Grimsrud presents a number of lines of critique ranging from the question of the justice of the war to whether the conduct of the war was just, given the latter stages of the war when civilians populations were intentionally targeted in places like Hiroshima and Dresden. While he does not address the root causes of the second World War which are inextricably tied to the American involvement in the first World War, he does lay out a plausible alternate narrative that raises troubling questions and pokes holes in the seemingly unassailable argument of World War II as the exception that overturns the rule.
Perhaps his best line of critique has to do with the impact of the aftermath of World War II on the identity of post-war America, namely the move to a state of perpetual preparation for war and when war didn't materialize, a conflict could always be created to provide cover for the never-ending militarization of America and trillions upon trillions spent on newer, better and deadlier armaments.
Americans, prior to World War II, would enter a war, mobilize, and then at war’s end demobilize and return to a civilian-centered, more democratic political economy. Not this time. Directly linked with Roosevelt’s desire for more unhindered power, American military leaders desired to leave behind the limits to military power that characterized the U.S. in the 1930s. Due to key unilateral presidential actions that did not pass through the legislative process, and without informing the public, the United States moved seemingly irrevocably from a democracy to a “national security state.”
That is a great observation. The pattern of mobilization, war and then demobilization stopped with World War II. My entire lifetime has been lived under this state of affairs. I have never known a demilitarized United States or really a time of peace. It has been one conflict after another. I was born in the waning years of Vietnam although I don't remember any of it. Throughout my childhood we lived in fear of a nuclear strike by the Commies. I recall vividly the Iranian hostage crisis when the Western installed puppet Shah was overthrown by the radical Islamists and the subsequent botched rescue attempt. That was the low point of American military prestige in my lifetime, the combination of the ignominious retreat from Vietnam and the Carter administration's vacillation between confused and weak inaction and incompetent action resulting in the death of eight American servicemen. With the election of Reagan the military in America began to ascend to a new position of prominence. A military build-up that bankrupted the Soviets and the irrelevant but welcome "victory" in Grenada had us back on the path to being the big dog. This set the stage for the first Iraq War, the response to September 11th and the state of perpetual war against a difficult to define enemy over the last decade that has done little to secure our nation, inflamed passions against the United States around the world, alienated one of the world's nuclear powers and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, most innocent civilians. Today the military has a position of prestige and prominence that is unpredented and dangerous.
In a nutshell....
Just because the other guy is wrong it doesn't always follow that you are right.
I recommend Ted Grimsrud's essay as a much needed and well researched alternative to the "good war" narrative of World War II that permeates the church. We need to think critically and theologically with a Kingdom mindset about World War II. We cannot check the Gospel at the door when faced with questions that lead to uncomfortable answers in our culture. We cannot be so afraid of being accused of being insufficiently patriotic or being "anti-American" that we can conceivably be accused of serving another master. World War II was a horror, a horror that saw the population of entire continents decimated, genocide on a massive scale, weapons of mass destruction and the intentional targeting of civilian populations. The aftermath was a world of instability and virtual enslavement of Eastern Europe, Russia and much of Southeast Asia by the allies of the "good guys" coupled with a state of perpetual militarization in America. Perhaps World War II really was the exception that validates "just war" from a Christian perspective, although I don't believe that is the case, but we certainly cannot just assume that a war where tens of millions of civilians died is somehow a trump card that overrides the central Gospel truth of enemy love. While you are reading this essay, check out some other pieces he has written. I find that webpage to be a wealth of important and thoughtful information on peace and non-resistance.