As the bunny used to say at the end of the cartoon, th-th-that's all, folks! The Twentieth Century Great Double Feature with casts-of-millions war dramas ended with Japan's V-J Day surrender in August, 1945. The Golden Jubilee of the feature attraction is winding down.
We've been getting piecemeal re-runs of both wars ever since they ended in the forms of books, magazine articles, documentaries, "docudramas," and movies of assorted quality and veracity. With time, the romance we associate with these great and massively consequential disasters increases. A certain fondness replaces the awesome, Western-Civilization-destroying toll as time goes by.
America was big of heart, and "nothing is too good for our boys in the service." Many realistic men knew in their gut that they were taking part in a massive disaster. But for them it was the high point of their lives. In subsequent years they could not, at least when talking about it, bring themselves to diminish the memory of it all.
It was the Chicago Zionist writer Studs Terkel who coined the phrase "The Last Good War." This reference was picked up by every "historically correct" flunky in the media, the publishing business, the pulpit and the classroom.
This mellowing of recollections and received impressions on the part of succeeding generations is interrupted only by the outrageously exaggerated proportions (with attendant distortions) of the Nazi era persecution of the Jews. Thus has a societally-mandated, perennial penance been imposed upon Western civilization.
But what of our losses? What price our glory for winning "The War to End All Wars" in 1914-1918 and "The Last Good War" of 1939-1945?
We, and to a much greater extent nations such as Britain, France and Germany, lost a good portion of three generations of men who would have proven invaluable to both the preservation and the strengthening of their respective nations.
To put it in more contemporary terms, how many weak and flawed men in the mold of Bill Clinton are today walking around, influencing our society? And how many gifted, clear-headed fellows served with honor but were lost in the Indochina marathon? That mishandled nightmare can be traced to the chain of events triggered by our "victory" in the "War To End All Wars."
Last but hardly least, Democracy I and II brought us those colossal barbaric entities, the USSR and the People's Republic of China. The total cost, the total price paid relative to those monstrosities, is far beyond human calculation.
Without American intervention in World War I, that terrible human expenditure would have ended in a peace between spent nations. This would have meant no viciously-imposed peace at Versailles, thus sealing the inevitability of Act Two.
Today few know of the courage of those who tried to keep America free of the ensnaring alliances George Washington warned of. No one personified honest opposition to America's entry into World War I more than William Jennings Bryan. However one looks back on Bryan's positions on gold, silver, Bible interpretations or prohibition, he personified both America First and justice. He resigned as Secretary of State in 1915 rather than follow the War Path. And for this he was denied a central - or any - American role at Versailles.
As to "democracy's" great rematch, FDR's agenda toward war was set not in the late 1930s but from the dawn of his reign. In a very Roosevelt-sympathetic 1978 book, William Kinsella's Leadership in Isolation - FDR and World War II," Kinsella wrote that from the start friends of the president were cheering him on, that "Felix Frankfurter warned that the Nazis were trying to promote mischief all over the world." This was 1933, when Germany was preoccupied with getting back on its feet!
Churchill said that he had not become the Queen's first minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire, but that is exactly what he did. FDR saw himself as a hero in the history of the future but he is now clearly seen as an unspeakable traitor to everything America was and was meant to be. In the festering wreckage they left behind, it is up to us to see their crimes clearly, the indispensable precondition for beginning a serious effort to save what may be saved of our culture and civilization.