Steven Josselson, over at Troubled Times, posts
a link to a report that says the Worst President is adding to his war crimes--this time in Afghanistan. I supported the US attack on the Taliban after 9/11/01, but openly wondered whether the Worst President would follow through on what he promised, i.e. apprehending or killing bin Laden and staying what would be a rough course in re-establishing, in Afghanistan, the best of the West's open government values. The Worst President's diversion into Iraq War II has been a disaster that is a major reason as to why our nation failed to reach either of those goals.
In short, even the "good fight" in Afghanistan is going bad.
Speaking of "good fights," I have spent the past few days perusing Peter Beinart's "The Good Fight"
and found it was more shallow and ignorant than I anticipated. It is not worth all the analysis given to it, including this latest article
from Fred Kaplan at the Washington Monthly--which article lays out another objection to Beinart's shallowness in a still too kind manner.
In a previous post
, I had said I would challenge Beinart's assumptions about the start of the Cold War and the politics of the 1940s. After going through his book via the index and reading his text and footnotes, I concluded his book is so shallow (more assumptions than scholarship) in this regard that a few points need only be made:
1. BEINART CONTENTIONS: Beinart begins his book with a story about Hubert Humphrey trying to help Henry Wallace, FDR's former Vice President, understand that Wallace was surrounded by Communists, with the additional point that Humphrey was only seeing the light against Communist infilatration in American politics not long before the 1948 Presidential Campaign--where Wallace ran as a third party candidate against Truman. Beinart also gives his readers the impression that Humprhey led a successful purge against a horde of out and out Communists in the coalition in Minnesota known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Parties (the "DFL").
HISTORICAL REALITY: While it is true that Wallace underestimated the number of American Communist Party members who supported him in 1948, Beinart later grudgingly admits most
of Wallace's supporters were not Communists. Worse, however, Beinart fails to inform his readers that Humphrey burst on the scene in Minneapolis politics in 1943 as a friend to the business community and was immediately interested in purging not merely Communists, but people who were liberal lefties in the bosom of the New Deal. This purging also included some individuals who were even less
liberal than Humphrey, but simply disagreed with his tactics or substance on one or more issues. See: "The Drugstore Liberal: Hubert Humphrey in Politics" (Grossman Publishers, 1968)
by the very accomplished investigative reporter, Robert Sherrill, with Harry W. Ernst (any good university library would have this book; I have it at home, though!); see pages 47-56 of their book.
As for the view that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Parties (a coalition known through today as the "DFL") was rife with Communists from 1946-48, in fact, during that very period, the DFL presented and supported candidates who were to the "right" of Humphrey. Worse, Humphrey used what some would call thuggish tactics against those who opposed him, starting in 1947 (see Sherrill/Ernst, pages 47-48). Sherrill's book should not be the last word, however, as it was written with a strong bias against Humphrey. The book remains valuable, though, because so much haigography exists regarding Humphrey and this period of Minnesota political history.
To Beinart, Minnesota is representative of where the Democrats and their left allies were in the mid- to late 1940s. As a more detailed analysis shows, however, Beinart's history is more myth than reality.
2. Beinart says, at page 12 of his book, that the Progressive Party, the third party formed around Henry Wallace for the 1948 election, was so anti-American that it failed to include a statement in its platform that was critical of the Soviet Union's actions. However, when one reads Beinart's book's endnote for that proposition from page 12, one discovers that the Progressive Party expressly included a platform plank that criticized both the "American business and military" and
"Soviet aggrandizement and power politics." Surely Beinart is aware that the term "aggrandizement" is often used in a negative connotation to criticize a person or an entity for wanting to increase one's power or position.*
3. Beinart admits, without recognizing the import of his statement, that Truman set up loyalty oaths and programs in early 1947. These oaths and programs, as I noted in the previous post on this subject, were broad enough to allow for Joe McCarthy and the Republicans to attack the Democrats as soft on national security--for not using the oaths and programs enough to root out "communists." Ironcially, this is why Beinart is akin to Truman in Beinart's support of the machinery the Worst President used to attack everyone from Michael Moore to the Dixie Chicks to various ex-Reagan officials who thought the Worst President and his staff had gone over the deep end.
4. Beinart fails to give his readers an understanding as to how the first test of the Truman Doctrine of anti-communism wound up giving birth to a militarist dictatorship in Greece, which betrayed those Greek citizens who sought an open government in that nation. Truman led Americans to believe that Stalin was supporting the Greek Communists to take over Greece, but in fact, Truman knew (as did Churchill in England) that Stalin had kept to his deal with Churchill
in 1944 not to "subvert" Greece
. The support the Communists received was from Tito in Yugoslavia, who defied Stalin, which defying decision played a primary role in the split between Tito and Stalin. Wikipedia
gives a decent account of the Greek civil war, which most historians of the subject date from 1943.
This detour into 1940s Greek history is extremely relevant because Beinart fails to grasp the practical, real-world
consequences of theoretical policies upon various other nations, including our own. This was especially true during the "Cold War"--and the actions and policies the "Cold War" liberals joined with "Cold War" conservatives in supporting. Beinart also fails to grasp that, regardless of the individual eccentricities of Henry Wallace, who appears to have had an interest in things mystical
(the way Ron and Nancy Reagan were interested in astrology), Wallace and others, including George Kennan
, saw alternative methods of securing the same goal in defeating totalitarian regimes and movements. The dishonesty of Truman and his advisers with regard to Greece, including the Truman administration's cover up of a murder of an American television journalist, George Polk
, who was killed
by right wing elements inside Greece in 1948, was a dress rehersal for the lies that led us to take over the French colonialist position
in Vietnam, which lies began under Truman as well. The late Theodore Draper, in an article not freely available
on the web, made the point that one can say that Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan had more in common with each other with regard to foreign policy than any of them had with FDR. See also: another non-free article
, this time by Murray Kempton in the NY Review of Books from 1974 on this point.
After he left office, Harry Truman said his greatest errors were (1) the creation of the CIA and (2) his failure to understand that third world nationalist movements were more independent from Soviet or Red Chinese control than he was told (see: Merle Miller's oral history with Truman, "Plain Speaking"
, particularly Truman's discussion as to how he would have liked to have "handled" Castro; far more conciliatory than either Ike or JFK). Eisenhower, as he was leaving office, decided to finally warn us of the military-industrial complex. Now Beinart, after being wrong about Iraq and his red baiting of those who recognzied it was going to be a debacle, wants us to trust him again. But unlike Truman and Eisenhower, who were trying to tell us they learned why their doctrines were wrong (not merely a particular application being wrong), Beinart wants us to follow the very doctrines that led him to his Iraq War II support and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy into Vietnam and elsewhere
Enough. Suffice it to say that Beinart's position on Iraq and the modern world is without merit, as is Beinart's understanding of American and world history in the mid 20th Century.
* Henry Wallace, who is so easy to caricature based upon equally foolish historians'
bashing Wallace every which way, ended up supporting the US-led fight against North Korea when North Korea invaded South Korea in late June 1950. Beinart, so eager to attack Henry Wallace and his supporters, again fails to inform readers of his book of information that might give modern readers a better understanding of the people who differed with the Truman-Humphrey wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1940s, when the National Security State
was being formed.