Home > economics, General Comment, political-economy, politics, shorter work time > Is serious left criticism of government’s share of GDP possible? (11)

Is serious left criticism of government’s share of GDP possible? (11)

Continued from here:

Kennan’s Long Telegram was succeeded by an extended article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published, according to Wikipedia, in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs. Kennan predicted the demise, and/or moderation of the Soviet Union, owing to a long accumulation of unresolved, and chronic internal problems – including badly unbalanced economic development, totalitarian methods of governance, and generational changes which would eventually have expression with the Communist Party structure itself.

His article was warmly received in the United States, and he became something of a celebrity in all the right circles. His celebrity status even showered notice on his daughter, who was in college at the time.

According to Wikipedia, “His oldest daughter Grace … recalls fellow students calling her ‘Miss X’ in college. ‘He went from a normal, nice father to the father who wrote the X article,’ recalls Grace. ‘It was a big shock to discover that my dad, who had been just my dad, suddenly became public property.'”

Kennan felt the United States could, with adequate determination, and subtle, sophisticated pressure, contain the Soviet Union until such time as its internal conflicts would lead to its demise, or, drastic change. His policy of containment, formed the over-arching objective for NSC-68.

But there, at least in Kennan’s view, the similarities ended.

Kennan long rejected association with policies of the Cold War that came to be connected with his advocacy of containment. According to Wikipedia, Kennan saw containment as a political and economic policy, involving, of course, such adoption of means as were exemplified by the Central Intelligence Agency, but also economic assistance to rebuild and stabilize friendly countries.

NSC-68 was not about creative diplomacy and black bag operations. It was a less a reflective contemplation of the character of the Soviet system than it was a militant call to arms which would have the practical effect not only of virtually ensuring decades of American-Soviet conflict, but would entail something that was unthinkable until then: permanent American military expansion powered by an equally expansionist economic policy.

The picture drawn of Soviet capabilities by the authors of NSC-68 was stark, terrifying, and graphically described:

In present circumstances the capabilities of the USSR to threaten U.S. security by the use of armed forces, are dangerous and immediate:

a. The USSR, while not capable of sustained and decisive direct military attack against U.S. territory or the Western Hemisphere, is capable of serious submarine warfare and of a limited number of one-way bomber sorties.

b. Present intelligence estimates attribute to Soviet armed forces the capability of overrunning in about six months all of Continental Europe and the Near East as far as Cairo, while simultaneously occupying important continental points in the Far East. Meanwhile, Great Britain could be subjected to severe air and missile bombardment.

c. Russian seizure of these areas would ultimately enhance the Soviet war potential, if

sufficient time were allowed and Soviet leaders were able to consolidate Russian control and to integrate Europe into the Soviet system, this would permit an eventual concentration of hostile power which would pose an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States.

In six months, according to the authors of NSC-68, the American democracy could be surrounded by a sea of Soviet puppet states threatening it from all sides. Worse, according to the authors:

… by no later than 1955 the USSR will probably be capable of serious air attacks against the United States with atomic, biological and chemical weapons, of more extensive submarine operations (including the launching of short-range guided missiles), and of airborne operations to seize advance bases.

These words were written against a backdrop of great upheaval in the immediate postwar period:

In India, Great Britain was watching its colonial system unravel under the persistent resolve of determined nationalists – as Britons drove the Winston Churchill government out of power. In short order, anti-colonial war erupted against all the colonial powers.

In France, Communists appeared poised on the verge of victory in national elections, with France mired in its Dirty War, in Vietnam.

And, in China, these ugly predictions came against the backdrop of the victory of the Chinese Communist Party over the forces of China’s Kuomintang Party – bringing the number of people under non-capitalist governance to more than a quarter of the human race.

Uncle Sam’s club was open, but it was quite unclear it would have any customers:

The USSR has already engaged the United States in a struggle for power. While it cannot be predicted with certainty whether, or when, the present political warfare will involve armed conllict, nevertheless there exists a continuing danger of war at any time.

To assure its security, the authors proposed the United States undertake a permanent expansion, “of military readiness which can be maintained as long as necessary as a deterrent to Soviet aggression, as indispensable support to our political attitude toward the USSR, as a source of encouragement to nations resisting Soviet political aggression, and as an adequate basis for immediate military commitments and for rapid mobilization should war prove unavoidable.

Domestically, the government should, “Assure the internal security of the United States against dangers of sabotage, subversion, and espionage.

The over-riding goal of economic policy was not to be assuring the improvement in the standard of living of Americans, but to, “Maximize our economic potential, including the strengthening of our peace-time economy and the establishment of essential reserves readily available in the event of war.

Finally, the government would need to mount an aggressive propaganda campaign to, “Keep the U.S. public fully informed and cognizant of the threats to our national security so that it will be prepared to support the measures which we must accordingly adopt.

Of course, in the fine print of the report was this disclaimer: “Soviet military capabilities as set forth in this paper, while constituting potential threats to U.S. security which must be recognized, do not represent an evaluated estimate of Soviet intentions to utilize these capabilities…

In other words, “So far as we know, the Soviet Union has no intentions of doing any of the things we have outlined, but: BOO!

Given our own experience in the course of the events leading to this present war in Iraq, however, this footnote is a chilling reminder of the lengths to which Washington deliberately embarked on a strategy of wrapping its adversaries up in the very cloth of its own intentions.

The parallel with the present war is both astonishing for its brazen regurgitation of the earlier arguments, and disappointing in their lack of originality.

To be continued

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