TV Series: Niall Ferguson Says Allied Win 'Tarnished' in World War II

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Historian Niall Ferguson compares the 20th century's unrivaled bloodletting to the mayhem in H.G. Wells's ``The War of the Worlds,'' with humans playing the part of the marauding Martians.

Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard University, challenges the entire notion of advanced civilization in ``The War of the World,'' a three-part PBS series that begins tonight at 10 p.m. New York time.

Why was the century so bloody?

Ferguson argues that three factors converged to create a ``hundred-year global war'': economic volatility, the breakdown of multiethnic societies in places like Yugoslavia, and the unraveling of old empires, which unleashed a wave of revolutions and similar power gropes.

Racial animosity also reached new levels of virulence, Ferguson says. The Russian press denounced the Japanese as ``jaundiced monkeys'' in the run-up to the Russo-Japanese War; the Japanese retaliated by sending most of the Russian's Baltic fleet to the bottom of the sea in 1905.

The Japanese held the Chinese in similar regard, starting a war in 1937 that Ferguson says was the real outbreak of World War II. Then there was Hitler and his henchmen: Ferguson argues that the Holocaust, while not the first of the century's genocides, was unique because it was carried out by one of the most sophisticated, highly educated societies in history.

Hitler, he adds, considered Americans a ``decadent'' and ``racially mongrel people.'' Still, the U.S. was very good at building weapons, which it gladly lent to Josef Stalin, another ferocious race-baiter.

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