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June 05, 2004

Reagan and Casey

Prior to the demise of the Soviet bloc the left wing pundits had always argued that the Soviet system was comparable to our own, indeed possessing some advantages due to their centrally planned economy, instead of the chaos of the market. Reagan called the Soviets an Evil Empire and he was dismissed by academics and intellectuals as being a simplistic cowboy. Well the cowboy won, because he was right. He was the first President to take the position that the Soviet government had no legitimate right to rule anyone, and the first to say the US policy should be to eliminate them instead of containing them. He used a wide arsenal of tools to achieve this goal.

Some of what Reagan did was simple, yet masterful, such as playing up that cowboy image. The reason he did is because when he was first campaigning our people in Moscow found out he terrified the Russian generals, with all of his cowboy talk and SDI, so Reagan always played to that image. Many Democrats still derisively refer to him as "the cowboy" without realizing he had a reason and a purpose for it. We wanted their generals shaking in their boots.

After being elected in a landslide he put William Casey in charge of the CIA, and that was a very important decision. Unlike other CIA chiefs Casey wasn't focused on improving or streamlining the agency, or expanding its budget, or increasing its influence. To Casey the CIA was his personal tool to devote to the destruction of the Soviet Union. But what Casey found was an agency that wasn't producing the information he needed. They had all sorts of data on Soviet tank production and missile ranges, but almost nothing on how the Soviet economy actually functioned. What kept them afloat?

Reagan tasked Casey to figure out how the Soviet system really worked, and after pouring over everything he and Reagan realized that it was just a mafia, producing little of value and depending almost entirely on hard currency from the West to stay afloat. The intellectuals and academics could expound all day long on the glories of socialism, but Reagan and Casey saw it for what it was - an organized crime syndicate that had to prey on the productive to get revenue.

Reagan also noted that the Soviets were good at turning out endless numbers of tanks, but not nearly as good at innovation and high-technology. They lagged badly in computers and advanced electronics. So he put emphasis on our technological superiority, knowing that the only way for them to match it would be to loosen the reigns on their system. As we later learned, their system couldn't easily survive such a move, and Perestroika led to their collapse.

A counterpart to making them spend more on defense was cutting their revenue, which primarily came from just four things; oil, natural gas, diamonds, and gold. So we sent Casey over to talk to the Saudis about the extremely high price of oil common during the Carter era. The Soviets were in Afghanistan and the Saudis felt threatened by that, along Saddam Hussein's growing arsenal of Soviet weapons and the ongoing war with Iran. The Saudi's enemies were our enemies, and whereas our enemies benefited from high oil prices, Saudi Arabia's friends benefit from low oil prices. We made it clear that the best strategic move for the Saudis was to let oil prices plummet. They did, and at one point the price was so low that George W Bush flew to Saudi Arabia to scream at them about the vast damage being done to Texas, which couldn't compete with their cheaper oil. He was dressed down for that when he got home.

The Soviets were at the time building a two-strand natural gas pipeline to Germany, and if they finished it their hard currency revenues would double. Reagan devoted himself to stopping it. First he got the Europeans to agree to limit it to a single strand gas pipeline, which was a brutally won argument. Then he forbade General Electric from building the pumps for it, and they were the only company that could. The French got pissy and said that their own division would build it, and Reagan told them that no company with access to US technology would help them, or else. The ensuing head butting contest nearly broke up the NATO alliance, and pundits were apoplectic. Reagan didn't care, however, and the Russians had to look elsewhere for pumps. So GE allowed a carefully flawed set of plans float out into the world, and the Russians snapped them up and built the massive, but critically flawed, pumping stations themselves. The turbines worked fine in testing, but as soon as they were hit with a full load at full speed the blades sheared off, completely destroying the station in a massive fireball. One Russian general said they lost billions. We started doing this kind of thing to them a lot, leaking out design after design of factories and computers that wouldn't quite work.

We also talked to the South Africans about cutting gold and diamond prices, since they had problems with Cubans in Angola. The South Africans let the diamond and gold prices fall dramatically, and there went much of the rest of Soviet revenue. Then we funded insurgents in Afghanistan, and Casey even ran operations into the southern Soviet Union, where the Islamic freedom fighters would target power plants and other infrastructure, badly damaging their economy still further. They were going bankrupt at the very time they needed to restructure to keep up in an arms race.

On top of all this were our operations in Eastern Europe, involving everyone from the Pope to Lech Walesa. We sent in fax machines and radios so the Polish strikers could stay ahead of the opposition, and kept up the pressure everywhere. Finally the whole Soviet system unraveled, just as Reagan and Casey had intended. Many of the countries that suffered under the Soviet yoke are now part of NATO and the EU. They can thank Ronald Reagan for much of their freedom. He was one of the great men of the century.

Go here and get the audio book "Reagan in His Own Voice". It's on sale, and you can even just click "play" and listen to some of it.

June 5, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

"Prior to the demise of the Soviet bloc the left wing pundits had always argued that the Soviet system was comparable to our own..."

As did John Kerry when he was tesifying before congress in the early 70's about US "war crimes" in Vietnam, btw. The same Hanoi-Jane-Kerry now running for President of this great Country.

I'm glad you brought up the part about the oil pipeline and the sabotage George. As I saw the title to your post that all came flooding back. As I recall, Casey's CIA also discovered the way the Soviets were stealing high tech and made arrangements for the technology in that chain to have built-in defects that would cause catastrophic failures. I wish I could remember the details of this and where I read about it but its been so long I just can't dredge it up.

Casey was a mean little Gnome sumbitz and was absolutely determined to defeat the Soviets by whatever means necessary. You never saw the guy in public and he was a total mystery to me.

In other words, he was the perfect CIA Director. Too bad he isn't around today to take the job. Is there another like him out there?

Posted by: Calliope at Jun 6, 2004 11:49:43 AM

Wow. This is the first I've ever heard of this. I knew that Reagan was smart (you can get that much by just reading the newspapers from the 1980s and applying the Inverse Rule), but man, now that was brilliant.

Phoenix

Posted by: Phoenix at Jun 6, 2004 12:46:38 PM

Reagan reintroduced the idea of a U.S. president representing the United States rather than some amorphous greater good.
The left can never forgive him for being right, in the sense of being correct.

Posted by: Walter Wallis at Jun 6, 2004 4:56:39 PM

A fascinating and, may I say, highly credible analysis given our knowledge of these two men. We knew what their goals were and we knew what their character was. Melding the two and throwing in what is now evident in hindsight about the Soviet Empire, this analysis rings of authenticity and sound logic.

The Liberal dominated media, still so besotted with Gotbachev, continues to refuse to acknowledge any of this could have happened this way thus making it all the more likely that this is exactly how things went down.

Nice work.

Posted by: Nat at Jun 6, 2004 7:25:24 PM

Thanks Nat, but I read much about this years ago in a variety of books, such as "We Know Know: Rethinking Cold War History", "From the Shadows", plus some others that I can't think of off the top of my head.


Posted by: George Turner at Jun 6, 2004 10:00:27 PM

George - followed the Amazon links. Those look like good books. Do you have a list of your favorites somehwere?

Posted by: Brock at Jun 7, 2004 7:48:39 AM

Operation Sunflower

One interesting problem faced by the Soviet Union was the speed of development of each new generation of microprocessor, coming out of Silicon Valley. And, since they needed to copy them by reverse-engineering, it was decided to allow them to acquire a set of "masks" for the newest chip generation, so they wouldn't have to go to the trouble of reverse-engineering.

[Masking is the process of imprinting a pattern onto a silicon substrate using light, and etching away the extranious photoresistive material, then repeating the process 11-20 more times, with different patterns, eventually producing a wafer containing (at the time)hundreds of chips.]

The set of masks provided to the Soviets had built-in defects, which could be triggered through various means, like radio signals of specific frequencies. These chips were manufactured and installed in much of the newest equipment in their arsenal. 8^)

Posted by: geoffg at Jun 8, 2004 9:02:20 AM

That's the one geoffg.

The book list is a good idea for a blogger that has the time to do it. I can't get books written by consegrvative writers at my library like Mylroie's. It would be helpful if someone did this, it seems to be a subject (conservative reading) that comes up from time to time on blogs I read.

Posted by: Calliope at Jun 8, 2004 9:19:36 AM