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

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

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’.


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

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.


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 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

Where Have All The People Gone?

The youth of the mid-1960’s marched, struggled, scrapped, battled, and skirmished until they effected fundamental change to the way government worked. These young upstarts with ideals shined a strong beam of light down the mighty hole that was the CIA, opened the secret files of the FBI, challenged the federal government’s accounts of events, and ended the draft. They were an icon of the Cold War (1947-1991); the anti-Vietnam War protesters who waged their own counter insurgency. And, they made a difference. What Allen Ginsberg began with his poem Howl in 1955, the protesters punctuated in the ‘60s. The dissenters of yesteryear would be livid about the level of personal surveillance; scream at the lies of congress as well as the administration; furious over the diversionary wars and rumors of wars; and challenge the GMO threat to the food supply.

Where are they now? They can’t all be dead. Did they betray their principles? Did they quit? Some, I know, are still committed and fighting, through their words or deeds, but there are precious few of them. These anti-Vietnam War protesters were born of leftist intellectuals on college campuses and peace activists. They in no way resemble the progressive left of today. I cannot imagine an activist from the Vietnam era, for instance, tolerating a law providing a criminal penalty for annoying a police officer[1] let alone tolerating the NSA turning its Cold War spying apparatus inward,[2] countenancing photographing the front and back of every letter sent via the USPS[3], or allowing warrantless searches[4]. In their own way and for their own reasons, the Vietnam war protesters fought and died for the first and fourth amendments of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

I was not among the protestors. In fact, I completely disagree with many of the things they did. I hated the way individual soldiers were treated for doing what they were drafted to do or chose to do.   My choices took my life’s path in a different direction. Having starved under the most of the world’s available socio-political-economic systems, I became a committed capitalist. Having a full belly, roof over my head, and the ability to succeed or fail in life within my power and hard work, appealed to me. It still does. I spent the bulk of my professional career as a cold war warrior and enjoyed it unashamedly. Sitting on the other side of the protests, however, taught me to look at the world differently. I learned to appreciate what they achieved and respected them for what they did.

The protests started quietly enough, as a series of ‘teach-ins’ organized by the Students for a Democratic Society in the fall of 1964 after the Gulf of Tonkin (Vịnh Bắc Bộ) incidents. For those who are too young to remember, The Gulf of Tonkin incident was actually two naval actions between North Vietnam and the United States in the Gulf of Tonkin. The first incident, on August 2, 1964, involved a sea battle between the destroyer, U.S.Maddox, and three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats. The second incident occurred on August 4, 1964 and was originally reported as another sea battle. Based on these incidents, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. President Johnson used the Resolution as the basis to ramp up the Vietnam conflict. Finally, in November, 2005, the NSA declassified a 2001 article with a revised ‘corrected’ version of the Gulf of Tonkin incident[5]. The world learned that the allegations of the first of the anti-war protesters were more accurate than the spin provided by the federal government.

Johnson fueled the war in Vietnam and, by 1967, nearly 40,000 young American men were being drafted each month. By then, over 15,000 soldiers had died and about 110,000 had been wounded. At the time of this snap shot over 500,000 troops were in Vietnam. Many of those veterans are my friends. Bear in mind that this is all occurring in a country that had no declared war and no legal provision for a standing military. The federal government’s spin began to backfire. Citizens across the country asked questions and demanded answers. No longer was it just the leftist fringe on college campuses who were protesting.

On October 21, 1967, the Lincoln Memorial hosted over 100,000 protesters. It was one of the largest and most contentious protests of the war. There was a nasty confrontation with U.S. Marshals and members of the military that night when several thousand demonstrators tried to carry their protest to the Pentagon.  Norman Mailer wrote about that night in his book, The Armies of the Nigth[6], which was published in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the burgeoning anti-war cause in 1967, when he opposed the war on moral grounds. King leveled solid, eloquent complaints about the cost of the war in dollars and lives. In his 1967 speech, A Time to Break the Silence[7], he denounced the reallocation of federal dollars from domestic programs and attacked the disproportionate number of African-Americans who were dying in the war.

By 1968, President Johnson was running for cover. In 2004, I taped about fourteen hours of interviews with Raúl Héctor Castro at his office in Nogales, Arizona. Castro was the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador in 1964. During the interviews he told me that, in 1968, he had hosted President Johnson for a Central American conference. Johnson, it seems, needed a break from the heat of Vietnam in the U.S. He needed a success and he needed it fast. Castro spoke of paying a large group to people, who looked like the country’s workers, to carry signs welcoming President Johnson and professing their love for him as a photo opportunity. He also talked of the challenges of gathering the heads of state of the other Central American governments for a conference to be led by Johnson. The pressure from the people of the U.S. was having an effect. The substance of Castro’s memory is collaborated by a declassified CIA Intelligence Assessment[8].

By 1970 anger on both sides of the protest movement was reaching another boiling point. At the end of April, 1970, President Nixon announced another front in the Vietnam War, the Cambodian campaign. On May 4th, 1970, the Ohio National guard opened a volley of 67 rounds on a group of war protestors at the Kent State campus; killing four and permanently paralyzing another. Not all killed were a part of the protests.

The terrible shooting at Kent State shocked the nation but the Vietnam War and the protests continued for another two years. Pressure on Nixon increased to a breaking point; Vietnam had to be resolved. By 1972, it was clear that the U.S. had to get out of Vietnam. Nixon, through Henry Kissinger, initiated secret peace talks. Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers continued to die, sustain injuries, and be drafted while US forces applied heavy bombing pressure on North Vietnam’s major cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. The last man was drafted in December, 1972.

A cease-fire agreement received its final touches and the proper signatures in Paris in 1972; all US troops left Vietnam; and Henry Kissinger took home the Nobel Peace Prize. While the protests lasted only five years, the U.S. that emerged from Vietnam was different. The political path was one of conciliation. Laws were passed eliminating the draft, the FBI was forced to disclose its secret files on individuals, and the CIA was handcuffed. Yet, here we are back in the business of secret files on individuals, the CIA running amuck with its drones, and the government spinning tales rather than telling the truth and being accountable for its actions. Well, as of now the U.S. still has no draft. That indeed is good news. Still, the voices from the past raised in outrage against today’s excesses are mostly missing. They need to be heard again and joined with the voices already singing out. More than once, the people have taken back the Republic that is the United States. Vietnam is simply the most recent event; a reminder that citizens are the responsible body politic, the sovereign.


[1] Huff Post; New York State Senate Wants To Make It A Felony To ‘Annoy’ A Police Officer; 06/06/13;

[2] Salon; Surveillance State evils; Apr 21, 2012;

[3] The Smoking Gun; Feds: Postal Service photographs every piece of mail it processes; June 7, 2013;

[4] The Personal Liberty digest; Sam Rolley ; DHS Report Justifies Warrantless, Suspicionless Searches Of Electronics Near Borders; June 7, 2013;

[5] Cryptologic Quarterly, Winter 2000/Spring 2001 Edition, Vol. 19, No. 4 / Vol. 20, No. 1; Robert J. Hanyok;  Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964;

[7] Information Clearing House; “Beyond Vietnam”; Rev. Martin Luther King; A Time to Break Silence;

[8] The President’s Trip to Central America: Security Conditions; Central Intelligence Agency;