Putting America First is Consigning It To Last

The dearth of watchable programs among the 847 television channels on my television during most of the time drives me to Book TV on C-SPAN2 on weekends where authors present talks on their books.  Earlier this month author Benn Steil talked about his recent book “The Marshall Plan, Dawn of the Cold War.”  It was the perfect antidote to today’s America First idea that is being propounded by a man who admittedly does not read and probably has no idea what the Marshall Plan was about. It would be one of my fondest wishes that he would have read the book; or, in the alternative would have listen to the lecture by Mr. Steil.

It is ironic that the majority of Americans who grew up during the institution, early days, and subsequent beneficial days of the Marshall Plan, which was a four-year plan that began on April 3, 1948 almost exactly 70 years ago to this date, in other words those over 45 years of age, by 53% to 44% voted for the man who wants to put “America First” without realizing that America’s predominance in the world came during their lifetimes after America recognized that by putting others first we would bring about a more stable world that would benefit all of us.

Post World War II Europe was prostrate after the war which began in September 1939 and did not end until over five years later in May 1945. The movies filmed in Europe after the war show the carnage that took place. A Foreign Affair is brilliant in its depiction of the damage in Berlin that still existed in 1948 and the difficult life of the average German in that city. It is also noteworthy for the quote, more appropriate today than back then, “It can’t be subversive to kiss a Republican.”

The Third Man which was filmed in Vienna in late 1948 gives a sense of the darkness and despair people faced. It too has a memorable quote:  You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Right after the end of WWII Stalin, Truman and Clement Attlee of Britain met in Potsdam, Germany. France’s Charles de Gaulle was not invited at America’s request. They agreed that “Germany and Austria were each to be divided into four occupation zones (earlier agreed in principle at Yalta), and similarly each capital, Berlin and Vienna, was to be divided into four zones.” In 1948 the United States, France and Britain began to unite their sections into the country of West Germany. Stalin objected to this and also to the idea of the Marshall Plan which was in the offing.

He instituted a land blockade of Berlin. He was hoping to chase the Americans, British and French out of that city. General Lucius D. Clay, in charge of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany, summed up the reasons for not retreating in a cable to Washington, D.C. on 13 June 1948: “We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent.”

Stalin’s gambit failed. The allies began the Berlin Airlift using their planes to supply Berlin with the necessities of life for almost a year until the blockade was lifted. The cost of the airlift was estimated in today’s dollars as between 2.3 to 5.1 billion dollars spilt among the US, UK and Germany.

According to Author Steil the Marshall Plan was the cement to General Clay’s intention that the United States make it clear to the Europeans that we would not abandon them after the war like we did after WWI. He suggests that was one of the things Stalin counted on and expected after his dealings with the increasingly ailing Franklin Roosevelt who said of Stalin: “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man [to set up an iron rule over Eastern Europe]. I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, ‘noblesse oblige’, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”

Unfortunately, some people feel the same today about Putin. The peace of the last 70 years whereby Europe grew into countries with thriving economies can be traced back to America’s willingness not to put America first. Steil points out that the Marshall Plan did involve a great commitment by America in goods and money to preserve the freedom of Europe. It did not provide a direct benefit to America other than a prosperous Europe is in America’s interest.

In truth, putting America first is a recipe for putting it last. It is the type of idea that the Soviets and Putin have which began after WWII when it stripped its section of Germany of all its machinery and which continued under the Soviets until their system collapsed. How those over 45 can forget their history is quite remarkable.

12 thoughts on “Putting America First is Consigning It To Last

  1. Why does this blog have more right wing nuts that read than normal people? Matt writes well thought out, rational blogs…yet the majority of the comments are those who suffer from cognitive dissonance and Trump subservience syndrome.

    1. Dave:

      I wonder that myself. They do seem to have a strange view of America. But I figure it is best they get it out of their systems by writing about it rather than acting out in other ways,

  2. Watched 6 Episodes of the Polar Sea on Netflix last night.

    I started watching it because of my interest in doing a circumnavigation
    around the planet in a sailboat.
    As a kid I remember swimming in the Charles River by the
    Longfellow bridge. Later on I joined the Community Sail Boat
    program on the Charles River not to far from the Hatch Shell.
    It would be the closest I would come to experiencing 30 foot waves
    in a Category 5 gale.
    That is until I signed up with Bob Kellogg at Handys Boat yard
    in Falmouth Maine. He was always looking for crew to race with him
    on his 10 meter J racer sailboat.
    Ever spring Handys boat yard hosts a party where people who want
    to crew on sailboats meet captains who own sailboats.
    The only talent you need is to show up with a 6 pack when it is time
    to sail.

    So this Netflix Series The Polar Sea turns into a stark reminder of
    how bad climate change is.
    Several years ago I had the great joy to watch the new doc Chasing Ice.
    It was like listening to the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony
    for the first time.

    Chasing Ice showed with the most exquisite images ever captured on
    camera in the plain text of a scientific requiem mass, that we as a planet
    are now fucked from climate change.

    in other news


    The Whisper-Stream

    Jack Cashill is one of my heroes for making the doc Silenced
    with a former cop named Saunders

    Exclusive: Jack Cashill on FBI ‘agent provocateurs’ putting American lives at risk
    Day was, in fact, a paid informant for the FBI. He apparently had been reporting on Stein since Stein introduced him to the two other conspirators, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, at a gun show in February 2016.
    Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2018/03/just-whos-behind-the-terrorist-right/#SkdGRXdx6BbASOEZ.99

    also see


    Oleg Deripaska is the Oliver North of Russiagate. He’s the one Russian oligarch whose name you need to know. Oleg The Oligarch. Vladimir Putin’s go-to guy. A brutal history, a mysterious past Where Putin is…

  3. Most of the manufacturing jobs being lost in the U.S., upwards of 88 percent according to one study, are being eliminated by increases in factory productivity. These jobs are not going overseas to other countries. They are simply disappearing. Folks who have put their faith in changes in trade laws and agreements to increase the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs in any significant way are bound to be disappointed.

    A bit off the topic, but I’m glad Trump is meeting with Kim Jung un, even though I don’t believe anything important will happen. It’s true Kim is speaking about the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and he might even be serious about that, but you can bet the collective farm that North Korea is going to demand the removal of the 25,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as a quid pro quo.

    But removing U.S. troops would doom South Korea. The No.1 foreign policy objective of all of the Kims has been the reunification of Korea under their leadership. Without our backing, the South Korean options would be reduced to surrender or a civil war they seem unsuited to win.

    Still, Trump and Kim could make nice in a way that reassures people they are not about to blow each other up. Thay

  4. History is seen through multiple lens. Today, Matt, yours are rose colored and naive. Let me spin a counter-narrative.

    The misnamed Marshal Plan should have been called the Hoover Plan. He had been sent to Europe to assess the situation due to his experience after WWI. Truman wanted Marshal to run for President to succeed him as a Democrat so Marshal got the salesman’s job of making it palatable. That was the domestic political agenda.

    The foreign political side was simpler. It was flat out interference with European elections. The communist parties were strong on this side of the Iron Curtain and a Stalinist takeover was looming. That Marxist fiasco was avoided. Truman put America First and his own political career. He had fumbled and handed Eastern Europe over to the tender mercies of the KGB and feared the consequences of doing the same in the West.

    The economic side of the program was less than charitable. Germany did not end up with all that much if one totes up what France and the United Kingdom were looting against what the United States was investing. By the mid 1960s Germany was booming because its new German equipment outstripped in efficiency of France’s and England’s old German equipment. They did it to themselves.

    One can question whether the Marshal Plan made much of a difference. The European recovery, [the engine was West Germany not America], mirrors the time it took for Carthage to recover after its defeat by Rome. Athens tells the same tale after Sparta gave it a licking. The lesson to be drawn is that societies can reconstitute themselves in a bit under a generation. The Marshal Plan may have assisted or hindered the natural process of regeneration.

    The point I am trying to make is not really about the political or economic effects of the Marshal Plan. It is that you are blind to the fact that it put America First. It was not noble. It was not charity in the eyes of those implementing it.

    It was a hard-nosed calculation by politicians in Washington about their political future. They all agreed that another war in Europe would be a disaster. The war in Europe was never popular on the American home front. The elaborate seduction of the media and the academy about the “good war” had not yet been developed by the OSS/CIA. The hoi polloi had not yet been force fed that false narrative.

    The Marshal Plan was a great template that joined what was good for the Deep State of the day with what was also good for all America. Politicians always conflate the two. Sometimes they coincide; other times they diverge. At no point did anyone in Washington at the time peddle the idea that American interests were being put anywhere but first. The rest is Bull Shit and it is still being served up.

  5. In the last twenty years America has lost 50 thousand factories and six million manufacturing jobs. Unfair trade practices by China, Mexico and Europe have led to these problems. It is about time a U S leader fixed these imbalances and provided opportunities to local working men and women. America first is a sound idea. 2. For decades after ww2 we had hundreds of thousands of troops in Europe protecting it against the communist Red Army. Yet when Uncle Sam was fighting communist aggression in Viet Nam how many troops did Europe send to check that assault? None. The Europeans have been on security welfare for seventy years. They are living La Dolce Vita while America is picking up the tab for their protection. It is time they paid their fair share as former Defense Secretary Gates has advocated.. General Washington warned us against entangling alliances and we should heed his sagacious counsel. 3. Many 45 year olds and up remember the Cold War. They recall all the Democrat liberals i.e. Tip O;Neil, Dukakis, Kennedy, Dershowitz. Mondale and Frank denouncing Reagan’s SDI, his economic program, his Peace through Strength approach and his confrontation of the Evil Empire. The Left were apologists for Soviet and Cuban misdeeds. They tried to undermine every effort the Gipper made to defeat the Bolsheviks. They were on the wrong side of history then and they are today. Whose philosophy prevailed? Whose methods worked? Who won the Cold War? Who liberated Eastern Europe? Not the Democrats, not the liberals. Trump is emulating Reagan’s flawless and successful technique… Happy days are here again.

    1. “Trump is emulating Reagan’s flawless and successful technique… Happy days are here again.”

      Not quite here yet, but I think your post is clean. Moving through this world with Trump is like bush-wacking through the bramble patch wearing a mohair suit. A lot of snags and tears but hopefully those are threads we can live without. Sometimes he is the drunk you have to step over to get into the bar; other times he is the barkeep. I’m with him but I’m not always happy. He’s the boss.

  6. ” What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence .”
    Hitchens’s Razor

      1. The “Commander’s ” son , Christopher Hitchen , died too young and looking it balefully in the eye , Abe . Am listening to his Memoir , Hitch-22 . It is read by him in that great resonant and reasoning voice he had . And indeed , as I listen to him , closely , and realize the intentionality with which he wrote this not long before death , I feel a communion with him . It is a transcendental sort of such . He has much to relate , including that Margaret Thatcher once roundly swatted him on his buttocks and told him ” You are a naughty boy .”

        He was !

        That audio on net and if you google Vidal Loco + Vanity Fair you will get his mordant and wickedly , because he wrote so precisely and with power , mean , because too close to truth , assessment of Vidal’s state of mind in a hallowed senescence .

        We are all dead men on leave !

  7. It’s worth pointing out that as a proportion of GDP, Soviet economic assistance to communist China was more than twice the size of Marshall Aid and, perhaps more to the point, lasted ten years longer.

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