Obama’s improbable history, part 2

Jack Kelly looks at the same passage in Obama’s North Carolina victory speech that we touched on in “Obama’s improbable history.” Obama said:

I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.

Kelly provides a refresher course:

Our enemies in World War II were Nazi Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler; fascist Italy, headed by Benito Mussolini, and militarist Japan, headed by Hideki Tojo. FDR talked directly with none of them before the outbreak of hostilities, and his policy once war began was unconditional surrender.

FDR died before victory was achieved, and was succeeded by Harry Truman. Truman did not modify the policy of unconditional surrender. He ended that war not with negotiation, but with the atomic bomb.

Harry Truman also was president when North Korea invaded South Korea in June, 1950. President Truman’s response was not to call up North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung for a chat. It was to send troops.

Perhaps Sen. Obama is thinking of the meeting FDR and Churchill had with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Tehran in December, 1943, and the meetings Truman and Roosevelt had with Stalin at Yalta and Potsdam in February and July, 1945. But Stalin was then a U.S. ally, though one of whom we should have been more wary than FDR and Truman were. Few historians think the agreements reached at Yalta and Potsdam, which in effect consigned Eastern Europe to slavery, are diplomatic models we ought to follow. Even fewer Eastern Europeans think so.

When Stalin’s designs became unmistakably clear, President Truman’s response wasn’t to seek a summit meeting. He sent military aid to Greece, ordered the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, and sent troops to South Korea.

Kelly contrasts Kenendy’s pre-presidential military and politcal experience with Obama’s paper-thin resume, but only refers glancingly to Kennedy’s 1961 summit with Khrushchev in Vienna. That summit was a disaster for resasons that bear intense scrutiny. I think Vienna is actually a fair comparison and warning against Obama’s potted history, but Kelly is harsher:

The closest historical analogue to Sen. Obama’s expressed desire to meet with no preconditions with anti-American dictators such as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the trip British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French premier Eduoard Daladier took to Munich in September of 1938 to negotiate “peace in our time” with Adolf Hitler. That didn’t work out so well.

It is amazing that reporters haven’t pursued Obama on this subject, or challenged him on his repeated assertion that we’re not talking or haven’t talked with Iran.

FOOTNOTE: Kelly attributes to Winston Churchill the statement that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The statement is George Santayana’s.


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