Thanks to the just-released opus of Herbert Hoover chronicling FDR’s devious diplomacy before and during World War Two, we can now have little doubt that our nation was hooked to Stalin’s train by a deranged progressive.
The following is excerpted from an essay scheduled to appear in the online journal Praesidium this fall. Garibaldi and Jules Romains are discussed in portions of the paper not reproduced here.
Out of the very years of fatuous intellectual rot (excuse me if I do not prefer the word “ferment”) which generate Romains’s novels comes a grim reality on our own side of the Atlantic: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My intention here is not to analyze FDR’s presidency, or even a significant part of it. I have neither the space nor the scholarly training to do so—though one must wonder if “scholarly training” these days consists of discovering how to peer right through the facts and arrive at a preconceived fiction. For certain unimpeachable facts surrounding Roosevelt’s handling of the international crises precedent to World War Two absolutely rule out a favorable interpretation, even if they do not mandate the most damning one. My sources are documents published by the Roosevelt Administration and FDR’s own speeches. These I have drawn from former president Herbert Hoover’s stunning work, Freedom Betrayed, whose appearance was forestalled by Hoover’s death in 1964 and thereafter—most suspiciously, in my opinion—delayed until only last year (2011). Hoover’s papers are not a soap box. On the contrary, they are an assemblage of columns, speeches, treaties, press releases, and communiqués so little highlighted by the former president’s editorial comments as to make rather dry reading in places.
Nothing more than a minimalist style, however, is required to indict the ghastly incompetence (and this is the charitable interpretation) of FDR’s “crisis management” as a global cataclysm loomed. Roosevelt cold-shouldered Japanese Prince Konoye’s persistent, feverish efforts to arrange a conference that might easily have headed off hostilities (for the pro-American faction in Japan was strong until FDR’s contempt caused it to lose face). The relevant exchanges are amply chronicled in the communiqués of the American ambassador and other members of our diplomatic corps (cc. 38-39). Though Hoover leaves us to conclude that callous disregard for world peace and rampant stupidity may have been the “innocent” origin of this diplomatic debacle, the numbers add up more quickly and precisely if we infer, instead, that FDR wanted the United States at war with Hitler, come hell or high water. His lather of zeal for intervention was scarcely older, however, than the Führer’s shredding of his pact with the Soviets (ch. 33). Ignoring sound military advice that this latest Nazi invasion had created a very promising balance of destructive energies—i.e., that the West (particularly Britain) could now play a waiting game as the two authoritarian giants pulverized one another (ch. 34)—FDR instead saw a sudden and urgent need to defend “democracy” (including communist “people’s republics”) from fascist dictatorship. Goading Japan into an act of war proved a winning strategy.
Yet perhaps the most patent, least redeemable instance of this administration’s Soviet water-carrying was the Tehran Conference (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1943). In chapter 53, Hoover produces FDR’s mawkishly sanctimonious announcement—styled “The Declaration of the Three Powers”—of the conference’s intellectual fruit. To be exact, the publication’s language is not attributed to any single source; but Stalin was utterly and proudly innocent of any skill in English, and Churchill was far too fine an orator (and too frustrated a third party) to have cooked up this progressivist Mulligan stew:
We—the president of the United States, The Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the Premier of the Soviet Union, have met these four days past in this, the capital of our ally, Iran, and have shaped and confirmed our common policy.
We express our determination that our nations shall work together in war and in the peace that will follow.
As to war—Our military staffs have joined in our round table discussions, and we have concerted our plans for the destruction of the German forces. We have reached complete agreement as to the scope and timing of the operations which will be undertaken from the East, West, and South.
The common understanding which we have here reached guarantees that victory will be ours.
As to peace—we are sure that our concord will make it an enduring peace. We recognize fully the supreme responsibility resting upon us and all the United Nations, to make peace which will command the good will of the overwhelming mass of the peoples of the world, and banish the scourge and terror of war for many generations.
With our diplomatic advisers we have surveyed the problems of the future. We shall seek the cooperation and the active participation of all nations, large and small, whose peoples in heart and mind are dedicated, as are our own peoples, to the elimination of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance. We will welcome them, as they may choose to come, into a world family of democratic nations.
No power on earth can prevent our destroying the German armies by land, their U-boats by sea, and their war plants [sic] from the air.
Our attack will be relentless and increasing.
Emerging from these friendly conferences we look with confidence to the day when all peoples of the world may live free lives, untouched by tyranny, and according to their varying desires and their own consciences.
We came here with hope and determination. We leave here, friends in fact, in spirit and in purpose.
Signed at Tehran, December 1, 1943.
Does any more really need to be said about the motives guiding FDR’s involvement in World War Two? This insipid document is a veritable inventory of progressive claptrap. First and foremost, all the evil that besets the world has been thrust upon Hitler and the fascists. Their utter annihilation is a sacred duty; and once accomplished, it will open the gate to a golden age for many generations—a time when large nations and small will enjoy uninterrupted peace. The transference of responsibility for all human malice and wrongdoing to a unique source is complete. One must add, by the way, that Churchill’s subscription to so childish a view, far from being coerced, had been vigorous from the start. Churchill’s loathing of Germany as the universe’s Ahriman indeed probably rooted in the previous war. The pursuit of that subject would draw us far off course, for Winston Churchill’s name can hardly be enrolled among the previous century’s progressives, or even among their well-wishers. Yet his limitless detestation of “Herr Hitler” nonetheless carried the progressive trademark of concentrating all energy upon a single supremely wicked adversary. “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favorable reference to the Devil,” he once quipped in the House of Commons (doubtless to no one’s surprise). In his maniacal crusade against his own terrestrial devil, he did in fact make common cause with forces even more repressive than Nazism—and with butchers whose hands were far bloodier than Hitler’s. Insofar as he was no proselyte to the progressive faith, Churchill may well have been the most benighted celebrant of all in this danse macabre upon the corpse of Western civilization.
One more side-light: Roosevelt had proclaimed mere months earlier—in January, 1943, after the Casablanca Conference—that the Allies were seeking the unconditional surrender of their adversaries. Military analysts estimated shortly after the war that this incredibly careless utterance drew out and intensified the conflict’s mutual slaughter by about two years; for the Germans and the Japanese, now convinced that they faced complete extermination, had no reason to seek an armistice (ch. 46). Were FDR’s words truly careless? He himself explained them later as having rolled thoughtlessly off his tongue—and his account is about as bald a confession of sheer idiocy as one is ever likely to obtain from any politician (viz., “… the thought popped into my mind that they had called Grant ‘Old Unconditional Surrender’, and the next thing I knew I had said it” [ch. 46]). Yet he did nothing thereafter to “walk back” the phrase, as we say today. Is it not more credible that Roosevelt’s Manichaean zeal to root out all evil forever had taken full possession of his loose lips at a critical moment? And is it not only too clear, from the “Declaration of the Three Powers”, that he was wedded heart and soul to this project of utter eradication?
“With our diplomatic advisers we have surveyed the problems of the future”: this sentence is also highly revealing. The progressive places elaborate confidence in specialist advisors—people narrowly trained in complex areas of study whose verdict is therefore immeasurably superior to the rank-and-file’s. Though the “Declaration” voices a ringing commitment to democracy and freedom that would rival anything in Garibaldi’s history/melodrama, it also informs us bluntly—without any hint of irony or self-consciousness—that specialists have been entrusted with preparing for the liberated people of the earth their proper path. These wizards “survey the problems of the future” like Roman augurs perched on a high hill who watch for eagles sent from the gods. Unlike ordinary mortals of our puny stamp, they can see an event before it happens. Obviously, we need to do as they say—and as the emperors who employ them say.
Roosevelt’s progressive druids foresee a “day when all peoples of the world may live free lives, untouched by tyranny, and according to their varying desires and their own consciences.” With an imminent utopia of such delight, who needs heaven? Though no epoch of human history (or pre-history, insofar as we can tell from broken bones and arrow heads) has ever known perfect peace, its arrival is tomorrow—or the next day, at the latest. The free denizens of this Elysium will, without a particle of coercion (or without many particles… at what point does coercion become tyranny?), pursue their “various” desires. The extreme variation in human desires, of course, has always been a source of friction, both between and within individuals: but no longer. Two men will not so much as fight over the same woman. For this new species will be ruled by conscience—each by his own conscience, but every conscience (apparently… presumably) obeying the same universal law. Actually, nothing prevented men and women from living by the laws of conscience in 1943, nor did so in 1743 or at any point in human history. From Socrates to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, men of will have found a way to do their higher duty, though they suffered or even died for it. FDR must mean that these blessed ones of the future can obey their conscience without ever having to endure discomfort for it. Oh, happy day! And all we have to do is exterminate Nazism….
To ensure that “small nations” would also partake of such bliss, Roosevelt had been toying with the idea of a post-war body of enforcers (for, as a practical consideration, the progressive eventually recognizes that people en masse have to be consigned a conscience—by expert engineers—so that deficient models may be phased out). This unborn brain-child was not precisely the United Nations. In FDR’s fevered brain, at any rate, it would consist of the Big Three plus one: i.e., the US, the USSR, Great Britain (no longer very great, for Roosevelt was determined to see her empire dismantled), and… China (ch. 49). Which China? The People’s Republic of China did not yet exist, but Roosevelt and his entourage had long manifested their distaste for and contempt of Chiang Kai-shek, by means up to and including the outright breaking of promises (cf. ch. 52). Stalin insisted that Mao be granted an equal role in a unified Chinese resistance, and FDR’s emissaries constantly pressured Chiang to accept this volatile arrangement—an obvious back door to communist ascendancy (ch. 47).
The nannies of tomorrow’s world, in short, were to be two communist juggernauts, an America transformed by Roosevelt into a socialist dynamo, and a tag-along signator whose erosion was rapidly being effected by the winds and rains of history. (Hoover remarks in chapter 49, by the way, that the notes to a mysterious discussion about this Big Brother police force during the Moscow Conference of 1943 strangely disappeared, leaving only clerical hearsay. The loss of these documents is treated much more fully in chapter 51, where the anomalies brought to light are quite striking. The Western participants in the discussion plainly did not want its contents broadcast to their constituencies back home—either in 1943 or, apparently, for many decades later.)
Before ink was ever spilled on this folderol, Roosevelt and Churchill had already sold out the “small nations” cringing around the USSR’s skirts to Stalin. Hoover writes with uncommon frankness at the beginning of chapter 56 (“The Two Great Commitments at Tehran Which Destroyed Freedom in Fifteen Nations”):
I have delayed the narrative of the two vital commitments at Tehran until less important matters have been dealt with. These two commitments or understandings between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin were the greatest blows to freedom in this century.
They were not explicit, signed documents. They are only slightly indicated in the published Cairo-Tehran papers. They are overwhelmingly proved by subsequent statements of Roosevelt, Hull, and Churchill. They are confirmed by Stalin’s immediate activities following these commitments.
The first of these understandings or commitments was the Soviet Union should be allowed to annex, either wholly or in part, seven peoples which had been under Russian rule prior to the First World War and had been freed as a result of that war and so agreed by Russia.
The second of these commitments was an agreement that Communist Russia should have a periphery of “friendly border states” which in reality meant that these states were condemned to have Communist domination.
Thus, by acquiescence or by secret understandings or commitments, fifteen nations were engulfed in Communism and the independent life and freedom they had enjoyed were snuffed out.
Roosevelt was perfectly aware that this sell-out would infuriate American voters, especially the many millions of Polish descent. Hence his coyness about the episode: not only was no “declaration” published in faux-1776 bluster for mass consumption, but notes were suppressed and questions evaded. FDR maintained to the end that no agreement had taken place on the basis that no signed document was ever produced (the Clintonian “definition of ‘is’” defense). Three weeks after the Tehran summit, on Christmas Eve, he warbled over the radio of his talks with Stalin, patronizing those who had expressed misgivings:
… we were concerned with basic principles—principles which involve the security and the welfare and the standard of living of human beings in countries large and small.
To use an American and somewhat ungrammatical colloquialism, I may say that “I got along fine” with Marshal Stalin…. I believe that we are going to get along very well with him, and the Russian people—very well indeed….
… The rights of every nation, large or small, must be respected and guarded as jealously as are the rights of every individual within our own republic.
The doctrine that the strong shall dominate the weak is the doctrine of our enemies—and we reject it…. (ch. 57)
Within three months of this address, Stalin was already moving in on “small nations” like Finland and the Baltic states, executing political adversaries by the thousand and deporting families to Siberia by the tens of thousands (ch. 58).
Hoover observes the following (let us all note well who have celebrated Churchill’s virility while denigrating Chamberlain’s):
… It may be recalled that when Stalin, in 1939, had offered his alliance to the highest bidder, the price was approval of his annexation of these [Baltic] states. Prime Minister Chamberlain refused the price on moral grounds. Mr. Churchill, then a member of the House of Commons, had urged the acceptance of the Soviet Price. Apparently Mr. Churchill was little interested in the freedom of these states. (ch. 58)
On the one occasion in Tehran when this issue surfaced, an interpreter’s mistranslation was the apparent cause (for even Churchill would not dare to bring up the fate of the Baltic republics before his sullen ally). Stalin fired back that the nations in question had already chosen to ally themselves with the USSR after the war in a formal plebiscite. Remarks Hoover,
… We have been unable to find any record of such a free vote. However, Stalin’s statement sealed any hope of freedom for these [Baltic] states if and when Hitler was defeated. There was no recorded protest by Roosevelt or Churchill to Stalin’s pronouncement. After the German retreat, Stalin annexed these states to the Soviet Union. (ch. 56)
Though FDR persisted in denying that Poland and other buffer states had been ceded to the USSR in Tehran, Churchill seems to have been afflicted by no such squeamishness. Before the end of the new year’s February (1944), he admitted that a verbal agreement had indeed been reached—and offered no apologies. To the assembled House of Commons, he declared,
… Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West [but Hitler does not represent “the West”, and the nations being surrendered to Stalin are in fact mostly fighting against Hitler at this moment!], and we are going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations…. I cannot feel that the Russian demand for a reassurance about her Western frontiers goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable and just. (ch. 57)
This is a shocking rationalization to have issued from England’s great “bulldog of freedom”. Most of the states along Russia’s western border whose fate sat in the balance had resisted Hitler vigorously, if briefly, before being overrun. Now they were to be handed to a yet more ruthless autocrat as if the Nazi invasion from their point of the compass justified their enslavement. Churchill’s loathing of Hitler must have run very deep, indeed—as deep as the pit of hell—to have permitted him such latitude in defining the “reasonable” and the “just”.
In the wake of the prime minister’s rhetorical indiscretions, FDR at last tacitly (not formally) conceded that he and Churchill had come to an understanding with Stalin about the buffer states. An article by Forrest Davies in The Saturday Evening Post (appearing in two parts: May 13 and May 20, 1944) was actually submitted to the President for screening, and was returned with hand-written corrections. FDR himself inserted the word “appeasement” to refer to his handling of Stalin in Tehran (ch. 58). The sacrifice of fifteen Baltic and Central European states, that is, was intended to appease Stalin’s lust for territory in post-war Europe. Again, one is struck by the irony of Neville Chamberlain’s having been excoriated by every subsequent generation of historians for adopting this policy—and this very word—with respect to Hitler’s aggression, while of FDR’s connivance at a vastly greater and more durable program of servitude, scarcely a line has ever been written in protest.
“Progress”—again and always—is the explanation. Hitler wasn’t making any: Stalin was. And in precisely what direction, one may well ask, was the latter outdistancing the former? In the eradication of the human race from the face of the earth? No, no: in the breaking of eggs to make an omelet. Hitler promoted nationalist feelings, as did all fascists, and at least pretended in so doing to recover a glorious past. Stalin and Mao did all within their power (of which they wielded a diabolical amount) to stamp out every last trace of ethnic or cultural conditioning which might mitigate one’s devotion to the class struggle; and in their purges—naturally—perished much literature and art. Hitler elevated Wagner, and Mussolini celebrated D’Aunnunzio; Stalin’s creatures reprimanded Prokofiev for displaying Western tendencies, and Mao executed a generation of scholars. Memories, you see, get in the way of the future. A program of vast cultural amnesia is the best thing for such distractions—or perhaps second best, surpassed only by a rewriting of the past as a catalogue of villainies in order to legitimize the present’s atrocious reprisals.
Roosevelt had come aboard this ship of fools early on. His administration had been replete from the start with members of the Communist Party (see cc. 4-5). His exploitation of the Great Depression to overhaul a constitutional republic into a highly centralized welfare state, far from being swept under the rug by historians, has become the stuff of legendary swashbuckle and derring-do (represented, however, as having ended the Depression rather than protracted it). Why should we be surprised—why should we resist the obvious conclusion—that the same man considered Stalin and Mao to be ideological allies? FDR’s irrepressible drive to enter World War Two—which led him to numerous public lies, unconstitutional pacts, and no end of manipulative foreign diplomacy—reflected a hunger for a planetary Marxist utopia. Unlike Churchill, he had no island-realm to defend. His administration’s claims that America must be the next domino to fall to Nazi imperialism (ch. 29) were derided by every impartial military mind, and became patently absurd once Hitler turned his might toward Russia (at which point, the alarm was merely raised more loudly). Roosevelt’s revulsion at the British Empire’s continued survival around the globe found voice in one public insinuation after another, finally eliciting from Churchill the growl, “I did not become the King’s first Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire” (ch. 48—and cf. ch. 50). There was certainly no humanitarian motive at work to save Europe’s Jews from death camps, for Hitler inaugurated his Final Solution only well after the US had entered the war (and perhaps, in some measure, because of that entry: this is my proposition, not Hoover’s).
Were FDR not ideologically committed to promoting Stalin’s global agenda, we should have to conclude that the man was a complete idiot in the execution of his high duties. If he were not an incompetent imbecile, then he well knew what he was doing—for instance, in embracing the Normandy invasion for which Stalin clamored rather than Churchill’s Balkan option (ch. 52), designed both to spare Allied lives and to keep Eastern Europe out of Soviet clutches after the war. In this and other instances, Franklin Roosevelt’s decisions on behalf of Stalin cost our nation thousands of young men. They were eggs that had to be broken.
Here I reach my final observation about the progressive mentality. It is not youthful idealism at play. It is not naïve romanticism occasionally inspiring us with its daydreams. It is not the soul that animates an otherwise lifeless, business-as-usual body politic. It is not the “caring” or “compassion” that saves our dog-eat-dog capitalist system ultimately from devouring itself. It is most certainly not the projection of Christianity into a post-Newtonian, post-Darwinist world where men walk on water only by making centrally engineered, collective sacrifices.
Progressivism is, rather, a lethal toxin of the spirit. It fatally corrupts the individual’s moral balance; and, should that individual acquire power over others, it brutally subjugates them to mad self-indulgence disguised (to the autocrat) as a vision. It suppresses God as the only possible alpha and omega of genuine moral sentiments—since, without this metaphysical referent, “the good” can only be a dully statistical reckoning of the greatest material comfort for the greatest number (utilitarianism) or the arcane rites of a charismatic prophet (gnosticism). In the former case, the “experts” in lab coats assigned to determine how best to construct a human ant farm rule upon who lives and dies; in the latter, The Chosen One—the Führer, the Duce, the Mahdi (for fascists are merely nationalistic progressives, as we have seen)—makes all the calls. In either case, and in all similar cases, human arrogance supplants the mystery of divine will that circulates more or less vaguely through ordinary feelings: an inspiration variously denominated “common decency”, “good sense”, “conscience”, and so forth. Once this arrogance has overcome its initial shock at being allowed to run wild in pastures formerly well fenced, it knows no bounds. The dream becomes life, and life becomes a dream. Whereas knifing a man to death had once seemed a horror, now ordering the mass execution of a village seems a kind of bungee-jump—an act of exquisite delight in its utter defiance of laws presumed to bind everything. If one such law can be swept aside whimsically, then so may all the others. The limitations to which human societies were always said to be condemned now appear mere superstitions—the taboos of a rude past, as silly as the fear of black cats.
Progressives have no functional equivalent of a promise. Promises are among those vulgar taboos that once impeded the human race. The transformative vision tells the prophet to veer right today, left tomorrow. His allegiance is to the New Jerusalem that he intends to construct, not to microscopic zoning laws obstructing his road. The reluctance to shed human blood… also a stupid taboo, though deeply inculcated into generations of timid souls. Avoiding the explosion of heavy obstacles in the way of the entire race’s progress preserves the lives today of a few hundreds, or thousands—or millions—at the expense of an incalculable progeny’s happiness tomorrow. And since the only real soul possessed by humanity is that collective variety expressed eternally in common ascent, the progressive understands that nothing less than the spiritual salvation of the species requires his exterminating the hordes of the backward-turning.
Righteousness is on his side. The justice of his cause is unarguable. Appeals to logical coherence, pledged words, common decency, and the like only seek to seduce him from his high mission. No zealot ever slew the enemies of his faith with a hope of heaven any higher than the progressive’s hope in his evolving State as he clears away social underbrush by torch and firing squad.
I believe that Roosevelt precipitated a war with Japan, declared to the world that his adversaries must be utterly vanquished, and elbowed away Churchill’s anemic (and far too tardy) objections to a post-war Soviet empire precisely because his heart and mind were consumed by the poison of progressivism. Neither the millions of lives that he damaged or destroyed among his countrymen nor the millions more that he condemned to Soviet slaughter or servitude—nor the tens of millions that he indirectly consigned to death by arranging the ascent of Mao—could shake him (or would have shaken him, if he had possessed sufficient imagination to conceive of them) from his allegiance to “progress”. A man’s hubris, once he thrusts himself upon the throne of God, has no natural limits, since by that point he has already exceeded the final limit acknowledged by a yet-healthy egotism. I believe that Roosevelt was deranged, in the sense that all fully committed progressives are deranged. There can be no happy outcomes for a state dominated by such lunacy.
Every epoch should have its own Dante to rewrite the Inferno. In my twentieth-century version, I should replace the infamous trio eternally masticated by the maestro’s Satan with Stalin, Mao, and… FDR. The two most prolific executioners (thanks to modern technology) in human history are obvious choices to replace the assassins of Julius Caesar. For the role of Judas, however, only someone who enabled those butchers by lying persistently to all the free peoples of the world—someone like our thirty-second president—could be said to qualify fully. Hitler, of course, would lie frozen in the wind generated by the wings of The Adversary (the true adversary—a cancer cell which no amount of Manichaean surgery can cut from our heart). Churchill, like Dante’s miserable Ugolino, would forever graze upon the Führer’s brain, drawn irreversibly into fusion with an infinitely loathsome creature by his own infinite loathing. Why the relative reprieve for Hitler—why spare him admission to the abominable trinity writhing above him? Because he was mad in a more clinical sense than his progressive opponents, and hence less responsible for his half-century of blighting planet Earth. The three over whom my Satan’s saliva dribbles made their choices with steady deliberation and with consistent adherence to their obscenely self-idolatrous, God-usurping objectives. May God have mercy on the souls of their victims, so numerous that only He can count them. To the souls of these ecstatic slaughter-boys and their panting pimp, mercy must be as much a stranger as to him who grinds them.
Concerning candidates for our new century’s Dark Trinity… we shall simply have to wait and see what power the naïve, the frivolous, and foolish choose to bestow upon the latest sorry round of men who would be king.
 I have already declined to offer myself as a professional historian—yet merely to question whether the Holocaust would have been as virulent without the Allied invasion of Europe hardly seems outrageous. Hitler got little enough help in rounding up Jews from allies like Italy and Denmark, while more easterly members of the Axis had found ransoming off their Jews to be a lucrative business. The opposite view appears far less reasonable: i.e., that a Hitler preoccupied with the Russian front would have produced yet another motive for the US to enter the war by inaugurating his campaign of genocide.