The terrible post-Cold War American foreign policy
Having written several hundred “editorials” on a wide range of national security issues, we admit that this one writes itself – mainly because the hindsight is still 20-20. Bottom line: Despite spending trillions of dollars mostly borrowed, the United States did not fare well in the post-Cold War environment, as evidenced by our reduced global position and influence.
All “Cold Warriors” should bow – led by Ronald Reagan, albeit in spirit. He was a very great president with a deep knowledge of the personalities and fundamental national security issues of his day. We haven’t had his leadership quality since – Republican or Democrat.
We hadn’t learned much about Mikhail Gorbachev in March 1985, when he was first appointed Secretary General of the Soviet Union after the death of Konstantin Chernenko, and when we started the nuclear and space talks (NST ) in Geneva. The Soviets withdrew from all arms control talks after Mr. Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) in March 1983 – and launched a global propaganda campaign to defeat Mr. Reagan’s re-election. in November 1984.
After this failure, the Soviets sought to block the SDI by resuming these “new” arms control talks, in which we participated. Indeed, it was the SDI which brought the Soviets “to the table”. Mr. Gorbachev clearly admired Mr. Reagan and wanted to be like him – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Mr. Reagan: âWe can do business with him. This was reinforced when Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev met face-to-face in Geneva in November 1985.
Mr. Gorbachev presented âPerestroikaâ (Russian for political restructuring) and âGlasnostâ (Russian for opening) in 1985 and early 1986, exposing all the warts and scars of the failed and totally corrupt Soviet socialist system. But he was also a âtrue believerâ in Marx and Lenin and did not think that âopennessâ was a threat to the Soviet Union. [this per Max Kampelman, then our chief NST negotiator, after first meeting Gorbachev].
Then following Mr. Reagan’s refusal to abandon the SDI in October 1986 in Reykjavik and his “Tear down this wall!” challenge in Berlin, our talks have progressed significantly. Mr. Reagan knew that Mr. Gorbachev was wrong; So:
- We entered into the first verifiable arms control treaties to reduce nuclear weapons;
- The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991;
- The cold war has ended;
- The Soviet leader of the Soviet armed forces, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, who was Mr. Gorbachev’s top adviser, shot himself in the head.
For Mr. Gorbachev, the war was over – and lost – but for 39-year-old KGB officer Vladimir Putin, a new war was just beginning.
What followed for us was a long period of ‘head in the sand’ national security policy, as we generally ignored the threat of radical Islam, despite obvious reasons for taking it very seriously – for example , the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. And now, a likely rerun after the recent debacle in Afghanistan.
After September 11, we wasted billions of dollars invading Iraq in 2003, following a colossal intelligence failure that concluded (like a “slam dunk” in the words of our CIA director from the time) that Iraq was producing a threatening nuclear capability. And this despite the fact that Iraq has nothing to do with the September 11 attack.
Several people who were much closer to the GW Bush administration than we have indicated that Mr. Bush was actively considering a visit to Iraq before September 11 – possibly because of the influence of the late Ahmed Chalabi and his organization.
According to Mr. Chalabi’s 2015 obituary in the New York Times: âHis group, the Iraqi National Congress, would get over $ 100 million from the CIA and other agencies between its founding in 1992 and the start of the war. â¦ .Mr. Chalabi’s claim, shared by US intelligence agencies, was that Mr. Hussein possessed weapons of mass destructionâ¦. A 2006 Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded that “false information” from sources affiliated with the Iraqi National Congress “was being used to support key intelligence community assessments on Iraq and was widely disseminated in the products. intelligence before the war.
However, and as the obituary notes, broad support for Mr. Chalabi also came from Congress and President Bill Clinton: âIn 1998, he helped persuade Congress to pass the Iraq Liberation Act, which was signed by Mr. Clinton and declared it a policy of the United States to replace Mr. Hussein’s government with a democratic government.
In fact, no one could have held a high-level position in national security policy in Washington DC during this time without seeing Mr. Chalabi at work – at our Congress, at the NSC, at the State Departments. and Defense, and especially the intelligence community. Mr. Chalabi was prolific, very well funded and very efficient. However, some of our allies thought that the Shiite Chalabi was probably an Iranian agent.
Regardless of Mr. Chalabi’s connections, he certainly shared the responsibility for the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, overthrow Mr. Saddam’s regime and begin a ten-year involvement in Iraq at the cost of trillions. of US dollars. The number of trillions depends on the activities and operations included – low numbers are two trillions, higher numbers are many times.
Whatever the cost, the 2003 Iraq war was a massive political and operational failure, primarily of the George W. Bush administration, but also of Congress, and with the political backing of the Clinton administration and the United Nations. continuation of many programs by the Obama administration.
So why was no one “responsible” for such a massive failure – and it is likely that no one ever will be?
As Donald Trump learned when he criticized the Iraq war, the âestablishmentâ GOP, especially many so-called âNEOCONâ, has spoken out against him. Many former senior officials joined the fray, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who gave an impassioned speech to the UN on Iraqi ADM programs in 2003 – mostly based on false intelligence and possibly âCookedâ by Mr. Chalabi and his many lawyers.
Most Washington Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives (especially in Congress that funded it) “bought” the Iraqi “ADM” ruse inspired by Chalabi, and Mr. Powell “sold” it to the UN . So there are far too many âpeople in the boatâ for anyone, or any group, to ever be held responsible for the catastrophic failure. “Safety in numbers” is the rule for Iraq and always will be, as Mr. Trump learned the hard way.
However, Trump’s election in 2016 changed that dynamic, despite his unpopularity with most âmainstream Washingtonâ. Voters were as tired of the disaster in Iraq as Mr. Trump – and that was probably one of the main reasons he was elected. Our influence in international negotiations has improved.
So, can we recover from our costly obsession with Iraq and our careless ignorance of Russia and China over the past 30 years – and the growing threats from North Korea and Iran? We hope so, but we are not optimistic, especially until the end of Joe Biden’s term.
â¢ Henry Cooper and Dan Gallington both held various leadership positions in national security and were senior members of the nuclear and space talks delegation under President Reagan.