Anti-War Advocate: Is there a case that can be made for war?
Pro-War Advocate: Well, yes. In a word: Hitler!
Anti-War Advocate: Is "Hitler!" a case for future wars? Let me suggest some reasons why I think it isn't. First, the world of the 1940s is gone, its colonialism and imperialism replaced by other varieties, its absence of nuclear weapons replaced by their ever-present threat. No matter how many people you call "Hitler," none of them is Hitler, none of them is seeking to roll tanks into wealthy nations. And, no, Russia did not invade Ukraine any of the numerous times you heard that reported in recent years. In fact, the U.S. government facilitated a coup that empowered Nazis in Ukraine. And even those Nazis are not "Hitler!"
When you go back 75 years to find a justification for the institution of war, the biggest public project of the United States for each of the past 75 years, you're going back to a different world -- something we wouldn't do with any other project. If schools had made people dumber for 75 years but educated someone 75 years ago, would that justify next year's spending on schools? If the last time a hospital saved a life was 75 years ago, would that justify next year's spending on hospitals? If wars have caused nothing but suffering for 75 years, what is the value of claiming that there was a good one 75 years ago?
Also, World War II was decades in the making, and there is no need to spend decades creating any new war. By avoiding World War I -- a war that virtually nobody even tries to justify -- earth would have avoided World War II. The Treaty of Versailles ended World War I in a stupid manner that many predicted on the spot would lead to World War II. Then Wall Street spent decades investing in the Nazis. While reckless behavior that makes wars more likely remains common, we are perfectly capable of recognizing it and ceasing it.
Pro-War Advocate: But what makes you think we will? The fact that we could in theory prevent a new Hitler doesn't exactly put the mind at ease.
Anti-War Advocate: Not a new "Hitler!" Even Hitler wasn't "Hitler!" The idea that Hitler intended to conquer the world including the Americas was ginned up with fraudulent documents by FDR and Churchill including a phony map carving up South America and a phony plan to end all religion. There was no German threat to the United States, and ships that FDR claimed were innocently attacked were actually helping British war planes. Hitler might have enjoyed conquering the world, but lacked any plan or ability to do so, as those places he did conquer continued to resist.
Pro-War Advocate: So just let the Jews die? Is that what you're saying?
Anti-War Advocate: The war had nothing to do with saving the Jews or any other victims. The United States and other nations refused Jewish refugees. The U.S. Coast Guard chased a ship of Jewish refugees away from Miami. The blockade of Germany and then the all-out war on German cities led to deaths that a negotiated settlement might have spared, as peace advocates argued. The United States did negotiate with Germany about prisoners of war, just not about prisoners of death camps and not about peace. World War II in total killed roughly ten times the number of people killed in the German camps. Alternatives might have been horrible but could hardly have been worse. The war, not its supposed, after-the-fact justification, was the very worst thing humans have ever done to themselves.
The U.S. President wanted into the war, promised Churchill as much, did everything possible to provoke Japan, knew an attack was coming, and that same night drafted a declaration of war against both Japan and Germany. The victory over Germany was very largely a Soviet victory, with the United States playing a relatively bit role. So, to the extent that a war can be a victory for an ideology (probably not at all) it would make more sense to call WWII a victory for "communism" than for "democracy."
Pro-War Advocate: What about protecting England and France?
Anti-War Advocate: And China, and the rest of Europe and Asia? Again, if you're going to go back 75 years, you can go back a dozen more and avoid creating the problem. If you're going to use the knowledge we have 75 years later, you can apply organized nonviolent resistance techniques to great effect. We are sitting on 75 years of additional knowledge of how powerful nonviolent action can be, including how powerful it was when employed against the Nazis. Because nonviolent non-cooperation is more likely to succeed, and that success more likely to last, there is no need for war. And even if you could justify joining in World War II, you would still have to justify continuing it for years and expanding it into total war on civilians and infrastructure aimed at maximum death and unconditional surrender, an approach which of course cost millions of lives rather than saving them -- and which bestowed on us a legacy of all-out war that has killed tens of millions more since.
Pro-War Advocate: There's a difference between fighting on the right side and the wrong side.
Anti-War Advocate: Is it a difference you can see from under the bombs? While the human rights failures of a foreign culture do not justify bombing people (the worst such failure possible!), and the goodness of one's own culture likewise doesn't justify killing anybody (thereby erasing any supposed goodness). But it is worth remembering or learning, that leading up to, during, and after World War II, the United States engaged in eugenics, human experimentation, apartheid for African Americans, camps for Japanese Americans, and the widespread promotion of racism, anti-Semitism, and imperialism. Upon the end of World War II, after the United States had, with no justification, dropped nuclear bombs on two cities, the U.S. military quietly hired hundreds of former Nazis, including some of the worst criminals, who found a home quite comfortably in the U.S. war industry.
Pro-War Advocate: That's all well and good, but, Hitler . . .
Anti-War Advocate: You said that.