Korea-A Cold War Lesson

June 24, 1950, marked the beginning of the Korean Conflict, the Korean War. It was the

A special thanks to all the Korean War Veterans on this the 67th anniversary of the start of that war. The Korean War Memorial

first conflict fought under the auspices of the fledgling United Nations with General MacArthur in charge.  Over 36,000 American died in Korea including 33,652 battle deaths and 3,262 “other deaths” in the war zone from illness, accidents and other non-battle causes according to the 1994 edition of Service and Casualties in Major Wars and Conflicts. Well over 7,000 Americans remain missing. More than 400,000 South Koreans also perished during this ‘conflict.’ Continue reading

The Cold War Oxymoron

Why did the Cold War (1947-1991) unfold? Wars are declared by states for one reason or another; self-protection, resources, or territorial expansion are a few of the reasons.  To fight

Cold War Exhibit Entry. The Ford Library

Cold War Exhibit Entry. The Ford Library

a war, however, a nation’s people must be inflamed and rallied around a noble cause, else the people required to fight the war might have to be chained in place.  WWII was declared in the West when Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939 and, in the Pacific, when the Empire of Japan invaded the Republic of China in 1937.  Democracy and the Western way-of-life was the noble idea in the U.S., but in Western Europe and Great Britain, the noble cause was protecting the physical shores or recapturing one’s country. WWI was declared following the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, Bosnia by the ‘Black Hand’, a Serbian secret society. The noble idea was national pride.

The preceding is gross oversimplification.  To be sure, the learned have written volumes on each war throughout known history. And each tome was penned through the author’s particular analytical lens.  Every scholarly argument as to why and how a particular war began is stated, properly supported, and documented. However, if the observer is far enough away, the date of the war and the mechanism by which governments mobilize the citizenry to fight and die in it, are fairly discrete and unpretentious. On the receiving side mobilizing the citizenry is very simple; they fight to defend themselves or their culture from a perceived threat, or to help a friend do it. The Cold War, however, does not reduce to a reason and a noble idea. It is vexing.

The Cold War more closely resembles an economic construct; some weird and wonderful 6a00e551f080038834017d40ff1fa7970cKeynesian cycle whose bubble finally burst in 1991, when President Clinton declared the Cold War over. A British economist, civil servant, director of the British Eugenics Society, director of the Bank of England, part of the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals, et cetera, John Maynard Keynes, is one of the founders of modern macroeconomics, and he greatly influenced the economic policies of western governments. Developed during the 1930s, Keynesian economics is a theory promoting government intervention in the marketplace and monetary policy as the best way to warrant economic growth and stability as well as level out the ‘boom and bust’ cycles[1].  In the U.S. in 2007, the intervention first by the Bush administration and continuing through the Obama administration to save the ‘too-big-to-fail’ companies through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP, and the Federal Reserve’s $80 billion a month bond buying program are direct applications of Keynes’ theory.

Keynes theories were 180 degrees juxtaposed from the classical (or neo-classical) liberal economists who argued for a free market with the role of government being very small andHayek confined. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, two such economists, argued that government should be as small as possible in order to allow the exercise of individual freedom. They maintained that free markets would, in the short to medium term, automatically provide full employment, as long as workers were flexible in their wage demands. Not surprisingly, almost all governments adopting or adapting Keynesian policy recommendations versus the classical liberal approach have resulted in the crony capitalism that is destroying personal freedom and the marketplace in today’s world.  For the record, my bias is to the classical liberal.  Continue reading

First Lightning – The Soviet Nuclear Surprise

Startsi are the elder statesmen, the teachers, in the Russian Orthodox Church.  Of all the

St. Seraphim

St. Seraphim

Startsi, the most famous Staret in all of Russia is St. Seraphim of Sarov born in Kursk in 1759.  “It was said he could supply answers before visitors had time to ask their questions. He counseled tough cases of conscience and reportedly worked miracles, healing the sick” according to Dan Graves in his article St. Seraphim of Sarov, Renowned Staret.  It is ironic that Sarov would be transformed from a center of traditional learning and healing to a center of the new physics and philosophy of ‘uncertainty’; the birthplace of the Soviet’s first nuclear device.

Where

Sarov’s story is as old as government.  At the very beginning of the Cold War, Sarov, the St. Seraphim monastery grounds, and the surrounding area were closed and rebranded as

Location Map for Arzamas-16

Location Map for Arzamas-16

Arzamas-16, the seat of nuclear physics for the old Soviet Union.  The town of Sarov occupies only eleven square miles of the 90 square mile hexagonally shaped Arzamas-16 area, which also houses research and production facilities.  “…Arzamas-16 is surrounded by an outer defensive ring 25 miles out that is carefully monitored. The city inside that ring is surrounded by a double, barbed-wire fence that is patrolled by the Russian army. Uniformed troops from the Russian Ministry of the Interior patrol the inner city. Areas that house nuclear materials are surrounded by multiple fences and walls, and the spaces between the fences are plowed and patrolled. Sensors are in place to detect unauthorized intruders….”[1]

The Soviet move on Sarov was similar to the action taken by the U.S. government to build its nuclear infrastructure in Tennessee, Nevada, Alabama, Washington state, and elsewhere; the people who lived there were moved out and the military, scientific community and their workers moved in.  Maps were sanitized and the veil of secrecy dropped.   Arzamas-16 was the intellectual and industrial birthplace of the first Soviet nuclear test device and the brainchild of Igor Kurchatov, the Soviet’s first nuclear program director.  In the final analysis, Arzamas-16  represented a network of “secret cities” and research labs But wait, there’s more!

Choice of Legacy

Choices, the exercises of an individual’s free will, are the stepping stones that line the paths of our lives. Once made, the path that follows is fairly well defined. Barring unforeseen storms, or other intervention, the only way to avoid the path’s destination is to modify the original choice. So, too, it is with a country’s destiny. Today the U.S. trudges along such a path. The last big change in the path’s direction occurred in 1947with Truman’s decision to enter the Cold War (1947-1991).  Harry Truman could have chosen the ‘damn-the-torpedoes’ route and told the U.S.’s Josef Stalin to return our POW’s or the U.S. would come and get them. “Here’s the deal. Both ways, Joe, we will bring our soldiers home and only then will we go our separate ways,” he could have said. But he did not.

One of my indulgences is wondering. What might have happened if the U.S. had chosen to ‘go its own way’ after WWII? The big military contractors could have returned to what they had done best before the War. Raytheon might have continued manufacturing transformers, power equipment, electronics and vacuum tubes. With their employees’ creativity and skill, who can guess what wonders would have been performed in the market place. Northrop Grumman might have teamed with Martin Marietta and Lockheed for the Mars terraforming project. Cold fusion could have been pursued and solar paint perfected so, by now, we all could generate the energy we use in the closet or by painting the house. Instead of dreaming up biological weapons and their antidotes, medical research could have teamed with nano-tech developers to solve the ills of the world.

The tens of thousands of returning WWII veterans would have joined the manufacturing and development boom in response to a need for skilled, hard-working employees. Disposable incomes would have risen and the economy would be healthier. Of course, the hard part for government would be staying out of the way and allowing the winnowing process to occur. Crony capitalism and the unholy matrimony of corporations to government would have to die. Big bloated companies would fail without their political patronage and individuals with new and creative ideas could sew the fields and grow.  Okay, so we might have done better but what about the rest of the world?

Europe was reconstructed with a large influx of U.S. Marshall Plan dollars. Asia essentially brought itself back by its bootstraps. Guess which geopolitical area won the race of most improved living condition for the most people? Once ‘Communism’ was no longer defined as a national security issue, the trillions of dollars in foreign aid could have been saved. There would be no demand for the ‘pathological altruism’ that drives billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of people who openly call us ‘enemy’. The CIA would have had no need to overthrow governments or back cruel, corrupt ‘leaders’. Yes, the world would still have had to ‘settle out’ from the colonial legacy. Then again, it is ‘settling out’ anyway in countries and continents like India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Africa. Energy could have been spent on encouraging free and open trade and manufacturing. It is the one thing we know works. China, Russia, and Taiwan are all examples where markets drive a culture forward for more people faster than bureaucracies ever could. No, these countries’ cultures do not look like the U.S. culture but they do not have to look the same to be successful.

With Communism off the national security table, there is no justification for stationing the military in over 200 countries across the globe. To illustrate, the U.S. has three bases in Bulgaria. Bush wanted the bases ostensibly to rapidly deploy troops to the Middle East where, of course, we have no national security dog in the fight. For goodness sake, why on earth does the U.S. want or need to maintain three military bases in Bulgaria?  In the meanders of my mind, the Navy would be committed, as it was, to keeping the lanes of commerce open. The war knowledge, competencies, and lessons learned would have been continued through the marines, surface, naval air, and submarine services. The other services could have been reduced in force to a minimum. Oh we would still be playing tit-for-tat on weapons development but no arms race means the effort would have been reduced by orders of magnitude. There is no need to police the world and try to make it over in our own image. Many think tanks and foundations work and play better with our brothers and sisters across the globe than the government ever could.

None of it happened. We chose to engage the Cold War and are living the legacy of that choice. In the U.S. effort to defeat Communism, the country has embraced socialism. The U.S. can be likened to a big fish with a line of lamprey eels locked on and sucking its life blood. The lamprey eels even have names; agriculture, health care, education, military/industrial, federal lands, environment, big pharma. No matter how much the big fish eats there is not enough to feed the parasites so the big fish begins to devour its young. As the big fish slowly dies, all energy is focused on survival not creative problem solving. The federal government has indebted the young, innocent, and upcoming taxpayers to a point where none may draw a breath free for their own choices.

Unrealistic, you say. Perhaps it is, but I venture to guess that if Harry Truman knew the destination of the path his choice made, he’d have laughed in disbelief. The U.S. is a lousy imperialist. Others, such as the European nations, Russia, and the remnants of Persia have been at the imperialism game for centuries and are much better suited to the role. Imperialism is not a part of the U.S.’s culture heritage, yet here it is, playing imperialist. The U.S. is so inept that it cannot even understand it has lost the game so it keeps trying harder.

One thing the U.S. has historically done well is to breed and foster individual exceptionalism.  The individuals, who dream, build, excel, and fail with equal enthusiasm only to tackle the challenge anew or again, built this land; rooted in industry, farming, mining and business. It is they, with their creative sweat, who laid block upon block to build the greatest country in the world. Even today, during some tough times, most of us have no concept of real poverty or pain. Instead of embracing what it does well, building a working environment fit for an exceptional people, the federal government appears bent on complete annihilation of the individual.

Once each individual is pushed, pulled, compressed or stamped into the federal government’s ‘ideal’ bottle, we’ll all be on the pills seventy percent of us already take. Once the individual allows the theft of the creative sweat that provides the unique nature of each person, the nation will die. I do not like to be labeled. I like chocolate and cupcakes, kids who climb trees and play Jedi knights in shining armor saving a world. Sometimes I choose to engage in ‘high-risk behavior’ like not fastening my seat belt or playing with nukes. I do not want my refrigerator to make my grocery list or report its contents to the government (just in case I am not following my dietary restrictions). All of these labels are defined by someone else who thinks they know best. How I spend my money, what I write to my friends is my business; not the federal government’s business. I love the current hue and cry and all the scandals for they encourage a long overdue dialog among the American people on the role of their government. I hear individual voices choosing to rise in a chorus, rather than be told to sing in a predefined harmony. It is the music of the streets and it is beautiful; it is the choice being made for the future’s path.