Diana West, Still Wrong
Her case rests on a very slim foundation.

Stalin and FDR at the Tehran conference, 1943.


Conrad Black

Readers who are tired of Diana West have my utmost sympathy and solidarity; few could be more tired of her than I am, and those who cannot face another response to her, should not read further here. I will be overseas the next two weeks and will try to file from London in two weeks but, if that is not practical, will be back in three weeks. Ms. West, as all literate people in the Western Hemisphere must know by now, has recently published a book called American Betrayal, which claims that from the early years of the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the election of Ronald Reagan as president, the United States government was subject to inordinate influence by Soviet agents and sympathizers to the point that it was, in foreign- and strategic-policy terms, effectively an “occupied country” for much of that time of 45 years.

There has naturally been severe dispute on the subject, in which, as a Roosevelt biographer and strategic historian of the United States, I have joined. Much of it has been ad hominem slathering of considerable heat and at times effectiveness, and much has taken the form of group disparagements replete with arcane references to academic trends and past skirmishes. As a non-American whose educational affiliations are elsewhere, long ago, and not relevant, and as I have never met Ms. West, I neither wrote from that perspective nor was much afflicted by collateral damage from the spirited counterattacks of the author and her allies, until her letter to National Review last week, purporting to reply to my column here three weeks ago. In that column I denied that the endorsement of Soviet dissident and Gulag victim Vladimir Bukovsky and his co-reviewer Pavel Stroilov of Breitbart News had ended the discussion in Ms. West’s favor.

There does not seem to me to be any need to engage in the tractarian pedantry that is Ms. West’s specialty in the rearguard action she has conducted in favor of her book, of laborious citations from the voluminous criticism of her opponents, followed by a spurious rejoinder dressed up as a rigorous and unanswerable game-ender from a sympathetic source. In the interests of deescalation towards an end of these exchanges, I will briefly and neutrally summarize the germane points. There is no response to my references to occasions when Roosevelt publicly and in correspondence with other statesmen condemned Stalinist Communism. There is no response to the fact that, in 1940, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan were all dictatorships in hands hostile to the Anglo-American democracies and in 1945 all those countries (as to 80 percent in the case of Germany) were occupied by the American and British Commonwealth armed forces and all of them became flourishing democratic allies of the English-speaking democracies. There is no response to the fact that, in subduing Germany, the USSR took 95 percent of the casualties and 99 percent of the physical damage to its country, of the three principal allies. There is no response to the fact that Stalin pledged in the Declarations on Poland and on Liberated Europe, at the Yalta Conference, to free and democratic elections and national independence for the Eastern European countries the Red Army occupied, and that the violation of those undertakings led to the Cold War. There is no response to the fact that, in consideration of Stalin’s bad faith, Roosevelt and Truman declined to advance one cent of the $6.5 billion in assistance that had been dangled before Stalin as an incentive to keep his word.

Nor is there any response to references by Roosevelt to Stimson and others that he was relying on atomic weapons and the ability of the West to rearm Germany as further incentives to use to persuade Stalin to honor his commitments, once it was certain that atomic weapons would work as expected. Although it is incontestable that the West won the Cold War, it is claimed that it was halfheartedly pursued, because Roosevelt and his entire entourage, including Truman, Eisenhower, Marshall, Kennan, Bohlen, Acheson, and others, apparently including even Nixon and Kissinger, were duped by the Kremlin, in league with the Kremlin, or excessively sympathetic to the Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev regimes.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review