On Morgenthau and Peace

by Eric on November 12, 2012

Writing about the ways of making peace, Brad DeLong describes “the [1944-45] debate between [Secretary of the Treasury Henry] Morgenthau and [General George] Marshall that was carried on–largely below the surface, largely without explicit confrontation” over the fate of postwar Germany and notes “The State and Defense positions win entirely and utterly and completely over the Treasury-based Morgenthau Plan. We get the Marshall Plan instead. I am still not sure why.” Morgenthau, you will remember, wanted – in Winston Churchill’s word – the “pastoralization” of Germany.

I think there are two reasons for Morgenthau’s failure. First, though, I disagree with Brad: there was not a conflict between Morgenthau and Marshall, above or below the surface. The conflict was between Morgenthau and everybody else. As John Morton Blum writes, by the end of January 1945, Morgenthau “had yielded in his views toward Germany neither to his fellow New Dealers, nor to his colleagues in the Cabinet, nor to the arguments of his subordinates. So also, he had conceded nothing to the objections of Churchill, Eden, and Sir John Anderson. Nor was he moved by Russian plans.” That’s a lot of different people not to yield to; almost nobody wanted the Morgenthau plan except Morgenthau. Not even the man whom Brad – I think not 100% seriously – calls a “Marxist,” Harry Dexter White; White wanted internationalization of the Ruhr and its industrial production used to pay reparations. [click to continue…]

Another Armistice Day

by John Q on November 12, 2012

Every Armistice Day I write more or less the same post, and every time I do, I’m struck by how hard it is to draw the obvious conclusions from the evidence of war during my lifetime (the last 50 years or so). For around half that time, the US has been engaged in a large-scale war, with Australia as an ally/client. The wars have cost thousands of American, and hundreds of Australian, lives, and trillions of dollars, while wreaking death and destruction on a far more massive scale in the countries in which they have been fought. The outcomes have ranged from total defeat to unsatisfactory partial victories. In no case have there been benefits remotely commensurate with the cost, for either side (for all the millions of lives lost, is Vietnam much different now than if the war had never been fought?). In most of them, the case for war was built on blatant lies and in the remaining cases, the lies started as soon as the guns opened fire. The claims of military and foreign policy “experts” have proved to be false more often than not.

The obvious conclusion is that war is almost always a mistake as well as a crime.

Yet it seems impossible to get away from the assumption that war, or the threat of war, is a reliable method of achieving desired outcomes.

[click to continue…]