Filing Cabinets Full of Betrayals

 

When Anna Funder visited the former East Germany in 1994–five years after the Wall came down–she found it to be a very strange place, “a place lost in time. It wouldn’t have surprised me if things had tasted different here–apples like pears, say, or wine like blood.” The German Democratic Republic, as it called itself, had been a suffocating surveillance state, dedicated to the monitoring and control of every aspect of its citizens’ lives–enforced by a huge organization known as the Ministry for State Security, Staatssicherheit, abbreviated Stasi.

Funder wrote of her experiences and observations in a 2003 book, Stasiland.

The author, an Australian, came to Germany in the 1980s after studying the language in school, and often wondered what went on behind the Wall. She became convinced that the stories of the people who had lived in East Germany…both those who had suffered under the regime and the perpetrators of the suffering…needed to be told. In 1996, she moved to the former GDR city of Leipzig and gathered the stories that resulted in this book.

Her first interviewee was a woman named Miriam. In 1968, protest demonstrations arose in Leipzig–the proximate cause being the government’s demolition of an old church–and were quickly crushed. Miriam and her friend Ursula were appalled at the regime’s brutality. “At sixteen you have an idea of justice, and we just thought it was wrong.” Miriam and Ursula were not anti-regime at this point, just anti-beating-people-up-for-protesting. They bought a child’s stamp set and used it for a makeshift printing facility, making posters and putting them up around town. Quickly, they were caught and both were held in solitary confinement for a month and repeatedly interrogated. Eventually, they confessed and were released to await their trials.

Miriam had no intention of going back to prison, and decided to go over the Wall instead.

She came very close to making it but ultimately failed. (Telling the story to Funder many years later, she expressed concern about the fate of the police dog which had fallen down on the job, allowing her to almost get away.) Again she faced interrogation, this time for 10 hours a night, and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. Following her release, she met her husband-to-be, Charlie, who was a phys ed teacher. He also wound up in trouble with the regime: swimming out too far into the Baltic Sea led to his arrest on suspicion of wanting to leave the country. Although he was released, he fell under further suspicion after assisting Miriam’s sister and her husband in their unsuccessful escape attempt. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1980 as part of a roundup of potential troublemakers on the eve of West German Chancellor Schmidt’s planned visit, and soon thereafter Miriam was told to pick up his things–that he had hanged himself in prison. Miriam suspected, apparently with good reason, that he had in fact not committed suicide but had rather been beaten and killed by Stasi.

In 1989, Miriam was expelled from East Germany, on less than one day’s notice. A few months later, the regime fell and the Wall came down. When Funder talked with her, she had been unable–despite her stringent efforts–to find out what really happened to Charlie.

She chose to live in an apartment building without elevators…they were too reminiscent of prison cells. Brave and strong and broken all at once is the way Funder describes Miriam’s psychological state. Sometimes, Miriam liked to drive up to the former Stasi building and park right outside. “‘I just sit there in the car and feel…triumph!’ Miriam makes a gesture that starts as a wave, and becomes a guillotine. ‘You lot are gone.’”

There are other stories–for example, that of Sigrid Paul, whose son was born in 1961 with severe health problems. His life was saved by West Berlin doctors, and when the Wall went up he was separated from his parents. Stasi attempted to enlist Mrs. Paul in a plot whereby she would be allowed to be with her son IF she would assist them by meeting with a certain person–a border-crossing activist named Michael Hinze–in the West. Remembering the case of Wilhelm Fricke, who had been kidnapped from West Berlin by the Stasi, she was sure they had the same fate in mind for Michael Hinze–and she refused their deal. But the psychological price was high.

“Me–bait in a trap for Michael! And of course that was an absolute no. I couldn’t.” Her back is straight, and her hands are clenched into fists on her thighs. “Karl Wilhelm Fricke,” she says, “was my guardian angel!” She starts to crumble and break. At this moment, she does not look like a woman who was saved from anything. “I had to decide against my son, but I couldn’t let myself be used in this way.’ Her back slumps and she is crying again.

Funder talked with numerous former Stasi and other GDR officials, most of whom were nostalgic for the past and unrepentant about the regime’s atrocities. Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, for example, hosted a television program called The Black Channel, which was dedicated to exposing the “lies” told by the Western media about the GDR…and when interviewed by Funder still defended his support of the Wall as something humane and the killings at the border as acts of peace. Mr. Winz, who had worked in counterintelligence and now ran an association of former Stasi officers, strongly defended the Old Regime and argued that things had gotten much worse since the end of the Communist regime.

“This capitalism is, above all, exploitation! It is unfair. It’s brutal…Each industrialist is a criminal at war with the other, each business at war with the next!…Capitalism plunders the planet, too–this hole in the ozone layer, the exploitation of the forests, pollution–we must get rid of this social system! Otherwise the human race will not last the next fifty years!”

The stifling and almost surrealistic nature of the GDR’s totally-government-dominated society comes through strongly in this book. “In the GDR people were required to acknowledge an assortment of fictions as fact. Some of these fictions were fundamental, such as the idea that human nature is a work-in-progress which can be improved upon, and that Communism is the way to do it. Others were more specific: that East Germans were not the Germans were responsible (even in part) for the Holocaust; that the GDR was a multi-party democracy; that socialism was peace-loving..Many people withdrew into what they called ‘internal emigration.’ They sheltered their secret inner lives in an attempt to keep something of themselves from the authorities.”

The regime attempted to tightly control the language. Julia, one of Funder’s interviewees, was at the Employment Office looking for a job–she turned to the man behind her in line and asked, “So how long have you been unemployed?” She was immediately chastised by an official for using the term “unemployed”…”You are not unemployed; you are seeking work. When Julia responded, “I’m seeking work because I’m unemployed,” the official started to shout: “I said, you are not unemployed, you are seeking work! and then, almost hysterically “There is no unemployment in the German Democratic Republic.”

Julia did pick up a little money working as a tour group leader…but she couldn’t call herself that–because the German word for “leader” is “fuehrer,” and that word had been banned due to its Hitlerian connotation. So instead, she was a Stadtbilderklaererin…a “town plan explainer.” Similarly, a locomotive engineer could not be called by the traditional term train-driver, but was instead a Lokkapitaen…a “locomotive captain.”

For those with spirit and integrity, the stifling environment was agonizing. “Every Wednesday before the Party meetings, Dad would be in a foul mood,” said Julia of her father, a teacher, “really grim.” “(He) spoke up against things he disagreed with, such as recruiting eighth-graders for the army, or teaching boring Russian socialist-realist novels. He would come home hollow. ‘They dressed him down like a child in there.’” Julia’s father retired as soon as he could, and required medication for depression. “Living for so long in a relation of unspoken hostility but outward compliance to the state had broken him.”

And if someone didn’t appreciate the wonderfulness of life in the GDR, why, there was clearly something wrong with him. Browsing through documents at the Stasi Law School at Potsdam, Funder saw a dissertation topic “On the Probable Causes of the Psychological Pathology of the Desire to Commit Border Infractions.”

The overall head of Stasi was Erich Mielke. In an interview, Funder notes that Mielke’s office was on the second floor of his headquarters building, so the office number normally would have started with a “2.” But Mielke had the entire first floor renamed the mezzanine, so that his office number could be 101.

Room 101, in George Orwell’s 1984, was the ultimate torture chamber in the regime’s “Ministry of Love.”

After the Wall came down and the East and West were reunified, a massive effort was made to piece together the voluminous Stasi files, most of which had been shredded, but not very thoroughly so.  “Puzzle women” were employed to piece together the shredded pieces, when possible, so that visitors to the Stasi Museum could review their own files and see which of their friends and neighbors had betrayed them…for money, for revenge, for career advantage, or, probably, in some cases due to genuine moral indignation that anyone should oppose the regime in any way.

I see through a window into a room where several men and a woman sit each at their own small table.  They look at pink and dun-coloured manila folders and take notes.  What mysteries are being solved?  Why they didn’t get into university, or why they couldn’t find a job, or which friend told Them about the forbidden Solzhenitsyn in their bookcase?

Stasi records were very voluminous–it is said that the quantity of Stasi documents exceeded all of the official records of all of Germany since medieval times.  (Not remotely comparable, though, to what can be accumulated today via the capturing and surveillance of social media and other Internet traffic)

There is a lot of very good descriptive writing in this book. Two examples:

A bar in Leipzig:

Auerbach’s Cellar is a famous Leipzig institution It is an underground bar and restaurant with oak bench tables in long alcoves under a curved roof, just like a cellar. The walls and ceilings are covered with ark painted scenes from Goethe’s Faust: Faust meeting Mephistopheles, Faust betraying Margarethe, Faust in despair. Goethe used to drink here. It is a good place to meet the devil.

Leaving Leipzig:

In the morning Miriam takes me to the station To my relief I find a copy shop, so I can give Charlie’s poem back to her. She comes to the platform and waits till the train moves out, silent and slow. The girl opposite me lip-smacks her puppy; on the platform an older dog huffs and rearranges itself in jealousy. Then Miriam waves and walks away, straightbacked into the sunlight.

An important book, well-written, which deserves to be widely read.

I published an earlier version of this post at Chicago Boyz in 2012.  At the time, I could not have imagined how quickly the US was going to move in the direction of the surveillance and betrayal society portrayed so well in Funder’s book.

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  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    We had two ways to deal with communists. With the USSR, Cuba, Vietnam (for its first half) we treated them like the pariahs they were and they collapsed.

    That’s not really true. Reagan played both ends of that, speaking of the Evil Empire on the one hand and making nice with Gorbachev on the other. That’s not making them collapse by treating them like pariahs.

    We had almost no trade with them and it was extremely difficult to even visit them (unless you were going there for communist training like Bill Clinton did).  I would call that pariah treatment.

    • #31
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Skyler (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    We had two ways to deal with communists. With the USSR, Cuba, Vietnam (for its first half) we treated them like the pariahs they were and they collapsed.

    That’s not really true. Reagan played both ends of that, speaking of the Evil Empire on the one hand and making nice with Gorbachev on the other. That’s not making them collapse by treating them like pariahs.

    We had almost no trade with them and it was extremely difficult to even visit them (unless you were going there for communist training like Bill Clinton did). I would call that pariah treatment.

    There were various exchanges taking place. At the time I thought they were a bad idea, and I was very wrong about that. It was good that we didn’t treat them like a pariah like I thought we should do. 

    • #32
  3. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    There were various exchanges taking place. At the time I thought they were a bad idea, and I was very wrong about that. It was good that we didn’t treat them like a pariah like I thought we should do. 

    They were extremely limited, whatever these “exchanges” were that you are referring to. 

    With China, Bill Clinton gave them our intercontinental ballistic missile technology because he thought it was unfair or unfortunate that we weren’t sharing it with them.  That is a lot worse than a few “various exchanges” with the USSR when they still existed.

     

    • #33
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Skyler (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    There were various exchanges taking place. At the time I thought they were a bad idea, and I was very wrong about that. It was good that we didn’t treat them like a pariah like I thought we should do.

    They were extremely limited, whatever these “exchanges” were that you are referring to.

    With China, Bill Clinton gave them our intercontinental ballistic missile technology because he thought it was unfair or unfortunate that we weren’t sharing it with them. That is a lot worse than a few “various exchanges” with the USSR when they still existed.

    Not so extremely limited. We did grain sales with Russia. Carter’s embargo over Afghanistan did a lot to get Ronald Reagan re-elected. He reversed Carter’s policy. There were scientific exchanges.  I encountered Russian scientists as well as those from at least one of the satellites. (Whether it was Russian or Chinese, I always tried to figure out right away who the political handler was.  Wasn’t usually hard.)  And there were many others.

    We did treat the Soviet Union as a pariah after the Bolshevik revolution.  We didn’t establish diplomatic relations until FDR; I remember conservatives grumbling about that yet in the 1950s and maybe the ’60s.   And then we invited Khrushchev for a visit in 1959. Conservatives didn’t like that, either, but I’m glad it happened. A return visit didn’t happen because of the U2 incident. We had nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviets in the 70s and beyond.

    We treated China as a pariah until Nixon’s visit in the early 70s.  There are things we’re doing with China that we shouldn’t be doing, but I don’t think we should treat that country as a pariah, either.

     

    • #34
  5. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Not so extremely limited.

    Yes, I remember that, but it’s hardly free enterprise.  

    • #35
  6. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    China examined closely how the Soviet Union screwed up. They infiltrated our society and economy as a superior tactic under the guise of they are going to become more democratic if they trade with us. Total disaster.

    • #36
  7. MISTER BITCOIN Inactive
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    China examined closely how the Soviet Union screwed up. They infiltrated our society and economy as a superior tactic under the guise of they are going to become more democratic if they trade with us. Total disaster.

    China used its wealth to buy off UN, WTO, WHO and DNC

     

    • #37
  8. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    China examined closely how the Soviet Union screwed up. They infiltrated our society and economy as a superior tactic under the guise of they are going to become more democratic if they trade with us. Total disaster.

    China used its wealth to buy off UN, WTO, WHO and DNC

     

    So, you’re saying we sold them the rope to  hang us?  Interesting.

    • #38
  9. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    We treated China as a pariah until Nixon’s visit in the early 70s. There are things we’re doing with China that we shouldn’t be doing, but I don’t think we should treat that country as a pariah, either.

    Another Nixon sin, among many others. We have gained little or nothing from coddling China, and we have lost much.

    The only rational thing to do would be to — over time — disengage from China entirely.

    And sell whatever military weapons Taiwan wants to them. Would China be offended? Yes, but I don’t care.

     

     

    • #39
  10. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    We treated China as a pariah until Nixon’s visit in the early 70s. There are things we’re doing with China that we shouldn’t be doing, but I don’t think we should treat that country as a pariah, either.

    Another Nixon sin, among many others. We have gained little or nothing from coddling China, and we have lost much.

    The only rational thing to do would be to — over time — disengage from China entirely.

    And sell whatever military weapons Taiwan wants to them. Would China be offended? Yes, but I don’t care.

     

     

    For decades Taiwan worked on an atomic bomb, and they were nearly there in 1988 when insane opposition from US nonproliferation nuts forced them to stop.  So it’s just a matter of time until Communist China takes over.

    In the 90s, we had a similarly insane policy toward Ukraine, to pressure it to get rid of the nuclear weapons it already had; with the eventual result, so far, of Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine.

    Knowing that the Chinese wanted a divided Vietnam, just as they had earlier wanted a divided Korea*, Nixon was working with them to save South Vietnam. And nearly succeeded, but for a disgruntled FBI agent who leaked to the Washington Post.

    *Because Korea and Vietnam were potential beachheads in the Chinese rear, in the event of a war with the Soviet Union.

    • #40
  11. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    This is a very good article that is sort of related to this topic..

    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2021/03/robert-higgs/the-song-that-is-irresistible-how-the-state-leads-people-to-their-own-destruction/

     

    All governments are, as they must be, oligarchies: only a relatively small number of people have substantial effective discretion to make critical decisions about how the state’s power will be brought to bear. Beyond the oligarchy itself and the police and military forces that compose its Praetorian Guard, somewhat larger groups constitute a supporting coalition. These groups provide important financial and other support to the oligarchs and look to them for compensating rewards — legal privileges, subsidies, jobs, exclusive franchises and licenses, transfers of financial income and wealth, goods and services in kind, and other booty — channeled to them at the expense of the mass of the people. Thus, the political class in general — that is, the oligarchs, the Praetorian Guards, and the supporting coalition — uses government power (which means ultimately the police and the armed forces) to exploit everyone outside this class by wielding or threatening to wield violence against all who fail to pay the tribute the oligarchs demand or to obey the rules they dictate.

     

    Under modern conditions, high wartime taxes always stick to some extent, leaving the amount of the government’s plunder much greater after the war than it was before the war. In the present so-called war on terror, the government has partially concealed this increased seizure of private property by running up the national debt, rather than by jacking up ordinary tax rates or imposing new kinds of taxes, but this financial trick does not alter the raw fact that the government has been using more of the people’s resources for its own purposes, as shown by the rapid run-up of its spending, leaving the public on the hook to pay the increased interest and eventually to repay the principal, or to suffer the consequences if the government should attempt in effect to repudiate its obligations to creditors by inflating the money stock. During the present Bush administration, Treasury debt held by the public has grown from $3.3 trillion (end FY 2001) to an estimated $5.1 trillion (end FY 2007), or by about 53 percent in only six years.

    Everything Moves Towards Communism All Of The Time™

    Everything Moves Left All Of The Time

    Government Is How We Steal From Each Other™

    The Government Is Running Out Of Money™

    ——-

    Here is the 300 level version: https://investresolve.com/podcasts/mike-green-the-fourth-turning-and-reimagining-the-american-dream/

     

     

    • #41
  12. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Taras (View Comment):
    For decades Taiwan worked on an atomic bomb, and they were nearly there in 1988 when insane opposition from US nonproliferation nuts forced them to stop.  So it’s just a matter of time until Communist China takes over.

    I’m listening to the latest National Review VDH podcast and he is talking about that right now. It’s completely insane that they don’t have a dozen nukes on submarines. What stupidity. It would completely take that problem off the table.

    • #42
  13. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    For decades Taiwan worked on an atomic bomb, and they were nearly there in 1988 when insane opposition from US nonproliferation nuts forced them to stop. So it’s just a matter of time until Communist China takes over.

    I’m listening to the latest National Review VDH podcast and he is talking about that right now. It’s completely insane that they don’t have a dozen nukes on submarines. What stupidity. It would completely take that problem off the table.

    Nuclear nonproliferation:  we discourage friendly and civilized countries from arming themselves, while our rogue state enemies of course ignore our advice.

    You’ll notice the resemblance to gun control ideology, that argues if we disarm law-abiding people while criminals get guns the country will be safer.  Perhaps they think violent crime is a product of the total number of weapons around, not who has them.

    Both history and common sense suggest that nuclear weapons are more likely to be used if one side lacks a nuclear deterrent.

    • #43
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Taras (View Comment):

    Nuclear nonproliferation:  we discourage friendly and civilized countries from arming themselves, while our rogue state enemies of course ignore our advice.

     

    You’ll notice that some of our erstwhile quasi-allies, sometimes adversaries such as Israel don’t much care about what we say about that.  Taiwan would have been wise to follow their lead, if they really thought they would have survived a Chinese attempt to stop them.

    • #44
  15. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    Nuclear nonproliferation: we discourage friendly and civilized countries from arming themselves, while our rogue state enemies of course ignore our advice.

     

    You’ll notice that some of our erstwhile quasi-allies, sometimes adversaries such as Israel don’t much care about what we say about that. Taiwan would have been wise to follow their lead, if they really thought they would have survived a Chinese attempt to stop them.

    Israel, which had a lot more political clout in the US back then than it does today, basically got a wink and a nod.

    On the other hand the US, which had done nothing to prevent Communist China from going nuclear, threatened to withdraw our nuclear umbrella from Taiwan before they had a chance to erect their own.  

    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, so the Reagan Administration didn’t want to mess that up.  Of course, once the Cold War ended, we went on treating China like an essential ally for no good reason.

    • #45
  16. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.  

    • #46
  17. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping even publicly urged the Reagan Administration to spend more money on national defense.

    China rightly saw the USSR as a far greater threat to it than the US.

    • #47
  18. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Taras (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping even publicly urged the Reagan Administration to spend more money on national defense.

    China rightly saw the USSR as a far greater threat to it than the US.

    Well naturally, China didn’t want to be destroyed by the USSR before China could destroy US.

    • #48
  19. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination.  The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    • #49
  20. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination. The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    “Reagan recognized the immense strategic value in a closer U.S. relationship with Communist China”.—Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006).  For example, if the Soviets attacked Western Europe, China might open a second front in the east.

    During the Vietnam war, Haiphong Harbor was very important to the North Vietnamese war effort, because China was slow walking rail shipments of munitions from the Soviet Union.

    • #50
  21. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Taras (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination. The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    “Reagan recognized the immense strategic value in a closer U.S. relationship with Communist China”.—Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006). For example, if the Soviets attacked Western Europe, China might open a second front in the east.

    During the Vietnam war, Haiphong Harbor was very important to the North Vietnamese war effort, because China was slow walking rail shipments of munitions from the Soviet Union.

    Hmmm.  “Might open a second front”? “Slow walking rail shipments”?  

    I believe I’d have to see more…a lot more.

     

    • #51
  22. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination. The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    “Reagan recognized the immense strategic value in a closer U.S. relationship with Communist China”.—Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006). For example, if the Soviets attacked Western Europe, China might open a second front in the east.

    During the Vietnam war, Haiphong Harbor was very important to the North Vietnamese war effort, because China was slow walking rail shipments of munitions from the Soviet Union.

    Hmmm. “Might open a second front”? “Slow walking rail shipments”?

    I believe I’d have to see more…a lot more.

    Wikipedia to the rescue.

    • #52
  23. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Skyler (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination. The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    “Reagan recognized the immense strategic value in a closer U.S. relationship with Communist China”.—Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006). For example, if the Soviets attacked Western Europe, China might open a second front in the east.

    During the Vietnam war, Haiphong Harbor was very important to the North Vietnamese war effort, because China was slow walking rail shipments of munitions from the Soviet Union.

    Hmmm. “Might open a second front”? “Slow walking rail shipments”?

    I believe I’d have to see more…a lot more.

    Wikipedia to the rescue.

    Based on that chart, I don’t see that there was much “slow walking” of any war material to North Vietnam. And, even though I do respect Professor Kengor’s work, I think the idea of a second front in the east was a bit far fetched.  True, China and the USSR’s border conflict in 1969 was fairly serious.  However, I don’t believe Mao would have risked an all-out war for the sake of NATO.

    • #53
  24. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    At the time Red China was a major ally of the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union

    That would seem to be over stating it.

    Yeah, I tend to think of that as largely a figment of Henry Kissinger’s imagination. The Chinese are very good at making U.S. diplomats believe what they want them to believe.

    “Reagan recognized the immense strategic value in a closer U.S. relationship with Communist China”.—Paul Kengor, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006). For example, if the Soviets attacked Western Europe, China might open a second front in the east.

    During the Vietnam war, Haiphong Harbor was very important to the North Vietnamese war effort, because China was slow walking rail shipments of munitions from the Soviet Union.

    Hmmm. “Might open a second front”? “Slow walking rail shipments”?

    I believe I’d have to see more…a lot more.

    Wikipedia to the rescue.

    Based on that chart, I don’t see that there was much “slow walking” of any war material to North Vietnam. And, even though I do respect Professor Kengor’s work, I think the idea of a second front in the east was a bit far fetched. True, China and the USSR’s border conflict in 1969 was fairly serious. However, I don’t believe Mao would have risked an all-out war for the sake of NATO.

    According to Wikipedia:

    “The amount of China’s military supply [to North Vietnam] fluctuated between 1965 and 1968, although the total value of material supplies remained at roughly the same level. But then in 1969–70, a sharp drop occurred, at the same time that all China’s troops were pulled back. …

    “In 1968, China’s strategic environment changed as Sino-Soviet relations took a decisive turn for the worse. When China was seeking rapprochement with America, ‘North Vietnam was still locked in a desperate struggle with the Americans,’ which created serious implications for Sino-DRV relations”.  [Emphases mine.]

    The table in the article shows a striking decrease in certain munitions between 1968 and 1969 and 1970.

    Soviet war planners had to account for the possibility that, in the event of a war in the West, China would opportunistically take advantage in the East:  even with no war in the West the two regimes had already come to blows.

    This meant that troops would have to be left on the long border with China, making them unavailable for the invasion of Western Europe.  Worse, the de facto alliance with the U.S. meant that China’s operations would — at the very least — be assisted by America’s vast intelligence resources.

    • #54
  25. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.  

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion.  Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.  

    • #55
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.

    It might have been the first (and last) time in history that any nation declined more munitions on account of already having enough.

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion. Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.

    Was the United States-Russia alliance in WWII an illusion? Long-term the Soviet Union still wanted to hang us with the rope we’d sell them, but short-term the alliance was real enough.

    • #56
  27. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.

    It might have been the first (and last) time in history that any nation declined more munitions on account of already having enough.

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion. Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.

    Was the United States-Russia alliance in WWII an illusion? Long-term the Soviet Union still wanted to hang us with the rope we’d sell them, but short-term the alliance was real enough.

    My objection is that they were not a “major” ally.  Britain, New Zealand, Canada, Australia are all major allies (the five eyes).  Germany, Spain, and the rest of NATO are major allies.  Japan is a major ally.  

    China is a major something, but major ally is not what I would call them.  Being somewhat cooperative on some issues does not a major ally make.

    • #57
  28. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion. Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.

    Hmm.  So when Premier Deng urged Reagan to build up (!) the U.S. military, this was “for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan”?  If that were the purpose, you’d think a stronger U.S. military would be the absolute last thing they would want!

    In any case, the historical record shows that Mao and his successors have been happy to put off reacquiring Taiwan almost indefinitely:  for half a century since Nixon went to China, so far.  They simply have a lot of higher priorities.

    P.S.:  Everything I ever read about the Vietnam War indicates that North Vietnam was under terrific stress, near collapse at some points.  Do you have any evidence that indicates they didn’t mind deep cuts in Chinese aid?

    • #58
  29. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Taras (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion. Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.

    Hmm. So when Premier Deng urged Reagan to build up (!) the U.S. military, this was “for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan”? If that were the purpose, you’d think a stronger U.S. military would be the absolute last thing they would want!

    In any case, the historical record shows that Mao and his successors have been happy to put off reacquiring Taiwan almost indefinitely: for half a century since Nixon went to China, so far. They simply have a lot of higher priorities.

    P.S.: Everything I ever read about the Vietnam War indicates that North Vietnam was under terrific stress, near collapse at some points. Do you have any evidence that indicates they didn’t mind deep cuts in Chinese aid?

    I was on the ground in Vietnam for 13 months and I can tell you that they never wanted for material. We kept capturing weapons and they kept replacing them.  Maybe you read that they were “near collapse” but they were never going to quit.  Have you ever really spent time in Asia?  Read all you want to but once you get on the ground over there, things tend to become more clear “evidence” or not.

    • #59
  30. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Skyler (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    The “500 Rule” strikes again.

    If there was a “striking decrease in certain munitions” then I suspect that it was due to the North Vietnamese having more than enough to wage war.

    It might have been the first (and last) time in history that any nation declined more munitions on account of already having enough.

    As for any “de facto alliance” I believe that was an illusion. Mao and Zhou’s long term plan was that any rapprochement with the United States was for the purposes of reacquiring Taiwan.

    Was the United States-Russia alliance in WWII an illusion? Long-term the Soviet Union still wanted to hang us with the rope we’d sell them, but short-term the alliance was real enough.

    My objection is that they were not a “major” ally. Britain, New Zealand, Canada, Australia are all major allies (the five eyes). Germany, Spain, and the rest of NATO are major allies. Japan is a major ally.

    China is a major something, but major ally is not what I would call them. Being somewhat cooperative on some issues does not a major ally make.

    Majority is in the eye of the beholder, as Jeffrey Epstein used to say.

    The Soviets clearly regarded China as a major threat; which made it, er, an important ally for us in the Cold War.  More important than … Spain?  New Zealand?

    • #60
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