Fighting the Evil Empire

Whether as a sign of intellectual curiosity or general aimlessness, I often find myself reading about random subjects late at night. The other night, I found myself reading about Finland in World War II.

It’s an interesting subject. Finland was invaded by the USSR in 1939, at pretty much the same time they occupied the Baltic states and split Poland with Germany.

In the Winter War of 1939-1940, the Finns successfully slowed the Soviet advance, and eventually the USSR agreed to a peace treaty. Finland was forced to cede the parts of her territory she had not yet won back from the Soviets, but 90% of the country’s territory remained intact. This itself was an amazing military feat for such a small country. It’s also interesting in that they essentially out-Russianed the Russians. Just as Napoleon’s and Hitler’s armies bogged down and froze while trying to invade Russia, the Soviets bogged down and froze while trying to attack Finland, which was even better versed in winter warfare than Russia.

Finland’s resistance was the subject of much international sympathy, and volunteers from around the world flocked to the country, though few actually saw action. (The young Christopher Lee went to Finland as a volunteer, but returned home without seeing action. He later served in the RAF and British intelligence forces.)

During the brief peace, Finland fortified its new border with Russia, rebuilt its armed forces, and sought to forge new alliances. However, the only country interested in providing serious support was Nazi Germany. Germany offered to support Finland, thus providing a northern front to Germany’s planned invasion of Russia. Finland eventually accepted, and from 1941 to 1944 waged the Continuation War against the Soviet Union, with the support of the Nazis.

In the end, the USSR’s total defeat of the Nazis on the Eastern Front left Finland without an ally, and so Finland was forced to make peace with the USSR again, returning to borders very much the same as those forced on her at the end of the Winter War.

Nonetheless, Finland remained independent and retained a democratic form a government and a market economy, despite sitting on the USSR’s doorstep.

One of the things that struck me as interesting reading about all this was the way in which Finland continued to pursue a single, wholly just priority throughout World War II: defending itself against the USSR and trying to regain conquered territory. However, because of the shifting alliances during the war, Finland found itself first on the side of the Allies and later (at least somewhat) aligned with the Nazis.

Now, allying with the Nazis is certainly not a socially acceptable thing to have done. But then, we quite willingly threw in with Stalin in order to defeat the Nazis and Japan. Was that, in a sense, any different? The general wisdom seems to be that it was morally acceptable for the Allies to work with the USSR in order to defeat Germany. And yet, it seems to me the same moral calculus pretty much puts Finland alliance with Germany above blame.

The US perhaps recognized this, because it never declared war on Finland, despite the fact that Finland was allied with Germany in fighting Russia. Britain declared war on Finland in 1942, but never followed up on that with any actions.

Although I’d have to read more about it to come to any reliable conclusions, it seems like it’s an interesting case of a just war waged in cooperation with a very unjust ally — the other side of coin that is our WW2 alliance with Stalin.

[reprint from Feb., 2006]

51 Responses to Fighting the Evil Empire

  • Finland was fighting a just war from beginning to end.

  • For Finland, it was either ally with Germany, or revert to being another Russian province.

    I applaud what the Finns did in beating back an atheist regime.

    I’m curious as to how Finland resolved their “war” with Britain?

  • There are also parallels here with Franco’s Spain.

  • What are they?

  • I see absolutely no parallels whatsoever.

  • There are if you consider that Franco received assistance in his war efforts from Germany and Italy. Much to the chagrin of the Axis powers Franco didn’t return the favor. The parallel being that Franco fought a just a war while having bad allies who waged an unjust war.

  • That would be the *only* parallel.

    Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    /begin sarcasm of Henry K. connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    Just like Obama and Rahm Emmanuel want to “transform” America into another European socialist state.

    /end sarcasm;

  • Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    Describing Franco as fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people is a bit much, I think.

  • Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to “transform” Spain.

    Not much unlike Finland was, right? Granted it was civil war rather than war against an invading army, but invading army in Finland was also knee deep in supporting one or more of the SCW factions.

  • Wars do make strange friends but I am not sure the lines are ever clear. the USSR was allied with Nazi Germany until it was decided that Leninist Communism was less masculine that National Socialist Communism. Then the evil special interests within our borders who financed both the Nazis and the Soviets decided that German Communism should be painted as right-wing fascism and the Soviet Communism should be painted as Democratic Socialism so that the USA would become the ally of the Soviets against the Nazis who were destined to lose and then the USA and the USSR could divide Europe and eventually the USA/USSR European alliance would become the USSA. Of course all this happened before Obama was born otherwise they just might have tried him from the beginning. :)

    Nothing new under the sun.
    Wasn’t Finland ruled by Catholic Sweden before and after the Protestant Heresy? I also think Sweden ruled Finland until she was conquered by the Russians, Orthodox Czars not atheist Leninists.

    Sadly, it is unlikely that nation would be able to mount a successful, just war against such fierce foes today. For that matter I don’t know if we have what it takes to liberate the world from the Axis powers either.

    Rome died due to diminishing warrior capacity which was preceded by the moral debasement of her young men by effete Greeks – sounds like a typical college campus today, especially where ROTC is not welcome. I wonder if that is why the president wants his own ‘civilian corpsmen’ (pronounced CORPSE-MEN).

  • RL,

    I don’t know what SCW is.

    BA,

    That or be executed for practicing Catholicism. Religious freedom.

  • “Franco was fighting for the freedoms of the Spanish people against atheist enemies that were determined to ‘transform’ Spain.”

    Franco’s rebellion was an effort to preserve “traditional” Spain, which was rather loosely defined inasmuch as his coalition included both the agri-traditionalist Carlists and the more revolutionary Falange, with a broad swath of rightist elements in between. As far as the Falange goes, he pretty well neutered it before the end of the war, and it was a mere adjunct to his government. It was to his great fortune that the Republic was even more fractious than the Nationalist coalition.

    If you had told Franco that he was fighting for “freedom,” he probably would have blinked in utter incomprehension. I guess to the extent good Spaniards were free of the Reds and anarchists, yes, he was fighting for that kind of freedom–freedom *from*. He was fighting for a Spain rooted in its traditional past, including the Church, the monarchy and what was left of her overseas possessions. Which is why Hitler’s adventures interested him not at all, even when Nazi Germany looked to be victorious.

  • Say all you want about Franco and some of it may even be true but he supported the Church and killed Communists. At the time, in that context he was the choice to make. It is sad when we have to choose between the lesser of two or more evils but fallen man is likely to put us in that position often.

    Sort of like picking progressive Republicans who want to kill babies despite what the platform says against progressive Democrats who want to kill babies because that is what their platform says.

  • AK,

    Yes, Finland was under Swedish rule and then under Russian rule.

    Through Russian efforts to engender friendly relations with their new Finnish lands, the Russians allowed greater autonomy and widespread use of Finnish (to undermine Swedish).

    This eventually backfired since the Finns actualized a greater sense of nationhood that resulted in independence around 1907, with permanent independence after WWII.

    Rome also died due to abortion. Since many Roman couples saw it as an inconvenience, infanticide rose. Also, male Romans didn’t want to have sons since Patricide began to rise as well. So throw that in with no desire for baby girls and their moral debasement of those children that did “survive” and there you have it, Blue state New York and California, I mean, Rome.

  • Dale,

    We are in agreement then. Franco was fighting for freedom from his atheistic adversaries.

    Franco was also clever enough to sideline the Carlists to the point of making them part of the furniture instead of the process.

  • Here’s to eliminating Communism in all of its manifestations! (raising a bottle of Shiner brew)

  • Within the last week or two, I assured someone (who claimed that conservatives were using rhetoric that suggested they were likely to start a coup) that I’d never heard a conservative compare Obama to the Spanish communists and anarchists in the ’30s. I guess I need to be more careful what I say…

    Two thinks I think it’s important to keep in mind:

    – While I have no doubt in my mind that Franco was preferable to the socialist/communist/anarchist forces on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement, nor should we make it so. Sure, he defended the Church rather than persecuting it, but to list the Christ Rock line, “You’re supposed to do that.”

    – While Obama’s inside clique would doubtless like to see the US looking much more like modern European social democracies (and I think that would be a bad thing), those social democracies are nothing like as despicable and oppressive the Spanish Republicans. Sure, I think they’re too government heavy, but I think they fall within the range of things which one might in good conscience advocate, while the Republican cause clearly didn’t.

  • Say all you want about Franco and some of it may even be true but he supported the Church and killed Communists.

    He also killed a lot of Catholics.

    I’m having visions, however, of another 100+ comment thread that has nothing to do with the original post, so I’ll leave it there.

  • Tito,

    You bring up a great point re: Roman abortions. It is amazing that the Republic that razed Carthage for her child-sacrifice and salted the land to ensure that the abominable practice did not spread.

    Imagine that the great liberator, honest-broker and moral backbone of the world would raze an entire civilization to prevent the sacrifice of children only to turn around and begin the same practice albeit for convenience and not direct sacrifice to devils. It is a good thing no one else would be so stupid to do that. Wait. Where am I?

  • Darwin,

    To make you feel better I was mocking Henry K. for connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    I was being sarcastic.

    In no way does Obama’s administration resemble that of the God-hating Spanish Republicans.

  • BA,

    And leave all the fun of dissecting Finnish Nationalism contra Soviet Expansionism!

    Or how about the only time in history that a democracy declared war on another democracy, ie, Britain declaring war on Finland!

    Gerald Naus may even make a guest comment appearance.

    ;)

  • SCW – Spanish Civil War.

    Why was Franco’s betrayal of the Carlists seen as a good thing? In my mind, it was one his greater faults.

  • BA,

    Franco killing Catholics is like shooting fish in the barrel to get to the crabs.

    By default 99% of Spaniards were *Catholic* by baptism alone in Civil War Spain.

  • RL,

    I didn’t say it was a good thing.

    I was just “showing off” my Spanish Civil War knowledge.

    I myself think it of a very bad thing indeed.

    Imagine how Spain would have turned out if the Carlists had any influence at all by the end of the war, *sigh*.

  • Tito,

    To make you feel better I was mocking Henry K. for connecting Finland’s war with Soviet Russia to Franco’s war against the atheistic “Republican” regime.

    Henry’s comment wasn’t out of line. I thought I demonstrated that. Parallel doesn’t indicate same. Finland was fighting an atheistic republic too. ironically enough, that athiestic republic had the most influence on Spain’s atheistic republic. There’s another parallel.

  • DC,

    I suspect that modern social democracies in Europe are considerably less oppressive than those envisioned by the perpetrators at the end of WWII. I suspect that Commies intended more Soviet-style governments than the namby-pamby nanny-state welfare of Europe today. It is a ruse, the nice social democracies like the UK, Sweden and the USA are designed to get us used to servitude so we will be happy in a global feudal order. You know those nice scientific dictatorships that medicate and indoctrinate you into being a happy slave.

    Makes you wonder why the Finnish and the Spanish bothered fighting for liberation at all.

  • RL,

    You have to admire the Finns though.

    A small republic of barely 3-4 million fought to a standstill the then 70 million strong (or more) Soviet Empire.

    Put it in the context that the USSR was also able to absorb Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, in addition to half of Poland and a sliver of Romania.

    Contrast that to what Finland did and it is utterly amazing.

  • At the risk of starting another bizarre tangent:

    You bring up a great point re: Roman abortions. It is amazing that the Republic that razed Carthage for her child-sacrifice and salted the land to ensure that the abominable practice did not spread. Imagine that the great liberator, honest-broker and moral backbone of the world would raze an entire civilization to prevent the sacrifice of children only to turn around and begin the same practice albeit for convenience and not direct sacrifice to devils.

    I seem to be bad at guaging when people are being arch in this thread, but if this is meant seriously, I’m aware of no evidence that the Roman Republic razed Carthage because of its tendency towards infant sacrifice. The impetus behind Carthago delenda est was more driven by the first two Punic wars, and in particular the lingering memory of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. Further, exposure of infants was an accepted practice in the Roman Republic back to the earliest days.

    I’m certainly an admirer of the Roman Republic as seen in sources like Polybius, but at a moral level, they were distinctly pagan in their outlook and practices.

  • The little I know about the razing of Carthage is that both Darwin and AK are correct. That or I’ve watched one too many skewed PBS specials on the subject.

    Yes, the Romans practiced infanticide for quite a while, though it may have increased towards the end of its epoch.

    If not, it definitely contributed to Romes decline combined with other factors.

  • I’ll take responsibility for the bizarre tangents, thank you very much.

    I have no source to site for what I wrote above. I think I heard it on radio from the mouth of a priest who was also an historian. But I have no facts to back it up.

    It does make some sense though. Romans were certainly pagans but they seemed to have a deeper insight into the natural law than the barbarian pagans and event he middle-eastern fertility cults. After all, God had Joshua raze the people of Palestine before Israel entered the promised land and yet he allowed the Macabbes to call on Rome to come to the aid of Israel.

    Additionally exposure of infants may have been tolerated and even accepted but that is a more practical discarding of a life rather than a willful sacrifice to demons. I am not excusing child exposure, yet for a non-Christianized pagan society it is understandable and I can see how they would be horrified by sacrificing children to ‘gods’.

    Then again, I may not know what I am talking about.

    To try to bring this back I am fairly confident that modern Finland has gone the way of Carthage and Rome. Abortions are provided ‘free’ in their nationalized ‘health care’ system. Maybe they will be razed soon.

  • I thought the Spanish always had the same liberties as we did? ;)

  • I’m aware of no evidence that the Roman Republic razed Carthage because of its tendency towards infant sacrifice.

    Your the student of the classics. I think he is referring to a thesis advanced by G.K. Chesterton. I cannot remember in which work.

  • BA,

    As of this post we’re about 67 comments short of a 100.

    See you guys later, I have a class to attend to.

  • Both sides in the Spanish Civil War engaged in sickening atrocities during the war. Both sides were none too choosy in regard to who they accepted aid from. Both sides aimed to establish authoritarian regimes, outside of the Basque Republicans on the side of the Republic, and some of the Catholic groups on the side of the Nationalists. The big difference between the two sides was the massive persecution that Catholics suffered in the Republic, outside of the Basque controlled areas.

  • So you’re saying that war is hell and total war is totally hellish.

  • Spanish civil wars certainly tend to be hellish AK. They make our Civil War look like a very well behaved military exercise by comparison. Having said that, I have always found the Spanish Civil War of the last century endlessly fascinating. All that was best and worst in Spain was on full display. Jose Maria Gironella’s magnificent trilogy of novels on the War are an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to understand the war and why Spaniards fought each other so savagely: Cypresses Believe in God, One Million Dead and Peace After War. They are the best novels I have ever read and left me with a much deeper understanding of the War and of Spain.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586170465/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=999741120X&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=171T10TQDJRJMH3NJZHR

  • Chesterton made that argument about child sacrifice in Carthage in The Everlasting Man. As usual, Chesterton was a good writer and a poor historian. Horror over Carthaginian child sacrifice played absolutely no role in Rome’s desire to obliterage Carthage.

  • Thanks for clearing that up. OK, so Rome simply razed Carthage because Rome did not want to have to go back and fight them again and again and again. It seems as if North Africa has a war resiliency. I suppose if Jefferson had finished the Barbary Pirates once and for all we would not be dealing with piracy in the same seas today.

    The war in North America of the 1860s (I have yet to be convinced that it was a civil war) was fairly brutal. Many consider it the first war of the pre-nuclear modern age. I am not as familiar with the Spanish Civil War (I am convinced that it was a civil war), but I understand it was extremely brutal. It makes sense that atrocities would occur during a mutli-faction civil conflict then a conflict between the organized armies of two countries (if’n y’all don’t recognize the CSA as a separate country, then at least concede that there were only two sides to the conflict).

  • AK, the organized armies on both sides committed the bulk of the atrocities in the Spanish Civil War. Mass executions, with only the quickest of drum head military trials, if that, was the rule for both sides. Most Spaniards on all sides were convinced that the only way to bring peace was to physically eliminate their adversaries. The Spanish Civil War is an object lesson of what unchecked political hatreds can lead to.

  • I wouldn’t go so far as saying that both sides committed equal amounts of atrocities. The Republicans by far committed more heinous acts in depth and volume with an exceeding amount of enthusiasm.

    According to argueably the best Christian historian alive, Warren H. Carroll, comparing the atrocities of the Nationalists on par with those of the Republicans is a gross error when conveyed against the reputed facts.

    Remember that the overwhelming amount of history written on the Spanish Civil War were written by the Republicans. Which is ironic since it generally known that the victors are the ones who write history.

    So when Donald says that “both” sides committed atrocities, I hope that he was saying it rhetorically and not of equal number and depth.

  • Tito

    While I support the Franco side of the civil war, and indeed, own coins of Franco and books written by people who were involved with the war on his side, obviously both sides did commit grave evils. Moreover, Warren Carroll is not arguably the best Christian historian alive; he is far from the best, in fact. He often gets history wrong — look to his discussion on SAINT Photius (yes, he is a Saint in the Catholic Church) and look to any relevant modern historical treatise on the Photian Schism — he shows his rather shallow approach quite well when you compare the two.

    Give me Christopher Dawson any day (alas he is not alive). And if you want a living historian, check out Eamon Duffy!

  • Christopher Dawson is the Ratzinger of Christian history. I need to put the book down and digest what I just read. He is very good and is prominent in my miniature library.

    Eamon Duffy is on my Amazon list of books to buy and I look forward reading his works!

  • In regard to the Spanish Civil War Tito, if you take into account the post war executions, which were massive, by the Nationalists, the body count of the Nationalists was higher. I am sympathetic to the Nationalist cause due to the demonic anti-Catholicism of most of their opponents and the fact that most of the leaders who wielded power within the Republic were intent on setting up a totalitarian state of one sort or another. However, the Nationalist leadership were not saints. They set up a fairly squalid dictatorship, engaged in massive atrocities and showed almost no mercy to their defeated adversaries.

  • The best, and I think most objective, historian of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime is Stanley Payne.

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=stanley+g.+payne

    Warren Carroll’s The Last Crusade is not a bad book on the first year of the Spanish Civil War. He is obviously completely in sympathy with the Nationalists, but his work is a useful corrective to many other historians of the War who are completely in sympathy with the forces of the Left.

    http://www.amazon.com/Last-Crusade-Warren-H-Carroll/dp/0931888670/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266418125&sr=8-1

  • What Donald said about the post-war executions. Franco was not merciful. That his enemies would have been no more merciful had they triumphed is no absolution.

    Alas, it is highly likely that the executions were popular with the Nationalist population at large. A grandson of Spanish Nationalists was an exchange student at my high school, and was delighted to give me the Nationalist perspective on the Civil War. He mentioned that the Republicans had brutally murdered his great uncle and, IIRC, some other members of his family. The exchange student still hated the Republicans, flipping a picture of “La Pasionaria” the bird.

  • “The exchange student still hated the Republicans, flipping a picture of “La Pasionaria” the bird.”

    I would have joined him in that Dale! “La Pasionaria” was a real piece of work. By the end of the Civil War almost all families in Spain, including Franco’s, had a member of the family who had been murdered by the other side. Most of the victims executed by the Nationalists probably had committed hideous crimes. The true injustice of course is that no such justice was ever visited on the Nationalist victors in this world.

  • Excellent links.

    I like reading objective history. Especially when it is on a favorite subject of mine like the Spanish Civil War.

  • My wife is going to be upset with y’all because I won’t take responsibility for all the books that I just put in my Amazon cart that y’all referenced.

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