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An Excerpt from The Politics of War, a Book by Gabriel Kolko

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This excerpt is from Gabriel Kolko's monumental study of American foreign policy -- The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945.   The excerpt is taken from the beginning of Chapter 14 of the book, and it sketches the weightiest issues involved in the Yalta Conference of February 1945.  

As a preface, there follows a comment on The Politics of War from the back cover of the Vintage Books paperback edition of 1968, from which the excerpt is taken:

a book of major importance, the first revisionist book concerned with the origins of the Cold War which is also a work of first-rate scholarship.  As such, it marks a turning point in the historiography of the war and postwar period.  It is also an unsettling book. The truth that emerges from it is radically different from what we have taken for granted to be the truth.   What we had been but dimly aware of now occupies the center of the stage, and what we had been accustomed to think of as the decisive determinants fades into insignificance altogether. - Hans J. Morgenthau, in The New York Review of Books.


Gabriel Kolko, by Google

See Kolko's entry at Wikipedia by clicking here.  

The Politics of War is not a fast read; and Kolko's style is occasionally turgid, his grammar sometimes difficult.   But the insights are more than worth the trouble it takes to re-read occasional sentences.   Also, the material in the excerpt presupposes an interest in, if not a familiarity with the history of the Second World War in Europe.  

Kolko writes without parentheses, so the ones in the excerpt are mine:    

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Chapter 14: The Yalta Conference - The Effort to Forge a Political Alliance.

When the three Great Allies met at Yalta at the beginning of February 1945, the war in Europe was coming to an end and the contours of the main political and economic problems in Europe were apparent to all.   For Roosevelt, Stettinius, Hopkins, Byrnes, Harriman, and the other American leaders gathered in the southern Crimean resort, the critical challenges on the political level now seemed obvious, and the course for meeting them, while obscure in a few dimensions, they had also defined in outline.

First there was the question of Russian intentions.   Next the Americans confronted the problem of the Left, the nascent civil war within a world war in the form of masses in revolt throughout the globe, masses that had suffered through a tragedy of historic enormity and unparalleled personal sacrifices.

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The heads of state had not met since November 1943 and the political problems of war had multiplied without any serious diplomatic effort by the United States at any time to confront them before they became insoluble.   Indeed, until the end of 1944 Washington hoped that by postponing discussions and confining conferences to specific American political and economic objectives, such as the United Nations or a reform of the world economy, it might more easily handle the immediate, pressing questions.   British efforts to meet the problems of Eastern Europe head on, in the form of Churchill's strange meeting with Stalin in October 1944, could not succeed so long as the United States refused to show its hand.   By the time of the Yalta conference most American leaders seriously doubted the premise that the American position would be stronger rather than weaker after delay, for now that the adhesive of common military danger in Europe had worn loose, the need for mutual collaboration on a political level had grown thin as well.   For the Russians, Western aid in the form of a second front came late, perhaps much later than it was truly needed, and Soviet troops managed to consistently defeat German land power well before D-Day.  

WWII Rubble in Northwest France, by Flickr Photographer Ihuiz

The war with Japan largely concerned the American military leaders, who insisted that Russian intervention into that war was necessary to bring it to a relatively quick conclusion, a need which operated in favor of the Russian diplomatic position.

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I have a law degree (Stanford, 66') but have never practiced. Instead, from 1967 through 1977, I tried to contribute to the revolution in America. As unsuccessful as everyone else over that decade, in 1978 I went to work for the U.S. Forest (more...)

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