Lela on Nonintervention   Leave a comment

Last week, Thom suggested I had an “unusual” view of history. This is my response.

That “unusual” view of history could be viewed as the side not written by the winners, Thom. I’ve read Rise and Fall, but I’ve also read ChristopLela Markham Davidson Ditch Correcteder Hitchen’s Blood, Class and Empire and Blood, Class and Nostalia. The two books combined are an excellent treatice on the entanglement of the United States with England and deals with how England and our leaders manipulated us into both World Wars by turning the default non-intervention stance of the American people into a pro-war stance through the use of propaganda to play on our fears and engender anger toward Germany. We all want to believe that our side is the “good” side and it is sometimes illustrative to look at an event from the other side … especially if the other side is deemed the enemy by our government. That different perspective may help us see truths we’ve been ignoring for far too long.

Let’s set one thing straight. I never said Hitler was a 10 year old boy during World War I. I said many of the Germans who supported him in World War 2 were young children during World War 1 and what they went through in that earlier war set them up for World War 2. Hitler was a madman. If I could go back in history to execute him before he became Fuhrer, I would gladly do so. My sympathy is for the German people who were as much manipulated by him as the American people were by Wilson and later Roosevelt, Johnson, both Bushes and the current occupant of the White House.

No leader can prosecute war without at least some tacit backing from the citizenry. Hitler needed the Germany people to populate his army, maintain the economy and guard the concentration camps. But would they have been willing to do so if there’d been a negotiated peace with the Allies in 1917 rather than a unilateral surrender in 1919? The only reason why the latter is actual history and the former didn’t happen is that the United States entered World War 1 just as Britain was running out of resources and would have needed to negotiate. This is what made World War 1 different from previous European wars. Britain could demand a unilateral surrender and crush Germany because the United States had resources Germany couldn’t touch or blockade.

If there’d been a negotiated peace, Germany would have been just another country in Europe, enjoying the fruits of economic well-being during the 1920s, instead of paying crushing reparation payments to England. It wouldn’t have needed the loans the United States provided to prop it up, so its economy would not have crashed when our collapse required ending those loans. Like England, France and Canada, who suffered through brief depressions after our stock market crash, Germany would have recovered in months rather than years and Hitler might not have seemed so attractive. I’ve read Mein Kampf too and only people who feel absolutely trapped in a struggle not of their own making could ever embrace its crazy-town concepts.

There’s no strong historical evidence that Germany had planned for war when Archduke Ferdinand was killed. They were sucked into the war by their treaty obligations with Austria (which ought to be a cautionary tale for us). And, by the way, had Austria not annexed Bosnia, the Serbians wouldn’t have wanted to kill the archduke, This was a tale of interventionism gone wild. Had the United States stayed out of World War I, we might not have developed and then introduced the world to a particularly destructive form of propaganda.  President Wilson campaigned on a platform of American non-intervention. He probably would not have been re-elected if not for the theme “he kept us out of war.” Yet, right after his second inauguration, he hired New York Times journalist Walter Lippman and psychologist Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) to develop a propaganda campaign designed to brainwash the American public into entering the war on the side of Britain. This was necessary because of the large percentage of the US population who were either of German or Slavic descent (thus sympathetic to the Germans) or Irish (thus opposed to almost anything England did).

WWI propaganda posterWilson saw opportunity in the European war. Using the fear of war in his 1st term, he’d already rammed through the Federal Reserve, income tax, and re-segregation of the armed forces. One of his early second-term accomplishments was issuing Executive Order 2594 which set up the Committee on Public Information (CPI), whose sole purpose was to generate propaganda to create public support for US entry into the war. The CPI used censorship, coercion and even mass arrests to silence opposition groups. It circulated posters showing German soldiers bayoneting Belgian babies (Belgium was neutral). All this was designed to make Americans afraid that “the Hun” was about to devour American women and children like some raging beast. The laudable and long-standing American concept of non-interventionism was recast as irresponsible isolationism.

Not too surprisingly, by 1917, the public who had abhorred the European war was now clamoring for our entry. Thus softened up, all that was required was a galvanizing event. Wilson issued a line-in-the-sand statement that Germany had better not attack any US ships. The Lusitania was a British ship laden with a 173 tons of munitions provided by JP Morgan. The German high command placed ads in the New York Times warning that the Lusitania was carrying arms and that they intended to sink the armament-laden Lusitania to protect its national interest. The British admiralty had also warned that the Lusitania ought to stay out of the area. The Wilson administration should have known it was going to be hit, but they never issued a warning, so the American public thought it was safe. Viewed with a skeptical mind, it sure seems like Wilson knew what he was doing, that his administration manipulated the American people into willingly going into a war that a year before they wanted nothing to do with. It’s important to state once again, international law did not allow combatant nations to blockade ports to prevent food stuffs from entering. They could stop armament shipments only, but England had maintained a blockade of all goods for nearly two years. With their people starving the Germans were desperate.

It should also be noted that the Lusitania and the 173 tones of British war munitions she was carrying went to the bottom of the ocean in May 1915. The US Congress did not declare war until April 1917 … after Wilson had won the 1916 presidential election. That hardly seems as if they “had no choice.” More like it made a convenient propaganda tool to push us toward a war the people of the United States didn’t want. The public outrage you speak of had died down by the election, Wilson’s keeping us out of war was a primary campaign point and then … suddenly, we had to go to war. I don’t buy it.

So, let’s talk about American post-World War II interventionism.

The CIA involvement in the Ukranian Orange Revolution is well-known, by the way. Considering what we did in 2004, it seems reasonable to suspect us of doing it again. But let’s be honest here. The US doesn’t just destablize leftist regimes. It has been instrumental in the destruction of many democratically-elected regimes that were deemed not pro-American enough. The US propaganda machine convinces us that these regimes are evil, but the fact is that many were elected in free elections by the citizenry of the country who wanted to control their own resources rather than be dictated to by American corporations or the American military. These people did not elect the United States to interfere in their country’s internal affairs, but we have done it time and time again.

The problem with treaty obligations is that we run the risk of being Germany circa 1914. One of our allies does something stupid — invades Russia in a territorial tug-of-war over Ukraine, for example — and now we’re obligated to enter World War 3. When I was taking foreign policy seminars in college, one of the scenarios we discussed was a Middle East color revolution whereby the United States and the USSR ended up facing one another over a country like Syria. The world would take sides and threats would be hurled. Then some minor actor on one side of the other would do something idiotic — kill someone’s prime minister, perhaps. Because of treaty obligations, we’d have to issue sanctions or invade that country. OPEC would embargo American oil shipments and now we would have no choice but to attack or energy starve. The USSR would come in on the side of OPEC and there would be World War 3.

Of course, the USSR collapsed and fracking was developed so that when the color revolution happened in the Middle East, it wasn’t (or isn’t yet) that precipitating event, but it still has that potential. It would seem that our CIA fomenting a revolution might easily lead to a multi-national war, which means treaty obligations that can come back to bite us quickly enough. When our CIA works to destablize a country like Ukraine, what is it up to? When our president draws a verbal line in the sand with Syria, it sure sounds like he’s trying to get us into a war.

We were fortunate with Syria that the US Congress was less than energetic about starting that war, but western society has been here before — circa 1914. If North Korea pisses off South Korea or Japan irritates China or Putin’s planes fly too deep into Alaska air space … and once that big war has started, the nuclear war you keep saying we need to avoid through US intervention around the world becomes a great deal more likely.

What would be so wrong with neutrality? It has worked for Switzerland for almost 200 years. Switzerland is an international porcupine — heavily armed for its own protection, but not messing with other nations. It has been instrumental in the peace process of several international hostilities while not actually suffering any wars itself.

You haven’t convinced me that our aggressive attitude toward other nations really provides stabilization or if it actually risks destabilizing the world. Especially as we are now facing economic implosion due to mounting debt, at some point someone has to ask — when we no longer have the capacity to act as the world dictator, what then happens to the world? Might it not be better to ease off our role as international meddler par excellence now, while we still have the capacity to bow out gracefully?

Thom StarkAlways being on a war footing invites war. In fact, it encourages our leaders to find wars to involve ourselves in or to create conflicts by destablizing regimes so we can have an excuse to use our muscle.  While I see the logic behind maintaining our web of bases just in case something happened, I can’t help but wonder if those web of bases are not viewed as occupying forces that will one day become a focal point for rebellion.

No one likes a tyrant and we sure do act like one.

Thom Stark is the author American Sulla, an apocalyptic thriller series. Lela Markham is the author ofTransformation Project, an apocalyptic dystopian series. Both these series look at America following nuclear terrorism.

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