What They Know and What They Tell Us

Dear Friends,

In April, nearly every day brought some newsflash that centered on the decline in our international standing and in the American government’s relationship with its citizens. These stories were unfolding at such a speed that there was inadequate time for reflection before the next development occurred.

Since I last wrote you, perhaps the biggest news story that broke revolved around an Air National Guardsman, Jack Teixeira, who allegedly leaked a treasure trove of classified material on a gaming platform, Discord. These secret assessments painfully showed us the gap between what our government officials have told us and what, in fact, the administration and Congress have known about the metastasizing global crisis. This has been especially disturbing in the case of Ukraine’s prospects for victory. In fact, intelligence sources have been far more pessimistic than the line that has been fed to the public, especially about Ukraine’s ultimate success. The American public rightly respects the importance of classified secrets, but decades of revelations by multiple hackers and leakers have prompted increasing concern that the government no longer serves the American people, but rather the ideological and political interests of the so-called elite.

The most recent Discord leaks also show that American strategic mistakes continue to haunt us, and call into question current remedial efforts. Did you hear the grim news that the US is still involved in Afghanistan? According to reports, the United States and the Taliban are coordinating their efforts to defeat ISIS in the country we just hastily left. That we are still engaged in this “forever war” is the result of self-inflicted wounds—the deep cuts of a failed twenty-year campaign and the disastrous withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also, in part, the legacy of our fighting in Syria.

Had this administration, and the ones before it, really trusted the American people, our leaders would not have been so loath to square with us taxpayers, in a straightforward manner. No war can be waged or supported without sacrifice. That’s why we deserve to know the truth about their true goals, what the strategy is and what we are likely to pay for this outcome. It is also our foreign policy professionals’ obligation to develop a robust set of contingency plans should their initial assumptions be incorrect.

As we have seen over the last twenty years, military power in this country has been wielded all but exclusively by a foreign policy pseudo-consensus, comprised of proponents who use wishful thinking, national pride, and raw political manipulation as cynical tools to garner public support for their own neo-colonial (a.k.a. neo-con) ends. The news media, as we now see, has been a willing and compliant partner. The demonization of any constructive dissent in the US has weakened our strategic capacities on the war and on the coming military confrontation with China, so often predicted in Washington.

Over the last few months, we have observed the manifestation of America’s global decline as the preeminent global leader who stands for a solutions-based approach to global problems. In an extraordinarily short period of time, China has stepped into that role. Traditionally silent on the geo-political crises across their seas, China has been brokering peace deals in the Middle East and ramping up their investments in the Global South and elsewhere. This has come at a pivotal time, as the United States continues to pressure struggling nations to fall in line with western thinking regarding a war that for many is on the other side of the world. Washington is now feared, in developing countries, for our tin ear and for the unrelenting sanctions policies that have affected them deeply.

What impact will this have on the devastating war between Russia and Ukraine? Many experts believe that the United States is a co-belligerent in the war because of the level of assistance we have given Ukraine, including intelligence, advanced weaponry, as well as strategic advice and coordination. According to SIPRI, Sweden’s preeminent think tank, the United States has spent more money on Ukraine’s defense than the current size of the entire Russian military budget. The recent Discord links also reveal that the United States and NATO have boots on the ground in Ukraine, a development that could lead to an unintended escalation if any US or Allied personnel are killed.

If you can, take some time to watch the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on U.S. and NATO involvement in the war. The content of the hearing, and its fiery rhetoric, make clear it is likely impossible for the U.S. ever to broker a peace deal or cease-fire. That’s why perhaps only China can find a solution to this hardening war. This doesn’t mean a China-brokered deal would be to our liking at all, but Beijing and their group of followers, including some in our hemisphere like Brazil, see an opportunity for enhanced and possibly decisive influence outside of the European Union and NATO countries.

Regrettably, China is the only major power that has not painted itself into a corner during this crisis. 

Spring offers hope—hope that there is some just and sustainable end to this tragedy.

On that note, I send you my best wishes,

8 thoughts on “What They Know and What They Tell Us

  1. The following letter to President Obama was sent on June 15, 2015. My hope now is that someone will bring this letter — or its essence– to the attention of President Biden.

    Dear President Obama:
    The greatest potential danger to our security and to world peace may not come from ISIS and the mayhem in the Middle East but from the amorphous situation in the Ukraine.

    Having myself witnessed at close range more than a dozen nuclear and thermonuclear explosions in the Bikini-Eniwetok proving grounds during my Navy days, I shudder to think what could result from continuing to up the ante in the Ukraine by both sides. Yet I am convinced that with bold policy initiatives the situation could still be retrieved — and perhaps become a more significant achievement of your presidency than any agreement with Iran or normalization of relations with Cuba.

    I applaud your foreign policy imperative “not to do anything stupid” as both strategy and overall policy. However, may I suggest an obverse policy imperative: do not miss doing something that is obviously smart. In this case, what should appear to be so obvious is that the one person uniquely qualified to successfully mediate the Ukrainian stand-off and establish a long-term framework for U.S.-Russian amity is Susan Eisenhower.

    Beyond Ms. Eisenhower’s expertise and previous personal involvement in Soviet/Russian life, the enduring public respect in Russia for the Eisenhower name would enable Mr. Putin to rationalize at home the concessions he may have to make abroad. Correspondingly, the Eisenhower name would help justify the concessions that may be necessary on our side. For who among your Republican adversaries would presume to criticize as less than patriotic whatever policies Ms. Eisenhower may find it necessary to propose or pursue? In fact, how many of the hundred members of the Senate would venture to oppose Ms. Eisenhower’s nomination as our special envoy for this task?

    Mr. President: your advisers were alert enough to take advantage of Susan Eisenhower’s name and talents to help you get elected. My hope is that they will now be alert enough to get this letter into your hands so that you can avail yourself of Ms. Eisenhower’s services for this potentially no less consequential task.

    Respectfully yours,
    Ernest Kolowrat

  2. Disheartening, but thank you for your reliable research and commentary.

  3. I think it is so sad that so many Americans don’t know the real truth about their government or just accept what is going on, especially now with our rights being whittled away and our tax dollars put into wars that should not be fought. All rbis money could be spent on the environment, children, the elderly. People don’t realize the money they pay makes it way only to the billionaires.

  4. President Eisenhower said “keep them [the public] confused about fission and fusion,” meaning, the public should not understand what the nuclear weapons build up was about. At the end of his Presidency he realized he didn’t really have control over the arsenal (LeMay did) but it was too late for that regret.

  5. The infantilization of the nominally-informed American populace continues, coupled with a ‘middle school-esque’ main stream media depth of intellectual curiosity = the full rationale behind your astutely laid out (sad) explanative-of-DISCONNECT!

    The fact that this current epoch-of-bafflement is indeed NOT a ‘dress rehearsal’ de jour, but–> A FULL SCALE, REAL DEAL ‘CHALLENGE-EXTRAORDINAIRE’, begging for some courageous/clarified ‘adult (in the) room’ ACTION @ forthwith!

  6. Thank you very much for your comment. We are reaching out to the Eisenhower Library to verify the accuracy of this quotation.

  7. Gordon Dean, the Commissioner of the AEC (in 1953), who recorded in his notes how President Eisenhower succinctly expressed the goal of misleading the public, stating that the AEC should “leave ‘thermonuclear’ out of the press releases and speeches. Also ‘fusion’ and ‘hydrogen’ … the President says ‘keep them [the public] confused about fusion and fission.'”

    From the diary of AEC Chairman Gordon Dean, May 27, 1953, quoted in Peter Pringle & James Spigelman, “The Nuclear Barons” p. 182


    The Wikipedia entry on George Kistiakowsky has some of the background on Eisenhower’s Science Advisor and his visit to Strategic Air Command, where he learned how obscene the overkill of the arsenal was and that the President was not really in control of its use. As Daniel Ellsberg later said, “Doctor Strangelove” was a documentary. That was part of the motivation for the President’s farewell address on Sept. 17, 1961. The only other President to warn about this was Kennedy and we all know what happened to him.

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