Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pearl Harbor: Hawaii was not Surprised; FDR was Not

James Perloff

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl arbor, shattering the peace of a beautiful Hawaiian morning and leaving much of the fleet broken and burning. The destruction and death that the Japanese military visited upon Pearl Harbor that day — 18 naval vessels (including eight battleships) sunk or heavily damaged, 188 planes destroyed, over 2,000 servicemen killed — were exacerbated by the fact that American commanders in Hawaii were caught by surprise. But that was not the case in Washington. Comprehensive research has not only shown Washington knew in advance of the attack, but deliberately withheld its foreknowledge from our commanders in Hawaii in the hope that the "surprise" attack would catapult the U.S. into World War II. Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production, stated in 1944: "Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty of history to say that America was forced into the war."

Although FDR desired to directly involve the United States in the Second World War, his intentions sharply contradicted his public pronouncements. A pre-war Gallup poll showed 88 percent of Americans opposed U.S. involvement in the European war. Citizens realized that U.S. participation in World War I had not made a better world, and in a 1940 (election-year) speech, Roosevelt typically stated: "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."

But privately, the president planned the opposite. Roosevelt dispatched his closest advisor, Harry Hopkins, to meet British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in January 1941. Hopkins told Churchill: "The President is determined that we [the United States and England] shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it. He has sent me here to tell you that at all costs and by all means he will carry you through, no matter what happens to him — there is nothing he will not do so far as he has human power." William Stevenson noted in A Man Called Intrepid that American-British military staff talks began that same month under "utmost secrecy," which, he clarified, "meant preventing disclosure to the American public." Even Robert Sherwood, the president's friendly biographer, said: "If the isolationists had known the full extent of the secret alliance between the United States and Britain, their demands for impeachment would have rumbled like thunder throughout the land."

Background to Betrayal

Roosevelt's intentions were nearly exposed in 1940 when Tyler Kent, a code clerk at the U.S. embassy in London, discovered secret dispatches between Roosevelt and Churchill. These revealed that FDR — despite contrary campaign promises — was determined to engage America in the war. Kent smuggled some of the documents out of the embassy, hoping to alert the American public — but was caught. With U.S. government approval, he was tried in a secret British court and confined to a British prison until the war's end.

During World War II's early days, the president offered numerous provocations to Germany: freezing its assets; shipping 50 destroyers to Britain; and depth-charging U-boats. The Germans did not retaliate, however. They knew America's entry into World War I had shifted the balance of power against them, and they shunned a repeat of that scenario. FDR therefore switched his focus to Japan. Japan had signed a mutual defense pact with Germany and Italy (the Tripartite Treaty). Roosevelt knew that if Japan went to war with the United States, Germany and Italy would be compelled to declare war on America — thus entangling us in the European conflict by the back door. As Harold Ickes, secretary of the Interior, said in October 1941: "For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan."

Much new light has been shed on Pearl Harbor through the recent work of Robert B. Stinnett, a World War II Navy veteran. Stinnett has obtained numerous relevant documents through the Freedom of Information Act. In Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (2000), the book so brusquely dismissed by director Bruckheimer, Stinnett reveals that Roosevelt's plan to provoke Japan began with a memorandum from Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The memorandum advocated eight actions predicted to lead Japan into attacking the United States. McCollum wrote: "If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better." FDR enacted all eight of McCollum's provocative steps — and more.

While no one can excuse Japan's belligerence in those days, it is also true that our government provoked that country in various ways — freezing her assets in America; closing the Panama Canal to her shipping; progressively halting vital exports to Japan until we finally joined Britain in an all-out embargo; sending a hostile note to the Japanese ambassador implying military threats if Tokyo did not alter its Pacific policies; and on November 26th — just 11 days before the Japanese attack — delivering an ultimatum that demanded, as prerequisites to resumed trade, that Japan withdraw all troops from China and Indochina, and in effect abrogate her Tripartite Treaty with Germany and Italy.

After meeting with President Roosevelt on October 16, 1941, Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary: "We face the delicate question of the diplomatic fencing to be done so as to be sure Japan is put into the wrong and makes the first bad move — overt move." On November 25th, the day before the ultimatum was sent to Japan's ambassadors, Stimson wrote in his diary: "The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot...."

The bait offered Japan was our Pacific Fleet. In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, the fleet's commander, flew to Washington to protest FDR's decision to permanently base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing on the U.S. West Coast. The admiral had sound reasons: Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, being approachable from any direction; it could not be effectively rigged with nets and baffles to defend against torpedo planes; and in Hawaii it would be hard to supply and train crews for his undermanned vessels. Pearl Harbor also lacked adequate fuel supplies and dry docks, and keeping men far from their families would create morale problems. The argument became heated. Said Richardson: "I came away with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the United States into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected."

Richardson was quickly relieved of command. Replacing him was Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. Kimmel also informed Roosevelt of Pearl Harbor's deficiencies, but accepted placement there, trusting that Washington would notify him of any intelligence pointing to attack. This proved to be misplaced trust. As Washington watched Japan preparing to assault Pearl Harbor, Admiral Kimmel, as well as his Army counterpart in Hawaii, General Walter C. Short, were completely sealed off from the information pipeline.

Prior Knowledge

One of the most important elements in America's foreknowledge of Japan's intentions was our government's success in cracking Japan's secret diplomatic code known as "Purple." Tokyo used it to communicate to its embassies and consulates, including those in Washington and Hawaii. The code was so complex that it was enciphered and deciphered by machine. A talented group of American cryptoanalysts broke the code in 1940 and devised a facsimile of the Japanese machine. These, utilized by the intelligence sections of both the War and Navy departments, swiftly revealed Japan's diplomatic messages. The deciphered texts were nicknamed "Magic."

Copies of Magic were always promptly delivered in locked pouches to President Roosevelt, and the secretaries of State, War, and Navy. They also went to Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall and to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark. However, although three Purple decoding machines were allotted to Britain, none were sent to Pearl Harbor. Intercepts of ciphered messages radioed between Tokyo and its Honolulu consulate had to be forwarded to Washington for decrypting. Thus Kimmel and Short, the Hawaiian commanders, were at the mercy of Washington for feedback. A request for their own decoding machine was rebuffed on the grounds that diplomatic traffic was of insufficient interest to soldiers.

How untrue that was! On October 9, 1941, the War Department decoded a Tokyo-to-Honolulu dispatch instructing the Consul General to divide Pearl Harbor into five specified areas and to report the exact locations of American ships therein.

There is nothing unusual about spies watching ship movements — but reporting precise whereabouts of ships in dock has only one implication. Charles Willoughby, Douglas MacArthur's chief of intelligence later wrote that the "reports were on a grid system of the inner harbor with coordinate locations of American men of war ... coordinate grid is the classical method for pinpoint target designation; our battleships had suddenly become targets." This information was never sent to Kimmel or Short.

Additional intercepts were decoded by Washington, all within one day of their original transmission:

• November 5th: Tokyo notified its Washington ambassadors that November 25th was the deadline for an agreement with the U.S.
• November 11th: They were warned, "The situation is nearing a climax, and the time is getting short."
• November 16th: The deadline was pushed up to November 29th. "The deadline absolutely cannot be changed," the dispatch said. "After that, things are automatically going to happen."
• November 29th (the U.S. ultimatum had now been received): The ambassadors were told a rupture in negotiations was "inevitable," but that Japan's leaders "do not wish you to give the impression that negotiations are broken off."
• November 30th: Tokyo ordered its Berlin embassy to inform the Germans that "the breaking out of war may come quicker than anyone dreams."
• December 1st: The deadline was again moved ahead. "[T]o prevent the United States from becoming unduly suspicious, we have been advising the press and others that ... the negotiations are continuing."
• December 1st-2nd: The Japanese embassies in non-Axis nations around the world were directed to dispose of their secret documents and all but one copy of their codes. (This was for a reason easy to fathom — when war breaks out, the diplomatic offices of a hostile state lose their immunity and are normally overtaken. One copy of code was retained so that final instructions could be received, after which the last code copy would be destroyed.)

An additional warning came via the so-called "winds" message. A November 18th intercept indicated that, if a break in U.S. relations were forthcoming, Tokyo would issue a special radio warning. This would not be in the Purple code, as it was intended to reach consulates and lesser agencies of Japan not equipped with the code or one of its machines. The message, to be repeated three times during a weather report, was "Higashi no kaze ame," meaning "East wind, rain." "East wind" signified the United States; "rain" signified diplomatic split — in effect, war.

This prospective message was deemed so significant that U.S. radio monitors were constantly watching for it, and the Navy Department typed it up on special reminder cards. On December 4th, "Higashi no kaze ame" was indeed broadcast and picked up by Washington intelligence.

On three different occasions since 1894, Japan had made surprise attacks coinciding with breaks in diplomatic relations. This history was not lost on President Roosevelt. Secretary Stimson, describing FDR's White House conference of November 25th, noted: "The President said the Japanese were notorious for making an attack without warning and stated that we might be attacked, say next Monday, for example." Nor was it lost on Washington's senior military officers, all of them War College graduates.

As Robert Stinnett has revealed, Washington was not only deciphering Japanese diplomatic messages, but naval dispatches as well. President Roosevelt had access to these intercepts via his routing officer, Lieutenant Commander McCollum, who had authored the original eight-point plan of provocation to Japan. So much secrecy has surrounded these naval dispatches that their existence was not revealed during any of the ten Pearl Harbor investigations, even the mini-probe Congress conducted in 1995. Most of Stinnett's requests for documents concerning Pearl Harbor have been denied as still classified, even under the Freedom of Information Act.

It was long presumed that as the Japanese fleet approached Pearl Harbor, it maintained complete radio silence. This is untrue. The fleet barely observed discretion, let alone silence. Naval intelligence intercepted and translated numerous dispatches, some clearly revealing that Pearl Harbor had been targeted. The most significant was the following, sent by Admiral Yamamoto to the Japanese First Air Fleet on November 26, 1941:

The task force, keeping its movement strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet and deal it a mortal blow. The first air raid is planned for the dawn of x-day. Exact date to be given by later order.

So much official secrecy continues to surround the translations of the intercepted Japanese naval dispatches that it is not known if the foregoing message was sent to McCollum or seen by FDR. It is not even known who originally translated the intercept. One thing, however, is certain: The message's significance could not have been lost on the translator.

1941 also witnessed the following:

On January 27th, our ambassador to Japan, Joseph Grew, sent a message to Washington stating: "The Peruvian Minister has informed a member of my staff that he has heard from many sources, including a Japanese source, that in the event of trouble breaking out between the United States and Japan, the Japanese intended to make a surprise attack against Pearl Harbor with all their strength...."

On November 3rd, still relying on informants, Grew notified Secretary of State Cordell Hull: "War with the United States may come with dramatic and dangerous suddenness." He sent an even stronger warning on November 17th.

Congressman Martin Dies would write:

Early in 1941 the Dies Committee came into possession of a strategic map which gave clear proof of the intentions of the Japanese to make an assault on Pearl Harbor. The strategic map was prepared by the Japanese Imperial Military Intelligence Department. As soon as I received the document I telephoned Secretary of State Cordell Hull and told him what I had. Secretary Hull directed me not to let anyone know about the map and stated that he would call me as soon as he talked to President Roosevelt. In about an hour he telephoned to say that he had talked to Roosevelt and they agreed that it would be very serious if any information concerning this map reached the news services.... I told him it was a grave responsibility to withhold such vital information from the public. The Secretary assured me that he and Roosevelt considered it essential to national defense.
Dusko Popov was a Yugoslav who worked as a double agent for both Germany and Britain. His true allegiance was to the Allies. In the summer of 1941, the Nazis ordered Popov to Hawaii to make a detailed study of Pearl Harbor and its nearby airfields. The agent deduced that the mission betokened a surprise attack by the Japanese. In August, he fully reported this to the FBI in New York. J. Edgar Hoover later bitterly recalled that he had provided warnings to FDR about Pearl Harbor, but that Roosevelt told him not to pass the information any further and to just leave it in his (the president's) hands.

Kilsoo Haan, of the Sino-Korean People's League, received definite word from the Korean underground that the Japanese were planning to assault Hawaii "before Christmas." In November, after getting nowhere with the State Department, Haan convinced Iowa Senator Guy Gillette of his claim's merit. Gillette briefed the president, who laconically thanked him and said it would be looked into.

In Java, in early December, the Dutch Army decoded a dispatch from Tokyo to its Bangkok embassy, forecasting attacks on four sites including Hawaii. The Dutch passed the information to Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe, the U.S. military observer. Thorpe sent Washington a total of four warnings. The last went to General Marshall's intelligence chief. Thorpe was ordered to send no further messages concerning the matter. The Dutch also had their Washington military attaché, Colonel Weijerman, personally warn General Marshall.

Captain Johann Ranneft, the Dutch naval attaché in Washington, who was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services to America, recorded revealing details in his diary. On December 2nd, he visited the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Ranneft inquired about the Pacific. An American officer, pointing to a wall map, said, "This is the Japanese Task Force proceeding East." It was a spot midway between Japan and Hawaii. On December 6th, Ranneft returned and asked where the Japanese carriers were. He was shown a position on the map about 300-400 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor. Ranneft wrote: "I ask what is the meaning of these carriers at this location; whereupon I receive the answer that it is probably in connection with Japanese reports of eventual American action.... I myself do not think about it because I believe that everyone in Honolulu is 100 percent on the alert, just like everyone here at O.N.I."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Second thoughts

Was World War II, and the unparalleled misery it caused, as inevitable as many historians claim?

ROY WILLIAMS reviews: "Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilisation" By Nicholson Baker Simon & Schuster, 566pp, $34.95

"Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World" By Patrick J. Buchanan Crown Publishers, 518pp, $53 (HB)

"Buchanan and Baker advance the same core thesis: World War II was avoidable, and should have been avoided"

WORLD War II had to be fought, according to conventional wisdom. Nazi Germany was bent on world domination and the extermination of the Jews; imperial Japan had designs on the Asia-Pacific. Western appeasement throughout the 1930s almost proved disastrous but, eventually, braver statesmen prevailed and the free world was preserved. Winston Churchill in particular has been idolised for his wartime leadership.

These notions remain deeply embedded in Western consciousness. Yet two generations of revisionist historians, from A. J. P. Taylor to Niall Ferguson, have shown the truth to be much murkier. Two recent books make the revisionist case with unusual passion, especially regarding Churchill's exalted status, and Graham Freudenberg's just-published Churchill and Australia has fuelled the fire.

These matters are not academic. The neoconservatives who hijacked George W. Bush's presidency belong to a modern Churchill cult. In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and for years afterwards, they routinely smeared their critics as appeasers of Saddam Hussein in particular and of terrorists generally. This line was echoed by John Howard and Alexander Downer.

Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker's masterpiece, would be despised by the neocons. Indeed, the book has had a mixed reception. And no wonder: Baker dedicates it to "the memory of American and British pacifists [who] tried to stop the war from happening". He concentrates on the period from 1933, when the Nazis won power in Germany, to the end of 1941, when the US entered the conflict The book is a collection of vignettes, chronologically arranged Baker, better known as a distinguished novelist, explains in the afterword that he relied primarily on newspaper articles, diaries, memos, memoirs and public praclamations, "each tied as much as possible to a par ticular date".

Hovering throughout is the spectre of the Holocaust, to which the title alludes. Here are three examples of Baker's style:
George Bell, the bishop of Chichester, gave his first speech in the House of Lords. It wasJuly 27,1938. "I cannot understand how our kinsmen of the German race can lower themselves to such a level of dishonour and cowardice as to attack a defenceless people in the way that the National Socialists have attacked the non-Aryans."

Heinrich Himmler wrote a memo describing his plans for alien populations. The Jews would go to a colony in Africa or elsewhere, he wrote. "However cruel and tragic each individual case may be, this method is still the mildest and best, if one rejects the Bolshevik method of physical extermination of a people out of inner conviction as un-German and impossible." Hitler read Himmler's memo and, according to Himm]er, he found it "good and correct". It was May 28, 1940. "With respect to the Jewish question, the Fuhrer has decided to make a clean sweep," Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary. "The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence." It was December 12, 1941.

The cumulative effect of hundreds of such snippets is extraordinarily powerful. Patrick Buchanan's The Unnecessary War is a more conventional work of history. Buchanan is no pacifist. Once a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, he was a competitive candidate in the Republican Party's presidential primaries in 1992 and 1996. As well as being a fine wordsmith, Buchanan is an old-fashioned American conservative: ornery, isolationist and proud of it.

Despite their radically different philosophies, Buchanan and Baker advance the same core thesis: World War II was avoidable, and should have been avoided The horrors tha war wrought are incontestable. More than 10 million Allied servicemen died and nearly six million from the Axis powers. Bombing of cities and towns became a routine strategy, devastating large tracts of Europe and coastal Japan. The Holocaust was perpetrated and nuclear weapons were invented and used. By 1945, total civilian deaths exceeded 40 million.

There were longer-term consequences as well: the final disintegration of the British Empire, the entrenchment of Joseph Stalin's tyranny in the Soviet Union, 40 years of brutal communist rule in eastern Europe and in China, the Cold War and the modern tragedy of Vietnam.

How and why did the world's 20th-century leaders allow all this to happen? Cold War statesman George F. Kennan once wrote: "All lines of inquiry lead back to World War I" Buchanan's early chapters are devoted to the origins of that war and its aftermath. Baker deals with those subjects only briefly, at least in any explicit way, but there is much in his book that casts a retrospective light.

It is notorious that the terms imposed by the Allies on Germany in June 1919 were fiercely punitive. Certainly, Germany was left ravaged and embittered. Yet its high command had surrendered in November 1918 on the basis that the peace would be governed by US president Woodrow Wilson's grand-sounding "Fourteen Points". The overriding principle was supposed to be this: "Unless justice be done to others, it will not be done to us."

Justice was denied. No German representatives were invited to the conference at Versailles and the "big three" Allied leaders -- Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George and his French counterpart Georges Clemenceau -- lacked the character to resist populist howls for revenge. Lloyd-George had inflamed passions at the "khaki election" of December 1918 and he was bound to bring home, in Buchanan's words. "the peace of vengeance that British voters demanded".

Worst, for eight months after the armistice, Britain maintained a naval blockade of the Continent. This caused, and was intended to cause, widespread starvation in Germany. Hundreds of thousands died, mostly women and children. The terms to which Germany eventually acceded included a reparations bill of 32 billion gold marks, a debt so onerous that it crippled the economy in the '20s "To repair a broken window now costs more than the whole house would have cost before the inflation," lamented Stefan Zweig, a young Viennese writer who is quoted several times in Human Smoke.

The German people's confidence in moderate politicians steadily waned. Adolf Hitler's emergent National Socialist Party exploited that discontent and appealed to injured national pride. At Versailles the Allies had confiscated Germany's navy and merchant fleet. They had also revoked the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, agreed between Germany and Russia in March 1918. Germany had been victorious on the eastern front, but was stripped of its hard-won gains. In all, Buchanan estimates, it lost one-tenth of its peoples, one-eighth of its territory and all of its overseas colonies. Further, Germany was required to accept sole blame for causing the war. This, the now-infamous "war guilt clause", provoked a furious initial response from German foreign minister Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau: "Such a confession in my mouth would be a lie. We are far from declining any responsibility but we deny that Germany and its people were alone guilty."

There are historians, such as best-selling Briton Andrew Roberts, who still defend the Treaty of Versailles and-or World War I in general. They assert that Wilhelm II was an evil megalomaniac, that Germany, enslaved to a spirit of Prussian militariam, planned to conquer Europe, if not the world; and that liberal demovracy itself was at stake. Britain had no choice, they say, but to go to the rescue of Belgium when German troops entered its territory in late Julv 1914.

Yet as Buchanan and others have cogently demonstrated, the truth is more nuanced. Granted, the Kaiser was a vain and impulsive man, guilty during his reign of several gross diplomatic blunders. But in 1913 he acceded to Britain's demand that Germany limit the size of its navy to 60 per cent of the British fleet and, in the critical month of August 1914, he tried to avert a full-scale European war.

Germany, however, was facing two grave problems in 1914, one born of strength and the other of weakness. The German empire's industrial output had grown enormously, to the dismay of powerful vested interests in Britain. Meanwhile, Germany's geostrategic position in Europe had deteriorated. Britain, France and Russia, so frequently at loggerheads during the 19th century. were bound by various treaties and understandings to support each other militarily. Britain also had achieved rapprochement with Japan and the US.

Simon Schama has argued that there was another key factor at play: the turbulent political situation in Britain. Herbert Asquith's reformist Liberal government was barely re-elected in 1910 and by 1913 its position was even shakier The Liberals dreaded the thought of another Tory administration but were plagued by internal divisions. Lloyd-George - brilliant, charismatic and ambitious - was chancellor of the exchequer. Churchill - equally ambitious but bellicose, erratic and distrusted by his colleagues (he had defected from the Tories in 1904) - was first lord of the Admiralty.

By mid-1914, despite mobilisations of troops on the Continent, full-scale war was not inevitable. Buchanan shows that, until the fateful weekend of August 1-2, 1914, a clear majority of Asquith's cabinet (12 of 18) opposed any British involvement. A week earlier. Asquith had written: "There seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators."

What changed? Buchanan contends that Churchill and Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, got to the waverers in cabinet. They saw a chance to crush Germany and seized on an obscure 1839 treaty under which Britain was entitled (but not compelled) to aid Belgium in the event of a violation of its neutrality. With support from Bonar Law's Tories and jingoists in the tabloid press, they invoked British honour. Crucially, they swayed Lloyd-George. His instincts were against aggression but he had opposed the Boer War and was scared of being tagged as weak. Asquith, too, caved.

It was a capitulation to what Zweig perceptively called "false heroism". In 1915, Zweig lamented the mindset "that prefers to send others to suffering and death, the cheap optimism of the conscienceless prophets, both political and military". Buchanan observes:
Churchill was exhilarated. Six months later, after the first Battle of Ypres, with tens of thousands of British soldiers in their graves, he would say "I am so happy I cannot help it --I enjoy every second "

In the event, Churchill had neither a successful nor an honourable war. His ill-considered plan to take the Dardanelles in 1915 was a disastrous failure, for which the Anzacs paid dearly at Gallipoli, and he played a central and shameful role in the naval blockade of 1918-19. The alienation of Germany was but one of several momentous consequences of World War I. Buchanan highlights the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the emergence of the US as a fully-fledged world power.

But, above all else, according to historian N. K. Meaney: "The war had reinforced and extended the appeal and influence of nationalism. The right of the state in the name of the nation to demand absolute obedience and total sacrifice had been widely accepted." Hitler exploited these sentiments with singular cunning. But, as Buchanan argues persuasively, Hitler's ambitions for Germany were limited. He could have tolerated the retention of Alsace-Lorraine by France; until 1939 he confined his activities in western Europe to building defensive fortifications up and down the Rhineland. He had no desire to fight Britain, which he respected, let alone the US. His greatest fear was another war on two fronts.

Hitler dreamed of Lebensraum for Germany. Famously, he "turned his gaze to the east", to the lands and peoples of Austria. Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states and Poland and beyond to the Ukraine. Some of this territory was historically and culturally German; portions of it had been carved up by the Allies at Versailles. Hitler wanted a contiguous, self-sufficient empire that would be safe from blockade and starvation. The more thoughtful Western leaders, notably British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, understood that Germany harboured some well justified grievances; and, across Europe, nightmarish memories of 1914-18 still haunted millions.

How, then, did World War II come about? Buchanan and Baker agree on one thing: appeasement was not the main problem. Buchanan argues convincingly, on strictly pragmatic grounds, that Britain was right not to go to war in February 1938 in protest against the Anschluss. So, too, seven months later, at the Munich conference, when Chamberlain recognised Germany's retaking of the Sudetenland. Most of the population there was sympathetic to Germany, as was the vast majority in Austria; and, in any case, Britain was not militarily capable of defending their borders.

In my opinion, most of the blunders by the Allies in the '20s and '30s involved not craven timidity but hypocrisy or over-aggression, or plain ineptitude. It is not surprising that entreaties from the pacifist movement were ignored. (These were made eloquently and often by Mohandas Gandhi, Zweig and others, and are documented in Human Smoke.) It is harder to fathom the dismal failure of realpolitik.

Buchanan identifies many strategic missteps, not least Britain's dealings with Italy, which were clumsy and arrogant. Italy had fought with the Allies in World War I, losing 460,000 men; and, for all his odious faults, Benito Mussolini was quick to recognise the menace posed by Nazi methods and ideology. But by 1936 he felt compelled to "cast his lot with the Hitler he loathed".

Britain's two most calamitous errors stemmed from feckless bravado. The first was the war guarantee given to Poland on March 31, 1939, Chamberlain's panicky response to Hitler's occupation earlier that month of the rest of Czechoslovakia. (This was a breach by Hitler of the Munich agreement but, again, most of the local people empathised with Germany.) As for Poland, it was militarily indefensible, and Germany's claim on the port city of Danzig was especially strong. Chamberlain intended the Poland guarantee to deter Hitler, and to an extent it did, but it also emboldened the Polish government to reject German offers "widely recognised as mild".

In late August 1939 Hitler concluded an expedient non-aggression pact with Stalin, and German troops entered Poland on September 1. Britain still had a choice. It was powerless to help Poland by military means and Hitler had ordered his generals to make no aggressive moves in the west. War in the East between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia was now likely in the short to medium term, and if it had ensued must have weakened both regimes substantially. Buchanan argues that Britain would have been wiser to denounce Hitler outright and await events (and, with France, rearm in the meantime).

Who knows what would have happened? Could it have been worse than what did happen? On September 2, 1939 speaking in the House of Commons, Chamberlain rediscovered his pacifist convictions and proposed a peace conference. Predictably, this appalled Churchill and most of the Tory backbench, as well as many in the Labour Opposition. Later that night the cabinet voted for war and, the next day, Chamberlain dolefully declared it.

Yet again in a time of crisis, in the words of military historian Robert Cowley, "politicians seemed more afraid of what would happen to them if they didn't go to war than if they did". Baker quotes the French prime minister in 1940, the much-maligned Philippe Petain:
"It is easy, but also stupid, to talk of fighting to the last man, " Petain said, with tears in his eyes. It is also criminal in view of our losses in the last war."

But what of the elephant in the room? All other considerations aside, were the Allies honour-bound to fight the war to "save the Jews"? That is a widely held belief but it is mistaken. Hitler did not fight World War II to bring about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a direct and foreseen consequence of Germany being simultaneously at war with Britain and the US, as well as Stalin's Russia. The Jewish population of Germany in the '30s was about 450,000. The Nazis wanted their mass deportation, either by resettlement (various destinations were proposed. including Palestine, Madagascar. even Alaska) or by immrgratiun to friendly countries. As the SS's atrocities worsened, more and more Jews in Germany wished desperately to escape. Kristallnacht (November 9-10 1938) was a watershed.

To the world's shame, no nations and few citizens responded. There were noble exceptions: Baker highlights the magnificent efforts of the Quakers, of former US president Herbert Hoover and of certain churchmen. But, in the main, indifference and bigotry prevailed. Baker shows how US president Franklin Roosevelt stymied all attempts to increase America's tiny quota of Jewish immigrants.

Once hostilities broke out, the Jews' position became yet more perilous, both in Germany and the occupied territories in the east, especially Poland. Emigration from Germany ceased altogether in October 1941 and two months later, following Pearl Harbor, the US entered the war. By early 1942 the Nazi high command realised that Germany was doomed. Then, and only then. was the final solution put into effect in all its systemic hideousness.

Where was Churchill in all this? He defected back to the Tories in 1921 and served a patchy stint as chancellor of the exchequer from 1924 to 1929. Then his career languished. It is a tenet of the Churchill cult that during the '30s he was one of the few voices of courage and good judgment. This is nonsense. Baker reminds us that Churchill's tactical acumen was poor and that, on several occasions, he expressed fulsome admiration for Mussolini and Hitler. Openly anti-Semitic Nazi sympathisers (such as American aviator Charles Lindbergh) at least urged peace.

By early 1938 Churchill was agitating for war, notwithstanding Britain's military unpreparedness, and he was elated when war came ("the glory of Old England thrilled my being"). After succeeding Chamberlain as prime minister in May 1940, he vetoed any idea of peace negotiations with Hitler, interned all "enemy aliens and suspect persons" in England (mostly Jewish refugees) and ordered another starvation blockade of the Continent (including occupied France).

For five years he directed Britain's war effort with determined savagery and child-like relish, as is well documented in Freudenberg's fine book. In July 1945, soon after the war ended in Europe, Britain held a general election. Churchill expected a grateful nation to return him and the Tories to power; instead, Clement Attlee's Labour Party won in a landslide. The beleaguered British people were fond of Churchill but at another level had seen through him. His career had borne out A. G Gardiner's prophetic warning in 1913: "Churchill will write his name in history; take care that he does not write it in blood."

Of course, for as long as World War II was raging, it was essential that the Allies prevailed. But should the war have been fought at all? Freudenberg emphatically says yes: Churchill was wrong about many things, but his decision in May 1940 to fight the Nazis "is his eternal greatness". Buchanan and Baker contend otherwise, and they persuade me. Buchanan endorses some wry advice of late 19th-century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, a hard-headed conservative if ever there were one. He regarded preventative war as "like committing suicide from fear of death". Baker prefers the teaching of Gandhi, which echoes Christ's in the Sermon on the Mount: "We have found in non-violence a force which, if organised, can without doubt match itself against all the most violent forces in the world."

The above article appeared in "The Australian Literary Review" of 3 December, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

‘The World is My Constituency’

Are liberals rejecting the liberal-internationalist tradition?


‘We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy,” declared Barack Obama in accepting the Democratic nomination. Is that still true? Peter Beinart analyzed the liberal-internationalist tradition in the summer issue of World Affairs, arguing that Wilson and FDR’s optimistic vision of liberal internationalism, grounded in collective security and collective peace, confronts a rival Republican vision that he correctly describes as “conservative internationalism” rather than isolationism. The Republican internationalist tradition, from Henry Cabot Lodge to Reagan to McCain (as opposed to the more anti-interventionist Borah-Taft-Paul school), sees the world as a dangerous place. It is less optimistic about human nature and focused more on military alliances than on international institutions, Beinart tells us. Fair enough.

The problem with Obama’s oratory and Beinart’s thesis is that the traditional framework of liberal internationalism is dying. Liberal internationalism is first of all inter-national, concerned with relations between sovereign nation-states. As practiced by Wilson, FDR, and Truman, liberal internationalism meant American leadership while working with other nations in alliances and in creating new international organizations to promote peace and collective security, such as the United Nations. While they were unquestionably internationalists, those Democrats were also nationalists, pursuing American interests and willing to use force to secure them. While they were mostly Wilsonians, to borrow Walter Russell Mead’s formulation, they were also quite willing to employ Hamiltonian (which is to say, economic) and defense-oriented Jacksonian means. Mead specifically mentions the World War II bombing of Japanese and German cities as a Jacksonian turn. In sum, they were national progressives, not transnational progressives.

Today, in the major precincts of mainstream American liberalism, the merely international is passé; the transnational, or global, is ascendant. As John Ruggie of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government puts it, “Postwar institutions including the United Nations were built for an inter-national world, but we have entered a global world. International institutions were designed to reduce external friction, between states; our challenge today is to devise more inclusive forms of global governance.”

Typical of leading law-school opinion is a comment in May 2008 by the dean of Georgetown University Law School, Alexander Aleinikoff, who was general counsel of the immigration service under Clinton. Aleinikoff envisions new transnational political authorities above and beyond American constitutional democracy. He writes that we should expect the “development and strengthening of other political institutions — regional, transnational, some global . . . exercising what will be perceived as legitimate legal and coercive authority. . . . That is, a decline in citizenship in the nation-state is likely to be accompanied by new kinds of citizenships associated with ‘polities’ that tax and spend, organize armies and police, establish courts, and promulgate what are perceived to be binding norms. There is no reason that standard accounts of citizenship that link governance and a people cannot be stated at the appropriate level of abstraction to apply to new forms of political association.” Aleinikoff’s account may be read as both predictive and normative, an indication that American elites not only believe that our constitutional democracy will be subordinated to global authorities but also desire that this come to pass.

To what extent would an Obama victory mean the replacement of traditional liberal internationalism with transnational progressivism? To be sure, the liberal internationalists are still with us. They include writers such as Beinart, John Patrick Diggins, and Michael Lind, the venerable political scientist Robert Dahl, such foreign-policy practitioners as Richard Holbrooke and Michael O’Hanlon, and even some younger policy wonks at the Center for New American Security who describe themselves as “Truman Democrats.” But it is possible that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the last hurrah of liberal internationalism. The Nation noted that Obama’s advisers “tend to be younger, more progressive . . . more likely to stress ‘soft power’ issues like human rights.” But it’s not the big names that we should watch; rather, we should keep in mind the observation of Gaetano Mosca, the political theorist who argued that an understanding of modern government does not begin with cabinet members (prediction: Lugar at State) but with the second stratum of appointees: the undersecretaries and the deputy assistant secretaries. It is very likely that this lower layer of Obama lieutenants would have internalized the transnational progressives’ positions on global governance, international law, shared sovereignty, international norms, and the like.

This would likely have two outcomes: first, a high-profile push to ratify a series of treaties that have been languishing for years; second, a less publicized but equally important initiative to transform (specifically to transnationalize and lawyerize) America’s security-defense establishment.


In the name of “rejoining the international community” and exercising world leadership, an Obama administration would probably attempt to ratify some U.N. treaties that directly challenge American sovereignty, including the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the International Criminal Court. Tactically, Obama would probably start with the easier treaties, the Law of the Sea and the Rights of the Child. He could argue that both the current leadership of the U.S. Navy and the Bush administration have supported the Law of the Sea Treaty, and that only the U.S. and Somalia have declined to ratify the Rights of the Child. Joe Biden, with his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would be the perfect point man on U.N. treaty issues, demanding of opponents: “Don’t you trust the Navy? Do you want to stand alone with Somalia?”

The Law of the Sea Treaty raises serious national-security concerns. It could subject maritime disputes involving U.S. defense forces to mandatory arbitration by an international tribunal in Hamburg composed of 21 judges, some chosen by the likes of Burma, China, Cuba, and Russia. The former commander of the Pacific Fleet, retired admiral James “Ace” Lyons, said it would be “inconceivable” to “forfeit . . . America’s freedom of the seas” to an “unaccountable international agency.”

The Rights of the Child Treaty is at odds with the U.S. Constitution. If adopted, it would nullify federalism by requiring uniform penal codes for minors across all 50 states, meaning that Texas and Vermont would have to adopt identical laws governing juvenile offenders. It would abolish the death penalty and life imprisonment under all circumstances for those under 18 and severely curtail parental rights — for example, children would have a legal right to “correspondence” with anyone on the planet without “interference” from their parents. Whatever the particular merits of these issues, Americans should be able to decide for themselves how to raise their children or punish criminals.

CEDAW, the women’s-rights treaty, would almost certainly resurface under Obama. Joe Biden led the successful fight in 2002 to get CEDAW out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chairs, but it was not brought to the Senate floor because it lacked the necessary 67 votes to pass. Biden argued at the time that the U.S., in positioning itself as a champion of women’s rights in the Middle East and across the globe, was morally obliged to ratify the treaty. But in order for the U.S. to be in full compliance with CEDAW, Americans would have to alter our constitutional system, repudiate federalism, and allow U.N. treaty requirements to dictate domestic policies.

Testifying against CEDAW before the Senate, civil-rights lawyer Kathryn Balmforth stated that the U.N. committee monitoring compliance with the treaty “seems oblivious to political self-determination and freely chosen democratic leadership.” For example, she noted, the U.N. experts have called for sex-based preferences “in all spheres, public and private, and even for elective offices.” CEDAW monitors called on Georgia to return to its Communist-era gender quotas in political offices. Britain has been told to adopt the standard of equal pay for work of “comparable value,” as determined by bureaucrats. CEDAW monitors are also concerned that British men are not taking parental leave at the same rate as British women. This might be humorous if it were not for the fact that the American Bar Association and various human-rights lawyers already are planning to use CEDAW to overturn a vast array of federal and state laws that they do not have the votes to defeat through democratic means.

More than any other treaty organization, the International Criminal Court is central to the global-governance project. A key Obama foreign-policy adviser, Sarah Sewall of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, is an expert on the ICC. She has co-edited a book, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, recommending that the U.S. join the court. She writes: “The ICC represents an acid test of America’s commitment to international and universal concepts of justice and human rights — its willingness to be bound by the rules it establishes for others.” She and co-author Carl Kaysen argue that critics of this transnational court have an outdated conception of sovereignty and that “we have chosen to stand with rogue states in opposition to fundamental norms of international justice.”

The U.S. government opposes the ICC because American soldiers could be charged with war crimes and made subject to the court’s final jurisdiction by a decision of the ICC’s pre-trial chamber, which would supercede our Constitution. Moreover, even though the U.S. is not a party to the treaty, if an alleged “war crime” occurs within a state that has joined the treaty (e.g., Afghanistan), Americans could be prosecuted. To guard against this possibility, Congress passed the American Service Members Protection Act, authorizing military action in the event of such an occurrence. In sum, the ICC is a transnational authority that directly challenges American self-government under the Constitution.

McCain hasn’t been a pillar of reliability on this issue, either. In January 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle reported his comments on the ICC as follows: “I want us in the ICC, but I’m not satisfied that there are enough safeguards.” Writing in Foreign Affairs, McCain adviser Robert Kagan argues that America has “little to fear” from increased transnational authority and “should not oppose but welcome a world of pooled and diminished national sovereignty.” Kagan has it wrong here; diminishing our sovereignty is at odds with American constitutional democracy, and is, of course, a political loser for McCain.

McCain should forthrightly oppose the ICC and other transnational power grabs. He could say: “We support democratic self-government and oppose the ICC because it claims jurisdiction over the citizens of democratic, sovereign states without the consent of the citizens of those states. This means that, besides being concerned with its own interests and citizens, the United States will support the self-government and interests of other democratic states that have not ratified the ICC, including Israel, India, the Czech Republic, and Chile, on the universal grounds of democratic sovereignty.”


An Obama administration would seek to transform the culture and ethos of America’s soldiers. They would say, “We need to globalize thinking and develop new understandings of the role of international law,” which would appear reasonable enough. The subtext, however, would be a call to transnationalize and lawyerize America’s security in general and the American military in particular.

To see the future, one should examine the activities of Harvard’s Carr Center under the leadership of Sewall (and another prominent Obama supporter, Samantha Power). For years, it has conducted workshops on the crossroads of military doctrine, international law, and human rights. Participants have included former and current high-ranking military officers (Wesley Clark), NGO leaders from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (Kenneth Roth), international lawyers, academics, journalists, and activists.

In theory the workshops are for informational purposes. In practice they amount to a political campaign to soften opposition to the International Criminal Court (and transnational law generally) and to ensure that Amnesty International’s human-rights perspective becomes that of the American defense establishment. With Obama appointees at the top of the national-security agencies, we could expect an effort to transform what would be characterized as an outmoded, insular military culture.

Sewall gained foreign-policy credibility by participating in General Petraeus’s project to develop a new counterinsurgency doctrine. But she declared in a revealing Washington Post article that “Petraeus may provide the ultimate service to the troops and the nation — and seal his legacy — not by winning, but by speaking the truth about Iraq.” That truth, she said, was “the likelihood of failure.” She wrote a 2008 paper arguing that American national interests represent a “transitional phase” that will ultimately be subordinate to a transnational system.


All indications are that an Obama administration will move beyond traditional liberal internationalism of the Wilson-FDR-JFK variety to transnationalism. Ultimately this means that the evolving norms of international law would trump the U.S. Constitution.

A Harris poll taken for the Bradley Project on America’s National Identity (I participated in the project) asked: “When there is a conflict between the U.S. Constitution and international law, which one should be the highest legal authority for Americans?” Sixty-six percent of registered voters preferred the Constitution, 16 percent put international law first, and 17 percent were undecided. The same Harris poll asked: “Do you think of yourself more as a citizen of the U.S. or a citizen of the world?” The result among registered voters: 83 percent American citizens, 12 percent global citizens, 4 percent not sure.

John McCain should clarify the differences between his views on America’s role in the world and his opponent’s ambiguity on global governance. Although the hour is late, he or a future Congress could stand with the overwhelming majority of the American people by articulating a strong case for constitutional democratic sovereignty. But whether debated in this election or not, the transnational challenge is not going away.

Mr. Fonte is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. His book Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others? will be published by Encounter next year.


Sunday, November 16, 2008


by Wayne Lusvardi

Economist Tom Sowell once aptly wrote that "there are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs." This can be no better seen than in the recent enactment of California Senate Bill 375 which will unknowingly trade precious groundwater resources for "Smart Growth" anti-urban sprawl policies. Under this legislation water will no longer be gold in California; ethereal concepts about reducing "global warming" and producing "green power" will be California's new fools gold. It is little wonder that California is experiencing a "perfect drought" with the adoption of such policies.

SB 375 is a piece of legislation which requires regional planning agencies to put into place "sustainable" growth plans. It will require the California Air Resources Board to double the targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that local governments must meet in its land use plans. More specifically, it will require that new housing development be shifted from the urban fringe, where groundwater resources are more abundant (San Bernardino County, Morgan Hill), to highly dense urban areas near public transit and light rail lines (Pasadena, East Bay) where local water sources are patchy and often polluted. The environmental intent of SB 375 is to reduce auto commuter trips, air pollution, and gasoline consumption.

However, the legislation will unintentionally result in more reliance on imported water supplies from the Sacramento Delta, Mono Lake , and the Colorado River for thirsty cities along California's coastline instead of diverting development to inland areas which have more "sustainable" groundwater resources.

This can be clearly seen by viewing the California Department of Water Resources map of Groundwater Basins in California shown at this web link. As can easily be seen on the map, the populous coastal areas of the state have spotty groundwater resources while the inland areas have the most abundant water basins to sustain new development.

For example, the City of San Bernardino in the "Inland Empire" of Southern California has such abundant groundwater resources that it has long-range plans to draw down its high groundwater table to reduce the potential for liquefaction (ground failure) in the event of an earthquake, construct lakeside developments, and sell the surplus water.

Even if we ignore for the moment that diverting housing development to urban areas will increase reliance on imported water from the environmentally sensitive Sacramento Delta, the policy makes no sense from even a global warming perspective. Look at the drawing at the link provided below which depicts the geographic profile of the "Urban Heat Island Effect."

Urban Heat Island Profile Sketch

Concentrating housing development in already highly dense urban areas will only worsen the urban heat island effect and thus increase "global warming." The obvious solution from the greenhouse effect resulting from pollution is housing dispersion, not concentration.

Moreover, by virtue of shifting to reliance on imported water supplies California will need to generate more electricity to pump that water to urban centers located far from the sources of water. No doubt that electricity will also come from imported energy sources outside the state. Green power (solar, wind) cannot be used to pump water because it is too unreliable due to the unpredictability of the weather. Thus, SB 375 undercuts California 's Global Warming Solutions Act ("Green Power Law - Assembly Bill 32).

Fortunately, the new law doesn't yet mandate local governments to comply with the plans. No real changes are expected until regional planning agencies adopt the "sustainable communities" growth policies called for in the law three years from now. However, if cities choose not to comply, then state transportation tax funds can conceivably be diverted to compliant cities. That SB 375 is a license for greedy coastal cities in Democratic strongholds along the coast to capture the taxes of inland cities in Republican territory is never mentioned in the media. Environmentalism serves as a cover for politics by other means.

Laws like SB 375 continue dependence on costly imported wholesale water, say at $500 per acre foot (a football field of water one foot high which sustains two families per year) compared to cheap local groundwater at roughly $50 per acre foot.

That this piece of legislation was passed by "Green Governor" Arnold Schwarzenegger without dissent by local water agencies and even air quality resource boards, is indicative of how environmental policy often defies science and common sense and is based on powerful cultural images spawned by government and unquestioned by the media. Incredibly, the implementation of SB 375 will even be granted certain breaks for transit oriented development under the California Environmental Quality Act.

California is shifting from valuing water as gold to a Fool's Gold Rush to reduce global warming and generate green power. Unfortunately, the public has already bought the fake for the real gold thanks mostly to the media. Paraphrasing a Latin proverb, "(political) hay is more acceptable to a donkey than gold."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Vote on California Proposition 8 is Anti-Feminist

by Wayne Lusvardi

As a former court protective services worker for abused and neglected children and a “community organizer,” I strongly oppose the superficial position of those against Proposition 8; and although I am in favor of the Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage I am not persuaded by all the conservative and religious arguments for it.

The arguments in favor of the Prop 8 are overly defensive, conjectural, seemingly discriminatory and wrongly moralistic. The conservative Christian scriptural position of opposing same sex marriage for the harm that it will bring to children as the weakest members of society is important but does not answer whether “the state has the power to take away anyone’s right to marry the partner of his or her choice.” Concern over a speculative future harm to children will not likely overcome the perception of actual discrimination against gays today in the eyes of much of the modern public.

Conversely, the arguments against Prop 8 on the basis of injustice and unfairness and the unhappiness and social stigma inflicted on gays by denying them the sanction of marriage equally miss the mark. The social status of gay couples is no different than that of anyone else who lives in an unmarried status, including widows.

And the utopian notion that progressive “change” will overcome the “centuries long struggle for civil rights” for gays is historically myopic. The past Progressive reforms of busing in our public schools (“white flight”) and recent reform of affordable housing credit as a civil right (“sub-prime” loan foreclosures and investor wipe-outs) are tragic cases of the unintended consequences of the misguided quest for “civil rights.”

The word “marriage” comes from the Latin word “mater” for mother. And “mater” is what matters in marriage. Marriage is unavoidably built around female sexuality and procreation. Marriage can only concern a relationship to a woman for procreation. It is the opposite of concubinage, which is an involuntary relationship with a man of higher status in a traditional society.

A social order that doesn’t protect a woman from rape or incest or concubinage can’t give women freedom to control who the father(s) of their children are, or their own bodies, or even their own health. Marriage is the structure of this freedom of choice for women in a modern society. Women’s freedom to control access to their body is what marriage is all about. Without that there is no societal basis for laws to protect marriage, including gay marriage. Feminists are essentially right about marriage but not same-sex marriage.

Defining marriage down to a mere contract between companions or non-procreative sex partners will only end up harming all women, for if everyone can marry, no one needs to and it becomes meaningless. Women and children will ultimately suffer most. Gay marriage robs something that belongs exclusively to women. Man-woman marriage is not anti-gay, it is pro-feminine. Same sex marriage is anti-feminist

Recently, a friend told me the story of a male priest who had married a wealthy male divorcee parishioner who had previously had a heterosexual marriage including a male child. Ironically, his former wife attended the gay wedding ceremony reportedly out of “tolerance” and “love.” Without man-woman marriage it is women themselves who will be left out and eventually relegated to quasi-concubine status. The absurdity of the above story is perhaps why the poet Byron wrote "all comedies are ended by marriage."

Marriage isn’t a conspiracy of patriarchs or the respectable capitalistic bourgeoisie class. It is part of the divine order – only through marriage can the world persist. Procreative marriage is the transcendent link back to the Creator and our origins and to the future beyond our lifespan. It is as old as the story in the Hebrew Bible Book of Genesis about Sarah, who could not conceive, and thus offered her maidservant Hagar as a second married wife to her husband Abraham.

It is more important to preserve freedom for most women than to elevate the status of a few famous elite gays. This transcends the politics and religion of Left and Right. Even though I am disappointed with the arguments of the proponents for Prop 8, I nonetheless urge you to Vote Yes on Prop 8.

See: Sam Shulman, "Gay Marriage-And Marriage," Orthodoxy Today, Nov. 2003.

Wayne Lusvardi, MSW, is a Pasadena resident and blogs at

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sarah Palin alarms the intellectuals because she is a rare voice from the workers whom the intellectuals parasitize

by Wayne Lusvardi

Recently, New York Times columnist and pop sociologist David Brooks has called Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin a “cancer to the Republican Party” for her alleged “anti-intellectualism.”. Brooks may have a point (up to a point) but opens up a line of argument that can be turned on its head.

To wit, the “professional” class no longer fights our wars, rescue people trapped in burning high rise buildings, build our infrastructure, aspire to be a middle manager at Wal-Mart, risk failure as business entrepreneurs, or start new voluntary associations such as churches. And they bear, rear, adopt or foster children much less than the working class, having given up or delayed parenthood for a professional career. In the main they are not doers. They are whiners, talkers, techies, coddlers, evaluators, lobbyists, and media spinners who largely depend on government regulations, licenses, or monopolies for their livelihoods. They hold many prestigious public or private offices like the character the Grand Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera The Mikado who bears the title “Lord-High-Of-Everything-Else.” They are the Pooh-Bah class not the doing class.

A prosecutor-attorney friend of mine has perhaps come up with an apt tag game analogy for Sarah Palin’s appeal to the business and working middle class – her directness and keen perception of the mostly un-verbalized resentment of the working class to the intrusions of the professional class acting in tandem with big government.

In the children’s game of tag, a person is selected as “it.” The other players stand in a circle a short distance away. The tagger yells “go” and the players try to avoid being tagged “it.” Even young children quickly learn strategies to dodge, hide behind others, run on angles, feign moves and re-direct the focus of the tagger on others to avoid from being “it.” But when a new kid shows up who doesn’t fall for all the fakes and feigns he or she can often walk right up to someone and surprisingly tag them “it.”

Sarah Palin is like that new kid in school in a child’s game of tag. She’s the outsider whose working class directness and common sense is a signal to the working class that she “gets it” (i.e., understands their situation). And obviously the “it” that Palin “gets” isn’t the same “it” of the dodging President Bill Clinton – (“it depends on what the meaning of ‘it’ is”). This is apparently a threat to professional journalists such as David Brooks.

Is Palin’s so-called “anti-intellectualism” a Republican problem which alienates the professional classes as Brooks contends? Maybe it is. But given that the professional class is so dependent on the government regulatory system is it any wonder that Republicans may consider them a lost constituency, investment bankers included. To the contrary, isn’t the real problem the resentment of the “doing class” to the attack on them by the professions and government?

All the current political campaign rhetoric about the “racism without racists” and the “Bradley effect”on Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and the “class warfare card” of Sarah Palin only confuses and twists the issue of the attack on the working class with the false issues of racism, discrimination and mob populism.

The public issues of immediate concern to the “doing class” currently being re-framed as hidden racism, discrimination and intellectual regression are: sub-prime mortgages to lower income minorities and immigrants which now threaten retirement investments, the vote on same-sex marriage laws in California which threaten working class family values, and the qualifications of a Black presidential candidate who is perceived to have a track record of doing little to nothing but has been advanced to where he is largely due to affirmative action, transgressing the old work ethic of the working class.

To mischaracterize these issues in terms of race as another New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, does; or as anti-intellectualism as David Brooks does, is to misunderstand what is going on. To use an intellectual’s term it is “false consciousness.”

Underlying all of the above issues is the premise that parents are entitled to hand on to their children the benefits of their class position and social mobility, including their property wealth, investments, and religious values. It is a concern about achieved social status versus ascribed social status by “accident of birth.” Modern American society has traditionally been modeled around achievement and merit; individualism over collectivism.

But counter-modernizing social and legal movements have created a “soft” society of automatic promoting schools, union jobs and affirmative action as quasi property rights, and affordable housing via sub-prime loans to combat the “hardness” of competitive capitalism. The state, not the market, is the redemptive dispenser of this “American dream” of feeling “at home” in all areas of social involvement (“it takes a village”). Conversely, President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” is an attempt to inject competition back into public schools where the professional culture is antagonistic to its harshness. Obviously, a pre-emptive war of choice does not fit in to this utopian welfare vision of the American Dream; thus, the “unpopulism” of the Iraq War.

This shift from achievement to ascription and social privilege challenges the social class opportunity system that has made the U.S. unique and enviable to all, despite its flaws. The reforms of the New Deal, however imperfect, were never intended to undermine the class system but to provide a “floor” to it. The put down of Sarah Palin as a racist or anti-intellectual signals the call for a minimizing, if not ending, the “open society” of prosperity and entrepreneurial opportunity that have been a part of the class system of American society.

Under the newer welfare system based on ascribed rather than achieved status the life chances of the individual are tied to whatever collectivity to which they are defined as primarily belonging. Under such a system it will matter less what individuals do than what they are; or what somebody officially attributes them to be (e.g., underprivileged, gay, homeless, union member, victim, etc). This begs the question: who will do the allocating of such status? It will be professionals together with government. It is thus little wonder then that professionals, such as David Brooks and Nicholas Kristof, see Sarah Palin as a backward threat to the reforms of racial equality brought about by the Progressive intellectual establishment and liberal religion. It is also why Indian-British novelist and intellectual Salman Rushdie has called the pick of Sarah Palin for Vice-President “a joke.” Such utterances are a reflection of social class contempt and one-up-manship of the elite professional class at the doing class.

What is at stake with the upcoming election is not that Sarah Palin is racist or anti-intellectual but whether we want to end or marginalize our highly successful, albeit imperfect, open social class system. To do this would ultimately entail total control over each person’s life chances (e.g., their place of living, housing affordability, their investments, their value system, their health habits, etc.). The prospect of benign totalitarianism that such a shift would entail is not very appealing, especially to the doing class. That is why class warfare rhetoric has found fertile ground in the current national Presidential race; not because of racism, backward thinking, or mob populism. And that is why Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has tagged David Brooks “it” without him even realizing it.

See Peter L. Berger and Brigitte Berger, "The Assault on Class", Worldview (July, 1972).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Colusa defends boys who drew caricatures

Colusa County has come to the defense of the youths who created the controversial "Waldo Watermelon Seed" caricature for the county's State Fair exhibit. The character was removed Wednesday after a local African American couple said the image evoked negative stereotypes of African Americans.

The exhibit was created by wards at Fout Springs Boys Correctional Facility – "roughly 40 percent Latino and 40 percent African American" – said Senior Deputy County Counsel Margaret Kemp-Williams.

The youths "faced the challenge of creating a display to celebrate the strengths of Colusa County's agriculture industry while paying homage to the State Fair's theme, 'The State Fair Goes Hollywood,' " Kemp-Williams said in a statement.

Colusa County's seed-producing crops generate $30 million a year, so the young men, under the guidance of teacher Ralph Minto, "decided to create a display honoring the world-traveling seed stars of the county: watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin and tomato," Kemp-Williams said.

"The boys were assigned the task of drawing caricatures of the seeds – characteristic of their ages and this era, they drew sharp images worthy of video game or Cartoon Network debut," Kemp-Williams explained. Their images were enlarged, drawn on Styrofoam and colored. "Each seed is depicted true to its color in real life," Kemp-Williams said. "Once completed, the Colusa County traveling stars were aptly named 'Diamond Crested Cucumber Seed,' a rapper; 'Patrick Pumpkin Seed,' a rough, tough guy; 'Rocky Tomato Seed,' a boxer; and 'Waldo Watermelon Seed,' a happy guy – why? Because who can be unhappy when eating watermelon? "We are saddened that the fine work of these young men is now cast under a cloud of unintended racism," she said. "We ask that you applaud their hard work and know that they were working to honor Colusa County with their artistic depiction of a genre of 'ag' products produced in stellar quantities by the county: seeds."

Veronica Hannon Thrasher, who objected to the caricature along with her husband, said, "I applaud these students' efforts. But they probably never had the benefit of a black history class" that showed images depicting African Americans "as a happy black slave eating watermelon. If the students were presented with that history, they might have drawn 'Waldo Watermelon Seed' a little differently."


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gore's surprise visit highlights Netroots conference

Former vice president speaks at Austin convention for liberal bloggers

By Patrick Beach

Name-dropping Al Gore and his call for a switch to clean, renewable energy within 10 years was enough to pull whoops of approval from the 2,000 or 3,000 marauding liberals gathered for Netroots Nation at the Austin Convention Center on Saturday morning. So when the former vice president and Nobel Prize co-winner made a surprise — and cleverly scripted — appearance during U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's talk, it looked like the conference might turn into a faint-in.

Talk that Pelosi (who is arguably so left-leaning that her parenthetical should be D-Beijing) would have a Very Special Guest had been buzzing about the conference of liberal bloggers, pols and media types since it began Thursday (it concludes today). But it wasn't clear to attendees that something was afoot until a schedule change handed out Saturday morning indicated the speaker's talk would last 45 minutes longer than previously indicated.

Not that Gore's appearance was necessary to whip up the troops. From the beginning, it was clear these people were convinced the electoral map would be repainted with a brush sopping with blue paint come November. The believers will tell you it's morning, that they smell the napalm. And it smells like, oh, yes, victory.

It didn't seem to matter that the conservative and much smaller Defending the American Dream Summit — featuring syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr — was going on in Austin at the same time. That was miles from downtown, so there was little chance for a rumble.

With the current administration's low approval rating, a charismatic presumptive Democratic nominee and a Republican opponent some in the GOP have been reluctant to even air-kiss, the energy was palpable and, like the political blogosphere, terribly self-confirming.

They went to panels about how the presidential election would be won house by house, block by block. They staged mock media interviews and critiqued themselves, and showed films ("Crawford") and Internet videos ("Harry Potter and Dark Lord Waldemart"). They attended panels on the war, health care, online social networks, volunteer organizing and expanding the networking power of something called an "Internet."

There was even one panel Friday featuring Princeton economics professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (wearing, as if to galvanize stereotype, what appeared to be Birkenstocks) that was essentially about how the media weren't liberal enough. As they say, only in Austin.

Filmmaker Paul Stekler, who teaches film production and politics at the University of Texas, said:"As you have greater democratization (through the use of technology to distribute one's message), you also have a greater degree of what's called confirmation bias. We live in a very different and weird world in terms of dissemination of information right now."

Indeed, you couldn't find anybody who disagreed that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were "two ignoramuses," a label hurled by Parag Mehta, the Democratic National Committee's director of training.

Big names? Got 'em. There was Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Daily Kos political blog, who hatched the idea a few years ago to get his like-minded pals together and who, in a Friday lunchtime keynote with Harold Ford Jr., chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, seemed amazed at what the notion had unleashed. "We're going to keep growing; we're going to keep pushing for an unapologetic Democratic Party," Moulitsas said.

Then there was John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel who has made a second career of railing against what he considers right-wing excesses the way recovering alcoholics preach against strong drink. "I have deep fear of my former tribe, and what they might do particularly in the law," Dean said, before going on to refer to former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani as "Richard Nixon on crystal meth."

It's plinking bass in a barrel to paint liberals as overly intellectual types incapable of having fun unless reading Noam Chomsky counts, and it sure does for them. And there were a handful of colorful characters, including some men from Cedar Creek who looked like bikers and represented the Warrior Wolf Society, which they described as "a group of pagan warriors with wolf totem spirit," and a guy in a Bush mask and clothing with prison stripes.

But for the most part, these were serious-minded people, and decorum prevailed. When a few people had the temerity to shout at Pelosi and Gore, they got shushed as mercilessly as they would have at a Nanci Griffith concert.

The no fun thing? Maybe it's because, as Democrats, they're not used to having it. The incredible imploding presidential campaigns of Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were used as textbook examples of what not to do. As political ad man John Rowley put it, he's been in the business for 15 years and only the last two have been good in terms of the political tide. Still, he said, "We've got to get ready for the day when we're not swimming downstream."

In other words, what a pendulum does is swing. But technology is power, and the left has been quicker to adopt it. As Gore put it Saturday morning: "You are at the cutting edge of a new era of history. You will look back many years from now and tell your grandchildren about coming here to Austin, Texas, and about the first two meetings of Netroots Nation, and you will tell them that this was the beginning of an effort that was the start to reclaim the integrity of American democracy."

That is exactly what Joe Trippi had in mind. It was the one-time Howard Dean campaign aide who saw, perhaps a little too early and a little too enthusiastically, the transformative power of the Web. As he walked from one place to another Friday afternoon, he got stopped every 20 feet or so by people who knew him or at least knew of his ideas. And this is what they had wrought; this is what he had predicted. "It's amazing," Trippi said. "I knew it was going to happen, but I'm still blown away that it happened."

The above mocking article appeared in the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN on Sunday, July 20, 2008 but was swiftly taken down in response to Leftist outrage

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sorry, No


Patrick J. Buchanan is evidently an unhappy and angry man. He wants to bang the table, and shout that the West and its Christian civilization are over and done with. And this did not happen through any consequential process of evolution and change. No, indeed. Loss and decay are directly attributable to the wretched politicians, so-called statesmen, who have led us astray for the past hundred years. And the most wretched of all these is — wait for it — Winston Churchill.

Churchill was at the forefront of British public life for about 60 years, at one time or another holding all the great offices of state. As might be expected, his judgments were often at fault, sometimes grievously, as when he broke a miners’ strike with force or agreed to the 1922 partition of Transjordan. Although Buchanan does not mention these specific incidents, or others of the same kind on the home front, for the first 200 or so pages of this diatribe he does his level best to blacken Churchill in the context of foreign affairs — as a warmonger in 1914; vindictive towards Germany over the Treaty of Versailles; wrong over the size and role of the British navy; blind to the need to keep Japan and Italy as allies; dangerous in advocating war when Hitler invaded the Rhineland; and finally complicit in the guarantee actually given in March 1939 by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that if Poland were attacked Britain would go to war in its defense. For Buchanan, this guarantee was the blunder of all blunders, from which came nothing but disaster.

In the 1930s, democracy everywhere was imploding under the challenge posed by Hitler and Nazism. Churchill was the one contemporary statesman who spelled out the reality that a totalitarian future was engulfing the world. Becoming prime minister at a moment when Hitler had won seemingly irreversible military victories, Churchill committed Britain to fight Nazism to the death. The general public in the Anglosphere and far beyond has long held that even if resistance to Nazism was a gamble for the highest stakes, Churchill was right to take it. Whatever mistakes he may have made over other, lesser issues, this determination to destroy Hitler earned him an honored place in history.

Buchanan will have none of that. If Churchill was the great man he is reputed to be in this popular characterization, so it seems to Buchanan, his was the kind of greatness that did untold and everlasting damage. Buchanan makes the particularly grave charges that defiance of Hitler quite pointlessly cost millions of lives, put paid to the British Empire, and condemned half of Europe to live under Communism for some 40 ghastly years. These horrors all stemmed from adventures abroad that a real statesman would have perceived were not in the national interest.

Buchanan seems never to have heard of the all-important Law of Unintended Consequences that governs so much human endeavor and complicates judgment. As often as not, and unpredictably as well, decisions that are right and justified nonetheless may have harmful and unjustified outcomes. This is the case here. The surrender of half of Europe to Stalinism turned out unexpectedly to be part of the price that had to be paid to keep the other half free. In a further unexpected consequence, possession of that conquered bloc eventually helped to destroy Communism from within.

Hitler and Stalin are directly responsible for the crimes committed in their names. To shift onto Churchill the ultimate responsibility for the crimes of others is to confuse the agent and the victim, and further draws a wholly misleading moral equivalence between totalitarian aggression and democratic self-defense.

Much of Buchanan’s mystification depends either on deprecating or exaggerating the role of the individual in history, according to whatever polemical point he is out to make. In the first instance, then, he fails to credit the willpower and imagination shown by Churchill on taking office as prime minister in May 1940. Without Churchill, the British elite might well have chosen a course that betrayed the nation and forfeited its independence. After the Dunkirk debacle, his own foreign minister, Lord Halifax, was recommending an approach via the Italians to discover what terms Hitler might offer. Many prominent people — including dukes and other aristocrats, and senior civil servants — were forming a peace party. More threatening still, a quisling-type regime under the former King Edward VIII, now Duke of Windsor, and the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, was waiting in the wings. If this peace party had prevailed, Nazism might then have been established indefinitely, and the suffering would have been that much the greater.

Hitler duly made a peace offer. Germany was to have sole control of the continent of Europe, with the power to redraw boundaries, and the British were to retain their empire. Confident that they were speaking as representatives of one master race to another, Hitler and his propagandist Goebbels assumed the British would surely appreciate that this proposed division of the spoils was in their interest. They could not understand that Churchill saw Nazism as an absolute evil with which there could be no compromise. Churchill’s flat rejection surprised and then infuriated them. Churchill, they declared and may even have believed, was nothing but a warmonger who thus brought destruction on his country and its empire, a fate which they themselves claimed to regret.

In addition to echoing Hitler and Goebbels with astonishing faithfulness, Buchanan supposes that their promises should have been trusted. But once they were undisputed rulers of a Nazi Europe the balance of power would have been in their favor, creating the temptation to subjugate Britain as well.

If the loss of the empire was also included in the price of victory over Nazism, the British people have proved these past 50 years that they were willing to pay it. What was famously acquired in a fit of absent-mindedness was given up without regret or even nostalgia. War or no war, the British Empire could not have survived the 20th century. The Treasury had always begrudged the expense of it; the armed forces resented the dispersal of resources. Bernard Shaw, J. A. Hobson and the Marxists, Fabians and influential socialist professors such as N. H. Brailsford and R. H. Tawney and G. D. H. Cole, the Bloomsbury coterie, the universities, even the patriotic Orwell formed a chorus passionately turning public opinion against colonialism and imperialism. The Boers, Gandhi and the Indian Congress, Zaghlul Pasha and the Egyptian nationalists, had learnt from their English peers to launch protest movements. They had only to mobilize mobs on the streets in the name of nationalism, and self-rule would be theirs. In this second instance, Churchill was in the grip of historic forces far too powerful to be at the command of any individual, even, or perhaps especially, one as imperialist as he.

To mount this attack on Churchill, Buchanan employs a strange technique all his own of making some statement and backing it up by one or more quotations from a secondary source, as though reliance on others must prove that he is in the right. Some pages carry three or four such quotations, almost in the manner of an anthology. The huge majority of these sources, needless to say, are British writers with axes to grind, and some of them are crackpots or closet admirers of Nazism. A. J. P. Taylor, for one, seems to have been a major influence on Buchanan; Taylor was the first to put forward the demonstrably silly proposition that Hitler was a politician like any other, and a reasonable man who could have been accommodated by other reasonable men.

As the book unfolds, the puzzled reader is driven to ask himself more and more insistently what Buchanan’s intention is. What is the point of trying to twist Churchill’s wartime role inside out? Does he seriously believe there is no such thing as a just war? He can’t want to denigrate democracy, can he? Nor can he really want to rehabilitate Hitler, can he? He can’t think Stalin might have been a sincere ally, can he? Whatever is an American doing bewailing the end of the British Empire and criticizing his own country for picking up as many of the pieces as possible? Why the superficiality of the argument? Why the aggressively politicized tone?

After hundreds of pages, the final sentence of the book suddenly illuminates these questions: “And to show the world he means business, President Bush has had placed in his Oval Office a bust of Winston Churchill.” So here’s another wretched so-called statesman repeating old mistakes by setting off in search of adventures abroad that are not in the national interest, indeed unnecessary. So Churchill had to be knocked down in order to scotch any notion that President Bush in his foreign policy might have been following a good and brave example.

Oh well.

(From a review of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World by Patrick J. Buchanan in National Review)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Irrelevance of the Status of Oughts

 Scott Scheule

What I'm about to say strikes me as obvious, but no less illustrious a personage as a coblogger had to have the point explained to him, so I'll spell it out. [To be fair, we merely misunderstood each other: upon explanation he agreed with me.]

Much is made of whether morality is objective or subjective. While it's an interesting ontological question, when it comes down to the question of which moral system is right or preferable, the question is entirely irrelevant.

To wit, some seem to think that if they can prove morality subjective, then utilitarianism wins over rights theories. This is bullshit. If morality is subjective, then even the basic axioms of utilitarianism are subjective. There is no objective command: Thou shalt increase utility. Rather, there is only the preference of the individual for a world with more utility, which is just as subjective as the preference of an individual for a world with strong property rights, or no capital punishment, etc. By the same token, if morality is objective, then one can equally well believe that it is objectively right to increase utility or that it is objectively right to respect deontological rights.

Some also seem to think that believing morality subjective leads to moral relativism. This is just as wrong. To be sure, my subjective moral preference may be for a world where right or wrong is decided by community standards. But my subjective preference may just as well be otherwise. And by the same token, moral relativism could easily be true, if morality is objective. It would be a fact of the matter that whatever the community standards are, they fix right and wrong. Or not.

There is a tendency for some to pass off a particular morality as objective, while others are just baseless opinions. Economists love this. It gives one side a rhetorical punch--they can claim to be the one who doesn't believe in spooky disembodied moral commands. Rather they believe in cold hard scientific fact--that is, of course, they believe in their personal moral preferences. This leads to the same conversation again and again, where the other side has to point out that the ontological status of morality cuts both ways. But there's no winner in this game of More Materialist Than Thou.

It goes like this:

HALL: Hey, Oates, you stole my bag of M&Ms.

OATES: Shut up, Daryl, they make me happier than you.

HALL: You have no right to my bag of M&Ms! I do!

OATES: There are no such thing as rights.

HALL: Why not?

OATES: It's all just a matter of personal preference. You prefer to keep your M&Ms. Instead, we should just decide things on what makes people happier.

HALL: But isn't saying that we should make people happy a personal preference, too?

OATES: No, it's not. Here, let me draw you the Supply-Demand Graph.

HALL: Nice work. I'm glad we bitched and moaned until they gave us an easel. But I don't get the point of your graph.

OATES: Well, look, it clearly says that if I get the M&Ms, there's a net increase in efficiency.


OATES: So that's good!

HALL: But what's good is just a personal preference!

OATES: Hmm. Well maybe what's good isn't a personal preference. Maybe morality is real, and the idea that you should give me the M&Ms is real too.

HALL: But maybe the idea that I should keep the M&Ms is real, too!

OATES: We're on.

Exit Oates.

HALL: Hey! Bring back my damn M&Ms!

In sum, the question of whether morality is subjective or objective, like the blogosphere, has theoretical but no practical import.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Scientists find corals flourishing on Bikini Atoll

A mushroom cloud rises after the detonation of the 11-megaton nuclear device bomb 'Romeo' over Bikini Atoll in March 1954.

SOME corals are again flourishing on Bikini Atoll, the Pacific site of the largest American atom bomb ever exploded, but other species have disappeared.

A team of international scientists, including Australians, recently dived on the atoll, more than half a century after the stunning blast, to examine its marine life.

Zoe Richards from Queensland's James Cook University, along with other scientists from Germany, Italy, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, said the team had dived into the vast Bravo Crater left by the 1954 atom bomb.

The 15 mega-tonne bomb was a thousand times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima in Japan in WWII.

It vapourised three islands, raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees, shook islands 200km away and left a crater 2km wide and 73m deep.

Ms Richards said she did not know what to expect when she dived on the crater but was surprised to find huge matrices of branching Porites coral - up to eight metres high - had established, creating thriving coral reef habitat.

"Throughout other parts of the lagoon it was awesome to see coral cover as high as 80 per cent and large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks 30cm thick.

"It was fascinating - I've never seen corals growing like trees outside of the Marshall Islands.''

The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini today was proof of the atoll's resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances if the reef was left undisturbed and there were healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.''

But Ms Richards said the research also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll.

"Compared with a famous study made before the atomic tests were carried out, the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s.

"At least 28 of these species losses appear to be genuine local extinctions probably due to the 23 bombs that were exploded there from 1946-58, or the resulting radioactivity, increased nutrient levels and smothering from fine sediments.''

The coral survey was carried out at the request of the atoll's local government.

For comparison the team also dived on neighbouring Rongelap Atoll, where no atomic tests were carried out directly although the atoll was contaminated by radioactive ash from the Bravo Bomb.

Local inhabitants were also evacuated and, for the most part, have not returned.

The marine environment at this atoll was found to be in a pristine condition.

"The team thinks that Rongelap Atoll is potentially seeding Bikini's recovery because it is the second-largest atoll in the world with a huge amount of coral reef diversity and biomass and lies upstream from Bikini,'' Ms Richards said.