Grand Strategy in the Age of Mass Destruction


The Psychopath Under the Bed - PART TWO

Commentary for 16 November 2014

With disdain I will throw my gauntlet
Full in the face of the world,
And see the collapse of this pygmy giant
Whose fall will not stifle my ardour.
Then will I walk godlike and victorious
Through the ruins of the world
And giving my words an active force,
I will feel equal to the Creator.
               - Karl Marx

This past week ABC News broke the story that hackers connected to the Russian government are suspected of inserting malware in computers that control American power plants and water treatment systems. This malware is capable of crippling U.S. utilities. Such a monstrous act of sabotage would not only be an act of war, it would be a monstrous crime; for the victims would be average people, targeted merely for their nationality. Why would the Russian government do such a thing?

For those who have studied the character of the Russian government, the answer is simple. This sort of action is what the Russian government does; for Russia is governed by a system with no effective checks or balances, where power is concentrated in a few hands. And wherever such a concentration of power exists, there you shall find great crimes and great criminals – that is to say, psychopaths.  

Jacob Burckhardt once wrote that “power is evil,” and Lord Acton warned that “power corrupts.” The Framers of the U.S. Constitution believed that only a system of checks and balances can prevent the worst from happening. From historical experience, we know that this is the only kind of system that produces good results. These results are not perfect, but they are the best that men have devised, and they are the best that can – in practice – be devised for safeguarding life and property. When you do not have a system of working checks and balances, life and property are not safe. This is the character of the Russian government, and will be the character of the United States government if our system of checks and balances continues to break down.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, a proper system of checks and balances was never set up. Power remained concentrated in a few hands. The government was not really accountable to anyone. Despite this underlying reality, everything was arranged so that it all appeared to be moving in the direction of democratic capitalism and proper checks and balances, but nothing of the kind ever happened. The objective of making the changes in the first place was to fool the West. This conclusion, by the way, is not my own. It is the conclusion of Yevgenia Albats, the famous Russian journalist. From first to last, the old gang was still there and everything was organized for the advantage of the Central Committee's chosen instruments (e.g., certain KGB officers and “former” apparatchiks).

The problem of today’s Russia goes back to 1917, when the country was taken over by gangsters who called themselves “communists.” We must not be naïve about the idealistic terms the Russian communists used to describe their “mission.” They murdered, they stole, and they oppressed the Russian people, and the Ukrainian people, and the people of Central Asia and the Caucasus, etc. The communists made themselves into a new ruling class under Stalin and his successors. As such, the system was an enormous criminal enterprise in which tens of millions of innocent people were killed. Those who took positions in this system, who rose in this system, necessarily partook of the criminal traditions and criminal spirit of the whole – even if they were innocent of specific crimes. Furthermore, the Russian police state system could not cease being a criminal system merely because the communist label was set aside. This is why new lies were destined to replace old lies. Whether we are reading Putin’s Kleptocracy by Karen Dawisha (2014) or The Perestroika Deception by Anatoliy Golitsyn (1995), the phenomenon described is the same . The old objective of global and national spoliation remained in place. The criminal spirit of the Bolshevik regime did not die. The return of Lenin's NEP under Gorbachev did not signify an end to Bolshevik rule, but an end to the appearance of Bolshevik rule. Freedom was introduced from above only as a temporary expedient. And this is what our elites in the West refused to understand in 1991-92. They took the changes in Russia at face value, and now we must pay the price.

In 1984, when Anatoliy Golitsyn’s analysis of Soviet strategy was published in the United States, the mainstream rejected his “new methodology” without apparently reading it; for it hardly registered when his predictions of a Soviet revolution “from above” came true. It is quite astonishing that William F. Buckley, for example, attacked Golitsyn’s work publicly at the exact moment Golitsyn’s predictions were vindicated. From the Right and the Left the message was the same. Golitsyn was an evil troll who didn't deserve the common courtesy of a hearing. In the book Cold Warrior, Tom Mangold described Golitsyn as a deranged paranoid. Buckley was only a little gentler. The facts did not matter to Buckley or Mangold. Both writers felt no embarrassment that they were trashing someone who predicted the future correctly. Not only did they deny the accuracy of Golitsyn’s predictions (see Part One), they maligned Golitsyn’s chief sponsor at the CIA, James Angleton. Mangold’s shameless attack on Angleton received a passionate though belated rebuff by Pete Bagley, one of Angleton’s former CIA colleagues, when I spoke to him a few years ago. “James Angleton was my friend,” Bagley said with rising anger, denying that Angleton was paranoid or crazy, or that a “damaging” mole hunt had taken place at CIA. The facts as reported in the libelous histories about Angleton and Golitsyn do not fully correspond with the real facts. A falsification of history has taken place not unlike what happened to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Of course, the falsification of CIA history has a special significance and suggests two possible conclusions: (1) That the CIA lost the Cold War in 1974 when William Colby became DCI and moved against Angleton's counterintelligence staff, or (2) that Angleton and Golitsyn were thrown to the wolves as part of a massive American counter-deception operation orchestrated to hide the fact that the United States was perfectly aware of the Soviet long-range deception strategy.

I do not think the second possiblity is in accordance with history. It definitely sounds pleasing to the ears, but is only believable to an uninformed person. American political institutions were never able to effectively counteract Soviet infiltration of the U.S. Government. For those who would like further details on this, Diana West’s American Betrayal offers many insights about communist infiltration and how U.S. strategy in World War II was subsequently vulnerable to manipulation by Stalin's agents. Oh yes, the strategic implications are huge. As we can plainly see, the United States was unable to confront the problem of communist subversion from the first. It was much easier to malign those who warned about communist subversion. Thus, our political culture was mediated by a denial of subversion. And this is exactly what the record shows. The anti-communists were maligned while the communists continued their infiltration. How else can we better understand the “revolution” of the 1960s except by reference to the defeat of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s? This is the truth about American politics which underlays all that we see today. The United States was virgin territory in the 1930s, wide open to penetration and subversion by Moscow’s brand of communism. The CIA, in this context, was an agency subject to all the defects of the American national character. The idea that the CIA was some all-powerful, all-sinister, all-victorious organization is laughable. The history of the CIA is the story of one failure after another, punctuated by rare successes. And, in fact, the failures grew larger over time, so that even the previous successes (see Iran) turned into failures. It was in the character of the CIA of 1974 to cast out Angleton, and to blast Golitsyn as a menace, and also to mishandle the important Czech defector, Jan Sejna.

Americans wanted to be deceived because the alternative was too damned unpleasant; for belief in subversion calls forth countermeasures which might well lead to an attenuated freedom under a counterintelligence regime. And as we were becoming increasingly hedonistic, all we needed was an old-fashioned lie to make us feel better. This leads us to something called “the sociology of knowledge,” which encompasses the relationship between an individual’s capacity for thought and the social context in which thought takes place. The social context given in America is not one of suspicion. People who express undue suspicion about the political loyalty of others are known as McCarthyists, and everyone knows that McCarthyism is “un-American.” To publicly say that you suspect someone of being a communist is a self-discrediting act. Therefore, it is socially inappropriate to suspect people of being enemies in a more general sense. Here the “sociology of knowledge” within the CIA could be no different than in the society as a whole. Therefore, the efficacy of the CIA after the censure of Joseph McCarthy was bound to decline, despite the fact that the CIA was probably riddled with Soviet agents from its inception (because its precursor, the OSS, was riddled with agents).

By the time you get to 1974, with the Watergate scandal in full bloom, the CIA’s greatest achievement was found in its counterintelligence staff under James Angleton. Here was the repository of knowledge and memory which had recorded all previous encounters with the enemy, including the prior history of the enemy, noting the enemy’s methods and tactics, strategies and maneuvers. Here was the brain of the CIA, which knew that the Soviets used provocation, controlled opposition, active measures, double agents, and fake defectors. Here, Soviet strategic deception was not merely a matter of spies fooling spies. The whole Soviet mechanism charted its course in coordination with massive intelligence operations to deceive civilization itself. Such operations took place in the 1920s, and in later decades.  And so, as it turns out, the CIA’s brain was important because the brain was all about remembering past Soviet tricks in order to recognize future tricks. But the counterintelligence staff as it existed under Angleton ceased to exist after 1975 because William Colby eliminated it. The bosses in Moscow then knew they had effective control of the intelligence playing field. And nobody in the U.S. intelligence establishment would ever again possess the knowledge needed to interpret what the strategists in Moscow were doing.

Given the huge megaplex that was the U.S. Federal Government, Angleton’s counter-intelligence staff was the only intelligent body of men in the United States that understood the main enemy. They were the only men capable of reading the enemy’s moves. They were the only ones who listened to Golitsyn and could understand what he was telling them. In fact, he was telling them what they already knew. The problem was that the CIA’s counter-intelligence staff was an island of knowledge in a sea of willful ignorance. The intelligence bureaucracy did not want to admit it could be deceived (i.e., the denial of deception). It did not want to admit it could (and already was) penetrated by enemy agents (i.e., the denial of subversion). It did not want to admit that Senator Joseph McCarthy had been right. And finally, the CIA would inevitably find itself ashamed of its own counter-intelligence staff and the knowledge which that staff possessed. Inevitably, that knowledge and understanding would be characterized as “sick think.” Therefore, what happened to Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s would ultimately happen to James Angleton in the 1970s. The sociology of knowledge in the American context disallowed knowledge of Soviet methods and Soviet strategy. Such was forbidden to the individual thinker, who would be ostracized for thinking a thought that was “sick.”

Now fast-forward to Karen Dawisha’s analysis of Putin’s “kleptocracy.” I have yet to find the suggestion in her book that the Communist Party Soviet Union remains in control behind the scenes in Russia. This, by the way, would be the natural assumption of Angleton’s counterintelligence staff. They would be looking for KGB agents in high places, manipulating political and economic processes in Russia on behalf of a hidden Communist Party Soviet Union Central Committee. They would be working to present a deceptive outward appearance to the rest of the world. That appearance would involve KGB-men operating commercial banks, major corporations, and government institutions with no apparent Communist Party control. The telltale would be the presence of agents who were, under all previous circumstances, lackeys of the Soviet regime. These would operate under a new sanguinary discipline which included assassinations of those who failed to follow (hidden) orders and (invisible) rules. These agents might appear to be billionaires in their own right, but in truth they would be the stewards of an unseen power, held accountable with their lives. It cannot be a coincidence that this is the exact thing we find in Russia, according to Dawisha.

Of course, the mainstream reaction to my analysis (above) must be to label it “sick think.” Except that “sick think” explains everything that has happened in Russia since 1989-91. It explains why the balance of nuclear power continues to shift against the West. It explains Russia’s new belligerence and the failure of U.S. intelligence and statesmanship to find an effective policy. The truth is, we’ve been deceiving ourselves – and the enemy has been feeding that deception. Of course, we dare not awaken from the deception; for even now we will not say that there is a communist under the bed. We must talk only of a “psychopath under the bed," or a kleptocrat under the bed. You might even admit that these people are murderers. But do not bring the word “communist” into the mix. That the CPSU started as an underground organization is forgotten. That communist parties have operated underground in countless countries is also forgotten. Dawisha does not seem to wonder what organization exists in the West which best approaches the functions of Russia’s Main Control Directorate or the Presidential Property Management Department? The importance of these bizarre bureaucratic outcroppings lies in their functional resemblance to Communist Party organizations which performed similar functions under the USSR.

Americans do not remember Lenin’s NEP and the Trust deception of the 1920s. We do not remember because our memory was purged. Our memory was purged because Senator Joseph McCarthy was purged. We do not remember because Angleton was purged. So we were deceived in the 1990s and continue to misread the danger signs. And here we are, facing the same old murderous thugs in Moscow, completely unprepared. Please remember that deception cannot destroy by itself. Deception only enables destruction. Thus, while we were all fast asleep, the Russians put malware in our nation’s most vital computer systems. There is no money in destroying America’s infrastructure. There is only the pleasure of destroying – the kind of pleasure felt by unchecked psychopaths.