‘If You Want Peace, Prepare For War’

A new book provides a window into Reagan’s transformative Cold War naval strategy.

Scholars have already debated for decades, and will debate for centuries, the role U.S. policies — military, diplomatic, economic — played in bringing the Cold War to endgame and the Soviet Union to extinction. One milestone was Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative proposal, a technological challenge that could not be met by a Soviet economy already buckling under the combined weight of military spending and socialism’s ignorance.

But before SDI there was Ocean Venture ’81, initiated by Reagan as president-elect.

.. By 1980, there was rough nuclear parity, and the Soviets, with 280 divisions, had superiority of land forces. Reagan campaigned on building the U.S. Navy to 600 ships and using it for purposes beyond merely keeping sea lanes open to deliver supplies for land forces.

.. in the autumn of Reagan’s first year, Ocean Venture ’81 surged U.S. naval power into what the Soviet Union had considered its maritime domain, especially the Norwegian and Barents Seas. (And eventually under the Arctic ice pack, where the Soviets had hoped to hide nuclear ballistic-missile submarines.) By dispersing Ocean Venture ’81 ships when Soviet satellites were overhead, the arrival of a large flotilla in northern waters was an unnerving surprise for Moscow.

This “transformative” operation, Lehman writes, “came as a thunderclap to the Soviets, who had never seen such a NATO exercise on their northern doorstep.”

.. “The Soviets were particularly fearful of being attacked under cover of a forward U.S. exercise. Why? Because their own doctrine was to use military exercises to mask surprise invasions,”

.. By the end of 1986, with the Soviets having learned that they could not interfere with U.S. aircraft carriers operating in Norwegian fjords, the Soviet general staff told Gorbachev that they could not defend the nation’s northern sector without tripling spending on naval and air forces there. Thus did the Cold War end because Reagan rejected the stale orthodoxy that the East–West military balance was solely about conventional land forces in central Europe, so NATO’s sea power advantage was of secondary importance.

.. In the movie A Few Good Men, a furious Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) exclaimed to his courtroom tormentors — Navy officers — words that are actually true regarding almost all civilians in this age of complex professional military establishments configured for myriad and rapidly evolving threats: “You have no idea how to defend a nation.” Lehman’s book is a rare window on that world, and a validation of the axiom that if you want peace, prepare for war.

 

Whataboutism

.. Third, this was classic “whataboutism,” a favorite Putin tactic in which he compares, for instance, the annexation of Crimea with something unrelated, like Kosovar independence. In Helsinki, however, Putin simply invented the comparable crime.

.. The Guardian deemed whataboutism, as used in Russia, “practically a national ideology”

.. The New Yorkerdescribed the technique as “a strategy of false moral equivalences”

..  Jill Dougherty called whataboutism a “sacred Russian tactic”,[26][27] and compared it to the pot calling the kettle black.[28]

..  the technique is used to avoid directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.[42][43] The tactic is an attempt at moral relativism,[44][45][9] and a form of false moral equivalence

.. The Economist recommended two methods of properly countering whataboutism: to “use points made by Russian leaders themselves” so that they cannot be applied to the West, and for Western nations to engage in more self-criticism of their own media and governmen

.. By accusing critics of hypocrisy, the Soviet Union hoped to deflect attention away from the original criticism itself

.. Although the use of whataboutism was not restricted to any particular race or belief system, according to The Economist, Russians often overused the tactic.[7] The Russian government’s use of whataboutism grew under the leadership of Vladimir Putin.[75][76][77]

.. “Putin’s near-default response to criticism of how he runs Russia is whataboutism”

.. The philosopher Merold Westphal said that only people who know themselves to be guilty of something “can find comfort in finding others to be just as bad or worse.”[98] Whataboutery, as practiced by both parties in The Troubles in Northern Ireland to highlight what the other side had done to them, was “one of the commonest forms of evasion of personal moral responsibility,”

.. it can also be used to discredit oneself while one refuses to critique an ally. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when The New York Times asked candidate Donald Trump about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s treatment of journalists, teachers, and dissidents, Trump replied with a criticism of U.S. history on civil liberties.[102

..  “The core problem is that this rhetorical device precludes discussion of issues (ex: civil rights) by one country (ex: the United States) if that state lacks a perfect record.”

.. Russia Today was “an institution that is dedicated solely to the task of whataboutism”,[23] and concluded that whataboutism was a “sacred Russian tactic”

..  Garry Kasparov discussed the Soviet tactic in his book Winter Is Coming, calling it a form of “Soviet propaganda” and a way for Russian bureaucrats to “respond to criticism of Soviet massacres, forced deportations, and gulags”.[112] Mark Adomanis commented for The Moscow Times in 2015 that “Whataboutism was employed by the Communist Party with such frequency and shamelessness that a sort of pseudo mythology grew up around it.”[65] Adomanis observed, “Any student of Soviet history will recognize parts of the whataboutist canon.”[65]

 

Billy Graham, Cold Warrior for God

The German press nicknamed him “God’s machine gun” for his aggressive, staccato preaching, but the name also fit for deeper reasons. Mr. Graham described these trips as “crusades” and saw West Germany as ground zero in what he called “Battleground Europe,” a Cold War fight to redeem the “land of Luther” from its Nazi past and secure its future as a stronghold for American-style democracy, capitalism and evangelicalism.

.. Billy Graham’s culture wars are inseparable from his role as an international Cold Warrior. He wasn’t just America’s pastor; he was God’s Cold War machine gun.

..  “Berlin is prayed for in the world more than any other city,” he declared, calling the city “a battleground, a continent for conquest” — not for earthly power, as the world wars had been, but a new battle “for the hearts and minds of the people.”

..  he affirmed that West Germans were his “brothers in arms” literally as well as spiritually. To strengthen a Christian democratic West against a godless Soviet East, he cast his weight behind German rearmament.

.. Mr. Graham portended a similar Americanization of German religion with its emphasis on conversion and its use of modern communication technologies for evangelism.

.. Some Germans deemed Mr. Graham a Hollywood huckster who, as the German news media put it, “advertised the Bible like toothpaste and chewing gum.” Others sensed an unnerving parallel between his mass gatherings and Germany’s fascist past.

.. “Religion for Mass-Consumption,”

.. argued that Mr. Graham’s real goal was to steer souls away from Communism more than toward God

.. German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller and the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr ..  protested Mr. Graham’s equation of Christianity with America, anti-Communism and free-market capitalism

.. After the Watergate scandal, Mr. Graham withdrew from political debates and returned to his early focus on simply “preaching the gospel.”

I Love a Parade, but Not This One

Trump’s supporters and opponents alike are decent and patriotic. If only he lived up to their standard.

People who are for Trump always say “Look, he’s got an unfortunate character and temperament, but he’s good on regulation, good on the courts.” The problem, the veteran said, is the but. Once you get to the but, you are normalizing him—you are making him normal, which means you are guaranteeing a future of President Trumps. That means you have lowered the presidency forever, changed it forever, just when the world’s problems are more dangerous, and thoughtfulness and wisdom more needed.

.. Trump supporters, on the other hand, chose him and back him because he isn’t normal. They’d tried normal! It didn’t work! Of course he’s a brute, but his brutishness was the only thing that could surprise Washington, scare it, make it reform. Both parties are corrupt and look out only for themselves; he’s the one who wouldn’t be in hock to them and their donors. Is he weird? Yes. But it’s a weird country now. He’s the only one big enough to push back against what’s pushing us.

.. It is a central belief of Trump supporters that of course he’ll make mistakes—he’s not a politician, he’s new, he’ll learn. An underestimated aspect of Trump support is sheer human sympathy. They see him taking a pounding each day in the press and feel for him as a human being. The press misses this, but Mr. Trump doesn’t. He uses it.

.. His criticism went right at the Trump supporters’ faith that he will learn in the job. The executive said: He doesn’t learn! He’s not able to. He doesn’t have that mechanism inside that allows people to analyze problems and see their part in them. And without that you can’t improve.

.. If his two former wives are speaking truthfully, he betrayed the classic pattern of the abuser: He roughs you up, is contrite, vows to change, roughs you up.

.. You can’t really blackmail Donald Trump on personal conduct because nothing said about him would surprise or shock. Mr. Porter, however, was blackmailable.

.. Why did they let him stay on? Maybe because they were desperate: He was a respected establishment pro who could do the job. The administration struggled to attract such people.

..  I would add the big secret everyone knows both here and abroad and that occasionally springs to the forefront of the mind: A fundamental is unsound. Compared with other countries we look good, but compared with ourselves we do not. Our ratio of total debt to gross domestic product has grown to more than 100% and can’t keep growing forever. 

.. It is a ridiculous and embarrassing idea. If you want to show respect for the military make the Veterans Affairs Department work. A big, pointless, militarist display with gleaming weapons and shining tanks is so . . . Soviet. What do you gain from showing off your weaponry? What are we celebrating—that we have nukes? That we have to have them is a tragedy.

“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.”

.. If there’s a parade that purports to honor our military men and women, they will go. But they’re not stupid, they’ll know what it is. It is Trump being Trump, and obsessing the nation. It’s bread and circuses.

And it is not like us, at least the old and honored us.