Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Fighting Oppression vs. Fighting for Home

 

In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg touches on the widespread sympathy for fascism and communism in the United States in the years leading to World War II. Many others have written on the subject.

It only now occurred to me that many of “the Greatest Generation” who were sent to fight the Nazis, Mussolini’s fascists and the Soviets might have been supporters of those regimes before the war. Is there any history of this?

Do you think David Brooks would continue to voice his admiration of China if we went to war with them?

At risk of distracting from the general topic, it reminds me of a point I often make about the American Civil War: Very few Southerners owned slaves, and it is unlikely that many put their lives on the line to protect the “property” of a handful of rich aristocrats. While slavery might have been the primary issue which motivated politicians to secede or to go to war, it was almost certainly not the reason for which most Southern soldiers fought. They fought for home… as soldiers often do.

Likewise, it is probable that many American soldiers who enlisted or were conscripted to fight in WWII fought for home, rather than for political reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them knew as little about Nazi or Soviet politics as modern Americans know about the current politics of China or Russia.

There are 11 comments.

  1. Adam Koslin Member

    The problem is that even if soldiers don’t go around giving speeches about the cause, they almost always have more political awareness than first appearances might suggest, as well as being subjected to constant propaganda efforts from both their officers and the enemy. Rare indeed are soldiers like the Brit from 1914 who, when asked what he was in the army for, replied: “I’m goin’ over to figh’ the bloody Belgiums, ain’t I?”*

    True, your average southerner didn’t own slaves, but they all served in the vigilante patrols out of fear of slave uprisings. They all heard the pro-slavery preaching in church on Sunday (As a South Carolina Presbyterian concluded: “If the scriptures do not justify slavery, I know not what they do justify“). They all voted against the “black Republican” Lincoln, and identified enough with the slave system to support the fire-breathers when they seceded over the issue of slavery.

    Sure, conflicts are messy and grunts in the trenches tend not to be ideologues. However, at some basic level if you care enough to put on a uniform and pick up a gun, you have bought in to your society and cause.

    • #1
    • March 26, 2014, at 8:42 PM PDT
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  2. Adam Koslin Member

    * The quote is from Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August.

    • #2
    • March 26, 2014, at 8:42 PM PDT
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  3. Jason Rudert Member

    There are a couple of oral histories that contain answers to some of these questions. One is “The Good War” by Studs Terkel. A lefty through and through, but he at least shuts up and lets the veterans themselves talk. Another, from the Japanese side is Japan at War: An Oral History by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook. Contains some astonishing accounts of men trained as kamikaze pilots, women on the home front, etc.

    • #3
    • March 26, 2014, at 8:45 PM PDT
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  4. Vespacon Member

    Jason Rudert:
    There are a couple of oral histories that contain answers to some of these questions.

    Thanks for the input Jason. This is the kind of input/discussion that helps me learn and grow. The reason I paid for the subscription.

    • #4
    • March 26, 2014, at 9:14 PM PDT
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  5. Carey J. Inactive

    I like this version better. Screenshot-of-CTU-Striking-Teacher-wearing-Che-Guevarra-Tshirt-mickey

    • #5
    • March 26, 2014, at 10:07 PM PDT
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  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In case it isn’t clear, I included the picture of the guy in the Che Geuvara shirt because even this fool would be called up in a draft if we needed one again. That’s basically my point. If the war is big enough, the ones fighting aren’t just patriots who understand and support the causes behind the war.

    • #6
    • March 27, 2014, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  7. Adam Koslin Member

    Aaron Miller:
    In case it isn’t clear, I included the picture of the guy in the Che Geuvara shirt because even this fool would be called up in a draft if we needed one again. That’s basically my point. If the war is big enough, the ones fighting aren’t just patriots who understand and support the causes behind the war.

    Fair enough. However, that dude almost certainly doesn’t *really* idolize Che Guevara, he’s just latching on to the bourgeois liberal signifiers that have built up around that specific image.
    If you have compulsory military service and a population that doesn’t actually believe in the cause, you get desertion. Draft-dodging. Fragging of officers. Drug use. Ultimately, you get insurgency at home. Basically, you get Vietnam. If you simultaneously have a draft and a functional military machine, you have a population who believes in the cause. No ifs, ands, or buts. No one dies for “home” if they don’t believe in what their “home” stands for.

    • #7
    • March 27, 2014, at 9:39 AM PDT
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  8. CuriousKevmo Member

    Adam Koslin: However, that dude almost certainly doesn’t *really* idolize Che Guevara, he’s just latching on to the bourgeois liberal signifiers that have built up around that specific image

     Probably has more to do with meeting girls.

    • #8
    • March 27, 2014, at 5:45 PM PDT
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  9. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive

    The support for all totalitarian regimes comes, ultimately, from intellectual and moral laziness. The American model requires that the citizenry think and act for themselves will minimal government involvement. Why expend this kind of time and effort when an omniscient government can do all this for you?

    • #9
    • March 28, 2014, at 5:46 AM PDT
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  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think it’s a good conservative insight that very few of us act primarily on abstract intellectual grounds.

    As noted in Liberal Fascism, though, the American support for Nazis plummeted over the late 1930s after Stalin (accurately, from his perspective) decried them as “right wing”. They were supported for being left wing, and when they lost that label, they lost support. There would probably have been a lot more internal dissent if the Japanese had attacked in, say, 1935, although Hitler helpfully declaring war made it harder for American Nazi sympathizers to blame America first.

    • #10
    • March 28, 2014, at 1:04 PM PDT
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  11. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    CuriousKevmo:

    Adam Koslin: However, that dude almost certainly doesn’t *really* idolize Che Guevara, he’s just latching on to the bourgeois liberal signifiers that have built up around that specific image

    Probably has more to do with meeting girls.

    Doesn’t everything at that age? I remember going to a Ted Kennedy re-election party in the ’80s — whom I despised even then — just to hit on the hot preppy girls. Probably 80% of the under 25 crowd was there for the party … and free booze.

    • #11
    • February 4, 2016, at 8:17 AM PST
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