A Contrarian Spirit 20 November 2019.

Edward M. House (1858-1938), called by courtesy “Colonel House,” served as a diplomatic advisor and personal representative for President Woodrow Wilson.  He came to the fore during the First World War.  America began as a neutral, no different in name than Switzerland or Venezuela.  However. America’s economic and human resources made it a country of the first rank.  It could decide the outcome of the war.

Bypassing the State Department, House spent much of 1915 and 1916 in Europe.  He sought to broker a peace between the “Entente” powers (Britain, France, Tsarist Russia) and the “Central” powers (Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire).  When that effort failed, House came to believe that a victory for Britain (and its so-called allies), followed by a “moderate” peace, offered the best path forward from that awful war.

At war’s end and afterward, House played key roles.  He helped define the terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918.  He played an important part in the creation of the League of Nations (antecedent to the United Nations).  He urged moderation on President Wilson in the campaign for Senate ratification of the Versailles Treaty. Wilson would hear none of it.  Eventually, the two men broke, ending a deep friendship of many years.

Harry Hopkins (1890-1946), after long service in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” domestic reform programs, served as Roosevelt’s personal diplomatic representative in the Second World War.  Hopkins never belonged to the Foreign Service or was an employees of the State Department.  Still, he was Roosevelt’s “man in Havana”—well, London and Moscow.

The United States had hoped to remain neutral in the Second World War.  If the Germans and the western Europeans wanted to kill each other over ancient quarrels, well, that was OK with the US.  Germany’s astonishing victories in Western Europe in 1940 quickly changed many minds.  On the one hand, the United States needed to launch a rapid build-up of it military power.  On the other hand, the United States had to keep Britain in the war against Germany.  A British surrender Roosevelt used Hopkins as a direct connection to British prime minister Winston Chamberlain and, more fitfully, to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.  Hopkins also played an important role in the allocation of Lend-Lease aid—lethal weapons and many other supplies—to countries opposing Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

So, American presidents sometimes use non-State Department people as their official emissaries to vital foreign powers.  People in the State Department often don’t like these “unofficial” back-channel lines of communication.  Tough luck.

However, all depends upon the president and the circumstances.  It is easy to believe that Wilson would have done better to listen to House.  It is possible to believe that Hopkins served merely as a mechanical arm to FDR, for good or ill.

It seems to me that former mayor Rudy Giuliani was an instrument of President Trump in an effort to smear a future domestic political opponent—Joe Biden–in the presidential campaign of 2020.  That seems to me an impeachable offense.

Yes, a Ukrainian oligarch hired Hunter Biden to keep the Ukrainian anti-corruption people at bay.  Yes, the Obama administration delayed providing any “lethal” aid to the Ukrainians for about four years, while the Trump administration delayed providing some “lethal” aid to Ukraine for about four weeks.  Yes, Kenneth Vogel’s articles in Politico and the New York Times, raise interesting questions about Ukrainian interference in the election of 2016.  All of these deserve to be investigated at length.  But Donald Trump should be impeached.

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