Some people are currently rethinking the standard approach to the Second World War. Most Americans have always believed that history's largest and deadliest military confrontation was a "good war" that had to be fought and that the Allies -- France, Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, et al. -- were the morally superior force.
Tonight, on Channel 2 at 8 p.m., is the last of a three-part series hosted by Scottish historian Niall Ferguson and titled The War of the World, which questions some of those ideas. At least one of his points is more semantic: that what we call World War II began not on Sept. 1, 1939, with Hitler's invasion of Poland, but in the summer of 1937, when full-scale hostilities began between China and invading Japan. A television critic for The New York Times disagreed with some of Ferguson's more controversial conclusions. (If you miss the program tonight, it -- and the other episodes -- will be repeated in August. Check the WGBH web site here for days and times.)
What attracted my attention is that this series is airing just as two Americans -- conservative Pat Buchanan and pacifist Nicholson Baker -- have written books that argue similarly. Buchanan's book is called Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, while Baker's is Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization. I'm left to wonder why suddenly, some 60 years later, several people have reached similar conclusions.