Five Steps to Pearl Harbor Edition
- July 8, 1853– Using gunboat diplomacy, Commodore Matthew Perry threatened to bombard Tokyo unless the Japanese government opened its ports to American trade.
- September 5, 1905– Japan and Russia sign the treaty of Portsmouth, negotiated by President Theodore Roosevelt, ending the Russo Japanese War. Three days of Anti-American riots followed, spawned by the belief Roosevelt had cheated the Japanese out of legitimately won war claims.
- October 17, 1941– Militarist and Imperialist Hideki Tojo becomes Prime Minister of Japan. Tojo had been advocating the creation of Pan-Asian Japanese empire since 1934. He considered America “the cancer of the Pacific” that had to be eliminated.
- May 1940– President Franklin Roosevelt orders the US Pacific fleet to move its base of operation from San Diego to Pearl Harbor. Admiral James Richardson vehemently protested the move and was replaced as commander.
- November 26, 1941– Secretary of State Cordell Hull presented the Japanese ambassador with our final proposal to resolve the diplomatic impasse between the US and Japan. Japan was to withdraw from Indochina and China to avoid potential hostilities. The Japanese strike fleet had left for Hawaii the previous day.
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“There can be no middle ground here. We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration, or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict.” … Roosevelt’s words ring hollow through history considering what happened after Yalta. Congress agreed with FDR’s assessment of the Crimean accords, but the next world conflict was already under way. Historians have tried to connect the dots over the last 69 years- many connections have yet to be convincingly made…conspiracy has filled the voids.
“Of course I believe in a free Poland…come now, let’s smoke”
Stalin clearly benefited from the agreement… as much of the groundwork for the Eastern Bloc was laid during the negotiations. How could Roosevelt and Churchill allow Stalin to have his way on a majority of the issues? If we believe Churchill’s self-described deference to Roosevelt, something(or someone) influenced the decision making. Questions about FDR’s health are at the source of many conspiracies: Was he too weak to deal with the diplomatic rigors? Did knowledge of his mortality cloud his judgement during negotiations? Was he willing to grant a great deal to Stalin to secure what he considered to be his legacy, the United Nations? The lack of written evidence, combined with basic deduction has led many an amateur historian down the conspiratorial path.
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Most historians now concede that Alger Hiss… was not simply an American Communist, but in fact, a Soviet agent. Hiss was a member of the US delegation to Yalta. He arranged some of the papers used during the negotiations. Conspiracy theorists do not have to leap too far in linking Hiss to the outcome at Yalta. Records indicate that Hiss had a minor role(at best) during the negotiations. But, to conspiracy theorists, lack of written evidence is never a deterrent.
“It was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do.” Future Secretary of State James Byrnes commented on the Yalta conference which began on February 4, 1945.
The exhausted three
Most historians now agree that Yalta… is where Stalin exerted his will upon the European continent. Theories abound as to how this came to pass- Roosevelt’s illness, Churchill’s weariness, Soviet agents posing as American diplomats (Alger Hiss)- regardless, the Soviet Union came out of the conference a world power. Byrnes’ observation was optimistic to say the least…
What seemed at the time to be reasonable compromise… laid the foundations for the Eastern Bloc.
Iron Curtain descending
- Free elections in Poland- clearly stacked in Stalin’s favor, the exiled Polish government in London stood little chance against the Provisional Communist state built by the Red Army in 1945.
- Red Army occupation of eastern and central Europe was accepted- and despite assurances to Churchill of peaceful intentions, Stalin told Molotov, “Never mind. We’ll do it our own way later.”
- The Red Army would occupy half of Germany including the entirety of Berlin. The seeds of the Cold War are planted out of what was thought to be military expediency.
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