"In spite of numerous criticisms, the Viet-Nam program has been cited both by official and by unofficial sources as a model of what American aid can achieve." —John D. Montgomery, The Politics of Foreign Aid: American Experience in Southeast Asia
The term "revisionism" refers to an intellectual revision of previously accepted categories or interpretations. It can be attached to any such shift in perspective. Stalinists have for years referred to their opponents as revisionists—"liberal deviationists" who have departed from Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by Comrade Stalin. In American history, however, the term generally is attached to anti-interventionist historians in the two postwar periods in the 20th century. A few of these scholars gained their academic reputation as revisionists in the 1920's and 1930's, and they continued to be critical of Roosevelt's machinations favoring armed intervention in the late 1930's. Harry Elmer Barnes, the sociologist-historian, made his initial reputation with The Genesis of the World War (New York: Knopf, 1926). Barnes, an old-fashioned economic interventionist, later opposed Roosevelt's foreign policy because he believed that it would interfere with the New Deal's domestic reforms. Another scholar, Charles C. Tansill, established his academic credentials when he wrote what is probably the best book on the subject of our entry into World War I, America Goes to War (Boston: Little, Brown, 1938; Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith, reprint of 1938 ed.). His outlook was conservative, anti-New Deal, and generally anti-British. Both men produced post-World War II revisionist studies, Tansill in Back Door to War (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1952), and Barnes in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 1953). (Both books have been reprinted, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.) Warren I. Cohen summarizes their contributions in The American Revisionists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), and offers selections from revisionist writers, among others, in Intervention, 1917 (Englewood, New Jersey: Heath, 1966).
From the beginning, the revisionist camp has been made up of a constituency differing widely on other issues. Socialists, anarchists, pacifists, conservatives: all have found reasons to oppose this nation's entry into the European wars. But in the 20-year period after the end of the Second World War, the revisionists tended to be conservatives and anti-New Dealers who had broken with Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policies a decade earlier. Percy Greaves is the most notable example. He had been a conservative financial columnist, and was the Republican counsel for the Pearl Harbor hearings. He later became an expert student of Ludwig von Mises' economic theories. Most of the younger scholars on the "economics side" of the conservative and libertarian revival, such as Murray Rothbard, were (if anything) generally proponents of the revisionist critique of New Deal foreign policy.
REALIGNMENTS IN REVISIONISM
One of the less understood repercussions of entry into World War II by the United States was the silencing of conservative politicians who maintained their isolationism of the 1930's. Those who had national reputations did not get "full and impartial" coverage by the major news media when they spoke out on foreign policy issues. Midwestern states continued to send isolationists to the Senate until the mid-1950's, but one would hardly know of their existence by a reading of textbooks and even monographs on postwar American foreign policy. The man of the hour, if we are to believe the textbooks, was Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the "responsible" Republican advocate of a truly bipartisan—interventionist—foreign policy. (For a typical panegyric on Vandenberg, see Cecil V. Crabb, Jr., American Foreign Policy in the Nuclear Age. [Evanston: Row, Peterson, 1960], pp. 127-130.) He was still getting glowing praises from my New Deal, liberal Democratic professor of foreign policy as late as 1961.
Robert A. Taft, "Mr. Republican," as he was known, was a staunch isolationist throughout the period. For this he earned the wrath of the liberals and the embarrassed silence of the cold war conservatives. Writing in response to a 1941 Nation essay by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who advised the Republican Party to intervene in Europe the way it had intervened in the South in 1861, Taft lowered the boom. (Has Schlesinger ever been right about anything, anytime?) The average Republican voter, argued Taft, was not an interventionist, but the big businessmen were:
The most conservative members of the party—the Wall Street bankers, the society group, nine-tenths of the plutocratic newspapers, and most of the party's financial contributors—are the ones who favor intervention in Europe.…I have received thousands of letters on both sides of the question, and I should say without question that it is the average man and woman—the farmer, the workman, except for a few pro-British labor leaders, and the small business man—who are opposed to war. The war party is made up of the business community of the cities, the newspaper and magazine writers, the radio and movie commentators, the Communists, and the university intelligentsia. (Quoted in James J. Martin, American Liberalism and World Politics, 1931-1941 [New York: Devin-Adair, 1964], II, p. 1278)
Leonard Liggio has pointed out that when Taft later opposed Truman's intervention in Korea as unconstitutional—the President had not consulted Congress, Taft argued, which was a far-out line of reasoning in 1950—Joseph Alsop, The Nation, and The New Republic all jumped on him as (get this!) a tool of the Communists. The remaining isolationists who were still running for office were also charged with being Communist dupes. By 1955 the American conservative movement, now spoken for by the newly created National Review, was clearly in the cold war interventionist camp. Thus, writes Liggio:
[Those] battered isolationists were the last carriers of a great American tradition, and constituted the last centers of total opposition to expanding and swelling American global imperialism. It was precisely these liberals, moreover, whom the historian William Appleman Williams has brilliantly termed "the corporate liberals", who have provided the major ideological and demagogic rationale for World War II and post-war American imperialism. ("Isolationism: Old and New," Left and Right, Winter 1966, p. 31)
The implicit division within the right-wing movement of the 1955-65 period broke out in the mid-1960's. Libertarians, as complete antistatists, were opposed to the cold war policies favored by the anticommunist conservatives. Ed Facey's article in the Summer 1961 issue of New Individualist Review spelled out the operating libertarian policy of "collaboration":
Still, individualists merge with the conservatives in urging a strict adherence to the Constitution in the United States. This is a tactical maneuver. It is the strategy of individualists to work a Fabianism in reverse until one by one the parts of the political structure, beginning with the most absurd, are up-ended and continuing until nothing is left. The Constitution, strictly interpreted, aids in this process, (p. 25)
Obviously, the coming of the war in Vietnam shattered this alliance, as did the advent of the counter-culture, with its deep involvement in the drug scene. The antiwar movement and the victimless crimes movement fused, drawing an almost unbridgeable line between formerly cooperating YAFers or ISIers. New Leftists replaced the ranks in the libertarian camp, at least insofar as drugs and Vietnam were concerned. The economic issues could be temporarily played down, especially since New Leftists seemed more vulnerable to libertarian economic arguments than vice versa.
Robert Lefevre's now defunct Rampart Journal combined, after 1965, the strands of libertarianism: state-less economics, World War II revisionism, and cold war revisionism. But with the demise of that journal in 1968, and with the winding down of the Vietnam war in 1972, the old interest in revisionism among younger conservatives and libertarians has tended to wane. This has not been true, however, among New Left historians. They have been dragged by their own researches, kicking and screaming, back into the revisionism of the pre-1965 period. They do not quote Tansill, Barnes, or Greaves, but their hostility to L.B.J.'s Gulf of Tonkin hanky panky has led them to a unique revelation: maybe, just maybe, F.D.R. pulled off something similar in 1941. In short, cold war revisionism and Vietnam criticism stand together as the so-called watershed, with libertarian and pacifist revisionists of the World Wars marching forward undaunted into cold war revisionism (leaving conservative anticommunists behind), and with New Left historians being pulled backward from Vietnam into the unrespectable world of New Deal foreign policy revisionism. Even Establishment publishing houses have changed. Harper and Row would not have published a book like Bruce Russett's No Clear and Present Danger (1972) in 1963.
PARADIGMS AND REVISIONS
Such major shifts of outlook as revisionist history are typical of all disciplines, and are an increasingly important object of study in their own right. For example, Thomas Kuhn has produced a very useful and influential study of the way in which established academic guilds police their members (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962, rev. 1969]). Kuhn describes the history of physics and chemistry in modern times, arguing that the major breakthroughs have been primarily conceptual, forced upon younger scholars and skilled amateurs outside the guilds by newly observed facts—anomalies—that do not fit the established presuppositions (paradigms). Older, self-certified persons in the field cling to the established positions, usually until they die. Paradigm shifts do not normally come as a result of mass conversions; they come by attrition and retirement.
Not surprisingly, Kuhn's book became a standard footnote in the multiple revisionisms by younger scholars after 1965, irrespective of the academic discipline involved. It is a classic in the sociology of knowledge, having relativized the natural sciences as successfully as Karl Mannheim relativized the social sciences in the 1930's and Charles Beard and Carl Becker relativized the study of history. Their relativism should not obscure their fundamental point: scholarship is not neutral. If you ask the wrong questions, or start answering old ones with new and unrespected methods of inquiry, you will find yourself in very hot water in your discipline—untenured water, I might add.
THE MUNICH PARADIGM
If the Vietnam war has, a la Kuhn, brought on a paradigm shift, what was the paradigm which has been discarded?
Establishment liberalism brought on the war in Vietnam. (Conservative anticommunists just did not have the votes, nor did they dominate the State Department's hierarchy.) Wilsonian ideals were to be extended into every nook and cranny of every tribe on earth. The old progressive optimism was still intact in 1964. American know-how and military might could bring democracy into full bloom everywhere. Democracy—America's only national religion—was still the creed of liberals everywhere. Bruce Kuklick writes:
There are few who would deny the triumph of Wilson's views after World War II, and the intellectual rationale which justified policy decisions became increasingly rich in the postwar period. It is only at this time that it becomes appropriate to speak of a Wilsonian paradigm. ("History as a Way of Learning," American Quarterly, Fall 1970, p. 614)
As the Vietnam war escalated and the draft calls went up, the intensity of antiwar sentiment increased. The liberal paradigm in foreign policy began to shift; a Kuhn-like "scientific revolution" took place. The conduct of foreign policy, argues Kuklick, had been conducted after 1945 in terms of a "Munich syndrome," itself a paradigm shift:
Prior to both World Wars, diplomats have believed that the United States attempted to avoid international commitments; it need not or would not act in concert with other powers when an "aggressor" threatened international stability. By 1945 the United States had been "twice burned," and Americans had to alter their behavior. Policy-makers acted, so they believed, to avoid the catastrophes of 1917 and 1941; 1941 must not recur as 1917 had. This goal meant specifically that the United States had directly to intervene if it appeared that someone was seriously challenging world peace and order. There were to be no more Munichs. In effect "normal paradigmatic change" took place after World War II as American diplomats "solved" recurring problems by applying this model. Problems were in fact problems because they were significant in terms of the paradigm. Indeed, as policy-makers judged the twenty years of diplomacy after World War II in terms of the history that preceded it, they could agree that the Wilsonian disciplinary matrix worked. The horrible wars crucial to the development of the paradigm were avoided. Americans had resolved the crises which gave birth to the new paradigm, (p. 620)
During the Eugene McCarthy bid for the Presidency, an incredible piece of campaign literature appeared. It was a full-page picture of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and on the corner of the sheet, this quote from the general appeared: "Anybody who commits the land power of the United States on the Continent of Asia ought to have his head examined." Here was the ultimate reversal: using MacArthur, the nemesis of all good liberals, to challenge their policies in Vietnam!
Walter Lippman, probably the most respected of all liberal commentators, has taken positions favorable to almost every ideology at one stage or another of his career. After 1965 he became a chief intellectual spokesman for "neo-isolationism." Ironically, it had been Lippmann's columns, 1915-17, that had argued that the United States should enter World War I—not to "make the world safe for democracy," but because national self-interest was involved. What was the national self interest? World peace through world law, basically—some new form of internationalism. In 1914 he had written: "We do not think the United States should have gone to war. We alone cannot undertake to police the world." (Early Writings [New York: Liverwright, 1970], p. 15) Then, in 1916, Lippmann penned one of the most stirring defenses of internationalism ever written:
Mr. Wilson deserves the gratitude of all decent men for having announced that America is ready to use its force for this civilized end. The whole preparedness agitation, which has been running wild of late by piling jingoism on hysteria, is given a new turn. It becomes our contribution to the world's peace, the only kind of peace in which we can find our own safety. Mr. Wilson has broken with the tradition of American isolation in the only way which offers any hope to men. Not only has he broken with isolation, he has ended the pernicious doctrine of neutrality, and has declared that in the future we cannot be neutral between the aggressor and the victim. That is one of the greatest advances ever made in the development of international morality. His speech means that America is ready to act on the belief that war is no longer a matter between two "sovereign" states, but a common world-problem of law and order in which every nation is immediately concerned. There is something intensely inspiring to Americans in the thought that when they surrender their isolation they do it not to engage in diplomatic intrigue but to internationalize world politics. They will surrender it for that, though they would have resisted bitterly a mere entanglement in the manoeuvers which prepare new wars. (p. 39)
The wave of revulsion toward the First World War which swept over the United States in the mid-1920's buried such thoughts as these. The isolationist reaction to League of Nations idea had torpedoed Wilson's dreams and his political party in 1920; after 1925 a whole series of "revisionist" books appeared, arguing that Germany was not exclusively responsible for the war—S.B. Fay, Harry Elmer Barnes—and that Wilson had maneuvered us into the war—Barnes, Charles C. Tansill, Walter Millis, C.H. Grattan. (See Cohen, The American Revisionists, and my review of his book in Rampart Journal, Winter 1967.) As Cohen shows, however, after 1939 Roosevelt's foreign policy in favor of intervention in Europe began to lead scholars back into the Wilsonian ideology. Persons who had supported revisionist arguments were increasingly suspect in the academic community. Barnes, heretofore a respected scholar, was fired from a teaching job in the obscure Eastern Washington College of Education summer school in June 1941—a classic case of guild control in Kuhn's terms.
After World War II, sentiments like Lippmann's were once again in the ascendancy, so much so that the 1946 Annual Report of the Rockefeller Foundation announced: "The Committee on Studies of the Council on Foreign Relations is concerned that the debunking journalistic campaign following World War I should not be repeated," and it went on to allocate a subsidy of $139,000 for the preparation of more respectable studies of the Second World War. (A critical comment on this decision can be found in the Saturday Evening Post, Oct. 1947.) Revisionist scholars of the post-World War period—Charles A. Beard, Tansill, Barnes, George Morgenstern, Frederic Sanborn, Percy Greaves—simply could not get a fair hearing in the academic guilds, and only Beard's great prestige was able to get Yale University Press to publish President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War (1948), and it won many enemies for Yale's editor, Eugene Davidson.
In 1953 Robert E. Osgood published what was to become a standard foreign policy study, Ideals and Self-Interest in American Foreign Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). It followed Lippmann's lead: America's self-interest is in extending her entangling alliances in the theater of world democracy. My guess is that fewer students will believe this thesis, and fewer professors assign the book (unless they use it for target practice), than was true in 1960. The paradigm has shifted, and with it went much of the prestige of pre-1965 liberalism. Neo-isolationism is here, if not to stay, then at least to take a long-term lease.
There is even a small flurry of interest in revisionism concerning World War II. Old Hamilton Fish, Roosevelt's Republican, isolationist critic in the House of Representatives, finds that his speeches on Roosevelt's malevolent prewar maneuvers are receiving far more favorable response from young people than ever before (according to Richard Hanks, from a 1970 interview with Fish). As Walter Goodman remarks:
Of course, one's timing may be off. The premature revisionists who sought to persuade us before Pearl Harbor that President Roosevelt was bent on drawing the nation into a foreign war could make a plausible case—but they found small welcome. That was not what most of us wanted to hear in 1940. ("Revisionism Revisited," The New Leader, March 20, 1972, pp. 12-13)
Or in 1960, it should be mentioned.
The crowning blow to the old paradigm, as of 1972, may well have been a simple newspaper article in, of all places, the New York Times (Jan. 2, 1972, p. 7):
LONDON, Jan. 1 (AP)—Formerly top secret British Government papers made public today said that President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August, 1941, that he was looking for an incident to justify opening hostilities against Nazi Germany.
The account of the Roosevelt-Churchill talks was contained in 950 volumes of British War Cabinet papers made public for the first time.
The papers covered the period from January, 1941, to July, 1945, the largest collection of formerly secret British records ever released at one time.…
Churchill's account of Roosevelt's attitude toward the war was contained in the minutes of that Cabinet meeting. The minutes, quoting Churchill indirectly, said:
"He [Roosevelt] obviously was determined that they should come in."
"If he were to put the issue of peace and war to Congress, they would debate it for months," the Cabinet minutes added.
"The President had said he would wage war but not declare it and that he would become more and more provocative. If the Germans did not like it, they could attack American forces."
Somehow, I do not believe that the Times would have published this story in 1960, let alone in 1945. Apparently, once people came to the realization that a President could manipulate the facts in order to encourage military hostilities—which antiwar people believe was the case in President Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin maneuvers—F.D.R. could be fair game for criticism. I imagine that New Deal liberals will have to alter their position: before, no decent person could believe such a thing of Roosevelt; now, we must understand that these deceptions were necessary for world order, etc.
BALANCE OF POWER?
Emmet John Hughes, one of the most widely respected liberal columnists of the 1950's and 1960's, a speechwriter for President Eisenhower, and now a professor of politics at Rutgers University, granted an interview to newsmen in mid-1973. Some of his remarks were quoted by Robert J. Donovan in a Los Angeles Times column (Sept. 27, 1973):
People like me assumed from the days of F.D.R. on that the Presidency was the unique source of creative and progressive leadership and that the Congress was the resisting, conservative, negative force—the citadel of reaction. This was the typical liberal vision of the Presidency, and it wasn't until the middle of the 1960s that liberals began to question their assumption. As a result, you had this extraordinary reversal of roles. All of a sudden the liberals began to worry about presidential power.
Senator Fulbright illustrates this shift. In a speech in 1961, even after the Bay of Pigs, he suggested that the President should be given even greater power in foreign affairs than he possessed. Ten years later Fulbright made another speech saying that 30 years of war, cold war and crisis have propelled the American political system far along the road to an executive despotism, at least in the conduct of foreign relations and the making of war.…It was the whole tragedy of Vietnam rather than the Watergate revelations that forced the liberals to realize that they had terribly underestimated the importance of the restraining power of the Congress and had terribly exaggerated the innate wisdom of the White House.
It is not surprising that Richard Neustadt's Presidential Power, once reputed to be John F. Kennedy's bible, and assigned so enthusiastically by liberal professors in 1961, is now assigned as a primary source relating to "the mess we are in" today.
AN EYE-OPENER FOR LIBERALS
This has been a lengthy digression within the framework of my original hypothesis: Kuhn's analysis holds up as well for recent political science or historiography as it does for 18th century science. It took a major disruption of the "facts"—Vietnam—to undermine the old liberal paradigm concerning America's participation in world diplomacy. Nixon's trips to China and Russia, attempting to soften the cold war hostilities, broke with a 1945-70 tradition, and the silence of Congressional conservatives in the face of these trips indicates that the conservative paradigm on the cold war is weakening. President Johnson operated in terms of a "Munich syndrome"; President Nixon escaped both Munich and the "China, 1949 syndrome." For the present, "no more confrontation" is the rule—except, perhaps, in the case of Israel.
Another sign of the paradigm shift, as of late 1972, was the generally favorable reception of David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest. Halberstam's superb journalistic talents focused on the utter failure of "can-do technocratic liberalism" to deal with the Vietnam problem. The great symbol for this technocratic machine, inescapably, is Robert McNamara, the enemy of conservatives in 1963, and the fall guy of 1967. Halberstam is, quite properly, merciless. Those who have been "greened" by Charles Reich's antitechnocratic tract will be ecstatic. So will anticommunists who resent McNamara's bungling. So will all the disillusioned former New Frontiersmen and Great Society rejects. It is a book which will probably set the climate of opinion for years to come. Robert McNamara, prophet of the Kantian realm of the phenomenal, i.e., total "scientific" control and prediction, was upended by a bunch of fellows in black pajamas who were "irrationally" persistent. (On McNamara's faith in centralized planning, see his book, The Essence of Security. [New York: Harper and Row, 1968], pp. 109-110) Halberstam chronicles this ancient Greek process of hubris.
THE LAST BASTION
One topic—the ultimate litmus test of hardnosed World War II revisionism—has generally been skirted: Hitler. Was he a madman, diplomatically speaking? Was he exclusively responsible for the Second World War? The respected British historian, A.J.P. Taylor, a Laborite and a critic of the Germans, produced an explosive book in 1961, The Origins of the Second World War (London: H. Hamilton, 1961; New York: Atheneum, 1962). It produced (to borrow language from World War II and Watergate) a firestorm of protest. Taylor concluded that Hitler was not really trying to conquer the world, or even Western Europe. He pushed a bit here, and a bit there, and time after time Western politicians and diplomats capitulated. Taylor's view of Hitler's foreign policy made Hitler look like some 1950's teenager trying to score with his "chick" on successive dates. She just couldn't say no. Hitler was evil, but not mad, Taylor concluded. Whether or not Taylor's nonmadman thesis has been gaining ground among younger scholars is debatable; he thinks that it has. A few respectable older historians have come to his defense (e.g., Geoffrey Barraclough), but conversions among the elderly are few and far between.
In American revisionist circles the most famous (or infamous) case has been that of David Hoggan [HOgun], the Establishment's number-one academic pariah of the revisionist camp. His massive study of German foreign policy in 1939, translated into German and published in 1961 under the title, Der erzungene Krieg, created a sensation. It was scheduled for publication by Devin-Adair in December 1963 (I actually saw the galley proofs), but has never been released. He also wrote a second book on France's role in 1939. It too has never seen the light of day in English. His one book available in English is The Myth of the "New History" (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig, 1965). it surveys our entry into the eight wars prior to Vietnam, and serves as a very handy guide to the historiography of the "new history," i.e., the so-called "scientific" history, with its basic commitment to liberal interventionism and progressivism. It was ignored or panned by the journals. (As with all such guides, however, check out the sources before you make any final conclusions. If you read that Professor So and So says such and such, go check it out. When dealing with any brand of revisionism, accept nothing crucial on faith.)
PLACING THE BLAME
Hoggan's thesis regarding the origins of the Second World War are straightforward, and completely unorthodox. The primary villain was not Hitler; it was Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Secretary. By threatening to resign from the Tory cabinet, Halifax
had secretly seized control of British foreign policy from peace-loving Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in October, 1938.…During more than ten months which followed, Halifax conducted a single-minded campaign to plunge Germany into war, and in such a way as to make Germany appear to be the guilty party. His ingenious scheme was carried out against the wishes of the majority of the top English experts on Germany.…(The Myth of the "New History," p. 5)
What were his motives? The support of the traditional British view of the balance of power—one of Hoggan's favorite whipping boys (for good reasons). Hoggan pulls no punches:
Halifax was prompted by the conviction that the power and prestige of Hitler's Germany must on no account be allowed to overshadow the traditionally prominent position of Great Britain in Western Europe. It was for this British prestige, and not because of any military threat to Britain, that millions were destined to die in Europe and throughout the world. The documentary record has long since revealed that in 1939 it was Hitler's utmost desire to enjoy peaceful and friendly relations, and if possible even alliances, with both Great Britain and Poland, (p. 5)
Well, yes and no. Yes, he wanted peaceful relations, but on his own terms. His was a socialist regime, messianic in nature, and expansionist to the core. Hitler wanted peaceful relations with the Soviet Union, too—for a while. Then he invaded. It is instructive to quote from Hoggan's own Ph.D. dissertation (Harvard, 1948) in this regard. He admits that one of the causes of the outbreak of World War II was the Germans' "highly nationalistic regime, their air of challenge and defiance to foreign countries…" (p. 397). The West was also to blame, given their unwillingness to revise the Treaty of Versailles. It is interesting to note his assessment of the Soviet Union's role, especially with respect to his list of what nations were most responsible: "Their actual responsibility for the events that led to war was certainly less than that of Germany, Great Britain, France, and Poland. The Italian role was also secondary.…" (p. 399) Most of all, his dissertation maintained, it was Poland which was responsible. The crucial passage regarding Great Britain's role is his conclusion:
Nothing that the British did in 1939 can give them a primary responsibility for the war that broke out between Germany and Poland. British responsibility here enters only indirectly with the Versailles settlement, and in this instance the British were the least to blame of all the great powers for the Versailles solution of the German-Polish question, (p. 398)
I cite these passages in order to clear up a 15-year-old argument between Hoggan (backed up by the late Harry Elmer Barnes) and Hoggan's dissertation advisor, William Langer. Langer maintains that Hoggan changed his thesis entirely with respect to the assessment of responsibility when he published Der erzungene Kreig in 1961. Hoggan insists that he only strengthened his original point (personal communication, 1963). After reading the original dissertation, I must support Langer's position. But, as I said, when getting involved in revisionist historiography, check out the primary sources whenever possible.
Probably the most far-out materials on World War II revisionism have been the seemingly scholarly studies of the supposed execution of 6 million Jews by Hitler. The anonymous author of The Myth of the Six Million (whose writing style and use of footnotes internal to the text resembles Hoggan's The Myth of the "New History" to a remarkable extent) has presented a solid case against the Establishment's favorite horror story—the supposed moral justification for our entry into the War. (The Myth of the Six Million. [Hollywood: New Christian Crusade Church, 1969]) The untranslated books by the former Buchenwald inmate, Prof. Paul Rassinier, have seriously challenged the story: Le Mensonge d'Ulysse (1949), Ulysse trahi par les Siens (1960), Le Veritable Proces Eichmann (1962), and Le Drame des Juifs European (1964). A recent and very inexpensive book in magazine form, Did Six Million Really Die?, appeared in 1973, written by Richard Harwood. (Surrey, England: Historical Review Press) One thing is certain: 6 million executions or not, we did not intervene when the Soviet Union executed millions of kulaks—the private owners of small farms, prior to their expropriation and liquidation by Stalin in the late 1920's and early 1930's. The kulaks, unfortunately for them, had no supporters writing editorials in the New York Times.
THE CHICKEN'S COME HOME TO ROOST
One other consideration also amuses me. The primary justification for the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, which the American press bought, was that we had been taken by surprise at Pearl Harbor, and it must not be allowed to happen again. The irony should be apparent. First and foremost, the regular military intelligence experts had cracked the Japanese code, and transmissions were being monitored prior to Pearl Harbor. David Kahn's The Codebreakers (New York: Macmillan, 1967) devotes many pages to the story of how the code was broken. Second, there are only three excuses for our Commander in Chief not to have taken action, at least by warning the military authorities at Pearl Harbor and in the South Pacific of the impending attack: 1) there was so much information coming in that the experts overlooked the significant communications from Japan to the Washington embassy; 2) the experts saw the key transmissions, but failed to interpret them properly; or 3) top leaders knew, but preferred that the Japanese attack our forces as a pretext for getting us into the war.
One fact is clear: it was not the failure of standard military intelligence agencies to gather sufficient data that led to our failure to prepare our defenses. Yet it was Pearl Harbor, as a symbol of the lack of data, which became the primary apologetic technique for the creation of an agency which now may be using as many as 16,000 employees, all devoted to spying—an agency independent of the traditional military supervision, which in the past at least kept the spooks at bay by creating intra-bureaucratic competition for government funds. And the problem of overloaded circuits is exponentially greater than it was in 1941. They are buried in data. Maybe, when all is said and done, that may be the undoing of the outfit.
OPENING DOORS TO HISTORY
I always hate it when the final report of a $6 million government study finishes with: "while the present conclusions are highly tentative, we are convinced that the subject requires far more research." On that, they all agree. Unfortunately, I have to come to the same conclusion. I would say, however, that Federal funds to finance the additional research are not what we need. What we need is the declassification of the 1941-45 documents in the State Department, Pentagon, and numerous other branches of the Federal bureaucracy.
For those who are reading about revisionism for the first time, I would like to call attention to some of the facts of academic life. Let me give you an example. Probably the most prominent historian in the field of New Deal foreign policy is Herbert Feis. His books have been prize winners. They are heavily documented. Through and through they are apologies for whatever Roosevelt's administration did in the area of foreign affairs. Anything bad that happened was inevitable and most of it turns out to be terrific in Feis's view of history. We were invariably assigned his books back in the late 1950's and early 1960's; these were the "definitive" statements. But one tiny fact was never, never mentioned in class: Herbert Feis was one of the policymakers in the State Department during the New Deal! He won his acclaim by whitewashing his own recommendations and the recommendations of his State Department colleagues! This is the "objectivity" of the historical profession with respect to the New Deal.
Moreover, Feis had carte blanche in the State Department files—no other American historian has had comparable access, at least no one did in the 1950's, when Feis was pouring out his defenses. Historians have a whole new world to reconstruct—the world which has been lost in the sealed files of the State Department and Pentagon. It does not require a conspiracy view of history to convince rational people that histories written by the victorious participants in a messianic crusade will not, in the long run, prove definitive.
What we need is a dedicated generation of younger scholars who are not dazzled, as the tenured Establishment historians are dazzled, by Roosevelt's rhetoric. The collapse of isolationism, whether conspiratorial or not, was a national disaster from which this nation has not yet recovered. Fortress America may not have the old Madison Avenue ring to it, but it sure beats making the so-called Free World safe for the New York Times.
Gary North received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California at Riverside. The author of several books and numerous articles on economics and history, Dr. North edits the biweekly Remnant Review(Box 5025, North Long Beach, CA 90805), a newsletter of economic commentary, and is commentator on the Gold and Inflation Report, a telephone advisory service.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "World War II Revisionism and Vietnam".