Currently I am preparing an academic essay for a future history book with a bunch of fantastic individuals who are as fascinated by history as I am. I am a history buff and enjoy reading about it and learning. However, currently we could use a better understanding of our own history in the Western world. It seems that even facts are today, viewed through the lens of white rich men. I say white rich men because they were the ones who wrote the founding documents of the United States of America. My essay is regarding a war that America seems to have forgotten. One that happened after the conclusion of the first World War. One that would set a precedent for United States foreign policy and would create the CIA’s tactics before the CIA was even a thing. History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme. I think Mark Twain said that. The purpose of this is to let the patrons of the book know my progress but also to keep my thought process organized. Here we go on some main points I will try to hit on:
- Woodrow Wilson was torn between his Puritan belief system and his need to manage public opinion
- William Lansing and Colonel House were two men whose belief systems and values were important in Wilson’s deliberations
- The different styles of intervention were honed in Mexico and Haiti before the intervention against the Bolsheviks in Russia.
- At first, Germany was another geopolitical concern that helped spur discussion of the threat of Bolshevism. Antipathy towards Germany and Japan in Russia was thought to be pitted against the perceived friendliness of the Russian people towards the United States
- Wilson’s personal feelings were much less sympathetic towards revolutionaries and socialists. He like Teddy Roosevelt, believed in the importance of orderly government. This clashed with his rhetoric supporting self-determination of all countries. This would become a theme in United States foreign policy. High minded talk about democracy and self-determination would be used again and again. The idea was, that everyone would want the American style of government if give the opportunity. However, intervention would often lead to those who valued order and stability to seek out a strong man who would use military dictatorship to reinstate order.
- Woodrow Wilson was very progressive for the time, but part of this was due to the very different perception of the idea of socialism that was in the air. Certainly anti-bolshevism was very prevalent but like most leftist movements there were disagreements amongst the left on strategy. Even in the Soviet Union, there were many leftist parties that were socialist that disliked the Bolshevik government in Moscow. The need to read the mood of the American people was far more important as, more sophisticated methods of doing foreign policy were unavailable.
- The different styles of intervention that the United States would perfect were heavily influenced by the Wilson administration. In order to successfully fund the interventions, Wilson had to used spies and give his subordinates unusual leniency and authority to pursue objectives. Congressional oversight and the press were seen as obstacles and Wilson was very wary of the American people’s moods and public perception of him. The fact that the first World War was nearing its end complicated the whole exercise. However, by sending money through the other Allies, and using the American embassy in the Soviet Union to aide Anti-Bolshevik forces, Wilson was able to operate under the radar.
- The Soviet Union was a major thorn in the side of the United States for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was that, it was seen as a rallying cry for oppressed people across the world. The United States government was extremely critical of any sort of protest or disorder. However, the United States was also wary of being perceived by the Russian population as being helpful stooges of the other European empires such as Great Britain. Germany and Japan also were seen as enemies of the Russian people and the animosity towards Germany was older than the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Soft Power was a tool that allowed the United States to both to support their interests in a disgusting underhanded way, and manage public opinion. Economic sanctions and embargoes were one such way and funding the enemies of the government of the Soviet Union was another.
- By funneling money through the Allies to various Anti-Bolshevik forces, the United States sought to protect their image to the Russian people and even used the American Embassy in the Soviet Union to send out pro Ally propaganda.
- Wilson was clearly avoiding direct intervention until it was fortuituous. Wilson was clearly more sympathetic towards the conservative view that the United States needed to stop Bolshevism. The high-minded shared values of spreading democracy were on his mind. Wilson would , over time, grow less squeamish about using underhanded tactics in order to get towards his ideological goal. The American people’s opinions tending to vacillate and Wilson was only pragmatic when he needed to be. It is worth mentioning that women’s suffrage and the labor movement were both distasteful to Wilson but that the sheer presence of the Soviet Union was enough to create the need to mollify the left in the United States. The United States government will never give the left what it desires unless it is forced to. This tends to ring true throughout American history.
To be continued