By Harry Targ
Beaver County Peace Links via Diary of a Heartland Radical
From Wartime Alliance to Deadly Global Conflict
I do not believe history repeats itself but I find myself looking back to the past for lessons which might be relevant today. For example, during World War II an “unnatural alliance” between the United States (the new imperial hegemon), Great Britain (the old one), and the former Soviet Union (the revolutionary challenger to capitalist hegemony) formed to defeat fascism in Europe. It was in the interests of all three nations to do so.
As the war was ending the leaders of the “big three” nations--President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin--met at Yalta in the Crimea to plan for a post-war world order. They made agreements on Eastern European borders, facilitating elections in Poland, administering a defeated Germany, defeating Japan in the Asian war, and planning for the first meeting of the United Nations. The three leaders returned to their respective countries declaring that a peaceful post-war world order would be established. “The spirit of Yalta” brought hope to millions of North Americans and Europeans, West and East.
In April, President Roosevelt died and a new more bellicose administration had come to power in Washington. Within three months the United States had successfully tested its new atomic bomb and dropped two of them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the fall, 1945 US and Soviet disputes over treaties ending the status of war with former fascist regimes in Eastern Europe began to destroy the comity that had been built over the course of the war and codified at Yalta. In 1946 crises occurred between East and West over Iran and Greece. It is clear in retrospect that ever since its ascendency to power the new Truman administration had been working to achieve global hegemony in the post-war period, using its military and economic superiority as tools.
In the spring of 1947, the US decided to replace the British in Greece as the latter worked to crush a leftwing insurgency in that country’s civil war. President Truman was warned by the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he, Truman, better “scare hell out of the American people.” This was so because most Americans favored peace over more conflict in world affairs and many still perceived the former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, positively.
The announcement of the new global threat and the need to mobilize resources over the next several years to “defend” against the demonic Soviet Union led to the recommendations for action in the famous Truman Doctrine speech to Congress in March, 1947. These put the US on a war path that would cost more than 10 million lives, international and American, and at least $5 trillion by the twenty-first century.
So the decisions made between 1945 and 1947 presaged a dramatic shift in United States foreign policy that had enormous consequences for both its own citizens and the world. Decision-makers in the Truman administration who favored maintaining some semblance of cooperation with the former Soviet Union lost their influence. Even some of Truman’s hardline advisors like George Kennan felt the evolving policies went too far in terms of bellicosity.
From Global Conflict Management to Renewed Global Military Madness
Fast-forward some 65 years. President Obama, from 2008 to 2013, continued the Bush war in Afghanistan, ordered drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and authorized covert support for destabilization of populist regimes in Latin America. In contrast, at the same time, he has tried to create a more “realist” panoply of policies based on diplomacy and modest recognition that there were limits to US power. During the President’s second term, the United States partnered with Russia to curb Syria’s brutal war on its citizens and Russia, Iran, and the United States began to make progress in arms negotiations.
But then, with the aid of undercover US operatives, rebels overthrew a Ukraine government in February 2014 that had close ties with Russia.