WASHINGTON, D.C. — Readers were warned at the outset
of our our
summation of pre-Cold War events that it would require an entire
book — rather than a mere column — to do full justice to
so huge a swath of history. We still are not writing a book, but for
those genuinely in search of further (albeit encapsulated) explanations,
The Versailles Treaty did go further than Woodrow Wilson initially
desired. Nevertheless, after Italy and Japan dropped out of the
Post World War I negotiations, the "Big Three" (Britain,
France, and the United States) were left to put it all together
in what turned out to be a series of contentious meetings. But
Wilson did in the end sign on to what was described as an "unhappy
Does the one-third input by Mr. Wilson constitute a "largely
engineered" segment of participation in that final post-war
product? I believe so, and therefore stand behind that description
of the extent of his involvement in crafting the document.
Note too that when he maneuvered us into the war, President
Wilson said our goal was "to make the world safe for democracy." He
did not add "if only we agree to surrender our sovereignty
to a world body [i.e., the League of Nations] after the war is
Prior to World War II, Robert Taft did in fact oppose our entry into
the new European conflict. He believed, as did a majority of Americans
at the time, that we had been herded into World War I at the behest
of the British Empire and that it was not worth the sacrifice in treasure
or the ultimate sacrifice in the blood of Americans who perished.
That sincere conviction did not make Taft or the majority of Americans "pro-Nazi." There
were horror stories of Nazis' capacity for the extremely hard edge
(even before the atrocities of the Holocaust), but those with long
memories recalled stories of World War I German atrocities that, upon
investigation, turned out to be false. Thus, the new stories were perceived
by many as "a boy who cried wolf" moment.
To be sure, there were pro-Nazi groups (such as the Silver Shirts,
etc.), but most Americans were simply "isolationist." One
may think — with the benefit of hindsight — that they were
wrong-headed. But they were honorable, patriotic citizens who were
just as entitled to their opinions as those who thought otherwise.
What did Taft mean when, at the outset of the
Cold War, he became alarmed at the prospect that yet another
war (as described in Winston Churchill's "Iron curtain" speech)
would strengthen the Welfare State?
A major war causes much displacement. Citizens' lives are disrupted
in many ways, of which military conscription is but one example.
There was a concern at the end of World War II that the decline
of a revved up wartime economy would leave millions searching
for employment and that "we don't want our boys on street
corners selling apples." That led to legislation such as "the
GI Bill" and veterans' benefits. This is not to say those
benefits were undeserved, but they constitute a thrust toward
an expansion of government in other spheres as well.
That juncture in the road can encourage a sense of entitlement promoted
by politicians trolling for votes, offering the general (non-military)
populace "free stuff" in return for more power in their elective
hands. It is rare that one problem can be easily solved without creating
Again, a discussion of World War II leads to those who define Nazism
as "right-wing." First and foremost, it is appropriate to
bear in mind that the official name of the Nazi Party was the National
Socialist German Workers Party. By contrast, right-wing, as applied
to late 20th/early 21st century America, denotes those Americans whose
fundamental beliefs are in limited government. Anyone suggesting Nazism
was a philosophy of "limited government" risks being laughed
off the stage.
On the other hand, in another segment of our discussion,
the anti-anti-communists — whatever their motivations — ran
interference for the Communists in post-war America:
It is reasonable to ask why post-war liberals were so hell-bent
on defending Alger Hiss, the convicted spy. Whittaker Chambers,
who exposed Hiss, writes in Witness, that the New Deal was "a
coalition of divergent interests [including, but not exclusively,
outright communists]" concealing a "drift that was prevailingly
"Any charge of Communism" Chambers added, "enrages
them precisely because they could not grasp the differences between
themselves and those against whom it was made."
Those who argue that, in retrospect, a better case was made historically
against U.S. involvement in World War I than against entering World
War II miss the point: World War II would not have happened had it
not been for the disastrous previous "Great War."
Further, had it not been for the Hitler-Stalin pact that launched
World War II, Stalin would not have emerged with a strengthened hand
in world affairs that launched the Cold War.
General George Patton tried in vain to warn his
superiors that Stalinist Russia would wreak havoc in the post-war
Author/journalist/screen-writer Robert K. Wilcox has authored
the 2008 volume Target: Patton.
The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton (Regnery
History, first edition 2008, 444 pages).
Make what you will of the author's belief that General Patton's
fatal "accident" amidst the ruins of the German occupation
has all the appearance of an assassination. But not before
you read the powerful circumstantial evidence he presents.
All of these wrong turns led to the decades of foreign policy
disasters that confronted President Reagan when he entered
the White House in 1981 determined to bring down that same
The Big Picture
Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer whose broadcast career included
25 years with CBS Radio.
Copyright © 2012 by Wes Vernon and
the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. A version of
this article appeared at renewamerica.com on
June 11, 2012.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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