D. Dowd Muska


OMG! ‘Uncle Joe’ and ‘Dr. Win-the-War’ Are BFFs!

April 09, 2015

Cognitive dissonance is undervalued. It can come in handy when reading a book by a historian with meticulous commitment to detail and stupendously poor judgment.

In Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership (Alfred A. Knopf; 591 pages; $35.00), Susan Butler gushes, exhaustively, over the alliance between one of humanity’s worst butchers and the 32nd president. It saved mankind from the Nazis, she believes, and were it not for FDR’s death in April 1945, probably would have prevented the Cold War.

As Europe prepared itself, in the late 1930s, for another suicide attempt, most Americans sought no part in the coming conflagration. But FDR despised neutrality. He was committed to Progressive Era notions of arms control and collective security. He still smarted over his country’s rejection of Woodrow Wilson’s beloved League of Nations. And he hated Germany. FDR was eager to get the U.S. in the war, and he expected to dominate international relations afterwards.

The “isolationists” Butler disparages understood that however crazed and murderous Hitler was, he posed no threat to the Land of the Free so long as Germany was at total war with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. By the fall of 1940, Albion, under Churchill, won the Battle of Britain. On the eastern front, Germany’s initial success in 1941 withered under the massive size, bottomless manpower, and brutal winters of the U.S.S.R.

America Firsters held that if the nation had to fight, it would, but only when a credible threat emerged to the homeland. Many in Congress understood that nonintervention was the wisest course. Sen. Burton K. Wheeler (D-MT) predicted that if America opted out of the Hitler-Stalin bloodbath, “one would end in his grave, the other in the hospital, and the United States and the world would have been rid of two menacing tyrants.” Harry Truman, soon to be named FDR’s running mate, was a bit more belligerent: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

Such wisdom did not interest on the commander-in-chief. In 1939, Butler writes, “as the world began to fall apart … FDR’s thoughts returned to the importance of creating a world government.” His “conviction that world peace depended upon nations’ working together” had not slackened since the League’s failure two decades earlier. But unless America got in the war, it would have no role to play in what happened when the guns fell silent.

As the The Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob G. Hornberger explained, “few historians now dispute that … Roosevelt wanted the United States to get involved in World War II, that he lied when he publicly claimed otherwise, and that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which was followed by Germany’s declaration of war against the United States, gave FDR what he wanted.”

No one benefited more from Pearl Harbor than Stalin. Lend-Lease aid, status-conferring summits with FDR and Churchill, D-Day, appointment to the force of “policemen” that was to patrol the planet after the war -- America’s chief executive did everything he could for the deranged dictator. Ever the “pragmatist” and “political problem solver,” Butler approvingly writes, FDR understood that the Soviet Union was now a great power, and that its leader’s ego needed to be stroked. (The late paleoconservative author Joseph Sobran observed that FDR “even urged Hollywood to make pro-Soviet films to dispel ‘prejudice’ against Soviet Communism and lent a hand in the production of the egregious propaganda movie Mission to Moscow. (Jack Warner later called the film the worst mistake of his long career.)”

By the spring of 1945, Hitler was dead and the Soviets controlled Berlin. A few months later, at the moment Stalin kept his promise to FDR to enter the war in the Pacific, Japan surrendered under the threat of atomic annihilation. But Roosevelt wouldn’t live to enjoy either victory. His death put Truman in office, and not surprisingly, Butler blames the Missourian for destroying the bright future that “Uncle Joe” and “Dr. Win-the-War” would have crafted. It’s an exercise in pathetically naïve speculation.

Fulton Sheen likened U.S. assistance to the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany to “trying to drive the Devil out with Beelzebub.” That kind of moral clarity was lost on FDR, as it is on Susan Butler. FDR pushed his country into a disastrous war and gleefully assisted a gangster-statesman perched atop an immeasurable mountain of corpses. Yet nearly eight decades later, Saint Franklin still has hagiographers.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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