Revisionism - Right revisionism



Having contended that U.S. involvement in World War I had been the consequence of a series of blundering decisions, Tansill concluded that war could have been avoided if statesmen had been more realistic and nationalistic. This emphasis on error and this multicausal analysis did not, however, constitute Tansill's interpretation of U.S. involvement in World War II. A far more doctrinaire, self-righteous, and conspiratorial tone pervaded his analysis of that subject and that of other Right revisionists.

Right revisionism emerged only in the 1940s. This assessment did not repudiate the themes of World War I revisionism so much as it put forth a sharpened, narrower focus on the role and power of the executive branch. Right revisionism sharply questioned the wisdom of the policies of the Roosevelt administration during 1937–1941 and when seeking accommodation with the Soviet Union during the war. The Soviet Union, the Right revisionists affirmed, was the main beneficiary of World War II. This was not happenstance, but the result of a policy that, by seeking the total defeat of Germany and Japan, had removed these powerful counterweights to the spread of communism. The Right revisionists also adapted an implicit theme of World War I revisionism: the un-Americanism of policymakers. Making this theme more explicit, they added the charge of subversive influence. Right revisionists might have had little impact on the scholarly community: their writings reflected the conclusions advanced by many conservatives about the Truman administration's policy during the early Cold War years, and provided legitimacy and justification for what became known as McCarthyism.

Whether Tansill's Back Door to War, the various contributors to the collection of essays that Barnes edited, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (with the exception of William Neumann), Frederick Sanborn's Design for War, George Crocker's Roosevelt's Road to Russia, George Morgenstern's Pearl Harbor, John Flynn's While You Slept, James Martin's Revisionist Viewpoints, Freda Utley's The China Story, or Anthony Kubek's How the Far East Was Lost, the Right revisionists denied that war with Germany or Japan had been necessary. Emphasizing the flexibility and restraint of Japanese and German diplomats, these authors questioned whether U.S. interests had been compromised by German or Japanese expansion in Europe or the Far East. The Right revisionists further emphasized, and drew sinister conclusions about, how President Roosevelt brought the nation into war. Kubek and Utley extended this indictment to the Truman administration, stressing the McCarthyite themes of "communist influence" and "softness toward communism."

Unlike World War I revisionism, however, Right revisionism reflected no sense of ambiguity or multiple causality. There was one major culprit: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (for some, Harry Truman as well). And when not accusing Roosevelt of opportunism or affinity for leftist views, most Right revisionists emphasized the excessive influence of communist supporters within the Roosevelt administration in formulating policies that led tragically to war and then inevitably to Soviet expansion.

This sharpened criticism runs throughout Right revisionism. The contrast with World War I revisionism is pointedly demonstrated in Tansill's writings. In his description of romantic pro-British sympathies, in Back Door to War, Tansill affirms that "The main objective of American foreign policy since 1900 has been the preservation of the British Empire." This theme, however, was dropped from Tansill's later analysis. Condemning U.S. involvement in war with the Axis powers, Tansill extolled the correctness of Japanese and German fears of communism. This realism, Tansill lamented, was not shared by President Roosevelt and his advisers: "It was apparent to Japan that Russia had long-range plans to communize China and thus eventually to control a large portion of eastern Asia. The very nature of international communism made it impossible to have stable relations with Russia, so Japan again turned to the United States in May 1934 in the hope of erecting a common front against the foes of capitalism." Opposed to the concentration of power in the executive branch and to the social reform policies of the Roosevelt New Deal, Tansill saw in the foreign policy of that administration the logical extension of its domestic principles to the international arena.

Tansill's analysis centered on two themes. First, he emphasized the sinister character of the president's deceitful conduct of diplomacy, whether during the prewar period of 1939–1941 or during the war years. No longer content to characterize presidential diplomacy as duplicitous, the Right revisionists denied that policies were based on popular support and emphasized the intentionally secret and unilateral process by which decisions were made.

The second theme of Right revisionism was that U.S. involvement in World War II and the secretive, unilateral conduct of foreign policy were so inimical to the national interest (having made possible Soviet expansion and the Cold War) that this could not have been the result either of mistaken judgment or of emotionalism. Rather, the Right revisionists maintained, this policy could best be understood as the result of subversion and treason. Anthony Kubek extended this theme to an extreme form: "The utter consistency of our policy in serving Soviet ends leaves no conclusion other than that pro-Communist elements in our government and press 'planned it that way.' But top American officials who sought to buy Soviet cooperation at any price must bear the final responsibility." Condemning the continued respectability of this "internationalist" and "accommodationist" thinking, Kubek concludes in How the Far East Was Lost : "We face … a criminal conspiracy and it must be dealt with as such…. The Communist conspiracy has been succeeding largely on the basis of our mistakes and of the ability of their agents to procure such mistakes on our part…. It should be clearly evident that the Communists cannot gain the world unless our government helps them to do it."



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