Close your eyes and think back to late July of 1991. Jennifer Capriati just won Wimbledon. The U.S. military was returning from its stunning defeat of Saddam’s army. Unbeknownst to the world, we were a few weeks away from the ill fated coup attempt. GlobalWonk was a soldier in the United States Army, assigned to the White House Communications Agency. I’m sitting on the roof of the Churchill Hotel, waiting to find out if our team is going into Moscow. And…
Before we deployed from the then G-7 Economic Summit in London, to a hastily organized U.S./Soviet Summit in Moscow, we were required to attend a security brief on what to expect behind the Iron Curtain. We were told that because of our clearances, and access to sensitive information, we would be monitored 24/7 by the KGB. Just entering the U.S.S.R. back then guaranteed you would have an intelligence dossier with the KGB from that point forward. We would be staying in “Western approved” hotels that were prepped for surveillance. We were told that the KGB would prefer to get a full-body nude shot (from the bathroom/shower) to use for 100% identification in the event they turned you as a spy. This would help identify imposters, etc. We were instructed to report all contact with any Soviet citizen. The KGB would look for unusual behavior, and exploit it to blackmail you into cooperation/collaboration with them.
So, we land at the airport, off-load our C-5A Galaxy, and convoy to the Embassy. The old Embassy. The big old puke yellow one that caught fire in the eighties. (When KGB agents posing as firemen stole secrets..) From the yard of the old Embassy you could see the walls of the new one the Soviet contractors built for us. It was riddled with implanted bugs (the listening kind), and you could actually make out the letters C.C.C.P. in slightly darker colored bricks they handcrafted to thumb their nose at us. The U.S. later demolished this building and built the one we occupy today.
After a couple beverages at The Liberty Bell bar in the Embassy we headed off to the Olympic Penta Hotel. It is located next to the 1980 Winter Olympics complex (hence the name..). As you walked down the hallway we noticed that there was a small access door located between each set of room entry doors. These happen to be located adjacent to the bathrooms in each room. There was an odd area of the mirror in the bathroom that would not fog up when you ran the shower. Needless to say, they got their full body shot, and then some. But, they earned it. There is some awfully crude video somewhere…
So, knowing we were monitored 24/7, we would joke that we should just lay back on the bed and say something like “Boy, the national secrets I wouldn’t reveal for some huge breasts!”
KNOCK, KNOCK… ROOM SERVICE…
Ahh, the good old days. We turned Soviet ideologues, they gave Americans cash and sex. The system worked.
It is the summer of 1992.
In the previous three years:
- Eastern Europe has become democratic.
- The Berlin Wall fell.
- Germany reunited.
- President George H.W. Bush grounded Looking Glass.
- Hardliners attempted to overthrow Gorbachev.
- The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) ceased to exist.
- The Cold War ended.
- The United States military dealt a stunning defeat to Saddam’s vaunted military
The United States stood at a moment of singularity. Our power and prestige were at their pinnacle. Unchallenged.
Did we use this unprecedented position and influence to help shape the future of the world for the betterment of all mankind? Did we help Russia, and the other former Soviet republics, assimilate into the world economy? Did we work hard enough to understand the internal dynamics of Chinese society in order to nuture a positive orientation to the United States during their economic resurgence?
Did we wage peace?
After forty years of conflict with the Soviet Union in an epic battle of ideologies; why did we have no Marshall Plan to secure the peace and rebuild regions of the world that had stagnated and fallen behind under the grip of communism?
The only screams I remember hearing out of Congress were from narrow-minded members seeking a “peace dividend”. The United States Army, the same force that performed so brilliantly in the Gulf War, was cut in half.
All of the finger pointing now about overtaxing Guard and Reserve troops is a direct result of this demand by Congress for a peace dividend in 1992. Congress knowingly cut the Army’s troop strength in half. They burdened the Guard and Reserve with missions formerly assigned to active duty units. Fast forward nine years to the Summer of 2001. Enter your local high school kid looking to serve their country for a few years locally while finishing school or working to save enough money to do so. If he has been lucky enough to not have been injured, that kid has just served two extended tours in Iraq within three years.
The term ‘You reap what you sow.’ comes to mind. We failed to take advantage of our unprecedented opportunity in the early nineties. We were all too enamored with Windows, and our Internet stock portfolios. Many of the issues we are facing now, and into the foreseeable future, are the direct result of neglecting key strategic relationships throughout the nineties.
This is not a partisan slap at any one party or administration. Both parties failed us. We need leadership at all levels of our government that are willing to plant seeds and nurture our global relationships. We can not afford to fail now. Me must use all of our hard and soft power to wage peace and secure a future for all the world’s children.
Posted in China, No New Cold War, U.S./China Relations, Waging Peace
Tagged China, cold war, global, global security, gulf war, leadership, Marshall Plan, national security, peace, peace dividend, persian gulf, president bush, Soviet Union, USSR