tv Derek Leebaert Grand Improvisation CSPAN November 24, 2018 11:00pm-12:01am EST
>> thank you. >> c-span where history unfolds daily, in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. >> good afternoon everyone. welcome to politics and prose bookstore. thank you for coming out today.
we're pleased to have derek leebaert here today to talk about his book "grand improvisation" 'america confronts the british super power 1945-1947' before we get started just a little bit of housekeeping. let's all take a moment to silence our cell phones. we are recording this event. on that note when it comes to the question and answer portion of the event, if you wouldn't mind using this microphone here so that we can hear your questions that would be great. many of you know we have a lot going on here at politics and prose including at our new stores at union market and the whamp. to stay on top of what we're doing check out our events calendar and social media. i'm pleased to announce derek leebaert. he has been on the board of several public institutions. a professor at georgetown, and a editor of several periodicals. he has led a global management
firm. his previous books include the 50 year wound, and to dear and conquer. he is here to discuss his latest book "grand improvisation." well-its generally agreed upon that britain's eventually ended with the world war. a this was not a smooth or changing of the god. lebart analyzes 12 years in which britain and america unalcy, abrasively renegotiate ted their rolled in the world order. william hey at the national interest says "grand improvisation" is a disieldly revaliditiest narrative that brings neglected figures to the forefront while criticalliy assessing others. it puts a different spin on american and british heafort with an eye to policy changes.
[applause] >> derek: let me emphasize that the transition was far more abrupt and brutal than an judgment between allies. one of the greatest 20th century myths, and the myth with the greatest bearing on current events is that after the end of world war ii, the british entire, the greatest in history, was too weak and too dispirited to continue its role as a global power, and then the americans came in, leapt to the floor creating an american gemny around an american built world order. this is not the way it occurred at all. britain was the original definition of a super power when the term was coined in 1944.
meaning a great power but great mobility of power. meaning it existed everywhere. and when world war ii ended, the expectation was that the americans would come home fast, of course we were the strongest nation with an atomic monopoly, an industrial heft but we were not globally deployed. we had pledged as a matter of fact to bring out 3 million troops in europe home within two years. the british expected at the end of world war ii that the world to follow would be a british dominated world. why was that? because russia, the soviet union, soviet russia, was economically devastated and wasted. and because the americans were seen as so insular.
unless we understand what truly occurred in the dozens years after world war ii, it's really hard to understand causes sources and foundations of current events today. such as the depths of u.s. insoilarity. the hesitations and the way we're treating allies. indeed the origins of vietnam the sources of destabilization in the middle east, all of that goes back to these early years. franklin roosevelt died in april. harry truman, succeeded as president. you can see how weary fdr looks and how shocked does harry truman. and even more profound upheaval occurred in july of that year, 1945, when winston churchill was
booted out of office as the war-time prime minister. that was during negotiations with stalin, outside of berlin. what occurred was a shock to the americans as much as to the russians. because the replacement for winston churchill was a socialist labor government. and during the war-time negotiations with stalin, both fdr and churchill had been pretty accommodating. when labor came in 1945, it was an utterly different story. recall that the socialist british labor party, these were tough guy unionist bully boys who had faced down the communists in street battles during the 20s and 30s to defend their unions.
they had no allusions whatsoever. about stalin. and it was the british labor party and the tough labor leaders he from the get-go that summer of '45, started calling our russian allies nazis. they started calling stalin a massacre-maker. they pointed to a whole series of stalnist massacres. they saw little difference in stalinism, and nazissism. the russians were knocked back on their heels having believed that they who had sacrificed f sacrificed 3 out of 5 bodies killed in world war ii, had won the war. the american's tour appalled, and what happened for the next 18 months was a reign of ambivalence for the americans. the british hit the soviets hard
politically and diplomatically. the americans hesitated. the americans demobilized fast, the british didn't. they took their time to mobilizing. the american's spoke about the british empire and common wealth deploying a million men around the world and a thousand garrison's and ports. that was only a slight exaggeration. but during this reign of ambivalence in 1946, churchill would give his famous iron currentern speech in march 1946. americans found it repelling. hadn't the war been fought for a higher purpose than clashes of empires? it was only by 1947, as stalin clamped down the police states of eastern europe as he made foras against iran, that the
americans got serious about opposing stalinism. but even then, they were reluctant and slow, and one key reason that hasn't been understood is because the american's profoundly feared the return of the depression. the depression all believed was certain to return. the war had been merely a brief stimulus. but an early 1947, as the thread of stalinism and the expansion of communism began being taken ever more seriously in washington. george marshal was appointed secretary of state, the war-time army chief of staff. this is earnest beven who looked the part of a tough union leader. he became foreign secretary in the labor government. it is earnest beven that would
be eulogized by churchill as the greatest fortune secretary in british foreign history. it was earnest beven who took control as foreign secretary of all british foreign and imperial policies. defense, foreign policy, essentially economics, as well. and as i argue who directed a great deal of u.s. policy to come. in the background there you see lewis douglas, a multi-million air, insurance executive, arizona miner, who became what time magazine called the most powerful diplomat in the world. he had just become ambassador to britain. of course the u.s. was the most powerful, but think of what we lacked. a professionals intelligence capacity, global deployments.
allies, after the end of world war ii. we had no alliance relationships, except by 1947 with latin america. all of this was a kaleidoscope turning fast. it's often seen that the british empire ended would be argued in 1947, with beven's threat to pull british troops out of greece. where there was a raging civil war, and greece was a longtime british interest. but, as it's been demonstrated, the british were bluffing. they had no intention of leaving. the americans as would often happen later panicked. we rushed through the so-called truman doctrine, committed an enormous amount of money for the
time to intervening in greece and in turkey, and eastern mediterranean, and convinced ourselves that the british empire was turning away from global authority. that wouldn't happen for a long, long time. in fact it wouldn't happen until 1957, when the eisenhower administration just reelected offered what it called its declaration of independence from british authority. only then when we declared our declaration of independence from british authority would the british in the form of the economist crowd the editor, acknowledge that britain itself was no longer a super power and only then as vice president nixon would say, would the americans step forth to take over the leadership of the free world. this was still nearly a dozen years away.
the most powerful figure of the truman administration, other than the president himself, was immeasurably john wesley snyder, the secretary of the treasury. he was truman's first appointment to high office two days after fdr's death. snyder had a unique friendship with george marshal, which served as an anchor of these early years in the administration. snyder held the reigns of the u.s. economy. he also by authority of congress had ultimate authority for all u.s. international as well as domestic transitions which meant he had ultimate authority over the marshall plan. and truman allowed snyder to be involved in everything. they had been best friends since 1928. snyder was put on the community
for palestine. he'd be put on the national security counsel. he'd be put on the nato counsel. he's be responsible for persuading truman to hire dean atkinson as secretary of state in 1949. and he would have the final word in 1951, alone in the white house residence with his friend truman to fire general mcarthur. it's among the people who are overlooked by the historians. 1948 was a defining steple and it's the berlin block aid. that is when the u.s. realized it needs the british empire. the u.s. asserted that we were spread so thin, we had 12 tanks in europe, capable of combat, the occupation troops in japan
were under trained and il-equipped. when stalin isolated berlin , the united states realized that the empire was indispensable. and to show the extent to which we did not understand british vulnerability, despite recurring currency crises in englishland. we expected the british would split 50/50 of the cost of occupying germany with the united states. at the time of the berlin block aid we had expected the british would contribute 50/50 to running the air lift. american's in washington intended to retreat. truman marshal, all were ambivalent about what to do in the face of berlin being cut off by stalin. beven on the other hand,
forward-deployed british troops. gave his troops in germany authority to shoot down any soviet planes that would interfere with the air lift. and had to calm down some of his labor party fellow cabinet members who wanted a preemptive war with russia. that would be nuy beven, the tough labor guys who were chomping at the bit with what they thought was a short sharp war with stalinism, with or without the americans. so it was the british that held the ground in berlin, which allowed europe to recover, and which allowed the marshall plan to take hold, and to be sure british currency crises were recurring over and over again. what happened had happened since 1945, and what the americans took so seriously as did the
british, is the rate of british productivity was booming like no one understood was possible. also, the british held the commanding heights of high-tech. in areas that were the most important to the americans that would unquestionably be jet aviation, in which they had to lead, also life sciences. in pharmaceutical manufacturing, and very quickly in civilian atomic power. all of this gave britain the profile of a super power. you can see the scope of the empire and india was given its independence but that was interpreted by the british and understood by the americans to make the british empire in common wealth all the stronger.
because now within the tightly woven british alliance network where the world's largest democracy, and the world's largest muslim state. so, britain gave the indian empire its independence, it also withdrew from its man date in palestine. but this can't be seen as a retreat in the face of zionist terror. as is often understood. beven as did churchill saw palestine as a complete snake pit with the americans doing back seat driving as beven called it. and they wanted out. there was no point in staying despite the losses that the british army suffered to terror. also, the british had the largest military base in the world at suez. being in palestine was surpuff
lewis. in 1949 with the booming british economy and jet aviation setting all kinds of records for the british, with the fear of stalinism having abated in the face of the marshall plan, with the prospect of a north alliance, a north atlantic alliance treaty, coming to the floor, all looked well to the british and the americans. except in early 1949, the u.s. slid into recession. it would be a relatively mild recession but the scary thing about recessions is that you don't know how severe they are going to be. and what happened even more so was britain then followed suit, and what all described at the
moment as a likelihood of the greatest economic calamity the world had seen was about to descend that fall in 1949. in an unprecedented move secretary of the treasury william snyder took over control of the state department from dean atkinson and negotiated the way through what could have easily been a cat chiz m, would have taken down europe, the marshall plan and made stalnist russia, the world's most forefront economic heavy weights. 1949 started a great deal of fear with that economic near catastrophe. it also joined with the so-called loss of china to
communist forces. and it coincided with the russians having achieved an atomic bomb in august-september 1949. the u.s. then embarked on an unprecedented study and perhaps the most seminal national security counsel document ever written for a president. and that began on september 1st, 1949. nfc-75. it was a ten-month exhaustive study to discover what were u.s. interested in the world and what were british military capabilities. because the british empire, of course, didn't share its global military deployments with the united states. we had very little understanding of where these neil one million troops were poised around the world. this ten-month study embarked on the explicit assessment of trying to determine the fate of
the british empire and what the fate of the british empire meant for the united states. and the conclusions were delivered in july, 1950 by which time the u.s. was at war. nfc-75, the highest levels of the u.s. government concluded that the british empire hadn't retreated one wit since 1945. that it would be irreplaceable in the united states would have no possibility of ever stepping into its shoes. nor was it anticipated that the british empire would recede in the foreseeable future. the british empire was concluded was vital to american foreign policy. and all the more so when stalin backed the invasion of north korea, charging into the south in july 1950.
the british was sparse initially initially, in korea, because they insisted they had an entire empire to run. they had to man other fronts in the middle east. in malaya where there was a desperate insurgency. they had colonial interested in latin america that they backed with troops. all of this the british empire insisted meant they couldn't contribute in korea. at which time the u.s. offered blood-curdling threats. and the british initially offered 1500 troops. which came in the nick of time but recall that korea was a disaster for the united states. about 5,000 american dead in rescuing south korea but in the counter invasion into north korea which provoked china into intervening, about 27,000
americans dead and which longest retreat in u.s. history. all of this is going on at the same time that nationalist in iran are taking over british oil interests. at the same time that there's a nasty gorilla war against british occupation in suez. the labor government is fading fast. beven died in april '51, labor has been in power since 1945. churchill is now circling in for the kill as leader of the opposition. he is denouncing the labor government so-called hang-dog diplomacy. and he returns to power in october 1951. very little has been studied about churchill's second time as prime minister, his only time as prime minister during peace, and
in my view it's the most dramatic part of his life. he comes to office determined to restore the authority of the british empire. the power of the british empire. his ministers are convinced that the empire given its global deployment, its resources, it's alliances could possibly surpass the clout of the united states and certainly had far more experience and dominated by excellence if not by bulk weight. military technologies. churchill was also backed by anthony eden, his loyal deputy who is often seen as a counterpert for dean atkinson who was secretary of state from january' 49 to the end of the truman administration. eden himself was a world figure and a legendary diplomat.
this was his third time back as foreign secretary. he spoke fluent arabic, as well asfarsi, he had deep understandings of the middle east and current affairs. when churchill and eden came to power that fall of '51, they immediately started putting chipped on the table, vis-a-vis americans. these were bald threats. they would take no more pushing by the americans a for european unity for britain to join itself in some kind of federated europe. they would ectake no more interference with the u.s. in middle east, and in turn they offered really pretty severe threats. one, the 20,000 troops that were by then in korea would be withdrawn. churchill threatened if the u.s. didn't zip its lip about events
in the middle east such as egypt. but even more dire by then as a result of the berlin block aide american bomber bases in churchill threatened to have those removed. most of all there the british and the americans was the defense of malaya here. malaya astoundingly exported the dollar value in tin and rubber that it was one-seventh of all u.s. exports. and it was vital to the british hopes of recovery, and thereby europe's hopes of recovery, and the fear was that the communists would descend from battling the french in indochina, to take over malaya and then move against india. the british were adamant that
the first line of malaya's defendant f defense was in vietnam. the origins of the vietnam war embers of war is recent author has called them are utterly misunderstood. without discussing the american entanglement in vietnam, and not including the british, endless british pressure for a straight decade, it would be equivalent say to who knows, discussing the american rev lose without discussing the british. the british had far more influence on the american entanglement in vietnam, vastly more, not only the french but than any u.s. senator or general. it was relentless playing of u.s. public opinion and the press. eisenhower comes to office in
november 1952. churchill had little respect for eisenhower other than as a famed commander. a good general perhaps. but otherwise contemptuous. churchill is now 78, you can see eisenhower in his famous grin. churchill immediately came to the u.s. in 1953 to see eisenhower. and eisenhower's famous grin was often described as his tom sawyer grin. but tom sawyer is the supreme american trixter of american literature. and eisenhower was the supreme politician. the abrasion between churchill and eisenhower was no less
severe than between churchill and franklin roosevelt. inosiss of friendship are sentimental and easily disapproved. churchill immediately taunted eisenhower for not negotiating with the russians when stalin died in march 1953. he demanded the u.s. have no contact with the new egyptian government in 1953, the young kernels that came to power that ousted the monarmy and hoped for a relationship with the americans. he also by then, had achieved an atomic weapon which britain got in october 1952, which gave a whole level of respect, different level of respect to the british empire, despite its economic undualations. yes, the americans quickly
developed a hydrogen bomb and that vastly overshadowed anything atomic. but now it was also known that britain had not only a more sophisticated bomb that the u.s. demonstrateds in hiroshima, but they were fast on their own way in hydrogen capability. and remember the british produced the only jet bombers in the world. so you start marrying thermonuclear power with jet bombers and one's talking about a pretty impressive force. at the same time , the royal navy is exercising some of the largest naval maneuvers in history. and with the death of king george the sixth in february 1952 truman still being in office, the u.s. senate immediately went into recess. british politics came to a halt.
it gave churchill more time to get his administration in gear. curiously there were ang loconservetives worldwide. the deck in tiran had went to mass in tiran. which was on stalin avenue. the egyptian fervently nationalist leadership went to the ang locathedral in cairo. in deli, narrow and his entire family went to the british cathedral there. and of course here in washington, truman and his family went to a mass at the national cathedral. the passing of george the sixth was significant. queen elizabeth the second acclaimed a new era for a new
generation, and a commonwealth that was bound in unity the way no empipe ever had been. she spoke as monarch of a quarter of the world's people. the americans took this truly seriously. and her coronation in june 1953, was easily the greatest political and military spectacle of the century. it was not only a religious, social, cultural coronation, it was hard power shown straight up. over the entire month of june. as the entire military might of the commonwealth appeared in fly-overs, in a naval display. this registered strong with the americans. we were alsoferved with a real
strong secretary of state in john foster dulls. who unlike atkinson had a visceral contempt for the british. of course he had british friends. he wasint minutely friendly with earnest bev p as he would be later in live with anthony eden. but the notion of atkinson being an anglophile is laughable as one of his best boxerers say. dulls was the foremost corporate lawyer. a longtime foreign advisers to the republican party. a lumbering heavily muscled man who swam maniacally his laps every day and a brilliant mind that could cut through reams of data. and eisenhower gave john foster
d irks llas all the heavy lifting of having to deal with the british empire in 1954 where he's meeting with churchill and eden over vietnam. because the americans got deeper and deeper into vietnam, urged on by the british, malaya fortunately stabilized. churchill had cracked down to counter insurgency and massacre-making as well in malaya. malaya was secured. the americans however, were getting deeper into vietnam and wanted a british presence. the british refused to participate and it caused deep rupture in the relationship in '54. at the same time, we were responding to perceived communist threat in guatemala,
churchill was sounding the toxin loud there too. saying guatemala was taken over by communist, and the americans sponsored a truly messy coo in june '54, also again showing ongoing bitterness with the british. churchill finally left office age 80 in april 1955. eden came to the floor, and was preoccupied with the middle east. a superb diplomat who saw the future of the british empire not just in africa nasa75 had seen t was british who put together the bag dad pact, and the u.s. was a cautious observer of this. but you can see what the bag dad
pack united, and you can see who was left out. left out was egypt, which was furious. and felt threatened by the bagdad pact. also israel felt threatened by 1955 the middle east was in a boil according to the cia. there were endless border clashes along a 600-mile frontier between israel and its arab neighbors. the palestinians of course lived under bruteddal military rule in israel at that time. these are not palestinian terror and counter terror incidents but actually the sovereign government surrounding israel that were engaged in a at this time for that terrorist campaign and it got worse and worse.
by 1956 nasser nationalizing the suez canal all was set for the debacle of invasion by israel, britain and france. in october of 1956. eisenhower, of course, saw this as a complete non-issue. the suez canal was ran by egypt, owned by egypt, ran through egypt, was held in the stock market of cairo, and was going to revert to egyptian control in 1968. but the british were intent on teaching egypt a lesson as was france which blamed egypt for influencing revolution in algeria, and certainly the israelis were looking at their shot. it is not the suez debacle,
however, that ended the story. although by january '57 the americans are offering their declaration of independence from british authority and were determined to head out into the world alone. it would be later that year. it would be sputnik. october 1957 nothing had terrified the americans as much as sputnik. not pearl harbor, not sy. the americans believed themselves utterly exposed to soviet thermonuclear destruction. two consequences of that. now it was the u.s. and russian bohemest competing only two could play at that level. and second, there was no time to worry about allied sense activelis. not least the democrats started
being drawn to the magnetic appeal of john f. kennedy, the young senator from massachusetts who denounced the eisenhower administration for irsolve for the military weakening of america. for enableling the world to be half slave and half free. and kennedy ran for office on what herald mcmillen, british prime minister called the churchill ticket. kennedy was explicit about the white house being militariy incompetent and looking the creuns to lie open to stalnist soviet type spower. indeed, he was elected in 1960, and in those iconic thousand days of his administration, i
chart this as so much changing and so much going awry. not only was the u.s. now after sputnik going forth into the world giving little attention to allies. but with the kennedy administration entirely new hated environment came to the floor. the type we live with to this day, the chronic emergencies, the crises, the built build-ups from everything from icbm's to special forces. the athe arrival of professors in washington. so-called experts in academia and think tanks. all of this put in place an excitement, a lack of strategic thinking to be sure that we have lived with to this day. and i'd now like to just open it up to questions, answers,
criticism and commentary as we look back on the initial decades that brought us to today. >> guest: yes, i sort of felt very brickly in your description of british power and capability and it seems to me in your discussion of the relationship between the united states and great britain, that you have left out the part that proceeded world war ii, and the part that
took place during world war ii. and it seems to me that the british leadership starting from its utter collapse in asia, of its mighty armies, and the the attempts by churchill to avoid a d-day invasion but to go in through southern europe and all kinds of -- or to repeat the entry into greece and turkey, that the americans would distrust the british. because of their really inept military leadership.
during world war ii, they scoffed at american leadership which was not the greatest but their own military generalship, etc. was horrible. >> derek: let me jump in at this point if i may. it was a rocky relationship among all the allies. the big three, each of the allies. russia, united states, and britain were intent on winning the peace. and they were looking very much ahead. each of the big three believed it had won world war ii. certainly the russians did, the british empire, which was the only great viktorious belligerent to fight from beginning to end in world war wi and 2. and certainly the americans did. so there was lots of ill feeling to go around. especially between churchill and
fdr. >> guest: so i think it's no wonder that the well for example take british general montgomery, the british military scoffed at american military leadership during world war ii, but ignored the dismal leadership of montgomery, and in europe. >> derek: that's another story. let's focus on the dozen years after world war ii, which is what i tried to address. >> guest: all of that preface they want to feel that particularly eisenhower, to distrust the british. >> derek: there was a great deal of skepticism you're entirely right sir. >> guest: i didn't get that from the talk sir y felt it was an
omission. well the title of the book is 'america confronts the british super power 1945-1947' and the title tends to be not too polite, and not distrust. i might have underplayed the event of the disbrasion in the trust but it ran deep on both sides. >> guest: you mentioned briefly, the suez crisis the suez events conventionally that's thought of as the point at which the united states broke with britain, and established itself as the super power and britain as a secondary power who would do what it's told, couldn't stand up on its own without u.s. support. but could you go back and talk about how things unfolded in suez, and how significant you think that single event was in
the sort of develop u.s. border relations. >> derek: you're right sue says significant as a break point. when english decided we were not a super power and the eisenhower offered its declaration of independence. but so much bitterness had been building up to that point. bitterness with britain over and over and again. the extent to which the americans felt they had to defer to the british over and over again. it went back to the korean war with a minimal british presence in korea. it went back to what washington felt was a betrayal by the british not aligning with us to likely intervene in vietnam. it went back to guatemala in 1954 where the british threatened to have us censored at the un. the collusion between britain
france and valley eisenhower saw as a direct assault of the united states and he spoke of being slapped in the face because it was all done deceitfully. suez was utterly a break point. it all boiled over what had occurred in the previous years. but i point to sputnik because that was such a shocking horror for the americans. and it was that which made us realize there are only two in this game, the continental size super powers yes, britain got a hydrogen bomb in summer 1957, but by then the americans had gotten the bit and the teeth and weren't going to sit back and worry about allied sensitivities sensitivities. >> guest: how did the british so massively misjudge how the united states would react to suez? >> derek: the british misjudged
utterly but so did the french and the israelies. the british were accust immediate to the u.s. sitting back, and they were accustomed to a lot of differens to the british empire and common wealth. and eden had convinced himself by not criticizing the americans by backing away from our coo in guatemala in 1954 that he had built up political chips, and that the u.s. was therefore going to allow the british to do what they pleased in their area of special interest. the israelis thought that the u.s. would do nothing v because this of course was during an election year. and the israelis in november 1956, as eisenhower was competing for reelection were certain that the americans would not cross israel. so all of this added to the
debacle. but, let me add, eisenhower saved britain france, and israel from a far, far worse fate. because if nasesser had been overthrown or killed what would have happened? the era of occupying egypt and in -- in the middle east was long gone. it wouldn't become nihilist as with syria at the moment which is being spoken of its unholy mess, and the americans well knew that that would have been a far-worse outcome the nihilism would have swept who knew where. >> guest: i found startling in your attack -- one of the things talking about britain being an economic powerhouse or what the phrase you used was. >> derek: productivity. >> guest: and the people were
rationing well after the war and i certainly don't have an image of the british people being prosperous, and then related to that the part of the question would be the britain agreement was that a something the british found hostile to them, or were they -- >> derek: you're entirely right and it's tied into the status of the british economy. you're entirely right. rations didn't end until 1953. in britain. that didn't mean that productivity wasn't booming. everything was being exported. the recurring sterling crises, 1947, the worst one of all in 1949, but then again in 1952 when churchill returns to power. and then again in 1956. these are currency crises. am british didn't have hard
currency meaning convertible into dollars they could use for trade. so they were frantically exporting everything and tightening the belt. ruthlessly at home, hence the rationing, hence the threadbare. but at the same time what we saw the americans, is the height of industry happening. remember 1956, the first civil atomic reactor is lit up by the queen in england. we saw the british time and again having a certain level of excellence but they couldn't scale it. they could have the most sophisticated fighter jets but they couldn't produce them the way the americans did. so by '53, '54, american productivity had been going flat out. this type of neither war nor peace predicament was made for american industry whether it was
mass-producing hydrogen bombs or a b-52 a week or air craft carriers. this completely overshadowed what might have been british technical excellence. >> guest: i was intrigued whether you got into britain and our involvement in vietnam. you made it sound like the brits got us into vietnam to defend malaya. am i correct in understanding that? and how did they convince us to get into vietnam? and get so bogged down? >> derek: the most powerful person in british imperial presence in asia was malcolm mcdonald, completely unknown to history and unknown to any historians of the vietnam war.
he became high commissioner for all of british interests. and in southeast asia, it's called the reign of the phoenix. he became high commissioner in '46, stayed until '55. the americans called him the wise man of asia. no one in the u.s. who spoke authoritatively on vietnam, no one, would not trundle to singapore to have an audience with malcolm mcdonald. he wielded great authority's merchandise he saw the british interest in southeast asia as equivalent to the americans in japan. the american press adilated him, the kennedys nixon, every publisher and editor, anybody of anything to do with vietnam
ended unhaving an audience with malcolm mcdonald at phoenix park in malaya. he would take the montowers of malaya. he would tell them about the first line of defense being in vietnam and only the americans could do it. he, himself, toured vietnam and with the french drying to hold them up but he knew the french couldn't sustain and it had to be the americans coming in. >> guest: so we just bought into that? >> derek: we bought into it heavily. with -- that ended french rule. we had also by then gotten in extra deep carrying most of the cost of the french war in vietnam, supplying the french utterly with weapons. by '55 we were getting pretty
tired of malcolm mcdonald's as it was then seen his cheer leading and game playing for american intervention. but by then it wasn't needed. the americans were in deep. john foster dullas saw an opportunity to write-off vietnam. he had no understanding in how we got involved in vietnam in the first place. he had never personally dealt with mcdonald and there was one fleeting moment where john foster dullas told anthony eden who was then prime minister, let us write it off. there's no need for america to be in vietnam. that didn't last long. and by '57 we were gearing up and when kennedy came in he moved from 400 troops to 17,000, and his argument resonates today. we didn't have soljures in there. they weren't really soldiers.
they were just special forces commandoes and cia operatives. so it wasn't going to be at all dangerous. >> guest: just a quick question on the faster demobilization for the u.s., do you think that encouraged the faster production stream coming out versus the brits who did not demobilize -- quite so fast and kept the people in the military and who therefore could not be as productive in the economy. >> derek: the british made a sacrifice to be sure by maintaining a very heavy military burden. they couldn't meet the labor short ming in their industry. they needed far more men in the aviation field. and so much of british man '
power was squandered in the military and in sustaining the empire. utterly correct. >> thanks for your interest. [applause] >> thank you. [applause] >> please form a line to the right of the table and the book is behind the register if you'd like to purchase a copy. >> c-span launched #booktv20 years ago on c-span 2 and since then we've covered thousands of authors and book physically, including one hundred book
events about the first ladies. we interviewed laura bush in 2010. mrs. bush founded the festival in to 01 and we've covered it every year since then. >> i felt the politics and criticism about george and everyone does that lives there, but i also knew it was a fact of life. i knew when he ran for president that's what happens to the american president. remember we'd been the choild f a president ourselves and we had been so distraught when president bush, george's dad was criticized so much in 1992 when he lost that election, and so we knew what we were getting into. i think you know to expect that and it's nothing new. we feel like it's new as we look around now and see the criticism of our current president but if you visit the lincoln library in springfield, illinois, and see the terrible things that were written about lincoln it was not
24life hour news, it was pamphlets that were published that were so critical and damming. it's just a fact of life and it's also a function of our democracy. that we can criticize our president. that we do have the freedom to say whatever we want to say. >> you can watch this and all over book tv programs from the past 20 years at booktv.org. type the author's name and the word book in the search bar at the top of the page. >> this weekend we bring you a few author dus condition us from the recent fall for the book festival in fairfax. virginia. first up o the discussion of the recovery on the columbia space shuttle. >> hello, good morning and welcome to recovering the columbia space shuttle at the 20th annual fall for t