President Truman’s Cold War
Much of the crazy militarism of the modern era didn’t have to be that way. The lack of experience with the New Deal by a naïve President Harry Truman gave us many poor choices after Roosevelt died. Had the 1944 Democratic Convention been allowed to re-nominate Henry Wallace for Vice President the Cold War may well have been avoided. Henry Wallace had about 63% of the first ballot when he needed 67%. Because Harry Truman wasn’t part of the ticket when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he did not know we had cracked the code of Japanese radio transmissions. Roosevelt knew our provocation of cutting off oil sales to the Japanese in October 1941 had forced them to attack. To get oil, they needed to seize Indonesia from the Europeans and America was blocking the way in the Phillipines. Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt’s attack on Manilla Bay as acting Naval Secretary in 1898, we had gone on to take the Phillipines in 1899. The Phillipine Islands were sitting astride the trade routes between Japan and Indonesia, so Japan knew they also needed to take the Phillipines to secure their new oil supply. So they decided to attack and weaken our fleet in Hawaii to give themselves a chance in the war. Then they underplayed their hand by not taking Hawaii in the first blow of the war. But Truman was not an insider when the aircraft carriers were deployed out to sea to save them for afterwards. The obsolete battleships were left to be destroyed to anger the American public enough to get Congress to declare War. So years after the War, when the mayor of Hiroshima asked Truman why he had chosen to use the atomic bomb on them, he replied “had not Pearl Harbor happened, that would not have been necessary.” This lie hid the truth that Truman wanted to show how powerful we were to the Soviets and Stalin, in an attempt to intimidate the Russians. The generals were all opposed to using the bomb on a Japanese city, knowing the Japanese would surrender soon after the Russians entered the war against them.
Roosevelt had secured the Russian commitment to attack Japan before he died, and Truman had to live with that commitment, even if he had second thoughts about the arrangement. Woodrow Wilson had American troops attacking the Red Army in Tapananja, Russia, near Murmansk inside the Arctic Circle one year to the very day after World War I had ended. Truman wanted to reverse the course of the wartime alliance between Roosevelt and Stalin and continue our capitalist efforts to crush the communist economic experiment in the crib before it had a chance to possibly prove itself the better system. So the Cold War was a necessity for Truman while Roosevelt and Wallace may have given the United Nations a better chance to operate in cooperation with the Soviets.
Because Truman wasn’t part of the New Deal, he did not understand how much we had grown before the war, 86%. We only took the last small steps of a long journey back to prosperity with the war. We grew only 17% in the four war years and the two post war recession years. So Truman bought the myth that the War brought us out of the Great Depression. Armed with the Keynesian Militarism theory it was easier for him to break with American military tradition of a small army between wars and create the standing army our forefathers had all warned us about since the time of Washington. While the Soviets had lost 15 million in the war and Europe averaged a loss of 5% of its population, we had skated by with only a 0.3% loss of our population in the war. So everyone in Europe was thoroughly sick of war, including the Russians. But a major conference was held in Paris in 1947 and 2000 US journalists descended on the town asking everyone if they thought the Russians were coming. It succeeded in planting the thought of the unthinkable in European minds. Then we passed the 1947 National Security Act over the opposition of the War Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We created the CIA and used the old nazi spy network against the Russians, since we had no agents there, giving our CIA an ugly tinge to start with.
The CIA promptly created Operation Mockingbird to influence our own press on national security issues and succeeded so well that today we are only 47th in the world in press freedom according to Reporters Without Borders, well behind Canada 10th, Germany 16th, Japan 22nd, and Britain 28th. We broke deals made at the end of the war about the Balkans and Greece, and we accused the Russians of religious persecution when they put a Nazi collaborator priest on trial. Then McCarthyism at home cemented the Cold War structure in place, as Eisenhower doubled the percent of the economy for the military in the fifties over the late forties Truman years.
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