July 23, 2003

Marking My Beliefs to Market: Soviet Espionage in America: Alger Hiss

Somebody or other wrote:

Yet some... do not find it easy, even twenty-five years after the Levine memoir appeared, to credit everything he wrote. Levine reminds us, for example, that in 1939 [Whittaker] Chambers also informed [Adolf] Berle that Assistant Secretary (later Under Secretary) Harry Dexter White of the Treasury was collaborating with the Soviet underground. Three years ago the Venona documents appeared confirming White's discussions with his Soviet controller in parked cars and on park benches. Even so, the former deputy > assistant secretary of the Treasury [that's me] has intimated... that he finds the proof insufficient. It would appear that the sequelae of the last generation's culture wars still make it difficult to examine Soviet espionage in America purely as a historical problem.

I would reply as follows: I'm trying to examine Soviet espionage in America purely as a historical problem. It's hard. But I don't think that what makes it hard--for me at least--is the last generation's culture war. What makes it hard is the character of the right-wing anti-communists of the 1950s--for example, what we all know now about the character of Richard M. Nixon.

For example, consider Richard Nixon, as taped by himself, on pages 7 and 8 of Stanley Kutler's Abuse of Power. Nixon is talking to H.R. Haldeman and Henry Kissinger in the White House, at about 9:00 AM on July 1, 1971:

Nixon: "...This is what I want. I have a project that I want somebody to take it just like I took the Hiss case, the Bentley case, and the rest.... And I'll tell you what. This takes--this takes 18 hours a day. It takes devotion and dedication and loyalty and diligence such as you've never seen, Bob...

Five minutes later Nixon returns to the personality type he wants for this project:

Nixon: "...I wish you could get a personality type, oh, like Whittaker who will work his butt off and do it honorably. I really need a son of a bitch like Huston who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably. Do you see what I mean? Who will know what he's doing and I want to know too. And I'll direct him myself. I know how to play the game and we're going to start playing it....I mean, I can't have a high-minded lawyer like John Ehrlichman or, you know, Dean, or somebody like that. I want somebody just as tough as I am for a change.... These Goddamn lawyers, you know, all fighting around about, you know--I'll never forget...."

And again, a few minutes later:

Nixon:" These kids don't understand. They have no understanding of politics. They have no understanding of public relations. John Mitchell is that way. John is always worried about: "Is it technically correct?" Do you think, for Christ's sake, that the New York Times is worried about all the legal niceties? Those sons of bitches are killing me. I mean, thank God, I leaked to the press. This is what we've got to get--I want you to shake these [unintelligible] up around here. Now you do it. Shake them up. Get them off their Goddamn dead asses and say, now, 'That isn't what you should be talking about.' We're up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They're using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?"

Nixon: "Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No? Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute's safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes somebody else responsible."

In this conversation of his, Nixon segues from the Hiss case to the need to be tough and not worry about "legal niceties" to the demand that his subordinates use "any means" against his political opponents to how he is upset that the Brookings Institution has not yet been burglarized and firebombed to how his henchmen need to be sure to plant evidence pinning the burglary on his political adversaries. Thinking about the Hiss case leads Nixon by association to the thought that he needs a "son of a bitch" who will "work his but off and do dishonorably"; then to the thought that he is in a war and needs to use "any means" against his opponents; then to the thought that he is surrounded by fools who have not yet carried out his clear orders to commit felony burglary and arson and to plant "Reichstag fire" evidence that the deed was done by somebody else.

I conclude from this tape that--unless Nixon's personality took a significant turn for the worse between the end of the 1940s and the end of the 1960s--that if Nixon had had the opportunity to forge evidence and frame Alger Hiss, he would have. I think that Nixon at the end of the 1940s didn't have the power and resources to do so, that any conspiracy to frame Hiss would have been too large to be credible, and as a result I think that Hiss was guilty.

But I'm not sure. Is there a connection in Nixon's mind between the Hiss case on the one hand and felony burglary and the forging of evidence on the other? Do his thoughts slide so easily from reminiscing about Hiss to demanding to know why Brookings has not yet been burgled and forged evidence planted because he is remembering past acts--of burglary and forgery--with which he was involved in the Hiss case? I doubt it. But I don't know.

Thus there remains a nagging doubt because of the involvement of people like Richard Nixon. Someone who would accuse his senate election opponent of being an agent of the Kremlin would have been happy to be part of a conspiracy to forge evidence against Hiss if he had the opportunity.

I think Hiss is more likely than not to be guilty of espionage. I even think that there is clear and convincing evidence that Hiss was guilty of evidence. But if asked if he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, I have to say "No." Nixon and company cloud the issue, and a reasonable doubt remains.

Posted by DeLong at July 23, 2003 06:17 PM | TrackBack

Comments

When I tried digging into the cultural history of Communism and the responses to it in that period, and in the 1930s, I encountered the problem that there were few neutrals, the decent people were often following the monsters, and the monsters were working for the decent nations. What these people wrote, thought, and said was so drenched in propaganda that I found it necessary to constantly refer to the greater history of the period and the bald facts of lives. The fascist poet, Ezra Pound, wrote in his fascist book *Guide to Kultur*, "When language is corrupt, no truth may be spoken."

Sounds rather like the US rhetorical environment these days, come to think of it. I've been drawing an analogy with that period for nearly a decade and this makes it seem a bit more real. Brrrrr.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz on July 23, 2003 11:34 PM

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My understanding is that Nixon became more and more embittered and paranoid as time went on - he honestly believed that the 1960 presidential race had been stolen from him by corrupt means - possibly legitimately, given what we know about politics in Illinois and Texas at the time - and his response was a descent into paranoia. The Watergate break-ins were unnecessary - the Dems had no chance of winning in '72 - but Nixon feared having the rug swept from under him, just like in '60. Was Nixon honest and trustworthy in the '50s? Probably no more so than the typical politician on either side in the period - I wouldn't have trusted Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, or most of the rest if they told me the sun rose in the east and set in the west. But he wasn't exceptional, then.

Posted by: rvman on July 24, 2003 07:11 AM

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This business of Nixon's character is, to borrow from Harry Truman, a Red Herring. I.e. a logical fallacy.

The evidence overwhelmingly supports Alger Hiss's guilt. He was an agent of the Soviet Union. Several people admitted knowing that. Chambers produced physical evidence linking him to espionage. Chambers produced circumstantial evidence to the same effect. The Venona cables confirm everything.

The only question open is just how much damage did Hiss and friends actually do. Obviously they were in positions to do much worse than pilfer secret information.

A very plausible case can be, and has been, made that Pearl Harbor was the result of the machinations of H. D. White, Lauchlin Currie, and Hiss. Just what IS the explanation for the ultimatums given to the Japanese after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, that is better than that Stalin ordered his agents to get Japan to attack America and thus relieve pressure on Russia?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 24, 2003 07:40 AM

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I always liked Richard Nixon's comment, back in the interviews in New York days as a Senator, "If the American people understood Alger Hiss, they would boil him in oil."

My assumption is that Nixon had Whittaker Chambers' entirely dependable testimony, and -- I admit this is a guess -- being friends with J. Edgar, also saw bits and pieces of Venona decrypts when Hoover saw fit to leak them to him.

I am no lover of the FBI -- they set fire to two offices I worked in in 1968 -- but Venona was a triumph, and Hiss was guilty as sin.

How odd to find myself agreeing with Patrick for once -- though not on his Japan fantasy. That bit of business sets a new high water mark for right wing imaginings to my mind.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on July 24, 2003 09:49 AM

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"A very plausible case can be, and has been, made that Pearl Harbor was the result of the machinations of H. D. White, Lauchlin Currie, and Hiss. Just what IS the explanation for the ultimatums given to the Japanese after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, that is better than that Stalin ordered his agents to get Japan to attack America and thus relieve pressure on Russia?"

Japan did not attack the URSS, and the URSS did not declare war on Japan until it was clear the USA were winning.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 24, 2003 11:32 AM

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The character of the state, when it takes prosecutorial power, is always an issue. Nixon in his role, McCarthy (to jump ahead a topic), and Starr in his role all showed gross character failures that, yes, cast reasonable doubt on virtually every action they took.

That doesn't mean Hiss was innocent. It doesn't mean that the State Dept harbored no one sympathetic to Communism (although McCarthyites like PS have a funny angle on that - they needn't find a single actual traitorous act to justify countless accusations, attacks, and blacklists - those acts are inherently just). It doesn't mean that Monica didn't blow Bill. But it does mean that we have no reason whatsoever to trust that justice was served in any of those cases.

But why would anyone who has ever read the words of Patrick think he's concerned with justice?

Posted by: JRoth on July 24, 2003 11:55 AM

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" Japan did not attack the URSS, and the URSS did not declare war on Japan until it was clear the USA were winning."

And what, exactly, is the train of logic supposed to be here?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 24, 2003 01:33 PM

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" How odd to find myself agreeing with Patrick for once -- though not on his Japan fantasy. That bit of business sets a new high water mark for right wing imaginings to my mind."

I'm operating on memory here, but the chronology goes something like:

1. June 1941, Hitler turns on Stalin and invades Russia.

2. Germany presses Japan to honor their alliance and attack Russia in the east. Stalin is aware of this thanks to his spy Richard Sorge.

3. July 1941, the U.S. embargoes trade with Japan, especially oil.

4. August 1941 the government of Prime Minister Konoye beseechs the U.S. Ambassador in Tokyo, Joseph Grew, for a face to face meeting with FDR. Preferably in Hawaii.

5. Grew presses the State Dept to get FDR to meet Konoye, warning war will result from our economic pressures.

6. Lauchlin Currie strongly advises FDR against doing so. Harry Dexter White draws up an unbelievable emotional memorandum for Sec'y Morgenthau to present to the President warning about a "Far East Munich".

7. FDR rejects the idea of a meeting without Japan first announcing withdrawal from China.

8. The Japanese ambassador in Washington renews the request for talks in autumn. Currie and White again spring into action to oppose it. Finally at the end of November, Sec'y Hull composes a modus vivendi with 10 points that the Japanese will be sure to reject for their severity.

9. December 7, 1941.

Explain Soviet agents White and Currie acting as they did.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 24, 2003 04:36 PM

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Stalin had no front with Japan, then he did not need any intervention of the USA in Asia. He needed it in Europe, should I say that Churchill needed it too? But the anti-nazis in the USA had not enough political power. And the pro-nazis had no qualms trading with Hitler. Had Hitler refrained to declaring war to the USA four days after Pearl Harbor attack, he would have probably months of respite, enough to win either against the UK, or at least a truce, or against Stalin. And with the ending of either front, he would have won the war.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 24, 2003 04:37 PM

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I'm going to charitably put Antoni's confused post down to an unfamiliarity with the English language. One thing I can make out in the jumble is that he thinks Stalin had nothing to fear from Japan. That is ahistorical.

Japan and Russia had fought a war in 1905. Japan in 1941 had troops in Manchuria. Germany, AS I POINTED OUT, pressed Japan to attack Russia in Siberia.

The reason Japan did not attack Russia, but pressed South was that Russia had no oil for Japan to capture. When Stalin learned of this from his spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, he was able to move 200,000 troops from Siberia to the front with Germany.

Further, once Japan and Germany were at war with the U.S. Stalin had the resources of America available to him. FDR and George Marshall actually advocated a cross channel invasion of France in 1942, the summer of 43 at the latest, to the astounded Churchill. Their reasoning was that the pressure had to be removed from Russia.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 24, 2003 06:36 PM

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Patrick's first axiom of international relations: Anyone who failed to respond decisively to Communist advances in China was ipso facto a Communist agent or a Communist dupe. (See his post on George Marshall in "The Current NSC Staff.")

Patrick's second axiom of international relations: Anyone who wanted to respond decisively to the Japanese invasion of China was ipso facto a Communist agent or a Communist dupe. (See posts above.)

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 24, 2003 08:34 PM

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The USSR had nothing to fear from Japan. The battles of Nomonhan and Khalkin Ghol established that point quite conclusively. Read Coox's excellent "Nomonhan" for a clear depiction of just how overmatched the Japanese were. For example: THe Red Army forces engaged typically fired off more artillery shells in _one_hour_ than the IJA did in an entire day.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 24, 2003 09:44 PM

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Hiss and White are pretty much closed cases, few people disbelieve they were not Soviet assets. More interesting and more controversial is the matter of J. R. Oppenheimer. In the book “Special Tasks” Sudoplatov says Oppenheimer was a Soviet Agent. Critics beat back that notion by accusing the Schecters (co-authors) of sloppy scholarship and presenting the charge without sufficient (or any) evidence. However, their newer book, “Sacred Secrets” does provide what “Special Tasks” lacked—a top-secret 1944 memo authored by Beria. Beria (head of the Soviet Atomic bomb project) clearly fingers Oppenheimer as a member of “the apparat of comrade Browder,” and provider of information about the US “Uranium Project.” If this memo is genuine, and the other information in the book is true, then we have damning evidence against Oppenheimer

Posted by: A. Zarkov on July 25, 2003 02:07 AM

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" The USSR had nothing to fear from Japan. The battles of Nomonhan and Khalkin Ghol established that point quite conclusively."

As usual, the opposite of this is true. Obviously the battles are evidence that Stalin was right to be concerned about Japan.
http://www.nafcon.dircon.co.uk/books_nomonhan.html

" From the Russian side, Stalin was kept in touch with Japanese strategy by his masterspy Richard Sorge, and thus at a critical point in late 1941 was able to move divisions from the Far East safe in the knowledge that the Mongolian border was not going to be violated. ...."

BTW, the Germans demolished the first Americans to do battle with them at Kasserine Pass. One battle does not determine how dangerous an army is.


Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 25, 2003 09:40 AM

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" Patrick's first axiom of international relations: Anyone who failed to respond decisively to Communist advances in China was ipso facto a Communist agent or a Communist dupe. (See his post on George Marshall in "The Current NSC Staff.")

" Patrick's second axiom of international relations: Anyone who wanted to respond decisively to the Japanese invasion of China was ipso facto a Communist agent or a Communist dupe. (See posts above.)"

Is there anyone here who can rise above blatant logical fallacy and make a serious argument?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 25, 2003 09:46 AM

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Patrick,
It is rather surreal of you to post a link to a document that agrees with me in order to contradict me.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 25, 2003 01:20 PM

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No, Patrick. You're the only one here with the logical megapower required to see that

"Joe McCarthy once denied having said X;
Therefore, Joe McCarthy never said X"

is a sound and valid syllogism.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 25, 2003 07:59 PM

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More seriously: Patrick asked, rhetorically:

"Just what IS the explanation for the ultimatums given to the Japanese after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, that is better than that Stalin ordered his agents to get Japan to attack America and thus relieve pressure on Russia?"

thus showing it is inconceivable to him that anybody might have actually wanted to put pressure on Japan because they saw the continued occupation of China by an increasingly hostile Japan as something that required a strong response. Inconceivable that in the context of 1941, anything less might be regarded as appeasement of Japan, reward for aggression and encouragement of further aggression. No, that couldn't possibly have been uppermost in the minds of the makers of foreign policy. Much more logical and rational to assume it was the Communists controlling them.
Assume that Harry Dexter White had precisely the motivation Patrick assumes; he wants us to threaten Japan with an oil embargo because he wants Japan to attack the U.S. and thus relieve the threat to the U.S.S.R. Problem: Harry isn't in the State Department. The only way that Harry can make his views prevail is by convincing other people that the threatened embargo is a good idea. How is he going to do that? By saying it would be a good idea, because then Japan will attack us and then the Russians will be safer? No, Harry has to persuade people that it's a good idea on other grounds: for example, because the continued occupation of China by an increasingly hostile Japan was something that required a strong response, and anything less would amount to appeasement of Japan, reward for aggression and encouragement of further aggression.

Which, of course, is precisely the basis on which the decision to issue the threat was made.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 25, 2003 08:19 PM

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Would Jeffrey Kramer like to tell the nice comments section how the United States with its army of 200,000 men was in any position to make a "strong response" to Japan's aggression in China?

Perhaps Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew took that into consideration when he strongly advocated FDR meet Konoye in Hawaii in August. And it is HISTORICAL FACT that both Lauchlin Currie and Harry Dexter White had input into the decision about this meeting. And their position was the one adopted.

Now will Jeffrey take a moment and ask himself what would be desirable for an agent of the Soviet Union--which had been fighting border skirmishes in Manchuria with Japan at the time, and fighting for its life in the west against Hitler--to effect? Here's part of a letter from FDR to Churchill, April 3, 1942, that might give a clue:

"Dear Winston,
" What Harry and Geo. Marshall will tell you all about has my heart and mind in it. Your people and mine demand the establishment of a front to draw off pressure on the Russians...."

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 25, 2003 09:21 PM

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Good post, Mr. Kramer. There is also the point that Japan's occupation of Indochina was a clear and present indication of the Japanese Empire's intention to attack the Dutch East Indies.

Which raised the sticky problem of the American presence in the Phillipines. The Japanese were well aware that fighting the Dutch for that lovely light, sweet East Indies petroleum meant fighting the British Empire as well. I think it is likely that the USA would not have immediately declared war upon Japan had the Japanese confined their attacks to Dutch and British Empire territory.... but the Japanese would never have believed that. The Phillipines - no doubt receiveing frantic reinforcement once the shooting started - would have been hovering across their supply lines like the sword of Damocles. Sooner or later an incident would have occured and the US would be in the war one way or another. Add in the fact that the USN 1940 shipbuilding program was about to bear fruit... in for a penny, in for a pound. The balance of forces in late 1941/early 1942 was as good for Japan as it would ever get. The militarists _had_ to attack.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 25, 2003 09:22 PM

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"Would Jeffrey Kramer like to tell the nice comments section how the United States with its army of 200,000 men was in any position to make a "strong response" to Japan's aggression in China?"

The ultimatum you were talking about, Patrick -- you remember, the one the Communists made us issue? -- didn't threaten the use of American armed forces. It threatened an oil embargo. Two posts ago *you* were the one implicitly claiming that this threat was so powerful, the Communists *knew* that the Japanese would then feel compelled to wage war against the United States. And now when it's pointed out to you that there might be actual reasons (aside from Communist machinations) for taking a stand that strong, your response is "Aha, NOW I've got you: we were actually too WEAK to make a strong stand!"

Is there anybody here, besides Patrick, to whom Patrick's response makes any sense? If so, could the nice comments section please help me understand how?

"Now will Jeffrey take a moment and ask himself what would be desirable for an agent of the Soviet Union--which had been fighting border skirmishes in Manchuria with Japan at the time, and fighting for its life in the west against Hitler--to effect?"

I think I have it now:

Assume Party P1 desires Result R;
Assume Party P2 brings about Result R;
It follows, therefore, that Party P1 was actually responsible for bringing about Result R.

You've convinced me, Patrick. That is, you've convinced me that the party responsible both for Pearl Harbor AND for the British entry into the war, was the Jews. After all, the Jews wanted to see Hitler brought down, and what better way than to get Britain to issue an ultimatum on Poland (and what did Britain have to gain from this? They ended up losing their Empire!) and then to bring America into the war? And naturally it is the Jews today who want to make sure no nation poses a threat to Israel, so they must be the ones responsible for the war against Iraq. If you don't believe that, I can produce plenty of quotes from pro-Israeli sources, calling for a united front against Iraq, which cannot fail to convince you: that is, if you take seriously your own "logic."

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 25, 2003 11:32 PM

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Patrick R. Sullivan writes: "Would Jeffrey Kramer like to tell the nice comments section how the United States with its army of 200,000 men was in any position to make a "strong response" to Japan's aggression in China?"

The U.S. Army? No position at all. The USN? A good position and getting better fast. That 1940 naval expansion program thingy. SoDak class battlewagons, the Missouri class BBs, Essex class carriers, gobs and gobs of cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Oh my yes, never forget the pig boats. And of course there was the ongoing and accelerating program of reinforcement of the Phillipines.

There is a lot of bloviating about the influence of the Jews on US foreign policy. Hardly any mention is made of the iron grip held by the China Lobby on American foreign policy during the period in question.


Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 26, 2003 12:32 AM

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Steven; I hope neither you or any other reader thought I was being serious about the responsibility of "the Jews" for WWII or GWII.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 26, 2003 01:41 AM

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Jeffrey,

Not to worry. Unlike some people, I can appreciate sarcasm when I read it.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 26, 2003 01:48 AM

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It's a sure sign that someone knows he's lost the argument when he tries to deflect the issue to "the Jews". I leave it to Prof. DeLong to identify which corollary it is of Godwin's Law.

And I remind everyone that WWII began in Poland due to the collaboration of Hitler and Stalin. A point that both FDR and Truman seem to have immediately forgotten when they allied with Stalin. For instance, from Truman's diary, July 17, 1945:

"I can deal with Stalin. He is honest--but smart as hell."

Back to Jeffrey's attempt to finesse his logical errors:

" The ultimatum you were talking about, Patrick -- you remember, the one the Communists made us issue? -- didn't threaten the use of American armed forces. It threatened an oil embargo. "

Wrong. The embargo was already in place. Why do you think Konoye wanted so desperately to meet with FDR? So, I ask Jeffrey again, support your argument by pointing out just what we were in a position to do to the Japanese with our 200,000 man army.

Steven Rogers claims:

" The U.S. Army? No position at all. The USN? A good position and getting better fast. That 1940 naval expansion program thingy. SoDak class battlewagons, the Missouri class BBs, Essex class carriers, gobs and gobs of cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Oh my yes, never forget the pig boats. And of course there was the ongoing and accelerating program of reinforcement of the Phillipines."

The Japanese were really frightened of our navy, weren't they? And our garrisons on the Philippines and Wake Island didn't fare too well either. Had it not been for a lucky break at Midway when the Japanese fighter cover was scattered chasing fleeing American bombers, allowing a squadron of our embarrassingly outdated torpedo bombers to make an unmolested run at their carriers, we would have lost not only Midway Island, but probably more than the one aircraft carrier we did lose.

So how about answering the question, fellas. What could have been a better policy from the point of a Communist agent within the Roosevelt Admin, than the policy we DID pursue.

Hint: It's the same policy that couldn't have been worse for the country as a whole.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 26, 2003 11:15 AM

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Damn right the Japanese were afraid of the USN, Patrick. That's why they launched a surprise attack, remember?

As to the Phillipines, the Japanese operations plan called for the islands to be secured by the end of February. The Bataan bastion didnt fall untill April, and it took a substantial diversion of IJA troops from the Asian mainland to crush it. Corregidor and Fort Drum held out until May. It may come as a shock to you, but the Japanese don't think they did particularly well in that campaign.

And Wake, you use the defense of Wake Island as an example of Japanese skill and American ineptitude? In the entire Pacific War, precisely *one* amphibious assault resulted in failure: The first Japanese assault on Wake Island. I can't testify as to your other fields of knowledge, but when it comes to the Pacific War, you obviously don't know what you are talking about.

And to answer your question, from the communist point of vew, the best course of action is to keep the USA out of the war. Without the US Army, the Western Allies are in no posiiton to stage an invasion of Europe until the Red Army breaks into German - which will happen in late 1945/early 1946. Zhukov and Koniev link up with Mongonery and LeClerc on the Rhine soon thereafter.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 26, 2003 02:00 PM

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Field Marshall von Rogers provides hearty amusement, indeed. Without the U.S., Britain doesn't last until 1943. Germany drives their army out of Egypt and captures the Mideast's oil. U-boats starve the island nation into submission. Japan rules the Pacific as the colonial power replacing France, Britain and the Netherlands.

As Stalin's supply lines become stretched they are beaten back by Germany on that front and a stalemate with a line somewhere around Poland develops. Without American aid it is only a matter of time until Germany develops atomic weapons and jet aircraft, and dominates Europe and the Mideast.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 26, 2003 04:21 PM

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Ah, but I did not say no American aid - I said no American entry. We are talking about optimum US policy from the point of view of a "communist party agent" - your words, Patrick. No US boots on the ground, but a continuing flow of supplies and that Hammer-and-Sickle flag goes up over the Reichstag sometime in 1946.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 26, 2003 04:34 PM

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Patrick asburdly pretends not to understand the concept of reductio ad absurdum: showing that a faulty kind of reasoning leads to obviously ridiculous conclusions. Sorry, Patrick, it won't wash; given your argumentative habits, it's a sure bet that you've been exposed to reductio ad absurdum ad nauseam. In this case, Patrick was clinching his case for the Communist origin of Pearl Harbor with this reasoning:

"ask [yourself] what would be desirable for an agent of the Soviet Union--which had been fighting border skirmishes in Manchuria with Japan at the time, and fighting for its life in the west against Hitler--to effect?"

If this means anything, it means that "the Soviet Union wanted America in the war; America got into the war; therefore, if we are looking for the reasons America got into the war, we should assume that it happened because of the influence of the Soviet Union."

Of course this kind of reasoning allows us to assume six impossible things before breakfast. It's a form of reasoning common to people (of many political stripes) who are always providing us with scenarios in which a small group of conspirators wraps a great nation around its fingers and manipulates it to follow the conspirators' will rather than that nation's own perceived interests. The conspirators may be Communists or Jews or arms manufacturers or bankers or Catholics or... let's just say it can be enough things that Patrick can't pretend to "Godwin" them all away as samples of invalid conclusions reached by means of the invalid reasoning in which he is currently luxuriating.


"The embargo was already in place. Why do you think Konoye wanted so desperately to meet with FDR?"

To come to an agreement which would result in a lifting of the embargo. I thought that was your whole argument: we set terms so strict for ending the embargo that Pearl Harbor was a result, and we would never have set such strict terms if the Communists had not manipulated us into doing so for their own reasons. And the obvious counter-argument is: we set those strict terms because we thought they served American principles and interests, and the fact (if it is a fact) that it also served Russian interests is coincidence, not causality.

"So, I ask Jeffrey again, support your argument by pointing out just what we were in a position to do to the Japanese with our 200,000 man army."

So, I ask of Patrick: support your argument by describing the different senses of the word 'nature' employed by King Lear, Gloucester, and Edmund the Bastard.

Honestly, all sarcasm aside: I have no idea why you consider this a relevant challenge. It is possible that I have stupidly overlooked the whole point of your case, and that it's a damn good case. Such things have happened to me before. So help me see it. I've been saying "we were ready to impose the embargo, and demand Japanese withdrawals in return for not imposing it/ending it, not because that was good for Russia but because we felt that to take weaker steps or make weaker demands would be appeasement." (See my message of 08:19 if you missed it the first time.) And you are saying "No, that can't be right because we didn't have a large standing army at the time." How is that a refutation? Fill in the logic, please, which takes us from

"We only had a small standing army, incapable of dislodging Japan from China or Indochina" (true!)

to

"Therefore, we could not possibly have thought it was in our interests to demand Japan leave China and Indochina or else face devastating ECONOMIC consequences" (???).

Again, does anybody besides Patrick see the sense in this? If Patrick or anybody else can explain this, I promise to eat crow. If not, I think I'll take my leave of this discussion.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 26, 2003 10:03 PM

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Patrick does seem hung up on the Communist intrigue angle for the Pacific War. Which is quite bemusing, as the machinations of the business/religious combine known as the China Lobby were open, above board, extensive and relentless in their drive to support China by any means necessary against Japan.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 26, 2003 10:30 PM

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"...the China Lobby were open, above board, extensive and relentless in their drive to support China by any means necessary against Japan."

I think the conclusion we are being pressed to accept here is: if you followed the path urged by the China Lobby in 1941, you were objectively pro-Communist; but if you *failed* to follow the path urged by the China Lobby in 1948, you were subjectively pro-Communist.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 27, 2003 02:04 AM

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" Ah, but I did not say no American aid - I said no American entry. We are talking about optimum US policy from the point of view of a "communist party agent" - your words, Patrick. No US boots on the ground, but a continuing flow of supplies and that Hammer-and-Sickle flag goes up over the Reichstag sometime in 1946.'

Are you so poorly informed of the respective Constitutional responsibilities of the Executive and Congressional branches of our government, that you think Harry Dexter White could have accomplished aid of hundreds of billion 1940s dollars by writing a few memos?

Since that idea is risible, how about answering the question of what he could do (and did as the documentary evidence proves).

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 27, 2003 04:12 PM

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He didn't need to, it was already in the process of happening. The Lend-Lease program, I believe it was called. But then, I'm not the one proposing the existence of a vast Communist conspiracy to get the USA into WWII.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 27, 2003 04:17 PM

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I'm backtracking to put into context the disingenuous tactics Jeffrey Kramer is using. First, he gave us an ahistorical argument:

" Assume that Harry Dexter White had precisely the motivation Patrick assumes; he wants us to ***threaten Japan with an oil embargo*** because he wants Japan to attack the U.S. and thus relieve the threat to the U.S.S.R. Problem: Harry isn't in the State Department. The only way that Harry can make his views prevail is by convincing other people that the ***threatened embargo*** is a good idea."

In a later post he repeats the error:

" The ultimatum you were talking about, Patrick -- you remember, the one the Communists made us issue? -- didn't threaten the use of American armed forces. It ***threatened an oil embargo***.

(My *** in all the above) That's three references to a THREATENED OIL EMBARGO, which was already a fact. When I pointed out that error to Jeffrey, and repeated my question about what the policy makers of the US really thought they were doing by first refusing to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister, and then issuing a ridiculous ultimatum that the country was in absolutely no position to back up, Jeffery indulged in a bit of creative editing. I.e. he dropped the first two sentences of this:

" Wrong. The embargo was already in place. Why do you think Konoye wanted so desperately to meet with FDR? So, I ask Jeffrey again, support your argument by pointing out just what we were in a position to do to the Japanese with our 200,000 man army."

And proceeded to disingenuously separate my third sentence from my fourth to allow him to change the subject:

-------quote--------
"The embargo was already in place. Why do you think Konoye wanted so desperately to meet with FDR?"

To come to an agreement which would result in a lifting of the embargo. I thought that was your whole argument: we set terms so strict for ending the embargo that Pearl Harbor was a result, and we would never have set such strict terms if the Communists had not manipulated us into doing so for their own reasons. And the obvious counter-argument is: we set those strict terms because we thought they served American principles and interests, and the fact (if it is a fact) that it also served Russian interests is coincidence, not causality.

"So, I ask Jeffrey again, support your argument by pointing out just what we were in a position to do to the Japanese with our 200,000 man army."

So, I ask of Patrick: support your argument by describing the different senses of the word 'nature' employed by King Lear, Gloucester, and Edmund the Bastard.
---------endquote---------

So now we know that Jeffrey is an intellectually dishonest man who, rather than concede he made an error, will try to manipulate the context of an exchange to make it appear something other than it was. And try to laugh it off with a patronizing and pedantic joke.

But, I'm a veteran. I've seen this kind of dishonesty many, many times. And what I do is repeat the question until I either get a straight answer, or the perp slinks off with his tail between his legs. So, Jeffrey, tell us all, what was the United States thinking in provoking the Japanese in this way, if not to invite them to attack us?

And, since that was the obvious conclusion to draw, as indeed, Ambassador Joseph Grew warned, wasn't it TREASONOUS to sacrifice thousands of American lives with a SECRET ULTIMATUM after SECRETLY refusing to talk with the Japanese about our prior embargo? I mean since it has now been conceded that we had absolutely no military force capable of preventing a Japanese attack.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 27, 2003 04:57 PM

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"...the China Lobby were open, above board, extensive and relentless in their drive to support China by any means necessary against Japan."

And the "China Hands" who controlled State Dept policy, were secretive, devious, "extensive and relentless in their drive to support" Mao "by any means necessary against" Chiang.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 27, 2003 05:02 PM

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"I mean since it has now been conceded that we had absolutely no military force capable of preventing a Japanese attack."

That was not conceded at the time. The RN and USN had a deep and abiding contempt for Japanese military prowess that - in the USN's case at least - proved surprisingly durable in the face of combat experience to the contrary. The Western powers were quite confident that they could handle Japan. They were wrong, but they were confident.

Patrick, you seem to have a real problem accepting that there were numerous geoplotical reasons for the historical US policy against the Axis powers.

US/Japanese friction did not arise immaculately in the 1930s. Or the 1920s. Many many personages on both sides saw a looming Great Pacific War between American and Japan as far back as the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 27, 2003 05:25 PM

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"And the "China Hands" who controlled State Dept policy, were secretive, devious, "extensive and relentless in their drive to support" Mao "by any means necessary against" Chiang."

OK, I'll bite: What the hell does this have to do with the clash of interests that impelled Japan and the USA into war? You seem to have a strong resistance to the notion that the USA and the Japanese Empire were going to shoot it out with each other no matter what the Communists did or did not want.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 27, 2003 05:36 PM

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Patrick has just finished a long production with himself in the role of the dogged crusader after truth and me as the cowering perjurer. It is, of course, a fantasy. I don't know if I'm the only spectator, but just in case I'm not, here's a more realistic (but still, I'm afraid, tedious) version of the same story.

Patrick began by referring to "ultimatums" (plural) given "after Germany invaded the Soviet Union" in June. I took that to mean the series of threats and demands we made on the Japanese, particularly the threat to embargo oil and the demand to leave China. I was also under the impression that oil itself was *not* embargoed immediately in July. I may well be wrong about that, and I certainly pretend to no expertise, but at least one hasty Google hit -- http://www.pbrla.com/war_120401b.html -- states as a fact that oil shipments didn't stop until September.

So I talked about the "threat" of an oil embargo, because what else is an "ultimatum" (Patrick's term)? An ultimatum is a threat to take action, and we never threatened military action: only economic action. Of course I could have been more precise (as, equally, Patrick could have), but I didn't see what possible difference the distinction could make to the issue in dispute.

Now if Patrick had honestly thought this was an important distinction, he would have clarified it the moment it came up, i.e. the *first* time I referred to the "threatened" embargo. He could have said "No, I'm referring to the specific series of demands made in late November, after the oil embargo was in place." Needless to say, he did not do so. He didn't do it the second time either. Instead, he asked an apparently nonsensical question about why were making demands which our army couldn't enforce: nonsensical, because the stick we were using against the Japanese wasn't military, it was economic, and didn't need an army to enforce it. That led to the following exchange:

JK: "The ultimatum you were talking about... didn't threaten the use of American armed forces. It threatened an oil embargo. "
PS: "Wrong. The embargo was already in place. Why do you think Konoye wanted so desperately to meet with FDR?"

When I replied to that ("To come to an agreement which would result in a lifting of the embargo"), I did not cite Patrick's "Wrong. The embargo was already in place." Patrick apparently sees this omission as proof that I was dishonest in not conceding my error about when the embargo began. The actual reason I didn't cite it was because I thought it was just an irrelevant "gotcha," and I didn't feel like getting into it. I'm wrong about the sequence of events? Fine, I'm wrong.

It doesn't matter in this case, because the question at issue was "can only Communist influence account for our 'ultimatums' towards Japan?" Patrick now claims that I was deviously (until caught by him) paraphrasing that question to read "can only Communist influence account for our threatening TO IMPOSE an oil embargo on Japan," when the REAL question was radically different: namely "can only Communist influence account for our threatening NOT TO REMOVE an oil embargo on Japan?"

Does anybody besides Patrick really believe that these are, in fact, substantially different questions? Because that's all the difference amounts to. If we ever "threatened" anything stronger than economic sanctions, or the continuation of economic sanctions, I'm unaware of it and Patrick certainly hasn't pointed it out.

So I didn't bother first quoting Patrick's cry of "Wrong" and replying "So you're talking about the time after the oil embargo was imposed. Why didn't you say so? But I believe the Konoye request actually did come before we stopped oil shipments, and here's a URL which concurs..." because I wanted to save verbiage and keep to the point. Obviously a miscalculation on my part, at least in terms of saving verbiage.

Again, I don't care to let accusations of dishonesty go unanswered, but I also don't much care for the prospect of taking part in a never-ending back and forth on this kind of nonsense, so I think the best compromise is to say: this will be my last word on the subject, unless somebody besides Patrick cares to say they agree with him.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 27, 2003 10:16 PM

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" US/Japanese friction did not arise immaculately in the 1930s. Or the 1920s. Many many personages on both sides saw a looming Great Pacific War between American and Japan as far back as the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905."

Yes, that's why I brought up the Russian-Japanese war in the first place. Now you have the problem of explaining, if this friction was so well established, just what happened in July of 1941 that suddenly required an oil embargo of Japan. They'd been on the mainland since, I believe 1933. The U.S. sold them oil, and other raw materials, then. We continued to sell to them after 1937 when they invaded China proper. We sold to them when they concluded a treaty with Germany.

What happened that brought about the dramatic turn of policy in the summer of 1941?

" 'And the "China Hands" who controlled State Dept policy, were secretive, devious, "extensive and relentless in their drive to support" Mao "by any means necessary against" Chiang.'

" OK, I'll bite: What the hell does this have to do with the clash of interests that impelled Japan and the USA into war? "

You tell me. You are the one who brought it up, don't you recognize the paraphrase of your own words. BTW, you contention that "the China Lobby" held an "iron grip" on American policy, is a joke. That more clearly describes the State Dept's China Hands, Lattimore, Stewart Service, Paton Davies et al.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 28, 2003 10:07 AM

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Jeffrey Kramer's source is in error. The oil embargo was announced in late July and fully enforced in August. Interestingly some historians blame Dean Acheson and Morgenthau for rushing--contrary to Roosevelt's intentions--to cut off oil completely while FDR was out of Washington meeting with Churchill. That would be the same Morgenthau who so strongly relied on Harry Dexter White for guidance.

And did Jeffrey notice:

" ...an embargo of oil would certainly drive Japan to try to seize the Dutch East Indies and might even mean war with the United States."

But the heart of Jeffrey's latest (700 words and HE'S complaining of "verbiage"!) is yet more disingenuousness:

"...the question at issue was 'can only Communist influence account for our 'ultimatums' towards Japan?' Patrick now claims that I was deviously (until caught by him) paraphrasing that question to read 'can only Communist influence account for our threatening TO IMPOSE an oil embargo on Japan,' when the REAL question was radically different: namely 'can only Communist influence account for our threatening NOT TO REMOVE an oil embargo on Japan?' "

Notice the three uses of the word, "only" in the above. That was decidely not either of the questions I put to Jeffrey. The first has been conceded; we were in no position to provoke Japan as we did. The second was:

" Now will Jeffrey take a moment and ask himself what would be desirable for an agent of the Soviet Union...to effect?"

And I still don't have an answer.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 28, 2003 10:40 AM

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"Now you have the problem of explaining, if this friction was so well established, just what happened in July of 1941 that suddenly required an oil embargo of Japan."

That's easy. The Japanese occupation of French Indochina. A loaded gun pointed squarely at the Dutch East Indies, and the Dutch knew it. Note that the Dutch strenuously resisted an oil embargo to thery very profitable customer Japan until said occupation. Thanks for softball question.

"You tell me. You are the one who brought it up, don't you recognize the paraphrase of your own words. BTW, you contention that "the China Lobby" held an "iron grip" on American policy, is a joke. That more clearly describes the State Dept's China Hands, Lattimore, Stewart Service, Paton Davies et al."

I don't think it has a damn thing to do with it. You are the one arguing for Communist Perfidy as the cause of the Pacific war.

And the China Lobby was no joke. Not least bcause FDR was a damn-near charter member.

Why do you have this need to believe that the Reds were behind the Pacific War?

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 28, 2003 11:40 AM

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So Fieldmarshall Rogers thinks the conclusion of negotiations between Vichy France and Japan which led to establishment of military bases in Indochina was a bigger deal than Japan's invasion of China in 1937? When we went along merrily selling oil to Japan.

Or, the bullying of the Dutch over Indonesian oil in 1940? We certainly knew about both prior to July 1941, since we had broken the Japanese diplomatic code. Yet no oil embargo while Germany and Russia were allies, but about a month after Hitler breaks with Stalin....

And, if an oil embargo would supposedly have had the desired effect of curbing Japanese aggression, why not BEFORE the Vichy and Japanese agreements were concluded. An ounce of prevention being worth a pound or cure.

" And the China Lobby was no joke. Not least bcause FDR was a damn-near charter member.

" Why do you have this need to believe that the Reds were behind the Pacific War?'

The China Lobby was no "iron grip" on American policy, which was your point I believe. But "why do you have this need to believe that the Reds were [not]behind the Pacific War", given the evidence that Red agents in the U.S. government did promote it? For instance:

http://www.nd.edu/~ndmag/sp2003/wonder.html

" Japanese society turned more and more militaristic and nationalistic, culminating in an invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and brutal incursions into other parts of China in 1937.

" Franklin Roosevelt's administration responded in 1940 by placing a scrap metal embargo against Japan followed by a supposed limited oil embargo a year later. Strong evidence suggests that Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson single-handedly implemented a de facto total oil embargo while President Roosevelt was out of the country. And by the time Roosevelt found out, it was too late to reverse the action without losing credibility. "

That would be the Dean Acheson who would have had Alger Hiss and Lauchlin Currie helping him, and who couldn't have accomplished it without the assistance of the Treasury Dept where Harry Dexter White held sway over Sec'y Morgenthau.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 28, 2003 05:08 PM

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Last call, then (for me, at least): anybody else, besides Patrick, who thinks Patrick has raised any valid, unanswered questions?

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 28, 2003 06:09 PM

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"So Fieldmarshall Rogers thinks the conclusion of negotiations between Vichy France and Japan which led to establishment of military bases in Indochina was a bigger deal than Japan's invasion of China in 1937? When we went along merrily selling oil to Japan."

As did FDR, the Dutch and Churchill, apparently.

"And, if an oil embargo would supposedly have had the desired effect of curbing Japanese aggression, why not BEFORE the Vichy and Japanese agreements were concluded. An ounce of prevention being worth a pound or cure."

Lag time. Democracies react very slowly to foreign events unless bombs are actually falling on their territory.

"The China Lobby was no "iron grip" on American policy, which was your point I believe.

Like hell they didn't. So far as China was concerned, they very much led the US Government around by the nose. That is why Acheson was able to get away with his measures against Japan, against the very loud opposition from the commercial interests making money had over fist selling scarap iron and petroleum to said Japanese.

"But "why do you have this need to believe that the Reds were [not]behind the Pacific War", given the evidence that Red agents in the U.S. government did promote it?"

Because a Diversion of American war effort towards Japan away from Germany does not serve Stalin's interests one microscopic bit. German armies are rampaging through the Ukraine and Russia, German Armies are pounding at the gates of Moscow. Germany is the mortal threat.

Japan? So what? Suppose that by a miracle - and that's what it would take - the Imperial Japanese Army smashes the Red Army field forces in the Far East. Only one thing out there worth taking. Vladivostok. Yippee, the IJA just bought itself a ticket to Stalingrad in the Far East. Stalin was not worried about the Japanese because they could not threaten the USSR's strategic center of gravity.

Mother Russia's war would be won or lost against Germany, not Japan. What Japan does or does not do will not affect that struggle. Even after the diversion of the siberian divisions after Sorge's intelligence windfall, there were still twenty-odd divisions in the Red Army field force. That does not count border guards, fortress troops and the garrisoon of Vladivostok. The IJA couldn't handle them, Nomonhan and Khalkhin Ghol settled that pretty conclusively.

And if, by the aforesaid miracle, the Japanese do take Vladivostok and Siberia, they will be even more overexteded than they were historicly and the Red Army counterattack that took Manchuria in (our) 1945 will fall upon them with flaming swords.

"But "why do you have this need to believe that the Reds were [not]behind the Pacific War", given the evidence that Red agents in the U.S. government did promote it?"

Because it gains Stalin nothing to have the USA in a war with Japan in 1941. The optimum Communist strategy would be to have the USA's full might devoted to Europe. No war with Japan means the Western Allies invade France in 1943.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 29, 2003 06:38 AM

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Jeffrey,

I agree the discussion seems pretty pointless.

Parick seems unable to grasp the essential point that in 1941, from the USSR's point of view Japan's actions simply don't matter. If the German onslaught collapses the USSR, any Japanese "miracle of Vladivostok" is irrelevant. If the USSR survives then the Red Army will pull Japan's dagger out of Russia's back and plunge it into the Kwangtung Army's heart months ahead of the historical schedule.

Patrick, You have displayed a woeful lack of knowledge concerning the Pacific Theater of Operations. I recommend Costello's "The Pacific War" and "Days of Infamy", Spector's "Eagle against the Sun", Toland's "The Rising Sun". The Chapter concerning Japan in WWII of Daniel Yergins's "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power" is a must-read. The Time-Life WWII series is marvellously illustrated and a fun read.That should aget you started.

"Wake: The Story of a Battle", and Wake: Alamo in the Pacific" will enlighten you on the true relative capabilities of Japanese and US troops when the Americans weren't lead by Macarthur. If only Wainwright had been in charge in the Phillipines from the beginning.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 29, 2003 06:57 AM

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Steven Rogers has now moved his position from:

"...from the communist point of vew, the best course of action is to keep the USA out of the war. "

To: " The optimum Communist strategy would be to have the USA's full might devoted to Europe. No war with Japan means the Western Allies invade France in 1943."

Putting aside the shift in his grounds, just how would Harry Dexter White and his comrades have accomplished this? America didn't come to the aid of beleaguered Britain when they were the only country fighting Germany in 1940, why would they in 1941 when Britain had an ally in the Soviet Union?

The only way I can see to get America into the war was to have someone attack them. The only opportunity open to Stalin (and Churchill too) was Russia's historical enemy, Japan.

And I point out that both Jeffrey and Steven are reduced to Appeals to Authority, one to fellow commenters the other to Time_Life Books.

Posted by: Patrick r. Sullivan on July 29, 2003 09:21 AM

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One strategy base on hindsight, one viewed through the lens of the time, both, in my view, arguably better than the historical outcome. You asked me for one strategy better than that which you say was followed, I give you two. Pay your money, take your choice. As you and I are the only contributees to this thread remaining, I will gift you with the last word on this subject.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 29, 2003 10:23 AM

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And that last word I have posted here:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2003_archives/001885.html

Seems the Venona cables trump Time-Life books.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 30, 2003 07:27 AM

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In his errors a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.

Posted by: Dougherty Terence on December 10, 2003 06:02 AM

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Keep the good work.

Posted by: Harawitz Jodi Harawitz on December 20, 2003 04:07 PM

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I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.

Posted by: Deitz Ember on January 9, 2004 04:51 AM

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