Dark Ages America and Post War Presidents

12/24/2006 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The title of this piece comes from the book by Morris Berman, Dark Ages America, which was published in 2006. It is a terrific review of the causes of the decline of the "American Empire" after WW II. Berman has made the case through his well-documented book that the Cold War was a product of the Truman Administration and NSC-68 (National Security Council Directive #68) authored by Paul Nitze.

Paul Nitze was a co-founder of Team B, a 1970s intelligence think tank that challenged the National Intelligence Estimates provided by the CIA. The Team B reports became the intellectual foundation for the idea of "the window of vulnerability" and of the massive arms buildup that began toward the end of the Carter administration and accelerated under President Reagan. Team B came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed new weapons of mass destruction and had aggressive strategies with regard to a potential nuclear war. Team B's analysis of Soviet weapon systems was later proven to be largely exaggerated. This think tank was largely based upon the neo-conservative views of Leo Strauss and became the precursor to the document called PNAC (Project For New American Century) which became the Bush Doctrine after 9/11.

Below is a quote from the Berman book about the Truman Doctrine which set the tone for U.S. post War policy which was a direct product of NSC-68.

"The Truman administration felt that selling such a policy to Congress and the public at large would make it necessary, in the telling phrase of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, "to scare the hell out of the American people." Secretary of State Dean Acheson indicated that it would be necessary to use dramatic language, such as "the free versus the enslaved world." As General Douglas MacArthur later put it, the government kept the American people in a perpetual state of fear, and in "a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor." (The same sort of Machiavellian politics, of course, was resurrected when "terrorism" replaced communism after 9/11. Indeed, the similarities between the Truman and Bush Jr. administrations in this regard, and in the tactic of governing through fear, are quite obvious.)"

Nitze and the other Neo-cons were also responsible for undermining the Presidency of Jimmy Carter who was an anomaly in the Cold War period. Berman's description in his book about the Carter Administration is in stark contrast to the prevailing views. Berman's view is quite interesting.

"The Carter presidency is so anomalous, particularly in terms of the post-war pattern of U.S. foreign policy, that it is initially hard to conceive how it ever happened. Timing accounts for much of it. America had just suffered an ignominious defeat in Vietnam, and the morality of the entire venture looked shabby in the extreme. The Church Committee had conducted a congressional investigation into the dirty tricks of the CIA, focusing especially on the overthrow of Salvador Allende. Gerald Ford had pardoned Richard Nixon immediately after the latter resigned, thus making the squalor of Watergate even more squalid. All in all. U.S. government morality and image were at ebb tide; it was a confused and demoralized time. Enter in 1976, Jimmy Carter, a "Christian" candidate, low-key and self-effacing, who spoke to the need for some national soul searching. "We're ashamed of what our government is as we deal with other nations around the world, he announced on the campaign trail-astonishing rhetoric. "What we seek is ... a foreign policy that reflects the decency and generosity and common sense of our own people." Over and over, in hundreds of speeches and interviews, Carter reiterated that the United States had gone through a loss of spirit and morality. A foreign policy dominated by rivalry with the USSR, he maintained, was an obsession whose logic led directly to Vietnam (the latter, in short, was no "detour"). The time was over for blaming an enemy for our own problems, he declared; rather, the time had come to look within ourselves, to put our own moral house in order. Carter attacked the realpolitik of Henry Kissinger and the U.S. role in Chile; the time had come, he maintained (this in 1977), to move beyond "that inordinate fear...."

It is not surprising that the Carter Administration was doomed to failure in that it challenged strong economic and political institutions deeply entrenched in our military industrial complex. Carter was a victim of the vast "right wing conspiracy" that attacked the Clintons. They had their own agenda and they would stop at nothing to defeat Jimmy Carter including negotiating with Iran not to release the hostages until after the election of 1980. It is my view that this delay doomed the Carter re-election and started the Reagan era, a disaster for this country and the world. Yet Reagan is credited with winning the phony Cold War and Carter is ridiculed and criticized and in some circles is a contender for the worst President ever.

Carter is a man of peace and was the architect of the only lasting peace settlement in the Middle East between Israel and Egypt. The right wing and radical Zionists have criticized his recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I have read the book and found it very enlightening as to the situation in the occupied territories and the plight of the Palestinians. Carter is a genuine expert on the Arab/Israeli dispute and he has the moral authority to point out his views about the peace process that has been destroyed by the post Carter Republican Administrations. Had Reagan and the Nitze group not taken over in 1981, I believe that there would have been peace in the Middle East 20 years ago. But, the Reagan doctrine put an end to all that and George Bush has stamped the final exclamation point on this failed policy.

The dilemma of our times is that the post War history of the United States is not known by most Americans and accordingly, the people have had very little to say about our failed policies started by Truman that has culminated into the mess that we are in today. Until we better understand the failings of our past and bring to light the true events of 20th Century history, it will be difficult to go forward with a better understanding of America's place in the world community, something Jimmy Carter knew in 1977.