Friday, December 2, 2016

Why Cold War Espionage Matters

In many histories of the Cold War, the narrative implies that, if there were communist spies inside the U.S. government, then their task there would have been to steal classified information and send it to Moscow. Such histories also imply that, if these spies didn’t manage to succeed in stealing and relaying such secrets, then no harm was done.

But recent scholarship by Stan Evans and Herbert Romerstein reveals a more complex narrative.

Soviet operatives planted in both social and governmental institutions served not only to obtain confidential information and send it back to the USSR, but they also had other functions. They were often tasked with subtly influencing U.S. policy decisions.

This is seen, e.g., in the fact that one of President Roosevelt’s advisors was on the payroll of a Soviet intelligence agency. Alger Hiss, who gave advice to FDR in face-to-face meetings, was actually a Soviet agent.

Hiss nudged Roosevelt to make decisions which were not in the best interests of the United States, but rather decisions which favored Stalin’s imperialistic expansionism. As Evans and Romerstein write,

Thus far our analysis and conclusions track closely with the views of others who have examined the relevant data and written about these matters. At this point, however, the story as we see it diverges sharply from that set forth in some other volumes — the main difference concerning the seemingly pervasive notion in Cold War studies that the major if not the only problem posed by Communists on official payrolls was that of spying. In what seems to be the now standard version of the subject, it’s assumed or said that the chief danger presented by Soviet agents in the United States was the theft of military or diplomatic secrets. Conversely, it’s implied though seldom explicitly stated that if such spying didn’t happen, the presence of Communists on official payrolls was not a huge security problem.

In hindsight, the chief danger posed by Soviet intelligence operatives, and the chief damage caused by them, was perhaps not in the stealing of secrets, but in the manipulation of U.S. policymakers.

Tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of deaths around the globe can be traced to the fact that U.S. diplomacy was skewed to favor the international communist conspiracy.

The failure of the United States, the UK, and other nations to enthusiastically support Chiang Kai-shek against Mao led to the deaths of millions of Chinese when Mao’s dictatorship mercilessly oppressed that nation.

Unchecked communist expansionism in Korea, southeast Asia, and eastern Europe was encouraged by hesitant American foreign policy.

In the mid-1940s, communist infiltration into various offices of the U.S. government set the state for decades of damage, caused by deliberately misguided foreign policies.