This week’s readings on WWII open an important dialogue on the true utility and necessity of such large scale wars, as well as failings in global interventions on peace. It is extremely difficult to see past the level of destruction the world experienced when even the motives of American involvement were more convoluted than the public recognizes. Moreover, the concept of a “just war” is often extremely oversimplified and ignores any motivations for war that don’t fit a specific moral narrative. There is absolutely no doubt that American opposition to German fascism and the Holocaust was necessary and moral. However, American foreign policy failed to prioritize the oncoming genocide until it worked in America’s best interest. If this were not true, concessions to Hitler would not have been made for as long as they were and an entire ship of Jewish refugees would not have been turned away from America’s shores. In fact, Roosevelt first turned the matter of handling the Holocaust over to a state department that was riddled with anti-semitism (Zinn 415). To claim a higher American moral standard than what was actually practiced is a to fail to plan for present and future policy that could combat genocide.
Zinn’s chapter and the article both present a stepping stone to a larger conversation on international policy on peacekeeping and where those organizations can strive to be better in and out of wartime. Zinn notes that the United Nations was formed in the midst of WWII, at the whims of major imperialist powers (415). The UN today handles a large portion of peacekeeping operations worldwide, but to understand the shortfalls and areas where it might strive for more sustainable peace, we can look towards the historical creation of the greater organization. The fundamental dissonance of an organization created by inherently violent imperial powers with the stated goal of maintaining peace is evident- it is only natural that peacekeeping operations are often found to have capitalistic or exploitative motives behind them. That is not to say that peacekeeping operations like the UN bare unjust or cannot operate at a higher function of morality- they absolutely can, it just requires a certain amount of public consciousness and accountability of historical shortcomings. Zinn’s chapter on WWII presents an opportunity for awareness- dissecting the past failures of foreign policy has a unique ability to reform future actions by governing powers and the people alike.