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All Noise on the Eastern Front

Field Marshal Ben Stein and his troops. Plus: population fundamentals. Kerry thematics. Post-Reagan.

6.15.04

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KIDS TODAY
Re: Marina Malenic's Decline and Fall:

Marina Malenic's review of the coming population implosion raises an important point that I haven't seen in similar articles: the fact that religious people have higher birthrates. This may be what saves the world.As a fundamentalist father of three, I can vouch for the concept that a traditional (dare I say "patriarchal") extended family based on Biblical moral values is the best model for a prosperous society. Not only are traditional family-oriented people more entrepreneurial, they generally make more productive employees and make fewer demands on government services. As the secularists, liberals, et al. die off, their numbers will be replaced by more of us orthodox types. As our numbers increase, our growing political power will allow us to institute more conservative policies that will improve society.

If my outrageous statements manage to goad our liberal friends into making more babies, not to worry. If liberals manage to breed bigger broods, they will tend to adopt more traditionalist values. Having kids can do that to you.
-- Jim Moroney
Cumming, Georgia

NONAGGRESSION FACTS
Re: Ben Stein's Homage to the Eastern Front:

The most significant aspect of Hitler's eastern front is that if he had not broken his nonaggression pact with Stalin by attacking Russia, the Allies would have had a much more difficult time. Imagine if all the resources used on Hitlers's eastern front had been available to defend the beaches on D-Day.
-- Tom Bullock
West Covina, California

A very good, and necessary piece by Ben Stein on the enormous contributions of the Russians in the Second World War. And what I am always amazed by is that they did this after having fought in the First World War, and then in their own civil war. Hilter, like Napoleon, was a great fool to have invaded Russia, if I ever try to take over the world, I'll make sure to dis-include Russia from my plans.
-- Jessica O'Connor

Regarding Ben Stein's question as to why the D-Day memorials paid scant attention to the Russian contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany, I'd like to suggest some answers.

Stalin himself, by his actions, dehumanized not only the soldiers who fought in his armies, but also the Russian people themselves. By wholesale slaughters of those whom he perceived to be internal enemies, he devalued the lives of all those who remained to be thrown into the battle against Hitler. His purge of the officer corps likely led to a great increase of the carnage, as leadership in the Russian army has to be suspected of being of the second rate, "politically correct" variety.

I don't mean to suggest that Russian lives are of less value than Western lives, but I suspect that people have the perception that they are not valued as much by the Russians themselves, and so one on the outside naturally tends to value them less. One might even have the perception that the Russians put themselves in the position of having to take such tremendous casualties because they had left themselves no other option but surrender.

Also, although the Russians fought as our allies, it became apparent soon after the war that there was really little community of interest between us and them beyond crushing Hitler. The Russians almost immediately became our enemies, and there was little time to bask in the glow of the common victory. During most of the sixty years since D-Day, the Russians have been held as our enemies, and their willingness to fight and die fanatically has been a source of fear for us in the West, rather than something to be honored.
-- unsigned

Russia gets not historical credit because Stalin was an ally of Hitler and without Stalin's help, Germany could not have re-armed. The Soviet Union only became an ally once Hitler turned on them in 1941 before Pearl Harbor.
-- Marty Millman

No one should, as Mr. Stein notes, downplay the role Russia played in bringing down Hitler's Germany, nor should we discount the tremendous sacrifice of the Russian people. The Soviet leadership, however, is a different story. We should not forget that Mr. Stalin crawled into bed with Herr Hitler by signing the infamous Non-Aggression pact which established an unholy alliance between two of history's worst monsters. If not for Hitler's backstabbing of his partner in crime, who knows what would have been? Perhaps this explains a reluctance of some to give credit where credit is due.
-- Jay Shuman
Elizabeth, New Jersey

I think the world of Mr. Ben Stein but, I have no desire for any Western celebrations and memorials to the Eastern Front, as the Germans called it.

Let's see, in 1933 the Soviets made a secret deal to train (see "Hitler Moves East 1941-1943" by Paul Carrell, 1977) both themselves and Red Army in tank warfare for the years leading up to the Spanish War. Then they picked sides and practiced in an actual Civil War (the German side won). Next, they drew spears of influence and the Germans gave the Russians a free hand with the Baltic States and Finland…topped it off with the division of Poland in 1939.

That started the need for the rest of the world to be involved and try to bring peace to Europe. During the conflict the Red Army would not allow "their Allies" to land and refuel for if they did they were captured and interred for the rest of the war and returned at the end of the war if they were lucky (after being indoctrinated in the benefits of Communism of course). The Red Army lost 12 million dead and 4.5 million captured to their former friends the Nazis. When the Nazis lost the war and the "Allies" returned over 2.5 million Red Army solders to Uncle Joe he promptly had the Red Army Generals shot who surrendered and put the common soldiers into the a second concentration camp system called the Gulag. Of those sent only 5 % came out of the Gulag 15 years later.

Now the Soviets have had many celebrations over the years and I do not remember the "Allies" being invited or the Germans (former buddies) to participate in the festivities like the Liberation of Leningrad or the victory at Stalingrad. Now with the great Battle of Kursk the Germans called it off due to the landing in Italy at Anzio so you could say the "Allies" did their job so the Red Army could win that battle. They never gave us credit for that!

Currently, the Russians are doing a wonderful job with their terrorists, located where? Oh, Chechnya that's the ticket. As a percentage their military losses have been higher than ours for a much smaller population that they are trying to pacify. I think we could only obtain lessons learned from them in what not to do and how not to do it.

Ben, you are a great man but I disagree with you on this one.
-- Jeff Brownell

Ben Stein has made some very good points in his article on D-Day. The Second Front was made a bit more possible because of the Eastern Front. Hitler could not fight a two-front war and the Allies knew that. Not only was he bleeding from the East but his war-making capacity was greatly reduced by our bombing campaign. Hitler's source of raw materials was also being contracted by defeats in North Africa, the Eastern Front, and in southern Europe. D-Day was a momentous assault on Fortress Europa but it was made possible by the sacrifice of our Russian comrades-in-arms on the Eastern Front. Mr. Stein is correct in asserting that we should recognize that fact. After all, like the German soldier, most of the men (and women there) under arms were patriots fighting for their homeland, not ideological Nazis or Communists. Without their help, the war might have been lost.
-- Pete Chagnon

Maybe our failure (I would argue, refusal) to give "credit" to Russia for fighting the Germans has something to do with the fact that they started the war as our enemies and only came to fight the Germans after they were attacked. That is not insignificant, and stains their effort indelibly. They did not fight the Germans until they were attacked, and then only as an act of self-preservation to save their homeland, not anyone else's, or for any larger purpose. They then went on to enslave hundreds of millions of peoples in the territory that they grabbed by virtue of the position they found themselves in at war's end (we grabbed none). And, then they threatened and fought us for the next 50 years.

Their battlefield exploits did not exist in a vacuum, and the context is undeniably the larger part of the story. I am disappointed that you, of all people, do not see or appreciate how the circumstances preceding, directly causing and following their eventual fight with the Germans, unquestionably denies them the right to share any D-Day, or in fact any WWII memorial with us (or the French, British or Poles). Let them have their own celebration of the eastern front, where two of the world's most demonic pseudo-empires fought and destroyed each other, to the benefit of all free peoples.

If we must ignore or distort history in order to get Russia as an ally, that is too high of a price to pay. And, it won't work, anyway. They will continue to act in their own perceived national self interest without regard to whether we engage in rank historical revisionism and pretend they are deserving of even sharing the same ground, let alone a celebration or credit for what this country and our true allies sacrificed, endured and accomplished in the name of freedom and liberty for the world, not just ourselves.

Best Regards (we just disagree),
-- Bob Martini

BTW: You are correct that their involvement in the Pacific was not nothing. In fact, in typical Russian fashion, they declared war on Japan on the eve of V-J Day, and then used it as an excuse to seize islands that to this day they refuse to return. Maybe we should include them in our celebrations of victory in that theater as well, all, of course, in the spirit of inclusiveness.

Ben Stein's article "Homage to the Eastern Front" seems to conflate "the Russians" with Stalin and the "the Soviets." I agree that the poor victims of the USSR (Russians and others) ought to get some recognition for their contribution to winning the war, but not Stalin or the USSR itself. After all, Stalin was Hitler's ally when they divided Poland at the outset of the war. It was Hitler, not Stalin, who ended the alliance. The book Stalin's Secret War by Nikolai Tolstoy explains that probably almost 30 million Soviet subjects were killed during World War II, and that most were killed by Stalin and his secret police. My recollection of history is that the Soviet contribution to the Pacific war was to grab as much territory as possible with as little risk to itself as possible as the war was winding down.

So, perhaps we should recognize the contributions of the Soviets' enslaved subjects, but not of Stalin or the Soviets.
-- Luke A. Lafferre
Huntington, West Virginia

With no less respect for the remarkable resourcefulness, valor and sacrifice of Americans in WW II, the historic facts are that Great Britain had more forces in actual contact with the enemy than we did through 1942 (and that it was the British Army, with critical American reserves, which defeated the Germans in 1918); that the first U.S. action in North Africa ended in disaster for us; and that it was because of the stubborn courage of the Russian Bear that the German War Machine was decimated on the Eastern Front. Even at that, the Germans gave us all we could handle in Italy, while D-Day and its immediate aftermath were no easy things.

What is much more remarkable about Russian (I do not say here "Soviet") resistance, is the malignant and destructive effect Josef Stalin had upon Russian pre-war preparedness -- including the phony, delusional nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany. Among Stalin's many achievements was a purge of competent Russian military officers and the implementation of Communist command structure. Yes, so many American, British and other seamen strove gallantly on the Murmansk run to keep Russia supplied with arms and materiel; but the Russian people refused to be defeated and thus Hitler learned what Napoleon before him discovered about the Bear.

As a historic observation on the late Ronald Reagan, perhaps his greatest achievement was that he made it unnecessary for the Eagle of the Age of Rock and Roll, in its turn, also to learn about the Bear. There is no question that the heroism and sacrifice of Americans proved decisive on so many fronts throughout world history. Our soldiers even won in Vietnam before the American left gave the victory away. Still, while the last place I would look for counsel on military, political and economic affairs would be Western Europe -- especially that pile of rotting dilettantism called France -- perhaps some of the reasons the Euros love us less than they might is that they may have a more accurate view of the last century than we do.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

You seem to have forgotten to mention that the Russians AND the Germans invaded Poland at the outset of what was to be known as World War 2! They were allies. Why the pity for a social system even more evil than Nazism ?
-- unsigned

As much as I enjoyed your article several items need to be pointed out for perspective.

First, please do not call the war Russia fought the "Eastern front." That was a German reference point. Russians would take great offense. It's called the Great Patriotic War in their parlance.

Second, remember that Stalin did a dance with the devil prior to having to fight the same beast. The German-Soviet Pact of August 1939 bought Stalin the time necessary to continue his purges of the military. Stalin continued the purges right up to the launch of Barbarossa by Hitler. It also carved up Poland like an overcooked kielbasa between the two signatories. Had not this pact been signed, WWII may not have started till much later, as England and France would not have been forced to intercede in Poland's behalf.

Third, the battle for Stalingrad was a political edifice. Hitler could have swung south and captured the Caucus oil fields which was his original intent and changed the outcome of the war. Russian historians and the two recipients of the "Hero of Soviet Republics" I have met point to the Battle of Kursk not Stalingrad as the turning point in the war for them. Being the largest tank battle ever, having lost large volumes of material, the Germans were never able to muster the armor necessary to mount another offensive against them.

Last, the commemorative events surrounding the D-Day invasion are but the observance of a single battle in the entire conflict. The magnitude of the effort and its representation of the Atlantic partners returning to the continent make it the watershed observance that it is. Should we wish to tip our hat to our Russian allies it would only be appropriate for us to do so on May 10th. That is the day they observe for the defeat of the Nazis and the end of the war. It would be appropriate that we have representatives there next year for their big day as it would commemorate the 60th anniversary of that event.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

DOESN'T LOOK GOOD
Re: Jed Babbin's Theme of the Week:

I don't mean to nitpick, but I would like to mention something else that is even more troublesome than the things that Mr. Babbin mentioned in his essay. The real tragedy of this election cycle is the fact that millions of Americans actually believe that they and the country as a whole will be safe and prosperous with Mr. Kerry at the helm. This despite his career attack on the military and his predictably frequent attempts to raise taxes on those of us who work; the tax revenue to go to programs which benefit the Kerry voting constituency.

Somewhere on the Internet I once read the definition of a "Ted Kennedy Liberal." This, as near as I can recall is it: A rich, ambitious, amoral, and self-indulgent egomaniac who believes in taxing the rest of us in order to fund the pleasure he takes in the exercise of power. I would submit that, with little or no adjustment, this definition fits Mr. Kerry perfectly.

Sadly, I believe that Mr. Kerry will be elected to the presidency, and that his administration, in true Liberal fashion, will lurch from crisis to crisis, throwing money and programs at each before declaring it solved. Mr. Kerry has spent his public career against things because, for the most part, he knows that a majority of the American people would most likely reject those things which he is for. Indeed, a master of obfuscation, I don't know if the average American voter is capable of deciphering Mr. Kerry's principles. We do live in scary times.
-- Joe Baum

DRIVEN INSANE
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski's Precious Moments:

My compliments to Wlady Pleszczynski for his excellent take on the Week of Reagan, during which appeared a few old and/or drunk Reagan-haters. Undoubtedly, soon, there will be others whose phony self-restraint will fail them. These are the people whose ideas were so often and soundly defeated, after which Reagan would serenely go about his business calculating the next victory by an affable old dunce. How they hated him as they pondered the universal injustice of being bested by someone so dumb. It drove them insane.

Of course, the truth is President Reagan won his battles because of his unpretentious but impressive intellect; his clarity of thought and purpose; his willingness to take of a loaf when he could get no more (except at Reykjavik); and his calm self-assuredness, grace and wit. Most simply stated, Ronald Reagan was smarter, with better focus and a greater vision than his political enemies.

As Wlady said, history has already begun to chronicle this and, of course, this makes the old Reagan-haters ever more crazy.
-- A. A. Reynolds
Chula Vista, California

How more unlike his father can Ron be? And to do it for all the world to see.
-- Annette Cwik

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