The rise of the murderous Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian regimes during the 1930s and the resulting conflagration of World War II is held to be, correctly, the defining event of the 20th century. But that truism only begs the real question.
To wit, were these nightmarish scourges always latent just below the surface of global civilization – waiting to erupt whenever good people and nations fell asleep at the switch, as per the standard critique of the British pacifism and US isolationism that flourished during the late 1930s?
Or were they the equivalent of the 1,000-year flood – a development so unlikely, aberrant and unrepeatable as to merely define a horrid but one-off chapter of history, not the ordinary and probable unfolding of affairs among the nations?
We contend that the answer depends upon whether your start with April 2, 1917, when America discarded its historic republican policy of nonintervention and joined the bloody fray on the old continent’s Western Front, or December 7, 1941, when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor allegedly awoke America from its isolationist slumber and called it to global leadership of the so-called American Century.
Needless to say, the Deep State’s ideology of the Indispensable Nation and its projects of Empire are rooted in the Pearl Harbor narrative. That is, the claim that global affairs go to hell in a hand basket when virtuous nations let down their guard or acquiesce to even modest acts of regional aggression.
The now faded verities of republican nonintervention, by contrast, properly finger Woodrow Wilson’s perfidious declaration of War on Germany as the event that changed the ordinary course of history, and paved the way for the 1,000-year aberration of Hitler and Stalin which ultimately ensued.
Not surprisingly, the official historical narratives of the Empire glorify America’s rising to duty in World War II and after, but merely describe the events of 1917-1919 as some sort of preliminary coming of age.
As a consequence, the rich, history-defining essence of what happened during those eventful years has been lost in the fog of battles, the miserable casualty statistics of war, the tales of prolonged diplomatic wrangling at Versailles and the blame-game for the failed Senate ratification of Wilson’s League of Nations thereafter.
In this connection, the defeat of the League of Nations is treated as a colossal error in the mainstream narrative. It is held to constitute a crucial default by the Indispensable Nation that hurried the rise of the totalitarian nightmares, and only compounded America’s task of righting the world in the 1940s and after.
In fact, however, the defeat of Wilson’s treaty was the last gasp of republicanism – an echo of the stand that had kept America true to its interests and noninterventionist traditions as the calamity of the Great War unfolded.
In effect, Henry Cabot Lodge and his so-called Midwestern isolationists (actually the original America Firsters) were trying to turn the clock back to April 1, 1917.
That was the day before Wilson summoned the Congress to war based on his own megalomania and the high-handed maneuvers of his State Department. After William Jennings Bryan’s principled antiwar resignation in June 1915, the latter had been operating in complete cahoots with the Morgan interests (which had risked billions financing England and France) and had essentially maneuvered the messianic Wilson into war.
Consequently, the powerful truths of what actually preceded the 1919 defeat of the League have been lost to standard history. In what follows, we mean to revive these crucial developments and inflection points because they clearly do demonstrate that the 1,000 year flood of 20th century totalitarianism originated in the foolish decisions of Wilson and a few others, not the DNA of mankind nor a death urge of the nations.
Needless to say, that is not a matter of academic history; it makes all the difference in the world of here and now because virtually every maneuver of Imperial Washington, such as it current demented attacks on Iran, are predicated on the Hitler and Stalin syndrome. That is, the hoary belief that there is always another one lurking in the ordinary political, economic and cultural conflicts of the nations.
To the contrary, of course, if the world actually needs no Indispensable Nation the whole predicate for Empire is invalidated. The raison d’etre of the Imperial City and all its hegemonic projects of "leadership", meddling, intervention, and occupation, in fact, belong in the dustbin of history.
So herewith is a capsulized explanation of the 1,000 year flood. It explains why Stalin and Hitler should have never happened – and why the hot, cold and permanent wars that followed thereafter condemn the case for Empire, not make it.
As we indicated in Part 1, the Great War had been destined to end in 1917 by mutual exhaustion, bankruptcy and withdrawal from the utterly stalemated trenches of the Western Front. In the end, upwards of 3.3 million had been killed and 8.3 million wounded over four years for movement of bloody front-lines that could be measured in mere miles and yards.
Still, had America stayed on its side of the great Atlantic moat, the ultimate outcomes everywhere would have been far different. Foremostly, the infant democracy that came to power in February 1917 in Russia would not have been so easily smothered in its crib.
There surely would have been no disastrous summer offensive by the Kerensky government to rollback Germany on the eastern front where the czarist armies had been humiliated and dismembered.
In turn, an early end to the war in Russia would also have precluded the subsequent massive armed insurrection in Petrograd in November 1917, which enabled the flukish seizure of power by Lenin and his small band of Bolsheviks.
That is, the 20th century would not have been saddled with what inexorably morphed into the Stalinist nightmare. Nor would a garrisoned Soviet state have poisoned the peace of nations for 75 years, while causing the nuclear sword of Damocles to hang over the planet.
Likewise, there would have been no abomination known as the Versailles peace treaty because it was a toxic peace of victors. But without America’s billions of aid and munitions and two million fresh doughboys there would have been no Allied victors, as we demonstrate below.
Without Versailles, in turn, there would have been no “stab in the back” legends owing to the Weimar government’s forced signing of the “war guilt” clause; no continuance of England’s brutal post-armistice blockade that delivered hundreds of thousands of Germany’s women and children into starvation and death; and no demobilized 3-million man German army left humiliated, destitute, bitter and on a permanent political rampage of vengeance.
So, too, there would have been no acquiescence in the dismemberment of Germany at the Versailles "peace" table. As it happened nearly one-fifth of Germany’s prewar territory and population was spread in parts and pieces to Poland (the Danzig Corridor and Upper Silesia), Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland), Denmark (Schleswig), France (the Saar, Alsace-Lorraine and the neutralized Rhineland) and Belgium (Eupen and Malmedy).
This sweeping loss of territory also meant Germany lost 50% of its iron production capacity, 16% of it coal output and 100% of its far flung colonies in Africa and East Asia to England and France.
Needless to say, God did not create the map of Europe on the 6th day of his labors. But it is absolutely the case that it was the vast German territories and peoples "stolen" at Versailles that provided the fuel for Hitler’s revanchist agitation; and it was that campaign to regain the lost territories which nourished the Nazis with patriotic public support in the rump of the fatherland.
Likewise, the French-Belgium occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 would not have happened because the justification for that invasion of German lands was that the latter had not paid its war reparations – a staggering sum that would amount to more than $500 billion in today’s purchasing power.
As it happened, it was the reparations crisis that led to Germany’s insane printing press monetary spree and the destruction of the German middle class in the 1923 hyperinflation. And without that society-crushing development along with all of the above, the history books would have never recorded the Hitlerian ascent to power and all the evils that flowed thereupon.
Even John Maynard Keynes, who was a British Treasury official at Versailles, could see that the Carthaginian Peace of Versailles was only sowing the seeds of economic breakdown in Germany and throughout much of warn-torn Europe.
In his famous tract, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, Keynes rightly foresaw the disaster ahead:
The Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe,–
nothing to make the defeated Central Powers into good neighbors, nothing to
stabilize the new states of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia; nor does it promote
in any way a compact of solidarity amongst the Allies themselves; no arrangement
was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy,
or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New.
The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others,– Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to do a deal and bring home something that would pass muster for a week, the President to do nothing that was not just and right. It is an extraordinary fact that the fundamental economic problems of a Europe starving and disintegrating before their eyes, was the one question in which it was impossible to arouse the interest of the Four. Reparation was their main excursion into the economic field, and they settled it as a problem of theology, of politics, of electoral chicane, from every point of view except that of the economic future of the States whose destiny they were handling.
……..Economic privation proceeds by easy stages, and so long as men suffer it patiently the outside world cares very little. Physical efficiency and resistance to disease slowly diminish, but life proceeds somehow, until the limit of human endurance is reached at last and counsels of despair and madness stir the sufferers from the lethargy which precedes the crisis. The man shakes himself, and the bonds of custom are loosed. The power of ideas is sovereign, and he listens to whatever instruction of hope, illusion, or revenge is carried to them in the air. …
As it happened, Adolf Hitler himself answered Keynes’ question, writing in Mein Kampf that the unjust treaty of Versailles was the key to mobilizing the German nation:
What a use could be made of the Treaty of Versailles. … How each one of the points of that treaty could be branded in the minds and hearts of the German people until sixty million men and women find their souls aflame with a feeling of rage and shame; and a torrent of fire bursts forth as from a furnace, and a will of steel is forged from it, with the common cry: "We will have arms again!"
So Woodrow Wilson has a lot to answer for because he is the father of the Carthaginian Peace that broke the world at Versailles. But the matter is far greater than just Wilson’s Folly of leading the US into war in April 1917.
His reasons for doing so are all the more important. Wilson’s 14 Points and his "make the world safe for democracy" slogans were essentially the original and incipient vision of the Indispensable Nation.
Ironically, therefore, the false idea that triggered the whole train of 20th century events, which then mid-wifed the American Empire, is now used to justify the continuing disorder and mayhem that it has unleashed upon the world.
Accordingly, Wilson’s “war guilt” is a mighty stain, extending to most of the wars of the 20th century. It can be summarized in eight major propositions which explain why the 1,000 year flood of totalitarianism arose, and why the Indispensable Nation folly is falsely anchored upon it.
Proposition #1: It is essential to recall that the Great War was about nothing worth dying for and engaged no recognizable principle of human betterment. There were many blackish hats, but no white ones.
Instead, it was an avoidable calamity issuing from a cacophony of political incompetence, cowardice, avarice and tomfoolery.
In part, you can blame the bombastic and impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm for setting the stage with his foolish dismissal of Bismarck in 1890; failure to renew the Russian reinsurance treaty shortly thereafter (which forced the Czar to ally with France); and his quixotic buildup of the German Navy after the turn of the century (which turned much of English opinion against Germany).
Likewise, you can blame the French for lashing themselves to a war treaty that could be triggered by the intrigues of a decadent court in St. Petersburg where the Czar still claimed divine rights and the Czarina ruled behind the scenes on the hideous advice of Rasputin.
Similarly, you can censure Russia’s foreign minister Sazonov for his delusions of greater Slavic grandeur that had encouraged Serbia’s provocations after Sarajevo; and you can also castigate the doddering emperor Franz Joseph for hanging onto power into his 67th year on the throne and thereby leaving his crumbling empire vulnerable to the suicidal impulses of General Conrad’s war party.
So too, you can indict the duplicitous German Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, for allowing the Austrians to believe that the Kaiser endorsed their declaration of war on Serbia; and pillory Winston Churchill and London’s war party for failing to recognize that the Schlieffen Plan’s invasion through Belgium was no threat to England, but a unavoidable German defense against a two-front war.
But after all that – you most especially can’t talk about the defense of democracy, the vindication of liberalism or the thwarting of Prussian autocracy and militarism.
The British War party led by the likes of Churchill and General Kitchener was all about the glory of empire, not the vindication of democracy.
So, too, France’ principal war aim was the revanchist drive to recover Alsace-Lorrain. The latter was mainly a German speaking territory for 600 years until it was conquered by Louis XIV in the 17th century, and then forcibly reacquired by Germany after its humiliating defeat of the French in 1870.
In any event, German autocracy was already on its last leg as betokened by the arrival of universal social insurance and the election of a socialist-liberal majority in the Reichstag on the eve of the war; and the Austro-Hungarian, Balkan and Ottoman goulash of nationalities, respectively, would have erupted in interminable regional conflicts and nationalist fragmentation, regardless of who won the Great War.
In short, nothing of principle or higher morality was at stake in the outcome.
Proposition # 2: The war posed no national security threat whatsoever to the US. That presumes, of course, the danger was not the Entente powers – but Germany and its allies.
But there was no chance whatever from the very beginning that Germany and its bedraggled allies could threaten America – and that had become overwhelmingly true by April 1917 when Wilson launched America into war.
In fact, within a few weeks, after the Schlieffen Plan offensive failed on September 11, 1914, the German Army became incarcerated in a bloody, bankrupting, two-front land war. That ensured its inexorable demise and utter incapacity in terms of finances and manpower to even glance cross-eyed at America.
Likewise, after the battle of Jutland in May 1916, the great German surface fleet was bottled up in its homeports – an inert flotilla of steel that posed no threat to the American coast 4,000 miles away.
As for the rest of the central powers, the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires already had an appointment with the dustbin of history. Need we even bother with any putative threat from the fourth member – that is, Bulgaria?
Proposition #3: Wilson’s pretexts for war on Germany – submarine warfare and the Zimmerman telegram – are not half what they are cracked-up to be by Warfare State historians.
As to the so-called freedom of the seas and neutral shipping rights, the story is blatantly simple.
In November 1914, England declared the North Sea to be a “war zone”; threatened neutral shipping with deadly sea mines; declared that anything which could conceivably be of use to the German army – directly or indirectly – to be contraband that would be seized or destroyed; and announced that the resulting blockade of German ports was designed to starve it into submission.
In retaliation a few months later, Germany announced its submarine warfare policy designed to the stem the flow of food, raw materials and armaments to England. It was the desperate antidote of a land power to England’s crushing sea-borne blockade.
Accordingly, there existed a state of total warfare in the northern European waters – and the traditional “rights” of neutrals were irrelevant and disregarded by both sides.
Indeed, in arming merchantmen and stowing munitions on passenger liners, England was hypocritical and utterly cavalier about the resulting mortal danger to innocent civilians. That was tragically exemplified by the 4.3 million rifle cartridges and hundreds of tons of other munitions carried in the hull of the Lusitania, when it was sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland in May 1915.
Likewise, German resort to so-called “unrestricted submarine warfare” in February 1917 was brutal and stupid, but came in response to massive domestic political pressure during what was known as the “turnip winter” in Germany. By then, the country was starving from the English blockade – literally.
Before he resigned on principle in June 1915, Secretary William Jennings Bryan got it right. Had he been less diplomatic he would have said never should American boys be crucified on the cross of Cunard liner state room so that a few thousand wealthy plutocrat could exercise a putative “right” to wallow in luxury while knowingly cruising into in harm’s way.
As to the Zimmerman telegram, it was never delivered to Mexico at all, but was sent from Berlin as an internal diplomatic communiqué to the German ambassador in Washington, who had labored mightily to keep his country out of war with the US.
As it happened, this draft communiqué was intercepted by British intelligence in February 1917, which sat on it for more than a month waiting for an opportune moment to incite America into war hysteria.
In fact, this so-called bombshell was actually just an internal foreign ministry rumination about a possible plan to approach the Mexican president regarding an alliance in the event that the US first went to war with Germany.
Why is this surprising or a casus belli?
Did not the Entente (England, France and Russia) bribe Italy into the war with promises of large chunks of Austria?
Did not the hapless Rumanians finally join the Entente when they were promised Transylvania?
Did not the Greeks bargain endlessly over the Turkish territories they were to be awarded for joining the allies?
Did not Lawrence of Arabia bribe the Sherif of Mecca with the promise of vast Arabian lands to be extracted from the Turks?
Why, then, would the Germans – if forced into war with the USA – not promise the return of Texas?
Proposition #4: Europe had expected a short war, and actually got one when the Schlieffen plan offensive bogged down 30 miles outside of Paris on the Marne River in mid-September 1914.
Within three months, the Western Front had formed and coagulated into blood and mud – a ghastly 400 mile corridor of senseless carnage, unspeakable slaughter and incessant military stupidity that stretched from the Flanders coast across Belgium and northern France to the Swiss frontier.
The next four years witnessed an undulating line of trenches, barbed wire entanglements, tunnels, artillery emplacements and shell-pocked scorched earth that rarely moved more than a few miles in either direction, and which ultimately claimed more than 7 million casualties on the Allied side and nearly 5 million on the German side.
If there was any doubt that Wilson’s catastrophic intervention converted a war of attrition, stalemate and eventual mutual exhaustion into Pyrrhic victory for the allies, it was memorialized in four developments during 1916.
In the first, the Germans wagered everything on a massive offensive designed to overrun the fortresses of Verdun – the historic defensive battlements on France’s northeast border that had stood since Roman times, and which had been massively reinforced after the France’s humiliating defeat in Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
But notwithstanding the mobilization of 100 divisions, the greatest artillery bombardment campaign ever recorded until then, and repeated infantry offensives from February through November that resulted in upwards of 400,000 German casualties, the Verdun offensive failed.
The second event was its mirror image – the massive British and French offensive known as the second battle of the Somme, which commenced with equally destructive artillery barrages on July 1, 1916 and then for three month sent waves of infantry into the maws of German machine guns and artillery.
It too ended in colossal failure, but only after more than 600,000 English and French casualties including a quarter million dead.
In between these bloodbaths, the stalemate was reinforced by the naval showdown at Jutland that cost the British far more sunken ships and drowned sailors than the Germans, but also caused the Germans to retire their surface fleet to port and never again challenge the Royal Navy in open water combat.
Finally, by year-end 1916 the German generals who had destroyed the Russian armies in the East with only a tiny one-ninth fraction of the German army – Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff – were given command of the Western Front.
Presently, they radically changed Germany’s war strategy by recognizing that the growing allied superiority in manpower, owing to the British homeland draft of 1916 and mobilization of forces from throughout the Commonwealth, made a German offensive breakthrough will nigh impossible.
The result was the Hindenburg Line – a military marvel based on a checkerboard array of hardened pillbox machine gunners and maneuver forces rather than mass infantry on the front lines and also an intricate labyrinth of highly engineered tunnels, deep earth shelters, rail connections, heavy artillery and flexible reserves in the rear.
It was also augmented by the transfer of Germany’s eastern armies to the western front – giving it 200 divisions and 4 million men on the Hindenburg Line.
This precluded any hope of Entente victory. By 1917 there were not enough able-bodied draft age men left in France and England to overcome the Hindenburg Line, which, in turn, was designed to bleed white the Entente armies led by butchers like Generals Haig and Joffre until their governments sued for peace.
Thus, with the Russian army’s disintegration in the east and the stalemate frozen indefinitely in the west by early 1917, it was only a matter of months before mutinies among the French lines, demoralization in London, mass starvation and privation in Germany and bankruptcy all around would have led to a peace of exhaustion and a European-wide political revolt against the war makers.
Wilson’s intervention thus did turn an impossible stalemate into an unwarranted victory for the Entente: it was only a matter of time before Washington’s unprecedented mobilization of men and material during the balance of 1917 flooded into the battlefields of France and turned the tide of war.
So Wilson’s crusade did not remake the world, but it did radically re-channel the contours of 20th century history by giving rise to the Entente victory and the 1,000 year flood of Nazi and Stalinist totalitarianism that flowed therefrom.
And that wasn’t the half of it – there was a crucial economic and financial dimension, too.
As we will demonstrate in Part 3, Wilson’s crusade also gave rise to the scourge of modern central banking; and it was the latter that made the modern Warfare State possible and the Indispensable Nation folly a mortal threat to peace and capitalist prosperity at home and abroad.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.