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Did We Lose the Cold War?
Diana West’s latest title, Diana West’s book American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, challenges conventional wisdom about the Second World War and the Cold War. It has caused quite a stir in certain circles.
As it happens, I started reading it while visiting Warsaw, Poland for the first time. This is fitting in many ways. Historian Timothy Snyder in his excellent work Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin demonstrates how East-Central Europe was crushed between the totalitarian regimes of two infamous dictators, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. One of their victims was Poland. Roughly 85% of Warsaw was destroyed during the Second World War. Its pretty Old Town is actually fairly new; it was reconstructed after WW2.
Today, the city is riddled with monuments and memorials to those who struggled and were wiped out during those fateful years, both from the Jewish minority population and the Slavic Christian majority population. One of the monuments of Warsaw’s Old Town is dedicated to the victims of the Katyn massacre, mass execution of 22,000 Polish officers in the spring of 1940. This evil deed was originally blamed on the Nazis, but it was in fact carried out by the Soviet secret police. Evidence of this surfaced rather early.
Yet this fact was deliberately buried by the Roosevelt Administration in order not to offend their new Soviet “allies,” after Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union. This shameful policy continued for years even after the war ended, when it should have been clear to all sensible people that Stalin and the Communists could never really be anybody’s “allies.” Diana West argues that by actively covering up such atrocities, the Western world in some ways became complicit in Soviet crimes.
Towering over the city center of Warsaw even today is the Palace of Culture and Science. It was a “gift” from Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union in 1952. How nice of Uncle Joe, especially since he and Hitler had secretly carved up Poland and several other countries between them in the August 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact. The International Socialists of the Soviet Union were every bit as much expansionist totalitarian predators as were the National Socialists in Germany. Diana West reminds us that this isn’t always emphasized today, and asks: Why is this so?
A timely question.
It wasn’t the first time the Communists attempted to expand into Central Europe via Poland, either. As Adam Zamoyski details in his book Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe, already after the First World War, the Bolsheviks under the direction of Vladimir Lenin tried to use military force to invade Poland and export the world revolution to Germany. This early attempt was successfully beaten back by Polish resistance. But the Soviets returned with a vengeance a generation later, under the leadership of Lenin’s ruthless apprentice Stalin. This time they succeeded in establishing Communist dominion over the eastern half of Europe as far as Berlin.
Diana West shows how the US Government and the Western Allies foolishly defeated one totalitarian system, only to hand half of Europe plus China over to another totalitarian system on a silver platter. But was it merely foolishness, or was it successful Soviet subversion? West demonstrates that although anti-Communists such as Joseph McCarthy have been vilified and ridiculed, the simple fact is that the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 40s already had an extensive network of collaborators, agents, and agents of influence within the USA. Communist infiltration and subversion was very real, perhaps even underestimated in scope and severity.
One of the chief villains of American Betrayal is Harry Hopkins. For years, he was one of the most influential members of the Roosevelt Administration. He was so prominent behind the scenes that he was almost treated as a deputy president to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hopkins exerted a major influence on American and therefore Allied policies during the Second World War, and may thereby have influenced the very course of the war.
He was instrumental in the so-called Lend-Lease program which sent billions of dollars worth of equipment and support to Allied nations. This included Stalin and his totalitarian thugs in the Soviet Union. The policy was to give more or less free ammunition, weapons, fuel and equipment to Stalin, even ahead of American or Western troops. As a consequence, huge shiploads of American aid went to make the world safe for Communism. In the meantime, American troops fighting bravely in the Philippines were left largely unsupplied. The British in Singapore did not get new airplanes that might have prevented the Japanese from invading. The Soviet Union didn’t declare war on Japan until after Germany had surrendered, but Stalin wanted the British, the Americans and others to fight a two-front war on his behalf, which they did.
There is no doubt that Harry Hopkins was very pro-Soviet in the policies he advocated in the Roosevelt Administration. Diana West takes this a step further and speculates whether he was a full-blown and conscious agent of the Soviet Union and Stalin, who even helped to give the Soviets vital American nuclear secrets. This has become a bone of contention among critics of West’s book. I am unable to verify this claim, but West argues convincingly for her views. It has in any case later been confirmed that the Soviet Union did have a multitude of agents and willing collaborators who were sometimes capable of influencing American policies.
Diana West mentions that Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Communist Russian President, in the early 1990s toyed with the idea of staging a Nuremberg-type trial against the crimes of Communism. He was forced to give up these plans following strong resistance from the West to such an idea. Why this resistance from the West? Was it the risk of exposing too many Western collaborators, some still in high positions? Or was it something else?
The Nuremberg trials were blighted by the fact that the Soviet Union got away with crimes of which it was just as guilty as Nazi Germany. On Stalin’s insistence, the Soviets made sure that the infamous secret Nazi-Soviet pact was not mentioned during the trial. To their great shame, the Western allies agreed to cover up Soviet crimes in this manner.
Diana West further asks a simple question, using today’s situation as the starting point: How is it that hostile Islamic organizations and countries find it so easy to infiltrate and undermine Western nations? Why do they meet so little resistance, while truth-tellers about this threat risk being vilified or publicly ridiculed?
She finds this situation eerily similar to how Western societies responded — or sometimes failed to respond properly — to the Communist threat some years earlier. Her diagnosis, which is disturbingly plausible, is that the long struggle with Communist lies, subversion, threats and manipulation of language has damaged the very fabric of Western civilization. Our use of words has become more and more decoupled from actual reality, our understanding of our own history has become perverted and our moral fiber has been compromised.
This leads us to a question which some of us have struggled with for years: Did we lose the Cold War? Or at the very least, not win it as decisively as we should have done? Aren’t victors supposed to have the privilege of writing the history books? If so, why do so many of our history books reflect Marxist sympathies? Why are they hostile to the positive accomplishments of European civilization? Moreover, if the USA defeated Marxism, why does the country merely a generation after President Reagan have a President Obama who sponsors Socialist-inspired policies and echoes Marxist rhetoric?
The arms race pushed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s cleverly exposed the underlying economic as well as moral bankruptcy of the Soviet Union, which collapsed a few years later. Reagan deserves our gratitude for helping to finish off an empire that was evil, just as he said.
The problem is that from the coup d’état staged by Lenin and his thugs in 1917 until the Soviet Union finally dissolved in 1991, the Western world lived for generations next to this aggressive Communist entity. Merely by treating a criminal bunch of totalitarian thugs as if they were the leaders of a normal country, the West weakened its resistance to evil.
What’s worse is that Communist collaborators, sympathizers and agents of influence for generations undermined the resistance of the West itself through subversion, disinformation, false propaganda and the spread of cultural pessimism. The beast itself may no longer be with us, but the ideological venom the Soviet Union and its networks injected into Western societies continue to be pumped around in their bloodstreams to this day.
This prolonged Marxist assault from outside as well as from within has disrupted the rational thought processes of the Western world, making it harder to distinguish good from evil, and friend from foe. Perhaps this partly explains why the West now looks like an easy prey for other predators, for instance Islamic ones. Muslims and other hostile aliens can simply take over the pattern of subversion and infiltration that has been established by the Communists. Indeed, some of the remaining hard-line Marxists seem to be helping them in this enterprise.
So much material has been published about the Second World War and the Cold War that it is hard to came across a book that challenges what you think you know about this war. Yet Diana West manages to achieve exactly that in American Betrayal, by bringing to our attention many little-known and sometimes deliberately buried facts. That is no mean feat. How many people know about the thousands of American citizens that the US Government abandoned to forced labor, suffering and premature death under Stalin’s iron fist in Siberia?
I did come across a couple of instances where I didn’t buy the author’s logic unconditionally, but her overall thesis remains strong: Generations of Western appeasement of Communist crimes have weakened the moral fiber and the cultural backbone of Western civilization, leaving it easy prey for new types of predators.
I would like to add that as a reader and sometimes contributor to FrontPage Magazine, I have been dismayed and disappointed to see the vicious smears its editor David Horowitz and others have used against West and her book. Disagreeing with certain interpretations of facts is one thing, but this behavior goes far beyond that. Coincidentally, it resembles the smear campaigns of character assassination against anti-Communists that West herself describes in her book. It’s not merely dishonest; it seems to betray a totalitarian impulse. In this case, David Horowitz has displayed traces of the Marxist belief-system he supposedly left behind many years ago.
Diana West’s book American Betrayal is a strong and carefully researched work that challenges many of the notions you might have about a conflict that shaped the modern world. It deserves to be read.
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