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What Now?

Um . . . it seems that while I wasn't paying attention the president decided to denounce the Yalta agreement thus taking up the John Birch/McCarthy line as the new official American take on this. What the hell? Obviously, one would have liked the second world war to result in a blossoming of freedom east of the Elbe as well as in Western Europe, but given the realities of the situation it obviously wasn't in the cards. If this gang really thinks the "rollback" crew from the 40s and 50s is the right model for future behavior, we really are in trouble. When's Beinart's book about how liberals have forgotten the lessons of Truman coming out again? He might want to consider recalibrating that thesis.

May 10, 2005 | Permalink


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» That Damned Roosevelt from Jim Snowden's Second Omnibus
When I read the headline that read: "Bush: U.S. Had Hand in European Divisions", I thought that we, at long last got an admission of guilt from our President. Sadly, no. This is rather an attempt to run down FDR by ressurecting the old right-wing cha... [Read More]

Tracked on May 10, 2005 2:57:35 PM


Yalta was unjust, not least for legitimizing aggressive war and occupation by the Soviet Union, one of the main aggressors of the war.

Truman didn't agree to Yalta, FDR did.

I don't have a problem with Bush denouncing the Yalta treaty - I think it was a bad move and encouraged Soviet aggression later.

Posted by: Hektor Bim | May 10, 2005 10:23:30 AM

If this gang really thinks the "rollback" crew from the 40s and 50s is the right model for future behavior

Did you even read the speech, Matthew?

Bush says nothing about the mid-20th Century strategy of a "rollback" of communism. Rather, he explicitly praised our containment strategy:

"Eventually, America and our strong allies made a decision: We would not be content with the liberation of half of Europe -- and we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain. We defended the freedom of Greece and Turkey, and airlifted supplies to Berlin, and broadcast the message of liberty by radio. We spoke up for dissenters, and challenged an empire to tear down a hated wall. Eventually, communism began to collapse under external pressure, and under the weight of its own contradictions. And we set the vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace -- so dictators could no longer rise up and feed ancient grievances, and conflict would not be repeated again and again."

I mean, really, Matthew: how much straw do you have in that new apartment? Because you've used up an extra big supply with this post.

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 10:26:13 AM

What alternatives did FDR have? Push the Red Army back to the russian border and continue fighting a two front war after the Germany was defened that was the alternative.


Bush compared Yalta to the munich aggrement

Posted by: Drew | May 10, 2005 10:37:54 AM

Yalta was like the Munich agreement. In both cases, occupation and annexation of part of a sovereign country by an aggressive power was agreed on by the sovereign powers for political reasons.

In Munich, it was Nazi Germany annexing the Sudetenland and gaining control over the Czech republic. In Yalta, the Soviet Union annexed parts of Finland, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and all of the Baltic States and gained control over the parts of the countries that remained.

I don't see much of a difference really.

Posted by: Hektor Bim | May 10, 2005 10:44:57 AM

What alternatives did FDR have?

NOT signing an agreement dividing up Europe?

I mean, was the ONLY alternative to signing the Yalta agreement permanent war with the USSR?

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 10:48:11 AM

Do you, Al, believe that Stalin would have given up any of the terriorty he conquered? Austria succeeded as a neutral state because fighting a war there would have been exceedingly difficult.

btw, why do the wingers compare Bush to another negoitator at Yalta, Churchill?

Posted by: Drew | May 10, 2005 10:53:11 AM

Look, Yalta may have been unavoidable, but that doesn't make it just.

We threw Central and Eastern Europe to the wolves, and did it with full cognizance of our actions.

Posted by: Hektor Bim | May 10, 2005 10:55:12 AM

I should add that Austria succeeded as a neutral state for other reasons, not just its rough terrain.

Posted by: Drew | May 10, 2005 10:55:36 AM

Good god, what is it, utopian morning? honest to goodness, hektor and al, do you really not have any historical knowledge at all?

and yes, matthew, we really are in trouble. digby made a great point about this: 40 years of right-wing college bull sessions and insular think-tanking and propagandizing have produced a group of leaders who serve up warmed over '50s Birchism, and now the supposed moral vanguard, in the form of hektor and al, are praising them.

Posted by: howard | May 10, 2005 10:58:43 AM

Do you, Al, believe that Stalin would have given up any of the terriorty he conquered?


So that REQUIRED FDR to sign? Why?

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 10:59:43 AM

This naturally follows Tony Blair's attack on Westphalia.

Both are nothing but empty gestures, disconnected from history or reality.

Posted by: Ron | May 10, 2005 11:01:00 AM

do you really not have any historical knowledge at all?

Apparently not.

Yalta was a bad deal for us, and immoral to boot. Does lefty FDR-worship really brook absolutely no criticism of him at all?

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 11:02:07 AM

So, we were supposed to sign nothing at Yalta. Why, because "Not in our Name", would make the whole situation better? Arthur Schlesinger pointed out yesterday that it was actually Stalin who ended up having the greatest problems with the Yalta document, because it also made him pledge to commit to democracy, which he, of course, wouldn't do.

But having FDR refuse to sit down with Churchill and Stalin or having the US be unwilling at that juncture to pursure a policy of containment rather than liberation, the alternatives are just foolish.

Just like invading Pakistan right now to spread freedom would be moronic.

Posted by: Matt Singer | May 10, 2005 11:03:16 AM

PS, Al, Bush's history sucks, of course. We didn't "eventually" make a decision not to be content with "half" the liberation of Europe; we sensibly and rapidly developed the containment strategy, NATO, the Marshall Plan, as a means of addressing, and ultimately reversing, Soviet domination of eastern europe.

in bush's world, there was loads of support everywhere to have more war after years of world war ii, there was no problem with completing the war in the Pacific, the Soviet army had no strength, and the Soviet Union wasn't the indispensable ally without whom it is highly unlikely the Nazis would have been defeated, and certainly not by 1945. Bush's world, of course, bears no relationship to reality, but we knew that already....

Posted by: howard | May 10, 2005 11:03:25 AM

So that REQUIRED FDR to sign? Why?

The Japanesse were still fighting in the Pacific on Feb 11, 1945. We didn't have a nuke at the time and needed the Soviet's help.

Posted by: Drew | May 10, 2005 11:05:10 AM

Next up for lefties: Munich - really not so bad!

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 11:06:15 AM

Al, it is possible to criticize Yalta; it is not possible to compare it to Munich unless you have no historical knowledge at all. And it is a damn stupid and foolish way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, typically Bush-ian, all posturing dress-up with nowhere to go.

PS. When you start to criticize Bush for anything, Al, we'll be interested in your notions about the criticism of FDR....

Posted by: howard | May 10, 2005 11:07:27 AM

needed the Soviet's help

The Soviets gave us virtually nothing with respect to Japan. So that's a dodge.

Let's face it, FDR signed on to Yalta in a Quixotic attempt to maintain Great Power unity in the post-war world. It was a mistake.

Posted by: Al | May 10, 2005 11:08:53 AM

If FDR didn't sign, the Soviet Union would have controlled all of Berlin and would have made a mad dash to gobble up even more German teritory. Why does Al want to condem so many more Germans to Soviet rule?

Posted by: Rob | May 10, 2005 11:09:36 AM

We should never compromise. America is about freedom, and if we have to imprison the world to give it to them, than we should not flinch from our duty.

Posted by: theCoach | May 10, 2005 11:10:59 AM

Next up for lefties: Munich - really not so bad!

British lefties opposed or were, at least, less supportive of Munich than the right. The political climate in this country wasn't much different -- Charles Lindburgh, hello?

Posted by: Drew | May 10, 2005 11:11:38 AM

Matt - I think you're reading this wrong. Comments like this, when delivered by the President, aren't supposed to be serious historical analysis - they're speech acts aimed at delivering a different message in diplomatic code. It means "Vladimir - stay the hell out of the internal affairs of your neighbors".

Posted by: Anton | May 10, 2005 11:12:23 AM

Al, stop embarassing yourself. The Soviets didn't give us any help in Japan because it turned out that the atom bomb worked. That was unknowable in advance, and no one at Los Alamos would have guaranteed, in February, that there was an atomic weapons capability lurking right around the corner. So our military planners didn't count on an atomic weapon.

Anyhow, as one of the many clowns who compared an unwillingness to invade iraq under bush's circumstances in march, 2003 to chamberlain at munich, you have lost any standing to discuss munich at all.

Posted by: howard | May 10, 2005 11:12:29 AM

I think it was a bad move and encouraged Soviet aggression later.

What Soviet aggression later was that? Other than the invasion of Afghanistan (much, much later), the Soviets were mostly content to maintain the sphere of influence they established in Eastern Europe immediately after the war. They even let Yugoslavia and Albania leave it, and let Ceausescu make noises about how independent he was. Recall also that Stalin refused to support the Communist rebels in Greece, despite Tito's urgings, apparently because of the deal he'd signed with Churchill giving the British predominant interest in Greece.

At any rate, I think the conservatives fulminating about Yalta have, in fact, no actual knowledge of what the Yalta agreements entailed. Yes, the allies agreed to Soviet annexation of the Baltics and eastern Poland. But there was simply nothing they could do about this - it was simply recognizing reality. In terms of the rest of eastern Europe, the Yalta agreements said that there would be free, multi-party elections there, including in Poland. I think this was about the best that the Americans and British could do - it was clear that Stalin could do whatever he wanted, so the best thing to do was get him to agree to allow elections, and hope he'd keep the deal. In fact, Stalin himself wasn't initially unwilling to hold elections. The problem came when the communists didn't win the elections, which Stalin apparently really thought they would...

Let me add that the idea of containment as a way of freeing the peoples of Eastern Europe is rather dubious. Kennan's argument was that the Soviet Union would eventually collapse under its own weight, sure. But nobody really listened to Kennan, and most of the people involved in the policy really didn't believe that the Soviet Union would collapse any time soon.

Posted by: John | May 10, 2005 11:13:02 AM

Anton, you are undoubtedly correct about the intnetions behind bush's remarks, but the atmospherics are so exceptionally stupid as to render the intentions silly.

Besides, i thought Bush had looked into Putin's soul and found a good man. Why would we need to warn a good man about anything? it isn't possible that bush didn't have a clue when he looked into Putin's soul, is it? (Al, you can feel free to answer that one.)

Posted by: howard | May 10, 2005 11:14:35 AM

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