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Cold War

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From my new column “World War 3” in Taki’s Magazine:

With the 100th anniversary of World War I upcoming and old enmities between America and Russia resurging in contemporary form—for example, Glenn Beck recently said, “I will stand with GLAAD against…hetero-fascism” in Russia—due to the approach of that gayest of sporting events, the Winter Olympics, I thought it worth taking a look back at the war that didn’t happen: the one between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. 

So I dug out my battered copy of Sir John Hackett’s 1978 sci-fi novel, The Third World War: August 1985, which scared the hell out of me when I received it as a Christmas present on December 25, 1979, the day the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. … 

This bestseller is little remembered today, although its dry, logistics-oriented tale pleading for more defense spending has enjoyed an odd afterlife by inspiring Max Brooks’s zombie apocalypse novel World War Z that became last summer’s Brad Pitt blockbuster (which has provided me with no end of punning titles such as “World War G” and “World War T”).

Read the whole thing there.

I hadn’t consciously been aware that Max Brooks was so influenced by Sir John’s book, but it all made sense on a Plate of Shrimp level, hence all my World War G / World War T riffing.

A lot things turn out to be less random than you’d think. For example, Hackett has the Soviets finally stopped by West German reservists at a river in the Netherlands, just as Hackett’s brigade was stopped by Germans at a river in the Netherlands when they parachuted in during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

By the way, one of the great works of British boys’ literature, Richard Adams’ talking rabbit novel Watership Down, is an allegory of the paratroopers’ terrified retreat from the bridge too far.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Books, Cold War 
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My new column in Taki’s Magazine:

With Silicon Valley back on top of the world, it’s time to point out a bit of unwelcome history.  

There are two competing narratives about the technology hub’s origins: 

• The famous tale of how William Shockley’s obnoxious management style spun off start-up silicon chipmakers such as Intel; 

• The less-familiar version centering on Stanford professor Frederick Terman and Hewlett-Packard.  

What has almost never been pointed out, however, is that the two rivals for the title of Father of Silicon Valley, Shockley and Terman, had common roots in early 20th century Palo Alto’s scientific and ideological consensus, a now extremely unfashionable worldview that has been driven underground but remains fundamental to how Silicon Valley actually succeeds in the 21st century.

Isn’t the name “Terman” familiar for something else?

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Business, Cold War, IQ 
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While researching my new Taki’s column, I read Steve Blank’s blog series “The Secret History of Silicon Valley” about the region’s debt to the Cold War military-industrial complex. (Here’s an hour-long lecture by Blank.) This digression doesn’t have too much to do with Silicon Valley, but it is another good Cold War story:

One of the most interesting (declassified) stories of cryptography is the deciphering of Soviet communications to their diplomatic missions in the U.S during World War II. … 

I had dinner last week with someone involved in the VENONA project (now retired.) We talked about one of the spies unearthed in the decoded messages; Ted Hall, a 19-year-old scientist at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project.  For lots of complicated reasons Hall was never arrested nor charged with a crime. Hall’s interest in Communism came from literature his older brother Ed brought home from college. 

When Ted Hall went to work on the Atomic Bomb during World War II his older brother Ed joined the Air Force. 

During the Cold War, when Ted Hall was under suspicion of being a Soviet spy, his brother Ed Hall, stayed in the Air Force and worked on every U.S. military missile program in the 1950?s (Atlas, Thor, etc.) 

Ed Hall eventually became the father of the Minuteman missile project, our land-based ICBM carrying nuclear weapons to destroy the Soviet Union. 

Surely the KGB, who ran Ted Hall as a spy, knew about his brother?  Perhaps even first…? 

My dinner companion, (who had a hand in his agency’s counterintelligence group,) “acted” surprised about the connection between the two… 

Oh, what a wilderness of mirrors we live in.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Cold War 
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The Book Review Editor of the NYT, Sam Tanenhaus, thumbsucks over the Growing Threat of Republican Isolationism despite finding little evidence of that menace among GOP presidential candidates, who, with the exception of Ron Paul, mostly express the Invade-the-World conventional wisdom:

Right, Less Might 

Sam Tanenhaus is the editor of The New York Times Book Review.

THE Republican debate Tuesday night included many heated exchanges, but relatively few on the subject of foreign policy. There was instead surprising unanimity, whether it was Mitt Romney and Rick Perry debunking foreign aid, Ron Paul warning that America has become an empire, or Michele Bachmann, in what now seems an ill-timed critique, objecting to President Obama’s having “put us in Libya.”

Obviously, Bachman was wrong because, since then, Obama killed Gadaffi, which therefore permanently debunks all skepticism about the wisdom of America starting a war with Libya. The bottom line of sophisticated globalist thought is: Who kills whom? Obama started an international war with Libya, and then conclusively proved he was right to do so by killing the ex-leader of Libya.

Collectively, the candidates were channeling a broad shift in thinking on the right about America’s global responsibilities. It has been only a few years since George W. Bush labeled himself a “war president” leading a crusade for worldwide democratization. And the sentiments were not his alone. In December 2004 a majority of conservative Republicans agreed “it is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs,” according to the Pew Research Center. 

In 2011, a roughly equivalent majority believe America “should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems at home.” 

In a time of severe economic woe — a “national emergency,” as Mr. Obama termed it in mid-September — foreign policy issues often lose their immediacy.

Well, foreign adventurism not just loses its “immediacy,” it’s objectively harder to pay for.

But with the exception of impassioned support for Israel, conservatives have been embracing a retreat from the greater world that recalls the isolationism of a bygone age in which belief in American “exceptionalism” combined with distrust of other countries and “entangling alliances,” even with other democracies. The most conspicuous example is the strong anti-interventionist sentiment in the period leading up to World War II, when conservatives flocked to rallies organized by the America First Committee, with its slogan “England will fight to the last American.”

In other words, skipping over the implied logical links … Nazis!

… Of course that was before Mr. Obama’s election and the rise of the Tea Party movement. Its ascendancy is “proof positive of the rise of isolationism on the right,” Lawrence F. Kaplan, a columnist for The New Republic and co-author, with William Kristol, of “The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission,” wrote in an e-mail. “It’s no coincidence that the Tea Party has adopted the Don’t Tread on Me flag as its own,” Mr. Kaplan added. “My bet is they have the federal government, not far-away Islamists, in mind.”

My prejudice is for “Don’t tread on me … and I won’t tread on you,” but that just shows what a prejudiced ignoramus I am. All the sophisticates like Kaplan and Kristol believe in “Don’t tread on me while I tread on you.” What could possibly go wrong?

Even as the Republican presidential contenders have tapped into isolationist anxieties, they have sat for foreign-policy tutorials with holdovers from Mr. Bush’s presidency, many of them standard-bearers of the aggressive interventionism that Tea Partiers reject. Mr. Romney’s team includes the authors Eliot A. Cohen and Robert Kagan, both identified with the Iraq war. Mr. Perry has met with Donald H. Rumsfeld. Herman Cain has professed his admiration for the writings of John R. Bolton, a hawkish figure in the administrations of both Bushes. 

In other words, the Establishment maintains its chokehold on Republican elites despite all that we’ve learned in the last few years.

This position assumes that America, which remains, after all, the world’s one superpower, has no choice but to assert its leadership in a complex world — as, perhaps, Mr. Obama demonstrated in his Libya policy. He followed a middle course criticized by neoconservatives, who found it too timid, and by isolationists, who warned against “mission creep.” But it seems to have been vindicated last week with the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Who kills whom. What more do you need to know?

By the way, new cell phone footage suggests Gadaffi was sodomized while being lynched. Ha-ha, what a loser! I’ve watched enough TV detective shows to know that, unlike in the bad old days, prison rape is now considered a great topic for gloating jokes. (This evolution of social norms must be part of what Steven Pinker calls The Civilizing Process.) This new information about Gadaffi’s end just proves how right Tanenhaus and the rest of respectable opinion are, and how wrong sickos like Ron Paul are for not wanting America to be involved in things like this.

So, forget “Who kills whom?” The new international cosmopolitan standard of right and wrong that only scary kooks like Pat Buchanan express doubts about is “Who sodomizes whom?”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cold War 
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Philip Giraldi, the American Conservative’s intelligence gossip columnist writes:

“Reports that Russia has moved SS21 medium range missiles close to the front armed with tactical nuclear weapons have been hard to find in the US media. The Russian General Staff believes that it can only offset the huge advantage that the US and NATO have in precision guided weapons by using battlefield nukes if attacked by western forces.”

Obviously, this isn’t going to go to that. But aren’t you glad Bush’s plan to have Georgia join NATO got vetoed by those wimpy Europeans? Look how overconfident the Georgians got just from having an informal alliance with us.

By the way, right after General William Odom died earlier this year, I read his book The Collapse of the Soviet Army. It was quite illuminating on why the Soviet Army was so elephantine in 1985: 5,300,000 personnel and 53,000 tanks. You might think that they would have decided that nuclear weapons had changed war fundamentally, making giant armies irrelevant, but that overlooks the role of ideology in the Soviet Union. Since Lenin and Marx didn’t say anything about nuclear weapons, well, then, the Clausewitzian verities still applied. Nuclear weapons were just a quantitatively more destructive version of cannonballs and artillery shells, so the Soviet Union just needed enough tanks to lose tens of thousands to tactical nukes and still reach the Atlantic.

Khrushchev didn’t really believe that nuclear weapons hadn’t changed anything, but ideology continued to have a huge effect on how the Soviets organized and armed the Army.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cold War, War 
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From the New York Times:

A Spy’s Path: Iowa to A-Bomb to Kremlin Honor


He had all-American cover: born in Iowa, college in Manhattan, Army buddies with whom he played baseball.

George Koval also had a secret. During World War II, he was a top Soviet spy, code named Delmar and trained by Stalin’s ruthless bureau of military intelligence.

Atomic spies are old stuff. But historians say Dr. Koval, who died in his 90s last year in Moscow and whose name is just coming to light publicly, was probably one of the most important spies of the 20th century.

On Nov. 2, the Kremlin startled Western scholars by announcing that President Vladimir V. Putin had posthumously given the highest Russian award to a Soviet agent who penetrated the Manhattan Project to build the atom bomb.

The announcement hailed Dr. Koval as “the only Soviet intelligence officer” to infiltrate the project’s secret plants, saying his work “helped speed up considerably the time it took for the Soviet Union to develop an atomic bomb of its own.”

Since then, historians, scientists, federal officials and old friends have raced to tell Dr. Koval’s story — the athlete, the guy everyone liked, the genius at technical studies. American intelligence agencies have known of his betrayal at least since the early 1950s, when investigators interviewed his fellow scientists and swore them to secrecy.

The spy’s success hinged on an unusual family history of migration from Russia to Iowa and back. That gave him a strong commitment to Communism, a relaxed familiarity with American mores and no foreign accent. …

Over the years, scholars and federal agents have identified a half-dozen individuals who spied on the bomb project for the Soviets, especially at Los Alamos in New Mexico. All were “walk ins,” spies by impulse and sympathetic leaning rather than rigorous training.

By contrast, Dr. Koval was a mole groomed in the Soviet Union by the feared G.R.U., the military intelligence agency. Moreover, he gained wide access to America’s atomic plants, a feat unknown for any other Soviet spy. Nuclear experts say the secrets of bomb manufacturing can be more important than those of design.

Los Alamos devised the bomb, while its parts and fuel were made at secret plants in such places as Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Dayton, Ohio — sites Dr. Koval not only penetrated, but also assessed as an Army sergeant with wide responsibilities and authority.

“He had access to everything,” said Dr. Kramish, who worked with Dr. Koval at Oak Ridge and now lives in Reston, Va. “He had his own Jeep. Very few of us had our own Jeeps. He was clever. He was a trained G.R.U. spy.” That status, he added, made Dr. Koval unique in the history of atomic espionage, a judgment historians echo.

Washington has known about Dr. Koval’s spying since he fled the United States shortly after the war but kept it secret.

“It would have been highly embarrassing for the U.S. government to have had this divulged,” said Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb,” a biography of the project’s military leader. …

George Koval was born in 1913 to Abraham and Ethel Koval in Sioux City, Iowa, which had a large Jewish community and a half-dozen synagogues. In 1932, during the Great Depression, his family emigrated to Birobidzhan, a Siberian city that Stalin promoted as a secular Jewish homeland.

Henry Srebrnik, a Canadian historian at the University of Prince Edward Island who is studying the Kovals for a project on American Jewish Communists, said the family belonged to a popular front organization, as did most American Jews who emigrated to Birobidzhan.

The organization, he said, was ICOR, a Yiddish acronym for the Association for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union. He added that Dr. Koval’s father served its Sioux City branch as secretary.

By 1934, Dr. Koval was in Moscow, excelling in difficult studies at the Mendeleev Institute of Chemical Technology. Upon graduating with honors, he was recruited and trained by the G.R.U. and was sent back to the United States for nearly a decade of scientific espionage, from roughly 1940 to 1948.

How he communicated with his controllers is unknown, as is what specifically he gave the Soviets in terms of atomic secrets. However, it is clear that Moscow mastered the atom very quickly compared with all subsequent nuclear powers.

In the United States under a false name, Dr. Koval initially gathered information about new toxins that might find use in chemical arms. Then his G.R.U. controllers took a gamble and had him work under his own name. Dr. Koval was drafted into the Army, and by chance found himself moving toward the bomb project, then in its infancy.

The Army judged him smart and by 1943 sent him for special wartime training at City College in Manhattan. Considered a Harvard for the poor, it was famous for brilliant students, Communists and, after the war, Julius Rosenberg, who was executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for the Soviets. …

Something else about him stood out, Dr. Kramish said — he was a decade older than his peers, making everybody wonder “why he was in this program.”

Meanwhile, the Manhattan Project was suffering severe manpower shortages and asked the Army for technically adept recruits. In 1944, Dr. Koval and Dr. Kramish headed to Oak Ridge, where the main job was to make bomb fuel, considered the hardest part of the atomic endeavor.

Dr. Koval gained wide access to the sprawling complex, Dr. Kramish said, because “he was assigned to health safety” and drove from building to building making sure no stray radiation harmed workers.

In June 1945, Dr. Koval’s duties expanded to include top-secret plants near Dayton, said John C. Shewairy, an Oak Ridge spokesman. The factories refined polonium 210, a highly radioactive material used in initiators to help start the bomb’s chain reaction.

In July 1945, the United States tested its first atomic device, and a month later it dropped two bombs on Japan.

After the war, Dr. Koval fled the United States when American counterintelligence agents found Soviet literature hailing the Koval family as happy immigrants from the United States, said a Nov. 3 article in Rossiiskaia Gazeta, a Russian publication.

In 1949, Moscow detonated its first bomb, surprising Washington at the quick loss of what had been an atomic monopoly.

But in a comment on the article, NYT reader James Haygood writes:

This is a fascinating article, to be sure. But it strikes me as what Nixon’s aide John Ehrlichman would have called a “modified limited hangout.”

We are asked to believe that George Koval, one of over ten million World War II draftees, “by chance found himself moving toward the bomb project.” Then, despite being “a decade older than his peers, making everybody wonder why he was in the program,” Koval somehow received top secret security clearance. How could the background check have failed to reveal the eight-year gap in his resume while he was studying in the Soviet Union, and the fact that his parents were living in Siberia?

Koval’s access to multiple bomb plants as a safety inspector was an obvious breach of compartmentalization, in which links between secret plants should have been restricted to top brass. A final preposterous fillip is that a G.R.U.-groomed, top-level Soviet spy would have been outed by “Soviet literature hailing the Koval family as happy immigrants from the United States” … and that U.S. authorities who failed to detect this during the issuance of his security clearance suddenly woke up and exclaimed, “Oh, right, that’s George’s folks!”

This fanciful chain of one-in-a-million coincidences points to one logical explanation: namely, one or more Soviet operatives placed in the Army command to steer Koval into the atomic bomb project, despite his obvious security disqualifications. Let us hope that William J. Broad goes on to reveal the full picture behind this entertaining but hardly credible official cover story, which had to be concocted in a hurry after the Russians went public.

Broad’s deadpan delivery of this highly-decorated confabulation seems to conceal a big Cosmic Wink.

— James Haygood, Nanuet, NY

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: Cold War 
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There has been a lot of talk this week about what would happened if the U.S had helped South Vietnam resist the North Vietnamese offensive of December 1974 with airstrikes. The Spring 1972 North Vietnamese offensive had been defeated by a combination of South Vietnamese soldiers and American air power, with few American deaths (only 300 were killed in Vietnam in the entire year of 1972). In the wake of Watergate, however, the now-dominant Democratic Congress didn’t want to help any more, and South Vietnam quickly collapsed, along with anti-Communist governments in neighboring Cambodia and Laos.

Today, with American air power so unchallenged, it seems strange that the Democrats didn’t want to allow air support of the South Vietnamese. After all, a couple of decades later, a Democrat President got involved in an internal dispute of negligible significance to America, and bombed Yugoslavia into ceding control of its internationally-recognized Kosovo province, at minimal cost in lost aircraft. The number of planes lost to enemy fire in both Iraq wars has also been tiny.

But, the American advantage in air war was much less overwhelming in the 1970s. We lost 3,322 fixed-wing aircraft in Vietnam, perhaps the majority of that number to enemy fire. During Operation Linebacker I in the middle of 1972 that helped defeat the North Vietnamese armored invasion, 104 US planes were lost in combat. Airmen who survived being shot down often became prisoners (in effect, hostages). Years of negotiations had been required to get the POWs back in early 1973, so there would have been reluctance to follow a policy that would have created new POWs.

So, providing air support was nowhere near as painless as it seems now.

There then followed a half decade of Soviet advances around the world, in contrast to the stability of the strategic balance that had endured during most of the Vietnam War. I’m a big believer in the truism that people love a winner and hate a loser, and losing in Vietnam made the U.S. look like a … loser.

Fortunately, the Soviets wasted their treasure on useless new Third World allies like Ethiopia, while letting a puppet state that really mattered — Poland — go to hell.

Luckily, the Communist dictatorship of united Vietnam proved relatively non-insane, and Vietnam today is a pro-capitalist dictatorship, which the U.S. would have found perfectly acceptable back then. But the Hanoi regime was dedicated to communism and wouldn’t give it up no matter how many Tennessee Valley Authority-style dams LBJ offered to build for them. So, war seems to have been completely pointless on both sides. Of course, from the point of view of the Communist Party members, while they may not be communist anymore, their party still hold a complete monopoly on political power. (Interestingly, the Vietnamese dictatorship, unlike, say, the Chinese or Burmese dictatorships, is almost never criticized abroad these days.)

On the other hand, the batting average of East Asian communist countries at being non-insane is quite bad. If Vietnam, Laos, and (possibly) Mongolia behaved less horribly than expected, Cambodia, China, and North Korea were even crazier than imagined. The most obvious analogy for American leaders in the 1960s for Vietnam was Korea, where we had lost 33,000 men to keep the northern communist regime from overrunning the southern capitalist regime.

Whether the Korean War was worth the cost is seldom discussed these days. (Of course, almost nobody ever talks about the Korean War at all.) Today, 57 years after the start of the Korean war, young South Koreans are about half a foot taller than their cousins in North Korea. Ironically, fighting to a draw may have proved the best outcome for the U.S. in the Cold War, because the emerging economic chasm between the two Koreas provided a salutary lesson in the superiority of capitalism over communism.

Why the Vietnamese War proceeded so differently from Korean War is another topic of little interest today. I suspect one important difference was that Korea was a peninsula, so that after the war, the U.S. could adequately defend against another North Korean invasion across the border, which is only 238 km long. In contrast, South Vietnam had long borders with the hapless neutral countries of Laos and Cambodia, which North Vietnam abused as staging grounds.

Second, Korea had been colonized by the Japanese, whom America defeated, not by white men. In Vietnam, America’s racial and political ties to the French former colonial masters were detrimental.

Third, North Korea relied upon regular army units for its invasion, which the U.S defeated at Inchon and North Vietnam had to be bailed out by a million Chinese communist regulars. In contrast, the Hanoi regime artfully mixed irregular and regular forces. When the Viet Cong went on the offensive in 1968, they were largely wiped, but the use of irregular tactics normally annoyed and frustrated the Americans. After most American troops were withdrawn, Hanoi shifted to regular warfare (including tanks) for its 1972 and 1974-75 offensives. Presumably, Hanoi learned from communist mistakes in the Korean War.

This Cold War history, however, has mostly academic relevance to today’s struggle with Islamic extremists. The Soviet Union was a vast country with a vast military, and erratic but sometimes impressive technological capabilities. Its communist ideology could win converts among the elites of foreign countries on its own.

In contrast, Islam has virtually no appeal to anyone above the lowest orders of society if they weren’t born into a Muslim family. There is no single Islamic superpower to provide direction to the squabbling Muslim states, and most of these governments are more or less averse to the extremists. Even taken together, all the Muslim states in the world have only a small fraction of America’s military might. For example, there is no Muslim aircraft carrier. Technologically, Pakistan is 50 years behind America in the development of nuclear weapons, and the rest lag even farther.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Cold War, Vietnam 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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