American Wars - Both Hot and Cold
- Through Revisionist Eyes
by Jeff Riggenbach
May 4, 2009
Editor's note: The following is adapted
from chapter four of Jeff Riggenbach's new book, Why American
History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism (Ludwig
von Mises Institute, 2009).
Until very recently, it was generally
agreed that the story of the United States was the triumphant
tale of a people fervently devoted to peace, prosperity, and individual
liberty; a people left utterly untempted by opportunities of the
kind that had led so many other nations down the ignoble road
of empire; a people who went to war only as a last resort and
only when both individual liberty and Western Civilization itself
were imperiled and at stake.
Then, a little over a quarter-century
ago, the terms of the public discussion of such issues changed
- radically. One might say the opening salvo in the new American
history wars was fired by Howard Zinn, in the form of a textbook
titled A People's History of the United States. First published
in 1980, this volume is still in print, was reissued in a revised,
updated, "20th Anniversary Edition" in the year 2000,
and has become one of the most widely influential college-level
textbooks on American history currently in use in this country.
Today, Zinn faces intensified competition, however, not only
from peddlers of the traditional, America-as-pure-and-virtuous-beacon-of-liberty-prosperity-and-peace
version of our past, but also from a number of other writers who
have, in varying degree, adopted the rather different view of
American history that Zinn himself promotes.
This alternative vision sees America's
past as a series of betrayals by political leaders of all major
parties, in which the liberal ideals on which this country was
founded have been gradually abandoned and replaced by precisely
the sorts of illiberal ideals that America officially deplores.
In effect, say Howard Zinn and a growing chorus of others, we
have become the people our founding fathers warned us (and tried
to protect us) against. And what may be the most significant
fact about this alternative or "revisionist" view of
American history is the remarkably hospitable reception it has
enjoyed both from the general public and from the selfsame educational
establishment that only a few short years ago was assiduously
teaching students something else entirely.
How can we account for this? Why, suddenly,
is there a substantial market for a version of American history
quite unlike anything most Americans have ever encountered? It
seems to me that one of the forces at work here is simple generational
change. It was in the 1980s that college and university history
departments came to be dominated by a new generation of historians
- historians who had earned their Ph.D.s in the 1960s and '70s
and who had been strongly influenced in their thinking about American
history by a group of "revisionist" historians, the
so-called "New Left Historians," whose books were widely
popular and widely controversial at that time. These "New
Left Historians" - William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko,
Gar Alperovitz, a number of others - had in turn been strongly
influenced by an earlier group of "revisionists" - the
so-called "New Historians" or "Progressive Historians"
- whose most prominent figures included Charles A. Beard and Harry
Elmer Barnes, and whose heyday extended from the early years of
the last century through the 1940s. (These revisionists were
joined, by the end of the 1980s, by a group of libertarian revisionist
historians influenced by both of the earlier revisionist movements.)
Another of the forces involved in making
revisionism respectable once again was the brilliant critical
and popular success, during the 1970s and early 1980s, of the
first three books in Gore Vidal's six-volume "American Chronicle"
series of historical novels about the United States. Burr (1973),
1876 (1976), and Lincoln (1984) were enormous successes. They
proved beyond any doubt that the public would not rise up in indignation
and smite any author who dared to question the motives and the
wisdom of even the most venerated American presidents. They proved
that there was, in fact, a substantial market for just such skepticism
about the glorious American past.
Vidal himself was strongly influenced
by certain of the revisionists mentioned above, particularly Beard,
Williams, and Alperovitz. And his presentation of American history
in his novels is fully consistent with the version of that history
one encounters in their works (and in the works of their libertarian
successors). This is perhaps nowhere so evident as in Vidal's
and the revisionist historians' treatment of America's major wars.
I: The U.S. Civil War - The Revisionist
As Gore Vidal presents it in Lincoln,
the U.S. Civil War was caused not by slavery, but by the intransigence
of President Lincoln, who insisted adamantly that no state could
legitimately secede from the Union and that the Union could never
be broken up. In Vidal's account, Lincoln cared nothing for the
plight of the slaves. Nor did he care about the U.S. Constitution's
guarantees of individual liberty: he shut down newspapers that
opposed the war, imprisoning their editors; he held prisoners
indefinitely, flouting habeas corpus; he imposed the first military
draft in the nation's history, then used troops to crush the riots
that resulted; he financed his war by imposing and collecting
the nation's first tax on incomes, despite the lack of any constitutional
basis for such a levy.
Vidal might well have found inspiration
for such a view of the war in the writings of Charles Beard and
William Appleman Williams. For, as Beard wrote in 1927 in Volume
II of The Rise of American Civilization,
"Since  the abolition of slavery
never appeared in the platform of any great political party, since
the only appeal ever made to the electorate on that issue was
scornfully repulsed, since the spokesman of the Republicans emphatically
declared that his party never intended to interfere with slavery
in the states in any shape or form, it seems reasonable to assume
that the institution of slavery was not the fundamental issue
during the epoch preceding the bombardment of Fort Sumter."
Williams agreed. In his Contours of American
History (1961), he wrote that "neither Lincoln nor the majority
of northerners entered the war in an abolitionist frame of mind
or entertaining abolitionist objectives." Williams is
even more explicit in his 1976 book America Confronts a Revolutionary
World: 1776-1976. "Put simply," he writes, "the
cause of the Civil War was the refusal of Lincoln and other northerners
to honor the revolutionary right of self-determination - the touchstone
of the American Revolution." And this was rank hypocrisy
on Lincoln's part, according to Williams, for on January 12, 1848,
the Great Emancipator had intoned:
"Any people anywhere, being inclined
and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off
the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.
 Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people
of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion
of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own,
of so much of the territory as they inhabit."
Joseph R. Stromberg, the historian who
touched off the current wave of serious revisionist investigation
of the U.S. Civil War among libertarian scholars, had read both
Beard and Williams. And in his influential essay, "The War
for Southern Independence: A Radical Libertarian Perspective,"
published in 1979, while he was still a Ph.D. candidate at the
University of Florida, he staked out a position even more radical
than anything either Beard or Williams had ever proposed - something
very like the vision of the war laid out in Gore Vidal's Lincoln.
Stromberg didn't go into a lot of detail in presenting his take
on the war, but two other libertarian historians have done so.
These are Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, in Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving
Free Men (1996), and Thomas J. DiLorenzo, in The Real Lincoln:
A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary
Hummel's view of the Civil War is remarkably
like Vidal's. "Historians and buffs debate the fundamental
causes of the American Civil War almost as hotly today as the
combatants did then," he writes. "We can simplify our
understanding of the Civil War's causes, however, if we follow
the advice of one eminent historian, Eric Foner, and ask two separate
questions. Why did the southern states want to leave the Union?
And why did the northern states refuse to let them go?"
These are two separate questions, Hummel insists, because "[e]ven
if slavery explains why the southern states left the Union, it
does not necessarily either explain or justify the national government's
refusal to recognize their independence." In fact, he maintains,
"[n]ot only does slavery fail to explain why the northern
states resorted to coercion, but letting the lower South go in
peace was a viable, untried antislavery option. As the most militant
abolitionists themselves demonstrated, there was no contradiction
between condemning slavery and advocating secession."
In fact, as Hummel points out, one of
the most prominent leaders of the abolitionist movement, William
Lloyd Garrison, editor of the weekly abolitionist paper The Liberator
and one of the organizers of the leading abolitionist organization,
the American Anti-Slavery Society, was an enthusiastic proponent
of secession - for the North. Garrison and his followers "felt
that this best hastened the destruction of slavery by allowing
the free states to get out from under the Constitution's fugitive
slave provision." The seceded North, in Garrison's vision,
would have "become a haven for runaway slaves."
Why did President Lincoln choose another
path - the use of military force against the seceded Southern
states? In August of 1862, according to Hummel, Lincoln answered
this question. "My paramount object in this struggle,"
the president said,
"is to save the Union, and is not
either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union
without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it
by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it
by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I
believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear
because I do not believe it would help save the Union."
In effect, Lincoln refused to allow, first
the lower South, then the entire Confederacy, to go in peace because
he was committed to a conception of the United States as a perpetual
nation, with whose central government the component states had
no right to end their association - he was committed, not to a
voluntary Union, but to a compulsory one.
In defense of this compulsory Union, according
"Lincoln implemented a series of
unconstitutional acts, including launching an invasion of the
South without consulting Congress, as required by the Constitution;
declaring martial law; blockading the Southern ports; suspending
the right of habeas corpus for the duration of his administration;
imprisoning without trial thousands of Northern citizens; arresting
and imprisoning newspaper publishers who were critical of him;
censoring all telegraph communication; nationalizing the railroads;
creating several new states without the consent of the citizens
of those states; ordering Federal troops to interfere with elections
in the North by intimidating Democratic voters; deporting a member
of Congress, Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, for criticizing
the administration's income tax proposal at a Democratic Party
rally; confiscating private property; confiscating firearms in
violation of the Second Amendment; and effectively gutting the
Ninth and Tenth amendments to the Constitution, among other things."
"One victim of Lincoln's suppression
of Northern newspapers," DiLorenzo writes, "was Francis
Key Howard of Baltimore, the grandson of Francis Scott Key."
Howard spent "nearly two years in a military prison without
being charged and without a trial of any kind." "Fort
Lafayette in New York Harbor," he notes, "came to be
known as the 'American Bastille' because it housed so many political
prisoners during the Lincoln administration." At one point,
"Fort Lafayette was filled with newspaper editors from all
over the country who had questioned the wisdom of Lincoln's military
invasion and his war of conquest."
DiLorenzo quotes Clinton Rossiter in support
of his contention that Lincoln's war policies were widely regarded
as unconstitutional even at the time of their original enactment:
"This amazing disregard for the Constitution was considered
by nobody as legal." That being the case, however, one must
wonder how Lincoln explained his policies to the people around
him at the time. According to DiLorenzo, the president
"'justified' his unconstitutional
power grab by 'discovering' presidential powers in the Constitution
that no previous president, or, indeed, anyone at all, had ever
noticed. Specifically, he claimed that the commander-in-chief
clause of the Constitution, when combined with the duty of the
president to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed,'
gave him carte blanche in ignoring any and all laws, and the Constitution
itself, in the name of presidential 'war powers.'"
It will be noted that DiLorenzo indulges
a marked taste for the polemical and tends toward more than a
bit of hyperbole in his writing. Lincoln does not seem really
to have believed that he had "carte blanche in ignoring any
and all laws," for example; he does seem, however, to have
believed that he had carte blanche to ignore those laws he felt
were in conflict with what he saw as his duty - to save the Union,
price no object. DiLorenzo has also been accused, by more than
one reviewer, of "careless errors of fact, misuse of sources,
and faulty documentation." Richard M. Gamble details these
technical criticisms of DiLorenzo's book at some length in the
Spring 2003 issue of The Independent Review, and regards them
as evidence of a serious problem with DiLorenzo's scholarship.
But even he concedes that "individually these flaws may
seem trivial and inconsequential." And so they do: a
quotation cited as being on page 60 is in fact on page 61; information
attributed to page 316 of a work by a noted Lincoln scholar is
instead to be found on the same page of another work by the same
scholar; an article cited as having been published in 1988 was
in fact published in 1998. Not only are errors of this type (unfortunate
though they are) both trivial and inconsequential, but also not
a few of them would appear to have resulted from proofreading
errors, which can hardly be blamed on the author. In any case,
as Peter Novick notes, "when citations  are illustrative
of a synthetic interpretation arrived at through 'deep immersion,'
even the demonstration that several citations are faulty is far
from constituting a refutation of the thesis they underpin."
And as Gamble himself acknowledges, DiLorenzo's book "is
essentially correct in every charge it makes against Lincoln,"
and is, apart from its too numerous technical errors, "a
sobering study in power and corruption."
II: America in the World Wars - A Revisionist
As Gore Vidal presents it in Hollywood,
American intervention in World War I was engineered by the United
States' Anglophile president, Woodrow Wilson, who was always eager
to help the British out of any pickle they might have got themselves
into. Even after creating a special office of wartime propaganda
to "sell" the war to the American public, however -
and after following the lead of Lincoln and forcibly silencing
those publishers who dared disagree with his policies - Wilson
still found it necessary to force young American men into the
U.S. Army through a revival of the military draft; too few of
them were volunteering to come to England's aid.
When Vidal researched the war, he could
well have found all the intellectual ammunition he needed to defend
such a view in the works of the Progressive historians, especially
Harry Elmer Barnes. Barnes has been discussed as a "second-generation"
practitioner of the "New History" pioneered by James
Harvey Robinson and Charles A. Beard. But, as Novick points out,
"'New Historians' is a designation
generally given to the Columbia group around Robinson and Beard,
and one which emphasizes methodology; 'Progressive Historians'
describes a descent from [Frederick Jackson] Turner and Beard,
and emphasizes substantive interpretations of American history.
The usage employed in the historiographical literature generally
depends on the subject under discussion. Because Turner prefigured
many New Historical themes, and Robinson, though a Europeanist,
was the ultimate Progressive, all three of these men - plus [Carl]
Becker, the student of both Turner and Robinson, and an 'associate
member' of both groups - are here treated as both New and Progressive
I follow Novick's lead in this matter,
reasoning that, since both Beard and his protégé
Barnes were consistent advocates of Progressive reform, as well
as advocates of the use of the social sciences to inform historical
scholarship, they may be treated as both New and Progressive Historians.
Beard, writing in 1930 in The Rise of
American Civilization, characterized the "official thesis"
as to the origins of World War I in the following way:
"Germany and Austria, under autocratic
war lords, had long been plotting and preparing for the day when
they could overwhelm their neighbors and make themselves masters
of the world. England, France, and Russia, on the other hand,
all unsuspecting, had pursued ways of innocence, had sincerely
desired peace, and made no adequate preparations for a great cataclysm.
When England and France were trying to preserve equal rights
for all in Morocco, Germany had rattled the sword and now, taking
advantage of the controversy over the assassination of the Austrian
archduke, the Central Powers had leaped like tigers upon their
Earlier, in a 1926 article for Current
History, Beard had been even more sardonic: the conventional view
of the war's origins, he wrote, amounted to the claim that "three
pure and innocent boys - Russia, France, and England - without
military guile in their hearts, were suddenly assailed while on
the way to Sunday school by two deep-dyed villains - Germany and
Austria - who had long been plotting cruel deeds in the dark."
By 1926, Barnes had long since recognized this story as so much
twaddle, and by 1930 his old mentor had come entirely over to
his side of the question.
And Barnes's side of the question was
rather different. He wrote in 1926 in The Genesis of the World
"the only direct and immediate responsibility
for the World War falls upon France and Russia, with the guilt
about equally distributed. Next in order - far below France and
Russia - would come Austria, though she never desired a general
European war. Finally, we should place Germany and England as
tied for last place, both being opposed to war in the 1914 crisis.
Probably the German public was somewhat more favorable to military
activities than the English people, but  the Kaiser made much
more strenuous efforts to preserve the peace of Europe in 1914
than did Sir Edward Grey."
As for U.S. intervention in the war, the
reasons for it, Barnes wrote in 1928 in In Quest of Truth and
Justice: De-Bunking the War-Guilt Myth, were "many and complex."
One factor was "the pro-British sources of most of our news
concerning Germany in the decade prior to 1914." Another
was the "enormous sums" lent to Allied governments by
American bankers. Another was the simple fact that President
"Wilson was  very pro-British in his cultural sympathies.
 He did not desire to have the United States enter the war
if England seemed likely to win without our aid, but as soon as
this appeared doubtful he was convinced that we should enter as
early as he could persuade Congress and the country to follow
him." "Later," Barnes added, "Mr. Wilson
added to his pro-British reasons for desiring to enter the War
the conception that unless he was at the Peace Conference he could
not act decisively in bringing about a peace of justice and permanence."
Unfortunately, "[t]here can be little doubt that the entry
of the United States into the World War was an unmitigated disaster
for all concerned. It made it possible for one set of combatants
to win a crushing victory, whereas, as Mr. Wilson once wisely
said, the only enduring peace would have to be a peace without
Earlier, in The Genesis of the World War,
Barnes had seen another motive, something different from the desire
to build a "peace of justice and permanence," behind
Wilson's change of heart on U.S. participation in the war. He
saw lust for power. He suggested that "Wilson's decision
was affected by the conviction that he could assume world leadership
only if he led the United States into the war." In 1948,
looking back, Charles Beard saw a closely related sort of megalomania
lurking behind Wilson's benign, professorial visage - the delusion
"that the President of the United States has the constitutional
and moral right to proclaim noble sentiments of politics, economics,
and peace for the whole world and commit the United States to
these sentiments by making speeches and signing pieces of paper
on his own motion." In 1939, Beard recalled the violence
Wilson had done to the Constitution in the service of his megalomaniacal
vision: "I saw the freedom of the press trampled by gangs
of spies, public and private." Thirteen years earlier,
in 1926, in History and Social Intelligence, Barnes, too, had
noted the domestic consequences of Wilson's commitment of U.S.
troops to the European war - the fact that, in prosecuting his
war, the president had "sanctioned  the most serious inroads
upon democratic practice and human liberty in the history of our
country, wiping out in three years most of the solid gains of
a century and a half of struggle against arbitrary power."
In Barnes's view, the Versailles Treaty
that ended the war, based as it was on the very "charge of
German war guilt" that had since been exposed as arrant nonsense,
was so grossly unfair to Germany as almost to guarantee a resumption
of hostilities within a few years at best. And, of course,
hostilities did resume in the 1930s. When they did, both Beard
and Barnes were wary of any analysis of current events that appeared
to see merit in another U.S. intervention. Had nothing been learned
from the experience of World War I, they wondered.
Gore Vidal must have wondered much the
same thing. As he depicts it in The Golden Age, American intervention
in the new European War began as a move to protect and advance
the interests of England, this time with a fully conscious and
deliberate eye on the main chance of replacing England as the
leading world power. Specifically, Vidal depicts U.S. intervention
in the new war as the result of a plot by President Roosevelt
to provoke the Japanese into attacking U.S. territory, thereby
justifying the president's preexisting intention to break his
campaign promise not to send American boys to die in any foreign
war. Again, Vidal would have needed to look no farther than the
works of Beard and Barnes to draw such conclusions. In 1939,
in an article in Harper's magazine, Beard argued that
"[t]he era of universal American
jitters over foreign affairs of no vital interest to the United
States was opened in full blast about 1890 by four of the most
powerful agitators that ever afflicted any nation: Alfred Thayer
Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Albert J. Beveridge.
These were the chief manufacturers of the new doctrine correctly
characterized as 'imperialism for America'  the policy of running
out and telling the whole world just the right thing to do."
President Franklin Roosevelt now appeared
to be falling for the lure of this policy, Beard reported in February
1941, when he testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations against the Lend-Lease Bill, calling it
"an Act to place all the wealth and
all the men and women of the United States at the free disposal
of the President, to permit him to transfer or carry goods to
any foreign government he may be pleased to designate, anywhere
in the world, to authorize him to wage undeclared wars for anybody,
anywhere in the world, until the affairs of the world are ordered
to suit his policies, and for any other purpose he may have in
mind now or at any time in the future, which may be remotely related
to the contingencies contemplated in the title of this Act."
Beard proposed "that Congress reject
this bill with such force that no President of the United States
will ever dare again, in all our history, to ask it to suspend
the Constitution and the laws of this land and to confer upon
him limitless dictatorial powers over life and death."
It was in the service of this imperialistic
conception of the U.S. role in world affairs, Beard thundered
in that 1939 Harper's article, that "President Roosevelt
 was maneuvering his country into the war." Convinced
that FDR had set up the defenders of Pearl Harbor for a Japanese
attack he had deliberately provoked, while making sure that no
one in Hawaii knew of it in advance as he himself did, Beard "followed
the course of the congressional investigation of Pearl Harbor
with an almost microscopic scrutiny. To what the investigation
brought forth he added more that he gathered himself," publishing
his final statement on the matter in President Roosevelt and the
Coming of the War, 1941 (1948), only a few months before his death.
This book, according to George R. Leighton, Beard's editor at
Harper's, "was a ponderous volume in which, with detail and
fact piled upon detail and fact until the weight is almost crushing,
Beard sought to nail down the proof of Roosevelt's deception so
firmly that it could not be got loose."
Five years later, in 1953, Beard's longtime
protégé Harry Elmer Barnes published Perpetual War
for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy
of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Its Aftermath, dedicated "to
the memory of Charles Austin Beard." In this volume, Barnes
wrote that "American policy toward Japan in the decade preceding
Pearl Harbor  was the same hostile policy developed by Stimson
during the latter part of the Hoover Administration. It was rejected
by President Hoover but was adopted and continued by Roosevelt."
According to Barnes, FDR "discussed war with Japan in his
earliest cabinet meetings," immediately commenced "an
unprecedented peacetime expansion of our naval forces," "laid
plans for a naval blockade of Japan in 1937," and relentlessly
pursued a "program for the economic strangulation of Japan"
that "was generally recognized by Washington authorities"
at the time as likely to lead to war. "Roosevelt was personally
responsible," Barnes wrote, "for the location of our
Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, in which move he disregarded the
advice of Admirals Richardson and Stark. The State Department
backed Roosevelt and Richardson was relieved of his command."
"Japan veritably crawled on its diplomatic
belly," Barnes wrote, "from the end of August 1941,
until after the middle of November of that year in an attempt
to reach some workable understanding with the United States.
The effort met with cold and hostile rebuffs." Finally,
"Secretary Hull dispatched an ultimatum
to Japan on November 26 which, he fully recognized, decisively
closed the door to peace. He himself said that it took the Japanese
situation out of diplomacy and handed it over to the Army and
Navy. From this time onward it was only a question of when and
where the Japanese would attack."
"The decoded Japanese messages between
November 26 and December 7 indicated, with relative certainty,
when the attack would be made, and they also revealed the strong
probability that it would be aimed at Pearl Harbor." Yet
"nothing was done to warn General Short or Admiral Kimmel
at Pearl Harbor."
The president, Barnes wrote,
"expressed himself as greatly 'surprised'
at both the time and place of the attack, and his apologists have
accepted these words at their face value. Neither the President
nor his apologists have ever given any satisfactory explanation
of why he could have been surprised.  If they had any reason
at all to be surprised, it was only over the extent of the damage
inflicted by the Japanese. But there was little reason even for
this, in the light of Roosevelt's personal order to keep the fleet
bottled up like a flock of wooden ducks, of the order that no
decoding machine should be sent to Pearl Harbor, and of the fact
that Washington had deliberately failed to pass on to Short and
Kimmel any of the alarming information intercepted during the
three days before the attack. December 7 may have been a 'day
of infamy,' but the infamy was not all that of Japan."
III: A Revisionist Look at America in
the Cold War
As Gore Vidal depicts it in The Golden
Age, the Cold War was started by the United States, by a Truman
administration determined to show Joe Stalin who was boss of the
postwar world. When Vidal researched the Cold War, he could,
once again, have found much intellectual ammunition in the work
of Harry Elmer Barnes. The conventional historical account of
the origins of the Cold War places much emphasis on the warlike
and imperialistic intentions of the Soviet Union, to which the
United States was forced, reluctantly, to respond. Barnes would
have none of this. In 1953, in his essay "How Nineteen Eighty-Four
Trends Threaten American Peace, Freedom, and Prosperity,"
he wrote that
"the Russia which is now portrayed
as about to spring at the world and devour it is the same Russia
that Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, and other administration leaders
presented to the American public as our most potent and suitable
ally in the global struggle to suppress totalitarianism, assure
democracy, promote liberty, and make peace secure throughout the
world. There is very little today in Russian policy, domestic
or foreign, which any informed person did not know about back
in 1941. In fact, nothing which Russia has done since 1945 has
been as aggressive and brutal as the invasion of Poland in the
autumn of 1939, the later mass murders of Polish officers in the
Katyn Forest in 1940, or the mass murders and deportations of
Baltic peoples during the war."
Barnes considered the likelihood of the
Soviet Union making war against the United States to be extremely
remote. "Even leading Russophobes like Eugene Lyons,"
he wrote, "frankly admit that there is every reason to expect
that Russia will not start a war." Moreover, he pointed
out, when General Alfred M. Gruenther, General Eisenhower's chief
of staff, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
on March 25, 1952, he too "conceded that he did not believe
the Russians will start a war, now or at any time."
But if it was not Soviet aggression that
launched the Cold War, what did launch it? "Barnes concluded
that it was initiated by Truman and Churchill, largely for domestic
political reasons, and since then has been used by each of the
various governments to cement its rule over its subjects."
What Barnes seems to have regarded as the first official act
of the Cold War, Truman's decision to drop the newly developed
atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
is depicted in conventional accounts of American history as primarily
a military decision - an attempt to force Japanese surrender without
the necessity of an invasion of the islands and a prolonged land
war on Japanese soil, with its attendant American casualties,
possibly numbering in the millions. Again, Barnes would have
none of this. In May 1958, he published an article in National
Review called "Hiroshima: Assault on a Beaten Foe,"
in which he pointed to
"the highly significant MacArthur
memorandum to F.D.R. of January 20, 1945. This forty-page memorandum
explicitly set forth the terms of an authentic Japanese peace
offer which were virtually identical with the final surrender
terms that we accepted from the Japanese seven months later -
at the cost of countless needlessly expended lives, Japanese and
In the same article, "Barnes also
disclosed, for the first time, the personal testimony of Herbert
Hoover that President Truman, by early May 1945, informed him
that he knew of the extensive Japanese peace offers and admitted
then that further fighting with the Japanese was really unnecessary."
Barnes concluded "that the major reason for dropping the
bomb  was a saber-rattling gesture to the Russians against whom
we were already preparing the Cold War."
A very similar view of the Cold War had
already been articulated by this time by William Appleman Williams.
In 1952, in his first book, American-Russian Relations, 1781-1947,
"[c]ontradicting the prevailing notion
that the Cold War had come about through the actions of an aggressive
and expansionist Soviet Union, Williams argued that the United
States itself bore the primary responsibility. Even before Pearl
Harbor, he wrote, American policymakers had committed themselves
to achieving a postwar world dominated by an alliance between
Great Britain and the United States. By attempting to force upon
Russia this Anglo-American world order without regard to her minimum
security needs, American leaders forced an essentially conservative
Soviet Union into acting unilaterally in her own defense."
Among the methods Williams claimed American
leaders had used in pressuring the Soviets was "brandishing
Williams's student, Gar Alperovitz, who
earned his B.S. in history at the University of Wisconsin in 1959,
took his old teacher's argument and ran with it, devoting two
entire books to presenting the relevant details and working out
their implications. The first of these books, Atomic Diplomacy:
Hiroshima and Potsdam, the Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American
Confrontation With Soviet Power, was published in 1965; the second,
The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an
American Myth, appeared 30 years later, in 1995. According to
Robert James Maddox, Atomic Diplomacy
"is devoted to showing that from
the time Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency he undertook to
reverse Franklin D. Roosevelt's policy of cooperation with the
Soviet Union, thereby precipitating the Cold War. In direct violation
of wartime agreements, some explicit and some understood, Truman
sought to construct an American-dominated world order (particularly
in Eastern Europe and the Far East) at the end of World War II.
When economic coercion failed to achieve this goal, Alperovitz
claimed, Truman bided his time until the United States acquired
the atomic bomb, with which he meant to cow the Russians into
submission. The use of nuclear weapons against an already defeated
Japan, according to this view, amounted to a diplomatic rather
than a military act. The evidence 'strongly suggests,' he wrote,
that the bombs were used primarily to demonstrate to the Russians
the enormous power America would have in its possession during
subsequent negotiations. As a lesser factor, he cited the wish
to end the war quickly before they [the Soviets] could establish
a strong position in the Far East."
To quote Alperovitz himself, from one
of his Cold War Essays (1970), "the overriding reason for
the use of the bomb was that (implicitly or explicitly) it was
judged necessary to strengthen the United States's hand against
Russia." Commenting in the same essay on Herbert Feis's
then newly published book, The Atomic Bomb and the End of World
War II (1966), Alperovitz stresses the author's establishment
credentials - "special consultant to three Secretaries of
War," "comes close to being our official diplomatic
historian" - and judges the volume under consideration, predictably,
as the work of a man perhaps overly interested in "avoiding
serious criticism of the eminent officials he has known."
He comments further:
"One  would also like to believe
that the sole motive of the eminent men he knew was to save lives.
It is not pleasant to think that they were so fascinated by their
new 'master card' of diplomacy that they scarcely considered the
moral implications of their act when they used it. That, however,
is precisely what the evidence available strongly suggests."
 Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard,
The Rise of American Civilization (New York: Macmillan, 1930),
Vol. II, pp. 39-40.
 William Appleman Williams, The Contours
of American History (Cleveland, OH: World, 1961), p. 299.
 William Appleman Williams, America
Confronts a Revolutionary World: 1776-1976 (New York: William
Morrow, 1976), pp. 113, 111.
 Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War
(Chicago, Open Court, 1996), pp. 3, 8.
 Ibid., pp. 351, 21.
 Ibid., p. 208.
 Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Real Lincoln:
A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary
War (New York: Prima, 2002), pp. 131-132.
 Ibid., pp. 133-134, 140, 147.
 Ibid., pp. 132, 134.
 Richard M. Gamble, Review of The
Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an
Unnecessary War by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. The Independent Review
Vol. 7, No. 4: Spring 2003, p. 613.
 Peter Novick, That Noble Dream:
The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical
Profession (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988),
 Gamble, op.cit., pp. 614, 612.
 Novick, op.cit., p. 92.
 Beard and Beard, The Rise of American
Civilization, op.cit., Vol. II, p. 617.
 Novick, op.cit., p. 207.
 Harry Elmer Barnes, The Genesis
of the World War (New York: Knopf, 1926), pp. 658-659.
 Harry Elmer Barnes, In Quest of
Truth and Justice: De-Bunking the War-Guilt Myth (Colorado Springs,
CO: Ralph Myles, 1972 ), pp. 98, 101, 102, 105.
 Warren I. Cohen, The American Revisionists:
The Lessons of Intervention in World War I (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 77.
 Charles A. Beard, President Roosevelt
and the Coming of the War, 1941 (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1948), p. 593.
 George R. Leighton, "Beard
and Foreign Policy" in Charles A. Beard: An Appraisal, ed.
Howard K. Beale (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976 ),
 Harry Elmer Barnes, History and
Social Intelligence (New York: Revisionist Press, 1972 ),
 Novick, op.cit., p. 215. See also
Harry Elmer Barnes, "Revisionism and the Historical Blackout"
in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of
the Foreign Policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Its Aftermath,
ed. Harry Elmer Barnes (Caldwell, ID: Caxton, 1953), p. 10.
 Leighton, op.cit., pp. 166-167.
 Ibid., p. 182.
 Ibid., pp. 180, 183.
 Harry Elmer Barnes, "Summary
and Conclusions" in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, op.cit.,
pp. 636, 637.
 Ibid., pp. 642, 643, 645.
 Ibid., pp. 645-646.
 Harry Elmer Barnes, "How Nineteen
Eighty-Four Trends Threaten American Peace, Freedom, and Prosperity"
in Revisionism: A Key to Peace and Other Essays, ed. James J.
Martin (San Francisco: Cato Institute, 1980), pp. 148-149, 154.
 Murray N. Rothbard, "Revisionist
of the Cold War" in Harry Elmer Barnes, Learned Crusader:
The New History in Action, ed. Arthur Goddard (Colorado Springs,
CO: Ralph Myles, 1968), p. 324.
 Ibid., pp. 327, 328.
 Robert James Maddox, The New Left
and the Origins of the Cold War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1973), p. 14.
 Ibid., pp. 64-65.
 Gar Alperovitz, Cold War Essays
(Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1970), pp. 72, 51, 73.
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