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February 03, 2007

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"That's why Feingold, et al. would be better off focusing on a resolution to block funding for attacking Iran, IMHO. But more on that later."

Bush apparently is going for Iran thru StratCom. I don't think he can be stopped.
...
Most of what I love America for was created or renewed in the ten years following WWII. You haven't even touched the domestic policies. I don't think FDR would have integrated the Armed Services, wherein much momentum for the end of Jim Crow began.

Truman is a giant.

Unger on the Next Step

I am going to link to Col Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis again, in part because the comments are pretty good, including Lang himself. The point about Stratcom is that Stratcom has little links to Congress, and are trained to obey CinC commands without hesitation or question.

From comments:

"You folks are wrong to think that American officers will not carry out an "execute" order from the CinC. You are simply wrong.

As to the judgment as to whether or not such an order would be legal. Line officers are not lawyers.

American officers do not, I say again do not associat their situation in any way with that of the Germans and Japanese who were hanged after WW2. American officers do not expect to be tried by the victors. pl" pl=Pat Lang

Now StratCom does not necessarily mean nukes, I am guessing that the long-range B2 & B52 missions with refueling are coordinated thru StratCom. So the initial "shock-and-awe" in Iraq might have been StratCom, for instance. There have to be people around here who know more.

But I think what this means is that Bush and Cheney are largely bypassing the Pentagon on Iran. Wow.

Does Gaddis talk about America's worst and most immoral actions in those terms? I haven't read him, but had picked up the impression from somewhere that his history of the Cold War smacks of cheerleading, which you also imply, and that the uglier aspects of America's actions are either downplayed or ignored. Is Reagan's enthusiastic embrace of people like Rios Montt or Jonas Savimbi ever mentioned, for instance, or are such things too puny to matter in the grand historical scheme of things, where we stood for all that is good and holy?

As for Korea, restraint is a relative word. I regret not purchasing a book I once saw in Barnes and Noble about the air war in Korea, which had a table listing the percentages of urban areas destroyed in various cities by bombing--the percentage was quite high. But yes, he was restrained compared to MacArthur.

I agree with your general point, I think. To the extent that there are lessons to be learned from the Cold War, Bush has picked the wrong ones to learn. So did Gaddis--he supported the Iraq invasion, though he's been critical of the way it's been executed.
I left my link-making guide at work, but you can cut and paste this--

http://www.washtimes.com/culture/20040310-102850-4087r.htm


"And the contrast shows just how dangerous it would have been if the Bush-Cheney-Kristol n'er-do-rights (and their working assumptions) had been in charge from 1946-1964."

It would have been okay in 1965?

"The years 1946-1950 in particular was one of those rare historical periods in which the world was basically born anew."

Yes.

"He also -- following the advice of the Kennan memo -- opted for a strategy of containment and engagement, rather than all-out war with Stalin."

I'll also point out that the Republicans regained executive power in 1952 with a campaign based on the claim that the Truman Administration was rife with communist traitors, who "lost" China (through insufficient support of that splendid and competent Chiang Kai-Shek and his charming wife, and then refusing to later "unleash" him against Communist China), and that the Republicans, unlike the traitorous and weak Democrats, would "roll back" communism in Eastern Europe, after the "betrayal at Yalta."

Needless to say, these were all 100% complete lies. And Eisenhower didn't lift a finger to achieve "roll back," as opposed to containment, nor to "unleash" Chiang -- since, of course, there was not a damn thing he could do differently from Truman to accomplish any "roll back," and the idea that the tiny, corrupt, regime on Taiwan could remotely threaten the mainland was as insane as believing that we should enlist the aid of our Martian allies.

This is all part of why I maintain that the Republican playbook has, with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt, been essentially unchanged since McKinley (and certainly since FDR and the Republican opposition). It's one long continuous string of accusations of Democratic traitorousness and weakness, particularly against the men who led us to victory in WWI and WWII, and who chose to defend South Korea.

"And of course, even despite China's support of America's enemies in Korea and Vietnam, Nixon shrewdly reached out to China to play the communist states against one another."

Oh, barf me with a spoon. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's praise for "Nixon going to China." The only frigging reason "only Nixon could go to China" (not your words, but the much-uttered phrase) is that Richard Nixon made it impossible for any American to speak of dealing with China by lying non-stop during the late Forties and Fifties about how we must never deal with "Red" China and anyone who says we should is a traitor.

It's like praising the person who murders their parents because of how well they've managed to carry on as a poor orphan.

And don't get me started on John Foster Dulles. If he and Eisenhower and Nixon had been remotely competent, they could have adhered to the agreements reached at the 1954 Geneva Conference on Vietnam, and we'd never have had the tragic Vietnam War continuing past Dien Bien Phu (loosely speaking).

But instead, Dulles refused to speak to Chou Enlai in Geneva, and Eisenhower refused to recognize "Red" China (it took -- yes! -- Jimmy Carter to do that) -- even though the coming split between China and the Soviet Union was visible by the late Fifties -- and all because of Richard Nixon, and his compatriots in the leadership of the Republican Party declaring that anyone who wanted to recognize Red China was -- of course -- a traitor.

"Republicans regained executive power in 1952 with a campaign"

Well, I would have to check the economy, and Stevenson was maybe not the best possible candidate against Eisenhower. If anyone culd have beat him, which is doubtful. That IIRC Eisenhower didn't have coattails lends support to 1952 being a "foreign policy" election.

And your comment was correct, useful, and important.

But I like Ike. And Truman was not nice to Greece and Italy etc. But I think the period 1945-75 about demonstrates the most liberals can hope for in America. That may for some, since it does include Vietnam, be too horrible to bear. But we are getting glimpses of just how much worse it can be.

I'm not going to disagree with anything you say, Gary, but just imagine what might have happened had any of our Cold War leaders started on about 'birth pangs' and 'transformation.' The right complained bitterly all throughout that we weren't going on the offensive, except in the smallest most controlled ways (coups in various 3d world spots, mostly). Otherwise, from Greece through Afghanistan, we were primarily playing defense.

And it worked.

"Well, I would have to check the economy, and Stevenson was maybe not the best possible candidate against Eisenhower."

Sure; I didn't mean to imply, via passing comment, that the "Democrats are soft on Communism, when they're not Commies themselves" issue was the sole campaign issue for Republicans in 1952.

Certainly there were a variety of reasons Eisenhower won, of which one of the hugest was simply that he was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who Led The Crusade In Europe to success, so far as the American public was concerned; next-most was likely the simple fact that after four terms of Roosevelt, and one-and-much-of-another of Truman's, the American public was finally ready to give The Other Party another try again, after almost twenty years.

And while there were plenty of yet other issues, Korea, of course, was the final most important factor, and the resonating statement of Eisenhower's: I will go to Korea. Americans were understandably sick of losing thousands of Americans in another foreign war, this one far less clear in its goals and methods than WWII; giving a guy who many gave overwhelming credit for victory in Europe (we'll set aside the fact that in reality the Western Front was a relatively minor campaign compared to the Russian Front) a chance to Solve Korea was naturally appealing.

And there were and are endless Republicans vastly worse than Eisenhower, of course, including Nixon.

But I can't let Eisenhower entirely off the hook, no matter than he was smarter than a lot of Democrats gave him credit for when he was in office ("Don't worry, Jim," he told Haggerty, his press secretary, as he went his the press conference, "I'll just confuse them.)

No matter that, the buck stopped with him, and he's the guy who is to blame for Operation Ajax, and for Operation PBSUCCESS, and for the Bay of Pigs, and for pretending for all eight years of his term that that government of China was on the little island of Formosa, and for not defending his mentor, the great General and subsequent Secretary of State, George Marshall (a man far more responsible for U.S. success in WWII than Eisenhower), from McCarthy and his allies' charges that Marshall was -- this was their word -- a "traitor," and for not recognizing the growing Sino-Soviet split, and for beginning to dig us into Vietnam, and on and on.

This was all tremendously damaging stuff for the world, and for America, and every item I mentioned (just for starters!) was completely unnecessary.

And the buck stopped with him. Even though it was Truman who invented that phrase.

"And your comment was correct, useful, and important."

Thanks.

"If anyone culd have beat him, which is doubtful."

Agreed. Maybe if FDR had risen from the grave....

Gary: Publius can of course speak for himself, but as I read his comments, the praise was mostly for the people who made the world anew in the Truman administration. The striking contrast is between them and the Bush administration, with Nixon, Reagan, et al being used mostly to bolster the claim: actually, pretty much everyone was a miracle of good sense compared to the people now in charge.

That said, I agree with both Publius and you.

I haven't read him, but had picked up the impression from somewhere that his history of the Cold War smacks of cheerleading, which you also imply, and that the uglier aspects of America's actions are either downplayed or ignored.

This was Tony Judt's essential point, and it's a good one. Somehow, despite all the rah-rah, I picked up on many of the same themes as did Publius.

"Bush apparently is going for Iran thru StratCom. I don't think he can be stopped."

You mean that Bush, finally, after all this time, is going to do something right?

If he had gone into Iran to begin with the world would be a better place now. Hezbollah and Hamas wouldn’t be anywhere near as armed and dangerous as they are now; Lebanon’s government wouldn’t be tottering as unstably as it is now; more reasonable politicians would be in power in Palestine and certainly closer to negotiating a peaceful resolution to the hostilities there with Israel ; and all our Sunni allies – the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Jordanians, after having made the requisite tisk-tisking over our unilateral attack, would exuberantly be thanking us in private, grateful that the Shiite threat to their own stability (financed and supported by Iranian money and zealous Iranian Shiite religious clones of Ayatollah Khomeini) has been eradicated.

Oh well, better late than never.

You mean that Bush, finally, after all this time, is going to do something right?

If he had gone into Iran to begin with the world would be a better place now...

Oh well, better late than never.

You may be forgetting one of the major differences between now and five years ago: back then, we had an army.

AGnostic Gnome: oddly enough, my crystal ball shows me a completely different alternate universe following an invasion of Iran. We need to synchronize.

Gary: Publius can of course speak for himself, but as I read his comments, the praise was mostly for the people who made the world anew in the Truman administration.

The striking contrast is between them and the Bush administration, with Nixon, Reagan, et al being used mostly to bolster the claim: actually, pretty much everyone was a miracle of good sense compared to the people now in charge."

The key words there, as regards the "good sense" are in the Truman administration. My primary point was that the Republican opposition was already, at the time, bat-sheesh insane, and led by people who had the same exact impulses that were later given free reign by their students and heirs, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. There's a direct line of personal succession, as well as political teachings, between the Republicans of the late Forties, and the Fifties, and those of today.

And things really started going bad in 1952 -- crazy bad, once those Republicans took power in 1952. Although I have to impartially give plenty of credit for predecessing evil to the Wilson Administration's round-ups of Reds, mass deportations, Palmer Raids, and so on, as well, to be sure.

The only praise I was dissenting from in Publius's post was that for Richard Nixon regarding China, about which I simply have a huge effing button, I readily admit. That stuff just drives me crazy, because it's so completely backwards wrong.

Agnostic Gnome: "If he had gone into Iran to begin with the world would be a better place now."

Or perhaps not. Although maybe if so, we would indeed all have ponies; difficult to know for sure about alternative histories (counter-factuals). But, of course, people can make up any assertion they want about them, which is the pleasure of the thing, if not necessarily its usefulness.

I could as easily assert that if we'd only invaded China in 2003, intead, the world would be a vastly better place; no one could prove me wrong.

In fact, if only G. W. Bush had invaded every nation on the planet, we'd all be better off now, and pretty much all evil would be vanquished.

Who could argue? We'd be either directly ruling every country, or governments that we thought spiffy would be, and how could that outcome not be great?

It's just as easy to prove as the claim that if we'd only invaded Iran in 200x, things would be far niftier.

Everyone can play this game of making up completely unfalsifiable claims, you know. Join in!

Blockquoting out!

Sheesh; must use "preview" now and again. Sorry.

First, Truman. I know Truman has been all the rage among Bush, neocons, and even the Peter Beinart liberal hawk crowd.

I always find it kind of funny that this crowd reveres Truman, considering that Truman made his name leading a famous investigation that exposed vast amounts of waste and corruption in the war effort. If this crowd had been around and in charge back then, Truman would have never gotten started.

gary -- i'm no nixon fan at all. i think he was a criminal who should have faced trial. but that said, his china move was one of the best things any postWW2 president did, with enormous benefits to the world and our economy more generally. integrating china into the market world is a enormously beneficial thing, and history could have come out the other way.

none of that is relevant to other stuff he did, or the e-ment he helped create. but the china move was a good one -- one that i've argued bush should do with iran. the parallels are uncanny

the parallels are uncanny

Ummm.... no. This dim bulb only understands adolescent ways of staking out his 'legacy'. Nixon was an evil mofo, but he was a grownup.

"one that i've argued bush should do with iran. the parallels are uncanny"

That, in some world I understood, be a decent play against the Saudis, Wahhabists, etc. just as supposedly Nixon split the Communist world.

Unfortunately the world that includes the Saudis, which is the actual world, is not one I understand. Billionaire playboy princes, dividing their mad money equally between Monaco and al-Qaeda, are beyond my ken and calculation.

"but that said, his china move was one of the best things any postWW2 president did, with enormous benefits to the world and our economy more generally. integrating china into the market world is a enormously beneficial thing, and history could have come out the other way."

Yes, and who would argue? But irrelevant to my point, which you're of course free to take or leave.

But since it does bother me so much, I'll try one more time: if Richard Nixon had simply not been an evil and destructive mofo, he could and would have not demonized every American who favored talking to China as a traitor, thus meaning we could have done so in 1950, rather than forcing America to not do so for more than thirty years.

That alone would be no more worthy of praise, of course, than we'd praise anyone for not doing one of the most destructive things done to this country in the 20th century. (That's simply as regards China, of course; I'm setting his other crimes and evil aside here for the moment.)

But if that had been the case, he couldn't possibly be making a "break-through" (the one that he prevented anyone else from accomplishing before him as much as anyone did), graciously allowing as how maybe the United States should stop pretending that the most populous country in the world didn't exist.

So how he gets credit for having talking to China when he deserves the primary blame for America not talking to China for more than thirty years, in any sane system of analysis, I remain at a loss. I don't understand it. How can someone deserve credit or praise for a horrible situation that they caused?

That he, you know, finally talked to China, doesn't actually alleviate his blame for preventing us from talking to China. Does it?

publius: Take this FWIW (maybe nothing). I mean it as honest criticism and not a slam. I like to see a new front-pager here, of any stripe. I can imagine how tough it is to post here and take on this crowd. So I don’t want to be overly negative, but I do want to offer you a suggestion.

I would take your posts more seriously if they were not sprinkled throughout with subtle (and not so subtle) slams at the right. That is just a turn off to me, and it distracts me from absorbing your point. They may be justified (many are and I would agree with many) but my point is that they distract me from the focus of your argument.

You could make just as strong an argument without:
“Bush-Cheney-Kristol n'er-do-rights”
“That last part is lost on the neocons and, to a lesser extent, the New Republic crowd. “
“their own silly, kindergarten ideas of good and evil justify intellectual laziness”
“It's part of living in an adult world rather than a fairy tale world of dragons and knights.”
“every silly argument”
“if someone like Dick Cheney had been making these critical calls”
“And then there's Pinochet, Jonah Goldberg's hero”
“when we acted exactly how the administration and its Weekly Standard supporters want us to act now”
“whether they get to do what they want to do before the clock strikes midnight”
etc...

I expect a certain amount of that here, and I ignore it with those I have been reading longer (I think they use it more sparingly and it does not distract me from their main point). I’m not saying you are the only one, just that you are new to me, and so maybe it jumps out at me more.

In theory, ObWi is meant to be a somewhat bipartisan site. I know that the reality is different. I am very open to substantive arguments from left field – but you lose me with your rhetoric.

I just think you would be a stronger writer without it, or at least so much of it. At least, you would be more persuasive to me.

I know – that and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

"just as supposedly Nixon split the Communist world."

Who claims that? It's absolute nonsense. Nixon did nothing whatever to cause, or contribute to, or encourage, the Sino-Soviet split, which took place during the late Fifties, with Stalin's death in 1953 being a key element, although simple historic lack of Chinese interest in being a vassal state, and Chinese-Russian friction, were also major factors. The split was complete by 1960-62.

[...] But in June 1960, the split became public, at the congress of the Romanian Communist Party, when Khrushchev and China's Peng Zhen openly clashed. Khrushchev called Mao a nationalist, an adventurist, and a deviationist. The Chinese called Khrushchev a revisionist and criticized his "patriarchal, arbitrary and tyrannical" behaviour. Khrushchev followed his attack by delivering an eighty-page letter to the conference, denouncing China.

At a meeting of 81 Communist parties in Moscow in November 1960, the Chinese delegation clashed heatedly with the Soviets and with most of the other party delegations, but eventually a compromise resolution was agreed, preventing a formal rupture. At the twenty-second Congress of the Soviet Party in October 1961, however, disagreement flared again. In December, the Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Albania, expanding the dispute from one between parties to one between states.

During 1962, international events caused a final rupture between the Soviet Union and China. Mao criticised Khrushchev for backing down in the Cuban missile crisis ("Khrushchev has moved from adventurism to capitulationism"), to which Khrushchev responded that Mao's policies would lead to a nuclear war. At the same time, the Soviets openly supported India in its brief war with China. These events were followed by formal statements of each side's ideological positions: the Chinese published The Chinese Communist Party's Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement [1] in June 1963. The Soviets responded with Open Letter of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[2] This was the last formal communication between the two parties.

How Richard Nixon could deserve credit for this a mystery to me.

Small typo there, Gary:

My primary point was that the Republican opposition was already, at the time, baksheesh insane...

"In theory, ObWi is meant to be a somewhat bipartisan site."

Yes, but that in no way has ever meant that individual posters were required to be, or even encouraged to be, bipartisan.

At no time was Moe, or Katherine, or Von -- or later posters, be they Hilzoy, Charles, etc., -- "bipartisan."

What was required was a certain moderation and minimal civility, and respect, in language, and what was intended was a fair balance between differing posters, and their differing political views.

That individual posters had any duty to be individually bipartisan was never the intention of the site.

Not that this invalidates your personal preferences as regards language, or your right to make requests of the posters, or anyone else, or of the reasonableness of your preferences, of course.

But I desire not to see anyone confused about the historical record.

gary - but just b/c china and the ussr split didn't necessarily mean that china would "join teh world" so to speak. it could have been isolated, more dangerous, and just as much of a threat. it's not so much that nixon caused the split but that he worked it to the West's advantage

"Who claims that? It's absolute nonsense."

I said "supposedly". I wish I could make the letters really small, like a 5 pt font.

"gary - but just b/c china and the ussr split didn't necessarily mean that china would 'join teh world' so to speak.

Mao desired recognition by the U.S. and the U.N. from the start. They repeatedly tried to open relations with the U.S. during the Eisenhower administration. As I alluded, Foster Dulles had a near-religious fervor about not recognizing the Communists, as did Nixon, and most of the Republican leadership (if you want parallels, it's in that fervor to not "recognize" regimes that are "evil" that we see again today that premiered via Eisenhower, Nixon, and Dulles). The incident of Chou Enlai approaching Foster Dulles (Eisenhower's Secretary of State, for anyone who doesn't recall; John Foster Dulles' brother Allen was head of the CIA until after the Bay of Pigs, as well) at the Geneva Conference in 1954, and putting out his hand to Foster Dulles to shake, and Foster Dulles ostentatiously spinning on his heels, refusing to shake hands, and immediately leaving, pretending that Chou Enlai didn't exist, was world-famous.

I'm not clear how the issue of China's openness to the world, in general, under Mao, otherwise is relevant here, I'm afraid.

"it could have been isolated, more dangerous, and just as much of a threat."

Sure. But I'm not following what that has to do with anything, I'm afraid.

"it's not so much that nixon caused the split but that he worked it to the West's advantage"

What's the "it" that's not so much? Apologies for being slow, and not catching your meaning.

That individual posters had any duty to be individually bipartisan was never the intention of the site.

Of course not. Shorter OCSteve:

If you want to write for the echo chamber, those who already agree with your viewpoints – you are on target with the rhetoric.

If the point of your writing is to influence people and change minds – then not so much.

Again – I meant it as honest criticism to be considered or not. No one has a responsibility to be bipartisan. Or anything… Free ice cream and all…

All I am saying, as someone from the right, if you want me to give serious consideration to your posts, tone down the rhetoric a bit.

I think I have proven myself to be open to considering what you have to say. You just lose me right from the start with this. I may even agree with you – but I won’t get that far if you just turn me off from the opening paragraph.

That and $1.50…

That and $1.50…

...will get you a piece of penny candy?

gary - i don't know a lot about it other than generally and what i just read, so i'll have to read up more. but i do recall china and the us almost going to war in '58 over taiwan (or the glorified rocks that were some other islands). anyway, my point was that china's integration into the global capitalist market (i.e., being "of the world") owes much to nixon's meeting. it could have gone another path, that was the point -- i.e., the '58 dispute could have eventually turned into war.

getting away from all this, you seem to be saying that republican smears then were just as bad then as they are now. maybe you're right, i don't know. but eisenhower and nixon and their teams (and reagan for that matter) were reality-based. this bunch isn't.

And OCSteve -- i appreciate the criticism and the constructive nature of it. one thing i would say is that my snark isn't so much directed at "the right," but at the administration and neocons, who i don't even consider to be conservative and who i think have been reckless beyond what words can express. i think conservatives should emotionally detach themselves from these people (i.e., they shouldn't feel attacked by attacks on bush).

will get you a piece of penny candy?

Coffee. Starbucks, or even better, McDonalds.

i think conservatives should emotionally detach themselves from these people

I’m a recovering Republican. You have to be gentle with me :)

Seriously – you’ll find me quite open-minded, but I won’t get your point if it reads like the front page of DKos.

OCSteve is wise. His feedback is practically the mirror image of some that I and others have offered in the past to Charles as to why I cannot take the latter seriously.

You and I both know who your intended target with that kind of snark is, publius. To someone on the right wing, it reads like the knee-jerk digs at Soros and Hillary read to us.

OCSteve is wise.

I’m thinking I need to get you to call my wife and tell her I am right about the practicality of flat screen TVs and HDTV – well before kickoff tomorrow would be good :)

Coffee. Starbucks, or even better, McDonalds.

No way in heck are you getting coffee at Starbucks for $1.50. Not sure about the McD's coffee prices since our local folded, though.

Whoops, I'm again getting this message when trying to post this comment:

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The requested URL was not found on this server.

We're sorry, but the address you were trying to reach has been misspelled or page you were trying to view does not exist. Please check the address and try again.

I'll split this comment up into shorter parts

"but i do recall china and the us almost going to war in '58 over taiwan (or the glorified rocks that were some other islands)."

Qemoy and Matsu. Islands Chiang Kai-Shek wouldn't withdraw from, and so Eisenhower sent nuclear howitzers to threaten mainland China.

It ended when "on 06 September 1958 Zhou Enlai proposed a resumption of ambassadorial-level talks with the United States in order to arrange a conclusion to the crisis."

Naturally, the U.S. refused. China backed down, anyway.

Although if we stipulate that mainland China deserves all fault and blame in the matter, I'm again not following what point you're making, I'm afraid. This would alleviate, or ameliorate, Richard Nixon's responsibility in helping label everyone who wanted to talk to China "traitors," how?

"but eisenhower and nixon and their teams (and reagan for that matter) were reality-based."

Calling for "roll back" of Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe was "reality based"? Insisting when out of power that Chiang Kai-shek could reconquer the mainland if only we "unleashed" him, and quit forbidding him to attack was "reality based"? Calling George Marshall a "communist" was "reality based"?

[end part 1]

[part 2]

Ronald Reagan's belief that America would build an "impenetrable missile shield" was "reality based"?

This speech by him to the nation was "reality based"?

[...] Tonight, consistent with our obligations under the ABM [Antiballistic Missile] treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I'm taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles.

[...]

I believe such a defense could render nuclear weapons obsolete and thus we could rid the world of that threat.

Reality based?

Ronald Reagan's constantly engaging in telling anecdotes about how he fought in WWII, when he described scenes from movies he was in, was "reality based"? Ronald Reagan's declarations that he hadn't traded arms for hostages for Iran was "reality based"? The man who explained embraced apartheid South Africa, and never met a Latin American, or other right-wing dictator he didn't like, was "reality based"? Ronald Reagan, the man who called Guatemala's mass-murdering dictator, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt as "totally dedicated to democracy," and that Rios Montt's government had been "getting a bum rap," and under whom we supported death squads who murdered nuns in El Salvador was "reality based"?

This Ronald Reagan?

Harry Truman, he thinks, was wrong to stage the Berlin airlift. The U.S. should have sent its trucks overland and called the Soviets' bluff; Moscow would have backed down and might have been better behaved thereafter. Douglas Mac-Arthur was correct about Korea. Had the general's view prevailed, Reagan speculates, "I don't think there would ever have been a Viet Nam."
The guy who called the Nicaraguan contras "the moral equival of our Founding Fathers" was reality based?

The Ronald Reagan whose Director of the Office Of Budget And Management, David Stockman asked:

"What do you do when your President ignores all the palpable, relevant facts and wanders in circles?"
Check out the rest of that page, just for some samples from 1986 alone. Please. That's just a tiny sample of Reagan. There are so many other years!
3/21/85
At his 29th press conference, President Reagan explains that he has no intention of visiting a concentration camp site during his upcoming visit to West Germany. To do so, he explains, would impose an unpleasant guilt trip on a nation where there are "very few alive that remember even the war, and certainly none of them who were adults and participating in any way." A soldier who was twenty in 1940 would only be 65 at the time this was said.
And, of course, as regards the SS soldiers buried at Bitburg, "they were victims, too."

Are you sure you wish to defend these propositions?

I've got lots more such queries about Reagan, Eisenhower, and Nixon.

And could I borrow your rosy-tinted glasses, please? I'll be happy to trade you some capital letters in return.

As regards Reagan, may I ask with curiosity if you've ever read Edmund Morris's, or Lou Cannon's, or any of his major biographies?

Delightful though it would be to romp through the Cold War with Gary Farber yet again, I don't really have the time to undertake it here.

But I will say something in defense of the "reality based" Republican presidents, most of whose policies I despise, though perhaps not as heartily as Gary:

One must distinguish the inflammatory rhetoric and posturing of politicians from what they actually do. There are times when hypocrisy is a virtue, and it seems to me that Cold War posturing is one of them. If Eisenhower/Dulles, Nixon/Kissinger, and Reagan/whoever had acted as tough as they sometimes talked, probably none of us would be here today. (The same holds true, pari passu for Stalin, Mao, Khruschev, Brezhnev, et al.)

What's amazing about the Cold War in retrospect - and I've had occasion to lecture on it, at least insofar as it affected Asia - is the fact that the major powers avoided direct war with each other, at least after Korea. We didn't actually go to war over Quemoy and Matsu, or Cuba, or Berlin, or a host of other potential "trigger" events, scattered around the globe, for more than 40 years. And I credit this to most of these leaders being, at some level, "reality-based."

We did (and they did), to our/their everlasting shame, indulge in bullying small countries (Grenada?!) and carrying on nasty "proxy wars" (e.g., Vietnam, Afghanistan), showing how little respect we had for people who were so irresponsible as to be born in inconsequential countries. But that, too, may be considered "reality-based," albeit the Dark Side of the Force.

I would certainly not like to see the Cold War come back (except, momentarily, to see how it might affright the chickenhawks to be dealing with countries that actually had WMDs, and proclaimed their intention to "bury" us!). But the relative prudence of our leaders in those days - even the wrong-headed and rotten ones - makes me a bit nostalgic.

I am going to second Catsy's comments, both about how OCSteve's criticisms reminded me of my criticisms of Charles Bird, and that Publius would be better off toning down the partisan digs.

Otherwise, good post.

Publius (and others), probably the best author in terms of overall accuracy and good prose style for Chinese matters these days is Jonathan Spence. His The Gate of Heavenly Peace is a history from the end of the 19th century through to 1980 or so; the more recent The Search for Modern China covers a wider scope, from 1600 to the end of the 1980s.

The thing that's relevant here is that Gary's quite correct: whatever rift there was in US/China relations existed because a then-minority movement within the Republican Party created it, with the House Un-American Actitivites as its operational heart. There were genuine problems for American security with Soviet sympathizers and outright agents in the wake of World War II. But HUAC proceeded on the absolutely stupid logic that, basically, anything the Soviets liked must be a bad idea, and anything they said they liked they actually did like rather than trying to manipulate us. Nor did HUAC care at all about important and useful traditions of info sharing in both academia and diplomacy. Indeed, the committee's leader and key staffers (that'd be McCarthy and Nixon, among others) took a stance basically hostile to the idea of both. They chose slash-ande-burn tactics in the view, according to their own notes and plans, that collateral damage to the diplomatic corps and academic establishment of Sinological studies at least didn't matter and might be an asset of its own. At the same time, as Gary says, any expression of anything short of outright hatred for all things Communist was treated by HUAC and its allies as American treason.

Now, just as there were genuine Soviet agents in the government, there were genuine Communists outi n the world. Ho Chi Minh seems to me to have been fairly uncommitted early on, but Mao Zedong was the pure strain. But so what? The world is full of people with ideologies that would like to shape the world in ways we disapprove of. The fact is that there were opportunities for constructive engagement, trade, joint security agreements, and all that stuff in the late '40s and '50s that the US couldn't take because a small but effective movement claiming the mantle of conservatism made it politically impossible. And the block lasted until the people who made it in the first place found ways to get partisan and factional advantage in taking it down.

Succinctly: If I've spent 30 years punching you in the stomach, I deserve no praise for finally deciding to stop, particularly if I go on to start stealing your shoes instead.

The whole thing is one of the real tragedies of the post-WW2 era, and in a better-informed country would be a badge of lasting shame for everyone who prosecuted the campaign of isolation and everyone who cheered it on.

i had spence in college -- he was amazing.

"Delightful though it would be to romp through the Cold War with Gary Farber yet again...."

Thanks; sorry you don't have more time to address this. (Thanks also to rilkefan for kind words on another thread; I tend to be reluctant to take up comment space simply saying "thanks.")

"If Eisenhower/Dulles, Nixon/Kissinger, and Reagan/whoever had acted as tough as they sometimes talked, probably none of us would be here today."

Sure. I will happily clarify that I wasn't accusing anyone of them of being completely insane (though we now know that Reagan's Alzheimers began seriously afflicting him in his second term, which hardly helped his basing in reality).

I do have to marvel at -- of all the Presidents of the United States to choose from -- someone advocating Ronald Reagan, the most fantasy-prone and confused President we've ever had -- as particularly reality-based.

I should probably stress to Publius, though, since we've had no real contact before this, that I don't mean any offense in any way with any of my comments or questions or disagreements; I tend to have a rather blunt style, possibly because I tend to be faintly Asperger's-ish, and am certainly tend to be pretty terrible about finding ways of putting my opinions into a warmer, and friendlier-seeming, tone. However, I do mean disagreement to be nothing but friendly, save in cases where the other party has become personally abusive.

So I hope I haven't offended Publius by disagreeing strongly at times on this thread!

Dr. Ngo: Right on about leaders who understood the uses of rhetoric.

"...but Mao Zedong was the pure strain...."

Invented a whole new, improved, strain of madness, I'd emphasize. Lenin and Stalin did enough evil to fill volumes, as it does, but nobody in the Soviet Union came up with something like the Cultural Revolution.

Of course, we don't know what would have happened if, say, Yezhov had come to power. And I'd hate for people to forget Yagoda, although in truth probably most people have never heard of him.

(Of course, Pol Pot deserves special credit for doing more mad killing per capita than anyone else.)

publius: what year? (not spring 1997 by any chance)?

1. For the first time, I agree with OCSteve. The "kindergartner" thing stuck out for me. I mean, it's true, but it's jarring here; the place isn't known for its red meat.

2. Speaking of red meat, Nixon can hardly be blamed for closing off relations with China in 1950 if the Red issue was such a winner politically. Someone else would have beaten him to it had Nixon counselled restraint. People get the government they deserve etc., and it's hard to write a 30-second ad about how restrained you are.

'98. i remember b/c i was "killed" in trumbull assassin walking out from SSS. did you love the class too?

i have the 'modern china' book and have been meaning to buy the latest edition and re-read. i also saw that a hard-core book on the cultural revolution came out recently that i've meaning to get

I had the impression - set forth to in Tuchman's book on Stillwell, but also part of historical lore - that Mao was trying to get support from the Americans, and that many people in the foreign service urged the Administration to deal with him rather than with Chang Kai Shek.

IIRC, there was a window in which Mao could have been "one of our SOBs," rather than the Soviets', and the people urging Truman et al. to go that way had noted the Kuomintang didn't have nearly the popular support that Mao did, that Shek was a lousy leader (militarily and personally), and that Mao - at least at that point - was nowhere near as corrupt or tyrannical as Shek was already proving to be.

Now, it could be that Mao would have shaken off US influence just as readily as he did the Soviets', in which case his government's more egregious actions (esp. the Cultural Revolution) would have happened anyway. But maybe not: if Mao had been allied with the West, it's possible he wouldn't have felt it necessary, or convenient, to expunge all vestiges of "Western" thought, which was the philosophical/ideological rationale for the Cultural Revolution.

It could also be, though, that if the West had opted to support Mao rather than the Kuomintang, China wouldn't have been distracted by the Taiwan issue, nor held back in its development by the Cultural Revolution, and therefore might have become a serious economic/political power long before it actually became one. And, thus, a competitor for hegemonic influence long before now.

(Interesting, really, to think about all those lost opportunities. Castro also wanted US support, before he turned to the Soviets.)

Minor, but not unimportant, point of nomenclature: Chinese family names come first, so Chiang Kai-shek is referred to as "Chiang," never as "Shek." (Or if you prefer pinyin Jiang Jieshi is "Jiang.")

Otherwise the assessment of postwar China policy is not bad. Over the past 20-30 years there's been great scholarly kerfluffle over whether or not there was a "Lost Chance in China," ca. 1948-49. As I follow the debate (from a great distance), it appears that the currently prevailing view is that Mao was never as amenable to American persuasion as some believed or hoped, so that even if the US had been more flexible, we would probably not have been "friends" in any meaningful sense. OTOH, relations did not have to be as hostile as they turned out, and in particular our mutual armed conflict in Korea (which poisoned the waters for many years after) might have been avoided by a little greater prudence on both sides.

"I had the impression - set forth to in Tuchman's book on Stillwell,"

Which is terrific.

"...but also part of historical lore - that Mao was trying to get support from the Americans,"

This gets a bit complicated. For one thing, Mao was adept at making practical alliances as necessary; during WWII, there was an at least ostensible semi-truce, between Chiang's Nationalists and Mao's Red Army, though in reality both much preferred to fight each other than to fight the Japanese -- although the Communists preferred to fight much more, while Chiang and his cronies much preferred to accept Western aid, and to make money, and to prepare further to fight the Communists... eventually; meanwhile, why rock the boat?

(And, of course, the war in China by the Japanese began in 1931, long before "World War II" is generally considered to have begun; meanwhile, the the Communists and the Kuomintang had been fighting since 1928 -- although prior to that, they'd had an alliance against the warlords, once Chiang came into power of the Kuomintang in 1926.)

But Mao would have been happy to have accepted aid from pretty much anywhere; he had no qualms about accepting money from the U.S., though he had no particularly friendly feelings towards the U.S. (Ho Chi Minh, of course, famously pled for American aid, but we mustn't confuse their stories.)

Chinese, including Mao, had good reason, of course, to not love America, given its participation in humiliating China with the "Open Door" policy (which was an apt name in the sense of a home invader, although it ostensibly was to protect China from European interests), and its gunboats travelling the rivers of China at will (anyone ever read Richard McKenna's The Sand Pebbles, or at least seen the movie?), and the general Euro/American demands for commercial "concessions" at gunpoint.

Anyway, bottom line as regards Mao wanting American support: not so much, really, so far as I recall (all my relevant books are in storage). Mao tended to be unhappy, for some reason, that the U.S. was giving massive aid to Chiang Kai-shek.

Stilwell, on the other hand, endlessly pointed out that Chiang was little interested in fighting the Japanese, and was instead greatly interested in accumulating as much American treasure as he could, whereas Mao was actually fighting the Japanse, although never in any danger of actually coming close to pushing them out of China.

"....and that many people in the foreign service urged the Administration to deal with him rather than with Chang Kai Shek."

Well, the foreign service wasn't all that large in those days, so we're really talking about the handful of senior experts, the "China hands" -- John Paton Davies, John Service, Owen Lattimore, John K. Fairbank, and O. Edmund Clubb, among others -- not "many people," but otherwise quite right.

And as you'll recall (but I mention since not everyone will), Vinegar Joe Stilwell was one of the handful of four star generals the U.S. had prior to our entry into WWII, and he'd served three tours in China before the war, as well as spending four years as our military attaché at the U.S. Embassy to China; he was a genuine China expert, himself, as well as one of our greatest generals, and he was onto Chiang, that corrupt, incompetent, greedy, lying, son-of-b*****, from the get-go of his appointment as commander of the CBI (China Burma India) theater.

Of course, the Republicans got him fired in 1944, because he reported the truth about Chiang, their darling. (Let's also give a hand to Claire Chennault, and Henry and Clare Booth Luce, everyone!)

Oh, and then they got all the China hands fired, for being traitors, for having reported the truth about Chiang.

And after they were fired, we had no experts on China left in the government, which just helped no end in understanding China, and what it might and might not do. But that didn't matter, anyway, since the Communists were evil, mustn't ever be talked to, and China was truly rightfully ruled from Taiwan. Damn, any minute now we should unleash Chiang.

Truman sent General Marshall to China in '46 in a vain and impossible mission to reach a truce between Chiang and Mao. He failed, so that made him a Communist and a traitor, too.

Which, as I said, Eisenhower didn't say "boo" about as regards his mentor, for years -- while President of the United States; this is something many, including me, regard as unforgiveable -- that Eisenhower stood by in cowardly, and exploitive silence, until others had brought McCarthy low enough to no longer be a threat, years later, years after he, and Richard Nixon, and their cronies, hounded one of America's greatest generals ever, from office, as a "communist" and a "traitor."

(I need not point out that Eisenhower's utterly cynical choice in picking Nixon -- a man he had utter contempt for, and Nixon knew it and felt it -- as his Veep was also completely, disgustingly, contemptible.)

Then the Republicans went after Truman and the Democrats for having "lost China" by insufficient support for brave, courageous, Chiang, obviously due to the fact of the Democrats and the Truman Administration being riddled with communists, "pinkos," traitors (much meat from Alger Hiss, one of the few actual traitors in the Administration, though in actuality his only value to the Soviets was in reporting; contrary to Republican allegations ever since, he was of relatively low level importance in the State Department, save for his sole task of technical work relating to the establishing of the United Nations Organization late in the war; he was never in a position to significantly affect policy -- including at Yalta, where how Roosevelt could have gotten a more favorable deal with Stalin, absent being willing to go to war with him, is a mystery -- and there's no evidence he ever affected an iota -- but, yes, he was, as confirmed by the Venona transcripts in the brief post-Soviet opening of Soviet archives -- one of the only actual traitors), and homosexuals.

As I said, there is a long and consistent Republican pattern here.

dr. ngo - Thanks, and apologies. Deeply embarrassed apologies, since you'd think I'd get Chiang's name right, having properly called Mao, Mao. Sheesh!

Gary - thanks for the background. Impossible to say what-might-have-been. As for the Republican record on foreign policy, I am as usual reminded of what used to be said about the Bourbons.

Vinegar Joe Stilwell was ... one of our greatest generals,

I don't know that I'd go that far. Stilwell was quite good, and he did have Chiang pegged. Of course, he was just as hostile to the British (except Slim, whom everyone liked). Vinegar Joe was was a very fine operational thinker, and was outstanding at motivating subordinates. Unfortunately, to be a truly great general, you have to be able to get along with other people, which was a talent Stilwell frequently lacked.

FWIW, this was a trait Eisenhower had, and it's one of the reasons I think that many people underrate how important he was to conducting a successful war in Western Europe. When I look at the personalities of the generals under him, many of whom it was politically impossible to push aside, I am hard pressed to think of many people who would have been able to keep that train on the rails.

What was always amazing to me about Stilwell was his love of China and his strong feelings about the Chinese infantryman, especially given the times.

I should have googled first. Here is a 1944 article about Stilwell. Even allowing for the hagiographic aspect, I think it still suggests something special involved.

Crap. Article here

"Unfortunately, to be a truly great general, you have to be able to get along with other people, which was a talent Stilwell frequently lacked."

An interesting, and not unreasonable argument. But while Ike could famously "get along" with other people ("other generals" may be the more relevant phrase), Patton, not so much: did that make him a non-great general? Same question about Bernard Law Montgomery.

Well, if one thinks of the 'modern general', as distinct from a general who simply attempted to with the battle/war, you'd have to call Patton and Montgomery flawed, even though they were successful. By modern general, one who is able to weigh the political dimensions of his decisions and coordinate with allies. Eisenhower was understanding of the home front dimension, as well as the necessity for maintaining the coalition as well as able to deal with people like Patton and Monty (not to mention DeGaulle). In that sense, MacArthur's tenure in the Pacific didn't offer the range of challenges, so if you want to rank them and assign the top slot to the 'truly great' as opposed to 'just great', I don't think you are going to be too far off.

My reaction to seeing Stillwell's name was pretty strong, and I wasn't sure why, though I remembered that he had a number of Japanese-American Military Intelligence officers that he thought the world of, but googling a bit, I came across one incident that I think is indicative of the man.

When Kazuo Masuda, a member of the 442nd, a volunteer outfit of Japanese Americans who fought in Europe in WWII, was killed in action (and awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts), the city of Santa Ana refused to allow his parents to bury him in the city cemetary. Stillwell heard about this and arranged to come back to the US and present the postumous Bronze Star to his parents, who had also received death threats from neighboring farmers.

Presenting the Bronze Star on the porch of the Masuda farm, Stillwell said this

"The Nisei bought an awful big hunk of America with their blood. You're damn right those Nisei boys have a place in American heart, now and forever. And I say we soldiers ought to form a pickax club to protect Japanese Americans who fought the war with us. Any time we see a barfly commando picking on these kids or discriminating against them, we ought to bang him over the head with a pickax. I'm willing to be a charter member. We cannot allow a single injustice to be done to the Nisei without defeating the purposes for which we fought."(link)

There is another story under this, in that Stillwell's public relations officer was a young captain named Ronald Reagan, who spoke after Stillwell, commenting that "Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal. Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way". When Reagan was presented with the bill for redress for the internment, it was thought that the White House would veto it, but Reagan was apparently reminded of his role, and went on to sign it.

But Mao would have been happy to have accepted aid from pretty much anywhere

As well-steeped in history as Gary is, I tend to look askance at such formulations as "X would have done Y". You really have no idea. I'd tend to put some weight to your projections, but I think Mao's willingness to accept aid would apply only to discrete instances, and not to any ongoing relationship. Either Mao genuinely placed great emphasis on ideological purity, or he did a damned good job acting as if he did. I'm inclined to think he was the real thing, though, and that he would reject any appearance of validating Western political thought by having anything sort of dependent relationship with the West.

I guess I haven't read enough to understand why Mao allowed Nixon to visit in 1972, but I'd think by then he needed all the support he could get from anywhere, and damn the ideology.

All that aside, I think it's a mistake to try and rationalize everything Mao did, just as it's a mistake to chalk everything he did up to utter insanity.

The Nixon going to China episode provides some interesting parallels to present events.

I am in basic agreement with Gary in assessing the event. Nixon's alleged coup actually reflects a recognition that the prior policy of belligerence was unwise. I wish I could always receive such credit for belatedly cleaning up messes that I helped to make.

Nixon defenders, however, seem to think that his rapprochement was possible only because he had repeatedly threatended to kick China ass for so many years; that success was only possible through belligerence. The same basic thesis is made as to Reagan -- that his belligerence is why we suddenly turned years of alleged creeping defeat in the Cold War into victory. Utter revisionist nonsense, but that is the ideology.

So is it any surprise that the intellectual descendents of these people believe that peace in the Middle East can only come from war? If Bush were to suddenly discover meaningful diplomacy with Iran and achieve success in moderating the situation, he would (under this way of thinking) have succeeded at that effort only because of the past belligerence.

And he would allegedly deserve the same praise as Nixon -- we'd be hearing for years about how only Bush could go to Iran. Is Gary's head exploding at the mere thought of that?

But the current crowd is not nearly as tricky as old Dicky -- it ain't gonna happen. Funny how Nixon's betrayal of his own ideology ends up being his greatest triumph, although that pretty well sums up the man -- at his best when being dishonest.

Great thread -- I especially appreciate Gary Farber's contributions, which are what mine would be in some alternative universe where I could write that well. I too get a little annoyed when Reagan is held up as any sort of model. To be fair, I think he should get credit for recognizing that Gorbachev was sincerely interested in ending the Cold War, when many conservatives thought that glasnost was a commie ploy meant to get us to lower our guard. Reagan is often given credit for winning the Cold War (which seems wildly overstated), but to the extent he does deserve credit much of it is because he recognized Gorbachev's good intentions.

Gorbachev is an even more obvious example of someone who's true greatness lies less in what he did do (perestroika, glasnost etc) than in what he did not do (use the Red Army to crush the revolutions of 1989). It's a pity that, as Publius says, historians are usually more interested in activity, and neglect deliberate inactivity.

"There is another story under this, in that Stillwell's public relations officer was a young captain named Ronald Reagan"

Reagan made movies during WWII, for the Army Signal Corps. He narrated a movie about Stilwell in 1947, The Stilwell Road (note spelling).

He didn't serve with Stilwell, and never served with a fighting unit, and never came close to serving with a fighting unit. He made movies.

"There is another story under this, in that Stillwell's public relations officer was a young captain named Ronald Reagan, who spoke after Stillwell,"

I'd have to see a cite before I remotely believed this. The first claim is dead wrong -- Reagan didn't serve with Stilwell, or even "Stillwell."

"Stillwell heard about this and arranged to come back to the US"

This is also incredible nonsense, and that's obvious on the face of it. The serving commander of CBI couldn't blithely return to the states from the jungle: that's crazy.

It's possible that after he was relieved of his command, he was free to make speeches in California, certainly. But how Ronald Reagan would enter the picture, I don't know.

Given the factually-challenged nature of this, down to not even getting General Stilwell's name right, well, not much of a cite.

Ahh, Gary, it was 1945, so yes, he was home and assigned to the Western command. I wasn't thinking when I typed that. Ronald Reagan was a PR officer and noted what he said in the speech he gave when he signed the redress note. I know that the press often went easy on Reagan, but I don't think they would have let him get away with a whopper that big. Also, the speech by Stilwell is also well documented. As for the stutter typing the l, sorry about that, but you really don't need to be such an asshole.

"As well-steeped in history as Gary is, I tend to look askance at such formulations as 'X would have done Y'."

As do I. I make this point all the time.

For instance, people are always saying that JFK would (or in some cases, would not) have not escalated in Vietnam; this is silly, because don't know, and can't know. We can only guess. But what someone is thinking one year in no way predicts what they'll be thinking a year later, with all sorts of different information, in a different situation.

On the other hand, while making firm declarations about what someone would have done is foolish, speaking to their general tendencies is perfectly reasonable.

"I guess I haven't read enough to understand why Mao allowed Nixon to visit in 1972,"

I have.

"...but I'd think by then he needed all the support he could get from anywhere, and damn the ideology."

Mao always disliked and resented the Russians, and why not? He was from a far older and more sophisticated culture (at least in his view). Once Stalin died, he felt that the was the senior figure in the Communist world; he deeply resented Krushchev, and he found Stalin's successors wildly ideologically incorrect.

Then they actually fought border skirmishes, after the Soviets withdrew all their advisors and cut off aid.

After the Sino-Soviet split, Mao had as much reason to want to play America against the USSR as the U.S. had good reason to want to play China and the U.S.S.R. against each other. There was more likelihood of further fighting between the Asian powers than of direct conflict between China and the U.S.

One of the things Kissinger did in his preliminary visits to China was give our most secret intelligence on the Soviet order of battle on their Chinese front and frontier. This was astonishing.

Anyway, I could write about this all day, but I'd recommend an actual book, instead. Or at least this.

"Either Mao genuinely placed great emphasis on ideological purity, or he did a damned good job acting as if he did."

But Mao was the supreme leader and creator of the ideology. Chinese communist ideology was whatever Mao said it was, Slart, and this changed all the time under his regime. Radically. Thus, the Hundred Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and so on, and not to neglect the constant by-the-week little changes that tended to be issued.

And so it continued when Deng declared that Chinese Communist ideology proclaimed that "from each according to their ability, to each according to their work." (I'll never forget hearing this reported on the radio in 1979, and falling off my chair in astonishment -- literally.)

Then Chinese Communist ideology became "to become rich is glorious!"

Chinese Communist ideology was nothing, and is nothing, but flexible. Isn't that kinda obvious?

For that matter, Lenin had no problem making changes of course, either. New Economic Policy, remember?

dmbeaster: "And he would allegedly deserve the same praise as Nixon -- we'd be hearing for years about how only Bush could go to Iran. Is Gary's head exploding at the mere thought of that?"

No, but you're entirely correct, save that Nixon's ranting against China, and against commie-Democrats who want to talk to them, went on for decades.

There are historical parallels here, but not the ones publius seems to think they are.

"Funny how Nixon's betrayal of his own ideology ends up being his greatest triumph, although that pretty well sums up the man -- at his best when being dishonest."

Yep.

Donald Johnson: "To be fair, I think he should get credit for recognizing that Gorbachev was sincerely interested in ending the Cold War, when many conservatives thought that glasnost was a commie ploy meant to get us to lower our guard."

Yes. Reagan deserves rare credit there.

"Reagan is often given credit for winning the Cold War (which seems wildly overstated),"

Yes, that's lunatic. One can give him some credit, but no more than due to Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Truman. They all played crucial roles.

Note also that in the "Star Wars" speech that I linked to, Reagan specifically explained that some misunderstood that SDI was a bargaining chip, and that they were wrong, it wasn't -- it was to forever eliminate the threat of nuclear missiles; I mention this since it's still often gotten wrong.

Thanks for the kind words.

"Gorbachev is an even more obvious example of someone who's true greatness lies less in what he did do (perestroika, glasnost etc) than in what he did not do (use the Red Army to crush the revolutions of 1989)"

Seems a fair statement. It's not as if his goal was ever the collapse of the Soviet Union, of course.

Of course, the Cheneys, Perles, and the rest of their bunch all knew that Gorbachev was a Big Faker. How consistently reliable their judgment has been, as they've failed upwards!

Thanks, Gary. Sometimes being corrected by you is a pleasure; this is one of those times.

Sure, Maoist ideology was exactly what Mao said it was, and sure, it wasn't consistent (note from self to others: head-smashingly obvious, but I never thought of it this way until Gary pointed it out), but I've always seen Mao as at least relatively consistently anti-capitalist, and the Western way of life was rejected fairly and consistently firmly by Mao in word and deed, as I recall.

I think I've said this before, but most of what I think I know about Mao I've absorbed through various autobiographies that were written by women who lived through different phases of Mao's reign, and so may be lacking in both perspective and historical correctness.

LJ: "Ahh, Gary, it was 1945, so yes, he was home and assigned to the Western command. I wasn't thinking when I typed that."

Wait, you just made up the stuff about Stilwell's finding out about the award and flying home from CBI because you imagined it happened?

And the stuff about Reagan being Stilwell's public relations officer: you just imagined that to be the truth, too?

Okay. I get things wrong on occasion, myself. Thanks for clarifying.

That actor Ronald Reagan could, on orders, in 1945, travel all the way from Los Angeles to Orange County, to give a speech along with other actors, military, and public figures, I have no trouble believing.

"...but you really don't need to be such an asshole."

Thanks for sharing.

With respect, Gary:

Wait, you just made up the stuff about Stilwell's finding out about the award and flying home from CBI because you imagined it happened?

And the stuff about Reagan being Stilwell's public relations officer: you just imagined that to be the truth, too?

Okay. I get things wrong on occasion, myself. Thanks for clarifying.

Do you genuinely not see that these three lines are well beyond unnecessarily antagonistic (into outright hostile, I'd say) or are you just being an asshole for the sake of it?

Good post. I think you know, Pub, how I generally loathe politics. But the conduct of our illustrious leaders has shocked even me.

Judging from the past, this would be a good time for a kittens thread. Or an alternatives-to-chips-and-dips thread.

Gary, I have a few other things on my mind, so my apologies for not living up to your exacting standards of correctness. I went thru number of pages and pulled some facts from memory, I was trying to explain why I had such a strong good feeling towards Stilwell. There was one post that intimated that Reagan was going to veto the legislation until confronted with this, but I didn't find any confirmation of that, and my write-up was trying to avoid suggesting that Reagan was just backed into a corner and was forced to do the right thing and I rushed it to send it off. I could rewrite the comment, but seeing the kind of comment I get when I do acknowledge your points and the implication that I am lying, along with the original spelling flame, I think I will just pass. I hope you are feeling better and I hope no one treated you in a similar way when you were down.

"...but I've always seen Mao as at least relatively consistently anti-capitalist, and the Western way of life was rejected fairly and consistently firmly by Mao in word and deed, as I recall"

Both accurate statements. But you have to remember how thoroughly totalitarian Mao's control was. When Nixon visited, Beijing was essentially hermetically sealed from him and the other Americans in the delegation. The Americans only came into contact with Extremely Authorized Communists. Contamination was kept to an minimum -- no, was really excluded entirely, actually.

Neither did a political alliance of an extremely tenuous sort mean Mao had to make a micrometer's worth of economic changes, or trade deals, or whatever.

The only point of the whole thing for both parties, Americans and Chinese, was to throw the Soviets off balance, and keep them that way, never knowing how and when America might support China against them, and when China might help the Americans against them.

This presented no ideological danger to Mao whatever; it was purely external diplomacy only (oh, and exchanges of ping-pong players -- very threatening, that).

He controlled all information in China far more thoroughly than ever dreamed of in the Soviet Union. There were no Chinese samizdata. Moscow was a gloriously open and welcoming city to westerners, accompanying KGB agents and bugging including, compared to Beijing.

There was no danger of capitalist contamination via the diplomacy between the U.S. and China.

Just as, I might add, our talking to China didn't make for a sudden leap in Maoists in the U.S. -- despite the fact that a general premise of the Excessive Anti-Communists was that simply allowing people (Americans or foreigners) to read about communist ideas, or meet communists, would lead to them adopting communist ideas, becoming traitors, and so on. Thus we had to round up all communists and leftists and "hyphenated Americans" (Wilson's term) immedately and deport them immediately, they were such a grave threat to the United States. Ideas are dangerous!

Woodrow Wilson, 1915: "... hyphenated Americans who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life. Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out."

And Socialists duly elected to Congress must never be seated, of course. In fact, better to jail them.

Any resemblance to post-9/11 events is strictly coincidental, of course.

Oh, and special added happy fun bit: many of the socialists Wilson deported to the Soviet Union were later shot by Stalin. Fun for socialists wherever they went! And useful to rulers everywhere. Mustn't have people thinking for themselves, after all.

"...historical correctness."

That does tend to change to degrees -- sometimes a lot of them -- as you know, anyway, insofar as it exists.

I'm sorry if you're feeling down, LJ, or otherwise having problems; sympathies, and I hope things improve.

We will now, forthwith, stop both referring to people as assholes, and also going beyond correcting them into the realm of needless hostility.

Except, of course, for me: I get to go around telling people what to do.

Hah!

But hilzoy, since, in your ukase, 'stop' has scope over 'both', all you've done is forbid them to do both at the same time.

I'm just sayin', is all.

Thanks once again, Gary. Having it be about unbalancing the Soviets kind of connected some dots for me.

I'm going to have to look into Sino-Soviet relations, I think. I've always wondered to what degree the Chinese nuclear missile inventory was acquired amicably from the Sovs, and to what degree the missiles (or the technology) were outright stolen.

Anyway, I could write about this all day,

Err – you have been...

I should point out that OCSteve will be appearing at TiO for a limited engagement (limited only by his desire to post, that is) His first post is here, and try the veal.

"Having it be about unbalancing the Soviets kind of connected some dots for me."

Probably superfluous to mention, but something particularly worth noting is that the whole American-Chinese rapprochement took place in 1971-2, during which time we were still fighting in Vietnam, which was also a key factor.

Both the USSR and China were supporters of, and suppliers, of North Vietnam, despite being hostile to each other, and with the North Vietnamese also playing off both against each other (later, in 1979, of course, the Chinese, historically hostile to the Vietnamese, invaded Vietnam to teach them a lesson, and got their nose bloodied really well -- lesson: don't piss off Vietnamese, who are/were primarily nationalists).

And one part of Nixon and Kissinger's motivation, though lesser than simply aligning ourselves to some degree with the Chinese against the Soviets, and thus, it was hoped, helping counter-balance the Soviet threat against the U.S. (naturally, the more the USSR worried about their huge border -- and border disputes and skirmishes -- with China, as well as Chinese rivalry around the Communist and third world, the less comfortably they'd feel in a position to militarily threaten the west, was the idea, and a not unreasonable one), was to the hope that negotiating with, and helping to some degree, the Chinese, would encourage them to lessen their support for North Vietnam to some degree, as well as to gain Chinese influence that would be, it was hoped, used to help encourage the North Vietnamese to make a peace settlement. (And it was also hoped the Chinese would be helpful with Cambodia, and Laos.)

That part was pretty much entirely futile, and I don't recall, offhand -- it's been more than a decade since I did much serious reading on this -- that anything particularly useful happened. The North Vietnamese were happy to take supplies from the Chinese -- and the Russians and East Europeans, and wherever, particularly including the South Vietnamese, and stuff captured from Americans -- but had no interest in Chinese political advice or influence.

The Chinese did later cooperate with the U.S. in... Afghanistan, against the Soviets: it all comes round; we wind up back at the Uighurs in Gitmo.

And the Chinese also continued to oppose the Soviets in Africa and the rest of the Third World.

Also worth noting as a motivator for the Chinese is that they weren't just concerned with the Russian/Soviet threat, but had also been fighting wars with India, the other huge country on their other border, at the same time. They were surrounded and isolated, with no significant friends in the world (hurrah for Albania and Enver Hoxha!), until they played the American card.

(The western Europeans maintained relations, for the most part, with mainland China, unlike the U.S., but it was all relatively deep freezer stuff -- not significant in military affairs in the slightest, or the "world correlation of forces," and trade was minor.)

But it's interesting that we were in a shooting war, and yet, of course, Nixon and Kissinger were in continuous negotiations with the North Vietnamese, with the Soviets, and the Chinese, the whole time. None of this "we can't talk to our enemies" and "they know what they need to do" crap.

I'll give Nixon credit for that: he believed in the value of serious diplomacy -- indeed, one might even say he tended towards being obsessed with it, and diplomatic tactics and grand strategy -- and always pursued it exhaustively. All over the place, particularly including the Mideast, of course, as well.

"I've always wondered to what degree the Chinese nuclear missile inventory was acquired amicably from the Sovs, and to what degree the missiles (or the technology) were outright stolen."

I don't recall much detail on that off the top of my head, but all Soviet advisors, and exchanges, and aid, were gone from China by 1961; the serious nuclear transfers were, of course, in the fifties. Here is a starter for ya.

"They were surrounded and isolated, with no significant friends in the world (hurrah for Albania and Enver Hoxha!), until they played the American card."

"Friends" was a dreadful choice of words, actually. "Great powers have no friends: only interests."

It's so crazy to me that Syria is absorbing most of the refugee flow from Iraq right now--or at least more than any other country-- and we won't even talk to them.

"It's so crazy to me that Syria is absorbing most of the refugee flow from Iraq right now--or at least more than any other country"

More than Jordan? Where do you get figures from?

For what it's worth, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees doesn't have real figures.

[...] What has happened over the last 12 months is that there's been an increasing number of Iraqis crossing the border, particularly into Jordan and Syria. We don't have a clear idea of the exact number of Iraqis. It could be 500,000 in Syria and Jordan, it could be a million ...

[...]

There's some 45,000 who have registered with us in Damascus, there's another 21,000 Iraqis who have registered with us in Amman – obviously this is just a fraction of the total numbers.

See also here.
According to the United Nations, 500,000 to 700,000 Iraqi refugees live in Jordan, but aid officials say the actual number is nearer to 1 million because many Iraqis live under the radar.
But also this:
[...] Sameer Humfash, the travel agent, watched her cry. By his estimate, 50 to 60 families were fleeing each day on the buses lined up outside. Nowadays, Iraqis were heading mostly to Syria, he said.

"They are not letting Iraqis in at the Jordanian border," interrupted Ahmed Khudair, one of Humfash's employees.

It's unsurprising there is apt to be more Western reporting focusing on Jordan than Syria, which tends to give the impression that more Iraqis go to Jordan than Syria. Whether that means that Syria's refugee situation is under-reported to the point where there are more refugees there than in Jordan, or whether there are in fact more Iraqis going to Jordan, I have no idea.

But something to keep in mind, regardless:

Humfash makes all his passengers sign waiver forms that read: "I am traveling on my own responsibility and God is the only one that protects us." On the roads to both Jordan and Syria, Sunni insurgents have dragged Shiites from buses and executed them. Humfash stays in radio contact every hour with the bus driver, usually a Syrian. He always asks three questions, he said:

"How is the road?"

"Did they take any passengers?"

"Did they hurt any passengers?"

I recommend the rest of the story.

If you're into heavy reading (Publius or any others) I'd advise finding copies of both Kennan's "Long Telegram" and NSC-68 (by Paul Nitze, chiefly; much closer to what was actually adopted that Kennan's initial thoughts) and comparing them. They're easily available online. I'm not sure if it's as easy to find Kennan's condemnations of NSC-68, but they're both incredibly interesting as primary documents that show the thinking that led to the policies the U.S. eventually adopted.
In my own readings, they both have odd and occasionally almost inexplicable faith in the innate goodness of the U.S. and an equal faith in the innate instability and evil of the U.S.S.R. NSC-68 was more militaristic, more rigid about "don't give an inch" (the domino theory wasn't quite articulated, but it clearly is in its genesis), and, again in my reading, much more nationalistic and dangerous.
They don't take terribly long to work through, especially if you skip some of the specifics and focus on the philosophies at work.

"This presented no ideological danger to Mao whatever; it was purely external diplomacy only (oh, and exchanges of ping-pong players -- very threatening, that)."

And pandas. Don't forget the pandas.

"More than Jordan? Where do you get figures from?"

I was talking about refugee flows right now, not about total # of Iraqis living there. As I understand it Syria is letting people in; Jordan may still have more total--I don't know the numbers-- but they've drastically restricted it recently, especially for young males. It's based on news stories and what I've heard from people who are more knowledgable than me.

("absorbing" did imply the total #...oh well, not the first time I've been imprecise)

Kennan's "X" telegram, aka "The Long Telegram" is here, among many other places. (More key cold war documents here, among, as you say, other places on the net; there are a number of excellent sites of cold war document archives.)

The background to the X telegram is that Kennan, who had been one of our key people in the Soviet Union since FDR opened relations in 1933, was then charge d'affaires, which is to say, second in rank to the Ambassador, at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, in 1946. He responded to a State Department query for explanations as to then-contemporary Soviet behavior and intentions with this telegram (all exchanges from the State Department in those days were literal cables, of course; these days they're just referred to as "cables") of unprecedented length (and depth). It essentially set the foundation of American policy as regards the Soviet Union for the next forty-five years, though with a lot of swings and policies that weren't in accord with Kennan, as Joe Thomas alludes. It was the basis of the Truman Doctrine.

It was published "The Sources of Soviet conduct" in Foreign Affairs in 1947 as by "X," pseudonymously. Hey, it's like he was a blogger!

NSC-68 is another basic. If you google for a copy of the Long Telegram, one of the top hits is this paper analyzing them together. Nitze wrote NSC-68 as Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department in 1950, which was a key position, and also Kennen's successor in that job. He want on to be a Cold Warrior, member of the Committee On The Present Danger, a member of that whole Reaganite crowd by the Eighties, having had a lot of positions in between. Kennan quit the State Department in 1950, after too many differences with his boss, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, over... NSC-68, which he thought made U.S. policy towards the USSR too militaristic.

Acheson, of course, was the man that Richard Nixon said ran "Acheson's College of Cowardly Communist Containment" at the Department of State. Acheson refused to nuke Red China! Another traitor unearthed by Nixon and Joe McCarthy! Acheson refused to nuke Red China! Another triumph of the reality based politics of Richard Nixon!

It probably explains a lot about me that I was the sort of kid who read Acheson's key memoir, Present At The Creation at the age of 11, as part of my self-education in our foreign policy, and was super-enthused to do so; I was a tonstant reader on foreign policy and history in those days, and onwards. Why, I picked up my first set of several dozen old issues of Foreign Affairs when I was 13....

It did leave me with rather a gap in peers I could have discussions about such matters (among others) with, though, at that age, and a touch of impatience that set into my long-term personality, alas. Quite unhealthy, that.

"In my own readings, they both have odd and occasionally almost inexplicable faith in the innate goodness of the U.S."

It was the 1940s: that's how Americans mostly felt in those days.

And, after all, while America had done some evil things up to that point, what with the whole American Indian thing, and gunboat diplomacy, and Palmer Raids, and Sedition Acts, and racism, and conquering the Phillipines and waging the imperialist war there, and the Mexican-American War, and on and on, a) there wasn't as much critical history around then as now, although there was a lot, including contemporary reporters from Samuel Clemens to John Reed -- particularly in magazines and newspapers -- but critical history wasn't exactly always majority reading; certainly the anarchists and communists and leftists weren't. On the other hand, we did have Charles Beard and company, but I'm really starting to on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand, now. :-)

Anyway, "b)" is that we also that we hadn't yet made all the mistakes of the Cold War to know that we'd be capable of making those mistakes. :-)

And, basically, I find that sort of faith in the innate goodness of the U.S. to be entirely consistent with the overwhelming majority views of the era of the Forties.

"And pandas. Don't forget the pandas."

The pandas came well after the ping pong players. (Which is a great story, if you haven't heard it: see, this American player missed his bus at the international tournament, and the Chinese players waved him onto their's, and....)

Katherine: "As I understand it Syria is letting people in; Jordan may still have more total--I don't know the numbers-- but they've drastically restricted it recently, especially for young males."

Yes, so I cited. I should add that something I think we should be doing is creating something like a hundred thousand refugee visas for Iraqis. I bet I know some of our leaders would say to that, at least in private: that we'd just be providing a huge incentive for those professional and moderate Iraqis that Iraq most desperately needs to stay to save their country to bolt to the U.S., and thus it would be destructive to The War Effort.

Naturally, I think the horse is long out of the barn door, and has a lot of bullets in him by now, and that we have a moral duty to at least save these Iraqi lives as much as we can, rather than let them die in Iraq, or find a cr*ap-hole in Jordan or Syria to beg from. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a loser-defeatist by now.

"was a tonstant reader"

Oh, dear, was supposed to be "tonstant weader." Ruined my own reference, though come to think of it, it didn't make much sense in context.

So, Gary, have you ever tried out for the State Department? The cut off age is 59, such that you are able to become vested in their retirement plan by age 65. I took the test, and it wasn't difficult. Open admission. The essay you have to write on one of three cold topics is the sieve, I think. Anyway, they didn't call back; I think my essay drew too heavily on Charles Darwin. It was an ad in the paper to join Colin Powell that got me to go for it. Anyway, sounds like you've got all makings.

I have had friends in the State Department. One good friend, in particular, who was in for decades, including as our third-ranking guy in Moscow, back in Soviet days, and our charge d'affaires in Botswana, and elsewhere.

He retired several years ago, because of, well, the State Department, and policies.

Anyway, I gave it some very serious thought at times in the past, but a) I was doing other things; b) I'm a college drop-out; c) various circumstances, including medical, make it problematic for me these days.

I have gone through test questions, purely unofficially, in the past, and found them not difficult, although I didn't take a full test to find out my score, nor write an essay.

Thanks for the kind thought.

Digressing, I'd have to say that being Secretary of State didn't altogether work out for the best for Powell, alas. The UN Iraqi WMD speech will be around his neck for the rest of his life, no matter that he worked hard to not make it as bad as the material he was given. Too little, too late.

And he was SecState in the administration that simply absolutely destroyed what many know as "the Powell Doctrine" (which he most definitely didn't invent, and doesn't really deserve credit for, save for promulgating and popularizing it -- much as it makes my throat dry up, and my skin crawl a bit to admit it, but it's really "the Weinberger Doctrine" -- but I digress from my digression).

A more likely reason why we would not create 100,000 refugee visas for Iraqis would be fear that some of them would be terrorists. Not creating an Iraqi brain-drain would certainly be a better reason, but our policies seem to be set at a lizard-brain level these days. I'd argue that morally, creating such visas is the least we can do. Whatever brain-drain there is would likely flow back again if peace and stability returned to the region. But our morality, on a policy level, seems to be expended in the form of pious but vacuous phrase-making, not concrete action.

You ain't the only one who's a little rusty on their cold war history.

"...how dangerous it would have been if the Bush-Cheney-Kristol n'er-do-rights (and their working assumptions) had been in charge from 1946-1964."

They certainly tried it on in the 70's.
Transcript - The Power of Nightmares

Ctrl-F search for this phrase to find the start of the relevant section...
"DONALD RUMSFELD, US Secretary of Defense"

It recounts Rumsfeld and Cheney's role in setting up a special intel unit to bypass the CIA and cherrypick and fabricate intel to sell an overhyped and imaginary weapons threat against the US. From Russia.

I must say when the Iraqi intel from the "Office of Special Plans" turned out to be bullshit I can recall exactly zero fkn people pointing out these folks were repeating an excercise they had conducted previously, right down to the last letter.

The video (1hr+) is

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