Colum Lynch: Did the United Nations Win World War II?

Roundup: Talking About History

Colum Lynch has been been reporting on foreign policy and national security for the Washington Post since June 1999.

Could the United Nations have defeated Adolf Hitler during the Second World War?
Actually, according to Dan Plesch, a British scholar at London University, it did. In a provocative new book, America, Hitler and the United Nations, he explores the United Nations' roots as a World War II military alliance,and argues that it harnessed the soft power of multilateral cooperation to defeat the Axis powers and manage the post-war peace.
Certainly, the war on Hitler and his allies was largely fought by American, British and Soviet leaders, officers and soldiers. But Plesch argues that the United States and Britain's promotion of a broader international front -- the so-called United Nations -- played a vital role in assuring victory that has "faded from cultural memory."
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a series of multilateral innovations -- from the establishment of a war crimes commission to an international relief agency -- that helped bind an alliance of more than 30 countries and assure an isolationist American public that the aims of the war were consistent with American democratic values, and that the burdens for the conflict would be shared...

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