Archive for October, 2014


Friday, October 31st, 2014

Recognize the hand that drew that cartoon?  What’s that about?  What’s it mean?

So here before you is HK’s case that FDR was this brilliant leader who changed the course of the country more than anyone but Lincoln, taking his isolationist people into the recognition of the need of war.

“perspicacious”.  How many of you looked that one up?

The analysis of the isolationists vs. interventionists, at beginning, is interesting.  They basically agreed the Monroe Doctrine gave the US control over the western hemisphere and the League could not require the US to engage in any military type of activity outside of the west.

FDR here, is interestingly not compared to the Bismarcks and the Disraelis in Kissinger’s Realpolitik Hall of Fame.  Why not?

You would do well to do a timeline here.  The Quarantine speench, the Neutrality Acts.  Anschulss with Austria, CZ… how does he react?  What evidence does HK use to show FDR was really, by a certain time, clearly an interventionist?  And why is he not (or is he?)apparently in HK’s “Realpolitik” Hall of Fame?


Ambrose – the Twisting path to war

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014


Heard of Band of Brothers?  You’ve heard of the late Stephen Ambrose.  Unfortunately plagued by accusations of plagiarism later in life, a scholar of Eisenhower and Lewis and Clark he was best known , like AJP Taylor, as a sort of popularizer of history.

His colleague, Douglas Brinkley, a scholar of FDR and Cold War history also taught a very popular class, “The Majic Bus” wherein he traveled across the country with his students listening to period music and visiting historical sights.  Aaaah college.  You’ll get there.

Look in the book jacket at the other titles the two have authored.  Take a look on the Internet to find what they’ve written since 1997 when his book was published (and you were born?)

My point though is that these two men want you to like history.  The Kissinger and Pipes books, and Spence to come, are serious scholarly pieces dedicated to nuanced detail, analysis and argument.  This little book is not exactly a “survey” (that’s your text book from last year, a “survey” of the current literature on history) it is based on their own research, but obviously its a different animal than “Diplomacy”. Its intended use I suppose is freshman or introductory courses in history.

So what does it say?  To my eye it says that not until his election of 1940 did FDR show any sympathy at all to the Brits and not until November 1941, less than a month from Pearl Harbor, was his tone one of “unrestrained belligerence, in public and private”.  Before that though, despite the the fact the we actually have troops in Iceland and Greenland and a raging battle in the Atlantic defending the merchant ships supplying Britain, he cannot bring the isolationist USA into war.

There are two footnotes that you should not skip, one on Hitler’s decision to declare war on us the other on the myth of FDR’s knowledge of Pearl Harbor.  The Intro is worth a look as well. Sort of sad written in those heady days of victory in the Cold War, Clinton’s second term (first Democrat to win re-election since…?), and prior to 9/11.



The Nazi Soviet Pact

Monday, October 27th, 2014

nazi soviet pact

Less than two years.

“Molotov, who had a faculty to irritate far more stable personalities than Hitler,…” I love that line.  And please remember the attempt at grandeur and intimidation Hitler set up for Molotov on their meeting when finishing up our film today and witnessing Hynkle and Garbage planing to met Napoloni, Dictator of Bacteria (Italy)

You might want to open up a map when reading about negotiations over Bulgaria, Lithuania, Warsaw and the Curzon line etc etc.  One place comes up you probably don’t associate with this time period, the Persian Gulf.  Look at a map though and you will see that the USSR has a 1200 mile lone border with Iran and that would be quite the prize for Stalin with its access to oil and the open ocean.

Though it is not named, the Schlieffen plan rears its head again.  Sweeping through Belgium and France then, with a rear long delay at potential negotiations, throwing (nearly) all its might at the USSR Germany does.

Also not named is the Battle of Britain, but it should be. After France falls in June 1940, Britain, having declared war in September 1939 with France now “stands alone” in Churchill’s epic phrase for a year against Germany’s barrage.  Geography though remained a substantial barrier and Hitler, lacking landing craft, can’t roll his Blitzkrieg across the English Chanel.

In that year of standing alone a fantastic story plays, captured in a recent book by Lynne Olson, “Citizens of London.”  Its one of my favorite history books of recent years exploring the story of Edward Murrow and other famous American in London in the time, and how they helped turn American interest into entering the war while being threatened with Nazi bombing raids on a daily basis.


Stalin’s Bazaar

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014



I know the reading is about Stalin but I couldn’t help come back to our film, “The Great Dictator“. Click on link for original 1940 review of film from 1940.  Its VERY interesting.

In regards to Stalin, it should come as no surprise that HK depicts him as an arch practitioner of “Realpolitik” along the lines of Bismarck, Richelieu etc. That he saw no difference between the fascist countries and the capitalists is interesting and it makes sense.  He was willing to extract whatever gain he could from whoever he could.  He was, after all, guiding inevitable historical forces.

GB meanwhile is handing out unilateral guarantees of peace.  Not even bothering with negotiating traditional alliances they go from one extreme to the next.

In the meantime the Soviet ascendency to power had its origins in the ruthless manipulation by “M Stalin”.

The End of Illusion

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014


The “World’s Greatest defense system” (cough cough) wasn’t really all that.  Kissinger sneers at the imbecility of France not to extend the Maginot line up through Belgium or at least upon its borders but according to the above article (frustratingly undated, but click on image for larger version you can read) at this point France fears Italy more and furthmore they do plan to extend the defense system along the Belgium border in the next two years as indicated in map below.


The Rhineland seen here;


is mostly behind the very fortified line so Hitler’s remilitarization of that area is complicated.  Did France simply feel secure behind the line? Did the fortifications like this one;


(which looks like something out of an Ewok jungle) being inherently defensive make an offensive military reaction into German territory simply a non-starter, or as Hitler and Kissinger claim was German occupation of its own territory something the world just had to accept.  Kissinger points out there are some, or at least one voice in Britain,  Churchill, warning that something, re-armament, must be done in response, but it is not.

The dreaded word “appeasement” appears here.  I swear when I heard GWBush say we could no longer “appease” Saddam Hussein” I was like “oh, crap, here we go”, and off we went into a military adventure which I would argue has spilled over into the current crises we have today.

But I digress. The relations between France, Russia, GB, Italy etc are all complicated.  How Hitler rises to power, and how the world recognizes the “Illusion” that he would be a “moderate statesman” is the story here.  This is a lengthy chapter but it is worth getting through.  Kissinger’s treatment of the run-up to Munich, the pinnacle of appeasement is much more nuanced than in your typical textbook.  Kissinger even points out Chamberlain’s decision to re-arm afterwords, and gives a complex treatment on how Wilsonianism had led us to this place.  It appears that he may say that had they simply applied the calculus of “national interest” from the start, it may have been worse.



Stresemann and the Re-emgernce of the Vanquished

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Before we get started, take a moment and examine the title.  I think yu can tell where Kissinger’s story is going.  Stresemann will try to bring Germany back to greatness.  But this makes understanding the cartoon below difficult unless you consider this quotefrom wikipedia;

The conservative opposition criticized him for his supporting the republic and fulfilling too willingly the demands of the Western powers. Along with Matthias Erzberger and others, he was attacked as a Erfüllungspolitiker (“fulfillment politician”)

The Republic to which they refer is the Weimar Republic which much of the German population felt had been imposed on them by the victors of WWI and much of that population refused to accept its legitimacy.



Here Stresemann is portrayed rather villain ously on the back of Deutschland, which is tied up with the Dawes plan.  This is def not how Kissinger portrays things.

Back with our buddy HK now and hopefully getting into more familiar ground vis-a-vis your earlier historical studies.  The Kellogg-Briand Pact?  Locarno?  the Maginot Line?  Certainly Hitler rang a bell

I think the most significant thing to get out of this chapter is that the goals of Hitler (Anschluss /Union) with Austria, military parity with France, were the same as Stresemann and presumably the same as many Germans.  There is even open discussion of modifying the border with Poland here.

Hitler will of course go about his goals in a decidedly militaristic way.  Maybe there was another way.  Maybe Germany could have been satisfied, France made secure (If GB would step up) and the Soviet Union isolated if it hadn’t been for the Series of Unfortunate Events outlined here.

Hitler will be described in the next chapter as a demonic personality.  Had Hitler been hit by a bus, or let into art school, would the war have come?

The Dilemmas of the Victors

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014



Mr. Winston Churchill.  From this point on, if you are unsure of a quiz question, and the quiz question is asking for a person, Churchill is an excellent guess.  Here he is circa 1925 around the time of his assertion that Britain should make an alliance with France if France would agree to back off of Germany and allow Britain a relationship of “help and friendship” towards Germany.  If only he had been listened to Kissinger seems to say.

In one of our classes someone made the claim that collective security and alliances actually seemed like much the same thing.  I stumbled through some sort of half intelligible response I think but here Kissinger explores their very real differences quite effectively.  Collective security is like a police force.  No threat is identified except adherence to the law.  Alliances are drawn with clear identifiers. Think of the Reinsurance Treaty.

  1. Germany and Russia both agreed to observe neutrality should the other be involved in a war with a third country. Neutrality would not apply should Germany attack France or Russia attack Austria-Hungary. (Wikipedia)

There is nothing here about legality or sovereignty.  Its just, “We’ll do this if you do that”.  The biggest problem, for Kissinger, and he would say the statesmen of the time (timid as they were ATK) is that collective Security is so amorphous.  There has been no “Collective” action in Ukraine or Crimea, or Hong Kong for that matter, because no one can agree what constitutes a clear bridge of legality.  The Persian Gulf war which I have always used as an example of Collective Security, because there was a UN resolution, was ATK a clear US sponsored mission, and he’s right.

Russian and Germany strike a deal in the middle of the night which effectively starts the countdown for the end of Eastern Europe as envisioned at Versailles, and for the start of WWII.

Could it have been otherwise?

Why Did Stalin Succeed Lenin?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Thursday, October 10th, 2013


I like cars.  I always have.  I think I learned to read in the pages of “Road and Track” when I was a child.  In my cursory research on the post WWII international auto race in CZ (Czechoslovakia), the last international race in the “east” for the entire Cold War era, I came across this image of “Stalin’s race car” apparently from the early 50s, several years (6?) after the race in CZ.   I found this very interesting because it suggested that some persons in the Soviet Union wanted to challenge the evils of capitalism on the track, as they would in the Olympics, Space Race and the World Cup.   What is interesting is that I have never, ever heard of motor-sports competition in the former Soviet Union or its satellites, yet I guess there was some interest in it.  Must’ve been.  That might be an interesting piece of research.  Motor-sports in the USSR!

So why did Stalin succeed Lenin?  Well, for Pipes it seems a foregone conclusion.  With the failure to export the revolution (in the most important war in history!  In Poland!  in 1920!…  ever heard of it?) the emerging  bureaucracy and the emergence of the worker’s opposition Stalin was clearly the man and Trotsky never had a chance.  Lenin just never saw the dark heart of the killer lurking in the back according to Pipes.

One fascinating point made here is that with the failure to export the revolution they needed to wait, and agitate for, another World War.  This historiography on WWII is generally much simpler than WWI.  Everybody says it was Germany’s/Hitler’s fault.  Now though, I wonder.  Were Stalin, and Lenin before, succesful at keeping agitation alive in  Germany insofar as to lead to the emergence of Hitler?  Can we blame WWII on the Soviet union? Is this what Pipes meant when he said if there had been no Russian Revolution there would be no National lSocialism, or WWII?

What do you think?


Why did the Bolsheviks succeed?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014




fait accompli . Who looked that one up?  There are great and complicated machinations at work in this chapter that I do not expect you to commit to detailed memory.  Even Pipes admits the complexity is too great for his short treatment here.

The long and short of it is that gaining power was as easy for Lenin as “picking up a feather”.  As the woman in the documents you will read (or have read) in class testifies to the “white” soldiers walked out and dropped their munitions.  There was no resistance.

There were three keys to this event which you should know in at least their basic form.  Failure of a major offensive in WWI, failure of the Provisional Government (PG) to hold an election, and the Kornilov affair, which you should know in the basic terms that Pipes lays down here.

Pipes makes a curious statement here that one, despite Lenin’s fears, cannot “betray” a revolution.  I think what he means here is that whereas there maybe be treasonous persons like a Benedict Arnold, a true revolution from below will have such power as to make their betrayal if not meaningless, than a mere bump in the road.

* a note on the image here.  I pulled it from another blog which noted it as the storming of the winter palace in the fall of 1917.  I noodled around a bit and found out there it is actually a still from Eisenstein’s 1926 film “October” and that the film sequence was actually modeled after the 1920 reenactment in which Lenin actually took place, not on the event of 1917 which was “far less photogenic” according to Wikipedia.

Why did the Tsar fall?

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

richard pipes

So first of all I just put in your quiz scores and wow.  Some of you are really taking advantage of extra credit.  I’m also about half way through with tests.  I know some of you will be very unhappy but I am not concerned.  Your quiz scores and terms will protect your grade and the next test (a documents test) will go much better.  The next essay I am convined will also go much better.  It’ll be on WWII, more familiar territory, and ou’ll have this one under your belt to learn from.  Hang in there.

So here is your man Richard Pipes.  What do you think of him?  Its funny now, reading his book, published back in 1995 as he doesn’t know that since his lectures Putin has quietly closed those very same archives that were once, briefly open.

His assessment of the revisionists is really rather damning.  I don’t really think historians have to disagree with their elders, they just have to pursue different stories.  I do think some did buy into the Marxist history for political reasons.

He also has some contradicions.  At one point he says the “muzhik” is quiet.  But then he says there is all this tension over land.  I do think political agitation from the intelligentsia was a huge reason for the Russian Revolution rolling as it did, and I do agree that it was not necessary nor predicted.

What do you think?