Presumptuous Pompeo Pushes Preposterous ‘Peking’ Policy

A rant by Mike Pompeo regarding what the U.S. should do with China led to a fruitful exchange between an old China, and an old Soviet hand, writes Ray McGovern.

U.S. President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai toast, Feb. 25, 1972. (White House/Wikimedia Commons)

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Quick. Somebody tell Mike Pompeo. The secretary of state is not supposed to play the role of court jester — the laughing stock to the world. There was no sign that any of those listening to his “major China policy statement” last Thursday at the Nixon Library turned to their neighbor and said, “He’s kidding, right? Richard Nixon meant well but failed miserably to change China’s behavior? And now Pompeo is going to put them in their place?”

Yes, that was Pompeo’s message. The torch has now fallen to him and the free world. Here’s a sample of his rhetoric:

“Changing the behavior of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] cannot be the mission of the Chinese people alone. Free nations have to work to defend freedom. …

“Beijing is more dependent on us than we are on them (sic). Look, I reject the notion … that CCP supremacy is the future … the free world is still winning. … It’s time for free nations to act … Every nation must protect its ideals from the tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party. … If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world. …

“We have the tools. I know we can do it. Now we need the will. To quote scripture, I ask is ‘our spirit willing but our flesh weak?’ … Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because … our nation was founded on the premise that all human beings possess certain rights that are unalienable. And it’s our government’s job to secure those rights. It’s a simple and powerful truth. It’s made us a beacon of freedom for people all around the world, including people inside of China.

“Indeed, Richard Nixon was right when he wrote in 1967 that “the world cannot be safe until China changes.” Now it’s up to us to heed his words. … Today the free world must respond. …”

Trying to Make Sense of It

Pompeo delivers speech on “Communist China and the Free World’s Future” at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, California, July 23, 2020. (State Department photo Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain)

Over the weekend an informal colloquium-by-email took pace, spurred initially by an op-ed article by Richard Haass critiquing Pompeo’s speech. Haass has the dubious distinction of having been director of policy planning for the State Department from 2001 to 2003, during the lead-up to the attack on Iraq. Four months after the invasion he became president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a position he still holds. Despite that pedigree, the points Haass makes in “What Mike Pompeo doesn’t understand about China, Richard Nixon and U.S. foreign policy” are, for the most part, well taken.

Haass’s views served as a springboard over the weekend to an unusual discussion of Sino-Soviet and Sino-Russian relations I had with Ambassador Chas Freeman, the main interpreter for Nixon during his 1972 visit to China and who then served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992.

As a first-hand witness to much of this history, Freeman provided highly interesting and not so well-known detail mostly from the Chinese side. I chipped in with observations from my experience as CIA’s principal analyst for Sino-Soviet and broader Soviet foreign policy issues during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Ambassador Freeman:

As a participant in that venture: Nixon responded to an apparently serious threat to China by the USSR that followed the Sino-Soviet split. He recognized the damage a Soviet attack or humiliation of China would do to the geopolitical balance and determined to prevent the instability this would produce. He offered China the status of (what I call) a “protected state” — a country whose independent existence is so important strategically that it is something we would risk war over.

Mao was sufficiently concerned about the prospect of a Soviet attack that he held his nose and welcomed this change in Sino-American relations, thereby accepting this American abandonment of the sort of hostility we are again establishing as outlined in Pompeo’s psychotic rant of last Thursday. Nixon had absolutely zero interest in changing anything but China’s external orientation and consolidating its opposition to the USSR in return for the U.S. propping it up. He also wanted to get out of Vietnam, which he inherited from LBJ, in a way that was minimally destabilizing and thought a relationship with China might help accomplish that. It didn’t.

Overall, the maneuver was brilliant. It bolstered the global balance and helped keep the peace. Seven years later, when the Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan, the Sino-American relationship immediately became an entente — a limited partnership for limited purposes.

In addition to its own assistance to the mujahideen, China supplied the United States with the weapons we transferred to anti-Soviet forces ($630 million worth in 1987), supplied us with hundreds or millions of dollars worth of made-to-order Chinese-produced Soviet-designed equipment (e.g. MiG21s) and training on how to use this equipment so that we could learn how best to defeat it, and established joint listening posts on its soil to more than replace the intelligence on Soviet military R&D and deployments that we had just lost to the Islamic revolution in Iran. Sino-American cooperation played a major role in bringing the Soviet Union down.

Freeman in Nov. 2012 at Freer Gallery. (Wikimedia Commons.)

Apparently, Americans who don’t see this are so nostalgic for the Cold War that they want to replicate it, this time with China, a very much more formidable adversary than the USSR ever was.

Those who don’t understand what that engagement achieved argue that it failed to change the Chinese political system, something it was never intended to do. They insist that we would be better off returning to 1950s-style enmity with China. Engagement was also not intended to change China’s economic system either but it did.

China is now an integral and irreplaceable part of global capitalism. We apparently find this so unsatisfactory that, rather than addressing our own competitive weaknesses, we are attempting to knock China back into government-managed trade and underdevelopment, imagining that “decoupling” will somehow restore the economic strengths our own ill-conceived policies have enfeebled.

A final note. Nixon finessed the unfinished Chinese civil war, taking advantage of Beijing’s inability to overwhelm Taipei militarily. Now that Beijing can do that, we are unaccountably un-finessing the Taiwan issue and risking war with China — a nuclear power — over what remains a struggle among Chinese — some delightfully democratic and most not. Go figure.

Ray McGovern:

This seems a useful discussion — perhaps especially for folks with decades-less experience in the day-to-day rough and tumble of Sino-Soviet relations. During the 1960s, I was CIA’s principal Soviet analyst on Sino-Soviet relations and in the early 1970s, as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and Presidential Daily Brief writer for Nixon, I had a catbird seat watching the constant buildup of hostility between Russia and China, and how, eventually, Nixon and Henry Kissinger saw it clearly and were able to exploit it to Washington’s advantage.

I am what we used to be called an “old Russian hand” (like over 50 years worth if you include academe). So, my not being an “old China hand” except for the important Sino-Soviet issue, it should come as no surprise that my vantage point will color my views — especially given my responsibilities for intelligence support for the SALT delegation and ultimately Kissinger and Nixon — during the early 1970s.

I had been searching for a word to apply to Pompeo’s speech on China. Preposterous came to mind, assuming it still means “contrary to reason or common sense; utterly absurd or ridiculous.” Chas’s “psychotic rant” may be a better way to describe it. And it is particularly good that Chas includes several not widely known facts about the very real benefits that accrued to the U.S. in the late 70’s and 80’s from the Sino-U.S. limited partnership.

Having closely watched the Sino-Soviet hostility rise to the point where, in 1969, the two started fighting along the border on the Ussuri River, we were able to convince top policy makers that this struggle was very real — and, by implication, exploitable.

Chinese border guards jostle with their Soviet counterparts on the disputed Zhenbao Island, 1969.

Moscow’s unenthusiastic behavior on the Vietnam War showed that, while it felt obliged to give rhetorical support, and an occasional surface-to-air missile battery, to a fraternal communist country under attack, it had decided to give highest priority to not letting Moscow’s involvement put relations with the U.S. into a state of complete disrepair. And, specifically, not letting China, or North Vietnam, mousetrap or goad the Soviets into doing lasting harm to the relationship with the U.S.

At the same time, the bizarre notion prevailing in Averell Harriman’s mind at the time as head of the U.S. delegation to the Paris peace talks, was that the Soviets could be persuaded to “use their influence in Hanoi” to pull U.S. chestnuts out of the fire. It was not only risible but also mischievous.

Believe it or not, that notion prevailed among the very smart people in the Office of National Estimates as well as other players downtown. Frustrated, I went public, publishing an article, “Moscow and Hanoi,” in Problems of Communism in May 1967.

After Kissinger went to Beijing (July 1971) — followed in February 1972 by Nixon — we Soviet analysts began to see very tangible signs that Moscow’s priority was to prevent the Chinese from creating a closer relationship with Washington than the Soviets could achieve.

In short, we saw new Soviet flexibility in the SALT negotiations (and, in the end, I was privileged to be there in Moscow in May 1972 for the signing of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms). Even earlier, we saw some new flexibility in Moscow’s position on Berlin. To some of us who had almost given up that a Quadripartite Agreement could ever be reached, well, we saw it happen in September 1971. I believe the opening to China was a factor.

So, in sum, in my experience, Chas is quite right in saying, “Overall, the maneuver was brilliant.” Again, the Soviets were not about to let the Chinese steal a march in developing better ties with the U.S. And I was able to watch Soviet behavior very closely in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. opening to China.

As for the future of Sino-Soviet relations, we were pretty much convinced that, to paraphrase that “great” student of Russian history, James Clapper, the Russians and Chinese were “almost genetically driven” to hate each other forever. In the 1980s, though, we detected signs of a thaw in ties between Moscow and Beijing.

To his credit, Secretary of State George Shultz was very interested in being kept up to date on this, which I was able to do, even after my tour briefing him on the PDB ran out in 1985. (I was acting chief of the Analysis Group at the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) for two years … (an outstanding outfit later banned by Robert Gates.)

Some Observations

1 — Unless Pompeo had someone else take the exams for him at West Point, he has to be a pretty smart fellow. In other words, I don’t think he can claim “Invincible ignorance”, (a frame of mind that can let us Catholics off the hook for serious transgressions or ineptitude). The only thing that makes sense to me is that he is a MICIMATTer. MICIMATT for the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MEDIA is all caps because it is the sine quo non, the linchpin) For example: Item: “Officials cite ‘keeping up with China’ as they award a $22.2 billion contract to General Dynamics to build Virginia-class submarines.” December 4, 2019

2 — I sometimes wonder what China, or Russia, or anyone thinks of a would-be statesman with the puerile attitude of a U.S. secretary of state who brags: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

3 — If memory serves, annual bilateral trade between China and Russia was between $200 and 400 MILLION during the 1960’s. It was $107 BILLION in 2018.

Kissinger meets Mao, Beijing, 1971. (Wikimedia Commons)

4 — The Chinese no longer wear Mao suits; and they no longer issue 178 “SERIOUS WARNINGS” a year. I can visualize, though, just one authentically serious warning about U.S. naval operations in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait. Despite the fact that there is no formal military alliance with Russia, I suspect the Russians might decide to do something troublesome — perhaps even provocative — in Syria, in Ukraine, or even in some faraway place like the Caribbean — if only to show a modicum of solidarity with their Chinese friends who at that point would be in direct confrontation with U.S. ships far from home. That, I think, is how far we have come in Pompeo’s benighted attempt to throw his weight around at both countries.

Three years ago, I published here an article titled “Russia-China Tandem Shifts Global Power.” Here are some excerpts:

“Gone are the days when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger skillfully took advantage of the Sino-Soviet rivalry and played the two countries off against each other, extracting concessions from each. Slowly but surely, the strategic equation has markedly changed – and the Sino-Russian rapprochement signals a tectonic shift to Washington’s distinct detriment, a change largely due to U.S. actions that have pushed the two countries closer together.

But there is little sign that today’s U.S. policymakers have enough experience and intelligence to recognize this new reality and understand the important implications for U.S. freedom of action. Still less are they likely to appreciate how this new nexus may play out on the ground, on the sea or in the air.

Instead, the Trump administration – following along the same lines as the Bush-43 and Obama administrations – is behaving with arrogance and a sense of entitlement, firing missiles into Syria and shooting down Syrian planes, blustering over Ukraine, and dispatching naval forces to the waters near China.

But consider this: it may soon be possible to foresee a Chinese challenge to “U.S. interests” in the South China Sea or even the Taiwan Strait in tandem with a U.S.-Russian clash in the skies over Syria or a showdown in Ukraine.

A lack of experience or intelligence, though, may be too generous an interpretation. More likely, Washington’s behavior stems from a mix of the customary, naïve exceptionalism and the enduring power of the U.S. arms lobby, the Pentagon, and the other deep-state actors – all determined to thwart any lessening of tensions with either Russia or China. After all, stirring up fear of Russia and China is a tried-and-true method for ensuring that the next aircraft carrier or other pricey weapons system gets built.

Like subterranean geological plates shifting slowly below the surface, changes with immense political repercussions can occur so gradually as to be imperceptible until the earthquake. As CIA’s principal Soviet analyst on Sino-Soviet relations in the 1960s and early 1970s, I had a catbird seat watching sign after sign of intense hostility between Russia and China, and how, eventually, Nixon and Kissinger were able to exploit it to Washington’s advantage.

The grievances between the two Asian neighbors included irredentism: China claimed 1.5 million square kilometers of Siberia taken from China under what it called “unequal treaties” [they were unequal] dating back to 1689. This had led to armed clashes during the 1960s and 1970s along the long riverine border where islands were claimed by both sides.

In the late 1960s, Russia reinforced its ground forces near China from 13 to 21 divisions. By 1971, the number had grown to 44 divisions, and Chinese leaders began to see Russia as a more immediate threat to them than the U.S. …

Enter Henry Kissinger, who visited Beijing in July 1971 to arrange the precedent-breaking visit by President Richard Nixon the following February. What followed was some highly imaginative diplomacy orchestrated by Kissinger and Nixon to exploit the mutual fear China and the USSR held for each other and the imperative each saw to compete for improved ties with Washington.

Triangular Diplomacy

Washington’s adroit exploitation of its relatively strong position in the triangular relationship helped facilitate major, verifiable arms control agreements between the U.S. and USSR and the Four Power Agreement on Berlin. The USSR even went so far as to blame China for impeding a peaceful solution in Vietnam.

It was one of those felicitous junctures at which CIA analysts could jettison the skunk-at-the-picnic attitude we were often forced to adopt. Rather, we could in good conscience chronicle the effects of the U.S. approach and conclude that it was having the desired effect. Because it was.

Hostility between Beijing and Moscow was abundantly clear. In early 1972, between President Nixon’s first summits in Beijing and Moscow, our analytic reports underscored the reality that Sino-Soviet rivalry was, to both sides, a highly debilitating phenomenon.

Not only had the two countries forfeited the benefits of cooperation, but each felt compelled to devote huge effort to negate the policies of the other. A significant dimension had been added to this rivalry as the U.S. moved to cultivate better relations simultaneously with both. The two saw themselves in a crucial race to cultivate good relations with the U.S.

The Soviet and Chinese leaders could not fail to notice how all this had increased the U.S. bargaining position. But we CIA analysts saw them as cemented into an intractable adversarial relationship by a deeply felt set of emotional beliefs, in which national, ideological, and racial factors reinforced one another. Although the two countries recognized the price they were paying, neither seemed able to see a way out. The only prospect for improvement, we suggested, was the hope that more sensible leaders would emerge in each country. But this seemed an illusory expectation at the time.

We were wrong about that. Mao Zedong’s and Nikita Khrushchev’s successors proved to have cooler heads. The U.S., under President Jimmy Carter, finally recognized the communist government of China in 1979 and the dynamics of the triangular relationships among the U.S., China and the Soviet Union gradually shifted with tensions between Beijing and Moscow lessening.

Yes, it took years to chip away at the heavily encrusted mistrust between the two countries, but by the mid-1980s, we analysts were warning policymakers that “normalization” of relations between Moscow and Beijing had already occurred slowly but surely, despite continued Chinese protestations that such would be impossible unless the Russians capitulated to all China’s conditions. For their part, the Soviet leaders had become more comfortable operating in the triangular environment and were no longer suffering the debilitating effects of a headlong race with China to develop better relations with Washington.

A New Reality

Still, little did we dream back then that as early as October 2004 Russian President Putin would visit Beijing to finalize an agreement on border issues and brag that relations had reached “unparalleled heights.” He also signed an agreement to jointly develop Russian energy reserves.

A revitalized Russia and a modernizing China began to represent a potential counterweight to U.S. hegemony as the world’s unilateral superpower, a reaction that Washington accelerated with its strategic maneuvers to surround both Russia and China with military bases and adversarial alliances by pressing NATO up to Russia’s borders and President Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”

The U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, marked a historical breaking point as Russia finally pushed back by approving Crimea’s request for reunification and by giving assistance to ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine who resisted the coup regime in Kiev. [Surprisingly, China decided not to criticize the annexation of Crimea.]

On the global stage, Putin fleshed out the earlier energy deal with China, including a massive 30-year natural gas contract valued at $400 billion. The move helped Putin demonstrate that the West’s post-Ukraine economic sanctions posed little threat to Russia’s financial survival.

As the Russia-China relationship grew closer, the two countries also adopted remarkably congruent positions on international hot spots, including Ukraine and Syria. Military cooperation also increased steadily. Yet, a hubris-tinged consensus in the U.S. government and academe continues to hold that, despite the marked improvement in ties between China and Russia, each retains greater interest in developing good relations with the U.S. than with each other. …”

Good luck with that Secretary Pompeo.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. Ray was a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared “The President’s Daily Brief” for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan and conducted the early-morning briefings from 1981 to 1985. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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31 comments for “Presumptuous Pompeo Pushes Preposterous ‘Peking’ Policy

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 31, 2020 at 17:37

    I’d suggest none of us take Ray’s too lightly. He seems to know what he is talking about and legitimate in his thoughts.

    Ray was intelligence analyst, who seems to still be very good at it and not one of the high paid political hacks who lead CIA at times and strive to undermine that great work for personal or political gain. There is a great difference in the two.

    I whiffed on my last comment here and I’m sure it did not come off as intended. No disrespect to Ray, I simply fail at my attempts with the written word at times.

    Thanks to Ray and all at CN

  2. Robert Steele
    July 30, 2020 at 00:04

    Ray! Can you comment on Barbara Honegger’s presentation and claims?
    watch Barbara Honegger Speaks at Lawyers’ Committee San Diego 9/11 Event March 6, 2020

  3. Dave P.
    July 29, 2020 at 23:09

    As noted in one of the earlier comments, after reading this article by Ray McGovern one gets the impression the current U.S. team is not doing so good as compared to Nixon-Kissinger duo, and that it should do better. But I think that it was not what Ray M. intended to do.
    Times have changed. The world is not the same as it was in 1970. But it is very hard for the West – its political and intellectual class – to accept the new reality. There was a very good presentation/talk by Chandarn Nair at symposium on”Sustainability” in Berlin during summer 2017. Chandarn Nair was born in Malaysia during British Colonial Rule in an Indian home. He is an engineer trained in U.K. and lives back there in Malaysia and Hong Kong and his articles do appear in prominent Western papers including Financial Times.
    Here is the link:
    This 35 minutes address by Nair is worth watching. The reaction of some in audience was the same as was the reaction of the audience to Vladimir Putin’s speech at 2007 Security Conference in Munich. Apparently, some of the West’s Liberal Elite in Berlin did not feel comfortable listening to the uncomfortable truths.
    There was this China-India border clashes recently, fueling this frenzy by West Oriented Indian Elite seeking revenge. This clash is being instigated by outside forces. This Indian Elite lives in a delusional state, and very much out of touch with Indian reality. India is facing insurmountable ecological problems and it’s democracy is dysfunctional incapable of solving these problems. Most of the Institutions of India have been taken over by this new Elite and many of them are being supported by West’s NGO’s. Chandarn Nair does talk about this Elite in those countries in his address.
    The West must start thinking in terms of solving global problems, which are many. Instead of initiating this new cold war, the West should team up with China to solve global problems. But looking at the present scene, it is just a wishful thinking.

    • C. N. Lee
      July 30, 2020 at 19:42

      Dave P wrote:
      “… one gets the impression the current U.S. team is not doing so good as compared to Nixon-Kissinger duo, and that it should do better. But I think that it was not what Ray M. intended to do.”

      If by doing “better” means more cooperation than confrontation, then I think you’re right. The Nixon-Kissinger team were more realistic than what many subsequent commentators believed or wanted to believe. Earlier I quoted Nixon’s reply to Zhou Enlai. Excerpts of Zhou’s speech:

      –“The social systems of China and the United States are fundamentally different and there exists great differences between the Chinese Government and the United States Government.

      “However, these differences should not hinder China and the United States from establishing normal state relations on the basis of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual nonaggression; noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, and peaceful coexistence. Still less should they lead to war.

      “As early as 1955 the Chinese Government publicly stated that the Chinese people do not want to have a war with the United States and that the Chinese Government is willing to sit down and enter into negotiations with the United States Government. This is a policy which we have pursued consistently.

      “We have taken note of the fact that in his speech before setting out for China, President Nixon, on his part, said that what we must do is to find a way to see that we can have differences without being enemies in war.”–

      In short, it was a true rapprochement: a coming together with mutual respect.

      And there was no sense of China needing American “protection” from the Soviets. The Sino-Soviet military clash at Chenpao island took place in 1969, well before the Nixon visit. The Soviets got the worst of it, which was why an infuriated Brezhnev talked about nuclear war. Of course when the Soviets started to reinforce their border, China must also take some precautions. But Mao wasn’t worried, which prompted some Western periodicals to say that China was “whistling in the wind.” The fact was that Mao knew the Soviet leader wouldn’t be so foolhardy as to start a war with its 800-million strong, perpetually-militarised neighbour.

  4. DW Bartoo
    July 29, 2020 at 22:07

    Awesome alliteration always appreciated.

    A very important history lesson.

    One unfortunately quite lost on the oligarchic overlords of obliteration and obsessive offensiveness and their loony lackeys of ludicrous loudmouthery.

    The buffoonish dandies of Full Spectrum Dominance deport themselves in churlish fashion imagining that they stand astride a cowering, timorous world quaking in fear at their every utterance.

    Unfortunately, such behavior, long standard practice, in terms of hubris, yet brought to new depths of pompous recklessness of late, also has the effect of reflecting rather poorly on a society which both tolerates and celebrates such thugs and mythical notions of idiotic exceptionalism and indispensability.

    To remain indifferent, or “patriotically”(what is the phrase?), “on board” with running the world and putting weapons in space requires a populace lacking both memory and conscience.

    To imagine that Trump and his jackals are anything new on the US political horizon, is to forget too many “splendid littles wars”, and all the egregious behavior of a settler/colonial mindset which, from the beginning, has excused or even exalted behavior both barbarous and savage, yet we pretend to possess a purity of purpose, as we plunder, pillage, and pollute.

    If Pompeo is a pompous joke of a being, a “religious” depravity willing on the “end times”, then he, precisely like Trump, is simply a reflection of what this society has long been about; lying, cheating, and stealing; and fucking proud of it.

    Were that not so, then we should hardly find ourselves where we are, witnessing the engineered and intentional collapse of civil society while the rule of law is made into a twisted mockery.

    We have not stumbled into this place by some rude accident, this is what we have tolerated, have cheered, have banked on, ever since we became an empire, first military and then financial.

    And we have always wrapped it all in the pretty puffery of “liberty”, “freedom”, “democracy”, and “happiness”.

    The Dream.

    The lie and the scam.

    The hustle and mindless slaughter.

    “We” must have monstrous enemies (made to order) and the “happiness” of the few now, more than ever, depends on the misery and despair of the many, both in the “Homeland” (a tribal concept of specialness) and throughout the world, a fully bipartisan undertaking that would rather bring about Armageddon than seek to build friendship and trust, again both here and everywhere.

    We do not want honest diplomats, we want bullies and thugs, “men with guns”.

    That is what we worship.

    Power unrestrained and wealth without limit.

    Life and the planet be damned.

    You think that a harsh and grim picture, or an unfair accounting?

    If so, then perhaps, just perhaps, you’ve not been paying honest attention.

    What have you been doing so dutifully and so consistently that you find the present moment surprising?

    If you have been paying attention, then you must have been, or becoming, truly concerned for years, even decades.

    In an earlier article, Ray asked how those of us who have been paying attention, might get the truth of things into the consideration of enough human beings that genuine change would be understood as necessary to our very survival.

    That seems of critical import.

    And, so far, there has been precious little response.

    Nothing will change for the better unless and until the many, understanding, insist upon such change.

    Imagine what will happen if things continue on their current, intended, trajectory.

    Grim and unpleasant, at best …

  5. David Hamilton
    July 29, 2020 at 15:40

    Your title chosen for a your piece leaves out one P-word among the many in the alliteration, and it is glaring in its omission: of course, it is “Pompous”.

    How could you leave that one out? I kept sensing its imminent appearance, but never got the satisfaction.

      July 29, 2020 at 20:08

      There there already is one adjective describing Pompeo.

  6. JW
    July 29, 2020 at 10:00

    I’m deeply impressed by Mr. McGovern’s depth of knowledge about the history of Sino-U.S. relations. I miss, however, in this piece thoughtful reflection about what modern-day China is about under its current leader. Without it, we are left to approach the subject as if Mao is still in charge, the geopolitics are frozen in the 20th century, and the only changes in the equation are pomposity and ignorance on the part of the current U.S. administraion.

  7. Robert Emmett
    July 29, 2020 at 09:51

    I too was among those college-age students just confronting for the first time the smashing of long held myths of what our country really was/is about at the time of Viet Nam and so felt overwhelming revulsion for everything Nixon/Kissinger said or did. While that blinded me to finer points of geo-strategy among global powers, what flashed in my brain on reading this piece by Mr. McGovern was that powerful nugget revealed by Daniel Ellsberg in his book a few years ago.

    That is, in its nuclear targeting, the U.S. war machine has inextricably bound together Communist Russia and Red China (as they still think of them) such that any counterattack by the U.S. to even a perceived nuclear attack by Russia automatically targets mainland China in its response. Thus, regardless of statesmanship, many millions of lives hang unaccountably in hair trigger balance of what could prove to be a computer glitch, if anyone were still around to do such proving.

    How much longer do you expect such a portentous thread to hold? All the while, these bumbling fat-assed, pompous & pampered bumble-bees of state buzz around that thread, chest bumping & bouncing & dive-bombing in a frenzied display of their so-called alpha manhood. This is what’s accepted as brinkmanship in a time of methane soil melting.

  8. padre
    July 29, 2020 at 07:50

    It doesn’t really matter to him,whether it makes any sense or not, he will keep repeating it, till it sticks!It’s like in the commercials, at the end people will only remember that he was referring to China in And, hey, people already know, that Russia and China are a sneaky customer anyway!

  9. C. N. Lee
    July 29, 2020 at 06:28

    Ray McGovern is right; Nixon never sought to change China, just as the US wouldn’t allow itself to be changed by China. At a dinner in Beijing Nixon said in a toast to Zhou Enlai that the two countries should:

    “… in these next five days, start a long march together NOT IN LOCKSTEP (my emphasis); but on different roads leading to the same goal, the goal of building a world structure of peace and justice in which all may stand together with equal dignity and in which each nation, large or small, has a right to determine its own form of government free of outside interference or domination.”

    To someone’s question as to why China was bitterly opposed to the Soviet Union, it’s not difficult to understand: Khrushschev had arbitrarily torn up all agreements to aid China, recalling all Soviet technicians home, taking with them the blueprints as well. This caused enormous losses to the Chinese economy as vast projects, including the building of the Yangtze River Bridge, were left uncompleted. The Chinese never forgot what they saw as a stab in the back, especially during those early years when China was desperately poor and still trying to feed its people while attempting to “reconstruct” their country.

  10. Zhu
    July 29, 2020 at 01:35

    The CPC could not be less Communist, these days. Meetings are opportunities for businessnen and careerists to network, perhaps like a Shriners’ neeting or a very boring liberal church. No one takes Marxism seriously. Traditional religions, Christianity, are surprisingly strong. A pop intro to Confucianism was a huge seller in recent years. US ideas about present day China are divorced from reality.

  11. Zhu
    July 29, 2020 at 01:21

    In 1972, i was on an aircraft carrier, helping bomb Vietnam. Now, I teach English in China. Then, American people were prosperous. Now, 40 million may become homelrss on a few weeks.Then, Chinese people were poor and suffered the Cultural Revolution. Now they prosper and are free do many things they couldn’t do in ’72. Pompeo’s America doesn’t look ver free to me. China has industrialized, the US has de-undustrilized. What changes a few decades make! Hopefully humanity can counter global warming in the next few!

    • Zhu
      July 29, 2020 at 01:23

      NB: in a few weeks, not on. Mea culpa!

  12. David Otness
    July 29, 2020 at 00:32

    Thank you for much insight I never had before, Ray. I take each day as an opportunity to learn something of consequence and this piece you have so skillfully wrought makes for a bonus day. Living through that period as a young draft-age adult I thought I knew the basics, but you have opened my eyes to the much, much more that was actually transpiring at the time.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    July 28, 2020 at 21:32

    While you normally have very acute observational skill, Ray, I think you have a blind spot here. back in your day (which was also my day) the US was the world’s creditor nation with the world’s strongest economy. In 1969 US GDP was 37% of world GDP. In 2018, it was 24% of world GDP. Today, we’re the world’s biggest debtor nation. And that 24% isn’t even real because it includes what we get from petrodollars which will go away when the world moves away from completing transactions in dollars. Things with Russia and China will be drastically different now because (a) both countries have given up their ideological fervor, (b) the US is much less important economically, and (c) both countries know that relying on the US for most of anything is a losing proposition. Using the US$ as a cudgel is equally a serious mistake. Furthermore, the US has openly proclaimed that it is at economic war with China. Russia has, I’m sure, no desire to be left standing up against the US all by themselves. Like Wile E Coyote we have run off the edge of the cliff. We just haven’t looked down yet.

  14. July 28, 2020 at 19:00

    In all of this hard not to compare two teams, Putin and Lavrov and Trump and Pompeo.

    It’s not about competition, i.e., who wins but who creates a better world, where accommodation and cooperation “trumps” being the bully on the block. The United States certainly has the resources today to move in this direction, but you wonder if that opportunity will still exist tomorrow.

  15. July 28, 2020 at 18:25

    this is a brilliant article; I have never read such a denoument of world dynamics before.

  16. subhuti37
    July 28, 2020 at 17:30

    Trusting the Americans was the biggest mistake they could make. If the USSR and China had cooperated then, we’d be in a far better place today.

    US jobs would still be in the US, and neoliberalism would have been stillborn.

    It’s the US that would have had to accommodate a socialist Asian continent.

  17. rosemerry
    July 28, 2020 at 16:34

    “our nation was founded on the premise that all human beings possess certain rights that are unalienable.”

    Well, poor Pompass did not notice African slaves or American native people, but I suppose in his Christian eyes they are not human.

    “Seven years later, when the Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan,” Excuse me, they were invited in by the pro-Soviet government. Who invited the USA to come in 19 years ago, and stay????

  18. PEG
    July 28, 2020 at 16:24

    This is certainly one of the most informative articles I have read in quite a while, even by the very high standards of Consortium News.

    I had not realized that China had actively backed the USA against the Soviets in the Afghanistan War in the early 1980s or that China, following Nixon’s initiatives, was a “protected state” whose independence vis-à-vis the Soviet Union was assured by the USA (similar to the independence of the Ottoman Empire vis-à-vis the Russian Empire having been maintained by Great Britain in the 19th century, for example, through the Crimean War).

    In addition, I hadn’t realized the extent of the enmity between China and the Soviet Union between the 1960s and 1980s. So much for “monolithic Communism” and the Domino Theory. It would be very interesting to know what the maximalist demands of the Chinese against the Soviet Union mentioned by McGovern actually were – was it to roll back the conquests of the Russian Empire past the Chinese Empire of the past centuries? Very interesting how so-called “Communist” states were actually carrying forward the old imperial prerogatives.

    Would be great if today’s CIA and sister institutions could be run by people of the caliber of McGovern.

  19. Ian Brown
    July 28, 2020 at 14:37


    Pompeo should indeed be the world laughingstock, but when I as one guy on the outside view the situation, whenever Pompeo says “jump”, Europe, Australia and Japan very publicly say “How high?” I don’t know what the private conversations within and among other nations of the world are like, but in actions and rhetoric they seem continue to follow America’s lead however absurd or reckless.

    If I were a Japanese or Australian person I would be concerned that the US crusade against China would harm me economically by isolating my country from a primary trading partner, and put me in harm’s way of a potential war where I have nothing to gain. Yet, these leaders range from lukewarm silence to full throated endorsement.

    Do you have any insight of what is really going on?

  20. Paul Eccles
    July 28, 2020 at 14:16

    Another fantastic article which I read with great interest. There’s nowhere you can find analysis like this.

    Thank you

  21. Thorben
    July 28, 2020 at 14:08

    In retrospective it looks like the republicans were far more diplomatic, while the democrats had a more militaristic approach during the cold war. Which is quite the opposite of what most people believe.

  22. Andrew Thomas
    July 28, 2020 at 13:49

    And, making the assumption that something would create a 180 degree turnaround in the US quickly, which is needed to give the world even a tiny chance to avoid climate catastrophe, and turn the Doomsday Clock back to even awful Cold War levels, we have the fact Ray presented the other day: that Russia has, correctly, decided that the US is incapable of making an agreement. Something China has undoubtedly noted, if it hasn’t been stated as yet with the same clarity as Russia. And, with that, good luck to us all.

  23. AnneR
    July 28, 2020 at 13:40

    Truly, Ray, the really good luck wish should go to China and Russia and their need (for need it is) to combine, assist each other, benefit from each other’s willingness to co-operate one with the other. And let the USA swallow it.

    Surely their (USA) warmongering is more, more than sufficient for the next several centuries (assuming humanimals have that long). We should bloody well mind our own business and leave Russia and China to theirs (and Iran, Venezuela, Cuba etc.). Enough, already.

  24. July 28, 2020 at 11:59

    A writer at The Guardian called Pompeo “America’s Evangelical enforcer.”

    I cannot imagine a better summary description. Religious crank combined with mafia thug.

    But let’s not forget who appointed Pompeo and allows him to make so much noise in the world.

    And let’s not forget why he was appointed. To please some immensely rich American oligarchs so that Trump could keep the campaign funds flowing. His illegal policies in the Middle East, of course, reflect the same influence because the oligarchs are obsessed with Israel.

    American foreign policy is for sale, quite literally.

    Today, almost any major problem in American society you care to study brings you back to the same place. Foreign policy, social unrest, police brutality, terrible leadership, a stultified two-party system which yields no progress in anything, serving largely as a democracy-themed window-dressing.

    And that place is the fact that America is effectively a plutocracy. Its immensely costly military-security service establishment – a trillion dollars a year – serves to maintain and expand a brutal global empire.

    And whose interests does that global empire serve? Yes, the same plutocrats driving American government.

  25. Taras77
    July 28, 2020 at 11:16

    One can only say that pompeo continues to embarrass himself, the office that he holds, and the country.!

  26. Sally McMilan
    July 28, 2020 at 10:57

    This is a rather strange article by Ray McGovern. It seems to show admiration for how Nixon and Kissinger manipulated the relationships between china and russia. Is he thinking that Pompeo is not as good a manipulator and that’s too bad. Hopefully, his outlook has changed to encourage working for cooperation and peace between the big powers and not attempts to just advance U.S. interests.

  27. peter mcloughlin
    July 28, 2020 at 08:42

    President Nixon’s geopolitical aim was to use “the China thaw to get the Russians shook.” Ultimately, the Cold War managed to avoid nuclear annihilation. There is much talk today among hawks of a “new Cold War”, feeding on the dangerous illusion it will end just like the first one. For more on why they are wrong:

  28. TimN
    July 28, 2020 at 07:31

    My God, Pompeo is an idiot. You know what, Ray? I don’t think he’s all that smart.

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