My congressman expressed a similar Isolationism about Iraq when he said America has no business getting involved in Iraq's thousand years civil war. A Democrat claiming Bush started the War, we had to business fighting. I heard the same belief in emails to me in Iraq from Church members. Americans have no business in the Europe's or the Middle East's or SE Asian's anyone else's wars. Let those Asian boys fight them as LBJ tried to triangulated the sentiment. Let the Iraqi's fight their own civil war.
When the Military Voices group met, and folks explained their Churches efforts to honor Vets in special services, I suggested we ought to have another service to hear the voices of those opposed to these Wars. Hear their reflections now. Repeat the words they wrote then.
I get mixed reviews on those thoughts. Sometimes I'm told no one, or hardly anyone, opposed America's entry into WW2. America was united then, in a way not today.
I doubt that. Paul Fussell's The Boys' Crusade dispelled that nostrum for me. Read Fussell's analysis of the troop morale reports and how many understood why America was fighting Germany.
So, to try and recapture some of those anti-War voices, and to hear what they were saying during the war --recall sedition laws were enforced then-- I'm going to try and reclaim some of those voices and post them.
For starters, fellow Dutch-American and Hope College Grad --still remembered by Hope too with lectures in his name on War and Peace-- AJ Muste. Here are some thoughts on what Muste believed during the War via Ira Chernus,
Muste pointed out that if the U.S. destroyed Germany, it would have to impose a long military occupation and deny democracy to the Germans, or else risk another war. Moreover, the victorious Allies would inevitably resume their domination of the world's economic resources, perpetuating the inequities that had led to the war in the first place. Listening to the pronouncements of U.S. and British leaders during the war, Muste heard a vision of "American-British military domination of the earth," to protect their economic advantage. Indeed, he said, all possible outcomes of the war would lead to more enmity, not the world community that U.S. leaders publicly advocated. Capitalism would be preserved and its rule strengthened. A return to the familiar pre-war capitalist system, buttressed by a massively militarized state, would lead to more economic depressions. (Many pro-capitalist observers agreed with him on this point.) Then there would be either "a period marked by chaos and incalculable woe", or the imposition of totalitarian-style controls¾ the very thing the war was supposed to prevent. Eventually, just as after World War I, the bitterness and hardship created by this war would sow the seeds of the next.So when we honor the Vets, we ought consider another service, and recall those opposed. Read them, and ask ourselves what would have happened had we followed their paths. The notion America was headed for a huge economic collapse absent the War Time stimulus, and potentially Fascism, was a widespread thought on both the left and right in War Time America.
Some of Muste's predictions about the postwar era were accurate. The European imperial systems did collapse. There was a new war. Although it was a cold war, it did bring a vast militarization of U.S. society. And it brought more insecurity to many millions of people. But it would be hard to argue that World War II created, in any sense, the kind of total disaster or world "suicide" that Muste predicted. He took the post-World War I era as his model, expecting it to be replicated on a larger scale. But it did not happen that way. There was no economic depression. Nor were there social revolutions in Europe. And the defeated nations made no effort to strike back at the victors militarily. Muste's views proved to be excessively apocalyptic. This was true, in part, because the U.S. government made sure it did not happen. Ironically, U.S. leaders were acting out of apocalyptic fears surprisingly similar to Muste's, though of course they blamed the supposed threats on quite different factors than he did.
Why that didn't happen an important thing to understand.
Why Muste's forecast didn't fully come true; the result of Muste's any many others profound misunderstanding of Americans and our institutions.
We're not going to understand his failure if we don't resurrect these voices, and a service bringing them back-to-life a nice way to start that appraisal. War didn't begat more war, but fear of another did begat an absense of War: And the defeated nations made no effort to strike back at the victors militarily. Muste's views proved to be excessively apocalyptic. This was true, in part, because the U.S. government made sure it did not happen.
Make sure it does not happen... that's what America did, and still tries today. We forget that if we forget the critic A J Muste.