Harry S. Truman: Advancing the Revolution

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This
essay is reprinted with permission from John V. Denson, ed.,
Reassessing
the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline
of Freedom
(Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute,
2001).

A
u2018Near-Great’?

When
Harry Truman left office in January 1953, he was intensely unpopular,
even widely despised. Many of his most cherished schemes, from national
health insurance (socialized medicine) to universal military training
(UMT) had been soundly rejected by Congress and the public. Worst
of all, the war in Korea, which he persisted in calling a "police
action," was dragging on with no end in sight.

Yet
today, Republican no less than Democratic politicians vie in glorifying
Truman. When historians are asked to rank American presidents, he
is listed as a "near-great." Naturally, historians, like
everyone else, have their own personal views and values. Like other
academics, they tend to be overwhelmingly left of center. As Robert
Higgs writes: "Left-liberal historians worship political power,
and idolize those who wield it most lavishly in the service of left-liberal
causes."1 So it is scarcely surprising
that they should venerate men like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt,
and Harry Truman, and agitate to get a credulous public to do the
same.

But
for anyone friendlier to limited government than the ordinary run
of history professors, the presidency of Harry Truman will appear
in a very different light. Truman’s predecessor had vastly expanded
federal power, especially the power of the president, in what amounted
to a revolution in American government. Under Truman, that revolution
was consolidated and advanced beyond what even Franklin Roosevelt
had ever dared hope for.

The
Onset of the Cold War – Scaring Hell Out of the American People

Most
pernicious of all, Truman’s presidency saw the genesis of a world-spanning
American political and military empire.2
This was not simply the unintended consequence of some alleged Soviet
threat, however. Even before the end of World War II, high officials
in Washington were drawing up plans to project American military
might across the globe. To start with, the United States would dominate
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Western Hemisphere through
a network of air and naval bases. Complementing this would be a
system of air transit rights and landing facilities from North Africa
to Saigon and Manila. This planning continued through the early
years of the Truman administration.3

But
the planners had no guarantee that such a radical reversal of our
traditional policy could be sold to Congress and the people. It
was the confrontation with the Soviet Union and "international
communism," begun and defined by Truman and then prolonged
for four decades, that furnished the opportunity and the rationale
for realizing the globalist dreams.

That
after World War II the Soviet Union would be predominant in Europe
was inevitable, given the goals pursued by Roosevelt and Churchill:
Germany’s unconditional surrender and its total annihilation as
a factor in the balance of power.4 At
Yalta, the two Western leaders acquiesced in the control over eastern
Europe that had been won by Stalin’s armies, while affecting to
believe that the Red dictator would cheerfully assent to the establishment
of democratic governments in that area. The trouble was that genuinely
free elections east of the Elbe (except in Czechoslovakia) would
inescapably produce bitterly anti-Communist regimes. Such a result
was unacceptable to Stalin, whose position was well-known and much
more realistic than the illusions of his erstwhile allies. As he
stated in the spring of 1945: "Whoever occupies a territory
also imposes on it his own social system [as far] as his army can
reach."5

When
Truman became president in April 1945, he was at first prepared
to continue the "Grand Alliance," and in fact harbored
sympathetic feelings toward Stalin.6
But differences soon arose. The raping and murdering rampage of
Red Army troops as they rolled over eastern Europe came as a disagreeable
surprise to Americans who had swallowed the wartime propaganda,
from Hollywood and elsewhere, on the Soviet "purity of arms."
Stalin’s apparent intention to communize Poland and include the
other conquered territories within his sphere of influence was deeply
resented by leaders in Washington, who at the same time had no qualms
about maintaining their own sphere of influence throughout all of
Latin America.7

Stalin’s
predictable moves to extend his sway around the periphery of the
USSR further alarmed Washington. Exploiting the presence of Soviet
forces in northern Iran (a result of the wartime agreement of the
Big Three to divide up control of that country), he pressed for
oil concessions similar to those gained by the United States and
Britain. After the Soviets withdrew in return for a promise of concessions
by the Iranian parliament, Iran, supported by the United States,
reneged on the deal. Turning to Turkey, Stalin revived traditional
Russian claims dating from Czarist days, pressuring Ankara to permit
unimpeded transit for Soviet warships through the straits.

Most
ominous, in Washington’s view, was the civil war in Greece, where
royalist forces faced Red insurgents. Britain, bankrupted by the
war, was compelled to abandon its support of the royalist cause.
Would the United States take up the torch from the faltering hand
of the great imperial power? Here, Truman told his cabinet, he "faced
a decision more serious than ever confronted any president."8
The hyperbole is inane, but one can appreciate Truman’s problem.
The United States had never had the slightest interest in the eastern
Mediterranean, nor was it possible to discern any threat to American
security in whatever outcome the Greek civil war might yield. Moreover,
Stalin had conceded Greece to Britain, in his famous deal with Churchill
in October 1944, whereby Russia was given control of most of the
rest of the Balkans (a deal approved by Roosevelt). Accordingly,
the Greek Communists did not enjoy Soviet backing: they were not
permitted to join the Cominform, for instance, and their provisional
government was not recognized by the Soviet Union or any other communist
state.9

Given
all this, how would Truman be able to justify U.S. involvement?
Urged on by hardliners like Navy Secretary James Forrestal, who
were emboldened by the (temporary) American monopoly of the atom
bomb, he decided to frame the Communist uprising in Greece, as well
as Soviet moves in Iran and Turkey, in apocalyptic terms. In countering
them, he mused: "We might as well find out whether the Russians
are as bent on world conquest now as in five or ten years."10
World conquest. Now, it seems, it was a Red Hitler who was on the
march.11

Still,
after the landslide Republican victory in the congressional elections
of 1946, Truman had to deal with a potentially recalcitrant opposition.
The Republicans had promised to return the country to some degree
of normalcy after the statist binge of the war years. Sharp cuts
in taxes, abolition of wartime controls, and a balanced budget were
high priorities.

But
Truman could count on allies in the internationalist wing of the
Republican Party, most prominently Arthur Vandenberg, a former "isolationist"
turned rabid globalist, now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. When Truman revealed his new "doctrine" to
Vandenberg, the Republican leader advised him that, in order to
get such a program through, the president would have to "scare
hell out of the American people."12
That Truman proceeded to do.

On
March 12, 1947, in a speech before a joint session of Congress,
Truman proclaimed a revolution in American foreign policy. More
important than the proposed $300 million in aid for Greece and $100
million for Turkey was the vision he presented. Declaring that henceforth
"it must be the policy of the United States to support free
peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities
or by outside pressure," Truman situated aid to Greece and
Turkey within a world-encompassing, life-or-death struggle "between
alternative ways of life."13 As
one historian has written, he

escalated
the long, historic struggle between the Left and Right in Greece
for political power, and the equally historic Russian urge for
control of the Dardanelles [sic], into a universal conflict between
freedom and slavery. It was a very broad jump indeed.14

At
first, Truman’s radical initiative provoked uneasiness, even within
his administration. George Kennan, often credited with fathering
the cold war "containment" idea, strongly opposed military
aid to Turkey, a nation which was under no military threat and which
bordered the Soviet Union. Kennan also scoffed at the "grandiose"
and "sweeping" character of the Truman Doctrine.15
In Congress, the response of Senator Robert Taft was to accuse the
president of dividing the world into Communist and anti-Communist
zones. He asked for evidence that our national security was involved
in Greece, adding that he did not "want war with Russia."16
But Taft turned out to be the last, often vacillating, leader of
the Old Right, whose ranks were visibly weakening.17
Although he was called "Mr. Republican," it was the internationalists
who were now in charge of that party. In the Senate, Taft’s doubts
were answered with calm, well-reasoned rebuttals. Vandenberg intoned:
"If we desert the President of the United States at [this]
moment we cease to have any influence in the world forever."
Henry Cabot Lodge averred that repudiating Truman would be like
throwing the American flag on the ground and stomping on it.18
In May, Congress appropriated the funds the president requested.

Meanwhile,
the organs of the national-security state were being put into place.19
The War and Navy Departments and the Army Air Corps were combined
into what was named, in Orwellian fashion, the Defense Department.
Other legislation established the National Security Council and
upgraded intelligence operations into the Central Intelligence Agency.

In
the following decades, the CIA was to play a sinister, extremely
expensive, and often comically inept role – especially in
its continually absurd overestimations of Soviet strength.20
In establishing the CIA, Congress had no intention of authorizing
it to conduct secret military operations, but under Truman this
is what it quickly began to do, including waging a secret war on
the Chinese mainland even before the outbreak of the Korean War
(with no appreciable results).21 In
1999, after it targeted the Chinese embassy in Belgrade for bombing
– supposedly a mistake, even though American diplomats had
dined at the embassy and its location was known to everyone in the
city – CIA has come to stand, in the words of one British
writer, for "Can’t Identify Anything."22

In
June 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall announced a wide-ranging
scheme for economic aid to Europe. In December, the Marshall Plan
was presented as an appropriations bill calling for grants of $17
billion over four years. The plan, it was claimed, would reconstruct
Europe to the point where the Europeans could defend themselves.
Congress at first was cold to the idea. Taft grumbled that American
taxpayers should not have to support an "international WPA,"
arguing that the funds would subsidize the socialization programs
under way in many of the recipient countries.23
The Marshall Plan led to intensified tensions with the Russians,
who saw it as further proof that Washington aimed to undermine their
rule over eastern Europe. Stalin instructed his satellite states
to refuse to take part.24

u2018World-Conquest’
Red Alert

Nineteen
forty-eight was a decisive year in the cold war. There was great
reluctance in the conservative Eightieth Congress to comply with
Truman’s program, which included funding for the European Recovery
Act (Marshall Plan), resumption of the draft, and Universal Military
Training (UMT). To deal with this resistance, the administration
concocted the war scare of 1948.

The
first pretext came in February, with the so-called Communist coup
in Czechoslovakia. But Czechoslovakia, for all intents and purposes,
was already a Soviet satellite. Having led the Czechs in the "ethnic
cleansing" of 3.5 million Sudeten Germans, the Communists enjoyed
great popularity. In the general elections, they won 38 percent
of the vote, constituting by far the largest single party. The American
ambassador reported to Washington that Communist consolidation of
power in early 1948 was the logical outgrowth of the Czech-Soviet
military alliance dating back to 1943. George Marshall himself,
in private, stated that "as far as international affairs are
concerned," the formal Communist assumption of power made no
difference: it would merely "crystallize and confirm for the
future previous Czech policy."25
Still, the Communist "coup" was painted as a great leap
forward in Stalin’s plan for "world conquest."

Then,
on March 5, came the shocking letter from General Lucius Clay, U.S.
military governor in Germany, to General Stephen J. Chamberlin,
head of Army Intelligence, in which Clay revealed his foreboding
that war "may come with dramatic suddenness." Years later,
when Clay’s biographer asked him why, if he sensed an impending
war, this was the only reference he ever made to it, he replied:

General
Chamberlin . . . told me that the Army was having trouble getting
the draft reinstituted and they needed a strong message from me
that they could use in congressional testimony. So I wrote this
cable.26

On
March 11, Marshall solemnly warned in a public address that: "The
world is in the midst of a great crisis." Averell Harriman
asserted:

There
are aggressive forces in the world coming from the Soviet Union
which are just as destructive as Hitler was, and I think are a
greater menace than Hitler was.27

And
so Harriman laid down the Hitler card, which was to become the master
trump in the globalist propaganda hand for the next half-century
and most likely for centuries to come.

Taft,
campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, was angered
by the war hysteria drummed up by the administration:

I
know of no indication of Russian intention to undertake military
aggression beyond the sphere of influence that was originally
assigned to them [at Yalta]. The situation in Czechoslovakia was
indeed a tragic one, but Russian influence has predominated there
since the end of the war.

Taft
tried to introduce a note of sanity: "If President Truman and
General Marshall have any private intelligence" regarding imminent
war, "they ought to tell the American people about it."
Otherwise, we should proceed on "the basis of peace."28

In
reality, the administration had no such "private intelligence,"
hence the need to stage-manage Clay’s letter. On the contrary, Colonel
Robert B. Landry, Truman’s air aide, reported that in their zone
in eastern Germany, the Russians had dismantled hundreds of miles
of railroad track and shipped it home – in other words, they
had torn up the very railroads required for any Soviet attack on
western Europe.29 Field Marshal Montgomery,
after a trip to Russia in 1947, wrote to General Eisenhower: "The
Soviet Union is very, very tired. Devastation in Russia is appalling,
and the country is in no fit state to go to war."30
Today it would be very difficult to find any scholar willing to
subscribe to Truman’s frenzied vision of a Soviet Union about to
set off to conquer the world. As John Lewis Gaddis wrote:

Stalin
is now seen as a cagey but insecure opportunist, taking advantage
of such tactical opportunities as arose to expand Soviet influence,
but without any long-term strategy for or even very much interest
in promoting the spread of communism beyond the Soviet sphere.31

The
nonexistence of Soviet plans to launch an attack on Europe holds
for the entire cold war period. One scholar in the field concludes:

despite
the fact that the Russian archives have yielded ample evidence
of Soviet perfidy and egregious behavior in many other spheres,
nothing has turned up to support the idea that the Soviet leadership
at any time actually planned to start World War III and send the
"Russian hordes" westward.32

So why the war scare in 1948? In a 1976 interview, looking back
on this period, Air Force Brigadier General Robert C. Richardson,
who served at NATO headquarters in the early 1950s, candidly admitted:

there
was no question about it, that [Soviet] threat that we were planning
against was way overrated and intentionally overrated, because
there was the problem of reorienting the [U.S.] demobilization
. . . [Washington] made this nine-foot-tall threat out there.
And for years and years it stuck. I mean, it was almost immovable.33

Yet,
anyone who doubted the wisdom of the administration’s militaristic
policy was targeted for venomous smears. According to Truman, Republicans
who opposed his universal crusade were "Kremlin assets,"
the sort of traitors who would shoot "our soldiers in the back
in a hot war," a good example of Truman’s acclaimed
"plain speaking."34,35
Averell Harriman charged that Taft was simply helping Stalin carry
out his aims. The New York Times and the rest of the establishment
press echoed the slanders. Amusingly, Republican critics of the
war hysteria were labeled pro-Soviet even by journals like The
New Republic and The Nation, which had functioned as
apologists for Stalin’s terror-regime for years.36

Truman’s
campaign could not have succeeded without the enthusiastic cooperation
of the American media. Led by the Times, the Herald Tribune,
and Henry Luce’s magazines, the press acted as volunteer propagandists
for the interventionist agenda, with all its calculated deceptions.
(The principal exceptions were the Chicago Tribune and the
Washington Times-Herald, in the days of Colonel McCormick
and Cissy Paterson.)37 In time, such
subservience in foreign affairs became routine for the "fourth
estate," culminating during and after the 1999 Yugoslav war
in reporting by the press corps that was as biased as the Serbian
Ministry of Information.

Overwhelmed
by the propaganda blitz from the administration and the press, a
Republican majority in Congress heeded the secretary of state’s
high-minded call to keep foreign policy "above politics"
and voted full funding for the Marshall Plan.38

The
next major step was the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The true significance of the NATO treaty was hidden, as new Secretary
of State Dean Acheson assured Congress that it would not be followed
by other regional pacts, that no "substantial" numbers
of American troops would be stationed in Europe, and that the Germans
would under no circumstances be rearmed. Congress was likewise promised
that the United States was under no obligation to extend military
aid to its new allies, nor would an arms race with the Soviet Union
ensue.39 Events came to the aid of
the globalists. In September 1949, the Soviets exploded an atomic
bomb.

Congress
approved the military appropriation for NATO that Truman had requested,
which, in the nature of things, was followed by a further Soviet
buildup. This escalating back and forth became the pattern for the
cold war arms race for the next fifty years, much to the delight
of U.S. armaments contractors and the generals and admirals on both
sides.

The
Korean War

In
June 1950, the National Security Council adopted a major strategic
document, NSC-68, which declared, implausibly enough, that "a
defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere."
The United States should no longer attempt to "distinguish
between national and global security." Instead, it must stand
at the "political and material center with other free nations
in variable orbits around it." NSC-68, which was not declassified
until 1975, called for an immediate three- or four-fold increase
in military spending, which would serve also to prime the pump of
economic prosperity – thus formalizing military Keynesianism
as a permanent fixture of American life. Moreover, public opinion
was to be conditioned to accept the "large measure of sacrifice
and discipline" needed to meet the protean Communist challenge
for the indefinite future.40

Even
Truman was dubious on the prospects for such a quantum leap in globalism
in a time of peace. But again, events – and Truman’s shrewd
exploitation of them – came to the aid of the internationalist
planners. As one of Truman’s advisers later expressed it: In June
1950, "we were sweating over it," and then, "thank
God Korea came along."41

For
years, skirmishes and even major engagements had occurred across
the 38th parallel, which divided North Korea from South Korea. On
January 12, 1950, Secretary of State Acheson described the American
defensive perimeter as extending from the Aleutians to Japan to
the Philippines. South Korea (as well as Taiwan) was conspicuously
placed outside this perimeter. One reason was that it was not considered
to be of any military value. Another was that Washington did not
trust South Korean strong man Syngman Rhee, who repeatedly threatened
to reunite the country by force. Rhee was advocating a march north
to American officials as late as mid-June 1950.42

On
June 25, it was North Korea that attacked.43
The next day, Truman instructed U.S. air and naval forces to destroy
Communist supply lines. When bombing failed to prevent the headlong
retreat of the South Korean army, Truman sent American troops stationed
in Japan to join the battle. General Douglas MacArthur was able
to hold the redoubt around Pusan, then, in an amphibious invasion
at Inchon, to begin the destruction of the North Korean position.

After
the North Koreans retreated behind the 38th parallel, Truman decided
against ending the war on the basis of the status quo ante. Instead,
he ordered MacArthur to move north. Pyongyang was to be the first
Communist capital liberated and the whole peninsula to be unified
under the rule of Syngman Rhee. As U.N. forces (mainly U.S. and
South Korean) swept north, the Chinese issued warnings against approaching
their border at the Yalu River. These were ignored by an administration
somehow unable to comprehend why China might fear massive U.S. forces
stationed on its frontier. Chinese troops entered the war, prolonging
it by another three years, during which most of the American casualties
were sustained.44 MacArthur, who proposed
bombing China itself, was dismissed by Truman, who at least spared
the nation an even wider war possibly involving Russia as well.

Korea
afforded unprecedented opportunities for advancing the globalist
program. Truman assigned the U.S. Seventh Fleet to patrol the strait
between Taiwan and the mainland. Four more U.S. divisions were sent
to Europe, to add to the two already there, and another $4 billion
was allocated for the rearmament of our European allies. Some months
before the start of the Korean War, Truman had already initiated
America’s fateful involvement in Indochina, supporting the French
and their puppet ruler Bao Dai against the nationalist and Communist
revolutionary Ho Chi Minh. Korea furnished welcome cover for stepping
up aid to the French, which soon amounted to a half-billion dollars
a year. The United States was thus providing the great bulk of the
material resources for France’s colonialist war. The State Department
defended this commitment, rather ridiculously, by citing Indochina’s
production of "much-needed rice, rubber, and tin." More
to the point was the fear expressed that the "loss" of
Indochina, including Vietnam, would represent a defeat in the struggle
against what was portrayed as a unified and coordinated Communist
push to take over the world.45

At
the same time, the degradation of political language went into high
gear, where it remained for the rest of the cold war and probably
permanently. To the authoritarian regimes in Greece and Turkey were
now added, as components of the "free world" which Americans
were obligated to defend, Rhee’s autocratic Republic of Korea, Chiang’s
dictatorship on Taiwan, and even colonialist French Indochina.

With
the outbreak of the Korean War, the Republicans’ capitulation to
globalism was practically complete.46
As is standard procedure in American politics, foreign policy was
a nonissue in the 1948 presidential campaign. Thomas E. Dewey, a
creature of the Eastern establishment centered in Wall Street, was
as much of an overseas meddler as Truman. Now, in the struggle against
"international Communism," even erstwhile "isolationists"
showed themselves to be arch-interventionists when it came to Asia,
going so far as to make a hero of MacArthur for demanding an expansion
of the war and the "unleashing" of Chiang’s army on the
mainland. Taft supported sending troops to fight in Korea, while
entering one major objection. Characteristically, it was on the
constitutional question.

The
President as War-maker at Will

When
North Korea invaded the South, Truman and Acheson claimed unlimited
presidential authority to engage the United States in the war, which
they kept referring to as a "police action." Truman stated:
"The president, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of
the United States, has full control over the use thereof."47
This flies in the face of Article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution,
where the power to declare war is vested in Congress. The deliberations
at the Constitutional Convention and other statements of the Founding
Fathers are unequivocal in this respect. While the president, as
commander-in-chief, is given authority to deploy American forces
in wartime, it is Congress that decides on war or peace. Wouldn’t
it be surpassing strange if the Founders, so concerned to limit,
divide, and balance power, had left the decision to engage the country
in war to the will of a single individual?48

So
well-established was this principle that even Woodrow Wilson and
Franklin Roosevelt, no minimizers of executive prerogatives, bowed
to it and went to Congress for their declarations of war. It was
Truman who dared what even his predecessor had not. As two constitutional
scholars, Francis D. Wormuth and Edwin B. Firmage, have written:

The
Constitution is not ambiguous. . . . The early presidents, and
indeed everyone in the country until the year 1950, denied that
the president possessed [the power to initiate war]. There is
no sustained body of usage to support such a claim.49

At
the time, college history professors rushed to blazon the allegedly
countless occasions when presidents sent U.S. forces into war or
warlike situations without congressional approval. Lists of such
occasions were afterward compiled by other apologists for executive
power in foreign affairs – in 1971, for instance, by the revered
conservative Barry Goldwater. These incidents have been carefully
examined by Wormuth and Firmage, who conclude:

One
cannot be sure, but the number of cases in which presidents have
personally made the decision [in contrast, for instance, to overzealous
military and naval officers], unconstitutionally, to engage in
war or in acts of war probably lies between one and two dozen.
And in all those cases the presidents have made false claims of
authorization, either by statute or by treaty or by international
law. They have not relied on their powers as commander in chief
or as chief executive.50

At
all events, as Chief Justice Earl Warren held in 1969, articulating
a well-known constitutional principle on behalf of seven other justices:
"That an unconstitutional action has been taken before surely
does not render that action any less unconstitutional at a later
date."51

The
administration sometimes alluded to the vote of the U.N. Security
Council approving military action in Korea as furnishing the necessary
authority. This was nothing but a smokescreen. First, because according
to the U.N. Charter, any Security Council commitment of members’
troops must be consistent with the members’ "respective constitutional
processes." The United Nations Participation Act of 1945 also
required congressional ratification for the use of American forces.
In any case, Truman stated that he would send troops to Korea whether
or not authorized by the Security Council. His position really was
that a president may plunge the country into war simply on his own
say-so.52

Today
presidents assert the right to bomb at will countries which, like
North Korea in 1950, never attacked us and with which we are not
at war – Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and, massively, Yugoslavia.
They are eagerly seconded in this by "conservative" politicians
and publicists, nor does the American public demur. Back in 1948,
Charles Beard already noted the dismal ignorance among our people
of the principles of our republican government:

American
education from the universities down to the grade schools is permeated
with, if not dominated by, the theory of presidential supremacy
in foreign affairs. Coupled with the flagrant neglect of instruction
in constitutional government, this propaganda . . . has deeply
implanted in the minds of rising generations the doctrine that
the power of the president over international relations is, for
all practical purposes, illimitable.53

Needless
to say, the situation has in no way improved, as the public schools
grind out tens of millions of future voters to whom the notion,
say, that James Madison had something to do with the Constitution
of the United States would come as an uninteresting revelation.

The
Korean War lasted three years and cost 36,916 American deaths and
more than 100,000 other casualties. Additionally, there were millions
of Korean dead and devastation of the peninsula, especially in the
north, where the U.S. Air Force pulverized the civilian infrastructure
– with much "collateral damage" – in what
has since become its emblematic method of waging war.54
Today, nearly a half-century after the end of the conflict, the
United States continues to station troops as a "tripwire"
in yet another of its imperial outposts.55

The
indirect consequences of Truman’s "police action" have
been equally grim. Hans Morgenthau wrote:

The
misinterpretation of the North Korean aggression as part of a
grand design at world conquest originating in and controlled by
Moscow resulted in a drastic militarization of the cold war in
the form of a conventional and nuclear armaments race, the frantic
search for alliances, and the establishment of military bases.56

Truman
is glorified for his conduct of foreign affairs more than anything
else. Whether one concurs in this judgment depends mainly on the
kind of country one wishes America to be. Stephen Ambrose has summed
up the results of the foreign policy of Harry Truman:

When
Truman became president he led a nation anxious to return to traditional
civil-military relations and the historic American foreign policy
of noninvolvement. When he left the White House his legacy was
an American presence on every continent of the world and an enormously
expanded armament industry. Yet so successfully had he scared
hell out of the American people, the only critics to receive any
attention in the mass media were those who thought Truman had
not gone far enough in standing up to the communists. For all
his troubles, Truman had triumphed.57

The
Führerprinzip in the Economic Arena

Harry
Truman’s conception of presidential power as in principle unlimited
was as manifest in his domestic as in his foreign policy. Some key
episodes illustrate this.

In
May 1946, Truman decided that the proper response to the strike
of railroad workers was to draft the strikers into the Army. Even
his attorney general, Tom Clark, doubted that the Draft Act permitted
"the induction of occupational groups" or that the move
was at all constitutional. But, as Truman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning
biographer David McCullough wrote, in his typical stupefied admiration:
"Truman was not interested in philosophy. The strike must stop.
u2018We’ll draft them and think about the law later,’ he reportedly
remarked."58 McCullough neglects
to note that bold "action" in defiance of law is considered
a characteristic of fascist regimes.

On
May 25, Truman addressed Congress, requesting the authority "to
draft into the Armed Forces of the United States all workers who
are on strike against their government." His proposal was greeted
with tumultuous applause, and the House quickly approved the bill
by 306 to 13. In the Senate, though, the bill was stopped in its
tracks by Senator Taft. He was joined by left-liberals like Claude
Pepper of Florida. Eventually, the Senate rejected the bill by 70
to 13.

Later
that year, another "crisis" led Truman to contemplate
further exercise of dictatorial power. While most of the wartime
price controls had been lifted by this time, controls remained on
a number of items, most prominently meat. Strangely enough, it was
precisely in that commodity that a shortage and a black market developed.
The meat shortage was eroding support for the Democrats, who began
to look with trepidation on the upcoming congressional elections.
Party workers were told by usually loyal voters, "No meat,
no votes." Truman was forced to act. He would address the nation
again, announcing and explaining the decision he had made.

In
his draft for the speech, Truman was bitter. He indicted the American
people for their greed and selfishness, so different from the selfless
patriotism of the heroes who had won the Medal of Honor. The draft
continued:

You’ve
deserted your president for a mess of pottage, a piece of beef
– a side of bacon. . . . If you the people insist on following
Mammon instead of Almighty God, your president can’t stop you
all by himself. I can no longer enforce a law you won’t support.
. . . You’ve gone over to the powers of selfishness and greed.59

This
crazy tirade was omitted from the speech Truman made on October
14.60 But ever the cheap demagogue,
he pilloried the meat industry as responsible for the shortage,
"those who, in order further to fatten their profits, are endangering
the health of our people by holding back vital foods which are now
ready for market and for which the American people are clamoring."
The failed haberdasher, it appears, had little understanding of
the role that prices might play in a market economy. In his
speech, Truman confided that he had carefully weighed and discussed
with his cabinet and economic experts a number of possible solutions.
One was "to have the Government seize the packing houses."
But this would not have helped, since the packing houses were empty.
Then came a notion that "would indeed be a drastic remedy":
"that the government go out onto the farms and ranges and seize
the cattle for slaughter." Truman gave the idea "long
and serious consideration." Here is why, in the end, he declined
to go the route of the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine:

We
decided against the use of this extreme wartime emergency power
of Government. It would be wholly impracticable because the cattle
are spread throughout all parts of the country.61

This
statement from the feisty, "near-great" Man of the People
deserves to be read more than once.62

So,
sadly and reluctantly, Truman announced the end of price controls
on meat, although he advised the country that "some items,
like rent, will have to be controlled for a long time to come."

On
April 8, 1952, as a nationwide strike loomed in the steel industry,
Truman issued Executive Order 10340, directing his Secretary of
Commerce Charles Sawyer to seize the steel mills.

He
acted, he claimed, "by virtue of the authority vested in me
by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and as President
of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces
of the United States."63 He could
not, however, point to any such law, despite his reference to "the
laws of the United States." Nor did any provision of the Constitution
give the president the right to seize private property by proclamation.
But, as McCullough tells us, Truman was convinced "from his
reading of history" that "his action fell within his powers
as President and Commander-in-Chief." After all, hadn’t Lincoln
suspended the writ of habeas corpus during a national emergency?64
On April 9, the Star-Spangled Banner was raised over the nation’s
steel mills, and the steel companies immediately took the case to
court.

At
a news conference on April 17, Truman was asked: "Mr. President,
if you can seize the steel mills under your inherent powers, can
you, in your opinion, also seize the newspapers and/or the radio
stations?" Truman replied: "Under similar circumstances
the President of the United States has to act for whatever is for
the best of the country. That’s the answer to your question."65

The
next day, the New York Times reported:

The
president refused to elaborate. But White House sources said the
president’s point was that he had power in an emergency, to take
over "any portion of the business community acting to jeopardize
all the people."

The
case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer quickly
reached the Supreme Court, where Truman’s argument was rejected
by a vote of 6 to 3. Speaking for the three was Truman’s crony,
Chief Justice Fred Vinson, who argued that the president had the
authority to enact all laws necessary for carrying out laws previously
passed by Congress. Any man worthy of the office of president, Vinson
wrote, should be "free to take at least interim action necessary
to execute legislative programs essential to the survival of the
nation." The majority, including Hugo Black, William O. Douglas,
Felix Frankfurter, and even Truman’s former attorney general, Tom
Clark, decided otherwise.66

At
that April 17 news conference, no reporter thought to ask a follow-up
question to Truman’s stunning reply. His claim of the unlimited
right to dispose at his discretion of the property of any and all
citizens – a viewpoint for which a king of England was beheaded
– made as little impression on the press then as it has on
his admirers ever since. One wonders what it would take to spark
their outrage or even their interest.67

In
economic policy, the years of Truman’s "Fair Deal" were
a time of consolidation and expansion of government power. In February
1946, the Employment Act was passed. Inspired by the newly dominant
Keynesian economics, it declared that henceforth the economic health
of the nation was primarily the responsibility of the federal government.
With the coming of the Korean War, economic controls were again
the order of the day. (Bernard Baruch was once more, for the third
time since 1917, a prime agitator for their introduction.) Truman
declared a "national emergency." New boards and agencies
oversaw prices and wages, established priorities in materials allocation,
and instituted controls over credit and other sectors of the economy.68
As in the world wars, the aftermath of Truman’s Korean War exhibited
the "ratchet-effect," whereby federal government spending,
though diminished, never returned to the previous peacetime level.69

A
Heritage of Sinkholes

Truman’s
legacy includes programs and policies that continue to inflict damage
to this day. Three cases are especially noteworthy.

In
his message to Congress on January 20, 1949, Truman launched the
concept of aid from Western governments to the poorer nations that
were soon to be called, collectively, the Third World. Point Four
of his speech sketched a new program to provide technical assistance
to the "more than half the people of the world [who] are living
in conditions approaching misery," and whose "economic
life is primitive and stagnant." This was to be "a cooperative
enterprise in which all nations work together through the United
Nations and its specialized agencies" – in other words,
a state-funded and state-directed effort to end world poverty.70

According
to Peter Bauer, Point Four "inaugurated a far-reaching policy
and a supporting terminology."71
In the decades that followed, foreign aid was promoted by a proliferating
international bureaucracy, as well as by religious and secular zealots
ignorantly confident of the purity of their antisocial cause. Western
guilt feelings, fostered by the leftist intelligentsia and self-seeking
Third World politicians, facilitated the channeling of hundreds
of billions of dollars to governments in Asia, Africa, and Latin
America. Today, even "conservative" politicians and publicists
are devotees. "Development aid" has become institutionalized
and is intended to continue indefinitely, with all its attendant
harm: reinforced statism, inferior economic performance, and corruption
on the greatest scale the world has ever known.72

Truman
began the "special relationship" between the United States
and Zionism. Franklin Roosevelt, while not blind to Jewish interests,
favored an evenhanded approach in the Middle East as between Arabs
and Jews. Truman, on the other hand, was an all-out champion of
the Zionist cause.73

There
were two major reasons for Truman’s support. One was a sentimental
attachment that was strongly reinforced by many who had influence
with him, including his old business partner, Eddie Jacobson as
well as David K. Niles, and Eleanor Roosevelt.74
Visiting the president, the Chief Rabbi of Israel told him:
"God put you in your mother’s womb so that you could be the
instrument to bring about the rebirth of Israel after two thousand
years." Instead of taking offense at such chutzpah, the president
was deeply moved. One of his biographers reports: "At that,
great tears started rolling down Harry Truman’s cheeks."75

The
second reason for Truman’s support was political opportunism. With
congressional elections coming up in 1946 and then a very difficult
presidential campaign in 1948, the votes of Zionist Jews in New
York, Illinois, California, and other states could be critical.
White House Counsel Clark Clifford was particularly persistent in
arguing this angle, to the point that Secretary of State Marshall,
who was skeptical of the pro-Zionist bias, angrily objected. Clifford,
said Marshall, was trying to have the president base a crucial foreign
policy position on "domestic political considerations."76

American
backing was indispensable in the birth of the state of Israel. In
November 1947, the United Nations, led by the United States, voted
to partition Palestine. The mandate had to be gerrymandered in order
to create a bare majority in the territory allotted the Jews, who,
while comprising one-third of the population, were given 56 percent
of the land. On America’s role, veteran State Department official
Sumner Welles wrote:

By
direct order of the White House every form of pressure, direct
and indirect, was brought to bear upon countries outside the Moslem
world that were known to be either uncertain or opposed to partition.77

In
her biography of her father, Margaret Truman spoke, in terms that
today would be viewed as verging on anti-Semitism, of "the
intense pressure which numerous Jews put on Dad from the moment
he entered the White House and his increasing resentment of this
pressure." She quotes from a letter Truman sent to Eleanor
Roosevelt:

I
fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they
get on top, they are just as intolerant and as cruel as the people
were to them when they were underneath. I regret this situation
very much, because my sympathy has always been on their side.78

But
Truman’s sporadic resentment did not prevent him from promoting
Zionist plans for Palestine at the important points. He stubbornly
ignored the advice not only of his own State Department, but also
of his British ally, who kept reminding him of the commitment made
by Roosevelt and by Truman himself, that the Arab states would be
consulted on any settlement of the Palestine question.79
When Israel declared its independence, on May 15, 1948, the United
States extended de facto recognition ten minutes later. Since
then, with the exception of the Eisenhower years, the bonds linking
the United States to Israel have grown ever tighter, with American
leaders seemingly indifferent to the costs to their own country.80

In
the end, the part of Truman’s legacy with the greatest potential
for harm is NATO. Allegedly created in response to a (nonexistent)
Soviet threat to overrun Europe, it has already outlived the Soviet
Union and European communism by a decade. At the beginning of the
new century, there is no possibility that this entrenched military
and civilian bureaucratic apparatus will simply fade away. When
did such a huge collection of functionaries ever surrender their
lucrative, tax-funded positions without a revolution?

In
the course of NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia – illegal,
according to the U.S. Constitution, the Charter of the United Nations,
and NATO’s own charter – its mission has been "redefined."
No longer merely a defensive alliance (against whom?), it will now
roam the world, a law unto itself, perpetually "in search of
monsters to destroy." In 1951, General Eisenhower, then supreme
Allied commander in Europe, stated: "If in ten years time,
all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes
have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project
[NATO] will have failed."81 A
growing threat to the independence, the well-being, and the very
lives of the peoples of the world, NATO may turn out in the end
to have been Truman’s greatest failure.

There
are also episodes in Truman’s presidency that have been forgotten
in the rush to certify him as a "near-great" but that
should not go unmentioned. Among the more notable ones:

Truman
endorsed the Nuremberg trials of the top German leaders, appointing
Robert H. Jackson, a justice of the Supreme Court, as chief American
prosecutor.82 The trials were exposed
as a vindictive violation of the canons of Anglo-American law by
Senator Taft, who was labeled a pro-Nazi by Democratic and labor
union leaders for his pains.83 At Nuremberg,
when the question came up of responsibility for the murder of thousands
of Polish POWs at Katyn, Truman followed the cowardly policy laid
down by FDR: the proof already in the possession of the U.S. government
– that it was the Soviets who had murdered the Poles –
was suppressed.84

In
the early months of Truman’s presidency, the United States and Britain
directed the forced repatriation of tens of thousands of Soviet
subjects – and many who had never been Soviet subjects –
to the Soviet Union, where tens of thousands were executed by the
NKVD or cast into the gulag. Their crime had been to fight against
Stalinist domination on the side of the Germans. Terrible scenes
occurred in the course of this repatriation (sometimes called "Operation
Keelhaul"), as the condemned men, and in some cases women with
their children, were forced or duped into returning to Stalin’s
Russia. American soldiers had orders to "shoot to kill"
those refusing to go. Some of the victims committed suicide rather
than fall into the hands of the Soviet secret police.85

At
home, the Truman administration brought the corrupt practices of
the president’s mentor to the White House. Truman had entered politics
as the protégé of Tom Pendergast, the boss of the
Kansas City Democratic machine. One of Truman’s first acts as president
was to fire the U.S. attorney general for western Missouri, who
had won 259 convictions for vote fraud against the machine and had
sent Boss Pendergast to federal prison, where he died. Over the
years, the Truman administration was notorious for influence-peddling,
cover-ups, and outright theft.86 It
ranks with the administration of Bill Clinton for the dishonest
practices of its personnel, although Truman and his wife Bess were
never themselves guilty of malfeasance.

Hiroshima
and Nagasaki

The
most spectacular episode of Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten,
but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima
on August 6, 1945 and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around
two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through
radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including
several thousand Korean workers. Twelve U.S. Navy fliers incarcerated
in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.87

Great
controversy has always surrounded the bombings. One thing Truman
insisted on from the start: The decision to use the bombs, and the
responsibility it entailed, was his. Over the years, he gave different,
and contradictory, grounds for his decision. Sometimes he implied
that he had acted simply out of revenge. To a clergyman who criticized
him, Truman responded, testily:

Nobody
is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I
was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese
on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The
only language they seem to understand is the one we have been
using to bombard them.88

Such
reasoning will not impress anyone who fails to see how the brutality
of the Japanese military could justify deadly retaliation against
innocent men, women, and children. Truman doubtless was aware of
this, so from time to time he advanced other pretexts. On August
9, 1945, he stated: "The world will note that the first atomic
bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because
we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the
killing of civilians."89

This,
however, is absurd. Pearl Harbor was a military base. Hiroshima
was a city, inhabited by some three hundred thousand people,
which contained military elements. In any case, since the harbor
was mined and the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in control of the
waters around Japan, whatever troops were stationed in Hiroshima
had been effectively neutralized.

On
other occasions, Truman claimed that Hiroshima was bombed because
it was an industrial center. But, as noted in the U.S. Strategic
Bombing Survey, "all major factories in Hiroshima were on the
periphery of the city – and escaped serious damage."90
The target was the center of the city. That Truman realized the
kind of victims the bombs consumed is evident from his comment to
his cabinet on August 10, explaining his reluctance to drop a third
bomb: "The thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was
too horrible," he said; he didn’t like the idea of killing
"all those kids."91 Wiping
out another one hundred thousand people . . . all those kids.

Moreover,
the notion that Hiroshima was a major military or industrial center
is implausible on the face of it. The city had remained untouched
through years of devastating air attacks on the Japanese home islands,
and never figured in Bomber Command’s list of the 33 primary targets.92

Thus,
the rationale for the atomic bombings has come to rest on a single
colossal fabrication, which has gained surprising currency: that
they were necessary in order to save a half-million or more American
lives. These, supposedly, are the lives that would have been lost
in the planned invasion of Kyushu in December, then in the all-out
invasion of Honshu the next year, if that was needed. But the worst-case
scenario for a full-scale invasion of the Japanese home islands
was forty-six thousand American lives lost.93
The ridiculously inflated figure of a half-million for the potential
death toll – nearly twice the total of U.S. dead in all theaters
in the Second World War – is now routinely repeated in high-school
and college textbooks and bandied about by ignorant commentators.
Unsurprisingly, the prize for sheer fatuousness on this score goes
to President George W. Bush, who claimed in 1991 that dropping the
bomb "spared millions of American lives."94

Still, Truman’s multiple deceptions and self-deceptions are understandable,
considering the horror he unleashed. It is equally understandable
that the U.S. occupation authorities censored reports from the shattered
cities and did not permit films and photographs of the thousands
of corpses and the frightfully mutilated survivors to reach the
public.95 Otherwise, Americans –
and the rest of the world – might have drawn disturbing comparisons
to scenes then coming to light from the Nazi concentration camps.

The
bombings were condemned as barbaric and unnecessary by high American
military officers, including Eisenhower and MacArthur.96
The view of Admiral William D. Leahy, Truman’s own chief of staff,
was typical:

the
use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of
no material assistance in our war against Japan. . . . My own
feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted
an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.
I was not taught to make wars in that fashion, and wars cannot
be won by destroying women and children.97

The
political elite implicated in the atomic bombings feared a backlash
that would aid and abet the rebirth of horrid prewar "isolationism."
Apologias were rushed into print, lest public disgust at the sickening
war crime result in erosion of enthusiasm for the globalist project.98
No need to worry. A sea-change had taken place in the attitudes
of the American people. Then and ever after, all surveys have shown
that the great majority supported Truman, believing that the bombs
were required to end the war and save hundreds of thousands of American
lives, or more likely, not really caring one way or the other.

Those
who may still be troubled by such a grisly exercise in cost-benefit
analysis – innocent Japanese lives balanced against the lives
of Allied servicemen – might reflect on the judgment of the
Catholic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe, who insisted on the supremacy
of moral rules.99 When, in June 1956,
Truman was awarded an honorary degree by her university, Oxford,
Anscombe protested.100 Truman was
a war criminal, she contended, for what is the difference between
the U.S. government massacring civilians from the air, as at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, and the Nazis wiping out the inhabitants of some Czech
or Polish village?

Anscombe’s
point is worth following up. Suppose that, when we invaded Germany
in early 1945, our leaders had believed that executing all the inhabitants
of Aachen, or Trier, or some other Rhineland city would finally
break the will of the Germans and lead them to surrender. In this
way, the war might have ended quickly, saving the lives of many
Allied soldiers. Would that then have justified shooting tens of
thousands of German civilians, including women and children? Yet
how is that different from the atomic bombings?

By
early summer 1945, the Japanese fully realized that they were beaten.
Why did they nonetheless fight on? As Anscombe wrote: "It was
the insistence on unconditional surrender that was the root of all
evil."101

That
mad formula was coined by Roosevelt at the Casablanca conference,
and, with Churchill’s enthusiastic concurrence, it became the Allied
shibboleth. After prolonging the war in Europe, it did its work
in the Pacific. At the Potsdam conference, in July 1945, Truman
issued a proclamation to the Japanese, threatening them with the
"utter devastation" of their homeland unless they surrendered
unconditionally. Among the Allied terms, to which "there are
no alternatives," was that there be "eliminated for all
time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and
misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest [sic]."
"Stern justice," the proclamation warned, "would
be meted out to all war criminals."102

To
the Japanese, this meant that the emperor – regarded by them
to be divine, the direct descendent of the goddess of the sun –
would certainly be dethroned and probably put on trial as a war
criminal and hanged, perhaps in front of his palace.103
It was not, in fact, the U.S. intention to dethrone or punish the
emperor. But this implicit modification of unconditional surrender
was never communicated to the Japanese. In the end, after Nagasaki,
Washington acceded to the Japanese desire to keep the dynasty and
even to retain Hirohito as emperor.

For
months before, Truman had been pressed to clarify the U.S. position
by many high officials within the administration, and outside of
it, as well. In May 1945, at the president’s request, Herbert Hoover
prepared a memorandum stressing the urgent need to end the war as
soon as possible. The Japanese should be informed that we would
in no way interfere with the emperor or their chosen form of government.
He even raised the possibility that, as part of the terms, Japan
might be allowed to hold on to Formosa (Taiwan) and Korea. After
meeting with Truman, Hoover dined with Taft and other Republican
leaders, and outlined his proposals.104

Establishment
writers on World War II often like to deal in lurid speculations.
For instance: if the United States had not entered the war, then
Hitler would have "conquered the world" (a sad undervaluation
of the Red Army, it would appear; moreover, wasn’t it Japan that
was trying to "conquer the world"?) and killed untold
millions. Now, applying conjectural history in this case: assume
that the Pacific war had ended in the way wars customarily do –
through negotiation of the terms of surrender. And assume the worst
– that the Japanese had adamantly insisted on preserving part
of their empire, say, Korea and Formosa, even Manchuria. In that
event, it is quite possible that Japan would have been in a position
to prevent the Communists from coming to power in China. And that
could have meant that the thirty or forty million deaths now attributed
to the Maoist regime would not have occurred.

But
even remaining within the limits of feasible diplomacy in 1945,
it is clear that Truman in no way exhausted the possibilities of
ending the war without recourse to the atomic bomb. The Japanese
were not informed that they would be the victims of by far the most
lethal weapon ever invented (one with "more than two thousand
times the blast power of the British u2018Grand Slam,’ which is the
largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare," as Truman
boasted in his announcement of the Hiroshima attack). Nor were they
told that the Soviet Union was set to declare war on Japan, an event
that shocked some in Tokyo more than the bombings.105
Pleas by some of the scientists involved in the project to demonstrate
the power of the bomb in some uninhabited or evacuated area were
rebuffed. All that mattered was to formally preserve the unconditional
surrender formula and save the servicemen’s lives that might have
been lost in the effort to enforce it. Yet, as Major General J.F.C.
Fuller, one of the century’s great military historians, wrote in
connection with the atomic bombings:

Though
to save life is laudable, it in no way justifies the employment
of means which run counter to every precept of humanity and the
customs of war. Should it do so, then, on the pretext of shortening
a war and of saving lives, every imaginable atrocity can be justified.106

Isn’t
this obviously true? And isn’t this the reason that rational and
humane men, over generations, developed rules of warfare in the
first place?

While
the mass media parroted the government line in praising the atomic
incinerations, prominent conservatives denounced them as unspeakable
war crimes. Felix Morley, constitutional scholar and one of the
founders of Human Events, drew attention to the horror of
Hiroshima, including the "thousands of children trapped in
the thirty-three schools that were destroyed." He called on
his compatriots to atone for what had been done in their name, and
proposed that groups of Americans be sent to Hiroshima, as Germans
were sent to witness what had been done in the Nazi camps. The Paulist
priest, Father James Gillis, editor of The Catholic World
and another stalwart of the Old Right, castigated the bombings as
"the most powerful blow ever delivered against Christian civilization
and the moral law." David Lawrence, conservative owner of U.S.
News and World Report, continued to denounce them for years.107
The distinguished conservative philosopher Richard Weaver was revolted
by

the
spectacle of young boys fresh out of Kansas and Texas turning
nonmilitary Dresden into a holocaust . . . pulverizing ancient
shrines like Monte Cassino and Nuremberg, and bringing atomic
annihilation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Weaver
considered such atrocities as deeply "inimical to the foundations
on which civilization is built."108

Today,
self-styled conservatives slander as "anti-American" anyone
who is in the least troubled by Truman’s massacre of so many tens
of thousands of Japanese innocents from the air. This shows as well
as anything the difference between today’s "conservatives"
and those who once deserved the name.

Leo
Szilard was the world-renowned physicist who drafted the original
letter to Roosevelt that Einstein signed, instigating the Manhattan
Project. In 1960, shortly before his death, Szilard stated another
obvious truth:

If
the Germans had dropped atomic bombs on cities instead of us,
we would have defined the dropping of atomic bombs on cities as
a war crime, and we would have sentenced the Germans who were
guilty of this crime to death at Nuremberg and hanged them.109

The
destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime worse than
any that Japanese generals were executed for in Tokyo and Manila.
If Harry Truman was not a war criminal, then no one ever was.

Notes

  1. Robert
    Higgs, "No
    More u2018Great Presidents
    ,’" The Free Market (March
    1997): 2.

  2. Even
    such a defender of U.S. policy as John Lewis Gaddis, in "The
    Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis on the Origins of the Cold
    War," Diplomatic History 7, no. 3 (Summer 1983):
    171–93, states that part of the "post-revisionist"
    consensus among diplomatic historians is that an American empire
    did indeed come into being. But this American empire, according
    to Gaddis, is a "defensive" one. Why this should be
    a particularly telling point is unclear, considering that for
    American leaders "defense" has entailed effectively
    controlling the world.

  3. Melvyn
    P. Leffler, "The American Conception of National Security
    and the Beginnings of the Cold War, 1945–1948," American
    Historical Review 89, no. 2 (April 1984): 346–81.
    See also the comments by John Lewis Gaddis and Bruce Kuniholm,
    and Leffler’s reply, pp. 382–400.

  4. See
    Ralph Raico, "Rethinking Churchill," in The
    Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories
    , John V. Denson,
    ed., 2nd ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999).

  5. Walter
    LaFeber, America,
    Russia, and the Cold War, 1945–1990
    , 6th rev.
    ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991), p. 13. Cf. Stalin’s comment
    at Yalta: "A freely elected government in any of these
    countries would be anti-Soviet, and that we cannot allow."
    Hans J. Morgenthau, "The Origins of the Cold War,"
    in Lloyd C. Gardner, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Hans J. Morgenthau,
    The
    Origins of the Cold War
    (Waltham, Mass.: Ginn, 1970),
    pp. 87–88.

  6. Melvyn
    R. Leffler, "Inside Enemy Archives: The Cold War Reopened,"
    Foreign Affairs (July/August 1996): 134–35.

  7. At
    the State Department, Henry Stimson and John J. McCloy agreed
    in May 1945 that (in McCloy’s words) "we ought to have
    our cake and eat it too," that is, control South America
    and "at the same time intervene promptly in Europe; we
    oughtn’t to give away either asset [sic]." Stephen
    E. Ambrose, Rise
    to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938
    , 3rd
    rev. ed. (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 103.

  8. Alonzo
    L. Hamby, Man
    of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman
    (New York:
    Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 391.

  9. Frank
    Kofsky, Harry
    S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to
    Deceive the Nation
    (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993),
    pp. 244–45.

  10. Ambrose,
    Rise to Globalism, p. 117.

  11. In
    their attacks on Patrick Buchanan’s A
    Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America’s Destiny

    (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1999) for his insistence that Nazi
    Germany posed no threat to the United States after 1940, Buchanan’s
    critics have generally resorted to fatuous smears. This is understandable,
    since they are wedded to a fantasy of Hitlerian power that,
    ironically, is itself a reflection of Hitlerian propaganda.
    The fact is that Nazi Germany never conquered any militarily
    important nation but France. The danger of 80 million Germans
    "conquering the world" is a scarecrow that has, obviously,
    served the globalists well.

  12. Ambrose,
    Rise to Globalism, pp. 132–33.

  13. Ronald
    E. Powaski, The
    Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917–1991

    (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 72.

  14. Ambrose,
    Rise to Globalism, p. 133. That self-interest played
    a role in the exaggeration of the "crisis" is the
    conclusion of Ronald Steel, "The End of the Beginning,"
    Diplomatic History 16, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 297, who
    writes that universalizing the struggle would "enable the
    United States greatly to expand its military and political reach,"
    which "enhanced its appeal to American foreign policy elites
    eager to embrace the nation’s new opportunities."

  15. LaFeber,
    America, Russia, and the Cold War, pp. 53–54.

  16. Ronald
    Radosh, Prophets
    on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism

    (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975), pp. 155–56.

  17. See
    Ted Galen Carpenter’s informative The Dissenters: American
    Isolationists and Foreign Policy, 1945–1954 (Ph.D.
    dissertation, University of Texas, 1980). On the same
    topic, but concentrating on the intellectual leaders of the
    Old Right, see Joseph R. Stromberg’s perceptive analysis, The
    Cold War and the Transformation of the American Right: The Decline
    of Right-Wing Liberalism (M.A. thesis, Florida Atlantic
    University, 1971).

  18. Melvyn
    P. Leffler, A
    Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration,
    and the Cold War
    (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University
    Press, 1992), p. 146.

  19. See
    Michael J. Hogan, A
    Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National
    Security State, 1945–1954
    (Cambridge: Cambridge
    University Press, 1998).

  20. Cf.
    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Secrecy:
    The American Experience
    (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University
    Press, 1997), pp. 195–99 and passim. In 1997, former President
    Gerald Ford recalled his days as a member of the House Defense
    Appropriations Committee, when spokesmen for the CIA would warn
    over and over again of the imminent danger of the Soviet Union’s
    surpassing the United States "in military capability, in
    economic growth, in the strength of our economies. It was a
    scary presentation."

  21. Truman
    later maintained that he never intended the CIA to involve itself
    in "peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations." This,
    however, was a lie. See John Prados, Presidents’
    Secret Wars: CIA and Pentagon Covert Operations from World War
    II through the Persian Gulf War
    , rev. ed. (Chicago:
    Ivan R. Dee, 1996), pp. 20–21, 28–29, 65–67;
    also Peter Grose, Operation
    Rollback: America’s Secret War Behind the Iron Curtain

    (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), which discusses George Kennan’s
    1948 plan, approved by the Truman administration, to carry out
    paramilitary actions behind the Iron Curtain, including guerrilla
    attacks and sabotage.

  22. Geoffrey
    Wheatcroft, in the Times Literary Supplement (July 16,
    1999): 9. For an excellent analysis of the United States’ and
    NATO’s successive lies on the bombing of the Chinese embassy,
    and the American media’s endorsement and propagation of the
    lies, see Jared Israel, "The
    Arrogance of Rome
    ," Emperors-Clothes.com, April 18,
    2000.

  23. Radosh,
    Prophets on the Right, pp. 159–61. The Marshall
    Plan and its supposed successes are now enveloped by what Walter
    A. McDougall, in Promised
    Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World
    Since 1776
    (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), p. 180,
    rightly calls a "mythology." The basic cause of Europe’s
    recovery was the relatively free-market principles put into
    practice (in West Germany, for instance), and, more than anything
    else, the character of the European peoples, sometimes called
    "human capital." What the Marshall Plan and the billions
    in U.S. military aid largely accomplished was to allow the European
    regimes to construct their welfare states, and, in the case
    of France, for one, to continue trying to suppress colonial
    uprisings, as in Vietnam. Cf. George C. Herring, America’s
    Longest War: the United States and Vietnam, 1950–1976

    (New York: Knopf, 1979), p. 8: "substantial American funds
    under the Marshall Plan enabled France to use its own resources
    to prosecute the war in Indochina." See also Tyler Cowen,
    "The Marshall Plan: Myths and Realities," in U.S.
    Aid to the Developing World: A Free Market Agenda
    , Doug
    Bandow, ed. (Washington, D.C.: Heritage, 1985), pp. 61–74;
    and Alan S. Milward, "Was the Marshall Plan Necessary?"
    Diplomatic History 13 (Spring 1989): 231–53, who
    emphasizes the pressures placed on European governments by the
    Plan’s administrators to adopt Keynesian policies.

  24. Vladislav
    Zubok, "Stalin’s Plans and Russian Archives," Diplomatic
    History 21, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 299. The Soviet documents
    show that Stalin and Molotov were "convinced that the U.S.
    aid was designed to lure the Kremlin’s East European neighbors
    out of its orbit and to rebuild German strength." See also
    Leffler, "Inside Enemy Archives," p. 133.

  25. Kofsky,
    Truman, p. 99.

  26. Ibid.,
    p. 106.

  27. Ronald
    E. Powaski, Toward
    an Entangling Alliance: American Isolationism, Internationalism,
    and Europe, 1901–1950
    (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood,
    1991), pp. 201–02.

  28. Harry
    W. Berger, "Senator Robert A. Taft Dissents from Military
    Escalation," in Cold
    War Critics: Alternatives to American Foreign Policy in the
    Truman Years
    , Thomas G. Paterson, ed. (Chicago: Quadrangle
    Books, 1971), pp. 181–82; and Kofsky, Truman, p.
    130.

  29. Ibid.,
    pp. 294–95.

  30. Michael
    Parenti, The
    Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms
    Race
    (New York: St. Martin’s, 1989), p. 147.

  31. Gaddis,
    "The Emerging Post-Revisionist Synthesis," p. 181. Morgenthau,
    "The Origins of the Cold War," p. 95, anticipated this
    conclusion: "The limits of Stalin’s territorial ambition
    were the traditional limits of Russian expansionism." Even
    Vladislav Zubok, who believes that the now available Soviet documents
    show the U.S. leaders in a much better light than many had thought,
    nonetheless concedes, "Stalin’s Plans," p. 305:

there was
an element of overreaction, arrogance, and selfish pragmatism
in the American response to Stalin’s plans. . . . The Soviet
military machine was not a military juggernaut, western Europe
was not under threat of a direct Soviet military assault, and
the Sino–Soviet bloc lacked true cohesion. . . . American
containment of Stalin’s Soviet Union may indeed have helped
the dictatorship to mobilize people to the task of building
a superpower from the ashes and ruins of the impoverished and
devastated country. It may even have helped Stalin to trample
on the seeds of liberalism and freedom in Soviet society.

Cf. Leffler,
"Inside Enemy Archives," pp. 132, 134: "The new
research clearly shows that American initiatives intensified Soviet
distrust and reinforced Soviet insecurities . . . [recent research
indicates] that American policies made it difficult for potential
reformers inside the Kremlin to gain the high ground."

  1. Matthew
    Evangelista, "The u2018Soviet Threat’: Intentions, Capabilities,
    and Context," Diplomatic History 22, no. 3 (Summer
    1998): 445–46. On how information from recently opened Soviet
    archives has undermined the old cold war account, see also the
    account by Leffler, "Inside Enemy Archives," pp. 120–35.
    Leffler, hardly a "New Left" (or libertarian) historian,
    concludes: "Americans should reexamine their complacent belief
    in the wisdom of their country’s cold war policies."

    The fact
    that Stalin was the worst tyrant and greatest mass-murderer
    in twentieth-century European history has by now been established
    beyond a doubt. However, here one should heed Murray Rothbard’s
    admonition against doing "a priori history,"
    that is, assuming that in a given international conflict it
    is always the relatively liberal state that is in the right
    as against the relatively illiberal state, which must always
    be the aggressor. Murray N. Rothbard, For
    a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto
    , rev. ed. (New
    York: Collier-Macmillan, 1978), pp. 289–91.

  2. Evangelista,
    "The Soviet u2018Threat,’" p. 447. See also Steel, "The
    End of the Beginning," "Unquestionably, the Soviet Union
    was far weaker ideologically, politically, structurally, and,
    of course, economically, than was generally assumed." An
    astonishing admission that the whole cold war was fueled, on the
    American side, by wild overestimations of Soviet strength was
    made in 1990 by Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state:

for more
than four decades, Western policy has been based on a grotesque
exaggeration of what the USSR could do if it wanted, therefore
what it might do, therefore what the West must be prepared to
do in response. . . . Worst-case assumptions about Soviet intentions
have fed, and fed upon, worst-case assumptions about Soviet
capabilities.

John A. Thompson,
"The Exaggeration of American Vulnerability: The Anatomy
of a Tradition," Diplomatic History 16, no. 1 (Winter
1992): 23. Thompson’s article is highly instructive on how hysteria
regarding impending attacks on the United States during the twentieth
century – a time when America grew ever stronger –
has contributed to entanglement in foreign conflicts.

  1. Justus
    D. Doenecke, Not
    to the Swift: The Old Isolationists in the Cold War Era
    (Lewisburg,
    Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1979), p. 216. Truman’s slanders
    were particularly vile, since his own motivation in generating
    the war-scare was at least in part self-aggrandizement. As his
    trusted political adviser Clark Clifford noted in a memo to the
    president:

There is
considerable political advantage to the administration in its
battle with the Kremlin. The worse matters get up to a fairly
certain point – real danger of imminent war – the
more is there a sense of crisis. In times of crisis, the American
citizen tends to back up his president. (Kofsky, Truman,
p. 92)

  1. Cf.
    George Will’s judgment, in The
    Leveling Wind: Politics, the Culture, and Other News, 1990–1994

    (New York: Viking, 1994), p. 380: "Truman’s greatness was
    a product of his goodness, his straight-ahead respect for the
    public, respect expressed in decisions briskly made and plainly
    explained." In truth, despite Will’s blather, Truman was
    all of his life a demagogue, a political "garbage-mouth"
    whose first instinct was to besmirch his opponents. In his tribute
    to Truman, Will employs his usual ploy whenever he is moved
    to extol some villainous politico or other: his subject’s greatness
    could only be denied by pitiful post-modernist creatures who
    reject all human excellence, nobility of soul, etc. This maneuver
    is nowhere sillier than in the case of Harry Truman.

  2. Doenecke,
    Not to the Swift, pp. 200, 216.

  3. Ted
    Galen Carpenter, The
    Captive Press: Foreign Policy Crises and the First Amendment

    (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 1995), pp. 45–52. Carpenter’s
    excellent study covers the whole period of the cold war.

  4. The
    commotion over Soviet plans to "conquer the world"
    intensified in June 1948 with the blockade of West Berlin. The
    United States and its allies had unilaterally decided to jettison
    four-power control of Germany, and instead to integrate their
    occupation zones and proceed to create a west German state.
    Stalin’s clumsy response was to exploit the absence of any formal
    agreement permitting the western powers access to Berlin, and
    institute the blockade.

  5. LaFeber,
    America, Russia, and the Cold War, pp. 83–84. Some
    award for Orwellian Newspeak is due the Democratic foreign affairs
    leader in the Senate, Tom Connally, who stated that NATO "is
    but the logical extension of the principle of the Monroe Doctrine."

  6. See
    especially Jerry W. Sanders, Peddlers
    of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics
    of Containment
    (Boston: South End Press, 1983); also
    Gabriel Kolko, Century of War: Politics, Conflict, and Society
    Since 1914 (New York: New Press, 1994), pp. 397–98;
    and Powaski, Cold War, pp. 85–86.

  7. Michael
    Schaller, The
    United States and China in the Twentieth Century
    (New
    York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 131–32.

  8. Bruce
    Cumings, Korea’s
    Place in the Sun: A Modern History
    (New York: Norton,
    1997), pp. 257–58. Japan was unable to act as a counterweight
    to Communist regimes in east Asia because, like Germany, it
    had been annulled as a power. In addition, the constitution
    imposed on Japan by the American occupiers forced it to renounce
    warmaking as a sovereign right.

  9. The
    attack was authorized by Stalin, "in expectation that the
    United States might eventually turn [South Korea] into a beachhead
    for a return to the Asian mainland in alliance with a resurgent
    Japan" (Zubok, "Stalin’s Plans," p. 301).

  10. Eric
    A. Nordlinger, Isolationism
    Reconfigured: American Foreign Policy for a New Century

    (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 168–69.

  11. Walter
    LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, pp. 107–08;
    see also Herring, America’s Longest War, pp. 6–23.
    France’s war against the Viet Minh began in 1946 with a typical
    colonialist atrocity, when a French cruiser bombarded Haiphong,
    killing 6,000 civilians; ibid., p. 5. Acts of brutality such
    as this were on the minds of the "isolationist" Republicans
    like Taft, George Bender, and Howard Buffet when they inveighed
    against American support of Western imperialism in terms which
    would be considered "leftist" today.

  12. On
    the shift of conservatives from "isolationism" to
    internationalism, see Murray N. Rothbard, "The Transformation
    of the American Right," Continuum (Summer 1964):
    220–31.

  13. John
    Hart Ely, War
    and Responsibility: Constitutional Lessons of Vietnam and Its
    Aftermath
    (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,
    1993), pp. 10–11.

  14. See,
    for example, James Wilson’s statement: "This system will
    not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it.
    It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body
    of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power
    of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large."
    Ibid., p. 3. Illustrative of the present-day decay of constitutional
    thinking is the statement of the noted conservative advocate
    of the doctrine of "original intent," Robert Bork
    (ibid., p. 5): "The need for presidents to have that power
    [to use military force abroad without Congressional approval],
    particularly in the modern age, should be obvious to almost
    anyone."

  15. Francis
    D. Wormuth and Edwin B. Firmage, To
    Chain the Dog of War: The War Power of Congress in History and
    Law
    , 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
    1989), p. 151.

  16. Wormuth
    and Firmage, To Chain the Dog of War, p. 151.

  17. Ibid.,
    p. 135.

  18. Emily,
    War and Responsibility, pp. 151–52, n. 60. A year
    earlier the North Atlantic Treaty had been submitted to the
    Senate for approval. Article 5 specifically ensured that "U.S.
    response to aggression in the area covered by the alliance would
    be governed by u2018constitutional processes,’ thereby requiring
    congressional approval." Ponawski, Toward Entangling
    Alliance, pp. 208–09. On the origins of unlimited
    presidential warmaking powers, see Robert Shogan, Hard
    Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill’s Arm, Evaded the Law, and
    Changed the Role of the American Presidency
    , paperback
    edition (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1999), preface to the paperback
    edition, "Paving the Way to Kosovo."

  19. Charles
    A. Beard, President
    Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: A Study in Appearances
    and Realities
    (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press,
    1948), p. 590. Beard listed as among the major purveyors of
    this doctrine "powerful private agencies engaged nominally
    in propaganda for u2018peace,’" which look to the president
    to advance their ideas for "ordering and reordering the
    world."

  20. Kolko,
    Century
    of War
    , pp. 403–08. General Curtis LeMay boasted
    of the devastation wreaked by the Air Force: "We burned
    down just about every city in North and South Korea both . .
    . we killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several
    million more from their homes." Callum A. MacDonald, Korea:
    The War Before Vietnam
    (New York: Free Press, 1986),
    p. 235. I am grateful to Joseph R. Stromberg for drawing my
    attention to this quotation. It gives one pause to realize that
    the savagery of the U.S. air war was such as to lead even Winston
    Churchill to condemn it. Ibid., pp. 234–35. In Fall 1999,
    it was finally disclosed that "early in the Korean War,
    American soldiers machine-gunned hundreds of helpless civilians
    under a railroad bridge in the South Korean countryside,"
    allegedly in order to thwart the infiltration of North Korean
    troops. Former U.S. soldiers "described other refugee killings
    as well in the war’s first weeks, when U.S. commanders ordered
    their troops to shoot civilians of an allied nation, as a defense
    against disguised enemy soldiers, according to once-classified
    documents found in U.S. military archives" (Washington
    Post, September 30, 1999). A few months later, other declassified
    U.S. military documents revealed that the South Korean government
    executed without trial more than 2,000 leftists as its forces
    retreated in the first stages of the war; the occurrence of
    such executions was known to the American military authorities
    at the time (New York Times, April 21, 2000). In addition,
    there is evidence that the United States may, in fact, have
    experimented with bacteriological warfare in Korea, as charged
    by China and North Korea. See Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman,
    The
    United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early
    Cold War and Korea
    (Bloomington: Indiana University
    Press, 1998).

  21. Doug
    Bandow, Tripwire:
    Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World
    (Washington,
    D.C.: Cato Institute, 1996).

  22. Morgenthau,
    "Origins of the Cold War," p. 98.

  23. Ambrose,
    Rise to Globalism, p. 185. On the ultimate price paid
    by the nation for Truman’s "triumph," see the important
    article by Robert Higgs, "The Cold War Economy: Opportunity
    Costs, Ideology, and the Politics of Crisis," Explorations
    in Economic History 31 (1994): 283–312.

  24. David
    McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992),
    pp. 501–06.

  25. Hamby,
    Man of the People, pp. 382–83.

  26. Public
    Papers of Harry S. Truman
    , 1946 (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
    Government Printing Office, 1962), pp. 451–55.

  27. Ibid.,
    p. 453.

  28. Murray
    N. Rothbard dealt with this grab for power in a brilliant piece
    of economic journalism, "Price Controls Are Back!"
    in his Making
    Economic Sense
    (Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute,
    1995), pp. 123–27.

  29. Wormuth
    and Firmage, To Chain the Dog of War, p. 174.

  30. McCullough,
    Truman, pp. 896–97. McCullough’s implied apology
    for Truman here is a good indication of the tenor and caliber
    of his gargantuan puff-piece. For a debunking of McCullough
    by two scholars, see the review by Gar Alperovitz and Kai Bird,
    "Giving Harry Hell," The Nation (May 10, 1993):
    640–41.

  31. The
    Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1952–53 (Washington,
    D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966), pp. 272–73.

  32. McCullough,
    Truman, pp. 900–01.

  33. One
    Congressman was led by Truman’s remarks and his seizure of the
    steel mills to demand his impeachment (New York Times,
    April 19, 1952). George Bender, Republican of Ohio, stated:

I do not
believe that our people can tolerate the formation of a presidential
precedent which would permit any occupant of the White House
to exercise his untrammeled discretion to take over the industry,
communications system or other forms of private enterprise in
the name of "emergency."

But Bender
was one of the last, and best, of the Old Right leaders (much
more consistent and outspoken than Taft) and thus out of tune
with the times. Of course the American people could and did tolerate
such a precedent. What is still uncertain is whether there is
any limit whatever to their tolerance of acts of oppression by
their government.

  1. Robert
    Higgs, Crisis
    and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government

    (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 227, 244–45.

  2. Jonathan
    R.T. Hughes, The
    Governmental Habit: Economic Controls from Colonial Times to
    the Present
    (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 208–09.
    Federal expenditures in the early Eisenhower years were, on
    average, twice as high as in the period 1947–1950.

  3. The
    Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1949 (Washington, D.C.:
    U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), pp. 114–15.

  4. Peter
    Bauer, Equality,
    the Third World, and Economic Delusion
    (Cambridge, Mass.:
    Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 139, 275, n. 1. See also
    Peter Bauer and Cranley Onslow, "Fifty Years of Failure,"
    The Spectator (September 5, 1998): 13–14.

  5. Graham
    Hancock, Lords
    of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International
    Aid Business
    (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989).

  6. Alfred
    M. Lilienthal, The
    Zionist Connection: What Price Peace?
    (New York: Dodd,
    Mead, 1978), pp. 45–100.

  7. The
    depth of Eleanor’s understanding of the Middle East situation
    is illustrated by her statement: "I’m confident that when
    a Jewish state is set up, the Arabs will see the light: they
    will quiet down; and Palestine will no longer be a problem."
    Evan M. Wilson, Decision
    on Palestine: How the U.S. Came to Recognize Israel

    (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1979), p. 116.

  8. Merle
    Miller, Plain
    Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman
    (New
    York: G.P. Putnam, 1973), p. 218.

  9. Wilson,
    Decision on Palestine, pp. 134, 142; Lilienthal, The
    Zionist Connection, pp. 82–83.

  10. Wilson,
    Decision on Palestine, p. 126.

  11. Margaret
    Truman, Harry S. Truman (New York: William Morrow, 1973),
    pp. 381, 384–85.

  12. Clement
    Attlee, British prime minister during the decisive years, was
    a strong critic of Truman’s policy:

The president
went completely against the advice of his own State Department
and his own military people. . . . The State Department’s view
was very close to ours, they had to think internationally, but
most of the politicians were influenced by voting considerations.
There were crucial elections coming up at the time, and several
big Jewish firms had contributed to Democratic Party funds.
(p. 181)

Attlee reminded
Truman of the American promises to Arab leaders that they, as
well as the Zionists, would be fully consulted on Palestine: "It
would be very unwise to break these solemn pledges and so set
aflame the whole Middle East." Clement Attlee, Twilight
of Empire: Memoirs of Prime Minister Clement Attlee
, Francis
Williams, ed. (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1963), pp. 181, 190.

  1. See
    Lilienthal, The Zionist Connection, and Sheldon L. Richman,
    "Ancient History": U.S. Conduct in the Middle East
    Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention (Washington,
    D.C.: Cato Institute, 1991).

  2. Eugene
    J. Carroll, Jr., "NATO Enlargement: To What End?"
    in NATO Enlargement: Illusions and Reality, Ted Galen
    Carpenter and Barbara Conry, eds. (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute,
    1998), p. 199.

  3. See,
    for example, The Public Papers of Harry S. Truman, 1946,
    pp. 455, 480–81.

  4. James
    A. Patterson, Mr.
    Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft
    (Boston: Houghton
    Mifflin, 1972), pp. 327–29.

  5. Werner
    Maser, Nuremberg:
    A Nation on Trial
    , Richard Barry, trans. (New York:
    Scribener’s, 1979), pp. 112–13.

  6. Julius
    Epstein, Operation
    Keelhaul: The Story of Forced Repatriation from 1944 to the
    Present
    (Old Greenwich, Conn.: Devin-Adair, 1973), esp.
    pp. 99–104. See also Nicholas Bethell, The
    Last Secret: Forcible Repatriation to Russia, 1944–47

    (London: Andre Deutsch, 1974); and Jason Kendall Moore, "Between
    Expediency and Principle: U.S. Repatriation Policy Toward Russian
    Nationals, 1944–1949," Diplomatic History
    24, no. 3 (Summer 2000).

  7. Jules
    Abels, The
    Truman Scandals
    . (Chicago: Regnery, 1956); Henry Regnery,
    Memoirs
    of a Dissident Publisher
    (New York: Harcourt, Brace,
    Jovanovich, 1979), pp. 132–38.

  8. On
    the atomic bombings, see Gar Alperovitz, The
    Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American
    Myth
    (New York: Knopf, 1995); and idem, "Was Harry
    Truman a Revisionist on Hiroshima?" Society for Historians
    of American Foreign Relations Newsletter 29, no. 2 (June
    1998); also Martin J. Sherwin, A
    World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance

    (New York: Vintage, 1977); and Dennis D. Wainstock, The
    Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb
    (Westport, Conn.: Praeger,
    1996).

  9. Alperovitz,
    Decision, p. 563. Truman added: "When you deal with
    a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable
    but nevertheless true." For similar statements by Truman,
    see ibid., p. 564. Alperovitz’s monumental work is the end-product
    of four decades of study of the atomic bombings and is indispensable
    for comprehending the often complex argumentation on the issue.

  10. Ibid.,
    p. 521.

  11. Ibid.,
    p. 523.

  12. Barton
    J. Bernstein, "Understanding the Atomic Bomb and the Japanese
    Surrender: Missed Opportunities, Little-Known Near Disasters,
    and Modern Memory," Diplomatic History 19, no. 2
    (Spring 1995): 257. General Carl Spaatz, commander of U.S. strategic
    bombing operations in the Pacific, was so shaken by the destruction
    at Hiroshima that he telephoned his superiors in Washington,
    proposing that the next bomb be dropped on a less populated
    area, so that it "would not be as devastating to the city
    and the people." His suggestion was rejected. Ronald Schaffer,
    Wings
    of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II
    (New York:
    Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 147–48.

  13. This
    is true also of Nagasaki.

  14. See
    Barton J. Bernstein, "A Post-War Myth: 500,000 U.S. Lives
    Saved," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 42, no.
    6 (June–July 1986): 38–40; and idem, "Wrong
    Numbers," The Independent Monthly (July 1995): 41–44.

  15. J.
    Samuel Walker, "History, Collective Memory, and the Decision
    to Use the Bomb," Diplomatic History 19, no. 2 (Spring
    1995): 320, 323–25. Walker details the frantic evasions
    of Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, when confronted with
    the unambiguous record.

  16. Paul
    Boyer, "Exotic Resonances: Hiroshima in American Memory,"
    Diplomatic History 19, no. 2 (Spring 1995): 299. On the
    fate of the bombings’ victims and the public’s restricted knowledge
    of them, see John W. Dower, "The Bombed: Hiroshimas and
    Nagasakis in Japanese Memory," in ibid., pp. 275–95.

  17. Alperovitz,
    Decision, pp. 320–65. On MacArthur and Eisenhower,
    see ibid., pp. 352 and 355–56.

  18. William
    D. Leahy, I
    Was There
    (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950), p. 441. Leahy
    compared the use of the atomic bomb to the treatment of civilians
    by Genghis Khan, and termed it "not worthy of Christian
    man." Ibid., p. 442. Curiously, Truman himself supplied
    the foreword to Leahy’s book. In a private letter written just
    before he left the White House, Truman referred to the use of
    the atomic bomb as "murder," stating that the bomb
    "is far worse than gas and biological warfare because it
    affects the civilian population and murders them wholesale."
    Barton J. Bernstein, "Origins of the U.S. Biological Warfare
    Program," Preventing
    a Biological Arms Race
    , Susan Wright, ed. (Cambridge,
    Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), p. 9.

  19. Barton
    J. Bernstein, "Seizing the Contested Terrain of Early Nuclear
    History: Stimson, Conant, and Their Allies Explain the Decision
    to Use the Bomb," Diplomatic History 17, no. 1 (Winter
    1993): 35–72.

  20. One
    writer in no way troubled by the sacrifice of innocent Japanese
    to save Allied servicemen – indeed, just to save him –
    is Paul Fussell; see his Thank
    God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays
    (New York: Summit,
    1988). The reason for Fussell’s little Te Deum is, as
    he states, that he was among those scheduled to take part in
    the invasion of Japan, and might very well have been killed.
    It is a mystery why Fussell takes out his easily understandable
    terror, rather unchivalrously, on Japanese women and children
    instead of on the men in Washington who conscripted him to fight
    in the Pacific in the first place.

  21. G.E.M.
    Anscombe, "Mr. Truman’s Degree," in idem, Collected
    Philosophical Papers
    , vol. 3, Ethics, Religion and
    Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981),
    pp. 62–71.

  22. Anscombe,
    "Mr. Truman’s Degree," p. 62.

  23. Hans Adolf
    Jacobsen and Arthur S. Smith, Jr., eds., World
    War II: Policy and Strategy. Selected Documents with Commentary

    (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1979), pp. 345–46.

  24. For some
    Japanese leaders, another reason for keeping the emperor was
    as a bulwark against a possible postwar communist takeover.
    See also Sherwin, A World Destroyed, p. 236: "the
    [Potsdam] proclamation offered the military die-hards in the
    Japanese government more ammunition to continue the war than
    it offered their opponents to end it."

  25. Alperovitz,
    Decision, pp. 44–45.

  26. Cf. Bernstein,
    "Understanding the Atomic Bomb," p. 254: "it
    does seem very likely, though certainly not definite, that a
    synergistic combination of guaranteeing the emperor, awaiting
    Soviet entry, and continuing the siege strategy would have ended
    the war in time to avoid the November invasion." Bernstein,
    an excellent and scrupulously objective scholar, nonetheless
    disagrees with Alperovitz and the revisionist school on several
    key points.

  27. J.F.C.
    Fuller, The
    Second World War, 1939–45: A Strategical and Tactical
    History
    (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1948), p. 392.
    Fuller, who was similarly scathing on the terror-bombing of
    the German cities, characterized the attacks on Hiroshima and
    Nagasaki as "a type of war that would have disgraced Tamerlane."
    Cf. Barton J. Bernstein, who concludes, in "Understanding
    the Atomic Bomb," p. 235:

In 1945,
American leaders were not seeking to avoid the use of the A-bomb.
Its use did not create ethical or political problems for them.
Thus, they easily rejected or never considered most of the so-called
alternatives to the bomb.

  1. Felix
    Morley, "The Return to Nothingness," Human Events
    (August 29, 1945) reprinted in Hiroshima’s
    Shadow
    , Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, eds. (Stony
    Creek, Conn.: Pamphleteer’s Press, 1998), pp. 272–74;
    James Martin Gillis, "Nothing But Nihilism," The
    Catholic World, September 1945, reprinted in ibid., pp.
    278–80; Alperovitz, Decision, pp. 438–40.

  2. Richard
    M. Weaver, "A Dialectic on Total War," in idem, Visions
    of Order: The Cultural Crisis of Our Time
    (Baton Rouge:
    Louisiana State University Press, 1964), pp. 98–99.

  3. Wainstock,
    Decision, p. 122.

Reprinted
from Mises.org.

June
28, 2004

Ralph
Raico [send him mail]
is a senior scholar of the Mises
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