Obama Needs a History Lesson
- From: "Madelene Mangalorri" <MMangalorri@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 10:58:49 -0400
Obama Needs a History Lesson
By Jack Kelly
In his victory speech after the North Carolina primary, Sen. Barack Obama
said something that is all the more remarkable for how little it has been
In defending his stated intent to meet with America's enemies without
preconditions, Sen. Obama said: "I trust the American people to understand
that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to
our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did."
That he made this statement, and that it passed without comment by the
journalists covering his speech indicates either breathtaking ignorance of
history on the part of both, or deceit.
I assume the Roosevelt to whom Sen. Obama referred is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Our enemies in World War II were Nazi Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler;
fascist Italy, headed by Benito Mussolini, and militarist Japan, headed by
Hideki Tojo. FDR talked directly with none of them before the outbreak of
hostilities, and his policy once war began was unconditional surrender.
FDR died before victory was achieved, and was succeeded by Harry Truman.
Truman did not modify the policy of unconditional surrender. He ended that
war not with negotiation, but with the atomic bomb.
Harry Truman also was president when North Korea invaded South Korea in
June, 1950. President Truman's response was not to call up North Korean
dictator Kim Il Sung for a chat. It was to send troops.
Perhaps Sen. Obama is thinking of the meeting FDR and Churchill had with
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Tehran in December, 1943, and the meetings
Truman and Roosevelt had with Stalin at Yalta and Potsdam in February and
July, 1945. But Stalin was then a U.S. ally, though one of whom we should
have been more wary than FDR and Truman were. Few historians think the
agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam, which in effect consigned Eastern
Europe to slavery, are diplomatic models we ought to follow. Even fewer
Eastern Europeans think so.
When Stalin's designs became unmistakably clear, President Truman's response
wasn't to seek a summit meeting. He sent military aid to Greece, ordered the
Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, and sent troops to South Korea.
Sen. Obama is on both sounder and softer ground with regard to John F.
Kennedy. The new president held a summit meeting with Soviet leader Nikita
Khruschev in Vienna in June, 1961.
Elie Abel, who wrote a history of the Cuban missile crisis (The Missiles of
October), said the crisis had its genesis in that summit.
"There is reason to believe that Khrushchev took Kennedy's measure in June
1961 and decided this was a young man who would shrink from hard decisions,"
Mr. Abel wrote. "There is no evidence to support the belief that Khrushchev
ever questioned America's power. He questioned only the president's
readiness to use it. As he once told Robert Frost, he came to believe that
Americans are 'too liberal to fight.'"
That view was supported by New York Times columnist James Reston, who
traveled to Vienna with President Kennedy: "Khrushchev had studied the
events of the Bay of Pigs," Mr. Reston wrote. "He would have understood if
Kennedy had left Castro alone or destroyed him, but when Kennedy was rash
enough to strike at Cuba but not bold enough to finish the job, Khrushchev
decided he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be
intimidated and blackmailed."
It's worth noting that Kennedy then was vastly more experienced than Sen.
Obama is now. A combat veteran of World War II, Jack Kennedy served 14 years
in Congress before becoming president. Sen. Obama has no military and little
work experience, and has been in Congress for less than four years.
The closest historical analogue to Sen. Obama's expressed desire to meet
with no preconditions with anti-American dictators such as Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the trip British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
and French premier Eduoard Daladier took to Munich in September of 1938 to
negotiate "peace in our time" with Adolf Hitler. That didn't work out so
History is an elective few liberals choose to take these days, noted a
poster on the Web log "Hot Air." The lack of historical knowledge among
journalists is merely appalling. But in a presidential candidate it's
dangerous. As Sir Winston Churchill said:
"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
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