Learning from the Cold War to prevent war with Russia today

Summary: Clinton has stocked her foreign policy team with advisors belligerent and reckless, eager for conflict with Russia – continuing Team Obama’s work. The military-industrial complex’s propaganda mills work to arouse fear and hatred of Russia, as  they did during the Cold War. Let’s learn from that history before we starting risk a terrible war. We were told mostly false stories about the Soviet Union. How accurate are those about Russia? {This updates my post from Oct 2009.}

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it. That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”

— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about starting the Cold War. Truman did so in his famous speech on 12 March 1947. From Put yourself in Marshall’s place by James Warburg (he helped develop the US WWII propaganda programs).

Ministry of Truth


  1. “Exaggeration Of The Threat: Then & Now”.
  2. A look at the Soviet side of the Cold War
  3. Heinlein saw Russia’s long crash – in 1960.
  4. About the demographic collapse of Russia.
  5. Reforming the US intelligence apparatus.
  6. For More information.


(1) Evidence that the US government exaggerated the Soviet threat

We can learn much about the Cold War being brewed today by reading about the first one. Histories of the CIA document its poor performance as an intelligence agency. While incompetence played a role, the CIA’s obedience to its political masters probably was more significant — driving the hyping of the Soviet Union’s capabilities and hostile intentions during the Cold War. For a summary see “Exaggeration Of The Threat: Then And Now” by Melvin A. Goodman in The Public Record, 14 September 2009 — Excerpt…

“A recently declassified study on Soviet intentions during the Cold War identifies significant failures in U.S. intelligence analysis on Soviet military intentions and demonstrates the constant exaggeration of the Soviet threat.

“The study, which was released last week by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, was prepared by a Pentagon contractor in 1995 that had access to former senior Soviet defense officials, military officers, and industrial specialists. It demonstrates the consistent U.S. exaggeration of Soviet “aggressiveness” and the failure to recognize Soviet fears of a U.S. first strike. The study begs serious questions about current U.S. exaggeration of “threats” emanating from Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

“In the 1980s, long after Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signaled reduced growth in Soviet defense spending, the CIA produced a series of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) titled “Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Nuclear Conflict,” which concluded that the Soviet Union sought “superior capabilities to fight and win a nuclear war with the United States, and have been working to improve their chances of prevailing in such a conflict.”

“…The Pentagon study demonstrates that the Soviet military high command “understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war” and believed that the use of nuclear weapons had to be avoided at “all costs.” Nevertheless, in 1975, presidential chief of staff Dick Cheney and secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld introduced a group of neoconservatives, led by Harvard professor Richard Pipes, to the CIA in order to make sure that future NIEs would falsely conclude that the Soviet Union rejected nuclear parity, were bent on fighting and winning a nuclear war, and were radically increasing their military spending.

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An anthropologist reminds us why Trump rose & how populism will survive his crash

Summary: Now that Trump has self-destructed and the inevitable landslide (which I predicted in August) looms, the Left believes it can forget the forces that brought Trump close to victory. FAILure to learn is our national affliction. Anthropologist Maximilian Forte reminds us why Trump arose from nothing and why populism might survive Trump’s crash.

Tiago Hoisel: surreal image

Tiago Hoisel: surreal image.

Terminal Condition: Neoliberal Globalization

By Maximilian C. Forte from Zero Anthropology, 13 March 2016.
Reposted with his generous permission.

After decades of protests and riots against neoliberal structural adjustment; after anti-globalization mass movements flourished across North America and Europe; after a large portion of Latin America and the Caribbean elected socialist governments; after waves of anti-Western cultural and religious revitalization movements (some violent, some not) have spread from Indonesia to Europe; after nationalist and nativist movements have achieved unprecedented political prominence in Europe since the 1930s; and, with entire libraries of research produced to show all of the illogic and injustices of corporate globalization which make sense only as the orchestration of the most massive transfer and concentration of wealth in history – after all of this, it would have been surprising if we were not yet in a position to speak of the impending death of neoliberalism.

The neoliberal elites know this, and they are seized by an absolute panic as they see the fundamental tenets of neoliberalism come under mass, electoral repudiation in the heart of the international capitalist system, the US itself. Discussion of the collapse of the neoliberal imperial disorder is therefore far from premature; it is overdue.

Nobody should have believed that the end of neoliberalism would be smooth, peaceful, harmonious or pleasant. There is absolutely nothing to say that movements that are politically right-wing cannot be the ones to bring an end to this order. Once we put these two forms of wishful thinking aside, that is, that there will be a peaceful transition and it will be led by “progressives,” we can be better prepared to grasp current realities.

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Haunted by Gaddafi on the fifth anniversary of his overthrow

Summary: On the fifth anniversary of his overthrow, anthropologist Maximilian Forte is haunted by thoughts about Libyan ruler Mummar Gaddafi. It’s a sad chapter in the history of US foreign policy, rich with lessons for us — and one of Hillary Clinton’s two major initiatives (other other is the massive screw-up of her 1993 health care proposal).

“You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.”
— Explanation of why we must intervene in Libya — despite my analysis — by a special operations officer (retired) & well-known geopolitical expert.

Mummar Gaddafi

Getty photo.

Haunted by Gaddafi?

By Maximilian C. Forte from Zero Anthropology.
Reposted with his generous permission.

One thing I did not predict is that, even five years later, what happened to Libya and to Muammar Gaddafi would still cast a long shadow across the centres of European and North American political and economic power. By now, almost all of the leaders who persecuted Gaddafi, have experienced their own demise, by gentler means and thus even less justifiable than what befell Gaddafi.

Almost all of the Libyans that appeared in the videos showing the brutalization of Gaddafi have themselves been tracked down and killed. My expectation, around the autumn of 2015, was that Libya would be conveniently buried during the US electoral campaign. Reality, fortunately, proved me wrong. Libya has instead become a recurring theme in campaign debates, and apart from Hillary Clinton and some forgettable Republican candidates, everyone else is unanimous that the consequences of US military intervention in Libya were catastrophic.

Gone are the days of the smug smiles of belligerent NATO technocrats, the self-congratulations, the propaganda planted in the media heralding the NATO campaign as a great success, a model intervention, forming a template to be used again. Unscrupulous academics who once were thrilled about the intervention in Libya, in order to promote their careers as advocates of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), have conveniently and quickly moved to other projects. The “experts” were royally shamed.

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Martin van Creveld explains why our armies are becoming pussycats

Summary: Martin van Creveld’s new book asks hard questions about America’s ability to defend itself as our society undergoes revolutionary changes (mostly undesired by its citizens). It’s provocative reading for those who like analysts that color outside politically correct lines.

“Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Rouse the warriors! Let all the fighting men draw near and attack. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, ‘I am strong!’”
— Joel 3:9-10.

“{Since WWII}, almost the only time Western countries gained a clear military victory over their non-Western opponents was during the First Gulf War. …This episode apart, practically every time the West …fought the rest, it was defeated.”
— Martin van Creveld in “Pussycats”.


Disagreeing with Martin van Creveld’s predictions feels like arguing against tomorrow’s sunrise. His successful forecasts are legion. The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (1991) reads like a future historian’s analysis of our misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Around 1995 Martin van Creveld told the CIA that Mexico would become the greatest threat to America’s sovereignty. They thought this was delusional; I suspect events since then have changed their minds.

So his new book deserves close attention: Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West. It discusses issues of great importance and covers a wild field of vital questions.

Van Creveld warns that social changes are eroding away the West’s ability to defend itself — reducing its once powerful armies to pussycats. This is probably false as an explanation for the defeats of conventional armies since WWII when fighting non-trinitarian (aka 4GW) armies in foreign lands. It looks prescient as a warning about the future. Let’s examine both perspectives.

About past counterinsurgencies since WWII by foreign armies

The dynamics of war changed after Mao brought 4GW to maturity (details here). The resulting inability of foreign armies to defeat local insurgencies shaped the post-WWII world. It’s a lesson our military refuses to learn (it would reduce the need for their services). Van Creveld clearly explains this in The Changing Face of War (2006).

What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Eritrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.

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Today’s mythbusting: the Fed is not suppressing interest rates

Summary: Here’s another in my series of economic myth-busting articles, explaining that the Fed is not suppressing rates. It is a follow-up to Ignore The Bond Bears, The Fed Will Not Raise Rates.

The Federal Reserve Monster

Part of the magical, even divine, powers attributed to the Federal Reserve is their ability to set interest rates — both short- and long-term. Since the quantitative easing ended we have seen this taken to the logical extreme — with the Fed suppressing rates without visible action! In physics that’s quantum mechanics. In finance it is mythology.

Economists, both Left (e.g., Paul Krugman) and Right (e.g. Tyler Cowen) acknowledge that the post-crash low rates do not result from the Fed’s action. They do so for good reason.

The Fed is not buying bonds — their most effective (almost the only effective) means of depressing interest rates. QE3 ended on 29 October 2014. Two years ago. On that day total Federal Reserve assets were $4,487 billion. As of 19 October 2016 they were $4,467 billion. See the graph.

In theory the Fed could affect prices by buying and holding a substantial fraction of the $64 trillion in outstanding US debt and loans. Taking the fraction they own from 3% to 6% over 7 years (2008-2014) did not seriously change the bond market’s structure. Perhaps the structure of credit spreads differs from what it might have been if the Fed had not added the Treasury securities and government-guaranteed mortgages. It’s difficult to determine such things. But it the effect on credit spreads, if any, is unlikely to have affected interest rates.

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