Tuesday, May 10, 2005
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Yalta Kocker posted by on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM
As I say over on the Belgravia site (http://www.belgraviadispatch.com/archives/004550.html), I don't think Presidents ought to be getting cheer lines by trashing things their predecessors have done or are imagined to have done. Bush has done this before, with respect to American policy in the Middle East.
Besides, if anyone has a grievance over postwar American policy in eastern Europe it isn't any of the Balts, but the Czechs.posted by: JEB on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Yalta wasn't a stab in the back. It was a full frontal assualt on the Balts and Central Europeans by Stalin and the Soviets. If Roosevelt believed Stalin at Yalta, we in the US were fools. If we understood Stalin but felt incapable of stopping him, or chose not to risk it, we should have been a lot more straightforward with those conquered by Stalin. The US has nothing to be proud of here.
We let the USSR impose totalitarianism. We let the British and French reimpose Imperialism. A huge mess accoss the world although Communism by far the greatest disaster for the world.
The Vietnam analogies currently voiced about Iraq now interesting. Take these analogies back a step and ask what Vietnam would have been like had we stopped the return of French Imperialism and instead allied with Ho Chi Minh, just as we're now fighiting for demoncracy in Iraq allied with Islamists we don't agree with on many things except a commitment to Democratic government.
We made a mess of much of the post war world by not standing up for democracy, and instead playing power politics and reintroducing the status quo. Bush is right to acknowledge this.posted by: Bill Baar on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Now I agree with the sentiment that it's poor taste for Bush to bad mouth his predecessors, and the tragedies of war certainly make undesirable compromises a necessity. However, Greenberg's defense of the Yalta accords is otherwise without merit. Simply stating that FDR and Churchill had no other choice doesn't make it so. It very well may be the case, but FDR did little to counter Stalin's ruthless power grab. For all we know, it could have been possible to insist that all nations but Germany, Japan, and Italy (possibly Austria) were given as much freedom as possible in setting their new governments. Some of them may have chosen communism, but at least it would have been democratically. This would have also kept France and Britain from resuming their imperial activities, possibly avoiding war in Vietnam.posted by: Bob on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
It has been argued before (by Caleb Carr, if I recall correctly) that where the allies actually messed up was not racing East as fast as possible to limit Soviet expansion in the final months of WWII. The conditions were there, but internal politics led to a slowing down of the British and American armies.posted by: Cisco on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Men. None of this stuff matters. We get into wars because we believe in the fallacy of "American Goodness". American Democracy trumps every other destructive form of government.
Democracy elected Hitler. We have domestic terrorism. 150 abortion clinic bombings. Atlanta Olympics. Oklahoma City.
Democracy is obviously not an answer, in and of itself. We've got more evolving to do.
'It has been argued before (by Caleb Carr, if I recall correctly) that where the allies actually messed up was not racing East as fast as possible to limit Soviet expansion in the final months of WWII. The conditions were there, but internal politics led to a slowing down of the British and American armies.'
I don't know if thats correct. Logistics, more than politics were an issue. An army on the move needs a lot of oil and that was a problem for the Allies. Of course, the politics of taking Berlin was an issue -- hundreds of thousands of American causualties could have resulted.posted by: erg on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
"After World War I, the political right in Germany developed a myth called the "stab in the back" theory to explain its people's defeat. Though military leaders had helped negotiate the war's end, they fixed blame on civilian leaders...Last year, George W. Bush endorsed a revanchist view of the Vietnam War: that our political leaders undermined our military and denied us victory."
Bush: "thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War."
When I read the words "stab in the back," I thought of the betrayal that the Paris Peace Accords represented. Kissinger was either an idiot for thinking the North Vietnamese wanted peace, an idiot for thinking that Congress would be willing to come to the rescue once the treaty is broken, or he knew exactly what he was doing.
But Bush's words don't match the stab-in-the-back imagery. They express the commonly-held (and accurate) observation that the politicians incompetently micromanaged the war. Ineptitude, not betrayal.posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Besides, if anyone has a grievance over postwar American policy in eastern Europe it isn't any of the Balts, but the Czechs.
"We didn't think Czechloslovakia was worth starting WWIII over. Sorry."
Seriously, what do you think NATO should have done instead?posted by: rosignol on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Wasn't there the little matter of the Japanese? We were planning to invade Japan. We were pulling troops out of Europe and sending them over to the Pacific. Should we have forgotten about defeating Japan to take on the Russians?
There were also domestic considerations. How willing do you think Americans would have been to continue the war for God knows how many more years? Odds are that had FDR taken us down that road, the Republicans would have made an issue of Democratic warmongering in the next election. They'd have brought the troops home.
The Republicans concern for Eastern Europe was a purely political calculation. They weren't so concerned for Poland when Germany invaded it in '39. Then they criticized FDR for being too keen on taking the country to war.
Their point was never to defeat the Soviets or rescue the Baltics. It was to discredit Roosevelt. It still is.
The idea that we could have fought and defeated the Soviets then and there is just another example of the Right's unshakeable faith in American POWER. All we need is the leader with the right steely glint in his eye and our enemies will go weak in the knees and fall over.posted by: Lance Mannion on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
Lance: Have you read Jon Meacham's book on Churchill and Roosevelt? Yalta was the break in the friendship. R sided with Stalin. Maybe more than he had too... The episode with Roosevelt Jr. siding with Stalin's plan on shooting the first 60k Nazis on the spot and R gently suggesting maybe just the first 30k (I forget the numbers) and than Churchill storming out saying the British would never be party to such an event even after what they had suffered an interesting story too. R once of our greatest but he was spent at Yalta and his judgement very bad.posted by: Bill Baar on 05.10.05 at 02:24 PM [permalink]
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