|Previous segment |Next segment | Contents | Archive | ZNet|
Accordingly, Wilson is revered as a great moral teacher and the apostle of self-determination and freedom, and we may now consider returning to the heady days of Wilsonian idealism. The Bolsheviks, in contrast, had so violated our high ideals that they had to be overthrown by force.
Following the same high principles, the US enthusiastically welcomed the "fine young revolution" carried out by Benito Mussolini in Italy in 1922, as the American Ambassador described the imposition of Fascism. Well into the 1930s, Mussolini was that "admirable Italian gentleman," in the words of the man who (falsely) took credit for the Constitution imposed upon Haiti, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Fascist atrocities were acceptable because they blocked the threat of a second Russia, the State Department explained. Hitler was supported as a "moderate" for the same reason. In 1937, the State Department saw fascism as compatible with US economic interests, and also the natural reaction of "the rich and middle classes, in self-defense" when the "dissatisfied masses, with the example of the Russian revolution before them, swing to the Left." Fascism therefore "must succeed or the masses, this time reinforced by the disillusioned middle classes, will again turn to the left." US diplomat William Bullitt (Kennan's mentor), leaving his post as Ambassador to Moscow in 1936, "believed that only Nazi Germany could stay the advance of Soviet Bolshevism into Europe," Daniel Yergin observes -- not, of course, by conquest. The US business world grasped the point. Major US corporations were heavily involved in German war production, sometimes enriching themselves (notably, the Ford motor company) by joining in the plunder of Jewish assets under Hitler's Aryanization program. "U.S. investment in Germany accelerated rapidly after Hitler came to power," Christopher Simpson writes, increasing "by some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940, while declining sharply everywhere else in continental Europe" and barely holding steady in Britain.
Similar conceptions are currently being revived by right-wing German historians, who argue that Hitler's invasion of Russia may be regarded as "objectively a preventive war," since "a group of people, whether a class or a Volk, that is threatened with annihilation by another group, defends itself and has a fundamental right to defend itself"; "Hitler had good reasons to be convinced of the determination of his enemies [the Bolsheviks and the Jews] to annihilate him" (Ernst Nolte). Parts of this picture may well become the accepted doctrine of the future, given its utility for power interests, though presumably we will not return to the mid-1930s, when Bullitt attributed diplomatic problems to the fact that the Russian Foreign Office "has been purged recently of all its non-Jewish members, and it is perhaps only natural that we should find the members of that race more difficult to deal with than the Russians themselves," in particular a "wretched little kike" whose influence he deplored. We may also anticipate further reconsideration of the failure to follow through on the opportunities for a separate peace with Hitler that would have left the Germans and the Russians to slaughter one another, with the US and Britain standing back until it came time to pick up the pieces.20
As Gaddis and other serious historians recognize, the Cold War began in 1917, not 1945. Whatever one believes about the post-World War II period, no one regarded the USSR as a military threat in earlier years, though it was agreed that the virus had to be contained and if possible destroyed -- much the same policies adopted at once after World War II. By then, the "rotten apple" had grown to include Eastern Europe, undermining Western access to traditional resources. Its ability "to spoil the barrel" had also increased, again, not only in the South. The Communists are able to "appeal directly to the masses," President Eisenhower complained. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, deplored the Communist "ability to get control of mass movements," "something we have no capacity to duplicate." "The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich." In July 1945, a major study of the State and War Departments warned of "a rising tide all over the world wherein the common man aspires to higher and wider horizons." Russia's "actions in the past few years give us no assured bases for supposing she has not flirted with the thought" of expanding "her influence over the earth" by associating with these dangerous currents. Russia "has not yet proven that she is entirely without expansionist ambitions" of this kind.
Furthermore, the USSR had now become a major military force. While planners never expected an unprovoked Soviet attack, they were concerned that the USSR might react to the reconstruction of its traditional enemies, Germany and Japan, as part of a hostile military alliance that constituted a severe security threat, Western analysts recognized. That aside, Soviet power was a deterrent to the exercise of force by the US and its allies; and for its own cynical reasons, the USSR often lent support to targets of US attack and subversion, thus interfering with "stability." Its very existence as a major power provided a certain space for nonalignment and a degree of independence in the Third World. Lesser "rotten apples" posed no such dangers.
It should be stressed that Stalin's awesome crimes were of no concern to Truman and other high officials. Truman liked and admired Stalin, and felt that he could deal with him as long as the US got its way 85 percent of the time. Other leading figures agreed. As with a host of other murderers and torturers of lesser scale, the unacceptable crime is disobedience; the same is true of priests who preach "the preferential option for the poor," secular nationalists in the Arab world, Islamic Fundamentalists, democratic socialists, or independent elements of any variety.
If we can extricate ourselves from convenient mythology, the picture in Indochina comes into focus. It was Ho Chi Minh's "ultranationalism" that made him unacceptable, not his services to the "Kremlin conspiracy" or "Soviet expansion," except in the Orwellian sense of these terms.
|Go to the next segment.|
20 DD, ch. 1.4. Simpson, Splendid, ch. 5. Yergin, Shattered Peace, 2426. Nolte cited by Thomas Sheehan, NY Review, Jan. 14, 1993.