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By Sheldon Drobny

An American guard ladling out rice to Bolshevik prisoners during October, 1918

President Bush’s State of the Union address brought to mind mistakes the United States has made in the past using pre-emptive warfare.  I strongly suspect that the members of Bush’s political team have convinced themselves of national and international benefits of attacking Iraq, but I also suspect their motives are not exactly pure.  They may be thinking of their own political gain, rather than the good of the country, let alone the world.  Assuming, then, that they have suspended reality unconsciously, it is important for the rest of us to know how disastrous this strategy has been in the past.

During World War I, Czarist Russia was allied with Britain, France, and The United States.  That was probably the most foolish and bloody war in history.  That fact is not taught in schools because the victors are the ones who write history.  An objective view of the war to end all wars shows that an inevitable clash of military powers got completely out of hand.  The war was devastating to the Russian economy and to the general morale of the people.  As a result, Russia was ripe for a change in government.  In 1917, the Czar was forced to give up power, and was replaced by a coalition government that included the Bolsheviks, the most militant and ruthless faction of the coalition government.

Russia made a separate peace with Germany in 1917, Germany receiving great concessions of land, among other things, for ceasing the hostilities.  The Russian government wisely chose to get out of the war to address its substantial internal problems.

On November 7, 1917, after the fall of the Russian government of Alexander Kerensky, the new Soviet government resolved to make peace with the central powers.  On December 3, 1917, a conference between a Russian delegation, headed by Leon Trotsky and German and Austrian representatives began at Brest-Litovsk.  Trotsky had the task of trying to end Russian participation in World War I without having to grant territory to the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).  On February 10th, the Soviet government announced that it could not conclude peace due to the severity of the demands of the Central Powers.  The Central Powers reopened hostilities: the German Army resumed its advance into Russia.  On March 3, 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Trotsky was forced to accept the German terms.  The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, Poland, the Caucasus, and the Baltic provinces.  In addition, Germany gained the ability to transfer more of its forces to fight against the French and British troops on the western front.

The Allies were not pleased with the Russian withdrawal, and decided to take pre-emptive action against them.  In 1918 the United States and its allies sent troops into Russia to fight against the Bolsheviks, who had since established themselves as the legitimate government of Russia.  The Allies, including U.S. President Woodrow Wilson personally, were fearful that the Russian Revolution might have a dramatic negative effect on the workers of capitalist countries.  This pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign country was not well publicized, and to this day most Americans are not aware of this shameful act by our country.  An equivalent would be a European power having intervened in our own Civil War.

Until our invasion, the Soviet government was looking to the western democracies for humanitarian help.  The Soviets had absolutely no quarrel with the Allies, nor did they seek world domination—at that time.  The Soviet Union was suffering internally.  Millions of people were dying as a result of the internal strife.  Our 1918 invasion of Russia caused additional killing and starvation, up until we withdrew our forces in 1920.

Before the U.S. invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviet government was seeking aid and support from the U.S. and its allies.  Instead of helping, we invaded Russia, forcing her for the first time in history to be an adversary of our country.  What a lost opportunity!  Had we supported the Soviet government, it is quite likely that Stalin would not have taken power as the so-called emergency leader after Lenin’s death.  Stalin, like George Bush, used homeland security as his means to dramatically increase his emergency powers.  Unlike Bush, Stalin was correct in his perception that other countries were an imminent threat to his.

After we withdrew our troops, the U.S. policy toward the USSR was to isolate her from the world community.  The U.S. did not recognize the Soviet Union until 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office.

The pre-emptive invasion of Russia changed 20th Century history and was the catalyst for the oppressive leadership of Josef Stalin.  It also allowed Hitler to come to power in 1933, at a time when Germany experienced serious economic and political turmoil.  Hitler’s anti-Soviet policy caused Britain, France, and the United States to appease him and give him the power to wage aggressive war the likes of which mankind had never before experienced.

Had Russia been a friend and ally from the beginning, Hitler could never have come to power, and the Soviet people would not have experienced the tragic history that followed.

World War II caused the deaths of 50 million people.  The 45 year Cold War with Russia also caused enormous death and destruction, as well as poverty by diverting U.S. resources to military expenditures and unnecessary anti-Communist wars, including Korea and Viet Nam. 

The domino effect of the invasion of Russia in 1918 is clear.  God knows what will be the effect on this country and the world if we invade Iraq. 

We should think long and hard about the potentially serious negative aftereffects of such an invasion.


Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

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