Under the Black Flag

The Unhelpful Uncle

I recently had a spirited discussion with the British historian James Holland, brother of Tom Holland, also a distinguished man of letters, about FDR, his oil embargo of Japan, and the root causes of World War II.  We were in Normandy, inspecting the battle scenes of D-day, with James giving us the kind of briefings reserved for top brass, and then some.

Billeted at the Château de Sully, where the German High Command lived the high life before June 6, we somehow got into a discussion about Japan and FDR, and with the help of a lot of wine things got a bit heated.  “Who the hell was Roosevelt to tell the Japanese what to do and impose an oil embargo?” said yours truly.  “And who the hell was Bush to invade Iraq and kill half a million Iraqis as a result?” I continued.  “Why do you Americans think you can run other people’s lives and order them about?”

“I’m an Englishman,” came the dry reply from James Holland; so I shut up.

Although I’m as American as olive oil and feta cheese, I am not the type to blame Uncle Sam for the state of the world, but time after time I’ve tried to remind readers that no one has done more to help humanity than the old Uncle himself.  Except that his well-meant interventions more often than not have had unintended consequences.

Take the recent remarks by our latest secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, about...

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