How the Cold War Strategy Was Forged
Byline: Joseph C. Goulden, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
When the final and definitive story is told - you probably won't read details for decades - the initial turning point in the Cold War came very quietly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was then that analysts at the RAND Corporation made what was then a radical but verifiable conclusion: the West was far stronger than the Soviet Union and its allies - it had more manpower, greater wealth and a huge lead in technology.
So, what was needed to exploit these inherent advantages? A long term strategy that would be more effective than the policy of containment - and the will to implement it.
Such, in a very tight nutshell, is the essence of Gordon Barrass' The Great Cold War, an absolutely brilliant account of how analysis both in and out of our government concluded that the Soviet Union, in many ways, was a Potemkin Village, whose outward bravado and blustering concealed a power that was a hollow shell. Eventually, the Soviets came to realize the futility of keeping up the facade of being a world power, and the entire artifice collapsed.
To be sure, Mr. Barrass on one point (in a closing section titled Slaying the Myths ) is certainly on target. He writes, The first myth that needs to be slain is that the Soviet Union was not ever a real threat to the West. On the contrary ... it was a serious threat The danger of this contention is that it deflects attention from the sustained and complex efforts required to deal with adversaries drive by deeply rooted hostility.
During the last years of the Cold War, Mr. Barrass was chief of the assessments staff in the British Cabinet Office and a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Hence, he was in a position to watch history as it unfolded. His subsequent research for this book took him into the offices of persons who bore the brunt of the struggle, in comfortable offices and out in the back alleys.
One knowledgeable participant he interviewed was the Texas-born Milton Bearden, a key figure in the CIA's Clandestine Service operations against the Soviets for decades. In passing, Mr. Barrass asked him to list the greatest intelligence failure. We didn't realize how [expletive deleted] scared Soviet leaders were of us, Mr. Bearden said.
If a single hero must be selected from Mr. Barrass' rich cast, I would point to Andrew Marshall, who began work at RAND and ultimately became head of the Net Assessment Office in the Pentagon. Andy Marshall's important contribution to U.S. intelligence was his training of several generations of analysts not to view the Soviets as a mirror image of our society. The Soviets were in fact different, culturally and otherwise. Mr.Marshall scoffed at those - of a certain political persuasion - who believed in the inherent harmony of man and that the Soviet leadership could be coaxed into a relationship with the United States that did not threaten our interests.
Mr. Barrass makes clear that Soviet intelligence often ill-served its leaders. Alexander Yakovlev, who served in Andrei Gorbachev's Politburo, said reports to Moscow reinforced the hostile image of the West by blaming the Americans for everything. Yakovlev said, People were praised not for their objectivity, but for providing information that was in line with policy, what we call 'loyal information.'" This is the most damning assessment possible of intelligence.
To be sure, there were some realists in the Soviet bloc. For instance, famed East German spymaster Markus Wolfe gave Moscow what he told Mr. Barrass was the most depressing insight yet into the state of the Warsaw Pact. Include among the realists Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, who observed to a U.S. journalist in the 1970s that in the U.S., even small children play with computers ... For reasons you know well, we cannot make computers widely available in our society Here, we don't even have computers in every office of the Defense Ministry. …