tv Derek Leebaert Grand Improvisation CSPAN December 29, 2018 8:01am-9:01am EST
all that and more on this four day holiday weekend on booktv. television for serious readers. visit booktv.org for a complete schedule. now, first up, derek leebaert examines the struggle for global leadership between united states and britain following world war ii >> good afternoon everyone. welcome to politics and prose bookstore. thank you for coming out today. we are pleased to have derek leebaert here to talk about his new book, "grand improvisation", 'america confronts the british super power 1945-1947'. before we get started, just a
little bit of housekeeping. let's all take a moment to silence our cell phones. we are recording this event. on that note, when it comes to the question and answer portion of the event, if you wouldn't mind using this microphone here so that we can hear your questions, that would be great. many of you know that we have a lot going on here at politics and prose bookstore, including our new stores at union market and the war.to stay on top of what we are doing please check out our events calendar and follow some social media. my name is jenny and i'm pleased to announce derek leebaert. he's been on the board of several book service institutions, he's been a smithsonian follow and professor at georgetown and founding editor of several periodicals. for the last 15 years he's led a global management consulting firm.
his previous books on american history include magic and mayhem, the fifty-year loan, and to dare and to conquer. he's here with us today to discuss his latest book "grand improvisation". while it's generally agreed upon that britain's imperial century ended definitively with the second world war, thereby ushering in the american century, it's noted that this was not a smooth or simple changing of the guard. in this comprehensive history of the early cold war period he analyzes 12 years in which britain and america uneasily, even abrasive lee, renegotiated their roles in the world order. william anthony hay at the international interest says " grand improvisation is a decidedly revisionist narrative that brings neglected figures to the forefront while critically reassessing others. in derek leebaert's account put a different spin on american and british history with an eye to current policy challenges. derek leebaert b. [applause] >> let me emphasize that the transition, such as it was called, was far more abrupt and
brutal than an adjustment between allies. one of the greatest 20th century myths, and the myth with the greatest bearing on current events, is that after the end of world war ii the british empire, the greatest in history, was too weak and too dispirited to continue its role as a global power. and then the americans came in, leapt to the floor creating an american gemini around an american built world order. this is not the way it occurred at all.britain was the original definition of a superpower when the term was coined in 1944. meaning, a great power but great mobility of power, meaning that it existed everywhere. and when world war ii ended,
the expectation was that the americans would come home fast, of course we were the strongest nation with an atomic monopoly, and industrial heft, but we were not globally deployed. we had pledged, as a matter of fact, to bring our 3 million troops in europe home within two years. the british expected at the end of the world war ii vet the world to follow would be a british dominated world. why was that? because russia, the soviet union, soviet russia, was economically devastated and wasted. and because the americans were seen as so insular, unless we understand what truly occurred in the dozen years after world war ii, it's really hard to understand causes, sources, and
foundations, of current events today. such as the depths of u.s. insularity. the hesitation and the way we are treating allies. indeed the origins of vietnam, the sources of destabilization in the middle east. all that goes back to these early years. franklin roosevelt died in april, harry truman, succeeded as president. you can see how weary fdr looks and how shocked does harry truman. and even more profound appeal occurred in july of that year. 1945. when winston churchill was booted out of office as the wartime prime minister. that was during negotiations with stalin, outside of berlin. what occurred was a shock to
the americans as much as to the russians.because the replacement for winston churchill was a socialist labor government. and during the wartime negotiations with stalin, both fdr and churchill had tended to be very accommodating. when labor came in, in 1945, it was an utterly different story. recall that the socialist british labor party, these were tough guy unionist bully boys who had faced down the communists in street battles. during the 20s and 30s to defend the unions. they had no illusions whatsoever about stalin. and it was the british labour party and the tough labor leaders who, from the get go
that summer of 45, started calling our russian allies "nazis". they started calling stalin a massacre maker. they pointed to a whole series of stalinist massacres. they saw very little difference between stalinism and nazism. the russians, as you can imagine, were knocked back on their heels. having believed that they, who had sacrificed three bodies out of every five killed in world war ii, had won the war. the americans too were appalled. and what followed for the next 18 months was really a rain of ambivalence for the americans. the british at the soviets hard politically, diplomatically. the americans hesitated and hesitated. the americans like the russians
demobilized fast, the british done it. they took their time demobilizing. the americans spoke about the british empire and commonwealth deploying a million men around the world and the thousand garrisons in ports.it was only a slight exaggeration. but during this reign of ambivalence in 1946, churchill would give his famous iron curtain speech in march 1946. americans found repellent, hadn't the war been fought for a higher purpose? then clashes of empires? it was only by 1947, as stalin clamped down the police states of eastern europe as he made four rows against iran, that the americans got serious about opposing stalinism. but even then, they were reluctant and slow, and one key
reason that hasn't been understood is because the americans profoundly feared the return of the depression. the depression all believed was certain to return. the war had been merely a brief stimulus. but in early 1947, as the fluoride of stalinism and the expansion of communism began being taken evermore seriously in washington. george marshall was appointed secretary of state. the wartime army chief of staff. this is ernest bevan, who looked the part of a tough thuggish union leader. he became foreign secretary in the labor government. it is ernest bevan that would be eulogized by churchill as the greatest foreign secretary in british history. it was ernest bevan who took control as foreign secretary of
all british foreign and imperial policies. defense, foreign policy, essentially economics as well. and as i argue, who directed a great deal of u.s. policy to come. in the background there you see louis douglas, it a multimillionaire, insurance executive, arizona minor, who became what "time magazine" called the most powerful diplomat of the most powerful country of the world. that was the u.s. he had just become ambassador to britain. of course the u.s. was the most powerful. but think of what we lacked. a professional intelligence capacity. global deployments. allies, after the end of world war ii. we had no alliance
relationships. except by 1947 with latin america. all of this was a kaleidoscope turning fast. it's often seen that the british empire ended, it would be argued, in 1947 with bevan's threat to pull british troops out of greece. where there was a raging civil war and greece was a long time british interest. but, as it's been demonstrated, the british were bluffing. they had no intention of leaving. the americans, as would often happen later, panicked. we rushed through the so-called truman doctrine, committed an enormous amount of money for the time to intervening in greece and turkey. and eastern mediterranean. and convinced ourselves that the british empire was turning
away from global authority. that wouldn't happen for a long long time. in fact, it wouldn't happen until 1957, when the eisenhower administration just reelected offered what it called its declaration of independence from british authority. only then, when we declared our declaration of independence from british authority, with the british in the form of the economists, crowd the editor acknowledged that britain itself was no longer a superpower and only then as vice president nixon would say, with the american step forced to take over the leadership of the free world. this was dearly still nearly a dozen years away. the most powerful figure of the truman administration, other than the president himself, was immeasurably john wesley
snyder. the secretary of the treasury. he was truman's first appointment to high office two days after fdr's death. snyder had a unique relationship with george marshall, which served as an anchor of these early years in the administration. snyder held the reins of the u.s. economy. he also by authority of congress had ultimate authority for all u.s. international, as well as domestic transactions. which meant he had ultimate authority over the marshall plan. and truman allowed snyder to be involved in everything. they had been best friends since 1928.snyder was put on the committee for palestine he be put on the national security council, he'd be put on the nato council.
he would be responsible for persuading truman to hire dean atkinson as a secretary of state.in january 1949. and he would have the final word in april 1951, with his friend truman, alone in the white house residence to fire general macarthur. it's among the people that are overlooked by the historians. 1948 was defining step and it's the berlin blockade. that's when the u.s. realized it needed the british empire. the u.s. asserted that we were spread so thin. we had 12 tanks in europe. capable of combat. the occupation troops in japan were undertrained and ill-equipped. when stalin isolated berlin, the united states realized that the empire was indispensable.
and to show the extent to which we did not understand british vulnerability, despite recurring currency crisis in england, we had expected the british would split 50-50 of the cost of occupying germany with the united states. at the time of the berlin blockade we had expected that the british would contribute 50-50 to running the airlift. americans in washington and tended to retreat. truman marshall, all were ambivalent about what to do in the face of berlin being cut off by stalin. bevan on the other hand, forward deployed british troops, gave his troops in germany authority to shoot down any soviet planes that would interfere with the airlift.
and had to calm down some of his labor party fellow cabinet members who wanted a preemptive war with russia. that would be nigh bevan, these tough labor guys chomping at the bit for what they thought would be, what they said would be a short sharp war with stalinism with or without the americans. so it was the british that held the ground in berlin, which allowed europe to recover, which enabled the marshall plan to take hold. and to be sure british currency crises were recurring over and over again. what had happened since 1945 and what the americans took so seriously as did the british, is the rate of british productivity was booming like no one had understood was possible.
also, the british held the commanding heights of high-tech in areas that were the most important to the americans that would unquestionably be jet aviation, in which they had the lead, also life sciences. in pharmaceutical manufacturing. and very quickly in civilian atomic power. all of this gave britain the profile of a superpower. you can see the scope of the empire. india was given its independence but that was interpreted by the british and understood by the americans to make the british empire and commonwealth all the stronger. because now within the tightly woven british alliance network, where the world's largest democracy. and the world's largest muslim state.
so, britain gave the indian empire its independence, it also withdrew from it mandate in palestine. but this can't be seen as a retreat in the face of zionist terror. as is often understood. bevan, as did churchill, saw palestine as a complete snake pit.with the americans doing backseat driving as bevan called it. and they wanted out. there was no point in staying, despite the losses that the british army suffered to terror.also, the british had the largest military base in the world at suez. being in palestine was superfluous. in 1949 with the booming british economy, with jet aviation setting all kinds of records for the british, with the fear of stalinism having
abated in the face of the marshall plan with the prospect of a north alliance, and north atlantic alliance treaty coming to the floor. all looked well to the british and the americans. except in early 1949 the u.s. slid into recession. it would be a relatively mild recession but the scary thing about recessions is that you don't know how severe they are going to be and what happened even more so was britain then followed suit and what all described at the time as the likelihood of the greatest economic calamity the world had seen was about to descend. that fall in 1949.
in an unprecedented move, secretary of the treasury, william snyder, took over control of the state department from dean atkinson and negotiated the way through what could've easily been a cataclysm that would've taken down not just britain but certainly europe and ended the marshall plan and made russia the most for most economic heading rates. 1949 started a great deal of fear with that economic near catastrophe. it also joined the so-called loss of china to communist forces of it coincided with the
russians having achieved an atomic bomb bomb in august of two september 6, 1949. that began september 1, 1949. nsc 75. it was a ten-month exhaustive study to discover what were u.s. interests in the world and what were british military capabilities because the british empire, of course, didn't share its global military deployments with the united states. we have very little understanding of where these nearly 1 million inferior imperial troops were poised around the world. the ten-month study embarked on the explicit assessment of trying to determine the fate of the british empire and what the fate of the british empire met for the united states. and the conclusions were delivered in july 1950 by which
time the u.s. was at war. nfc ã75, the highest levels of the u.s. government concluded the british empire had it retreated one whit since 1945. that it would be irreplaceable in the united states would have no possibility of ever stepping into its shoes. nor was it anticipated that the british empire would receive any foreseeable future. the british empire was concluded was vital to american foreign policy. all the more so when stalin back to the invasion of north korea charging into the south in july 1950. the british was sparse initially in korea because they insisted they had an entire empire to run.
they had to demand other fronts in the middle east, in malaya, where there was a desperate insurgency. they had colonial interests in latin america. that they backed with troops. all of this the british empire insisted that they couldn't contribute in korea. at which time the u.s. offered bloodcurdling threats in the british initially offered 1500 troops. which came in the nick of time but recall that korea was a disaster for the united states. about 5000 american dead in rescuing south korea. but in the counter invasion into north korea, which provokes china into intervening, about 27,000 american dead and the longest retreat in u.s. history. all of this is going on at the same time that nationalists in
iran are taking over british oil interests. at the same time that there is a nasty guerrilla war against british occupation in suez. the labor government is fading fast. bevan dies in april, 51. labor has been in power since 1945. churchill is now circling in for the kill. as leader of the opposition. his denouncing the labor government so-called hangdog diplomacy. and he returns to power in october 1951. very little has been studied about churchill's second time as prime minister, his only time as prime minister during peace. and in my view it's the most dramatic part of his life. he comes to office determined to restore the authority of the
british empire. the power of the british empire. his ministers are convinced that the empire given its global deployment, its resources, its alliances, could possibly surpass the clout of the united states. and certainly had far more experience and dominated by excellence if not by both weight military technologies. churchill was also backed by anthony eden, his loyal deputy, who was often seen as a counterpart for dean atchinson, secretary of state from january 49 until the end of the truman administration. eden himself was a world figure. in the legendary diplomat. this was his third time back as foreign secretary. he spoke fluently arabic as well as farsi. he had deep understandings of the literature of the middle
east if not current affairs. when churchill and eden came to power that fall of 51, they immediately started putting chips on the table these savvy use the americans. these were pretty bold threats. they would take no more pushing by the americans for european unity, for britain to join itself in some kind of federated europe. they would broker no more interference by the u.s. and the middle east. and in turn they offered really pretty severe threats. one, the 20,000 troops that were by then in korea would be withdrawn. churchill threatened if the u.s. didn't zip it slip about events in the middle east, such as egypt, but even more dire they were by then as a result of the berlin blockade american bomber bases in britain and
churchill threatened to have those removed. most of all for the british and the americans was the defense of malaya here. malaya astoundingly exported the dollar value in tin and rubber that was a seventh of all u.s. exports. and it was vital to the british hopes of recovery and thereby europe's hopes of recovery. and the fear was that the communists would descend from battling the french in indochina to take over malaya and move against india. the british were adamant that the first line of malaya's defense was in vietnam. the origins of the vietnam war
embers of war is a recent offer has called them, are utterly misunderstood. without discussing the american entanglement in vietnam, and not including the british, endless british pressure for a straight decade it would be equivalent to say, who knows, discussing the american revolution without discussing the british. the british had far more influence on the american entanglement in vietnam, vastly more, not only than the french but then any u.s. senator or general. it was relentless playing of the u.s. public opinion. and the press. eisenhower comes to office in november 1952. churchill had little respect for eisenhower, other than as a famed commander.
a good general perhaps. but otherwise contemptuous. churchill is no 78. you can see eisenhower in his famous grin. churchill immediately came to the u.s. in 1953 to see eisenhower. and eisenhower's famous grin was often described as his tom sawyer grin. but as you can imagine, tom sawyer is the supreme american trickster of literature. and eisenhower was the supreme politician.the abrasion between churchill and eisenhower was no less severe than between churchill and finkler roosevelt. no sins of friendship are sentimental and easily
disproved. churchill immediately taunted eisenhower for not negotiating with the russians when stalin died in march 1953. he demanded the u.s. have essentially no contact with the new egyptian government in 1953. the young colonels that came to power that ousted the monarchy and hoped for a relationship with the americans. he also, by then, had achieved an atomic weapon, which britain got in october 1952. which gave a whole level of respect, different level of respect, to the british empire. despite its economic undulations. yes, the americans quickly developed a hydrogen bomb and that vastly overshadowed anything atomic but now it was
also known that britain not only had a more sophisticated atomic bomb than u.s. had demonstrated at hiroshima but they were fast on their own way too. in hydrogen capability. remember that the british produced the only jet bombers in the world. so you start marrying thermonuclear power with jet bombers and ones talking about a pretty impressive force. at the same time, the royal navy is exercising some of the largest naval maneuvers ever in history. and with the death of king george vi in february 1952, truman still being in office, the u.s. senate immediately went into recess. british politics came to a halt. it gave churchill more time to get his administration in gear. curiously, there were anglo
close services worldwide the nationalist mozilla deck into ron what to ãbthe egyptian fervently national leadership went to the anglican cathedral in cairo. in delhi, narrow and his entire family went to the british cathedral there. and of course here in washington, truman and his family went to a mass at the national cathedral. the passing of george vi was significant. queen elizabeth the second acclaimed a new era for a new generation. and a commonwealth that was bound in unity the way no empire ever had been.
she spoke as monarch of a fourth of the world's people. the americans took this truly seriously. and her coronation in june 1953 was easily the greatest lyrical and military spectacle of the century. it was not only a religious social cultural coronation it was hard power shown straight up. over the entire month of june. as the entire military might of the commonwealth appeared in flyovers, in a naval display. this registered strong with the americans. we were also favored with a really really strong secretary of state in john foster dulles. who, unlike acheson, acheson
had a visceral contempt for the british. of course he had british friends, he was intimately friendly with ernest bevan as he would be later in life with anthony eden but the notion of atchinson being an anglophile is laughable is one of his best biographers say. dulles was the foremost wall street corporate lawyer. a longtime foreign policy advisor to the republican party. a lumbering, heavily muscled man who swam maniacally his labs every day. and a brilliant mind that could cut through reams of data. and eisenhower gave john foster dulles all the heavy lifting of having to deal with the british empire. as in 1954 where he's meeting with churchill and eden over
vietnam. because as the americans got deeper and deeper into vietnam, urged on by the british, malaya, fortunately, stabilized. churchill had cracked down to counterinsurgency and massacre making as well. in malaya. malaya was secured. the americans, however, were getting deeper into vietnam and wanted a british presence. the british refused to participate. and it caused deep rupture in the relationship in 54. at the same time, we were responding to perceived communist threat in guatemala, churchill was selling the talks in loud there to saying guatemala had been taken over by communists. the americans never remotely said that her went that far. the american sponsored a truly
messy coup in june 54. also again ongoing bitterness with the british. churchill finally left office age 80 in april 1955. eden came to the floor and was preoccupied with the middle east. a superb diplomat who saw the future of the british empire not just in africa as nsa 75 had seen it but it was the british who put together the baghdad pact. the u.s. was merely and very cautiously an observer of this. but you can see what the baghdad pact united and you can see what was left out. left out was egypt, which was furious, and felt threatened by the baghdad pact.
also israel felt threatened. by 1955 the middle east was in a boil, according to the cia. there were endless border clashes along 600 mile frontier between israel and its arab neighbors. the palestinians of course lived under brutal military rule in israel at that time. these are not palestinian terror and counterterror incidents. but actual sovereign governments surrounding israel that were engaged in a tit-for-tat terrorist campaign and it got worse and worse and worse. by 1956 with nasser, nationalizing the suez canal, all was set for the debacle of invasion by israel, britain,
and france in october 1956. eisenhower, of course, saw this as a complete nonissue. the suez canal was owned by egypt, it ran through egypt. it was held in the stock market of cairo and it was going to revert to egyptian control in 1968. but the british were intent on teaching egypt a lesson, as was french, which blamed blamed egypt for influencing revolution in algeria and certainly the israel's were looking for their shot. it is not the suez debacle, however, that ended the story. although by january 57 the americans are offering their
declaration of independence from british authority and were determined to head out into the world alone. it would be later that year, it would be sputnik, october 1957 nothing had terrified the americans as much as it sputnik. not pearl harbor, not ãbtwo consequences of that, now it was the u.s. and russian boheme is competing only two could play at that level. and second, there was no time to worry about allied sensitivities. not least the democrats started being drawn to the magnetic appeal of john f. kennedy, the young senator from massachusetts, who'd announced to the eisenhower
administration for a resolve for the military weakening of america, for enabling the world to be half slave and half free. and kennedy ran for office on what harold macmillan, british prime minister who succeeded eden, called the churchill ticket. kennedy was explicit about the five star general in the white house being militarily incompetent and allowing the united states to lie open to stalinist soviet type power. indeed he was elected in 1960, and in those iconic thousand days of his administration, i chart this as so much changing and so much going awry.not only was the u.s. now after sputnik going forth into the
world getting little attention to allies, but with the kennedy administration entirely new heated environment came to the floor. the type we live with to this day, the chronic emergencies, the crises, though windmilling military buildups everything from icbms to special forces. the arrival of professors in washington. so-called national security experts in academia. and the think tanks. all of this put in place and excitement, a lack of strategic thinking to be sure that we had lived with to this day. and i'd now like to just open it up to questions, answers, criticism and commentary. as we look back on the initial decades that brought us to today.
>> yes. i sort of felt very prickly in your description of british power and capability and it seems to me in your discussion of the relationship between the united states and great britain that you have left out the part that preceded world war ii, and the part that took place during world war ii. it seems to me that the british leadership starting from its utter collapse in asia, of its
mighty armies, and the attempts by churchill to avoid a d-day invasion but to go into southern europe and all kinds of ãbor to repeat the entry into greece and turkey. that the americans would just trust the british. because of their really inapt military leadership. during world war ii, they scoffed at american leadership, which was not the greatest, but their own military generalship,
etc., was horrible. >> let me jump in at this point if i may. it was a rocky relationship among all the allies. each of the allies, the big three, russia, united states, and britain, were intent on winning the peace. and were looking very much ahead. each of the big three believed it had one world war ii, certainly the russians did, the british empire, which was the only great victorious belligerent to fight from beginning to end in world war i and world war ii, believed they had won the war. and certainly the americans did. so there was lots of ill feelings to go around. especially between churchill and fdr. >> yes, so i think it's no wonder that the ãbfor example
take british general montgomery, the british military scoffed at american military leadership during world war ii, but ignored the dismal leadership of montgomery. and europe ã >> that's really another story. let's focus on the dozen years after world war ii, which is what i tried to address. >> all of that prefaced, leaves one to feel that particularly eisenhower, to distrust the british. >> there was a great deal of skepticism. you are entirely right sir. >> i didn't get that from your talk at all. i felt that that was an omission. >> the title of the book is between eight and a confrontation tends not to be too polite and full of distrust. so i might have underplayed the
extent of the abrasion and eisenhower's distrust and fdr's distrust but it ran deep on both sides. >> you mentioned briefly the suez crisis, the suez events, conventionally that's thought of as the point at which the united states broke with britain. and established itself as the superpower and britain as a secondary power, who would do what it's told. couldn't stand up on its own without u.s. support. could he go back and talk a little bit more about how things unfolded in suez. and how significant you think that single event was in the sort of development of u.s. british relations. >> you are entirely right. suez is utterly significant as a breakpoint.
when ãband when the eisenhower administration offered its declaration of independence. but so much bitterness had been building up to that point. bitterness with britain over and over again. the extent to which the americans felt that they had to defer to the british over and over again. it went back to the korean war with a minimal british presence in korea. it went back to what washington felt was a betrayal in vietnam by the british not aligning with us to likely intervene. it went back to guatemala in 1954 where the british threatened to have us censored at the un. in the cool collusion between britain, france, eisenhower saw as a direct assault on the united states and he spoke of being slapped in the face because it was all done deceitfully. suez was utterly a breakpoint,
it all boiled over what had occurred in the previous years. but i point to sputnik because that was such a shocking horror for the americans. it was that which made us realize there are only two in this game, the continental size superpowers, yes britain got a hydrogen bomb in summer 1957, but by then the americans had gotten the and the teeth and were going to sit back and worry about allied sensitivities. >> how did the british so massively misjudge how the united states would react to suez? >> the british misjudged utterly but so did the french and especially the israelis. the british were accustomed by then to the u.s. sitting back. and they were accustomed to a lot of difference to the
british empire and commonwealth. and also even had convinced himself that by not criticizing the americans, by backing away from our coup in guatemala in 1954, that he had built up political chips. and that the u.s. was therefore going to allow the british to do what they pleased in their area of special interest. the israelis also thought that the u.s. would do nothing because this of course was during an election year. and the israelis in november 1956, as eisenhower was competing for reelection, were certain that the americans would not cross israel. so all of this added to the debacle. but let me add, eisenhower saved britain, france, and israel from a far far worse fate. because if nasser had been
overthrown or killed what would have happened? the era of occupying egypt and ãin the middle east had been long gone. it would become a naughtiest as with syria at the moment which had been spoken of the holy mass. in the americans well knew that would've been a far worse outcome. the nihilism would've swept who knew where. >> i found startling in your talk. one of the things talking about britain being an economic, powerhouse? or what the phrase used. >> productivity. >> my image of britain in the postwar years is that they were rationing, the people rationing well after the war.i certainly don't have an image of the british people being prosperous. and then related to the other part of the question would be
the britain with agreement, was that something the british found hostile to them or were they ã >> you are entirely right. it's tied into the status of the british economy. you are entirely right. rations didn't end until 1953. in britain. that didn't mean the productivity wasn't booming. everything was being exported. the recurring sterling crisis, 1947, the worst one of all in 1949, but then again in 1952 when churchill returns to power. and then again in 1956. these are currency crises. the british didn't have hard currency, meaning convertible into dollars. that they could use for trade. they were frantically exporting everything and tightening the belt.
ruthlessly at home. hence the rationing. hence the threadbare. but at the same time, what we saw, the americans, is the height of industry happening. remember 1956, the first several atomic reactor is lit up by the queen in england. we saw the british time and again having a certain level of excellence but they couldn't scale it. they could have the most sophisticated fighter jets, but they can produce them the way the americans did. so by 53, 54, american productivity had been going flat out. this type of neither war nor peace procurement was made for american industry whether it was mass-producing hydrogen bombs or a b-52 a week or four-star aircraft carriers. this completely overshadowed
what might've been british technical excellence. >> i was really intrigued when you got into britain and our involvement in vietnam. he made it sound like the brits got us into vietnam to defend malaya. am i correct in understanding that? and how did they convince us to get into vietnam? and get so bogged down? >> the most powerful person in british imperial presence in asia was malcolm mcdonald. completely utterly unknown to history and unknown to any historians of the vietnam war. he became high commissioner for all of british interests in southeast asia. it's called the reign of the
phoenix. he became high commissioner and 46, he stayed until 55. the americans called him the wise man of asia. no one in the u.s. who spoke authoritatively on vietnam, no one, would not trundle to singapore to have an audience with malcolm mcdonald. he wielded great authority. he saw the british interests in south east asia as equivalent to the americans in japan.the american press adelaide at him. the kennedys, nixon, every publisher and editor, anybody of anything to do with vietnam, ended up having an audience with malcolm mcdonald at phoenix park in malaya. he would take them on tours of malaya. he would tell them about the
first line of defense being in vietnam. and only the americans could do it. he himself toward vietnam incessantly with the french trying to hold them up. but he knew that the french couldn't sustain and it had to be the americans who came in. >> so we just bought into this? >> we bought into it heavily. >> after the ambience sue? >> that ended french rule. we had also by then gotten in extra deep caring most of the cost of the french war in vietnam, supplying the french utterly with weapons. i 55 we were getting pretty tired of malcolm mcdonald's, as it was then seen his cheerleading and gameplaying
for american intervention. but by then it was needed. by then the americans who were in deep. john foster dulles saw an opportunity to write off vietnam. john foster dulles had no understanding how we had ever got involved in vietnam in the first place.he had never personally dealt with mcdonald. and there was one fleeting moment where john foster dulles told anthony eden who was then prime minister, let us write it off. there is no need for america to be in vietnam. that didn't last long. and by 57 we were gearing up and when kennedy came in he moved from 400 troops to 17,000. and his argument resonates today. we did have soldiers in there, they weren't really soldiers. they were just special forces commandos and cia operatives. so it wasn't going to be at all dangerous. >> thanks.
>> we have time for one more question. >> just a quick question on the faster demobilization for the u.s. do you think that encourage the faster production stream coming out versus the brits who did not demobilize quite so fast and then people in the military and who therefore cannot be as productive in the economy? >> the british made a sacrifice to be sure by maintaining a very heavy military burden. they couldn't meet the labor shortages in their industry. for example. they needed far more men in the aviation field. and so much british manpower was squandered in the military and in sustaining the empire. utterly corrupt.
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