October 30, 2014
After a wait that lasted much longer than I expected, I finally have finished (I hope) my part of my book on World War II called The “Good War” That Wasn’t—And Why It Matters: World War II’s Moral Legacy. The book will be published by Cascade Books and will hopefully be ready in time for Christmas (!). [Here are earlier rough drafts of the chapters and other writings that working on this project spawned.]
I take an approach in this book that might seem a bit paradoxical. I am a deeply committed pacifist. Had I been a young adult in 1941, I would have refused to participate in that war no matter how “necessary” or “justifiable” it might have seemed. Yet in The “Good War”… , I develop my argument using pragmatic reasoning, including direct use of just war criteria. Why would pacifism not play a central role in my writing on World War II? Why would I work mostly within an ethical framework (the just war tradition) that I do not affirm myself?
Problematizing easy assumptions about World War II
Partly, my decision to use just war rationality has to do with the intended audience for the book. I do not seek to present a logically airtight argument that will persuade those who reject pacifism. But I also do not seek simply to remind pacifists of why we continue to reject warfare. Certainly, I hope those who reject pacifism will nonetheless read this book and be persuaded by it to change their mind—and I do hope to offer comfort and courage for pacifists. Most directly, though, I write to those troubled with contemporary American militarism and who wonder about World War II. I hope to problematize easy assumptions about World War II’s status as the war that shows war can be a morally appropriate choice, operating within the moral framework of a typical American. If pacifism is to enter the picture in this discussion, I intend for it to enter as a conclusion, not as a pre-requisite for being part of the conversation. Continue reading