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  • Citizens of London

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on July 18th, 2020 (All posts by )

    The book Citizens of London by Lynne Olson was published in 2010 – my wife came upon it recently and recommended it to me. If you are looking for further evidence that Franklin Roosevelt was a horse’s ass and that Joe Kennedy should have stood trial for treason, this will please you.  Do not read the Introduction, as Olson merely uses it to illustrate that she is a rather cliched citizen of Washington DC, with at least some of its bubble prejudices.  This is perhaps necessary if one writes approvingly about America’s history, even WWII, in order to fit in there, but it intrudes on the narrative for those outside the Acela Corridor.  Her politics do bleed through a bit, as she is quite clear what were good progressive domestic policies of the day and which were old regressive bad ones, but even I, who am very easily irritated by such things, liked her telling of the story of America’s entry into the war well enough to overlook them.

    Olson focuses on three Americans – CBS broadcaster Edward R Murrow, business heir Averill Harriman, and especially Gil Winant, American ambassador to the UK following the execrable Kennedy. She credits them with shepherding the relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill, the military staffs, and the American and British people in general enough that they could work together well enough to fight a war. We regard such cooperation as automatic now and are aware of a “Special Relationship,” however much Barack Obama did to undermine that during his presidency. Yet our nations’ positive feeling for each other now is largely a result of that successful cooperation.  There was considerable misunderstanding and animosity on both sides leading up to the war.

    John Gilbert Winant

    A friend who was a history and business professor and is also the designer of a detailed WWII wargame once commented to me how empty our historical what-ifs are, specifically in relation to the idea that the US could have saved many Jews by bringing them to America in the 1930s. While entirely agreeing that taking as many as we could squeeze in would have been of enormous benefit to American science, arts, and business, he waved the thing off as impossible. There was no way that we were going to take in additional people when there was 25% unemployment, and Jews were considered far too different for a nation that had excluded an entire continent from any immigration only a few years before. Americans, especially outside the Eastern cities, didn’t like Slavs and Irishmen and barely tolerated Scandinavians. Citizens of London will remind you that we didn’t even like the British all that much. We believed ridiculous things about them (and they about us). Our isolationism was widespread, and intense.  If Europe and Asia wanted to tear each other to pieces, let ’em, it was no affair of ours, and even England was not an exception. Once you came here you were expected to adopt much of the same attitude yourself in order to be regarded as American at all.

     

    21 Responses to “Citizens of London”

    1. David Foster Says:

      I read her book ‘Troublesome Young Men’, which is about anti-appeasement Brits, several years ago. One of the most interesting people in the book was actually a woman: Katherine, Duchess of Atholl. She was somewhat exceptional in the era in being an opponent of *both* the Nazi and the Soviet flavors of totalitarianism. There was apparently a translated version of ‘Mein Kampf’ circulated in Britain, expurgated to look less threatening and crazy….Atholl did her own translation and gave it to Churchill.

      The title of her book on the Soviet Union is ‘The Conscription of a People’, which is a brilliant summary of what totalitarian governments do.

    2. george m weinberg Says:

      Pretty sure Gil Winant was fictional. Wasn’t he the newspaper owner in Fountainhead?

    3. miguel cervantes Says:

      no, he’s real, a little more detail

      https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/tragic-love-affair-former-nh-gov-john-winant-sarah-churchill/

    4. pouncer Says:

      Attitudes in the 1930’s would have been shaped by the events of “The World War”. Lindbergh was a celebrity follower of the America First sentiment, not the original philosopher.

    5. MCS Says:

      After the complete hash that France and Britain made of WWI and the interwar period, it’s hard not to see the point of the “America First”, and sympathize with those that weren’t paid Soviet agents. If there’s one thing our present embroilment in Iraq and Afghanistan should remind us, it’s that choosing the wars that are worth winning is a lot harder than it looks.

      Roosevelt and Churchill, Eisenhower and MacArthur, whatever their failings, managed to keep the machine running long enough to win. This is their main accomplishment and much overshadows any considerations of grand strategy. Once the American machine was engaged, we were going to win as long as we kept pounding away.

    6. PenGun Says:

      I am not allowed to see that URL, in the link to your friends game.. I used to play board war games, both strategic and tactical. Diplomacy is perhaps the best strategic war game I have ever played but its only partly a war game. You need a few people so its a bit hard to get together.

      I loved the tactical WW2 games, looks up at the Panzer Blitz box on the shelf. ;) The Russian front and a couple of companies showed me I’m not a great general, but a pretty good colonel. ;)

      Now I play video games and they are endless fun too.

    7. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      See photo of statue of Gil Winant. Three-term governor of NH.

      Of course, NH might be fictional. How would any of you know? It might all be a ruse. Even Mike K might have just come up Rte 91 in Vermont and been bamboozled afterward.

    8. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      “If Europe and Asia wanted to tear each other to pieces, let ’em, it was no affair of ours …”

      When we look at the “gratitude” which has been shown by Europeans, especially the English, towards the US after WWII and even after the unprecedented generosity of the Marshall Plan, that pre-WWII US attitude in retrospect looks to have been right on target.

      Elite US Left-Wing sentiment about the war shifted substantially once Germany attacked the USSR — because Lefties really wanted to make the world safe for Communism.

      We should also not forget the contemporaneous argument of people like ex-President Hoover that Germany and the USSR were destined to fight to the death, and everyone else should stay out the way. The foolish English & French (probably with FDR prompting) ignored that wise advice and instead started WWII by declaring war on Germany (and Germany alone) over the joint German/USSR take-over of Poland. Strategically, Germany then had no choice but to end the futile Phony War launched by England & France by trying to neutralize them before returning to the planned attack on the USSR.

      Leaving Europeans to their own devices would have been a smart idea back then. It is still a smart idea today.

    9. CapitalistRoader Says:

      …the idea that the US could have saved many Jews by bringing them to America in the 1930s.

      We have a similar opportunity today with citizens of Hong Kong. A colleague in Taipei is quite busy right now showing real estate properties to Hong Kongers.

    10. PenGun Says:

      “When we look at the “gratitude” which has been shown by Europeans, especially the English, towards the US after WWII and even after the unprecedented generosity of the Marshall Plan, that pre-WWII US attitude in retrospect looks to have been right on target.”

      The Europeans have been fighting each other for a very long time. In WW2 the Americans who joined in after they were attacked by the Japanese understood, at that point, this was a world war. Before that they just made money. The Marshall Plan was useful but not the extent that so many Americans think. The Russians won WW2 by killing nearly 80% of all German troops killed in that war, not the US. Although the US became the power it was, until just recently, because of the outcome of WW2, one should not chalk this up to any greatness of American character, although you will. ;)

    11. Harambe Says:

      > The Russians won WW2 by killing nearly 80% of all German troops killed in that war

      They also performed 95% of the rapes.

    12. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ PenGun – Japan.

    13. PenGun Says:

      Japan? I was simply addressing the “gratitude”. What would you like to discuss about Japan?

    14. Mike K Says:

      MCS Says:
      July 18th, 2020 at 1:49 pm
      After the complete hash that France and Britain made of WWI and the interwar period, it’s hard not to see the point of the “America First”, and sympathize with those that weren’t paid Soviet agents. If there’s one thing our present embroilment in Iraq and Afghanistan should remind us, it’s that choosing the wars that are worth winning is a lot harder than it looks.

      I once shocked an English friend of mine by commenting that we (the USA) should have stayed out of WWI. I added that they should have, too. We are still living with the consequences of WWI. It destroyed England leaving only “Britain” and the “UK.” Wilson’s eagerness to get into the war led to millions of deaths from Influenza among other consequences. The Russian Revolution led to a hundred million more. Pat Buchanan’s book, blames Churchill and Grey, which is excessive but it did stimulate me to read a biography of Grey. I actually blame the Boer War for WWI. There was no good reason for the English to attack the Boers to support an armed robbery by Rhodes and his allies, the gold miners.

      Rhodes did not, however, have direct political power over the independent Boer Republic of the Transvaal.[citation needed][31] He often disagreed with the Transvaal government’s policies, which he considered unsupportive of mine-owners’ interests. In 1895, believing he could use his influence to overthrow the Boer government,[32] Rhodes supported the Jameson Raid, an unsuccessful attempt to create an uprising in the Transvaal that had the tacit approval of Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain.[33] The raid was a catastrophic failure. It forced Cecil Rhodes to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, sent his oldest brother Col. Frank Rhodes to jail in Transvaal convicted of high treason and nearly sentenced to death, and contributed to the outbreak of the Second Boer War.

      The Germans were sympathetic to the Boers and tried to aid them but were blocked by the British Navy, which seized their ships. This high handed behavior began the Kaiser’s interest in building a High Seas Fleet.

    15. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      You stated that the Russians won WWII by their actions against Germany. I pointed out that there was another side to the war, won almost entirely by the Americans.

      I have to suspect you actually knew what I meant.

    16. MCS Says:

      A more immediate antecedent to WWI was the Agadir crisis in 1911:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agadir_Crisis

      Churchill considered it as the first time it became apparent that If Germany and France went to war that Britain would back France instead of Germany. This was a change from even ten years previously when Germany was considered the obvious ally.

    17. PenGun Says:

      “I pointed out that there was another side to the war, won almost entirely by the Americans.” Sure that’s true. I was, as I said, discussing the “gratitude” Europe was supposed to feel for America entering WW2. As Russia was not even invited to the last celebration, I thought the actual numbers would be interesting to some.

    18. MCS Says:

      The Western Europeans might have been grateful for us saving them from the Soviets.

      As for the preponderance of Soviet casualties, remember, they started it with their attack on Poland. They seem to have chosen allies poorly. They so richly deserved what they got, paid for, as usual, by the blood of those that had no say in the matter.

    19. Mike K Says:

      First, Stalin gutted his officer corps in 1938 with his purges. Several of his marshals had to rescued from Gulags to take command of his armies.

      Second, there is a school of thought that Stalin planned to strike first at Germany. I don’t subscribe to this but it is argued by Soviet officers.

      Third, the Germans were diverted by Hitler from valid goals of the offense.

      Fourth, without Lend Lease, the Soviets would have lost.

      The rest of the communist bullshit is just that.

      As to gratitude, no one should expect it. It was so rare in my surgical career that I commented on it in my book.

    20. PenGun Says:

      “As to gratitude, no one should expect it. It was so rare in my surgical career that I commented on it in my book.”

      I was very grateful indeed when my life was saved by a surgeon. I thanked him to the extent I could, but the part of the whole thing that impressed me the most, was watching from my bed, the Canadian medical system in action. Every part of it was impressive. From the guy wiping down the place, a big Italian I called germ hunter, to the amazing nurses that basically ran the place. My favourite quote, from an assistant nurse, after they cleared the room of a guy who was on the edge of dying, swarmed in and saved the sucker: You can’t die here, you have to go to palliative to do that. ;)

    21. miguel cervantes Says:

      it’s like thanking czar alexander for stopping napoleon’s forward motion, more or less,

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