there is enough treachery, hatred
in the average human being
to supply any given army on any given day
--The Genius of the Crowd,
You're semi-evil. You're quasi-evil.
You're the margarine of evil.
You're the Diet Coke of evil.
Just one calorie, not evil enough.
--Dr. Evil in Austin Powers (1997)
I'd say that you're all in line
for some important promotions and personal citations
when this thing's over with.
That goes for ever' last one of you
regardless of your race, color or your creed
--Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Let us pretend we are a lensatic compass and that we can turn the bezel ring and change our declination a few degrees -- let us reorient our bearings. Then let us talk about Hitler and World War II.
Let us start with Ranger's belief that the United States should not have participated in World War II. In his opinion, this war was as fruitless and meaningless as any war ever fought (from the U.S. perspective.) Also be aware Ranger is not a closet Nazi or fan of Hitler or of the Japanese Emperor.
Let us set a ground rule: A nation does not fight wars with the sole objective of opposing evil. Foreign policy that opposes evil will always find a war to fight. National strategic objectives and fighting evil are two exclusive concepts, unless one believes in comic book superheroes.
The most common comment justifying the entrance of the U.S. in WWII is that we had to fight the evil that was the Japs and the Lugerheads. But did we really, or did we just bite the big one for the team?
If the Japs were so bad, then why did we not hang Hirohito as a war criminal? Why did the German high command swing but not the Jap chap, and especially since he was a certifiable war criminal, defined as a dude that invades foreign countries, bombs, kills, tortures and generally ignores international law? If he was evil we should have hung him high, especially if fighting evil were our objective.
Compare the actions of Hitler, everyone's favorite bad guy, to those of Hirohito. He was a carbon copy, with the addition of a nasty bit of work in the genocide arena. Hitler also had millions shot, gassed, starved, worked to death and more; the worst sort of customer. But then compare his actions to those of Stalin -- did not the latter do all of those evil things in spades, as well?
Let us remember, too, that Hitler thought Communism the greatest threat facing Western society, and that Fascism and Communism could not exist on the same chessboard. After defeating Hitler, the U.S. adopted his beliefs and policies concerning the Soviet Union; his idea was right but obviously we objected to his operational imperatives.
U.S. Cold War policy was to oppose and destroy Communism, in a civilized manner, meaning no genocide or other nasty stuff. Instead, we adopted a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in which we were willing to destroy the entire world to defend Capitalism. It was a policy that made sense to us, and we were all in.
The Question is: Why was Hitler evil for his operations, while were the good guys for standing ready to light up the world with unrestrained nuclear war?
If WW II was a just war from the perspective of the U.S., then the resultant good would have had to outweigh the evil required to counter the forces of Hitler and Hirohito. Considering the stance the U.S. chose, it is hard to say that good would have triumphed with any certainty.
The same moral conundrum also addresses the issue of Iranian nuclear aspirations. Are we afraid that they will adopt our policies? Evil is evil wherever you find it, and the employment of nuclear weapons would be evil, regardless of who slings them in his quivers.