Revisionist History Books on WWII?

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    Debating between Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Barnes) and Pearl Harbor: Seeds and Fruits of Infamy (Greaves).

    Reason I’m leaning towards Barnes is because I’d like a broader overview of the entire war, nto just PH. Don’t know if the Greaves book is confined to just PH, but was hoping somebody could point me in the right direction. I’m open to other recommendations besides these two as well.


    As far as WW2 revisionist books go I know off:

    President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: Appearances and Realities by Charles A. Bread

    The New Dealers’ War: FDR And The War Within World War II by Thomas Fleming

    Back Door to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933-1941 by Charles Tansill

    America’s Second Crusade by William Chamberlin

    If you’re also interested in the British side:

    Desperate Deception: British Convert Operations in the United States, 1939-1944 by Thomas E. Mahl

    Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan (I’d say to confront this one with caution.)

    Dere you go! If this is what you’re specifically looking for!


    The Barnes book is a series of essays and very good. I very much like the Buchanan book. Robert Higgs, a historian you may know, is a big fan of the Buchanan book, and he was surprised at how scholarly and judicious it is.


    Also for those interested Back Door to War by Tansill is available for free in PDF format from, beats the $90 on Amazon.


    Prof. Woods

    I read Gottfried’s review of the book and he questioned two of the central arguments against intervention by Buchanan.

    He says that it isn’t likely that the ideal scenario from non-interventionists of the Nazi’ss and the Soviet bleeding each other was unlikely given that Germany only struggled on two front war and without England/France Germany could have focused on the Soviet Union:

    “The only way Hitler was driven from power was in a two-front war, and tens of millions necessarily died to achieve that end. Although actions might have been taken to end that war sooner, and in a less unconditional and more humane fashion, without conceding Eastern Europe to Stalin, England could not have gotten rid of the Nazi government without taking up arms. Certainly the U.S. could not have afforded that luxury.”

    That Hitler wouldn’t have gone westward is also not the case according to Gottfried:

    “A wealth of evidence, including broad hints in the Hossbach Denkschrift (November 1937), in which Hitler had revealed his plans for territorial acquisition to his generals, indicate that German westward expansion was in the cards even before the Anschluss with Austria in March 1938. ”

    If Gottfried is right it rather hard to still hold a non-intervention position on WWII although obviously just having refrained from entering WWI would be ideal.


    I do also remembering reading that Hitler almost want to provoke war in 1938 by invading Czechoslovakia which the way I see it does put a dent that Hitler was looking for peace theory. I think the operation was called Fall Grün. Granted, to be fair I don’t know many sources exist for the plan, but it from the sound of it seemed like a very offensive plan from the start.


    Does any of the professors have any answers to some of these concerns on WWII? I have wondered about this for a while so I would love to hear any counter points.


    Here’s what Professor Hunt Tooley, who covers World War II for us, has to say:

    1. I was just teaching Omnipotent Government in my Mises “Totalitarians” class, and I was really surprised (after not really reading it through for twenty years) to see that Mises was in a sense promoting the Allied cause to smash Hitler (just a little bit). I explained this passage from Mises in this way: in the exigency of the moment, in the immediate short term, with Western Civilization falling down around his head, of course Mises wanted to see the Nazis beaten. From the vantage point of that moment, I would have too!

    2. But of course in the longer term, Hitler was the product of the WWI intervention. To elaborate just a bit, this worked, of course, in several ways. For one thing, the entry of the United States in April 1917 came at a time when the Entente Powers were on the verge of falling apart. If we think of the spring of 1917, with the enormous French Mutiny and even more extensive mutinies in the Russian frontline forces, as well as the disastrous Kerensky Offensive in the summer of 1917 and the spectacular German-Austrian breakthrough against Italy at the Battle of Caporetto in the fall! Well, even with the beginnings of increased American money, material, and troops, the Entente was losing. As late as April 1918, British Field Marshal Haig prepared a general order for the case of defeat and evacuation of the BEF from Europe. Hence, the spectacular impact of Pershing’s armies and the defeat of the Germans within a few months of the Americans’ arrival converted the Depressed Entente to a Manic Entente. “Right back up on top,” to take line from “O Brother Where Art Thou?” In this manic mood, but still mindful of a close call, the Allies just poured it on. Hence the Treaty and the whole mood of the Treaty.

    3. And the Allies continued the Blockade. Yes the currency was ruined by one means or another. But also, real, honest-to-goodness starvation stalked Germany up until 1920 and in some regions later. Literal starvation. The populace read all about the reparations and guilt issues, and they also knew that folks in Germany were starving.

    4. And further, in by the late twenties, there was the American “colonial” arrangement of ties to the international banking regime of unstable currencies, colonial-type loans–the Dawes and Young Plan regimes–and then of course the Depression). All of this was owing to the same individuals and institutions who had created the Fed in the previous decade.

    5. Finally, and in an even longer term, Hitler was the product of statism arising from Marx, Comte, the New Imperialists, the various sects of aggressive social Darwinism, etc. So the long term matters a lot here. Without the state, without the war-steroids which WWI acted as, then no Hitler (or Mussolini or even Lenin).

    So any answer to this really good question has to start with the kind of long-term view of the previous interventionism.

    6. What then could have been done in World War II? Well, counterfactual historical analysis is dangerous but sometimes useful. If the US had remained neutral, Churchill would have had to negotiate, I would assume. At least in 1940 or 1941. If the US had been standing aside, the Soviet Union would have run out of tanks and planes etc. If the US had not intervened, then the world would had, at least indirectly, the advantage of cheaper goods (certainly the goods in the US which were NOT produced because production was diverted to the war).

    Further, if Stalin had not felt sure of US backing, we might ask how that might have shaped the Nazi-Soviet relationship?

    And certainly, we might ask–since the mass killings and ethnic cleansings of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Czechs, Russians, and many others took place under the cover of war and with the “exigency” argument of war therefore always at hand for Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels—would the horrible brutalities that were unleashed by both Hitler and Stalin under the cover of this war have been carried on in with the same ferocity had the US not been perpetuating the conflict first with resources and then with participation?

    And you see the drift here. I find myself thinking of the Broken Window Fallacy. We see what DID happen and say, “Well, in that overwhelming situation we had to intervene, because all these bad things were going on.” But we can’t be completely sure that US intervention didn’t prolong the war anyway. Without adding up some numbers, but having been looking at the figures recently, I would estimate that in December 1941, the total number of Jews killed by the Germans in eastern Europe was under 400,000. As horrible as this number is, it is about a tenth of the eventual total.

    7. No mistake, the Totalitarians who emerged from WWI were all brutal. And Stalin clearly needed no war to kill his own people. But Hitler seems to have needed one for the most enormous of his crimes (this is the direction of most of the recent research).

    8. Finally, in terms of calling WWII a “failure of noninterventionism,” I would argue that the United States was intervening in most issues pertaining to what would eventually become World War II throughout the twenties and thirties. Just because the US didn’t sign the Treaty and join the League, this did not mean “isolation” in any sense. And especially in areas related to finance and trade, the United States was intervening in myriad ways throughout the thirties especially. (I have already mentioned the massive diplomatic/political/financial measures of the Dawes and Young Plan loans). If we think of the series of subventions of Britain, freezing of assets, US support for British goods, diplomatic efforts to detach the Soviet Union from Hitler, etc., one could hardly say that the United States was not “intervening.” The only thing we didn’t intervene in from 1939 to December 1941 was sending troops. But of course throughout most of that period, until June 22, 1941, Hitler and Stalin were allies. Once the Soviet Union was on the Allied side, we intervened militarily within just over five months.


    Thanks so much for this response. Prof. Tooley makes some good points and I generally agree that you can’t seperate WWII from WWI but nonetheless if you’re arguing with somebody about WWII and trying to represent the non-interventionist view then responding that WWI was the real mistake won’t be enough. Invevitably the follow up question will be:

    “Was FDR and the allies right to intervene because the effects of WWI were already set in motion whether you liked the outcome of it or not?”

    I think Prof. Tooley has certainly provided some good points especially that negotiations would have been pushed for.

    My last question is what any of you think of the contention that Hitler had plans for more of Europe? Now having plans is not the same as being able to excecute the plan so I suppose any counter factual analysis has to take that into account.

    Also do people here agree with AJP Taylor’s book on WWII?


    I do one question about the evidence of FDR possibly trying to provoke the Japaneses into firing a first shot……is there anything particularly pointing to the fact that the this would mean guarantee war against Germany? I mean surely the administration would want to make certain that would happen before getting themselves involved in what could possibly be a rather unwanted war only in the Pacific and not in Europe…where they really wanted to go. :-/

    Or was provoking Japan to attack and Germany declaring war just a irrational not guaranteed possibility the administration held on hopeful that it would happen?

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