Thursday, February 14, 2013
Interventionism from America
Contrary to what many think, the Russian Empire showed numerous signs of being on the verge of a military comeback prior to the revolution and had the U.S. come in earlier, the war might have been ended sooner in their favor. By waiting, the Russian war effort collapsed and Germany was able to shift forces to the western front for a major offensive that was nearly disastrous for the Allies. Additionally, it was very stupid for the United States to have cheered the downfall of the Russian Empire because, as we all know, it was replaced by a weak government that proved incapable of standing up to the Bolshevik menace. It would not be the first time that the United States backed the downfall of one regime, considered unsavory, only to see the “good” regime that replaced it be overthrown by another that is truly horrific. Yet, American (and plenty of other) leaders never seem to learn the lesson. It would happen again in countries from Germany to Iran. One of the first big mistakes Wilson made was in refusing to talk peace with Germany so long as there was no radical change in government. This made those Germans desperate for peace willing to depose the Kaiser in return for an end to the fighting. So, the monarchy was gone and, again, a government took its place that would prove unable to stand.
When the build-up to World War II came, American opinion had not changed. Some Americans volunteered to fight the Italians in Ethiopia, the nationalists in Spain and the Japanese in China but as far as the general public was concerned they wanted none of the emerging conflict. Just like Wilson before him, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for President on the promise that he would never send American boys to fight in a foreign war. However, pretty soon after war broke out in Europe, he began trying to figure a way to get the United States involved. American aid went to Great Britain and American ships even attacked German submarines in the Atlantic but, despite his best efforts, FDR could not bring sufficient pressure to bear on Adolf Hitler to make him take a swing at the United States. All of this was going on while the Congress had passed special legislation designed to keep America neutral in World War II but, of course, America was nothing of the sort. No one should be fooled either that FDR was motivated by concern from Great Britain. He positively despised the British Empire and seemed downright obsessed with ending British rule in India (the “capstone” of the empire) in particular. Take from it what you will but things really seemed to get moving around the same time that Hitler and his allies invaded the Soviet Union. Not getting anywhere with him, FDR turned to the east.
On July 25, 1941, only two days after signing off on the plan to bomb Japan, FDR signed the embargo against Japan in an effort to provoke them into firing the first shot in an attack that would incite the American public to not only favor entering World War II but immediately demand it. The secret plan called for an additional air fighter and bomber group to be sent to China to attack the Japanese home islands with incendiary bombs to cripple the Japanese infrastructure while “officially” under the flag of republican China. The plan, called JB-355, targeted Nagasaki, Osaka and Tokyo from bases in eastern China. It is also worth remembering that, in July of 1941, the Republic of China had not yet officially declared war on Japan either. It was only because of logistical delays that the plan had still not been carried out when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Aside from these plans, and unlike in the First World War, the fact of the matter is that Axis personnel were being killed by American air and naval forces in American planes and American ships long before the United States had declared war on anyone and was still claiming the status of a neutral power. Why is all of this significant to us today? The simple answer is because of the aftermath of World War II. Who came out ahead of the game when it was all over? Certainly not the French or British who, even in victory, were ruined by it and, in the long-run, not even the United States.
In Europe, the U.S. took a more moderate stance. Having aided in the abandonment of Eastern Europe, a line was drawn and so long as it was not crossed the U.S. took no action in response to Soviet murder and oppression. East Asia was a different story. The U.S. backed Ngo Dinh Diem in overthrowing the former Vietnamese emperor only to later look the other way as Diem was deposed and assassinated. This brought about a series of coups and short-lived governments none of which benefited anyone but the communists. The U.S. turned on a wartime ally, The Netherlands, over their war in Indonesia which did not result in a regime that was friendly or even effective. In Cambodia the U.S. was complicit in the coup by General Lon Nol to overthrow King Norodom Sihanouk which forced the popular monarch into the camp of the Khmer Rouge, all but guaranteeing that Pol Pot would finally take power, which he did after the U.S. abandoned South Vietnam, in spite of earlier promises of support. Aside from the right or wrong of these decisions, a practical question that Americans should ask is, when has such meddling ever worked out for the better? Did America benefit by turning against the British in the Suez crisis? Did America benefit by supporting Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese and the Emperor of Vietnam? Did America benefit by withholding support for the Shah of Iran and thereby allowing the Ayatollah to seize total power?
The fact of the matter is simply that the U.S. does not have a great record when it comes to picking foreign powers to support. Nor have many of the American administrations been as peace-loving and innocent as they claim to be. Given such a record, while not embracing strict isolationism (which, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. never did at any point in her history), it might serve America and the rest of the world if the U.S. simply took a step back from getting involved in almost every international situation and think through carefully any foreign intervention. If it seems difficult to know which is the lesser of two evils to choose, perhaps the best thing to do would be to not choose at all and leave foreign peoples to work out their own problems for themselves. Just a suggestion.