July 29, 2003

Things Are Always Worse Than You Think They Are Department

Department of "you need to recognize that things are always worse than you imagine, even if you think you have already compensated for the fact that things are worse than you can imagine."

We knew that 1980s CIA Director William Casey was an out-of-control maniac. We did not know that he was providing Pakistan's ISI with support and encouraging them to launch cross-border raids into the Soviet Union to blow up gasoline storage tanks, destroy electric power stations, and attack border guard posts.

Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Union provided support for and encouraged the Sandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County? Talk about climbing extremely dangerous rungs on the Cold War ladder of escalation--and for no meaningful strategic result at all.

The truly scary thing is that the political appointees in the U.S. national security apparatus do not strike me as saner or people of better judgment than William "Let's Attack the Soviet Union" Casey or Oliver "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake" North. So what is the current crop planning and doing that I don't know about, but that when I do discover it will scare me as much as reading Mohammad Yousaf write about the day William Casey told him to attack the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union?

The Bear Trap, pp. 189-190: Then, using Winston Churchill's famous phrase... he declared, 'This is the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union.' William Casey was thus the first person seriously to advocate operations against the Soviets inside their own territory.... He suggested to General Akhtar that perhaps a start could be made by smuggling propaganda... followed by arms to encourage local uprisings.... Thus it was the U.S. that put in train a major escalation of the war [in Afghanistan] which... culminated in numerous cross-border raids and sabotage missions north of the Amu [River]... hundreds of Mujahideen up to 25 kilometers deep inside the Soviet Union.... There was, for a short while, real fear among the politicians that the Soviet Union and Pakistan might go to war...

Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin (1992, 2001), The Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower (Havertown, PA: Casemate: 097117092).

Posted by DeLong at July 29, 2003 07:30 PM | TrackBack

Comments

The Soviet Union did engage to serious and provocative actions against the US and Europe—by proxy. The SU flushed a great deal of money into the international terror network, which killed Americans. If you want out-of-control maniacs, try SU funded Castro. During the Cuban missile crisis Castro wanted the SU to fire an IRBM at Washington DC. Khrushchev then realized he had created a monster and abandoned him. This reckless misadventure led to Khrushchev’s downfall. If Casey was so provocative why didn’t SU fuss about it?

Posted by: A. Zarkov on July 29, 2003 08:35 PM

"Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Union provided support for and encouraged the Sandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County?"

Would we have funded a group of rebels to wage war on the populace in an effort to force them choose a U.S.-sanctioned leader just to make it stop?

Posted by: Nathan on July 30, 2003 02:17 AM

"Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Union provided support for and encouraged the Sandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County?"

Would we have funded a group of rebels to wage war on the populace in an effort to force them choose a U.S.-sanctioned leader just to make it stop?

Posted by: Nathan on July 30, 2003 02:19 AM

"Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Union provided support for and encouraged the Sandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County?"

Would we have funded a group of rebels to wage war on the populace in an effort to force them choose a U.S.-sanctioned leader just to make it stop?

Posted by: Nathan on July 30, 2003 02:34 AM

"Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Union provided support for and encouraged the Sandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County?"

Would we have funded a group of rebels to wage war on the populace in an effort to force them choose a U.S.-sanctioned leader just to make it stop?

Posted by: Nathan on July 30, 2003 02:53 AM

Well, when the Soviet Union DID encourage an attack upon the United States, we allied ourselves with them and aided them in defeating two of their historic enemies. I've finally gotten my hands on Romerstein and Breindel's "The Venona Secrets", and Chapter 2 demolishes the arguments of Jeffrey Kramer and Steven Rogers in the Alger Hiss thread here:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2003_archives/001822.html

I now have the names of the Soviet spies who successfully ordered Harry Dexter White to provoke Japan into attacking the United States in 1941. They are, Iskhak Akhemerov, Vassiliy Zarubin, and (the man who travelled to the U.S. and met with White) Vitality Pavlov.

Just as I surmised, the Soviets, relying on information from their spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, were, "concerned about Japan, which they looked upon as the eastern flank of 'the capitalist encirclement of the Soviet Union' "

To forestall the possibility of the attack Sorge warned was possible, the three Soviet intelligence officers needed an agent of influence within the Roosevelt Administration. They had a problem in that in 1939, the paranoid Stalin had withdrawn most of his overseas agents to have them purged (many executed). Meaning his eyes and ears in America were useless to him for almost two years.

The major problem for Stalin was that the Hitler-Stalin pact might have alienated many of his "anti-fascist" agents. Harry Dexter White proved not to be alienated. He readily assented to be re-activated at a lunch with Vitality Pavlov in May 1941. The appropriately named Operation Snow (as in, job?) had White writing a memo to his boss, Sec'y of the Treasury, Morgenthau, which took the then Soviet line:

"The Franco-British brand of diplomacy emulated by our own State Department appears to have failed miserably"

This memo, which Morgenthau reproduced in his diary, went on to argue, in exceptionally harsh language, that the U.S. should demand of Japan that they withdraw their troops completely from China and southeast Asia, to lease to America 50% of their naval vessels and airplanes, and to sell to America half of Japan's output of war material.

Morgenthau did not act on the memo in May, but the very same points were incorporated into Morgenthau's memo to Cordell Hull in November, which in turn became part of the ultimatum we issued in November to Japan. The ultimatum that led Japan to attack Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th.

Romerstein and Breindel's sources, in addition to the Venona cables, include the interrogation of Richard Sorge after he was captured, which was printed in "Far Eastern Affairs", Moscow, November 5, 1991, p. 168.

Pavlov's memoir, "Operatziya 'Sneg'", Geya, Moscow, 1996. Morgenthau's Diaries, and The Memoirs of Cordell Hull. The testimony of George C. Marshall at the "Pearl Harbor Attack Hearings", on Dec. 6, 1945.

We seem to have something of a bull market in perfidy where Harry Dexter White is concerned.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 30, 2003 07:13 AM

Harry Dexter White? I thought the story was that Dean Acheson "provoked" the attack on Pearl Harbor by shutting off Japan's oil...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 30, 2003 10:19 AM

"The ultimatum that led Japan to attack Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th."

Seeing how the entire argument hinges on this one line, you might want to provide more support for it.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on July 30, 2003 10:48 AM

>>Can you imagine what the U.S. reaction would have been in the 1980s had the Soviet Unionprovided support for and encouraged theSandanistas to attack similar targets in San Diego County?

Brad: the Soviet Union did that. Who financed and trained the likes of ETA in Spain, BR in Italy or RAF in Germany who put bombs in supermarkets and coffee shops in Barcelona, Paris, Rome or Berlin but the Soviet Union, either directly or (usually) through the intermediation of some Warsaw Pact subrogate?
The cold war was a nasty affair...

Posted by: JFV on July 30, 2003 10:52 AM

For those who are interested, my Executive summary of the affray between myself and Patrick Sullivan is as follows:

Sullivan: Communist agents provoked the war between the USA and Japan.

Rogers: Balderdash. The USA and Japan were drifting towards war from 1905, full steam ahead ahead for war from 1937.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 30, 2003 11:08 AM

JFV,

these cases you mention, are endogenous, ETA was not a French government action against Spain, the same can be said of the other cases you say, they were motivated internally, and any contact they may have, in the case of ETA quite unprobable, with the SU was by their own initiative.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 30, 2003 11:39 AM

Guaooo Antoni, what a subtle ability to gather arguments. I was not arguing that ETA, BR or RAF were not "native" formations but that they recieved training and financing from the S.U.
or any of their subrogate allies. This is sufficiently well known now and rather uncontroversial.
And BTW where did I ever mentioned France? Was ever France part of the Warsaw pact? You seem to have too many ghost on your head. When you land back on planet earth let me know.

Posted by: JFV on July 30, 2003 01:32 PM

Guaooo Antoni, what a subtle ability to gather arguments. I was not arguing that ETA, BR or RAF were not "native" formations but that they recieved training and financing from the S.U.
or any of their subrogate allies. This is sufficiently well known now and rather uncontroversial.
And BTW where did I ever mentioned France? Was ever France part of the Warsaw pact? You seem to have too many ghost on your head. When you land back on planet earth let me know.

Posted by: JFV on July 30, 2003 01:37 PM

ETA used to have, and still has, refuges in France: they are however strictly done by ETA sympathisants not France. Now the case commented is one of a different State creating an attack. That is not the same at all. And whatever aid they could receive from the SU, which I doubt existed, was insignificant with the one given by the USA in Nicaragua, or Afghanistan to the Taliban alone.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on July 30, 2003 05:18 PM

" Harry Dexter White? I thought the story was that Dean Acheson "provoked" the attack on Pearl Harbor by shutting off Japan's oil..."

Yes, that was part of it. But Acheson needed Morgenthau's help at Treasury to freeze Japanese funds.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 30, 2003 05:45 PM

" my Executive summary of the affray between myself and Patrick Sullivan is as follows:

" Sullivan: Communist agents provoked the war between the USA and Japan.

" Rogers: Balderdash. The USA and Japan were drifting towards war from 1905, full steam ahead ahead for war from 1937."

The careful reader will note that there is absolutely no contradiction between Steven's last two paragraphs above.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 30, 2003 05:48 PM

Actually there is considerable differance, Patrick. You think the Reds were the instigator of the war. I think the war was going to happen whether the Reds wanted it to happen or not. But anybody who wants the gory details of our dispute can go to the thread in question and look for themselves:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1822

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 31, 2003 06:37 AM

One argument both Steven and I were making was, roughly, that it is invalid to reason as follows:

'The Communists wanted it and took steps to encourage it; it happened; therefore the Communists were responsible for it happening'

So I don't see how evidence that "The Communists wanted it and took steps to encourage it" can "demolish" the argument.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 31, 2003 07:32 AM

It is fact that Richard Sorge was warning Moscow that it faced a potential attack from Japan in 1941 (Sorge specifically pointed to a modernization of the Japanese army after the Nomonhan defeat, btw). Moscow took the warnings seriously. Too bad for them they didn't take Sorge's prediction about the German attack on Russia, accurate almost to the day.

It is fact that Vitality Pavlov was dispatched to the US to re-activate Harry Dexter White, and to give him the assignment of antagonizing Japan in order to push Japan to attack. Thus relieving Moscow of its eastern problem.

It is fact that Harry Dexter White accepted his assignment from Pavlov, writing a most undiplomatic memo to his boss, Hans Morgenthau, that eventually got into a "modus vivendi" delivered to the Japanese.

It is fact that in July, when the opportunity arose to immediately implement an oil embargo against Japan, Morgenthau cooperated with Cordell Hull. It is fact that Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie argued against FDR meeting with the Japanese PM when such a request was made in response to said embargo.

That the attack might have occurred without the Soviet involvement is not fact, and is IRRELEVANT.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on July 31, 2003 01:12 PM

"That the attack might have occurred without the Soviet involvement is not fact, and is IRRELEVANT."

That one sentence sums up our dispute.

The fundamental differance in our positions, I think, is the you have a bad case of "Reds under the bed", and I don't. Have you started on that Pacific war reading list I recommended. Yes, I stand by including the Time-Life WWII series in said list. Everybody, you in particular, need to start somewhere.

But now we are merely repeating ourselves. Unless other parties take an interest in this conversation, Patrick may have the last word.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 31, 2003 09:52 PM

Patrick started this whole argument by claiming:

"A very plausible case can be, and has been, made that Pearl Harbor WAS THE RESULT OF the machinations of H. D. White, Lauchlin Currie, and Hiss" [my emphasis].

Now Patrick declares that the whole question of whether the same actions would have been taken even *without* the machinations of White et al is "IRRELEVANT" to his case [Patrick's emphasis].

Any further comment necessary?

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 31, 2003 10:14 PM
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