Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foreign Policy: Whose National Interest is it, Anyway? (Part Two)

In my previous post on this chapter, I walked through Lundberg’s analysis in setting the stage for understanding U.S. national interest as regards foreign policy in the first half of the 20th century.  In this section, Lundberg examines the consequences of the policy decisions and if these are consistent in any way with the national interests as proclaimed by the political leaders.

He first examines this by exploring the probable consequences if alternative policies were chosen beginning in the time before the First World War:

The un-wisdom of our participation in World War I and the relative tolerableness of the probable consequences of our nonparticipation are now considered everywhere as at least debatable, with a large body of expert and informed, as well as popular, opinion leaning in the direction that the whole undertaking was definitely contrary to the national interest.  Even the possible domination of Europe, at least as a sphere of influence, by the Germany of 1914 is now regarded as highly tolerable compared with such developments as the Nazi regime and the second World War.

To accept this, it must be accepted that a) the entry of the United States in the First World War altered the war and influenced the peace treaty against Germany in a manner that would not have been likely absent U.S. involvement, b) out of this more burdensome settlement, the seeds of National Socialism were borne, and c) these seeds would not have taken root otherwise. 

These are not necessarily provable positions, but they are certainly arguable and they have been presented by many.  Certainly the entry of the United States changed the balance of military power in the war and therefore had to impact the ultimate position of the Germans in any settlement.

Germany also relied on the statements of Woodrow Wilson, and his infamous Fourteen Points:

The Fourteen Points was a speech given by United States President Woodrow Wilson to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918.

The speech was delivered 10 months before the Armistice with Germany and became the basis for the terms of the German surrender, as negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had little to do with the Fourteen Points….

Without going into the fourteen individual points, suffice it to say Germany didn’t get what they bargained for:

Regardless of modern strategic or economic analysis, resentment caused by the treaty sowed fertile psychological ground for the eventual rise of the Nazi party.  The German historian Detlev Peukert wrote that Versailles was far from the impossible peace that most Germans claimed it was during the inter-war period, and though not without flaws was actually quite reasonable to Germany.  Rather, Peukert argued that it was widely believed in Germany that Versailles was a totally unreasonable treaty, and it was this "perception" rather than the "reality" of the Versailles treaty that mattered.

Would National Socialism led by Hitler have come to Germany regardless of the (perceived or real) punishment of Versailles?  Among other reasons, this certainly seemed to be an important one – one useful in generating public fervor:

The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that Germany must relinquish several of its territories and demilitarise the Rhineland. The treaty imposed economic sanctions and levied heavy reparations on the country. Many Germans perceived the treaty—especially Article 231, which declared Germany responsible for the war—as a humiliation. The Versailles Treaty and the economic, social, and political conditions in Germany after the war were later exploited by Hitler for political gains.

The seeds are sown for the Second World War, and again the United States could have taken a different path in this conflict.  What national interest was served for the United States by its entry into this war?  The outcomes certainly were not beneficial to the people of the United States: the creation and strengthening of the communist enemy – ensuring the opportunity for perpetual war, and the resultant expenditures in support of global empire.  Given the outlook of many before the first war, and in the period between the two wars – including electing candidates that promised to keep their sons out of the foreign wars – there was no benefit, or national interest, in these outcomes.  The voters certainly didn’t want it.

With outcomes that are opposite of what might be considered beneficial for the national interest (to the extent such interest is defined as beneficial to the average American), Lundberg asks why these policies are continued. He reminds that “foreign policy is notably the responsibility of a comparatively small number of people and that their background and outlook largely determine policy.”

These few individuals are responsible for the policy decisions. Most are not popularly elected, and for the few that are it is already demonstrated that promises made during the campaign are worthless once office has been secured.  One could conclude that the will of the people is meaningless, and that “these few individuals” are selected for objectives other than the national interest.

Lundberg points to the beginnings of a “peace movement” early in the 20th century.  The romantic notion of spreading the “peace” of the United States throughout the world was nurtured with elite funding.  The late Charles A. Beard identified the “peace movement”, and characterized this movement as follows:

With the opening of the twentieth century came the great flowering of projects for a peaceful world order.  A second conference at The Hague in 1907, again on a call from the Tsar, though even more disappointing in results than the first, again put the idea of world peace into newspapers everywhere.  Aided by powerful recruits, once neglected groups of "impractical dreamers" found themselves swept up into high places.  Added force was given to the movement in 1910 when Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000,0000 to establish an institution for the promotion of international peace.  With the endowment were associated some of the most impressive names in American public life: for example, Elihu Root, George W. Perkins, Joseph H. Choate, Cleveland H. Dodge, John Sharp Williams, Nicholas Murray Butler, and Andrew D. White. 

Sinews of war were now available for the war against war, and high sanction was given to propaganda for 'the pacific settlement of international disputes.  Great conferences were held annually; local societies sprang up all over the country; college presidents, clergymen, professors, teachers, club women, and community leaders by the hundreds were drawn into the sweep of the agitation.  Voluntary workers were now supplemented by paid workers.  The meagre treasuries 'of the old societies were enriched by subventions, as Mr. Carnegie's magnificent gesture encouraged other men of wealth to make substantial donations.

Backed by elite funding, the movement blossomed.  The “war against war” – the “peace” of the United States would be spread by war, if necessary.  The idea, romantic at the time, has maintained this favorable position for now over 100 years.  It must be considered one of the greatest successes in the creation of fallacies designed to control both the local and target populations.

Finally, among the influences that have been responsible for the conspicuous departure from our traditional foreign policy since 1917, a prominent place must be accorded to the brilliant statesmanship and diplomacy of Great Britain. This is no new discovery and certainly not a startling one in circles at all informed.

This was true in both the First and Second World War.  Perhaps Britain required backing to maintain empire; perhaps Britain realized it could no longer sustain empire and was tasked with finding a suitable replacement.  In any case, Britain succeeded in transferring power without a revolt in either country.  Lend-lease was one such example of successful British efforts:

Professor Beard's attempt to trace the origin of the Lend-Lease policy constitutes another revealing detail. Congress itself was unable to unravel this mystery until Henry Morgenthau finally published, in Collier's (October 18, 1947), an extract from a letter from Churchill to Roosevelt dated December 7, 1940, which contained the original proposal.  Under the circumstances it is not surprising if quite a few citizens, both in the British Empire and in the United States, are in doubt as to the boundaries of the empire.

Lundberg concludes there was no national interest (as defined by the interest of the people) served by U.S. entry into either war.  He focusses on actions taken by Roosevelt to ensure America’s entry into WWII:

Dr. Beard begins with the ironclad commitments of the Democratic party in the campaign of 1940 against foreign wars, except in case of attack, and especially with Roosevelt's most emphatic declarations on that subject…. as the record 'clearly shows, most of 1941 was devoted to provoking, in the most flagrant manner, the "attack" which, with Jesuitic casuistry, was considered by Roosevelt as an abrogation of his pledges.  For sheer deceit, I know of nothing in our history comparable to the maneuvers of the administration up to December 7, 1941, to produce an attack while protesting solemnly to the public regarding the efforts to `maintain peace…. The reluctance, for obvious reasons, of both Germany and Japan to attack us even under the most extreme provocation became, in fact, a major problem for the administration.

I have written before, and find nothing in this paper to change my opinion, that no national interest for the people of the United States was served by entry into the Second World War.  This is certainly true of the First War as well.  What was accomplished was a) creating a perpetual enemy of an idea, communism, to provide the adversary necessary for perpetual war, b) transferring the mantle of primary tool for the elite to exercise control from a weakening Britain to the more capable United States, and c) as a subset to b), bringing under control the two very productive populations of Japan and Germany.

These might certainly be the interests of a small handful of very powerful people, but they were not in the interests of the average American.

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