America’s Poisoned Politics Reinforces Historical Ignorance
The U.S. suffers from a sorry state of historical ignorance… and at top levels of political power, no less.
Just take a look at this recent tweet from the White House.
Hmm… “America and Great Britain had victory over the Nazis!”
Not only does it neglect long-time allies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and numerous others… but one nation is especially conspicuous by its absence: the Soviet Union.
As I recently described, the Soviets played central in defeating Germany — losing 27 million people in the process.
Now here it is, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. The last veterans are dying off. But somehow, someone at the White House “Department of Tweets” overlooked the obscure historical and military fact that the Soviet Union bore the bulk of the human cost.
This is a big deal… because World War II is not just long-ago, dusty history.
In manners great and small, the war birthed the modern world. And that modern world is fast transforming into something else. Understanding the war offers insight into the DNA of what’s happening.
So why did the White House ignore the significant contributions of an important ally?
Perhaps it’s just oversight or incompetence. Then again, there’s an unsubtle hint of gratuitous insult towards Russia.
One way or the other, it’s a mess…
To understand why World War II was so important to the United States, consider where it was in, say, 1937 or 1938. The nation was hobbled by almost a decade of Great Depression.
The U.S. economy was stalled and broken, and much of U.S. society wasn’t much better off. Cities and towns teemed with unemployed people, many quite poor and undernourished. The landscape was dotted with idle factories.
In many respects, Americans lived in the United States of Grapes of Wrath, to riff off the title of John Steinbeck’s novel about that era.
Then came the prelude to war… Prudently, the U.S. began to mobilize, starting with naval rearmament and the development of advanced aircraft. But there was no draft, no large military and the U.S. Army trained with wooden rifles for lack of real gear.
When war broke out in Europe in 1939, the U.S. remained neutral, although American business sold materiel to the British and other “friendly” nations.
In December 1941 — post-Pearl Harbor — the U.S. officially entered the war. This was 28 months after Britain began fighting and six months after Germany invaded the Soviet Union — with the German army now at the gates of Moscow.
Once engaged, U.S. troops fought in every theater. The U.S. took significant losses of people, ships, aircraft and much more.
But on the home front, there was no fighting on U.S. soil, except for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Japanese occupation of a couple of remote islands in the Aleutians of Alaska.
Otherwise, the U.S. came out of World War II essentially intact.
During that time, one of the most impactful events — very much favorable to the U.S. — occurred in July 1944 in New Hampshire. There, representatives from across the world agreed that the dollar would become the post-war global currency of trade.
Indeed, as I discussed in July, Bretton Woods helps explain why, in 1945, the U.S. was wealthy, powerful and in a dominant position to run the table for many decades.
So, among many other things, World War II:
- Made the dollar strong, such that it became dominant for world trade.
- Vaulted the U.S. into world leadership in technology and innovation.
- Led to a high U.S. standard of living, compared with the rest of the world.
- Underpinned U.S. power and influence across the globe for the past 75 years.
Still, to say that the U.S. alone “won” World War II — or with the help of only Great Britain — is the depth of ignorance. Because the Soviet Red Army destroyed about 80% of German combat power.
Absent what occurred over four grisly years on the Russian Front, we’d live in a different world; not at all like the U.S.-tilted global system that has dominated for 75 years.
But as I discussed last week, the U.S. suffers from a failure of education when it comes to World War II. Blame U.S. schools — and Hollywood — for the fact that so few Americans have even a basic level of historical knowledge and understanding of World War II, let alone of the Soviet side of the conflict.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Look back at U.S. news accounts from World War II. You’ll see reports of major battles, including war news from Russia. U.S. citizens of the 1940s were familiar with what happened at Moscow, Leningrad, Crimea, Stalingrad, Kursk and much more…
But today? Not so much. Indeed, today, hardly at all.
And that brings us back to that White House tweet that left the Soviets entirely out of the narrative.
The White house tweet was beyond frustrating. It was negligent. And a blunder. Because history is your friend if you know how to use it.
For example, here is President Franklin Roosevelt, seated with Soviet Marshal Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in November-December 1943.
Tehran 1943: Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. The “Big Three.”
The Tehran meeting was built around high-level diplomacy between heads of government. It set into motion events that “won” World War II, as much as entire fleets of ships and bombers. Here’s where — to borrow a phrase — The Art of the Deal came into play.
Or think about the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Again, Roosevelt met Stalin and Churchill to discuss the endgame in Europe, and what was to come next in Asia against Japan.
Yalta 1945: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin discuss Denouement of war in Europe.
This kind of high-level conference, at Yalta, is exactly how great things get done. Meetings like this set the tone. Leaders speak with counterparts. They listen and offer mutual respect. Then they instruct staff and subordinates on what else to do.
After the European war ended, another meeting was held in Potsdam, Germany, in July and August 1945. President Truman met with Churchill and Stalin to resolve boiling issues in Europe and to iron out arrangements for the conduct of the war against Japan.
Potsdam 1945: Churchill, Truman and Stalin, organizing the world.
Again… Leaders get together. They listen and show respect.
This is how great things get done.
Back to the present…
How is it that today’s White House staff don’t mention the Soviet Union and/or Russia in a tweet about World War II? It’s no accident. A big part of the answer is that we live in an age of poisoned politics.
Recall that Trump’s presidency began with an FBI ambush of his national security adviser, LtGen. Michael Flynn, mere days after the inauguration. Two FBI agents walked into the White House, allegedly to brief Flynn on security matters. Actually, it was an “op,” a fishing expedition for evidence with which to frame Flynn and damage Trump.
The scope of just this one Deep State deception is now seeing light of day. If you understand what happened with Flynn, you can begin to see the scope of skullduggery against Trump.
It’s political backstabbing, and it comes at great cost. Over the past three years, U.S.-Russia relations have been a sacrificial lamb on the Deep State altar of nailing Trump to a cross. Recall the Mueller investigation. Russia-gate. Ukraine-gate. Now more of the “Putin-Puppet” thing.
Yet when people in Washington and the mainstream media scream “Russia!” they are not talking about the large Eurasian nation which extends from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It’s something else entirely.
It is, at its root, all about American politics.
That is, Russia is a prop in the takedown of President Trump. Russia has become a political football to kick if not fumble. By hook or crook, Trump’s opponents implicate Russia at every turn, all in the name of nailing the Orange Man.
They don’t care that they are playing with fire. They seem not to understand that when you pick a fight with Russia, you are engaging with a nation that takes itself seriously, and which has the military capability to annihilate the U.S. in about 45 minutes.
The “Russia” situation is so bad that, back in early March — pre-virus lockdown — the White House announced that Trump would not travel to Moscow for the May 9 “Victory Parade.” The matter was overtaken by events when Russia postponed the parade due to coronavirus.
Still, in early March the rationale for Trump not to visit Moscow was that his handlers feared the negative optics of the U.S. President standing with Russian President Putin in Red Square. Can’t have that, right?
Oh wait… Long ago it was fine for Gen. Eisenhower to stand with Stalin at the first Moscow victory parade in June 1945.
June 1945, Moscow: Gen. Eisenhower and Marshal Stalin, atop Lenin’s Tomb at parade.
People make mistakes. Politicians make mistakes. But there’s no excuse for historical ignorance. Way too many lessons of the world have been written not in ink, but in blood.
And then there’s World War II, the greatest historical tempest in the history of mankind. It touched every corner of the world.
Just a few weeks ago, Trump and Putin released a joint statement commemorating the moment the Soviet Army met the U.S. Army in Germany — signaling the war in Europe was truly nearing an end.
Not surprisingly, the mainstream press expressed “concern” about the two leaders honoring the brave men who fought their way into Berlin 75 years ago. At the time, I suggested that it showed how far people were “willing to sink just to dump on Trump.”
Yet the criticism of Trump having anything to say about Russia must have stung, because now Washington politics blithely scrubs the Soviet Union from any mention.
Point is, that White House tweet was beyond embarrassing, it was horrid. Not to recall or mention — not to show some basic respect — to one of the main actors of the war is beyond petty. It’s diplomatically ugly, and beneath the dignity of a great republic.
This dumb tweet illustrates American politics at the nadir.
On that note, I rest my case.
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Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
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