The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (5. Pax Americana)

[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring.]

5. Pax Americana

Ted Grimsrud—January 1, 2011

What kind of peace?

Following the unveiling of the horrible destructiveness of nuclear weapons on civilian populations, the Allies had achieved their goal of unconditional surrender from the Axis powers. When the Japanese gave up the fight in August 1945, the United States stood as the world’s one great global power.

The Soviets had the powerful Red Army and the capability to impose their will on the nations they occupied. However, the war to the death with Germany had left tens of millions Soviets dead and countless more wounded and displaced. The main cities had been devastated. You could call the Soviet Union battered but unbowed, but the emphasis would have to be placed on the “battered.”

The British Empire remained intact, for the time being. But clearly it was near the end of the line. Though suffering significantly less damage, both in terms of lost lives and devastated infrastructure, than the War’s other main belligerents (with the crucial exception of the United States), Britain was exhausted, tremendously weakened, headed for a major decline. The Britons would seek to remain active in international affairs, and for the immediate future desperately intent on sustaining a rapidly disintegrating empire. However, clearly by 1945, Britain was essentially a junior partner to the one unambiguously victorious power to emerge from the War, the United States of America. Continue reading “The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (5. Pax Americana)”