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.