Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World

Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World

by Lawrence J. Haas


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Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World by Lawrence J. Haas

With Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945, Vice President Harry Truman and Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, the Republican leader on foreign policy, inherited a world in turmoil. With Europe flattened and the Soviets emerging as America’s new adversary, Truman and Vandenberg built a tight partnership with one another to address the challenges at hand. Working in strong bipartisan fashion at a bitterly partisan time, they crafted a dramatic new foreign policy through which the United States stepped boldly onto the world stage for the first time to protect its friends, confront its enemies, and promote freedom. These two men—unlikely partners by way of personality and style—transformed the United States from a reluctant global giant to a self-confident leader; from a nation that traditionally turned inward after war to one that remained engaged to shape the postwar landscape; and from a nation with no real military establishment to one that now spends more on defense than the next dozen nations combined.

Lawrence J. Haas, an award-winning journalist, reveals how, through the close collaboration of Truman and Vandenberg, the United States created the United Nations to replace the League of Nations, pursued the Truman Doctrine to defend freedom from Communist threat, launched the Marshall Plan to rescue Western Europe’s economy from the devastation of war, and established NATO to defend Western Europe.       

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612348124
Publisher: Potomac Books
Publication date: 04/01/2016
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,002,167
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and former communications director for Vice President Al Gore. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, and many other outlets. He has published several books, including Sound the Trumpet: The United States and Human Rights Promotion.

Read an Excerpt

Harry & Arthur

Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership that Created the Free World

By Lawrence J. Haas


Copyright © 2016 Lawrence J. Haas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61234-832-2


"President Wilson Tried to Work Out a Way"

Ever since his senior year of high school, Harry Truman had carried part of his favorite poem, Tennyson's "Locksley Hall," in his pocket. Written in 1835, it portrayed a utopian future when war would end, men would resolve their disputes peacefully, and the rule of law would prevail. That Truman carried this snippet from the thousands of books, stories, and poems he had read, and that he always recopied it when the paper frayed, spoke to his optimism about the future that dated back to his happy childhood.

A peaceful utopia, Tennyson envisioned in the words that Truman carried with him, would emerge through a "Parliament of Man," a "Federation of the World."

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonders that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the people plunging thro' the thunderstorm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.

As Truman well knew, monarchs and philosophers had been searching for a global arrangement to keep the peace from well before Tennyson's time. "I had made a study of the 'Grand Design' of King Henry IV of France," Truman wrote of the man who ruled France in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. "This plan called for a kind of federation of sovereign states in Europe to act in concert to prevent wars. This, as far as I know, was the first practicable international organization ever suggested." The "Grand Design" was followed by other plans for international collaboration. Philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1795 envisioned "perpetual peace," a utopia in which no state would dominate another, none would meddle with the government of another, standing armies would disappear, and "the laws of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states." In Tennyson's time, Europe's great powers crafted an informal alliance to keep the peace. Led by Austria's Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, they gathered at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 to redraw national boundaries after the Napoleonic Wars and establish "spheres of influence." Austria, Britain, France, and Russia would help settle local disputes and maintain peace — a task at which they largely succeeded until World War I.

As young men, Truman and Vandenberg had high hopes for long- term peace, and they were captivated by President Wilson's efforts to secure it. As they both turned thirty-three in the spring of 1917, Wilson argued that the United States should enter World War I to help make the world "safe for democracy" and that the world should create an international body to keep the peace. "Our object," Wilson said, "is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles."

Wilson couldn't convince the Senate to ratify America's entry into the league and, partly for that reason alone, it proved a colossal failure. For Truman and Vandenberg, Wilson's epic defeat hovered like a ghost over their efforts to create the United Nations.

* * *

"President Wilson tried to work out a way to prevent another world war," Truman wrote later. "He was the most popular man in the history of the country at the time he went to Europe [in 1918] and when he came back [in 1919]. But unfortunately there were men in Congress who, jealous of Wilson's popularity, began to undermine his efforts."

That was but half of the story, however, as Truman acknowledged. If the jealous "men in Congress" wanted to hang Wilson politically, he gave them more than enough rope. He invited no Senate Republican leader to accompany him to Europe, even though Republicans controlled the Senate and had more than enough votes to derail his foreign policy dreams. Nor would Wilson consider any suggestions from Republicans on how to modify the postwar Treaty of Versailles, which included the league, in ways that would address their concerns.

"In a way, [Wilson] aided his opponents," Truman wrote, "for he took none of the leaders in the Senate into his confidence. Instead, he waited until he came back with the treaty and then, with too little regard for the feeling on Capitol Hill, presented it to the Congress. It was my opinion that if President Wilson had had the leaders of the Congress in his confidence all the time and had trusted them he would not have been defeated on the League of Nations. The fact was that he did not like many of them, and very few were his close personal friends."

Truman had watched Wilson's failure mostly from Europe, where the army captain toured in early 1919. For him, it served as a cautionary tale. A quarter century later, as the San Francisco meeting beckoned, he was determined not to make the same mistake of ignoring Republicans. Instead, he consulted with Vandenberg regularly, listening to his concerns and addressing his needs. He wanted to ensure that Vandenberg was happy enough in San Francisco that, when he returned to Washington, he would gather the Senate votes to ratify the UN Charter.

Vandenberg had observed Wilson's failure from Grand Rapids. For him, it presented an opportunity. A quarter century later, he was the most powerful Senate Republican on foreign policy — the successor to Henry Cabot Lodge, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman of Wilson's day — so he held the cards when it came to Truman's fate with the Senate over the United Nations. He used that leverage to force the U.S. delegation in San Francisco to tilt his way at moments of disagreement. The U.S. delegation, in turn, pressured other nations' delegations to take America's side in disputes in San Francisco under the threat that an unhappy United States might again choose not to participate in a new global organization.

Truman and Vandenberg thought often about Wilson's failure until fate gave them a chance to rectify it.

* * *

As senators in the years leading up to 1945, Truman and Vandenberg worked both separately and together to nourish support in Washington and across the country for a successor to the league.

Vandenberg was a leading isolationist until Pearl Harbor shook him to his core in December of 1941. But as war clouds gathered in the late 1930s, he began to rethink his outlook. As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated the Neutrality Act of 1939, Vandenberg raised the prospect of creating "international machinery to secure international peace." Writing to a constituent four months before Pearl Harbor, he expressed the need for "some rational formula under which the next peace agreement can be underwritten by all the major powers of the world, including the United States."

In 1943 Truman and Vandenberg both supported Senator Connally's resolution that urged FDR to endorse the concept of a global peacekeeping body. (The House passed a similar resolution that year.) Also in 1943, Truman joined other senators on a speaking tour of twenty-six states that proponents of a global body had arranged. Vandenberg, meanwhile, worked to build support for the idea among his fellow Republicans. In July 1943 he teamed with Senator Wallace H. White of Maine on an all-Republican foreign policy resolution that included a call for "postwar cooperation among sovereign nations." Two months later, the Mackinac Conference of leading Republicans from around the country — the gathering over which Vandenberg exerted great influence — expressed support for U.S. participation in a postwar global organization. "It was my position," he wrote in his diary that year, "that the United States obviously must be a far greater international co-operator after this war than ever before."

Vandenberg's "speech heard 'round the world" of January 10, 1945, supposedly marked his conversion from isolationism to global engagement. At the time, however, his comments about international cooperation to maintain peace received far more attention. He called on America to "appeal to our allies" to "frankly face the post-war alternatives which are available to them and to us" to keep the peace. "There are two ways to do it," he declared. "One way is by exclusive individual action in which each of us tries to look out for himself. The other way is by joint action in which we undertake to look out for each other. The first way is the old way which has twice taken us to Europe's interminable battlefields within a quarter century. The second way is the new way in which our present fraternity of war becomes a new fraternity of peace."

In that speech and later, Vandenberg described his hopes for a global body in words that echoed Tennyson and Kant. The United Nations must be, he said in late March of 1945, "tomorrow's free and untrammeled 'town meeting of the world'" — a phrase that he would repeat often in the months ahead. Committed to stamping his "concept of justice" onto the UN Charter, the senator pledged on his way to San Francisco "to give this new International Organization a 'soul.'"


"We May Perfect This Charter of Peace and Justice"

On February 13, 1945, Vandenberg learned that President Roosevelt — who had served as Wilson's assistant secretary of the navy and witnessed up close his mistake in ignoring the Senate Republicans of his day — had chosen him for the seven-member U.S. delegation for San Francisco.

In San Francisco Vandenberg and the other delegates would finalize a UN Charter from the draft that U.S., British, Soviet, and Chinese officials had written from August to October of 1944 at Dumbarton Oaks, an estate in the Georgetown section of Washington. The Dumbarton Oaks document contained the basic UN elements that survived San Francisco and have endured ever since — a General Assembly of all nations; a Security Council of five permanent members (the United States, Soviet Union, China, Great Britain, and France) and six others that the General Assembly would select for rotating terms; a secretary-general to run the organization on a daily basis; an International Court of Justice; and other agencies that the General Assembly would create as necessary.

The significance of U.S. leadership at Dumbarton Oaks was not lost on America's savviest observers. As that meeting was just underway in late August of 1944, the New York Times' James Reston wrote, "Four great decisions mark the foreign policy of the United States: the purchase of the Territory of Louisiana from France, the pronouncement of the Monroe Doctrine, the extension of our obligations to the Asiatic waters of the Western Pacific after the Spanish-American War, and our rejection of the League of Nations. This week it became evident that the Republic was moving toward a fifth, toward a decision on whether or not to join with its allies in creating a world security organization that would have the authority, under certain specific conditions, to 'direct' the forces of the United States and other nations against any future potential aggressor."

But however consequential the work in San Francisco would be, and however much he craved a seat at the table where decisions were made, Vandenberg did not accept FDR's offer immediately. Instead, for reasons of both policy and ego, he reacted cagily, refusing to take the post until FDR accepted his conditions. Vandenberg worried that, by serving on FDR's delegation, he'd be forced to support all the decisions about the new body that FDR had already made and privately relayed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British leader Winston Churchill. He had long distrusted FDR, finding him imperial and secretive with Congress and far too accommodating to Stalin. He had opposed Roosevelt's establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1933, voted against confirming any U.S. ambassador to Moscow, and objected when FDR wouldn't sever ties with the Soviets after they occupied Poland and invaded Finland in 1939. He wanted unfettered freedom to express his views and put his imprint on what would emerge from San Francisco.

More crassly, Vandenberg knew that by withholding his acceptance, he would generate a series of "will he or won't he" newspaper stories, particularly back in Michigan, that would only raise his profile. Craving the limelight, he reveled in the predictable attention; asked by reporters a day after the State Department's announcement of his impending selection whether he would accept if he received the official request from FDR, Vandenberg replied mischievously, "As the President would say, that is an 'iffy' question."

* * *

At the time, Vandenberg was disturbed by what FDR, Stalin, and Churchill (the "Big Three") had decided for Poland.

At the Yalta conference in early February, FDR and Churchill had sought a democratic government in Warsaw, but Stalin demanded a pro-Soviet government as a buffer against any hostile forces to the west. As Vandenberg later learned, the Big Three had decided that Poland's "Lublin" government, which the Soviets established after liberating Poland from the Nazis, would remain in place but expand to include Polish democratic leaders from abroad, such as those in the West- backed government-in-exile in London. Vandenberg didn't think the Lublin government deserved recognition, and his skepticism that the Soviets would democratize it in any real way proved prophetic. In fact, while FDR and Churchill were pushing Stalin to expand that government to include democratic elements, Soviet forces on the ground in Poland were exchanging gunfire with the Polish Home Army, which was loyal to the democratic government-in-exile.

To Vandenberg's further dismay, he learned that FDR and Churchill had agreed to Stalin's request to set Poland's eastern border essentially at the "Curzon Line," to which Soviet forces had occupied Poland during the war. That allowed the Soviet Union to annex hundreds of miles of eastern Poland. To compensate Poland, the Big Three agreed to shift its western border a considerable distance to the west, enabling it to absorb former German territory. (Vandenberg didn't know that FDR and Churchill had essentially accepted Stalin's territorial demands two years earlier at the Tehran Conference.) By early 1945 FDR and Churchill didn't have much leverage to do otherwise anyway because Soviet troops were well positioned on the ground to enforce Stalin's dictates.

Vandenberg was now in a tough spot. In his "speech heard 'round the world" just a month earlier, he had warned about Stalin's designs for Eastern Europe; encouraged all of the allies to not "seek aggrandizement, territorial or otherwise," when the war ended; urged Moscow to rely on "collective security" to protect itself rather than establish "a surrounding circle of buffer [i.e., puppet] states"; and announced that he was not "prepared to guarantee permanently the spoils of an unjust peace."


Excerpted from Harry & Arthur by Lawrence J. Haas. Copyright © 2016 Lawrence J. Haas. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: April 1945    
Introduction: Harry and Arthur    
Part 1: “A Victory against War Itself”     
Chapter 1: “President Wilson Tried to Work Out a Way”     
Chapter 2: “We May Perfect This Charter of Peace and Justice”     
Chapter 3: “As Dumb as They Come”     
Chapter 4: “Sensible Machinery for the Settlement of Disputes”     
Chapter 5: “America Wins!”     
Chapter 6: “A Solid Structure upon Which We Can Build”     
Part 2: “To Support Free Peoples”
Chapter 7: “What Is Russia Up To Now?”     
Chapter 8: “The Russians Are Trying to Chisel Away a Little Here, a Little There”     
Chapter 9: “Halfbright”     
Chapter 10: “Vandenberg Expressed His Complete Agreement with Me”     
Chapter 11: “The President’s Message Faces Facts”     
Chapter 12: “The Administration Made a Colossal Blunder in Ignoring the UN”     
Part 3: “The World Situation Is Very Serious”
Chapter 13: “Desperate Men Are Liable to Destroy the Structure of Their Society”     
Chapter 14: “I Have No Illusions about This So-Called ‘Marshall Plan’”     
Chapter 15: “The Perils of Hunger and Cold in Europe”     
Chapter 16: “The Commies Will Be Completely Back in the Saddle”     
Chapter 17: “A Problem Which They Themselves Must Meet”     
Chapter 18: “A Welcome Beacon in the World’s Dark Night”     
Part 4: “An Attack against Them All”
Chapter 19: “Their Hope Must Lie in This New World of Ours”     
Chapter 20: “A Sound Answer to Several Critical Necessities”     
Chapter 21: “Nothing Will Be Done without Consultation with You”     
Chapter 22: “Politics Shall Stop at the Water’s Edge”     
Chapter 23: “The Most Sensible, Powerful, Practicable, and Economical Step”     
Chapter 24: “The Senate Has Lost a Pillar of Strength”     
Epilogue: A Look Ahead    

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Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
LBel More than 1 year ago
Lawrence Haas has authored an extremely interesting history and analysis of the political relationship between a sitting president and a United States senator. This is the story of how Harry Truman and Arthur Vandenberg combined to create a daring foreign policy that helped save the free world from the Soviet threat. Mr. Haas skillfully and dramatically tells the tale of how the leaders of those times worked together, striving to save the ideals of democracy. This well researched and exciting account should be required reading for our "leaders" today who must realized the necessity of working together to keep our country safe and its ideals secure. Mr Haas has written a book for our times. A must read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Harry and Arthur" is a fascinating look at an extraordinarily productive relationship between Democrat President Harry Truman and Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg that forged a bipartisan American foreign policy that served U.S. national security and security and stability in the world for more than 40 years. Larry Haas’s engaging book follows the momentous events, decisions and actions that comprised their remarkable collaboration in the years immediately following the end of World War II. Would that we today could elect and support leaders of the qualities exemplified by the words and deeds of Harry and Arthur as recounted in Mr. Haas' riveting history of their partnership.