I’ve just started to watch Oliver Stone’s ‘Untold History of the United States.’ The first episode gives an overview of World War II, what led to it and how it ended. Watching the footage and the statistics of those that lost their lives, I was struck - not by the war itself; all war is horrific - but by a struggle and extreme suffering that went with it, and to do what? Repel and expel invading nations so that an existing order could be continued which undoubtedly was the case. And what’s the ‘existing order?’ Good question, you may ask.
When I was at school and being brought up, I was always led down the garden path of either / or thinking, that one thing was this and the other was that, that one set of things are evil and another aren’t; that, in the case of WW II, Hitler was always the ‘bad’ guy and Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were the ‘good’ guys; that the War was a campaign to protect the so-called rights, liberties, way of life that we supposedly enjoy today.
That was until I went to university where I learned that Stalin, no less than Hitler, was a brutal dictator who’d wormed his way into power and ended up murdering a mass of millions, or in his case, Russians. So, if Stalin was no less than Hitler, why go to war?
Firstly, Stalin, ideologically, was supposedly different from Hitler; Communist versus Fascist, although I’m not sure they were that different. You might place a strand of thread or a strand of hair between them. Nazi Germany might have been more efficient at getting things going until The Soviet Union, in danger of being overwhelmed by the Nazi war machine, got its things going.
Then what about the other big players: Churchill and Roosevelt? Well, Britain had an empire in those days, and Churchill would do, as all political leaders will do, defend and protect whenever necessary.
Roosevelt, as well as being, and obviously, indignant at Pearl Harbor being attacked, as well as putting the U.S. security in jeopardy, created full employment as a machinery of munitions manufacturing got into full swing.
The program ended with the Russians winning most of the war; that Stalin, along with Roosevelt and Churchill, was one of the ‘good’ guys, even though his record speaks otherwise. ‘Phew! I’m glad that’s over’ involved the deaths of 20 million or so people to wipe the Germans from Russian soil. The ‘at any cost’ factor took its toll; that ‘my status, my power, my security, my identity, my prejudice, my way of life must not be interfered or threatened with in any way’ is of course carried through today. Indeed, Stalin followed a ‘one country’ rather than an expansionist policy. This can actually be narrowed down to my little possessions factor like the average citizen’s motor car.
And then there’s the freedom versus tyranny factor. Hitler was the ‘evil’ dictator while Churchill and Roosevelt were the ‘good’ democrats., Aren’t ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ as well as ‘dictatorship’ words on paper and actually don’t mean a lot? Leaving aside the moralistic factor in going to war against a murdering dictator like Hitler, But Stalin’s inclusion with the ‘Big Three’ questions how much morality, if at all, was involved.
I’d put it like this:-
The Status Quo is free to do whatever it wants whenever it wants in its own country, so long as it doesn’t tread its muddy boots on the soil of my own country. That’s the difference between Hitler and Stalin