Archive for November, 2014

All Things to All People – Ambrose Chap 5, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall plan

Friday, November 21st, 2014

truman in november


(click on above image to see it large in all of its early comic wonderfulness)

That which Truman was most proud of, that we thoroughly defeated our enemies and then helped them rebuild their economies, is the story here, and it almost didn’t happen.

Opposition for the TD/MP was almost universal in the Republican party with the exception of Senator Vandenberg who tells Truman he must “scare the hell” out of the American people. We know how things went of course but what is interesting in the way things might have gone.

What if communists came to power in Greece and Turkey?  What would really change.  What if communists were elected in Italy?  What if the CIA had never been given authority to conduct covert operations?

Ambrose’s little jibe at Truman being disingenuous and losing sleep over his decision is I think miss-placed.   I agree Truman had made up his mind as to what to do, but I think he struggled greatly at figuring out how to get it done.  How do you take a people that has been traditionally isolationist, and re-enroll them into an international struggle that could turn as ugly as any preceding World War, or even more so, and convince them to join the fray after four long years of devastating warfare?

Hope you enjoyed your break!

Kissinger 18 – success and pain of containment

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

The man pictured above is George F. Kennan.  He is worth a google.  His influence, according to Kissinger, through the Long Telegram, and the “Sources of Soviet Conduct” published in “Foreign Affairs” under the pseudonym “X” not only were the foundation of the policy of containment but went so far as to predict what would happen under Gorbachev, namely, the dissolution of the USSR.

Was it just me or did anybody else think, wow, this kind of describes Putin, when you were reading excerpts from the long telegram?  Do you think Putin knows his rule is “archaic in form, fragile and artificial”? I sort of do.  It is fitting to remember Pipes’ claim that the distinction between Czarist rule and communist was communist brutality.  There were otherwise the same.  Is Putin a similar extension of Russian history’s “mechanical” rather than “organic” structure of state, as advanced by Pipes?

There is a lot here in this little chapter.  What if Lippman had been more influential?  What about Wallace?  Was Truman really returning to a style of Realpolitik (Is that why Kissinger likes him so much?) and merely couching the protection in moral codes, or did he really believe he was advancing collective security?  Did Acheson really believe NATO was not an alliance aimed at the Soviet Sphere?  The Matthews Memorandum is worth noting as is Clark Clifford.

Were the suggestions of Kennan really implemented or did he want them to be interpreted as they were.  In 1957, over a decade later he said where we should best apply our efforts to the Soviet threat was to our own American failings.  What do you think? Without getting off of too much of a tangent do you think our best strategy in the face of ISIS and Putin and North Korea is to address our domestic problems?  Are ISIS, Putin and North Korea even really similar threats?


Ambrose 4 the start of the Cold War

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

churchill at fulton


So here we have the emergence of what will be called the Cold War.  There is no Truman doctrine yet, no containment and no marshal plan.

What there is is a soviet occupation of eastern Europe and Iran and vast disagreement between Uncle Joe and Truman about how to move forward.  Did truman really need to talk to Molotov like a Missouri mule driver?  Would it have been better to shrug our collective shoulders at Poland and gotten Stalin to join the imf?

Iran had been agreed to at Yalta.  Stalin was to remove troops.  He didn’t.  You should remember this when we get to Iranian coup in 1953.  Oh and be cure to compare the to coup in CZ that we’ll read about in next chapter.  Stalin hadn’t been involved in the reformation of governments in Belgium or Italy, so why did we think we had a place to negotiate the reformation of governments in territory the Russians occupied?

The question of the straits comes up again and there is an interesting give and take from Molotov on the Suez canal, that again, you’ll want to remember when we get to the dual emergencies of 1956.







The Beginning of the Cold War – Kissinger 17

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

truman ws


Wow.  Look at you page numbers.  445.  The whole book is 835 pages long.  You’re over half way through with Kissinger!  Congratulations!

The image above is of course Truman’s famous “Whistle Stop” campaign of 1948, the only election he ran in for the executive office. In 1952, like LBJ in 1968, he would be too unpopular to run, largely because of an increasingly unpopular war in Asia; Korea for Truman, and Vietnam for LBJ.

So this is the start of the Cold War, and I would argue the start of the world as you know it.  Was it Molotov’s intransigence as Kissinger argues, that turned America’s good will into the confrontation that would become the Cold War?  If this is the case can we / should we lay the blame for the Cold War, and the near annihilation of our population in 1962, on Molotov, or do we lay blame on Stalin who Molotov was so fearful of displeasing?

Or, do we blame Truman?  Or Churchill?  Why did we really care about free elections in Poland? The “Russian” people, as Stalin called them in his last address as political leader of the USSR, had paid in blood and guts, 40 million, and didn’t they deserve a little security on their borders?

And what about today?  For the first time since the end of the Cold War it was announced that Russian bombers would be patrolling very near US airspace in the Gulf of Mexico.  Why?  Is the Cold War really over or are we just in a new chapter?

The War in Asia – ATA

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

jap war bonds

Here’s some good old ‘Merican propoganda.

The war in Asia, “Europe was the darling, Asia the step-child” according to Admiral Halsey in Documents we looked at last time.  Why?  Why 40% of the resources devoted to a map of the planet many times larger than western Europe?

And what of the colonialism thing?  Why couldn’t Great Britain just chill and let French Indochina be governed by a control council until it reached independence.  Ho Chi Minh (future leader of war against America in Vietnam) is here helping us find downed pilots, singing our praises in the war and even copying our decleartion of independence.  Why couldn’t we all just get along?

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, the roots of our conflict in Vietnam are right here.  The roots of our conflict in today’s Middle East are right around the corner in our next unit.

The world you are entering is the way it is because of what has come before.  No student of today’s current events, be they social, political military or religious, will make any sense of the way things are, without a serious study of the way things were.


the War in Europe – Ambrose

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

So if you took a TORCH to your SLEDGEHAMMER would you be the  new OVERLORD?  Apparently so.

Well there it was in 20 easy to read pages.  The “War in Europe”  and now we press on against the …  excuse me?  What’s that say? the “Nips”?

So what do you make of this “Strange Alliance”?  What was so strange about it?  And what about the decision to go into Africa?  How did that get complicated vis-a-vis Darlan.  The American reaction to allowing him to retain power might be an interesting IA. His assassination seems almost made-to-order for American public opinion.

Why not then press on into the Balkans.  Instead of going into Africa (TORCH) Eisenhower wanted to press for invasion into France.  Why?

And what happened in Italy, esp vis-a-vis Stalin?  This is all going to be very important I think when we get into the next unit and the emergence of the Cold War.

Finally Ambrose says in the end FDR was very concerned with the creation of the UN.  How would it be any different from the League of Nations which had preceeded it?

Have fun!