Fighting Communism

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

A
correspondent writes:

A
friend of mine read your article “Can
America Bring Peace to the World?
” [in which you said that
the U.S. government has always failed to deliver on the promises
made when entering a war, including entering the Cold War]. He
said you failed to mention that American intervention stopped
the Communists from taking over Greece and Turkey in 1946. He
also said that North Korea and South Korea today are not in similar
situations. South Korea is the next Japan and North Korea
is in the pits. What say you, Harry Browne?

Your
friend didn’t go far enough. He should have mentioned other Cold
War triumphs of the U.S. government – such as overthrowing
the democratic government of Iran
and imposing the tyrannical
Shah in 1953; helping the Indonesian dictator Suharto as he slaughtered
at
least 250,000 Indonesians
and then at
least 150,000 East Timorese
, and continuing
to train Indonesian thugs
on into the 1990s; installing and
protecting dictators throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa
– all in the name of protecting innocent people from tyranny.

As
for South and North Korea, the U.S. government fought for the dictatorial
regime of Syngman Rhee in the Korean War. As it turns out, South
Korea eventually discarded the shackles of oppressive government
while North Korea has yet to do so. But that hardly justifies the
price Americans paid for going to war to support a dictator – 33,651
American soldiers dead, an escalation of the federal budget, civil
liberties ignored, rationing, and much else. Not only did the Korean
War not free subjugated people, it added 150 million Americans
to the ranks of the subjugated.

As
to the claim that “American intervention stopped the Communists
from taking over Greece and Turkey in 1946,” I don't know much about
the intervention in Turkey. I will be researching it for my forthcoming
book on American wars.

However,
I’m quite familiar with the situation in Greece. It was considerably
different from the way it’s normally described. American intervention
there established the “Truman Doctrine,” which today neo-conservatives
delight in citing as a precedent for their proposals to have America
police the world. Thus there is a great incentive to perpetuate
the myth that Harry Truman’s bold intervention prevented a Communist
takeover of Greece at the end of World War II.

In
fact, however, there was absolutely no danger of such a Communist
takeover. Near the end of the war Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin
agreed that each of their three countries would have postwar control
over whichever countries it liberated from the Nazis. This gave
the Soviets a free hand in Eastern Europe, and it gave the British
a free hand in Greece, among other places. The Soviets kept their
word and stayed completely out of the Greek Civil War – intervening
only at the end to order the Greek Communist Party to give up the
battle.

The
Greek Communist Party was actually only a small part of the Popular
Front that opposed the ruling Greek government. That government
was extremely oppressive – squashing civil liberties, assassinating
opponents, and rigging what few elections were allowed to take place.
The British tried to help the Greek government ward off the rebellion,
but their resources were exhausted from the World War. So the Americans
stepped in and provided arms and ammunition (but not troops) to
the Greek government, and that was sufficient to end the rebellion
eventually.

The
Greek Civil War (as it was called) was a never a struggle between
the forces of freedom and Communism. It was simply a rebellion against
an oppressive government (which is not to say that a rebel victory
would have made Greece any more of a free country). The U.S. government
intervened, as it did in so many purely local disputes, for reasons
other than that of fighting communism.

What,
then, was the real reason the U.S. intervened?

Mainly,
the alleged need to combat Communism in Greece gave President Truman
the clout to hike the military budget significantly, to impose restrictions
on the American people, and to clamp down on alleged communists
inside the U.S. government. In the same way, from 1945 through 1950
all military intelligence indicated that the Soviets were too weak
to consider invading Western Europe, but administration officials
continually went before Congress and claimed that increased American
military might was necessary to stop the Soviets from overrunning
the continent. They dropped that claim only when the Korean War
began and provided a more visible excuse to expand the U.S. government.

From
1945 through 1991, virtually every dispute between a pro-American
dictator and his local opposition was depicted as a titanic struggle
to preserve freedom by preventing Communists from taking over another
country. It worked well, and so today our politicians depict every
terrorist or guerrilla attack anywhere in the world as an attempt
by Al-Qaeda to advance its plans to destroy American civilization.
The Transportation Security Agency has cited the Chechen attack
in the Russian city of Beslan (one more battle in a decades-old
conflict) as a reason to make life even more uncomfortable and humiliating
for U.S. airline passengers.

And
during the Cold War, we were told that we had to fight the Communists
in Greece (or Korea or Guatemala) so that we wouldn’t have to fight
them in New York or Los Angeles – just as today we’re told that
Americans are fighting in Iraq so that we won’t have to fight in
Seattle or Aspen.

This
is not to say that the Communists were peace-loving agrarian reformers.
They weren’t. But they also were not the constant, imminent danger
that our politicians made them out to be. However, we’ll leave that
issue for another time.

The
story of how our government manipulated the situation in Greece
in order to gain bigger budgets and greater control over Americans
is important because it is being duplicated today – as our government
uses any eruption anywhere in the world as an excuse to expand its
dominance over our lives.

And
the irony is that today’s war-mongers are citing the Greek conflict
as evidence that America can triumph over its enemies if it will
only act boldly and ruthlessly. In fact, the more “boldly” America
acts, the more enemies it creates – in the 1940s and today.

The
more things change . . . 

October
23, 2004

Harry Browne [send
him mail
], the author of Why
Government Doesn’t Work

and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts