During the debate over whether or not the United States can alter its policy toward Russia, opponents of any friendly overtures have pointed to actions taken in 1947. Then the congress passed the National Security Act which established the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. Although many in the State Department saw both organizations as an infringement on its authority, they went along with the idea.
Since then the architects of containment –that strategy to hem in the Soviet Union — have been deified as “wise men.” Even though the changes were made under duress by the Harry Truman administration after being drubbed in the 1946 midterms, they have been sanctified as unchangeable. During the recent criticisms of President Donald Trump, the CIA, the NSC and the FBI, the security boys have been held up as a sort of praetorian guard. With the press, all these organizations strive to prevent a president from making a change.
Forget that every president since 1945 has had some complaints to make concerning these guardians. President John F. Kennedy threatened to smash the CIA “into a thousand pieces,” and Richard Nixon regarded some elements as downright hostile to his policy goals. As well, the CIA’s performance during Vietnam was less than stellar, not to mention their blown calls regarding the Soviet Union.
But recently they have been anointed as nearly infallible in some circles. Nothing so great as those who try to prevent any normalization of relations with Russia. Suddenly, an invention becomes a convention. If Trump tries anything, the praetorians in his own White House eagerly leak their displeasure. How dare he attempt to approach Russia in anything but an offensive posture.
Now, you do not have to be a fan of either Putin or Trump to see that this might not be a constructive approach. Some Democrats seem to forget that in the wake of Vietnam many wanted to see a reorientation of policy. Frank Church investigated the CIA and no one called him a “stooge” of Leonid Brezhnev.
Yet when Trump tries it, suddenly he is the infidel in the temple. When you see scholars like Stephen Cohen, a liberal if ever there was one, being pilloried as pro-Trump ,simply because he sees a purpose in dialogue, then there are problems. As well, Truman in 1947 took the advice of Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg to “scare hell out of the American people” when requesting a stringent policy toward the USSR. Remember Dwight Eisenhower invited Nikita Khrushchev to the United States in 1959, three years after Russian tanks crushed the Hungarian revolt. Richard Nixon visited the USSR in 1972, four years after Brezhnev dissipated Czechoslavakian rebels. If it is treason then as Patrick Henry said, “Make the most of it.”
Now the question of election interference is quite legitimate, but is it worth continued tensions?
And bear in mind, to remove Donald Trump by using the National Security praetorians may have repercussions beyond his presidency. Removing emperors might become habit forming.