The Faustian Bargain: an arrangement in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success.
The actions of Churchill, but far more significantly Roosevelt, in the lead-up to western involvement in this Second World War post the turn of Hitler against Stalin are difficult to explain or comprehend in conventional means. There was little or no reason for the United States to be involved in this war, as a few have commented before. We can add Hoover to the list of revisionist historians on this topic:
With his conquest of most of western Europe completed by the surrender of France in June 1940, Hitler was free to revive one of his foremost ambitions: the destruction of the Communist government of Russia and the annexation of “living space,” Lebensraum, from Russia and the Balkans…. Signs that Hitler was about to violate his alliance with Stalin and attack Russia began to reach the American Government immediately after his conquest of France.
It appears that Hitler’s alliance with Stalin was one of convenience. For an interim period, Hitler did not want a major conflict on Germany’s eastern front, preferring initially to consolidate and secure his western flank. That flank extended only to the channel – as previously outlined, Hitler did not have the capability to invade England, and primarily seemed interested in getting the British to return home, even to the point of allowing a relatively easy evacuation at Dunkirk.
With the western flank secure, Hitler was now free to pursue what seemed to be his primary interest – that of securing living space to the east. But why the east? Why not living space to the west? Perhaps because east is where the Germans were – other than a sliver of France, the Germans held no historic claim to land in the west, and certainly these lands could not be considered “Germanic.” However, to the east this was quite different. An obvious example was Danzig, but there were others in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Additionally, to the east was fertile land, and, of course, oil.
The east was Hitler’s objective, and Russia was the primary obstacle in his path. The United States government was aware of this, and so notified the Russians:
In the latter half of January, 1941, Under Secretary of State Summer Welles informed the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Constantine Oumansky, that Germany was preparing as attack on Russia late that spring.
Much of the knowledge that the U.S. government had regarding the coming attack by Hitler on Stalin was kept from the American people. Had this been widely known, and the implications understood, much of the debate regarding further U.S. involvement (for instance, for Lend-Lease) would have taken a different tone as the idea that Britain and the United States were under immediate danger would have been demonstrably false.
On June 22, 1941, Hitler and his armies of over 2,000,000 men attacked along the Russian border over a front of 2,500 miles.
And thus was born the opportunity to let these two tyrants knock each other out. As we know, instead of taking advantage of such an opportunity, both Britain and the United States wanted to be further involved. In fact, this event seems to have been the trigger for Roosevelt to step up his campaign of baiting the Japanese into attacking the U.S., as I have previously discussed here:
Hoover felt this was the greatest opportunity presented to Roosevelt:
The two dictators of the world’s two great aggressor nations were locked in a death struggle. If left alone, these evil spirits were destined, sooner or later, to exhaust each other.
Alas, it was not to be:
At a press conference on June 24, two days after Hitler’s attack, the President stated that “the United States would give all possible aid to Soviet Russia.”
Hoover secured radio time for an address to the nation. He felt another side of this story must be told, that the United States government could take a course other than siding with Stalin. Following are some of the key statements in his address:
… The constant question is what we should do now… there are certain eternal principles to which we must adhere. There are certain consequences to America and civilization which we must keep ever before our eyes.
…now we find ourselves promising aid to Stalin and his militant Communist conspiracy against the whole democratic ideals of the world.
…it makes the whole argument of our joining the war to bring the four freedoms to mankind a gargantuan jest.
Hoover then goes on to recount that four previous American Presidents refused diplomatic recognition of the Soviets, until Roosevelt did early in his first term. He reminds the audience that just two years ago, Stalin and Hitler signed a pact to divide up the lands between their two nations. He asks the listener to imagine the future if the United States was to join Russia and help win the war:
…then we [would] have won for Stalin the grip of communism on Russia, the enslavement of nations, and more opportunity for it to extend in the world. We should at least cease to tell our sons that they would be giving up their lives to restore democracy and freedom to the world.
To align American ideals alongside Stalin will be as great a violation of everything American as to align ourselves with Hitler.
Hoover was not alone in speaking out against Roosevelt’s desire to align with the Soviets. On June 23, 1941, Senator Robert M. La Follete, Jr. of Wisconsin said:
In the next few weeks the American people will witness the greatest whitewash act in all history. They will be told to forget the purges in Russia by the OGPU, the persecution of religion, the confiscation of property, the invasion of Finland, and the vulture role Stalin played in seizing half of prostrate Poland, all of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.
However, beside Roosevelt, others were cheerleading and propagandizing for war. On June 28, Senator Claude Pepper of Florida envisioned the results of a Hitler victory over Russia:
If Russia falls you and I know there would not be anybody else between Hitler and Alaska, and with Alaska taken only Canada, a nation the size that Belgium was, will stand between Hitler and us here in the continental United States.
This statement is so uncompromisingly nonsensical that it requires little comment to lay bare the either naïve ignorance or willfully despicable intent behind it. Hitler would march all the way to the Pacific through Siberia? Really? Was there a single western military leader that felt this was plausible? What of the logistics? What of the guerilla warfare? What of the intolerable cold, mud, ice, and snow?
And then, through a tiny passageway, Hitler would send an army through to Alaska? Has an army large enough to conquer an entire continent the size of North America ever march through such a frozen passageway?
Finally, I cannot make heads or tails about his comparison of Canada to Belgium. The only possibility I can imagine is that he is comparing population size. In both geography and size, to imply Canada can be overrun as easily as Belgium is nonsensical – let alone the consideration of differences in logistical distance of the two from Germany.
Finally, as a (weak) demonstration that members of the press were something other than the propaganda mouthpiece of the state, Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times wrote in his book, “Great Mistakes of the War”:
The great opportunity of the democracies for establishing a stable peace came on June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded Russia, but we muffed the chance….
I will only suggest, “we” didn’t “muff” anything. Roosevelt made decisions. These decisions were seen by many, even at the time, as the exact opposite of what would be in the best interest of the United States and its people. Roosevelt was not a stupid man. He had to be as aware as Hoover was that there was every possibility that Hitler and Stalin would do permanent damage to each other. Roosevelt could have stayed out of it all, with this silver-platter opportunity. But he chose not to stay out of it.
Or, Roosevelt could have taken sides with Germany instead of Russia. What made Stalin more worthy than Hitler, or communism more supportable than fascism? Both leaders murdered many, but at the start of the war Stalin outdid Hitler on this count by a ratio of 10,000 to 1.
Further, it was clear that Hitler intended to go east, not west. Hitler had no navy to speak of, no long range bombing capability. Hitler built a tremendous land army, one consistent with his military objective: to conquer adjacent land. That Hitler went east posed no risk to the United States.
No, “we” didn’t “muff” this. Roosevelt consciously desired to place U.S. lives in jeopardy, for a purpose other than to defend United States interests – no matter how broadly one might reasonably define those interests. As was demonstrated in the book “The Pearl Harbor Myth,” Roosevelt went further and did everything possible to get Japan to fire first (after failing to get the Germans to take the bait) – significantly increasing his efforts against Japan when Hitler invaded Russia.
This didn’t happen by accident. Roosevelt didn’t muff it, or make a mistake. There was purpose in these actions. The purpose was not in service to the American people. As to whose bidding Roosevelt was doing, I must leave it the way I left it in the last installment in this string: your guess is as good as mine.
Perhaps he made a Faustian bargain….