World Domination and Cold War
After conquering much of the world and
poising nuclear bombs to tame the great Soviet armies,
the U.S. might have engendered
a force to devastate the principle of national sovereignty.
A coordinated world order might have begun.
This was not to be.
Demobilization and a consumption economy were all that nearly all
Americans wanted. They got them.
Within 18 months the Army was reduced from eight million to one
million men, the Navy from three and a half to one, the Air Force
by three-fourths of its combat groups. America was the dominant
world presence and would remain so, but primarily as an economic
predator, a helper on occasion, a foe of communist expansion, and a
friend of democratic movements when they were not
American troops rested combat-ready practically everywhere in the
world. From Australia down-under to Greenland 'Ultima Thule' in the
Arctic, from Dakar to the Philippines around the bulge of the Equator,
many thousands of ships of war and freight, many
thousands of airplanes, three million troops, and willing allies
everywhere, meaning by an ally a government that would become
co-belligerent on demand, that believed Americans were
extraordinarily organized, had a know-how particularly suited to the
new world, and controlled infinite material resources.
The two maps below reveal U.S. bases around the world
and the reach of its propaganda transmitters.
A global network of consular offices needs be added.
Intelligence agencies, by no means confined to
information-gathering, operated through them and
The admiration given the USA by the new democratic public of all
the world, including the hapless peoples of Eastern Europe, was
unstinted. Democracy and prosperity would come now. And at the
same time, the world public that had disbelieved in America or
disliked it conceded wonderingly and admiringly that it had defeated
powers a few years earlier regarded as being most formidable -
Japan, Germany and Italy,
and raised other powers from the dead -
France, Belgium, even China.
The Japanese and Germans were docile; more than that,
given anti-communist tasks and conservative constitutions, they would have
fought staunchly for America's New Order of the World. Latin-America,
ambivalent all along, was now more pro-America that it had
been. It saw the Future there: its cultural and commercial relations
with Italy and Germany, with Vichy
France, had broken off.
It was America that seemed to be (and momentarily was) dominating
the vast Chinese scene, where despite all its corruption and wastage of
U.S. aid, the Kuomintang Nationalists of Chiang Kai-Chek were in
charge of the main centers and coastal regions. In Indo-China, it was
up to the U.S. to decide who should officially represent the
Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian people. And, for that matter,
despite the haste of the English and Dutch to return to their imperium,
they did so for a long, last look at what they, and the Japanese, had
wrought. For the attitude of the U.S. would
determine the re-construction of these nations.
The British had some voice. (Others had voices, too.) The British had
been treated remarkably well by the U.S. during the War. The
American public and troops were fully inculcated with pro-British
propaganda. Churchill's military cooperation had been, on the whole,
excellent - notwithstanding disagreements over the choice of Second
Fronts, over who should lead the French, who should command this or
that Army Group, who should direct Burma
operations, how the Pope should be regarded. The British military
and officials were tight-wads, trained to deprive their constituents
and spend little. They were pleased with the American extravagance
in their favor, less pleased when American generosity fell upon
other nations, especially former Axis and
Winston Churchill, the unrepentant Imperial champion
("I was not chosen to be Prime Minister to preside
at the dissolution of the British Empire")
had a way with FDR, but also a way of following FDR's lead.
Churchill was no more. A nondescript, dogged Prime Minister
emerged upon the British scene, Clement Atlee. The American people
and politicians were fonder of Churchill than his own people. "It's all
very well... and allowing all due credit for his having held things
together..." still, the Britons were a) vastly tired of the War and the
humiliations of the common soldiers and civilians during its trials, b)
well reminded that they had gained little of the good life from
their spectacular Empire except myriad cups of tea, and c) saw peace and a
decent wage as proper tickets.
The British in large majority had resigned from imperialism in the
1930's, even though it took sixty years to cut back the daily
changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. For all the reputation
of the Upper Class for arrogance and arrogation, the British,
particularly English, common person had become a home-lover,
asker of small favors, believer in quiet progress.
For them, the departure of millions of Americans was the
exhilarating experience of what seemed a lifetime of hardship.
"Goodbye, and God bless you!" It was the same for the Americans:
no sooner had the enemy surrendered,
in May 1945 in Germany, in September in Japan,
than arose a great clamor at home, with insistent pressure abroad,
for the immediate return and discharge of
the soldiery. Every effort was bent to this end.
"Home Front" collapsed as if by an atom bomb.
All minds were focused upon happy homecomings
(with innumerable personal problems of dislocation and disorientation)
and recovering all the small
luxurious habits of consumption of yore.
If the U.S. government had put 2%, 5%, or 10% of its energies and
resources into a determined drive to make the U.N. start up and work
vigorously, and if, in so doing, it had given out the idea everywhere,
using the worldwide propaganda system employed for waging war,
that the old world was gone forever,
that national sovereignty was moribund and replaceable,
that self-determination up to the point
of federal autonomy with a world federal framework was the
substitute, possibly a new age would have entered.
The history of U.S. conduct respecting the U.N. was consistently
hypocritical from the beginning. It was almost
entirely nationalistic and opportunistic,
that is, unprincipled, unreliable, unimaginative,
Two vital foreshadowing messages were found in President
Roosevelt's annual State of the Union Address to Congress of
January 1941 and "the Atlantic Charter" of August 1941. The future
of a world organization with prestige and power appeared rosy.
A Senate action, the Connally Resolution, said almost the same thing
(with more insistence on the constitutional role of the Senate
and using the fatal words "free and sovereign nations."
At the same time, the Executive Branch, FDR that is, was
committing the country by executive agreement with Britain, the
USSR and China to continued united action after the War for the
"organization and maintenance of peace and security,"
this promulgated from Moscow.
The Senate amended thereupon the Congressional Resolution
to declare that any commitment to a world organization
had to take the form of a treaty approved by
two-thirds of the Senators.
In early 1942, it will be recalled, the U.N. as an
organization took shape, with 26 governments (all Allied)
issuing a joint declaration
out of Washington.
Other countries joined later.
(Exceptions were publicly declared by the USSR, Britain and
several shadowy Allies.) In late 1942, isolationist and
negatively critical elements in House and Senate won
disproportionately large numbers of seats, and
a two-year period of attacks upon both internal and
foreign administration of the war and domestic economy began.
Obviously, the American public was shaky in its opinions about a
whole-hearted participation in governing the world
through a United Nations or any other means
(except probably doing lots of profitable business abroad
and despatching voluntary aid to distressed areas).
Still the House backed a Fulbright Resolution that appears world
federalist in retrospect. A strong current was running for world
union. Books began to appear advocating types of
international union, which sold well.
Practical politicians might even favor it.
The United Nations passed a number of resolutions that might
enable the USA to lead the world into a new era.
For example, on December 9,1948, a Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" was
adopted unanimously by a vote of 55 to 0.
It was and is a broad International Law, criminalizing, for instance,
"causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of"
a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. A day later, the
"Universal Declaration of Human Rights," was passed
with abstentions of communist nations, Saudi Arabia and
South Africa (then a viciously racist state). The
USA had for years then, had now, and would have afterwards,
an open invitation by the whole world to
lead Earth into a new Age.
The world imported hugely from the U.S. upon the heels of the war.
Aside from military sales, exports tripled by 1945 in
comparison with the 1936-1938 levels, and
were twice the 1927-1929 average.
But imports were at an all-time high, too, in 1945, at $5.2 billion.
The U.S. perennial vain pursuit of balanced budgets
brought U.S. spending abroad to a lower level than was needed and
repayable. At Bretton Woods, in Washington, 1944, the nations
signed an agreement creating an International Monetary Fund to
facilitate currency convertibility and the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. Gestures were made toward
a free-trading and open-investment world.
American efforts there and thereafter concentrated upon
aiding a great many development projects around the world
with loans and technical assistance.
Meanwhile, assisted by a growing tribe of international
political and economic experts, politicians and the media
debated the desirability and effects of economic aid to the third world:
debate began with the very word for needy nations: poor; developing countries;
underdeveloped countries; until the French expression took hold,
because least pejorative.
However, since the Soviet Union and Communist countries in
general were supposed to be the second world after the first world
composed of western capitalist countries, and most of the latter
collapsed in the late 1980's, revealing that they had been quite
depressed all along, the term hung on like an old nickname.
As to the substance of aid, beginning with the United Nations, the
World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization, the
International Red Cross, and other international groups and extending
then to the several countries of the Western World who felt themselves
prosperous enough to give something away,
whether in the form of goods or service -
each and all developed aid programs, so that the
delegates and agents of the poor countries (almost always people, like
the U.N. and other international employees, who lived well personally)
had to go hat in hand to knock on many doors to seek assistance,
rather like a young professor beseeching research grants from a
plethora of philanthropic foundations, another
phenomenon of the post-War period.
Motives for lending aid to the third world were not of the purest.
Much of the pressure to adopt and sustain the American Peace Corps,
begun under Kennedy, which sent many thousands of trained people
into local settings of poor countries to work with indigenous
developers, came from people who sought adventure abroad in exotic
settings. Others were furthering careers in higher education in
America. Still, the effects of the program had to be beneficial.
The resources put into the Peace Corps were so small that the
sometimes destructive motives of other aid programs could not find
a place: the universal use of aid to buy American products to be
given away - tractors too large for small farms and incapable of being
maintained locally; the purchase and shipment of foodstuffs
unfamiliar to recipients; flour to rice eaters, etc.;
worst of all, grants and loans, a large part of which
ended in the investment portfolios of political leaders,
the of the worst cases being that of the dictator
of Zaire, who over many years fed aid funds and contract
commissions into his accounts, until he became one of the richest
men in the world, a billionaire several times over.
Nevertheless, if all the aid tendered to the poor countries
were stacked up against the amounts that the same countries
and the donor countries spent on armaments,
the pile would be unnoticeably meager.
And, as in many places in the Western World,
including the United States, where corruption and bribery
were often tools of processing one's needs,
the actual projects were advanced more expeditiously,
with only the higher expense, immorality and inefficiency
to worry about; "greasing the skids" might have been
the only way to apply effective aid in some countries.
Hardly had the U.S. program of foreign aid to poor countries
begun when the Cold War started up,
the Korean War broke out, and
every administration since Truman's has applied the yardstick of
military support to the amounts of aid given to this or that country,
more to Greece and Turkey, facing the Soviet Union in alliance with
the U.S., less to unfriendly and anti-Israel Egypt,
until this country found it in its heart to recognize
and forswear aggression against Israel. So
Uncle Sam, like God, gave more to the
legions of the Lord.
Everywhere in the world, the U.S. resumed
its typical disorganized behavior of half-hearted altruism
and universal commercialism. Hence, domination by a
confused welter of policies let loose the dogs of peace:
the multinationals. The multi-national world
would one day before long produce as well as extract
raw materials in the Third World,
leaving Americans on even less subtle forms of charity,
except for bond and stock holders (an ever-expanding number with
pension-funds, mutual funds, Keoughs, etc.)
Revolution and wars bring rapid changes of alliances.
The American-British-French triangle of the
Constitutional Period had first the one as the enemy,
then the other, and sometimes both.
In World War II, France changed from Ally with its conquest in
May 1940; it became a neutral instrument of French reaction and
Nazism, then a resistant belligerent against the Allies in the Near
East and North Africa, and even to a degree upon the Allied
invasions of Northern and Southern France.
Italy surrendered to the Allies after the Fascist Grand Council
deposed Mussolini in 1943 and, by secret agreement with the Allies,
changed its posture to co-belligerency. This had not been anticipated
by the Allied command, which had gone along doggedly with the
impractical demand for unconditional surrender,
until the Italians made them an offer they couldn't refuse.
Marshal Badoglio was to remain head of the government
until Rome was liberated, and King Victor Immanuel
was to stay; Churchill and the generals liked this cozy
arrangement. (Monarchy loves company.)
The Soviet Union did not. In Naples, then and there, was Palmiro
Togliatti, who would become the European communists'
most popular and effective leader outside of Russia.
If he had been made part of the solution, the
Soviets might not have been so implacable when it came
to the domination of Eastern Europe and Germany;
here was Italy, a major player, a major culprit,
worth the whole belt of Eastern European countries,
with the Western Allies absorbing it completely,
when they should have been already, according to their
own expressed desires, landing a million troops in
France and the Low Countries.
Finally the Soviets, which had
gone along well on some important matters, and
subscribed to the American ideological statement of the War,
and the Future of the World,
pulled back into isolationism and
consolidation of an Eastern Empire.
Everywhere around the world,
revolutionary communist parties came to life,
including in the United States, where the Communist Party,
throughout its history, slavishly followed the dictates
of Stalin and his successors.. Though often they
would fight amongst themselves, communists proclaimed a
universal unity of the working-class and thereby
excited all the more fears of subversion in America
and wherever the bourgeoisie and aristocracy ruled.
Americans of good will were confounded.
They had repressed knowledge of Stalin's crimes.
Their information on the USSR during the war had been benign.
And there was a great reservoir of hatred
against the atheistic communist regimes, stimulated justifiably
by one after another communist, Soviet-assisted coups d'etat
in Eastern Europe and threats of the same
in Western Europe and the Middle East.
Granted the isolationism of the majority of Americans,
and the reluctance of the government to intervene forcibly in Eastern
Europe, there was no real chance to save these countries from
communism. By the time NATO was formed,
Sovietized Eastern Europe was a frightening fait accompli,
a huge Slavic and Baltic area from the Arctic
Ocean South to the Mediterranean and Black Seas,
marred only by the defeat of communists in a civil war in Greece,
and the later defection of communist Yugoslavia and Albania.
Expulsion of the Nationalists from China raised the communist
specter in the Far East. The world was now more than half communist.
What should the U.S. do? With typical lack of imagination, and a lack
of any leadership worth its salt, the U.S. took up two
traditional and bound-to-lose postures. It would implacably out-arm
the communists everywhere, and hunt down the commies at home.
Winston Churchill, now retired by the British voters from office, came
to America to deliver a speech at Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946.
To Americans he would stand for Britain, never mind the British
voters. There he announced that "from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste
on the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended," across the
Continent, dividing Europe,
communist against democratic governments.
He urged an Anglophone alliance to lift the curtain,
liberate Eastern European countries and
generally push back the Russians. The atomic bomb was
recommended as a tool in the engagement.
The Soviets responded by renouncing their membership in
the World Bank and International Monetary Fund,
declared they would become self-sufficient, and
announced a plan to attack Western influences
inside the Soviet Union.
Actually, the Americans liked the Iron Curtain as much as did the
Soviets. Cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe almost entirely ceased. There occurred several
instances of governments playing the game of "chicken,"
as when the Russians were pressing the Turks for equality in ruling the
Straits of the Dardanelles, and
the U.S. sent ships to the aid of the Turks,
or when the Russians sought guaranteed access to Iranian oil
before withdrawing their troops from the country. The U.S. demanded
their withdrawal, a Soviet-Iranian deal was announced,
but, following the troop withdrawal, the Iranians reneged (with U.S.
support). And later on, with unbecoming false pride, American policy leaders
and, of course, their underlings liked to go about talking of
encountering the Russians "eyeball to eyeball" until they (the
The USA, no matter how hard the Truman Administration tried, could
not budge the Soviets from control of East Europe. Pointing to its
exclusion from peace settlements in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands,
and Japan, the Soviet Union insisted upon its position. Few men
wanted to go to war to re-determine any or all of these governments.
Stalin, who would govern the Soviet Union absolutely
until his death in 1952,
set an example that the Chinese communists could apply later on
even in reference to the USSR,
that the atomic bomb should and could be defied.
American leaders soon felt that to threaten the use of the bomb was
even counter-productive. U.S. military forces were powerful enough
for some missions but, at about one-fifteenth of their wartime peak
strength, hardly enough to lead the world by the nose. Peace treaties
were signed with the communist-dominated former pro-Nazi
governments of Eastern Europe.
Economic and military aid became a major tool of foreign policy.
Of Germany's four zones, the American zone was promptly set on the
road to democratic capitalism and made practically into an ally,
in violation of the Potsdam agreements, with General Lucius Clay in
charge; he had strong connections with top U.S. banking interests.
So Germany had the Cold War to thank for its numerous privileges
as an unconditionally surrendered nation.
The British, economically pinched, were withdrawing from Greece and
the Near East. In anticipation of a communist takeover in Greece,
where an insurgent movement existed, Truman and his
advisors, among them Secretary of State Acheson and Secretary of
the Navy Forrestal, decided to step in and prevent a situation that
would isolate Turkey and arouse anxieties in Italy,
Germany and elsewhere.
Working feverishly, a grand new policy was put together in weeks.
Truman, politically savvy, thought best to ask for the help not in the
limited sense of Greece, but as a grand blow in the
world struggle against tyranny.
"I believe," he said to a joint session of Congress and
over the radio, "that it must be the policy of the U.S. to support free
peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities
or any outside pressures."
What was a dialectical trick was thereupon promoted to
something called the Truman Doctrine and elevated into
the national pantheon somewhere below the Monroe Doctrine.
Congress voted $400 million for aid to Greece
and Turkey. After a long and bitter civil conflict,
the Greek communist insurgents, who boasted
considerable support from the Greek people,
were crushed and disappeared into exile or underground.
Among the weapons given the Greek royalists was
napalm, a thickened gasoline that sticks to surfaces.
Foisted on the Greek Army by its American advisers,
eager to study its potential, it was air-fired
for the first time against troop and civilian centers.
Next came the Marshall Plan, the wartime Commanding General
having become now Secretary of State. Announced in a speech at
Harvard on June 5, 1947, he depicted a Europe of "economic, social,
and political deterioration," unless the nations, including even the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, were to plan an economic recovery
from the War, to be financed by the USA
(with the exports of America being greatly helped in the
process, of course).
When the nations met at Paris late in June, Soviet Foreign Minister
Molotov did show up with a full staff. Confronted by the general
intention to present a single overall recovery program,
as America wished, he withdrew, and sixteen western nations
drew up a four-year plan within a matter of weeks.
With bi-partisan support, led by Republican Senator Vandenberg,
appropriate legislation was proposed, but
encountered heavy resistance from atom-bomb
isolationists, men who seemed to wish to withdraw America's
military presence and leadership everywhere, holding the bomb as
the defensive weapon of last resort. (It was becoming increasingly
difficult, considering the larger knowledge of the bomb, and larger
bombs as well, for anyone to conceive of such an
The Soviets helped Truman push his bills through Congress by
bringing down the admired Czechoslovakian democratic coalition
government, in which Edward Benes was President, Jan Masaryk,
Foreign Minister, but Jan Klement Gottwald, the communist leader,
was Prime Minister. The communist coup incited widespread anger
and fears in the West and America. In short order, two weeks after
Masaryk had been assassinated, Congress responded to Truman's
appeals. Four billions went for the Marshall Plan, not the 6.8 billions
Truman was asking, or the 17 he had originally asked, or the 28 that
the Europeans had sought. Still it was sufficient unto the day.
About the same time, Truman, his dander up, authorized (perhaps
unconstitutionally since Congress hadn't legislated it) the Central
Intelligence Agency to conduct covert operations. The C.I.A. went to
work promptly in the Italian elections. The Russians were also giving
funds to the Italian Communist Party, the largest in the Western world,
adroitly led by Palmiro Togliatti and therefore all the more threatening.
The Christian Democrats and their allies won, convincing the C.I.A.
and everybody else that this was a practice with a future.
(A final irony came 46 years later,
after the deterioration of the Soviet system and Communist Party
of Italy, when hundreds of Italian politicians were
arrested for accepting hidden funds for political party use, a habit
fostered by C.I.A. solicitude over the years.)
Only the Soviet Union stood outside of American dominion. The
threat of several atom bombs might have induced cooperation there,
but was not at all contemplated. Certainly, the USSR had desperate
need, more than could be fulfilled by its systematic looting of the lands
of the foe and friend alike. But the American troop and public mood
towards Russia switched quickly back to pre-war normal: hostility. It
was a wonder that the U.S. invited the Soviet Union and the East
European communist states to join the Marshall Plan countries,
unless a refusal was expected.
In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned Americans,
much to their surprise, for he was its arch-typical general, against the
power of the military-industrial complex. Pointing out how its
influence was felt in every local, state and national government office, he
declared that "In the councils of government, we must guard against
the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought,
by the military industrial complex."
The process of business gaining power over military policy
was well advanced when some Jew sold David an
advanced version of the slingshot.
The more mechanical the age, the greater the cost of
supplying armed forces, and American history is replete with tales of
naval and army procurement scandals. I suppose that what was
bothering Eisenhower, as his time was drawing to a close, was the
taking over of the old army life by the highly technical life
of the up-to-date officer, the sensing of what nuclear warfare meant
in the de-establishment of warrior prestige, of the Iraqi Gulf
War to come when a great army and air force was annihilated
by floods of remote missiles, and their remains
bulldozed into archaeological tells.
What was unwarranted influence, apart from direct corruption - the
appointment of retiring officers to fat jobs in industries that they had
been dealing with? Possibly, so a couple of years of cooling-off were
legislated to keep the correlation more remote. Too, unwarranted
might meant over-selling and over-designing, frills, etc. Yes, this was
very much in evidence; the Accounting Office (an arm of Congress),
and Congressional committees were forever delving into such matters,
with the help of the avid press.
There were other bad influences: the great prestige of the military
reflects its command of enormous, budget-cracking, resources to
which the greatest companies in the nation pay obeisance; the
increasing proportion of the civilian population that work for the
military or industrial side of this complex, and therefore shape national
opinion in the direction of large expenditures; the smaller share of all
other programs of the government - not to mention the government
going broke - in financing the ever more ambitious and presumably
effective weaponry; the dependence of hundreds of towns upon the
military presence and the presence of war industry; the strengthening
of belief in force as the source of justice in the world; the indifference
of the military to profits so that costs become swollen throughout the
economy, and efficiency becomes an old-fashioned word: though truly
Secretary of Defense MacNamara or a henchman coined the phase
"more bang for the buck" to inspire economy and effectiveness in
handling military research and spending.
Both the military and the industry were invested with a glow of
superman and other worlds;
exotic forms of research were practiced,
and the enemy (for which read every conceivable foe - Chilean
guerrillas, Viet Cong, Chinese massed infantry, Soviet
intercontinental missiles and tanks; urban rioting) was gathering from
all sides. Everything had to be the best and costliest.
Every conflict configuration, alignment of forces, type of engagement
had to have its experts, designers, specification-writers, bidders,
contractors, industrial counterparts, and a reluctance overall to
cancel or stop anything under way.
Undoubtedly from out of all of this there came numerous inventions,
even in human relations and psychology, which were not neglected, for
the new military wanted to be up-to-date in all the applied sciences.
We may only guess that the sum total of
research, invention, and development spending
could not produce the same fraction of usable civilian
economy and human organization successes as would
the same sums spent directly upon achieving
such useable successes.
Elsewhere I have spoken of the vast resources
that the US has for a memorial generation devoted to
weapons destined for its own armed forces.
The US sells death-dealing weaponry vastly worldwide, too.
There must be a circle in Hell for the rich
who sell the poor what the poor cannot afford
and indeed will harm them. Yet the US "market share"
(such is the term used) of arms sold to poor countries
(pathetically and cruelly misnamed "developing nations") was
in 1995 $3.8 billions, second only to Russia,
with $6 billions, followed then by France, Italy,
Britain, Germany, the rest of Europe, and China.
A final possibly positive aspect of the marriage of industry to
military was an enhanced respect for the safety of the soldier. A
most powerful argument for an M-I representative speaking to the
public or to politicians in support of hi-tech appropriations is that
the ever more sophisticated weaponry would reduce the loss of men
and women in combat. Sentimental pleas of this sort were wrung out
of hardened generals and cold-blooded industrialists like miracle water
from a stone. In fact, this plea and combat tactic have long been part of
American warfaring; at times it would seem that the U.S. was ready
to blow up the whole of an enemy country, if it would "save the life
of one of our boys."
Which is rather like saying, if it will save the life
of one of our boys, travel abroad should be banned.
Haddam Hussein made two guesses when he
dared the United States to force him out of Kuwait: the first,
correct, that the U.S. military would do anything to avoid
casualties in an attack upon his deeply entrenched and extensively
prepared army; the second, incorrect, that his forces could not be
utterly destroyed or rendered helpless by remote control.
Unexpectedly the most important event of the second half of the
twentieth century occurred in the Soviet Union and in the person of
Mihail Gorbachev, the ultimate successor to and contradiction of Josef
Stalin. Between 1885 and 1890 he declared and put into effect
the policies of glasnost - opening the nation to the free flow of
information - and perestroika - economic restructuring. The
domestic effects in the Soviet Union were stupendous. Privatization
of business and industry accelerated. A free press sprang up.
Gorbachev signed agreements with the U.S. aiming at further
disarmament. He declared the Baltic nations free,
and invited self-determination from other Soviet republics as well.
Every one of them promptly took action.
However, the combination of quantavolutions in economics, military
affairs, the media, foreign relations, and ethnic autonomy were too
much for him to handle. He was seized in a brief coup of August 1991,
but returned to office. He could not mange to create a
voluntary association of the former Soviet republics, so resigned his
all-Union positions, and retired to private life and public affairs
counseling around the world.
Much of the reason for the Soviet collapse was to be found in the
costs of the Cold War. They were far too great for the inefficient
economy to support, and, as post-collapse exposés showed, were
ruinous to the environment and even the health of the people.
Economic hardships, oppression, and psychological depression
reduced the average life expectancy of the Russian male
in four years from 64 to 57, the worst decline in
recorded history anywhere.
Also the Cold War encouraged many peripheral wars,
costly in lives and resources around the world.
Probably a half-million lives were lost in the Greek
internationally abetted civil war, with several
Balkan countries impoverished - Bulgaria, Yugoslavia
(its Macedonian Province), and Albania, besides Greece.
The statistics of murder and massacre and death by deliberate
deprivation in the latter half of the twentieth century were
sickening. I speak not of war killing, but of the rest,
much worse in kind and number. And in this paragraph
I speak only of the marxist regimes. In the Soviet Union
between 1917 and 1987, 62 million persons were so disposed of.
In communist China, some 39 million people were killed.
In small countries the percentages were even worse -
in Cambodia 2 millions, in North Korea nearly the same,
in Tito's Yugoslavia a million, in Vietnam by the
Hanoi communists 1.5 millions, in communist Poland
the same number, in the Czech Republic after World War II some
200,000 German Sudeten Germans. (For comparison, the
total of non-military victims of the Third German Reich of Hitler
came to about 21 millions.)
The material costs of the fifty years' Cold War to America were high. In
Cold War also, the expression applies: "No one ever wins a
war." America's natural resources, industries, and people
suffered losses in the trillions of dollars, if a dollar price tag were
to be calculated. Three biological generations were raised to
international suspicions, hostility, thoughts and threats of war, and
distorted education. Many millions of persons worked at jobs with
little or no meaning except to make the Earth
less habitable and friendly.
The dream of an "American century" voiced so hopefully and
pridefully in 1940 by Henry Luce, in his magazine Life, became a
joke in the context of what he meant - America "as the dynamic
center of ever-widening spheres of enterprise, America as the
training center of the skillful servants of mankind, America as the
good Samaritan,.." He saw America as "the powerhouse of
Freedom and Justice."
The trouble was that America, like all other nations, always had a
grave deficiency in the kind of person who would be needed for
these jobs, it had not possessed a program that they might pursue,
and the population was overwhelmingly and constitutionally opposed
to bearing the costs of such ideals, especially when,
as must occur, the ideals and operations would be
de-Americanized and made worldwide.