Saturday, June 11, 2011

Today's New Idiot - Frederick Kempe

Here we go again.

EVERY time a Right-wing nut has an allegedly scholarly article, essay, book, film, whatever, examination of President John F. Kennedy it ALWAYS boils down to "if only JFK wasn't such a fucking pussy about the Commies."

For the Right-wing nuts who know nothing of history, learn nothing from history, know nothing of context and what else was going on at the same time as whatever example of JFK being a fucking pussy about those god damn Commies they want to talk about it's always easy, and simple. You just smash the Commies and you win.  Game over. Nothing to worry about. No consequences. What's next? I'm surprised they haven't created The John Cleese "Commies, I hate 'em! " think tank.

And we got another goose stepping moron playing this game.  His name is Frederick Kempe.

And he's got a new little book out on JFK and Berlin: 1961

The book gets a positive review by previous Liars Club inductee Alex von Tunzelmann here -  FrederickKempe’s “Berlin 1961”. She gives it a positive review despite noticing that Kempe doesn't know the difference between The Bay of Pigs and Operation Mongoose, that Kempe doesn't think Castro was a "Socialist," by June of 1961, and that Kempe thinks the Berlin crisis of 1961 somehow leads to the Cuban Missile Crises of 1962!  

The book is so bad even The New York Times bothers to notice.  Jacob Heilbrunn writes that despite Kempe's criticism of Kennedy, that he "was not focused on rolling back Communism in Europe,” points out that no American president ever was, not before JFK, or after.  "No American president ever seriously challenged Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. Not Eisenhower when revolts took place in East Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956. Not Lyndon B. Johnson during the Prague Spring in 1968. Not Ronald Reagan when martial law was declared in Poland in 1981."

Tofel writes that Kempe’s conclusions are “fundamentally wrong.” Also, “Kempe’s essential argument is that had Kennedy been tougher at his Vienna summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and/or more aggressive in response to Khrushchev’s subsequent bullying on Berlin, the wall erected in August 1961 would not have been built, East Germany might have soon collapsed, and the fall of the Soviet empire might have been accelerated by as much as three decades.”

Do you see the mantra? If only JFK wasn’t such a fucking pussy, blah, blah, and blah.

But there is no evidence for the Right-wing, “if only JFK was tougher, then this would have happened,” ideology. Even Tofel points this out. “Kempe’s own strong reporting indicates how little support there is for the first of this set of posited dominoes.

“As the book points out in stark terms, the East German state was on the verge of disintegration as a result of its open borders with the West—and in the face of the West German economic miracle—with as many as 2,000 of its people fleeing each day.

“As Kennedy clearly saw, and as Kempe repeatedly notes but cannot fully recognize, Khrushchev could not permit the collapse of Walter Ulbricht’s German Democratic Republic. First, and most basically in the life of a politician, Khrushchev could not do so and remain in power. Had he tried, he would almost certainly have been removed—as he was in the aftermath of his later humiliations, notably the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“And Khrushchev could not have permitted an East German collapse for precisely the reason that Kempe finds such a scenario so appealing: because Khrushchev and his colleagues at the time knew that if East Germany fell into the arms of the West, Hungary and Poland and Czechoslovakia and the rest would likely follow.”

And writing as someone who does understand history he adds, “The central point of difference between 1961 and 1989, and the reason why Kempe’s argument is unconvincing, is because Khrushchev and his generation were simply not made of the same stuff as Mikhail Gorbachev and his generation. Khrushchev (and Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin, and others around him) had lived as adults through the Second World War and had thrived, more or less, under Stalin. The death of scores of millions of their countrymen for a cause was something within their contemplation—indeed, within their experience. Moreover, these men, perhaps naively and in different ways to be sure, were committed heirs of the Bolsheviks, devoted children of the Revolution. (Khrushchev was 23 in 1917, Kosygin 13, Brezhnev 11.) In their lives, the Terror notwithstanding, Soviet communism had defeated Nazism and seemed to improve the lives of average Russian citizens. In their minds, communism was making progress. When Khrushchev said that the Soviets would soon “bury” capitalism, he knew he was exaggerating and blustering, but he almost surely believed that events were tending in that direction.

“To conclude that such men, like Gorbachev and his colleagues later, would have surrendered their hard-won empire without a fight is simply unsupported by the historical record. That is the lesson of their use of force in crushing uprisings in East Germany in 1953 and in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.”

Tofel instead of chastizing Kennedy for not having this childish “HULK SMASH!” approach to the Communist world praises Kennedy, “in terms of what he did after the Bay of Pigs, rather than what he said, Kennedy deserves far less criticism. He did not take Khrushchev’s bait and start a shooting war or blunder into one.”

Tofel concludes, “All of this matters today, for reasons Kempe knows well and states clearly in his book’s final words, where he casts the Berlin Wall as “the iconic image of what unfree systems can impose when free leaders fail to resist.” Before we see the wall that way, and guide ourselves accordingly in some future crisis, we need to appreciate the catastrophic cost such resistance would likely have entailed.”

But, wait a minute, let’s go back to the idea that if JFK was tougher he couild have ended The Cold War sooner. JFK did want to end the Cold War, but he wanted to do it without waging a war.  

This turn towards peace is exquisitely detailed in “JFK and the Unspeakable” by Jim Douglass.    

This methodology to end The Cold War without waging war against the Commies was seen as treason and that’s why JFK was killed.   

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