Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A (Slightly) More Fleshed-Out Defense of Yalta

From on High has responded to my response to his post from earlier. (It's like a game of Pong. deep...deep...deep...) My thoughts on his thoughts on my thoughts:

1. I think it's undoubtedly true that the Soviets would have fought for their holdings in Central and Eastern Europe. They may have been devastated by the Great Patriotic War, but they still had an enormous army, one that had just bested the mightiest fighting force ever assembled in the history of the world, in the field in Europe. So they certainly could fight. Plus they probably would have reasoned (not irrationally) that the American and British publics would not stand another half-decade of war, especially against a former ally, which would have encouraged a policy of brinkmanship. Finally, the reason they wanted a Central/Eastern European empire in the first place was to serve as a buffer against invasion from the west. They would have (not entirely inaccurately) perceived our efforts to establish Poland, et alia, as genuinely free liberal democracies as an attempt to create a staging ground from which later subversion of the Soviet state could take place.

More to the point, we would have had to fight. With a different strategy, the Western Allies might have been able to occupy all of Germany. But everything from the Vistula east (at minimum) was guaranteed to be under Soviet occupation. If we wanted to return General Sikorski and the government-in-exile to Poland, we were going to have to do it at gunpoint.

2. Was it pandering? I still think so, insofar as the intended audience was clearly the populations of the Baltic states and other American allies in the region like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania. It's a classic "I feel your pain" statement - boldly taking a position on an issue that was settled the other way 60 years ago.

Is he trying to set the Bush Doctrine in a broader historical context? Yes, clearly. But that's precisely why I wish he'd taken a more mature view of the situation surrounding Yalta, rather than just denouncing it as a Munich-style sellout. Because there are times when the United States isn't geopolitically omnipotent (hard to believe, I know) and we have to face reality and go for the next-best alternative. (As you say, see, e.g. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. See also, North Korea, Iran, and sadly Darfur.)

If he could just acknowledge that, he could be honest about our cozying up with the Saudis being the result of geopolitical necessity, rather than moral blindness or inexplicable hypocrisy. But instead we get treated to a history lesson in which every decision grounded in realism is the result of moral cowardice and strategic short-sightedness. Which is "rah-rah" inspiring, I guess, but doesn't do much to help us deal with our current messes.