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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Defending FDR's Legacy

Lately, it has almost become sport for many Conservatives to start attacking the legacy of FDR. There are several reasons for this. The first is of course that FDR is the penultimate liberal President. His legacy is pantamount to the future of liberalism. If his economic record is considered successful, it also opens up a pandora's box to all sorts of big government programs. The size of the government is a nearly never ending debate. FDR's economic record is standard Keynesian, and it forms the basis for much of liberal's defense of government spending to stimulate the economy. I, myself, have questioned FDR's economic record.

While FDR's record, is in my opinion, a matter of great debate. His overall record is beyond question. I believe that any President during war time is judged first, second, and last by his performance during that war. As such, FDR carried the U.S. through its most difficult war and we won that war. That speaks for itself.

Really though, his legacy is cemented because FDR pulled off the greatest foreign policy coups in history. Sometimes when we look back on histor, we see with a matter of fact something that was truly remarkable. That's, I believe, what we had with FDR. On the eve of WWII, FDR, along with Winston Churchill, was able to reach out to Joseph Stalin and convince Stalin that Adolph Hitler was a bigger threat to Stalin's own power base than an alliance with Britain and the U.S.

This may seem simple enough however Stalin was evil and a tyrant. The same could certainly be said of Adolph Hitler. In other words, FDR convinced Stalin that an individual just like him was a very real threat to him. Normally, despots and tyrants find each other. In this case, FDR was able to pit tyrants against each other. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Had Russia gotten into bed with Germany who knows how things would have turned out.

What is impossible to quantify is FDR's skills in staring down this evil, tyrannicall lunatic and being able to convince someone this irrational of something perfectly rational. The reality was that Hitler wanted to rule the whole entire world. As soon as he was done with Britain, France and the rest of Western Europe, it was only a matter of time before he got to Mother Russia. Stalin's aspirations reached beyond his border but he never wanted to rule the whole world. FDR and Churchill were able to convince Stalin that his own plans would eventually be compromised by Hitler.

Their marriage was one of extreme convenience. As soon as Hitler was eliminated, Stalin saw his recent allies as enemies, and what followed WWII was a prolonged Cold War. This only makes the coup that much more remarkable. Stalin never saw either FDR or Churchill as any real allies but rather those he could use for an immediate purpose. No doubt, both FDR and Churchill knew this quite well. That's why keeping him in line throughout their alliance is even more remarkable. It is this foreign policy coup that is rarely placed into the proper context. It's this that makes FDR's legacy one that puts him in a very special class.


Anonymous said...

So-- your contention is that allowing himself to be used by an unstable maniac like Stalin makes FDR special? I suppose the Cold War was the big pay off. I have heard many defenses of FDR and this one is the worst

mike volpe said...

Are you serious? Used by Stalin. Without Stalin in bed with the allies there is no Cold War because Hitler would have won and taken over the world himself. What exactly are you saying? FDR and Churchill shouldn't have reached out to Stalin because after this war he might turn on them. As such, they should have allowed Hitler to reach out to him and they would have taken on the allies together. I have heard many criticisms of my pieces and yours is quite possibly the worst.

Anonymous said...

On the eve of WWII Hitler and Stalin were allies and invaded Poland. It wasn't until Hitler invaded the USSR that the US and USSR became allied, so I don't think that alliance can be attributed to FDR's diplomatic skills

mike volpe said...

Hitler didn't invade Russia till towards the end of the war. I don't believe your timeline is accurate.

In fact, Hitler's hubris was what ultimately did him in. He made nearly the exact same mistakes that Napolean had made in Russia about a hundred years prior. Once he got stuck in the Russian winter the war was strategically over. Still, that invasion didn't happen till just about the end of the war. They had become enemies long before then.