On Afghanistan, Obama Should Take Page Out of Eisenhower Book

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Dwight D Eisenhower.jpgPolitico‘s Mike Allen has the attendance roster for President Obama’s big Afghan pow-wow today:

At 3 p.m., the President will participate in a THREE-HOUR meeting with his national security team on Afghanistan in the Situation Room. . .Expected manifest for today, with those overseas participating through the secure video teleconference system (SVTS): Vice President Biden; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command; General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan; Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence; CIA Director Leon Panetta; Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan; Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan; and General James Jones, National Security Advisor.

Despite the firepower in this Principals’ Meeting — there are other approaches the Obama team should consider.
General McChrystal’s views are known. Joe Biden’s alternative take on the Afghanistan situation is known.
However, what would be good for the President and the country is to have their views and a number of other serious approaches floated and thought through systematically — much the way that President Dwight Eisenhower did when coming into the Presidency in what was called the “Solarium Exercise.”
Eisenhower came in to office with a bunch of Republican hawks like John Foster Dulles and Curtis LeMay in his national security apparatus — and the general view that Ike’s advisers had was that “containment” of the Soviet Union as articulated by George Kennan and adopted by Harry Truman was a hybrid of weakness and appeasement.
Eisenhower, however, was more cautious and circumspect than his team.
Ike ordered a five week review of policy — assigning three teams with very different perspectives on how to deal with the Soviet threat — and compelled them to work through a total systems analysis of the long term costs and consequences of the policies each team proposed. In other words, they had to pay for their world views — and had to put on the table the back end consequences of their actions.
In the end, Eisenhower presided over a session during which the three groups offered their findings before 80 national security officials, generals, and various policy advisers to the President. This meeting was classified for decades.
In the end, Eisenhower chose to continue a “containment strategy” — but got in the open the policy alternatives to that and educated his entire team about the benefits and negatives of each approach.
Obama would be wise to consider a similar approach.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

42 comments on “On Afghanistan, Obama Should Take Page Out of Eisenhower Book

  1. nadine says:

    Wigwag, you’re right about JFK: he was a hawkish Cold Warrior on foreign policy and a supply-side tax cutter domestically. “Bear any burden, pay any price, support any friend, oppose any foe…” can you imagine any of today’s Democratic party talking like this?
    If he were still around, JFK would be a neocon.

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  2. DonS says:

    no criticism of the 1:25 post above is intended, in fact I find Elliot Abrams a loathsome figure, but the author of the post, “dons”, is not this “DonS”.

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  3. easy e says:

    More on ELLIOTT ABRAMS from RIGHT WEB:
    “…In his writings, Abrams has consistently voiced strong support for Likud positions on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and “land for peace” negotiations. After the launch of the Al Aqsa Intifada in late September 2000, Abrams lambasted mainstream Jewish groups for their continued support for peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and for their call to Israel to halt its attacks.21
    Abrams has also established strong Likudnik positions in articles for Commentary and in various books. Abrams authored the chapter on the Middle East in the 2000 blueprint for U.S. foreign policy by the Project for the New American Century. Edited by PNAC founders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy is a playbook on how to deal with U.S. adversaries. In his chapter, Abrams laid out the “peace through strength” credo that became the operating principle of the George W. Bush administration. “Our military strength and willingness to use it will remain a key factor in our ability to promote peace,” wrote Abrams. “Strengthening Israel, our major ally in the region, should be the central core of U.S. Middle East policy, and we should not permit the establishment of a Palestinian state that does not explicitly uphold U.S. policy in the region.” Presaging the Mideast policy of the Bush administration, Abrams wrote: U.S. interests “do not lie in strengthening Palestinians at the expense of Israelis, abandoning our overall policy of supporting the expansion of democracy and human rights, or subordinating all other political and security goals to the ‘success’ of the Arab-Israel ‘peace process’.” Like other right-wing Zionists, Abrams refers to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis not for what it is—a conflict over occupied Palestinian land—but rather as an “Arab-Israel” conflict, implying that U.S. support of Israel necessitates a foreign policy that confronts all the Arab countries.22
    In his book Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America, Abrams takes care to insist that his positions imply no “disloyalty” to the United States, but at the same times insists that Jews must be loyal to Israel because they “are in a permanent covenant with God and with the land of Israel and its people. Their commitment will not weaken if the Israeli government pursues unpopular policies.”23
    Entire Right Web summary here: http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Abrams_Elliott

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  4. dons says:

    Ike might be spinning away knowing how his phrase “military-industrial-complex” has also morphed into a supremacist apparatus.
    Elliott Abrams, the Neocon’s Neocon
    by Tom Barry,
    CounterPunch, February 9, 2005
    “Elliott Abrams embodies neoconservatism. Perhaps more than any other neoconservative, Abrams has integrated the various influences that have shaped today’s neoconservative agenda. A creature of the neoconservative incubator, Abrams is a political intellectual and operative who has advanced the neoconservative agenda with chutzpah and considerable success.
    As a government official, Abrams organized front groups to provide private and clandestine official support for the Nicaraguan Contras; served as the president of an ethics institute despite his own record of lying to Congress and managing illegal operations; rose to high positions in the National Security Council to oversee U.S. foreign policy in regions where he had no professional experience, only ideological positions; proved himself as a political intellectual in books and essays that explore the interface between orthodox Judaism, American culture, and political philosophy; and demonstrated his considerable talents in public diplomacy as a political art in the use of misinformation and propaganda to ensure public and policy support for foreign relations agendas that would otherwise be soundly rejected.
    Abrams has moved back and forth between government and the right’s web of think tanks and policy institutes, holding positions as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), advisory council member of the American Jewish Committee, and charter member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Abrams has maintained close ties with the Social Democrats/USA, the network of right-wing social democrats and former Trotskyites who became the most vocal of the self-described “democratic globalists” within the neocon camp in the 1990s.”

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  5. Linda says:

    samuelburke, thanks for your comments.
    One thing I think Obama Administration should do (but probably won’t)is to start over again with a new Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that all nations be urged to sign, those that have nukes and those that don’t.
    It’s difficult to have international cooperation and rules when everybody isn’t playing in the same game. The stakes are high for every person on earth in this game. Even children in their games quickly figure out what’s fair and rational and what isn’t.

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  6. JohnH says:

    I would seem the some progress was made if Abbas wants negotiations to pick up where Olmert left off. Of course, we have no way of knowing if what Olmert and Abbas agreed to had anything to do with peace. Maybe it was related to the commercial franchises granted to Fatah.

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  7. Outraged American says:

    Why is it a “good thing” that Israel became a nation? Name one
    good thing that Israel has done for the rest of the world.
    The Arabs had no responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust, and yet
    they got stuck with the belligerent Ashkenazim, and as I’ve typed
    before, if Israel had been put on the Moon, we’d be having a
    “War against Moondust” with the darker side of the Moon under
    permanent lockdown.
    Sh*t happens. My parents weren’t allowed to sit on benches or
    hold jobs above a certain level because they were of mixed race.
    They got over it and made a success of their lives in the US.
    Many Israelis are doing the same. Sure, American Jews
    experience some racism, but that has rapidly faded. The threat
    of another Jewish Holocaust is over unless Zionists yet again
    make Jews hated.
    We are supposed to accept that this nasty little country (and I
    live in a nasty big country so know a nasty country when I see
    one) should have been placed in the Middle East because of the
    Bible, which was obviously written while the authors were on
    hallucinogenics?
    My congressman, who kind-of isn’t now because I’ve moved to
    another state, but haven’t re-registered yet, Howard the
    Dickwad Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
    Committee, just wrote an op-ed on Saturday for the Washington
    Post entitled “Dealing with Iran’s Deception”
    Hat tip to antiwar.com and Philip Giraldi who actually waded
    through Berman’s morass.
    WMD ALL OVER AGAIN by Philip Giraldi:
    Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign
    Affairs Committee, also was featured in the Saturday Post in his
    op-ed entitled “Dealing With Iran’s Deception.” Setting the
    desired tone, his first line was “Tehran could soon have
    humankind’s most frightening weapon…” and he went on to
    report “it already has enough low-enriched uranium to produce
    fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.” Ignoring the fact that
    Berman’s argument makes no sense in that low-enriched
    uranium must be concentrated twenty times to be suitable for
    making a bomb, one wants to know what evidence there actually
    is that Iran is making a weapon apart from press releases
    coming out of AIPAC or the Israeli Embassy. After all, we are
    talking about the United States possibly going to war and when
    Berman pops up repeatedly there has to be a sneaking suspicion
    that it once again is all about Israel.
    Berman calls on the US to prepare to impose “crippling
    sanctions” on Iran to improve its behavior, including a virtual
    ban on refined petroleum product imports imposed through a
    house resolution that he and the redoubtable Ileana Ros-
    Lehtinen have co-sponsored. Such a move would likely have to
    be enforced by the US Navy, a role that most would consider an
    act of war. And Berman might even be a moderate in that he is
    not calling for a nuclear first strike. Other Congressmen were
    less restrained when speaking over the weekend.
    Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two
    Republican in the House, said Iran is a “real-time security threat
    to the United States, Israel and our allies around the world.” He
    added that the discovery of the new enrichment facility “leaves
    little doubt that terrorist nations are not to be trusted or
    negotiated with diplomatically.” Eric’s interesting analysis of the
    state of the world as seen down the barrel of a rifle was
    unfortunately not unique. In a joint statement reflecting multi-
    partisan support for bombing Iran, Senators Evan Bayh,
    Democrat of Indiana, Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Joe
    Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, all expressed support
    for “whatever it takes” to stop Tehran’s nuclear program. The
    launch of a holy war by Reverend John Hagee, founder and
    chairman of Christians United for Israel is expected at any
    moment.
    http://tinyurl.com/yap4lu5
    All of my former Congressmembers in LA and Kyl, McCain,
    Shadegg, whose Reich I now live under will kill but not die for
    Israel.
    To all of them: Sherman; Waxman; Berma; Harman; Kyl; McCain;
    Shadegg — I say GO THERE — face the daily threat of
    Palestinian bottle rockets. Leave us alone. When Usrael,
    because of these Congressional sluts, attacks Iran, it’s over.
    Linda: my husband is friends with Kubrick’s cinematographer,
    but I don’t think this guy did Dr. Strangelove.

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  8. ... says:

    elliot abrams directly responsible for encouraging the war in iraq, and wigwag thinks he was helpful in moving peace along in the me… interesting… i thought e abrams was a front for aipac and israel… when the usa decides to bring back a law for dealing with traitors they can use elliot abrams as an example. until then the usa is screwed…

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  9. WigWag says:

    Maybe you can explain, JohnH, if no progress between Abbas and Olmert had been made during the Bush/Rice/Abrams era, why Abbas is now insisting that the negotiations with Netanyahu pick up at the point they ended with Olmert. The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz both claim that Netanyahu objects to this.
    It seems to me that this is pretty strong evidence that the parties had made progress. If they hadn’t, Abbas wouldn’t feel so strongly about using his understandings with Olmert as the starting point for new negotiations and Netanyahu wouldn’t be objecting so vehemently.
    However you feel about Abrams, it seems pretty clear that during the last year of the Bush Administration he accomplished more than Obama and Mitchell have in their first nine months.

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  10. JohnH says:

    Wigwag–The only light you were able to shed on “Elliot Abrams making progress” was that Abbas visited the White House 7 times. Without more evidence, it seems to me that you’re clutching at straws to assert that any progress was being made.
    And your assertion that Hamas “derided and objected to every meeting.” Of course they objected! They were excluded, even though they were elected to represent the Palestinian people. Wouldn’t you object?

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  11. samuelburke says:

    “The current propaganda-as-news derives from Obama’s announcement that the US is scrapping missiles stationed on Russia’s border. This serves to cover the fact that the number of US missile sites is actually expanding in Europe and the “redundant” missiles are being redeployed on ships. The game is to mollify Russia into joining, or not obstructing, the US campaign against Iran. “President Bush was right,” said Obama, “that Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat [to Europe and the US].” That Iran would contemplate a suicidal attack on the US is preposterous. The threat, as ever, is one-way, with the world’s superpower virtually ensconced on Iran’s borders.
    Iran’s crime is its independence. Having thrown out America’s favorite tyrant, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran remains the only resource-rich Muslim state beyond US control. As only Israel has a “right to exist” in the Middle East, the US goal is to cripple the Islamic Republic. This will allow Israel to divide and dominate the region on Washington’s behalf, undeterred by a confident neighbor. If any country in the world has been handed urgent cause to develop a nuclear “deterrence,” it is Iran.
    As one of the original signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has been a consistent advocate of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In contrast, Israel has never agreed to an IAEA inspection, and its nuclear weapons plant at Dimona remains an open secret. Armed with as many as 200 active nuclear warheads, Israel “deplores” UN resolutions calling on it to sign the NPT, just as it deplored the recent UN report charging it with crimes against humanity in Gaza, just as it maintains a world record for violations of international law. It gets away with this because great power grants it immunity.”
    http://original.antiwar.com/pilger/2009/09/30/the-lying-game-how-we-are-prepared-for-another-war-of-aggression/

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  12. Linda says:

    Pauline,
    Thanks for the above and reminding us about Abrams’ and neocons plans to transform the Middle East. Not only did the Cold War and military-industrial complex start in Truman administration, but also Israel became a nation, a good thing, of course. But it always was and always will be “dangerously delusional” to believe that U.S. can transform the Middle East with Israel at its center.
    Wigwag and others have had good ideas. I just hope that Obama and Clinton or at least someone on their foreign and military policy staffs is reading this thread and thinking very hard about the period from 1945-1957 and the lessons of history to be learned.

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  13. pauline says:

    in July, 2006 –
    “Since he joined the Bush administration in 2002 as the chief Middle East adviser at the White House’s National Security Council, Elliott Abrams has quietly pushed for a transformational Middle East policy with Israel at its center. If one U.S. official were to be blamed-aside from the president, vice president, and secretary of state-for the U.S. government’s disastrous stance with Israel in the recent war, it would be Elliot Abrams. Perhaps more than any other member of Bush’s foreign policy team, Abrams embodies the administration’s zealous, ideological, and dangerously delusional vision of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
    Abrams, a neoconservative who has dedicated himself to reshaping U.S. foreign policy since the mid-1970s, is the Bush administration’s point man for Middle East transformation. According to Seymour Hersh writing in the August 21 New Yorker, Cheney’s foreign policy staff and Abrams in early summer had signed off on an Israeli plan to wipe out Hezbollah.
    During the first administration Abrams was the NSC chief of Middle Eastern and Northern African Affairs. “I have two-thirds of the axis of evil,” he boasted, according to a New Yorker essay (Feb. 10, 2005). Abrams wears two hats in the second Bush administration, serving as the chief of the president’s “Global Democracy Strategy” and also serving as a top deputy to National Security Adviser Hadley. Although closely involved in all Middle East policy, Abrams’ official NSC role is addressing “Israeli-Palestinian” affairs. But Abrams has long insisted on referring to Israel-Palestine tensions as an “Israel-Arab” conflict that is artfully disguised as a self-determination conflict.”
    http://www.counterpunch.org/barry08252006.html
    Need anymore on this convicted criminal?

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  14. samuelburke says:

    the afghan election is off limits…the political oxen are muzzled,
    they seem to know which stories to touch and which not to
    touch.
    “Peter Galbraith, the second highest ranking official at the United
    Nations’ Mission to Afghanistan, was sacked today by the body
    following a public falling out with mission chief Kai Eide
    regarding last month’s fraudulent election in the nation.”
    http://news.antiwar.com/2009/09/30/top-un-official-ousted-
    after-calling-for-investigation-into-afghan-vote-fraud/

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  15. Linda says:

    Just watched Ken Burns on Charlie Rose, and his next big project will be the Vietnam War–very appropriate because this year feels a lot like 1965 all over again.
    Wigwag,
    Kahn also died young (morbidly obese)and had left RAND to form his own think tank, the Hudson Institute that was in NY up the Hudson. It still is a conservative think tank but moved to Indiana many years ago.
    Much of the Cold War and start of the military-industrial complex began at end of WWII. In 1945, Truman authorized Operation Paper Clip that brought Von Braun and many German scientists to U.S. Wiki has the basics on that.
    And in 1946 the Air Force started Project RAND (research and development)that was contracted to Douglas Aircraft Corp. In 1948, RAND split from Douglas and was incoporated as a nonprofit corporation.
    Terry Southern also wrote the screenplay for “Dr. Strangelove.” It is full of little puns and references to many real people and events. As Brigid mentioned the Air Force General Buck Turgidson is based on Curtis LeMay and was played brilliantly by George C. Scott.
    Another bit of “Dr. Strangelove” movie trivia is that it was James Earl Jones’ first film–He’s one of the bomber crew members in the final scenes of the movie.
    Peter Sellers brilliantly plays three roles: Dr. Strangelove, U.S. President, and one that is usually forgotten, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British exchange RAF officer who is at the U.S. military base where the whole thing starts. He’s assigned to the deranged U.S. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper decides to launch an unauthorized nuclear attack on USSR.
    I mention this because I watched “Dr. Stangelove” last year. It not only holds up over time, but one scene has new meaning today. At one point, Mandrake is trying to get Ripper to surrender and tell people the recall code which happens to be OPE (Everybody called Oppenheimer Oppie.)
    Anyhow Mandrake is trying desperately to distract or quiet Ripper who is totally insane, talking fast and goes into a several minute very fast and forced speech something like this, “I know, Jack, it’s terrible. War is terrible. I was captured and tortured by the Japs.” He then goes for a while about how awful the torture was. It’s a much more chilling scene today than it was in 1964.
    It’s definitely worth renting and watching again or for the first time.

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  16. WigWag says:

    “Wigwag said, “When Eliot Abrams was working at the White House more progress was being made between the Israelis and Palestinians than at any time since Obama took office.” If you are going to make outrageous claims, please do us the courtesy of showing some supporting evidence.” (JohnH)
    Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas met at least seven times during the last year of the Bush Administration (2008); as you surely know Eliot Abrams worked for the White House at the time.
    In addition to the numerous meetings between Olmert and Abbas where substantive issues were discussed, then Foreign Minister Livni met with Palestinian representatives, Qurei and Erekat numerous times during the Bush/Rice/Abrams era.
    Hamas objected to every one of these meetings and derided them at every opportunity.
    Since Obama took office, Netanyahu and Abbas have met exactly once, during the photo op in New York arranged to avoid embarassing Obama.
    But for Obama’s extremely unwise decision to place a spotlight on the settlement freeze issue, the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President would have been meeting for the last seven months. Virtually everyone, including harsh critics of Israel, now acknowledge that the Obama/Mitchell focus on freezing settlements was a serious tactical blunder that has wasted alot of time.
    Now, despite Obama’s stern message to the parties last week, no negotiating sessions are scheduled. I happily admit that the jury is still out, but so far, Bush/Abrams did alot more than Obama/Mitchell.
    One of the proofs of this is that Abbas is now insisting that the negotiations pick up at the place where his discussions with Olmert left off; Netanyahu objects. If you were correct and no progress had been made during Abrams time in office, Abbas wouldn’t care about negotiations starting where they left of with Olmert.

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  17. ... says:

    johnh – wigwag makes outrageous claims without backing them up with anything other then his pompousness… that’s good enough for him, even if it isn’t for you or i…

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  18. WigWag says:

    “And the actual character of “Dr. Strangelove” was based on a combination of Werner von Braun (more for the accent and perhaps Edward Teller) but mostly on Herman Kahn of RAND. That is well documented in Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi’s 2005 biography, “The Worlds of Herman Kahn.” (Linda)
    Linda, I had always been under the impression that Edward Teller was man caricatured by “Dr. Strangelove.”
    By the way, a terrific book (it reads like a novel) about Teller and the whole crew of Americans working in the defense establishment in the early days of the Cold War is “Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller.” It’s by Gregg Herken and it’s out in paperback (but regrettably not yet on Kindle).
    Oppenheimer himself was not only a fascinating figure who led a fascinating life, but unlike Teller, he opposed the American production of the thermonuclear bomb.
    What’s fascinating is that Oppenheimer and Kennan became fast friends. Oppenheimer invited Kennan to Princeton (Institute for Advanced Study) in November, 1949 and they participated in a series of classified seminars on production of what was then called “the Super” (the hydrogen bomb). The two men had a lot in common (they were both born in 1904) but in many ways they were very different. Kennan came from a patrician family from Wisconsin while Oppenheimer was a Jew from New York. They were both highly educated and very intellectual; in addition to his love for physics, Oppenheimer actually read the Bhagavad Gita in the original language.
    During the test of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, Oppenheimer famously quoted from the Bhagavad Gita: when he said, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one and now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
    Kennan spent his entire life trying to reinterpret his message about containment and the contents of his famous article “X.” In 1996 he gave an interview to CNN where he said,
    “My thoughts about containment were of course distorted by the people who understood it and pursued it exclusively as a military concept; and I think that that, as much as any other cause, led to [the] 40 years of unnecessary, fearfully expensive and disoriented process of the Cold War.”
    At the end of the day, Teller out maneuvered both Oppenheimer and Kennan and the hydrogen bomb was built.
    It’s quite interesting to speculate about what would have happened had Oppenheimer and Kennan prevailed instead of Teller.
    Both Kennan and Oppenheimer ended up embittered. Kennan spent most of the rest of his life at the IAS. He wrote several wonderful books including two on the origins of World War I which I really loved.
    I wonder what would have happened had Kennan’s actual concept of containment prevailed.
    By the way, Oppenheimer died relatively young (age 63) while Kennan got the best revenge of all; very long life. He died at the age of 101 in 2005.

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  19. JohnH says:

    Wigwag said, “When Eliot Abrams was working at the White House more progress was being made between the Israelis and Palestinians than at any time since Obama took office.” If you are going to make outrageous claims, please do us the courtesy of showing some supporting evidence.

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  20. Martin says:

    Steve this was a great article. Hopefully the Obama administration will use a similar method since our current context is quite similar with so many competing and relevant players. I am going to put the Solarium Exercise down as the one new thing I learned today.

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  21. brigid says:

    @ Wigwag
    RE: Democratic Hawks
    My earliest political recollections were frequented with comments in the political season about people who were reticent about voting for a Democrat because “they will get us into another war.” The Republican Party used to be the party of isolationism, and the Democrats were the party of internationalism and a strong military posture. I believe those roles shifted with Vietnam and Nixon, and the legacy of the McGovern candidacy when Democrats got tagged with the label of “weak on defense” and have been living it down ever since.

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  22. Ken says:

    Most of the Solarium summaries, as well as the formal result, NSC 162/2, have been declassified so it’s possible to consult them for any relevant lessons. It’s worth pointing out a few further details:
    1. Solarium had two main purposes: a) to bury “rollback,” as noted above; b) to come up with a viable operational plan for waging the Cold War. All there was to date was the Truman administration’s NSC 68. In spite of that document’s bureaucratic and expository value, it provided no practical guidance at all apart from urging a huge increase in defense expenditure. Eisenhower was right to toss it in the dustbin and start from scratch.
    2. The result of Solarium was not merely to restore containment as the overall policy. Teams A, B, and C did not present single options, per se. Eisenhower did not choose, and/or convince the participants to choose, one over the others. Rather, he took elements of all three to devise something like a composite plan.
    3. The thrust of this plan was to add the critical element of deterrence to containment and to underscore the importance of allies. These elements were lacking in both Kennan’s original conception and NSC 68.
    During the past few years there have been several efforts to replicate the Solarium exercise by Michele Flournoy, Chris Preble and perhaps others outside government. If anything like this happened inside government, it probably remains classified and hasn’t yet come to light. But one suspects it would be very difficult to do a similar exercise in the White House today, given the very different nature of the place from what it was in 1953. It also requires someone in charge like Eisenhower with an instinctive grasp of the political, military and even economic dimensions of power.
    If it were to happen, it should probably be cast more widely than around just one or two specific, near term crises. It could look at the overall US approach to global security: one team could be predominantly isolationist; another could be “liberal internationalist”; another could be “liberal interventionist”; and yet another could be neoconservative interventionist, and so on. A similar set of variables of cost, public support and effectiveness could also be considered with the aim of deriving something like a synthesis.
    There is no reason why such an exercise could not result in a new containment strategy. But again, it must include the element of deterrence. Today’s threats to the US are both ideological and geopolitical, and are probably even harder to contain than Soviet power once was. The main thing is to deter them from doing real damage. Containment simply cannot work otherwise. With each successful attack, the appeal of their ideology will grow stronger as our own demoralization, confusion and overreach become more severe.

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  23. Paul Norheim says:

    A “Solarium template” for Iran would probably also consist of three teams: the first
    arguing for crippling sanctions, the second for nuking the enrichment sites, and the
    third for military actions to topple the regime.
    It often looks like the United States is deliberately painting itself and its allies
    into a corner where different forms of violence are the only options left – as if
    imagination and the innovative spirit have left Washington and moved to Hollywood
    and Silicon Valley. The main difference between the Bush administration and the
    Obama administration is that the latter seems to distrust the outcome of those
    options, but nevertheless continues to paint itself into the same corner, perhaps
    out of old habits, but more likely due to pressure.

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  24. WigWag says:

    “On the other hand, one would have to worry that Obama would create three teams: one lead by Dennis Ross, one lead by Martin Indyk and one lead by Elliot Abrams…”
    When Eliot Abrams was working at the White House more progress was being made between the Israelis and Palestinians than at any time since Obama took office.
    Be dismissive of Abrams if you want to; but during the last year of the Bush Administration, the parties to the dispute negotiatied constantly. With Obama and Mitchell, there’s been no progress at all.
    Indyk who just got a promotion at Brookings is one of the authors of the “borders first” idea that looks increasingly likely to be the order of the day when negotiations start.
    As for Dennis Ross, it wasn’t him who briefed the President before his terrible meeting with the Saudi King. Ross was brought into the White House precisely because Obama’s meeting went so badly.
    What exactly has Mitchell accomplished? As far as I can tell; the answer is nothing.
    But don’t worry, Dan, it will only be a matter of months before Mitchell is out and Ross is calling the shots again.

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  25. David says:

    Once again, thank you, John Waring.

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  26. Dan Kervick says:

    “I do actually think a Solarium template would also be good for Israel/Palestine — would dramatically improve, I think, the thinking and the scenario trade-offs”.
    This sounds true in principle Steve. On the other hand, one would have to worry that Obama would create three teams: one lead by Dennis Ross, one lead by Martin Indyk and one lead by Elliot Abrams. Abrams would lead the team charged with making the case that Israel is right 100% of the time; Ross would lead the team charged with making the case that Israel is right 98% of the time; and Indyk would lead the team charged with making the case that Israel is right only 96% of the time. James Zogby might be made head of an honorary team charged with making falafel for the other three guys.
    Seriously, anything Obama could do that would elevate reason and deliberation over rhetoric, talking points and personalities would be welcome.

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  27. John Waring says:

    In his Sept 7th article in the LA Times, Mr. Bacevich writes there are five points about which the President should reassure the American people should he decide to go “all in” on Afghanistan.
    1. Afghanistan constitutes a vital national security interest — victory in this primitive, impoverished, landlocked and distant county will contribute materially to driving a stake through he heart of violent jihadism.
    2. Armed nation-building — securing the Afghan population, developing the economy, building legitimate institutions, eliminating corruption and drug trafficking — provides the most realistic and effective way to satisfy those interests.
    3. The failure of past efforts by other great powers to impose their will on Afghanistan is beside the point — history has no relevant lessons to teach.
    4. The United States possesses the money, troops, expertise, and the will to get the job done — not withstanding the recession, the mushrooming deficit, the diminishing enthusiasm of our allies, the stress and strain already endured by US forces, and the uneven performance of government agencies in the analogous US effort to “fix” Iraq.
    5. No other priorities, foreign or domestic, exist that outrank Afghanistan and should have first call on the resources that years of additional war will consume — several hundred billion dollars and several hundred additional American lives by a conservative estimate.
    Mr. Bacevich concludes that such a task of reassurance may be beyond the formidable persuasive powers of even this President. Perhaps we need to take second thought. “What alternatives other than open-ended war might enable the United States to achieve its limited interests in Afghanistan?” Indeed.
    Let us encourage the Administration’s to respond to Mr. Bacevich’s insipid draught of common sense.
    Here’s the link to the entire article:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-bacevich7-2009sep07,0,5826004.story

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  28. Linda says:

    Actually there is one more bit of history I can add to show how wise Eisenhower was. After Sputnik in 1957, there was fear of a space and missile gap. So in the late 50s there was a federal commission appointed to study that headed by Rowan Gaither, one of the founding Board of RAND. They found a missile gap, but Eisenhower didn’t take it too seriously.
    In the 1960 election Kennedy ran against Nixon on a platform that was very hawkish, i.e., we have to close the missile gap as well as increase our nuclear power. Decades later (I’m not sure when) we learned that there really was no missile gap. Indeed it was a real as Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.
    And the actual character of “Dr. Strangelove” was based on a combination of Werner von Braun (more for the accent and perhaps Edward Teller) but mostly on Herman Kahn of RAND. That is well documented in Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi’s 2005 biography, “The Worlds of Herman Kahn.” As she reports it:
    “Kubrick had originally intended to make a serious movie about nuclear war. His working title was borrowed from Albert Wohlstetter’s famous “Foreign Affairs” article. It was called “The Delicate Balance of Terror.”
    Note that Wohlstetter was teacher and mentor to many of the neocons.
    Kahn had a good sense of humor as did Kubrick. They had dinner to talk about nuclear war and the movie, and that’s when Kubrick decided to make a more satirical and humorous movie.

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  29. JohnH says:

    Fascinating to see you folks trying to parse the difference between the War Parties. Anyone who remembers the days of Nixon’s bombing Hanoi would be hard pressed to see Nixon as less hawkish than anybody on the planet. And as for reaching out to China, that was a gamble to peel the Maoists from the Soviets. It should be read as a complement to the basic strategy of confronting the Soviets, not a departure from it.
    The unfortunate collateral damage resulting from the end of the Cold War is that a ridiculous narrative developed–if you’re implacable and intransigent for long enough, you always win. A lot of things contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union. Some of them were unique to the Soviet situation and totally unrelated to the mythic story of US implacable confrontation being the sole cause of the collapse. Nonetheless implacable intransigence has been US policy since Bush took office. And it hasn’t worked anywhere. It has only emboldened those who are intransigent and belligerent to refuse any attempt to address problems.
    But the era of implacable intransigence cannot last much longer. As US influence in the world becomes irrelevant due to its intransigent positions, soon somebody will wake up and start asking if we shouldn’t address problems instead of letting them fester forever. That’s when America’s “position” in the world will start to recover.

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  30. WigWag says:

    You make a great point, Brigid; I hadn’t thought about that. It’s actually quite ironic that on foreign policy and defense issues, if anything Kennedy ran to the right of Nixon. And despite his secret war in Cambodia, his “Vietnamization” program (which is now being recapitulated in Iraq and may well yet be again in Afghanistan) and his terrible policy in Chile, Nixon and Ford were, if anything, to the left of Kennedy and Johnson.
    And as I said earlier, on defense matters and foreign affairs, Jimmy Carter was as much of a “hawk” as Ronald Reagan.
    Nixon was such an interesting figure and although he’s talked about alot, he’s rarely mentioned at the Washington Note. I think this is a real pity because Steve Clemons is a genuine Nixon expert and has many colleagues who could tell us alot about Nixon.
    If my memory serves me well, from time to time, Steve has done posts on things like “What would Nixon have done;” personally I wish there were more of that.
    I am particularly interested in the consistencies and differences between Eisenhower’s foreign policy and Nixon’s foreign policy. I’m also interested in how they formulated their policy agendas. In this post, Steve mentions the Solarium exercise utilized by Eisenhower; did Nixon ever use a similar process? I think it’s actually quite remarkable how far to the left Nixon’s and Eisenhower’s foreign policies were compared to their Democratic contemporaries.
    Last year I read Arthur M. Schlesinger Jrs. “Diaries”; he provided quite alot of insight into Democratic presidents but, naturally enough, very little insight into Republican presidents. I always thought it would be fascinating to read the journal of the Republican version of Schlesinger. Steve Clemons never commented on it, but William Safire died this week. I wonder whether he had insights into Nixon similar to Schlesinger’s insights about Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson.
    Anyway, it’s extraordinary how much the neocons led by the late Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz have captured the foreign policy agenda of the Republicans; the days of Republicans worrying about the military industrial complex or pursuing policies like detente are long gone.
    Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!

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  31. Zathras says:

    The account of the so-called Solarium exercise linked to here strongly suggests that it was conducted for the benefit of some of President Eisenhower’s associates more than it was for Eisenhower himself.
    Eisenhower, more experienced in most aspects of power’s exercise that almost any of the people he consulted, appears to have understood quite clearly and in detail what he wanted with respect to the Cold War. His approach differed from that of the Truman administration largely in his preference for a smaller conventional military establishment, the deterrent capacity of which lay to a greater extent in the American nuclear arsenal. The advantage of this approach was that it was less expensive; the disadvantage — a pretty significant one — is that it sharpened the edges of any significant conflict, making the choice between backing down before the Soviets and risking escalation to the point of nuclear war harder to avoid.
    The main line of Eisenhower’s policy toward Europe, the central theater of the early Cold War years, closely followed the one he had inherited from Truman. So also did his policy toward Japan (Dulles, his Secretary of State, had after all negotiated the peace treaty with the Japanese). Where Eisenhower ran into trouble later in his tenure, and where the Solarium exercise did not appear to help him much at all, was in dealing with the Cold War, and America’s Cold War allies, in what later became known as the Third World. He badly alienated European allies over Suez in 1956, ignored Latin America, and handed his successor troublesome and unresolved problems there and in Southeast Asia.
    Eisenhower’s planning process was directed at the problems his predecessor had faced, a significant shortcoming. In any event, President Obama today faces a different problem than Eisenhower did. Eisenhower had to bring often reluctant associates around to supporting his policy choices; Obama needs help making the choices in the first place. This is not a criticism of Obama, merely a commentary on his inexperience in this aspect of the Presidency.

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  32. brigid says:

    @ Wigwag
    Your point about the aggressive stance of Dem. “cold warriors” is well taken. Few here would remember the campaign of 1960 and that it was largely won on the Kennedy rhetoric about the “missile gap” of ICBMs, fueled by the shock of Russia’s earlier Sputnik launch.

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  33. Steve Clemons says:

    Wig — greetings and great points. I do actually think a Solarium
    template would also be good for Israel/Palestine — would
    dramatically improve, I think, the thinking and the scenario trade-
    offs….all best, steve

    Reply

  34. pauline says:

    JohnH wrote,
    “So why not invest some money in intelligence and police work, and skip all the expensive military stuff?”
    Intelligence and warmongering don’t seem to go together. Is the unmentioned war economy starting to win again? If the US economy was truly “turning around”, shouldn’t we be investing in educational opportunities for new and re-trained workers? Shouldn’t the banks be ready to lend after their huge, huge bailouts?
    But what if the US economy is not really “turning around” as the many planted economists claim? What if the US economy is in fact about to sink deep into a real depression, then is the war economy the only game to play?
    If the US economy was truly turning around, why the millions of houses now vacant? What silly government program is next — bulldoze down the empty houses and clean up the big mess? And just wait until the banks are forced to remove the inflated prices for the real estate on their books and show the true values for all this beaten-down real estate! BTW, the country’s 2nd largest shopping mall owner has now bellied-up. The 2nd largest!! Wait, didn’t Joe Blow the economist say on TV things were “turning around”??
    The military-industrial-complex will have us fighting the war-on-terror on the moon if necessary. The wonderful jobs created in Colorado or Missouri making armaments for the war in Afghanistan will further justify the war economy.
    Now I get it. The president’s “green jobs” are making zillions of green dollars for the bomb makers.

    Reply

  35. Outraged American says:

    Pakistan is a security threat? To India, but there are a few
    rational players in Pakistan, and I would suggest we work to
    stabilize Pakistan with them rather than bomb Quetta.
    Unlike Iran, Pakistan does have nukes, so a stable Pakistan is a
    good Pakistan. Down, sit, stay. You stay and I’ll give you a
    bone. Sorry, I was typing to my dog. But the same rules do
    apply to foreign policy or should.
    Bombing does tend to rile up a populace. See: Iraq; the Gaza
    Strip; Afghanistan; the Germs, who still haven’t gotten over
    Dresden and are now about to launch the Forth Reich with the
    enemy of their enemies, Israel.
    I blame that whole German- Israel “alliance” and the rise of the
    right in Deutschland on Germany’s Gastarbeiter program,
    because what better way to get a population obsessed with
    racial purity than to import some darkies?
    There’s a poster over on antiwar.com who is actually attempting
    to explain Germany’s stance on Iran, who I think is me because
    of his fluency in German and grasp of German politics.
    MoonofA
    If you click on the “comments” to this article, at the bottom you
    will find his translations from German to English of the lies and
    truths being spewed to Germans about Iran’s non-existent nuke
    program.
    For once the US intelligence agencies are acting semi-rationally,
    while EuroIsrael (and over the last few years a now very powerful
    Israel lobby/ media has been operating in the EU) are the ones
    who are HYSTERIcal. Blame Freud.
    http://tinyurl.com/ylkxcbv

    Reply

  36. WigWag says:

    “Eisenhower came in to office with a bunch of Republican hawks like John Foster Dulles and Curtis LeMay in his national security apparatus –and the general view that Ike’s advisers had was that “containment” of the Soviet Union as articulated by George Kennan and adopted by Harry Truman was a hybrid of weakness and appeasement.” (Steve Clemons)
    There’s no question that Eisenhower, like every President of both parties that came after him perverted Kennan’s concept of “containment.” Kennan argued right up until the time of his death that what he meant by containment was misunderstood and that he intended a far less belligerent and militarily aggressive posture towards the Soviets than the United States adopted.
    When asked whether Reagan’s arms build-up shortened the Cold War, Kennan demurred and suggested that it had actually lengthened the Cold War.
    With that said, I think it’s very interesting that contrary to popular belief, it was Democratic Presidents not Republican Presidents who were the most ardent Cold Warriors. Democrats perverted Kennan’s concept of “containment” far more than Republicans did. Eisenhower expressed skepticism of the “military industrial complex” and had grave doubts about American involvement in Indochina. Kennedy, on the other hand, confronted the Soviets everywhere he could; in Cuba, in Viet Nam, in Berlin. Kennedy’s Democratic successor, Johnson, is the one who ramped up America’s involvement in Viet Nam based on the advice of McGeorge Bundy and articulated the domino theory to stoke fear of the Soviets.
    When Eisenhower’s Vice President became President, he reached out to the Chinese Communists and he (along with Kissinger) instituted detente. Nixon’s policies towards the Soviets were adopted by Gerald Ford who famously said in a Presidential debate with then candidate Carter that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Carter ridiculed the comment and suggested it proved that Ford was dimwitted.
    After his election, Carter discarded detente, and reignited the Cold War by adopting policies that the Soviets viewed as extremely hostile in Afghanistan, Iran, South America and Europe. Of course, Carter’s intense disdain of the Soviets was aided and abetted by the greatest Cold Warrior of all time, none other than Steve Clemson’s hero, Zbignew Brzezinski.
    While many on both the left and the right like to delude themselves that Ronald Reagan was the fiercest Cold Warrior in American history, it simply isn’t true. Most of Ronald Reagan’s strategies for confronting the Soviets came right out of the Jimmy Carter playbook.
    If Steve Clemons point in this post is that is that a humbler, more creative foreign policy can be facilitated by the type of process that Eisenhower utilized, then I think he has a point.
    And if the solarium exercise works so well maybe Obama should consider utilizing it for his policy towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict; after all, that doesn’t appear to be working out either, does it?

    Reply

  37. brigid says:

    Gen. Curtis Lemay was the inspiration for the paranoid, deranged air force general in the movie, “Dr. Strangelove.” If Eisenhower could resist Gen. Lemay, as did Kennedy, Obama can resist Mullen, McChrystal, and Petraeus and their expansionist views of the Afghan war. In this case Obama would have solid public opinion on his side. I’m betting he is going to steer another path, in the direction of focusing on Pakistan, which is the true security threat. I’m betting Richard Holbrooke will have the most clout. The leaking of the McChrystal report was a brazen move by the hawks and will backfire. I don’t see a massive build-up happening.

    Reply

  38. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The Obama’s workshop on Afghanistan should be focusing on the civil force-orchestrated strategies in stead of making hard intrusive actions.The presently conveyed US policy to making air strikes inside the Baluchistan-based vicinity is by all means tantamount to provoking a feeling of national insecurity in the people of Pakistan.Therefore, the Obama administration must positively work out a policy free from the negative influence of centrifugal forces in the region.

    Reply

  39. Dan Kervick says:

    If Barbara, Ashton and Demi are not part of this meeting, I don’t see how we can expect anything sound to come out of it.
    Seriously, I hope the full policy review process is drawing on a more diverse collection of perspectives than are represented by just this group. The Eisenhower exercise sounds excellent.

    Reply

  40. JohnH says:

    Containment? We’re tying to contain Al Qaeda? They have no possibility of holding any territory. So what’s to contain?
    If it’s terrorism, why not consider good police work to arrest criminals? Sure that depends on good investigators developing reliable intelligence. But you need that anyway, if you’re going to conduct effective military action. And apparently, intelligence is what’s missing in the whole Afghan operation–in all senses of the word.
    So why not invest some money in intelligence and police work, and skip all the expensive military stuff?

    Reply

  41. samuelburke says:

    “Eisenhower, however, was more cautious and circumspect than his team.
    Ike ordered a five week review of policy — assigning three teams with very different perspectives”
    Steve, does anyone at these meeting represent the civilian afghanys being killed by our military?
    in other words, is anyone at these meeting charged with pointing out how many civilian deaths can be charged to the military in a nuremberg type trial, in an unforseen future?
    ought not a humanitarian govt be concerned with how effective our military methods are in safeguarding civilian populations?
    is the achievement of our military goals in afghanistan not accountable to humanitarian concerns, such as civilians murdered by our militay methods; which seem to be unaccountable to any humanitarian consideration of the people in whose nations these activites take place.
    do our moral pontifications over what we oversaw against the nazis at nuremberg not apply to us?

    Reply

  42. John Waring says:

    Where are the contrarians?
    Without people like Andrew Bacevich and Patrick Lang in the room, all the American people will get is a rubber stamp of the views of the defense establishment.
    Without people like Andrew Bacevich and Patrick Lang in the room, the fundamental questions will not get asked.
    I truly fear another pointless tragedy is in the making.
    And I fear Mr. Bacevich is correct, that we Americans are seduced by war.

    Reply

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