Paranoia — Cause of the Cold War
Seneca, The Younger, over 2000 years ago, “Worse than war, is the fear of war.” President Franklin Roosevelt concurred 90 years ago, “All we have to fear, is fear itself.” Paranoia is described as “delusions of supposed hostile intentions of others.” Three individuals with that mind set appear to have been the prime architects of the Cold War, which being ‘cold’ did not have specific battles, but which fomented the ‘hot’ wars of Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq etc. The three were Stalin, Forrestal and Kennan.
1. Josef Stalin, as a seminary student, had been expelled several times, as a restless political agitator had been jailed several times; as a ruthless politician savagely overcame adversaries to achieve supreme power; and as a distrusting dictator he continued to eliminate his opponents. His life experience made his paranoia inevitable. 2. James Forrestal, a wealthy businessman, appointed to be the first Secretary of the newly formed Department of Defense by President Truman. His wife, Josephine Ogden, was diagnosed with “clinical Schizophrenia” in 1940, her major delusion being “the Reds are after me.” 3. George Kennan- In 1944 the ambassador, Averill Harriman being away, it fell to Kennan, “an obscure diplomat” in the U.S. Consulate in Moscow to reply to a State Dept. information request, with an 8000-word telegram, detailing much of Stalin’s abuses, and including advice.
At Kennan’s 2001 death The Week magazine wrote, “He provided a devastating account of the post-war psychology of the Soviet Union.” “The ‘Long Telegram’ triggered a seismic change in super-power relations, and served as a blue print for America’s Cold War strategy for years to come.” He stated, “that peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union was impossible;” that “the Soviet Union was committed to destroy America’s way of life;” that “thwarting the Soviet goal was the greatest task that our diplomacy had ever faced”; that his advice was to confront the Soviet Union with unalterable counter force at every point.” It should be noted that these are all opinions. “Impossible” made negotiations moot. But back in Washington, Forrestal loved it and brought Kennan home to give him more power.
They were both conscientious, hardworking citizens. Before 1950, Kennan would change his mind, and would renounce his own paranoid outlook Forrestal did not.