Failed Intervention in Russia
Anthony Brandt, in his article on the Allied intervention in Russia [“First Shots of the Cold War,” May], seems to have ignored a few salient figures—namely, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and those that followed them. These people may well have killed more Russians than Adolf Hitler. They were not a bunch of liberal idealists. Nothing we could have done would have made these guys into anything other than enemies. So, Western intervention didn’t change a damn thing. It was a failure—but it was a failure to nip communism in the bud. Had the Western powers intervened wholeheartedly, they could have helped the Whites defeat the Reds, and that would have changed history. Of course, a more liberal peace treaty with the Germans might have prevented Hitler from rising to power, too. There are a lot of “might have beens,” but us having a nicer relationship with the communists wasn’t something that was going to happen. We were the people the communists wanted to destroy. What part of that do Brandt and those who would have us sit back on our hands and do nothing not get?
San Diego, Calif.
In his article on the Allied intervention in Russia at the end of World War I, Anthony Brandt writes that this “misstep” by President Woodrow Wilson would initiate the Cold War and ruin whatever chances there were for any sort of relationship between the communists and America. Brandt mentions the late diplomat and historian George Kennan, who, in Brandt’s words, claimed that this “intervention killed whatever germ of hope existed for a better relationship between the two countries.” Poppycock! How can anyone be so naive as to believe that if the United States and its allies had not intervened in the Russian Civil War there would have been a chance for a better relationship between the communists and America? Communism and democracy are worlds apart. Lenin and later Stalin would have nothing to do with America. When the Bolsheviks rose up in 1917, they not only wanted Russia but also wanted their rebellion to spread throughout the world.
Tom R. Kovach
Anthony Brandt responds: Both correspondents seem to assume it would have been easy to “nip communism in the bud” had the Allies only applied themselves instead of going into Russia halfheartedly. They seem to have forgotten that at the time the Allies were fully engaged on the Western Front, and British and French troops were exhausted; that the American troops there had only recently been well-enough trained to go into battle; that because of the Russian collapse in 1917 the Germans had been able to throw some 40 or so additional divisions at the Allies; and that the whole purpose of the Allied intervention was to reopen the Eastern Front and take pressure off the Western at a moment when the outcome of the war remained in doubt.
Winston Churchill was the only Allied leader who really had much interest in “nipping communism in the bud,” but those who thought it might be easy to invade Russia in force were soon enough disabused. George Kennan wrote a two-volume account of the intervention, and his conclusions seem wise to me. He admitted the slim chance of cooperation between the United States and Russia had there been no intervention, but he thought there was a chance.
Oppose that to the “might have beens” these correspondents suggest, and imagine the consequences among the American public if, right after the war was over, the U.S. had sent major forces—whole armies—into Russia. Does anyone think that would have been easy? That the American public would have accepted it? Ask Napoléon Bonaparte if Russia was easy.
[Re. “Crags of Tumbledown,” by Ron Soodalter, May:] There are 1,513 good reasons for the Brits to punch the Argentines in the nose over the Falklands—namely, the British residents who want no part of a corrupt and incompetent Argentine government. More important, the residents know their motherland will be ready to fight for them no matter how many miles away.
Anyone who questions this fine example of loyalty should visit the Falklands. Enter any of the shops where you see a Union Jack flying and ask an islander what he thinks about the Argentine bullies. Take a bus tour to see the battle memorials—and where the Argentines abandoned their own dead for the Brits to bury.
The message is simple: “Don’t tread on me!” The Falklands are British. The islanders are British and very proud and thankful for it. And that is the way it will remain.
Robert F. Reynolds