Commemorating Veterans Day, people honored Americans who have served in the U.S. military, especially those who have fought and died in America’s foreign wars. In doing so, however, it’s easy to forget the fact that what the soldiers fought for and died for in those foreign wars wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Consider World War I. American soldiers fought and died in that war under the notion that it would finally be the war that would end all European wars into the future. It was also a democracy-spreading war — that is, the war that was supposed to make the entire world safe for democracy.
Alas, it was not to be. Within a relatively short time, Europe was it again, this time with World War II, which really was just a continuation of World War I.
In other words, American soldiers in World I fought and died for nothing. Perhaps that’s why they changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day, hoping to block out from the memories of later generations of Americans what a waste of life and limb and money U.S. intervention in World War I had been.
In fact, it’s actually worse than that. In the absence of U.S. intervention in World War I, the likelihood is that the warring powers would have entered into a negotiated peace, given the long lasting, deadly stalemate on the battlefield. U.S. interventionism succeeded in altering the balance of power, resulting in the total defeat of Germany and the vindictive and humiliating Treaty of Versailles that was imposed on Germany. That’s what Hitler pointed to in garnering the support of the German people during the postwar chaos in Germany.
Not surprisingly, the American people said never again to participation in Europe’s wars. That placed President Franklin Roosevelt in an awkward position. He wanted the U.S. to intervene, once again, in the second world war. His problem was that at that time, U.S. officials were still complying with the constitutional provision requiring a congressional declaration of war. FDR knew that he could never get a declaration of war given the widespread antipathy toward getting involved in another war.
But FDR knew that if he could provoke the other side into attacking first, that would resolve his problem. He tried first with Germany but they refused to take the bait. So, he went to the Pacific, where he began intentionally provoking Japan, with such things as an oil embargo, Flying Tiger attacks on Japanese military forces in China, and humiliating terms in peace negotiations with the Japanese.
While there have been debates ever since on whether FDR knew that the attack was coming at Pearl Harbor, one thing is for sure: FDR wanted Japan to attack the United States somewhere, opening a “back door” into the European conflict as well.
It seems to me that FDR’s provocations against Germany should always be considered on Veterans Day, given that those provocations resulted in the deaths and injuries of many U.S. soldiers at Pearl.
World War II has always been sold as the “good war” because “we” liberated Eastern Europe from Nazi tyranny. Actually, however, the “we” isn’t an accurate description of who won the war.
Keep in mind, first of all, why Britain and France declared war on Germany in the first place. It was to free the Polish people from Nazi tyranny.
So, what was the result after World War II? Well, yes, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe were liberated from Nazi tyranny but ended up spending the next 45 years under the communist tyranny of the Soviet Union.
In other words, it wasn’t “we” who won World War II, it was the Soviet Union, the communist regime that, ironically enough, had invaded Poland at about the same time that Nazi Germany had.
So, what did U.S. soldiers (and British and French soldiers) die for in World War II? They died so that the Soviet Union, rather than Nazi Germany, could control Eastern Europe (and East Germany). If anyone had asked Americans before the war if that was something worth dying for, my hunch is that most everyone would have answered no.
World War II also gave rise to America’s enormous totalitarian apparatus known as the national-security state, which, U.S. officials say, was necessary to protect America from the Soviet Union, which, ironically had been America’s partner and ally during the war and then quickly converted into America’s new official enemy after the war, replacing Nazi Germany, which had opposed the Soviet Union during the war.
I probably should also mention that China, the country that FDR was trying to save from Japanese tyranny, also ended up under the iron fist of the communists. That doesn’t seem like a worthy goal to send American soldiers to their deaths for.
So, World War II gave us the Cold War and ever increasing budgets for the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA. It also gave us hot wars, such as those in Korean and Vietnam.
I’ve never been able to understand why American soldiers should have been sacrificed in Korea, given that that was clearly a civil war within that nation. And never mind that the president sacrificed tens of thousands of American men without securing the congressional declaration of war required by the Constitution.
It would be difficult to find a better example of a waste of American life, limb, and resources than the Vietnam War, another war without a congressional declaration of war. Interventionists said that American needed to be sent to Vietnam to prevent the dominoes from falling and to prevent a communist takeover of the United States. They even used a bogus attack in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify their war. But the war was lost and the dominoes never fell and the communists still aren’t here. In fact, communist Vietnam is now considered a friend of the United States.
Let’s face it: Foreign wars and foreign interventionism have been nothing but a disaster for America. It’s important that we keep that in mind when we honor soldiers who have been sent to the deaths in foreign escapades.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Reprinted with author's permission.