Book Review: “The New Dealers’ War ” – Thomas Fleming
Posted on April 6, 2009
The New Dealers’ War – FDR and the war within World War II
Massively interesting, challenging and infuriating book, January 27, 2009
(from my review posted on www.amazon.com)
Short review: Fascinating. Disturbing. Tragic. Infuriating. Heart breaking. Brilliantly written. Excellent prose. Detailed references and notes.
Long review: Covers roughly the period 1932 to 1946, and really pretty well, I hate to say it, “slaughters ” FDR and the New Dealers. Exposes the whole sorry mess. I first read this years ago, shortly after its publication, and was quickly fascinated. Fleming writes brilliant prose, acidic and witty, very gripping and entertaining. Despite all the many hundreds of names, dates, and places, and the convolutions within the intrigues and the ebb and flow of ‘soaring idealism’ versus ‘ugly realism’, vanity, and brute power politics, you can in fact almost read it as a novel. Such smooth prose. I did that on the first read. Then I recently went back, read it more slowly, and started looking up his references, especially on the more controversial topics, such as the identity of the party responsible for leaking “Rainbow Five “. There is a massive “notes ” section in the back, and if you start delving into that, well, you will be busy for months.
It always seem to me a pity when people refuse to even read a book based on ideology. That’s way too EASY, folks. Some “reviewers ” here have NOT read the book. They make ZERO reference to specific contents. It’s like they just took their cue from other negative reviewers, stuck a label on it, ( “It’s against FDR! SHAME! “)and declared it unworthy. Come now. Fleming poses us all a challenge, no matter where our sympathies may lie: “read this, and tell me where I’m wrong “. He even ENABLES HIS CRITICS, he meticulously names his sources, and objectively announces when he conjectures.
I like and respect that. He never – that I can see- presents his own hunches as “historical fact “. Several negative reviewers claim as much, but I honestly -after a careful read times two- see no evidence of that at all.
I saw some areas I thought I disagreed on, but when I checked his references, (thank you, Mr Fleming) I understood his conclusions better.
What more can you ask for? A FDR critic who is clear, well documented, and who unselfishly points you to his sources. If you are going to disagree, then that’s your privilege, but PLEASE do so by detailed references to the text, not by vague, generalized howls of outrage, that somebody could have had the AUDACITY to wag a finger at the greatest president that ever strutted the corridors of power…
This book will always be furiously hated by many. It’s that biting. Yes, it minces FDR, his policies, his personal integrity, and many of his appointees, and spits out the little pieces. His war mongering, his scheming, and the endless lies he told the American people (who overwhelmingly showed little appetite for entering WW2) , typified with his historic promise (p.78) to the mothers and fathers of America: “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars “.
A public promise that denied the “secret commitments ” (p.79) to Great Britain?
Controversial indeed is this passage, pages (80 to 81).
And here’s one of many challenges for FDR lovers and New Deal lovers: examine this, and refute it. Tell us innocent ones why you think it’s wrong and misleading…?
“Apparently FDR saw himself and his New Dealers not merely as America’s rulers for another four years, but as her saviors from a domestic fascist takeover. The putsch rhetoric suggests FDR believed the enemy was not only beyond the oceans. They were in the midst of the nation, and they had an alarming grip on the souls of the American people. That would explain why it was necessary – and morally permissible- to lie and evade and deceive to lead the people into war against Germany. “
Strong stuff, eh? Let’s hear a reasoned, calm, rebuttal from you negative reviewers.
There are many, many interesting one-liners in this book, and much food for quiet reflection for us simple folk, the ignorant plebs, the cannon fodder, trying now, in January 2009, to get some kind of a handle of where our new, seemingly very idealistic leader is going to take us with the “New New Deal “. And his web version of the “Fireside chats “…
(p.55) “The trouble is, “, Roosevelt replied, “We seldom know six weeks in advance what we are going to do. “
(p.66) “Thus did the New Dealers “, exacerbated by their failure to revive the American economy, drift into declaring war on capitalism “.
(p.87) “Entrance into the European War will be the next great New Deal experiment. “
Many critics maintain that FDR’s grasp of History, compared to that of Churchill, never even came within a mile of the playing field. I kind of… sense that as well. Just one example; FDR’s insistence on “Unconditional Surrender ” (Churchill was aghast) is pretty convincingly shown to be the poorly thought out babbling of an uninformed, arrogant, uncaring ideological zealot.
Tragic words, a stubborn mindset, that cost… countless (millions of?)lives. A Shakespearian tragedy, bathed in blood, forgotten and/or ignored by FDR apologists today.
(page 209) “The policy of unconditional surrender, applied to Italy, had been based on the premise that it would enable the Allies to preserve their moral integrity without sacrificing military expediency. Its actual result was the loss of both. “
The Italians hesitations to accept “unconditional surrender ” allowed the Germans to pour in reinforcements, and pick the best defensive lines. The result?
(page 209) “So began a war of attrition, that would kill or wound 201,180 American and British soldiers, and leave Italy devastated. It was the first taste of the bitter fruit of unconditional surrender. “
Marvelous book. You know, I have tried, and I am still trying, and I will always try, to poke holes in his reasoning, his arguments, and his conclusions. I’m finding that part… tough going. If you are inclined to think FDR was a left wing ideologue, a bumbling power mogul, haughty and egotistical, an economic ignoramus, totally outmaneuvered by Stalin, cynical beyond words towards the Poles, ignorant about the Katyn massacre, and that he ran an administration riddled with no less than 325 (confirmed by Venona transcripts) Soviet spies then you will be comfortably at home in this book. Put your feet up and enjoy. On the other hand, if you think FDR was a great president, an awesomely inspiring war leader, a crusader for world peace, and that the New Deal was successful, and should be copied and serve as a role model for Mr Obama, then you should buy this book and use it as target practice. Its 561 pages of text (and 67 pages of notes and sources) will make a good backstop; or,joking aside, it certainly WILL GIVE YOU, in one place, a powerful, masterful onslaught on everything you hold dear. When you are finished reading all its lies and distortions, then I hope you will write “The Myth – of the New Dealers War ” as an antidote. Please dedicate it to simple bumpkins like myself, who are being grievously misled by Mr Thomas Fleming, acclaimed Historian, and author of 40 (presumably all misleading) books.
I’ll buy a copy of any book that is reasoned, calm, well thought out, and explains WHY Mr Fleming is a bonehead. But you will NOT convince me with some of these empty negative reviews that do not not quote the text. I’m always interested in the polar opposite view…
Peace. Happy reading. Be nice.
PS: Please ‘comment’ constructively if you feel I am missing the point somewhere, or if you feel you can point me to further useful reading material to broaden my understanding of this time period, or to correct flawed reasoning – thanks…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on April 6, 2009, 7:13 am