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The Much-Coveted World War II

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From the first grade in their government-approved schools, Americans are taught never to question the consequences of America’s participation in World War II. “We defeated Hitler. Freedom prevailed over tyranny,” we are taught “and there is nothing further to consider or discuss.” The political indoctrination is so complete that the minds of many Americans will forever remain closed to more complex issues and outcomes associated with that war.

But on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, more and more Americans are raising questions — not only about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, but also about the far-reaching consequences of World War II itself.

Europe, of course, has been enmeshed in conflict and war for centuries. And while there were certainly a few Americans in the 1800s who wished their government to involve itself in European disputes, by and large, Americans of that time followed the advice of their Founding Fathers (Washington and Jefferson being the notable examples): Stay out of Europe’s continuous and endless conflicts.

The turning point came in World War I. President Wilson believed that the United States could put a permanent end to European wars. Seeking a congressional declaration of war against Germany, Wilson claimed that this would be the war to end all wars — the war to make the world safe for democracy. These were the aims of the war — the aims for which thousands of American men and women were sacrificed.

But despite total victory over Germany, eternal peace and universal democracy were not attained. It did not take long to see the aftermath of World War I: communism in the Soviet Union; Nazism in Germany; fascism in Italy; and imperialism in Japan.

It would be an understatement to say that after World War I, Americans were disillusioned about their participation in that noble crusade. They had learned that good intentions do not matter — that the only thing that matters is consequences. Americans had sacrificed their young in a military crusade which totally failed to achieve its political objectives.

It is not difficult to understand, then, that when war broke out in Europe only twenty years later, Americans were opposed to once again getting involved. Up until the attack on Pearl Harbor, the position of the overwhelming majority of Americans was, “Stay out of the war — let them fight themselves, just as they have been doing for centuries. American involvement will accomplish nothing.”

Did the United States, England, and France win World War II? We certainly have been taught that in our public schools. And in a strict military sense, the answer is yes — the Western powers did defeat Germany, just as they did in World War I. But as the historian William Henry Chamberlin observes in his book America’s Second Crusade, the goals of war involve much more than just military victory over the opponent. For war is waged not as a sporting event but in order to achieve certain political ends. And in this context — the context of the political ends of World War II — the Western powers lost the war.

Why did England and France declare war on Germany in the first place? (Many Americans believe that Germany was the first to declare war.) They did so in order to free the Polish people from Hitler’s dictatorship. So, what was the final result five years later? The Poles were freed from the Nazi dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, only to have to suffer under the communist dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

Of course, we have been taught that this was a great victory — that Stalin’s, rather than Hitler’s control over the Eastern Europeans was something worth dying for — and that Americans should be proud that they sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their young people in the achievement of this victory.

But how can this truly be considered a victory? After all, even though he was a friend of our rulers, Stalin — like Hitler — was not a nice man! In fact, while it is difficult to compare evil, no one disputes the fact that Stalin murdered many more millions of people than Hitler. Moreover, although many Americans are unaware of this, Stalin’s army invaded Poland at about the same time as Hitler’s — pursuant to the formal partnership into which these two dictators had entered.

But what about the Jews?, it is asked. Didn’t World War II save them from the clutches of Adolf Hitler? No! Because by the time Germany surrendered, most of them had already been killed.

Then what about the Pacific theater? Didn’t we defeat the Japanese Imperial Army? Of course, but again, that was not the political aim of those American politicians and bureaucrats who were advocating military action against Japan in the 1930s. Japan had invaded China — and many American interventionists believed that the Chinese people should be free. And so what was the aftermath of World War II? Just four years later (and continuing to this day), the Chinese people were suffering under the iron dictatorship of the communists.

What about the British and the French? Didn’t victory result in their freedom? Yes — but they were free before they declared war on Germany. Of course, it could be argued that Germany ultimately would have attacked England and France, but that is entirely speculative — especially since the overwhelming evidence is that Hitler intended to move east — against the nation he considered Germany’s real enemy: the Soviet Union.

What about the Americans? Didn’t they win freedom? That is certainly what we have been taught. But despite all of the indoctrination to which Americans have been subjected, no documentary evidence has ever been found of a German plan to invade the Western hemisphere. And if Hitler’s forces were unable even to cross the English channel to invade Great Britain, it is very difficult to imagine how his forces could have crossed the Atlantic to invade America.

Moreover, America’s “friends” — the Soviets — had openly proclaimed their aim of worldwide conquest as far back as 1917. And within just two decades, tens of thousands of American lives were lost in Korea and Vietnam — fighting “friends” whose victory in Europe we had celebrated just a few years before.

And the terrible irony is that Americans today are much less free (or, more accurately, more enslaved) than Americans were in 1939. By that time, the New Deal — the socialist-fascist economic system foisted on Americans by President Roosevelt — was in shambles, for it had proven terribly destructive economically as well as morally. And Americans were seriously considering abandoning this way of life and returning to the principles of economic liberty on which America was founded.

But World War II put the brakes on that reversal of perspective. By the end of the war, Americans had come to accept the concept of the all-powerful government in their lives. The welfare-state, planned-economy way of life became cemented in American society. And so here was the terrible irony: American men and women being sent to die in a faraway land for freedom and, after the end of the war (and continuing to the end of the century), those remaining alive having to suffer under the socialism associated with the welfare-state, planned-economy way of life.

Furthermore, as a result of World War II, Americans of our time, unlike their ancestors, now view all foreign wars as crusades for “freedom” — especially when the “liberated” people get to live under “our” dictator, as they did after World War II. Moreover, “freedom” for modern-day Americans now means the omnipotent power of their government to sacrifice the lives and fortunes of the citizenry in the pursuit of “freedom” for foreigners.

And perhaps this is the worst consequence of World War II — that Americans have come to accept their role as mere servants — rather than as sovereigns — in American society. For how many Americans — after being forced to listen to government-approved doctrine for twelve long years in their government-approved schools to which their parents are forced to send them — question the notion that our political rulers should have omnipotent power over our lives and fortunes in both domestic and foreign affairs?

And so we have this grand and glorious legacy of World War II: brutal communism in Eastern Europe and China; thousands of American deaths and injuries in Korea and Vietnam at the hands of our “friends,” the communists; the seeming permanence of the welfare and warfare state in America; perpetual foreign crusades for “freedom,” along with the conscription, taxation, and control which follow in their wake; and, finally, the terrible mindset of political subserviency which now pervades the American citizenry. If this is victory, then it is time to reexamine the role of government in American society — both domestic and foreign — and to return to the principles of individual liberty and limited government of our Founding Fathers.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.