July 07, 2016

But there are strong, legitimate arguments to be made that the British, French, and American governments were recklessly stupid (or calculatingly cunning) in provoking a war in the West over Polish independence, especially after Roosevelt learned of the secret protocols of the Molotov”€“Ribbentrop Pact. Once it became known that the Nazis and the Soviets had agreed to divide Poland between them, the very idea of starting a war (against Germany only, mind you) in the name of Polish independence became idiotic and suicidal. One thing it was not was noble, as the stated ends could not be achieved and the pro-war parties knew it. It was a provocation, plain and simple, one that would plunge Western Europe (and, by the way, its Jews) into a bloody nightmare.

It can be argued that war between Hitler and Stalin was inevitable; that, at some point, one of them was going to violate their nonaggression pact, and Hitler just happened to do it first. But those who agitated for war, and those who brought war, to Western Europe in the name of a Polish independence they knew could not be achieved were villains. Those who were pragmatic, those who acknowledged that a Poland ruled 50/50 by the two most ruthless dictatorships on the continent was boned beyond rescue, were the rational ones (as a service to my millennial readers, I”€™ll point out that Poland did not achieve actual independence until fifty years later, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989).

I was wrong to use “€œappeasement”€ as a club against the Ron Paulists during my GOP years. I suppose I owe some of them an apology, but doing so would only lead to my inbox being clogged with PDFs of self-published e-books about agorism (every single one of them titled either Freedom or Truth), so let me proactively nix any possibility of a reconciliation, because I get enough spam as it is. And as for Trump, he probably does owe everyone an explanation regarding his flip-flopping on Buchanan, but neither his diehards nor his enemies seem terribly interested in demanding one. If there’s one thing this election is not about, it’s intellectual continuity.

Still, a guy can troll. In an anti-Trump hit piece carried by CNN.com, Professor Susan Dunn of Williams College attacked Trump for using the “€œnoxious slogan”€ America First, a slogan that, according to her, is “€œisolationist, defeatist, and anti-Semitic”€ (I can only assume that Professor Dunn also believes it makes kittens cry). According to the good professor, the whole America First thing is a secret shout-out to those in pre”€“Pearl Harbor America who favored a “€œnegotiated peace”€ with Germany regarding the mess England and France had gotten themselves into over Poland. Dunn claims that this “€œanti-Semitic”€ view was favored primarily by “€œMidwesterners.”€

I emailed Professor Dunn, feigning ignorance:

Is it true that during a campaign stop in Boston on October 30, 1940, President Roosevelt, at the time running for reelection, said, “€œAnd while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”€ Is this a genuine quote, or an urban legend?

Like I said, what else is there to do this election year but troll?

Professor Dunn responded:

It’s definitely a real quote. He wanted to win the election and was willing to make that promise. In his mind, he thought that if the US is attacked, it’s not a “€œforeign”€ war. But he shouldn’t have made that promise.

Ooh, bad FDR. You shouldn”€™t have lied your way to reelection. But, of course, to people like Dunn, it was a lie for a noble cause, so it’s totally cool.

Having baited her just as I did her polar opposite Dani Rascon, I sent her a follow-up question:

If FDR felt the need to make that statement in Boston, in other words, if he believed that doing so”€”in Boston”€”would assist his reelection bid, then surely the desire to keep the U.S. out of war in 1940 was not limited to the Midwest. Is that accurate?

And, of course, Professor Dunn refused to respond.

“€œAmerica first,”€ pre”€“Pearl Harbor, was not the sole proprietorship of “€œMidwestern anti-Semites.”€ It was a commonsense position. My own personal biases”€”pro-Israel and anti-Muslim”€”lead me to oppose isolationism today, but the key to not allowing your biases to make you insane (i.e., the key to not becoming Pam Geller) is to be honest with yourself about having them. Yes, I would still oppose someone like Dani Rascon on the Muslim issue, but regarding World War II, when, as David Stein, I echoed the “€œappeasers were spineless Jew-hating bastards”€ line, I think it’s only right to cop to the fact that I was lying and I knew it.

Now who wants to ask Trump about that 1999 op-ed?


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