Soviet strategy has always been devious where American has been direct

Friday, July 17th, 2020

At the time, as T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), it wasn’t clear what was happening in Korea:

Now, on 25 June and later, Washington could never be sure that Korea was not merely a smokescreen, to divert American attention and troops while an assault against Europe was being prepared. For this reason, even after it had committed itself to the defense of Korea, the United States Government was reluctant to throw any major portion of its strength into the peninsula.

Only gradually did American planners realize that the Soviets might attempt to achieve their ends by bits and pieces rather than in the traditional American way, with one fell swoop. Soviet strategy, like Soviet thinking, has always been devious where American has been direct.


The various intelligence agencies poured a vast amount of information into Washington; they knew the numbers of divisions, guns, tanks, and naval craft of potential enemies. But this intelligence could not be evaluated because Washington had not even one pipeline into official circles of enemy capitals; they could not even estimate what the potential aggressor was thinking or might do.

This was no change from the past. In December 1941, American Intelligence knew that strong carrier task forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy had left port. But not understanding official Japanese thinking, the fact had meant nothing to Washington.

The situation in 1950 was no change from the past, and there would be little change in the future.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    This strikes me as an odd objection. Isn’t it normal for an enemy to hide his intentions? Isn’t that part of basic strategy? Why wouldn’t they expect that?

    And the first Cold War was largely a culture clash, a clash of fundamental values and worldviews. The whole point of a culture clash is the enemy doesn’t think the way you do and you know it.

    The only time to be direct is with people you don’t fear.

  2. Lu An Li says:

    Good bean counters but poor at determining intent. Sun would say you need “inward agents”. Those hard to obtain.

  3. Kirk says:

    The worldview prevalent among the “elite” here in the US is essentially immature and entirely delusional. From the perspective of anyone operating in an even remotely realistic and pragmatic manner, the majority of the decision-makers seem to be completely out of their depth and unable to recognize that fact.

    I could relate the experiences I had with the folks from the State Department back when we were dealing with the Bosnian debacle, but that would take hours. The gist of it all is that they simply do not comprehend that other people might think differently than they do, and they apply that attitude even towards their own countrymen. They can’t understand or comprehend their own; how do you expect them to grasp an entirely different cultural context? For the average State Department drone, sourced from the various ivy-encrusted universities where such creatures are bred, the very idea that an Appalachian or Western US-born American does not share their exquisite and rarefied views is not only unthinkable, but anathema. So, if you think they’re going to be any better at sussing out how foreigners think, try again. They’re not only unable to grasp that, they’re entirely uninterested in the idea itself–Anyone who doesn’t think the way they do is obviously incapable of influence, or worthy of engaging with.

  4. Harry Jones says:

    I was brought up to believe that all people were basically decent and honest. This led to a lot of cognitive dissonance until I finally accepted that I had been raised stupid.

    There are people who want to believe that people are all the same (and everybody knows your name) and they insist on saying this in the face of all evidence. It’s not honest ignorance. It’s denial, and denial is a form of bad faith with yourself.

    When these people rise to policy level positions (and they do, because they’re so damn nice and so good at faking levelheaded reasonableness) then nothing good ever comes of it.

    I blame organized religion. Mainly Unitarian-Universalism. The universalist half of that, to be specific. What a load of wishful thinking.

    Also Mencius. Mencius was a tool.

  5. Kirk says:


    Your dive into it all ought to be a lot deeper; the thread you need to follow goes much further back than even the Enlightenment. It’s a product of wishful thinking about human beings that you can trace back to before the birth of Christ or even monotheism. Some of us are just that delusional. The thought processes that produced the early Church were not unique or at all original; the whole cult-like belief in the “decency of man” goes back to some of the preceding religions and philosophic systems that were eventually expressed as Christianity.

    Root problem is that many of us do not like what they see when they look inward; because of that, we deny our essential nature, and fail to grasp that being a decent human being is a daily struggle that you can never abandon. We want to believe we’re inherently nice–Decent, good people who would never do anything evil. Reality is that we’re forever one step away from doing the expedient nasty to our fellow man, and would do it in a heartbeat if self-gratification were allowed to come to the fore and dominate our actions.

  6. Harry Jones says:

    There seems to be a dichotomy running through history regarding the fundamental nature of man. The Old Testament harps on how horrible people are, and why God must exercise enormous restraint not to wipe us all off the face of the globe. The New Testament says people are depraved but salvageable, with a whole lot of Divine grace. The Catholic Church makes the problem of sin its main selling point. The Reformation carried over the idea of human depravity. Anyone who denied that people were treacherous and vile by nature was on the fringe, until perhaps three centuries ago.

    Now we’re all indoctrinated with the idea of the perfectibility of man. Among other things, it leads to disastrous foreign policy. What’s the use of being a shining city on a hill if the world is blind?

    After woke has burned itself out, perhaps we’ll all be ready to shrug off the white man’s burden for good. Kipling pointed out what was wrong with it, and we didn’t listen.

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