World War II raised U.S., Russia, China as world powers

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  June 10, 2009 at 12:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 10 (UPI) -- Adolf Hitler despised the United States and was determined to annihilate the Soviet Union and the Russian people. His ally Imperial Japan had conquered vast tracts of Mainland China before World War II began and was determined to hang on to it for generations.

Instead, when World War II ended, it was Nazi Germany that was forever crushed while the United States and the Soviet Union were the two dominant military powers of the Earth, and the communist armies in China were poised to conquer the country.

Some 64 years later, as the first decade of the 21st century draws to an end, the conditions that were created by the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan continue to shape the world today. The United States remains the dominant nuclear power, and its only comparable rival, albeit with a far smaller economy, is Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union.

The heirs of Mao Zedong continue to rule a fast-rising China that looks certain to be one of the superpowers of the 21st century.

Hitler would have loathed all these changes, but he would have loathed the transformation of his own Germany most of all.

However, the German people themselves welcomed their transformation. The arrogant, militant conquering power of 1939 rose rapidly from the ashes of its defeat in 1945 -- the time Germans themselves called "Year Zero." But it revived as a peaceful, stable and prosperous Federal Republic.

When Germany reunified during the collapse of communism in 1989-90, it did so not through the military conquests and arrogant displays of power so beloved by Otto von Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II or Hitler, but through peaceful, democratic politics and cautious, humane processes of compromise.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who as a teenager had seen other boys hanged from lampposts as deserters and traitors by the Nazi SS, rewrote the lessons of history inscribed 130 years earlier by Bismarck that Germany could only be united and made great by "Blood and Iron." He did it through peace and democracy.

Hitler would have hated it.

Hitler foresaw a world where social justice and mercy would become faint, unattainable memories. Instead, the world his war produced saw the emancipation of the oppressed peoples of the globe. The Arab, African and Asian peoples attained a new freedom and dignity. The United States, which Hitler had despised as a mongrel hybrid of inferior races, became the world's supreme power. American and Russian scientists succeeded where Hitler's Nazis had failed in harnessing the power of the atom itself.

All these developments were unimaginable in 1939. But by 1945, most of them were unavoidable.

So terrible were the crimes and atrocities of the Third Reich that for decades after its destruction the very ideas of genocide and ethnic cleansing became anathema to most of mankind. But in recent decades, as old concepts of order have weakened and memories have faded, old evils have returned in new guises. In Rwanda and Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia and Somalia, dominant ethnic groups again mercilessly slaughtered hundreds of thousands of different races and faiths.

Germany and Japan, the most notorious aggressor nations of World War II, both remain stable, democratic and constructive members of the world's community. But the contagions of hatred and conquest that infected them all those decades ago have not been eradicated from the human race. They continue to drive other peoples -- and to serve as the driving forces of global war in the 21st century.

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