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

Iran—A Blast From The Past

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) affectionately known in the U.S. as the

Iran nuclear deal: agreement in Vienna. From left to right: Foreign ministers Wang Yi (China), Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), Federica Mogherini (EU), Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran), Philip Hammond (UK), John Kerry (USA)

Iran nuclear deal: agreement in Vienna. From left to right: Foreign ministers Wang Yi (China), Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), Federica Mogherini (EU), Mohammad Javad Zarif (Iran), Philip Hammond (UK), John Kerry (USA)

Iran Nuclear Deal was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Iran’s executive leaders. A panel of Iranian lawmakers concluded the JCPOA was flawed but recommended approval. Zee News reported on October 4, 2015, that the Iranian panel found the Nuclear Deal posed a potential security threat and skirted Iranian lawmakers. During the Nuclear Deal negotiations, the executive branches of both Iran and the U.S. bypassed their respective legislative bodies. Skirting Iran’s lawgivers and circumventing the U.S. Congress yielded the same outcome; begrudging approval of the JCPOA by a bunch of grumpy elected politicians.

Through time media and political focus on Iran rises and ebbs depending upon the current administration’s Middle East game plan. Iran’s become a seasonal spectator sport; a gift the U.S. gave itself back in the 1950s. The new season opened with Benjamin Netanyahu’s impassioned speech to the U.S. Congress against the Deal and President Obama’s United Nations subsequent end run on Congress for approval of the JCPOA.

Today’s Iran is all that remains of Persia, an ancient and magnificent civilization. Persia, a

Persia

Persia

succession of empires, can trace its lineage back 5,200 years. From its pinnacle around 550 BCE, Persia fell to Alexander about 200 years later, then rose from ashes to once again assuming a global leadership position. By the time the Empire finally fell to the Rashidun Muslims in about 651 AD, it was an economically vibrant, culturally diverse nation that boasted connective highways, civilized infrastructure, taxes, and one primary religion—Zoroastrianism, which promoted the idea that its followers “be among those who renew the world…to make the world progress towards perfection”. Continue reading

The Interstate Highway System

Rocking across the Texas component of I-10 at 80 miles per hour dodging wind generatoreisenhower_highway_marker_thumb replacement blades and hundreds of semis set sailing across lanes by serious, mesa driven crosswinds turned my mind to the Interstate Highway System today. It is one of the legacies of the Cold War (1947-1991) that isn’t. Although President George H. W. Bush’s signature on October 15th, 1990 signed the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways bill into law, Eisenhower was just scratching an itch that several presidents before him had felt. Rather than a serious strategic push, the 46,876 mile-long Interstate system was recognition of the need to connect the country for future growth and a public works project that employed thousands of military personnel returning from World War II.

George Washington, Land Surveyor

George Washington, Land Surveyor

Many young people, like my grandsons, just assume that the highway system has always been here, it’s always been easy to get from here to there and have never questioned why. The scoop is that the need for proper roads has been recognized from the country’s beginnings.  In 1785, George Washington, a land surveyor and out first president said, “The credit, the saving, and convenience of this country all require that our great roads leading from one public place to another should be straightened and established by law . . . To me these things seem indispensably necessary.”[1]  Post roads were included as part of the federal government’s responsibilities in the U.S. Constitution;  Article I, Section 8, Clause 7.

President Roosevelt knew that the soldiers would need jobs after WWII and his experienceimages with the road construction he spearheaded as Governor of New York certainly contributed to his interest in the early studies of the Interstate System as a possible employment vehicle.  In 1944, Roosevelt signed the law to select an Interstate System. Truman, upon his assumption of presidential responsibility, agreed with Roosevelt on the need for an interstate system. Truman had once led the National Old Trails Road Association[2] that promoted a road across the country on famous roads of the past.  Once he became a Jackson County, Missouri official, Truman built a network of concrete roads. The problem was babies. Many, many babies were born after the WWII so most of the construction industry focused on building houses for the rapidly growing families. Road construction would wait for the Eisenhower administration.

How An Army Convoy Crossed America In 56 Days To Prove We Needed Better Roads

How An Army Convoy Crossed America In 56 Days To Prove We Needed Better Roads

Eisenhower was itching to get into the battlefield in WWI but was consigned to a career busting training job. He taught soldiers how to use tanks, a new weapon no one was certain had any application. Eisenhower was considering resigning because he thought his career was over. After all, he had not been able to check the WWI ‘in-theater’ box for promotion and, in most circumstances, that means that career planning in the private sector was in order. U.S. Army’s Cross-Country Motor Transport Train[3], a plan was to send a convoy of 80 or so trucks and other military vehicles across the country. 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

Nixon: the CIA Loses Access

Nixon’s Watergate extravaganza was, without a doubt, the defining moment of hiswhitehouseconnection presidency.  Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein took their lives and careers in their hands to break the story.[1]  Watergate was bigger and better than the Bobby Baker[2] exposés that almost undid President Johnson and turned ‘investigative journalist’ into a storied title that reporters lusted after. In the intervening years, hundreds of fine analysts have spent untold hours and millions of words exploring the Watergate break-in and what it signifies.  The Watergate is the hole in the dam that emptied the reservoir.  Nixon built the dam, his relationship with the CIA, layer upon layer, beginning as Eisenhower’s Vice-President.

Culminating a political career that began in the House of Representatives in 1947, Richard Milhous Nixon served as the 37th President of the United States between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974.  Although he cut his political

William Safire joined Richard Nixon as a speechwriter for his campaign for president in 1968. (The New York Times/File 1968)

William Safire joined Richard Nixon as a speechwriter for his campaign for president in 1968. (The New York Times/File 1968)

teeth on the Alger Hiss[3] case, Nixon won the presidency on the foreign policy credentials earned during his eight years as Eisenhower’s VP.  William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter, came up with election-winning phrase “end the war and win the peace”,[4] which is exactly what the voters wanted to hear about the Vietnam War.

President Eisenhower’s approach to foreign policy differed significantly from President Truman in two areas; the role of the National Security Council and how Vice President Nixon fit into the foreign policy picture.

Under President Eisenhower, the National Security Council system evolved into the principal arm of the President in formulating and executing policy on military, international, and internal security affairs. Where Truman was uncomfortable with the NSC system and only made regular use of it under the pressure of the Korean war, Eisenhower embraced the NSC concept and created a structured system of integrated policy review. With his military background, Eisenhower had a penchant for careful staff work, and believed that effective planning involved a creative process of discussion and debate among advisers compelled to work toward agreed recommendations.[5] Continue reading

Freedom and Empire in America – A Cold War Identity Crisis

The Rule of Freedom (Courtesy of theruleoffreedom.wordpress.com)

The Rule of Freedom (Courtesy of theruleoffreedom.wordpress.com)

Four decades of Cold War wanderings around the world yielded a few answers to the important questions of life for this itinerant engineer, but one vital query went wanting. Why did the people I meet in Africa, Australia, South America, the Pacific, Europe, and Asia love and embrace me, a lowly American, but hate the country I loved?  Starving under various socio-political-economic systems drove iterations of learning and deepened my belief in the underlying truth and integrity of the governance wrapped by ideals that the founding brothers attempted to frame during the development of the Constitution of the United States.  When did the U.S. stop being the ‘good guys’ and join the roster of ‘bad guys’?

In WWII, the U.S. played the good guys rescuing the world from the nightmares of Hitler and Japan.  U.S. soldiers from farms, factories and villages across the country fought and died in places they did not know existed. There are American soldiers buried in cemeteries in

American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands

American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands

France, Belgium, England, Italy, Luxembourg, Philippines, Netherlands, and Tunisia. In 2012, the Times- Herald’s Alex McRae wrote, “When Netherlands resident Marco Weijers adopted the grave of Newnan’s Albert Partridge, he became one of 8,301 local residents who adopted the grave of an American soldier at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.”[1]  The U.S. was far from angelic during WWII, but the overall review was good. Following WWII, the American public pushed to ‘restore its natural order’.  They expected the soldiers to come home, the war machine to be trimmed down smartly and the business of making a living and a life to resume.  Surprise! Peace was a dream and, for a while, it was an illusion.   The Cold War clicked on and the nation’s long journey to the ‘dark side’ began with unsteady first steps.  But wait, there’s more!

Kennedy’s Central Intelligence Agency

This is the third in a series of articles that explores the iconic CIA and its use as a tactical weapon by the presidents of the Cold War (1947-1991). The Central Intelligence Agency – In the Beginning and The Central Intelligence Agency – Eisenhower and Asia’s Back Door are the preceding posts.

Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 *Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html *Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111

Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 *Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibit_hall/american_originals_iv/images/jfk_inaugural_address/inauguration.html *Photographer/Painter: Record Group 111

A very tired John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was sworn into office on a clear, windy, brutally cold January 20, 1961.[1]  It wasn’t an easy day. Eight inches of snow had fallen the night before causing a monumental traffic jam and the streets were littered with abandoned vehicles.  Former President Herbert Hoover missed the entire inauguration event because Washington National Airport was closed due to the weather.  An inauguration is an important national symbol that characterizes the Republic and the all-night effort to clear Pennsylvania Avenue greeted the sun with space to accommodate the large crowd that would gather to witness the duly elected president assume the helm of the ship-of-state.

The snowfall of the previous night and the windy, frigid temperatures of inauguration day are also apt codes for the sea change that had already gathered momentum around the relationship between the new president and his intelligence agency, the CIA.  The CIA, as authorized by The National Security Act of 1947, was still fairly young, but Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was an old hand and seemingly enjoyed the game.  By 1961, the CIA, in its short life, had tripped the light fantastic around the globe; Col. Lansdale was merrily fighting rebels in the Philippines following which he ported his obsession with asymmetric guerilla warfare to Vietnam where he spent two-years as a houseguest and confidant of President Diem, other CIA operatives overthrew governments in Iran and Guatemala, and raised general hell with Cuba and Chile.

During the latter Truman and Eisenhower administration there was a trend to combine the

Cover an an Iranian newspaper showing anti-Mossadegh demonstrators riding atop a tank on August 19, 1953

Cover an an Iranian newspaper showing anti-Mossadegh demonstrators riding atop a tank on August 19, 1953

Cold War (1947-1991) objective of fighting the creep of communism with business interests. Iran, for example, nationalized the British oil interests and Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh refused to budge in spite of punishing sanctions. According to the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, “Eisenhower worried about Mossadegh’s willingness to cooperate with Iranian Communists; he also feared that Mossadegh would eventually undermine the power of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a staunch anti-Communist partner. In August 1953, the CIA helped overthrow Mossadegh’s government and restore the shah’s power. In the aftermath of this covert action, new arrangements gave U.S. corporations an equal share with the British in the Iranian oil industry.”[2]

In Guatemala, the Jacobo Arbenz Guzman initiated land

Arevalo passes presidency to Arbenz in 1951

Arevalo passes presidency to Arbenz in 1951

reforms that seriously impacted the holdings of the anti-communist, New Orleans-based United Fruit Company who controlled over forty percent of Guatemala’s arable land.  The Truman administration came to the support of the American business interests by arming the anti-Arbenz rebels.  Under Eisenhower, the CIA finished the job by overthrowing Arbenz regime and installing Carlos Castillo Armas.  Codenamed PBSUCCESS, the coup d’état was the first-ever clandestine military action in Latin America but it was certainly not the last.[3]

After fifty years the controversy surrounding Kennedy and the CIA obscures the landscape like the white-out conditions in a blizzard.   At one end of the opinion spectrum, Marquette University’s John McAdams’ The Kennedy Assassination site concludes that Kennedy and the CIA had some rough spots but got through them.[4]  At the other end of the spectrum is Dr. Jerome R. Corsi, who maintains that Kennedy and the CIA locked horns and never retreated.[5]  Excellent research and the documented citations for both perspectives leave the reader with many questions.  One corner of this argument does not appear to be disputed; Kennedy consistently refused to use the U.S. military to support private sector interests.  In this matter, President Kennedy was a traditionalist. The military, in his opinion, was to be used only in defense of national security interests.  If we can escape the white-out conditions of the never-ending controversy, the political landscape, once again, becomes hard and navigable.   Continue reading

The Central Intelligence Agency – Eisenhower and Asia’s Back Door

This is the second in a series of articles that explores the iconic CIA and its use as a tactical weapon by the presidents of the Cold War (1947-1991). The first of the series was The Central Intelligence Agency – In the Beginning

In the late 1940s, the CIA grew quickly as it acquired the political turf and added the expert

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 34th President of the United States (1953-1961)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 34th President of the United States (1953-1961)

staff required to keep the president informed on who was doing what to whom around the globe. The National Security Act of 1947 added covert operations coupled with ‘plausible deniability’ to the mix of collecting and analyzing data. Covert operations weaponized the agency. Now, not only could the CIA convert data into information it could, at the behest of the president through the State Department, act on it with impunity; the CIA had become a tactical weapon.

Presidential elections tend to return with grueling regularity in the U.S. and by 1952 it was time, once again, for Americans to choose a leader through the Electoral College.  Truman, who announced he would not run again, took an historic step when he required the CIA to brief the presidential candidates so they would know what-in-the-world was happening. In Chapter 2 of the CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-1992, John L. Helgerson states, “Mindful of how useful the weekly briefings were to him, Truman determined that intelligence information should be provided to the candidates in the 1952 election as soon as they were selected. In the summer of 1952, the President raised this idea with Smith. He indicated he wanted the Agency to brief Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Governor Adlai Stevenson, remarking at the time, “There were so many things I did not know when I became President.” Smith suggested to Truman that Davidson might be the proper individual to brief both Eisenhower and Stevenson to ensure they were receiving the same information.[1] It was an unprecedented step based on Truman’s early experience in office and the beginning of a tradition that is still respected. Continue reading

The Congo: Crunch Time

“This accidental meeting of possibilities calls itself I. I ask: what am I doing here? And, at once, this I becomes unreal.”  ― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

 ‘Old Shaky’, the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, argued with her pilot, Captain Richard T. Johnson, about taking that last turn into the Elizabethville (now called Lubumbashi) Airport

C124 Globemaster

C124 Globemaster

before landing in 1961. Noted as a heavy lift airplane, this evening it was loaded to the gills with Gurkhas[1] from the Indian Independent Brigade Group and their gear. Deployed by NATO to quell the latest fighting between the mineral rich Katanga province, whose citizens viewed the rest of the Congo as a nation of thieves, and the rest of the old Belgian Congo, the Gurkhas were battle hardened and ready. Capt. Johnson, a veteran Cold War (1947-1991) pilot, was no fool. He knew this was a Cold War strategy pure and simple. The United Sates and the Soviet Union were ‘duking’ it out for the Congo’s mineral wealth; but they were doing so by deputation. As he fought to bring the Globemaster in line for the approach, there was no friendly voice from the control tower;

The Gurkhas in the Congo

The Gurkhas in the Congo

there was no control tower. His second enemy was the surrender of daylight, Johnson couldn’t be certain he was at the correct airfield but it was the only flat spot in view that was big enough to land the old girl. Gunfire erupting to the port side confirmed he was at the right place, and Johnson wondered once again, if that old airplane was prescient. Landing quickly, safely and deploying the Gurkhas became a burning priority. A quick conference with their commander as the airplane made contact with the tarmac brought the Globemaster to a quick turn to port with the doors already opening. The Gurkhas[2] rolled straight out of the aircraft directly into the battle. Taking care of business, they were. After unloading the last of the supplies, a quick salute sent the old airplane back to the runway and she was off.

 The 1960-1965 uprising in the Congo had its roots back in 1884-1885  when German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck invited fourteen countries to The Berlin Conference to sit down and establish who was doing what to whom in Africa. France, Great Britain, Germany, and Portugal were among the important players. Going into The Berlin Conference, the European countries maintained isolated posts and the vast majority of the African Continent was still ruled by local tribes in a traditional fashion. By the end of the conference, Africa was covered with boundary lines that took no account of local mores or tribes. The Belgian Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, some 900 thousand square miles, was picked up by Belgium and King Leopold II. The rest of the continent was divided as well:[3]

  • Great Britain took a Cape-to-Cairo collection of colonies from Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and Botswana. The British also controlled Nigeria and Ghana.
  • France grabbed much of western Africa, from Mauritania to Chad (French West Africa) and Gabon and the Republic of Congo (French Equatorial Africa).  
  • Portugal got Mozambique in the east and Angola in the west.
  • Italy was given Somalia (Italian Somaliland) and a portion of Ethiopia. 
  • Germany picked up Namibia (German Southwest Africa) and Tanzania (German East Africa).
  • Spain ended up with little Equatorial Guinea (Rio Muni).

Much of the terrible fighting, bloodshed, and famine is a legacy of The Berlin Conference. The fifty ‘countries’ that were formed in a conference room made no sense in the context of the centuries old cultures that were Africa. Groups that were culturally poles apart and didn’t even like each other were forced to live together. This mess, which worked fairly well while the colonies stayed in place, blew up as the colonies began to receive their independence from the home countries in the 1950s. The traditional cultures, you see, had not been erased; they had just been ignored or controlled by the colonial interests. The old Belgian Congo was one such place.

Belgium treated the Africans in the Congo as children. They were cared for, trained and their rulers

The Congo, a beautiful, rich land filled with violence and contradiction.

The Congo, a beautiful, rich land filled with violence and contradiction.

were used for tasks like tax collection or to recruit labor but they played no part of the legislative process. The bad or uncooperative children/rulers were deposed and replaced. While the United Kingdom and France began preparing their colonies for independence, Belgium made no such effort. Following WWI, American as well as European corporations invested in cotton, coffee, cacao, and rubber operations as well as livestock ventures. The Katanga province was developed for its mineral wealth; gold, copper, tin, cobalt, and zinc. During WWII, the U.S. used the Belgian Congo as a source of uranium. During this time, Africans worked four to seven year contracts as indentured servants in mining, agricultural and public infrastructure sectors. They built electric generation, roads, railroads and public buildings.

Agitation for independence began in 1958 with the formation Patrice Lumumba’s Congo National Movement, the first nationwide Congolese political party. By January 1959, they were rioting for independence in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and continued for a year. Belgium, which asserted that there was no possibility of independence in the immediate future, suddenly changed its political mind and the Congo became an independent republic on June 30, 1960.  The problem was the cultural context. The tribes enclosed by the Belgian Congo’s border did not really like each other. Before the First Republic in 1960, the native Congolese elites formed semi-political organizations based on ethnic relationships, personal relationships, and urban intellectualism which evolved into Lumumba’s party pushing for independence. It was a perfect set-up for interference by the Cold War rivals; the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Katanga picked up it marbles, business interests, mines, and 6,000 Belgian troops and left the new republic in July 1960, less than a month after independence. Katanga declared itself independent under the leadership of Moise Tshombe. Diamond rich South Kasai followed in October. This was not good as Katanga and Kasai were wealth generators. Money grew short and the crisis grew hot.

In July 1960, The United Nations passed a resolution to force the Belgian troops out of the Congo, including Katanga and Kasai. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld disagreed with Lumumba that the UN force could be used to subdue the rebel government of Katanga. Hammarskjöld believed that the secession of Katanga was an internal Congolese matter and the UN was forbidden to intervene by Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. And so it went.

When the United Nations refused to intervene, Lumumba asked for and received Soviet military assistance to bring Katanga and Kasai to heel. Soviet ANC troops were airlifted into Kasai resulting in the deaths of hundreds of local Baluba tribesmen and 250,000 refugees. Lumumba’s decision engage the Soviet’s POed  the Eisenhower administration in the U.S. resulting in the CIA being given its head to support Joseph Mobutu and Kasa-Vubu, two other political hopefuls. Rumor has it that the CIA planned to poison Lumumba’s food. What can be established is that the CIA station chief in Leopoldville did cable his director to saying: “Congo [is] experiencing [a] classic communist effort [to] takeover government… there may be little time to take action to avoid another Cuba”.[4]

'Che' Guevara in the Congo.

‘Che’ Guevara in the Congo.

In 1965, following the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba Cuba did join the fight.  Fidel Castro sent  ‘Che’ Guevara to the Congo to try and spark a revolution against the pro-Western regime, which had emerged after . Guevara’s attempt was defeated by mercenaries led by Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare.  According to BBC News:

“…Che Guevara’s seven-month stay in the Fizi Baraka mountains was, as he admits himself, an “unmitigated disaster”. 

The mercenary Colonel “Mad Mike” Hoare, who had been contracted by the American-influenced government in Kinshasa, squeezed Che’s small Cuban force into an ever smaller area until he had to escape back across Lake Tanganyika into the then-friendly territory of revolutionary Tanzania….”

 Katanga remained a free and independent state for three years; Kasai for much less time. In the five bloody years it took to bring the old Belgian Congo together as a new country, thousands died and over a million became refugees. Famine, in a country that four years before could feed itself and have enough left over to export, killed thousands more. Lumumba, Mobuto and others ripped up the farms, deforested, and looted the country to starvation. Lumumba was killed by Joseph Mobutu’s forces; Che Guevara went to the Congo to ‘help’ in 1965, and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in Africa while on a quest to find some middle Congolese ground. The U.S. saw their choice, Mobutu, in power. In 1997, when he died, his bank accounts just about equaled the amount the World Bank had loaned and granted the Congo; Zaire as it was called by then.

Capt. Johnson was lucky; he flew away. The Gurkhas’s and others fought admirably in a terrible situation. And all of this horror happened because a bunch of people in Berlin, who

The Congo is incredibly rich in minerals.

The Congo is incredibly rich in minerals.

only knew what they wanted, drew lines on maps in 1914. When freedom in Africa tried to stick its head out in the 1950s, the country borders formed lay lines of power and greed. The colonists took the people of Africa for granted and their lack of respect for their cultural fabric has ripped the continent apart. The natural resources are an irresistible attraction for more ‘developed’ predator nations. The continuing upheavals leave the peoples and the nations of Africa vulnerable.

Was it all inevitable with or without the colonial period? Maybe, but it didn’t need to happen this way.

 

“They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us. Will be done by our fellow man.”-

The Merry Minuet

Copyright Alley Music Corp. and Trio Music co., Inc.

 


[2] Firefight in Elizabethville, Congo – Lt Lee Ah Pow PGB of C Squadron, 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment; April 10, 2011; http://renjervalour.blogspot.com/2006/03/firefight-in-elizabethville-congo-lt.html

[3] Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 to Divide Africa; http://geography.about.com/cs/politicalgeog/a/berlinconferenc.htm

[4] The Church Committee; Assassination Planning and the Plots; http://www.history-matters.com/archive/church/reports/ir/pdf/ChurchIR_3A_Congo.pdf