War, peace and paleoconservatives
By Bruce Walker
Jim Powell has written a book, Wilson's War, presented on CSPAN, which I have not yet read, but whose conclusions are sound in many ways. Wilson's War shows that the mendacious, vain and foolish decision by Woodrow Wilson to violate his 1916 campaign promise to keep America out of the Great War led to Hitler, Stalin and Lenin.
His broader conclusions, those of paleoconservatives like Patrick Buchanan, is that America should fight only defensive wars and that Washington's caveat against "entangling alliances" should be taken seriously as the sober advice of our greatest president.
Buchanan proposed several years ago that America should have stayed out of the Second World War, leaving Britain, secure behind her fleet, her empire, and her empire, and her network of advanced Dominion democracies, safe from conquest but unable to defeat Hitler.
If Hitler turned east, if Tokyo turned west, if the Soviet Union was attacked in an exhaustive war which cost all three totalitarian nations many million more lives and huge treasure, then would America have been better off than if it entered the war and won? Would not Tokyo have been embroiled with Germany in Siberia or China? Would not China itself, along with Russia, have proven nightmarish lands for Nazi and Japanese forces to possess?
Buchanan and Powell believe that America should be genuinely neutral and strive to be on friendly terms with all governments, no matter how odious they may be, provided that these nations are truly on friendly terms with America.
The model has merit, if America could become a giant Switzerland. If America had universal military training, devoted enormous treasure to naval, air defense, and space defense and – critically – if America took civil defense very seriously, with redundant missile defense systems, civil defense facilities and very secure borders. In short, if America devoted roughly the same men and money to genuine defense, rather than offense and defense, then perhaps we could be an oasis of liberty in the world.
Could such an America actually, truly be secure? Yes. If America, which has roughly one quarter of the global GDP, used the oceans of water and of space, along with the best technology and rigorous internal training and husbandry, it could withstand all that the rest of the world could ever threaten it with.
This is even more pointed when one recalls that the English-speaking democracies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all islands or part of our hemisphere, might easily be brought within such a purely defensive and non-aligned system, and that the rivalries of Eurasia would make any hegemony difficult and brittle.
But I reject the argument. The failure of Wilson and the failure of FDR (especially FDR) was in losing the peace, not in winning the war. Wilson could have compelled a just peace at Versailles.
How? He could have stopped all shipments of food and other supplies to France. He could have pulled home American troops. He could have signed a separate peace with Germany and then to send food to Germany, escorted by the American fleet. He could have called in all the debts of the British and French. Wilson also had great, though transitory, popularity in the victorious democracies.
Moreover, Wilson could have persisted in insisting – with Germany and Japan – that the Bolsheviki be replaced in the neo-Russian empire by true democrats, and backed that up with naval, commercial, diplomatic and land military force.
FDR failed the same way. At the end of the Second World War, America was two-thirds of the global economy. With roughly the same population as the Soviet Union, American military losses had been one hundred times smaller than Soviet losses. America had command of the sea, command of the air, an atomic monopoly, and had supplied Russia with vast amounts supplies, armaments and transport equipment indispensable to Soviet land power.
At the very least, Roosevelt should have compelled Stalin to return the Soviet Union to its pre-1939 boundaries and created free, neutral, democracies in those lands which became (except Finland) the Warsaw Pact. This would have created a Europe capable of defending itself against an exhausted Soviet Union and would have provided a strong incentive to the Soviets not to develop atomic weapons (which would have made Moscow and Leningrad easy targets for a revitalized Germany.)
What is the lesson? Win the peace. Do what America did in Japan, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea. Do what we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberate the world, and the will to war dies.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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