Presumably there were two main reasons. First, it did not want to lend credence to the attacks against itself and make the New Deal look bad, a political motive. Second, it could not reveal intelligence sources–including what we now know as the Venona Intercepts of Soviet secret telegrams as well as information from friendly intelligence agencies. In Hiss’s case there was also an element of the aristocracy sticking together. Yet this was a costly decision. At any rate, the lack of acknowledgment of the Truman Administration’s and State Department’s own efforts in this regard has led to some misunderstanding of history as well as adding to the mythology that the problem of Communist penetration was a myth.
One wonders whether we will be saying the same thing in a few decades about radical Islamist penetration of the federal government today. In this case, though, the Obama Administration behaved far worse than did its predecessor. Truman got rid of those with real security problems; Obama is doing nothing. And meanwhile the administration’s Republican enablers are contributing to the danger. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of evidence of multiple suspect individuals in this regard. Go back and read what the superb investigative reporter Patrick Poole has been writing for the last few years to see the extent of this problem.
Let me mention another of the most passionate issues of that earlier era. Did the United States lose China? I do not propose to reexamine the issue in depth but only to make some very specific points. The question in retrospect is whether the United States should have followed an energetic policy of supporting the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-Shek against the Communists. No one can say whether such a policy would have changed the course of the Chinese Civil War. It was said that certain left-wing experts on China influenced the Truman Administration not to do more. It could well be argued that these experts didn’t have much influence, that no U.S. government would have undertaken such a giant effort at the time, and that such an effort wouldn’t have changed anything.
Incidentally, this also reminds me of a great memo written by a long-forgotten American diplomat who possessed common sense. Around 1946 in response to the idea that Ho Chi Minh wasn’t really a Communist but a nationalist who the United States could win over and moderate by giving him support, the State Department officials wrote something like this: “That argument might possibly be true but it would be a hell of a risk to take!”
As I said, though, I don’t want to enter into those debates.
But if we focus on revolutionary Islamism today we can answer parallel questions more easily. In the Obama Administration’s favor, we could say that it succeeded in Libya in installing a non-Islamist government that prevailed in elections. We can also say that in Tunisia the nature of that society has limited the scope of an Islamist victory and may–or may not–eventually get rid of an Islamist-led coalition there. That’s due to Tunisia, though, not to the White House.
The president’s record on Egypt, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Turkey, however, is bad. The Obama Administration has promoted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria; pressed Israel to go soft on Hamas in the Gaza Strip (and vastly helped Hamas by its own Egypt policy), and promoted a stealth Islamist regime in Turkey to be its best friend in the Middle East. And here we know that literally hundreds of “experts” inside and outside of government–a far more impressive force than the handful of suspect China experts–have promoted this goal. This record is far clearer than the China question of sixty years ago.
The usual defense is that Obama didn’t have much leverage to prevent these problems from developing. That’s nonsense. He could have worked with the army in Egypt and Turkey as well as doing more to promote the moderate forces there. In Lebanon, the United States abandoned the moderates who were then in power, a problem due partly to George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice but mainly to Obama. The same can be said of Bush and Rice letting Hamas run in the Palestinian elections even though that violated the Oslo agreement. While it seems like a bad joke it is sadly true that Bush and Rice assumed that Hamas would lose because they depended on the misleading polls by the incumbent Palestinian Authority’s Fatah leadership’s front group. But Obama’s panicked reaction to the Turkish-organized Gaza flotilla–we must do something to ease the pressure on Hamas!–was even more embarrassing.