A war is always a moral event. However, the most destructive war in human history has not received much moral scrutiny. The Good War That Wasn’t—And Why It Mattersexamines the moral legacy of this war, especially for the United States.

Drawing on the just war tradition and on moral values expressed in widely circulated statements of purpose for the war, the book asks: How did American participation in the war fit with just cause and just conduct criteria?

Subsequently the book considers the impact of the war on American foreign policy in the years that followed. How did American actions cohere (or not) with the stated purposes for the war, especially self-determination for the peoples of the world and disarmament?

Finally, the book looks at the witness of war opponents. Values expressed by war advocates were not actually furthered by the war. However, many war opponents did inspire efforts that effectively worked toward the goals of disarmament and self-determination.

The Good War That Wasn’t—And Why It Matters develops its arguments in pragmatic terms. It focuses on moral reasoning in a commonsense way in its challenges to widely held assumptions about World War II. (see more at: http://peacetheology.net/)


  • “Military spending, as Eisenhower warned, generates wars. Myths about World War II generate military spending. World War II has been propping up military spending through decades of wars openly acknowledged as disasters. This book exposes World War II as a crisis that need not have been created and could have been handled otherwise. That understanding should save the U.S. about $1 trillion a year and a great many people their lives.”      ——David Swanson, peace activist and author of War Is a Lie.
  • Ethicist Ted Grimsrud asks us to look past the romanticism, the myth-making, and the nostalgia that has grown up around the Second World War and make a clear-eyed appraisal of the conflict’s real costs. Employing classic just war theory, Grimsrud shows how the U.S. war effort fell far short of that theory’s minimal criteria. Then, drawing on the insights of Christian pacifists, he proposes alternatives—applicable then and now—for building communities of resistance that treat all life as precious.  ——Steven M. Nolt, Professor of History, Goshen College and author of Seeking Places of Peace

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction: The United States and the Myth of Redemptive Violence

PART ONE: Total War

2. Why Did America Go to War?

3. Was America’s Conduct in World War II Just?

4. What Did the War Cost?

PART TWO: Aftermath

5. Pax Americana

6. The Cold War

7. Full Spectrum Dominance

PART THREE: Alternatives

8. No to the War

9. Social Transformation

10. Servanthood

11. Conclusion: World War II’s Moral Legacy



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