Friday, September 07, 2007

20th Century Hero

[posted by Callimachus]

America has been losing propaganda battles since before most of us were born. It seems to have less to do with the sophistication of the propaganda than the will to believe among the easily led. Back in the early Cold War, plenty of Europeans and Americans were willing to believe Stalin's Kremlin when it swore it sought "unity with the peace-loving peoples everywhere."

In 1951, when America was goading the new NATO allies to contribute more to collective defense, a front group for the Soviet Union sponsored a "World Festival of Youth and Students for Peace" in East Berlin. The motto of the festival was "For Peace and Friendship – Against Nuclear Weapons." Pop music played between the speeches extolling the leadership of comrade Stalin. Wishful thinkers everywhere looked at the American policies, and the Soviet youth festival, and concluded the real threat to world peace was on this side of the Atlantic.

They got snowed by Stalin. They still do.

In brief, the story that Roberts tells goes like this: Josef Stalin, uncontested leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 until his death in 1953, deserves to be remembered as a great statesman — indeed, as the greatest of the age. Although Stalin made his share of mistakes, especially in the early phases of World War II, he learned from those mistakes and thereby grew in wisdom and stature. Among allied chieftains, he alone was irreplaceable. He, not Churchill and not Roosevelt, was the true architect of victory, "the dictator who defeated Hitler and helped save the world for democracy."

Even Andrew J. Bacevich, who can't resist his own cheap shot comparison of Stalin to Bush in this review, finds this all a bit excessive.

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