The ghosts of World War II

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON

World War II ended 74 years ago. But even in the 21st cen­tury, the last­ing ef­fects endure, both psy­cho­log­i­cal and ma­te­rial. After all, the war took more than 60 mil­lion lives, re­drew the map of Europe and ended with the Soviet Union and the United States locked in a Cold War of nuclear su­per­pow­ers.

Ja­pan and South Korea should log­i­cally re­main nat­u­ral al­lies. Both are

boom­ing cap­i­tal­ist con­sti­tu­tional states. Decades ago both na­tions emerged from dev­as­tat­ing wars. And in paci­fist fash­ion they vowed never to suf­fer such mass car­nage again.

Both na­tions are staunch al­lies of the United States. They are like­wise sim­i­larly sus­pi­cious of their neigh­bor, ag­gres­sive com­mu­nist China, which threat­ens their economies and se­cu­rity. Yet Tokyo and Seoul are now more ad­ver­saries than demo­cratic al­lies, and they are locked in a bit­ter fight. In their ac­ri­mony over trade and past war repa­ra­tions, nei­ther can for­get World War II.

South Kore­ans con­tinue to press for more repa­ra­tions to atone for the hor­rific treat­ment of the Korean Penin­sula by Ja­panese oc­cu­piers and im­pe­ri­al­ists. Im­pe­rial Ja­pan stripped Korea’s nat­u­ral re­sources and ex­ported thou­sands of Korean women to war zones to be raped by Ja­panese troops.

The wealth­ier that South Korea be­comes, the more an as­cen­dant Seoul be­gins to ri­val — and worry — Tokyo. And the more dis­tant World War II be­comes, the more Ja­pan and South Korea re­live their bit­ter shared wartime past.

The United States has had dif­fi­culty form­ing a Pa­cific al­liance of con­tain­ment against a bel­li­cose China. Aus­tralia, the Philip­pines and South­east Asian na­tions fear Chi­nese ag­gres­sion. But they also share bit­ter mem­o­ries of mer­ci­less Ja­panese im­pe­ri­al­ism that killed as many as 15 mil­lion Chi­nese — the vast ma­jor­ity of them civil­ians.

In their minds, our al­lies know China is the chief threat. But in their hearts, even now they can’t quite for­get how their ally Ja­pan once com­mit­ted geno­cide through­out the re­gion.

NATO was de­signed to avoid another Eu­ro­pean war and the con­stant threat of bul­ly­ing from Ger­many and Rus­sia. NATO’s creed, first, was that the United States should stay en­gaged in Europe and never again al­low it to com­mit collective sui­cide. Sec­ond, Amer­ica was to keep Rus­sia out of Western Europe as it did in at the end of World War II. Third, the al­liance must keep Ger­many “down” so it would never start another Eu­ro­pean war. That third el­e­ment of the orig­i­nal NATO mis­sion is of­ten laughed at as en­tirely

ir­rel­e­vant to­day.

But is it? Ger­many now dom­i­nates the Eu­ro­pean Union. Its banks squeeze South­ern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries for over­due loan pay­ments. Ber­lin pres­sures Eastern Europe — whose lead­ers grew up with lec­tures about the night­mares of Nazi Ger­many — to fol­low Ber­lin’s dis­as­trous open borders plan. That lax­ity has re­sulted in more than a mil­lion mi­grants flock­ing into the EU from the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

Ber­lin also tried to hold the United King­dom hostage to pre­vent Brexit — the ver­dict of the Bri­tish peo­ple, a ma­jor­ity of whom voted to leave the EU. Less than half of to­day’s Ger­man pop­u­la­tion has a fa­vor­able view of Amer­ica, the coun­try whose troops and nuclear um­brella still keep a vir­tu­ally un­armed Ger­many se­cure.

A clair­voy­ant in 1945 might have warned both Europe and the United States that a “Fourth Re­ich” fi­nan­cial pow­er­house would some­day dom­i­nate Europe.

In ad­di­tion, Ger­many

A CLAIR­VOY­ANT IN 1945 MIGHT HAVE WARNED BOTH EUROPE AND THE UNITED STATES THAT A ‘FOURTH RE­ICH’ FI­NAN­CIAL POW­ER­HOUSE WOULD SOME­DAY DOM­I­NATE EUROPE.

still has an ex­is­ten­tial fear of Rus­sia. After all, more than 3 mil­lion Ger­man sol­diers per­ished on the Eastern Front in World War II. Mil­lions of Ger­man-speak­ers were eth­ni­cally cleansed from post­war Rus­sia and Eastern Europe by the Rus­sian Army.

No won­der that Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel seeks close ties with Rus­sian strong­man Vladimir Putin’s au­to­cratic Rus­sia. As was true dur­ing the end of World War II and the be­gin­ning of the Cold War, Ger­many once again has lit­tle if any abil­ity to ward off Rus­sian ag­gres­sion, whether con­ven­tional or nuclear, and knows it.

Fi­nally, a re­cent poll of Amer­i­cans re­veals a ver­i­ta­ble abyss be­tween younger and older Amer­i­cans. To­day’s mil­len­ni­als, chil­dren of the post­war baby boomers, grew up in the af­flu­ence of the late 20th and early 21st cen­turies. They claim that they will be far less likely to marry, to value re­li­gion or to feel pa­tri­otic.

In con­trast, those who were once chil­dren dur­ing World War II, or who had par­ents and grand­par­ents who fought in the war, have a far more re­al­is­tic ap­praisal of hu­man na­ture and the need to find se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and tran­scen­dence in a dan­ger­ous world.

One way of keep­ing sane and safe dur­ing and after such a global catas­tro­phe was to marry and raise a fam­ily, to be­lieve in God, and to ap­pre­ci­ate the unique moral­ity and strength of a vic­to­ri­ous United States.

World War II ended in 1945. And then again, it re­ally did not.

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