Fwd: from LBO Re: kennan & the necessary lie

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Tue May 16 10:40:00 MDT 2000




[from Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the
World of Arts and Letters (New Press, 2000), pp. 39-40]

The foremost articulator of the shared convictions of America's elite
was George Kerman, diplomat-scholar, architect of the Marshall Plan,
and as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, one
of the fathers of the CIA. In 1947 he advocated direct military
intervention in Italy in what he saw as its imminent collapse into a
civil war supported by the Communists: 'This would admittedly result
in much violence and probably a military division of Italy,' he told
the State Department, but 'it might well be preferable to a bloodless
election victory, unopposed by ourselves, which would give the
Communists the entire peninsula at one coup and send waves of panic
to all surrounding areas.' Truman, fortunately, didn't go along with
this precipitate suggestion, but he did authorize covert intervention
in the Italian elections instead. By July 1947, Kerman had modified
his views not about the nature of the Soviet threat, but about how to
deal with it. In his famous 'X' article in the journal Foreign
Affairs, he set forth the thesis which dominated the early years of
the Cold War. Claiming that the Kremlin was committed to dominating
'every nook and cranny available ... in the basin of world power'
with its 'fanatical ideology', he proposed a policy of 'unalterable
counter force', and 'firm and vigilant containment'. As part of this
policy, he advocated 'the maximum development of the propaganda and
political warfare techniques', which, as director of the Policy
Planning Staff (designed to oversee the ideologicalpolitical
containment of Europe), he was perfectly placed to implement. 'The
world was our oyster,' he later wrote of this office.

In a speech to the National War College in December 1947, it was
Kennan who introduced the concept of 'the necessary lie' as a vital
constituent of American post-war diplomacy. The Communists, he said,
had won a 'strong position in Europe, so immensely superior to our
own ... through unabashed and skilful use of lies. They have fought
us with unreality, with irrationalism. Can we combat this unreality
successfully with rationalism, with truth, with honest, well-meant
economic assistance?' he asked. No, America needed to embrace a
newera of covert warfare to advance her democratic objectives against
Soviet deceit.

On 19 December 1947, Kerman's political philosophy acquired legal
authority in a directive issued by Truman's National Security
Council, NSC-4. A top-secret appendix to this directive, NSC-4A,
instructed the Director of Central Intelligence to undertake 'covert
psychological activities' in support of American anti-Communist
policies. Startlingly opaque about what procedures should be followed
for coordinating or approving such activities, this appendix was the
first formal post-war authorization for clandestine operations.
Superseded in June 1948 by a new - and more explicit - directive
drafted by George Kennan, NSC-10/2, these were the documents which
piloted American intelligence into the choppy waters of secret
political warfare for decades to come.

Prepared in the tightest secrecy, these directives 'adopted an
expansive conception of [America's] security requirements to include
a world substantially made over in its own image.' Proceeding from
the premise that the Soviet Union and its satellite countries were
embarked on a programme of 'vicious' covert activities to 'discredit
and defeat the aims and activities of the United States and other
western powers', NSC-10/2 gave the highest sanction of the government
to a plethora of covert operations: 'propaganda, economic warfare,
preventative direct action including sabotage, anti-sabotage,
demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states
including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas
and refugee liberation groups'. All such activities, in the words of
NSC-10/2, must be 'so planned and executed that any U.S. government
responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons, and
that if uncovered the U.S. government can plausibly disclaim any
responsibility for them.'


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Michael Pollak wrote:

>In this month's Harper's, Lewis Lapham sez:
>
><quote>
>
>George Kennan in 1949 advanced the "messianic concept" of the
>"necessary lie;" his doctrine of Cold War containment (cultural as well
>as military) embraced the virtues of plausible deniability, the
>vocabularies of misleading statemetns, the manufacture of ideologcial
>consent.
>
><endquote>
>
>I can't find those two quoted phrases associated with Kennan.  They don't
>seem to be in the "long telegram" of 1947.  Does anyone know what he's
>quoting from here?  It could be have some connection with Frances Stonor
>Saunders' book, which occasioned his column, if anyone has a copy of that
>handy.

[from Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the
World of Arts and Letters (New Press, 2000), pp. 39-40]

The foremost articulator of the shared convictions of America's elite
was George Kerman, diplomat-scholar, architect of the Marshall Plan,
and as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, one
of the fathers of the CIA. In 1947 he advocated direct military
intervention in Italy in what he saw as its imminent collapse into a
civil war supported by the Communists: 'This would admittedly result
in much violence and probably a military division of Italy,' he told
the State Department, but 'it might well be preferable to a bloodless
election victory, unopposed by ourselves, which would give the
Communists the entire peninsula at one coup and send waves of panic
to all surrounding areas.' Truman, fortunately, didn't go along with
this precipitate suggestion, but he did authorize covert intervention
in the Italian elections instead. By July 1947, Kerman had modified
his views not about the nature of the Soviet threat, but about how to
deal with it. In his famous 'X' article in the journal Foreign
Affairs, he set forth the thesis which dominated the early years of
the Cold War. Claiming that the Kremlin was committed to dominating
'every nook and cranny available ... in the basin of world power'
with its 'fanatical ideology', he proposed a policy of 'unalterable
counter force', and 'firm and vigilant containment'. As part of this
policy, he advocated 'the maximum development of the propaganda and
political warfare techniques', which, as director of the Policy
Planning Staff (designed to oversee the ideologicalpolitical
containment of Europe), he was perfectly placed to implement. 'The
world was our oyster,' he later wrote of this office.

In a speech to the National War College in December 1947, it was
Kennan who introduced the concept of 'the necessary lie' as a vital
constituent of American post-war diplomacy. The Communists, he said,
had won a 'strong position in Europe, so immensely superior to our
own ... through unabashed and skilful use of lies. They have fought
us with unreality, with irrationalism. Can we combat this unreality
successfully with rationalism, with truth, with honest, well-meant
economic assistance?' he asked. No, America needed to embrace a
newera of covert warfare to advance her democratic objectives against
Soviet deceit.

On 19 December 1947, Kerman's political philosophy acquired legal
authority in a directive issued by Truman's National Security
Council, NSC-4. A top-secret appendix to this directive, NSC-4A,
instructed the Director of Central Intelligence to undertake 'covert
psychological activities' in support of American anti-Communist
policies. Startlingly opaque about what procedures should be followed
for coordinating or approving such activities, this appendix was the
first formal post-war authorization for clandestine operations.
Superseded in June 1948 by a new - and more explicit - directive
drafted by George Kennan, NSC-10/2, these were the documents which
piloted American intelligence into the choppy waters of secret
political warfare for decades to come.

Prepared in the tightest secrecy, these directives 'adopted an
expansive conception of [America's] security requirements to include
a world substantially made over in its own image.' Proceeding from
the premise that the Soviet Union and its satellite countries were
embarked on a programme of 'vicious' covert activities to 'discredit
and defeat the aims and activities of the United States and other
western powers', NSC-10/2 gave the highest sanction of the government
to a plethora of covert operations: 'propaganda, economic warfare,
preventative direct action including sabotage, anti-sabotage,
demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states
including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas
and refugee liberation groups'. All such activities, in the words of
NSC-10/2, must be 'so planned and executed that any U.S. government
responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons, and
that if uncovered the U.S. government can plausibly disclaim any
responsibility for them.'


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------





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