tv Leaders Facing Crises After World Wars I and II CSPAN May 25, 2020 9:25pm-10:26pm EDT
michael neiberg who is inaugural chair of world studies and professional history of department national security and more strategy at the army war college. mike and i were actually colleagues. might this goes back a ways, about 2006 or so. in the history of department at the university of southern mississippi. we've state untouched over the years and seen each other quite a bit as we have both moved on to other things. we have always had a set of shared interests. mike, it is great to be here with you today and have a conversation on a subject that is extremely's timeless. responding to crisis. obviously, what needs to be said for our audience, and they have seen on the audience they can of a current crisis, the coronavirus crisis, economic downturn that is going to be a serious issue for leaders, for everyday people, for a while to
come. 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 the issue about what light that light might throw on the president, about the framework for comparison and mike, obviously you are one of the people to talk to about. there are too many of your books to list for the audience, but i thought i would just mention you are fighting the great war. you are history world war one. dance of the fury's, europe and the outbreak of world war one. the blood of freemen. the liberation of paris in 1944. two books for our audience will be of great and tourist to given our subject today which is, concise history of the treaty of versailles and the book about the end of the world war ii and the remaking of europe. i thought what i would just do
is start with world war i and take a chronological approach and have a conversation with you about how leaders responded to these two major crises. i think we have a little time here at the end, we can raise some issues about how that relates to the present. where to begin? naturally, pretty straightforward, is the world as it appeared to allied leaders in 1918 and 1919. the end of world war one, some 10 million people had perished in that conflict. as the american french, british, italian leaders met to talk about how to go forward, they had been faced with their own pandemic. the great 1918 influenza. what kind of -- looking back on it. how did these leaders respond
to these crises? how did the world look to them and how did they think about moving beyond the world war. >> thanks jason and thanks to the museum and chrissy and kate for all the work that we have done putting this together. thank you to all of you for signing in. i hope you are safe. i hope you're using this as an opportunity. you obviously are if you are in this zoo meeting to use this time productively, hopefully. for me, it has been a time to reflect about the ways in which the days that you live in. the present time that you live in, changes the way you think about the past and changes the way you think about these big questions that jason has identified, both how you deal with pandemics and how you deal with great power competition in the era of crisis, which is certainly what is going on in 1919. it nobody was under any illusions that when everything decided at the paris peace conference was going to end great power competition, the question is how do you make
sense of the new world you are living in and what kind of sets of ideas or philosophies do you want going over? one thing this crisis has done for me is it has made me realize just how similar and some broad respects they were thinking 100 years ago and what i mean by that is, this is simplifying things too much but there are at least two major groups of thinkers. one is represented by woodrow wilson who argues that the right solution is international and multi -- problems like pandemics, great power competition, de colonization, dealing with communism, bolsheviks them, those are international problems that need international solution. there are other folks, the french prime minister who are not opposed to negotiating but want to go through a national model. theodore roosevelt who were making the same argument back in the u.s.. the question comes to your perspective. what do you think is causing the problem and what do you think is the appropriate solution? there are people who are
thinking internationally 100 years ago and people who are thinking nationally. in some ways, i think those two mind sets would be very familiar to people of 100 years ago looking at our world they would have -- in our present situation than maybe we would expect. >> that leads me to the next question. we are talking about the issue of frameworks and different visions that were there already from the very beginning. these countries had fought together. britain and france had been in the fight since 1914 and then the u.s. jumped in three years later. at what point did tensions between wilson and clemency so and lloyd george already begin to emerge about an international versus a national framework? how to deal with germany. the fact that germany was defeated. germany is not occupied in 18
1918 and 1919. and how to deal with that obviously we will come back with the question of the bolsheviks and the likes. in this case, there were already very early on, tensions about how to respond and what kind of vision would form a peace and could you say a bit about that? , >> the when george clemency so saw woodrow wilson's 14 points he very famously said got himself was content -- after the paris peace conference was asked to evaluate his own performance in the house of commons and he said i do not think i did too bad. it seemed i had napoleon on one side and jesus crisis himself on the other. there are tensions with the kind of the way that wilson is thinking about this. the first american president ever to go to europe while in office. the first american really to kind of try to take american ideals and apply them to the old world. there is that problem that is playing in. i think a lot of it also
depends on what you think caused fundamentally caused the war. if you are george clemency so it is the question of something inherent and herons in the german character. it was clemency who had been a member -- he had argued for fighting on rather than giving over the reins there's something different about germany that you had to deal with. it is a balance of power problem. germany group too quickly too fast. to wilson's mind it was a lack of democracy and open markets. a 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 there and very different definitions that came out of that and what they think the way to solve it is. we can talk about it about world war ii as well. many of the same problems were there. what do you think is the fundamental cause of the problem? until you've answered that question you really cannot lead
to solutions. to someone like georges clemenceau the american approach looks way too idealistic. it looks way too high in the sky. where as wilson looked more of the same. part of it comes more of how you view the past two or the old phrase the further you look back the further you look forward. it is a different definition of what they see when they look back >> you know the difference is about germany and how they understood the conflict and how for example clemency so views idealism. one of the things people always brings up about of a will sony and perspective. is it's idealism beyond wilson is there any on the french of britain and british side, is there any real sense that democracy in germany, and the fact that the kaiser had been forced out, germany in 1918 and
1919 has become a republic, or is in the process -- i mean a republic. so that, you think that might for wilson, be a signal that yes the, the german people are trying to step up and move past an older authoritarianism, and the british and french side who had been in the war much earlier. much of it is devastated in france. the weariness, the suspicion would be significantly deeper about germany. not at all convinced that just because we have -- now running germany instead of loon and dwarf, it really has been much change. that is one of the things that i want to ask. on the british and french side, is there much interest at all in the fact that germany seems to be transitioning to some kind of democratic system,
whereas for wilson that maybe some confirmation for him that his own point of view is correct? >> i think you're right about both of the points. not all frenchman see the world in the way that clemenceau does. there are plenty of french intellectuals and politicians would argue that germany will need time to figure out what democracy is going to look like. it does not have democratic traditions that britain and france half. you need to open borders, build links between british and french. catholic movements inside france, socialist party movements that are trying everything they can to build these bridges across the river, not to say let's just kiss and make up. but the fundamental problem of germany was the kaiser. it was not germany, essentially the professions headlight to the germans which also comes up at the end of world war ii. americans are going through world war ii and saying hey wasn't us it was those guys.
similar things are happening in world war one. the two germany's argument. there was this kind of germany beetle van, higher learning that had somehow been -- germany has a chance to move forward. it doesn't necessarily mean that everybody in france and britain stress that, but it means they're saying if we are looking for post or strategy, it is better to leverage that then trying to build that up then it is to continue to -- you all know this, this works better at the end of the second world war, at least by the 19 sixties and seventies, until you write a point or france and germany had no order between them. it is an expression that you can do this under different historical circumstances. to me as a historian, every time i cross that border with nobody checking a passport -- i know what has been a while now, but shared currency. consultation on foreign policy, this is what a lot of people were envisioning into the 1920s,
that you might eventually get to something like that. maybe not quite as in-depth as we have it now. they are not all wildly optimistic or two idealistic i would say. but they are hoping that if you could build bridges between the two and some way, you increase the change for cooperation rather than competition. that to me is very similar to the debate where having right now. what is the best way to deal with this crisis? is it to continue to build those bridges even between governments that don't necessarily trust each other or governments that know they have different things that they are trying to accomplish. or is the best way to do it is to while yourself up -- there is no obvious answer to the question but to me, it resonates with the kind of stuff that i studied. >> mike, those are very important points. it leads to to follow ups on that. one is that you are just
knowing 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 one. the first question would be, what kinds of popular pressures do you see -- lloyd george just had an election by the end of 1918. woodrow wilson had a congressional election and now has republicans and congress who are not terribly excited about a lot of the internationalist side of this whole peacemaking process. clemenceau does not have an election so much to deal with but nonetheless as you point out, there are popular pressures that he does have to respond to as well. a lot of people sacrificed casualties that french undergoes, the destruction, significant parts of the country that he has to listen to these pressures. he cannot simply ignore them. i guess here we can often get
so focused on the kind of big three and what is going on with them as they are trying to figure out a treaty that everyone can agree to, but they also have to -- democracies with or republic, britain with its long tradition, they all have to deal with pressures from below. did you say something about that? >> the easiest way to study the treaty in versailles is to look at those big three. looking around in our own country, there is no one american answer to the covid crisis, or british answer. these things are determined by where you live, whether you are middle class forces working class. all kinds of things are going to determine your response. to me, it is more interesting the ways in which the debates reach across national lines. the big winners do you want to solve these problems at the national or in 1918 or 1919 at the imperial level. if you are british do you want
to do this by opening up the empire of international trade which is an answer or do you want to do this by increasing those imperial ties, in other words increasing tariffs, keeping americans out of those markets and trying the best that you can to kind of reinforce the empire in the strength of the empire. both of those arguments are out there. the imperial argument winds at the end of world world war one largely. not at the end of world war ii. to completely different context where americans are able to force soap in the british empire. the united states to me, the debate over the treaty of versailles is fascinating. a group of senators that just say i do not care what is in the thing, i'm not signing it. another group says hey look, there are ways in which we think this unconstitutional and which the leak of nations could draw the united states into a war and the obligation to declare war belongs to the u.s. senate. that is unconstitutional. you cannot do that. there are ways in which this ties us down. there are people who are making the argument, the league of nations as one nation one vote.
why would we as americans except 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 world war ii, the un comes with security council and the five vetoes, otherwise it is not clear that the un would've gotten through the u.s. conference. there are arguments there that are perfectly legitimate to think opponents of the league is just these backward looking dinosaurs. it is unfair. they had legitimate grievances. there are things we still talk about today. world health organization. do you want to be part of an organization in which you've seen some of your sovereignty and you pay money into the organization, knowing you are probably not getting much out of it as a small -- because you believe in the health of international organizations. if you accept that principle, and w.h.o. membership makes perfect sense. if you don't, you want to do that. the same exact thing was happening 100 years ago. the french case is more
complicated because of the immediacy of the german threat. we do not want to run down that rat hole unless you want me to. the french situation is more complicated. >> you already sort of set me up for the second question, which is really the issue of democracy. coming back to it just for second, that you pointed out about popular pressures and range of different views that are coming forward and that we should take this seriously and different perspectives about, should there be a league of nations and what kind of authority should have and should be able to intervene in conflict or arbitrate line -- there is a lot of different perspectives in their. i think because of the 1930s, the lead is still badly remembered for people that it is even difficult to have a serious conversation about what things look like in 1918, 1919 when people were just first trying to envision it. on the side of democracy, the
fact is, the u.s. is fighting, fought world war one with a segregated military. american women at the national level did not get the right to vote until 1920 with the 19th amendment. british women, during the 1920s -- french women not until the end of world war ii. >> fourth republic. >> right. that is the whole issue of the colonies. where the british and french had used colonial troops and those respective countries, part of the prudish and french umpires were like, what about democracy here? so much of this was being fought in the name of democracy and against german militarism, german autocracy. what is this really going to mean and honestly at the versailles, during the deliberations, he's become real issues about what do we do about opening things up. you mentioned the issue of trade. in a sense of what kind should
we grant more autonomy? what do we do about these movements that are calling for independence and obviously those become quite violent in 1919. the massacre in india, that you have a 1919, it's federal. what do we do with that? the issue of democracy and how that rhetoric had been there very late in the war and how indeed the big three did have to confront that? that would be also just for our viewers kind of segue into addressing the bolsheviks revolution and the particular challenge that has. these three countries had real issues about democratization they have to address. >> enormous issues. there is a difference between the democracy and quality that the group had the right to vote. the imperial question is an enormous one. it is enormously complicated. my canadian friends -- the first time canada ever since a document in its own
right is the treaty of versailles. the first when they signed a sign on the wrong line so they had to put an agenda on the original treaty of versailles. my canadian friends love to talk about that. how big of a leap it was on the stage for canada. you point out to india, when the first world war be gone, he was a supporter of the war because he thought the british empire was doing the right thing by standing up to german -- by the end of the war he said it's not about democracy. this is not about independence and freedom and all of the things that the allies had talked about. areas manilow, supremely talented historian at hartford, he argued that people around the world south korea, china all over the world, which will wilson they read him and that the americans are for democracy. this is what they need. the 14 points can be -- he is serious about this. the point that he makes his by the middle of the paris peace
conference it becomes obvious that that's not what he had in mind at all. wilson did not have that in mind at all. what he really has in mind is america's right to trade and those empires. his book is about the disillusion that a lot of people around the world start to sense and american rhetoric. president roosevelt will try to bring that back and second world war with the atlantic charter. he will try to put a lot more teeth behind it and wilson did. it is a really complicated -- there are couple parts of the world, two of the areas that are palestine -- where these kind of interests and values come in conflict with each other, and the united states simply does not know what to do. we are still trying to figure out what all of this means. the end of the first world war creates a lot of this legacy conflict, palestine, vietnam that are going to come back and buy people before the 21st
century 20th centuries over. we talk about the wars we're fighting right now. we are still trying to figure out how you govern a complicated place in the absence of a centralized authority. there is a wonderful quotation, i will end with this. and we can talk about competing -- there is a wonderful quotation in 1917 in the middle of the third battle in the middle of passion dale, he talks about british operations in mississippi to, iraq, and palestine. he says right now we are focused on passion dale. this is where troops are fighting. we look down the road, it's palestine that are gonna be the things we are going to have to deal with. those are two fundamental issues. >> there is so much more we could say an uprising in iraq
that the british have to deal with. the issue of palestine -- we could talk about -- you mentioned the may fourth movement that starts in 1919. this is a huge question and i think connects directly to the particular kind of challenge that the bolsheviks revolution posed to the big three. this is a subject i'm very interested in and how once linen -- how bolsheviks sees power in october and november depending on your calendar. 1917. they of course published all the secret treaties that imperial russia had signed with britain and france, expecting a victory and who is going to get wet in terms of territory, from austria hungary. it were very glad to kind of
show countries around the world. this is really what this war is being thought over. we have an overriding vision to revolutionaries that the world war was not a tragedy, it was not an aberration, it was not that era point crazy. this was a necessary -- what we call imperialism, worldwide system. there is no desire to go back and status quo in which a lot of socialist during the world say -- what we had bright prior to june 28th 1914. let's just go back. >> january through 2020, right? let's turn the clock back. >> if we could just go back. lyndon is like the only way you're going to move beyond the sources of the world war is revolution. he saw the revolution and russia as a beginning of a
worldwide revolution that would not only take place the capitalist countries themselves, but in the khanna lightest worlds. it is a global vision, so for the big three we could even bring in here italy and the states of orlando, because there will be so much turmoil in italy. that would be the mussolini coming next. how do you think that the three, four leaders of the western allies, how did they make sense of this and how they thought what should we do to respond to this? >> there is a way to ensure print the treaty of versailles and the paris peace conference is the understanding of western powers were competition has not shifted. germany is no longer your great power competitor. it is the soviet union. there is a way to understand will since 14 points, and even the treaty of versailles itself in its response to that. the treaty of versailles if you read it i do not recommend you
do, but if you want to read it, and includes a lot about protection of labor, the right of women to vote even if they are not allowed to vote in the states in which they live as you talked about a little earlier. it talks about guarantees of minimum wages. the right of equal -- no matter where they live or move, their wages cannot be cut. it tucks about all that stuff. when we to understand that is of course that they're trying to undercut the bolsheviks. they're trying to say the whole baby out with the bathwater. we can sustain this capitalist economic system without going down that crazy road. and there is a way to understand the treaty of versailles of the peace treaty conference to say to the imperial world, to indian to africa, to china, to all of these places. there is a way in which you can get what you want without going down that bolsheviks road. there is a way in which we can understand this. one of the things that is so different and great power competition, the end of world war one from its beginning, it
is a national war. it is france against germany. by the time we get to the twenties and thirties and arguing to the world were to, there is an ideological dimension playing into it. fascists and countries are seeing similarities and bolsheviks are seeing similarities. you get a multi dimensional war that you see starting to begin intellectually in this process that you are describing. for wilson, for clemenceau. when you do about the soviet union? should we invite them to the paris peace conference? the answer to that is no. if you won't do that, would you do about them? of course we all know that wilson will make the decision to send american troops to siberia, working hard with japan in order to get japan's support which is part of the reason they give the send off an peninsula which is 100% chinese. they give it to japan at the end of world war one which causes tremendous disillusion inside the united states as a sellout of every principle that winston wilson had.
on the other hand it's a way to get japanese support for this war that they think they have to fight in russia. the interlocking pieces and the way that you think about it for the engineers out there, like a systems engineering problem, when you push on one part of the system it will produce weird outcomes in another part of the system. in order to prevent bolsheviks them from taking over germany, you have to give the peninsula and china to the japanese and that is the thing you have to try to deal in comparison. >> fascinating point. just to add to the, one of the things of course the bolsheviks and virtually present as an alternative is instead of the parliamentary democracy kind of models variations british french americans, they will say look those models are directly tied to this war. they are masked for bourgeois class power. the present soviets, these councils that emerged in 1917, workers radicalized soldiers,
sailors, peasants. this is a model of workers democracy that they want to present. obviously, this is before it becomes a one party state. governing with another party for several months 1817, 1819. the challenges directly there. that is an interesting way of thinking about it as wilson is really crafting a response that he hopes will sap some of the energy and the discontent and anger coming out of the war that the bolsheviks are directly trying to appeal to. germany, austria hungry italy, bulgaria, the baltic states, all over, they are trying to mobilize that, but they are not the only ones that are trying to mobilize this -- when we get into the 1919 we have a brand-new player. politically on the scene, i need to mussolini's ashes movement which in the space of three years, they are actually
and power. 1919 is the same year we have the serve same version where it becomes the nazi party. bavaria, hitler will get involved in right away. this is a lot to pack in here, but from the way you look at this history, how do we relate the beginnings of fascism to the versailles process and this rebuilding movement? how did mussolini and hitler, not only is their anger about the territorial kind of remapping -- that has always been brought up but there is a larger challenge. mussolini and hitler opposed to the system. >> i went said this -- a student complained to the dean in my department that i was trying to turn them into fascists. that is not what i'm trying to do here. the original intellectual model of fascism made the argument that marxism and communism could not be right, because of class conflict was truly the engine of world change as marks
argued, and 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. marx had to be wrong. when mussolini and the intellectuals around him concluded, is it must be the nation state and i must be some irrationality of peoples identification with a nation state that drove him forward. as you pointed out, what that does is it taps into this environment of all of these land claims and everybody that is disaffected by the war and the way that the war ends. i think you get this kind of mirror identification. fascism becomes identified by the ways in which it is not bolsheviks, bolsheviks become identified by which they are not fascist. you get this polarization in the society. it occurs all across europe. it occurs in france as a civil war in spain, partly informed by this partly, so that the
senate really comes under a lot of pressure. the way that i tried to describe to my students is that both of these systems are real challenges to the kind of democratic capitalist system that at least in the angle american world and british empire world, they are trying to hold on to. they are trying to hold that center ground. the second world wars very much the story of how that does not happen. two of those systems end up fighting the third, so that the angle american system and the bolsheviks system and at this temporary allies and you can see the cold war as the final cut and some versions of history, the final competition of the end of the first world war when the bolsheviks system is finally defeated. at least the soviet model of it. you can take the very broad picture of the first world war and argue that that's what this is. it is a competition of ideologies your moving forward. it is also i think, it
instructive to think about the ways in which fascism as an ideology is more nationalistic than walls of his them is. it is actually difficult and some cases for fascist to think across national borders. rebel should fix it is easy. the ideology is -- >> workers of all lands unite. >> yes. you end up with a different way of thinking about the world. that is about as quick as i can do it. i did this for 15 minutes once putting these two ideologies in class and i got reported to the dean's office. i do not want to make a case, but 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 two extremes rather than reinforcing the center. the great depression only fuels that. >> we have already raised the second world war. i'm watching our time here. i think we should transfer over --
we have a good basis for thinking about the versailles moment, the end of the first world war. how we can really compare that looking at the world in 1945. you pointed out that there's (interpreter) -- walter used the term shotgun marriage, between angle american, liberal democratic capital estates and the soviet union under stalin in that they have to come together and cooperate to defeat mussolini, hitler, imperial japan. how does the world look -- working out this framework of comparison at potsdam. what kind of choices they were making then and instead of having clemenceau and wilson, you have churchill, harry truman. wilson will leave in the middle of the potsdam hearings.
there is a different big three, and in fact it is really to when we come down to it in terms of the emerging superpowers. how do we make sense then that 1945 perspective? >> here's what i think is going on. i argued -- what to do with the atomic bomb? they discussed at versailles and the paris peace conference. what do you think cause these wars? would you want to do with germany? how do you rebuild the economies? what do you do with the empires? all familiar questions? for the americans, the answer is we are going to hole to the will sony and principles of nationalism but not rely on faith and love and trust of man to do this. we will come in with syria's instruments of power behind. it's the way that i described this is truman was a poker player. he did not want to go to potsdam until he had ships and his pockets. before he left for potsdam he knew senate approved -- the woods agreement, the international monetary fund,
all these instruments of power that the u.s. would have economically and of course he knew when he got's to potsdam -- we're going to take the same principles that we could. truman took the oath of office for president, but we are not doing this by persuasion anymore of the wilson ian rhetoric. this time we will say if you do not want to play the game our way, here is the ways in which we can hurry. the atomic bomb is obviously the most extreme version of that. but even the lone terms to the british empire at the end of the war are things that you can use. part of the land leases we will get the trade inside your empire. those days of the imperial preference system, they are done. the way i think about potsdam, it is the americans coming in with very similar ideals but very different ways that they want to achieve it. the fundamental questions that still remain though, what do you think caused this war? if you think it is germany, then there is something wrong with the german people, then you will argue for an
occupation, for something like would morgan -- to break germany up remove it from having a central government. if you think it is a balance of power issue then you will want to put resources into germany so that the germans can balance the soviet union which now looks like it is an emerging threat, if not an enemy quite yet. to me -- and they know it. they all remember their side. 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 at this apple. if we do is badly as they did 25 years ago, we are just going to screw it up and create a third world war. you american -- no treaty that will come out of it. they do not want to do what wilson had to do. there will be no set reparations so that we can adjust whatever we have to do economically as we go, and we will just have three parties represented there. the whole world is not going to
come. france doesn't come, poland doesn't come, just three countries, that's it. it is done very very differently than the way they do it at versailles. i think they have a very different outcome. 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 actually got at the end of the war. >> that makes me think about -- there is really three that are just there. we could easily and simply focus on truman and stalin, hugely important. the british case, if we think about lloyd george who is faced with an election in 1918 when he is at versailles, what was expected of him or what he thought was expected of him, in the british case they have an election in the summer of 1945 where churchill is out. at le is in and we should not
lose sight of the fact that britain had been a world power for so long and is now being faced with the situation where it really is number three. in a kind of a distant third given where the americans and soviets were at. what should we do with this with the british? what kind of changes, what was going on there in a way that britain understood itself at pot stem from churchill to at le, understanding this is a very different landscape and we faced 25 years earlier. >> the british are going through that same question. what do you want to do? reinforce the empire? draw resources out of that empire at the end of the war or do you really need to think about radical changes to the way that you are going to organize society? john maynard keynes who was the british economic adviser bill that the paris peace conference and that potsdam was perfectly well aware. he argued as often as he could, we cannot go back to the way that we had things before. it is just not going to work.
we are going to have to be subservient to the americans whether we want to or not. our future political economic success will be tied to the americans whether we wanted to or not. the empire -- it's going to be too hard to go back in there and do things the way we had done it before. he is the voice that is arguing for complete change of thought on the way that britain things about everything it organizes. as with many visionaries, a lot of people do not like listening to him because they think it hits to radical a change. the only thing worse than losing the war is winning with the americans by our side, meaning america's price for victory is too high. i think a lot of this kind of rhetoric and special relationship is billed to mask an awful lot of that, the way americans understood -- we are not going back to what we had. we are now clearly going to be top dog. we will set things the way we want to set them. this is what the united states did. the post world war from to the
united states. the britain -- much the way the french came out of the war, victorious but very weak. you will need time to go back up and you will have to face some very very difficult questions going forward. especially given the british want to put national health insurance and social rewards. a good friend of mine wrote a book arguing that this is what british soldiers believed they were fighting for in 1944 and 45. we are defeating germany, but we want a brittany that will a britain that will provide for working classes. citizens of a great country should have. those things are expensive and are difficult to deal with. there is a wonderful where the british air force museum has one of the first british new clears there and there is a sign from the foreign minister at potsdam in which he says, britain is going to have an independent nuclear force and that missile will have a big bloody union jack on it. we will still be here and be independent.
other people like alan brook realized no, you may have those things with the americans, but they will never let you use them. >> very interesting and good for everyone to remember about the fact that the united states and soviet union are the real powerbrokers in this immediate post world. in this case we have harry truman who has only been in office three months. after fdr's death. we have to change over from churchill, to at le. the big change of course is the soviets are there. they had not been in 1919. so much had been about positioning the western world against the spread of the bolsheviks revolution. but here, stalin is there. how did the americans and british deal with that? we have joseph stalin, we have
the red army playing a decisive role in defeating hitler. what do we do with that? how do we have them at the table at the same time, letting them have their way? how did the americans and british respond? >> that is the great power competition question of 1945. how do you read the russians? there are folks -- the soviets came out of the war victorious but they will not be celebrating in times square like we did. they will come out of the were even more paranoid than when they went into it. whatever strength you pushed with it will push back twice as hard. you try to move up closer to their border, they will push back at you. the question really becomes, there's three different ways of looking at the russians. the first argues it doesn't matter what ideology or government is. what they want is with the sorrow wanted in 1914. control of poland, warm water ports, border security. there is a much more aggressive voice in washington that says no, this is an ideological
problem, this is a global worldwide communist problem that we will have to end up dealing with all over the world. better to deal with these guys now than let that grow. there is a third argument eventually becomes a containment argument that says you cannot stop -- what you can do is keep them -- you cannot stop them from being a world power, but you can stop them from expanding until the internal contradictions of their own system make it collapse from inside. that is the way this eventually works. it takes almost 50 years to make it happen. the court argument in the containment theory is a system that is basically a house of cards. if you push against that they have enough military strength to push you back. they have shown that over the past 150 years. the best way to do it is let them kind of stew in their own juices until the economy society of politics of this corrupt system just comes apart. it is a question of how do you think the soviets got there and
what you think they are up to, conditions to american response. in potsdam most people go into that conference thinking and believing that the united states and soviet union can have a constructive relationship in the post war period. there is a photo i love to show when i talk about potsdam. the soviet foreign minister and the new american secretary of state burns, they are arm in arm. the notion here, is we have beaten the germans. we are not yet enemies. that happened after potsdam. it all starts to develop after the conference. it is not the mood at the conference itself. >> as we are wrapping up, will take questions. the western allies, what whether they were aware of it or not, it is interesting that stalin shared much of their suspicion about revolution. that he was himself very wary about workers and peasant
movements emerging out of the resistance against the fascist powers against imperial japan, thinking about china, southeast asia. he's wary of them to. 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 something they share overtly, is a wariness about anything too radical coming from below. >> this is my argument for seeing stalin as just another czar. what he wants geopolitically is the same thing that the roman wanted. don't read too much ideology into it. he's a dictator trying to control the borders of his own country just as any dictator would. the key point is in 1945, we are just not sure what to do. >> it is great. thank you for a great conversation. we covered a lot of ground in 45 minutes or so, and we
obviously should open things up and see what kinds of questions our viewers had. we already had win here so i will just jump in and take us through at least a few of these. we have something from dan in michigan. can you help me understand why the u.s. allowed berlin to be divided? >> if you are a michigan fan i will. michigan state, we are going on to the next question. the argument is that eisenhower called berlin a prestige objective. there is nothing military league necessary about the occupation of berlin because the altar agreement had said there was going to be shared occupation of germany. eisenhower's argument is we started a war with that japanese. we have to deal with. that i will not let my soldiers get killed for something that we have to get back to the soviets anyway. the argument was, physically, the occupation of it, the taking of it is the responsibility of the soviet union. the post war political
arrangement is going to be -- there will be level of sharing's and cooperation in the occupation of just germany. eisenhower's mind, it makes no sense to see american soldiers get killed for something you are just going to have to hand back. i think that is a perfectly defensible point from the perspective of 1944 and 45, and specially given eisenhower's assumption, so many of those troops will have to be rotated back to asia. that is the basic thinking. >> thank you. that leads to the next point which you mentioned about the atomic bomb as its own thing. the fundamental development in world history, truman announces it to stalin. where do we fit the adam bomb into this idea about, we need a new world order. we should not respect repeat the mistakes of 1818 any teen 19. but there's a huge complicating
factor which is the splitting of the adam and the weaponization of that. how does that fit in the way we think about the way we think about resolution of world war ii crisis? one of my favorite antidotes that comes out as soon as the reports come in, the trinity test has succeeded. churchill gives a speech and talks the british delegation saying this is the end of all of our problems, this is the cheap way to keep military power, anytime the soviets try to push us around we can do this. we could knock out this city, destroy the city. the british chief of staff says i hat to calm winston down and he did not like it. i had to explain to him that this is not like other weapons. he understood in 1945, the only way once world war ii's over the only way you can use nuclear weapons is for deterrence. that is it. that is it. it's a weapon you're gonna
invest a lot of money in and never use. he saw that right away. again there's another question, what do you do with these weapons when she developed them? we have followed the ellen brook methods. but there are other things that we could've done. that is another dark cloud hanging over it. i also cite, and i like to recite these for my students, most senior leaders other than churchill virtually all of, them were incredibly depressed that the trinity test had not worked. it meant either war was going to be separated from street ignition and be about raw killing, or it meant that you are going to end up with whatever war you fought killing hundreds of millions of people, potentially every time you did any military action at all. 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
certainly better we did it before the serviettes or the germans did it. but this is a giant step backwards in the way people are thinking about military strategy. >> mike you noted about the soviet union being in, this is a different thing, and how does that affect the whole framework of negotiations? francis out, as opposed to 1918, we have a fewer want to know about charles to call, you noted that the big three are there and they are going to decide the americans and the soviets and other countries are going to have to accept that fact. in the case of de gaulle how does he proceed respond to this new thing being proposed at potsdam? >> he isn't happy. he is that technically the leader of the provisional government of france. he is not the head of government, so, he is excluded on those grounds. he's also excluded because truman and churchill had had
enough of him. truman makes a comment to james burns assistant, which i came across by accident in the library, where he says if i want to talk to google i would send for him as i would ahead of any other small. power they are not sure what to do with france yet, do we treat fans as a liberated country? or do we treat it as an occupied country as we would italy? how are we going to do this? americans go into combat the first time against the french two against veasey. he is a very different representative of france. but the united states has more or less determined by this point that they don't have a choice, that de gaulle is going to be a leader of france when this is over. but that doesn't mean they have to give him the elevated set status of letting him sit with two elected officials truman and churchill, and the leader of the soviet union. he is not at that leader level
yet. -- before potsdam, neither on the way more on the way back to churchill go to paris to meet with to call. they were intentional snubs aimed at him. the call will get his revenge. but it will be a few years in the making. >> he's thinking about at the whole time though, right? >> no doubt. >> he is really thinking about. it we are almost out of time, i want to close with one question that has been posed here. it is not exactly a small one. but maybe we can say briefly about it is that is there any unity at all among the leaders of u.s. britain and the soviet union about the clone eel issue at potsdam? is there anything they can come together on with respect to, here we are another world war has been fought, a columnist 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? >> maybe my brain has been conditioned by the de gaulle question, but one thing they do agree on is the french empire in asia is done, that is indochina. it is not going to go back to france. there is some backpedalling on that after the war, but the general sense is that the united nations is going to be the instrument to handle this. i think there is an expectation on the soviet, i don't read russian i'm not a specialist, there's no way that the british and french would walk back into those places and except for size authority. i think there is some expectation on the american side that something similar would happen. the british, even as a labor leader and fairly far to the left wanted india to stay inside the british empire. the major big issues about what to do our perfectly wide open. the issue of palestine is one
that will become a major sticking point between the british americans the late 1940s. i don't think there is much agreement except the states were not represented, and are the ones whose empires might go away. >> mike, there's so much to say about that question and all the other ones we have cover today. but let me thank you very much for a great discussion. i hope viewers really got something out of it. obviously, 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 you for joining us all today. it has been a real pleasure for being today. it is been a great pleasure to see. mike >> it's been a great pleasure to see you too thank you.