Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Harry Truman: he gave us hell

David Seaton's News Links
I'd like to direct your attention to this fine article by James Carroll, deconstructing the myth of Harry Truman.

Here Carroll gets to the heart of how the gap came to be between what most Americans think the United States is -- a free and benevolent democracy -- and what it really has become, a militarized empire with many of the characteristics of a totalitarian state, a fearful giant, which takes paranoia as the guiding faith and central doctrine of the nation.

Truman lives on: here we are, sixty years later, with Bush, returning to the tired cold war mechanisms like a dog to its vomit. Certainly the times we are living through today may well lead us to deconstruct Harry Truman's "shining" legacy. DS

James Carroll: Truman Doctrine, 60 years of faulty logic - The Boston Globe

Abstract: Sixty years ago Monday, Harry Truman went before a joint session of Congress to announce what became known as the Truman Doctrine. "At the present moment in world history, nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life." With that, an era of bipolarity was inaugurated, dividing the world between forces of good and evil. The speech amounted, as one of Truman's advisers characterized it, to a declaration of religious war. In the transcendent struggle between Moscow and Washington, "nonalignment" was not an option. Truman declared that the United States would actively support "free" people anywhere who were resisting either internal or external threats to that freedom. The "free world" was born, but so, eventually, were disastrous wars in Korea and Vietnam.(...) Bush's failures are prompting important shifts, both by his critics and advisers. But no one is asking basic questions about the assumptions on which U.S. policies have been based for 60 years. More than adjustments in tactics and strategy are needed. What must be criticized, and even dismantled, is nothing less than the national security state that Truman inaugurated in 1947. The habits of mind that defined American attitudes during the Cold War still provide consoling and profitable structures of meaning, even as dread of Communism has been replaced by fear of terrorism. Thus, Truman's "every nation must choose" became Bush's "You are with us or against us." America's political paranoia still projects its worst fears onto the enemy, paradoxically strengthening its most paranoid elements. The monstrous dynamic feeds itself. READ IT ALL


RLaing said...

So Eisenhower warns against the 'Military-Industrial-Complex', how it may acquire 'unwarrranted influence' and undermine democracy.

Then Truman hears the 'warning', and thinks...what a great idea. We have to get going on that right away!

I wonder if something similar hasn't happened with Orwell's novel 1984. Normal people read it and think 'how awful'. Political animals read it and start dreaming...Orwellian:

We interrupt this broadcast about the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction to bring you glad news, citizen. Our invincible armies are bringing democracy to Eastasia instead...

cs said...

I think Carroll misses the point. Truman had seen Hitler come and go, and was up against Uncle Joe, with his gulag, SMERSH, and history of purges and show trials.

Truman put the country onto a war time footing, and today the average American enjoys a standard of living far better than that of the average former Communist. The very problem is that when Communism collapsed, the institutions and pacts created to defeat Communism weren't dismantled.

RL: Truman preceded Eisenhower, so he can hardly have been reacting to Eisenhower's warning.

Rlaing said...

Fair enough, but my point really is that where one saw danger, the other saw opportunity.