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May 11, 2005

Yaltas and Munichs

Liberals, whether classical liberals (i.e. conservatives/libertarians) or neo-liberals (i.e. Tip O誰eill and Hillary Clinton) can be patriotic Americans and can sometimes be taken seriously on policy issues.

I知 convinced that leftists cannot. Sure, they can wax poetic about a utopian vision of America but they can稚 get behind the America that actually exists, the grubby proles who actually live here today, and fer gosh sakes, they certainly can稚 sanction the America of yesterday. Nor can they propose modest solutions to our apparently insoluble conditions it痴 go with the big ideological plan, or nothin.

The problem is not one of policy; it痴 a matter of outlook. To be 菟rogressive is to oppose tooth and nail the status quo, no matter what it is. Although utopia is the goal, nobody really knows what it looks like, save for A lake of stew, and of whiskey too and jails made out of tin. (Which is remarkably reminiscent of Massachusetts, with its lenient criminal justice system and polluted rust belt waterways). Progressives really can稚 provide a road map, they can only tell us that we have to move away from the status quo, because it sucks. They致e internalized the Marxist dialectic, to the extent that they can稚 really see outside their role in it. They don稚 look back (because it sucks) and they don稚 really want to look at reality as it is today (because it sucks) and this makes it hard to triangulate the future, and predict where we池e going, and how we池e getting there. All they know, is they are moving away from here as fast as they can. Let me qualify that in one way they do look back to burnish the image of their secular saints, who occupy a dashboard position in their political vehicle. The one thing lefties use history for, is to legitimize their cause, and to develop a mythos surrounding their politics, to give it a religious air, to replace the religion that is necessarily missing. But other than polishing the Reeds, the Wobblies, the Hisses and the other secular saints of the leftist past, they really can稚 電o history because history is subordinated to politics.

This has had several consequences. Some fairly heavy duty leftist thinkers have publicly envied conservatives sense of intellectual history, and increasing philosophical coherence, while bemoaning the left痴 lack thereof. It痴 not like they didn稚 have thinkers back in 1910 or 1930 or 1960 it痴 just that progressives don稚 believe history is worth looking at, because everything sucked back then before today痴 progressives came along. The burnishing of those who achieved leftist orthodoxy also necessitates not looking at them too closely, of course - can't be revealing Uncle Joe Stalin had feet of clay and abused his wife now, can we? Uncle Joe's failings have to be hidden, since he couldn't serve as a dashboard saint if we were to know about that stuff, or worse yet, believe it.

Another consequence of leftist ahistoricism is that the left is constitutionally unable to own up to its own failings and address modern policy problems using wisdom gained from hard experience, even when their past failings have led to some fairly monstrous results, and even where those failings would inform today痴 problems. The history they have, or believe in, is so subordinated to political doctrine, that it isn't much use in the reality-based world.

Exhibit #253 is the disaster that was the Soviet Union. It has been well publicized that John Reed痴 correspondence in the NY Times, glorifying the NKVD purge era in the U.S.S.R., was an enormous pack of propaganda in service of a vile dictatorship that murdered upwards of 60 million of its own people, perhaps as many as 100 million. The left in the United States had a long love affair with the Soviets, and served as the witting or unwitting agent of Soviet propaganda efforts in the United States for nearly 70 years. The release of the Venona decrypts and other evidence from the KGB痴 archives confirmed what many on the right suspected: that many leftists around 500 or so prominent ones were in the witting or unwitting employ of the Soviet intelligence organs.

I can almost accept that. They were people who hated the United States, hated capitalism, hated our smelly little country, and wanted to replace it with Soviet style dictatorship. They were the enemy, and I can accept a paid, sworn, full blown enemy in my midst. It takes guts to do that, and the paid enemy agents in our midst had guts. (Even if they were lying traitors).

What to make then, of the dupes, the useful idiots, who boosted the Soviet Union endlessly, and always too the communist side in any public policy debate? What of the apologists for Stalin, Kruschev, Brezhnev, and Andropov? What about the no-nukes kooks, who attended demonstrations of a 菟eace movement funded by the KGB?

And it wasn稚 just active, open boosters of communism who did this. It was the left flank of neo-liberalism, which engaged in a mutual admiration society with the hard left. Remember Phil Donahue, with his charming little peace offensive around 1983 or so? I sure do. How about the legion of Rosenberg and Hiss apologists, who insisted that those traitors were victims of a fiendish setup, only to be proven wrong by Soviet intelligence records? (Podhoretz notes that Eric Alterman still claims to be "agnostic" about the traitor Hiss - "don't confuse me with the facts, please...") What about all those academics who did, and still do, mercilessly bash the United States and democratic capitalism in opposition to communism, in spite of the fact that their false god of totalitarian marxism has failed?

Don稚 they at least owe the rest of us an apology or an effort to acknowledge the truth?

Evidently not.

I actually managed to work myself into a spitting rage today, when I read lefty Joe Conason痴 comments regarding George Bush痴 statements in a speech in Eastern Europe this week: 渡o more Munichs, no more Yaltas.

According to Conason, this is 滴istorical falsification. . . extremist ideology.

Conason is of course referring to the Yalta conference. At that conference, as WWII was ending, Roosevelt and Churchill made a deal with the Russians. If they agreed to declare war against Japan and help finish off Hitler, they could keep Western Europe, and we in the West would forcibly repatriate those who fled the Russian whip hand. This decision was aided in some part by Alger Hiss, later revealed to be a Soviet agent, code named 鄭LES. Following WWII, the Russians did indeed keep all of Eastern Europe, and made a bid to keep Austria as well, and then to shut down Berlin and claim all of that Allied-occupied Nazi capital. For our part, General Eisenhower forcibly repatriated millions of Eastern European refugees who fled to avoid being swallowed by the Bear. Many of them were summarily executed upon their return, many others were subjected to the worst treatment the Soviets could offer, including confinement in torture houses, so-called 杜ental hospitals (because anti-communism is a mental disorder, you know, just like conservatism according to Berkeley researchers) and death sentences to labor camps in the gulag.

This was absolutely hideous of the United States. Got that? All of us dumb f***ers in this country were complicit in yet another one of Europe痴 genocides. We did it in the name of practical politics we wanted Russian help in reducing the Japanese mainland, but it was still an unconscionable bad deal whereby we traded one monstrous regime for another one, one that was marginally nicer toward Jews but worse toward everybody else. To make a comparison today, if the U.S. were to become involved in Darfur, and turn the couple million or so refugees around at bayonet point, making them march back toward the machine guns and machetes of the janjaweed, that would be about 1/20th of the magnitude of what we did at Yalta.

Did we have to do it this way? I don稚 know. But if our current efforts to liberate the middle east are immoral and wrong, as the left argues, it is hard to see how our actions at Yalta which resulted in packing refugees into cattle cars and forced-shipping them into the Soviet controlled zone is somehow less immoral and wrong.

According to Conason, for Bush to compare Yalta to Munich (and thus FDR to Chamberlain) 努as unfortunate, and 甜f]or him to utter those remarks on foreign soil, during ceremonies commemorating the end of the war fought so bravely by Roosevelt and Churchill, was unforgivable.

So that痴 where I fell out of my Herman Miller, dropped into the fetal position and started to turn green.

Conason continues, making the amazing assertion that Roosevelt had no choice, because 7 million Red Army soldiers occupied Europe at that stage in the fighting, so it was a done deal. Thus, Conason thinks it痴 登utrageous to compare 鍍he decisions reached at Yalta as 杜orally equivalent to the feeble betrayal at Munich and the dictators bargain between Stalin and Hitler.

And now that I think about it, Conason may be right. Even had he been a hawk, I知 not sure that Chamberlain had a choice when he went to Munich. It may in fact have been a military necessary to turn the Fuehrer痴 eyes toward the East and sacrifice Poland and Czechoslovakia, in order to mobilize French and British war production and their military machines. On the other hand, Roosevelt and Churchill had a choice Churchill less so, because the manpower of Britain was fairly exhausted by late 1944, and Britain simply hadn稚 the warm bodies to give to an ongoing war effort. Meanwhile, the U.S. was barely touched by the war, not in the way all of Europe was. Yes, 500,000 men were killed, but this is nothing compared to a few million French, a few million Brits, and 20 million Soviet military men (not counting another 20 million civilians). Roosevelt could at least have shown some moral courage here, but there痴 no evidence he did. Moreover, Conason is unintentionally correct in the quantitative sense. While Chamberlain gave away Poland and a chunk of Czech, Roosevelt gave away all of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. That is an order of magnitude worse than what Chamberlain did. The agreement between Roosevelt and Stalin was also much the same as the one between Hitler and Stalin in its effect, with the exception that Molotov-Ribbentrop didn稚 give Stalin would half of Germany and all of Poland, along with North Korea. The more I think about it, the more I think Dubya had a point.

Not that the whole blame should rest with Mr. Roosevelt. Robert Taft was pretty quiet about this until well after the fact. So were the American people, until they realized that somebody gave away Eastern Europe and China. These rallying cries 努ho lost China? being the most prominent, were a catalyst for the conservative movement of the 1950s, which formed the backbone of American anti-communism.

What was especially noble about FDR痴 participation, according to Conason, was that it created a liberated Europe. According to him:

What the democratic leaders did insist upon擁n direct contradiction of the Bush slur謡as the Declaration on Liberated Europe, including a written promise from Stalin to permit free and fair elections in the occupied nations. Poland was to be reconstituted as an independent democratic state, with an interim government that included both communists and democrats..

The result of this particular agreement a 50 year, anti-Western police state begs the question: did Roosevelt know or suspect what would happen? In 1945, the Soviets had a nearly 30 year record of brutal oppression, broken treaties, and lies strewn in their path. If Roosevelt knew this, then he agreed to the Soviet terms knowing that they were a lie, and he was consigning Eastern Europe to slavery. If Roosevelt did not know this, then he was worse than a cynic: he was a patsy, a dupe, an innocent playing on the world stage. Draw your own conclusion.

Conason tries to draw some ju-jitsu out of this. He states that the Soviet signing of the Yalta treaty, followed by the knowing Soviet abrogation of it, gave the United States the moral high ground for the duration of the Cold War.

That may actually be the most horrific thing that Conason says. The U.S. did indeed occupy the moral high ground for much of the Cold War not that the Conasons of the Korean War or VietNam War or D騁ente era U.S. would ever have admitted it. But think about what Conason is saying. He is saying that it was worth it for Roosevelt to consign millions of human beings to misery, in order to give the United States the moral high ground in a foreign policy argument.

Maybe I missed a class on this in college, but to me, that looks pretty damn indecent.

Consaon can稚 stop there no Clinton Administration apologist could he says 滴aving acted on entirely wrong information about Iraq, despite all the advanced technology at his disposal, [Bush] now second-guesses the decisions of leaders who had to rely on far less sophisticated intelligence sources.

Yeah like the New York Times. Though an argument could be made that it was actually a sophisticated intelligence service, albeit in the employ of the Soviets thanks to John Reed and his duped (or miscreant) editors.

Conason acts as if the true nature of the Soviet beast was unknown. The fact is, Churchill perceived it as a threat in the 1930s, albeit a lesser threat than Nazism at the time. He perceived it as a greater threat by 1943, and raised this issue with Roosevelt in the run-up to the Tehran conference. Fer gosh sakes, the Russkis made a pact with Hitler, and Uncle Joe and Adolph were great pals and admirers of each other for a long time. This stuff was in the papers.

Conason finishes up with a doozy:

擢or in voicing his ugly and erroneous criticism of justly venerated men, he only appears to have overestimated himself.

And therein is the problem. Roosevelt was a great President, but he doesn稚 deserve to be venerated. Churchill is perhaps a bit closer to being venerable, and he truly was prophetic, realizing the German and the Russian threat decades before anybody else dead. And while Roosevelt was a strong leader at a tough time in the nation痴 history, he was also the guy who gave away Eastern Europe, and turned away Jewish refugees.

So while Conason accuses Bush of coloring events the wrong way, it痴 pretty clear he痴 carrying a large bucket of whitewash at the same time.

As if on cue, Josh Marshall adds his two cents worth - it痴 not called 鍍alking points memo for nothing. Marshall痴 criticism is really lucid, too:

Bush's historically ignorant and morally hideous claim that "the agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact."

One would expect a guy with a PhD, who teaches journalism, to end his sentences with predicates.

He continues:

In making this argument the president joins a rich tradition of maniacs who believe that at the end of World War II we should have joined with the defeated remainder of the German army and fought our way through Eastern Europe to the border of Russia and, in all likelihood, on to Moscow to overthrow the Soviet Union itself.

I don稚 think Bush suggested that. In fact, I think there were probably some options other than 杜aniacs employing Hitler痴 army to wipe out the Russians. You know, like endless UN negotiation in that new body, perhaps followed by a declaration complaining about Russia痴 behavior? Or perhaps a statement, in no uncertain terms, that Soviet monkey-business in Poland would not be tolerated. Or maybe even FDR could have directed Eisenhower to not pack of Eastern European refugees on catttle cars bound for the Soviet death camps. The point being, I think there is some middle ground between using the Waffen S.S., and participating and enabling Soviet genocide.

Marshall continues though, and makes an interesting assertion:

Eastern Europe that lasted for more than forty years. But one cannot assess the morality or political insight of American and British decision-making in the late stages of the war without standing them up against the real alternatives they faced. Anything else is just cheap posturing or folly. In the president's case, perhaps both.

One wonders if Marshall is applying the same standards in his evaluation of the U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like he says, anything else, would be just cheap posturing or folly.

The bottom line is the U.S. didn稚 even try to save the Eastern European refugees, and didn稚 try to stand up to the inevitable Stalin power-grab in Eastern Europe after the war. We knew it was coming, but we played patty cake, griping over where the inter-zone barbed wire ran in Berlin or Vienna, but we never drew a line in the sand until the Korean War, at which point it was too late to cage the bear. To some extent the blood of the victims of communism is on our hands for not having been sufficiently vigorous in our opposition to that murderous political system, especially when we had the ability to do so. It is typical of the left that Conason and Marshall痴 analysis of the history is so sterile, and so subordinated to ideology. This is what you get, from people who don稚 take history seriously. They simply can稚 see any flaws in how FDR handled the situation, or maybe it痴 the Soviet Union that they are seeking to defend here, and anybody who disagrees will be subject to a spitting-cobra like splash of venom in the face. That痴 just what you get from the left Stalinism wasn稚 just a government, it was a method of argument that forbade challenging leftist orthodoxy in the premise or conclusion. It is nearly unbelievable that they still find it impossible to summon outrage over Stalin, or even a bit of indignation over those in the West who failed to confront him. It is blindness to history, that stems from the left痴 contemporaneous blindness to the present, in whatever time they happen to live.

Posted by Blackavar at May 11, 2005 11:13 PM | TrackBack
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