May 2012

May 30, 2012

George F. Kennan, an outstanding twentieth-century American diplomat and scholar, played an important role in implementing and shaping US foreign policy, and earned well-deserved praise as a historian. He was a consistent advocate of a “realist” US foreign policy — laid down by Washington, Jefferson, and other founders — based on a prudent regard for US interests, and especially the long-term interests of the American people. By contrast, the “idealist” US foreign policy of recent decades is justified with seemingly principled slogans, but in fact is driven by narrow partisan interests. Kennan regarded America’s role in the postwar inter-Allied Nuremberg Trials of Germany’s defeated leaders as a “horror” and a “mockery.” In 1947-48, he joined with State Department chief George C. Marshall and other high-ranking US officials in opposing US support for the Zionist takeover of Palestine. With the passage of time, Kennan became increasingly pessimistic about America’s future, and ever more critical of US-style democracy.

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May 23, 2012

Iranian distrust of the United States is rooted in a legacy of arrogant, belligerent US policy. During World War II, British and Soviet military forces invaded neutral Iran. The country’s leader, Reza Shah Pahlavi, trustingly appealed to President Franklin Roosevelt, who had solemnly proclaimed devotion to the principles of freedom and respect for national sovereignty. But Roosevelt rejected the plea and sought to justify the aggression, which he backed to help the Soviet Union against Germany and to support British imperial interests. The Allied invasion and occupation brought destruction, mass death and humiliation to Iran. And twelve years later, US and British officials, acting through the CIA, organized the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected government in a violent coup that cost hundreds of lives.

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May 9, 2012

Fascism is one of the most often misused and widely misunderstood political terms. Publicists of both the left and right use the term “fascist” not to describe but to discredit and smear adversaries. “Fascism” is often inaccurately used as a synonym for tyranny, militarism, Nazism, racism, or capitalism. During the first 13 years of Fascist rule in Italy, the regime and its leader (“Duce”), Benito Mussolini, were widely admired in the US and other countries. They earned praise, for example, for resolutely uprooting mafia criminality. Attitudes in the US changed after the Italian subjugation of Ethiopia in 1935-36, and as Mussolini aligned Italy ever more closely with Hitler’s Germany. The image of Mussolini and Fascism that prevails today is largely the product of World War II propaganda.

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May 2, 2012

Many Americans regard Ronald Reagan as one of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century. For many conservatives, he’s an exemplary, iconic figure. While the eight years of his presidency was a period of modest economic growth, his legacy is largely one of broken promises and empty rhetoric. In spite of his often repeated criticisms of “big government,” he actually increased the size and scope of Washington’s power. His economic, fiscal and tax policies, which even his own vice president had called “voodoo economics,” brought a drastic increase in US long-term debt. Destructive trends in American cultural life, and the drastic demographic transformation of large sections of the country, continued with undiminished velocity. Reagan’s understanding of history was meager and childish. In keeping with his mythologized, semi-mystical view of America, he approved a large-scale amnesty for illegal aliens. Reagan’s career and legacy should help make clear to everyone why conservatives can’t and don’t win.

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