Conrad Black has now published three attacks at National Review Online against my book American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, but I would bet the $4.1 million Black has to pay the U.S. government in fines related to his fraud conviction that he hasn’t read the book.
In his most recent attack — this time against a positive review of American Betrayal by famed Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky and Pavel Stroilov at Breitbart News — Black mocks Bukovsky for, in Black’s telling, imagining that FDR believed that the capitalist and Communist systems were on a path of “convergence.”
“Convergence theory” shows up in more than half a dozen listings in American Betrayal’s index. Nonetheless, Black writes:
Where it [the review] all starts to go horribly wrong is in the sudden metamorphosis of Duranty into Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, Bukovsky has learned, presumably from whatever unimaginable emanations possessed him in his decades of brave resistance to Communism and in his apparently incomplete convalescence since, sought a “convergence” of Stalinist socialism with American constitutional government.” (Italics added.)
Before I establish the well-founded points of FDR’s oft-stated belief in “convergence,” I will note for readers that this same exercise — demonstrating the baselessness of an attack on my book (or, in this case, on a positive review of my book) — is, to date, the main mechanism of “debate” about American Betrayal. (See The Rebuttal: Defending American Betrayal from the Book-Burners for the gruesome details.) Distortion, fabrication, sloppiness — these are the hallmarks of “discussion.” While I realize American Betrayal’s findings are shocking (they were to me as I uncovered them), I still rather expected the book to be debated civilly, and not continually mauled.
I will mention for readers who have only seen the claw marks that Bukovsky and Stroilov, both scholars of Soviet subversion, have called American Betrayal “huge and brilliant.” I will also add — because my detractors never do — that M. Stanton Evans, the celebrated conservative author and foremost expert on the McCarthy era, has called American Betrayal a “long-needed answer to court histories that obscure key facts about our backstage war with Moscow.” Evans has himself written an article about the campaign against my book at CNSNews.com titled “In Defense of Diana West.”
No comment from the commentariat at the larger outlets over this heated clash, however, which is noteworthy in itself. A battle royale is joined over a book with “names” on both sides — not your everyday occurrence — and none of the capital-p pundits says (dares say?) a word about it, not even to write a book review.
But if the reasons for the silence remain somewhat murky, the point about FDR subscribing to the theory that the U.S. and Soviet systems were moving toward each other is clear and traceable to many sources — supporters, administration officials, and political opponents alike. To Cardinal Spellman, senior State Department official Sumner Welles, House Un-American Activities Committee chairman Representative Martin Dies, among others, FDR spoke about convergence — even, as we find in their writings about these discussions, using the same terminology.
“He once said to me that he believed that if the world could remain at peace the following phenomena would probably take place,” Sumner Welles, who knew FDR well, wrote in his 1946 book Where Are We Heading? (quoted in American Betrayal). Roosevelt believed, Welles continued, that “if one took the figure 100 as representing the difference between American democracy and Soviet Communism in 1917, with the United States at 100 and the Soviet Union at 0, American democracy might eventually reach the figure of 60 and the Soviet system might reach the figure of 40. . . . He felt, therefore, even though the internal systems of the two countries could never conceivably become identical, some progress toward approximation had already been made, and that approximation made for a better understanding between the peoples of the two nations. He regarded this trend as making it more likely that no fundamental conflict between the countries need ever become inevitable, provided Soviet Communism had permanently abandoned its doctrine of world revolution.”
That was one dangerously absurd provision — and, not at all incidentally, a key point of Soviet propaganda, as William C. Bullitt, former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, painstakingly argued to FDR (also explained in American Betrayal). This same false provision would underlie all manner of U.S.-USSR interactions for half a century, including “peaceful coexistence,” arms control, “détente,” “perestroika,” etc. In truth, the USSR never abandoned its doctrine of world revolution. FDR, however, believed otherwise — he certainly believed that Stalin had changed, as Bullitt publicly reported in 1948 (also discussed in American Betrayal). Describing a 1943 meeting with FDR in which Bullitt argued that there was no evidence of any such change, that FDR’s continuing course of Soviet appeasement would lead to a Soviet empire in Europe supplanting the Nazi Reich (exactly what happened), Bullitt quoted FDR as replying:
Bill, I don’t dispute your facts, they are accurate. I don’t dispute the logic of your reasoning. I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. Harry says he’s not and that he doesn’t want anything in the world but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.
“Harry,” by the way, was Harry Hopkins, whose dossier, American Betrayal explains, contains credible evidence that he was serving Stalin as an agent of influence while simultaneously serving as FDR’s closest adviser during the war. (Black, however, dismisses Hopkins as a foreign-policy non-entity.)
On September 3, 1943, then-archbishop Francis Spellman spent 90 minutes with FDR, later writing an aide-mémoire about their conversation. In it, Spellman recounts the disturbing fact that FDR was already resigned to leave half of Europe to Soviet domination — at a time in the war when Stalin’s Red Army was still inside Russia (also recounted in American Betrayal). What if the war ended before Stalin came into Europe? Why was FDR already assuming the USSR would turn half of Europe into vassal states? Spellman further states Roosevelt’s formula for convergence, including terms identical to those that Sumner Welles related. “The European people will simply have to endure the Russian domination,” Spellman reported FDR saying, “in the hope that in ten or 20 years they will be able to live with the Russians. Finally, he [FDR] hopes, the Russians will get 40 percent of the capitalist regime, the capitalists will retain only 60 percent of their system and so an understanding will be possible.”
As noted in American Betrayal, former representative Martin Dies (D., Texas) discusses Spellman’s contemporaneous 1943 account in Dies’s 1963 memoir, writing, “His aide mémoire is completely in accord with the opinions Roosevelt expressed to me over the years.”
In his 1998 book Caught Between Roosevelt & Stalin, history professor Dennis J. Dunn traces the impact of FDR’s belief in “convergence” on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. (I discuss Dunn’s work in my book as well.) One of Dunn’s main sources is Averell Harriman, who served as an FDR adviser and U.S. ambassador in Moscow. “Harriman explained Roosevelt’s outlook to me in a personal interview in Washington, D.C., on 19 November, 1981.” Dunn writes, noting that Harriman earlier referenced “Roosevelt’s advocacy of convergence” in his own 1975 memoir, and again in a lengthy interview Harriman gave to Encounter magazine in 1981. Dunn adds that Harriman “emphasized the importance of the theory of convergence in explaining Roosevelt’s policies. I found his explanation convincing.”
In short, what Bukovsky and Stroilov were discussing are not “unimaginable emanations” but facts from the historical record.
Shocking? Yes, but no less shocking than other examples of Black’s loose grip on the subject matter, as when he dismisses arch-Soviet spy Alger Hiss altogether.
Black writes: “Alger Hiss had no influence, ceased his incompetent efforts at espionage in the mid Thirties, and did not exchange a word with Roosevelt at Yalta; his only contribution was to recommend, unsuccessfully, that the USSR not have three votes in the United Nations general assembly.”
And thus we come not full circle, but 180 degrees. National Review, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley, whose moral hero was Whittaker Chambers, is now whitewashing Soviet military-intelligence agent Alger Hiss. Additionally, this magazine, whose founding editors were in part drawn together by their philosophical and political opposition to Roosevelt, may now claim to be the keeper of FDR’s flame.
It’s all rather strange — but what isn’t in this “debate”?
— Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.