Revive NSC 68|
June 16, 2017
Garry Kasparov moves pawn to C5, it’s the Sicilian Defense. He follows it up with C4, what’s this, an unconventional gambit? Now H6! Has the man gone insane?
The moves don’t coordinate, they aren’t consistent with acceptable strategy. He’s lost a pawn. His position is in shambles! Kasparov gets ripped apart.
This is what American foreign policy looks like now. The only country that could take America down is America itself, and that is exactly what is happening. Foreign policy since the Berlin Wall fell has been an unmitigated disaster.
The most visible failure was the Iraq War. The national security gains have been, at best, questionable, while the costs have included a large fortune, American lives, and prestige.
Simultaneously, the war on War on Al-Qaeda has stretched out indefinitely. It took an entire decade to kill Osama Bin Laden. Ayman al-Zawahiri -current leader of Al-Qaeda and planner of 9/11- still roams free planning more attacks.
US troops are still fighting in Central Asia, fifteen years later, and no one is exactly making the claim that Afghanistan has successfully been turned into a free Democracy reminiscent of Revolutionary America. As disastrous as policy has been on Islam related matters, it has been even worse dealing with the great powers of the world. The confused nature of American policy on Russia is self-evident. President Clinton wasn’t able to give the Russian billion dollar gifts fast enough. This friendship with Russia transitioned seamlessly to Hillary selling them American uranium. Now, however, Hillary says these same partners are preventing American Democracy with “unprecedented interference." Trump says relations with Russia are at an “all-time low."
Why is America giving money to Russia who then turns around and spits in the America peoples’ faces? What the hell is going on?
America has no strategy. Recent administrations have approached foreign policy as if each new incident precipitated the start of an entirely new game, with new rules, new players, and solutions to be worked out from nothingness.
Clinton’s administration explicitly said as much with their 1996 National Security Strategy, the very first sentence of the introduction is, “When this Administration assumed office, the United States and its allies faced a radically transformed security environment."
This mindset fundamentally misunderstands the game. Sometimes, Kasparov may encounter a surprising sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean that everything he knew about chess has been nullified. Strengths and weaknesses of the position continue flowing forward.
The suggestion that the situation has “radically changed” is a confusion between the idea of strategy and tactics. Perhaps the tactics America faces or must implement are changing. However, more importantly, strategy is based on a country’s core values and goals, these change slowly, or not at all.
Part of the culprit is that America is a free society based on elections. Policy, hopefully, is based on great input from citizens and thus, by nature, open and changing. By contrast, Al-Qaeda, Russia, and China can implement secret, criminal machiavellian, brilliant policies, behind closed doors, and push them indefinitely.
One must hope a compromise can be reached between America’s Republican nature and a sound foreign policy. Thankfully, this is more or less how foreign policy worked from 1950, when the National Security Council (NSC) developed NSC-68, until the Kremlin announced Communism was dead. America faced everything from the peaceful transfer of power between Democrats and Republicans, to an impeachment and assassination, with tranquility, implementing the same policy, more or less.
NSC-68 is most famously known as the policy of “containment,” and it kicked serious Communist butt. It corresponded to a forty year period of peace, prosperity, and freedom, for much of the world, without precipitating a hot war between the global powers.
President Trump can revive containment.
There has been an assumption that once Gorbachev left power, it was time to ditch the foundation of American foreign policy for decades. But NSC-68 wasn’t a tactical playbook of how to take out the Soviets. It was more than that, it was a “general reexamination of this country’s strategic plans and its objectives in peace and war.”
America’s objectives continue to be the same, the “determination to maintain the essential elements of individual freedom, as set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” The corollary to sustaining the Constitution is the “determination to create conditions under which our free and democratic system can live and prosper.” Seventy years ago, they went on, “in a shrinking world, which now faces the threat of atomic warfare, it is not an adequate objective merely to seek to check the Kremlin design, for the absence of order among nations is becoming less and less tolerable.”
Simply replace “the Kremlin design” with North Korea, Iran, China, or, well, the Kremlin design, and much a similar idea still holds. The NSC-68 even explicitly says America would pursue many of the same policies “even if there was no Soviet threat.”
From Kasparov’s perspective, what difference does it matter if he gets checkmated by a single powerful opponent, or by various lesser players in a collaborative effort?
Because Yeltsin was President, people think the threat is gone. But the Warsaw Pact was weaker than the combined power of Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, Venezuela, and Cuba are today. These countries are quite happy to work with each other as they expand their influence outwards. Bush wasn’t too far off when he said “axis of Evil.”
If the threat to free societies was gone, then one would expect American foreign policy to have grown more isolationist. In fact, the opposite happened, America has become more involved around the globe. This can either be explained with the conspiracy theory that Americans simply like to attack peace loving people who mind their own business. Or, it’s because the threat to freedom is alive and well.
The fact that there is a threat to the free societies of the world shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, except for hippies.
Acknowledging the threat is not the same as agreeing on the response. America’s interventionist policies have not worked. That is why it is important to go back to NSC-68 and see what winning American strategy looked like.
When foreign powers did not participate “with other nations on the basis of equality and respect for the rights of others,” NSC-68 emphatically rejected both “detente” and “rollback.”
Wars to rollback forces unfriendly to free societies were rejected because America must manifest strength in ways that will “affirm” its “values.” One would think this holds true today, “The necessity of the act must be clear and compelling… or the regenerative capacity of free men after the act has been performed will be endangered.”
America is about twenty trillion dollars in debt. That sort of money may just be harmful to “regenerative capacity.” Then there is the issue of extreme acrimony between Americans caused by wars that have not been “clear and compelling.”
President Bush’s efforts at forcing Democracy on Iraqis was a mistake because war “cannot definitively end the fundamental conflict of ideas. The idea of slavery can only be overcome by the timely and persistent demonstration of the superiority of the idea of freedom...military victory alone would only partially and perhaps only temporarily affect the fundamental conflict.”
If Bush had studied NSC-68 then he would not have set America on the decades long odyssey in the deserts of Iraq and Afghani mountains. The supposedly outdated analysis of 1950 was prescient.
ISIS is carrying America down a similar path. People want troops in Syria killing bad guys. But the Orlando Night Club shooter Omar Mateen was American. The San Bernardino attacker Syed Farook was American. If America is going to bomb ISIS because they inspired the attacks, does that mean America should bomb Mecca for inspiring ISIS?
There is no acceptable plan for America to rollback the Islamic people who speak ill of America. They must be contained.
If Syrian forces land in America and kill many Americans then there would be a new “clear and compelling” case for the nation to unite behind a congressional resolution declaring war, to destroy the enemy, with no nation building.
So far, though, Syria has mainly been a problem to Europe. Europe can solve their own problems and American can express solidarity. There is no need for America to usurp control of the situation from Europeans as if the Europeans are children.
After 9/11, the situation was crystal clear. Every reasonable person in the world knew America had the right to immediately and mercilessly hunt Al-Qaeda. It was Bush who confused matters. He split America’s efforts towards nation building.
Instead of containing the ideology that inspired the suicide attackers, he actually went out of his way to praise Islam. If Bush were around in the 1950’s, one could guess he would have said “Communism is the politics of peace. A few bad guys are traitors to their own ideology, trying, in effect, to hijack Communism itself.”
Bush also closed his eyes to Iran’s involvement in 9/11. Today, most people would consider Iran responsibility for 9/11 to be a cross between a conspiracy theory and nonsense warmongering. But if it is warmongering, then why didn’t the head warmonger Bush himself – remember, “Bush lied, people died” - point his finger at Iran?
If it’s a conspiracy theory, one simply has to wave away the copious hard evidence on the subject. The conservative 9/11 commission report stated, “several of the 9/11 hijackers... transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan, taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports”. The American intelligence community may have been alerted if Iran had followed normal procedures and simply stamped the terrorists’ passports. Instead, Iran’s official policy was to stamp your passport, unless you are Al-Qaeda!
The 9/11 commission report on Iranian involvement is merely the tip of the iceberg. They recommended further study of Iran’s involvement which Bush politely declined. However, other independent actors researched further. A federal court has since taken the drastic action of penalizing Iran billions of dollars for their involvement in 9/11. The history of an extensive Iranian and Al-Qaeda working relationship is there for everyone to see.
The “eyes shut” policy to inconvenient facts completely undermines deterrence. One has to wonder how far Kasparov would have gotten in the chess world if he made a habit of ignoring enemy lines of attack if they were unpleasant for him to consider.
The world learned it was okay to attack Americans, on American soil, just so long as it is done using a proxy army.
If America had punished Iran, maybe Pakistan would have learned its not okay to harbor terrorists, Saddam may have been “convinced” to let in the weapons inspectors, China would have thought twice about creating their North Korean Frankenstein.
America’s deterrent component is losing credibility in more ways than one. For a deterrent to work, there must be, “sufficient forces” to “withstand the initial… attacks, to stabilize supporting attacks, and to retaliate in turn with even greater impact.” American military must be unquestionably stronger than every enemy in every respect. A deterrent the enemy doubts is not a deterrent.
Yet when Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” the response was mayhem. Prominent pundits responded, this was “the most dangerous thing” Trump had ever said.
America’s unquestioned military power had successfully prevented a global catastrophe for decades. But the idea of deterrence isn’t merely debated now, it is ridiculed. America’s policy has morphed into unilateral disarmament.
While disarmament has been encouraged, the number of wars has gone up. The vast majority of American’s don’t even know all the countries America is fighting in.
Kasparov didn’t make a habit of defending his world championship by not preparing and then competing for the title in a dozen simultaneous matches. Maybe fun for a parlor trick, but probably not a good idea when the stakes are high.
The Kremlin has not shared the West’s optimism about the benefits of disarmament. The public figure on their military budget as a percent of GDP is near 5%. That can be compared with the spending of America’s NATO allies, which is barely, reluctantly, reaching 2%.
Moscow’s high military budget has gone into such projects as the Satan 2 missile. This carries ten nuclear warheads and could “wipe out France or Texas." Its development was released to much publicity.
In fact, the Kremlin’s preparations for a nuclear war is nothing new: they never stopped.
Brezhnev started a massive construction project under Yomantau Mountain: supported by a nearby nuclear facility and two secret military cities. No American has ever been allowed into the cities or into Yomantau (nevermind that Russians were invited into NORAD). A Clinton senior official explained, “It is a possible project to maintain the capability to carry out wartime production after a nuclear strike. It is a possible storage area for weapons they do not want us to know about. If it is only command and control, why aren't they more transparent about it?”
While the Kremlin was tunneling under Yomantau, and stating that it was a “food storage area”, America was giving Russia billions of dollars in gifts. What type of foreign policy gives a country money to build secret nuclear sites? Would Kasparov get spit on by his opponent and then give him advice on how to win the game?
Activity at Yomantau continues through today.
The idea was either for America to bribe Russia to change for the better, or Russia blackmailed America into giving them money with implicit threats that “hardliners” would take over and their nukes would be uncontrollable, unless they got American money. Neither is containment.
Today, Russia is buzzing American ships, supporting Assad, using KGB tactics to interfere with American elections, even supporting Kim Jong-Un. People act surprised. Where did American policy go wrong?
The Soviets themselves explained the weakness. In 1988, a high-level Communist party member named Georgy Arbatov wrote that American resistance is not “thinkable without the ‘enemy,’ and without the ‘Soviet threat’”.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics changed it’s name to the Russian Federation and that was all it took to go from deterrence to disarmament.
This point was also observed in 1989 by Edward Epstein in his excellent book, Deception, “By virtually any present empirical measure – economic, military, or political – the Soviet Union is a greater threat today than it was in 1948. The measure of the image of the Soviet threat is therefore based not on how many barrels of oil the Soviet produces, nor on the size of its armed forces, nor on its capacity to lift nuclear reactors into space, nor on the increasing number of foreign bases to which it has access, but rather on the claims of its own leadership that it is no longer a threat.”
It’s almost like Kasparov’s opponent advancing his pawns, bishops, rooks and queen forward toward the king, all the while saying “I am not attacking,” and then Kasparov concurring, and deciding to move his king back and forth.
No matter what the opponent says, the rules of the game do not change. As long as Russia is building Satan missiles it probably makes sense to avoid disarmament. When in history has a country has a country successfully taken the explicit policy of eschewing its best weapons? Deterrence worked, and despite the hippie naysayers, Trump should stand strong on his policy of keeping the American forces the unquestioned best.
The NSC-68 explains that the reason the USSR was bent on world domination is because a non-free society sees free societies as threats to their existence, “The idea of freedom, moreover, is peculiarly and intolerably subversive of the idea of slavery… The implacable purpose of the slave state to eliminate the challenge of freedom has placed the two great powers at opposite poles.”
If a Russian says something Putin doesn’t like, they can be killed. The Kremlin reserves the right to blind anyone disagreeable who runs for President. Even if Russians are not as bad off as they were under Stalin, they are still unfree, or as NSC-68 would say, a “slave state.”
It is following the reasoning of NSC-68 that the connection between Putin’s subjection of Russians and his international actions become clear.
KGB, I mean, FSB forces, killed the British citizen Alexander Litvinenko in London. Litvinenko continued to speak truth to the Kremlin and this was unforgivable. Thus, free speech in London had to be silenced.
Following decades of subjection under Communism, and such unpleasant memories as the Hodomor, Ukranians understandably took to the streets in the Euromaiden protests to reject Russia. Such “freedom” is “subversive” to Russia and so after their corrupt stooge Yanukovych was ousted, Russia decided to invade, kill, and dominate.
The truths of NSC-68 remain; deterrence and containment must be generalized from the “Soviet threat” to Russia, and any power, who won’t accept the “specific and limited conditions requisite to an international environment in which free institutions can flourish.”
Developments with the Chinese have been similar.
China stole key American secrets about nuclear weapons. President Clinton, in response to a Communist country stealing nuclear secrets, “sought to minimize the espionage issue for policy reasons,” and to voluntarily share more sensitive military technology with the Chinese.
When it’s said that closed societies are a threat to free societies, this is what is meant. The Chinese corruption spread to and degraded America.
The past is present. Hillary Clinton was nearly President, and her success was closely linked to the fact that Bill Clinton was successful, which can be linked back to the support he got from China. China, for their part, benefited with military secrets and better press. They now uses their artificially elevated status and improved military to wreck freedom of the seas in the South China Sea.
The rise of China dates back to Nixon, who threw away the idea of containment, and “opened up” China. If there is one thing that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on, it’s that this one move by Nixon was the right decision.
Nixon’s plan was a gambit: sacrifice American strategy, and gain a Russian-Chinese split. Yet, recently, Putin said that China and Russia are, “almost the same in the international arena” and Xi expressed his hopes that they would remain “friends forever."
So what exactly did America gain by setting aside the idea of containment?
If there is some problem with containment it would be that Americans seem inherently incapable of consistently implementing this policy. Americans are the most friendly, generous and naive people on earth. Americans are also greedy capitalists. Americans, more than anything, want to trade with other countries. The natural inclination is to think kindly of others.
Lenin once wrote, “'The whole world's capitalists and their governments, as they pant to win the Soviet market, will close their eyes to the above-mentioned reality and will thus transform themselves into men who are deaf, dumb and blind. They will give us credits . . . they will toil to prepare their own suicide”. The expression “Soviet market” could be replaced by various choices, perhaps the most apt following the Obama-Iran deal, would be “Iranian market.” Iran hates America; when an Iranian doesn’t vulgarly disrespect America, that is considered a shocking act of dissent (26). Iran is has been working to kill Americans in the Middle East non-stop for decades. And yet America went out of its way to end sanctions on Iran.
As Churchill would say, containment is the worst foreign policy except for all the others. Detente with inimical powers didn’t work to convert them into respectful, open societies, otherwise the Communist Party wouldn’t have killed thousands of Chinese students in Tianamen Square, and Putin wouldn’t still be “President.” Rollback doesn’t work, or America wouldn’t have spent trillions of dollars nation building only to harm itself.
Looking back, it would have been trivial for a united West to immediately contain Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution. But that didn’t happen. Their darkness spread and today Kasparov writes in Winter is Coming, “with every delay the price goes up.”
Americans must put aside profits, and recognize when foreign powers do not share American values, and then contain them. They are not friends. They don’t deserve American gifts. Do not even trade with them. Pride in the American Constitution and American values, alongside an unassailable military power-which simply kills those who kill Americans- are winning strategies to stick with.