Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hoover Summarizes His Magnum Opus

Freedom Betrayed, by Herbert Hoover

Reading and reviewing this book has been an interesting journey for me.  I was first intrigued by this work because a) it promised a revisionist view of history regarding the Second World War, and b) it was the revisionist view of a former President of the United States.  This work done by Hoover has, I believe, no parallel in U.S. history.

Hoover outlines his credentials as background to his qualifications for this project:

  • ·         He practiced for 20 years as an engineer before the First World War, traveling and working in every major nation involved in that conflict.
  • ·         During the First World War, he was officially involved in the foreign Policies of the United States toward 22 European countries.
  • ·         Later, for twelve years as Secretary of Commerce and President, he dealt with problems of all sorts throughout the rest of the world.
  • ·         In 1938, he visited 14 countries in Europe, speaking with many of the political and military leaders – including Hitler.
  • ·         In 1946 he took another mission, this time visiting 38 countries throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America – meeting with Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers in every country visited.
  • ·         In 1947, he visited Germany, Austria, France, England, and Italy, again discussing the global situation with political leaders in each country.

Of these, far and away the most fascinating experience is that he was a former President.  Imagine a former President writing a detailed account of the Civil War that was antagonistic to Lincoln and his purposes – in other words, a truthful account of the purposes and means of Lincoln’s war against the south. 

Better yet, imagine Bill Clinton spelling out the facts surrounding September 11, spilling the beans on the as yet untold story.  Is it conceivable that Bill Clinton would spend 20 years after the event (as Hoover did post Pearl Harbor)in meticulously document every story and announcement?  Would Clinton conduct hundreds of interviews with leaders from around the world in order to understand the situation and facts from their viewpoint?  Can it be imagined that Clinton would call into question the various aspects of the official 9/11 narrative, and document meticulously through engineering studies and eye witness accounts why this official version is not plausible? Envision Bill Clinton, working until the year 2023 on this project, employing a staff of 6 – 10 people including research assistants, checking and rechecking every detail. 

Of course, it is not imaginable.  This is the intriguing aspect of and important contribution made by Hoover in this work.  If there is another such volume written by one former president analyzing in details the actions of his successor(s) as regards such a significant event, I am unaware of it – and would welcome reading it.

History has not been kind to Hoover’s Presidency.  The official version is because of his so-called “do-nothing” approach to the onset of the Great Depression.  However, as Austrian and other free-market economists will attest, Hoover was anything but “do-nothing” regarding the economy at the time:

When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with volunteer efforts, public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, tariffs such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, an increase in the top tax bracket from 25% to 63%, and increases in corporate taxes. These initiatives did not produce economic recovery during his term, but served as the groundwork for various policies laid out in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

Hoover's role as founder of a revolutionary program of government planning to combat depression has been unjustly neglected by historians. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in large part, merely elaborated the policies laid down by his predecessor. To scoff at Hoover's tragic failure to cure the depression as a typical example of laissez-faire is drastically to misread the historical record. The Hoover rout must be set down as a failure of government planning and not of the free market. To portray the interventionist efforts of the Hoover administration to cure the depression, we may quote Hoover's own summary of his program, during his presidential campaign in the fall of 1932:

We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action.... No government in Washington has hitherto considered that it held so broad a responsibility for leadership in such times.... For the first time in the history of depression, dividends, profits, and the cost of living, have been reduced before wages have suffered.... They were maintained until the cost of living had decreased and the profits had practically vanished. They are now the highest real wages in the world.

Creating new jobs and giving to the whole system a new breath of life; nothing has ever been devised in our history which has done more for ... "the common run of men and women." Some of the reactionary economists urged that we should allow the liquidation to take its course until we had found bottom.... We determined that we would not follow the advice of the bitter-end liquidationists and see the whole body of debtors of the United States brought to bankruptcy and the savings of our people brought to destruction.

Certainly it is of benefit for the government to lay blame on a “do-nothing” response to the economy – thereby building a foundation for further interventions – whether or not such characterization is accurate.  This is reason enough, I suppose, to marginalize Hoover.  However, I believe an additional reason Hoover is marginalized (and in some circles vilified) as a President is because of his views on his successors’ foreign policy.  As Hoover can be characterized as an ineffective or poor President, he can be dismissed in general by those who have little interest in any further examination.

As I have been reading this work, I felt in summary I would write the major areas or themes that captured items and subjects of revisionism addressed by Hoover.  Hoover’s thoroughness, however, is present even here – in the appendix, he provides his own summary.  In organizing his work toward this monumental project, Hoover conveyed his “12 Theses” to Arthur Kemp, his principal research assistant.  These theses drove his historical revisionism.

1)      War between Russia and Germany was inevitable.
2)      Hitler’s attack on Western Democracies was only to brush them out of his way.
3)      There would have been no involvement of Western Democracies had they not gotten in his (Hitler’s) way by guaranteeing Poland (March, 1939).
4)      Without prior agreement with Stalin this constituted the greatest blunder of British diplomatic history.
5)      There was no sincerity on either side in the Stalin – Hitler alliance of August, 1939.
6)      The United States or the Western Hemisphere were never in danger of invasion by Hitler.
7)      [This entry is missing in Hoover’s typescript – ed.]
8)      This was even less so when Hitler determined to attack Stalin.
9)      Roosevelt, knowing this about November, 1940, had no remote warranty for putting the United States in war to “save Britain” and / or saving the United States from invasion.
10)   The use of the Navy for undeclared war on Germany was unconstitutional.
11)   There were secret military agreements with Britain probably as early as January, 1940.
12)   The Japanese war was deliberately provoked….

What I find missing here is any comment regarding the end of the war: the demand for unconditional surrender and its impact on both Germany and Japan, and ultimately Truman’s decision to drop two atomic bombs on a Japan desperately suing for peace.  In most of his work, Hoover treads lightly on Truman, however as is seen elsewhere in the appendix, Hoover (at least in in earlier draft versions of this book) was quite damning of Truman before he felt compelled to remove “acid remarks” in the narrative.

Hoover further assesses his own record – not after the fact, but his actions during the time that decisions were made and actions were taken that led the country into war. 

From the ample lessons of World War I, and its aftermaths, I opposed every step toward World War II and the foreign policies that flowed from it.  I make no apologies, for every day since has confirmed my judgment.

In this, his statement seems reasonable – it should be recalled that he regularly gave speeches, radio addresses and written commentary before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor regarding his views.  Not to say he is not totally clean, as he did support certain aspects of Lend-Lease for example.  On the whole, however, he was a vocal former President in opposition to the very significant policies being undertaken by Roosevelt.

If at times this narrative appears blunt in its conclusions, I hope the reader will keep in mind the results of 20 years of Roosevelt – Truman domination of America.

  • ·         These made nearly half of the world communist.
  • ·         These made another one-third of the world socialist.
  • ·         A cost to America of 400,000 dead and nearly 800,000 wounded.
  • ·         The creation of 2,000,000 widows, orphans, and disabled in need of support.
  • ·         It saddled the country with $300 billion in Federal obligations.
  • ·         High taxation through the front door, and high inflation through the back door.
  • ·         Ten years (at the time of his writing) and counting of the new cold war.

As to the results for America, Hoover turns to the conclusion that I believe is appropriate – although Hoover never claims it was deliberate, while it strikes me otherwise:

After having fought the greatest foreign war in all our history…in which our enemies were vanquished…we have no peace.

The jeopardy in which we find ourselves comes from only one source – the Communist giant which our own leaders helped to build.

Again, I believe this outcome this was no mistake.  Peace is the enemy of the state, just as sure as war is the health of the state.  The government ensured the establishment of an enemy that would serve to further enlarge the state.  This was the plan, and in Roosevelt and Truman the oligarchs found willing executioners.

Despite the dozen or more commentaries I have written on aspects of this work, and the countless thousands of words in these commentaries, I would still highly recommend the interested reader to read the entire volume.  Inherently I have not covered all of the detail, or even all of the highlights.  There is too much information in this book for it to be covered in any reasonable manner other than to read the original.

With this, I conclude my direct commentary on Hoover’s book.  I hope, for those of you who have read through it, that it was a worthwhile and helpful endeavor to pass along the views of someone who has sat as close to the innermost circle as we will likely ever see publicly.  I am glad I found this volume, and am equally glad I went further than stopping after the editor’s introduction, as I once contemplated.

I thank for publishing several of the passages.  I hope he and his readers have found this a worthwhile journey.

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