Jessica at Jessica's Well has dug up a Life article from 1946, after the end of the war but before the Marshall Plan. It's written by John Dos Passos, a leftist novelist (he was well-known in his time, but his books haven't really aged well - unless you're a reader of the New York Times Review of Books, you've probably never heard of him). People have been making up satirical versions of this article for a couple of months now; this blogger has found the thing itself. After reading the article, I have to say I'm surprised. It's a remarkably and accurate report of what was going on in postwar Europe. Of course, we're talking about a leftist writing for Henry Luce - I imagine that the clash between socialist sensibility and Lucian conservatism was bound to produce something trembling on the balance.
Don't misunderstand: this is not one of Robert Fisk's or John Pilger's marvels of misdirection and mendacity. Europe really was wrecked, sacked, and on the edge of starvation. It was articles like this that shamed a nation and built a consensus in favor of the Marshall Plan.
Note, mind you, what the Marshall Plan was. It wasn't an accountant's construct of loans, guarantees, and mortgages on Europe's future. It was a set of carefully administered grants. GRANTS. Grants at a time when the United States was groaning under the burden of an enormous wartime debt beside which our current debts stand like the tailings of a child's excavation project beside Pike's Peak. Imagine what might have happened if the Lodges and Tafts of their day chose to burden the Marshall Plan with entailments upon the future economic potential of Europe. For god's sake, compare the EU's economic aggregate to today's America. They exceed us in size! And yet some Senators today dare make mouth about oil revenue potential.