Happy New Year

Legacy is the Cold War Warrior lens. As the leaf of the calendar prepares to turn the oldHappyNewYear_col year new, what comes from our past? The tribes are vibrating in anticipation of a wild and woolly presidential election in the U.S.  Mongering fear is a rhetoric staple for the speechwriters. A new player in the political orchestra is playing discordant notes as if he is composing a new symphony in the middle of the presidential concert performance. The Cold War witnessed ten presidential elections, some more noteworthy than others.

The 1960s began with a bang when a young, attractive Democrat, John F. Kennedy, took Richard Nixon to task for the job of president. Richard Nixon was a known as a ‘red-baiter’, but Kennedy, a WWII veteran, was a hawk’s hawk. Both sides played the Cold War Soviet threat card, but Kennedy brought fear alive through words that painted a picture of thousands of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles destroying freedom’s cities, lost children, and hope’s demise for humanity’s future. The number of missiles Kennedy was attributing to the Soviet arsenal, compared to the U.S.’s paltry few, was ridiculous. President Eisenhower could have made short work of Kennedy’s vision of the apocalypse by pointing out the young candidate’s lie, but did not.

Kennedy’s short time in office did make a difference. He and Nikita Khrushchev found some common ground in between shoe poundings. They banned atmospheric and underwater nuclear testing. Together they formed a treaty framework, still in use, to reduce the stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Instead of both empires having enough nukes to destroy the world many times over, we each only have enough left to destroy the world once. Continue reading

Cold War Economics – That Demmed, Elusive Pimpernel

As chief spy-catcher Chauvelin chased that demmed,[1] elusive Scarlet Pimpernel to no availThe Scarlet Pimpernel Book Club 20116 in 1793, I have gone to great lengths to understand the legacy of Cold War Economics.  Until recently, Chauvelin and I were vying for first place in the ‘we-don’t-get-it’ category.  That “Aha” moment was not accompanied by a drumroll or lightning bolt, it quietly unfolded in Peter J. Boettke’s The Mystery of the Mundane  in the November issue of The Freeman Magazine.  In Boettke’s words, I was outfitted with the right lens to be amazed by the mystery of the mundane.

Cold War economics in the U.S. was a coup d’état played out over sixty years in slow motion.

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)

The government toppled the people.  Using a cycle of fear and legislation, the federal government consolidated power in an ever increasing spiral over time.  General Douglas MacArthur, in his book A Soldier Speaks, said it best, “Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear—kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor—with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”

Robert Higgs’ research article, The Cold War Economy; Opportunity Costs, Ideology, and the Politics of Crisis published in 1994 illustrates how the Cold War forever changed the cost and use of the military.  Higgs states that:

“Before World War II the allocation of resources to military purposes remained at token levels, typically no more than one percent of GNP, except during actual warfare, which occurred infrequently. Wartime and peacetime were distinct, and during peacetime—that is, nearly all the time—the societal opportunity cost of “guns” was nearly nil. The old regime ended in 1939. The massive mobilization of the early 1940s drove the military share of GNP to more than 41 percent at its peak in 1943-44.   Despite an enormous demobilization after 1944, the military sector in 1947, at the postwar trough, still accounted for 4.3 percent of GNP, three times the 1939 share.” Continue reading

From the Ashes a Cheetah Rises – A Peculiar Ghanaian Tale

Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s Prime Minister, was deposed in a bloodless coup d’état inmap-ghana-africa-imp February 1966. For once, the CIA was not involved, but I was there.  Well…I was ‘sort of’ there.  It was my very first coup d’état and I slept through it.  It was hot, gray and raining when I rose to consciousness on February 25, 1966 so it was either 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. but how I knew that is anyone’s guess.  I snatched at the vestiges of images in my mind to form a thought. Any thought I could recognize as such would do.  Finally, it occurred to me I had no idea where I was.  It was no small relief to feel my control-freak kicking in to begin its inventory of the situation.  The data packets were sorted and re-sorted until they made sense.  Ah ha! I was in a hospital room in Tema, Ghana smack in the middle of West Africa.  Although I recalled curling up to receive a spinal tap I had no idea why I had gotten one or how I got here.  To my great relief, Audrey entered the room.  Answers would come now.

Audrey was my friend.  Typically Ghanaian, she was beautiful, elegant, and graceful.  Audrey was also the mother of five and very wise.  She entered the room silently and began to bubble in Twi, her native Akan language, when she realized I was awake.  My command of Twi was much less than hers of English or Dutch but I gathered I’d been unconscious for several days as a result of a bout with meningitis.  She had brought wonderful cut oranges, which my parched body fairly inhaled, and some bloody awful tasting tea, which she said would heal me quickly.  Later I wondered if she came prepared with these wonders daily or if she knew that that day I’d be back.  The Ghanaians I know and love are incredibly intuitive.

In the early morning hours of 24 Feb., 1966, Ghana's armed forces, with the cooperation of the National Police, took over government in "Operation Cold Chop", a well-organized coup d'etat. The first announcement made from Radio Ghana said that the coup was led by Kotoka.  Nkrumah`s statue was pulled down! Here children are seen standing on Nkrumah`s statue”

In the early morning hours of 24 Feb., 1966, Ghana’s armed forces, with the cooperation of the National Police, took over government in “Operation Cold Chop”, a well-organized coup d’etat. The first announcement made from Radio Ghana said that the coup was led by Kotoka. Nkrumah`s statue was pulled down! Here children are seen standing on Nkrumah`s statue”

As the excitement settled, Audrey unfolded the tale of the coup.  She said that the generals had seen Kwame Nkrumah safely out of the country and then taken over.  She also spun images of very dark happenings in Accra, Ghana’s capitol.  The zoo had been broken into and many animals slaughtered and, she said, when the people toppled a statue of Nkrumah they found the skeletal remains of twins. Bad Juju.  Prime Minister Nkrumah had worshiped in his own temple and completely embraced his surrogate title, Osagyefo, which means “redeemer”.   Times would become even more difficult for the Ghanaians and very strange for expatriates like me as General Joseph Arthur Ankrah took the reins of power.

All of us faced a new Ghana, a new order to life as the military closed the harbors, set up checkpoints, and inserted themselves into schools, unions, and the workplace.  The dash-bribes-became virtually codified and bottles of Simba (beer) would no longer do. Cash became king. This is not to say that Nkrumah had done less, it was just that he did it differently.  Nkrumah was focused on his intellectual legacy as well as his in-country power.  Ankrah’s administration was corrupted at a far more fundamental level. Continue reading