June 17, 2024


Heroes of History: The Allied Stand Against Tyranny

By: Rodney Rios

It needs to be said the Second World War was worth winning. Eighty years after D-Day, it is fitting to reflect on the conflict that made the modern world. As the conflict recedes further into the past, there is a tendency towards harmful revisionism. There is an unfortunate tendency in some corners of politics to argue that the victory was hollow and worthless.

Once in law school, I recall a similar dynamic taking place: the class debated morality and international law. For some reason, it devolved into an attack on the United States as equally repugnant as Nazi Germany since allegedly America waged war as immorally and evilly as the Nazis or the Japanese Imperialists. The argument was that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki negated America’s moral standing, but I respectfully disagree. It was absolutely necessary that the Free World, ironically in alliance with Communism and the Soviet Union, defeat what Prime Minister Winston Churchill described as the “most odious tyranny never surpassed in the dark.” We should always be thankful to God for our ancestors’ victories against evil. 

A history of the war escapes us here, as well as a complete moral argument, so we shall have to focus on specific aspects and examples. Let us review first the enemy. Japan, Italy, and Germany had fallen into a madness domestically, which led them to pursue war and aggression against weaker nations in their perceived interests. In this sense, as well as the fact that timely intervention by the Allies at numerous times in Germany’s provocations would have avoided catastrophe, it makes sense to view the conflict through a tragic lens and consider it unnecessary

One can criticize the peace signed at Versailles as having the seeds of another war. As French general Ferdinand Foch remarked regarding the Treaty of Versailles, “This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years.” The peace after World War I was extremely fragile and created a set of conditions that allowed these nations, after much dancing around each other, to go to war. America, for its part, refused to take upon herself the responsibility of her power and, by refusing to engage in world affairs, created a geopolitical vacuum that Britain could no longer fill. No strong America meant that tyrants did not have to take her might into consideration. Britain and France, for their part, became hostage to a mentality of impotence. They never found the right way to respond to the escalating international crisis, becoming obsessed with appeasement through weakness and abandoning the principle of peace through strength. As such, England might have slept, in the words of President John F. Kennedy, but America was completely absent from the international stage. The one nation that could have avoided the tragedy of another world war. 

Nonetheless, it is one great and unanswered question of the inter-war years: what would have happened if France and Britain had simply responded overwhelmingly when Germany remilitarized the Rhineland? According to some accounts, the Nazi regime would have collapsed. Sadly, the Allies did not respond, and afterward, Hitler continued to expand his aggression and attack the world order of the time. The lowest moment came in Munich, and Britain and France betrayed Checoslovaquia. The free world failed to respond at the right moment, and weakness at that point quite simply fed the problem and made it worse in the future. That was one important lesson that has slowly eroded in our collective memory. To appease dictators now usually leads to greater problems in the future. Aggression and war by tyrants against free peoples should not be allowed to stand. Otherwise, it will only embolden them. How do you defeat them? There are many ways defeating Nazi Germany required war, but defeating the Soviet Union, containment, and deterrence, the always more reliable policies, were enough. 

Nonetheless, though the democracies were weak and enfeebled during that time, it does not excuse the actions of the Axis powers. Contrary to the beliefs of the offensive realists, international factors and the geopolitical system do not force the great powers to behave automatically in a predetermined way. There is agency in international politics, as there is in our individual lives. Japan, for example, grew obsessed with militarism and began long before the start of the war in Europe to invade its neighbors and terrorize them. It did not have to do this, it could have been a friendly power. Instead, Japan chose to embark on imperialist ambitions, war crimes, and terror. Germany, for its part, had a lot of goodwill to revise the terms of Versailles. Some progress was achieved peacefully by German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann. Instead, Adolf Hitler decided to remake the world through war, terror, genocide, and crimes against humanity which led to the enslaving of Eastern Europe by the forces of Soviet communism. 

Both Japan and Nazi Germany were characterized by dictatorial regimes during World War II. Each country enforced single-party rule, suppressing all political opposition, and used extensive propaganda and censorship to control public opinion. Militarism and aggressive expansionism were central to their policies, with Germany invading multiple European countries and Japan expanding throughout Asia. Both regimes cultivated a cult of personality around their leaders, maintained state control over their economies, and utilized secret police to enforce their draconian policies. Civil liberties were heavily restricted, and education systems were used to indoctrinate youth with state ideologies, promoting loyalty and militaristic values. In short, they were evil. And though prudence in international affairs dictates that one should not seek to remake all nations in the image of Jeffersonian democracy, the truth is that they were evil, expansionist, and a menace to the peace of the world. They sought world domination through the establishment of apparatuses of oppression, eugenics, anti-human ideology, paganism, and violence. This is the world that the Allies sought, in self-defense, to vanquish. 

President Franklin Roosevelt captured the stakes well when he explained what America was fighting for on the eve of D-Day and the liberation of Normandy. As the President said, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.” It is true that Eastern Europe was not liberated; instead, it took a Cold War and victory there to achieve one of the goals of the war. It is also true that the democracies had to ally with another evil despot to defeat Hitler. The war also led to the end of the European empires and the rise of new problems with wars of national liberation and self-determination for former colonies. 

And yet, Andrew Roberts has noted noted, our ancestors won for us a noble inheritance. Was the world they built and that we inherited worth it? Some would point to moral decay, mass migration, globalization, the sexual and cultural revolution of the sixties, and the decline of the family and birthrates as evidence that, no, it wasn’t. Though these are undoubtedly the crises of our age, we must view things in balance. There has been no third world war. Nuclear annihilation has not happened. The truths of the dignity of the human person spread throughout the world, and material prosperity was greater, lifting millions of people out of poverty. And countless, perhaps an infinite number, of people had the beautiful gift of being born in freedom, of building their lives and living peacefully. Sure, there was communism and many other horrors. But that has always been life in our fallen world ever since our first parents rebelled against God. 

Lastly, let us also recall the noble character of America after the war ended. At the end of World War II, the United States had a nuclear monopoly. It was also the only great power not to have been devastated by war since it was protected by two oceans. If America had wanted world domination, it could have pursued it. Instead, she chose first to disarm and begin returning home. It was only the Soviet menace and the total collapse of the Europeans that made the United States realize it had to lead the Free World and preserve it. America learned from her mistakes after World War I and decided to rebuild her vanquished enemies, turning them into friends, to help victims of aggression resist tyrants, to be a shield of liberty, promote commerce and trade, advocate for human liberty, preserve the peace through her strength and defeat another Evil Empire. Perhaps no other nation in world history has ever behaved as nobly as that. 

Yes, American involvement in both world wars and the Cold War was for the benefit of our own national interests (physical security, political liberty at home, and economic prosperity), but that just proves once more that America achieves principled ends through realist means. If we compare the world that was born after the war to what was on offer, either Fascism, Nazism, or Communism, we should be able to easily understand the glory of the Greatest Generation’s sacrifice and be thankful for their astonishing bravery and their gift to us of a better world. As Winston Churchill noted, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” I, for one, am thankful for life and the relatively peaceful age we are all living in. The world America built is a good one, for the most part. Though there are many problems, not all of them are a direct result of victory in World War II. The fact that we have neglected our heritage is no reason to think the sacrifices of greater men were worthless. 

It is our duty to remember what it took to build a better world, honor the greatest generation, and work toward rebuilding a world worthy of their sacrifice and orientated toward the good, the true, and the beautiful. Such an endeavor requires less sacrifice and bravery than those of the greatest generation, will we meet the challenge of saving Christian Civilization?