Life

How Presidential Lies and Misleading Narratives Laid the Groundwork for the Cold War and Escalation in Vietnam

  The sharp decline in U.S.-Soviet relations and the rapid onset of the Cold War shortly after World War II often made people obsessed with the question: If Roosevelt had not passed away so early, would history have been different? After all, he is experienced and not as clumsy and blunt as Truman, who was a small-town politician. He had personal relationships with Stalin and Churchill, which meant he could do more work behind the scenes and everyone had more room for maneuver. He is also more trusted by the people and will not be afraid of accusations of “treason.”
  After reading the book “When Presidents Lie,” people may not be so optimistic. It was precisely because of Roosevelt’s intentional or unintentional self-deception and deliberate misleading of the American people and even the elites that the Soviet Union’s “takeover” of Poland seemed so “shameless”, which in turn led to the Yalta Agreement quickly becoming unacceptable.
  Perhaps he could privately urge Stalin to be less judgmental and consider the feelings of the American people more. Perhaps he would not end the Lend-Lease program to the Soviet Union as abruptly as Truman did, and publicly and high-profile harden the Soviet opponent, which made Stalin It is believed that the West is determined to change its course immediately, thereby accelerating the irreversible arrival of the Cold War.
  But none of this can change the fact that the Soviets will definitely not soften their position in the sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe. That is the “land” they have built with their strength, and it was also recognized by the United States and Britain at the Yalta Conference. This is an irreversible situation and pattern, and it is precisely this point that has annoyed the American people and elites, and has been seized upon by Roosevelt’s opponents to make a fuss about it. What the Soviets did not understand or understand was that the concept of “spheres of influence”, which reeked of the decadent Versailles system, simply would not be accepted.
  Roosevelt certainly understood this, but he wanted too much to achieve the United Nations, too much to avoid Wilson’s mistakes, too much to maintain wartime friendships among allies, and too much to want the Soviet Union to participate in the war against Japan to reduce the losses of American soldiers. Therefore, he could only choose to do one thing in Yalta and say another thing in front of the American people: no compromise, no deal, no private give-and-take, and the interests of the Polish people were not sacrificed… Roosevelt became his own desire and desire. Prisoners of one’s own understanding of history.
  Perhaps he thought that after achieving all these goals, he still had time to slowly convince the American people (and the Polish people, and even the Chinese people) to accept the imperfect reality, convince his Republican opponents to put the overall situation of the world first, and convince Stalin and Churchill. Don’t be so aggressive. In fact, even if Roosevelt lived for one or two more years, the Cold War might be postponed, but it was absolutely impossible to avoid: the pattern of Central and Eastern Europe was irreversible, and the revolutionary situation in Asia was generally irreversible. In people’s eyes, these were Thanks to the Yalta “compromise”.
  Roosevelt’s “lies” and his sudden death caused his legacy at home and abroad to be almost destroyed. The wartime alliance turned over like a fleeting cloud, and the Cold War confrontation soon began. Its greatest harm to the political ecology and social atmosphere of the United States was that it spawned the anti-communist witch-hunting wave with McCarthyism as its main symbol, and the legacy of the New Deal was also counterattacked.
  What’s even more tragic is that because he was kept in the dark before and was under Roosevelt’s huge shadow, Truman could only choose to claim that there was no secret agreement at Yalta and that it was the Soviets who betrayed Roosevelt’s trust. For various reasons, those in authority and insiders could only choose to insist that Roosevelt did not compromise, let alone lie, but perhaps he was “misled.” But such rhetoric undoubtedly makes them more passive and at a loss when facing the McCarthyists’ accusations that the Democratic Party has been “dyed red.”
  In the author Eric Altman’s writing, the actions of the next two Democratic presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, were simply a collection of lies that began with Roosevelt’s “wrong” legacy or misinterpretation of his legacy.
  President Kennedy was still worried about the consequences of the Yalta “compromise”, which led President Kennedy to deliberately avoid a McCarthy moment during his term. This required him to create his own image as an anti-communist fighter, and the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed to accomplish this in a legendary way. However, history has proven that this is also a “legend” that conceals half the truth: the Kennedy brothers and Khrushchev reached a secret deal to remove Turkish missiles in exchange for the return of the Soviet fleet and the dismantling of Cuban missiles, rather than the superficial “promise” Not to invade Cuba.” But the Kennedy brothers chose to conceal this, and even their inner circle of decision-makers did not know about it; what was even worse was that while they secretly compromised, they also made trouble for their political opponents who advocated a moderation route.
  The legend that Kennedy built on “lies” has had multiple consequences. The “righteous” Khrushchev did not expose Kennedy’s lies, and hoped that through his superficial “show of weakness”, he could obtain a strategic relaxation with the United States and gain a breathing space for domestic economic development, especially agricultural modernization. However, Kennedy chose to maintain his heroic image and failed to reciprocate Khrushchev’s “overtures” in time. As a result, it indirectly led to Hershey’s dismissal and stimulated the Soviets to increase the intensity of the nuclear arms race, making Kennedy’s so-called “tougher” The strategy of “better safety” is in bankruptcy. In addition, the Soviet hard-liners who felt humiliated were determined to win back the victory in the Vietnam battlefield, which also made it more difficult for the United States to withdraw from the Vietnam gamble in the future.
  Just like the speculation about Roosevelt “if he were still alive”, people once believed that if Kennedy had not been assassinated, he might have been able to press the stop-loss button for the United States’ adventurous actions in Vietnam in time with the power of his re-election. However, considering that people are all prisoners of their own lies, perhaps Kennedy could not resist the highly demagoguery and inflammatory slogan “Can’t let Vietnam become another Cuba”. After all, he had already won Cuba by dancing on the tip of a knife. game, there was no reason to retreat easily in the Vietnam War where there was no obvious presence of the Soviets.
  Johnson, his successor, was a tragic double prisoner, facing Kennedy’s political legacy of lies and battling an unconfident character. From the beginning, he was more or less aware that the Vietnam battlefield was a huge trap and quagmire, but he did not dare to give up Kennedy’s “career”, and he also curried favor with the group of old Kennedy officials who were responsible for diplomacy and military affairs around him. , as the eastern intellectual elite, they represent everything that Johnson, as a southern “country bumpkin”, lacks.
  In addition, Johnson had personal ambitions, especially wanting to make achievements in civil rights and welfare, so as to build a “Great Society” to rival Roosevelt’s New Deal. Therefore, he chose to seize the false pretext of the Gulf of Tonkin incident to expand the Vietnam War. While subduing the Republicans, he united people’s hearts and provided support for the construction of the “Great Society.” Later history is well known to everyone. The tragedy of the Vietnam War, which started with lies and needed to be fed with bigger lies, pushed everything Johnson pursued to its opposite, and the divisiveness it caused to the United States. The impact is still felt.

  ”When the President Lies” provides an in-depth discussion of why presidents feel they “have” to lie. People can let it go, but they cannot make it known. Faced with “immature” voters who have no overall perspective, presidents feel that they have to temporarily “deceive” them with so-called white lies. In the author’s view, this kind of “good intentions” is hypocritical, which not only damages the quality of democracy, but is also detrimental to the improvement of people’s political literacy and the continuous achievement of social consensus. It is the deep-rooted tradition of “presidential lying” that has made the American political ecology increasingly polarized and deteriorated.

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