In the United States the feel good explanation is that the war was about making freedom and democracy safe. In actual fact there were many agendas at play, and they had next to nothing to do with freedom and democracy.
World War II Has many origins. For Germany the war originated in the Versailles Treaty that stripped Germany of territory and imposed reparations for World War I in violation of President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Hitler wanted German territory returned from France, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, and Poland, and to unify the German people.
For Japan it was desire for colonies or empire like the Europeans and the need for raw materials and energy.
For the British disturbed by revanchist Germany the concern was maintaining British hegemony over Europe. For Churchill war was the road to power and an opportunity to be a great war leader like his famous ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.
For Stalin it was an opportunity to expand communism once Britain, France, and Germany had exhausted themselves in another war.
What was the American agenda? Reading David Irving’s biography of Churchill, Churchill’s War, has left me convinced that it was not the idealistic one of the history books. From the 1,000 pages of the second volume of the biography, Triumph in Adversity, I conclude that President Roosevelt’s agenda and that of his government was to replace the British Empire with an American one and to prevent a Japanese empire in Asia, thereby keeping the road open for the United States.
Irving does not say this or offer an explanation of Washington’s war purpose, but this conclusion is what emerges from the official wording of countless documents that Irving has unearthed over decades of research. Irving is an unusual historian. He lets the facts speak for themselves.
The British got themselves into a war with Germany that they could not win. For Churchill it was essential to bring the Americans into the war. Roosevelt knew that. The price the British would have to pay would be their empire. The British Empire controlled world trade with the discriminatory trade practices which were at the core of Imperial Preference. Roosevelt’s agenda was to undo that system and replace it with American hegemony with the US dollar as world reserve currency. At every critical British period when Roosevelt could apply pressure, he raised the question of the Empire. Having the British at war with Japan in addition to Germany is the likely real reason Roosevelt provoked the Japanese by cutting off oil deliveries and breaking off negotiations, knowing that the result would be to send Japanese armies into British possessions.
Hitler was on the verge of success in restoring Germany’s borders. Only the Polish held territory remained. Recklessly, the British interfered in the German-Polish negotiations by offering Poland a guarantee against German aggression. This encouraged the Polish military government to break off negotiations, which led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland followed a couple of weeks later by a Soviet invasion of the other half of Poland.
Confronted with the German invasion of Poland, the British saved face by declaring war on Germany, and this required France also to declare war on Germany.
To the surprise of all, Germany rapidly defeated the French and British armies. Hitler offered the British a generous peace treaty asking nothing except the return of Germany’s African colony and promising to defend the British Empire. Churchill kept the offer secret and counted on American entry into the war.
It is claimed that the allies—US, Britain, Soviet Union—won the war. But in fact only the US war aim was achieved. Washington achieved its goal of hegemony. The British lost their empire and their hegemony with it. Stalin managed to defeat the Wehrmacht, but at a cost of 26 million Russians. The Soviets got Eastern Europe, but it was the Red Army that was exhausted, and blocked by the Americans it was unable to spread communism into Western Europe.
Japan’s bid for empire failed.
Hitler was successful in reconstituting Germany but undid himself by invading Russia. On the other hand, according to former KGB officer Viktor Suvorov Hitler only missed being invaded by Stalin by a few weeks. Suvorov documents in his book, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II, published in 2008 by the Naval Institute Press in Annapolis, Maryland, that Stalin was preparing to invade Nazi Germany just as Hitler was preparing to invade Russia. Neither seemed to know of the other’s intentions. It was happenstance that Hitler struck first. Had Stalin struck first, Germany and all of German occupied Western Europe would have been overrun by the Red Army.
According to Suvorov, an army preparing for an offensive has no defense and is vulnerable to attack. It is this factor that accounts for the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht, and the Germans would have succeeded except that winter came six weeks early and stopped the German advance before Moscow and Stalingrad. This gave the Red Army time to recover and organize.
The Cold War was about maintaining US hegemony by constraining the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left US hegemony unchallenged. Putin’s restoration of Russian sovereignty and the swift rise of China are regarded in Washington as threats to US hegemony and explain Washington’s hostility toward Russia and China.
The American Empire was the consequence of World War II. The question is after enjoying hegemony for three-quarters of a century, can Washington step back and treat other countries as equals? If not, war is our future.