The History of Permanent War

From Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould at The Saker:

The neoconservative hitmen and hit-ladies of Washington have a long list of targets that pass from generation to generation. Their influence on American government has been catastrophic yet it never seems to end. Senator J. William Fulbright identified their irrational system for making endless war in Vietnam 45 years ago in a New Yorker article titled Reflections in Thrall to Fear.

“The truly remarkable thing about this Cold War psychology is the totally illogical transfer of the burden of proof from those who make charges to those who question them… The Cold Warriors, instead of having to say how they knew that Vietnam was part of a plan for the Communization of the world, so manipulated the terms of the public discussion as to be able to demand that the skeptics prove that it was not. If the skeptics could not then the war must go on—to end it would be recklessly risking the national security.”

Fulbright realized that Washington’s resident crazies had turned the world inside out by concluding, “We come to the ultimate illogic: war is the course of prudence and sobriety until the case for peace is proved under impossible rules of evidence [or never]–or until the enemy surrenders. Rational men cannot deal with each other on this basis.” But these were not rational men and their need to further their irrational quest only increased with the loss of the Vietnam War…

The brilliant American satirical songwriter of the 1950s and 60s Tom Lehrer once attributed his early retirement to Henry Kissinger, saying “Political satire became obsolete [in 1973] when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”..

The Pentagon Papers revealed the extent of the U.S. government’s deceit and incompetence but rather than concede that defeat and chart a new course, its proponents fought back with a Machiavellian ideological campaign known as the experiment in competitive analysis or for short; Team B...

“The roots of the problem go back to May 6, 1976, when the director of Central Intelligence, George H.W. Bush, created the first Team B… The concept of a “competitive analysis” of the data done by an alternative team had been opposed by William Colby, Bush’s predecessor as CIA director and a career professional… Although the Team B report contained little factual data it was enthusiastically received by conservative groups such as the Committee on the Present Danger. But the report turned out to be grossly inaccurate… Team B was right about one thing. The CIA estimate was indeed flawed. But it was flawed in the other direction.”..

Now long forgotten, the origins of the Team B “problem” actually stretched back to the radical political views and biases of James Burnham, his association with the Communist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky and the creation of powerful eastern establishment ad hoc groups; the Committee on the Present Danger and the American Security Council. From the outset of the Cold War in the late 1940s an odd coalition of ex-Trotskyist radicals and right wing business associations had lobbied heavily for big military budgets, advanced weapons systems and aggressive action to confront Soviet Communism. Vietnam was intended to prove the brilliance of their theories, but as described by author Fred Kaplan, “Vietnam brought out the dark side of nearly everyone inside America’s national security machine. And it exposed something seamy and disturbing about the very enterprise of the defense intellectuals. It revealed that the concept of force underlying all their formulations and scenarios was an abstraction, practically useless as a guide to action.” (Wizards of Armageddon page. 336) Kaplan ends by writing “The disillusionment for some became nearly total.” Vietnam represented more than just a strategic defeat for America’s defense intellectuals; it represented a conceptual failure in the half-century battle to contain Soviet-style Communism but for Team B, that disillusionment represented the opportunity of a lifetime.

Populated by an inbred class of former Trotskyist intellectuals, the Team B approach represented a radical transformation of America’s national security bureaucracy into a new kind of elitist cult. In the 1960s Robert McNamara’s numbers and statistics justified bad policy decisions, now personal agendas and ethnic grudges would turn American foreign policy into an ideological crusade. Today those in control of that crusade fight desperately to maintain their grip, but only by de-encrypting the evolution of this secret “double government” can anyone understand America’s unrelenting post-Vietnam drift into despotism over the last 40 years.

Rooted in what can only be described as cult thinking, the Team B experiment tore down what was left of the CIA’s pre-Vietnam professional objectivity by subjecting it to politicization. Earlier in the decade, the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research (OSR) had been pressured by Nixon and Kissinger to corrupt their analysis to justify increased defense spending but the Team B’s ideological focus and partisan makeup so exaggerated the threat, the process could never return to normal.

The campaign was driven by the Russophobic neoconservative cabal which included Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pipes, Richard Perle and a handful of old anti-Soviet hardliners like Paul Nitze and General Danny Graham. It began with a 1974 article in the Wall Street Journal by the famed nuclear strategist and former Trotskyist Albert Wohlstetter decrying America’s supposed nuclear vulnerability. It ended 2 years later with a ritualistic bloodletting at the CIA, signaling that ideology and not fact-based analysis had gained an exclusive hold on America’s bureaucracy.

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