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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reading List: Roosevelt's Road To Russia

Crocker, George N. Roosevelt's Road To Russia. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, [1959] 2010. ISBN 978-1-163-82408-5.
Before Barack Obama, there was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unless you lived through the era, imbibed its history from parents or grandparents, or have read dissenting works which have survived rounds of deaccessions by libraries, it is hard to grasp just how visceral the animus was against Roosevelt by traditional, constitutional, and free-market conservatives. Roosevelt seized control of the economy, extended the tentacles of the state into all kinds of relations between individuals, subdued the judiciary and bent it to his will, manipulated a largely supine media which, with a few exceptions, became his cheering section, and created programs which made large sectors of the population directly dependent upon the federal government and thus a reliable constituency for expanding its power. He had the audacity to stand for re-election an unprecedented three times, and each time the American people gave him the nod.

But, as many old-timers, even those who were opponents of Roosevelt at the time and appalled by what the centralised super-state he set into motion has become, grudgingly say, “He won the war.” Well, yes, by the time he died in office on April 12, 1945, Germany was close to defeat; Japan was encircled, cut off from the resources needed to continue the war, and being devastated by attacks from the air; the war was sure to be won by the Allies. But how did the U.S. find itself in the war in the first place, how did Roosevelt's policies during the war affect its conduct, and what consequences did they have for the post-war world?

These are the questions explored in this book, which I suppose contemporary readers would term a “paleoconservative” revisionist account of the epoch, published just 14 years after the end of the war. The work is mainly an account of Roosevelt's personal diplomacy during meetings with Churchill or in the Big Three conferences with Churchill and Stalin. The picture of Roosevelt which emerges is remarkably consistent with what Churchill expressed in deepest confidence to those closest to him which I summarised in my review of The Last Lion, Vol. 3 (January 2013) as “a lightweight, ill-informed and not particularly engaged in military affairs and blind to the geopolitical consequences of the Red Army's occupying eastern and central Europe at war's end.” The events chronicled here and Roosevelt's part in them is also very much the same as described in Freedom Betrayed (June 2012), which former president Herbert Hoover worked on from shortly after Pearl Harbor until his death in 1964, but which was not published until 2011.

While Churchill was constrained in what he could say by the necessity of maintaining Britain's alliance with the U.S., and Hoover adopts a more scholarly tone, the present volume voices the outrage over Roosevelt's strutting on the international stage, thinking “personal diplomacy” could “bring around ‘Uncle Joe’ ”, condemning huge numbers of military personnel and civilians on both the Allied and Axis sides to death by blurting out “unconditional surrender” without any consultation with his staff or Allies, approving the genocidal Morgenthau Plan to de-industrialise defeated Germany, and, discarding the high principles of his own Atlantic Charter, delivering millions of Europeans into communist tyranny and condoning one of the largest episodes of ethnic cleansing in human history.

What is remarkable is how difficult it is to come across an account of this period which evokes the author's passion, shared with many of his time, of how the bumblings of a naïve, incompetent, and narcissistic chief executive had led directly to so much avoidable tragedy on a global scale. Apart from Hoover's book, finally published more than half a century after this account, there are few works accessible to the general reader which present the view that the tragic outcome of World War II was in large part preventable, and that Roosevelt and his advisers were responsible, in large part, for what happened.

Perhaps there are parallels in this account of wickedness triumphing through cluelessness for our present era.

This edition is a facsimile reprint of the original edition published by Henry Regnery Company in 1959.

Posted at January 21, 2014 22:50