July 2, 2007 is the 75th anniversary of the nomination of FDR. In my opinion, he and Lincoln were the greatest of the 43 Presidents. And they both represented the true values of the political parties that they represented. In each case however, their early deaths set back America at least 75-100 years.
Lincoln as the first Republican President stood for a strong centralized government and civil rights. Compare that to the Republican Party today. The fact that Lincoln died just after the Civil War created much of the hostility and retribution that the victors often put upon the vanquished. The retribution placed upon the South created the atmosphere that set this country and the Republican Party to lose their respective souls. When Lincoln said, "with malice towards none and charity for all", he set the stage for a united country in a post war setting. With the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican Party has represented primarily the rich. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they now also represent the racists and bigots.
Roosevelt in essence was the first truly progressive Democratic President. Like Lincoln, he set a new paradigm for the role of a centralized government in America. In Lincoln's case it was the "union" concept. In Roosevelt's case it was the New Deal safety net role of taking care of its people as well as his view of post war America. The FDR legacy was handed over to Harry Truman who completely destroyed Roosevelt's concept of a cooperative and peaceful post war world. Through legend and mythology the post war media has given Truman hero status despite the arrogance and mistakes made by our first post-war President.
It is my opinion that had FDR lived, there probably would not have been a Cold War. Despite Stalin's shortcomings, he trusted FDR and FDR was a realist concerning the political and military situation after the defeat of Germany and Japan. What most Americans do not know is that Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed at Yalta what was in essence that the occupying armies of the allies would have what has been called a "sphere of influence." In exchange for that, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan 90 days after VE Day. In February of 1945, it was vital to FDR to convince the USSR to attack the massive 2.5 million Japanese occupying forces in Manchuria and China.
The USSR had almost single handedly defeated the German Army in Europe and had lost 25 million people. Despite that, true to its word, the USSR attacked the Japanese Army in Manchuria 2 days after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 8th 1945. Neither Truman nor his cabinet suggested that Russia not keep its part of the bargain. When Truman learned of the Bomb being tested on July 15, 1945, his position vis-à-vis Russia changed dramatically.
Japan and the USSR were not at war when Hitler was defeated. When we asked for and needed Russia's help in February 1945, we were happy to get it. When Truman knew we had the Bomb, his strategy was to drop the Bomb on Japan before the USSR entered the war. Truman knew this when he went to the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 and he ordered the Bomb to be dropped at that time. From Truman's point of view, the early dropping of the Bomb might cause Japan to surrender before the Russians entered the war. In effect, Truman ordered the genocide of innocent civilians to gain a political advantage. His excuse was then that it would save 1 million casualties in the invasion of Japan. The problem with that theory was that most of the Japanese Army was in China, not in Japan.
So what was the rush to drop the Bomb? Could the U.S. have waited until August 8th to see the impact upon Japan once the USSR entered the war? The answer is an obvious one. Many historians including Stephen Ambrose agree that the defeat of the occupying armies of Japan in China by the Soviet Union was a much greater threat to Japan than the A Bomb. The then Secretary of War, Henry Stimson advised Truman about the Bomb and its role in ending the war. Stimson had tried to bring a Japanese surrender before the atomic bombings by recommending that the Allies tell Japan she could keep her emperor in return for surrender. Stimson knew of the emperor's importance to the Japanese, who considered him to be a god, and sought to make use of it to end the war sooner. But Stimson's recommendation was not taken until after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Stimson later noted in his 1948 memoirs, written with McGeorge Bundy, "Only on the question of the Emperor did Stimson take, in 1945, a conciliatory view; only on this question did he later believe that history might find that the United States, by its delay in stating its position, had prolonged the war." (Stimson & Bundy, "On Active Service in Peace and War" pg. 628-629). Furthermore, Stimson suggested the use of the Bomb on a military target. Hiroshima had not been bombed prior to August 6th and was clearly not a military target. Neither was the fire bombing of Japan by our B-29s that killed more than 1 million civilians.
Only after the Bomb was dropped and the USSR entered the war did the United States accept the condition of keeping the Emperor. It is interesting to note that the United States had broken the Japanese code years earlier and knew that Japan was putting out peace offerings to the Soviet Union mostly upon the condition that Japan could keep its emperor. We ultimately accepted this position after the dropping of the Bomb. So the sensible conclusion has to be that the U.S. dropped the bomb for political reasons. Hiroshima, in my opinion was more of a message to Russia than to Japan.
Unfortunately, the victors write history and there is no doubt that the United States was the major benefactor of the defeat of fascism. The real estimates of casualties by the War Department for the invasion of Japan were not 1 million. James Carroll in his recent book, House Of War, has disclosed that the official casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan approximated 30,000 not 1,000,000. Carroll's father was the first head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and was in a position to know the truth. After the bomb was dropped, the Russians recognized through the use of basic logic what our intentions were politically by dropping the Bomb. The fact that the U.S. so ostentatiously put its secret weapons in its "holster" created more paranoia to an already paranoid leader, Stalin.
In the words of John Lennon, "imagine" a post war America if Roosevelt had only lived. Truman was a political hack and a lightweight. Henry Wallace was replaced by the Democratic Party hacks only because they knew Roosevelt was very sick. Truman was their man. Had Roosevelt lived the U.S. most likely would not have dropped the Bomb. Furthermore, the confrontation with the USSR and the policy of containment would not have been necessary. Roosevelt had the understanding of the needs of the USSR post war. They wanted security from another German invasion. Stalin was eventually going to die and the Soviet Union owned up to Stalin's sins shortly after his death.
We rushed into a confrontation with Russia just as we rushed into the dropping of the A Bomb. We are still living with the consequences of that today. The armaments race since 1945 has bankrupted both Russia and the United States. The nuclear proliferation in the world is a direct result of our confrontation with Russia. Had the U.S. put the atomic secrets into the hands of the United Nations as Stimson, Oppenheimer, Eisenhower and others had recommended, humanity would not be held hostage to the nuclear genie. Look at the state of the world and America today and compare it to the hopefulness in 1945 after the defeat of fascism.
America lost its soul when it dropped the atom bomb and through its Cold War policy that fed right into the Wall Street crowd. And look where they have taken us. The death of FDR has probably set the U.S. and the world back at least 100 years. And like the Republican Party, the Democratic Party is losing its soul and the legacy set by FDR. There is still time for the Democrats and America to change its course. However, like global warming, there is precious little time left.