LESSONS LEARNED #64: “National security can be a messy business. Especially when your enemies don’t play by the same rules.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2011

Stalin Contained in Europe and Asia

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Soviet communism filled the Nazi world conquest void.  The Soviets paid the highest price in blood in the war against Hitler.  And the way they looked at it, that gave them the deed to any land the Red Army found itself on after hostilities came to an end.  Those countries who once welcomed their Soviet liberators from Nazi oppression soon found themselves under Soviet oppression.  The Soviets weren’t going anywhere.  They stayed in Eastern Europe.  They tried to stay in Iran but the British and the Americans got them to pull out, thanks in large part to America’s nuclear status.  Communist guerillas in Greece that once harassed the Nazis were trying to ascend to power with the help of the Soviets.  The Truman Doctrine checked the Soviet influence and kept Greece independent and out of the Soviet camp.  Russia was once again trying to take Turkish lands to give them that elusive warm water port via the Bosporus and Dardanelles into the Mediterranean.  Again, the Truman Doctrine helped keep the Turks independent and out of the Soviet sphere.

The German capital, Berlin, was completely inside East Germany.  But it was partitioned between East and West.  This was a problem for the Soviets as the people in East Germany didn’t like them, the KGB or the East German Stasi (which formed in 1950).  East Berlin was a gateway to freedom via West Berlin.  The first attempt to shut this down was the Berlin Blockade.  Truman overcame the blockade with the Berlin Airlift.  Thwarted, the Soviets lifted their blockade.  But then built the Berlin Wall to keep the unhappy East Germans from fleeing Soviet oppression.  West Berlin remained free within un-free East Germany.  And was still the gateway to freedom.  Only attaining freedom was a lot more difficult, with many East Germans dying in the attempt.

Being rebuffed in Eastern Europe, Berlin, Greece, Turkey and Iran, Stalin looked next to the Korean peninsula.  President Truman had hastened the end of World War II with the atomic bombings in the Pacific for a couple of reasons.  One was to spare American lives resulting from an invasion of the Japanese homeland.  The body count had only increased as MacArthur island-hopped his way to Japan.  Another reason was to get the Japanese to surrender before the Soviet Union could get the Red Army on more territory in the Pacific.  Because Truman saw the writing on the wall.  The Soviets never willingly left land the Red Army occupied.  With the end of hostilities in the Pacific, and the Japanese out of the Korean peninsula, the Allies partitioned Korea into North and South.  The Soviets occupied the North.  The Americans the South.  The Soviet sponsored North Korea eventually invaded the American sponsored South Korea, inaugurating the first open conflict by proxy in the Cold War.  After three years of a seesaw war, North and South signed an armistice setting the border between the two where it was in the beginning.  At the 38th Parallel.  Though the Korean War was a draw, it was still another Soviet defeat.  Who began to realize this world domination was trickier than it looked.  Especially when there were do-gooders out their like the United States always mucking up the works.

Eisenhower to Kennedy, Regime Changes and near Nuclear Annihilation

So the Soviets changed gears.  No more wars of invasion and conquest.  They had a new idea.  Wars of liberation.  They would help foment dissent in countries under the boot of American Imperialism.  Or at least in countries closer to America than the Soviet Union.  With America being in the Western Hemisphere that, of course, led the Soviets to Central and South America.  With the close of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in 1953, the Americans were now suspect of any communist-like behavior, eager to avoid another bloody and costly proxy war with the Soviet Union.  And they saw some in 1954 Guatemala.  Where the newly elected Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán started seizing private property and instituted agrarian reforms.  Along communist lines.  With more public property.  And less private property.  The developments in Guatemala may not have been Soviet in origin.  But it looked enough like it for President Eisenhower to approve a CIA coup in Guatemala.

After going through World War II and the Korean War, Eisenhower wanted to fight future wars before they became wars.  Like in Guatemala.  And elsewhere.  As in Cuba.  Where Eisenhower approved planning for Regime change in this Caribbean nation following the Cuban Revolution that ousted Fulgencio Batista who had seized power in a coup.  Putting the revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in power.  Once in power, the new revolutionary government did some very ‘communist’ things.  Seized private property.  Nationalized public utilities.  Created a bit of a police state.  The usual things.  But it was worse than in Guatemala.  And closer.  So President Kennedy approved the Eisenhower plan of regime change.  And we call that CIA plan the Bay of Pigs Invasion.  Which, of course, failed.  Unlike Eisenhower, Kennedy did not support this black ops mission with the U.S. military to stave off defeat.  So Castro, his brother, Guevara, and others, defeated the CIA backed Cuban exiles.  Which empowered Castro.  And pushed him closer to the Soviet Union. 

You know what Nikita Khrushchev saw when he looked across the Black Sea?  American nuclear missiles in Turkey.  Figuratively, of course.  Not literally.  He couldn’t even see the Turkish coast let alone missile installations.  But he knew they were there.  And that really got in his craw.  And the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion with the young and apparently reluctant American president provided just the opportunity he needed.  He would install Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.  And try this young and inexperienced president.  Castro was all for it, fearing another U.S. invasion (he apparently thought far more of Kennedy than the Soviets).  Guevara, too.  Because he was just reckless.  And crazy, as it turned out.  Well, the secret deployment was discovered by a U-2 spy plane.  Caught the Soviets with their pants down.  We threw up a naval blockade.  Came to the brink of nuclear war.  But Kennedy stood his ground.  The Soviets backed down and removed their missiles.  And then the Americans removed the missiles that had so bothered Khrushchev.  This last was part of a secret agreement to keep the young American president from looking bad.  But the Soviets were a little glad to remove their missiles from Cuba.  Because Guevara wanted to nuke the United States.  And probably would have if he had control of those missiles.

From Iranian Coup to Iranian Revolution

Oil underground is useless.  It only has value when someone brings it up where it can be refined into something useful.  And that’s what the British did in Iran.  The Iranians did not like the split of profits (they were only getting 16% of the net profits which was greater than the 0% they were receiving before the British pumped the oil out of the ground).  Anytime there is huge money involved, there’s going to be trouble.  And after the oil infrastructure was set up the Iranians nationalized the oil industry.  Which didn’t make the British happy.  So they pulled their expertise from the Iranian oil industry and blockaded their oil exports.  The Iranians were not as good as the British and their production fell.  And what little they did produce they could not sell.  This led to unemployment, hunger, etc.  All the right conditions for a coup.

Truman was not interested.  He had his hands full with the Korean War.  But Eisenhower saw things differently.  Especially when the British told him Iran may fall into the Soviet sphere.  And with her would go all of that oil.  Eisenhower believed this.  For there was nothing more the Soviets would have wanted.  They’d still be in Iran if the British and the U.S. (backed by the United States’ nuclear monopoly) didn’t persuade them to leave following World War II.  So Eisenhower joined the British in the coup that placed Mohammad Reza Shah (aka, the Shah of Iran) on the throne in 1953.  And placed Iran into the American sphere.  And everyone lived happily ever after.  The West got Iranian oil on more favorable terms.  And the Middle East got a burning white hatred for the United States and the West in general.  Who apparently would do anything to steal their oil.  So that ‘happily ever after’ was more tongue in cheek.  It ended well in terms of the Cold War.  But not in terms of the nationalism or geopolitics of the Middle East.  For it turns some people can hold a grudge for a real long time.

Shah-rule proved at times to be rather oppressive.  And highly Western.  Democratic, anti-Shah protests began in 1977.  First by Islamists.  Who didn’t really like Western influence.   Then eventually well-educated and unemployed college students (men and women).  Who wanted more freedoms.  And jobs.  Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile in 1979.  As the democratic revolution grew in fervor, Khomeini consolidated his power behind the scenes.  There were no public statements about creating a theocracy.  Because the people didn’t want a theocracy.  Especially the women who had graduated from college with great hopes and dreams.  Because in a theocracy, women become second-class citizens with fewer rights.  And fewer hopes and dreams.

There was then a referendum asking if Iran should be an Islamic Republic.  It passed with near unanimity.  A draft constitution was put up to vote on.  It passed, too.  Some complained about voting irregularities.  Which became moot when Khomeini stated Iran would be based on Shari Law.  With no republic parts.  Then the Shah (now in exile) went to the United States for medical treatment.  Complications extended his stay, infuriating the Iranian protesters (who wanted him back to try and execute) and ratcheting up the American hate (who recalled the 1953 coup).  Young Islamists stormed the U.S. Embassy taking 52 hostages, holding them for 444 days.  Sunni Iraq then invaded Iran, fueling the Islamist furor.  The Islamists suppressed political opposition.  Shut down the free press.  Made women second-class citizens.  And, well, the rest is hardcore Islamist theocratic history.

Conquerors Lie and Exploit Political Instability

The world is a big place.  Sometimes events are interrelated.  Sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes we pay a price for acting too late.  And sometimes we pay a price for acting too soon.  Sometimes our actions prevent a bad situation from getting worse.  Sometimes our actions make a bad situation worse.  Or even makes a not necessarily bad situation a complete and utter disaster.  You never can be certain.  For one thing, everyone has some ulterior motive.  Sometimes those motives align with your national security interests.  Sometimes they don’t.  Unfortunately, we can never know for certain at the time we need to make a decision.  We can only base it on our current intelligence.  And history.

One thing we do know, though, is that there are people who want to conquer other people.  Hitler wanted to conquer the world and spread Nazi rule.  Stalin wanted to conquer the world and spread communist rule.  And now Islamist fundamentalists want to conquer the world and spread Islamist rule.  How do we know this?  They told us.  And demonstrated this by their actions.

Two other key points we can learn from history.  Those who want to conquer lie.  And they exploit political instability.  Hitler lied about his intentions in Czechoslovakia and took advantage of a war-weary Europe still recovering from the Great Depression.  Khrushchev lied about placing missiles in Cuba.  Which he placed in Cuba by taking advantage of the political instability following the failed Bay of Pig Invasion.  And Khomeini lied about his intentions in Iran knowing the people didn’t want a theocracy.  And he took advantage of the chaos of the democracy uprisings and other events to steer the nation where he wanted it to go.  Islamic theocracy.

The Nazi threat gave way to the Communist threat.  Which gave way to the Islamist threat.  So we should pay close attention to any country with political instability/democracy movements.  That has any Islamist elements.  Especially one that feels they’ve been wronged by the United States.  For that would be the perfect storm in the Islamic world.

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