The Taiwan Straits Crisis – Leadership Makes a Difference

In 1979, President Carter recognized Beijing. While many viewed this change in foreign

Taiwan welcomes U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 (Wikipedia)

Taiwan welcomes U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 (Wikipedia)

policy as a victory, Taiwan did not. Along with the South China Sea, parts of Vietnam and other areas in Asia, China believes it owns Taiwan. To make political hay on the China deal the U.S. had to forsake Taiwan. To that end, foreign relations with Taiwan was severed. However, moral courage flagged and the U.S., like a codependent partner, adopted the Taiwan Relations Act that formally kept relations with “the people of Taiwan”.  Through this act billions in trade and weapons have been transacted.

A simple ten minute phone call between President-elect Trump and Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president sent shivers through the press and federal government. Oh my, China is upset. Before we jump to the conclusion that the world is about to end, it might benefit us to understand China has something to lose as well. On the other hand, Bob Dole, a lobbyist for the Taiwanese government and deep ties to the military industrial complex allegedly arranged the now-famous ‘telephone’ call. The lobbying swamp in Washington D.C. is indeed deep and wide.  Perhaps it is time to be codependent no more. Of course, non-stop undeclared wars will bankrupt the state financially and morally.  More than once the U.S. and China have come perilously close to blows over Taiwan. Close, but no blows were launched.

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) The inventor of spread spectrum technique and frequency hopping. Why we have cell phones and wifi.

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) The inventor of spread spectrum technique and frequency hopping. Why we have cell phones and wifi.

Sixty years have come and gone, but the sun has yet to set on the Taiwan Straits Crisis. Stranded on the rocky island of secrecy amid the storms of the Cold War (1947-1991), the mists of time should not be permitted to veil the lessons that must be learned.  In the U.S. during the early 1950s, Eisenhower was in office, China was engaged in a civil war, the Soviets were antsy, and the Air Force longed to hear the words  ‘the pickle is hot’ indicating they were free to unload armaments. The only thing missing from the high-tension plot was a bevy of brilliant beauties unless, of course, you consider Madam Chiang Kai-shek and Hedy Lamar.

Like a fine dining experience, the Taiwan Straits crisis unfolds in courses paired with the appropriate drink. In the late 1920s, China engaged in a great civil war. Following the final gasp of the Qing Dynasty in 1917, China was an unwieldy briar patch. From the political vacuum of swirling cultures and societal chaos coupled with the sheer size of the country, two primary competing forces emerged; Mao Tse-tung who would be at the helm of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) with a Communist agenda and Chiang Kai-Shek (ROC) who would lead the forces that did not want communism.

Both leaders were nasty pieces of work. Each was brutal and inhumane during their respective rule. Mao Tse-tung, wins the prize for the greatest mass murderer the world has ever seen.  According

to the Heritage Foundation’s Lee Edwards, Ph.D., “…an estimated 65 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s repeated, merciless attempts to create a new “socialist” China. Anyone who got in his way was done away with — by execution, imprisonment or forced famine.”…[1] Chiang Kai-Shek

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) (1897-2003)

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) (1897-2003)

, with about 10 million deaths on his soul, is no piker.[2] The battles between Chiang and Mao raged for a decade between 1927 and 1937. Chiang Kai-shek finally pushed Mao Tse-tung into Shaanxi, a remote rocky, barren site in northeastern China when, in July 1937, Japan invaded China. Chiang Kai-Shek won the first round.  Back in the west, the upsets in China were noted and then fell into obscurity with the burning challenges of the Great Depression, the advent of WWII and the early portents of the Cold War (1947-1991). Course one is served.

WWII signaled the rise of the United States as a major player on the military stage. China was viewed as a ‘victim’ of the Japanese. The U.S. and Britain were practically giddy over the dream that, after the war, China would become the lynch pin of stability in East Asia and a strong western ally. Beginning in 1941 the U.S. pumped millions of dollars into the region. By 1943, treaties between the U.S., Britain, and China were rewritten, signed and the U.S. had boots on the ground. About then harsh reality settled in as the U.S. tried, without success, to mend the Chinese fences between Mao Tse-tung’s Communist factions and

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), President, Peoples Republic of China

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976), President, Peoples Republic of China

Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist factions.  By the end of WWII, the Marines were told to hold Beiping (Beijing) and the northern city of Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion. Recently retired General George C. Marshall attempted to negotiate a truce between the PRC and ROC factions in 1946. It quickly fell apart as neither the Communists nor the Nationalists were of a mind to compromise and the U.S. withdrew to deal with the European challenges of reparation. Back in the U.S., the division over whether to intervene on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek or not was beginning to deepen and harden. The second course was served with red wine.

Beginning in 1949, Mao Tse-Tung activated the military plan he had been formulating for years in his virtual prison in Shaanxi. By October 1949, Mao had bowled over Chiang Kai-shek’s forces, which fell like ten pins, and Chiang retreated to Taiwan where he formally established the Republic of China. Meanwhile in the rest of the world; Russia detonated its first nuke…gasp… and, in the U.S., the Republicans and Democrats were at it hammer and tongs over the victory of Mao’s Communists on mainland China and the Nationalists’ fate on Taiwan. Nuclear War became a real specter and the U.S. was anticipating the silly season, election time. Just in case the plate was not full enough, in June 1950, the Communists launched a second offensive with its opening salvo in Korea.

In the debate over what to do about the changed military situation in Korea following the second, and massive, Chinese military intervention in late November 1950, Marshall opposed a cease-fire with the Chinese – it would represent a “great weakness on our part”-and added that the United States could not in “all good conscience” abandon the South Koreans. When British Prime Minister Clement Attlee suggested negotiations with the Chinese, Marshall expressed opposition, arguing that it was almost impossible to negotiate with the Chinese Communists; he also expressed fear of the effects on Japan and the Philippines of concessions to the Communists. At the same time Marshall sought ways to avoid a wider war with China. When many in Congress favored an expanded war, Marshall was among the administration leaders who, in February 1951, stressed the paramount importance to the United States of Western Europe.[3]

 The infighting within the U.S. political and military establishment was intense. General MacArthur,

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right) At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, U.S. Sixth Army (left), General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army (right) At a field headquarters in the Southwest Pacific Area, late 1943. (Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: SC 183951)

who oversaw the Allied occupation of postwar Japan and led United Nations forces in the Korean War disagreed strongly with the now retired General Marshall on how best to address the Communist aggression in East Asia. MacArthur was in favor of using all available force, including nukes, to back the Chinese Communists and Stalin off. Eventually, the rift grew so deep and open that the popular MacArthur managed to get himself fired by Truman. The Republicans in Congress went nuts and, in January, 1953, Republican President Eisenhower was sworn into office. This course was finally over and it was served with hard liquor.

The fourth course is light by comparison. In 1954, Chiang Kai-shek’s ROC occupied the islands of Taiwan and, further north, the Dachen Islands; these island groupings are very close to mainland China and the waters between them are known as the Taiwan Straits. To this day, both sides of the Chinese Civil War still view the Islands as strategically important because they present a launch platform from which to invade

Taiwan Straits

Taiwan Straits

mainland China. From time-to-time in the early 1950s they bombed each other. The Korean War kept the Chinese warring factions separated through the presence of the U.S. Fleet. The U.S. ‘maybe’ switch of sentiments that would have allowed Mao to retake the islands turned to a definite ‘No’ as a result of Korea. After the Korean War in September 1954, the PRC tried the U.S.resolve when it began bombing the northern islands. The United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan, which promised support to the ROC if the PRC engaged in a broader conflict.[4]  Like pieces on a chess board forever advancing and retreating, the confrontations continued throughout 1954. In 1955, Congress passed the ‘Formosa Resolution’, giving President Eisenhower the authority to defend Taiwan and the northern islands. The U.S. let it be known far and wide that Taiwan would be defended against communist attack. A quiet deal on the side was struck with Chiang Kai-shek to defend Jinmen and Mazu, in trade for his exiting Dachen. By 1955, the PRC inexplicably backed down and the pressure was off.

By 1958, the U.S. was center stage with its decision to intervene in Lebanon. Mao and the PRC

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894-1971) First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894-1971) First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964

took full advantage of the spotlight to resume bombing of Jinmen and Mazu. When Taiwan could not re-supply their military bases on the off-shore islands, the U.S. did so. The U.S. intervention brought an abrupt end to the bombardment and, once again, eased the crisis. “Eventually, the PRC and ROC came to an arrangement in which they shelled each other’s garrisons on alternate days. This continued for twenty years until the PRC and the United States normalized relations.”(See Footnote 4). Dessert has been served.

The snifter of good cognac and a cigar is in recently released documents that illustrate the internal contest Eisenhower fought to control the military. On January 12, 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced that the United States would protect its allies through the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power” during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. This doctrine was a reflection of the deep divide that opened with the perception that the Truman administration was weak on Communism. The Air Force was anxious to proceed with strategic ‘massive retaliation’[5] and had battled the other branches of the military that argued for a more tactical approach.

Two serendipitous events, one on the U.S. side and one in the Soviet Union, kept the world from a headlong dive into the shallow pool of total nuclear annihilation in the 1958 Taiwan Straits Crisis. First President Eisenhower required the Air Force to plan initially to use conventional bombs against Chinese forces if the crisis escalated. Secondly, the Soviet Union’s Khrushchev’s war-like notes to Eisenhower backing the PRC with nuclear threats came on September 6, 1958 only AFTER the Chinese resumed the Sino-American talks and the threat of war was winding down. The timing of the Soviet war noises was not lost on either the Chinese or the Americans.

The U.S. is facing the same choices as it did in the 1950s. This time, however, the hot-to-trot protagonist is the Navy, not the Air Force. Eisenhower was strong enough to understand what was going on and stand the Air Force down, when necessary; Khrushchev was strong enough to delay the saber rattling until the threat was minimized. The Air Sea Battle Plan (ASB) is a current operational concept, not a blueprint for war with China. Having gotten the disclaimer out of the way, the Navy is proceeding to implement it and it is important that the citizens of the world understand it.[6] The lessons from Taiwan include the value of waiting before striking with the mother lode of destruction. The value of choosing leaders wisely becomes crystal clear with a lens that looks back through time.

 

 


[1] The Heritage Foundation; February 2, 2010; Lee Edwards, Ph.D.; The Legacy of Mao Zedong is Mass Murder; http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2010/02/the-legacy-of-mao-zedong-is-mass-murder

[2] University of Hawaii; November 1993; R.J. Rummel; HOW MANY DID COMMUNIST REGIMES MURDER?; http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/COM.ART.HTM

[4] U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian; The Taiwan Straits Crises: 1954-55 and 1958; http://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/TaiwanStraitsCrises

[5] George Washington University National Security Archives; The Air Force and Strategic Deterrence 1950-1961; http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb249/doc09.pdf

[6] Defense News; Apr. 24, 2013; WENDELL MINNICK; Planning the Unthinkable War with China: An Aussie View of AirSea Battle; http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130424/DEFREG03/304240011/Planning-Unthinkable-War-China-An-Aussie-View-AirSea-Battle

Madmen in the White House

The Soviets were master chess players so what happens when the Mad Hatter takes a seat

The Mad Hatter Creative Commons

The Mad Hatter
Creative Commons

at the table? That was a question President Richard M. Nixon asked. By January 1969, finding a face-saving way out of the Vietnam War became a foreign policy priority for Nixon and Kissinger, and they had a plan. The Madman card played by Eisenhower during Korea was legend and Nixon, Eisenhower’s Vice President (1953 – 1961), was familiar with the ploy. Many arrows fill the foreign policy quiver; economic, trade, intelligence, diplomacy, and, of course, military. Foreign policy arrows combine forming customized solutions to particular interests or threats. The Madman game, played in one guise or another from 1969 to 1974, customized a bizarre and risky combination of foreign policy shafts.

The Eisenhower Madman policy appears founded in scuttlebutt, and documentation is hard to come by. Admiral Joy commanded the Naval Forces Far East, including all naval operations in Korean waters during the Korean War (1950-1953). Later the Admiral served

Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, USN, Commander Naval Forces Far East Photographed 9 June 1951. Note his Nikon 35mm camera. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Vice Admiral C. Turner Joy, USN, Commander Naval Forces Far East
Photographed 9 June 1951. Note his Nikon 35mm camera.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

as chief negotiator during the truce negotiations at Kaesong until they broke down in 1952. Joy asserted that the Eisenhower administration’s nuclear threats in May 1953, reaped Soviet compromises during negotiations. The January 1956, issue of Life Magazine published a supporting story by James Shepley, “How Dulles Averted War” (pages 70 and 71). Secretary of State Allen Dulles detailed how he carried Eisenhower’s nuclear warning to Beijing in 1953 during a visit with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Shepley reported that “…Dulles told Nehru that the U.S. desired to end the fighting in Korea honorably. He also said that if the war continued, the U.S. would lift the self-imposed restrictions on its actions and hold back no effort or weapon to win…” According to rumor, innuendo, and the tribal drums similar, clarified messages, on nuclear intent found their way to China through several different mechanisms. Continue reading

Times of Change in the Marshall Islands

The room was small, well-lit, and government blue-gray except for the floor, which was

Looking at a Modernist federal office building from the northeast. James V. Forrestal Building in 2006. (Wikipedia)

Looking at a Modernist federal office building from the northeast. James V. Forrestal Building in 2006. (Wikipedia)

highly polished government-white, gold flecked linoleum tile. A compact blue-grey table, six chairs and an incongruous soda machine humming away in the corner were the only furnishings.  There were no windows. My elation and excitement at having been summoned to the DOE, Department of Energy, Headquarters in the Forrestal Building in Washington D.C. was eroding to a sense of foreboding. I was the DOE contractor’s Pacific Operations manager and was thrilled to have been invited to brief the Pacific’s Marshall Islands Program. It was 1300 hours and a game was afoot.

To this point, everything had gone like clockwork. The afternoon flight from Honolulu, Hawaii landed spot on time in California and the middle-of-the-night nonstop commuter flight to

I walked around the Runit Dome (on Enewetak). It is completely unmarked. I would have heeded a warning sign, if it was there.' — Michael Gerrard

I walked around the Runit Dome (on Enewetak). It is completely unmarked. I would have heeded a warning sign, if it was there.’ — Michael Gerrard

Washington’s Dulles International was smooth enough to grab a few hours of sleep. A quick trip to the Dulles women’s room gave me cover to ditch the palazzo pants and cotton shirt and don the uniform; a blue power suit with a light pink silk blouse, panty hose, and matching heels. I was almost ready for my big day at Forrestal. Grabbing the bag with my newly purchased makeup, I colored my eyes, powdered my face, and painted my lips just like the sales lady at Ala Moana taught me. Throwing my tan London Fog overcoat nonchalantly over my arm and grabbing my bag and briefcase, I headed for the taxi line in full uniform. The taxi took a while but I used the time wisely writing notes to myself about things I did not want to forget. Amongst the notes on the radiological concerns at Runit Dome, the state of the program, and other worries, I wrote a reminder not to wipe the grease off of my lips with the sleeve of my suit jacket. I never wore make-up and the lipstick was driving me crazy- the first omen of the day ahead. Continue reading

Treaties and Personalities

The post on The Nuclear Hydra – Proliferation is one line of sight on the Cold War tb02Legacy of treaty mentality. There are many others equally compelling and each adds dimension to the Cold War culture that pervades the foreign policy issues of today.  Following are two excellent reads from some of my favorite reading and research sites for your curiosity’s pleasure. The picture to the right is the signing “…of the Limited Test Ban Treaty on 24 September 1963, President Kennedy signed the treaty into law on 5 October. From left, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director William C. Foster, Senate Majority Leader Michael Mansfield (D-Mt), Chairman, General Advisory Committee to ACDA John C. McCloy, Vice Chairman Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Senator John Pastore (D-RI), ACDA Deputy Director Adrian Fisher, Ambassador-at-Large W. Averell Harriman, Senator Fulbright, Senator George Smathers (D-Fl), Secretary of State Dean Rusk (head showing), Senator George Aiken (R-Vt), Senator Humphrey, Senator Everett Dirksen (D-lll), and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson….” [Source: National Archives, Still Pictures Division, Department of State Collection 59-0, box 23.]

National Security Archives (GWU)

The Making of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1958-1963; William Burr and Hector L. Montford, editors

Restricted Data The Nuclear Secrecy Blog

Restricted Data is a blog about nuclear secrecy, past and present, run by Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science at the American Institute of Physics. Wellerstein’s latest post offered a fascinating insight into the personality and character of Leo Szilard, a central player in obtaining the authorization to proceed with the atomic bomb development and a strong opponent of its use.

Leo Szilard, war criminal?

Belfer Center For Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Gorbachev Calls for the Elimination of All Nuclear Weapons

 

We’d love to hear your view about the future of treaties in today’s world.

 

The Nuclear Hydra – Proliferation

The nuclear dawn’s light powered-up the ethics banks of the self-assembling supercomputers

Alumni of the Met Lab pose on the steps of Eckhart Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago on December 2, 1946 (the fourth anniversary of CP-1 first going critical).  Front row, left to right: Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, Albert Wattenberg, and Herbert Anderson.  Middle row, left to right: Harold Agnew, William Sturm, Harold Lichtenberger, Leona W. Marshall, and Leo Szilard.  Back row, left to right: Norman Hilberry, Samuel Allison, Thomas Brill, Robert Nobles, Warren Nyer, and Marvin Wilkening. The photograph is courtesy the Argonne National Laboratory.

Alumni of the Met Lab pose on the steps of Eckhart Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago on December 2, 1946 (the fourth anniversary of CP-1 first going critical). Front row, left to right: Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, Albert Wattenberg, and Herbert Anderson. Middle row, left to right: Harold Agnew, William Sturm, Harold Lichtenberger, Leona W. Marshall, and Leo Szilard. Back row, left to right: Norman Hilberry, Samuel Allison, Thomas Brill, Robert Nobles, Warren Nyer, and Marvin Wilkening. The photograph is courtesy the Argonne National Laboratory.

within the Manhattan Project scientists’ brains.  The scientists that rode the Manhattan Project from the laying of the first brick in 1941 to Trinity’s detonation in 1945 were arguably the single largest aggregation of brilliance the world has ever seen.  These were the foundering brothers who built the atomic bomb.  They also realized the raw power they had unleashed would never be controlled by them.  Many members of the founding brothers awakened during the final stages of the bomb’s development.  The amoral need to find the answer just because it needed finding morphed into the question of ‘what have we done?’.  The awakening began a quest to neutralize the power of their scientific discoveries and the quest was at odds with the political and military objectives of the day.  They were heroes, physics and chemistry’s answer to Hercules, fighting for the survival of the human race bound in the chains of secrecy.  Although this group of scientists embodied the idea the Greeks called pathos, the experience of virtuous struggle and suffering, they would find the promised reward of fame and immortality a dubious honor.

The first controlled nuclear fission reaction of Enrico Fermi’s pile on December 2, 1942 marked a major milestone in the laboratory underneath the bleachers of the abandoned Stagg Stadium in Chicago. Scientists from the left and right American coasts were assembled in the middle to kick-off the Manhattan Project under the guise of a new “Metallurgical Laboratory”[1] at the University of Chicago.  Most of the scientists and technicians just referred to it as the Met Lab with a wink

Stagg Field (named for coach Amos Alonzo Stagg)

Stagg Field (named for coach Amos Alonzo Stagg)

and a nod as they tore into meeting its three simple objectives with a religious fervor; 1) develop chain-reacting “piles” for plutonium production, 2) devise a method for extracting plutonium from irradiated uranium, and 3) to design a weapon.  They did that.  Not a bad achievement considering that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s approval for the Atom Bomb’s development had been given a little over a year earlier on October 9, 1941.[2]

The Met Lab successes spurred the design and construction phases into overdrive.  Ordinary citizens, whole communities, farmers and ranchers by the dozens were removed from several tens of thousands of acres of land across the country by a government hungry for nuclearX10Complex1 facilities supported by a congress vying for the economic windfalls such sites would produce, and a population terrified and driven by a terrible war.  Nuclear sites sprouted; Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Hanford in Washington, and Los Alamos in New Mexico became working sites. The Met Lab, the mother lab, diversified and became the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The successful detonation of the Los Alamos’ Trinity test on July 16, 1945 changed the world forever.   Meanwhile back at the Met Lab, six star-studded committees had already been

The Trinity Test It was 5:30 am on the 16th July 1945

The Trinity Test It was 5:30 am on the 16th July 1945

formed and were plotting regularly on how to best influence future nuclear policy.  James Franck, who along with his partner, Gustav Ludwig Hertz, won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in 1912–1914 supporting the Bohr model of the atom, headed the Committee on Social and Political Implications, one of the six committees.  Other Met Lab Social and Political Implications Committee members included:

  • Glenn T. Seaborg who together with Edwin Mattison won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements”.[3]
  • Donald Hughes who specialized in neutron physics.[4]
  • James J. Nickson who influenced the handling and management of radioactive waste at Met Lab.[5]
  • Eugene Rabinowitch a Russian born American biophysicist who went on to become a founder and editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.[6]
  • Joyce C. Stearns who was the Met Lab Director between November 1944 and July 1945.[7]
  • Leo Szilard, one of the physicists who along with Einstein petitioned FDR to begin the search for the Atom Bomb, was adamant that the A-Bomb should not be used.[8]    Continue reading

The Admiral Dismantles the DOE’s Nuclear Empire

Admiral James D. Watkins took the helm of power at the Department of Energy (DOE) on

Watkins is sworn in as Energy Secretary. From left to right: James Watkins, Sheila Watkins, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, President George H. W. Bush. (Wikipedia)

Watkins is sworn in as Energy Secretary. From left to right: James Watkins, Sheila Watkins, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, President George H. W. Bush. (Wikipedia)

March 1, 1989. Appointed by President H.W. Bush, Admiral Watkins replaced President Reagan’s appointee, John Harriman. It only took about three months for the 100,000 or so DOE government employees and the contractors to realize they were in a different world and it wasn’t going to be fun anymore.

A change in presidents means changes at the secretarial level in most major departments and almost always at the DOE. During the 1989 Admiral Watkins transition, all DOE and contractor management bureaucrats were as meerkats on a mound in Namibia, standing erect, necks extended and heads stretched for the least sound, smell or other clue as to direction. The adjective, hyper-vigilant, became an understatement.

Watching Washington, D.C. for a sign.

Watching Washington, D.C. for a sign.

The lesser workerkats kept on trucking because, in the seventeen installations, test sites and plants scattered over twelve states that was the DOE nuclear world, it always worked out. Workerkats believed that once the president and new members of congress figured out that President Carter’s renaming of the Energy Research and Development Administration to the Department of Energy did not really change anything, all would be well. Irrespective of the happenings back in Washington, D.C. schedules at the working level never changed; there was always going to be the next production run or the next test.  They could not have been more wrong.

By March 1, 1989, The DOE nuclear body politic was already dead, it was to be maintained on

Color photo of the exterior of the Chernobyl power plant shortly after the explosion, just outside the Russian town of Pripyat. How shortly is unknown.  (http://gallery.spaceman.ca/v/interests/chernobyl/)

Color photo of the exterior of the Chernobyl power plant shortly after the explosion, just outside the Russian town of Pripyat. How shortly is unknown. (http://gallery.spaceman.ca/v/interests/chernobyl/)

life support for dismantlement and shut-down prior to burial. In retrospect, the demise of the nuclear infrastructure seems clear but at the time it was anything but clear. Contractors knew that the DOE was pathologically afraid of failure and of accidents. The horror of Chernobyl’s 1986 accident was fresh in everyone’s mind. The EPA wanted behind the veil of secrecy. As it played out, the EPA interest was mostly to secure a seat at the power table rather than any real concern about the environment. The protestors were the same people who carried a variety of different signs but it was known that they were funded largely by the soviets and so were ignored. The Savannah River facility, which produced tritium and plutonium-239, for nuclear weapons production, experienced another failure in 1988 and three of its five reactors (K, L, and P) were shut down. K Reactor produced tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, used to increase effect of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile.  Since the K reactor went down in 1988 no new tritium has been produced. Tritium decays about 5 percent per year and must now be recovered and recycled from disassembled nuclear weapons. At the moment, the U.S. cannot maintain its nuclear weapons stockpile at the level called for in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II but President Obama signed a New START treaty in February 2011 calling for further stockpile reductions so tritium recycling can continue to support the nuclear stockpile for a while longer.

Rocky Flats Plant

Rocky Flats Plant

The Admiral took the helm in the middle of all this chaos at the direct request of President H.W. Bush.  His marching orders were to clean up the DOE mess. During his confirmation hearings, the Admiral took DOE to task for a 35-year culture of bad management and out-of-date technology. In May 1989, Watkins’s second in command, Henson Moore, led a team of 70 FBI and EPA officers on a raid of the Rocky Flats facility on allegations of environmental crimes. Gross criminal malfeasance could never be proven but when the Rocky Flats incident was over, EPA had a full-time seat at the table and DOE would never enjoy the freedom from scrutiny they had previously enjoyed.

The distinct line drawn between military and civilian nuclear capability roles during the Truman administration would also be blurred and, in some cases, be erased. DOE’s government workforce went into g-fib. Government fibrillation (g-fib) is just like ventricular fibrillation (v-fib) except instead of muscle cells all vibrating incoherently it is government employees who sit at their desks and vibrate incoherently. When the government goes into g-fib, contractors just have to wait until it is all over. Someone will either get the paddles and shock them back into harmony or the body politic will disintegrate.

Government workers in G-fib

Government workers in G-fib

Continue reading

Nuclear Candy-A Cold War Truth of Sorts

The Nevada Test Site is beautiful.  Others have officially re-named it The Nevada National

Test Structure

Test Structure

Security Site, but I shall never call it by that name because it wasn’t.  It was a test site or a proving ground not a politically correct plot of land.  Weighing in with over 1350 square miles in the high Nevada desert, the Test Site is geographically packed with dry lakes, hidden valleys, eroded shield volcanoes and mesas hidden from prying eyes by rugged mountains and bombing ranges.  For over 40 years between 1952 and 1995 the Test Site was the private playground of physicists, chemists, and other ‘ist’s who were into nukes.  The only requirements were brilliance, curiosity and the ability to pass a security clearance process.  The Test site possessed a natural dignity, a proud history, drama, and a tortured soul revealed in the familiar pockmarked landscape and skeletal remains of test platforms.  It was also the home of the new flavors of nuclear candy made ready for the military and political bureaucracies.  Grab your favorite beverage-mine is coffee-sit down and relax, I have a tale to spin about the Nevada Test Site, battling nuclear fathers, a president, and mankind’s baby step in a positive ethical direction.

T-Tunnel: Typical tunnel layout for the Minute Gun series of horizontal line of sight experiments. A Historical Evaluation of the U12t Tunnel, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, Volume 1, DOE/NV/26383–109

T-Tunnel: Typical tunnel layout for the Minute Gun series of horizontal line of sight experiments. A Historical Evaluation of the U12t Tunnel, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada, Volume 1, DOE/NV/26383–109

It was a bright spring Saturday morning in the late 1980s in P-tunnel at Rainier Mesa in Area 12 and I had several hours of free time before the alcove I was as-building was to be grouted.   I threw my safety gear in the truck alongside my lunch and took off for the top of a mesa.  Pahute Mesa remained largely unexplored in my wanderings but I wasn’t sure what Livermore was doing over there and, anyway, I loved the old structures on top of Rainier Mesa so, Rainier it was.  I found an old shed decorated with dusty pinups from the 1950s and loaded with abandoned, musty smelling logs of an event long past.  This crumbling piece of history, probably a watchman’s shed over T-tunnel was from a time when the instrumentation cables ran from ground zero straight through the top of Rainier Mesa’s cap rock.  What could those broken cap rocks tell me?  I grabbed my sandwich and drink and headed for a comfortable looking tree to lean against.  I could see Sedan crater in the distance and hear the haunting cry of the many raptors riding the mesa’s thermal currents.  Perfect!

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China: A Morphogenetic Creation

[Author’s Note: A special word of thanks is due John Malch and the Webmaster at the Full-Spectrum-Dominance docking site for forcing the questions that needed asking.]

For 2,000 and more years China lived under imperial rule.  China’s silk, tea and the sciences

The Qing Dynasty ruled China from 1644 to 1911. (Source: Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih )

The Qing Dynasty ruled China from 1644 to 1911. (Source: Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih )

brought home to Europe by Western explorers donated fuel to restart the engine of Western civilization after the dark ages.  Thanks to China’s development of the compass, gunpowder, paper making, and printing,[1] we in the West  have been able to find ‘the war’, wage it, record it and get the word out to everyone else about how well it all went.  Like any other large central government, Chinese imperial rule bred massive corruption, a military turned inward on the people, a nanny-state to keep the citizenry predictable and rebels easily identifiable, and the required surveillance to calm the state’s paranoia.  And then, in 1912, the 2,000 years of imperial rule was over; ousted by a few insiders that liked the ring of the word ‘republic’.

Morphogenesis

The three-year old Pu-Yi, Emperor of China (standing); his father, Prince Chun, and his younger brother.

The three-year old Pu-Yi, Emperor of China (standing); his father, Prince Chun, and his younger brother.

The embryo of the Chinese republic was an interesting hybrid.  As the cells of the new body politic came alive, “the embryological processes of differentiation of cells, tissues, and organs and the development of organ systems according to the genetic “blueprint” of the potential organism and environmental conditions”[2] began to unfold; the morphogenetic creation that is China today was underway.  China’s imperial rule ended bathed in corruption rather than blood.  The Qing/Manchu Dynasty’s Aisin-Gioro PuYi, China’s last emperor, abdicated the Dragon Throne by proxy; the Empress Dowager Longyu, the mother who adopted him, signed the paperwork.

The Set-Up

China was up to its imperial neck in debt when the toddler, PuYi, assumed the Dragon Throne in 1908.  Foreign entanglements, particularly with Britain, had “humbled the Qing in

Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and his revolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including Yeung Hok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second from right), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良) (standing) at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and his revolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including Yeung Hok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second from right), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良) (standing) at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

battle, carved out rich territories and extracted huge payments”[3]. The imperial goods were pawned for state income because income from other sources had slowed to a trickle. Provinces separated from the empire, citizens revolted and demanded a republic.  The revolutionaries were rewarded on October 10, 1911 in Nanjing when Sun Yat-sen was installed as the first president of the Republic of China. In a last ditch effort to regain central control, General Yuan Shikai became the court appointed prime minister.  General Yuan Shikai wasn’t overly attached to the idea of a republic but he did want the Qing dynasty gone by whatever means necessary.

General Yuan Shikai (1859-1916)

General Yuan Shikai (1859-1916)

Shikai made an offer the imperial family could not refuse.  When faced with beheading, Empress Dowager Longyu, Prince Yikuang, and the Empress Dowager’s head eunuch, Xiao Dezheng each took over $1.6 billion in silver to the bank.  The rest of the royal court was given the leave-or-lose-your-head option only.  PuYi left the Forbidden City, and as he grew into manhood ruled a Japanese controlled corner of North East China briefly.  Later, Chairman Mao allowed PuYi to work in the Botanical Gardens until his death in 1967, from complications of kidney cancer and heart disease.  We know this history through Jia Yinghua’s, The Extraordinary Life of the Last Emperor.[4]  An historian and former government official, Yinghua, compiled the fascinating history of China’s pivot point between imperial rule and a republic from the secret archives at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound, and from interviews with relatives of the imperial courtiers. Continue reading

Tonopah Test Range

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. — Eric Hoffer

One clear Nevada evening in the late 1980s, I wheeled my government vehicle out of the

Yucca Flats at night...back in the day.

Yucca Flats at night…back in the day.

Area 6 parking lot located on the ridge between Yucca Flats and Frenchman Flats on the Nevada Test Site. Thinking that this job had become less of a job and more of a lifestyle, my main concern was to slide into Mercury before the cafeteria closed and I was forced to make an evening meal of Cheetos and Coca-Cola out of the machines one more time. My egocentric meanderings abruptly ended as I noticed helicopters, a lot of them, lined up and hovering along the ridges. Something very cool was up so I eased my vehicle onto the first available off-the-road flat spot, stopped, lit a cigarette, and settled in to wait.

The stars fairly danced a jig in the dry, clear desert air and the seven sisters of the Pleiades constellation sparkled

Pleiades: Dance of the seven sisters

Pleiades: Dance of the seven sisters

like sunlight playing off of water. Once again, I examined the curiosity that kept getting me in trouble. And once again, I found that it didn’t matter to me whether or not I got into trouble for asking too many questions. I loved what I was doing, the toys were astounding, winning the Cold War was important, and very smart people were doing very interesting things, which brought me back to the helicopters. I decided to try to count them. By the time I got to twenty-five helicopters, a large, black, triangular flying machine came roaring across the ridge between the flats at an incredible speed. “Well, hello”, said I.  Continue reading

The Foreign Policy and FUBAR Correlation

News Year’s Eve has found its way to Arizona’s outback and, although I haven’t checked,FE_121025_globe425x283 probably to the rest of the world this side of the International Dateline.  While the celebrations wind-up, my thoughts turn to the legacy of the Cold War and what we may have learned.  A likely candidate for consideration is the U.S.’s foreign policy and the accompanying foreign relations.  I love the rich, stand-up comedy fodder the subject offers until thoughts of the millions of affected people sober the tone.  The Cold War became the test bed for ‘new’ foreign policy trials. As newly deployed policies failed and yielded to military adventures, the federal government ‘doubled-down’ rather than admit an error.  As bad foreign policy and relations are implemented they come back to haunt ordinary U.S. citizens and the citizenry is being engulfed by its own government’s fear and paranoia; FUBAR.

FUBAR

This post will discuss wars and some of the dumb decisions (in my opinion) that were made by policy makers who did not have the moral backbones to stand up and take the heat.  It is not about the honor and integrity of American soldiers, who fought; many of whom died or were wounded physically or emotionally.  I am grateful to you for your service. It is also not about the millions of civilians who were carried by the tide of policy into harm’s way.  And it is not about the policy decisions currently in the public debating forums.  The post is about the past that brought us to where we are today.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

In Greece, the U.S. threw its policy weight and money at the Greek Civil War with the passage of The Truman Doctrine in 1946 by the Republican Congress.  Oops, the Soviet Union had already refused to assist the Greek Communists in the struggle so the Civil War was just that.  The Truman Doctrine set the tone of American interference in other countries’ business going forward, though.

The Marshall Plan in 1947 seems to have worked out well for everyone concerned, although Asia, without a ‘Marshall Plan’, did even better and faster.

The battle over Berlin took a hard turn straight into crisis on June 23, 1948 when the U.S. and

Berlin Partition

Berlin Partition

its allies, England and France, talked about forming a federation with their three slices of the Berlin pie.  The allied discussions spooked the Soviet Union so they closed the Berlin border to allied vehicle and rail traffic.  The confrontation over the closures was passive/aggressive; the Berlin airlift response kept Berlin provisioned-just barely.  The airlift was sufficient, however, for the Soviets to assess the will and capacity of the allies and they came to the table after seven months. The result was years and years of tension over the East-West German borders. Millions of American soldiers’ rite of passage to man and womanhood occurred under the constant, unrelenting threat of World War III at the German border as they stared into the eyes of their counterparts under the same pressure.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The sustained tension at the German border coupled with the assumed military strength of the Soviet Union was the genesis of the nuclear arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine (MADD).  It was the second plank in Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy in 1953: “relying on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression or, if necessary, to fight a war”.[1]  Both sides geared up and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could be fatefully delivered on any platform.  It also spurred the unanticipated consequence of everybody wanting a nuke.  Now, twenty six nations are capable of exercising the incredible destructive force of the nucleus of an atom.

Let us not forget NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. sponsored joint military that has grown in both size and strength.  NATO clung to its initial policy of not attacking

NATO

NATO Aircraft

unless attacked as long as the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with.  On the sidelines, those of us old enough to remember, watched helplessly and in horror as our Western governments let calls for help from East Europeans challenging the Soviet iron fist go unanswered; Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1956, the Czechs again in the Prague spring of 1968 and the Poles in the 70’s.  After the Soviet Union fractured and retreated, NATO changed its tune and went aggressive.  NATO beat up feckless Yugoslavia in Kosovo and sent troops into Bosnia and Afghanistan.  The neighborly NATO took U.S. taxpayer money by the wheelbarrow but decided not to replace or augment U.S. troops in Iraq. NATO has also stimulated a new arms race:

“…The treaty between west European nations, inaugurated as a barrier to Soviet aggression, graduated to new prominence in 2011 with establishment of a “free fly” zone for Libyan insurgents, and aerial attacks on Libya. The spread of NATO actions to several continents redefines NATO as an arm of western political and military policies, and replaces the policy of deterrence against a defunct Soviet Union. Coupling that with the anti-missile system the U.S. and NATO allies propose to deploy in Eastern Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian First Channel program Cold Politics (Kholodnaya Politika) and exclaimed that this anti-missile system “is undoubtedly aimed at neutralizing the nuclear rocket capability of Russia.”[2]

Russia has fought back with its recently announced initiative to place nukes along its border to defend itself from NATO.[3]  Game On. Continue reading