- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 30, 2003

World War II histories traditionally depict Joseph Stalin as having had no offensive-war plans of his own toward Germany or the rest of Europe and that he was a sitting duck when the Nazi armies swept into the USSR on June 22, 1941. However, since the demise of the Soviet Union, new documents have surfaced which show, according to Albert Weeks in Stalin’s Other War: Soviet grand Strategy, 1939-1941(Rowman and Littlefield. $24.95, 221 pages) one of our leading Sovietologists, that, on the contrary, Stalin had developed an offensive-war strategy against both Nazi Germany and the Western democracies as well.

After signing the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in August 1939, Stalin told top aides that he hoped Germany and the Western Allies would mutually exhaust themselves in war. (Mr. Weeks reproduces the text of this report.) Then the Red Army would march westward and sovietize Eastern Europe. A month before Adolf Hitler launched his attack on the USSR Stalin told his Red Army commanders that the Soviet Army was preparing to wage a preemptive war against Germany. (The key portions of this secret speech are reproduced in English for the first time in Mr. Weeks’ book.)

The Soviet dictator doubted that Hitler, having failed to subdue England, would dare attack to the east against the world’s largest, best-armed power, the USSR. Germany had fought and lost a two-front war in World War I. Hitler would not be so foolish as to repeat that fatal mistake in 1941. The Fuhrer, Stalin indicated, would not be free to fight in the east any time before 1942.

Mr. Weeks has produced a volume of history which is bound to stir controversy over whether Russia was a really powerful adversary. After all, in 1938, the last year of the Moscow trials, almost all 80 members of the Council of War either died or disappeared. Marshals and generals, admirals and vice admirals were sentenced to death, as were thousands of other officers of all ranks. In that single year, there were more than 30,000 victims of the purge in the Red Army and Navy.

In his 1956 “secret” speech after Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev said that “5,000 of Russia’s best officers were murdered during the blood-baths that followed the secret trial for treason of Marshal Tukhachevsky.” However Mr. Weeks’ analysis of Soviet archives is a piece of scholarly revisionism of major significance.

In Israelis and Palestinians: Why do They Fight? Can They Stop? (Yale University Press, $25, 224 pages ) Bernard Wasserstein argues that the long war between Arab and Israeli forces “is a matter neither of mutual misunderstanding nor of innate evil …They fight over definable interests, motivated by comprehensible value-systems, in pursuit of identifiable goals.”

I suppose such a cool and antiseptic judgment could be made about Germany and Britain in World War II but it really wouldn’t be telling us very much. While it would be correct to say that Hitler was driven by a “comprehensible” value-system (and so were Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) I don’t think that Professor Wasserstein has given us a useful judgment about the longest war of modern times, one that has lasted for more than half-a-century and counting.

The author, a member of the University of Glasgow history department, finds that “Palestinians and Israelis seem shackled by history, unable to live together, unwilling to make the compromises necessary to live apart.” However he believes that “underlying forces … are propelling Israeli-Palestinian relations closer and faster towards rapprochement than may appear at first sight from recent, terrible events.”

Unfortunately for the author’s rose-colored analysis, the Palestinians may not be permitted to make any compromises. Their neighbors like Syria, Saudi Arabia and, above all, Iran,have agreed among themselves that, road-map or not, the “Zionist entity” is not going to be permitted to live in peace. The author has two minor references to Iran, when it should be clear that the powerful theocratic dictatorship will not permit peace, no matter what the Palestinians want. Mr. Wasserstein’s scholarly research and readings are impressive but it is difficult to share his optimism, guarded as it is.

On June 7, 1981, a flight of eight Israeli Fighter Falcon bombers destroyed the French built 75-megawatt nuclear reactor at Osirak, 12 miles east of Baghdad and two weeks from going operational. It was the first time that an attempt had been made to neutralize a nuclear state by force. While the Israeli preemptive strike was widely criticized at the time especially in this country, it is now widely held that had Osirak not been razed, Saddam Hussein would have had nuclear weapons at his disposal and very likely would today be master of the Middle East.

Today the then-leader of the Israeli air force, David Ivry, presently ambassador to the United States, has on his Washington embassy office wall a satellite photo of the destroyed reactor taken 10 years after the raid. According to George Will, the photo has this handwritten description: “For General David Ivry, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981 which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.” It is signed: “Dick Cheney, Sec. of Defense, 1989-93.” And it certainly made it a lot easier in April 2003.

Two Minutes Over Baghdad (Frank Cass Publishers, $19.50, 232 pages) by Amos Perlmutter, Michael I. Handel and Uri Bar-Joseph with an introduction by Barry Rubin, is a gripping story of the bombing updated by Mr. Bar-Joseph of Haifa University from the earlier 1982 edition. Two of the co-authors — Perlmutter and Handel — have died since. The new edition contains descriptions of the attack by the pilots themselves and hitherto classified archives and photographs. One of the Osirak bomber crew was a very young Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, who tragically died aboard the Shuttle Columbia last February.

It is amazing that 21st-century Italy has become one of the last strongholds of the Marxist revolutionary tradition, amazing because the history of Marxism-Leninism in power has been one of predictive failure, genocidal praxis, satanic leaders from Lenin onwards and global repudiation of the doctrine by workers and bourgeoisie alike. Unified as one country in 1871, rather late for modern Europe, Italy became the first country to taste the joys of fascism, anarchism, monarchism, communism (the Italian CP was at one time the largest in the western world), political assassination at the highest levels, viz., Aldo Moro, and a powerful Sicilian Mafia.

But the inquiry into the Moro murder, says Richard Drake, the author of Apostles and Agitators: Italy’s Marxist Revolutionary Tradition (Harvard University Press, $45, 273 pages), who has examined the judicial archives, “confirm that large numbers of Italians thrilled to the prospect of capitalism’s violent overthrow.” Writes Mr. Drake: “The ubiquity of the dream, its force and basically unchangeable character, suggest a rootedness in the culture for which Italy’s long national experience with revolutionary Marxism offers the most persuasive account.”

This fascinating book deals with Italy’s Marxist revolutionaries who adopted and updated Guiseppe Garibaldi’s 1860 war cry “Qui si fa l’Italia o si muore” (“Here we make Italy — or die”). Drake’s essays on the defining Italian figures of the Marxist revolutionary tradition, which gave Italy the homicidal Red Brigades,include Arturo Labriola, Benito Mussolini, who began life as a socialist, Amadeo Bordiga, Antonio Gramsci and the infamous Stalinist Palmiro Togliatti. In his archive a letter has been found in which he wrote to the Cominform advising Stalin at the end of World War II not to free Italian war prisoners because they would only slander the Soviet Union about their dire mistreatment.

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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