Twenty years ago, a reader sent me an email as follows: “I have read your most recent articles with interest and fascination.” He then described himself as an expert “in biology, biotechnology, chemistry and biological weaponry.” He was apparently troubled by my approach to the subject of biological war, and asked the following question: “Do you have any thoughts as to why many writers or various individuals focus on the threat and do not spend equal time on counter-strategy discussions?”
You raise a great question, I replied. The reason writers spend little time on counter-strategies is that a realistic adaptation to mass destruction weapons requires institutional changes that have long been politically unacceptable to Americans.
It was the Gaither Committee, back in 1957, that first attempted a realistic look at the weapons of mass destruction problem. The report issued by the super-secret committee, which included leading military officers and scientists, is known as the Gaither Report (even though Rowen Gaither had little to do with it, owing to ill health).
The Gaither Report was 29 pages long. Its official title was “Deterrence and Survival in the Nuclear Age.” The report was given to President Dwight Eisenhower on 7 November 1957. The authors of the report saw serious long-term dangers to the United States and offered a number of solutions, of which only a few on the military side were adopted (like keeping SAC bombers in the air and putting long range missiles in underground silos).
Because we were then entering an era of hydrogen bombs and long range missiles, the Gaither Report said America needed a massive shelter system to protect the civilian population. A crash program costing over $20 billion (in 1957 dollars) would be necessary. If memory serves, the report also recommended diverting concrete from freeway construction to meet the demands of the shelter program. In addition, the civilian population needed to be schooled in anti-communism (as communism was the ideology of our adversary).
Unhappy with the report, Eisenhower rejected its key points. He was seconded by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. They both envisioned a bloodless victory against Soviet communism. This victory would be achieved by the construction of shopping malls and freeways. Our nuclear deterrent would protect us by threatening the Soviet Union with massive retaliation. Meanwhile, the American people would live carefree and happy lives, unencumbered by civil defense or anticommunist education programs in the secondary schools. According to Eisenhower’s vision, we would triumph over communism by living better than the Russians. We would show them how to live the good life. We would shop our way to victory.
No sacrifices, no hard decisions, no tragic confrontations. The formula of Eisenhower was irresistible in its appeal. It was a formula that quickly became institutionalized and intellectualized within the policy-making elite. We lived that policy, and we lived good. At the end of his term, Eisenhower indirectly warned against the authors of the Gaither Report, calling for Americans to “stand guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex.”
The left seized upon Eisenhower’s words. A stereotype came into existence — of cigar-chomping militarists who had learned “to stop worrying and love the bomb.” We were also taught to despise weapons contractors whose greed allegedly fueled the Cold War. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” Eisenhower warned. The military and its industrial backers posed a threat.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties…. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
These are the words of a president — and a five star general — who feared anti-communism more than communism. Unlike George Washington’s Farewell Address, which warned of the dangers of foreign entanglements and civil war, Eisenhower’s Farewell Address warned of an internal danger from the institutions charged with defending America from the nuclear and biological weaponry of the communist bloc.
On one hand, Eisenhower’s concern was sensible. On the other hand, the communist bloc was laying siege to America and the West. They were primed to infiltrate our institutions. They had already influenced the policies of two presidents, Roosevelt and Truman; and there would be others. Communism was a real threat to America — internally and externally. Afraid that a form of anticommunism akin to fascism would take hold, Eisenhower did not want to face the communist threat head-on. Therefore, Eisenhower’s speech effectively established a psychological evasion at the core of American policy. Living the good life would come before security. Eventually, socialism would piggy-back on this hedonistic formula, until the demand for social spending would begin to crowd-out military spending.
This is how we came to live in the fool’s paradise of today — unready to deal with our enemy’s nuclear, biological and economic methods of waging war. Instead of a philosophy of preparedness, ours became a policy propelled by hedonism — on the left and the right. Trading with China and Russia will not transform these nations into friendly democracies. Trade will only guarantee that our military-industrial complex — so long maligned by the left — will be undermined and weakened.
We had our chance in 1957. We might have built defenses. But now we are addicted to the shopping mall regime. Serious solutions are now beyond our psychological reach. We haven’t the political will or intellectual integrity to cut through our long-held delusion of supremacy. Something vital in us has rotted away. In order to fix the situation we must first have a diagnosis, a deep sociological analysis, followed by public understanding of the problem. But this will never happen.
If you presented the Gaither Report today, people would shake their heads as if you were a lunatic. Fallout shelters? National self sacrifice? Patriotic education for our high school students? The mere suggestion would cause the left to mobilize. There would be blood in the streets.
Of course, I know what most people will say. In a nuclear war we all die and there’s no point. So eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy the moment. Forget about all that military stuff. Trade with China. Fund the Kremlin. Shop until they drop!
Here is your modern American solution. And most people think it worked perfectly. We won the Cold War by living high off the hog. Isn’t that the real story here? We beat the Russians by talk and retreat, by growing softer and softer under a shopping ethic. We let our kids smoke pot, our schools descend into political correctness, while counter-intelligence collapsed — if it was ever there at all. But then, we didn’t really win the Cold War.
Any academic or literary person who dared suggest that we lost the Cold War, that we built a regime of self-indulgence and self-delusion, would find his work — if published at all — completely ignored. He would be barred from a respectable career and denied a hearing by those in authority. In church and in town they would whisper, “There goes that kook.”
Realistic solutions to realistic problems are not always realistic. This is the Catch-22 of our politics. And so, let us take one thing at a time. Let’s not discuss solutions until we have a consensus on the problem. And the left, with all its culture-power, will never allow that.
Such was my reply twenty years ago — a few months before the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers. We have been at war against “terrorism” since that time. There was even an anthrax scare; but the country went back to shopping, on President Bush’s advice. It is convenient that our enemy in that war had no national border, no recognized religion (since Islam is the religion of peace), and no visible support from any nation state. We have bombed and invaded a number of countries in this strange conflict, wasting trillions of defense dollars, which Viktor Suvorov predicted, in 1987, as a Soviet diversionary operation known as “grey terror.”
If Suvorov is any guide, we are presently experiencing “the overture,” described in his book, titled Spetsnaz. As everything edges closer to “red terror,” a viral pandemic from communist China takes down the stock market. Hotels, restaurants, and airlines are bound to fail. Real estate is going to crash. A banking holiday is inevitable. The shopping mall regime is about to fail the test of history.
The dream of prosperity without vigilance, without appropriate defensive measures, without the proper identification of enemies, was doomed from the start. It is a sweet dream indeed; but it was a dream — used against us by the Chinese Communist Party, the Kremlin, and their allies. Our vulnerability to subversion and infiltration was something we never owned up to. As America faces its greatest crisis in many decades, we will now suffer the consequences of our chronic unreadiness. A Chinese bioweapon, probably intended for the purpose of eliminating global capitalism, has been accidentally unleashed. The pandemic is at the gate. Can a politically divided and subverted society meet the challenge?
Let us pray.