RealClearHistory Articles

Hitler Was His Own Worst Enemy

David Pyne - October 17, 2019

Last in a series of stories exploring how Germany might have won World War II. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

In our last installment, we discussed the ways in which Germany might have defeated the Soviet Union, which led to Soviet-era state-owned news agency Pravda promptly attacking the author in an article entitled, “U.S. Gave advice to Hitler How to Defeat Russia.” In this article, we will discuss why Hitler was Germany’s greatest obstacle to winning the Second World War and how the war might have been won if German generals could have prevented him from interfering in military operations. German dictator Adolf Hitler has been considered a political genius by some and a mad man bent on world conquest by others, but the truth is that he was neither. Rather, he was a virulent anti-Semite who believed his life’s mission was to re-unite Germany and lead an international crusade against Soviet Communism. He was also responsible for committing a series of strategic blunders and military miscalculations, some small and some great, that ended up ensuring Germany’s defeat. But what if German military leaders had been given the freedom to prosecute the war more wisely, resulting in a stalemate or even something resembling a Nazi German victory? Here are some things that Germany could have done differently to win the war:

Overthrow Adolf Hitler before, or immediately after, he violated the Munich Pact — Overthrowing or assassinating Hitler was probably the single most important thing Germany could have done to win the Second World War, assuming it had ended up fighting it at all without him. The reason for this is that Hitler made a series of critical strategic errors beginning with his decision to violate the Munich Pact in March 1939 and continuing with his decision to spare the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at Dunkirk in May 1940, his decision to halt the German advance on Moscow in August 1941 and his decision to declare war on the USA in December 1941, which taken as a whole served to all but guarantee ultimate German military defeat.

There were more than 40 known coup or assassination attempts against Hitler, many with wide support by top German military leaders including 11 German field marshals at various times. But the first and perhaps the most promising was planned to occur in September 1938 in response to fear by the German general staff that Hitler’s demand for the German Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia would result in a war with Britain and France, which Germany was woefully unprepared to fight and would have been sure to lose. The Germans had only about one-third as many divisions as they were able to mobilize in September 1939 and the Czech army had the same number of troops as the Germans did and six more army divisions! Needless to say, they would have had to use the bulk of the German Army to successfully invade leaving Germany’s western borders largely undefended against a potential French invasion and occupation of Germany’s Rhineland industrial region. Thus the German generals led by General Ludwig Beck felt it would be necessary to remove Hitler from power in order to avoid a near certain German military defeat.

Germany Could Have Defeated USSR in WW II

David Pyne - October 16, 2019

Fourth in a series of stories exploring how Germany might have won World War II. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In our last installment, we discussed how Germany could have forced Britain to accept one of his peace offers and keep the United States out of the war. In this article, we shall examine how Germany might have not only avoided total defeat at the hands of the Red Army, but even might have achieved a measure of victory against her much larger and more powerful Soviet adversary, which was over 40 times larger than Germany at its greatest extent.

Don’t invade Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941.

In actual history, Yugoslavia agreed to join the Axis powers in late April 1941, but days later a coup brought new leadership to power more sympathetic to the Allies. While the new Yugoslav leaders promised the Germans to remain aligned with the Axis as previously agreed while remaining neutral in the war, Hitler viewed the coup as a personal insult and vowed to make Yugoslavia pay, diverting German Panzer divisions from Poland and Romania to invade Yugoslavia and Greece. This ended up delaying the planned German invasion of USSR by five and a half crucial weeks from May 15-June 22, 1941. In retrospect, there was no military necessity for Hitler to invade Yugoslavia in April 1941. He could have merely sent a few German infantry divisions to reinforce Albania to prevent it from being overrun by Greek troops but he feared potential British reinforcements in Greece, which could threaten his southern European flank.

Hitler Could Have Forced Churchill to Take Peace Offer

David Pyne - October 15, 2019

Third in a series of stories exploring how Germany might have won World War II. Read Part 1 and Part 2

In the last article of this series, we examined how Germany might have won the war if Hitler had been patient enough to wait to risk war until the German army was ready to fight. In this article, we will consider some ways the Germans might have goaded the British into accepting a negotiated peace before the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 while keeping the United States officially neutral in the conflict. Here are some of the most effective things Hitler could have done to accomplish that:

Don’t allow the withdrawal of British Expeditionary Forces at Dunkirk – Hitler’s decision to spare the BEF at Dunkirk and allow their evacuation to Britain from May 26-June 4, 1940 was meant to underscore the fact that he wanted peace with Britain. Ironically, it was this very decision to deliberately spare the BEF and allow the withdrawal of 336,000 British and 210,000 French 9th Army troops that enabled Churchill to reject Hitler’s 1940 peace offer, which history shows he seriously considered accepting on May 26, 1940 before the BEF had been saved. It is a supreme irony of history that the one time Hitler proved he was serious about peace with Britain, his peace offering was precisely what ended up causing it to refuse his peace offers, ultimately costing Germany any hope for victory in the war. The terms of his July 1940 peace offer reportedly closely mirrored his proposed May 1941 peace offer, including granting nominal independence to Poland as a German protectorate along with a full German military withdrawal from France (except for Alsace-Lorraine), Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway. Peace with Britain, even if temporary, likely would have enabled Germany to negotiate favorable peace terms with the Soviets along the lines Stalin himself proposed as shall be detailed in the next installment of this series. Of course, if Hitler had accepted a Four-Power Peace Conference and/or only occupied the Polish Corridor, Hitler would never have had to attack Britain or France to win the war in the first place, as they would not have been at war.

Replace Admiral Canaris as head of German Military Intelligence before the “Dutch War Scare” — Rear Admiral Wilhelm Canaris served as head of the German Abwehr Military Intelligence from 1935-44. During this time, he helped plot the September 1938 coup against Hitler, which sadly was never carried out. However, once his plot to overthrow Hitler and the Nazis was aborted, he began a campaign of sabotage against Germany, which helped to ensure her eventual defeat. The first of these acts of sabotage was known as the “Dutch War Scare” of January 1939, in which he sent Britain false reports that Nazi Germany intended to invade Holland and then use it as a base from which to destroy British cities and bomb England into submission to try to get British leaders to take a harder line against Nazi Germany. These false reports caused British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to make his “continental commitment” to France the following month, to send a large British ground force to the defense of France in the event of the outbreak of war with Germany. They also may well have helped spur Chamberlain’s subsequent about-face in issuing the British military guarantee of Poland against German aggression in March 1939, without which the war likely would have been averted.

More Mobile Military Just 1 Way Germany Could Have Won

David Pyne - October 14, 2019

Second in a series of stories exploring how Germany might have won World War II. Read Part 1 here.

In our last article, we examined some of the actions that Germany might have taken to achieve its territorial objectives without having to fight the Western Powers of Britain, France and the United States of America in World War Two. Some of the most important ways for Germany to have won the war would have been to have waited until German industries had recovered from the limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty to maximize Germany’s military potential. It would have entailed a more prudent utilization of Germany’s limited military-industrial resources, better organization and increased mobility of her army. Here are some examples:

Avoid war with Allies until 1941 or 1943

Due to the fact that the German rearmament program was not projected to be completed until 1943, Hitler expected the outbreak of war would not occur until then or until 1941 at the earliest. Accordingly, Hitler was completely caught off guard when Britain and France declared war against him on Sept. 3, 1939 over his invasion of Poland. Germany’s generals warned Hitler that the army was not ready for war in 1939. Not only were one-third of Germany’s army divisions still seriously underequipped, but there was a major shortage of officers due to the massive expansion of the German Army from seven to 103 divisions during a five year period. Due to the serious shortage of tanks armed with 37mm guns or above, the German Army was forced to employ 2,000 obsolete Panzer I and Panzer II training tanks which the Germans had never intended to use in war. While the punitive Treaty of Versailles did not end up accomplishing its purpose in keeping Germany economically destitute, militarily powerless, divided and downtrodden, let alone prevent a Second World War, its ban on Germany building tanks actually contribute toward Nazi Germany losing World War II.

Germany Could've Won WW II Without Fighting Western Allies

David Pyne - October 13, 2019

First in a series of stories exploring how Germany might have won World War II.

Last month marked the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, which cost the lives of an estimated 50-60 million people and was the most terrible war in world history. We all know how the war turned out—with an overwhelming Soviet-Western Allied victory over Nazi Germany ending with the destruction and dismemberment of Germany herself and the death by starvation of millions of her citizens. Given the way the events of the war played out, there was no other foreseeable outcome other than her defeat. But as most historians are aware, German defeat in the war would have been far from inevitable had Nazi leader Adolf Hitler refrained from making certain critical mistakes.

This series of articles represents an attempt to summarize the top mistakes and omissions Germany made that cost it victory in this greatest and most terrible of all wars in human history. Of course, the best way for Germany to have won World War II was for it to have avoided fighting Britain, France, and the United States of America altogether. Germany had the military potential to defeat France and likely force Britain to make peace, but with a Navy less than one-sixth the size of Britain’s, it had no means to even attack U.S. territory, let alone defeat it. Here are some actions that Germany might have taken to achieve their territorial objectives without having to fight the Western Powers of Britain, France and the United States of America:

Accept British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s offer of a second Four-Power Conference—It is a little known fact that Hitler passed up a huge opportunity to satisfy his few remaining territorial demands after the signing of the Munich Pact for the return of the ‘free’ German city of Danzig and/or the Polish Corridor along with some former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific without the need for war between Germany and Poland, let alone between Germany and the United Kingdom and France. In announcing he had achieved “peace in our time” at Munich in September 1938, Chamberlain revealed his belief that the Munich Agreement was just the prelude to a second and much more comprehensive Four-Power Peace Conference between the UK, France, Germany and Italy. His intended purpose of this second conference would have been to redress Germany’s remaining legitimate grievances stemming from the unjust Treaty of Versailles and thereby secure a more just and lasting peace to avert the potential outbreak of a Second World War.

Trump Should Heed History and End His Trade Wars

Lawrence J. McQuillan & Lamar K. Hendrikse - October 10, 2019

The Federal Reserve’s recent interest rate cut was the result of growing concerns about the economy. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the cut was necessary because “the global growth outlook has weakened” and “trade policy tensions have waxed and waned.” These risks have reduced U.S. business investment and exports. President Donald Trump would be wise to share the Fed’s trade-policy concerns because history shows trade restrictions during periods of economic uncertainty can sink sitting presidents.

President Herbert Hoover signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in June 1930, raising the average tariff rate to nearly 60 percent. The act increased tariffs to record levels on more than 20,000 imported goods and fueled massive retaliation by countries.

Economists agree that Smoot-Hawley exacerbated the Great Depression. Voters rebuffed Hoover and his tariffs in 1932, electing Franklin D. Roosevelt, who began dismantling the “notorious and indefensible” tariff act.

Forty years earlier, President Benjamin Harrison lost his 1892 reelection bid to Grover Cleveland, who made lowering Harrison’s record-breaking tariff rates his key campaign issue. The tariffs were also unpopular abroad, sparking protectionist retaliation by the British Empire. Cleveland won the general election by the largest popular vote margin in 20 years.

Critics Misinterpreted 'Quality' of Slaves

Robert Cherry - September 19, 2019

The New York Times 1619 Project focused almost exclusively on demonstrating the link between slavery and white supremacy today. Historically, however, the “legacy of slavery” almost always related to how contemporary black behaviors were linked to the slave past. This essay will identify the misrepresentation of the behaviors of enslaved blacks by those who overstated the harshness of their treatment and its adverse ramifications on assessments of black Americans after emancipation.

One stream of thought suggested by Matthew Desmond’s essay was that slavery was a vicious system of exploitation that previewed the dynamics of early U.S. capitalism. This perception of slavery was found in the early post-WWII writings of Stanley Elkins and Kenneth Stampp. In Slavery, Elkins wrote that the long series of shocks from their African capture, to their Middle Passage transport to the West Indies, through their sale to American plantations where slaves experienced brutal treatment, created a psyche similar to what Charles Bettleheim observed in Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps.

Like Bettleheim’s concentration-camp Jews, Elkins believed that the typical enslaved black adopted a childlike quality of complete submission that included identifying their masters as father figures since “their real fathers had virtually no authority over his child since discipline, parental responsibility, and rewards and punishments all rested in other hands.” This thesis was Elkin’s explanation for the black Sambo image that was widely accepted among researchers and observers of the slave experience.

In The Peculiar Institution, Stampp believed that to counter the harsh oppressive regime many enslaved blacks “feigned childlike behavior to sabotage production: shirking their duties, feigning illness, injuring the crops, and disrupting the routine.” For Stampp, however, terror and brutalization were at the core of the slave experience. As a result, the vast majority of enslaved blacks understood that to be the recipient of his master’s paternalism, a slave had to adopt the pose of “a fawning dependent.” He believed that this relationship robbed slaves of their confidence and promoted a “process of infantilization.”

3 Key Books Shaped Vision of Appeasement

John P. Rossi - August 13, 2019

The recent publication of Tim Bouverie’s, Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill and the Road to War, has fueled renewed interest in the reasons for the blunders of British diplomacy in the 1930s. The book has received deservedly high praise for the clarity of its analysis of appeasement’s consequences. Bouverie places the major responsibility for appeasement’s failure on Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who consistently underestimated and misread Hitler’s intentions. He also stresses the role played by many of the leading members of the British aristocracy, who saw Nazism as a bulwark against the threat of Communism.

A third theme, and one often downplayed by some historians, is the emergence of pacifist sentiment on the left in the 1920s after the terrible losses of the First World War. He notes that Britain lost 750,000 killed during that conflict, almost double British losses, civilian and military, in World War II. Bouverie believes that the left’s response to the threat from Nazism was paralyzed by pacifism. As late as the eve of World War II, the British Labor Party voted against all rearmament measures.

Bouverie’s study mirrors the arguments of the three key works that shaped our view of appeasement: Cato’s Guilty Men, Winston Churchill’s The Gathering Storm, and John Wheeler-Bennett’s Munich: Prologue to Tragedy. In an interesting commentary on how ideas move in modern society, all three books shaped the thesis that largely prevails today regarding appeasement.

Guilty Men appeared in July 1940 as Britain faced the greatest threat to its existence since the Norman Conquest. The Germans had overrun Holland and Belgium and defeated France in a campaign that lasted six weeks. Britain stood alone, confused about what had happened and baffled on what course to follow: fight on or enter negotiations with Hitler. Three journalists, Michael Foot, a Socialist, Frank Owen, a Liberal, and Peter Howard, a Conservative threw Guilty Men together in a matter of days. They singled out 15 men responsible for the crisis England faced. Foreign Secretaries Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax were blamed for the feebleness of British diplomacy in the 1930s. Military unpreparedness was laid at the foot of various Conservative ministers, including Sir Thomas Inskip, whose appointment they labeled the worst since Caligula named his horse a Senator. The real villain of their indictment, however, was Neville Chamberlain, whom they castigated for his betrayal of the Czechs at Munich. He was portrayed not just blind to the threat from Nazism but actually a Nazi sympathizer.

Beat the Heat With These 10 History Reads

Brandon Christensen - August 7, 2019

It’s August here in the Heart of Texas, and I’m staying indoors as much as possible. I bide my time by doing family stuff* and by reading excellent books. Here are 10 recommendations for you, from me and from your humble servants at RealClearHistory:

10. Subjects unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England by Jenny Hale Pulsipher. This is the book that shows how the Indians on the eastern seaboard of the United States competed with colonists for not only land and monopoly power in markets like the fur trade, but for the ear of the British monarchy. It turns out that the British policy of loaning out its legal institutions for use to peoples not under formal British jurisdiction was a great way to build an empire in a cost-effective manner.

9. Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier by James Merrell. Another book about the bloody contest for control over the eastern seaboard, Merrell sets his sights on the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania rather than New England. The narrative of this book is frontier history and (mostly) informal diplomacy, but the focus is on individuals plucked from history and placed into context by a talented and passionate historian. This book has won prizes, and all of them are deserved.

8. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. This is the novel that earned Rushdie a fatwa from the Ayatollah of Iran. While all press is good press and Rushdie surely deserves the fame, it is almost a shame that Khomeini’s Shi’ite death warrant is what this story is famous for. The Satanic Verses brings to its reader a world that exists just underneath the surface of geopolitics and global headlines. Rushdie uses fiction to tell real stories about the Orient. In doing so, he humanizes the Middle East and South Asia. The founder of Islam, for example, becomes, in Rushdie’s loquacious prose, a character in a story that everybody can relate to. There are Sikh terrorists, Biblical angels, pre-Islamic polytheists, self-loathing Hindus, and subtly-crafted hosannas directed at the British imperial (and cosmopolitan) realm in this novel. The Satanic Verses is a good reminder that history without fiction is dry, and almost useless.

Critical Decisions: Dropping A-Bombs, Attacking French Navy

Steve Feinstein - August 1, 2019

“Above my pay grade” is an old cliché that refers to a really difficult decision being deferred to someone of higher authority. Recent history is full of examples of incredibly difficult decisions that have been made by a country’s highest-ranking leader. These decisions have resulted in long-lasting effects that have reverberated through the succeeding years, perhaps for the better, perhaps not. But no one can question the boldness of these choices and there is no question that only the most authoritative figure could make the call.

We’ll look at two, one of which is well-known, but governed more by emotion than fact, and one that has been virtually ignored by historians, but may have been even more significant.

Using the Atomic Bomb on Japan
President Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese cites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945 remains one of history’s most controversial decisions. Unquestionably, they were devastating attacks and their stunning severity convinced an otherwise fanatical and totally detached-from-reality Japanese leadership to snap into some semblance of lucidity and surrender immediately. The formal surrender took place on the battleship USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945.

The Japanese had displayed a zealously contumacious obsession to fight to the last man in their frenzied defense of the Pacific island campaign in 1941-45. When the island of Tarawa fell to U.S. forces after three days of unbelievably intense fighting, only 17 (!!) Japanese soldiers remained alive out of an initial force of 4,800. On Guam, after three weeks of fighting, the 18,000-man Japanese defensive force had fought with such ferocity that victorious U.S. forces took only 485 prisoners.

Libya: Does 2019 Rhyme With 1911?

William Brooke Stallsmith - July 29, 2019

Winston Churchill starts his history of World War I, The World Crisis, in an unconventional place and time: Libya in 1911, rather than Sarajevo in 1914. The reasons for this are both complex and, at least for me, convincing: 

- In 1911, an Italian invasion and colonization of what had been the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (today’s Libya) highlighted Turkey’s spiraling inability to hold on to distant territories. 

- Italy’s success in North Africa encouraged the Balkan states that had recently shaken off Turkish rule—Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia—to make grabs for the Ottomans’ remaining European lands in two wars in 1912-1913. 

- This fighting and scramble for real estate heightened the endemic violence and mistrust in the Balkans, thereby helping pave the road that led to Sarajevo, Gallipoli, the Somme, the rise of Bolshevism, and the other horrors of World War I.

In Time of Trump, Caligula Biography Topical

Ralph Benko - July 29, 2019

The Great Oracle Google reports, today, 3,790,000 occasions of a comparison between Donald Trump and Caligula. Some representative samples: Donald Trump has ‘fascinating parallels’ with Caligula, says historian; Caligula and Trump: Two disturbingly similar despots centuries apart; Ask a classicist: is Donald Trump more of a Caligula or a Nero; Trump is Caligula; Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good….

One could go on.
And on.

Yet ars longa vita brevis.

Trump, unclear on the concept of “search engine” – or card catalogue -- may find all this very, very Unfair. Perhaps so. That said, the cultural leitmotif makes Caligula: The Mad Emperor of Rome (Turner Publishing) by military historian Stephen Dando-Collins extremely topical.

America in Space and the Speech Nixon Never Had to Give

Howard Tanzman - July 18, 2019

Two speeches from the 1960’s bookend the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. One given and one not given.

President John F. Kennedy launched the moon landing program in a May 1961 speech to Congress with this call to action: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

April 1961 was a challenging month for the new Kennedy administration. The Soviet Union achieved the first orbital space flight on April 12, 1961.  A few days later, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Communist Cuba failed. In May 1961, JFK called a joint session of Congress to present a speech entitled “Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs." The address lasted about 45 minutes and included 10 separate sections. In the first eight sections, he described various programs and needs including Vietnam and the Cold War; programs to lower unemployment; requests for increased economic and military foreign aid; funding for foreign language broadcasts to offset Soviet propaganda; and higher military and civil defense spending.

JFK then moved on to the space program. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was a significant rationale for the program. At the time, this war was a battle between capitalism and communism. Kennedy believed that achievements in space mattered in this contest. Countries would use success in space as a measuring stick for the American or Soviet systems.

10 Most Iconic Pieces of Art in Ancient Egypt

Vandana Sinha - July 16, 2019

Ancient Egyptians were far ahead of other civilizations in the areas of art, science and technological innovations - as is evident from the remnants and relics of their edifices, texts, and artifacts. Their artworks reflect profound influences of religious motifs, and mythology; which were integral parts of their lives. The intricacy and brilliance of ancient Egyptian artwork leaves historians as well as travelers gasping for words. From the marvels of engineering achieved through the Egyptian pyramids to the exquisite ornaments they made, Egyptian art relics have no parallel. Their craftsmanship is proven by the fact that some of these art forms have withstood the test of time and lasted over 3,000 years. 

Listed below are the ten most iconic ancient art forms of Egypt that can leave you amazed:

1. Throne of Tutankhamun

Perhaps no other ruler of ancient Egypt was as enigmatic as Tutankhamun. The ‘boy king’ as he was called had his coronation at the tender age of nine and died mysteriously at 19 years. He left behind a vast empire and loads of wealth. The golden throne was found in 1922 by Howard Carter, the British archeologist who located his tomb. The amazing throne was intact even after 3,000 years, showing the excellent craftsmanship of the Egyptians. It was adorned with glass and precious stones and deemed as a fine instance of Amarna Period art. The amazing thing is the glaze of the metal was intact even after 3,000 years when it was excavated.

Raid on Ploesti: Lessons Old and New

Steve Feinstein - June 27, 2019

Winston Churchill once remarked, ”In war, nothing ever goes according to plan except occasionally, and then, only by accident.”

One of history's best examples of this is the near-disastrous USAAF air raid against the German-run oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania on Aug. 1, 1943. The lessons of this event resonate with relevance and verity to this day.

The Ploesti refinery complex was responsible for producing almost 35 percent of the oil used by the German military-industrial complex and a similar percentage of their aviation fuel. Allied war planners considered this target to be of the utmost strategic importance, and felt, with some justification, that the complete destruction of Ploesti's refineries would have an extremely significant impact on Germany's ability to wage war.

Plan was to fly low and overwhelm German defenses

10 Most Hated Enemies in American History

Brandon Christensen - June 13, 2019

June is such a lovely time of year. It’s hot. It’s sweaty. And there’s always down time. Behold, the 10 Most Hated Enemies in American History:

10. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Hitler has always been one of the republic’s most-hated enemies, and for good reason. The genocidal German Chancellor would probably make this list 150 years from now, too. To make things interesting, here is a counterfactual: Would Hitler have come to power if the United States had not entered World War I? The First World War was drawing to a brutal, bloody close until American entry turned the tide of the stalemate into a rout that destroyed not only the German Empire but the other polyglot empires in central and eastern Europe, too. The power vacuum that followed the collapse of the German, Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires practically handed over the reins of power to people like Hitler.

9. Osama bin Laden (1957-2011). Another easy one, Osama bin Laden orchestrated the world’s deadliest terrorist attack and brought down the World Trade Center buildings. When video surfaced of Osama bin Laden smirking and laughing as he bragged about the iconic skyscrapers tumbling to the ground, the American penchant for generosity - renowned around the world (albeit quietly) - vanished. Bin Laden, once a U.S. ally during the Cold War, was killed in Pakistan by an elite U.S. military unit in 2011, while the United States military continues to wage a low-level war in neighboring Afghanistan.

8. Geronimo (1829-1909). A well-regarded leader of the acephalous Apache nation, Geronimo’s raids were violent and hateful. Native Americans and Euro Americans loathed each other. No inch of land from sea to shining sea was ceded peacefully. Geronimo inspired fear in the hearts of southwestern Anglos and animosity in the hearts of Americans elsewhere. Geronimo’s post-surrender life is perhaps the most emblematic of what happened to the Indians: he was paraded around the country as a prisoner of war, but was permitted to sell material goods like bows and arrows or hats or buttons. He was also paid to shoot buffalo and take pictures with the well-to-do. He died in a hospital in 1909, under armed guard as a prisoner of war.

The 'Wrong of Versailles' 100 Years On

John Rossi - June 6, 2019

This June 28th marks the centenary of one of the most consequential peace treaties signed in the 20th century. On June 28, 1919 (interestingly exactly five years to the day after the assassination of Francis Ferdinand and his wife launched World War I) the victorious Allies gathered at Louis XIV’s magnificent palace in Versailles to dictate the treaty that ended what was then called “The Great War.”

The terms were harsh. Article 232 of the treaty stated that Germany accepted full responsibility for the war. She agreed to pay heavy reparations to France, Belgium and Great Britain, would maintain only a small army without offensive weapons such as airplanes, submarines or tanks and would surrender large pieces of territory to the new Polish state in the east while restoring the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to France. Along with the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires, the treaty signaled an enormous shift in the balance of power in Europe, one that had lasted for all practical purposes for a century, since the end of the Napoleonic wars.

To what extent did this treaty that ended one terrible war contribute to a second more awful conflict 20 years later? At another level, could you argue that the extreme nature of the Versailles Treaty led to the rise of dictators such as Benito Mussolini and especially, Adolf Hitler?

It is safe to say that the actions of the leaders at Versailles were counterproductive, if understandable, given what happened to their nations during World War I. The French, with their population already stagnating, lost about one quarter of their adult male population; the British suffered 750,000 killed; Italy a like figure. For comparison, the number of British killed between 1914-18 was almost double those who died in World War II. Even the United States, which only took an active part in battle for about five months, suffered 114,000 deaths (they suffered 400,000 killed in 44 months during World War II).  For Germany, the figure was 1.8 million killed. These losses generated a terrible sense of loss on the part of the victors and a thirst for revenge on the part of the defeated Germans.

10 Railroads That Made America Great

Brandon Christensen - May 16, 2019

Choo! Choo! On May 10, 1869, just four years after the end of the Civil War, a golden spike was driven into the ground at Promontory Point, Utah, in order celebrate the completion of the republic’s first transcontinental railroad.

Today, in May of 2019, the American railroad system is recognized as the best in the world, at least when it comes to efficiency in regards to moving freight, but this wasn’t always the case. Here are the 10 Railroads that Made America Great.

10. Union Pacific Railroad. The Union Pacific was responsible for laying the track from Omaha to Promontory Point. The men who worked for the company had to build a railroad through the Rocky Mountains and the Uintas. The railroad was a government charter, so it faced severe operational difficulties from the get-go. Still, Washington managed to pour enough money into the Union Pacific that it achieved its goal. By the time the railroad dissolved in 1880 (less than 20 years after its founding), the Union Pacific had united the coasts of the American republic.

9. The Central Pacific Railroad was the line that came from the west in order to meet the Union Pacific in Utah. The CP’s line started in Sacramento and had to be built through the Sierra Nevadas and the high-altitude desert of the Great Basin. The Central Pacific was also a government charter, and therefore also faced stiff operational challenges, including corruption and labor strife. The Central Pacific Railroad is probably most famous for the Chinese laborers it hired to build its track.

Wilson's, Jackson's Legacies Take Hits, Grant's Stock Rises

Howard Tanzman - May 9, 2019

Since World War II, historians, newspapers, and institutions have performed surveys of presidential reputations. There is unanimous agreement placing George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson at the top of the list. Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, and James Buchanan are consistently at the bottom.

However, there are several Presidents whose reputations have either significantly improved or worsened since these surveys started. Some examples follow below.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the first president to come from a humble background. Before Jackson, the first six Presidents were college-educated aristocrats from either Virginia or Massachusetts.

Jackson was the founder of the modern day Democratic party. He considered himself the “champion of the common man.” The movement was called, ‘Jacksonian Democracy.’ One of his signature issues was opposition to Bank of the United States. He felt this institution had too much power and favored the wealthy. After a fierce political battle, Jackson succeeded in eliminating the bank. Jackson also strongly supported the Union against South Carolina’s attempt to nullify a Federal tariff bill by threatening the use of military force. State’s rights and nullification later became issues leading up to the Civil War.

'Another Fine Mess' in the Middle East

Steve Feinstein - April 11, 2019

“Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”—Laurel and Hardy, c. 1930’s.

There is no question that the Middle East Arab-Israeli-oil situation is one of the world’s most enduring and vexing problems. Almost every economically significant country in the world has a major stake in how this scenario plays out and most countries orient and arrange a large part of their foreign policy and energy strategy with Middle East considerations front and center in their planning.

What if the United States had been presented with the opportunity to circumvent the Mid-East Jewish-Arab-oil crisis before it had a chance to metastasize into the worldwide scourge it is today? The opportunity did, in fact, present itself in 1945. Unfortunately, the United States—under FDR—failed to capitalize on it and thus the world today lives in constant danger caused by the flashpoint of those seemingly unending, unsolvable regional tensions.

The missed opportunity was the result of FDR's mishandling of his historic meeting with King Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud of Arabia on Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal on Feb. 14, 1945. FDR’s actions here essentially created the 70+ year economic and political tensions and conflicts regarding oil that continue to afflict international relationships and define the national security and oil acquisition strategy of virtually every developed country in the world today. Most of the damaging international energy related circumstances in the present-day world were set in motion by FDR’s actions at that meeting.