September 03, 2007
Manning Freedom's Ramparts
Chuck Dupree’s posting yesterday drew the comment below. My reply grew into a separate post, which follows Bob’s comment.
Can you find out how many $million$ have been spent in the rebuilding of Japan, Great Britain? Can you find out how many $millions$ were spent by the USA for our military to protect/maintain Peace? Can you find out how many $millions$ were NOT spent by Japan and Great Britain because of American military presence in their countries? Then there is the “economics.” How old are you? Can you find out when “cheap” products from Japan first came to this country? Great Britain has had alot of problems concerning industry.
Chuck is just a pup, Bob, but I’m 74. I’ll try to answer some of your questions.
I don’t know how many millions were spent in the rebuilding of Japan and England, but a great deal of it went, under law, to American firms. This is not to say that our aid wasn’t helpful; it was. But both countries had social and governmental and commercial structures that long predated our own. They could have recovered from the war all by themselves eventually.
(This is not the case in Iraq, as Bush would have found out long ago if he were capable of finding out things. But I digress.)
“Cheap products” began coming from Japan well before World War II. “Made in Japan” was at the time considered to indicate shoddy workmanship and low quality. This sounds odd now, I know. But it was wartime, and we swallowed our own propaganda whole, as do we still.
And this particular stereotype was probably untrue even then. The Japanese Zero, for instance, seems to have been an aerial workhorse as cheap and dependable as our own Model A Ford. Nonetheless we preferred to believe that the Japanese were at best nothing but clever monkeys, able only to produce poor copies of western inventions. The sons of Nippon were considered totally incapable of the innovation and creativity which are the hallmarks of the white race.
Moving on to your next question, Bob, I can easily tell you how many millions Japan and England didn’t have to spend because American troops have been keeping them safe from harm for all these many years. No millions — for during the next half century there was never a credible military threat to either nation from any source.
I imagine you believe that the USSR and the People’s Republic of China would have taken over the entire world if we hadn’t stood, heroic, unselfish and underappreciated, in their evil path. Most Americans believe this, but that conviction has always been what psychiatrists call “projection.” The most credible military threat to the peace of the postwar world has always come from us.
Do the math. On their side have been military interventions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Tibet. Perhaps with time I could come up with a handful of others. On our side, just off the top of my head: Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, China, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, the Philippines, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq. If we include unacknowledged warfare carried out by Special Forces and the CIA, the list could be easily doubled.
However none of this is to say that Mao and Joe were less warlike than Harry and Ike and Jack and their successors. It is to say only that Mao and Joe never had the means to take over the world by force of arms, and neither, as it turns out, did we. The atom bomb made such dreams unrealizable and suicidal for all three sides. (Three sides because nobody but us ever thought of Russia and China even as allies, let alone as a monolith.)
During the long, dark period when we walked in fear of the Soviets and the Red Chinese, their economies were disastrous, their governments incompetent, and their people hungry. Russian tanks were never going to roll through the Fulda Gap on their way to London, and every serious military planner in the west knew it. No more were the Chinese poised to take over Asia the instant America let down its guard.
The military threat to the United States from the two great communist powers was not just exaggerated; it only existed when we did something as idiotic as the invasion of Cuba planned by Eisenhower and executed by Kennedy. Apart from that any geopolitical threat posed by the communist bloc was almost entirely in our minds. The great case in point was the Southeast Asian war into which we kept on injecting ourselves, one way or another, for nearly thirty years.
This interference halfway around the world was necessary (or so we were told) because without it enough dominoes to fill an atlas would surely fall. First to go would be our protectorate in South Vietnam. Then, in whatever order the communists decided, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia would follow. And then, some awful and inevitable day, the commies would surely follow us home.
This theory of ours, unlike most in history, has turned out to be testable. For we in fact did fail to resist the forces of godless communism in Vietnam, leaving Saigon to its fate on April 30, 1975. What then became of the theory for which millions had lost their lives?
Just two weeks before the fall of Saigon, Cambodia had fallen to the “communist” Khmer Rouge. In 1978, the “communist” Khmer Rouge invaded “communist” Vietnam, which invaded right back, driving out the “communist” Pol Pot and his murderers. Some two months later “communist” China invaded “communist” Vietnam, being itself driven back after heavy losses.
The “communist” Khmer Rouge, once exiled to the jungles along the Thai border, received covert assistance for years from the United States. Initially this was at the urging of President Carter’s selectively anticommunist national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Brzezinski was willing to climb into bed with the authors of the largest autogenocide in recent history for the curious reason that the Chinese-backed Pol Pot was an enemy of the Soviet-backed Vietnam. Brzezinski seems to have preferred the Chinese brand of communism to the Russian one. A subtle distinction, and one that might well have gone the other way had Brzezinski been born in Tibet rather than Poland.
You will have noticed that “communist” was not the operative word nor ever had been, for Brzezinski or anyone else, in this murderous Southeast Asian game of musical chairs. It was mostly what you might call an ideological civil war, not with communist nations but between them.
Of course Laos did indeed fall to the Pathet Lao, as South Vietnam had to the Viet Cong. But both are now well on the road to capitalism, and so is China. The Thai domino never fell. Nor did any of those standing beyond it. The sole result of our bloody, pointless interference was to slow by some thirty years the inevitable triumph of corporate capitalism in that part of the world
As for the USSR, neither it nor the USA had ever had any reason beyond domestic politico-economic ones to wage a Cold War at all. There were no territorial issues between us, and no economic or religious flash points. We were not going to invade them under any imaginable concatenation of events; nor were they going to invade us. Our senseless Cold War would have collapsed onto itself the moment either partner chose to end the deadly dance.
And in fact as early as 1960, Nikita Khrushchev was showing signs that he might just be the man to let common sense triumph over the blind ideologues on both sides. But Eisenhower spoiled that by dispatching one too many U2 reconnaissance planes over the Soviet Union.
The frost settled in again for another quarter of a century until at long last, four years into Reagan’s presidency, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and called an end to the whole insane, bloody business. Sure enough, once Russia stopped dancing her partner had no choice but to sit down too.
Hope this answers your questions, Bob.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 03, 2007 09:53 PM
As a singles hitter, I'm overjoyed to have Jerry batting cleanup.
I can't immediately document it, but I remember reading a couple of things that tend to improve my impression of Eisenhower.
First, Carl Oglesby's The Yankee and Cowboy War claims that the Bay of Pigs invasion was not okayed by Eisenhower. The general had signed off on a force of about 300 to monkey-wrench Cuban life, but Nixon, representing his natural constituencies in the intelligence community and the mafia, pushed for more. During the switchover from Eisenhower to Kennedy, some intelligence guy, I can't look it up because I had to return the copy I read on interlibrary loan (these suckers are $35 for a used paperback copy), snuck into the appropriate office and added a zero to the number on the small number of forms relevant to this supersecret operation.
On the issue of the U2 flights that destroyed the possibility of rapprochement between Eisenhower and Kruschev, the critical one being of course the Powers flight that was shot down just before the summit, I've read that Eisenhower explicitly ordered the cessation of all overflights a couple months beforehand. DCI Allen Dulles, no doubt in consultation with his SecState brother, in both cases later of United Fruit/Chiquita fame, decided the risk of peace was too great, and sent Powers anyway. There are also rumours that Powers was not shot down, but sabotaged, and according to some radio transcripts he announced his belief in these rumours only a short time before his traffic-announcement helicopter mysteriously malfunctioned, leading to his death (Wikipedia says a fuel gauge was repaired without his knowledge, but it's hard to see how that would kill him, unless it showed that he had fuel when he didn't, which doesn't seem to fit the definition of "repair"). Apparently he was shot down with IDs that would not normally accompany a spy into enemy territory. It's interesting to note that the Senate Armed Services Committee, which interviewed Powers after he was returned to the US and characterized him as "a fine young man" acting reasonably in dangerous circumstances, included one Prescott Bush.
As Zbig said on Book TV the other day, there are above-the-table and below-the-table operations.
I also meant to highlight the name W. Edwards Deming. He's why the Japanese products went from truly crap to beating Detroit at their own game. They give a prize every year in his name to commemorate his contribution.
He tried to contribute it to Detroit first, but they blew him off, so he taught Japan, and Japan won.
I'm reminded of the statement of Aron Nimzovich: "Ridicule can do much, for instance embitter the existence of young talents; but one thing is not given to it, and that is the power to prevent the intrusion of new ideas."
Robert Strange McNamara and W. Edwards Deming were contemporaries. Both of them numbers guys. Bean counters.
I point this out not to denigrate Deming, but to point out that we should be careful in giving him all the credit for what the Japanese people themselves were able to accomplish. Although Toyota and Lexus automobiles sold in the US, which consistently win quality awards for reliability these days are generally assembled, at least in the final stage, in the United States. Good management, whether at the corporate or governmental level makes the difference. With schmooks like Bush in charge, we're doomed.
I would also note that both Great Britain and Japan and Germany were able to accomplish so much after they had given up their schemes of empire building. [Lately, the British, not so much]
Empire building and the subsequent maintenance involved is quite costly. If they were around, you could ask the Romans or the Spanish Conquistadors to tell you about how the cost of maintaining their empires worked out for them.
IMO, Deming was as far from a bean counter as McNamara was. They were theory guys, with devastating results in McNamara's case, and wonderful ones in Deming's.
Of course what people do is credit to them. Were the Japanese doing it before Deming taught them his method? No. Did the Americans ever learn to do it? Yes, somewhat and eventually, after the Japanese cleaned their clocks. The American car companies were what they caricatured the Japanese as being: dumb. (Plus fat and happy.)
There's exactly one reason that the Japanese car companies do any assembly in the US: we slap enormous import duties on cars built in Japan, because otherwise GM, Ford, and Chrysler would go under immediately.
If we really believed capitalism worked, we'd stop charging the Japanese because they make better cars, and let our companies go under if they can't compete. It's not a strategic necessity to build our own cars, but it certainly helps to concentrate wealth.
Eisenhower was way short of being a military genius, Chuck, but he was a consummate bureaucrat. Even if we believe what friendly biographers have reported about the skulduggery of his underlings, how did they become his underlings? Both Dulles brothers were hired by Eisenhower. If had no idea that they were disobeying him, he was as incompetent as Baby Bush. But he was in fact a crafty and skillful bureaucrat.
If he suspected or discovered that they were subverting his orders, he should have fired them. Since he didn't and since we (I, anyway) have ruled out incompetence, the probable answer is that he didn't want to know, thereby preserving deniability. This seems to have worked beautifully, as it had throughout his presidency.
If Eisenhower didn't have a pretty good idea what Dulles was up to at the CIA, he must have been deaf, dumb, and blind. And he wasn't. He heartily approved of his spy chief's stupid and illegal overthrow of Arbenz and Mossadegh; he ordered the development of the U2 plane. He named his own vice president, Nixon, to preside over Operation 40, which was a criminal enterprise aimed at Cuba that employed assassination and acts of terrorism. This was the bureaucratic godfather of the Bay of Pigs. Eisenhower loved this kind of shit; he just didn't love taking responsibility for his criminal offspring.
As to the Powers flight being a rogue operation ordered by the DCI in violation of a direct order from the President,imagine yourself in Eisenhower's position.
Wouldn't you, faced with such a cataclysmic threat to world peace, have picked up the red phone and told Khrushchev exactly what had happened, and then proceeded to fire Allen Dulles for insubordination as Truman had done with his own loose cannon, MacArthur? (Bear in mind that the U2 crashed on Mayday of 1960, when Eisenhower was nearly through his second and final term. He had nothing to lose politically by doing the right thing. Truman had more than a year remaining of his first full term, and was eligible to run for a second when he ruined his chances of reelection by firing one of the most revered military figures in American history.)
Or would you, as Eisenhower did, lie at first to the world, and then apologize publicly for the lie when Powers's survival meant that you could no longer conceal it? Would you then have kept in office the man responsibie for your global humiliation? Can anything explain this, except that Dulles knew, and could prove, that Eisenhower himself was responsible?
Considering some of the swine who have succeeded him in the White House, Eisenhower looks better today, perhaps, than he deserves. We get all misty eyed over his farewell address to the troops, in which he warned of the military/industrial complex which has indeed largely destroyed our democracy.
At the time, however, he had just completed eight years in the presidency, during which he hadn't done, to the best of my memory, a damned thing to curb that particular beast. Or many others.
The world will little note nor long remember the advice Eisenhower gave Kennedy when the latter was about to take office -- but I do. He told Kennedy that the most serious crisis he was about to face was the threat communism posed to Laos. Sweet Jesus.
That wasn't meant to be criticism about your point Chuck. McNamara might have worked miracles had he just stayed on at Ford Motor Company and not succumbed to the charms of JFK and LBJ. Although both guys started out working their magic with weapons production during WWII. Without them, we might have lost the war to the Nazi's (or maybe we have, but that's another matter and after the fact).
Protecting our own industry and whether protectionism is good or bad is another question altogether.
The biographies of David Lilienthal and Arthur Morgan and the story of the enormously beneficial Tennessee Valley Authority - and how it got derailed and then its ouput used for destructive purposes - is also something that we might revisit when considering the question of infrastructure. As long as this nation keeps up this warmongering and empire building, we're doomed. Which I think is the point you made initially.
Didn't mean for the above comment to be anonymous. It was me. Or I.
I certainly agree that to the extent Eisenhower had a genius it was for politics and management. Anyone who could manage Patton and Monty had some skill. And I don't mean to get misty-eyed over him. My response to his final speech and his warning against the military-industrial complex has always been, "Okay, asshole, who's been President that whole time? And if the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe either couldn't or wouldn't do anything about that, why is he warning the public about it? What are we supposed to do? That's why we elected you."
I expect that Jerry's right about Eisenhower and Dulles, he certainly knows more than I do about that. But in response to the question, Can anything explain Eisenhower's behavior other than his concurrence with the Powers flight, I would have to say yes. There are other possible explanations; whether they have any validity is another question.
For example, it's theoretically possible that the Dulles brothers were following a plan, or at least pursuing a goal, that was agreeable to Eisenhower, but considered themselves "harder core" (in the sense that Cheney is harder core than Wolfowitz), and in the atmosphere of "containment" versus "rollback" began to worry that Eisenhower was going soft on Communism to the point that he might actually make some sort of live-and-let-live deal with Kruschev. One need not assume in this scenario that Dulles acted from anything but the highest motives, though I tend to anyway based on everything I know about him.
Suppose Eisenhower, known for his management skills, found himself facing an unmanageable force that he feared would create conflict around the world. Firing one of its minions would likely reduce the destruction not at all, but would sap his one valuable commodity in this situation, his credibility. His vain hope of spending that on a silly warning could have been traded for a strong stand, but at what point in his life did he take a strong stand? I mean, the interstate highway system didn't face much opposition apart from the cost, as far as I can tell. Other than that, Eisenhower seems to me to have been a smoother-over rather than a direction-setter. But I'm no expert.
But as I say, this is only a theoretical possibility. And it certainly seems to be all but proven (as a math student I maintain a high standard for "proof") that Dulles had something on Eisenhower, whether it was proof that he ordered the Powers flight or not.
But then Dulles probably had something on a lot of people in Washington. How, after all, did he manage to end up on the committee investigating the assassination of the President who fired him? And didn't the JFK assassination arise from the internal conflict in the US government over whether to continue or scale down the war machine?
One other small detail on this issue: the claim in The Yankee and Cowboy War was not that Eisenhower wouldn't have sanctioned the invasion, but that officially he had not, and that the existing secret documentation was altered during the transition to the new administration to indicate that he had explicitly signed off on an invasion force. There's no question in the book that Eisenhower was all for messing with Fidel, the question is whether he was dumb enough to think that the invasion as executed had a chance of success.
Finally, Buck is right that my original point was that empire is doomed to fall, and we'd do well to re-think the American dream. Tom Englehardt, as usual, has a great piece on this: