tv Leaders Facing Crises After World Wars I and II CSPAN May 17, 2020 11:10am-12:11pm EDT
munitions. destruction is total. this was a that are fight for the southern tip of okinawa. one after another japanese positions are burned down. they've already conceded tactical loss. this is indispensable gain in the war against japan. ♪ >> american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. >> up next, the national world war ii museum hosted an online discussion with historian michael neiberg about the crises world leaders faced at the end of world wars i and ii. in a conversation with the museum's jason dawsey, mr. neiberg talked about the visions and strategies
debated by leaders as they tried to decide how to deal with destroyed economies, failed empires, and competing political ideologies. jason: i want to extend a welcome to all the viewers joining us. it is a great pleasure to talk to my friend and one time colleague mike neiberg, from the army war college. mike and i were colleagues. this is going back a ways, so 2006, in the history department of southern mississippi, we have stayed in touch quite a bit as we both moved on. we have always had shared interests. it is great to be here with you today and to have a conversation
on a subject that is extremely timely, which is really responding to crisis. obviously what needs to be said is the audience has seen all of the evidence they can of the current crisis, the economic downturn that will be the serious issue for leaders, for everyday people. it seems a good time to talk about two major 20th-century crises. at the end of two world wars and how leaders responded, and to raise an issue about the light that might throw on the present, about the framework for comparison. you're one of the people to talk to about this. there are too many of your books to list for the audience but i thought i would talk about the fight in the great war, world war i, the blood of free men,
the book about the liberation of paris in 1944. two books for the audience that will be of great interest is your concise history of the treaty of versailles. and your book about potsdam and the history of europe. i thought we will start with world war i and have a chronological approach. withll have a conversation you about these two major crises, and if we have time at the end, we can raise issues about how that relates to the present. the place to begin is pretty straightforward, the world as it appeared to allied leaders in 1918 and 1919. at the end of world war i, some
10 million people had perished in that conflict. as the american, french, british, italian leaders met, they are faced with their own pandemic, the great 1918 influenza. that world, and looking back on it, how did these leaders respond to these crises? how did they think about moving beyond the world work? mike: first of all, thank you, jason, thank you to the museum, and thank you to the viewers for signing in. i hope you're using this opportunity to use this time productively. for me it has been a time to reflect about the ways in which the days that you live in, the present time, changes the way
about the past, and changes the way you think about these big questions, how you deal with a pandemic and how you deal with great power competition in a crisis. that was happening at 1919. i don't think anybody thought that what happened at the conference was going to end great power competition. the question was how to make sense of the new world you are living in and what kind of philosophies do you want going forward? one thing this crisis has done is made me realize how similar in broad respects they were thinking 100 years ago. what i mean by that, this is simplifying things, but there are at least two major groups of thinkers. one is represented by woodrow wilson who argues that the right solution is multilateral. like problems like pandemics, great power competition, those
are international problems that need international solutions. they are other folks who are not a composed 2 -- opposed to negotiating with other countries, but there are americans like theodore roosevelt making the same argument in the u.s. what do you think is causing the problem and what do you think is the appropriate solution? there are people who were thinking internationally 100 years ago and people thinking nationally. those two would be very familiar to somebody looking at our world 100 years ago. they would've recognized a lot more about the situation that we would expect. jason: that leads me to my next question. you are talking about different visions that were there already from the very beginning. of course these countries had fought together, britain and france had been in the fight since 1914.
the u.s. jumped in three years later. at what point did the tensions between wilson and the others begin to surface between an international and national framework, how to deal with germany. the fact that germany was defeated, but this is a different thing and we will get to this later, but germany is not occupied in 1918 and 1919. we will come back to the questions of the bolsheviks and the like, but there were already tensions about how to respond. could you say a bit about that? mike: woodrow wilson very famously said that god himself was content to give us just 10 and david george was asked to
evaluate his own performance after the paris peace conference. he said, i don't think i did too bad seeing that i had napoleon on one side and jesus christ himself on the other. there were tensions with the weight wilson was thinking about this, the first american president to go to europe in office. the first american president trying to take american ideals and apply them to the old world. so there is that problem. and i think it also depends on what you think fundamentally caused the war. if you are george, there is something inherent in the german character. he had argued for fighting on rather than giving up. in his mind, the problem there , is something different about germany that you have to deal with. in george's mind there is a balance of power problem. in wilson's mind, the problem is
a lack of democracy, the lack of open markets, the lack of incentives for states to work together. although they were allies during the war they had very different definitions of what they thought they were doing and very different definitions came out of that about how to solve it. we can talk about this for world war ii as well. what do you think is the fundamental cause of the problem and until you have answered that question, you really cannot look for solutions. the american approach looks way too idealistic, way too pie-in-the-sky. two wilson, it looks like more of the same. part of it comes from an understanding of how you view the past. it is a different definition of what they see when they look backwards. also, the differences about germany and how they
understood the forces of the the frenchd how leader views wilson's idealism. it's what so many people bring up about that will sony and -- wilsonian perspective. the idealism, beyond wilson, is real sense that democracy in germany, the fact that the kaiser had been forced out, germany has become a republic or is in the process of becoming a republic. you think that might be a signal for wilson be a signal that the german people are trying to step up and move past authoritarianism. the british and the french side have been in the war much earlier, much of northern france is devastated, that the wariness and the suspicion would be
deeper about germany, and not at all convinced, just because we have this man running germany, that they really has not been much change. that is one of the things that one to ask, on the british and french side, is there interest at all in the fact that germany seems to be transitioning to some type of democratic system? where as for wilson, that may be confirmation that his point of view is correct. mike: i think you are right about both of those points. not all frenchmen see the world the way clemenceau does. germany will need time to figure out how it will work. it does not have the traditions that britain and france has paired you need to open the borders up. and are catholic movements youth movements and socialist
party movements trying to build these bridges across the rhine river. not to say let's just make up, but to say the fundamental problem of germany was kaiser, it wasn't germany. that comes up at the end of world war ii. the number of bavarians who were like, it was those guys. something similar is happening in world war i as well and there are people who are sympathetic. it is what they call the two germanys argument. there was this germany of beethoven and others that was crushed. it doesn't mean that everybody in france and britain trusts that, but it means that if we are looking for a postwar strategy it is better to leverage that than it is to continue the hatred and the enmity. we know this works better in the
end of the second world war, until you are at a point where france and germany have no border, which is an expression that you can do this under different historical circumstances. to me, every time i cross that border with nobody checking, it's been a wild now, but shared currency, consultation on foreign policy. this is what a lot of people are envisioning into the 1920's that you might get something like that. they are not all wildly optimistic or too idealistic, bu t they are hoping that if you can build bridges between them, you increas e that chance for cooperation rather than competition. that is similar to the debate we are having now, what's the best way to deal with this crisis? is it to build those bridges between governments that do not trust each other or governments that know they have different things they are trying to
accomplish, or do you wall yourself off and deal with it from a national perspective? there's no obvious answer, but to me it resonates with the kind of stuff i studied at the end of the two world wars. those are important points. it leads to follow-ups on that. you're noting that we should not be monolithic in the way that we understand the responses of these three countries to how to build a new order after world war i. the first question would be what kind of popular pressures do you see -- like lloyd george had just had an election in 1918. woodrow wilson had a congressional election and he now has republicans in congress who are not terribly excited about a lot of the internationalist side of this
peacemaking process. clemenceau does not have an election to deal with, but there are popular pressures that he has to respond to. for a lot of people, the sacrifice and casualties that france undergoes, the destruction in significant parts of the country that he has to listen to these pressures, he cannot just ignore them. we can get so focused on the big three and what is going on with them as they are trying to figure out a treaty that everyone can agree to, but as democracies, they are a republic, britain with its long tradition, they have to deal with pressures from below. could you say something about that? the is just way to study treaty of verseilles is with
those big three. with middle-class versus working-class, all kinds of things will determine your response. do you want to solve these problems at the national level or the imperial level? if you are british do you want to open up to international trade? or do you want to do this by increasing those imperial ties? increasing tariffs, keeping americans out of the markets and trying the best that you can to reinforce the strength of the empire? both of those arguments are out there. the imperial argument wins at the end of world war i. it does not end at the end of world war ii. to meet the debate over the treaty is fascinating.
there is a group of senators that say i don't care what's in it, i'm not signing it. there is another group that says there are ways in which this is unconstitutional. there is a way that the league of nations can turn the united states into a war. the obligation to declare war belongs to the senate. it is constitutional. you cannot do that. there are also people are going that the league of nations is one nation, one vote. why would americans accept the same level of power in an international organization that ecuador would have? why would we do that on a pure power basis? it makes no sense. which is why, in world war ii, the u.s. comes with the security council and the veto. otherwise it is not clear that the u.n. would've gotten through. there are arguments that are perfectly legitimate. to think of opponents of the league as backward looking dinosaurs is unfair. they had legitimate grievances. there are things we still talk about today.
the world health organization, do you want to be part of an organization where you pay money into the organization knowing you are not getting as much out of it as a smallish state would because you believe in helping international organizations. if you accept that, the who makes perfect sense. the same thing was happening 100 years ago. the french case is more complicated because of the immediacy of the german threat. maybe we do not want to run down that rabbit hole unless you want. the french situation is more complicated. jason: you already set me up for this second question which is the issue of democracy, and coming back to it for a second. you pointed out about popular pressures. there are a range of different views coming forward. we should take these different perspectives seriously about should there be a league of
nations, what kind of authority should have, should it intervene in conflicts? is it only there to arbitrate? there are a lot of perspectives in there and because of the 1930's, the league is so badly remembered, it is even difficult to have a serious conversation about what things looked like in 1918 when people were trying to envision it. on the side of democracy, the fact is the u.s. is fighting world war i with a segregated military. american women at the national level don't get the right to vote until 1920. and the whole issue of the colonies where the british and the french had used colonial troops and those respected countries part of the british and french empires were like, so much of this is being fought
in the name of democracy and german militarism, and autocracy , what is this going to mean? in versailles, these become real issues about what do we do about opening things up? you mentioned the issue of trade. just in the sense of what time should we grant more autonomy? these movements that are calling for independence. it becomes quite violent in 1919. the massacre in india. what should we do with bad about the issue of democracy and how that rhetoric had been there late in the war and how these big three then have to confront that? for our viewers that would be a segue into addressing the bolshevik revolution and
challenge that had. these countries have real issues of democratization that they have to address. >> they have enormous issues. the imperial question is an enormous one. it's enormously complicated. the first time canada ever signed a document in its own right was the treaty of oversight, and the first one that they signed, they signed on the wrong line so they had to put an addendum on the treaty of versailles document. my canadian friends love to point that when out. india, when the first world war began, gandhi was a supporter of the war. he thought the british were doing the right thing but by the end he realized this is not a war about democracy at all. it a supremely talented
historian at harvard wrote about -- in which he argues where they read of woodrow wilson and said the americans are going to fight for democracy. he is serious about this and the point that he makes is by the middle of the paris peace conference, wilson doesn't have that in mind at all. he doesn't have the end of the empires at all. what he has in mind is america ask about right to trade in those empires. his book is about the dissolution that people start to sense in american rhetoric. going to roosevelt is try to bring that back in the second world war and try to put more teeth behind it than wilson did. there are a couple of parts in the world, the checkoff controversy in china where these interests and values come in
conflict with each other. armenia is another example and the united states doesn't know what to do because we are still trying to figure this out. the end of the world war creates a lot of these conflicts like palestine it vietnam that will , come back and bite people by the time the 20th century is over. arealk about the wars we fighting right now, we are still trying to figure out how you govern a complicated place like the middle east in the absence of a centralized authority like the ottoman empire. i will just end with this. we can talk about competing anti-imperial visions but there is a wonderful quotation from david lloyd george in the middle of passchendaele, he is talking about british operations in
mesopotamia, iraq and palestine and it is mesopotamia and palestine that we will have to deal with. those are two fundamental issues in u.s. foreign-policy. >> there is so much more that we can say about that, and up -- and uprising in present-day iraq and the issue of palestine , would be a whole other weapon. these are big ones. china, you mentioned the may 4 movement. this is a huge question, and it connects directly to the particular challenge that the bolshevik revolution posed to the big three. this is a subject i'm very interested in.
once lenin, trotsky, and the bolshevik seized power in 1917, they published all of the secret treaties that imperial russia had signed with britain and france, expecting a victory, and who would get what in terms of ottoman territory, they were very glad to show countries around the world that this is what this war is being fought over and lenin gives his overriding vision to revolutionaries, that the world war was not a tragedy, it was not an aberration, it wasn't that europe went crazy, this is a necessary outcome of imperialism. imperialism is a worldwide system. there is no desire to go back to the status quo, which a lot of socialists during the war say, we should go back to what we had
prior to june 28, 1914. mike: that is like now january 2020. trying to turn the clock back. jason: and lenin says the only way to turn the clock back is revolution and he saw russia as the beginning of a worldwide revolution that would not only take place in the capitals of countries themselves but in the colonized world. it was a global vision. for the big three, we can even bring in italy because there will be so much turmoil in italy, that would be mussolini coming next. how do you think that the three leaders of the western allies, how did they make sense of this and what did they think they should respond to this?
mike: there is a way to interpret the paris peace conference as that the western power has not shifted, that germany is no longer the great power competitor but it is the soviet union. the treaty of versailles itself can be a response to that. if you want to read it, it includes a lot about protection of labor and the right of women to vote even if they are not allowed to vote in the states in which they live. it talks about guaranteeing minimum wages and the rights of people if they move from one country to another that their wages cannot be cut. it talks about all of that. one way to understand that is that they are trying to undercut the bolshevik argument they are trying to say don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. we can sustain this economic
system without going down that crazy road. then there is a way to understand the treaty of versailles and the paris peace conference as saying to the world, to africa, to china, there is a way to get what you want without going down that road. there is a way in which we can understand it. as you mentioned, one of the things that is so great is that it is a national award, but by the time you get to world war ii, there is an ideological dimension where countries are seeing similarities and bolsheviks in all countries are seeing similarities. you get this multidimensional war that you're starting to see. for wilson, for clemenceau, for lloyd george, the obvious question is should we invite them to the conference and the answer is no.
if you're not going to do that, what do you do about them? we know wilson will make the decision to send american troops to siberia, they will have to work hard with japan to get japan's support. that is part of the reason they give this off. they give it to japan which causes tremendous dissolution as a sellout of every principle that wilson has but it is a way to get japanese support. the interlocking pieces for the engineers out there, when you push on one part of the system it will produce weird outcomes in another part of the system. in order to prevent the bolshevik from taking over in germany you have to give a peninsula of china to the japanese. that's the kind of thing they are trying to deal with in paris. jason: that is a fascinating point. one of the things the bolshevik present as an alternative is
instead of the parliamentary democracy model, they will say those models are directly tied to this war. they are a mask for class power and they mentioned the soviets, these councils that had emerged this is a model of a workers democracy. this is before it turns into a one-party state. the bolshevik are governing with another party for several months. the challenge is directly there. wilson is crafting a response that he hopes will sap some of the energy coming out of the war that the bolsheviks are directly trying to appeal to.
germany, austria, hungary, italy, bulgaria, the baltic states all over they are trying to mobilize that, but they are not the only ones trying to mobilize discontent. in 1919, they have another player, mussolini's fascist movement. in the space of three years, 1919 is the same year that we have the first version of what would become the nazi party in -- hitlerat settler will get involved in right away. there is a lot to pack in but the way that you look at this history, how do you relate the beginnings of fascism to the process. how did mussolini and hitler's -- not only is there anger about the territorial remapping -- there's a larger challenge that
they posed to this. mike: one student complained i was trying to turn them into fascists. that is not what i'm trying to do. there is an intellectual model of fascism that made the argument that marxism and communism cannot be right. because if class conflict was the engine of world changes marx argued, the workers of france would not have killed the workers of germany and the workers of germany would not have killed the workers of russia, etc.. marxfect, or marks -- carl had to be wrong. so what mussolini and the intellectuals around him concluded is it must be the nationstate and it must be irrationality of people's identification with the nationstate that drove them forward. as you pointed out what that does is it taps into this febrile environment of all of these land claims and everybody that is disaffected by the war and the way the war ends. you get this kind of
identification so that fascism becomes identified by the ways it is not bolshevism and bolsheviks become identified by the way they are not fascists. you get polarization in these societies that occurs all across europe. it occurs in france. there is a civil war in spain that is partly informed by this, so the center comes under pressure. the way i described it to students is both of these systems are real challenges to the democratic capitalist system that, in the anglo american and british empire world, they are trying to hold onto. they are trying to hold this in control. the second world war is the story of how that doesn't happen and two of those systems fight the third. so the anglo american capitalist system and bolshevik system and up as temporary allies.
you can see the cold war as the final, in some versions of history, the final competition of the first world war when the bolshevik system is defeated, at least the soviet model of it. you can take a broad picture of the first world war and argue that is what this is. it is a competition of ideologies as you are moving forward. it is also instructive to think about the ways in which fascism as an ideology is more nationalistic than bolshevism, so it is more difficult in some cases for fascists to think across national orders. for bolsheviks, it is easy. it is international. jason: workers of all lands, unite. mike: right, so you end up with a different way of thinking about the world. that is as quick as i can do it. i did this for 50 minutes once, depicting these two ideologies in class, and i got reported to the dean. i don't want to make the case.
there is a way in which you have to explain why people in europe are so disaffected by the world that they see, that they are moving to these extremes rather than reinforcing the center. the great depression only fuels that further. jason: you have already raised the second world war. watching our time, i think we should transfer over. we have a very good basis for thinking about the versailles moment at the end of the first world war and how we can compare that, looking at the world in 1945. you played out there is this -- walter lefeber used the term there is a shotgun marriage between the anglo american, liberal democratic capitalist states and the soviet union under joseph stalin, and they have to come together to cooperate to defeat mussolini, hitler, imperial japan. how does the world look, if we are going to work out this
framework of comparison at potsdam? what is the choices they are faced with making then? instead of having clemenceau, lloyd george, and wilson, you have churchill, harry truman -- churchill is actually going to leave in the middle of the potsdam hearings. then you have joseph stalin. it is a different big three, and in fact it is really two when you come down to the emerging superpowers. how do we make sense of that 1945 perspective? mike: i argued in the potsdam book that every issue except what to do with the atomic bomb that they discuss in potsdam, they also discuss in versailles. what do you think caused these wars? what do you want to do with germany? how do you want to rebuild the economies? what do you do with the empires.
these are all familiar questions. for the americans, the answer is hold to the principles of internationalism, but not rely on faith and love and the trust of man. we are going to come in with serious instruments of power behind us. the way i described this is truman was a poker player. he did not want to go to potsdam until he had chips in his pocket. before he left, the senate had approved u.s. membership in the u.n., the international monetary fund, the bretton woods agreement, all the instruments of power the u.s. would have economically. he knew once he got to potsdam, the atomic bomb had succeeded. we're going to take the same principle. it truman took the oath of office for president under a portrait of woodrow wilson, but we are not doing this by persuasion anymore, of the wilsonian rhetoric. this time we say, if you don't want to play the game our way, here are the ways we can hurt you. the atomic bomb is the most extreme version. even the terms of the british empire at the end of the war are the things you can use. part of lend lease is, we are
going to trade inside your empire. those days of imperial preference are done. potsdam is the americans coming in, with similar ideals but different ways they want to achieve it. the fundamental questions that still remain, what do you think caused this war? if you think it is germany, something wrong with german people, then you argue for an occupation, something like what the american treasury secretary argued, to break germany up to its 1648 borders, remove it from having a central government. if you think it is balance of power issue, you want to put resources into germany so germany can balance the soviet union, which looks like an emerging threat. if not an enemy quite yet. and these guys know it. they all remember versailles. the treaty of versailles is not something that happened hundreds of years ago. they know it. they come in and say, we have another bite of this apple. if we do as badly as they did 25
years ago, we are going to screw it up and create a third world war. the american decision is there's not going to be a single treaty that comes out of it, because they don't want to do what wilson had to do. there is going to be no set reparations so we can adjust whatever we have to do economically as we go, and we are going to have three parties represented. the whole world is not going to come. france doesn't come, poland doesn't come. just three countries. that's it. so it is done differently than the way they did it at versailles. with very differed outcomes. we know now it is a more positive outcome, though i think we sometimes underestimate how chaotic the world was in 1945 and how lucky europe got at the end of the war. jason: we were just talking about there is really three that are just there. we could easily simply focus on truman and stalin, and they are hugely important.
in the british case, if we think about lloyd george just faced with an election in 1918 when he was at versailles and what he thought was expected of him, in the british case, they have an election in the summer of 1945 where churchill is out and labour is in. britain had been a world power for so long, and is now faced with a situation where it is number three, at best, a distant third, given where the americans and soviets were at. what should we do with the british? what was going on there in the way britain understood itself at potsdam, from churchill to attlee, and understanding this is a different landscape than 25 years earlier? mike: the british are going
through the same question. what you want to do? do you want to reinforce the empire, draw resources out of the empire, or do you need to think about radical changes to the way you organize society? john maynard keynes, who was the british economic advisor at both conferences, paris east and potsdam, was perfectly aware. he argued as often as he could, we cannot go back to the way we had things before. it is just not going to work. we have to be subservient to the americans, whether we want to or not. our political and economic success will be tied to the americans, whether we want it or not. the empire is going to be a and money loser because it is going to be too hard to do things the way we had done it before. so, he is a voice arguing for a complete change on the way britain thinks about everything it organizes. as with many visionaries, a lot of people don't like listening to him, because they think it is too radical.
one executive said, the only thing worse than losing the war is winning with americans by our side, meaning that the americans' price for victory is too high. a lot of the rhetoric about the special relationship is meant to mask an awful lot of that. the americans understood, we are not going back to what we had. we are now clearly going to be top dog and set things the way we want to set them. this is what the united states did. it is the post world war for the united states. for britain, it is an awareness you are going to come out of this much the way the french came out of the first world war, victorious but weak. you need time to build back up and you are going to face difficult questions going forward, especially given the british want to put in national health insurance. a good friend of mine has just written a book arguing that this is what british soldiers believed they were fighting for. the defeat of germany, but a yes, britain that will provide the working classes with some of the rewards that citizens of a great country should have. those things are expected and --
those things are expensive and they are difficult to deal with. one of the british air force museums has one of the first british nuclear missiles there. there is a sign on it from the foreign minister at potsdam, in which he says, britain is going to have an independent nuclear force with a great big, bloody union jack on it. in other words, we are going to be independent. other people realized, no. you may have those things, but the americans will never let you use them independently. jason: that is interesting and good for everyone to remember, the fact that the united states and soviet union are the real powerbrokers in the postwar world. in this case, we have harry truman, who has only been in office three months after fdr's death. we have the changeover from churchill.
he had been such a presence. to attlee. the big change, of course, is the soviets are there. they had not been in 1919. so much then had been about positioning the western world against the spread of the bolshevik revolution. here, stalin is there. how did the americans and british deal with that? we have joseph stalin. we have the red army that played such a decisive role in defeating hitler. how do we have them at the table and at the same time not letting them have their way? how did the americans and british respond? mike: that is the great power competition question of 1945, how do you read the russians? there are folks that argue the soviets came out victorious but are not celebrating like we did. they are going to come out even more paranoid. whatever strength you push them
with, they push back twice as hard. so if you try to take poland or move closer to their border, they will push back at you. the question becomes, very quickly, there are three different ways of looking at the russians. the first, which it does not matter what their ideology is. they want what those are wanted in 1914, control of poland, border security. there is a more aggressive voice in washington, that says this is an ideological problem, this is a global, worldwide, bolshevik communist problem that we are going to deal with all over the world. better to deal with these guys now than let that grow. there is a third argument that becomes the containment argument. it says, you can't stop them from expanding. what you can do is keep -- you can't stop them from being a world power. you can stop them from expanding until the internal contradiction of their system make it collapse from inside. that is the way this eventually works, though it takes almost 50 years.
the core argument on the containment theory is the system is a house of cards. they have enough military if you push against it, strength to push you back. they have shown that over the past 150 years. the best way to do it is let but them stew in their own juices until the politics of the corrupt system comes apart. it is a question of, how do you think the soviets got there, and what do you think they are up to, that conditioned the american response. potsdam, most people go into that conference believing the united states and soviet union can have a constructive relationship in the postwar period. there is a photograph i love to show when i talk about potsdam. it is molotov, the soviet foreign minister, and the new american secretary of state, arm in arm and smiling. the notion is, we have beaten the germans and are not yet enemies. that will develop after the conference, but it is not the mood at the conference itself.
jason: it is worth pointing out, as we are wrapping up and about to take questions, i think the western allies, whether they were aware of it or not, did not want to see it. it is interesting that stalin shared much of their suspicion about revolution, that he was himself very wary about workers and peasants moving out of the resistance, the fascist powers against imperial japan. he is very wary of them. he wants to keep a tight lid on movements in his own sphere of influence. it is interesting that one of the things they share, even though it is not shared overtly, is a wariness of anything too radical coming from below. mike: this is the argument for seeing stalin as another czar. he wants, geopolitically, the same thing the romanovs wanted.
don't read too much ideology into it. he is a dictator trying to control the borders of his own country, just as any dictator would. in 1945, we are just not sure what to do with the soviets. jason: mike, i want to thank you for a great conversation. we covered a lot of ground in 45 minutes. mike: yes we did. [laughter] jason: we obviously should open things up and see what kinds of questions our viewers have. we already had one here, so i am going to jump in and take us through a few of these. we have got from dan in michigan. he wanted to know, can you help me understand why the u.s. allowed berlin to be divided? mike: if you are a university of michigan fan, i will. that is where i went. the argument is eisenhower called berlin a prestige objective. in other words, there is nothing militarily necessary about the
occupation up or than, because the yalta agreement said there would be shared occupation of germany. eisenhower's argument is, we still have a war with the japanese to deal with. i am not going to let my soldiers get killed for something we have to give back to the soviets. the argument was, physically the occupation of it is the responsibility of the soviet union, but the postwar political arrangement is some level of cooperation in the occupation of germany. in eisenhower's mind, it makes no sense to see american soldiers get killed for something you have to hand back. i think that is perfectly defensible from the perspective of 1944-1945, especially given eisenhower's assumption that many of those troops have to be rotated back to asia. that is the basic thinking. jason: yes, thank you. that
leads to the next point, which you mentioned about the atomic bomb is its own thing. a fundamentally new development in world history. truman announces it to stalin there. where do we fit the atom bomb into this, you know, this idea about, we need a new world order? we should not repeat the mistakes of 1918-1919, yet there is this hugely complicating factor, which is the splitting of the atom and the weaponization of that. how does that fit in the way we think about the resolution of the world war ii crisis? mike: one of my favorite attic those that comes out of potsdam. as soon as reports come that the trinity test has succeeded, they are in potsdam when this happens. churchill gives a speech to the british delegation, basically saying this is the end of all our problems. this is a cheap way to keep military power. any time the soviets push us around, we can do this. we can knock out this city, we
can destroy this city. alan bruck, the british chief of staff, writes in his diary something like, i had to calm winston down and he did not like it. i had to explain to him that this is not like other weapons. alan brooke understood in july 1945, the only way, once world war ii is over, the only way you can use nuclear weapons is for deterrence. that it. it is a weapon you will invest a lot of money in and never use. he saw that right away. there is another question, what do you actually do with these weapons once you develop them? we have followed the alan brooke method. there are other things we could have done. that is another dark cloud hanging over it. i also cite in the potsdam book , and i like to recite these for my students here at the war college, most senior leaders other than churchill, virtually all of them, were incredibly depressed that the trinity test had worked. what it meant was either war was going to be separated from its
strategic dimension and be about raw killing, or you were going to end up with whatever war you fought killing hundreds of millions of people every time you did any military action. so they are very dark, very morose, very upset about it. i love to point that out to people. this is not a moment of triumph, in their eyes, this is a moment of something we may have to do, and it is better we get it before the soviets or germans, but this is a giant step backwards in the way people are thinking about military strategy. jason: you noted about the soviet union being in, this is a different thing. how does that affect the whole framework of negotiations? france is out, as opposed to 1919. we have a viewer who wanted to know about charles de gaulle. they have the big three there,
they are going to decide, really the americans and soviets, and other countries are going to have to accept that. in the case of de gaulle, how does he respond to this new thing being proposed at potsdam? mike: he ain't happy. de gaulle is technically the leader of the provisional government of the republic of france. he is not the head of a government. so he is excluded on those grounds, also because truman and churchill had had enough of him. truman makes a comment to james burns' assistant, which i happened to come across almost by accident when i was looking through papers, where he says, if i want to talk to de gaulle, i will send for him as i would the head of any other small power. the notion is they are not sure , what they want to do with france yet. do we treat it as a liberated country or an occupied country? how are we going to do this? the first time the americans go into combat in europe is against french troops, against vichy.
what do we want to do? de gaulle represents a different kind of france. the united states more or less had determined by this point that they don't have a choice, that de gaulle is going to be the leader of france when this is over, but that doesn't mean they have to let him sit around the table with two elected officials truman, churchill, and , the leader of the soviet union. de gaulle is not at that level yet. de gaulle is furious. churchill snubs him. before potsdam, churchill went inside france. neither on the way there nor on the way back did churchill go to paris to meet with de gaulle. there were intentional snubs aimed at him. de gaulle will get his revenge, but it will be a few years in the making. jason: he is thinking about it the whole time. mike: no doubt. jason: we are almost out of talk. -- out of time. i just want to close with one
question that has been posed. it is not exactly a small one, but maybe you can say briefly about it. is there any unity among the leaders of the u.s., britain, and the soviet union about the colonial issue at potsdam? is there anything they can come together on with respect to, here we are, another world war has been fought, the colonized world played a huge role in that, is there anything that they can agree on about what to do about that coming out of potsdam? mike: maybe my brain has been conditioned by the de gaulle question, but the one thing they agree on is the french empire in asia is done. indochina, that is done. it is not going to go back to france. there is some backpedaling on that a little bit after the war, but the general sense is that the united nations is going to be the instrument to handle this. i think there was an expectation on the soviet side -- i am not a
soviet scholar -- that there is no way the british and french could walk back into those places and exercise authority. there is no way. i think there was some expectation on the american side that something similar would happen. the british, even with a labour leader and fairly far to the left, wanted india to stay inside the british empire. so the major, big issues about what to do are wide open. the issue of palestine will become a major sticking point between the british and americans in the late 1940's. i don't think there is much agreement, except the states that were not represented are the ones whose empires may go away. jason: there is so much to say about that question and all the other ones we have covered today. let me thank you very much for a great discussion. i hope our viewers got something out of it. please consult if you want more on mike's two books, the concise history of the treaty of versailles and his book on
potsdam and the remaking of europe. let me thank all of you for joining us today. it has been a real pleasure for me. it is great to see you, as always, mike. mike: thank you. be safe, everybody. thanks. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> with the world health organization in the news because of the pandemic, we show a united nations film made about the organization in 1948. here is a preview. ♪ >> today there are no distances, the airplane links continents, translink cities. today, the peoples of the world are one people, joined by wings over the globe. ♪
>> today, people of all races of every level move from country to country in a matter of hours. ♪ today, medical control is established around the modern point of international exchange. the air force, the network of health information and services has been extended here. but is it sufficient? how long does it take before an epidemic can be detected? ♪ >> from one continent to another , only a few hours flying time. cholera takes longer to show
itself and yellow fever takes days. and intubation period of smallpox from seven to 16 days. ♪ >> passengers in a modern plane look healthy. they are. but how do we know? that little girl, when she got the doll, did she receive germs as well? some passengers may be term carriers, perhaps already in the intubation stage. they will reach their destination before symptoms show. the quarantine service cannot keep every plane grounded for several days to ensure medical control. today, that system of defense is no longer enough. today, epidemics must be crushed at the source.
♪ >> learn more about the world health organization this sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. >> on "lectures in history," professor sam lebovic teaches a class about the early cold war period of the late 1940's and 50's. he argues with fascism and communism out of favor a consensus formed in the u.s. around centrist political views to the point where the political parties were barely distant washable. on the economic front he believed in mixed rule, meeting broad acceptance of government involvement in the market. prof. lebovic: all right. the last couple of classes we have been talking about the red scare and the impact of the red