Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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More Yalta Reverberations
Joe Conason expresses more precisely than I did why Bush's Yalta remarks were so scandalous:
And there's more to it. The debate over Yalta is not a debate over whether the Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for a half century was a terrible thing. There is no debate over that question.
No, Yalta means something very different, as people who invoke it know -- or should know. There is a long tradition of Yalta-bashing, and it was used especially by far-right demagogues to accuse FDR of being a traitor. It's a claim that implies our brave fighting men were doing heroic work in liberating Europe but that their good efforts were betrayed by weak leaders.
One doesn't speak about Yalta in a vacuum. By uttering the words he did, Bush (or his speechwriter) aligned himself with a distinct and self-conscious historical tradition. He could have framed his remarks of sympathy with the peoples of Eastern Europe in any number of ways. But, wittingly or not, he endorsed an interpretation of history that sees Yalta as the hinge and America's decisions there as having cast Eastern Europe into darkness. But that was not the case.
Update: Kevin Drum asks:
Not just the Latvians, that's for sure. Key point. I should double-check this, but ... [Why? When in Rome... -- Ed. OK, I, but I'm gonna blame you if some expert on Latvian history contradicts me. And isn't there something about this "-- Ed." business reminiscent of Homer Simpson talking to his brain?] ... Anyway, I don't think Yalta dealt significantly with Latvia. At least it wasn't a central issue there. Had Bush given the speech in Poland, or even in Hungary, Yalta might have seemed more relevant.
I wonder, too, what the result would have been if Tehran and Yalta had rejected Soviet designs on Eastern Europe. Soviet troops were already well on their way to 'liberating' the region; would the other Allies have had the military capability or even desire to take on the Soviets after the struggle against the Germans?posted by: Steve M on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
I've heard a lot about what Yalta wasnt. How about what Yalta was then?
In my opinion, both sides of this argument are talking about their legend of what happened. The truth is that Churchill was great guns for beating the Soviets to Central Europe and FDR did indeed overrule him. But its wrong to judge it as moral cowardice, it was an intentional decision based on longstanding and widespread American sentiment about not getting mixed up in European colonial games. It is going to far to say FDR was just as suspicious of British intentions on the Continent as Soviet, but it isnt entirely false either. With Japan to keep the US busy (and needing Soviet support there), it was just common sense to win the war they had on their plate by the fastest means possible. Having the Brits snubbing the Soviets noses while we had our hands full of Japan wasnt an option.posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Conspiracy theories are fun, but there may be other explanations for Bush's words on Yalta. For those of you who don't click on the link, the article is about a monument to Yalta, which is being erected in a context of increasing Stalin nostalgia and rememberence of the good old days of the Soviet Union.
I offer a challenge to the guest host. Is it possible this is the context Bush had in mind, and not the conspiracy theories of the long-gone McCarthy-ite right?posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Wow. This was a bad argument the first time, not sure why you feel the need to make 20 blog entries to reinforce the weakness. Is the leftist foreign policy critique so weak that you have nothing else to say except complain about "code words" and dredge up the spectre of McCarthyism? Sheesh.
And Conason. Why on earth would you think that gutter-dwelling hack would have any credibility on this blog? It's fine being a leftist and all, but you should stick to linking to credible writers like Drum. Linking to Conason only weakens your case.posted by: Matthew Cromer on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
The notion that Bush's speech was somehow meant for domestic U.S. consumption is damn near idiotic. The notion that it has anything to do with the Alger Hiss/Whittaker Chambers controversy is equally close to blithering.
How was this central to Latvia??????? O.K. The U.S. (along with all of the West) did not recognize the Soviet "annexations" of 1939, until at Yalta FDR gave them his de facto blessing.
Now, everyone agrees that the options open to FDR were few to none...but the point is the U.S. and Britain gained exactly nothing at Yalta. They even gave up the ability to make the moral case for self-determination for the Baltic states as well as the rest of Eastern Europe. At Yalta FDR even gave his blessings on the farcical "free elections" that were to come in places like Poland, knowing full well they would be nothing but a sham for Soviet propaganda.
Not every people has as short a historial memory as Americans do. The point is for those smaller countries there WAS ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE between what happened to them because of Yalta and what happened to them because of the Nazi/Soviet "understanding." Their rights, interests, and aspirations were deemed expendable. As a result they were left to the mercy of a more powerful nation... and FDR couldn't even be bothered to make the rhetorical case for freedom.posted by: Rich Horton on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"The debate over Yalta is not a debate over whether the Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for a half century was a terrible thing. There is no debate over that question." D. Greenberg
Well, there's certainly no debate now, in mid 2005, but you're indulging in a wee bit of a chronological gloss at this point, a gloss that is forgetful of some prominent historical facts.
I was still a Dem in the 80's; didn't vote for Reagan I can now regretfully say. Yet the plain fact was, in the early and mid 80's (for a few even into the late 80's), when then Pres. Reagan was promoting and effectively prosecuting his case against the Soviet regime, it was the Galbraith's, Albright's, Samuelson's, Thurow's, Kerry's, et al (and there were many indeed among the Left/Dems) who were elaborately scoffing at Reagan for his strategy against the Soviets.
Those scoffs (quotes from these and other "luminaries" could be provided) effectively did make light of that "terrible thing" you're now indicating we all agree upon and concerning which, there is "no debate." Nice to know, as we're adjusting our laurels and critiquing the current President, that there's no debate now, in 2005, concerning the "evil empire."posted by: Michael B on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"With Japan to keep the US busy (and needing Soviet support there), it was just common sense to win the war they had on their plate by the fastest means possible. Having the Brits snubbing the Soviets noses while we had our hands full of Japan wasnt an option."
This is not a very good argument. The Soviets didn't even get around to voiding their non-agression pact with Japan until over a month after Yalta (though they had been the nominal ally of the U.S. for over THREE YEARS at that point. Nice.) And even then the Soviets didn't declare war on Japan until AFTER Hiroshima (remember Yalta is in February - Hiroshima AUGUST 1945) and the Soviets had combat operations against Japan for a grand total of 6 day. SIX DAYS. The idea that we "needed" Soviet help against Japan just doesn't hold up. (It must also be remembered that the hardest of the slogging against the Japanese in the Pacific is only just happening -Iwo Jima from mid February to mid March & Okinawa from April 1st to mid June- so they couldn't have had an influence at Yalta...unless FDR had the ability to time travel.)posted by: Rich Horton on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Hey conspiracy nuts! Look here! An article indicating that Latvia is seeking a resolution from the European Union condemning the Soviet domination of East Europe, and a reconsideration of Yalta.
And all I needed to do was google Yalta and Latvia and sift a few results.
I am extremely unimpressed with those trying to resurrect the GOP of the 40's and 50s, when the answer to why Bush did what he did can be deduced from current activity.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"The truth is that Churchill was great guns for beating the Soviets to Central Europe and FDR did indeed overrule him."
Yeah, I'm sure Winnie would have fought Stalin to the last American. The Brits were essentially a spent force by then, and Churchill had long since become the junior partner. We still had our hands full in Japan, mind you.
By the way, the idea that FDR had any other choice at Yalta is absurd. Yalta recognized the realities on the ground. FDR could not know that Japan would surrender so quickly after the atomic bomb blasts. Like it or not, FDR, in his mind, traded the freedom of those in Eastern Europe for the lives of American boys he thought might otherwise be forfeited in 1,000 Iwo Jimas.
I feel -- as a good moderate -- that both sides are indulging in egregious abuse of context on this issue.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
I guess I've skipped a few too many VRWC meetings! I had no idea that "Yalta" was the secret code-word indicating that the spirit of McCarthy was to rise up and smite progressives everywhere. They've probably even gone and changed the secret handshake and eveything.
Why did Bush mention Yalta at all?
The implication of the Presidentís speech in Riga, however, is that the decisions reached at Yalta were morally equivalent to the feeble betrayal at Munich and the dictatorsí bargain between Stalin and Hitler.
Yalta is unlike Munich, in that it's not clear that Roosevelt was aiming to appease Stalin. As others have pointed out on these threads, it's possible that he thought elections would actually occur. Or simply that the Soviets controlled the ground and he was presented with a fait accompli.
But why is it outrageous to compare the three examples?
posted by: Doug on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Another prominent, and prominently simple, fact is that if the President would have referenced Yalta in a domestic speech, in Peoria or elsewhere, much of this bruhaha would be understandable. Instead, and if one more simply (there's that word again) looks at the reference to Yalta in the speech, a speech rendered in Latvia and before other Baltic state and other principals, it is in fact a rather benign, even historically reasonable comment, not at all out of proportion to what the Eastern Block endured during the reign of the Soviet's evil empire, concerning which we are all, now, no longer needful of being disabused of.
It wasn't the President who opened the broader debate, his comment was entirely condign, entirely reasonable and well proportioned to the audience and setting in general. Instead it was the Dems and the Left/Dems who are (largely) attempting to forward this "debate."
All this, to reference an even more specious and egregious elision deftly committed by the Left, is reminiscent of the myth that the U.S. enlarged the Vietnam war into Laos and Cambodia, when in fact in had been the North Vietnamese who had initiated the expansion of the war into that territory. But that's an analogy only, and another, much much more sensitive issue still.
(And I chose to use the Vietnam analogy precisely because, in yet another nearby Yalta post, Vietnam was alluded to as something of a parallel.)posted by: Michael B on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Yalta is open to criticism just as any policy is. But to fairly criticize it you have to understand the context in which the decisions were made (leftist revisionists never did this and it's not better for right-wing revisionists). Anyone can, in hindsight, come up with alternatives. But you have to look at how the president saw things at the time. What people seem to forget is that the Russians were actually popular in the US--they were our allies and helping to defeat the Germans. Advocating a policy directed at the Soviets would not necessarily have been well-received, especially since we still had the Japanese to contend with. You can argue, as Rich Horton does, that we really didn't need Russia's help against Japan. But FDR didn't know that at the time. You can't fairly say policy makers knew or should have known something that later became known. I don't think anyone knew if the atomic bomb would work or, even if it did, if it would convince Japan to surrender. These are all arguable points in hindsight, but you can't assume that FDR knew what we now know.
I have no idea what Bush's rationale was for invoking Yalta. I doubt that he was trying to reopen the Alger Hiss wars of the 50s--that's hardly going to have much resonance today. But FDR has become (or always was) a whipping boy of the right for things such as Yalta and, more recently, his failure to do anything with respect to the Holocaust. These are legitimate grounds for criticism, but, IMO, they should be considered in the context of what he accomplished as well.posted by: Marc Schneider on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Have it cross your mind that Bush message was intended for the tyrant sitting in the Kremlin? Of course not. All you see is conspiracy.
This is a counter to Putin earlier glorification of the Soviet Union. "The debate over Yalta is not a debate over whether the Soviet oppression of Eastern Europe for a half century was a terrible thing. There is no debate over that question." The debate is far from over, because Putin does not see it that way.
Next people will be saying that that FDR couldn't walk...and was seriously ill and not qualified to be President his last few terms. Or even worse that John Kerry is FDR without the charm. Or that FDR wasn't even close to George Washington as a leader.
Just think. Bill Clinton would still be president if FDR had stopped at two terms.
"You can argue, as Rich Horton does, that we really didn't need Russia's help against Japan. But FDR didn't know that at the time. You can't fairly say policy makers knew or should have known something that later became known."
Obviously neither FDR nor anyone else could have known exactly what path the Pacific war was going to take months beforehand, but it doesn't mean that the "We needed Russia to attack Japan" line isn't anything but a post facto rationalization itself. If FDR was REALLY engaging in a tit-for-tat here ("We will recognize Soviet imperial claims in Eastern Europe in exchange for your help in Japan") then FDR has to be considered the worst negoitiator in the history of mankind. Russia did not aid in the war against Japan when such aid could have been meaningful. They only joined in when easy terrotorial gain beckoned. The notion that they joined in to honor some agreement at Yalta strikes me as being terribly naive.posted by: Rich Horton on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
A sellout is still a sellout regardless of whether the geopolitical realities on the ground made available options slim.
FDR was a great wartime leader, but his naive belief in Stalin's good intentions made things harder for the U.S. down the road.
Roosevelt should have called a spade a spade, and denounced Soviet entrenchment in Eastern Europe. The idea that Russian support was critical to defeating Japan is ludicrous.posted by: Nick on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
At the time of Yalta the idea that we would need Soviet help in Japan was not ludicrous.
At the time we did not know if the bomb would work and were already starting to move troops
The idea that we would have taken on the Soviets after WW II is pure revisionist fantasy.
This is just lefty hyperventilation.
A red diaper baby friend went nutso over "Dominionism" the other day. We advised him to get married again as he obviously didn't have enough real problems to stay focused. He's a writer in debt paying off two ex-wives.
They still haven't recovered from last November.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
The question is whether it made strategic sense to attack and defeat Stalinism after 1945. It is possible that we could have defeated Russia before they acquired nuclear weapons in 1949. But then Germany would have reunited and eastern Europe would have returned to its interwar condition.
The Allies preferred to leave Stalin in control of eastern Europe rather than wage a new world war to restore the status quo of 1920. The decision can surely be faulted to the extent that Stalinism was later opposed on moral grounds and then tolerated as a matter of expediency. But the late 1940s were a time when uncertainty about the Soviet threat went together with memories of the German one.
The paramount Allied goal in 1945 was to occupy Germany and prevent it from again becoming a threat to its neighbors. This required a Soviet occupation force in eastern Germany. The Soviet threat afterwards was not of the same character as the Nazi threat, a point that Kennan made at the time and that U.S. policy makers in the late 1940s understood.
A conventional war with Russia also might not have gone well at first. In 1948 Soviet armored divisions could have overrun France and the Low Countries. I'm not sure we could have turned the tide with nuclear weapons before they acquired enough nukes of their own to retaliate.
On the other hand, eastern Europe and the western non-Russian republics of the Soviet Union were ready to assist a war to liberate them from Russia in the late 1940s. Russians themselves might not have fought as hard against us as they did against Hitler. If the Allies had incorporated Russia and Germany into a strongly federal Europe afterwards, a war on Stalinism (assuming it succeeded) might have made strategic sense. But obviously there would have been huge risks.
posted by: David Billington on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Come to think of it, if we really did sign over Eastern Europe to the Soviets because we needed their help against Japan to keep our own losses down, that really would have been sort of craven, wouldn't it? Good thing it's not the only defense available for Yalta! While FDR really was bamboozled by Stalin to a large extent, it's hard to see what he could have done differently if he hadn't been, so no use getting too excited about it. The comparison with the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which was a division of the spoils between two aggressors, would be offensive in any case.posted by: Paul Zrimsek on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
As a kid in the 1950s I was a military dependent in Germany and well remember the plans for us if the Soviets invaded. We were to board buses and trucks and head for ports on the French coast in hopes that we could get there head of the Soviets. The US troops in Germany were not expected to stop the red army, they were only to serve as a tripwire to assure the Europeans that we would not abandon them.posted by: spencer on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
In so far as the "facts on the ground" did not dictate a fait accompli with regard to the repatriation of emigrees, can anyone (David G. perhaps) offer a defense of the provision of the Yalta agreement that repatriated hundreds of thousands of them back across the Iron Curtain to certain death or labor camp service?posted by: Patrick on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
I won't offer a defense, but here is an The reason appears to be concern over US POWs "rescued" by th Red Army.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
The man was a Soviet agent and he was in a policy making position in the American Yalta Delegation, so of course the East Europeans got screwed.
Eastern Europe was betrayed by the American Left and they are still trying to pooint he fingers of blame at everyone else.posted by: Trent Telenko on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Speaking of code words, "conspiracy" appears five times within these comments for no good reason that I can discern.posted by: Kirk Samuelson on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"Would the other Allies have had the military capability or even desire to take on the Soviets after the struggle against the Germans?"
Unfortunately, the answer is no. At least beyond achieving something of a very ugly stalemate. But the end of the war the red army featured a veteran core vetted by many tough battles. They were equipped with the world's finest tank, superior to the German tiger and panzer. And they had thousands of them. Obviously, US and British forces would have achieved air superiority. But back then, air superiority was not considered as reliable and essential as it is today in winning large tank battles.
General George C. Marshall, a brilliant military commander in his own right, probably gleaned what a future war in Europe against the Soviet army might be like when Stalin finally kept his word and attacked the Japanese in Manchuria. The Soviet army easily and rapidly overcame all Japanese resistance. And the Imperial army was greater and more significant there than what was available to defend the Japanese homeland. Many believe that this event, and not the dropping of the two types of atomic bombs led the Japanese to finally capitulate.
The choice was a lesser of two dark evils. A battle that likely would have left Europe in ruin for decades and perhaps longer if primitive atomics were employed or relinquising the mostly already lost Eastern Europe to Stalin. Also, Churchill, a vehement, unwavering anti-communist consented to this as well. There had to be a reason.posted by: manoppello on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Speaking of code words, "conspiracy" appears five times within these comments for no good reason that I can discern.
I think it was inspired by the combination of Kevin Drum's statement that "inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?" and David's response that "Not just the Latvians, that's for sure."
In other words, rather than reading Bush's speech as directed towards the Latvians in his audience and concerning their country's experiences at the end of WWII, David & Kevin seem to have drawn the conclusion that instead he's using code words to signal an unspecified something to unspecified people who are heirs of an historial tradition of "far-right demagogues". The only living person they've found who seems to hold these views is Pat Buchannan - who admittedly fits the far-right demagogue part pretty well, but is perhaps the least-likely person for W. to address regarding foreign policy, whether via code words or otherwise.
Anyhow, this all seems like an overly baroque interpretation of a straightforward presidential speech. All the appeals to secret messages, hidden motivations and shadowy allegiances sounds more worthy of an X-Files episode than political analysis - hence the conspiracy jokes.posted by: Doug on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"This is just lefty hyperventilation. A red diaper baby friend"
Hmmm. great way to disclose a low IQ and inability to use basic logic in debates: name calling.posted by: manoppello on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
You definitely are from another planet. Red diaper baby = child of wildly socialist, if not overt Communist, parents, i.e., imbibed dialectic with his/her mother's milk.
Note Doug's comment:
"Anyhow, this all seems like an overly baroque interpretation of a straightforward presidential speech. All the appeals to secret messages, hidden motivations and shadowy allegiances sounds more worthy of an X-Files episode than political analysis - hence the conspiracy jokes."
My lefty friend was also subjected to Pinky and the Brain jokes which are equally applicable to those seeing hidden meanings in Bush's speech:
"The same thing we do every night Pinky - try to take over the world!"posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"Anyway, I don't think Yalta dealt significantly with Latvia"
Which is the freaking point David! Why not? By not dealing with it it implicitaly accepted Stalin's seizure of the Baltics.
Anyway, initially I just thought the 'Bush stabs Roosevelt in the back in Riga' folks were just engaging in some reflexive Bush bashing. One can certainly debate over there was anything the Western allies could've done differently at Yalta (to his credit that was maybe where Brad Delong was heading). Historians, mainstream, non-extremist, non-revisionist, run of the mill historians in respectable universities across the US (not to mention foreign historians) have been arguing about the efficacy of American and British diplomacy vis a vis the Soviet Union during WW2 for years. Some of this is critical and some take the 'there wasn't much that could've been done' view. Either way it's a perfectly respectable debate with pros and cons on both sides.
Now folks like you and Yglesias come out with this whole 'this is just John Birch stuff revisited' and smear everyone who questions the decisions at Yalta with that brush. On a personal level I find that very offensive.
It seems a lot of folks are relying on three completely fallacious arguments here:
1. The alternative to Yalta to was WW3.
2. If you question Yalta it means you're a neo John Bircher
3. Bush said it so it can't be right.
4. Bush has no right to make that statement given that he hasn't apologized for American slavery or the British Empire or whatever.
5. A lot of arguments from (not even well established) authority which consist of 'this other blogger' agrees with me
1,3,4,5 are just your standard logical fallacies, but 2 is insulting and slimy. For one it means folks like you are not willing to argue about this in good faith. Which means it's time to tell you (and yes, Matthew Yglesias too) to shut the hell up.
At one point there could've been (maybe was) an intelligent debate about (one which I was getting tired with) this but with this whole ad hominen crap that's been coming out recently there really is little point except to reciprocate in kind until some kind of an apology is made.
NB: Quite a few left wing politicians have been critical of Yalta in the past as well. Does that make them closet Pat Buchanan supporters?posted by: radek on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
How was Yalta anything but a tacit recognition of the facts on the ground? The Soviets possessed VAST superiority on the ground, and had already overrun all of the territories in question.
FDR did the only sensible thing. Military action wasn't an option, and both he and Stalin knew it. Perhaps his great fault was not giving an empty speech about freedom . . .posted by: Geek, Esq. on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Right-wingers are just as capable of losing it - they just tend to do so on different subjects. I ask my right-wing friends if they're off their meds when they do that.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Yalta is open to criticism just as any policy is.
Of course. But when you are critical of one of St. Roosevelt's decisions in front of lefties, you have to expect a few responses based on things other than logic and reason.
Comes with the territory.posted by: rosignol on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who? -Kevin Drum
Y'know, I think I prefer the "Bush is a master conspirator" routine to the "Bush is a moron" routine... but not by much.
Besides that, I thought Kevin Drum was one of the relatively sane ones? What the hell? This is the sort of thing I'd expect from Robert Fisk.posted by: rosignol on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Tom, you'll get no argument with me on that score.posted by: radek on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Actually, I think Churchill took the initiative on acknowledging Red Army occupation as a fait accompli. Also, Churchill (or at least the British Army) wanted to weaken the Germans elsewhere before taking casualties at Normandy (they maybe were thinking too much in terms of WWI, where the Western Front was hopeless until, gee, they invented tanks); hence the delay to 1944.
Mind you, postwar public opinion for continued war was basically nonexistent. The Allies were exhausted.
Churchill saw what was going to happen long in advance and saw it as a necessary evil to win the war. He was probably right (though not about waiting 'til '44 to free France). But Yalta WAS a sad day, make no mistake.posted by: Jon Kay on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Interesting point. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks for the info.posted by: Patrick on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
When did Bush go from idiot puppet to puppetmaster svengali using magic code words to activate deep McCarthyite sleeper agents all from the depths of Latvia? Do you guys realize how absurd that sounds? We can argue over whether Bush is right or wrong on Yalta, but the question is totally academic. Anybody currently not wearing foil as a hat or searching their drivers license for antennas would come to the conclusion that Bush was taking a shot at Putin. Who cares about the historical accuracy? Bush certainly doesnt. It was a message and the message was sent. Isnt that bottom line what we should be discussing?posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
What is there to discuss?
Taking a shot at Putin is good politics that reminds everyone in eastern Europe that being friends with the US is a very good thing. Putin won't like it, but getting Putin to like us isn't the point of the excercise.posted by: rosignol on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"This is a counter to Putin earlier glorification of the Soviet Union."
This ought to be blindingly obvious. Context, people.
"I thought Kevin Drum was one of the relatively sane ones?"
No, he never was. It's an illusion. You think he's sane because he's relatively nice. But mainly he's just moderately dumb.posted by: Yehudit on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Churchill wanted to move the line where the Western Allies met the Soviets eastward, but he was also the author of the "naughty" October 1944 percentages agreement with Stalin (which Stalin basically lived up to).
The fate of small countries depends on the deals of big powers. It was always thus. My problem with Bush is pretending it could be different.posted by: Gareth on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
I voted for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, and am no big fan of GWB. That said, I am utterly amazed at how reflexive, unthinking, and deeply unserious the condemnation of Bush by the Left has become. Bush gives a speech in Latvia, to Latvians, and says that it was a shame that they had to suffer under 40+ years of Soviet domination (note to David Greenberg: the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states had not been recognized by the West until Yalta -- this is probably not a "central issue" for you, but if you lived in Latvia, it might be a bigger deal).
Response to said speech: Bush is an evil genius using code words to (a) awake a legion of McCarthyite sleeper agents, (b) cleverly reprogram everyone's memories of FDR so that Social Security can be abolished, and/or (c) travel back in time and start a war with Stalin in 1946 (and some of the more rabid comments at Kevin Drum's site are beyond my poor powers of satire). Is this really the response of a serious, principled opposition? To me, it seems a sad and pathetic spectacle, maybe half a step up the evolutionary ladder from Dan Burton firing bullets into watermelons to prove the Clintons killed Vince Foster ...
And btw, somebody should volunteer to tell Kevin Drum that Alger Hiss *really was* a Soviet agent inside the US government (per the Venona cables), despite the fact that the "wingnut right" was convinced he was ... a Soviet agent inside the US government.posted by: Taras Bulba on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
Yalta "long dead for years"? Not for the Baltic states. With Russia slipping back into its' former self-Putin declaring the tradgey of the break up of the USSR, why shouldn't Bush call attention to the truth of the past? Don't think it could happen again?posted by: kent on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
>I ask my right-wing friends if
posted by: Trent Telenko on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
You know, I really don't mind tht Drezner decided to give the blog over to a couple of lefties; it's always good to have your ideas challenged. That being said, it would have been much better if he could have found two reasonably rational lefties. I mean, given this this post, it is pretty clear that this David Greenberg is one of the Bush-hating Kos worshippers. I expect somewhere before Monday we'll see out of this Greenberg a post along the lines of "Chimpy McCokespoon stole the election in Ohio. It's been proven! DIIIEEEBOOOLD!"posted by: Alex on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
"1. The alternative to Yalta to was WW3.
Radek, well no, its a false statement.
The alternative to Yalta was WWII continuing. And to a number of folks that made sense given that Soviets helped kick it off with their invasion of Finland. There are some who claim that Churchill was hoping that the Germans would be able to finish the Russians off before the D-Day invasion. And of course Stalin suspected this.
I think historians will look at the cold war as a continuation of World War II in the future. Given how WWII finally ended in 1991 through the Reagan doctrine, and what might have happened had the US and GB gone to war with Russia over Eastern Europe... given the potential for destruction, loss of additional millions of life I think we chose wisely.posted by: manoppello on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
manoppello, I don't know where you're posting from, apologies if you already know this.
The significance of 'WW3' to Americans is that it is considerd synonymous with a nuclear war- and that's what a continuation of WW2 vs the Soviets would have become. The Allies just didn't have the manpower or the materiel to win against the Soviets in Europe any other way... If anything, you are probably underestimating the potential for destruction and loss of life.posted by: rosignol on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
I have heard many comments on Bush's trip to the Balkans and Georgia and the speeches he made. Many have talked about correcting history and making the Russians face up to their past. But I feel there is much more to why Bush said what he said. No Prez would risk alienating a friend just to correct history, especially a nuclear power that we have only recently befriended. Therefore, there must be much more going on here than meets the eye. My theory, one that I have not seen or heard anywhere, is that these speeches are more about the present and future than they are about the past.
Not only is there a revisionist history in Russia but also a deep yearning for the past glory days. Putin himself has made statements that indicate he longs for the return of Soviet dominance. You have addressed this longing in some of your posts. Even many of the Russian people are known to wish for the "good old days," especially the older people that lived easier when the Communist government supplied to their critical needs. And this yearning is what Putin is using to empower his actions as he cracks down on democracy. Controlling the press, nationalizing many industries, controlling elections all are endagering democracy but the people seem to favor these steps because they appear to make the country more stable.
Many around the world have seen this and fear a return to Communist rule, or some form of dictatorship. Bush is trying to point out the many failings of the old system to the Russian people so that they will remember what life under such centralized government can be like. They need to understand that such power is corrupting and can lead to a government that cares more about staying in power than it does its own people. It leads to corruption, control, nepotism, stagnation, and a lack of economic dynamics. Worse, it leads to a power that can subjugate its neighbors and even its own people. It leads to the terrible history that the Russians are denying and Bush is pointing out.
People in Russia need to examine all this and make informed decisions. And Bush is trying to correct history so that they have a better understanding of what is at stake. Bush is talking about the past in order to strenghten democracy today not only in the Balkans and Georgia but also in Russia itself.posted by: thewiz on 05.11.05 at 09:09 AM [permalink]
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