These two things are not alike (another WWII thought)

In my last column on World War II, I mentioned some through-the-looking-glass similarities between Russian and American attitudes toward the war — such as the fact that both often act as if they single-handedly defeated Hitler.  

While working on the column, I thought of another parallel.  Russians “patriots” frequently wax indignant at the ungrateful people of Eastern Europe and the Baltics who fail to appreciate Russia’s role in liberating them from the Nazi yoke.  Many Americans, particularly conservatives, have the same attitude toward Europeans who fail to appreciate America’s role in saving them from Hitler.

But is there any kind of moral equivalence there?  

I would say no.

It’s not that I don’t find the “how dare they — we saved their butts during World War II!” attitude annoying.  I do, except in response to shrill , vicious anti-Americanism (rather than reasoned criticism of U.S. policies).  I think demanding gratitude for one’s good deeds is always somewhat unseemly, and takes away much of the value of the good deed.  

Still, there’s a difference.   Allow me to illustrate (with apologies for the gender-stereotypical script).

Scenario A: A man saves a woman from a homicidal maniac.   They start dating and end up getting married.  He can be a bit domineering at times and sometimes, when she questions something he does, self-righteously reminds her of the gratitude she owes him for saving her life.

Not very nice, right? But now consider …

Scenarior B:  A man saves a woman from a homicidal maniac.  He then proceeds to forcibly take her to his house and repeatedly rape her.  When she finally escapes and goes to the police, he proceeds to loudly complain about her ingratitude — after all, if it weren’t for him, she’d be dead now!

Any questions?


Filed under Europe, Russia, US foreign policy, World War II

3 responses to “These two things are not alike (another WWII thought)

  1. MoyCullen

    Love your two scenarios to illustrate the boorish “if it weren’t for us…” statements that continue today. After 64 years, hasn’t the statute of limitations for reminding Europe of their expected gratitude long since run out? Because otherwise, aren’t the French entitled to say to Americans “if it weren’t for us, you’d still be a British colony”.

  2. Mais oui! 😉 thanks for the great comment.

  3. Revenant

    Because otherwise, aren’t the French entitled to say to Americans “if it weren’t for us, you’d still be a British colony”.

    I’d say no, for three reasons. The first is that we would almost certainly have broken free from England without them, although it would have taken longer. The second is that we were assisted by the French aristocracy, not the French people; the modern French could best be described as the people who replaced the people who deposed the people who deposed the people who beheaded the people who helped us win the American revolution. And the third and final reason is that France already used up that excuse when we bailed them out of World War One. 🙂

    Anyway, I agree that the Soviet role in WW2 is too often overlooked by Americans. At the same time, I think people who DO speak of the Soviet role too often overdo it. Firstly, they tend to ignore the fact that the Soviets started the war as a German ally; in the absence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact there may well never have been a war in the first place. Secondly, they tend to forget that the Soviets were entirely reliant on the United States for all their logistical needs — food, clothing, trucks, trains, and fuel.

    The United States, in my opinion, is the only nation whose absence from the war would have made victory over the Axis impossible. The Soviets are a close second in that it is unlikely the Allies would have been willing to pay the cost it would have taken to beat the Axis if the Soviets weren’t tackling the eastern front. But we could have; we had Germany dramatically outnumbered and out-industry’d.

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