Thanks But No Thanks: Author Wants You to Give Thanks to the USSR

During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning tank in Prague. Photo from "CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting"

Some of our friends on the Left are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the West’s victory in the Cold War by trying to write the good guys out of the story. Maybe the most egregious example comes from Brian T. Brown at The Daily Beast, in a piece based on his upcoming book and headlined “9 Reasons to Thank the USSR: How We Got the Cold War Wrong.”

Brown starts off with a claim that “we fired the first shot” in the Cold War, during the final days of World War Two. He says President Truman “rushed” to drop the atom bomb on Japan, not just to achieve final victory over Japan, but to “prevent the Soviets from joining the battle in the Pacific.”

Now that’s just dumb.

We dropped the first bomb on Japan on August 6, 1945. Three days later Stalin ordered the Red Army into Japanese-held Manchuria, exactly as he’d promised us at the Yalta Conference. The Soviets were in the Pacific campaign to the tune of about 1.5 million troops. If I’m being more generous than I should be, maybe Brown meant Truman intended to keep the Soviets out of the Japanese home islands. But the fact is, the Soviets lacked the naval power to move large numbers of troops into Japan even after their surrender. Even so, Stalin did manage to get enough men across the water to occupy the tiny, desolate Kuril Islands — which Russia still holds today. They also took the southern half of Sakhalin Island back from Japan, but that was a land invasion since they already held the northern half.

So. Either Truman’s “warning” is a fiction in Brown’s mind, because Truman had already been promised that Stalin would enter the war against Japan, or it was an utter failure because Stalin occupied every bit of Japan that he was able to take. Either explanation totally undercuts Brown’s BS attempt at revisionism.

Brown then explains that the “so-called evil empire” was nothing more than “a figment of our fevered imaginations.” Anyone with a passing familiarity with the Soviet Union even in the post-Stalin era could be forgiven for laughing at that. Although I suspect the laughter would be bitter in places like Hungary, East Germany, Prague, Afghanistan, and to the political prisoners in the dark cells and “psychiatric” wards of the Soviet prison system.

Brown then has nine bullet points about why we should have thanked the Soviets rather than resisted them. I’ll take them one by one.

BROWN: #1: STUNNING SACRIFICE: On the Eastern front, the Red Army suffered more combat deaths at Stalingrad alone than the U.S. armed forces accumulated during the entirety of World War II.

VODKAPUNDIT: And they did that for our sake? Don’t be silly. The cold fact is that two murderous regimes were in a total death struggle with one another — and we would have rightly waged a defensive Cold War against either victor.

BROWN: #2: WHAT BOMB: The fight against Japan didn’t conclude only because of America’s atomic attacks. In deciding how soon to surrender, Hirohito and his war cabinet appear to have been more frightened of Stalin’s 11th-hour invasion than of Curtis LeMay’s attempt to bomb the country back to the Stone Age.

VODKAPUNDIT: I thought the bomb kept Stalin out of the Pacific or something. For what it’s worth, the only reason Stalin’s long-planned invasion of Manchuria was in the “11th hour” of the war is because the bomb brought the war to a conclusion months or even years sooner than the Allies had planned. Furthermore, Japan should have been scared of the Red Army, which committed something like two million rapes against German women (with Stalin’s tacit approval) during the last months of the war in Europe.

BROWN #3: UPPER VOLTA WITH ROCKETS: Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union struggled to meet the basic requirements of food and shelter. For example, the USSR’s desperate housing shortage could have been ameliorated with taller structures, but the country didn’t possess sufficient raw materials to supply elevators for apartments above five stories.

VODKAPUNDIT: The Soviet Union possessed more resources than any other country in human history. They failed to make good use of those resources because they were evil communists, yet managed to create one ecological mess after another, anyway. By the way, the Soviets produced more steel than the U.S., but chose to make 50,000 main battle tanks — mostly pointed at West Germany — instead of elevators. I’m not feeling very grateful for this one, and I bet your average Soviet citizen didn’t, either.

BROWN #4: CHARMING BETRAYAL: The most effective spy cell the Soviets ever had was made up of aristocratic Englishmen schooled at Cambridge. Additionally, multiple physicists working for Britain on the Manhattan Project were Soviet moles and they provided Stalin’s scientists with the blueprints of the atomic bomb even before it was used on Japan. In short, the greatest threat to U.S. national security during the early part of the Cold War may have been our closest ally.

VODKAPUNDIT: Um… thanks for getting some well-appointed Englishmen to turn traitor?

BROWN #5: THE REAL MENACE: Joseph McCarthy barely believed a word he said and found zero communists in government roles.

VODKAPUNDIT: Whatever you think of McCarthy, the United States government, particularly the State Department, was a viper’s nest of Soviet espionage.

BROWN: #6: FLAWED GAMESMANSHIP: The domino theory was used first by Dwight Eisenhower to argue that if communist forces in Vietnam succeeded, the contagion of Kremlin-supported regimes could spread to Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. This was a fallacy. Virtually all revolutions during the Cold War were homegrown and, in general, waged to overthrow colonial masters—of all ideologies.

VODKAPUNDIT: Fact: The Soviets provided all kinds of aid and comfort to “homegrown” revolutionaries, starting in Greece and Turkey in the immediate postwar period, then Southeast Asia and Africa, and extending deep into the Western Hemisphere from the ’60s to the late ’80s. There were some genuine, homegrown, anti-totalitarian revolutions in the postwar period. There was one in East Germany (1953), and in Hungary (1956), and also in Czechoslovakia (1968). They were put down in a most brutal fashion by Soviet tanks. In contrast, Poland got off easy. They imposed martial law on themselves (1981) before the Soviets could do it to them.

BROWN: #7: FAKE NEWS: Overall, the U.S. never fell behind the Soviet Union in the development of nuclear weaponry—there was never a bomber gap or a missile gap. The United States developed the first intercontinental nuclear bomber, tested the first hydrogen bomb, launched the first nuclear submarine, introduced the first tactical nuclear weapons, and created the first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

VODKAPUNDIT: Good. We’re supposed to stay ahead of ruthless regimes, something we failed to do in the 1930s. That’s how you keep the peace, and we kept it as best we could. So we should give thanks for this one — just not to the damn Soviets.

BROWN: #8: PROLONGED BLOWBACK: In 1977, the Carter administration began a covert CIA program to destabilize the Soviet Union by encouraging ethnic violence and radical Islam in Afghanistan, Soviet Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Chechnya. When the Soviets sent 100,000 troops into Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, the U.S. commitment to the anti-Soviet mujahideen surged. This massive, multi-billion-dollar covert operation ended up hatching global jihad.

VODKAPUNDIT: Brown has completely lost the thread in these last few items, going from why we should “thank the USSR” to general complaints about U.S. military and foreign policy. That’s fine, I suppose — Lord knows we’ve made our share of mistakes. But it’s also no reason to bend the knee to the heirs of Lenin and Stalin.

BROWN: #9: CAUTIONARY TALE: Finally, turning the Soviets into enemies after World War II — instead of thanking them — almost killed us all. Multiple national security experts have asserted that sheer luck is the best explanation for why the Cold War did not conclude with a charred and lifeless planet.

VODKAPUNDIT: Following WWII, the West demobilized as rapidly and completely as it could. So much so, that in 1950 we very nearly lost a war to tiny little North Korea — a war launched with Soviet approval and assistance. Our relations with the Soviets were strained by little things like the Korean War, the imposition of Communist regimes on every country “lucky” enough to have been “liberated” by the Red Army, the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49, and seemingly endless Kremlin-sponsored coups and revolutions all across the postwar world. In 1946, when Churchill made his famous “Sinews of Peace” address at Westminster College, warning that the Soviets had built a “curtain of iron” across Europe, his warning was not well received… here in the West. Stalin and the Soviet Union were still widely considered to be our allies, and it would take years of Soviet aggressions before the West finally geared up for what would eventually be called the Cold War.

History is messed up enough without people like Brown getting it wrong on purpose. But there is one thing we can all be thankful for: The Soviet Union is on the ash heap of history where it belongs, and no lame attempt like Brown’s to rehabilitate it will change that fact.


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