expansionism of the Axis powers, most especially Germany & Japan (nobody, except perhaps some parts of Africa, was all that concerned with Mussolini's Italy itself)

Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Well, continental European nations that went to war with Germany did so because Germany threatened them quite directly, and in many cases invaded - or tried to, as in the case of Russia.

America went to war intially with Japan, because they were directly attacked by them at Pearl Harbour. China went to war with Japan because they were invaded by them.

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons?

Yes. Britain went to war with Germany only because Germany invaded a British ally - Poland.

Before that point, Germany intended no threat to the UK, and indeed there is evidence to suggest that the Third Reich hoped that Britain would be a sympathetic ally, if not an active military one. Plans for invasion with Britain were only formulated after Britain - or more accurately, the British Empire, which was still in existence at the time - declared war on Germany in 1939.

This was the point at which a localised European conflict became a world war, because the British Empire spanned such a large area and so many countries (e.g. India, Australia, Canada, what was then Rhodesia, etc.) threw in their lot at the same time.

While Britain had some direct interests in war with Germany which might leave claims of altruism open to debate - unfairly, I think because of the treaty with Poland being the spark for British involvement - these Empire nations, especially India and Canada - had no real direct interest in the war, and can legitimately be said to have entered WW2 for entirely altruistic reasons (I'm surely our Canadian posters, such as Ultimate Joe can expand on this idea).

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?

No. As has been mentioned, the 'Final Solution' was not thought of, much less implemented, until well into the war, so it couldn't have been a motivating factor. It was a massive reinforcement once it was discovered, but that mostly happened once the Germans were in retreat in 1944/5.

Indeed, in the early days of the Reich, prior to German military expansion, many prominent Western politicians sympathised with German treayment of European Jewry, whether in private or in public.

Once the Holocaust became known, however, this sympathy turned to guilt, and I think this guilt in the West was one of the main reasons the modern state of Israel was looked on relatively benignly at its foundation. If many Western leaders and thinkers hadn't been mildly anti-Semitic during the 1930s, and had taken stronger steps against Nazi Germany before it had finished re-arming, perhaps the Middle East would be in better shape today. Something to think about, anyway.
moif
QUOTE(Julian)
Yes. Britain went to war with Germany only because Germany invaded a British ally - Poland.
I've always believed that as well (and still do I think) but I wonder if the British had any other ulterior motives... the preservation of Imperial power for example. They must have understood that the stronger Germany became the more it threatened the British empire.

If this was the case, then it was just as much a matter of self defence for Britain to draw the line at Poland and as Amlord asked, is self-defense altruistic?
I'm not really sure.

From the perspective of realpolitik, then no country ever acts for altruistic purposes.


QUOTE(Julian)
While Britain had some direct interests in war with Germany which might leave claims of altruism open to debate - unfairly, I think because of the treaty with Poland being the spark for British involvement - these Empire nations, especially India and Canada - had no real direct interest in the war, and can legitimately be said to have entered WW2 for entirely altruistic reasons (I'm surely our Canadian posters, such as Ultimate Joe can expand on this idea).
I've often wondered about the 'colonial powers' involvement in the war. Especially the Canadians who had their own beach landings on D day yet (like the Australians and the Kiwi's) seldom get mentioned in latter day depictions of the war. Were they fighting because they had no choice and were dragged in by Britain... or were they actually free to make the decision to join the war?

There seems to be a fairly strong revisionist trend these days that diminishes the contributions made by countries other than one's own. I certainly meet this fairly frequently through out the internet. Its extremely rare to find any one who will consider the actions of the Indians, the Finns or even the Canadians in debating the war and it becomes difficult to find any consensus, even amongst people who are well read on the subject. Asking these questions else where has only led to USA Vs UK Vs USSR mud fights. No one seems to care at all that the Second World War was much more complex and influential than is now commonly depicted in the arts.

The natural consequence of this is a 'dumbing down' which leads to, or from, examples like Steven E. Ambrose, who was a well respected historian, apparently making the claim that the USA joined the war to liberate Europe because the Germans were evil.

When this is further perpetuated by American art, it becomes a common belief.

I suppose, by itself this isn't a bad myth. It can't be all that harmful to believe the world stood up to tyranny and aggressive expansionism just because it was the right thing to do, but at the same time, fostering this belief hinders the truth and allows history to be misused.
Bikerdad
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 16 2005, 03:52 PM)
Recently I purchased a 2 disk edition of Steven Spielbergs film, 'Saving Private Ryan'. I've long been interested in the Second World War and I like this film because it blends a gritty faux-realism with the themes of sacrifice and the search for humanity amongst chaos.

Watching the film however I am aware of something odd which is further underlined in Spielbergs other epic World War Two endeavours; 'Schindlers List' and 'Band of Brothers' which is a Jewish emphasis.


The "Jewish emphasis" of in Saving Private Ryan isn't really an emphasis, but rather a continuation of a time honored Hollywood formula regarding the makeup of the combat unit. You've got you Midwestern farmboy, ethnic (Italian, Polish, Jewish) urban street kid, a WASP, a redneck and/or cowboy, blue collar union kinda guy, etc. Its an American cinematic standard since the WW2, "we're all in this together." As for Band of Brothers, I haven't seen it, so I can't add anything there...

So, what was the Second World War actually about? Power.

Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Germany - aggression and Continental hegemony.
Soviet Union - aggression and expansion of the "worker's paradise." (Note that the Soviet Union joined Germany in its attack on Poland, and also attacked Finland in 1940.
France - self-defense, nationalism.
Yugoslavia, Greece, China, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg - self-defense.
Italy - aggression and national pride.
Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria - retain some autonomy, fear of Communism.
United States - self-defense and fight against tyranny (aka, semi-altruism).
Britain - self-defense, fight against tyranny, keep balance of power on the Continent.
Canada, South Africa, Rhodesia, lesser Commonwealth entities - Commonwealth solidarity and semi-altruism.

New Zealand, India, Australia - same as Canada, with self-defense vis a vis the Japanese thrown in.

Portugal - "self-defense", sort of. They basically shrugged in resignation when the Japanese seized their colony of Macao (similar to Hong Kong). Along with Spain and Latin America, Portugal sat out the war. It is interesting the essentially an entire meta-culture remained on the sidelines for the most wideranging and destructive war in human history.

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons? No, although Canada and South Africa's participation came closest to pure altruism, as neither was ever directly attacked and the threats to them were definitely of the "long term" variety. Of course, neither power stood a chance against Japan or Germany if those nations had triumphed over the core Allies, a factor that their leadership recognized.

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war? Yes. The Holocaust was a natural outgrowth of the ideology that was being fought. The discovery of the concentration camps merely served to reinforce the moral certainty of the Western Allies. (the Soviets needed no such reinforcement, being vicious aggressors themselves.) It is, however, utterly specious to suggest that the Holocaust itself was a motivating factor for any of the nations to take up arms, for reasons already outlined.

Grace and peace, BD
Eeyore
I think my opinions have been expressed on most issues by above posters.

Moif, I think you are taken aback a little by the amount of idealism that the United States likes to associate with its wars. I think this often seems odd especially from Europeans who often take a Balance of Power and war is an extension of diplomacy issue.

So a popular movie about war in the US tends to be a struggle of good and evil and the other side gets the role of evil.
moif
QUOTE(Bikerdad)
The "Jewish emphasis" of in Saving Private Ryan isn't really an emphasis, but rather a continuation of a time honored Hollywood formula regarding the makeup of the combat unit. You've got you Midwestern farmboy, ethnic (Italian, Polish, Jewish) urban street kid, a WASP, a redneck and/or cowboy, blue collar union kinda guy, etc. Its an American cinematic standard since the WW2, "we're all in this together." As for Band of Brothers, I haven't seen it, so I can't add anything there...
The emphasis does not lie in that one of the unit is a Jew but rather in how this character is portrayed as opposed to the other characters.
By itself there is nothing wrong with this, it is simply an aspect of the film and all I am doing is repeating a point Spielberg himself has made and repeated in 'Band of Brothers', though to be sure he only produced the latter.

However one chooses to look at it, there is certainly a point being made regarding the Holocaust in all three of the examples.


QUOTE(Bikerdad)
The Holocaust was a natural outgrowth of the ideology that was being fought. The discovery of the concentration camps merely served to reinforce the moral certainty of the Western Allies.
Did it?

This is really my question to the assertion put forward by Ambrose in 'Band of Brothers' because the USA only joined the war after it had been attacked.

What would have happened if Japan had never attacked the USA? Would America have still aided the Soviet Union or the British empire?

It has been said by others here that the Holocaust was first initiated after the war began but the Kristallnacht happened in 1938 and even when Himmler and Heidrich initiated the Endlösung in 1942, the nazi's had already murdered over a million Jews!

Its extremely difficult to know now how much the outside world knew about what was going on in Eastern Europe, but enough was known from those Jews who had fled Germany to understand the severity of the situation, a British paper called the Manchester Guardian had reported that Jews were being taken east to be murdered. As Julian points out though, a good many people either didn't want to know or secretly approved. This attitude is underlined by the ever vigilant Israeli attitude towards the whole of the rest of the world today.

I don't know how Spielberg, Ambrose or you can say the USA joined the war through any kind of altruistic motivation. I've never seen any interview with an American soldier where the plight of Europe in general or the Jews in specific was considered the reason to fight. The over riding cause amongst allied soldiers seems to have been a patriotic duty to fight when called upon. A noble cause in itself but hardly the cause put forward by Ambrose.

I'm also a bit uncertain as to your claim that the Soviet Union's motivation was an aggressive expansion of the "worker's paradise."

The USSR, like the USA was attacked by surprise and dragged into the war. Its primary motivation was therefore to defend itself, far more so than the USA to whom you ascribe this motivation gladly.
I can't see how any one can make the claim that the USSR would have initiated a first strike against Germany. Stalin simply didn't have the resources available for a war of any magnitude until he'd been forced, by the war to build his military to the vast size it became. That Stalin then took full advantage of the war I'd agree with though, how could I not? But that the reason why the USSR fought the war was an expansionist cause, I can't agree with.


Eeyore.

You may be right about the idealism of American films but the examples I quoted are presented as near documental in their approach. 'Band of Brothers', both the book and the TV series are the accounts of real events. Steven E. Ambrose was not writing a work of fiction.

And I would point out that regarding a Spielberg film as a 'popular movie about war in the US' ignores the global market. A lot of people make the argument that an American film, dealing with an American unit will have an American bias... and thats fine by me.

But when the film/book in question seeks to rewrite, edit or subvert history to promote a specific, political ideal then that just another way of saying its telling deliberate lies.
KivrotHaTaavah
1/2) There were two world wars, i.e., the war in the Pacific and the war in and across the Atlantic. Since I know far more about why the war in the Pacific than I do the war in Europe, I will confine myself to that war. The war in the Pacific was all about Japan having made a mockery of its promise to adhere to the Open Door policy respecting China [the earlier Washington naval treaty didn't help, given that the Japanese then viewed their emporer as a descendent of the gods (as it were) and otherwise believed themselves to superior beings and so the 5:5:3 ratio for capital ships not only did not make them superior, but made them feel a tad bit inferior and more than a little slighted]. And then there was the Great Depression. Almost every nation sought a "one country" solution to the same, including the Japanese. The Japanese otherwise believed their country to be overpopulated and so in their own effort to get some lebensraum and find their own solution to the GD, they expanded from their Korean base [as it were][and won in the earlier Sino-Japanese war] into Manchuria [a veritable treasure of natural resources with more than a little open space] and plans called for the resettlement there of hundreds of thousands of Japanese families. And in response to the Japanese making a mockery of the Open Door, the US started by first urging a "moral boycott" re the sale of certain resources to Japan, then came an official boycott and the freezing of Japanese assets in the US. And that put the Japanese in a bind, since their number one supplier of such things as oil and scrap metal was the US. And what with the ongoing war in China, the only solution for the militarists in Japan was to turn south [the army's defeat in the short and confused Russo-Japanese conflict in Manchuria removed any qualms that they had re the Navy's "Southern Strategy"]. And they turned south precisely because Germany had defeated, France, the Dutch, and at that time, it also appeared that England was about to go under [though to be fair, the navy did not entertain that prospect as being as likely as the army, given the navy's better understanding of the strategic advantages adhering in the defense of a large island]. So, to make a long story short, the US response to Japan's having made a mockery of the Open Door in China resulted in Japan turning south in order to obtain those resources now being denied them by the US, and for the icing on this cake, if one takes out a map, one can see that the Philippines lies on the right flank of the Dutch East Indies, and so any Japanese advance into that area would leave them exposed to attack on their right flank via the Philippines. And all of the table games demonstrated that following a Japanese attack on French and Dutch possessions in SE/Southern Asia, first the British, and then the US, would enter the war. So, Yamamoto, though knowing that the US would be next to impossible to ultimately defeat, argued that it wasn't merely a matter of choice to attack the US, rather, it was a move that the rules of the game required him to make. As one historian has noted, the student of Japanese strategic thinking during this period cannot help but be completely and utterly stunned by the colossal stupidity of the Japanese, or should I say, the Japanese Southern Strategy was more of an elaborate plan for national suicide than it was a plan for military and/or other success. And given the fact that Japan rebounded following the war, with still zero natural resources, and more specifically, no oil whatsoever, to become one of the world's leading economic powers, the thinking of those at the time looks even that much more incredibly stupid. The same applies with respect to the purported overpopulation problem, as the Japanese have many millions more now living in Japan than were living there then.

For the rest, as related, the US was first concerned with its interests in China, and then came the attack that made war a truly unavoidable reality, which is to say that because Japan's and the US's interests in China were quite simply utterly irreconcilable, war was unavoidble. All Pearl Harbor managed to accomplish was to deny the US the extra 6-8 months it believed it needed to be prepared for war with Japan. For the Europeans, the war was simply about their empires and the recovery of their colonial possessions. For the Chinese, the war was simply about national survival. Almost forgot, the Australians. Would have been involved in any event, given Singapore, Hong Kong, etc., but there was something rather closely approaching panic when the Japanese bombed Port Darwin [visions of prelude to invasion], and the Japanese in New Guinea were a little too close for comfort [and on a historical sidenote, the first Allied land victory in the Pacific did go to the Aussies (the Seventh Militia Brigade, reinforced by a brigade of the Seventh Division], who decimated and eliminated a Japanese Special Naval Landing Force (their version of the Marines) in some rather savage fighting at Gili Gili on Milne Bay [southern end of New Guinea]. And, lastly, no nation that fought in the Pacific did so for purely altruistic reasons, certainly not the US.

And, Moif, the fear at the time, best expressed by Churchill, was that with Pearl Harbor, the US would turn its attention to the East and forget all about the UK and the war in Europe. Lucky for all concerned, well maybe not all, but Hitler's decision to declare war on the US relieved Roosevelt of having to get America to fight a war in Asia that would most likely be seen here in the US as a war to save Europe's Asian colonies [Hitler's decision in this regard is one of the great mysteries of history, though it did provide the German U-boats with the singular advantage of not having to worry about sinking purportedly "non-combatant" US ships]. But Roosevelt otherwise already knew that a German victory was against US interests and so he and the US were already providing what he called "all aid short of war."

Lastly, we did not go to war to save the Jews. If we had, then one might fairly ask why not so much as a single rail line to Auschwitz was bombed by Allied forces.

Ringwraith
QUOTE
The USSR, like the USA was attacked by surprise and dragged into the war.


This is factually untrue. The Soviet Union initially joined Germany in the conquering of Poland and occupied the eastern 3rd of this country (as well as portions of Romania and Bulgaria). In addition, the Soviets attacked Finland in 1939 but got a bloody nose from the gallant Finish troops. With all due respect, it would take the spin of all spins to purport either of these acts as "defending themselves"

I have also read several accounts that Stalin himself was considering an attack upon Germany...albeit at a much later date when they were much better prepared. Hitler just beat Stalin to the punch.

QUOTE
What would have happened if Japan had never attacked the USA? Would America have still aided the Soviet Union or the British empire?


Interesting question. I believe that Roosevelt understood the real threat of Nazi Germany and was begining the effort to rally the american people to the cause. Indeed, efforts such as Lend Lease show that the American govt were definitely interested in supporting Great Britain. As far as the Soviets are concerned, i'm certain that once the United States did finally commit to war with the Axis powers they would have allied themselves with the Russians....asssuming the Russians hadn't already been knocked out by that time....
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Ultimatejoe
I guess I'm kind of obligated to participate in this now... although I would anyways because of some of the historical misappropriations that are taking place.

Regarding Canada, it is worth noting that as of 1939 Canada was not obligated to enter the war as the Statute of Westminster, passed in 1931, granted Canada autonomy to decide all matters of foreign and war policy. Regardless the country entered the war out of loyalty and what some would argue was an "unofficial obligation." The war was also a chance to galvanize a country which had up until that point been a relative non-factor in the international scene. (Canadian diplomats practically begged to be included in the Treaty of Versailles despite Canada's inordinate contributions to the Great War.)

So, what was the Second World War actually about?

Big question, but I'll give a small answer. It was about pursuing certain interests. Helpful? Too bad. tongue.gif

I'm kidding. The fact is that Germany's expansion was essential. The sort of corporate fascism being practiced by Hitler practically demanded military aggression as the economy was producing in excess of consumer demand, and it was that production which kept the Nazi ship afloat. Without military expansion the ideological fervour which maintained support for Hitler would flag, and the economy would have faltered threatening the party's political viability (ideology aside.)

The eventual involvement of Europe could be seen as opportunism, but this is largely revisionism. After the invasion of Poland it was abundantly clear that Germany was a legitimate threat and that any conflict would be costly and dangerous. The fact is that alliances did exist, and those alliances had been the foundation of European diplomacy for over 120 years. To dismiss Britain's involvement as

QUOTE
I've always believed that as well (and still do I think) but I wonder if the British had any other ulterior motives... the preservation of Imperial power for example. They must have understood that the stronger Germany became the more it threatened the British empire.


Is the sort of speculation that drives historians crazy. By the 1920's the British government was well aware of it's diminishing Imperial stature. However, British foreign policy starting in that time was carefully calculated to preserve whatever domains were possible while securing resource-based holdings which could survive the transition to a post-colonial global political system. To that end Britain's only colonial rival at that point was France. The two nations competed aggressively for oil and territory in the Middle East (Iraq, Transjordan, etc.) while shedding colonial holdings which had developed into self-sustaining economies, or at the very lease moving away from direct control to the sorts of commonwealth arrangements which defined Canada-Britain relationships.

Unlike Britain (and to a lesser degree France) Germany's interests were primarily political and war-machine driven (see above.) While Germany did make token gestures towards the Hashemite rulers of Transjordan, it was those Arab leaders who pursued German relationships, not the other way around. Germany was not replete with oil, but it's colonial interests were confined to Europe and Britain's potential launching ground in Africa. As such, Britain's colonial holdings were not under sufficient threat to mandate a war which the British were desperate to avoid.

Leaving Russia for the moment, lets consider the United States. While it is well publicized that American private interests had strong ties with Germany, these ties were never warm (except in Henry Ford's case.) The U.S. may not have been altruistic, but to dismiss their involvement is foolish as well. The U.S could have formed trading relationships with an ascendant Germany that would surpass trade with Britain given Germany's hunger for coal and lack of high-tech non-military industry. Again, America protected her interests while at the same time realizing that there was potentially a "right" side. What is interesting is the appearance of General Marshall during the period leading up to Intervention as the chief voice for joining the war. At the same time we must consider ardent opposition to the war in public opinion. Roosevelt was a populist of the highest order and it is argued that his third term was decided by polling more than politics.

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?

Doubtful on a political/national level, entirely likely on a personal level. While governments were largely nonplussed about discrimination in Nazi Europe, the scope of what was happening was unknown. What was known was the European Jews were being round up by Germany. Britain knew it, France knew, and the Americans knew it. The nature of their 'detainment' was only guessed at, and rarely accurately. If the Powers had known, their methods of intervention may not have changed, but it is a safe bet to say that American public opinion would have swayed to the war much earlier, and as such the war would have been joined sooner. While discrimination was hardly out-of-place in 1930's-1940's America, the key to the sort of discrimination that was practiced was rationalization. White, Christian Americans could rationalize and overlook insults and prejudicial social behaviour, but once the rationalization is no longer possible, discrimination of any nature becomes unpalatable.

Which brings us to the real meat of this debate. Frankly moif, I've noticed an increasingly nasty streak in your posts of late. To be honest, it looks to me like you're looking for a beef where none exists. I've seen Band of Brothers (the whole series) about five times, and I've never picked up what you are talking about. The chapter Why We Fight makes it quite clear that the Americans did not know about the Holocaust. In fact, I'm fairly sure you've completely missed the subject of that episode. What the whole show up until that point makes clear is that the soldiers of Easy Company joined for wealth, pride, romantic ideas and just plain guts. They continued to fight because of brothership and cameraderie (hence the title.) This episode serves as a simple allegory of the dissillusionment of soldiers during war. Note the closing dialogue in the episode. Someone approaches "the boys," Captain Nixon if I remember correctly, and informs them that Hitler is dead. While they all pay attention, notice that nobody acts particularly excited or celebratory. To them Hitler was the reason why they were originally told to fight, and by now they had come to realize that it never really mattered.

The reason why the liberation of the Concentration Camp is a centrepiece of the episode is because it was a centrepiece of the book; and because it was a pivotal event for those same soldiers. Those men were haunted by the experience, and it is given the representation commiserate to their experiences, not the political goals of the production team.

I'm still not sure where you get the idea that Spielberg or Ambrose are preaching the altruistic intentions of the United States. Stephen Ambrose is a relatively prominent critic of U.S. foreign relations. I can't recall him once saying anything about American altruism in anything of his that I've read. His book Rise to Globalism is a two-hundred page indictment of American realist/neo-realist foreign policy from the 1930's on.

As for Spielberg, I just don't see it. Saving Private Ryan was a profoundly cynical movie about war. It is widely held as the greatest anti-war film of all time (although I would still place Paths of Glory higher.) The bulk of the dialogue in that film (with the exception of the barking of orders) consists of characters criticizing their mission, which reads as a clear indictment of the war.

The direction is also quite purposeful in demonstrating that the war was not a humanitarian effort. Note the beginning, where a secretary first notes the unfortunate fates of the Ryan family. The revelation is made in what is essentially a "death letter" office. Note that there is no personal contact between the officer narrating the letter and Mrs. Ryan.

I don't see any sensationalization or revisionism of the jewish "character" in the war either. So far all you have done is say that such qualities exist, without demonstrating or defining them... until you do I can't really refute you any further.
Renger
[quote=moif,Dec 16 2005, 09:52 PM]
So, what was the Second World War actually about?

I took some time to reread the preliminary stage of WWII. In order to understand the backgrounds of WWII, one has to focus its attention to the period before it, the period between both wars; known as the Interbellum.

Although the Interbellum is a difficult period, with a lot of different developments happening, I would like to concentrate on three aspects: The Treaty of Versailles, the Weimar Republic and the Great Inflation. I will try to give a 'simplified' version of the developments in Germany during this period.

1918/1919: 14 Points of Wilson, assembly in Paris and Treaty of Versailles. (based on meetings between the 'Big Four' (Wilson (U.S.), Llyod George (U.K.), Clemenceau (France) and Orlando (Italy)).
-Demilitarisation of Germany west of the Rhine. (Rhineland)
-Annexation of Larraine and Alsace by France (a long disputed borderregion)
-German districts of Posen and West-Prussia annexed by a new Polish State.
-Upper Silesia, a rich mining country, went also to Poland.
-The important German harbor Danzig becomes an independent city.
-The district around Memel is annexed by the newly formed state Lithuania.
-Bohemian Germans became disgrunted citizens of Czechoslovakia.
-Allies prevent the Austrians, after the fall of the Habsburg Empire, to join Germany.
-Germany lost all his foreign colonies around the world.
-Allies took over the German fleet, German army was limited to 100.000 soldiers. Conscription in Germany was abolished: heavy artillery, aviation and submarines were prohibited.
-The French, British and Belgians proposed to charge Germany with the entire expenses, including war pensions, incurred by them during WWI.
-123 billion gold Reichsmarks (equivalent of $35 billion!!) to repay for damages incurred in the war.
-Germany had to give up all properties owned by German citizens in foreign countries.
-Germany had to surrender its merchant marine and make coal deliveries.

July 1919: establishment of a new democratic German Republic, known as The Weimar Republic. The republicans viewed the Treaty of Versailles as a Diktat, a dictated peace and were offended by the 'war-guilt'-clause which stated that Germany was sole responsible for the outbreak of the war. Although they were forced to sign the Treaty neither the reparations demanded on them, nor the new frontiers were ever accepted by the Germans as being settled. The Treaty was always regarded as unjust and did have a negative impact on the economic developments in Germany.

1923: The French, after the economic treaty of Rapallo in 1922 between Russia and Germany, assisted by the Belgians sent miltairy units to occupy the important industrial sites of the Ruhr-valley. The German workers responded by general strikes and passive resistance and were supported by the government of Weimar with financial aid who printed extra money for this purpose. This in turn lead to The Great Inflation, making money literally worthless. ($1 = 4 trillion paper Marks in '23!!)

It is within this context that we have to place Adolf Hitler. In 1913 Hitler traded Vienna with Munich as his hometown and linked himself with secret societies and paramilitary organizations led by disconted army officers who had great difficulties fitting into the Weimar Republic. Illiberalism, antisocialism, anticommunism, antirepublicanism and antidemocratic attitudes were characteristic for these groups.

During Hitlers rise to power he cleverly used the negative feelings among many people in Germany to strengthen his own position:
No country had suffered more from WWI than Germany. Foreign loans ceased or were recalled. Production in factories halted. Six million people were unemployed. The middle class hardly had recovered after the Great Inflation when in 1929 they were again confronted with the Great Depression and lost all faith in the economic sustem and in its future. The Communist vote steadily mounted: the great middling masses regarded Communism as their own death warrant, and were desperately looking for someone to save them from Bolshevism. The Great Depression also stirred up the universal German loathing for the Treaty of Versailles, and many explained the ruin of Germany as a result of the post-war treatment it has received from the Allies.

Characteristic for Germans in the '20s and '30s is their bewildered an resentful attitude towards the rest of the world. Hitler and his party offered a real change of directions for Germany, many Germand believed. In less than two years (1928-1930) the popular vote for the NSDAP went up from 800.000 to 6.500.000! Two years later they even doubled the popular vote, won 230 seats, and were by far the largest political party in the newly formed democracy of the Weimar Republic. (In comparison: the Communist rose in the same period only slightly, from 54 seats in '28 to 77 in '30)

It would only take six years before the Nazi party would usurp the democratic power and transform Germany into a totalitarian state. One year later Germany and Russia attacked Finland and WWII broke out.
(Source: Palmer & Colton: "A history of the Modern World" (New York, 1995), Treaty of Versailles, 722-727; Weimar, 785; Great Inflation, 786; Rise of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP; 824 - 826)

For a lot of Germans the rise of Hitler, the NSDAP and outbreak of WWII was a direct product of the ecomomic and political collapse of Germany during the '20s, which was seen as a result of the harsh treatment Germany had got from the Allies after WWI.. As one can see the underlying causes for WWII are way more complex than just territorial expansionalism and aggression.

(I will stop for now, the other questions I will answer in the near future, otherwise my posts is getting waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long! blush.gif )
moif
Some excellent posts! I'll get to replying to those in a moment but first let me deal with this:

QUOTE(Ultimatejoe)
Which brings us to the real meat of this debate. Frankly moif, I've noticed an increasingly nasty streak in your posts of late. To be honest, it looks to me like you're looking for a beef where none exists. I've seen Band of Brothers (the whole series) about five times, and I've never picked up what you are talking about. The chapter Why We Fight makes it quite clear that the Americans did not know about the Holocaust. In fact, I'm fairly sure you've completely missed the subject of that episode. 
It seems that being labelled as a scoundrel of one sort or other is a fairly constant aspect of asking difficult questions on the internet. I knew that this would happen, because it always does, but its still annoying none the less. The fact that you Joe, didn't pick up on something doesn't mean it isn't there and the fact that I have noticed it and mentioned it doesn't make for any sort of 'nastiness'... unless 'nastiness' is calling things into question?

My personal philosophy is to ask questions, not to throw stones and if those questions appear to be 'nasty' then so be it because I can't help that.

I note from your repsonse as well that you've misunderstood my contention. I am not making any claim about the men of Easy company, or why they fought.

I am refering to a latter day perspective that seeks to portray the war, and the reasons why it was fought as being altruistic. Steven E. Ambrose, what ever his personal opinions may have been, and Steven Spielberg are contributing to this by casting the focus of their endeavours regarding the Second World War against the Holocaust. There is only one chapter in 'Band of Brothers' titled 'Why we fight' and its the chapter which deals with the Holocaust.


QUOTE
I don't see any sensationalization or revisionism of the jewish "character" in the war either. So far all you have done is say that such qualities exist, without demonstrating or defining them... until you do I can't really refute you any further.
Because such details are largely irrelevent to the questions I'm interested in and I don't want to get bogged down arguing about Steven Spielberg's Jewish bias since I don't think there is anything wrong with it except if as I suspect its promoting a view of the past which is simply is not true.

...that America joined the war to save Europe, or because of the Holocaust.


KivrotHaTaavah

Thanks for your post. It confirms one of my own suspicions regarding Japan's reasons for joining the war...
QUOTE(KivrotHaTaavah)
As one historian has noted, the student of Japanese strategic thinking during this period cannot help but be completely and utterly stunned by the colossal stupidity of the Japanese, or should I say, the Japanese Southern Strategy was more of an elaborate plan for national suicide than it was a plan for military and/or other success.
...I've had this feeling for a long time that the Japanese were just simply self destructive. I got this feeling from reading about the ease with which the Japanese undertook kamikaze missions and I've never been able to understand why the Japanese attacked the USA when it must have been painfully obvious to them that the USA would crush them.

The only way the Japanese plan could have worked is if the Americans were gun shy and I can't see how any one could ever consider the Americans in that light.


QUOTE(KivrotHaTaavah)
And, Moif, the fear at the time, best expressed by Churchill, was that with Pearl Harbor, the US would turn its attention to the East and forget all about the UK and the war in Europe. Lucky for all concerned, well maybe not all, but Hitler's decision to declare war on the US relieved Roosevelt of having to get America to fight a war in Asia that would most likely be seen here in the US as a war to save Europe's Asian colonies [Hitler's decision in this regard is one of the great mysteries of history, though it did provide the German U-boats with the singular advantage of not having to worry about sinking purportedly "non-combatant" US ships]. But Roosevelt otherwise already knew that a German victory was against US interests and so he and the US were already providing what he called "all aid short of war."
So, what do you think would have happened if Hitler hadn't declared war on the USA?

Because this is my biggest sticking point to the idea that the USA entered the European war from any notion of debt, fraternity or altruism.


Ringwraith

QUOTE(Ringwraith)
This is factually untrue. The Soviet Union initially joined Germany in the conquering of Poland and occupied the eastern 3rd of this country (as well as portions of Romania and Bulgaria). In addition, the Soviets attacked Finland in 1939 but got a bloody nose from the gallant Finish troops. With all due respect, it would take the spin of all spins to purport either of these acts as "defending themselves"
This is all true, but these encounters are not generally held to belong to the Second World War and have little bearing upon the reasons why Germany and the USSR engaged in open warfare.

If we look at the war as starting before the invasion of Poland, then yes, the Soviet agenda is a slightly different one, but this still doesn't change the fact that Germany invaded the USSR and forced the Soviets to defend themselves.

If you look at the rate of Soviet expansion before the war then you can see how lazy it had become after Stalin took power. Yes, Stalin was pushing his frontiers outward, but it was hardly the aggressive expansion that characterizes the post war period.

QUOTE(Ringwraith)
I have also read several accounts that Stalin himself was considering an attack upon Germany...albeit at a much later date when they were much better prepared. Hitler just beat Stalin to the punch.
I've seen this argument as well, but I've also read analysis that makes it clear Stalin did not have the means to accomplish this since he kept purging his own military of good officers.


Ultimatejoe

QUOTE(Ultimatejoe)
The eventual involvement of Europe could be seen as opportunism, but this is largely revisionism. After the invasion of Poland it was abundantly clear that Germany was a legitimate threat and that any conflict would be costly and dangerous. The fact is that alliances did exist, and those alliances had been the foundation of European diplomacy for over 120 years. To dismiss Britain's involvement as
QUOTE
I've always believed that as well (and still do I think) but I wonder if the British had any other ulterior motives... the preservation of Imperial power for example. They must have understood that the stronger Germany became the more it threatened the British empire.
Is the sort of speculation that drives historians crazy.
Give me a break Joe. How do you get from me wondering if the British had any ulterior motives to me dismissing Britain's involvement?

The fact of the matter is, plenty of people, even at the time, have put forward the argument that Britain was not acting from the commonly held beliefs but I am not one of them. I clearly agree with Julian and am only wondering if there were other, less transparent motives because even historians themselves have put forward such theories!

In particular I am thinking of AJP Taylor and his book 'The Origins of the Second World War'.

I am not saying this book is either right or wrong. I am merely asking a question.

I'm allowed to ask questions...right?




Renger
Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Without getting into all the different aspects and specific reason one can make a simplified view of the situation.

I will quote again from the book "Palmer & Colton: A History of the Modern World".
because in just a few sentences they explain the different attitudes towards war in the '30s.

QUOTE
In the 1930s neither Germany, Italy, Japan nor the U.S.S.R. was content with these conditions (Treaty of Versailles): they were "revisionists" or "dissatisfied powers": and the first three were willing to undertake war itself to make a change. Great Brittain, France and the U.S. were "satisfied powers", expecting no benefit from change in conditions but they were unwilling to risk war for the sake of upholding them.  They had made a treaty in 1919 (Versailles) which a dozen of years they were unwilling to enforce.

(Palmer & Colton: A History of the Modern World, 834)

The agressiveness of Germany, Italy and Japan to change to existing conditions as they had been arranged in Paris, was not countered by the former Allies U.S. U.K. and France. The former Allies realised their mistake too late, because of their hesitant attitude towards the conditions in the world, war became unavoidable.

Editted to add:

One could make an argument that the way the Allied Forces treated Germany after WWI laid the foundation of Hitlers rise to power wich would result in WWII.

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons?

Julian
QUOTE
Yes. Britain went to war with Germany only because Germany invaded a British ally - Poland.


huh.gif huh.gif Is that altruism? As I have explained Britain as one of the allies during the Conference in Paris 1919, had played a part in the demise of Germany in the '20s and the rise under Hitler during the '30s. Apart from that during the rise of Hitler and Germany we should never forget Neville Chamberlain's completely failed Appeasement Policy and how it contributed to the eventual outbreak of WWII.

It took the reoccupation of the Rhineland (1936), the Anschluss (reunion Germany -Austria in 1938) and the annexation of Czechoslovakia (1939) to make Chamberlain realise his Appeasement policy was a complete disillusion and had failed utterly. It was only then that the Western Powers began to make preparation for war to make a final stand. As I said before:
Great Brittain, France and the U.S. were "satisfied powers", expecting no benefit from change in conditions but they were unwilling to risk war for the sake of upholding them. The attitude of Hitler and the Soviet-Nazi Pact (1939) now forced the Western Powers to take a stand to protect the conditions they had created after WWI. It was all SELF-INTEREST in the end.

The annexation of Poland occurred after Great Britain and France had declared war on Germany. It seemed that the main reason to declare war was this new and powerful, and therefor fearsome, alliance between Soviets and Nazis that really triggered the outbreak of the war.

So getting back to your original answer, unfortunately, I have to say that you are wrong by stating that Britain went to war with Germany for altruistic reasons.
Ultimatejoe
I'm sorry moif I guess I don't know what you're hoping to accomplish here. However...

QUOTE
I am refering to a latter day perspective that seeks to portray the war, and the reasons why it was fought as being altruistic. Steven E. Ambrose, what ever his personal opinions may have been, and Steven Spielberg are contributing to this by casting the focus of their endeavours regarding the Second World War against the Holocaust. There is only one chapter in 'Band of Brothers' titled 'Why we fight' and its the chapter which deals with the Holocaust.


You have not demonstrated how Ambrose and Spielberg are doing this. Niether Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers has any clear content that portrays the war as beginning in altruistic terms that I can see. If you could highlight some clear examples then it would be easier to discuss this with you. As it stands, I am left to assume that you're making the same 'holocaust guilt' argument that you've made before and will undoubtedly make again. Please, in the interests of expediting this debate, come out and actually share with us what your argument is based on. Do you have evidence that the War is being recast as a struggle against the holocaust, aside from the fact that it is mentioned? I went into some detail in my last post explaining how both works were clearly designed with an entirely different effect than what you have suggested, and you have ignored that element in your reply.
Julian
I think it's worth reminding everyone that Hitler's decision to declare war on the USA wasn't mere capricious agression - he was bound by the Axis treaty with Japan, so the Pearl Harbor attack made war between Germany and the USA as inevitable as Germany's invasion of Poland made war between the USA and Britain.

That is to say, it wasn't completely unavoidable - treaty arrangements between Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany proved reversible, but then the Soviets were never party to the Axis treaty itself - but was as good as. Hitler would have risked eventual conflict with Japan had he not done so the minute the USA declared war on Japan as payback for Pearl Harbor.

And it's not completely accurate to say that there were two world wars going on at the same time. First of all, the very concept of a world war involves most of the globe, so exluding about a third of it as a world war on it's own is counter0intuitive, to say the least.

Plus, as I mentioned before, it became a world war the minute the British Empire got involved, and since there was fierce fighting between British, Commonwealth and Empire troops and Japanese forces in Southeast Asia from the get-go, the Pacific theatre was part of the same over-arching conflict.

On moif's main point - historical revisionism is nothing new at all, especially in popular (as opposed to academic) history. The Napoleonic Wars are popularly imagined in Britain to be some kind of plucky fight against oppression in some ways analogous to WW2, rather than a fight for multiple continental domination between competing Empires.

Go back even further, and later Roman historians romanticised the Imperial victories of their own earlier conquerors as the protection and spread of civilisation to barbarians, rather than the simple expansionism it really was at the time.

The thing is, whether or not it was a motivating factor, the Roman conquest of North West Europe really did spread Roman civilisation, which was more technologically advanced than the ones it conquered and replaced. Ultimate Anglo-Prussian defeat of Imperial France really did put an end to French expansionism in Europe.

And Allied defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy really did put and end to the Holocaust.

They may have really been side effects, but only the most biased student of history would argue that they were not ultimately good things to have happened. Or at least, we wouldn't be where we are today without them.
moif
QUOTE(Ultimatejoe @ Dec 17 2005, 06:27 PM)
I'm sorry moif I guess I don't know what you're hoping to accomplish here. However...

QUOTE
I am refering to a latter day perspective that seeks to portray the war, and the reasons why it was fought as being altruistic. Steven E. Ambrose, what ever his personal opinions may have been, and Steven Spielberg are contributing to this by casting the focus of their endeavours regarding the Second World War against the Holocaust. There is only one chapter in 'Band of Brothers' titled 'Why we fight' and its the chapter which deals with the Holocaust.


You have not demonstrated how Ambrose and Spielberg are doing this. Neither Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers has any clear content that portrays the war as beginning in altruistic terms that I can see. If you could highlight some clear examples then it would be easier to discuss this with you. As it stands, I am left to assume that you're making the same 'holocaust guilt' argument that you've made before and will undoubtedly make again. Please, in the interests of expediting this debate, come out and actually share with us what your argument is based on. Do you have evidence that the War is being recast as a struggle against the holocaust, aside from the fact that it is mentioned? I went into some detail in my last post explaining how both works were clearly designed with an entirely different effect than what you have suggested, and you have ignored that element in your reply.
*
Yes, I largely ignored it, because this thread is not about the works in question. It is about the reasons for the Second World War as opposed to a modern reinterpretation of history which is near universal across the global media and can be found repeated endlessly in internet debates. One which promotes the notion that the allies, most especially the western allies, fought the Second World War for altruistic reasons which I think is not true, except maybe in the case of Canada.

I have demonstrated this by citing an example in Steven Spielberg who has made a point of highlighting the Jewish aspect in his more recent works regarding the Second World War. I am not making a 'Holocaust guilt example', and I'm not sure what you even mean by that but the Holocaust is the cause being promoted by people like Ambrose and Spielberg as a reason why US soldiers were fighting.

I am not saying that 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Schindlers List' or 'Band of Brothers' has any clear content that portrays the war as beginning in altruistic terms. I specifically suggested there was an implication the war was fought for altruistic reasons.

This implication does not negate the central themes of any of the films Spielberg has made, or even Ambrose's book, but its there nonetheless and never more blatant than in the title of a chapter that deals with the Holocaust. 'Why we fight'

If you really can't see the connection between the subject of that chapter (book or TV series) and its title, then you must be either unwilling to see it, or just plain blind.


Julian

QUOTE(Julian)
On moif's main point - historical revisionism is nothing new at all, especially in popular (as opposed to academic) history. The Napoleonic Wars are popularly imagined in Britain to be some kind of plucky fight against oppression in some ways analogous to WW2, rather than a fight for multiple continental domination between competing Empires.
Indeed, and its this that makes me pose the questions, for if history is subject to biased interpretation and revision by each succeeding generation, then how can we ever be sure that we believe is the truth?


QUOTE(Julian)
They may have really been side effects, but only the most biased student of history would argue that they were not ultimately good things to have happened. Or at least, we wouldn't be where we are today without them.
Well how could we ever know? How many wars have been avoided through the intelligence and foresight of prudent diplomats?

AJP Taylors main argument against the commonly held causes of the Second World War was that it was really started through a mixture of mistakes and blunders by inept leaders. That the expansionist aggression of Hitler and Stalin was in reality born of their mistakes rather than their design. That Germany did not intend to start a world war, it was dragged in by Hitlers inability to control his immediate political urges and his lack of foresight and understanding as to where his decision would lead

This is a curious perspective to consider today when its commonly acknowledged that Hitler and the nazi's were fundamentally evil, but you yourself have pointed out that the anti semitism of the nazi party was not unique to the axis nations. That western civilization as a whole, on both sides of the Atlantic, was subject to popular anti semitism. There are voices in Israel that claim this is still the case, and I can't say they are mistaken either, though I disagree as to the degree.

The Holocaust is so great a crime that it vindicates the Allies and justifies much of what was done then in the current political climate of today. In other words, because the monstrous nature of the Third Reich was revealed, it is now acceptable to cast the nazi's in the role of evil without giving due consideration to the 'sins' of the allied nations.

A good example of this is the Holocaust itself. 6 million Jews and a further 5 million other 'untermenneshe' were killed by the Nazi's and as a consequence, school children are taught about it, Aushwitz is a museum, countless films, TV shows and documentaries have been made over it and most every nation in the western world has at least one Holocaust museum, center or national monument.

Nothing wrong with any of that of course, until you consider the utter silence regarding the 30- 100 million people murdered by the USSR.


As I pointed out earlier, its against the grain of realpolitik for any nation to act against its own best interests and its hard to reconcile with my understanding of how the world works to simply accept the notion that Britain and France opposed Germany for the sake of the Poles. I still believe that this was mostly the case, that the vast majority of British citizens accepted this as the cause for war, but I do not know if I can say it was so for the British 'establishment'.

whyshouldi
The U.S fought the second world war simply because if they waited around and Germany was able to focus more on Russia, its only real threat at the time, the U.S may have no been able to combat both Germany and Japan at that time all alone with any real success.

Thank about it, England was being treated basically as a place to bomb by Hitler, combined with constant threats of a land invasion. Hitler was making mistakes in Russia, but did not have to overall make any real changes. With the addition of the U.S landing, Hitler just simply did not have enough to win. Russia combined its forces and drove away the nazis, and continued in. American and England basically came from the other side, it was simply to much for Germany to fight against overall. I think it was just a issue of having to make a choice at crunch time of why the U.S finally got involved. Hitler really looked to want to spread his empire and basically crush everyone that did not agree with is line of thinking.

Still, the war could not be won without the introduction of nukes, so what have you. I do not think that the U.S overall could have afforded to turn a blind eye to the situation in regards to survival.

Everything else including the holocaust, well, I don’t know how much of a direct impact that had on the war. I know its a common theme in media, but its not everyday in history that you have a mass genocide going on with the second world war in modern history, so that could be one point on why it gets so much play. Another issue simply could be people paying respects of sorts to the whole situation in some manner they accept. History is far from perfectly empirical when dealing with scenarios like this, and many times I like to joke and say history, or his story.

nemov
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 17 2005, 08:37 AM)
If we look at the war as starting before the invasion of Poland, then yes, the Soviet agenda is a slightly different one, but this still doesn't change the fact that Germany invaded the USSR and forced the Soviets to defend themselves.
*



I'm confused by this and want to make it quite clear. The Second World War started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, and then the USSR. The Soviet Union was in no way "protecting itself."

QUOTE
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, also known as the Hitler-Stalin pact or Ribbentrop-Molotov pact or Nazi-Soviet pact and formally known as the Treaty of Nonaggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was in theory a non-aggression treaty between the German Third Reich and the Soviet Union. It was signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939, by the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The mutual non-aggression treaty lasted until Operation Barbarossa of June 22, 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

Although officially labelled a "non-aggression treaty", the pact included a secret protocol, in which the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania were divided into spheres of interest of the parties. The secret protocol explicitly assumed "territorial and political rearrangements" in the areas of these countries, which practically rendered it into an aggressive military alliance, in spite of its official name. Subsequently all the mentioned countries were invaded by either the Soviets, the Nazis, or both. Only Finland, which fought twice against the Soviet Union in WWII, successfully resisted conquest, but was forced to concede territory.


Ultimatejoe
QUOTE
Yes, I largely ignored it, because this thread is not about the works in question. It is about the reasons for the Second World War as opposed to a modern reinterpretation of history which is near universal across the global media and can be found repeated endlessly in internet debates.


See here is the problem I have. We have already been pretty thorough in discussing why the war happened, nuance aside. But I don't see the reinterpretation that you're talking about, and frankly I think your examples stink... which is why I debunked them. Now if your interest was purely to discuss the actual causes of the second world war, your holocaust and revisionist history invective serves no purpose. However it is there, and it has become the "elephant in the room." Unless you can justify it with a more compelling argument than the one you have barely made until this point, then it remains an issue which taints the rest of the debate.

Without the assumption you have made that history is being rewritten to portray the Allied effort as altruistic (which you have done a laughably slipshod job of justifying) then great swaths of your opening post have no meaning and no relevance.

I guess what I am saying is you need to clarify why you included this in the opening post:

QUOTE
Are Ambrose and Spielberg correct in their apparent notion that the war was fought to put an end to tyranny?


If it is just a casual aside then what is the purpose of the last question (given that historians are in almost universal agreement on the answer and there is no genuine room for debate on the question) in a purely historical context?
Eeyore
Moif, I too, am confused about what you are getting at in this thread. It's is great and all to ask questions, but you are doing more than that.

Here is one take on the theme that you seem to be addressing. Like the Union forces in the Civil War, the Allied forces (here US/UK plus Commonwealth) bore tremendous cost and the cost of the war must have brought forth the question, is all of this worth it?

For many in the North in the Civil War, the war became a little more altruistic in the middle as the issue of slavery was made to be a reason to fight when union was the cause of the Union's decision to enter the war.

With Germany, fascist aggression and the possibility of a move toward totalitarianism was being checked. After millions and millions of lives lost in the war, some must have wondered is it worth all of this to stop totalitarianism?

These doubts when and where they existed must have immediately evaporated for any that were faced with the horror of the death camps and the reality of the Nazi depths of humanity.

I imagine that the soldiers who found the survivors of the Holocaust, even if they had not thought of themselves as altruistic in entering the war, would have had to have thought their struggle was truly worth it.

I think the obvious cause of the war (Hitler's aggression), the postwar evidence of the brutality of the Nazi regime, and the tremendous prosperity that came with the Allied victory are what combine to give World War II its nickname to some, the good war.

moif
Ultimatejoe

QUOTE
See here is the problem I have. We have already been pretty thorough in discussing why the war happened, nuance aside. But I don't see the reinterpretation that you're talking about, and frankly I think your examples stink... which is why I debunked them.
Well you're entitled to your opinion of course. I disagree with you and I can't see the point in trying to convince you of something I care so little about.


QUOTE
Now if your interest was purely to discuss the actual causes of the second world war, your holocaust and revisionist history invective serves no purpose.
You're right. It doesn't serve a purpose to the debate. I included them because it was from observing these films, and reading comments in other fora that I disagreed with, that I began to wonder whether there was more to the causes of the Second World War than those commonly held.


QUOTE
However it is there, and it has become the "elephant in the room." Unless you can justify it with a more compelling argument than the one you have barely made until this point, then it remains an issue which taints the rest of the debate.
Well, your elephant seems more like a storm in a tea cup to me.


QUOTE
Without the assumption you have made that history is being rewritten to portray the Allied effort as altruistic (which you have done a laughably slipshod job of justifying) then great swaths of your opening post have no meaning and no relevance.
Where did I write that history is being 'rewritten'? I asked whether it was accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war.

I wrote that Spielberg and Ambrose seem to be implying something unusual about the Second World War.


QUOTE
I guess what I am saying is you need to clarify why you included this in the opening post:

QUOTE
Are Ambrose and Spielberg correct in their apparent notion that the war was fought to put an end to tyranny?
Well, because thats what I believed they are doing. Because I have seen the sentiment before in other debate fora, and I thought the people here, with their particular emphasis on intelligent debate, might just be able to offer thoughts and opinions which ran counter to my own...

I tried to make this clear in my original post but I must have failed.


QUOTE
If it is just a casual aside then what is the purpose of the last question (given that historians are in almost universal agreement on the answer and there is no genuine room for debate on the question) in a purely historical context?
No genuine room for debate?

Maybe historians are in universal agreement. What do I know? I'm not a historian, just some one who likes to read books and debate stuff but I do know that history is subjective, no matter how well documented or studied and there is always room for debate.


It seems to me Joe, that given your choice of words in this thread and the implications to which you appear to be ascribing to my motives, it is you who is 'searching for a beef' here. Not I.


Eeyore.

I don't know why you say you are confused about the thread. Your answer is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for. What is it you are confused about?

whyshouldi
To Moif

I would just like to add that you can take many aspects of human culture and make associations that in some way could make sense. The power of these associations only really gain success based on faith. The true problem with these associations is that any human with a functional brain can make them and debate them. So I could say the reason the U.S waited for so long to get into world war two was to simply allow the other forces to become more exhausted so a struggle for territory may not come to be in the absence of Hitler’s nazi regime. Now i can use various points from known history on the subject and with some morphology twist things to make sense.

Its like that with anything, and probably one of the main reasons religion survives truly when held to the light of scientific rational about the natural world, or so on I am sure people could come up with other examples.

Then of course on some aspect of human history you will find the homo sapien alive in well in all of it. Say I make an assumption that makes America look bad in regards to world war two. People with emotional attachment will become entangled with such, which means the debate becomes entangled with such. I am not going to say its possible to rule out the homo sapien aspect of homo sapien behavior, but I will add ignorance of the subject overall probably does not help lend to a fit or healthy debate.

So basically its the popular opinion of this aspect of human history that is being debated on overall I imagine. I already put in my two cents on the subject overall, and really could not speak much on the holocausts impact on why the war went the way it did via its timeline and actions surrounding such.

So if i can add a couple of cents overall to the debate. I think maybe sometime should be taken to maybe readjust the questions to maybe what the active audience may understand better, save having the debate turn to something probably no one really wants, that is if a large misunderstanding has occurred. It seems to pretty much be what’s going on already, save for some salvos that probably again do not help in it reaching that goal. I am lost exactly to what is being asked myself, and I consider myself fairly educated.
moif
whyshouldi

Its really very simple. I think its likely Steven Spielberg (and Steven E. Ambrose before him) are/were trying to convey a notion that the United States of America fought the second world war largely because the Germans 'were bad' and they use the Holocaust to underline this point.

I have also seen this point of view reflected in other debates around the internet and I disagree with it.

I am also aware that some historians, even people who experienced the war first hand, have called into question the commonly accepted reasons behind the war, such things as German plans for expansion, Stalins ability to wage a preemptive war against Germany or Britain's apparent solidarity with Poland.

Since I generally admire the people who post here and since I like to debate such things I thought I'd pose the questions I did.

Obviously this was a mistake.
Renger
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 18 2005, 05:06 AM)
whyshouldi

Its really very simple. I think its likely Steven Spielberg (and Steven E. Ambrose before him) are/were trying to convey a notion that the United States of America fought the second world war largely because the Germans 'were bad' and they use the Holocaust to underline this point.

I have also seen this point of view reflected in other debates around the internet and I disagree with it.

I am also aware that some historians, even people who experienced the war first hand, have called into question the commonly accepted reasons behind the war, such things as German plans for expansion, Stalins ability to wage a preemptive war against Germany or Britain's apparent solidarity with Poland. 

Since I generally admire the people who post here and since I like to debate such things I thought I'd pose the questions I did.

Obviously this was a mistake.
*



Moif, I don't agree with you that this topic was a mistake. Finally a nice topic in the History thread. thumbsup.gif

And I agree with you that it seems apparant that there is a big difference between how the U.S. and Europe view the war and its consequences.

Why? Probably a lot of reasons, but I will focus on two:

1. The U.S. was not conquered by Germany/Japan and its country was not laid to waste. A lot of European countries on the other hand were deeply affected by the agression of Nazi-Germany.

2. The U.S. had nothing to do with the Holocaust, a lot of European countries (like Holland and Poland) did in fact contribute directly to the capture and transportation of Jewish citizens.

These differences have certainly had an affect on the way WWII is portrayed in general. In short one can say the U.S. only fought in the war, while Europe experienced/ lived through all the horrors of the war. Europeans struggled with difficult and confronting questions while rebuilding their societies. The U.S. on the other hand, profitted most from the victory and did not have to rise from the ashes of WWII. The U.S. experienced the 'Happy Fifties' and were expanding their hegemony in the world.

In fact I would dare to say that Europe and the U.S. have both learned different things from WWII. European self-reflection (why did all these things occur) v.s. U.S. triumphalism (the good always win in the end). This is obvious if one would compare European movies about WWII and American/Hollywood movies.

Ever seen "Das Boot", "Der Untergang"? These are probably the best movies ever made about WWII. Part of the reason is the critical, but objective attitude towards history. The movies are characterised by a harsh, but historical accurate, view on WWII. If one would compare these quality movies with Hollywood blockbusters like Saving Private Ryan, the difference is obvious.

I have seen S.P.R., was excited when I saw the beginning, but after like 20 minutes, when the story turned out to be just another stereotypical Hollywood product, I quickly lost my interest. Schindlers List was a good movie though.

I think Moif is touching a important aspect. If somebody is interested in knowing the real truths behind WWII one just have to take some time to read a quality historical analyse. If somebody gets his information about WWII from watching movies there is a big chance that he will get a wrong impression of the real situation, because of all the moral and heroic stereotypes used by Hollywood. U.S. movies about WWII are in general characterised by a certain degree of corruption of the facts. The story is being reformed so that it is acceptable and exciting for people to watch. Making money is more important than telling the truth. War is never about altruism and reality is never as black and white as some movies want us to believe.
moif
Renger.

It was a mistake to explain the reasons for the thread since these obviously led to so much confusion. I wanted to explain why I was asking the questions though since I thought other people might have a different, objective analysis. I should have remembered from experience though how any debate that so much as dares to mention a Jewish bias soon degenerates into insults and accusations.


QUOTE(Renger)
Ever seen "Das Boot", "Der Untergang"? These are probably the best movies ever made about WWII. Part of the reason is the critical, but objective attitude towards history. The movies are characterised by a harsh, but historical accurate, view on WWII. If one would compare these quality movies with Hollywood blockbusters like Saving Private Ryan, the difference is obvious.
Yes, I've seen both those films and I agree they are both very good. 'Das Boot' is probably the most honest, and certainly my favourite artistic portrayal of the Second World War.

I also agree with you that there is a very different perspective on the war in Europe than in America though I'm not sure how accurate this is. I've found historians and authors from both sides of the Atlantic tend to focus on their own nations efforts to the detriment of other nations and this is extremely annoying.

Take Steven E. Ambrose for example. He's supposed to be one of the best authorities on the war and a man who went to great lengths to find original source material. He came highly recommended to me, so I started reading his books. So far I've read 'Band of Brothers', 'Citizen Soldiers' and 'Wild Blue'. All three made for good reading but they were also very narrow in their focus, dealing exclusively with the US services. I also find them to extremely biased in how they perceived the war and in particular the US participation.

Ambrose never looks beyond his own nose and in other online debates dealing with the Second World War, I've met with the same attitude from many Americans. Based on these opinions alone one might be forgiven for supposing the war was won by the United States alone. This always leads to endless arguments as to who was the most responsible for defeating Germany.

I'd be lying though if I said this was an American perspective since I find Russians are even worse. I've never yet met a Russian in a debate on the war who didn't dismiss the other allied powers as 'a side show to the real event'. Brits also have a tendency towards self promotion, though they rarely claim to have been responsible for the actual victory.

Coming, like yourself, from a small European country that had no influence on the war but actually felt the reality of occupation gives me a sort of neutrality in these debates. I say 'sort of', because I'm half English so I have a tendency to look upon Britain with less critical eyes. That and the fact that the Americans weren't going to bother to liberate Denmark and only Montgomery's stubborn nature saved Denmark from Soviet occupation.

Living next door to Germany gives us a different perspective on them as well. The Germans aren't evil, though they do have a strange tendency towards rigid structures and it isn't difficult to see how the nazi's were able to come to power. The British historian AJP Taylor, whom I mentioned in my earlier posts, put forward a controversial theory that Hitler didn't plan to fight the second world war but was drawn into it through blunders and a lack of foresight. He also put as much blame on the war on the British as he did on the Germans and this was based on the way Britain and France treated Germany after the First World War and Britains attitude towards Poland, which he referred to as a constructed political entity rather than a real country.

QUOTE
When he came to power, Hitler inherited vast potential. By the twentieth century Germany's large population and industrial might gave the country a natural pre-eminence in west-central Europe, and the Versailles settlement of 1919 was an artificial absurdity that was bound to unravel. This unraveling could have been done rationally, as in the early stages of British and French appeasement over the Rhineland, Germany's anschluss with Austria, and so on; but after Munich, in 1938, it was increasingly bungled. Having appeased Berlin over more-contestable territorial issues, the British changed their stance and decided to fight over Danzig and the Polish Corridor, where the German case for revision was stronger. The result, Taylor maintained, was a war in Europe that nobody wanted and that personally dismayed Hitler. World War II was simply an accident: Hitler never imagined that the democracies would actually go to war over Poland, especially because London and Paris could do almost nothing to defend the Poles. Great Britain and France had in the past vacillated between policies of appeasement and resistance.
Link.

I don't know if I agree with this latter argument really. I think Poland was a real country by 1938, the Poles were certainly a real people with their own history and culture and it was right for the British to draw the line in the sand as they did.

But... I can also see the point Taylor is making because it fits more with the perception I get from the Germans as people and makes much more sense than the cardboard cut out view of the war that I find portrayed in most western art and in such historical books as those by Steven E. Ambrose where Hitler is to blame for everything and the Allies were forced into war because Germany left them no other option.

Clearly there were other options. The Germans were not 'evil', even if they were under the rule of men with no scruples, even if they were anti semitic and caught in the grip of rampant nationalism. Its easy to say they brought the war upon themselves, because clearly they didn't prevent it but at the same time, by pushing all responsibility for the war onto the Germans, we ignore the hand the other nations played as well as the anti semitic and racist attitudes that were present in other countries.

In the Spielberg/Ambrose world view there is no question as to who is responsible for the war, nor how the Germans differ from the Allies. There is, in Ambrose's work the honest look at how many Americans were of German ancestry and how the American soldiers often found themselves with more in common with the German civilians than with the French... or even the British, but Ambrose never goes beyond his focus on the US military personnel to consider the wider social or political implications and one is left with a very black and white perspective which makes the US serviceman look like valiant hero's and their enemies as vague evil shadows. By itself this is okay given the nature of Ambrose's chosen medium but when this is lifted by Spielberg into a much wider medium, suddenly the narrow focus leaves one with a distorted sense of perspective. One that portrays great American sacrifice and fraternity against a bleak backdrop of European culture and against the Holocaust.

Perhaps I'm being unfair though? Perhaps the reason why the Germans have made much more honest portrayals of the war is because they can't escape the blame so they accept it and make their art accordingly? I don't know if this is the case, but even if it is, I still feel there is an intellectual dishonesty in the works of Steven E. Ambrose and Steven Spielberg. An unwillingness to look too deeply lest the truth be less glorious than the fiction.

This is my subjective opinion of course, but I find there is far more honesty in the humanity of 'Das Boot' than in the bravery and sacrifice of 'Saving Private Ryan'.



Now, I'll admit I haven't read a vast quantity of books on the subject yet... that is to say I have, but the subject is so vast and there are so many more books to read that I'll probably die before I reach a comprehensive understanding of the Second World War... I've got Churchill's memoirs, but they are so extensive that I've yet to even attempt them. ermm.gif

At the moment I tend to look at the war as I would the 'tightening' of an image. In illustration one uses a part of an image as a focus point by 'tightening' the details, colours and composition around it. Typically this could be the face of a hero figure, or an aeroplane in clear blue sky. The purpose is to draw attention, usually because the rest of the image may be covered by graphics but often because this is a way to create a narrative in an image... the Second World War is sort of like this for me. Its the 'tight' point of the twentieth century. The point which defines all that went before, and explains all that came after it.

I found this quote by another historian called Eric Hobsbawm and I think it sums up perfectly what I mean:
QUOTE
Reflecting on mankind's trajectory from the Sarajevo of 1914 to the Sarajevo of the fall of Yugoslavia -- total warfare, the state sanctioned genocides of Nazism and Stalinism, the annihilatory madness of the Cold War arms race, and the latest monstrosities -- he declares his unwavering commitment to the ideas and values of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment as "one of the few things that stands between us and an accelerated descent into darkness."
  The Enlightenment may not be fashionable ("a conspiracy of dead white men in periwigs," Hobsbawm jokes) but it is the only basis, he insists, on which "to build societies fit for all human beings to live in anywhere on this Earth, and for the assertion and defence of their human rights as persons." And "the worst of it is that we have got used to the inhuman. We have learned to tolerate the intolerable."
Link.

I think Hobsbawm is right on the mark and though he doesn't mention it, I think the war seems to me to be just one part of a much greater trend that spans the entire twentieth century and the responsibility for which extends beyond the simple cause and effect explanations which are used to describe why the Second World War started.

Rancid Uncle
I don't believe the motives of leaders in Berlin, Washington, London, Moscow and Tokyo really answer the question "Why WW2?". Often in war countries start a war thinking they are fighting for one reason and finish thinking they're fighting for a completely different reason all together. For example, Iraq. Another important thing to remember about war is that you often do not understand the true gravity of your actions for 20 or more years. For example, it seems like only recently that Americans have begun to talk about Vietnam.

I believe both of those things apply to WW2. The United States entered WW2 basically for one reason, Pearl Harbor.

But once the US did enter the war there was another, more powerful subtext. The United States, a free republic pitted against Nazi Germany, the embodiment of evil in the modern era. I'm not naive enough to believe that US motives were that crystal clear. But at the end of the day, after the fog of war has cleared, what the US did in WW2 was noble. I know it wasn't totally the US intention to stop the holocaust, but we did. I know it wasn't totally the US intention to free western Europe from tryanny but we did. As an American I realize that there are many variables that went into WW2 but when I think of some of what the US did, I think that's what war should be about.

QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 18 2005, 05:41 AM)

These differences have certainly had an affect on the way WWII is portrayed in general. In short one can say the U.S. only fought in the war, while Europe experienced/ lived through all the horrors of the war. Europeans struggled with difficult and confronting questions while rebuilding their societies. The U.S. on the other hand, profitted most from the victory and did not have to rise from the ashes of WWII. The U.S. experienced the 'Happy Fifties' and were expanding their hegemony in the world.   
*

What about the Marshall Plan and the Cold War? The United States spent $100 billion to help rebuild Europe and untold billions to protect Europe and the Free world during the Cold War. Being the strongest country in the World isn't all fun and games, the US had the burden of protecting the world after WW2 and I'm certain the US is still paying for the strain that has put on this country.
Renger
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle @ Dec 18 2005, 07:50 PM)

QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 18 2005, 05:41 AM)

These differences have certainly had an affect on the way WWII is portrayed in general. In short one can say the U.S. only fought in the war, while Europe experienced/ lived through all the horrors of the war. Europeans struggled with difficult and confronting questions while rebuilding their societies. The U.S. on the other hand, profitted most from the victory and did not have to rise from the ashes of WWII. The U.S. experienced the 'Happy Fifties' and were expanding their hegemony in the world.    
*




What about the Marshall Plan and the Cold War? The United States
spent $100 billion to help rebuild Europe and untold billions to protect Europe and the Free world during the Cold War. Being the strongest country in the World isn't all fun and games, the US had the burden of protecting the world after WW2 and I'm certain the US is still paying for the strain that has put on this country.
*



I was not talking about the effort the U.S. put into restoring Europe and as a side note I have to say that I find your view on the Marshall plan oversimplified and therefore misleading. For example it completely ignores the fact that a strong and capitalistic Western-Europe was vitally important for the U.S. in their power-struggle with the U.S.S.R. Reconstruction of Europe served the U.S. self-interests.

What I was pointing out is that after WWII it appears that the U.S. and Europe each have developed a different view on the war. In American movies there is a tendency to overstress the heroism displayed by the U.S. troops. European movies normally stress the personal horrors of the war and try to capture the gritty and harsh reality of that period. I would like to recommend "Das Boot". Maybe you will understand my point better after you watched it. thumbsup.gif
Rancid Uncle
QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 18 2005, 12:31 PM)

What I was pointing out is that after WWII it appears that the U.S. and Europe each have developed a different view on the war. In American movies there is a  tendency to overstress the heroism displayed by the U.S. troops. European movies normally stress the personal horrors of the war and try to capture the gritty and harsh reality of that period.  I would like to recommend "Das Boot". Maybe you will understand my point better after you watched it.  thumbsup.gif
*

I have seen Das Boot. And yes, it's a much better, more artful film than say, To Hell and Back. I generally agree with you that European movies about WW2 are more honest like for example Pasqualino Settebellezze. But is that because of a difference in how WW2 is viewed in the two places? I don't know. American WW2 movies are for the most part Westerns set in Germany and France. American troops are the cowboys and the Nazis are the Indians. Westerns aren't about why the Cowboys kill the Indians, they're about the killing.

[quote=Renger,Dec 18 2005, 12:31 PM] I was not talking about the effort the U.S. put into restoring Europe and as a side note I have to say that I find your view on the Marshall plan oversimplified and therefore misleading. For example it completely ignores the fact that a strong and capitalistic Western-Europe was vitally important for the U.S. in their power-struggle with the U.S.S.R. Reconstruction of Europe served the U.S. self-interests.
*


Yeah but every nation, almost every single time, acts partly out of it's own self-interest. But when the result of your actions are positive, for example ending a genocide, ending a war, or helping to rebuild Europe, shouldn't that be acknowledged? I can't see how WW2 is at least partly about good things America did. Maybe America didn't decide to be benevolent, I know that. But maybe America wasn't fighting for freedom altruistically but America's fighting did create freedom in the end. That has to be a story history and art tells of World War 2.
Eeyore
In teaching history I can understand about the patriotism of history, especially in the history of war.

The United States perspective is heavily biased toward the significance of the United States. No matter how many times I emphasize the percentage of the German army faced by the Russians even AFTER D-Day, my 17 and 18 year olds place a tremendous and defining significance (above all else) on the D-Day campaign.

I think the Russian overly nationalistic point of view is the closest.

But I think the historical cliche of American factories and Russian soldiers winning the war is a good one.

Yet, although I am not a great man of history historian, I think Churchill gets too little credit for his role in the war. For it would have been easy for Great Britain to sell out and make a deal when they were the only enemy facing the Germans. His spirit and his anachronistic vision of Great Britain helped give him the charisma and conviction to lead Great Britain into the abyss with Germany alone with eyes wide open.

I do think that the people of Germany do have a lot to account for (those that lived in Germany under Hitler.) This was a blatantly aggressive move by the Germans. Even people like AJP Taylor are simply saying that Hitler should have been stopped and that is why the appeasers of Munich and the anschluss and the League of Nations deserve some blame.

Yet it takes a nation to be led into a war like World War II. The people of Germany of the 1930s owe themselves a lot of blame for the blatant aggression and destruction that was the consequences of allowing Adolf Hitler to gain power in their country.
Titus

Quite the thread to bring many of us out of Winter hiberation, Moif! thumbsup.gif

So, what was the Second World War actually about?

Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?

Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons?

Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?

I'll address the questions at hand and best add my tidbits of retort of other's comments.

It's easy, as an American, to remember the heroism of our greatest generation, and define their mission as altruistic.

While the reality of the Nazi's brutal oppression of Europe, and later the open knowledge of the Holocaust may have helped emotionally drive the Allies to vicotry, the truth when I think about the war's origins, are less than altruistuic.

American's didn't give a too much more than a rat's patoot about German expanision in Europe. We were in an economic crisis and had to worry about ourselves rather than what some jerk across the Atlantic was doing.

We cared enough, through the Lend-Lease Act, to send Britain supplies and weapons to fight the Germans off, but had it not been for the Japanese attacking us and Germany declaring war soon after, I imagine our timing as to entering the conflict would have been more later.

The whole foundation of the war was not far off from the basis of teh one that preceeded it. Alliances made the scope of the war large, and by self-defense or by contract, countries joined sides.

QUOTE
Moif

QUOTE
(KivrotHaTaavah)
As one historian has noted, the student of Japanese strategic thinking during this period cannot help but be completely and utterly stunned by the colossal stupidity of the Japanese, or should I say, the Japanese Southern Strategy was more of an elaborate plan for national suicide than it was a plan for military and/or other success.


...I've had this feeling for a long time that the Japanese were just simply self destructive. I got this feeling from reading about the ease with which the Japanese undertook kamikaze missions and I've never been able to understand why the Japanese attacked the USA when it must have been painfully obvious to them that the USA would crush them.

The only way the Japanese plan could have worked is if the Americans were gun shy and I can't see how any one could ever consider the Americans in that light.


I find both of your opinions on Imperial Japan highly flawed.

The Japanese war machine was greased, partially, with the oil and steel that we were selling them. When we decided that we'd cut them off, obviously a decision needed to be made.

The Japanese weren't self-destructive by any means. Their plan was not to achieve victory over the United States, but to strike such a blow as to buy them time to strengthen their positons and negotiate terms on things regarding oil, steel, and peace to what it had previously been.

A successfull attack on Pearl Harbor would have meant that the Americans would have little or no access to the Pacific and troop movements within for a considerable amount of time. But with most of the fleet not at P.H., as admiral Yamamoto said, all it did was awaken a sleeping giant.

So why attack such a force such as the U.S. anyway and incur it's wrath you ask? Well, because at the time we, at decent memory barely cracked the Top 20 in world-wide fighting strength. I think we had little more than 100K in armed troops and a large, but rather maritime trained navy who hadn't seen combat in over three decades.

The "force" wasn't in our numbers. It was in our resolve.

So, to end this rant, lol....While in latter stages of the war, we may have developed a conscience that strengthend our resolve, it wasn't much different from any other war.
Renger
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle @ Dec 18 2005, 11:21 PM)
I have seen Das Boot.  And yes, it's a much better, more artful film than say, To Hell and Back.  I generally agree with you that European movies about WW2 are more honest like for example Pasqualino Settebellezze.  But is that because of a difference in how WW2 is viewed in the two places?  I don't know.


I hope you agree that it seems a plausible theory and that it is worth exploring a bit further? In what way did the WWII affect the mentality of the countires that were active in the war? Did the war make significant changes in our societies? Did the perception of the war influence the later policies of the countries involved? Does this explain for a part the different attitudes between the U.S. and the E.U. towards international politics? hmmm.gif

QUOTE
Yeah but every nation, almost every single time, acts partly out of it's own self-interest.  But when the result of your actions are positive, for example ending a genocide, ending a war, or helping to rebuild Europe, shouldn't that be acknowledged?  I can't see how WW2 is at least partly about good things America did. 


Please do not get me wrong. I realize very well the importance of the U.S. in the economic restauration of Western-Europe. I am very thankfull to the U.S. for that.
But, (always that historical but ... rolleyes.gif smile.gif ) if we want to know the real situation and why certain things happened, we also have to focuss on the more self-centered interests of the U.S. during the Cold War. If we only focuss on the positive sides of U.S. intervention in Western-Europe against the Communistic threat, there is a gigantic chance we are developping a historical inaccurate or stereotypical view. Don't you agree? smile.gif
KivrotHaTaavah
moif:

Let me correct a prior erroneous/incorrect statement on my part. Pearl Harbor relieved FDR from having to go to war in what would be perceived here in the US as a war to save Europe's Asian colonies. Hitler's declaration of war relieved FDR of having to push for war with Germany, even though US public sentiment was focused almost exclusively on the Japanese following Pearl Harbor.

Now, let me correct, Julian. The Tripartite Pact only obligated a party state to come to the defense of another party state if the latter party state was ATTACKED. So nothing in the Tripartite Pact obligated Hitler and the Germans to declare war on the US. As a matter of fact, the condition that one must be attacked in order for the aid of the others to become mandatory [as it were] was the basis for the Japanese deciding to honor their non-aggression treaty with Stalin's Russia rather than join in the attack with Germany. The Tripartite Pact was otherwise something next to worthless owing to a rather heartfelt mutual racial disdain.

What FDR would have done had Hitler not declared war remains anybody's guess. The man's character otherwise makes it plain that he did his best to avoid having to make difficult decisions [call him the master procrastinator], so he might have chosen war with Japan and all aid short of war in Europe. And recall again that the initial declaration of war was limited to Japan [causing Churchill no small amount of alarm, Hitler, however, turned the expression of alarm into a rather boisterous and hopeful joy].

Now, to answer the $64K question. Why were the Japanese so stupid? First, the racial disdain. Pity that the former distinction between racialism and racism no longer exists [racialism = the idea that ability but not worth is determined by race; racism = the idea that one race is superior to the rest], since the former describes "white" or European attitudes while the latter describes the Japanese, whose emporer, and hence themselves, were descended from the gods. So why should the superior descendants of the gods have their desires curbed by those not so descended? Then there was the matter of differing definitions for the word[s] "sincere/sincerity." To the Japanese it simply meant unflinching and unwavering pursuit of the end and never mind the means [such showed that one was truly sincere about accomplishing the stated end/goal], while to us here in the US, such simply meant genuine straightforwardness. And so we regarded the Japanese diplomatic duplicity as being "insincere," while the Japanese regarded the US Congress passing the draft act BY A SINGLE VOTE as being "insincere." And that would have been all well and good as far as it went [and it could have went far, given the effect of anti-war resistance on our effort in Vietnam, and witness today as well], but as the subsequent vote for war indicates, while the draft act may have only passed by a single vote and otherwise demonstrated the U.S.'s deep reservation about becoming involved in another "foreign" war, bombing Pearl Harbor changed all of that. Just the thing to wake the formerly sleeping but now rather angry giant. And note that the Japanese could have accomplished very nearly the same result if they had simply left Pearl Harbor out of the plan, i.e., they could still have included the Philippines and US forces there, but such would not have had the same effect on American feeling and opinion as Pearl Harbor [which was regarded as being more "American" than the "far off" Philippines, home to what Taft called our "little brown brothers", whom we had not so long ago civilized with a Krag (the Krag-Jorgensen rifle of the time].

One last word on FDR. Well, how does one criticize that glad-handing cripple [a historian's description, said with all the love in the world]....well, as a means of guaging what FDR would have done had Hitler's hubris not got the better of him [and not for the first time], simply consider the war that was fought in the Pacific. Two divided commands conducting separate thrusts. Take out your handy-dandy map of the Pacific. Find New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Well on their way to being conquered when we decide to go back and to the right about 1,000 or so miles. Why? As someone wise once wrote, why not simply secure the Palau group of islands to secure or cover the flank and then simply continue on with New Guinea and the Solomons and from there, next stop the Philippines. And once the Philippines are reclaimed, Japan is cutoff off from its southern conquests with their rich resources and the Japanese war machine comes to an oil dry halt. But, no, since FDR could not bring himself to decide on a single commander for a unified command [choosing either McArthur or Nimitz, or else a new face], we have two separate thrusts, and far enough apart so as to not be able to give each other mutual support. And the main reason for the Navy's central Pacific thrust was that each forward step towards the Philippines would have been exposed to air attack from the flank. Okay, fine. Consider the Gilbert Islands [Betio and Makin atolls, primarily]. How many Japanese aircraft attacked our landing fleet and troops? Next to none? So why the need to go back and to the right to start a second thrust some 1,000 miles behind where you already are? So, the master procrasinator strikes again, and he first put off and then never took the necessary decision.

On a brief side note, I would not have even bothered with the Philippines and most of Micronesia. I simply would have secured the line running Midway-Johnston-Baker-Ellice Islands-New Hebrides-Australia, and otherwise left the Australians to worry about New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago [while giving them the tools to finish the job [as it were]]. Then, and here's what happens when one is not a monarch or dictator but dependent on popular election, since as was the case with the famous Doolittle raid, democratic politicians must be seen to be doing something, even when such means either next to nothing or is against one's long term interest, but anyway, after securing the noted line and leaving Australia to do its duty, my hop, skip, and a jump would have been much shorter and mostly just that, from, first, Hawaii/Midway to Wake. Then from Wake to Marcus, and then from Marcus to Iwo and Chichi Jimi [the Bonin Islands], and from there to Okinawa. But that would have taken time, since it would have required the existence of a fleet not yet ready until the latter part of that war. As a minor embellishment to that, I would have told the Brits that we wanted Sir Bruce Fraser, Sir Philip Vian and the British fleet carriers [HMS Illustrious, Victorious, Indomitable, Implacable, Indefatigable, and Formidable] to help our and their Aussie friends, in this case, with the reconquest of Java, the Celebes, and Borneo.

Julian:

I called them two world wars because they had nothing in common. The Japanese were fooling around on the Asian mainland as early as 1928, when the "Kwantung Army" caused that certain explosion on the South Manchurian Railway that resulted in the death of that certain local warlord who had the nerve to have ideas of his own. Then there was that other explosion at Mukden in 1930, which precipitated the invasion of Manchuria proper. And then comes the puppet emporer of the puppet state of Manchukuo, aka Pu-Yi, of Last Emporer fame [or infamy, depending on how one views that matter], and then comes the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident" in 1937, which was the prelude for the invasion of China proper.

You can otherwise check your local library for the history of when WWII began, and more often than not, far more, as a matter of fact, you will find the date given as 1 September 1939, which is the date of Hitler's invasion of Poland. However, as Dan van der Vat reports in his The Pacific Campaign: World War II: The U.S.-Japanese Naval War 1941-1945, a contemporary inhabitant of Manchuria would have regarded that date as eight (8) years too late. Write it up to our and their Euro-centrism [as it were].
Rancid Uncle
QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 19 2005, 05:00 AM)
Please do not get me wrong. I realize very well the importance of the U.S. in the economic restauration of Western-Europe. I am very thankfull to the U.S. for that.
But, (always that historical but ... rolleyes.gif smile.gif ) if we want to know the real situation and why certain things happened, we also have to focuss on the more self-centered interests of the U.S. during the Cold War. If we only focuss on the positive sides of U.S. intervention in Western-Europe against the Communistic threat, there is a gigantic chance we are developping a historical inaccurate or stereotypical view. Don't you agree? smile.gif
*

Yes but, the whole cold war is much more of a gray area. World War 2 on the other hand is more clear. US intervention in WW2, for whatever reason, had a major postive impact on Europe, period. One shouldn't lose sight of that. I don't think historians should look at WW2 and say that America was just looking out for numero uno. That's just not true.
Renger
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle @ Dec 20 2005, 06:32 AM)
Yes but, the whole cold war is much more of a gray area.  World War 2 on the other hand is more clear.  US intervention in WW2, for whatever reason, had a major postive impact on Europe, period.  One shouldn't lose sight of that.  I don't think historians should look at WW2 and say that America was just looking out for numero uno.  That's just not true.
*



Indeed that is untrue. Such a view is way too simplistic, misleading and historically inaccurate. But so is the view that all the intentions of U.S. were honorable and altruistic. Or the view that all the Germans were "pure evil". Or the marginalization of Russia's role in defeating Nazi-Germany. Or the fact Germany gets all the blame for starting the war.

There are many misleading stereotypes when people talk about WWII. There are many inaccurate views, products of the way the war was felt / perceived. Japan, the U.S. and Europe more or less all have formed a different view on WWII and are stressing different aspects. I do not agree with you that the Cold War was more grey than WWII. The Second World War is one of the most complex and influential periods in modern history. Its got many sides and many aspects. The world wasn't as black and white as people tend to see it. It has many layers, simple conclusions are difficult to make, without neglecting other aspects.

Just look at how Hitler came to power and started annexing parts of Europe. It seems reasonable to say that Hitler caused of the outbreak of the war, by leaving the Allies no other choice than to react, and therefor can be considered the bad guy. This is the general view held by many people. Correct?

But if people would do some further research it becomes clear that the whole situation was more complex then they thought. Within the context of the economic depressions and the Treaty of Versailles, it all of a sudden makes more sense why the Nazi-party was able to rise to power. Further research on the Appeasement policy of Chamberlain learns us that the Western Allies (U.K. France and U.S.) made some critical mistakes during the prelimenary stages of WWII and did eventually contribute to the complete escalation of the situation. The truth is more complex (and ugly) than many people think.

What I find disturbing is the fact that because of the simplification of WWII (caused by the way it is portrayed in the mass media) people develop a distorted historical view on the situation. It seems that WWII is slowly transforming into mere symbolism (the fight between good and evil) deprived from its real and complex historical context. sad.gif
Julian
QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 20 2005, 11:31 AM)
What I find disturbing is the fact that because of the simplification of WWII (caused by the way it is portrayed in the mass media) people develop a distorted historical view on the situation. It seems that WWII is slowly transforming into mere symbolism (the fight between good and evil) deprived from its real and complex historical context.  sad.gif
*



True, however it isn't by any means all over yet. History will be the judge, and already we are beginning to find out new things that crack the facade of "Allies innocent.gif , Axis devil.gif " that the first 60 years after the war have left us with.

Here is just one example. Governments around the world tend to keep embarrassing things secret until after the key players are dead.

We are only now getting to the point where the survivors of WW2 are dying of old age, and I predict we will see many more documents released that contrast with the simplistic good vs bad picture most people currently have of WW2. This can only be a bad thing for people who can't "do nuance".
moif
Thats a good example of the difference in how we perceive things Julian, based on what we don't know... but its the different perspectives based on what we do know that makes for hypcrisy. People today can be forgiven for not knowing about cases such as Bad Nenndorf but no one can pretend not to know about how the Soviet Union treated its prisoners.

For my part, I've debated the war with people from Germany and Russia on several occaisions and these do not have the same perspective on the war. Russians, generally do not take responsibility for the war, nor do they accept responsibility for the way Stalin's army acted... though I've noted they often take great pride in the Red Army.

Germans on the other hand, feel a great weight of responsibility for what happened, not least as a result of outside pressure and not least as a result of the way we (in the west) view the Holocaust. In my opinion, there is a near conspiratorial silence surrounding the crimes committed by the Allies as opposed to the near universal condemnation regarding Germany and Japan's crimes.

This is no where less obvious than in how we regard the Holocaust. As I pointed out earlier with the reference to the work of Steven Spielberg in particular, the Holocaust plays a huge part in the modern interpretation (and justification for Allied actions like the fire bombing of Dresden) of the Second World War. In contrast, the Soviet extermination of 'undesirables' goes largely ignored. So much so that no one even has a clear idea as to the number of victims.

Can it really be that the only reason that Hitlers victims are so 'celebrated' whilst Stalins go ignored is the efficiency of German accounting? or does the fact that the Soviet Union in 1945 was so powerful an 'ally' play a role in how much Stalin was, and is, allowed to get away with?

Why are the victims of the Soviet Union less deserving of attention? Can it be perhaps because their deaths do nothing to make the US participation in the war look so 'heroic'?

If we accept that the causes of the war for the Allies underwent a change when the Holocaust became apparent, that the reasons for the war underwent a change from beginning to end as has been suggested here, then why didn't the Allies immedietely attack the Soviet Union once Germany was defeated? Its not like they didn't understand Stalin's true character. They knew full well what sort of a monster he was. He'd been 'purging' people since he came to power in 1922.

What happened instead is usually refered to as the Cold War but again, its not the western Allies who are given the blame for the Cold War. Its Stalin and his 'Iron Curtain'. As usual, good old Winston Churchill, who once said of Stalin "The outside world was at liberty to wonder respectfully at the hidden meaning of his actions" and who coined the phrase 'Iron Curtain' is allowed to tell us whats going on with his skill with words and it goes, largely unquestioned there after.

Are we to assume that so astute an observor as Churchill really had no understanding of the 'hidden meaning behind Stalin's actions?' I can't believe that.

Were the Soviets solely to blame for the Cold War just as the Germans are held to blame for the Second World War (regardless of the Japanese endeavours in China which KivrotHaTaavah draws our attention to), or do the western Allies and their indifference to the fate of those nations that didn't conform to their own ambitions contribute to the Cold War simply because they, as they would do again so many times after the war, helped to create 'the Monster'?

It can't be denied that the western Allies, in particular the USA, benefitted greatly from arming the Soviet Union and letting it deal with the German army for years before finally committing to the liberation of Western Europe in deeds rather than words, or that this policy pitted 80% of Germanys fighting force against the east leaving scant resources for the British/Canadian/American invasion forces.

Given the imbalance in the two sides of the Allies at the end of the war, it can't of been as any surprise to Churchill, finding himself suddenly odd man out at Yalta, that the USA was going to play the safest game and abandon the rest of Europe. He knew exactly who and what Stalin was but I suspect he had no influence or interest in pursuing Stalin as the next Hitler either. He was probably far more concerned with keeping Roosevelt at bay.

Understandable given the death toll of the war but still.... it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I consider how the Americans were indifferent to the fate of so many nations then, whilst they pat their own backs now for a job well done.

They didn't even bother to liberate facist Spain, despite their overwhelming military superiority.

Eeyore
I am not sure how history gets interpreted in your neck of the woods Moif, but Stalin wears a black hat in all of the history I read.

The United States under FDR followed Dr. Win the War. In affairs like the actions of the Soviet Union or responding to the Holocaust, actions were made based on the way to most quickly end the war.

I would think the American response to the Soviet Union after the war and the launching of the Cold War would be sufficient to say that Stalin is seen like an Adolf Hitler in the United States.

Stalin's victims were treated as poorly as Hitler's. The fighting between those two figures who had little regard for human life, humanity or any level of morality, must have been truly hell on earth for any citizen or soldier caught in that struggle.

This be no means makes Hitler any better or relieves the obligation of guilt that Germans of the 1930s should have for playing their part in unleashing World War II on the world.

moif
Eeyore.

QUOTE
This be no means makes Hitler any better or relieves the obligation of guilt that Germans of the 1930s should have for playing their part in unleashing World War II on the world.
Stalin wears a black hat here as well.

I don't disagree with you on any of what you're written. Its not that I think the Germans are less responsible, but rather that I think the Allies are more so...

Simply put, the nazi's didn't exist in moral isolation, nor did they only exist in Germany. There were also people in other countries helping them into power, and especially in the USA. I've read examples of how influential American industrialists and bankers were active supporters of the Third Reich and its ideology. Even if only a few of these stories bear truth, then Hitler could never have become a threat without help from the USA during the 1930's.

The same argument goes for the post war Soviet Union. It could never have become a threat if the USA hadn't been so eager to let the Soviets take the brunt of the fighting during the war. Stalin was a useful tool who later became a liability (sounds familier?) for the USA and as such cannot hold ALL the blame for the Cold War. In other words Stalin wouldn't have been such a mortal threat to so many people if the USA hadn't held back for so long in order to spare as many US lives as possible.

Perhaps I'm callous, or unrealistic as to the value of US lives in the hearts and minds of the US populace (and who can blame the American public for indifference towards European wars?) but I do believe the USA has a very cool and calculating way of dealing with tyrants and is not above allowing millions to die in order to safeguard even a few hundred American lives.

The more I read about the Second World War the more unanswered questions I find. Its been suggested by some people that the USA carried out a deliberate divide and conqueur strategy to see the end of all the colonial European powers and I think this has some merits once Roosevelt takes office.

It doesn't require a great leap of imagination to consider that the Cold War really happened because the USA and the USSR had similar motives. Especially in this post Soviet, American dominated world where US troops engage in what many consider to be psedo-colonial warfare.

I'm not convinced at all this was the case prior to the war though. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I am convinced by Taylors argument, that the Second World War was the direct consequence of poor political leadership and the petty squabbling this spawns (and as we see echoed today in the mediocre performance of the Eurocrats).

The real reasons for the Second World War seem to lie in stupidty rather than design.


I don't wish to diminish the debt of gratitude towards any Allied soldier who died, was wounded, or fought in any capacity in the war. My problem lies in the ambiguous nature of which soldiers we honour as opposed to those we demonise.

American soldiers get top billing in the hero stakes for doing very little whilst the Soviets soldiers, eclipsed by the nasty regime they served get pratically ignored though they bore a far heavier weight than any one in Western Europe did.

Its a bit of a conundrum as to how to honour the fallen Allied soldiers when the majority of them were soon to become a deadly enemy.
Rancid Uncle
QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 20 2005, 03:31 AM)
Or the fact Germany gets all the blame for starting the war. 
*
 
Maybe I'm just ignorant but didn't they? Didn't Germany invade Poland starting the war?

QUOTE(Renger @ Dec 20 2005, 03:31 AM)
But if people would do some further research it becomes clear that the whole situation was more complex then they thought. Within the context of the economic depressions and the Treaty of Versailles, it all of a sudden makes more sense why the Nazi-party was able to rise to power. 
*
 
Yes, Germany was in a world of pain, I know that. But I could under no circumstances understand why any sane country would vote the Nazi party the largest, or allow Hitler to become Chancellor. I realize history is full of gray area and what-have-you's but there is only one way I can explain Nazism. Unbridled human evil and malice. Sure, maybe without support from Henry Ford Hitler wouldn't have risen to power. Sure, maybe Japan's industrialization and lack of natural resources necessitate the invasion of China. But at the core I can't help but think that the reason all these terrible things happen is because seemingly rational people make them happen. There's no way patterns and trends could add up to 20 million dead Chinese civilians, or the holocaust, or the brutality of Hitler and Stalin.

For example, I know that Hitler rose to power because of the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, nationalism, resentment over world war one, economic depression, and a variety of other reasons. But why did Hitler decide to murder millions of people? That's a question that examining the facts can't answer but it's still and essential question.
Moif:
QUOTE
The more I read about the Second World War the more unanswered questions I find. Its been suggested by some people that the USA carried out a deliberate divide and conqueur strategy to see the end of all the colonial European powers and I think this has some merits once Roosevelt takes office.

To have that "strategy work" wouldn't WW2 have to happen? The US government had nothing to do with starting WW2 so wasn't the end of European colonial power more of an unintended consequence. And why did America send aid to the largest European colonial power? That theory seems a little half-baked.
moif
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle)
To have that "strategy work" wouldn't WW2 have to happen? The US government had nothing to do with starting WW2 so wasn't the end of European colonial power more of an unintended consequence. And why did America send aid to the largest European colonial power? That theory seems a little half-baked.
Well, yes. The whole point of the argument, as I understand it, is the American government changed its approach to the war when Roosevelt came to power.

The reason for the Marshall Plan, as explained by this theory, was simple. To strengthen Western Europe, even as it was losing colonial sources of income, against the Soviet Union and consolidat US political control in a Europe already largely occupied by US troops.

Consider the UK. In the early 1940's US troops began arriving on British soil for the invasion of Europe. Churchill allocated bases to the US forces. The war ended in 1945, but US troops still maintain military bases in the UK to this day. They are also still in Germany though the wall fell in 1989, and in fact the US maintains some form of military asset in almost in every other country in Europe.

You can see how the Marshall Plan was pure genius. It was generous and beneficial and it built up Europes defences, whilst at the same time it bought the US a geo-political foot print in Europe which endures to this day. Not only that, but the bulk of the Marshall Plan consisted of US goods which gave the American industries a nice profit and tied European consumers to US manufacturers ever since.

Contrast his strategy to the way the Allies ended the First World War and you can see, both how General Marshall was a genius and how his plan shaped all large scale US military operations there after. The pattern is the same even today in Iraq. Liberate, Occupy, Democratize, Consolidate, Control.

None of this has any bearing on why the USA went to war of course, and its all subjective opinion, but I think its true as some have said that countries went into the Second World War with one agenda and exited with another. For the Soviets it started as defence then became aggression expansion. With the USA,Canada and Britain...? I'm not so sure what their reasons really were, hence this thread, but I think the USA at least had a very clear post war agenda.

I think Britain became a bit lost after the war. Eden certainly didn't understand that the UK was no longer a global power or else he wouldn't have risked such a humiliation at Suez. I often wonder if Churchill understood what he was giving away when he accepted the lend lease agreement, but given that he was an accomplished politician and half American don't forget, I think he probably had a fairly good idea when he said, America will always do the right thing, after they've exhausted all other alternatives.

Julian
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 20 2005, 11:08 PM)
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle)
To have that "strategy work" wouldn't WW2 have to happen? The US government had nothing to do with starting WW2 so wasn't the end of European colonial power more of an unintended consequence. And why did America send aid to the largest European colonial power? That theory seems a little half-baked.
Well, yes. The whole point of the argument, as I understand it, is the American government changed its approach to the war when Roosevelt came to power.

The reason for the Marshall Plan, as explained by this theory, was simple. To strengthen Western Europe, even as it was losing colonial sources of income, against the Soviet Union and consolidat US political control in a Europe already largely occupied by US troops.

Consider the UK. In the early 1940's US troops began arriving on British soil for the invasion of Europe. Churchill allocated bases to the US forces. The war ended in 1945, but US troops still maintain military bases in the UK to this day. They are also still in Germany though the wall fell in 1989, and in fact the US maintains some form of military asset in almost in every other country in Europe.

You can see how the Marshall Plan was pure genius. It was generous and beneficial and it built up Europes defences, whilst at the same time it bought the US a geo-political foot print in Europe which endures to this day. Not only that, but the bulk of the Marshall Plan consisted of US goods which gave the American industries a nice profit and tied European consumers to US manufacturers ever since.

Contrast his strategy to the way the Allies ended the First World War and you can see, both how General Marshall was a genius and how his plan shaped all large scale US military operations there after. The pattern is the same even today in Iraq. Liberate, Occupy, Democratize, Consolidate, Control.

None of this has any bearing on why the USA went to war of course, and its all subjective opinion, but I think its true as some have said that countries went into the Second World War with one agenda and exited with another. For the Soviets it started as defence then became aggression expansion. With the USA,Canada and Britain...? I'm not so sure what their reasons really were, hence this thread, but I think the USA at least had a very clear post war agenda.

I think Britain became a bit lost after the war. Eden certainly didn't understand that the UK was no longer a global power or else he wouldn't have risked such a humiliation at Suez. I often wonder if Churchill understood what he was giving away when he accepted the lend lease agreement, but given that he was an accomplished politician and half American don't forget, I think he probably had a fairly good idea when he said, America will always do the right thing, after they've exhausted all other alternatives.
*



You're onto something here moif, but I don't think it was the kind of reptilian strategising that might be construed from your post. I think America saw opportunities to take advantage of Europe's weaknesses after the war, but only once the weaknesses had been created or exposed.

America's insistence on become the global exhcange currency (at the expense of Sterling) and having tariff-free access to British Empire trading areas wasn't a condition of lend lease or even Marshall Plan funding per se, it was a specific condition of the loan negotiated by the post-war Atlee Labour government. Atlee and his negotiators were naive - they'd expected a condition-free, interest-free, non-redeemable one-off donation, and found themselves being asked to pay it back with interest AND give away the remnants fo global ecomonic dominance Britain still had at the time. Any sane government faced with the same options would have asked for similar conditions from Britain, and indeed America could have asked for more and didn't. However, by comparison, Marshall plan funding of continental Europe was less loaded, if not more generous.

But America didn't create Britain's weakness.

At the same time, the modern American idea that lend lease and the Marshall plan were simple unselfish generosity are also oversimplifications, as you've said. Lend lease wasn't a gift, it was a loan, with interest to repay at rates that were commerically ordinary for the time. It still forms part of the British national debt - due to be paid off in about 2010 I think.

So, like you've been saying, the all the matters to do with WW2 are more complex than the public perception might indicate. But, that cuts in America's favour as much as it cuts against them. They didn't HAVE to give any loans to anybody. (The modern Third World aid/debt campaigners would LOVE to see the USA give the same proportion of it's GDP as loans as they did to Europe under the Marshall Plan.)

What I'm saying is, I don't think the Marshall Plan, or America's involvement in the war in the first place, were calculated based in advance on the benefit that they could screw out of Europe. Certainly America saw the possibilities of furthering their own interests and took advantage of them afterwards, but I think the initial motivation was reasonably pure by historical standards. I'd go so far as to say that this has been characteristic of American international policy - good and bad - throughout the whole of US history. Witness Iraq - I don't think even the most Machiavellian thinker belive that the Iraq War only took place to boost Halliburton's stock prices, tough Halliburton weren't slow to take advantage of the opportunities the war created for them.
Bikerdad
QUOTE
I think its true as some have said that countries went into the Second World War with one agenda and exited with another. For the Soviets it started as defence then became aggression expansion. - Moif


Sigh. I've stated this before, and regrettably, I'll probably have to state this again.

The Soviet Union was an aggressor at the start of World War Two, and carried on with its policy after the war. Just ask the Poles invaded in 1939 by Germany and the Soviet Union pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentropp (sp?) Pact. Or ask defenders in the Winter War in 1940.
Rancid Uncle
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 20 2005, 03:08 PM)
Well, yes. The whole point of the argument, as I understand it, is the American government changed its approach to the war when Roosevelt came to power.
*

But Roosevelt became President in 1933, six years before the war. Granted, Roosevelt did change US foreign policy in the 1930's with the Good Neighbor Policy.

I don't see what's so Machiavellian about the Lend-Lease agreement. Politically it would be impossible for Roosevelt to too directly help the British. There were large groups of Americans who were against entering the war. America has traditionally been very isolationist and the isolationist senators like Nye and Wheeler were adamantly against the US helping any belligerent country. Also there were those in the United States who were sympathetic to Nazi Germany like Lindbergh, not to mention wealthy industrialists who may have plotted in 1934 to depose Roosevelt and replace the him with General Smedley Butler. So directly and aggressively helping Britain wasn't an easy task for Roosevelt before Pearl Harbour. Lend-Lease was partially the most isolationists would accept.
moif
QUOTE(Rancid Uncle @ Dec 22 2005, 04:15 AM)
QUOTE(moif @ Dec 20 2005, 03:08 PM)
Well, yes. The whole point of the argument, as I understand it, is the American government changed its approach to the war when Roosevelt came to power.
*

But Roosevelt became President in 1933, six years before the war. Granted, Roosevelt did change US foreign policy in the 1930's with the Good Neighbor Policy.

I don't see what's so Machiavellian about the Lend-Lease agreement. Politically it would be impossible for Roosevelt to too directly help the British. There were large groups of Americans who were against entering the war. America has traditionally been very isolationist and the isolationist senators like Nye and Wheeler were adamantly against the US helping any belligerent country. Also there were those in the United States who were sympathetic to Nazi Germany like Lindbergh, not to mention wealthy industrialists who may have plotted in 1934 to depose Roosevelt and replace the him with General Smedley Butler. So directly and aggressively helping Britain wasn't an easy task for Roosevelt before Pearl Harbour. Lend-Lease was partially the most isolationists would accept.
*



Sorry RU. I meant Truman. I always get them mixed up in my head sad.gif

Ted
So, what was the Second World War actually about?
Stopping the Axis plan to take over much of the world.

QUOTE
Considering the multitude of nations that took part, what were the individual reasons for the war?


As has been mentioned numerous books have been written on the subject. The significant reasons I have heard include the Depression in Germany and the rise of Hitler in its wake coupled with the German peoples dissatisfaction with the terms that ended WWI. Hitler used this to whip up his Nazi Party nutcases and rolled up the country in a mad War.


QUOTE
Did any nation participate for purely altruistic reasons
?

Not that I know of.

QUOTE
Is it accurate to suggest that the Holocaust was a factor in why people fought the war?
No – Participants could have not known about it until long after they were committed.
TruthMarch
QUOTE
the Depression in Germany and the rise of Hitler in its wake coupled with the German peoples dissatisfaction with the terms that ended WWI

I disagree. For pre-WW2 Germany, I think the horrendous terms after the ending of WW1 wasn't the reason for the 2nd World War. It certainly made the German people less inclined to oppose Hitler's face-saving expansion. But it wasn't a cause.
Renger
QUOTE(TruthMarch @ Feb 7 2006, 11:42 PM)
QUOTE
the Depression in Germany and the rise of Hitler in its wake coupled with the German peoples dissatisfaction with the terms that ended WWI

I disagree. For pre-WW2 Germany, I think the horrendous terms after the ending of WW1 wasn't the reason for the 2nd World War. It certainly made the German people less inclined to oppose Hitler's face-saving expansion. But it wasn't a cause.
*



Interesting statement good you please elaborate further? It is not an opinion you hear very often. I am interested what evidence you can bring to defend this conclusion. smile.gif
Vermillion
It's so nice to finally debate something within my speciality.

QUOTE(Renger @ Feb 7 2006, 11:36 PM)

Interesting statement good you please elaborate further? It is not an opinion you hear very often. I am interested what evidence you can bring to defend this conclusion.  smile.gif


Its not a new conclusion, its actually becoming the common historical thought right now. So much about the 'horrendous' terms of Versailles has been built up on the common assertion from the Germans at the time that the terms were horrendous. In fact however, when you actually look at the numbers, the Versailles terms were LESS harsh than the terms the Germans imposed on France after the 1871 war. Had the world not fallen into a depression, the German terms would have been fulfilled with some hardship, but hardly with disaster.

Obviously the depression changed everything, but it changed everything everywhere in the world, not just in Germany.

However, while the actual terms themselves did not cause the German economic collapse, they were blamed for the collapse in speeches not just by the young NSDAP, but many parties in late 1920s Germany. Regardless of the reality, the perception of the impending collapse of capitalist democracy is what caused the alternative of authouritarianism seem so plausible.

In the end though, it was less the spectre of the depression but rather the dear of communism which caused the popularity of the Nazis to rise, that and the staggering personal charisma of Hitler himself.
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