World War II remains the ultimate cudgel with which to beat people over the head if they dare to depart from prevailing foreign policy consensus. Anyone who’s ever dipped their toes into public discussion around the war in Ukraine will be familiar with the reflexive invocation of World War II as an exquisitely clear-cut, morally unambiguous analogy that compels interventionist US policy. The idea, of course, is that the moral dimensions of the war in Ukraine today are as absolute and unassailable as the moral dimensions of World War II — which is understood to have been a metaphysically binary war between good and evil, in which the US intervened to ensure the triumph of good over evil.
Excellent piece. Well researched and written. We are risking a great deal(nuclear war) for a VERY little(Eastern Ukraine/Putin getting replaced?). This could still go very badly.
Frightening parallels to the current situation
I found myself wishing that everybody could read this. Knowledge and understanding of history has a value that can't be described or estimated. My sincere thanks for writing this piece.
This was fantastic Michael. I never learned this in school. None of it. WWII is the justification for so much of what we decide as policy today and it really is because so many Americans have it understood wrongly and for some reason is not challenged.
The only challenges I've heard about the World War two was that the US bombing was not what ended the war and that the US stayed 'neutral' for so long so we could profit from both sides.
So much of this needs to be in our popular understanding.
“All warfare is based on deception.”
All wars incorporate propaganda.
The victor controls the history books.
Nice job Mickael, depressing but nice job.
I should also mention that FDR had an ulterior motive with Lend-Lease, boosting the US economy which had yet to recover from the Depression. He saw an opportunity to put millions to work at companies manufacturing military equipment, particularly combat airplanes, ammunition and bombs. There is an Army ammunition plant across the road from my grandparents' farm that was initially established to manufacture ammunition for the British, although it made artillery for the Army since the US got openly involved in the war soon after it opened. That facility employed thousands of people in a generally rural area that had previously depended on farm products. Similar facilities were built all over the US. The aircraft manufacturing industry, in particular, benefited from it. It's not hyperbole to state that it turned California into an economic powerhouse since so many aircraft manufacturers were located there. The automobile industry switched to tanks - and even aircraft. Ford Motor Company manufactured thousands of B-24 Liberator bombers at its huge new plant at Willow Run.
We're already seeing how the US military is sending its antiquated weapons to Ukraine and ordering new ones from companies like Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin. Americans don't realize that the military aerospace industry is a major driver of the US economy and has been since 1940 when FDR decided to turn American into "the arsenal for democracy." Airplanes, cruise missiles, shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons are made up of from hundreds to tens of thousands of components and the manufacturers of those components employ hundreds of thousands, even millions, all over the country. Politicians like to talk about small business as the backbone of America but they know full well that small businesses don't exist without big business. Back in the eighties the city of St. Louis went into depression when the Navy cancelled a contract for a fighter. I'm sure Biden and his cronies see the war in Ukraine as an economic opportunity just as FDR saw Lend-Lease as one.
this is terrific; it earned a paid subscription.
keep it up, brother 👍🏻
Informative, well written, and exposes (historically) US government's propensity for war. "How to engage in WWII, when the American people vote against it?" Pearl Harbor was a god-send for the dogs of war in the US. To compare WWII with Ukraine is intellectually remiss...if not mentally disabled. I doubt your critics even read the piece.
To say this article is enlightening is to put it mildly. Thank you so much for putting all this information together in one place. So much in here I didn't know.
I will say, it kind of makes my father's (born in 1920) claim that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor and didn't act on it because he wanted the devastation to drag us into the war seem a lot less crazy than one might have thought.
Just War teaching posits two criteria: a war that is just in cause and just in conduct. US participation in WWII fails on both counts. Neither Germany nor Japan was a threat to the USA (whatever their demerits as political systems). The democracy argument is particularly ludicrous, since the war was fought in alliance with the world's principal imperialist power (Great Britain) and the world's most bloodthirsty totalitarian state, the USSR. The Holocaust argument was a post war rationalization to justify the horrible atrocities committed by the victors, as though mass murder would justify mass murder.
Thank you so much for this excellent article, and for all the careful research work behind it.
Keep going please!!!
Michael, what about US foreknowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor? As, for example, alleged in the book Day of Deceit by Robert Stinnett (we broke the Japanese military cryptography), or the alleged warning brought by the agent named Tricycle? Any comment on that heinous charge, of willingly bringing death to the poor sailors killed in the attack?
Prominent scholars have indeed argued that US entry into the war in December 1941 triggered the pan-European extension of the Holocaust. But Tracey - presumably out of ignorance rather than dishonesty - presents this argument in a misleading way, omitting key historical facts in the process.
Tracey’s first omission is his failure to note that the large majority of Holocaust victims—namely Polish, Soviet, Bessarabian, and Bukovinan Jews—were already marked for extermination before December 1941. Soviet Jews in the occupied USSR had been systematically shot by Nazi killing squads since summer of 1941, and the Chelmno extermination factory for Polish Jews was already being constructed in October 1941. Meanwhile, Antonescu’s Romania was already liquidating the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina by the summer of 1941.
While the systematic-extermination operations were regionally confined to Eastern Europe until 1942, it is misleading for Tracey to contend that the “full-scale mass extermination phase” had not yet begun, when Jewish men, women, and children were being systematically shot by the Germans in the Soviet Union. (The “Holocaust by bullets” in occupied Soviet lands would claim about 1.3 million Jewish victims.)
It is true that the exterminations of Jews did not extend to Western Europe until 1942. But because the sizable majority of European Jews happened to live in occupied Poland or the USSR (even excluding the aforementioned Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina), the vast majority of Holocaust victims were marked for murder by fall 1941, i.e. before US entry into the war. Thus, Tracey omits the fact that—even according to his favored historians—US entry into the war only triggered a minority of Holocaust deaths.
Tracey’s second omission is his disregarding of the fact that the Nazis were engaged in multiple other genocides by the summer of 1941, in addition to the genocide of the Jews. The German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union were genocidal in intention and execution, aimed at securing Lebensraum for Germans while clearing the conquered land of the indigenous Slavs, whom German racial ideology depicted as Untermenschen (sub-humans).
The extraordinary documentary record of General Plan Ost and Hunger Plan reveals that the German bureaucracy planned to ethnically cleanse, deliberately starve, enslave and overwork, and outright murder tens of millions of Russians, Poles, and other Eastern Europeans.
These genocides were conceived of many months before American entry into the Second World War, and partially implemented during the war. It was only Allied victory that put a stop to them.
Tracey’s misleading-by-omission attempt at revisionism should not go unchallenged; nor should the Chomskyite conception of US foreign policy that contorts his reading of history.
Japan brought the whole thing on themselves. They invaded Manchuria in 1937 for resources. For all the effort, war crimes (look up Nanking sometime), and facing off against two Chinese armies that fought each other half the time, they ended up in a stalemate. So the Japanese started expanding into the South Pacific and getting a little too close for comfort to the Philippines. The United States responded by cutting off their oil. Now if war did occur the United States figured the Japanese would rationally just attack British holdings and the Dutch East Indies for resources like oil and tin since there would be little either of those countries could do about it. Then the same stupid Japanese generals who promised an easy victory in China thought the US would back down after their early success and would not seek revenge no matter what the cost.
Phenomenally detailed analysis. Thank you.