The puzzle of Communists killing teachers

Petr Beckmann was born in a Communist country (Czechoslovakia before the downfall of the USSR), but when he was invited in 1963 to the University of Colorado, he did not return to his Communist homeland. Here in the United States he continued his career as a professor of electrical engineering. He wrote a pamphlet called “What Attracts Intellectuals to Socialism”, where one paragraph caught my interest. Here it is:

Thus, the tens of thousands that were shipped off to the death camps after the Soviet invasion of the Baltic republics in 1939 were teachers, journalists, writers, and all others engaged in the dissemination of ideas, including leftist and communist intellectuals, a pattern repeated whenever socialism in its communo-fascist version has come to power. The most recent example of this is Cambodia, where educated people were methodically search out for execution, in addition to the 2 million who were slaughtered indiscriminately.

Beckmann goes on to describe western intellectuals who defended socialism and he addresses the paradox of what attracts intellectuals to socialism. But for this blog, which is more of a sound-bit size blog, I’ll just include the above.

An undercover couple among American leftist Utopians

In this blog I’ve talked about two people who went undercover in the left – Andy Ngo went underground amidst Antifa, and Larry Grathwohl went underground among the Weathermen. To these we can add the couple John and Louise Rees who are described in the book “The Coercive Utopians“. A burly Welshman with a red beard, John Rees came to the US in 1963. Within a few years, Rees found his new country plunged in racial disturbances, student riots, anti-war demonstrations.
Rees began to develop first-hand information on revolutionary minded groups by posing as a member. He took part in the demonstrations against the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and found acceptance was easy. He met his future wife, then a young legal secretary, at a demonstration in New York, which she watched out of curiosity. Louise says John played his part perfectly: she was trying to figure out how to get this dangerous alien deported when he told her he had ‘something to confess’.
When in 1969, SDS created its first off-campus chapter in New York, the New York Crazies, which Rees describes as an anarchistic group with a taste for street fighting, the Reeses became valued members. They ended up joining various organizations on the left.
They produced a report on radical activities titled “Information Digest.”
An author of “The Coercive Utopians” asked the Reeses how they felt toward the people with whom they lived. Louise said there was always a barrier:

Because whether you dealt with the SDS leadership or disarmament and peace activists of the Guild or IPS one theme you found was tremendous elitist contempt for ordinary Americans, hatred of blue-collar Americans because they weren’t revolutionaries, contempt for them because they didn’t want to smash and destroy, contempt for their pastimes, contempt for their marriages, contempt because they were Americans. Yet these elitists wanted to take that away from them, smash it, set up a system based on China or Cuba or Vietnam or Tanzania

There was a successful campaign by the lelft against the U.S. intelligence agencies, so the Reeses became the only people in the country keeping a steady eye on the multiplicity of institutes and revolutionary groups. The Reeses note that, of the groups they followed, the only ones the FBI are even allowed to keep files on are some elements of the Ku Klux Klan (the Reeses follow the radical right as well as the radical left), the Jewish Defense League and some elements of these groups that support the IRA. For the rest, the FBI is not even allowed to read their literature. From 1976 on, the FBI did not even collect information on the Weather Underground.

The Reeses were eventually found out, and of course the left was angry. But the Reeses offer no apologies. Louise Rees says

“If you are going to talk about deception, the culprit is the left. We have actually functioned as a consumers rights group, a sort of political consumer’s protection service. We have tried to inform the public about the political fraud practiced by these groups. If you read their public statements, their declarations of purpose, you think their only purpose is to be of service to mankind.”

The Coercive Utopians was published in 1983. You might think the book is now outdated but that’s not true at all, in fact if you read it you see many of the themes of today’s left are not new – they just weren’t as widespread as they are now. John Rees was not optimistic back then, he had been active for 15 years, and he felt there was an oncoming revolutionary flood:

There are many more activities than there were four or five years ago. The acceleration of the revolutionary movement corresponds to what happened starting in 1966 when radical movements forced the abdication of U.S. responsibilities in Southeast Asia. The teach-in movement has begun again very successfully. We would need five times as many people as we have now and resources of many thousands of dollars to put out adequate reports… The radical left is advancing on many more areas now and the involvement has broadened to include part of the labor movement and the churches. We are simply not doing a thorough enough job at this time.

Source: “The Coercive Utopians – Rael and Erich Isaac – Regnery Books 1984

Was Zionism a failure?

Recently I saw a post on Facebook by a Jewish couple who said they were moving to Israel, partly because of the bad situation in the United States. They didn’t elaborate, but I’ve heard this sentiment twice more, from two other American Jews. Again, I didn’t get the details, but a JNS article says this: according to a Brandeis Center study, 65 percent of Jewish students say that they have felt unsafe and 50 percent have hidden their Jewish identity on campus, with one in three Jewish students reporting that they’ve personally experienced anti-Semitism. Now again I don’t know the details, but I do know that a campus organization called “Students for Justice in Palestine” SJP plays a part. Anti-Israel sentiment leads to anti-Jewish sentiment. Also sentiments such as “The ‘Jewish Lobby’ has too much power in the United States” or “Zionism is a form of White Supremacy,” were encountered by Jewish students being polled which shows how Israel can be viewed by some on the left as related to the oppressive system they perceive runs the U.S.
So assuming that SJP has lots of Muslim members, we can see that perhaps these Jews who view America as less hospitable than it used to be and who as a result see Israel as a better alternative, are actually being pushed out by the Palestinian problem coming to America.
(America has lots of problems, and some on the right blame those problems on the Jews. That has led to lethal violence as well which might also be a factor in some Jews leaving)
in 2021, ten Jews a day emigrated from France, due to local Muslim hostility and Muslim attacks on them in France. Some end up in places like Miami, and some go to Israel.
It is interesting that any Jews dare go to Israel given that one Muslim nation, that is sworn on its annihilation, Iran, is developing nuclear weapons, and that north of its border, Hezbollah (the party of God), armed with large number of missiles, is also sworn on its annihilation, and on the southwest side is Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), also armed with missiles, that regularly sends missiles whizzing past Tel Aviv or to the southern towns.

In the West Bank, the “Palestinian Authority” rules some very angry anti-Jewish Palestinians, as shown in a recent event where an Arab taxi driver drove into the West Bank town of Nablus and was mistaken for a Jew (because of Hebrew lettering on his Taxi) and was violently attacked.
That government of the West Bank Palestinians was actually foisted on them by Israel. Israel let the Palestinian Liberation Organization, (which at one point specialized in hijackings and bombings), take over the Muslim population there. This happened after the first Intifada, an uprising by the West Bank Arabs. The Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin, stated that the Palestinian Authority would fight terrorism more effectively than Israelis ever could because it would operate without constraints imposed by “human rights groups and the Israeli Supreme Court.” On this rationale he let the PLO take charge. To be fair to Israel, it was making genuine sacrifices (of land for peace). But putting your sworn enemy in charge of a hostile population close to your population centers is not the brightest thing to do, even though Rabin got the Nobel Peace Prize for it.

The Muslim population is increasing disenchanted with the PA, which emphatically does not believe in democratic rights and if they had an election, the Arabs there might well elect Hamas.
So we could well ask, did Zionism work? The idea of Zionism from a religious point of view was to restore the Jews to the land that God promised them. From a secular point of view, it was a place where Jews could escape enemies in the outside world. But as we can see, enemies proliferate for the Jewish state. Even the local Arabs that have full rights under Israeli law have shown sudden animosity with Arabs surprising their Jewish neighbors in mixed towns like Lod with attacks. As a result, Jews are leaving Lod and other mixed areas for other parts of Israel.
So if Zionism was meant to avoid enemies, it obviously has failed.
My father’s family immigrated to Israel, and he fought in the war of independence. He then came to the U.S. and had a career here. He was a believer in Judaism, and once told me that if the divine plan wasn’t for Jews to be in Israel, then we had no business being there at all. Obviously many Arabs feel we have no business being there either.
There are other views of Zionism – that having a country was not a guarantee of safety, but was a place where Jews could defend themselves. If so, there is no shortage of problems to defend against, and Israel’s future existence is not all assured. In fact, Israel is up against superpowers like Russia and China. Russia has helped Iran with its nuclear program, and Russia, China, and Iran engage in joint naval maneuvers, while China invests in Iranian ports and infrastructure. (Iran, China, and Russia are also active in the new Marxist states in Latin America, but that’s for another post). Israel hopes to be on good terms with Russia and China, but perhaps that is a vain hope. Even the other superpower (the U.S.) is shaky as shown by this quote from

…a full two weeks hasn’t even passed since Joe Biden was inaugurated, yet he has already endangered the entire nation by appointing a terror tied Palestinian Muslim, Maher Bitar, to the position of Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council.

Bitar has a long history of terror associations, dating back to his time in college at Georgetown where he was on the executive board of the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which has documented ties to Islamic terrorist organizations including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).”

When elites hide info from the public for the public’s own good.

When our elected representatives hide information from us, there could be various motives.   They may feel they have done the right thing, but that the ignorant masses don’t realize what the right thing is.    Take for example schools that deny teaching Marxist thought, or Critical Race Theory.  Documents obtained by Heritage Action revealed that Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest public school district in the state of Georgia, admitted plans to teach both critical race theory and Marxist thought to students enrolled in an AP Language and AP Research Combination Class.

The syllabus was subsequently removed from the district’s website.

Tarece Johnson, the chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education, posted in Facebook that “there’s a killer cop sitting in every school where White children learn.”

This type of lying happens elsewhere too.   Other investigations from The Federalist found that school districts in both Riverside and Los Angeles blatantly lied about the presence of the anti-American theory in K-12 schools.

So the proponents of these interpretations of American History and Society realize that parents might have different and wrong interpretations, and so conclude that the parents shouldn’t know about it.

Another interesting example of protecting the public from themselves was with the disputed origin of the Corona virus.

When a group of scientists raised the possibility (indeed they thought it was likely) that the virus was modified in a lab, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins was fearful that “science and international harmony” might be damaged over China’s alleged involvement and that researchers might be derailed over it.

According to a Fox News report, Fauci and his scientists came to an agreement that the lab origins should not be mentioned in a paper because it would become “fuel to the conspiracists.”

Since Fauci reportedly found out on January 27, 2020, that his organization had been indirectly funding the Chinese lab through EcoHealth, (a US scientific company that works with novel coronaviruses) he also had a strong incentive to avoid blame.

But the excuse given was “not to fuel conspiracists” – and the implication is that the public was not rational enough to come to a correct conclusion.

A last example is the dispersal of illegal migrants throughout the country by the Biden administration.    The motive for doing this is not clear, one suggestion I’ve heard is that migrants will eventually become citizens and vote for Democrats.  (In fact, in NY city illegals can vote for mayor).  Be that as it may, the government didn’t want you to know about it.

From a column by Lora Ries and Mark Morgan in the NY Post:

The list of lies administration officials have told regarding their handling of illegal immigration is extensive and still growing. How many times have they refused to call the historic numbers of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border a “crisis” or implausibly claimed the border is “closed”?

“.. during the Del Rio International Bridge episode. Biden’s Federal Aviation Administration made up a ridiculous drone ban, prohibiting Fox News from showing any more footage of the thousands of mostly Haitian illegal immigrants amassing under that bridge. (The FAA rescinded the ban after reporter Bill Melugin continued filming the Del Rio crisis from a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter.)

Over the last several months, night flights of illegal migrants have been periodically reported in places such as Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. In each instance, state and local officials received no notice they were coming.

When asked why the administration was flying illegal immigrants in the middle of the night, press secretary Jen Psaki belittled the reporter and then lied. She claimed that the flights were resettling unaccompanied children. Yet videos of these surreptitious flights clearly show full grown adults emerging from the planes. At best, this is lying by omission.

One might ask why the Biden administration couldn’t have followed Trump’s policy, which would have prevented a wide-open border, instead of opening the border and secretly moving the migrants all over the country.   Obviously, he feels the public might protest this policy.   In fact: migrants with known criminal records are being released in the U.S., which might raise an eyebrow in the most moderate, apolitical, individual.    Even thousands of Russian nationals have been caught crossing the border.    You can see why the government would want to hide the policy, but why would they implement it to begin with?

Other countries have shown a lack of trust in their publics as well.   For instance Germany, where the Chancellor at the time, Angela Merkel, had permitted many Syrians escaping war, as well as others, to find refuge in her country.    Some of the migrants were violent, attacking women in Cologne in January 2015, and there was the possibility of a backlash

Merkel was caught on a hot mic in September of that year pressing Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook about social media posts about the wave of Syrian refugees entering Germany, the publication reported.

The Facebook CEO was overheard responding that “we need to do some work” on curtailing anti-immigrant posts about the refugee crisis. “Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English, to which Zuckerberg replied in the affirmative before the transmission was disrupted

There are various reasons elites can hide information from the public, and one of them seems to be a distrust of the public’s ability to handle the information and come to the right conclusions.

Why the doors of America slammed in the face of escaping Jews

After Lenin led the Communist party to victory in Russia in 1917, many stories of Bolshevik (Communist) atrocities came out of that country. Since Jews were disproportionately represented in the Communist movement, they were often blamed in the West. Paul Johnson, in his book “A History of the Jews” say that this had serious consequences:

“It was in the United States, however, that the Bolshevik takeover, and its association with radical Jews, had the most serious consequences…the Bolshevik scare effectively ended the policy of unrestricted immigration which had been the salvation of east European Jewry in the period 1881-1914, and which had enabled the great American Jewry to come into existence….The result (of the Bolshevization of Russia) was the ‘Red Scare’ of 1919-20, led by the Democratic Attorney-General, Mitchell Palmer, against what he called ‘foreign-born subversives and agitators’. …Much of the material circulated by Mitchell and his allies was anti-Semitic. One list showed that, of thirty-one top Soviet leaders, all but Lenin were Jews; another analyzed the members of the Petrograd Soviet, showing that only sixteen out of 388 were Russians, the rest being Jews, of whom 265 came from New York’s East Side. The result was the 1921 Quota Act, providing that the number of immigrants admitted in any one year was not to exceed 3 per cent of their existing ethnic stock in the US in 1910. The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act cut the figure to 2 per cent and pushed the base-date back to 1890.”

One result of this was that Jews fleeing the Nazis did not find a safe harbor in the United States. The United States did not want Jewish refugees. “During the war period only 21,000 were admitted, 10 per cent of the number allowed under the quota law. The reason for this was public hostility. All the patriotic groups, from the American Legion to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called for a total ban on immigration. There was more anti-Semitism during the war than at any time in American history.” and “In 1942, according to the polls, the Jews were seen as a bigger threat to America than any other group after Japanese and Germans.”
Interestingly, after American soldiers saw the results of the Holocaust themselves: “The GIs (soldiers) were furious when people back home refused to believe what they had seen or even look at their photos.”

The attraction to Marxism by a large number of secular Jews helped close the door to all Jews trying to escape extermination.

But we could ask, just what percentage of Jews were attracted to Marxism? I don’t know the answer to that one, but it was too large. We could also ask, did Marxist Jews make much of a difference in the US? I don’t know the answer to that either, but for example in the “Days of Rage” in Chicago, when Chicago reeled from rioting leftists that converged on that city, the Mayor, Richard Daley, lasted out at eastern liberals “Go home, you Jew bastards”. So at least in his perception, the leftists were disproportionately Jewish.
Now I’m Jewish, and not being a Marxist, I am of course dismayed by the role the Jews played in the success of that ideology. Obviously most Communists in the world are non-Jewish, for instance the huge population in mainland China, and the Marxists now controlling governments all over Latin America (Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru come to mind). But the point of this post is not to argue with that ideology, it is just to point out that the fatal attraction of too many Jews to it led to the doors of survival being shut in the faces of all Jews attempting to escape the “Final Solution.”

The Rise and Fall of the American Left – John Patrick Diggins
A History of the Jews – by Paul Johnson

The early left did not like Jews

At the current time when the more radical elements of the American left are turning against Israel, it is interesting to read that the early left did not like Jews. (The information below is taken from Paul Johnson’s 1987 book A History of the Jews.) He writes that at the time of Karl Marx, radical German writers discussed the idea that solving the ‘Jewish problem’ might provide a key to solving the problems of humanity. In 1843 Bruno Bauer, the anti-Semitic leader of the Hegelian left, published an essay demanding that the Jews abandon Judaism completely and transform their plea for equal rights into a general campaign for human liberation both from religion and from state tyranny.

Karl Marx replied to Bauer’s work in two essays called “On the Jewish Question”. He quoted with approval Bauer’s maliciously exaggerated assertion that ‘the Jew determines the fate of the whole [Austrian] empire by his money power… [and] decides the destiny of Europe.”
However Marx disagreed with the idea that removing the religion would solve the problem. The worldly god of the Jew, he said, was money. He added:

“Money abases all the gods of mankind and changes them into commodities. Money is the self-sufficient value of all things. It has, therefore, deprived the whole world, both the human world and nature, of their own proper value. Money is the alienated essence of man’s work and existence: this essence dominates him and he worships it. The god of the Jews has been secularized and has become the god of this world.

The Jews, Marx continued, were turning Christians into replicas of themselves, so that the once staunchly Christian New Englanders, for example, were now the slaves of Mammon. Using his money power, the Jew had emancipated himself and had gone on to enslave Christianity. The Jew-corrupted Christian ‘is convinced he has no other destiny here below than to become richer than his neighbours’ and ‘the world is a stock exchange’.

Marx’s solution, therefore, is not like Bauer’s religious, but economic. To ‘make the Jew impossible’ it was necessary to abolish the ‘preconditions’ of the kind of money activities for which he was notorious. Marx advocated the abolition of private property and the personal pursuit of money. This would transform not only the Jewish relation to society but all human relations and the human personality itself. Later in the century August Bebel, the German Social Democrat, coined a phrase that Lenin picked up “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.” Behind this epigram was this argument: we all know that Jewish money-men, who never soil their hands with toil, exploit the poor workers and peasants. But only a fool blames the Jews alone. The mature man, the socialist, has grasped the point that the Jews are only symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself. The disease is the religion of money, and its modern form is capitalism. Workers and peasants are exploited not just by the Jews but by the entire bourgeois-capitalist class-and it is the class as a whole, not just its Jewish element, which must be destroyed.

So if I understand the above, the early left was against Jews, not because of Israel and the Palestinians (Israel was under Turkish rule at this point), but because Jews were seen as taking away from the really important things in life, and substituting the pursuit of money. Personally this seems ridiculous. Money in itself is just paper, or metal coins or Bitcoin. It is valued for what it can buy, which not only includes the necessities of life, but vacation trips around the world, or scientific efforts to reveal the mysteries of the universe. By itself, it is just an improvement on barter. Its true many people would rather stay home and do other things than work for a living, but that is just as true under Communist societies. Some people in Capitalist societies are overly materialistic, some people are greedy, but many are neither.

The first Antifa was in Weimar Germany (and helped Nazis)

The violent leftist group “Antifa” is in the headlines for its attacks in the U.S., especially Portland Oregon, but it did not start in the U.S. According to Andy Ngo’s book “Unmasked”, the origins go back to Weimar Germany.

Nearly every political group or party had a paramilitary: the communists, the centrists and of course, the fascists.
While the [Nazi] Brownshirts are well remembered in contemporary Western society, the history of far-left paramilitaries in the German interwar years has faded to memory. Like the Nazis, the Communist Party of Germany had its own paramilitaries. The party was Stalinist in orientation and was closely aligned with the Soviet Union. …[the Communist] paramilitary: the Red Front Fighter’s League adopted the clenched fist as its symbol. Leftist groups today from Black Lives Matter to antifa have adopted that communist symbol.
Throughout the 1920s, the Red Front Fighters’ League was extremely violent, engaging in clashes with the paramilitaries of liberal parties. Come again? You read that right: the communist paramilitary was mostly preoccupied with fighting liberals and socialists rather than the Nazi paramilitary. Under the leadership of Ernst Thalmann, the German Communist Party and its various offshoots viewed social democrats and liberals as “social fascists” no different from Nazis. In fact, Communist International, the Vladimir Lenin-founded group that promoted communism around the world, believed that social democracy would inevitably lead to fascism.
Scholars estimate the communist Red Front Fighters’ League had upward of 130,000 members before it was banned in 1929 following days of deadly rioting. Despite claiming to be Germany’s “only anti-fascist party,” the German Communist Party sometimes worked with the Nazis to undermine the governing Social Democrats…

In May 1932, the German Communist Party announced the formation of the Antifaschistische Aktion (Antifascist Action, commonly referred to as “Antifa”), a new paramilitary communist group. This is the original “Antifa” and the group that contemporary antifa around the world take inspiration from.

Andy goes into the European origins a lot more. To me one lesson may be that the tendency of Antifa in the U.S. to make any conservative into an enemy has origins in interwar Germany.

Wishful thinking about Russia among conservatives

In his first interview after the 2020 presidential election, former President Trump said that “getting along with Vladimir Putin (of Russia) is a good thing, and I get along with him very well.”   Trump also said, however, that nobody was tougher on Russia than he was.   And in John Bolton’s book “The Room Where it Happened”, Bolton says that Trump did tell him that both Russia and China were a threat.

It would seem that the U.S. has shared interests with Russia.   Russia is a mostly Christian country that is geographically close to countries with extremist Muslim movements (like Afghanistan) and to countries with extremist Muslim governments (like Iran and Turkey).    Russia’s wide-open spaces borders a crowded and powerful China.     And some conservatives such as Pat Buchanan believe that Russia is morally superior to the hedonistic West.  

One big reason to be on the good side of Putin is, as Putin accurately pointed out at a banquet, that Russia was the only country that could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”

Putin has been described as rightly embittered by the expansion of NATO to former Soviet Bloc countries.   Donald Trump said in 2014 that  “We’ve hurt Russia and we’ve done certain things that have really hurt Russia…”  He added that Putin is “wounded” and that “wounded people and wounded animals can do lots of strange things and we’d better be a little bit careful.”

Whether the reasons for Russian behavior are understandable or not, its’ government has made the decision to be an adversary to the Western democracies.

Apart from the Russian troop buildup to Ukraine, on March 24 Daily Street News reported that “Tanks and other heavy armor” are “on-the-move in Grodno, Belarus, [heading] toward the borders of Poland and Lithuania.” Grodno is at the western-most road-hub leading to the Sawalki gap, considered to be “the most vulnerable stretch of land in Europe.” It is the ideal staging area for a Russian/Belarussian invasion of Poland and Lithuania. As reported by Time Magazine, “If Moscow gained control of the [Sawalki] corridor the Baltic States would, catastrophically, be cut off from other NATO allies.

It would seem that Russia would be cautious about China, but Russia and China  are allies, and as an example, they agreed last January, to develop a joint Ballistic Missile Early Warning system. 

It would also seem that the Russians would be cautious about extremist Muslim nations, but Russia supplies the very anti-American Muslim nation of Iran with arms.   In addition, American General John Nicholson, while he was head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said this: “We’ve had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders [who] said, this was given by the Russians to the Taliban.  We know that the Russians are involved.”

A country where Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran are all involved lies 1000 miles away from the U.S.   That country is Venezuela.  Nicolas Maduro’s Marxist dictatorship that leads that country got help in a rough spot from Russia.  When it looked as if an uprising against Maduro’s regime in Venezuela might succeed, Russian paramilitaries arrived to protect Maduro.”

 According to Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened”, “Moscow’s menace was undeniable, both military and financial, having expended substantial resources to buttress Maduro.”

Venezuela hands out passports to Iranians (and has Hezbollah (an Iranian supported Muslim terror Group) within its borders.   An agreement between Venezuela and Iran was signed during a visit of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October 19, 2010. The contract provided for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela.. 

Maduro has defied Western pressure with the assistance of Cuban security forces, as well as Russian and Chinese support. Russia startled U.S. officials in December 2018 by sending to Venezuela for military exercises two bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.   It also dispatched about 100 members of the military to repair Maduro’s S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system after a nationwide power outage.

Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, boasted that his air force could sink the U.S. Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean because it had received 24 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MK2 combat aircraft.

So, to sum up, Russia works with America’s enemies, and concessions to it are of dubious value.   Trump, according to Bolton’s book, did privately float the thought of getting out of NATO entirely, and Biden in practice has been worse than Trump, signing an extension to the New Start nuclear weapons treaty without conditions that the Republicans had been pressing for.    Wishful thinking – that Russia has been pressed to the wall and is acting reasonably given the circumstances, is dangerous. During the cold war with the Soviet Union, which was then Communist, Americans had apologists for it as well – and our president called Stalin, who turned out to be a mass murderer, “Uncle Joe”. Winston Churchill, who was prime minister of England during World War II, said of Russia in 1939 “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Russia saw its national interest differently than we would have – it signed a treaty with Nazi Germany, and they both carved up Poland, among other developments.

Russia still acts like an enemy.

How a spontaneous uprising against Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuelan dictatorship failed – from John Bolton’s book

During the Trump administration there was an uprising in Venezuela that failed. The U.S. tried to help and the story is in John Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened”.

“Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic regime was a threat due to its Cuba connection and the openings it afforded Russia, China, and Iran. …Moscow [had] expended substantial resources to buttress Maduro, dominate Venezuela’s oil and gas industry and impose costs on the US. Beijing was not far behind.”

Trump was considering a military option against Venezuela, but Bolton dissented: “I explained why military force was not the answer, especially given the inevitable congressional opposition.”

Bolton, who laments Trump’s propensity to change his mind often, also writes: “…Of course, Trump also periodically said that he wanted to meet with Maduro to resolve all our problems with Venezuela, which neither Pompeo nor I thought was a good idea. “

The Venezuelan liberation movement that the U.S. tried to help started when:

“The new young president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, announced at a huge rally in Caracas that the Assembly believed Maduro’s manifestly fraudulent 2018 reelection was illegitimate, and therefore invalid.”

Its interesting now to note that Trump claims the U.S. election that defeated him (Trump) was fraudulent and therefore invalid, and John Bolton disagreed with Trump on that accusation. In response to that and other criticism by Bolton, Trump said his former national security adviser (Bolton) was a “dope,” and that Bolton’s advice always boiled down to “Gee, let’s go to war.”

At least in the case of Venezuela, this was not true, Bolton was against going to war.

The Russians themselves were not averse to using force for their interests, and Russian paramilitaries reportedly were arriving to protect Maduro.

To give you an idea of what Maduro’s regime was (and is) like: “Maduro’s secret police broke into Guaido’s home and threatened his wife and young daughter.”

But there were intermediate steps the U.S. could have taken and did not:

Bolton writes:

“Consistent with his public threats of a “full and complete embargo” on Cuba because of the oil shipments between Venezeula and Cuba, Trump also repeatedly asked the Defense Department for concrete options on how to stop such shipments, including interdiction.
Although military force inside Venezuela was a nonstarter, using force to slice Cuba’s oil lifeline could have been dramatic. The Pentagon did nothing.”

“In the meantime in late March, Russia sent in new troops and equipment, labelling one shipment as humanitarian, and trying to obfuscate what its presence amounted to. There were strong indications more were coming…”

“An unnecessary negative development, says Bolton, was Trump’s decision to call Putin…Putin said our support for Guaido had consolidated support for Maduro. ..” Bolton notes that he thought Putin largely persuaded Trump.

In one chapter Bolton tells the story of the uprising, the rallies of freedom lovers in Venezuela, the defectors from the regime, but in the end, it all failed. Why?

At the end of the chapter, Bolton gives his reasons:

“At the end of that last day in April 2019, two decades off mutual mistrust, cowardice on the part of several regime leaders who had committed to act but who lost their nerve at the critical moment; some tactical mistakes by the inexperienced Opposition; the absence of any US advisors on the ground who might and I underline “might,” have helped make a difference; and the cold cynical pressure of the Cubans and the Russians, brought the attempted uprising to a halt the day it started…
But make no mistake: this rebellion came very close to succeeding. “

On reading this chapter, I’m not convinced by Bolton. “Close to succeeding” is still not succeeding. Maybe if there had been American military presence more people would have taken the risk to defect. If you were a military person in Venezuela, you had to do a cost-benefit analysis. You saw the Cubans, the Russians, and the Iranians in your country, you assumed that Maduro’s military was mostly loyal to him, and you would take a big risk in opposing Maduro. American (or other forces) were nowhere to be seen. So I’m not surprised the uprising failed. Bolton says that one day Venezuela will be free. But if we look at Cuba’s own regime, it outlasted all the presidents from John Kennedy to now, and it shows no sign of going away. Venezuela, in my view, may stay a dictatorship for a very long time.

What it was like to work with Trump on National Security

In his book “The Room Where It Happened”, John Bolton describes his period as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration. Bolton and others were disturbed that Trump would change his mind about various issues, and advisors were constantly worried he do something dramatic (and wrong, in their view). For instance Trump asked Bolton why not withdraw entirely from NATO. I’ll concentrate in this post on the chapter “Trump Heads for the Door in Syria and Afghanistan and Can’t Find it.” Here are some quotes from the book

War by radical Islamist terrorists against the United States began long before 9/11 (bloggers note, 9/11/2001 was when Islamic terrorists flew airplanes into American skyscrapers) and will continue long after. You can like it or not, but it is reality. Donald Trump didn’t like it, and acted like it wasn’t true.

“Ironically, although the media painted Trump as viscerally anti-Muslim, he never grasped…that Erdogan (the leader of Turkey) was himself a radical Islamicist…(who) was busy transforming Turkey from Kemal Ataturk’s secular state into an Islamicist state.”

Turkey had a long war with Kurdish groups, the PKK being one of the groups. The U.S. considered the PKK to be terrorists, but the Kurds had helped the U.S. fight ISIS. The U.S. felt that abandoning the Kurds would have severely adverse consequences for any future effort to recruit allies who might later be seen as expendable.

Trump wanted “to get the hell out” of Northeast Syria, where the American presence helped deter the Turks from invading and attacking the Kurds.

Trump told Erdogan that if Turkey fought ISIS, (which was present in Syria) the U.S. would just get out. Bolton did not like this, he felt that “withdrawing from Syria was a huge mistake, because of both the continuing global threat of ISIS, and the fact that Iran’s substantial influence would undoubtably grow.”

The French President, Macron, did not like it either. He told Trump that Turkey was focussed on attacking the Kurds and would compromise with ISIS. Israel’s ambassador Ron Dermer told Bolton that Trump’s decision to pull out made his (Dermer’s) day the worst day he had experienced thus far in the Trump administration.

Bolton had left the Trump administration for a month when in October 6, 2019, Trump again ordered a withdrawal. Bolton writes that “The result of Trump’s decision was a complete debacle for US policy and for our credibility worldwide.”

According to″

The presence of the U.S. special forces amongst Kurdish YPG fighters had formerly served as an effective barrier against Turkish attack. Their abrupt withdrawal, following a phone conversation between Trump and Turkish President Erdogan, gave Ankara an unambiguous green light to initiate military operations against the Kurdish forces which could not be walked back by subsequent conflicting statements from the White House.
Less than 24 hours later, Turkish jets began pounding Kurdish positions, followed by a Turkish artillery and ground attacks.
Later, the United States joined Russia in vetoing a statement supported by the rest of the Security Council condemning Turkish operations against the Syrian Kurds.

For the consequences of the pullout see

Switching to another war, the war in Afghanistan, Trump believed he had given Secretary of Defense James Mattis all the leeway he requested to finish the Taliban. The Taliban, however, were winning. Trump had campaigned on ending “endless wars” in faraway places. Bolton’s argument was that

“we hadn’t started the wars and couldn’t end them just by our own say-so. Across the Islamic world, the radical philosophies that had caused so much death and destruction were ideological, political and well as religious. Just as religious fervor had driven human conflicts for millennia, so it was driving this one, against America and the West more broadly. It wasn’t going away because we were tired of it, or because we found it inconvenient to balancing our budget.”

Bolton adds that he is not a “nation builder”, and the point wasn’t to make Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria nicer places to live. It was about keeping America safe from another 9/11, or even worse, a 9/11 where the terorists had nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Bolton also worried that if the Taliban took power in Afghanistan again, they would destabilize their Muslim neighbor, Pakistan. Pakistan had nuclear weapons, so having it fall to terrorists would be a specially bad scenario.

Trump said in a meeting with Bolton and others:

“We’ll never get out. This was done by a stupid person named George Bush. Millions of people killed, trillions of dollars, and we just can’t do it. Another six months, that’s what they said before, and we’re still getting our asses kicked.” Then he launched into a favorite story, about how we helicoptered schoolteachers every day to their school because it was too dangerous for them to go on their own” “Cost a fortune. The IG was right,” he said….(he added:) They hate us and they shoot us in the back, blew the back of the guy’s head off, arms and legs and things (referring to a recent “green-on-blue” attack where a Utah National Guardsman was killed.) [green on blue means an Afghan soldier or policeman who is supposedly on our side turns his gun suddenly on our soldiers].

My own impression of the book is that Trump wanted to keep his promises to his base, and did not understand why “endless wars” were justified, especially wars we were losing. On the other hand, I understand Bolton’s views as well. Personally, for what its worth, I feel the U.S. is a weak power – dramatically in debt, and currently with the left in power. I do not think we have the money to fight wars, and constraints such as the need to fight door to door (this happened in Fallujah Iraq, for instance) because we don’t want to bomb civilians does mean that we lose a lot of soldiers. In the case of Afghanistan, our supplies had to travel through either Pakistan (not quite a friend), or a former territory of the Soviet Union (I’m not up to date on what the status of our presence in that second territory is now). Elements of the Pakistan military help the Taliban, and Afghanistan also borders another enemy of the U.S., Iran. It just seems like a very bad setting to put our soldiers in.

Nonetheless, we should remember that when the Taliban were the rulers of Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden plotted the 9/11 attacks from their territory, and Al Qaeda, the group that attacked on 9/11, had training camps there. We were minding our own business, when planes full of Americans were flown into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. Its a big dilemma, and when we leave, those who allied with us will face death.

Trump, at least in this chapter, does not strike me as the caricature his opponents believed in (as a fascist), here in the United States. Bolton is not a fan of Trump, but that still doesn’t change my impression.