War Against FDR
Well, it’s all but official. The neoconservative movement has declared war on the entirety of FDR’s legacy. Social Security, of course, has been under attack for a while, and Bush has stopped even bothering to hide the fact that his plan will do nothing to address the “problem” he’d earlier identified as the reason Social Security must be “fixed.” But with his recent remarks in Riga, Latvia, the President took aim at FDR’s leadership in World War II, as well. “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. . . . Had we fought and sacrificed only to achieve the permanent division of Europe into armed camps?” Although he wouldn’t say it in so many words, the question on the President’s lips seemed to be “Was it worth it to fight Hitler?”
It didn’t take long for that leading light of backward-looking causes everywhere, Pat Buchanan, to jump on the beer hall wagon. Not only did he not mince words, he titled his most recent column, “Was World War II Worth It?” He had plenty more questions in the body of the piece.
If Yalta was a betrayal of small nations as immoral as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, why do we venerate Churchill and FDR? . . . If Britain endured six years of war and hundreds of thousands of dead in a war she declared to defend Polish freedom, and Polish freedom was lost to communism, how can we say Britain won the war? If the West went to war to stop Hitler from dominating Eastern and Central Europe, and Eastern and Central Europe ended up under a tyranny even more odious, as Bush implies, did Western Civilization win the war?
Pat ultimately works his way to his most self-damning question: “If the objective of the West was the destruction of Nazi Germany, it was a "smashing" success. But why destroy Hitler?” It’s not much of a leap to assume Pat’s preference would have been to pal up with Hitler in order to fight Stalin, but Bush hasn’t gone that far. He has implied, however, that FDR and Churchill rolled over to give Stalin whatever he wanted.
Did Stalin want free elections in Eastern Europe? Well, that’s what FDR and Churchill rolled over to give him at Yalta.
The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter - the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live - the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived to them by the aggressor nations.
To foster the conditions in which the liberated people may exercise these rights, the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis state in Europe where, in their judgment conditions require,
(a) to establish conditions of internal peace;
(b) to carry out emergency relief measures for the relief of distressed peoples;
(c) to form interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of Governments responsive to the will of the people; and
(d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.
At the point in the war when the Big Three met at Yalta, although victory in Europe looked attainable, victory against Japan in the Pacific would still require quite a bit of effort. After Hitler was defeated, FDR wanted Russia to turn its attention East in no short order to finish the threat in that theater, as well. The diplomacy was delicate, to be sure, and the agreement that was signed (and later blithely ignored by Stalin) may have been more optimistic than called for by the reality on the ground–specifically the fact that the Red Army already effectively occupied Eastern Europe and wasn’t about to leave without being pushed out.
As the battle against FDR and his legacy opens a new front this week, we can do little more than go back to our own history books to arrive at our own opinions on the matter (yeah, right, like that’s going to happen in this day and age). For starters, we could do worse than look at this speech by Robert A. Divine, a pioneer of Cold War history, for some analysis of FDR’s wartime relationship with Stalin and the Soviet Union.