Monday, December 4, 2017

Hatemongering: The Politics of Irrationality

One of the paradoxes of the early twenty-first century is that the era’s rhetoric simultaneously contains self-righteous diatribes against what it calls “hate,” yet also has made it fashionable to make blatant declarations of hatred.

In 2004, a group of media personalities and celebrities joined leaders from the Progressivist movement, the Democratic Party, and the Leftist political scene to contribute to an anthology titled The I Hate George W. Bush Reader. The book was devoted, not to disagreeing with President Bush or with his policies, but rather to personal animus.

This book followed on the heels of 2003’s The Bush-Hater’s Handbook.

Yet the authors, contributors, and editors of these books proclaimed themselves to be standing in opposition to hate.

One might begin to ask for a clarified definition of the word ‘hate.’

The rhetoric of hate in the media manifested itself in a pattern of expressing the hope that someone - President Bush, Vice President Cheney, etc. - would be assassinated. Such expressions were often disguised as jokes, allowing the speaker the ready-made excuse that it was “merely a jest.”

But the pattern continued, as the Washington Post published an editorial in 2016 titled I Hate Donald Trump. But He Might Get My Vote.

There is an internal contradiction in the news media, sometimes called the “mainstream” media, as it loudly proclaims its opposition to hate, and at the same time expresses passionate hatred toward anyone it opposes.

The establishment media and those it controls - the Democratic party, the Leftists generally, and the Progressivist movement - “are the ones who use Nazi bullying and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology,” notes historian Dinesh D’Souza.

Thus events described as rallies against hate are in fact hate-filled rioters. The word “protester” is systematically substituted for “rioter” in various reports. As D’Souza explains,

The self-styled opponents of hate are the actual practitioners of the politics of hate. Through a process of transference, leftists blame their victims for being and doing what they themselves are and do.

As often happens in political conflicts, language itself is hijacked. Consider the key vocabulary words: hate, protest, and riot.

The rhetoric escalates. Harsher and harsher terms are used. Eventually a fascist movement emerges and labels itself “Antifa,” meaning ‘anti-fascist.’ D’Souza notes that

In a sick inversion, the real fascists in American politics masquerade as anti-fascists and accuse the real anti-fascists of being fascists.

In a media age in which information is reduced to a 140-character or 280-character ‘tweet,’ or to a 20-second soundbite, readers and viewers can be misled into thinking that “Antifa” is an anti-fascist organization, especially when the establishment media fails to report that organizers of Antifa rallies regularly arrive with knives and baseball bats to conduct their peaceful anti-hate events.

Consumers of news media must carefully consider and ask who is truly on the side of individual political liberty.

Enlightened Politics, Enlightenment Politics

Modern political liberty, usually residing in the structure of freely-elected representatives, is based on a view of the relationship between society and government. That view articulates human rationality as the foundation for voting and political decisions.

British philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) and his writings can serve as an icon for this perspective.

Given that all people seek the same things - life, liberty, and a chance to explore their opportunities in terms of personal creativity and diligence. People want security for themselves, for their friends and family, and for their possessions. People want opportunities to see what their creativity and diligence can accomplish.

In addition to Locke, versions of this view were advanced by Edmund Burke (1727 - 1797), an Anglo-Irish thinker, and by Americans Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809), Samuel Adams (1722 - 1803), James Otis (1725 - 1783), and Patrick Henry (1736 - 1799).

Historians sometimes use the phrase “The Age of Enlightenment” to label the era in which these individuals lived.

Enlightenment politics is based, then, on those things which are common to all human beings. All people have a baseline capability for rational thought, and all people share certain basic desires.

In a republic governed by freely-elected representatives, the majority will express itself in voting, and in so doing, will manifest a common human attitude, rather than the attitude of some select small group.

This ‘Enlightened’ political thinking stands in opposition to ‘identity’ politics.

According to the ‘politics of identity,’ voters should vote based on some distinguishing feature which marks them as part of a distinct subgroup. Motivated by “identity politics,” voters should vote, not based on common human traits, like the desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but rather voters should vote on what separates them from others, e.g., race, gender, religion, etc.

So there is a clear tension between “enlightenment politics” and the “politics of identity.”

The twenty-first century voter, then, is confronted with two alternatives: either one can vote as a rational human being, valuing those things which all humans value - life, liberty, and economic opportunity - or one can vote based on one’s membership in a demographic category - race, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Inconsistent Effort: Resisting the Soviet Threat

The years of the Cold War, roughly 1946 to 1990, were marked by a curious asymmetry: the nations of liberty in western Europe and North America seemed sometimes hesitant, unsure of themselves, and ready for compromise.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, mainland China, and the international communist conspiracy were steady, unwavering, and clearly focused on their goal. As Soviet leader Khrushchev stated while speaking to representatives of western European NATO nations, “we will bury you.”

While the USSR was intent on ending liberty, some American leaders hoped that it would be possible to turn the communists into friends by helping them. This led to paradoxical behavior: sending various forms of material aid to a power structure which could never, and would never, desire anything except for the destruction of the personal and political freedoms which constitute the United States.

In 1964, John Stormer wrote:

The examples are endless. The failure of Russian agriculture has historically been communism’s weakest “link.”

As agricultural efforts in the Warsaw Pact countries, and other communist states around the world, persistently failed, hunger threatened to destabilize the communist dictatorship.

Thus unsettled, the oppressed people in those dictatorships might have a chance to throw off the shackles of tyranny. The failure of agriculture in the Soviet Socialist regions might undermine the harsh reign of totalitarianism and create an opportunity for freedom.

The worst thing that could happen to the oppressed victims of communism would be for someone to enable the communists by propping up their agricultural systems by means of artificially discounted grain imports.

But some political leaders in the United States hoped to lessen the human suffering in the USSR and simultaneously encourage friendly relations with the communists - and they hoped to do this with offers of cheap grain.

“So, in 1961,” Stormer goes on to write, an Ohio Congressman named D.L. Latta could inform his constituents that

Officials in the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Commerce Department agreed to sell surplus wheat to the Soviet Union for $.62 per bushel less than the baker who bakes your bread pays for it. Only quick action by an awakening public stopped this folly which would have supplied wheat to ease food shortages and the resultant unrest against the communists in the Soviet Union. The officials who initiated the program are still holding responsible government positions.

Congressman Latta’s statement shows how well-intentioned efforts to ease human suffering actually supported the regime which cause the suffering.

So it was that ordinary American taxpayers ended up funding homicidal totalitarians like Khrushchev and Castro. Some U.S. diplomats thought that support from America would somehow change the minds of dictators who committed a nearly endless string of human rights violations. As Stormer notes,

Much American aid to communists is hidden in U.S. grants to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. For example, the United Nations Special Fund is giving Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba, funds to bolster his agricultural programs. The American who heads the fund, Paul Hoffman, approved the grant, and the U.S. taxpayer is paying 40% of the total bill of $1.6-million. The grant was made just after the attempted invasion of Cuba failed in April 1961.

Happily, despite such well-intentioned but wrong-headed actions, there were enough American policy makers who saw the communists accurately. Over the decades of the Cold War, the U.S. took a stand, even if inconsistently, to defend personal freedom, to defend individual political liberty, and to defend property rights.

The American stance was solid enough eventually to cause the USSR to bankrupt itself, as it finally did by 1990/1991, and collapse its economy by trying to keep parity with U.S. weapons technology.

The Soviets spent themselves into an economic breakdown by attempting to keep pace with U.S. defense technology development.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

U.S. Cold War Policy: Intermittently Self-Defeating

Between 1946 and 1990, U.S. policies were, to say the least, inconsistent. From FDR’s apparent friendly trust in Stalin’s agreements to Harry Truman’s discovery of the Soviet menace, from containment to rollback, America took different approaches at different times - and occasionally different approaches at the same time.

In 1964, scholar John Stormer identified these inconsistencies. Beyond merely being inconsistent, however, he notes that these policy quirks were not even in America’s best interests.

Quoting from the Congressional Record, Human Events magazine, and a New York Times News Service wire story printed in the Dallas Morning News, Stormer, writing in 1964, highlights the contradictions in American Cold War policy:

Nikita Khrushchev has said that peaceful coexistence involves peaceful economic competition. Our leaders agree, and place great emphasis on this aspect of the cold war in urging disarmament. Why then has the United States ...

... supplied nuclear reactors to the communist government of Czechoslovakia, railway equipment to Bulgaria, chemical plants to Yugoslavia, and synthetic rubber plants to Soviet Russia? Why has America given Russia the machinery to produce the precision batl bearings used in the guided missiles they “rattle” during every international crisis?

Why has America built the world’s most modern, most highly automated steel finishing plant for the communist government of Poland? Constructed in Warren, Ohio, the plant was dedicated as the Lenin Steel Works by the U. S. Ambassador to Poland in July 1961. The American people “lent” the communists $2.5-million to pay for it.

John Stormer presents these discrepancies. Behind them lies a question: are they the result of incompetence or malice? Are they the result of good intentions warped by naive miscalculations? Or are they the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the United States?

In the half-century which has elapsed since Stormer’s publication, elements of both have come to light: some of these actions were the result of well-intentioned efforts, others were the fruit of Soviet operatives who managed to nudge policy makers into bad decisions.

Despite such clumsy moves, and despite communist moles inside the United States, Soviet Socialism finally collapsed under weight of its own economic mismanagement, no longer able to keep paying for the military technology it needed to keep pace with NATO.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pro-Communists and Anti-Americans: Then and Now

At some point during the Cold War, there was a shift in emphasis among those who wished to undermine and overthrow both the United States government and American society.

During the earliest phases of the Cold War, the international Communist conspiracy targeted the U.S. government. Even before the Cold War, starting around 1919, Soviet operatives in the United States created an espionage network designed effect a revolution, even a “violent” revolution. (The specification of a “violent” revolution comes from the Communist Party’s own documents.)

The Cold War as generally defined started around 1946, and sometime thereafter, the shift began, moving from the overthrow of the U.S. government toward the humiliation of American society. Some historians refer to result of this shift as ‘cultural Marxism.’

Before this shift, the goals of the international Communist conspiracy were, among other things, the glorification of the Soviet Union and the subjugation of the United States into a grand Soviet empire. After this shift, the goals were, inter alia, the humiliation and weakening of the United States.

To be sure, the earlier goals and the later goals were related. But there was a shift of emphasis, as historian William F. Buckley wrote in March 1967:

Further on the question: Who are the new pro-Communists? - further evidence that the new breed is negatively defined. They are not so much pro-Communist as anti-American. But since they work at anti-Americanism feverishly and at anti-Communism not at all, the vector of their analysis and passion is pro-Communist.

The earlier generation included people like Alger Hiss, Owen Lattimore, and Thomas Arthur Bisson. Their allegiance was more directly to Moscow and the various intelligence agencies of the Soviet Union.

This newer generation of the international Communist conspiracy was typified by Frank Marshall, Bill Ayers, and others. Such men were less constrained by their affection for the Soviet Union, and more directly motivated by their desire to harm the United States.

Decades later, yet another generation of the international anti-American conspiracy would emerge: a generation of political thinkers whose ideologies were no longer framed within Cold War terms. The Soviet Union had fallen, and internationalist Communism had morphed into a version of ‘progressivist’ politics.

Cut free from the Soviet intelligence agencies which had directed earlier Communist operatives, this third generation did not trust, understand, nor appreciate the United States, its Constitution, or its people.

In effect, these people did not see the Constitution as guarantor of personal political liberty; did not see the American people as essentially freedom-loving and good-natured, if imperfect; and did not see the United States as a land which, albeit imperfectly, sincerely strove to offer equal opportunities.

This most recent generation of the conspiracy largely eliminated all ties to Moscow and to doctrinaire Marxism, embracing instead a vaguer and more flexible progressivist socialism, the goal of which was statism. Free from any obligation to promote stalinism, these conspirators instead focused their efforts on diminishing the United States militarily, economically, and diplomatically toward other nations, and internally weakening both its social institutions and its constitutional governmental institutions, to pave the way for the hegemony of non-constitutional governmental institutions.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, then, the United States finds itself threatened no longer by Soviet Socialism, but rather by a group of anti-American Americans whose goal is to weaken and humiliate their native land and their fellow citizens.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back When Harvard Was More Diverse

Andrew Ferguson’s book about the college application process contains, in passing, a vignette about Harvard and about the typical Harvard alumnus. After decades of various efforts to recruit more African-Americans, women, Latinos, and other demographic groups into the student body, Harvard has become less, not more, diverse than it had been in the distant past.

Yes, the student body now contains more African-Americans, more Latinos, more women, more Asians, and more representatives of other demographic segments. But it contains fewer diverse ideas and opinions.

In his book, Ferguson recounts a conversation with an acquaintance who interfaced with many Harvard grads:

“In a way you had more human diversity in the old Harvard,” a friend once told me, after a lifetime of doing business with Harvard graduates.

Diversity is not ensured by the optics of gender or skin pigmentation. Diversity is ensured by a spectrum of worldviews.

But the same university admissions process that included more African-Americans, women, and Latinos was the same process that insured that, among the incoming freshmen, there was a homogeneity of thought.

“It used to be the only thing an incoming class shared was blue blood. But bloodlines are a pretty negligible thing. It allows for an amazing variety in human types. You had real jocks and serious dopes, a few geniuses, a few drunks, a few ne’er-do-wells, and a very high percentage of people with completely average intelligence. Harvard really did reflect the country in that way back then.

Those who currently matriculate, not only at Harvard, but at many of the nation’s universities, have learned to shape themselves to look like what the application process wants them to. They’ve learned to write the same moving essays about overcoming obstacles, and to check the same boxes on their personal profiles for the admissions department.

They’ve spent years practicing, learning to give the right answers to the questions on the college applications. Some of those questions are, by the way, bizarre.

The diversity which is absent at many modern American universities is the diversity of human types.

“You still have a lot of blue bloods getting in, multigeneration Harvard families. But now a majority of kids coming into Harvard all share traits that are much more important than blood, race, or class. On a deeper level, in the essentials, they’re very much alike. They’ve all got that same need to achieve, focus, strive, succeed, compete, be the best or at least be declared the best by someone in authority. And they’ve all figured out how to please important people.”

What has asserted itself on campus, then, is not diversity. It is a type of group think.

Instead of lively debate, many campuses are dominated by a shocking uniformity.

Harvard grads disagree with this, of course. They like to say that the new Harvard represents the triumph of meritocracy.
No, my friend said. “It’s the triumph of a certain kind of person.”

If we speak of diversity on campus, we might ask how that diversity is measured and defined. To merely count noses of different colors is crass, coarse, and an insult to everyone’s humanity.

When students leave the university, and enter the everyday world of neighborhoods, schools, and grocery stores, they will not be surrounded only by people who spent the first eighteen years of their lives learning to give the right answers to the college application questions.

A campus with a true diversity of thought will better prepare its graduates for life after college, when they will encounter all types of people.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Funding the Enemy: Bad Decisions During the Cold War

Even the best-organized modern nation-state does not always act in its own best interests, or, even more to the point, in the best interests of its citizens.

On the one hand, political leaders can sometimes be sidetracked by pursuing courses of action which are beneficial to their personal careers, but not beneficial to the community as a whole. On the other hand, professional bureaucrats are, in some cases, participants in subversive conspiracies and act to deliberately weaken the nation.

Such was the case, in certain instances, during the Cold War, roughly from 1946 to 1990. Delving into a report on U.S. foreign assistance, issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development, dated March 21,1962, historian John Stormer explains that

Almost unnoticed by most Americans, Congress while appropriating billions for defense against communism, has at the same time given over $6-billion in direct military and economic aid to the communists.

So at a time when the government’s highest budgetary priority and its highest military priority were protecting the nation from the international communist conspiracy and from the Soviet military threat, taxpayer dollars were also ending up in the hands of the Warsaw Pact.

When the Soviet Socialist military was oppressing some countries, and seeking to invade still other countries and remove their liberty, the U.S. was actually selling military aircraft at deep discounts to communist states, as reported by the Dallas Morning News on October 13, 1961:

Radar-equipped F-86 jet fighter planes worth over $300,000 each have been sold to the communist dictator of Yugoslavia for $10,000. This “sale” to Tito has been defended because both the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations approved it. The planes were said to be “obsolete.” Yet, during the Berlin crisis, reactivated U.S. Air National Guard units flew to possible battle against communists in Europe in even more obsolete F-84 jets.

What was happening? How did the political decision makers so lose sight of their priorities? When the political process becomes entangled in “deal-making” to the extent that every action becomes negotiable, such results are possible.

The danger in such processes is that a nation can seem to lose its will to survive. Faced with a major global danger, the government must focus clearly on protecting the lives and liberties of its citizens, and working to eliminate that threat.

This principle applies not only to Cold War situations, but also to parallel situations facing the United States fifty years later in the era of the “Global War on Islamic Terror.”

Another parallel situation occurred in the 1930s, when the United States continued to sell industrial supplies to Japan, even after the Japanese attacked and sank a U.S. Navy ship in 1937. These supplies were building the Japanese military which would eventually attack Pearl Harbor.

Vigilance is required: a nation must review its own internal political workings to ensure that the safety of the nation’s citizens is never compromised in the interests of “making a deal.”

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Did We Almost Lose the Cold War?

During the years usually defined as the Cold War era, roughly 1946 to 1990, there were times during which the West, i.e., the United States and its NATO allies, thought that it might be losing. Was that perception correct?

In all epochs, historians are faced with a tension between the state of affairs and various perceptions of that state. What was the situation? What did people believe about the situation?

In 1964, historian John Stormer reviewed the course of the Cold War up to that date: a span of almost twenty years. He argued that the West was in fact losing ground. He describes the global situation at the beginning of the Cold War:

ln 1945, the communists held 160-million Russians in slavery. They controlled a land area smaller than the Russia of the Czars. Soviet industry had been largely destroyed by the Nazi war machine. Communism was a third rate power, militarily, industrially, and economically.

Stormer then describes the situation as it stood when he was writing:

Today, after the United States has spent $600-billion to fight communism and sacrificed the lives of 50,000 of its youth to thwart Red aggression, the Kremlin has grown to become the absolute slavemasters of one-billion human beings. The communists openly control 25% of the earth’s land mass. Their puppet, Fidel Castro, has been installed in Cuba, just 90 miles from our shores. The hidden tentacles of the communist conspiracy exert unmeasured influence over the rest of the world.

Over two decades, the number of people and the territorial area under communist oppression had expanded greatly. It began with the Soviet Union, an area of around 8,649,500 square miles and the population which Stormer indicates above. By 1964, nations and countries suffering under brutal Soviet Socialism included North Korea and Cuba, the eastern European bloc (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc.), and China.

Although one cannot definitively say that the West was ‘losing’ the Cold War, it does seem that John Stormer had reasons to be worried.

Of course, the Cold War is called ‘cold’ because there was no major direct military confrontation between the United States and the USSR. There were smaller ‘proxy wars’ between smaller allied countries.

There has been no “big” war because the communists are winning without one.

Regional proxy wars, revolutions, and coups occurred “in China, Malaya, Indonesia, Algeria, the Congo, Cuba, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, Hungary, Korea, Angola, Burma, Tibet, and Egypt,” as well as “in Laos, Viet Nam, and on the Indian-Chinese border.” Korea was an ongoing hotspot, and communist terrorists were active throughout Africa.

The world seemed awash in Soviet Socialist violence. Glumly, John Stormer wrote:

The forces of freedom have Iost or will lose them all.

Believing that he was witnessing the decline and fall of civilization, Stormer asked:

Where have we failed?

Writing in 1964, John Stormer could not have known that the Cold War would last another 25 years, or that the United States and its allies would ultimately win the Cold War. He was correct to be concerned, but wrong to predict failure: things were bad, but not as bad as he thought.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Cold War Blues

Life during the Cold War was surprisingly normal. Although discussions of Soviet activity was frequent in the newspapers, on the radio, and in television newscasts, most other aspects of life were not noticeably affected.

Popular music introduced Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Mature music offered Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Hollywood produced a variety of westerns, love stories, comedies, and other typical film genres. Education and employment proceeded largely along their normal lines.

Some narratives portray widespread anxiety, depicting ordinary citizens as constantly fretting about annihilation in a nuclear war. The reality, instead, was that people enjoyed sports and picnics, children watched the premiere season of ‘Scooby Doo’ on TV, and people fell in love, got married, and started families as they always have done.

Schools did not widely engage in ‘duck and cover’ drills. Although bomb shelters, or fallout shelters, were constructed in many communities, they were not conspicuous, nor were they often present in the everyday consciousness of ordinary people.

The famous ‘duck and cover’ films were, in fact, never widely adopted or shown by schools. The same is true of the related pamphlets. While such media were produced, they were also ignored.

Life was so normal, in fact, that some scholars were concerned that the public wasn’t taking the Cold War seriously enough. In 1964, historian John Stormer wrote:

The Cold War is real war. It has already claimed more lives, enslaved more people, and cost more money than any “hot” war in history. Yet, most Americans refuse to admit that we are at war. That is why we are rapidly losing - why America has yet to win its first real victory in 18 years of “cold” war.

The nature of the Cold War made it difficult to discern who was winning, who was losing, and how it was going. To be sure, at the end, in 1990, there was no doubt that the United States and its western European allies had won, and that the Soviet Union had lost.

Was the American public calmly confident, correctly reckoning that there was a very low probability of a Soviet attack on the American homeland? Or were they, as John Stormer suggests, oblivious or in denial about the danger?

Within the framework of the “cold” war there have been “hot” wars in China, Malaya, Indonesia, Algeria, the Congo, Cuba, fraq, the Gaza Strip, Hungary, Korea, Angola, Burma, Tibet, and Egypt. In 1963, there was fighting in Laos, Viet Nam, and on the Indian-Chinese border, renewed skirmishing along the 38th parallel in Korea, and terrorist activity in Africa.

The name ‘Viet Nam’ would later become ‘Vietnam,’ and Burma is sometimes called Myanmar.

In hindsight, the military threat remained potential instead of actual, vis-a-vis the American homeland. As the Cold War developed, the greater threat was not directly military, but rather the extensive espionage network which the international communist conspiracy installed and operated inside the United States.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

November 2016: Editorial Writers Use Passionate and Strong Language

The election of President Trump came as a surprise to many observers. Statisticians had expected the other candidate to win, and many people were confident that Trump would not become president.

When the results of the voting became known, editorial writers in many newspapers and magazine expressed their shock and astonishment, some of them using quite harsh language. Words in quotation marks below are from an article written by David Remnick, published in the New Yorker magazine. These are clearly words of emotion and opinion, not calm and objective reporting.

“The election of Donald Trump” narrowly averted Hillary Clinton’s seizure of the White House. Her presidency would have been “tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of” statism.

In short, “Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency,” averted what would have been “a sickening event in the history of the United States and” democracy. The world would have viewed Hillary Clinton’s presidency with “revulsion and profound anxiety.”

As a candidate, Hillary Clinton “seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical” left: her smug confidence that, naturally, every African-American voter would vote for her, as would every Latino voter and every woman. It was precisely these groups who decided not to vote for Clinton, and thereby handed the White House to President Trump.

A Hillary Clinton presidency would have led “inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.” Very quickly after the election, the Clinton Foundation announced the end of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). This move confirmed skepticism about the true purpose of that initiative.

The CGI was founded to address certain concerns. Those concerns did not cease to exist merely because Hillary Clinton lost the election. But the CGI was dissolved nonetheless.

“Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate” and one “who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled.”

The campaigns of 2016, the election of 2016, and the first few months of the Trump presidency were marked by news media which abandoned their traditional attempts at calm objectivity and neutrality. The way in which the voting public viewed news sources - magazines, cable TV, websites, etc. - changed significantly.

The biggest change from the election of 2016 might not be the resident of the White House. It might be the public’s perception of how news is reported. That perception could last longer than any presidency.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winning the Cold War: The Use of Intelligence, Military and Otherwise

Not only in the context of the Cold War, but in other historical eras as well, historians examine the role of intelligence in determining how a course of events unfolds. It is important to remember, however, that ‘intelligence’ is not limited to ‘military intelligence.’

How intelligence is gathered, which intelligence is gathered, and how that intelligence is used in a decision-making process can significantly influence a series of events.

During the Cold War, there was certainly a great deal of attention paid to military intelligence. But other types of intelligence, including economic, were also important: information about a country’s industrial base and manufacturing capacities.

Herbert Meyer was Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence, and also served as Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He writes:

From the end of World War II until 1981, every president’s objective had been not to lose the Cold War. If things were no worse when a president left office than when he took office, he’d done a good job. But President Reagan didn’t want to tread water - he wanted to win the Cold War. In other words, he switched from defense to offense.

Although various interpretations are possible, one view of the Cold War is to see it as ‘stalemate’ situation from the end of WW2 until around 1980. Historians embracing this understanding of the Cold War argue that the United States and the USSR achieved and maintained an approximate parity with each other.

Under such a view, of course, the parity would not be exact, but the two superpowers are thought to have been close to each other. For example, the USSR got the first artificial satellite, and later the first man, into earth orbit, but the United States got the first man onto the surface of the moon.

President Reagan, however, rejected the goal of maintaining parity, or of maintaining a slight superiority. He sought rather a convincing and significant superiority. This would include other factors in addition to military advantages:

So Reagan’s great director of Central Intelligence, William Casey, ask the CIA’s Soviet Division two obvious questions: Where is the Soviet Union weak? and Where is it most vulnerable? The answer he received was: We don’t know. No one’s ever asked this before.

The USSR’s chief weakness, it turned out, was economic. But this was not understood until the intelligence agencies refocused their efforts. The reconceptualizing of the intelligence, intelligence gathering, and interpreting intelligence reframed the Cold War.

In the end, the Cold War was not a military conflict, but an economic competition. President Reagan realized that by developing and building expensive weapons systems, he was forcing the USSR to try to keep pace. But the Soviet economy was feeble, and the effort to maintain parity crashed it.

The end of the Soviet Union was, more than a military event or a political event, an economic event. Once the United States intelligence agencies clearly understood the weakness of the Soviet economy, they could provoke its collapse. Herbert Meyer continues:

Our spies had been so focused on Soviet strengths - infantry divisions, nuclear missiles, tanks, submarines, and so forth - that we had no intelligence on Soviet weaknesses, such as its imploding economy. Under Casey’s leadership, we refocused our collection efforts and, not surprisingly, found all sorts of Soviet vulnerabilities that hadn’t been grasped because no one had bothered looking for them.

As the USSR scrambled maintain weapons parity, it attempted to strengthen its economy by faint efforts to emulate certain features of western-style capitalism. The program of “Perestroika” proved to be too little, too late.

President Reagan used these weaknesses and vulnerabilities to put more and more pressure on the Kremlin. Eight years later the Berlin Wall came down, and two years after that the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

It is, of course, an oversimplification to give President Reagan all the credit for winning the Cold War. Other leaders played indispensable roles: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Lech Walesa of Poland, and Pope John Paul II of Poland.

Beyond individual leaders, there were mass movements of people who wanted individual political liberty and economic freedom. In the East German city of Leipzig, two pastors led a movement of thousands of people who peacefully but determinedly protested against communism. Polish shipyard workers formed a powerful resistance group.

In the end, both high-profile personalities and large gatherings of ordinary citizens exerted an influence which was powerful enough to bring down the Soviet Socialist tyranny.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The U.S. Army During the Korean War: Doing More with Less

While fighting the Korean War in the early 1950s, the U.S. Army faced significant manpower shortages. The lack of soldiers, and the impact of this lack, was intensified as the Army was, at the same time, also tasked with three other missions: maintain a large standing force in Germany, create a second force in the United States to develop a continental air defense system, and keep a large reserve ready for quick deployment to any other place on the globe.

The Army had four simultaneous assignments, each of which required large numbers of men.

But in the immediate postwar years, i.e. in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the mood of both the voters and the political leaders created pressure to keep to a minimum both military budgets and the drafting of young men.

Writing for Time magazine, John Osborne commented that the troops in Korea were “not the best army the U.S. can put in the field. It is the best army that can be put in the field in the circumstances.”

Historian William Donnelly depicts an Army stretched thin:

The Army’s senior leaders gave first priority to units in Korea. While Eighth Army did hold the line until the armistice on 27 July 1953, Osborne’s analysis of it was correct. In Germany, the service did create a second field army, but senior leaders by July 1953 had expressed serious concerns over its readiness. The Army’s contribution to continental air defense remained questionable, and the service was unable to maintain a strategic reserve. The morale of the Army declined as soldiers questioned their role in a war where the objective was now an armistice and where much of the Army was not deployed in the war zone. For some career officers, the stresses of such a war exposed aspects of the Army’s institutional culture that they found disturbing.

Combat troops in Korea, some seeing very heavy action, had to carry out their duties with the knowledge that the Army had thousands of soldiers who were doing little, and who were warehoused on bases both in the United States and in Germany.

Morale was further degraded by the knowledge that their mission was not to win, but rather to maintain a stalemate.

President Truman assigned four demanding tasks at the same time to the Army. This happened as military budgets, and therefore the total number of soldiers, were settling in at their new, lower, postwar levels.

Some of the subsequent damage done to the Army’s effectiveness and to its morale could have been reduced by more effective financial planning within the military.

When manpower is stretched thin, efficient mission staffing can maximize effectiveness. Accompanying reductions in any other expenses will free funding to increase the total number of troops.