post-Cold War period of wars of terror on faiths and forces of peace and freedom, Putin’s Russia has supported totalitarian extremist regimes and advanced weapons programs in places like North Korea, Syria, Libya, and Iran.
Pre-Reagan U.S. Containment, MAD, and Détente Strategies, “Balance” Assumptions, and Illusions about Extremists’ Wars. After the early 1950s, U.S. Cold War strategy dropped President Truman’s initially prominent ideological offensive and geo-political rollback objectives and placed increasing emphasis on Cold War “balance” strategies focused on establishing defensive alliances and lines at points of major new Soviet and Soviet-supported aggression. The predominant pre-Reagan U.S. strategies of “Containment,” “Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD),” and “Détente” each focused U.S. Cold War diplomacy on, and entrusted U.S. security to, “balance” concepts that assumed Communist leaders could put their ideology aside and be de- terred on a rational “pragmatic” basis from major aggressive moves and could make and keep agreements on the basis of “shared national interests” in a mutually respected international order. It is critical to understand, as Reagan did, that the Soviet Union deceived with their “balance” and “peaceful coexistence” rhetoric, but no more shared the U.S. “balance” assumptions on which America’s pre-Reagan national security strategy relied than did the extremist totalitarian leaders of National Socialist Germany and Imperial Japan before and during the Second World War or than terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda or ISIS or totalitarian theocracies do today. Neither the Axis powers nor the Soviet leaders tolerated any balance within their own monopolis- tic totalitarian societies or in their imperial impulses. Nor do today’s Al Qaeda extremists, ISIS, Iran, Boko Horam, or North Korea. As in the Second World War and the Cold War, U.S.-Western accommodations to today’s terrorist extremists are invariably interpreted by the extremists as decadence and weakness. The result is that such strategies provoke increased deception and aggression as extremists cynically exploit the democracies’ moral confusion, defense cuts, withdrawals, half-hearted ideological combat, “pin prick” military approaches, and diplomatic trust.
Lessons from the 1950s and 1960s. The American Containment strategy’s “balance” efforts might de- fend an internationally recognized line of demarcation as in Korea, Vietnam, Germany or the Taiwan Straits. But the strategy in effect ceded control and safe havens that had been gained for Communism on other sides of the line in Eastern Europe, and in areas of Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The Soviet Union was quite undeterred from global aggressive actions, and the U.S. generally accommodated to these rather than trying to roll them back. Such aggressive steps included Iron Curtains, Berlin Walls, gulag labor camp systems, hunting dissidents, breaking agreements, and invoking the Brezhnev Doctrine to crush popular anti-Communist upris- ings and “springs” in the “Socialist Camp” nations of East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia that demanded reforms leading toward Communism “with a human face.” Yet these moderate and modern voices for peaceful reform and regime changes should have been supported by the West, and the Kremlin’s price of suppression should have been raised far higher.
Lessons from the 1970s. Soviet violations of major “balance”-based détente agreements included the three key U.S.-Soviet summit agreements of 1972: the Strategic Arms Limitations (SALT) agreement, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the agreement on Détente Principles. In nuclear arms control, official U.S. support for “caps” and “freezes” similarly sought balance, but in fact yielded to Soviet deception, cheating and massive unilateral military buildups as the Kremlin leaders developed “first strike” military capabilities and preemptive Soviet attack doctrines for their newly modernized nuclear, conventional, and chemical forces. MAD’s global nuclear “balance of terror” concept similarly failed in its assumption that massive U.S. nuclear retaliation capabilities would assuredly deter the Soviet Union from major acts of repression, terrorism and aggression or from undertaking major anti-missile deployments and deep underground civil and industrial defense investments that demonstrated the Soviet rejection of America’s MAD strategy. After North Vietnam’s all-out invasion of 1975 broke the Vietnam Peace Accords of 1973 and the U.S. abandoned South Vietnam af- ter much sacrifice and considerable success, dominoes fell in Laos and Cambodia and the Kremlin started new pro-Soviet proxy insurgencies and “wars of national liberation” in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Throughout the globe, unilateral Soviet military buildups and vast Soviet “active measures” intelligence operations were stepped-up for espionage, propaganda, disinformation, fronts and gaining influence. U.S. strategies and Soviet détente agreements did not deter the Soviets from using their intelligence and military forces and proxies such as Cuba and East European and Middle Eastern radicals to wage anti-democratic “wars of national liberation” in Latin America and Africa, while the West stood by.