Wednesday, August 10, 2005

1984 (2)

My first post about "1984" was also posted on Usenet, where it was answered with the following text from "SmirkS":

The institutionalization of militarism under the guise of national security was a logical expression of the aspirations articulated by the Council of Foreign Relations before and during the Second World War. This development was recognized by the historian Charles Beard, who charged in 1948 that Franklin Roosevelt had deliberately led the nation to war and knowingly violated the Constitution to do so. Beard warned at that time that Madisonian principles of checks and balances were in jeopardy and that the executive branch would gain control of foreign policy and war making in the postwar period through the expansion of state secrets. It is tempting to interpret military growth and foreign policy adventures after the war as the inevitable components of a grand conspiracy among elites to build and consolidate the American empire. But a conspiracy theory must be cautiously applied even though there is overwhelming evidence that postwar policies were determined in a conscious and coordinated fashion, for it must take into account the genuine divisions that existed among elites about how to handle the Soviet Union. Roosevelt himself seemed to adopt the position that the Soviet Union was entitled to a sphere of influence of its own after the war, and he proceeded to emphasize policies, such as strongly supporting the United Nations, that would have consolidated a grand area for the United States excluding Eastern Europe. To the ideological right of Roosevelt were influential policy makers like Averill Harriman and George Kennan, who saw the Soviet Union as an expansionist power that needed to be contained without the constraints that might be imposed by a United Nations. Their containment strategy envisioned a military buildup complemented by aggressive diplomatic and economic initiatives. More thoroughly conservative advisers like Dean Acheson favored provocative military measures. Even further to the right stood fanatical anticommunists and opportunists like Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, who argued that the Soviets had penetrated the halls of government within the United States and who advocated "rolling back" the Soviet area of domination rather than merely "containing" it. (Nixon, however, became more pragmatic as his career progressed.) Even if Roosevelt had not died and been succeeded by the hawkish Harry Truman, developments at home and abroad would probably have accelerated militarization and propelled U.S. foreign policy rightward. The desire by both liberals and conservatives to purge the labor unions and the Democratic party of leftist influence undermined elites who favored a pragmatic orientation towards the Soviets. Stalin's pathological behavior toward his real and imagined political opponents strengthened those who sought to recast the Soviets in place of Nazi Germany as the incarnation of an evil empire that could be deterred only by an aggressive foreign policy backed by a worldwide military presence. The theory of "totalitarianism" helped legitimate the new national security state by providing the theoretical underpinning for casting the Soviets in the role of aggressor. Proponents of the theory argued that Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany were alike because both regimes were characterized by a single party dominated by a charismatic dictator driven by an imperialistic ideology, who used terror and imposed state control over the economy and communications system. It did not seem to matter to promoters of the "Communist conspiracy" theory that there were fundamental differences between the histories and regimes of Germany and the Soviet Union (or that many right-wing policy makers in the United States continued to feel sympathy for the Nazis). The theory was useful in creating an image of an aggressor who would this time be deterred, not appeased-a new enemy that was particularly dangerous because it sought to spread an anticapitalist ideology. Within the United States, those who sympathized with socialism, Marxism, or communism, or even with civil rights groups, were defined as threats to the security of the nation. Legislation like the Smith Act of 1940, a wartime act aimed at Nazi sympathizers, was now turned not only on Communists but on anyone suspected of holding leftist ideals. In 1950, the Internal Security Act was passed, requiring communist or "sympathetic" organizations to register with the Attorney General, who possessed the authority (under the Smith Act) to declare certain organizations a threat to national security for allegedly advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government. This provision was routinely applied to organizations that had never advocated such a position. Together with the National Security Act of 1947, these pieces of legislation remain as the cornerstone of the government's authority to suppress internal dissent under the guise of national security. In 1948, bombers capable of striking the Soviet Union with atomic weapons were placed in Britain, and General Lucius Clay, who headed American occupation forces in Germany, tried to convince President Truman to provoke a war with the Soviets. But the Soviet explosion of an atomic bomb in 1949 raised doubts about whether the United States could confront the Soviets without fear of unleashing atomic warfare. The planners were forced to return to the drawing boards. The result was NSC-68, a document that became the Magna Carta of postwar national security doctrine. It laid a blueprint for moving beyond the concept of defense to the idea of aggressively challenging Soviet interests by any means short of declaring war. In the document, secretly approved by the National Security Council in 1950, foreign policy planners argued against negotiating differences with the Soviets until a new, more terrifying weapon, the hydrogen bomb, could restore unquestioned U.S. military supremacy. In the meantime, it advocated an alliance system dominated by the United States and a buildup of conventional military strength so that U.S. objectives could be met short of resorting to nuclear arms. Military planners and political leaders realized that implementing this grand design would require mobilizing the American people into a permanent state of quasi-war. Accordingly, an emotional substitute for an official state of war would have to be devised. In 1944, Charles E. Wilson, president of General Electric and later Director of Defense Mobilization under President Truman and Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower, warned in an internal memo that "the revulsion against war not too long hence will be an almost insuperable obstacle for us to overcome. For | that reason, I am convinced that we must begin now to set the machinery in motion for a permanent war economy.'' Almost forty years later, Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, argued that "democracies will not sacrifice to protect their security in the absence of a sense of danger. And every time we create the impression that we and the Soviets are cooperating and moderating the competition, we diminish that sense of apprehension."

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