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March 14, 2007

Bruce Kent

To me this sounds like a very fair bargain actually:

All the nuclear-weapon standoff of cold-war times achieved, at massive cost and risk, was the shifting of possible "hot war" from Europe to faraway places where surrogate wars such as Vietnam and Korea took casualties in their millions.

Better them than us of course, the aim of a nation's defense forces is indeed to keep that nation safe. The thing is though, nuclear weapons are vastly cheaper than conventional ones. You get one hell of a lot of bang for your buck. So the cost of using nuclear weapons to keep Europe "hot war" free was vastly lower doing it the way we did, than trying to do it with conventional weapons. Which sounds to me like a very good argument in favour of them, not something I think Bruce Kent meant us to conclude.

March 14, 2007 in Military | Permalink


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My reading of the passage you've quoted is:

All the nuclear-weapon standoff of cold-war times achieved was that communists only invaded places where they did not risk nuclear annihilation.

Naturally, nuclear weapons are the problem here, not agressive, expansionist, communist governments who equate security with territory.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Mar 14, 2007 10:16:46 AM

The Soviets maintained an overwhelming superiority in armoured divisions over NATO in Europe from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The (entirely rational) fear in western Europe was about the possibility of a Soviet blitzkrieg attack across the north German plane on the pretext of "liberating" a west European country from oppressive capitalism, especially after the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czecho-Slovakia in 1968 to suppress internal unrest in those countries.

Until the advent of Mitterrand's leadership of the Socialist Party in France in the late 1970s, the Communist Party there regularly attracted about 18% of the total vote in French general elections and the French Communist Party was notoriously Stalinist in outlook long after Stalin's demise in March 1953.

Asked for comment on the crumbling Soviet empire c. 1990, the late Georges Marchais, then secretary general of the French Communist Party, replied: 'I tell you, they didn't arrest enough. They didn't imprison enough. If they had been tougher and more vigilant, they wouldn't have got into the situation they are in now.' [Jonathan Fenby: France on the Brink (1999)] During WW2, the Communists had become the mainstay of the armed resistance movement in occupied France but only after the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Before that, the official Communist party line was to adopt a neutral stance because it was only a capitalist's war - after all, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had signed a Friendship Treaty on 28 September 1939 when Britain and France were already at war with Germany.

The fact is that post-WW2, west European governments were never prepared to spend enough of taxpayers' money on national defence forces to insure by conventional means against contingency of a Soviet blitzkrieg attack so we came to rely on the nuclear strike capability of NATO to retaliate - the so-called MAD strategy: mutual assured destruction.

The basic rationale for British and French independent nuclear weapons in NATO was that America couldn't necessarily be relied on to defend Europe against Soviet aggression in all circumstances. We often forget nowadays, that America became engaged in the European war in December 1941 because Germany declared war on America three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December.

William Shirer's authoritative book: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, reports that despite the Roosevelt administration's inclinations at the time, the immediate reaction of the US Congress to the Pearl Harbor attack was to focus on committing to fight a Pacific war against Japan and to stay out of the European war. Germany's declaration of war changed that - responding to Japanese diplomatic pressures was another of Hitler's strategic blunders.

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 14, 2007 11:44:12 AM


I'd take that even a step further.

Any group or nation has legitimate concern for security; the world has never lacked for "unswerving aggressors." But socialist entities have an internal fault--the same as led to the dissolution of the USSR--which leads them eventually to expansionist solutions. The explanation also probably lies at the heart of the now (seemingly) discredited "Domino Theory" advanced by Macnamara about the time of the Vietnam episode.

Bohm-Bawerk tried to explain this (the cause--not the aggresive expression) not long before WW I ("Karl Marx and the Close of His System). Later (1920), Mises put his finger more squarely on the source of the problem, predicting that the USSR "would collapse like a house of cards," though, probably, not before the passage of many years.

The problem of the socialist commonwealth, as explained by Mises, lies in an inability to use economic calculation for the allocation of resources. This is especially aggravated by the absence of any market--and, particularly, market prices, for "higher-order goods"--the goods devoted to production of "first-order" (consumer) goods. The result is continual (and progressively worsening) failure to achieve economic goals and widespread dissatisfaction, acute shortages, etc. It is not belligerence or invidiousness that causes the leaders of a socialist entity to regard neighbors' territory as necessary to their security (though these are rarely lacking), Rather, in their own failure, despite the obvious devotion of some of the ablest minds to "planning," they inevitably detect the deliberate connivance of others to deprive them of that which they require. And, since nature-determined insufficiencies of particular types are usually, in the normal scheme, filled by trade with near sources, inability to acquire on the market on favorable terms is further proof of hostiltity and connivance against their vital interests and proof that their security demands physical control of the areas in question. Machs nichs--eventually the whole kit and kaboodle is in the same worsening shape.

Posted by: gene berman | Mar 14, 2007 12:26:16 PM

Just as pacifists during WWII were objectively pro-Nazi, Bruce Kent and the rest of CND were objectively Communist stooges.

Posted by: David Gillies | Mar 14, 2007 2:39:28 PM

Including Tony Blair who was an active supporter of CND in the early 1980s before Gorbachev became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985.

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 14, 2007 3:21:10 PM

"Just as pacifists during WWII were objectively pro-Nazi, Bruce Kent and the rest of CND were objectively Communist stooges."

Hehe! That was the best 'comedy wingnut' impression I've heard in *ages*...

Posted by: john b | Mar 14, 2007 5:18:39 PM

CND would have gone bankrupt if it wasn't for covert Soviet funding.

Look it up tw4t.

Posted by: Rob Read | Mar 14, 2007 10:39:16 PM

Quite. The pacifists didn't take Nazi geld, but CND survived on Moscow gold. You can argue forever which of them were Soviet agents and which useful idiots.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 14, 2007 10:56:42 PM

dearieme: "You can argue forever which of them were Soviet agents and which useful idiots."

A BBC TV series in 1999 relates:

"A left-wing academic, unmasked as a spy in the unfolding Cold War scandal, has denied acting illegally or betraying his country.

"Vic Allen, 77, a former leading member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), said he had 'no regrets' over providing information to the East German Stasi secret police.

"The retired Leeds University professor, from Keighley, North Yorkshire, said he did pass on information about CND's activities. But he said he considered that perfectly legitimate because he belonged to a pro-Soviet, pro-East German faction of the group."

"Also named is Vic Allen, a retired professor of economics at Leeds university, who was a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and went on the first Aldermaston march. A firm Stalinist, it is alleged he passed on information about CND to his East German handlers.

"After the revelation this weekend that he had been 'an agent of influence', he said he had no regrets. . .

"Prof Allen was an ally of Arthur Scargill during the 1984-85 miners' strike. In 1987 he published a book, The Russians Are Coming. His pro-Soviet views were well known. . ."

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 15, 2007 3:47:01 AM

The reason I rated Mr G as a comedian was more because he used the WWII pacifists as his (implicitly non-contentious) example of another group who were "objectively pro Nazi". Given that they undeniably weren't funded by the Nazis and were not sympathetic to their aims, this struck me as complete bollocks.

In the case of the CND-ists, most of them were clearly hippies opposed to nuclear weapons rather than being an enormous fifth column; luckily the people running the country at the time were more sane than Rob Read and therefore didn't intern them all or try them all for treason on the basis that a handful were pro-Soviet.

Digresionally, it would be interesting to find out Professor Allen's views on *Russian* nuclear weapons...

Posted by: john b | Mar 15, 2007 11:47:57 AM

Don't know about Prof Allen's take on Soviet nuclear weapons - although I did meet him once at a private social occasion in the early 1970s. However, the official CND line opposed all nuclear weapons:

"Former national chair of CND Joan Ruddock, now Labour MP for Lewisham, denied claims that Mr Allen might have 'swung' the organisation towards Moscow. She said: 'CND was an open, democratic organisation and our opposition to Soviet weapons meant we would never have gone in that direction.' Ms Ruddock defeated Mr Allen in a battle for the CND leadership in 1985."

The piece on the BBC website makes clear that there were other Stasi and Soviet spies besides Prof Allen and there was also Melita Norwood who seems to have been among the most successful of the lot from a Soviet perspective:

Incidentally, the year of 1985 is significant as Gorbachev was then elected general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party - by a majority of one vote in the Central Committee, according to an account in Wedgewood Benn's diaries - and Gorbachev introduced the policies of Glasnost (transparency) and Perestroika (restructuring) which eventually contributed to the collapse of the Soviet system by the end of the decade.

An interesting insight is that Putin - now Russian president - worked in the German Democratic Republic as the KGB liaison officer with the Stasi from January 1985 through to 1990 and would probably have been placed to see the incoming reports from the Stasi spies in Britain.

There was a discussion years back as to whether Prof Allen was uncovered by the Metrokhin files but it seems that the Stasi archives were the source when those became accessible after German reunificiation.

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 15, 2007 1:14:41 PM

Hey, I didn't come up with the line about WWII pacifists being objectively pro-Nazi. That was Eric Arthur Blair. You might know him better as George Orwell. And read that word: objectively. Orwell didn't claim that pacifists were subjectively pro-Nazi, nor did I claim that the majority of CNDers were subjectively pro-Soviet (more than a few were, of course). But the consequence of their stance was to advance the Soviet interest at the expense of the West.

Posted by: David Gillies | Mar 15, 2007 5:28:07 PM