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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 28, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am EST

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if i'm going to show you the secret tunnels, i'm going to research. i can write whatever i want. but i'm going to get it right. >> host: how much have you sold? >> guest: this one? 10 copies to my family. the publisher says we have copies in print. the only one that matters, is my family. my mom, god bless her, i went to borders headquarters. they said guess where your books sell more than anyone else? i don't know. new york city. 8 million new yorkers. i said washington, d.c., i write thrillers about washington. no, the number one place was florida borders one mile from the furniture store where my mother used to work. my mother single-handedly beat 8 million new yorkers. >> host: brad meltzer has been
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. . i've written a number of books, and each time you decide to write a book, at least i feel, you ask yourself the
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question. and i wrote about franklin roosevelt, and i wanted to find and answer the question was he as my eve during world war ii as many were alleging in the post-world war two period. this talk was about the american foreign policy. i wrote about john kennedy and i looked at the polling data which said that the great american presidents in the eyes of most people were predictably washington, lincoln, fdr, but the included kanaby. it was a puzzle to me. he was only their fourth house in the days and yet he had become an iconic figure, and i wanted to get into the archives, read the material, and make some assessment of what his whole
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presidency was light. i worked for several years on the two volume life of lyndon johnson, and one of the principal questions that captured my attention was how can someone who, as brilliant a politician, has successfully politician as lbj, have been caught out by the war and vietnam. that is, the consensus that developed in 1964 and gave him a massive landslide election was destroyed by the war, and it puzzled me as to how johnson could have lost his hold on the public's imagination. on nixon and kissinger, a book published three years ago, i was trying to confront the issue of
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whether nixon and kissinger were as deserving of the accolades they received for their leadership in foreign policy. and i was particularly drawn to the idea of writing about both of them because henry kissinger had 20,000 pages of telephone oganscripts that were locked upñ in the library of congress, and they were not to be opened, but according to his corrective, until five years after his death. but the state department, which publishes a series called correlations in the united states is an authoritative document record of the history of american foreign policy, and they were up to the mixing period and they insisted that mr. kissinger provide access to these telephone transcripts, and sophie archivists at the
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archives told me that indeed these papers were going to be open and that i would have access to them as any serious scholar or historian would come and i felt it would be an opportunity to really address in a most serious and substantive way the quality of nixon and the leadership they offer in the conduct of foreign affairs. as a research historian, i am very much a believer in the idea that you need access to these materials, and the usually takes 30, 35, sometimes as many as 40 or 50 years before historians can gain access to the records of these administrations that will allow you to write, i believe, a more authoritative account, because, you know, all presidents want you to think they walk on water, they make no errors, and misjudgments, but
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when you get into the archival materials you can get a much clearer picture of what was going on. for example, ronald reagan is currently held in very high esteem by lots and lots of people. but we have not had access to the body of the reagan records, and it will probably be another ten, 15 years before we can write a substantial work of scholarship about assessing that administration. so, as a pre-lewd -- prelude to this book i'm talking tonight, "the lost peace" the question i posed to myself is how could it be that a group of brilliant leaders, men who are in history as the dust jacket of the book shows you pictures of stalin and
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franklin roosevelt and winston churchill and douglas macarthur, who ghandi, extraordinary leaders. i mean, at the end of world war ii was thirsting for a sustained period if peace. 18 million people perished in the first conflict, first world war of the century. another probably 50 million people died in that second world war. and there was such a hearing for a long-term peace, and it didn't happen. and the question i posed in working on this book was my not? how did these leaders fall short? let me, if i may, read from the preface to the book briefly. its brief.
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to give you an idea of what the thrust of this book is. this is a book i write about the generations of leaders in the years of the people between the cause of world war ii and the early cold war. it is not a comprehensive history about why the cold war began, rather, is an attempt to underscore the misjudgments of the unwise actions that caused so much continuing strife and suffering and suggest alternatives that might have made for greater international harmony. in the notable men who dominated time, i am not intent on denying them their due, or in the case of the like hitler and stalin, revising their reputations of wrongdoing. my greatest interest is the decision making of the defense of the period as a cautionary
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tale. a reprise of what went wrong as a call for future improvements in world affairs, or and educators lesson of what might have been to avoid the difficulties that beset strong and weak nations around the globe. such an exercise and finger-pointing and advice giving is bound to provoke of the debate. the letters of history are always risky proposition is, more the product of speculation than persuasive evidence. i would be the first to grant that my suggested remedies for the missteps of the period reflect the historians advantage over the leaders who could not know how things would turn out. yet, it is the historian's job not only to examine the record as fully as possible also to render judgment on how the past officeholders performed, otherwise we have no more than a chronicle were telling a story without meaning.
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i hope my retrospective discussions on how world leaders might have done better for the millions of people they govern are seen as a constructive effort exercise as a reflection on their limitations. the fact that men and women gained governing power whether by democratic the elections or extra constitutional means is no guarantee of wise leadership. the success of this book depends less on whether i stimulated course of approving the bonds on the alternatives i see to some of these -- some of their actions than the new discussion of how the most powerful men on their 1940's and early 50's performed, and more importantly, what their mistakes tell us about crafting of more actions in the future. that most of the book's focus is on what the leaders shortcomings is not meant as a lament about the limits of government to act more wisely. the post 1945 vera had its share of sensible actions between the
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nations. i hope my discussion of wrong terms than is seen not as a cry of despair, but as a reminder that we can do better in resolving conflicts and promoting international cooperation. now, as a follow-up to that point, i would tell you an anecdote about a french attorney who sent me an e-mail asking if we could meet. he had read my work and he was devoted to john kennedy's memory come keenly interested in that administration. we had lunch, and in the course of discussion, i asked him if he had children, and he said yes, who were in their 20s. and i asked him how do they think of themselves? he said well, of course as french, but also as europeans. i said to him could you imagine,
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or could they imagine, a war between france and germany now? he said absolutely not. and what it put me in mind of is a brilliant book by a man named james sheehan, who is a historian at stanford university called a book called "where have all the soldiers gone stockpole? and what he argues in that book is that europe has gone from mars to venus and the united states has gone from venus to mark, transformation. the shift toward smaller tourism in this country. let me talk a little bit about the misjudgments, the errors that i see were made by the prominent leaders of this year and become -- ear. first african talk about the start of world war ii. when the japanese bombed pearl
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harbor they were absolutely convinced that the united states would not last count more than six months. america was an isolationist nation, it was pacifist, it was divided about taking an activist role in foreign affairs, and they were convinced that the united states would drop out and in some peace if they called off a successful attack on pearl harbor. admiral yamamoto designed the attack and believed if the united states fought for more than six months, it would lead to japan defeating the war, because in this the extraordinary resources of the command of this country that once it mobilized itself, there was every chance in the world he believed that japan would be defeated. the misjudgment on our side, the
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american political military chiefs at the time believed that by putting the fleet of pearl harbor, the japanese wouldn't attack because they saw the fleet as a deterrent, and the japanese saw it as a target, you see. what it demonstrates is one of the central points of the book, which is summed up by a quote from the german philosopher who said that convictions are the greater enemy of truth than lies. convictions are the greater enemy of truth and lies. and this is what they see in the post world war period. take, first of hitler. hitler thought that he could achieve a thousand year reich,
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that by his litter some, his victories, that he would make germany the dominant force in europe to the future as anyone could see. he made the nazi soviet pact as part of a bargain with the devil, so to speak, and when the soviet union was about to come under attack from the nazis, he refused to believe that we have given lots of intelligence he refused to believe that an attack was coming. and when it happened, he was so unnerved, depressed by it, that he disappeared from view for a few days. and there was a backing of leadership while the soviet arms were retreating under the weight of this nazi assault. stalin, at the end of world war ii, could not accept the idea
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that there was the possibility of an accommodation with the west, with the united states and great britain. what he failed to understand was that americans, the british, were enormously appreciative of the sacrifices the soviets had made in the war come and that is as george kennan said, the great american diplomat overcame the head of harry truman's policy planning council. george kennan said the did was the soviet army that tore the guts out of the machine, and the price that was paid -- this was the price, in a sense, that was paid for the occupation in europe by the soviet armies because they were the ones who had done this fighting.
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there was genuine appreciation for this fact in the west. salles in could not accept that proposition. he could only believe that the future would be conflict between capitalism and communism, that there had to be a massive struggle. and he also believed that he could out to bid us, how to do us, in the building of military strength, that the in united states at the end of the war was demobilizing, was moving away from its commitment to having any strong military standing army that would be in europe for as far in the future as anyone can see, and that he was convinced that there was an arms race. the united states would fall behind, and the soviet union would be victorious.
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of course he was dead wrong. the arms race that looker would essentially gut the soviet union. of their military. that they could not compete with the united states, and the loss of the possibility of building a consumer economy is essentially didn't amend. and reagan of course censored competition and arms between the u.s. and the u.s.s.r.. so stalin makes this huge blunder. one of the points i made in the book is the possibility that both sides could have avoided this arms race in the building
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of nuclear weapons. george kennan, who i mentioned a couple of minutes ago, kennan eventually wrote a book called the delusion if nuclear weapons. that nuclear weapons are not usable battlefield weapons. there was really like poison gas, which had been used in world war i. if you release poison gas on the battlefield, the prospect was that was coming to -- going to cause injury to the forces just as it must delete, calls injuries to the enemy. if you drop the nuclear weapon on the battlefield, it would kill both sides and the conflict. therefore what kennan pointed out is that these are weapons which will be with is of mass destruction used against cities. and when harry truman met with
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stalin at the conference, he casually, after one of their sessions, went in and said we've developed a new more powerful weapon. this was i think the day after the first atomic bomb had exploded in the mexico desert. and stalin, who had started the manhattan project, knew exactly what he was talking about, and he said to him well, good. i hope you use it well. why couldn't the truman have gone to stalin with winston churchill, who was there that day, too, had a secret conversation with him, translate his present and tell him about the development of this new, more powerful within? and also caution him, which truman understood, about the
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possibility of winning the weapons before they became -- before they began to proliferate. civilization. he and stalin -- truman and stalin were in a sense playing a game. it was a kind of two politicians posturing toward each other on this terribly serious business. in 1950, when truman was confronted with the question of whether to build a hydrogen bomb, should we launch a vote on this, the last meeting he had before he settled on this, was with a committee of three that included a man named lillian
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fall. lillian fall was opposed to it and the authors said they were in favor of building the hydrogen bomb. and truman said can the soviets do it? and they said yes. and truman said we must, too. this meeting really pointed out in his diary is to all of seven minutes. seven minutes. george kennan wrote a 70 -- 79 page memo he sent to dean acheson where he argued this idea that these weapons of mass destruction should not be built, that it would produce an arms race that would threaten the very basis of civilization and he was dead set against.
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acheson said how do you convince the paranoid a character like stalin, and acheson was quite right, a pair of white man and a paranoid world, how do you convince him not to engage in this kind of development of such a weapon, do it secretly. kennan's argument was the united states had 50 power bombs ready and now scheduled of the building of the 300. the soviets had exploded their first atomic bomb in september of 1949. this was a 1950 now. maybe he had two or three atomic bombs. we had a huge of an issue for them, and kennan's argument was that if we went to stalin, and if we raised this issue of trying to avoid an arms race in building this with him, that could as robert oppenheimer, the
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physicist, said to only be a weapon of mass destruction, using it in civilian populations. kennan believed that if we approached stalin, and if leader he went forward and sanctioned the building of this within we would benefit your quickly because they exploded a test bomb we would know about it, and then we, of course, could have built anyway. and at that point, we still would have had something like 1101 advantage over the atomic bombs and could have mightily threatened them. but convictions, as i say, greater enemies of the truth than the lie, and the conviction of the truth was we didn't build this in order to secure the security of the country, and so we go ahead and do it, and at one point we had over 30,000 of
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these nuclear weapons and in as some would say the only purpose they had some plan is that they can make the balance it was tremendous overkill. the american relations in this period. january, 1945, the proposed meet with franklin roosevelt. they were anything but willing to a commitment to the soviet union to make an alliance with them.?? in fact, we were very uncomfortable with the soviets, and of course when the chinese oçmmunist revolution succeeds and mao goes to moscow and stalin doesn't see him for something like two or three
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months and mao sits there fuming over the fact that he has to -- you know, when his country just achieved this revolution and so much is going on in china and the leadership is so badlyçó needed at home, and yet stalin, and roughly three months the soviets give him i think it was a 300 million-dollar credit. it was hardly a huge bonanza, and so it was anything but a love fest from the start between the chinese communists and the soviets. yet, we believed as it was indicated or things were openly in the china white paper, which was published by the state department with a letter of transmittal from dean acheson, explaining the american policy toward china because, remember, it was so much recurring in the nation over china and the
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feeling that we had failed to prevent a communist takeover in which china and had in some ways [inaudible] the argument that was very much his own doing and that however, the white paper cautioned against this communist regime in china because it described as tight hand and foot to the soviet union. and so what you do then is have this miscalculation it seems to me, as to what we might have had in the american relations if we had been more receptive to the idea that mao and the communists were receptive to a relationship with the united states, and yet the tide themselves hand and
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foot, and this was, to use another metaphor, a sinking ship, and so again, these convictions mislead us. let me say a last word about the caribbean -- korean war. the leaders in north and south korea are kim il-sung. he is 70 years of age and kim il-sung, both of them are chopping at the bit to unify the peninsula under their control. kim goes to stalin, asks his support for allowing him to move across the 30th parallel and attack the south. astelin at first reluctant, but then stalin makes another
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mistake. he's convinced that despite so much of what had been stated in washington about america's investment so to speak in korean, the public statements by dean acheson and other officials suggested that if there were an attempted takeover by the north or the south in korean we were not going to interfere. stalin was convinced that we wouldn't withdraw the military in there. and he was right. but he thought this would be great for the soviet union because it would distract the united states from in the challenge to the soviet empire in eastern europe. he was it wrong. because what happens is a war de rot sing korean. we do enter into the fighting and at the same time, we issue nsc 68 national security council 68 which leads to the massive
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buildup of american military strength. and if it does anything, it strengthens the danger of the jeopardy to stalin's empire, and so stalin is dead wrong here. but going into this war, the united states is involved. we drive the north koreans back above the parallel. and then a big decision has to be made by germany. should we cross the 30th parallel and try to achieve, as it is later described in the 1952 campaign, as liberation will back? truman is under tremendous political pressure it seems to me to cross the parallel. ..
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>> will be able to mop up the north korean forces in a very short time. and he predicts the chinese will not come into the fighting. he said he had seen the chinese fight in world war ii. of course, what he had seen was chiang kai-shek. he said if they come into the fighting, they will be the greatest. we will decimate them.
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he was dead wrong. because the chinese do come into the fighting. they drive the americans and south koreans back down the peninsula. we surge again as we did in the initial fighting, drive back to the 30th parallel, and, of course, this was where both sides are to this day. all of these years, all of these years later. three million koreans perish in that conflict. 900,000 chinese lose their lives. over 35,000 american troops lose their lives. what was the point of that war? what did it gain for anybody? the convictions that kim and rea had about unifying the peninsula were dead wrong. and so i've given you just a
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little sampling of the kinds of things i talk about in the book. now i don't think if you read it you'll become too depressed. [laughter] >> because as i tell my students these day, you sue me for your psychotherapy bills if i depress you too much about the view of history. i see no point in simply writing a book that's celebratory. there's plenty to celebrate. there's much to the idea that we do avoid war, a big war, a nuclear war after world war ii. that really is the triumph of good sense, good judgment, and maybe it has something to do with the effectiveness of these weapons of mass destruction that act as an deterrent. so there are positive things that come out of the war. including the occupations of germany and japan who are
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converted into democratic societies. so distant from what we had when they ended world war ii under nazism and japanese militarism. so there are successful developments. but, you know, i think what's most constructive, what's most useful is to talk about the short comings, not vindictively, but in terms of lessons that can be learned. judgments that can be made. a way of thinking about current and future events that these missteps might be instructive. indeed, those who serve in high office, it seems to me, should remember otto bismarck's famous comment, the great stakesman are
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those who hear the future hoof beats of the horse of history. to some extent, all of the great statesman did, the people that i write about in this book. but they miss the out on an awful lot. the kind of taste that people hopeful at the end of world war ii, i'm afraid, was lost. and we entered into this 40 plus year struggle that we call the cold war. but there were so many side instances and indeed, one could extent this discussion to vietnam and recent iraq war and perhaps to afghanistan too. and so i think the book that i would like to argue with is a timely one. because statesman are always, leaders are always making miscalculations and misjudgments.
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and i think it's well for an informed citizenry to think about the limitations that these men and women have as a way to hopefully put some check on them. so let me stop here and i'm happy to answer any questions if you have any or enter into any discussion that you might like to put before me. please. >> you consider the formation of the united nations and it's activity subsequent to the end of world war ii to be successful or not? >> i think it was essential to form the united nations. i think it was a wonderfully constructive idea. i think the expectations as to what it could do were over drawn.
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because, you know, there are such exaggerated hopes that we see often and it would be, i think, healthier for people to be more realistic about, for example, at the end of world war i, or during the world war i, there was the wilsonian assumption that we could make the world a safe democracy. that would be the war to end all wars. so illusionary. during world war ii, franklin roosevelt who is a very astute leader, politician, read the american public with i think great insight. during world war ii were americans were very much influenced by the idea that at the end of the war, everybody around the world was going to want to become like the united states. there was a famous book
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published in the 1932 by wendell willkie, do you know who that was? roosevelt's opponent in the 1940 campaign. roosevelt sent him on the tour around the fronts in 1942, '43, came back and wrote the book called one world. at that point, it was the greatest nonfiction bell -- best seller in american history. in that book, what he argued essentially was the inside of every foreigner is an american waiting to emerge. they all want to be like us. we're so successful. when charles came to the united states in the fall of 1945 and met with harry truman, he wrote this diary how the american impulse is to believe that if only everybody would follow the american example, would subscribe to american ideas of governance, of democratic form, that the world would be a much
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happier place. he was a very, very astute leader. and i write about him in some detail in the book. he -- in some ways, i think he may have been the greatest leader out of world war ii. he had nothing, and yet -- and yet, he has such a commanding, -- he was such a commanding figure. and he was able at the end of the war to assume the leadership of france. now he saw with roosevelt was about what he met with him at the casa blanca diaries. the president does not think kindly to me. roosevelt did not think france had fought well at the war, and didn't think he deserved a place in the peace table. he read this clearly.
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he met with stalin and the soviet union, and he described what a shrewd and ma manipulative but ruthless leader that he was. he was especially astute, very effective, expect on the one count. this was another misjudgment. he believed that france could not be a great nation again if it did not reclaim it's colonial empire. so he drives hard to put france back into the vietnam. the consequence of that, of course, is that it cost france so much blood and treasure. because of this idea that france had to have the colonial empire. of course, france loses the colonial empire, pays a terrible price for it in blood and treasure as i said. are they a significant nation
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anyway? absolutely. similar point could be made about vietnam. all of the talk about the dominoes falling, all of the talk about the defeat for us in the cold war if we don't fight in vietnam. well, we lose in vietnam. but we win the cold war anyway. did we need to fight in vietnam? i think if john kennedy had been president or had lived into a second term, i don't think he ever would have escalated that war in vietnam the way that lyndon johnson did. you know, so these judgments -- misjudgments are made. they have huge consequences. but to get back to your point about the u.n., i think it's done some wonderful things. it is a very important mediator, so to speak, on the international scene. it's not the holy grail. it doesn't give the answers that people would like. the world is not yet at a point where it's the -- the nations
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are willing to subscribe to woodrow wilson's idea of collective security and abandon the kind of sovereign and selfish interest that manages to motivate them. it's a good point. important development coming out of world war ii. but it's not going to fulfill -- never fulfilled the hope, the expectations that people had for it. yes, sir? >> yes, sir. richard nixon was -- is usually described as a consummate american realist. even the effort, and your book about nixon, it was really great, in which way do you believe there's a bit of american realism in the peace that you are writing about?
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or no black and white, more shades of gray? >> there is more shades of gray. in the sense that george kennon puts forward the doctrine. he argued it was a mistake to set up the alliance. he was against the north treaty organization. why? because he said the most important thing is to have what he described as political and economic detainment. that the soviet union was not going to launch it's tanks and launch into eastern europe, or rather into western europe. it was not going to be -- he was an aide of hitler. he was monstrous enough in his own way, but he was not hitler. kennon believed by setting up nato, you would drive the soviets to do a similar thing, which they did with the warsaw
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pact and you have the standoff, military standoff in europe. kennon believed we could have avoided that. and he corrected believed that containment, in the long run, would over come the soviet union. they would, in time, disintegrate. the soviet system was so imperfect. indeed, i was in the soviet union in 1979, and i was astonished. i went into a so-called super market. what you found there were some rotting vegetables and some cans of fish. and the shelves were more or less bare. it wasn't just that you could also look at the clothing that the people were wearing on the streets or in the buses that you rode on. and the sense that you had was
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that it was something almost the third world country. that they had invested so mightily in the build up at the military at the expense of their consumer society. of course, it produced so much resentment and antagonism, and kennon also wrote early on, they couldn't hold on to eastern europe forever. it wouldn't last forever. the eastern europeans were too sophisticated, too educated, too wise to have sustained this kind of soviet control of them for ever. so i think there was some -- you know, achievements. significant achievements. as i said before the fact that we don't fight a war with the soviet union i think was a great achievement. you know? we came very close to it in the cuban missile crisis when kennedy's military advisors
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wanted him to bomb and invade cuba. we know now from the historical records that if we had done that, it would have been costly touched our fate, and nuclear exchange with the soviets and would have been a great disaster. but he had the wisdom to follow a diplomatic path, use diplomacy, and as a consequence, we escape from that crisis, and, of course, it greatly elevated his standing. if he had lived, the landslide is how he would have been won in 1964. >> you were there in '79? >> yes. >> what were you there for? >> i had just wrote a book about franklin's diplomacy. it was the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of world war ii. they were sending historians.
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i initially went to yugoslavia for a conference. then i was sent by the state department to speak at institute for the study of usa in canada in moscow. >> during 1956, during the hungarian uprising, 10 days, two weeks, something like that, my answer is the report that the -- from the street that when the soviets finally came in, sent tanks in, they were shocked by the quality of the fall in the soviet uniforms. that was cheap denim. this nation that we had been respecting. we can reduce, and all of our stuff, hungary, you know, in the
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second last year of the union, and manufacture even less than bohemian. >> yes. absolutely. and this is why a number of people have said that stalin was so afraid to let go of that soviet empire because if they flourished as they probably would have, and they are today, without this communist system which so repressed them, it would have been an irresistible comparison to what existed in the soviet union. he was terribly frightened that it would undermine the stability of his own government as well it would have been. so sadly, you know, he practices this terrible oppression. he was -- what you see -- what i find painful. >> and to china. >> absolutely.
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would have been gotten to china too, absolutely. but, you know, what i find so painful, not the fact that you are people like hitler and stalin out there in the world. there will always be men like that around who are going to try to seize and hold power and oppress and be brutal. but that the german people in world war ii were so enamored with hitler. until stalin in 1943, hitler was thought to walk on water. he had health with the militarization of the society and the defense build up they had improved the economy. but he those victories of world war ii, first poland over the french. the french were supposed to have the greatest land army in the world. they were all over the french, this great victory. so it's not until stalingrad,
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but what i find also puzzling is how could the german people believe that international jewry would or could be capable of destroying germany. you see, here is this minority. you know, there's a new exhibit in the historical museum in berlin about the nazis and about the oppression of the jews and germany and the persecution. at one level, the historians say do people need to be reminded of this? there are lots of people in germany who feel that way. but, you know, when you talk to people and you see what their knowledge is of history, and if you go out and were to ask young people around the country in this country, in great britain,
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i've read stories in great britain, they don't know a heck of a lot about what happened in the world war ii. they don't know who our allies were. they don't have a clue as to what the realities of these. so it's always well, it seems to me, to remind people of these horrors that were perpetrated. in fact, when i teach students these days, and i ask them are any of you from the south. not because i want to, you know, abuse them. but i have some young people who come from the south and i say to them, you cannot imagine what your region of the country was 50 already -- 50, 60s years ago, and the kind of oppression of african-americans and the, you know, an america that preached freedom. this was a tremendous embarrassment to people like kennedy and johnson. this was probably what i think propelled johnson to want to
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pass that civil rights bill. there was a moral construct to it, and he understand it was a terrible abuse of the black minority in the country. but he also had his eye on the cold war. because the soviets and the communist beat on us unmercifully as being a racist society. which we were in the way that we treated african-americans. so, you know, there are these endless problems. and i think it's so well and that's the way that i think about teaching history. that it's important for people to remember what the missteps and misjudgments were. not because you wanted to depress them as i said, but because it's reality. it has a kind of realism to it that you want to know about. and the closest that you can be to the reality, i think the more constructive that you can be in
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what you do in the present and the future. you know, it's no nostrom, it's not going to save the world. it's not going to save human nature. it's incremental change, we've done a lot of that in the country. we've seen incremental change. it won't be long, we're going to see a woman as president of the united states. it won't be long. that will happen, who would have been thought just five years ago, that we would have been seen an african-american as president in the united states. it really is an amazing development in this country. but it's gratifying to see these changes. on the other hand, you know, we shouldn't get carried away with flag way thinking aren't we perfect? because we are not. and these struggles will go on. have you -- have i answered all
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of the questions? >> real quick one. george w. bush's memoir is coming out next month. as a presidential historians, what are your expectations for that? >> it'll be like most of the other presidential memoirs, which are full of self-congratulation. they can do no wrong. you know, i don't put much thought in these memoirs. they are -- you know, they are some material that you learn from them. inevitably -- i always tell how my friend doris worked with lyndon johnson on his memoir. she urged him -- she urged him to, you know, be himself. give the public the real lbj. which was a man who was so earthly and astute as a politician. but he said, no, no, he has to
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presidential. so he cleaned up all of the prose and the kinds of anecdotes. and i mean there are endless amusing anecdotes about him, and -- so, you know, they want you to think as i said before, they walk on water. so what i expect you'll get is -- he probably believes it. you know. this is something they convince himselfs of. but, you know, historians have already been arguing that they see him as maybe the worst president of the american history. no, i don't know. we can't quite make that judgment now. but i think he will be seen as one the bottom feeders, and not even as necessarily an average president. but these things play out over time. and it takes a while before, you know, judgments set in. and we historians are constantly
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being asked to assess, evaluate, rate these presidents. and there's always some shifting about in the standing of these presidents for what it's worth. yes, sir? >> i think -- i agree. i think that he's probably going to be one the worst. i think the guilt of it is not -- you think back to the presidents mystery, including all of the worst ones. in terms of himself, his person, his character, and what he does, no. but that's not what you take from what he does, and his achievement as the president. and the worst, i think the guilt must be shared by the constitutional state that we have gotten ourselves into. the fact that who can resist to the complex. >> yes.
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>> he was a tool. >> absolutely. >> he was a tool of cheney and rumsfeld. and beyond that, the american public. >> a manmade tool. >> i think the system needs to be changed a bit. >> you know, i've written -- i've written a piece about this a couple years back -- a few years back when bush was in office. and his approval rating had fallen to something like 24, 25%. and it was -- it rivaled the worst that richard nixon and harry truman had during the korean war. and i said, what we need is a constitutional amendment which allows for a referendum in this country on a lame duck president with two more years to go in his term. because do we have to live with
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two more years of the president who have been repudiated by the publish because they are so unhappy with his -- but on the other hand, after the joke goes, after richard nixon was driven from office, you couldn't find anybody in the country that voted for richard nixon. people don't want to fess up. it's the point that there's responsibility for the american public shares. you know, winston churchill said democracy is the worst possible system, expect for all of the rest. you see? and so, of course, it's imperfect. and it has it's limitations. that's why an educated citizenry is so important it seems to try to keep these things in check, to constantly pay attention. you know, what was it jefferson said about the price of liberty's constant attention to
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the way in which the government operates and funks. -- functions. so we need that. so, anyway, thank you all for coming. and i hope we all go forward and do a little educating. thanks so much. [applause] [applause] >> for more information visit and search robert dallek. :


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