Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making the World Safe for Stalin

Freedom Betrayed

Hoover was of the strong opinion that the best thing the United States and the West could do as regards the European war was to stay out and allow Hitler and Stalin to go at each other. He made many comments in this regard, starting with his observations that Roosevelt was slowly but purposefully taking actions to move the U.S. into the conflict. In April 1941, in the wake of the Lend-Lease bill, Hoover conveyed his view:

The American people, he wrote, “do not realize that they have been pulled into a war without any constitutional or democratic process – but they will realize it before six months are over.

He predicted that U.S. convoy ships would be lost to German submarines; this would involve losses in U.S. life. Propaganda would increase in both the U.S. and in Britain. Support would come from “the New York intellectuals.” His final prediction was most arresting:

“Western civilization has consecrated itself to making the world safe for Stalin.”

After Hitler turned his troops against Russia in the summer of 1941, Churchill offered Britain’s aid and support to Russia.

No longer was the world conflict an unambiguous struggle “between tyranny and freedom….The alliance of the British with the Russians against Germany destroyed “that illusion.”

Hoover remained content to let Hitler and Stalin fight it out. He was against any U.S. involvement.

On June 20, Hoover dedicated the building at Stanford University that would come to be known as the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. “The purpose of this institution is to promote peace. Its records stand as a challenge to those who promote war….As war sanctifies murder, so it sanctifies the lesser immoralities of lies.” Sadly for Hoover, a few weeks later, 176 members of Stanford’s faculty signed a petition asking Americans to give Roosevelt “unified support” in the current “national emergency.” The faculty demanded “a more dynamic policy of action” against “the totalitarian menace.” Hoover exploded in dismay:

“The confusion of mind in American intellectuals over the United States supporting Communism is almost beyond belief. And that is what these Stanford professors are doing. I wonder if it ever occurred to them what would happen to the world if we entered the war and brought victory to Russia.”

Hoover was convinced that Roosevelt was doing everything in his power to get the United States into the war.

By September, he was convinced that FDR and his associates were “certainly doing everything they can to get us into war through the Japanese back door.”

And the day after Pearl Harbor, Hoover said to a friend, “You know and I know that this continuous putting pins in rattlesnakes finally got this country bitten.” In a sense, this book was born on December 7, 1941. Hoover was convinced that Roosevelt, by its trade restriction and other provocations, had driven the Japanese government into a corner. He was positive he could demonstrate that the war in the Pacific could have been averted.

I have elsewhere covered this subject of Japan and Pearl Harbor, in reviewing The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable. My comments can be found here:

History will ask some stern questions of Mr. Roosevelt’s statesmanship. It will list his promises to keep out of war; the deceptions in Lend-Lease; his undeclared wars on Germany and Japan; his alliance with Communist Russia; his refusal of repeated opportunity for peace in the Pacific; his campaign of a dozen fictions of frightfulness; and finally it will ask questions of his good faith with regard to the Constitutional processes of our Republic. They will not be answered by a single reference to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.

Sadly, in this, Hoover was sadly mistaken. It is true that many individual revisionist historians have taken up these questions and more. In their studies, they have concluded that Roosevelt was deceptive at best, forgiving him of this as, in the Machiavellian world, this is what leaders do.

However, in the hearts and minds of American folklore, Roosevelt remains a hero, both in peace and in war. Perhaps this must remain so, because to seriously address the issues Hoover raises would be overwhelming to the narrative that is U.S. involvement overseas. It seems a bridge too far for too many.

Hoover, the “Anti-Interventionist”

The point is made in the Editor’s Introduction to the book, Freedom Betrayed, that Hoover was not an isolationist, but an anti-interventionist. I believe it is worthwhile to understand what exactly is meant by this term, anti-interventionist, by examining Hoover’s actions.

First, what is the difference of an isolationist government foreign policy as opposed to an anti- (or non-) interventionist foreign policy. In my opinion, an isolationist policy would be one where the state intervened to ensure no minimal or no public interaction was possible between its citizens and private individuals in another country – especially in regards to trade, but potentially in all spheres of life. An anti-interventionist policy would be one where the government did not intervene. Its citizens were allowed free reign for trade and other interactions with people from other countries. More importantly, the state would not take action to intervene in another country.

What is Hoover’s view? How does he define these terms? At minimum, what can we glean from his actions in this regard?

Hoover seemed to be favorably disposed to government intervention on many areas of foreign involvement. These were primarily, but not limited to, what one might call humanitarian matters. For example, after the beginning of the Russo – Finnish war:

…in January 1940, President Roosevelt asked Congress to extend more credits for Finland for still more nonmilitary purchases. Hoover immediately endorsed Roosevelt’s request. A few weeks later, Congress passed legislation permitting $10,000,000 in additional U.S. government loans to the Finnish government….The next day, Hoover claimed credit for this outcome….

Another example of Hoover’s position of intervention on seemingly humanitarian grounds is offered for Poland, after the German and Russian invasion:

On February 29 he had actually testified before Congress…on behalf of a $20,000,000 governmental appropriation for aid to the suffering Poles.

Hoover’s advocacy of intervention was not limited to humanitarian-type aid, however. While advocating that America must stay out of the European conflict, he proposed

…America should arm “to the teeth” and stay out of it, while furnishing Britain all possible support “within the law”

As I mentioned in an earlier post regarding this book, I do not intend to spend much time on areas where Hoover is supportive of state policies – both economic and otherwise. My interest in this book is in areas where he has strong disagreements in the area of foreign policy. However, I feel it beneficial to point out what seems to be a large contradiction, at least in the view of the editor of this volume. Hoover, while certainly advocating that the U.S. stay out of the European conflict, at least when it comes to sending U.S. military personnel into battle, is quite an interventionist when it came to providing aid – both humanitarian and military.

This does not square with my definition of anti-intervention. To offer aid to one side in a conflict inherently means taking a position antagonistic to others in the conflict. One may debate the merits of one or the other side, but it is certainly an interventionist position to take a side and act upon such a decision.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Pleasant Summer Conversation

My reply to feedbacker “Summer” at The Daily Bell thread here (quoted statements are Summer's quotes to which I reply):

" point was the absence of something can be an imposition of an undesirable state of affairs for some party or another..."

The absence of something that an individual has no right to is not an imposition at all. One does not have a "right" to a police department in the neighborhood. One may wish it. One may desire it. But how would this be a "right"?

One has a right to his body, therefore a right to the product of his body and the right to dispose of that product. One has a right to defend that which he produced and otherwise properly acquired.

Anything more inherently becomes an infringement in another's rights.

So, I do not have a "right" to police protection. I may form community with others to voluntarily establish means of producing and funding such services, but I have no right to demand other join me in this if they do not wish. THAT would be the imposition!

"This is the trouble, you cannot have a just society without principles. It would never be free, might would always be right."

I agree with this statement for the most part. On the one hand, I do not believe there can be a just society without generally accepted underlying principles (of course, the generally accepted principles matter, as I know you know, and I will come to later). However, this does not mean you will ever have a pure society. There will always be a subset for whom "might makes right" will be a preferred method of social interaction.

As to my wish for a generally accepted principle: my first choice would be for general understanding and acceptance of the non-aggression principle (NAP).

It is my understanding that most/all major religions have as a main building block some concept of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I think this is a good start, although I would also wish for "do NOT do unto others what you would NOT want done to you", as a defense against the do-gooders.

"Should we not attempt to engage with the world we have now?"

I believe there are some in the libertarian / anarchist camp who would offer a strong NO to this statement, as regards using political means to improve the social situation. They certainly have precedent on their side when it comes to the futility of using politics as the means. Other libertarians have a different view, for example being supportive of a Ron Paul.

I cannot say which is right either way. One of the staunchest anti-state libertarians, Lew Rockwell, is also a supporter of Dr. Paul. It would seem to me this is one indication that it is difficult to be black and white on this issue; although it seems to me one can be supportive of Ron Paul for the value he brings toward education while being less (or non-) supportive of the political power that comes with the office he is seeking.

However, I can separate my approach to standing firmly on non-aggression as a principle when it comes to explaining my view of the proper political relationship of man with his fellow man on the one hand, from the reality of life in this world on the other.

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this thread, from a real-world viewpoint I will gladly accept any moves toward substantial (and I emphasize substantial) decentralization of political structures. At the same time, when individuals propose some new-fangled solution for their dream of structuring society, I test it (often with strong words) for their desire to force their dream upon others against their wishes. Hence my comments about what you or others would do to implement your preferred no-interest world.

"....what do you think of secularism in its purer forms viz., minority rights and justice, especially regarding plural legal systems?"

I am not sure I fully understand your question, but I will try given my understanding. To start, I think no “ism” can exist in “purer forms” as man is an imperfect being.

I cannot envision society without individuals “believing” something. Common beliefs bring groups together, and most individuals will want to find reasons to interact with others, obviously especially others of like mind.

Call that thing they will “believe” a religion, and it seems difficult to be able to order society without any belief in any religion. This comes back to my earlier comments: there must be some generally accepted underlying principles for any society to exist. Once again, the one (and only possible) unifying principle I see is the NAP. Not because several religions say so – but perhaps the several religions say so because it is so true.

Please note: I AM NOT suggesting that a religious based law must be implemented (as that term is commonly used today), such as laws based on Christianity, Old Testament laws, Sharia laws. I am suggesting that there are principles that allow individuals to go their own way and live under any or none of these as they choose. I see NAP as this. If there is another, I am open to hear about it.

As to plural legal systems, I think this is quite possible in a given geographical region. One can choose the legal system under which they wish to be both protected and be obligated – or choose to go it alone, I imagine. (Same for plural political systems). There has been much written about this and how the different systems would resolve disputes between two individuals from two different legal systems. It happens today between two customers of two different insurance companies who happen to be jointly involved in a car accident. The same methods have much broader application.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Freedom Betrayed, Part 2

When asked about the possibility of writing a book outlining the most significant blunders of statesmen, Hoover replied

…I am going to tell you what should be the first chapter….When Roosevelt put America in to help Russia as Hitler invaded Russia in June, 1941. We should have let those two bastards annihilate themselves.

Thus begins the editor’s introduction to “Freedom Betrayed”, Herbert Hoover’s writings and recollections of U.S. policy during the time when he left office until the early 1950s. The editor makes clear that Hoover was not an isolationist, a label Hoover seemed anxious to avoid. The editor describes Hoover as an anti-interventionist. It is an interesting distinction, and one that strikes me as funny given how a certain Ron Paul today is constantly badgered about this distinction – important for diplomats, but nonsensical to those who enjoy war.

He seems to have come to this anti-interventionist views because of what he saw as the “baneful domestic lessons from the recent Great War”, where

“…the victors suffer almost equally with the vanquished” in economic misery and “spiritual degradation….Those who would have us again go to war to save democracy might give a little thought to the likelihood that we would come out of any such struggle a despotism ourselves.”

I will admit I am not the most well-read of the history of presidents in the progressive era, but other than President Carter, I cannot imagine any other president in that time saying such a thing with credibility.

Hoover spent seven weeks on a trip to Europe coinciding with Germany’s annexation of Austria. During this trip he met with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Hoover told the prime minister that another world war would probably destroy the British Empire. Additionally Hoover believed that Germany had no significant designs in the west, that if “given a certain freedom,” Germany would not cause trouble in Western Europe.

“Western civilization will be infinitely better off if the Germans fight in the east instead of the west. It would be a disaster if the western Democracies were dragged down by a war the end result of which would be to save the cruel Russian despotism.” According to Hoover, Chamberlain agreed completely with his guest’s “hunch.”

Hoover believed America should stay out of this coming war.

Americans should “harden our resolves” to “keep out of other people’s wars,” and we should convince Europe “that this is our policy.” “We should have none of it. If the world is to keep the peace, then we must keep peace with dictatorships as well as with popular governments. The forms of government which other people pass through in working out their destinies is not our business. We can never herd the world into the paths of righteousness with the dogs of war.”

If only such words were spoken and understood today.

Hoover also believed that the best act in the service America could undertake is to remain an example to the world by staying out of war. And in the coming war, if it stayed out, America had nothing to fear from the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Italy, and Japan, as America had the protection of the two large oceans. Speaking of the fascist regimes

“I am confident that if the lamp of liberty can be kept alight [at home] these ideologies will yet die of their own falsity. To think that Germany, Italy, Russia, or Japan “or all of them together” had “the remotest idea” of attacking the Western Hemisphere was, in Hoover’s words, “sheer hysteria.”

Hoover sees the primary blunder of Britain in the guarantee of Poland, jointly offered with France.

“They cannot in any circumstance protect Poland from invasion by Hitler. It is simply throwing the body of Western Civilization in front of Hitler’s steam-roller which is on its way to Russia.”

Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of the United States becoming involved again in a foreign war, certain of Hoover’s warnings proved out:

- The war cost Britain its empire

- The war handed half of Europe to the dark night of Soviet communism

- The war cost further erosion of freedom in America

- If it was not known at the time, it has been demonstrated since then that the axis powers had little if any desire and even less ability to mount a successful attack or invasion of the United States.

As far as Hoover was concerned, the United States (and Britain) had no business entering the war and not only gained nothing from it but lost much in life, wealth, and liberty by doing so.

So far, I can say I agree with Hoover’s version of history!