Blogs > Liberty and Power > You Must Own This Book! (Raico's Great Wars and Great Leaders)

Apr 2, 2011 11:33 pm

You Must Own This Book! (Raico's Great Wars and Great Leaders)

Anyone who thinks that they know anything about World War I, Harry S Truman, or Winston Churchill should first read Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal by Ralph Raico. Once they do, they might realize just how little they really know. I have taught and researched American history for a quarter century but there was a lot here that was completely new to me.

In elegant, and often witty, prose, Raico demolishes interpretations that all too many historians, and members of the reading public, take for granted. Few single volumes by any historian pack so much punch, and or have so much breadth.

Raico shows, for example, that historians who accept the Fischer Thesis, which puts the main blame for World War I on Germany, as the"last word" on the subject are sadly mistaken.

Raico pokes apart the standard assumption that Winston Churchill was a far-sighted and principled wartime leader who consistently opposed Communism. Champions of Truman as a great president will find it hard to explain away stunning evidence of the"plucky little man from Missouri's" habitual resort to emergency powers and politically cynical war scares.

Those of us in need of rich material for lectures in American history, on the other hand, will be able to profit from a treasure trove of revealing quotations, richly illustrative anecdotes, and high-powered interpretation. Ralph Raico has performed a great service in writing this book.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

David K. Meller - 4/4/2011

There is no wish here to exculpate the guilt of President Truman in his decision to use the Atomic bomb without warning against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A broadening of perspective can sometimes be useful. History serves a purpose of helping us to understand the past, before we judge it,

President Truman had little diplomatic, military, or executive experience. He was not even aware of the Manhattan project until he assumed the Presidency! He had to make a decision that was in many ways unprecedented, both at the time and for long range consequences, How would any of us have acted in his position?

The war in Europe was just over. The Atomic bomb was demonstrated to be a success at los Alamos and there was no clear end of the war in the Pacific. Thousands of exhaused, war-weary soldiers and sailors were being transferred to the Pacific, where they were facing an enemy of indefinite duration and known viciousness. They each had families who wanted to see their loved ones after four years of hell!

You were also given to understand that Stalin, a leader whom you regarded with much more suspicion than your predecessor had, was to enter the Pacific war if Japan did not surrender by the middle of August, some 90 days after Yalta. Giving Stalin a free seat at the peace table in Asia was something that You didn't want to do.

Question--Mr. President, what are your orders?

If a Japanese surrender takes place after a dramatic action on your part, such as dropping the A-bomb, you are acclaimed as a peacemaker, who closed the war in the Pacific without Stalin's help. You are hailed by a grateful nation as preventing a possibly(?)indefinite struggle costing a million lives on the Japanese mainland. Stalin, moreover is kept out of the Pacific war!

In the back of your mind,is the question, what would voters think if they found out that you had the means to end the war with one or two big blows, and you for some reason FAILED to do so? Would the American people have the vision to understand how barbaric and loathsome the A-bomb was, or would you (and your Presidency) undergo the infamy and disgrace of costing hundreds of thousands of American lives, increasing Stalin's influence in the Pacific Peace, and having to explain to your fellow Americans WHY you failed to end the war when you could have?

I am not saying that Truman's actions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't as dreadful as his critics maintain. But I wonder how many of his critics would have decided differently.

David K. Meller