* So here we are in 1946.
* The Truman administration has decided on a “containment” policy.
* But who is going to contain the containers?
* According to the Novikov telegram, the Soviets felt like they had to contain the US.
* And the U.S. felt like they had to contain the Soviets.
* So the Americans were trying to figure out how they were going to to it, and how much they were willing to spend on it.
* In terms of atomic weapons control, the United States Atomic Energy Commission developed a classified plan to achieve international control, which came to be known as the Acheson-Lilienthal report, and submitted it to Secretary of State Byrnes in January 1946.
* It was named after Dean Acheson, at the time the Under Secretary of State – we’ve mentioned him briefly before, but he’s going to be a major character during the 1950s – and David E. Lilienthal, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
* But it was written mostly by the committee’s chief scientific consultant, Robert Oppenheimer,
* They recommended that all global fissile material be owned by an international agency to be called the Atomic Development Authority, which would release small amounts to individual nations for the development of peaceful uses of atomic energy.
* But there was a twist.
* The stockpiles and atomic production plants would be strategically distributed geographically.
* Lots of different countries would have some inside their borders.
* So everyone would know what each country had.
* And the UN would have inspections and access.
* If a nation bent on atomic war seized the international plants within its borders, and refused access and inspections, everyone would know immediately what was happening.
* Other nations would have atomic plants within their own borders so that they would not be at a disadvantage.
* If a nation did seize the Authority’s installations that were located within its territory, it would still take at least a year or more to produce bombs.
* So the plan would provide a huge measure of security against surprise attacks.
* Not a bad plan.
* The report also said that the United States would have to abandon its monopoly on atomic weapons, revealing what it knew to the Soviet Union, in exchange for a mutual agreement against the development of additional atomic bombs.
* It made no mention of when the United States should destroy its nuclear arsenal, but it did acknowledge that doing so was a necessity.
* The background to this report is the Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Moscow between December 16 and 26, 1945.
* The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed to create a United Nations commission to advise on the destruction of all existing atomic weapons and to work toward using atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
* The resulting body, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission – UNAEC – was created on January 24, 1946, with six permanent members (the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union, China, and Canada) and six rotating members.
* That same month, U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes created a special advisory committee headed by Acheson and Lilienthal, to compose a report that the U.S. Government would present to the UNAEC.
* And of course, in that great American White House tradition, a great committee of serious and intelligent men was commission to spend many months of their time researching and writing a serious report about a very serious subject, so that, when it was delivered seriously to the President who commission the report, he could just go “nah fuck that” and throw it in the bin.
* But By the time they delivered their report, Truman had decided “nope, fuck that, we’re keeping the bomb to ourselves”
* But he couldn’t just come out and SAY that, because it would mean reneging on an important piece of FDR’s plan
* And something he had already agreed to in principle with the UK and USSR
* I mean, the very first sentence of the Acheson – Lilienthal report says:
* We were given as our starting point a political commitment already made by the United States to seek by all reasonable means to bring about international arrangements to prevent the use of atomic energy for destructive purposes and to promote the use of it for the benefit of society.
* A political commitment made by the United States!
* Which obviously didn’t mean much to Truman.
* So instead he came up with something called the Baruch Plan.
* Which was a sneaky way of painting the Soviets into a corner.
* The day before the United States submitted the Acheson-Lilienthal report to the United Nations, Truman appointed Bernard Baruch as the American delegate to the UNAEC.
* Baruch was a seriously rich stockbroker, known as the “Lone Wolf Of Wall Street” because he refused to join any financial house.
* He was a Democrat who had been involved with Woodrow Wilson and FDR and had helped finance Truman’s own 1940 Senate race.
* So Baruch delivered a speech to the commission in June of 46, stating that the United States would agree to transfer its bomb science and plans etc to the United Nations, but only under certain conditions.
* First, the UN Security Council would have to begin a process of thorough worldwide inspections to ensure that no state was attempting to build a bomb surreptitiously.
* Any state caught doing so would be subject to immediate and harsh penalties, which meant, as far as the Security Council was concerned, military attack.
* Second, no nation on the Security Council would be allowed to use its veto on matters of international atomic control.
* Truman and Byrnes quickly approved these new stipulations.
* Acheson and Lilienthal did not approve.
* It was a brilliant move.
* The administration knew from the espionage revelations that Moscow was working on a bomb.
* If the Kremlin accepted the new provisions, it would open itself up to a military attack by the United Nations that it could not veto.
* This the USSR would never do.
* And if it rejected them, the Soviets – not the Americans – would be held responsible for crushing the dream of international atomic weapons control.
* Sure enough, late in 1946 the Soviet Union rejected the plan.
* For the first time, but not the last, the United States had developed a strategy that forced Moscow to shoulder the blame for initiating a conflict to which the United States had already committed itself.
* Truman wrote to Baruch: ‘We should not under any circumstances throw away our gun until we are sure the rest of the world can’t arm against us.’
* The big question everyone was wondering about in late 1946 and early 1947 was to what extent the U.S. would leverage its military and economic superiority in Europe.
* U.S. diplomatic tradition stipulated that the United States should avoid direct intervention in European affairs during peacetime.
* There were several high profile politicians saying the U.S. should stay out of Europe’s problems.
* Including Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, the son of the 27th President Taft, who also goes on to be a prominent critic of the Nuremberg Trials, and Joe McCarthy in Wisconsin.
* Traditionally isolationist publications, including the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, also pushed for the U.S. to stay out of it.
* Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace – the guy who was FDR’s Veep before Truman – saw right through the Baruch Plan.
* He knew it was about threatening the Soviets with the bomb, instead of diplomacy.
* In a speech he gave at Madison Square Garden audience in September 1946, he said that getting tough “never brought anything real and lasting-whether for schoolyard bullies or businessmen or world powers. The tougher we get, the tougher the Russians will get.”
* He also said: the US *should recognize that we have no more business in the political affairs of eastern Europe than Russia has in the political affairs of Latin America, western Europe and the United States. “
* In the same speech, Wallace said the Russians needed to stop “conniving” against the U.S. and must stop teaching that communism must triumph, by force if necessary.
* “And we must be certain that Russia is not carrying on territorial expansion or world domination through native Communists faithfully following every twist and turn of the Moscow party line. “
* Which sounds reasonable?
* But Truman fired Wallace from the cabinet, privately calling him “a real Commie and a dangerous man.”
* Two weeks after Wallace’s firing, White House aides Clark Clifford and George Elsey – Clifford ended up being a senior adviser to every President from Truman through to Carter as well as being Secretary of Defense for a few years in the late 60s – Elsey was a naval commander who had been an advisor to FDR and Truman and ended up becoming President of the American Red Cross – submitted an 82-page report on Soviet-American relations solicited by Truman.
* They took a hard line, saying the Soviets wanted to take over Europe and the U.S. needed to do everything in its power to stop them.
* Stalin only understood tough talk and military power.
* Truman at this stage seemed to agree with the Clifford-Elsey position.
* Great story about Elsey BTW.
* He once gave this advice to Truman:
* “The President’s job is to lead public opinion, not to be a blind follower. You can’t sit around and wait for public opinion to tell you what to do. In the first place, there isn’t any public opinion. The public doesn’t know anything about it; they haven’t heard about it. You must decide what you’re going to do and do it, and attempt to educate the public to the reasons for your action.”
* People don’t know shit.
* The historian Thomas A. Bailey, author of a popular 1948 book entitled The Man in the Street, agreed: “Because the masses are notoriously short-sighted, and generally cannot see danger until it as at their throats, our statesman are forced to deceive them into an awareness of their own long-term interests. . . . ” He went on: “Deception of the people may in fact become increasingly necessary, unless we are willing to give our leaders in Washington a freer hand. . . . The yielding of some of our democratic control over foreign affairs is the price that we may have to pay for greater physical security.”
* This is how political strategists think about the public.
* So Truman agreed with Clifford and Elsey but he needed a justification before he could act.
* And then he got one.
* On February 21, the British government under Clement Attlee informed Washington that it would no longer subsidize pro-Western forces in Turkey and Greece.
* There were two nations in which Britain had wielded informal colonial power since the nineteenth century.
* They were both part of the “naughty agreement”.
* This was a clear sign that the old empire was not going to take responsibility for European security, not even in cases where strategically important nations faced the risk of political collapse.
* So the U.S. strategists were trying to figure out what to do.
* If they didn’t jump in, they were convinced there would be revolutions in each country and they would fall into the Soviet bloc.
* Remember that the UK had already had to crush a Communist revolution in Greece to keep the King in power.
* In the 19th century the Ottoman Empire grew weaker and Britain increasingly became its protector, even fighting the Crimean War in the 1850s to help it out.
* They considered the Ottoman Empire an essential component in the balance of power in the region.
* When the war ended for some countries in 1918-19, it didn’t end for Turkey: the First World War led straight into the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923).
* Then the secret wartime agreements between the British and the French to divide up the Ottoman territory amongst themselves kicked in.
* All that was left behind to become the Turkish republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was primarily to the former empire’s Anatolian heartland.
* And of course the Turkish remembered that after WWII.
* They had lost their status amongst the great empires.
* And it felt betrayed by the British who had, during the war, formed secret alliances with Ottoman Arabs to stir up revolts against their Turkish imperial rulers and entered into the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 with the French, to take control of much of the empire’s former territory.
* So if the Brits pulled out, there was a good chance there would be a Turkish revolution.
* During a meeting on February 27 1947, Dean Acheson referred to the potential collapse of Greece as “Armageddon.”
* He said it was like “apples in a barrel infected by a rotten one;’
* its loss could “infect Iran and all of the East” and even Africa and western Europe.
* the “domino theory”
* Truman agreed.
* But how would they get the American public on board?
* It’s not like Turkey and Greece were in any immediate threat of being invaded by Stalin.
* He’d already promised Churchill he’d stay out of it.
* So together with George Marshall, they came up with the idea of generalising the problem.
* An abstract, universal case would have to be made emphasizing the importance of overseas American commitment generally, rather than the specific merits of supporting Greece and Turkey.
* As the Republican senator from Michigan, Arthur Vandenberg, – not to be confused with Art Vandalay from Vandalay Industries – and who
* Vandenberg also opposed U.S. involvement in World War II and urged Roosevelt to reach an accommodation with Japan – famously put it, Truman would have to “scare hell out of the American people” to get Congress on board.
* And so scare them he did.
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