Bryan Caplan  

Wars of Negligence

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The Midas Paradox... Straw Men Rule...
I'm a pacifist because I think that you shouldn't kill innocent people unless you're reasonably sure that such killing will have very good consequences.  Occasionally I meet a thoughtful hawk who ably disputes my skepticism.  For the most part, though, hawks are so eager to kill that they barely consider the long-run consequences of their killing.  In The Atlantic, Dominic Tierney documents that the U.S. government ignored the long-run consequences of Iraq War II, and will probably do the same in the war against ISIS. 

The case of Iraq War II:
Back in March 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, told Jay Garner, who was in charge of postwar reconstruction in Iraq: "I haven't given you the time I should have given you. Quite frankly, I just have been so engulfed in the war that I just didn't have time to focus on everything that you're doing." Rumsfeld saw the stabilization of Iraq as separate from, and secondary to, "the war"--when this goal should have been the whole focus of the military plan. Similarly, Jeb Bush recently suggested that the United States achieve a "total victory" over ISIS, "and then you need to forge political consensus to create a stable Syria and a stable Iraq." Notice the "and then." Shoot first, then worry about politics.
What responsible hawks would have to figure out this time around:
Who, for example, will govern the territory captured from ISIS? You break the caliphate, you own the caliphate. Stabilizing Syria and Iraq is a truly daunting task. It may require a decade-long humanitarian and peacekeeping effort. The United States will need to play a key role in this endeavor, which will very likely involve a commitment of American ground troops. If ISIS is pushed out of key cities, the insurgents won't sign surrender documents like Japan did in 1945. Instead, they'll wage a brutal campaign of terrorism to reclaim the caliphate. Are those fighting ISIS prepared for a wave of suicide bombings, kidnappings, and torture? Is the international community ready to invest billions of dollars in humanitarian aid and economic development? How will the U.S. and its allies win over Sunni Muslims to their cause rather than ISIS's?
Why are hawks so much more eager to start killing than answer these questions?  Tierney suggests a harsh but fair answer:
These hawks may be neglecting the endgame because they fear that long-term thinking will deter the United States from escalating the campaign against ISIS. They are eager to obliterate the Islamic State, and they don't want to be distracted by tough questions about, say, how Syria can be reconstructed from the ruins of war. Look too hard before we leap, and we might decide not to jump at all.
Or to put it more strongly, once you factor in how poorly the West is likely to handle the peace, the case for war is weak.  As I put it back in 2007:
Given the way that public opinion works, though, intelligent hawks ought to think again.  Last year, Rumsfeld warned against "the dangers of giving the enemy the false impression that Americans cannot stomach a tough fight."  The study of public opinion suggests that this is exactly the impression the Iraq War is likely to leave. 

Next time around, intelligent hawks need to ask themselves: "Does it really serve the national interest to take advantage of the rally-round-the-flag effect to start a war, if public opinion will reverse long before the war can be won?"  It's a democracy, after all; once public opinion reverses, policy will not be far behind.

My main quarrel with Tierney's piece is that he talks as if Roosevelt and Churchill carefully planned for the post-WWII era.  If so, they apparently planned to leave half of Europe and all of China in Communist hands.  The real sordid story is that Roosevelt and Churchill, like Bush and Obama, were too obsessed with beating their current foes to focus on the aftermath.  In so doing, they set the stage for World War III, an apocalypse mankind managed to avoid only with a healthy dose of good luck.




COMMENTS (40 to date)
Josh writes:

"If so, they apparently planned to leave half of Europe and all of China in Communist hands."

So on point here that I had a paradigm shift off this post alone. I'm still a, "carry a big stick" personality, but that narrative is damningly true.

So much re-thinking to do!

E. Harding writes:

"Who, for example, will govern the territory captured from ISIS? You break the caliphate, you own the caliphate."

-Maybe as a matter of basic moral responsibility, but the U.S. seems to be doing just fine pretending that Obama never saw the four-year consequences of overthrowing Gaddafi. You think he had no plans for creating a wilayat of the Islamic State on the Mediterranean in March 2011? Think again.

And, in any case, the First Iraqi Civil War was over by the time Obama came into office.

E. Harding writes:

"and all of China"

-Wait, so the island of Formosa just sank into the sea?

"The real sordid story is that Roosevelt and Churchill, like Bush and Obama, were too obsessed with beating their current foes to focus on the aftermath."

-In fact, in the case of Churchill, it was even worse. The declaration of war on Nazi Germany in 1939 was an astonishingly, breathtakingly dangerous decision, as was Churchill's refusal to consider Hitler's offer of peace. It was war for a country Britain and France could not even conceivably defend, at the risk of total, utter, and perpetual national annihilation. Only Hitler's poor planning saved Britain. A Russian nuclear first strike on Turkey this year would have been infinitely safer to itself, as well as more rational, than the British and French declaration of war on Germany in 1939 was to themselves.

ChrisA writes:

I think this is very unfair to both Churchill and Roosevelt - reading any decent biography of the two and it is clear that they were constantly thinking about the post war era. It was not their fault that events didn't turn out like they had wanted, Churchill for one worked very hard to try to restrain Stalin from taking Eastern Europe.

And of course Churchill was not Prime Minister when the UK declared war on Germany. In fact, arguably if Churchill's suggested approach in the 1930's had been followed WW2 might not have happened as Hitler might have been deterred from attacking Poland.

Furthermore, the US early Cold War approach was exactly as suggested by Bryan - the US could easily have started a war with Russia to get them to pull back to their borders in say 1947. The US had the atomic bomb and a large army and superior air force in Europe. The Russians could have done very little about an Atomic Bomb threat to their major cities. Would the world have been a better place if this had happened? Probably not, I am of the view that other evils would have happened in the cold war era even if the US had been the sole superpower. But it is not ludicrous to suggest that it might have been better to spare Eastern Europe and Russia itself many decades of oppression by the USSR elite.

John Hayes writes:

Dr. Caplan, I think hectoring the neocons is missing a deeper cause - where would the people living in Iraq and Syria wish their borders to be if they were given a choice?

Border movement through partitioning has happened only a few times since the UN Security council was established - the two most prominent triggered by outright genocides: Sudan and Serbia. The partition of India seemed to fall under an exception of "not really being a legitimate state because it was a colony". Past borders are so sacred that we live with the fiction that Taiwan and China are one country despite the fact that it's obvious they are two non-overlapping jurisdictions.

Instead of moving the people across the borders, why not just move the borders? Is there some coasian bargain that would allow a group of people to defect to another jurisdiction? When the current jurisdiction is a failed state can that be a $0 move?

Taips writes:

On Roosevelt/Churchill again
1/ It is Roosevelt who pushed for a pro-Chinese war settlement, including the "if France gets on the UNSC, China does too" deal. ALso, of course, they were dealing with Chiang Kai-shek, not Mao.
2/ I thought economists were all about distinguishing motives from results? Sure, Eastern Europe ended up in Communist hands, but R/C were not "in charge of world planning". There was another player, not insignificant, with a big say in Eastern Europe affairs.

Nathan Smith writes:

You could make the same critique of a philanthropist feeding hungry people after a natural disaster. "Great, so you've kept these earthquake victims alive for a week. NOW WHAT? Are you going to build them new homes? Are you going to get them new livelihoods? Did you even THINK about that before you started meddling, Mr. Big Shot Private Philanthropist?"

The critique could be made of some private profit seeking businesses. "Great, you've got a wildly popular product. How are you going to scale up to meet the demand? Do you know how to manage ten times your current workforce? Maybe it wasn't so clever to make the best widget ever, was it, Mr. Smarty Pants Entrepreneur?"

These criticisms are kind of stupid, because they assume one shouldn't do anything unless one knows and has planned for all contingencies that may result. But that's rarely optimal.

In the case of Iraq War II, and World War II, and the enterprise and philanthropist above, act first, plan the future later is the wise way to proceed. It was impossible to foresee in any detail what liberated Europe and liberated Iraq would be like, yet the status quo was terrible, and there was a very high probability that whatever followed would be better. So it proved, in both cases.

Nathan W writes:

Of course we should take a long hard look before jumping.

Brett Champion writes:

Sometimes the awful, unknown, or unplanned for, consequences of action already exist.

roystgnr writes:

The historical result of WWII in Europe was "Communists in charge of half a continent", which was pretty awful, and a priori you wouldn't expect "aggression toward one variety of murderous expansionist totalitarian, pacifism toward another" to be an optimal strategy, but what were the alternatives?

The hawk result would have been some combination of "Communists in charge of only Russia" and "immediate WWIII", which might have been better or worse depending on the ratio.

The pacifist result would have been some combination of "Nazis in charge of a whole continent" or "Nazis and Communists dividing up a whole continent", which would have been worse regardless of the ratio.

I'm not generally a fan of "realpolitik" but this seems like a pretty awful counterexample.

mico writes:

Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill declared war on Germany but that is just pedantry; one shouldn't be expected to know the first thing about history before commenting on or deriving sweeping political theories from it.

Nor did WWII deliver China into the hands of the communists; leftist pacifists in the US did, on grounds that war is known to be bad whereas the communists just possibly might be bad. Pretty much Bryan's logic? Well, the US people in the 50s were probably more likely communist fellow travelers which Bryan certainly isn't, but I doubt he could have disagreed with their policy.

As to why quasi-pacifist *Neville Chamberlain* declared war on Germany in a teary speech in which he expressed sadness and bafflement that his policy of giving Germany anything it wanted to avoid war had somehow failed, it wasn't nearly so crazy if you assume that France won't be defeated in a matter of weeks. On paper the British Empire and France had a much larger population and economy than Germany. It wasn't at all crazy for them to think they could win without any terrible disasters.

It also wasn't nearly so crazy to discount the possibility of the Soviets invading Germany and conquering Europe when the Soviets and Nazis appeared to be allies in 1939 and 1940. The Soviets even released a joint statement with the Nazis obliquely threatening to declare war on the allies in support of Germany: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/dec939.asp Britain and France were pretty much betting on having to fight a conventional war against the USSR anyway.

Jon Murphy writes:

@ mico

Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill declared war on Germany but that is just pedantry; one shouldn't be expected to know the first thing about history before commenting on or deriving sweeping political theories from it.

Who declares war is immaterial. From any war period, there will emerge a post-war period. If one doesn't have an end-game in mind, then one is doomed to fail.

Psmith writes:

Nathan, I don't think you could apply Bryan's critique to those instances. The point is not just that it's wrong to start a war if you haven't fully planned for all possible contingencies. Rather, Bryan thinks (I think) that it's wrong to start a war unless we can be reasonably sure that the positive consequences will outweigh the negative. So a philanthropist or a businessman might be reasonably sure that the positive consequences of his actions will outweigh the negative, even if those consequences aren't maximally good or he hasn't anticipated every possible contingency. On the other hand, we might argue that none of the Iraq hawks could have been reasonably sure that the war would have had net positive consequences, since the evidence against a war having net positive consequences even in 2004 was substantial, and indeed it appears not to have had net positive consequences.

Jon Murphy writes:

@bryan Caplan

My main quarrel with Tierney's piece is that he talks as if Roosevelt and Churchill carefully planned for the post-WWII era.

Question: doesn't the Yalta Conference and the Tehran Conference indicate that the Allied Leaders and the USSR were considering the post-war period? I mean, by giving into Russian requests for buffer states and dividing up Germany, couldn't one argue that they, indeed, did plan to give half of Europe to the Reds?

Jason Kuznicki writes:

"Occasionally I meet a thoughtful hawk who ably disputes my skepticism. For the most part, though, hawks are so eager to kill that they barely consider the long-run consequences of their killing."

You know this of course, but it bears repeating: Rationality demands that you completely ignore the second group. It also demands that you pay extra attention to the first group. They might be right despite the chorus of bad reasons that's echoing all around them.

Grant Gould writes:

Jason Kuznicki: I'm not sure rationality demands that at all, when if the first group wins the argument the second group will set and execute the policy.

Njnnja writes:

If so, they apparently planned to leave half of Europe and all of China in Communist hands.

China is a different story, but in fact, leaving half of Europe in Communist hands was definitely a conscious decision. Even if FDR had been healthier during Yalta, where the partition was made explicit, the Western allies had already basically decided to cede Eastern Europe to the Soviets. In planning for the ultimate invasion of Germany, they had to decide whether to go through France from the West or go through Greece and the Balkans from the Southeast. The advantage of going through France was that it was a more direct route, and would force Germany to continue fighting a 2 front war, and therefore had the greater chance of defeating Germany. The advantage of going through the Balkans was that it would put American and British troops in countries like Poland, making a Soviet land grab at the end of the war much more difficult than if Soviet troops had conquered that territory and were already there.

As we all know, the decision was made to land at Normandy, and give up Eastern Europe for more than a generation to the Soviets. You might disagree, and feel that taking a greater chance of leaving Eastern Europe under Soviet occupation in exchange for a lesser chance of leaving all of Europe under Nazi occupation instead was a bad decision, but I'd be careful of bad heuristics like the endowment effect or loss aversion when making that judgement call.

Floccina writes:

We cannot even adequately Govern the south side of Chicago let alone Syria.
If the USA military is to to go into Syria I would want a guarantee that they leave after the 2 weeks it would take to topple ISIS.
Rather we in the USA should focus on reducing violence in the USA especially gang violence because IMHO gangs are governments that compete with our democratic Governments.

jc writes:

@ChrisA wrote:

I am of the view that other evils would have happened in the cold war era even if the US had been the sole superpower.
Like what?


@anyone (literally anyone, not someone w/ the username "anyone")

Bryan wrote:

In so doing, they set the stage for World War III, an apocalypse mankind managed to avoid only with a healthy dose of good luck.

What were the biggest strokes of good luck?

(Thanks in advance to Chris and anyone else for elaborating.)


Justin D writes:

-"You break the caliphate, you own the caliphate."-

I don't think this is true at all. You can break the caliphate and then leave, the territory reverting back to Syria and Iraq. Whatever happens afterwards, a group as horrific as ISIS can't be allowed to persist as a quasi-state.

-"Stabilizing Syria and Iraq is a truly daunting task. It may require a decade-long humanitarian and peacekeeping effort. The United States will need to play a key role in this endeavor, which will very likely involve a commitment of American ground troops. If ISIS is pushed out of key cities, the insurgents won't sign surrender documents like Japan did in 1945. Instead, they'll wage a brutal campaign of terrorism to reclaim the caliphate. Are those fighting ISIS prepared for a wave of suicide bombings, kidnappings, and torture?"-

ISIS is already waging a brutal campaign of terrorism to maintain and expand the caliphate. After it is destroyed, a group of insurgents may remain who will commit terrorist acts, but they won't have the resources of a small state at their disposal, nor will they have any aura of success to help their recruitment efforts. People are attracted to strength and success. A weak, thoroughly thrashed ISIS isn't going to be the draw it is today.

Richard writes:
After it is destroyed, a group of insurgents may remain who will commit terrorist acts, but they won't have the resources of a small state at their disposal, nor will they have any aura of success to help their recruitment efforts. People are attracted to strength and success. A weak, thoroughly thrashed ISIS isn't going to be the draw it is today.
Or maybe they'll be able to spin a narrative about a caliphate lost due to evil Westerners?

According to Graeme Wood, the main disagreement between ISIS and Al Qaida was that ISIS argued against attacking the West, because it would just get you invaded. That changed when we started bombing them anyway.

Basically, we have no idea whether attacking or not attacking Islamists makes them more dangerous.

If you really wanted to stop it, you'd publicly castrate any member of ISIS you found, or some other kind of humiliation. We're not going to do that, but I think that assaults on dignity would be the most effective.

Greg G writes:

Jon Murphy,

>---" I mean, by giving into Russian requests for buffer states and dividing up Germany, couldn't one argue that they, indeed, did plan to give half of Europe to the Reds?"

No one "gave" the Russians half of Europe. The part they occupied they won on the battlefield at an incredible cost that dwarfed the losses of the other Allies.

The only way to dislodge the Russians would have been to fight another war against them. I think history has shown we were wise not to do that. Either way, there was almost no popular support for such a thing at the time.

Mark Bahner writes:
In so doing, they set the stage for World War III, an apocalypse mankind managed to avoid only with a healthy dose of good luck.
What were the biggest strokes of good luck?

That Vasili Arkhipov was onboard the Soviet B59 submarine in 1962 has to be one of the biggest.

Edgar writes:

"I'm a pacifist because I think that you shouldn't kill innocent people unless you're reasonably sure that such killing will have very good consequences."

So what is your response to ISIS? Everything would be better if we simply ignore them? Or is taking in Syrian orphans and sentencing them to US public schools less evil somehow? Better yet, what is the pacifist response to war in which the US has not gotten itself militarily involved? Let's say ISIS in Mali or Boko Haram. What is the enlightened pacifist policy? Unilateral surrender? Just wash our hands or it? Was Obama wrong to send a $45 million aid package to the 5 affected countries?

Just been watching Corbyn argue against bombing and have been persuaded to keep my own pacifist beliefs to myself. Not seeing any value added to the discussion from the pacifist front.

Mark Bahner writes:
So what is your response to ISIS?

Bryan will hopefully give you his own answer. My response to ISIS would follow along the lines of Jack Ryan's vow in "Patriot Games":

...I will put such a stranglehold on your gun money that your boys will be out in the streets throwing rocks!

ISIS needs money to fight. Much of their money comes from oil. That seems very easy to cut off. Just destroy all the trucks that carry the oil and control/disable any pipelines that carry the oil.

They also need weapons and ammunition to fight. Those weapons and ammunition need to come from somewhere. It seems to me that NATO members should have enough pull with Turkey to make sure nothing gets in to ISIS from Turkey. It also seems like it should be fairly straightforward to make sure that weapons and ammunition given to ISIS opponents can't be used by ISIS, if ISIS happens to get hold of those weapons and ammunition.

robert writes:

Bryan,

Would you characterize your moral position on South Korea? Would the morally correct thing been to let the current South Korean population live under North Korean rule?

Would you say that the United States response to Rwanda was superior to the United States response to Liberia with Charles Taylor and his blood diamonds?

Personally, I used to get e-mails about doing something in Dafur. What can be done when a group of violent people want to commit violence to reach their ends and no one is willing to fight?

Did not David Patraeus have a strategy to for the post war period? Rumsfeld was fired for incompetence. He wanted small numbers of troupes to get in and get out. In a way, his plan was to leave chaos. Patraeus spent a lot of time on the strategy, even before taking the post. Isn’t using Rumsfeld a way to cherry pick data for a conclusion that you have already decided upon.

I know Patraeus was also fired. Unfortunately, it seems that it was for selective enforcement of the law, which seems very Roman to me. Also, for a section of the political & academic class, were there an economic and power incentives to see failure in the U.S. involvement in Iraq, which is weird since they have created chaos by supporting revolutions in Egypt, Libya & Syria. Do you support the early pull out of troops? Didn’t the pull out of troops also lead to innocent civilian deaths, or was this o.k. since it proved that the original decision was poor?

Lastly, based on documents from the former Soviet Union, it was Stalin who was planning on invading Western Europe, i.e. World War III. Are you saying that would have been better to live in Poland than to live in England?

Do you find it odd being a libertarian who believes it is better to live in under tyranny than to die? I find listening to podcasts on ancient Rome to be very interesting, since rule of law is very fragile. It reminds of a quote from Pompeii when he a general for the republic “Stop quoting laws, we carry weapons!”

I do not have the answers; however, I do find it odd that you support helping people by transporting them across the sea, but are opposed to helping people where they are. I guess it is because the difference between the seen and the unseen. American soldiers are more valuable because they are seen while the welfare of future generations are not. I guess like Roosevelt, the right choice is think deeply about the circumstances, what can be done, what are the risks compared to the rewards, and make decisions based on those facts. Germany is certainly better off, too bad the North Koreans aren’t.

Mark V Anderson writes:
So what is your response to ISIS? Everything would be better if we simply ignore them?

The answer to this one is an unqualified "yes." If we go in to fight, there will be more misery that lasts far longer than if we let the two sides battle it out until one side wins and enforces stability with guns. Maybe it sounds callous to say let them fight their own wars, but our history in the Middle East has shown that the presence of the US does not end violence, it extends it. Iraq wasn't a very nice regime when we invaded, but it certainly isn't clear that we improved things a lot. Same with Afganistan.

And while totally ignoring ISIS would be an improvement over sending our army there, it would be better still if we helped with refugees, peace talks, or whatever else would help the innocent. But I suspect that helping one side or the other by providing weapons or by bombing also makes things worse, by prolonging the war.

Mark Bahner writes:
Iraq wasn't a very nice regime when we invaded, but it certainly isn't clear that we improved things a lot. Same with Afghanistan.

It looks pretty clear from this article that Afghanistan is a better place than it was in 2001 (under the Taliban):

Afghanistan, before and after

Larry writes:

The key to regional stability is the Sunni tribes in the area. We won them over in 2007 and got four+ years of peace. This time we may have to offer them more, possibly even a state of their own, separate from Iraq and Syria. The same may apply to the Kurds, although they seem to already by on board. They've now had a chance to sample the joys of living under ISIS and may even consider Shi'a-run Iraq to be a less bad option. In any case, that is the necessary conversation.

Mikk Salu writes:

Too much obsession with ISIS. If you take a look from inside (Syria), listen what syrians are talking , complaining about, what Syrian refugees in Germany are saying etc, then 90% of talk is Assad, not ISIS.
It is understandable why we (west) are talking about ISIS, but from inside main concern is not ISIS. Up until 2013-2014 ISIS operated as one rebel group amongst others and cooperated more or less with other rebel groups (includign "moderate" rebels). It does not mean that others liked ISIS, most of them probably considered ISIS problematic and extreme, but still allied with them because of common enemy. This dynamic changed when ISIS declared themselves state and demanded others to follow.
But still and even today for majority of syrians main problem is Assad, not ISIS.
Long-run or not, I am afraid that this huge difference of perspectives - west is talking ISIS vs syrians talking Assad - is already laying ground for next problems.

Nathan Smith writes:

re: "Rather, Bryan thinks (I think) that it's wrong to start a war unless we can be reasonably sure that the positive consequences will outweigh the negative."

Fair enough, but the "wars of negligence" critique still misses. It's not negligent to fail to plan for all contingencies.

In any case, I'm not sure why one should apply an ethical test biased towards "do no harm," at the cost of failing to do a lot of good that one could have done, as opposed to, say, a straight utilitarian test. Suppose I agree that Iraq War II didn't pass the "reasonably sure" test, yet I think that *ex ante* it was, on balance, likely to do a lot of good, and that *ex post,* it did more good than harm. Am I nonetheless wrong to support Iraq War II, given those beliefs about its effects, and if so, why?

In my opinion, we have to either *completely* withdraw from the Middle East, or *escalate* our efforts against ISIS. We are a target of ISIS, just as we were a target of Al Qaeda, because of our military presence in the Middle East. I think that the middle ground is the most dangerous position of all because we will still be a target and will be doing little to reduce the capabilities of ISIS. My preference, of course, is to completely withdraw from the Middle East, but unfortunately there is pretty much zero chance of it happening.

Mark Bahner writes:
The key to regional stability is the Sunni tribes in the area.

I don't think "stability" should be the goal. "Stability" should simply come from a good solution. For example, North Korea and Cuba have been "stable." In contrast, the Czech Republic and Slovakia appear to be stable. The latter situation is obviously better.

I think the goal should be to get as many people on earth living in political units that have the highest levels of political/civil liberties freedom (e.g., as measured by Freedom House) and economic freedom (e.g., as measured by Heritage Foundation) that can reasonably be achieved.

This time we may have to offer them more, possibly even a state of their own, separate from Iraq and Syria. The same may apply to the Kurds, although they seem to already by on board. They've now had a chance to sample the joys of living under ISIS and may even consider Shi'a-run Iraq to be a less bad option. In any case, that is the necessary conversation.

It seems to me that one of the missed opportunities after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the fixation that Iraq needed to be kept together.

Jim Glass writes:

I'm a pacifist ...

Roosevelt and Churchill [...] apparently planned to leave half of Europe and all of China in Communist hands.

What was the pacifist strategy to keep half of Europe out of Communist hands? As of 1938-41.

Or even using perfect 20/20 hindsight from 70 years later.

Colombo writes:

Calling these types of wars a negligency is like saying Governments have an obligation to take care of security. Which undermines the case against the State.
Am I wrong?
Why?

prs130 writes:

"he talks as if Roosevelt and Churchill carefully planned for the post-WWII era"

I'm only part-way through "The Battle of Bretton Woods", but it seems as if Roosevelt's plan for the post-war era was to open up British colonies to trade. India, etc., had massive trade barriers that enriched Britain while stifling direct trade across colonial borders.

High-minded rhetoric about "self-determination" aside, Roosevelt was trying to procure increased access to colonial markets in exchange for military assistance.

To me, it seems as if there was plenty of postwar planning (or perhaps maneuvering is a better word), but it had little to do with 'rebuilding Germany', etc.

Kent Lyon writes:

Actually, FDR signed off on the proposals of Gen. Patrick Hurley, his advance man at the Tehran Big 3 Conference, addressing the plan for the post war world, committing the US as well as the Soviets, to respect national autonomy and self government. Truman used the agreement to do just that in Iran to force the Soviets out of Iran after the war. Predictably, the "realists" at the State Department, Acheson and Rostow, dismissed Hurley's proposals as "Messianic global baloney" and undercut and destroyed Hurley's proposed approach. The US and Britain also, pusillanimously, let the Soviets over run Eastern Europe to take the casualties, as Stalin had no qualms about sacrificing more Russian lives for greater territorial hegemony, leading to the Cold War. That was done with pusillanimity aforethought. Patten was restrained, when he could have made it to Berlin ahead of the Russians, and controlled most of Eastern Europe. All of these posts, including Caplan's are seriously deficient.
Further, it wasn't dumb luck that avoided a WWIII with the Soviets. It was the combined efforts and talents of courageous individuals like ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II who saw the dangers of Communism. Mr. Caplan, had he his druthers, would be advocating Marxism in cyrillic script today.

[The spelling of the blogger's name has been corrected.--Econlib Ed.]

Antischiff writes:

Bryan,

You're quite wrong about Churchill. Basic IR history reveals that Churchill urged FDR to negotiate over the shape of the post-war world early in America's involvement, when the Soviets were still under tremendous pressure from Germany in the war and the outcome still very uncertain. At the time, the US and Britain were providing critical military aid. FDR didn't want to force negotiations under those circumstances.

Read, for example, Kissinger's "Diplomacy".

Hunter writes:

Bryan, Stick to econ and stop trafficking in geo-political unicorns

Hunter writes:

Perhaps my previous comment was too blunt. I do enjoy and respect Bryan's work and commentary. I also respect his personal position of pacifism. However, I think pacifism is an irresponsible public policy position. Thus my "unicorn" reference. An individual that chooses non-violence regardless of the action of others is one thing. But I believe that when people group (i.e., nation states), such a personal belief cannot be applied to the collective. One reason we group together is for protection and that protection does not rely on philosophy.

Again, I really enjoy Bryan's posts and have learned a lot reading them. It's the injection of pacifism I find naive.
- Hunter

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