WHAT THE LEFT DOESN'T GET--FDR WAS NOT A SAINT:
I read these comments by the President and I think--absolutely right:As we mark a victory of six days ago -- six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.
For any reader of this blog, you must be keeling over from absolute shock. FDR screwed up big time over giving Eastern Europe away to the Russians. I have read learned blogs like Talking Points
Memo or Slate
and the outrage occasioned by these words as a cheap political stunt to link Yalta and Iraq. I have partaken in a conversation along these lines at Uggabugga
. The bottom line: Yes the Russians were there. Yes, assurances were given that the Russians would play nice with Eastern Europe. Yes, it was conveinent for FDR and Churchill to believe him. Yes, there would have been bloodshed to push the Russians back. Yes, maybe it would not have been siuccessful.
And the bottom line: None of this matters.
First: FDR and Churchill KNEW
most clearly what promises from the Russians were worth. Nothing. Let us not even consider the original Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and Russian action that helped carved up Poland. It becomes clear by mid 1944 that Stalin has no interest in allowing Eastern Europe to have self-determination. The Katyn Massacre, the Russian response to the Warsaw Uprising are all indicators of Russian plans for Eastern Europe.
Second: The time to leverage the Russians is earlier than 1945, but in any case, now that it is 1945--you draw your line in the sand. You stop lend-lease, you make it clear that you are prepared to fight for Eastern European freedom. You tell the Eastern Europeans that. If you think Eastern Europe would have rolled over to the Russians knowing the West would fight for them, I do not think you know the Eastern European mentality. I do not know if this would be successful, but in concert with the demonstration of atomic weapons in Japan, I think you have a shot. I am pretty certain that Eastern Europeans would have accepted the risk. If you think I am wrong, check out Polish history in the 18th and 19th century. It is replete with many attempts to throw off the yoke of russian oppression. Look at the 1920 Polish-Russian war. What interests me about this discussion is the willingness to dismiss other options than the one that was chosen at Yalta, as "far right wing nuttery."
It is one thing for critics of the President to invoke "realpolitik" as their answer. It still doesn't change the fact that Eastern Europe had been betrayed--in the face of guarantees that the West would protect its freedom (why did Britain ostensibly go to war in the first place?). It was a betrayal. This wasn't the first time Realpolitik was invoked in the name of the national interest. There are plenty of Shiites in Iraq who still remember the shameful way this country abandoned them to Saddam after calling on them to revolt against Saddam's regime during the First Gulf War. And I am pretty certain that this action did not help our Realpolitik this time around...
And a question for all those who argue about the heavy military superiority of the Russians as a reason to be THANKFUL to FDR and Churchill for SAVING Western civilization from the Russian hordes by their judicious decision to stand aside and accomodate Russian desires to oppress Eastern Europe: if they actually had a million tanks (as one commentator mentioned!) and such vaunted superiority of land forces, why not keep going after Berlin? Why stop? Why not kick backsides and go on to Italy and France? Perhaps they too were exhausted; at the end of their rope? Or because they had suddenly stopped thinking about the notion of worldwide communist domination and control, which they strangely seemed to get back just a couple of years later?