Speaker – Derek Leebaert
The British Empire remained a superpower at least until 1957. But the re-
elected Eisenhower administration then proclaimed ‘a declaration of
independence’ from British authority. The years in between are freighted with
myths: Britain’s ‘withdrawal from the Mediterranean’; the influence of George
Kennan’s view of Britain within the U.S. government; and Britain and the
beginning of the war in Vietnam. Knowing what actually occurred is vital to
understanding questions of Britain and the United States in the postwar era,
in Middle East destabilization, in the history of the rise and decline of
superpowers—and, not least, Brexit.
Derek Leebaert’s books include Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American
Foreign Policy from Korea to Afghanistan (2010); To Dare and to Conquer:
Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations from Achilles to Al Qaeda
(2006); and The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Shapes Our
World (2002). He is a former Smithsonian Fellow; a founding editor of
International Security, and a founder of the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
He is a partner in the global management consulting firm MAP AG (Zurich).
I notice that Professor Weinberg has been following the news. So perhaps you can
fill us in on the national emergency. No. I’m reading a 19th
century Italian novel, but I can fill you in on the plague and the alarm.
OK. We have two guests this afternoon. Our principal speakers, Derek Liebert,
but we also have David Whately from U.T. Arlington. He is the author of the book
on Eisenhower, Churchill, Eden and the Cold War. And David, we’re very glad
that you could drive down from Arlington this morning to be with us this afternoon.
Derek Liebert has written several books
about the bureaucracies in Britain and the United States and
above all, on the problem of the Cold War. His
books include From Korea to Afghanistan,
Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations
and How America’s Cold War Victory Shapes Our World.
And the most recent book, America Confronts the British
Superpower. Derek, we’re very glad to have you with us, sir.
For your loss. It’s an honor to be invited
to talk at the preeminent center of British studies,
and what I propose to talk about over the next 40 minutes is
less history per say than teasing out as we
go along how this story pertains to today.
The last book that Professor Lewis referred to is titled Grand Improvisation.
America Confronts the British Superpower. Nineteen forty five to fifty seven.
And therein are explicit lessons for today, because unless
one understands this story and the context, it makes it pretty
hard to fully grasp America’s insularity that we’re seeing once
more in our retreat from alliance systems.
It makes it tricky as well to understand the British perspective
on European unity and federation or indeed events
in the Middle East. It also, unless
we take a closer look, it’s hard to understand the preeminent players
of those dozen years, say, after World War 2, starting
with Churchill, disliked as biographers always do. Churchill’s
return to power in October fifty one and his second time
at Downing Street until April 1955 just glosses over
what, say, one of his successors, Harold Macmillan, saw as the
most dramatic time of Churchill’s life and arguably the most articulate
with the most riveting of speeches. But biographers such as a recent thousand-page
biography would devote 30 pages to Churchill again as prime
minister. It also means that we’re unfamiliar
with some of the Titanic one time figures of American history
figures who, after World War Two, stood against the sky and are now completely
forgotten by Treasury Secretary John Westway Snyder, who is easily the
most powerful secretary of the Treasury in U.S. history, which I’ll refer to as
we proceed. My purpose also is
to correct many, many of the myths that surround
those dozen years after World War 2 and that keep on echoing through the decades
through today until they even get into the history textbooks to
further mislead notions about the Truman Doctrine of 1947
that are demonstrably incorrect, or about how America initially
got entangled in Vietnam in the early nineteen fifties.
Or, for instance, how the US abetted
what Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on New Year’s Eve nineteen
forty nine saw as a declaration of war by the British Empire against
Israel. How all of this has been lost and forgotten and is highly worth
revisiting for current purposes. Most of all, I want to debunk
one of the most vexing myths of the 20th century that
strong words shape affairs today. And this is the myth. It’s universally
believed that after World War Two, Britain was so dispirited,
worn down, financially weak that it didn’t have the gumption
and the spirit to maintain its global role, and that the U.S., as
the new superpower, arrived and assumed
various worldwide responsibilities. That’s quite, quite the contrary
of what happened has I will argue. Indeed, the
term superpower was coined in 1944 by a professor at Columbia
University and the British Empire. And Commonwealth was the archetypical
superpower, all the more so after World War Two ended. Of course,
the US had an atomic monopoly. Of course we had unsurpassed industrial waste.
Soviet Russia, for its part, was the greatest unitary land powered history with
the mightiest, mightiest army that ever existed. But by the definitions
of a superpower, which. Means global deployment, network of alliances,
ability to project power into every corner of the planet. A 10 tacular intelligence
apparatus worldwide. There was for a number of years after
World War Two. Only one superpower, the US, came rather late
into the game. If we look at nineteen forty five
as Churchill is prime minister, until that summer
he’s elected. He’s ousted from power ignominiously to
the surprise of many. And into office come the Labor
Party. Bully boys. These are tough guys. These are
men who had grown up in anything but a school of moderation,
whereas Churchill and FDR could talk with some sympathy about Stalin
and Stalinism. That wasn’t remotely the case with the tough guys of the British
Labor Party. And the story through nineteen forty six nineteen
forty seven is very much the most form of no formidable of British Foreign Secretary
Ernest Bevin, the son of a 40 year old washer woman. He never knew who his
father was. Rose to probably be the foremost foreign
secretary in British history about how Devon very
much stood up to Stalinism and as we’ll also see,
wrote a great deal of U.S. policy standing up during the Berlin blockade of 1948.
And not least, entering NATO. The British were
not bankrupt, as Max Hastings and other historians would argue.
In 1945 are in dire financial straits. But bankruptcy is a
unambiguous word. It doesn’t lend itself to
squishiness. The British were not bankrupt. They were in financial currency
exchange predicaments. The Americans
didn’t regard the British as bankrupt at all. We believed they were going to be quite the contender
in the post war world. Britain’s two great trading
rivals had been wiped off the map. Japan and Germany.
Britain was expected to recover fast, especially with the
help of a US loan, a one time loan as it was supposed to be,
and let it not be forgotten. The British had the commanding heights of the industries
of the future that would be Jet Aviation Lifesciences
and very quickly atomic civil civilian power.
They also had a sprawling empire, quarter
of the globe, 600 million people. The U.S.,
which traditionally has lived behind its ocean
moats and high tariffs, came very slowly to
an understanding that there was an Anglo-Saxon colossus on the planet
that hadn’t the slightest interest in stepping aside.
A one time loan for British recovery was made in December
nineteen forty five. It nearly didn’t get
ratified by or approved by Congress because of events in the Middle East and Palestine.
It was a near run thing. The British were then expected to get into gear real
fast and assume a role perhaps
as global peacekeepers, as partners. It all remained unclear.
Maybe FDR type decolonization was to be preferred.
What got into focus in nineteen forty seven, however, was Americans
becoming more and more fearful of Stalinism and the British in
early nineteen forty seven Buffalo Wing. The Americans ever more into
a global role. The British and nine
teen. Forty seven February March. The great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin announced
that Oh, we are going to leave Greece, which had been a longtime British
political military interest. They implied they would leave the eastern Mediterranean as well.
I would argue that the weight of evidence, the British had no such intention. Proof is that
they escalated during that time. The Americans, however, we got the bit
in our teeth. We appropriated massive amounts of money. The Truman Doctrine is a
blank check essentially to counter terrorism and terrorist activities anywhere
in the world and move relatively fast. We did it to
global political military engagements greatest by
end of forty seven were again in financial straits. The US helped bail them
out. Recovery was always believed was going to be right around the corner.
The inflection point, as they say in business, occurred in nineteen forty eight. That’s
where the Americans got truly, truly scared. Ten years
after Munich, the Czech coup of March
nineteen forty eight. When the last parliamentary
system in Eastern Europe was crushed by the Stalinists. And then, of course,
the Berlin blockade, it was at that point that U.S. ambivalence
toward the British Empire and Commonwealth and what they brought to the table ended pretty
deep. Quickly we realized that we wanted big
mediating bodies between ourselves and the rest of the messy world. Perhaps the British
Empire. Hopefully the UN. It’s hard to see
the US thrusting out for power, certainly at that
time. The British also
had enormous displays of political military might.
For example, the 1948 Olympics were held in
London, not in Baltimore as some had thought, or in MMOs on which was
another contender. But George the six had quietly used his influence to make
sure that they would be in London, as had been planned before World War 2. It was a
marvelous spectacle. It was done to impress the world that London was not a
bombed out city, the biggest in the world, but that it was a vibrant,
exciting center of the planet. The Berlin blockade certainly got
U.S. attention, especially when Churchill that summer compared it to Munich
diffidence in going into the world. One, we expected the British to do half of
that storied era left in the Berlin airlift. They weren’t supposed
to carry half the tonnage. And the Americans also held back from
any single military commitment on the continent. For example,
had the Red Army blasted to the west toward the channel,
the shortest way would have been to go through the British occupation zone
of western Germany. The American military was under explicit orders. If the Red Army does
that, just stand down. Don’t do anything. Only respond if American troops
are attacked. That policy didn’t change until Truman had been safely
elected. That November of forty eight. So time and time again, we see
the U.S. standing back, certainly in Europe. What was
underway in the Middle East was an unusual tale because
that is the one area that the US did get engaged in in
the future of Palestine. It was
done because of American homeland passions, guilt about
the Holocaust. The uncertainty of the British military commitment.
And Israel, of course, declared its independence in May 1948.
And the Truman administration was the first to recognize an independent
Israel, utterly contrary to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and
to Secretary of State Marshall. That was a cynical move by
Harry Truman, who had no especially strong feelings about Israel. That is
demonstrated by what happened fast after Truman was elected in 48.
The British, as well as the Americans, had had enough of Zionist terror
that is shown in September and Zionist terrorists what it was called at the time by all concerned.
That was shown in September 1948, when Foreign
Secretary Ernest Bevin and Secretary of State George Marshall stood on the tarmac
at Orly Airport as the body of the U.N. peace negotiator
Count folk. Bernadette was taken off of the C-47. They agreed that enough
was enough. In the Middle East, war was raging between the
Arabs and the Israelis. The Israelis had the best of it, which was not a surprise
to many of the Americans, such as Undersecretary of State
Bob Lovett, who had predicted an easy Israeli victory given the weight of Israeli
manpower and technology. The Israelis go storming into
Egypt. The Egyptians had a defense relationship with the British.
What I referred to previously on New Year’s Eve, 1948
that has essentially been lost in the archives is the British gave
an ultimatum to Ben-Gurion leave Egypt immediately
or the worst will fall significantly.
That was handed to Ben-Gurion under Truman’s signature by the American
ambassador in Israel because the British didn’t recognize Israel. And Ben-Gurion’s
response was this is a declaration of war from the British Empire.
And of course, Israel left Egypt within the first week of January.
Nineteen forty nine. This is not an historical curiosity
because this information with deliberately leaked by Dwight Eisenhower on February 16th,
give up Egyptian territory. So as you can see, the world is in this kaleidoscopic
mess. By nineteen forty nine. Whether it’s Europe, the origins of NATO,
the US is pushed, pushed, pushed by the new allies to commit manpower
to Europe. Utterly contrary to what Congress had
pledged over and over, Congress was told there’ll be no American troops remaining in
Western Europe. The US had minimal competence and its ground forces
that were there. About twelve tanks in the US army were
capable of combat in nineteen forty nine. Remember as well that the British
were the slowest to demobilize after World War 2. The Americans.
The Russians demobilized real fast. The British much, much slower.
And what the press reported was a million
British imperial troops worldwide and about a thousand garrisons. That wasn’t
too far off as would be proved.
The British, of course, were in their currency, squeezes over and over again. However, British productivity
had boomed far beyond anyone’s imagination. After World War Two.
And let’s not forget what was happening on the US scene. This is constantly forgotten
by historians. Americans lived under the terrible, terrible shadow
of the depression. The Americans were utterly convinced,
except for a very few economists, that that depression would come
roaring back in 1946. Why? Because 10 million youngish
men were being demobilized because of a supposedly crippling
one hundred and twenty eight percent of GDP national debt, and because of
the complete cut down in government demand. It was certain the depression was going to come back
and the Republicans got elected to sweep the Congress in November.
Forty six. And you can see every decision
in U.S. foreign policy significantly for about the next 10 years
was influenced by fear of the renewed depression. Right. Until full. Fifty
four. Fifty five. China, of course, to look at another
part of the world, was supposedly being swallowed by Stalin
and our ally, John Kai shek, not to be
the last. Corruption, incompetence. His forces
were caving fast, and it looked as if all
of Sino Soviet communist expansion was swallowing up
much of the globe. To add to the horrors of 1948
was what was truly expected to be the worst economic smash up
by far of the twentieth century. It was barely averted in 1949.
That was the one example in U.S. history where the State Department was functionally taken over by
the Department of the Treasury to work out that crisis, which was avoided by a whisker.
So China is falling or being lost to the Russian.
The Russians then, to America’s universal horror, come up with an atomic bomb
in August nineteen forty nine. The British are in another currency
squeeze hand Washington again, as in forty
seven around the Truman Doctrine starts panicking. What does this mean? What
might become of the British Empire? What does this mean for America’s role in
the world? What was launched on September 1st? Nineteen forty nine, ten years
to the day after Hitler invaded Poland was one of the most consequential of National
Security Council reports and studies that
I think has been undertaken ever. And the purpose
was to understand the future of the British Empire and how it pertained
to American interests. It was an enormously ambitious study.
Ten months were devoted to it starting September 1st. Forty nine. By the time it
ended in July 1950, America would be
at war. It was an attempt to audit the empire, to quantify what were British
capabilities around the world and how did that play into U.S. interests.
It required top level studies by the Department of Defense, by Central Intelligence,
with involvement for Treasury. And the studies were coordinated
on the National Security Council staff at the White House NSA. Seventy five
ultimately had an anodyne title, British military
commitments, British military capabilities. But this is why
it is significant. The conclusion was that the
British Empire and Commonwealth hadn’t retreated one whit since 1945.
Nor would it be likely to retreat or be weakened in the foreseeable
future. Through the 1950s. And if it did so, that would
be seriously compromised to the US geopolitical
position. Because Americans, for reasons financial, technological
and experiential, were unable to fill the role that the British Empire still
possessed as peacekeepers. So you hear that. And you’d say, well, what about
the British getting out of Palestine and 47
giving independence to what became India and Pakistan? How could anyone
look at a portrait of the world mid-century point and say the British Empire hadn’t
retreated and might be as strong as ever? It’s, by the way, that was both
presented by the British and understood by the Americans.
The British, for example, had not left India and Pakistan. Quite
the contrary. The Foreign Office Secretary BEVAN was explicit about this. The
empire was now stronger than ever in the subcontinent. Why? Because why did into
its global, financial, political and military alliance system now was the
largest democracy in the world. India and the world’s largest Muslim
nation, Pakistan. Therefore, this made
the global entity of the empire and Commonwealth all the stronger.
So one finds titans of the U.S. Senate, like Robert Taft of Ohio,
easily the most powerful man on Capitol Hill, saying the British
haven’t become weakened. They are reorganizing. They are decentralizing
the whole entity with its million men. It’s who knows what in
reserve. It’s global deployments is as strong as ever. And
as the world is crumbling, or so it’s seen losing China. Soon,
Soviet Russian aggression in Korea. The empire is needed. The US can
do it. That is the mid century perspective.
That is essentially the summary of National Security Council report.
Seventy five that Truman received just within weeks
of Stalin launching the Korean War. There has been some ambiguity
among scholars about Soviet culpability. The question is open and shut. Stalin
had been preparing and pushing the North Korean attack
on the South since March 1949 with
enormous numbers of tons of petroleum logistical equipment.
Moving across Russia to prepare the invasion of
June 25th, nineteen fifty. The Americans
then had a disastrous experience
in Korea. The original mission, of course, was to rescue South Korea
from communist Stalinist aggression. We
nearly were kicked off the peninsula, but General MacArthur was
able to then rout the North Koreans in September 1950. Again,
the Americans got the bit between their teeth. Indeed, encouraged by the British, as
has been forgotten, and we charged into North Korea right up to the Chinese
border. What followed, as you know, is
the worst defeat in American history, certainly the longest military retreat ever
in our history. Korea. To this end, can be seen as
our first of quite a few failed wars in a row. Five thousand
Americans were killed to accomplish the
original mission of rescuing South Korea. A twenty eight
thousand were killed in the failed invasion of North Korea. To
that end, by the time the Korean armistice occurred in
July, fifty three. It was a sad
defeat for the United States. And one of the rallying points was never
again, never again would America find itself in such a position
in the Middle East is in various
forms of turmoil, certainly in Iran. Iranian
nationalists, patriots, however, want to defy them at the time.
Nationalized the Anglo Iranian oil company.
The British got all set to invade in summer. Nineteen
fifty one to invade Iran. The fact that the Russians
still had a friendship treaty with Iran and it made it abundantly clear
that the British entered Iran, the Russians would then intervene themselves, didn’t seem to hold back
the Labor government one whit. Again, these are tough
guys who knew communism and had fought the communists nearly in the streets
in the 20s and 30s and defending their labor unions. Let’s not also
overlook some of the provocative attempts of some of the toughest of these labor bully boys like
Nye BEVAN, who was touting preemptive war against the Soviets.
He suggested a British preemptive attack and
forty seven and then again in forty eight, with or without the Americans. But
the Russians could not be allowed to become too strong. The empire had to respond.
So the empire, which according to today’s historians and supposedly left to the
eastern Mediterranean in forty seven, hadn’t even begun to flex its muscles.
It assembled a seventy thousand man invasion force to make short work of Iraq.
This got the Americans attention real, real fast. And
cables from the White House state and the Spanish, especially the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Stand down. Stand down. Prime Minister Clement Atlee of Britain had the sense
not to proceed, but by this time the Labor government was tired and weary.
And Churchill was circling in for the kill. And he was mocking
the Labor government for its kicked Spaniel diplomacy.
And he won. To no one’s surprise. In October
rough time. The notion of Churchill being a friend
of Franklin Roosevelt, or at least FDR being a friend of Churchill’s is fanciful.
Jon Meacham has written a book about the classic friendship of FDR and Churchill. There
was nothing remotely like that. Churchill was a romantic. He might have romanticized his ties
to FDR. Franklin Roosevelt did not have friends, male
male friends, anyway. And
Churchill returning to power was now under no constraint
to suck up to the Americans, as he had been compelled to do throughout World War Two.
There’s still so much about Churchill that hasn’t been understood. A lot of which is distilled into
his second time in power. Churchill was often
called in his own country a Yankee careerist because of course, he was half American
and he was a careerist. And when he came to power and the men
he brought to power had few doubts about
where the British Empire and Commonwealth stood in the world.
They realised, of course, its financial constraints.
They understood utterly its industrial advantages, especially in
jet aviation, which the Americans still had to license. They understood as
well that if the United States had any hope of ever attacking Russia
or counter Russia, it would have to be done off of British airfields because the B
thirty six bombers hadn’t been brought online yet.
Remember, we had atomic bombing airfields
in Britain since the Berlin blockade. In theory, we needed British permission
to attack the Soviet Union. Churchill began playing
hardball right away with the Americans. He implied that those bases
could be removed if he saw fit. He implied as well that if he got jerked around
too much by the Americans over Iran and over European Federation,
he might pull the British Commonwealth division out of Korea.
He spoke about the immense expenses that the British public was bearing
for the sake of defending American interests around the world. Malaya
specifically with its exports of tin and
rubber. The British position from the Labor government
to the Conservative government and foreign policy changed little.
The British argued tirelessly that the only
way to defend a colony of Malaya with its vital exports that were
needed not only for the health of the British economy, but for the European economy because of the British
went down, Europe with Western Europe was expected to go down. The only way Malaya could
be defended was along the Mekong and in Vietnam,
and the French couldn’t do it themselves. And the Americans have to become engaged, as
we did to write a book. As one prominent diplomatic
historian does about the origins of America’s war in Vietnam, embers of war,
and to neglect the role of the British, and especially that High Commissioner
Malcolm Macdonald in Southeast Asia. It’s like writing a book about
America’s war in the Pacific against Japan and not mentioning Malcolm meant
not mentioning General MacArthur.
Malcolm McDonald was the British High Commissioner in Southeast Asia.
He ruled out of the world’s largest naval facility
still, which was Singapore. It was that Asian equivalent
of Suez, which was military forces. Middle
East only Norfolk, Virginia, might have rivaled Singapore at that
time. Malcolm McDonald was easily the most
influential figure on U.S. foreign policy concerning Southeast Asia
from as soon as we got aware of Indo-China 46 right
through right until fifty five. Everybody in Washington
concerned with U.S. Asian policy
made their pilgrimage to Singapore to get briefed by McDonald.
Highly convincing. He was known as the wise man of Asia. So if you’re
a congressman, Jack Kennedy, if you’re a brand new
vise, President Richard Nixon, if you’re the publisher of The New York Times or
if you’re Harry Luce running the Time-Life Empire, you go to Singapore
and you get your briefing from Malcolm Macdonald. Malcolm Macdonald will helpfully
fly you over the Malay and jungle, although he stopped that practice when Adlai
Stevenson had a near-fatal helicopter crash. But it will always show you that
the only way to defend Malaya and all of Southeast Asia is to draw the
line in Vietnam, which means backing the French and where they are with you to.
Back the French.
The Middle East, of course, is in its septic.
Terror for terror and was
getting into messier predicaments by
was far more accommodating to British interests. It essentially served as the trigger man, as
one historian called it, for the British to get rid of the Mosaddeq government
in Israel and Palestine. Back and forth, threats,
violence. But the US, the Eisenhower administration
increasingly realized it couldn’t stay away. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was
the first secretary of state ever to go to the Middle East, which he did on May
that afternoon of May 11th, the afternoon of May 11th, Greenwich
Mean Time. Churchill stood up in parliament and he had two messages.
One, that the Americans were unhelpfully obstructionist in dealing with the Soviets.
Stalin having died in March. And two,
moreover, and this was his true point right at this minute as we speak here
in parliament paraphrased his eloquence. The American
secretary of state is right. Arriving in Cairo as I’m speaking
and we have special agreements with the Americans. And in a
nutshell, he insisted to the world, speaking in parliament as secretary of state, Dulles lands in Cairo
that the British and the Americans were totally aligned against the forces of Egyptian
nationalism, which was outrageously untrue.
But he wasn’t just misspeaking because as Douglas is trying to calm the waters
of Egyptian nationalists, in May 1953, a new
military junta had seized power the year before. Churchill sends
in a commando battalion to bulk up in Suez, which
by then had perhaps one hundred and sixty thousand fighting men
in support facilities. That was the British occupation against which the
Egyptian nationalists screamed.
By 1954, guerrilla war against the
British had pushed and gone a long way for a Suez deal for the
British to yield in Suez. And I won’t go into the Suez crisis itself, but
it is intertwined with relations deteriorating within Israel.
The Eisenhower administration had a particularly
clear cut approached at handling Israel. It was to take Israel before the
United Nations Security Council for sanctions for what Eisenhower called expansion
and violence. And Israel was condemned.
And the United Nations at UW urging first in March
to Suez and what we saw one
way or another, despite the threats now for sanctions against Israel as
it was terror and counter-terror across the borders, was
the Middle East turning ever more into a dangerous morass that we couldn’t stay away from?
Most of you all of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the Suez Crisis. Britain,
France and Israel collude to invade Egypt. The Americans, essentially, the Eisenhower
administration saw it as an attack on ourselves. We came down hard with threats and
sanctions. This led in late December,
early 57 to what Eisenhower, Secretary of State Dulles
and Richard Nixon together called the Declaration
of Independence from British Authority. And they called it a Declaration of Independence.
No longer would we be
deferential would we bite our tongues in dealing with
imperial foreign policy. The Declaration of Independence was
repeated at least twice and once by the Canadians. And
you could see official language in the US change overnight. Until then,
the Americans had spoken about the United States as a leader of the. Ringworld World
Eisenhower asserts this Declaration of Independence. And from here on in right through today, we are
the leader of the free world, the leader of the West. Looking back, Richard
Nixon would say it was only at this point that America asserted itself in
the world as leader of the West. The story, in conclusion,
doesn’t end with Suez, but I end it with Sputnik because the spook
nick success in October 57 was, of course, an ICBM
competition between the Americans and the Russians. And the Russians
showed that they had the most effective satellite and ICBM combination first.
It wasn’t just the shock of being able to launch a satellite around
the world. It was that America’s launches on live TV kept on failing and failing for months
as our ICBM blew up. And it led to a great sense of vulnerability
in the US. The combination of this feeling of exposure
to thermonuclear disintegration, plus this declaration of independence from the British Empire,
really now let the Americans move forth very much on
their own, asserting their primacy by now,
by any definition, we were a superpower that was no longer a concern with having British air bases
or not. Giant forest, all class aircraft carriers were being deployed. US had more
bases worldwide. We clearly were playing to our
strengths mass producing everything from military hardware to thermonuclear
warheads. The end point comments where U.S. foreign
policy, I would argue, truly changed in the early sixties. That magnetic young senator from Massachusetts
who spoke of a world half slave, half free, who spoke of the red tide
coming in under the Eisenhower administration, who mocked that five starred
golf playing general camping out in the White House. This was all the excitement
of emergency and foreign policy henceforth would bring
in academics. Year by year, professional foreign service officers
would be marginalized by the appointees of the political spoils system as it is today.
And this infatuation with emergency, with excitement,
with America, its role in the world
full of the belief that everybody truly wants to be like us, that we could manage
the planet as well as we manage our multi-trillion dollar domestic economy,
that there is very little need to do our homework, that interventions in Vietnam
or Iraq would be a cinch. All of these are the delusions and excitements with which we live today.
And that is why it is worth going back and reexamining the sources
of how we got to where we are.