Day By Day

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rethinking the "Good War"

During our recent trip I had an interesting conversation with a friend regarding revisionist views on World War Two. Coincidentally, the New York Times this weekend published a nice review article by Adam Kirsch on that same subject.

Kirsch, of course, is writing from a Left perspective and his most important objection to the standard World War Two narrative [which emphasizes America's moral commitment to democracy and human rights, the heroic valor of Anglo-American participants, and nourishes the notion that America won the good war] is that it encourages a belief in American exceptionalism. He notes that Anglo-American involvement in the war was little more than a "sideshow" compared to the horrific slaughter that took place on the Eastern front. He also questions Anglo-American claims to moral superiority, noting that our ally Stalin was easily as horrific a figure as was Hitler, that Churchill was motivated by profound racism not much different from that of Hitler, and that the Allies knowingly committed atrocities every bit as nasty as those perpetrated by our enemies.

Leftist myths are just as easily challenged, [For instance it is now quite clear that Fascism is not a creation of capitalism and that Fascism and socialism are far more similar in their origins and values than is generally admitted. Nor is the old Frankford School canard that conservatives are closet Nazis sustainable. Nor can the global catastrophe of the war be attributed simply to an excess of nationalism.] but Kirsch doesn't consider these at all. His only concern is to challenge the idea of American exceptionalism. Still, it is important to note that our common understanding of World War Two and the lessons we draw from it are problematic and that historical revisionism is not just a normal, but a healthy, enterprise. So, despite its biases and blind spots, Kirsch's piece is worth a read.

Check it out here.

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