|Fritz Kraemer (photo: Watergate.com)|
Few Americans have heard of Fritz Kraemer, but Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman present him as the eminence grise who animated a generation of neo-conservatives, beginning in the late 1960s, who took American foreign policy from containment to confrontation. While Kraemer was undoubtedly influential, we think that this is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Richard Nixon came to office with an obscure plan to quickly end the Viet Nam War – one so secretive that journalists joked that Nixon didn’t even know what it was. The joke was on them, however, as Nixon’s first act as president was the implementation of National Security Decision Memorandum 2 which reorganized the National Security Council as a secret coordinating bureau for his ambitious plans to reshape America’s geo-political landscape by launching numerous diplomatic overtures to the USSR and People’s Republic of China.
In reorganizing the NSC, Nixon purposefully sidestepped the State Department, CIA, and Defense Department, to create microcosms of the departments’ functions within the White House, in order to establish back channels to the aforementioned governments and to operate without interference from these organizations. While not entirely novel, the scope and intents of these stealth operations certainly were unprecedented.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Kennedy had established back channel communications with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in order to avoid the bellicose and nuclear war oriented poison of his official government, namely the Pentagon and State Department. Though Kennedy continued occasional correspondence with the Premier via Dobrinyn, he did not embark on any large scale strategic initiatives through this mechanism although he clearly anticipated its advantages.
Nixon selected Henry Kissinger as his National Security Director, a man who rose out of academic obscurity to become one of the most influential bureaucrats of the 1970s and beyond. Kissinger had grown up a military hawk under the tutelage of Fritz G A Kraemer, an even more obscure bureaucrat in the Pentagon whose stridently hawkish military philosophies would influence a cadre of officials for decades to come, not the least of which was Alexander Haig.
Kraemer and Kissinger met as World War 2 soldiers who had enlisted in the army, from which time the older Kraemer mentored Kissinger in his career selections following the war. Naturally, when Kissinger needed a deputy, he consulted Kraemer for a recommendation, which as we already noted was Alexander Haig, another one of his protégés.
Whereas Haig remained a loyal Kraemerite, Kissinger would outgrow his mentor’s ideas while under the tutelage of Nixon. This is a remarkable insight and development. Kissinger is often portrayed as the erudite consummate diplomat while Nixon is rendered as a gauche inelegant parvenu. Certainly the Nixon tapes lend justification to that portrait, but it may be incomplete and unfair. For Nixon to influence the bookish Harvard professor would speak volumes – potentially - to Nixon’s towering intellect and aspirations. Or it could mean that they were both taking orders from Nelson Rockefeller, a thesis we will develop in a future essay.
Nixon made his reputation as a Cold Warrior, but we suspect that the Cuban Missile Crisis, Viet Nam, and the high stakes of nuclear politics caused him to reappraise his former ideas. In any event, Nixon was certainly more of a pragmatist rather than a doctrinaire hawk. Indeed he was never afraid to use military force against the North Vietnamese to back them into a negotiating corner, but he also realized that the military power had limited utility.
At the same time, we suspect that Nixon realized that the geo-political stakes of brinkmanship were too high, and that a more thoughtful approach to foreign policy would achieve greater dividends. In many respects, Nixon was resuming the policy directions first adumbrated by Kennedy in the closing days of his presidency. The effects of this policy orientation would continue until the inauguration of the Reagan administration which only modified the means – rather than the ends – of Nixon’s grand strategy.
On the other hand, Nixon’s contempt for due process and open government nearly undid his achievements, and certainly undid his presidency. In bypassing the established organs of government, he created distrust and suspicion of the highest order – so much so that the Joint Chiefs of Staff opened a spy ring on the president, stealing numerous and highly sensitive secret documents from Kissinger and elsewhere to determine exactly to what Nixon was conspiring – and to force his hand if necessary.
In fact, Nixon sent Kissinger in February 1969 to Soviet Ambassador Dobrinyn to inform him that the United States was relinquishing any interest in military victory in Viet Nam. This forfeiture was an act of treason in the eyes of the Kraemer School pupils who saw this abandonment of an ally and a just cause as “provocative weakness” - a stance inviting aggression from enemies.
With American men dying in the swamps and highlands of Viet Nam, this action smacked of treason. But Nixon surely shared the same distrust of the men who killed Kennedy. Thusly, the American government showed itself a house divided – domiciling antithetical factions under a single roof. Nixon knew, as his chief of staff Bob Haldeman noted in his memoirs, that the Bay of Pigs and associated activities was much bigger than Castro or Cuba, and perhaps felt justified in bypassing the formal government structures in pursuing his peace objectives.
While Colodny and Shachtman spend considerable time on the influence of Kraemer and the birth of the Neocons in the ostensible betrayal by Nixon, they do not allocate as much attention to Nixon’s reformation from Cold Warrior to Peace Champion. They do mention a paper Nixon wrote for the Council on Foreign Affairs circa 1967 in which he presents the rationale for détente as abandoning the naiveté of ignoring the red elephant in the room – in this case two of them.
But the CFR is a Rockefeller organization, and we have regarded some or all of the Rockefeller brothers as instigators – nay even authors – of the Kennedy assassination on the grounds that he overstepped his bounds in withdrawing from Viet Nam, reconciling with Cuba, and other such sins. But Nelson Rockefeller resuscitated Nixon’s political fortunes by bringing him to New York after his loss in California in 1962, establishing him in a posh New York City apartment, providing a sinecure attorney position, and reviving his personal fortunes.
It is thus very possible that Nixon developed his détente persona under the tutelage of the Rockefellers who saw that strategy as a stepping stone for world government – a goal which David Rockefeller admitted in his biography as a longtime goal. Nixon may have passed on to Kissinger these ideas, transforming him from a rabid hawk to internationalist par excellence – and no, that is not said as a compliment.
It is not inconceivable that the New World Order Rockefellers and the Kraemer Neoconservatives dovetail in a well orchestrated plan to achieve world government – a goal near and dear to John Rockefeller, Jr’s heart. Additional research and analysis is required to reconcile the two seemingly opposed strategies, but we believe them both to be managed by the same plutocratic elite who govern America.
Before closing, we return to our initial statement about Kraemer being the tail wagging the dog. While we do not deny his influence, his rise to influence in the 1960s and beyond post-dates the presence of a vigorous Cold War ethic which started in the immediate aftermath of World War 2. The likes of Bill Donovan, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, James Angleton, Curtis LeMay, Barry Goldwater, and many other luminaries of the Military Industrial Complex who advocated either militant containment or strategic rollback derived their opinions from World War 2 and, in some cases, their sense of aristocratic privilege in a neo-colonial plutocratic imperium. We believe that the Neocons continued this tradition, albeit with the imprimatur of Kraemer.
ReferencesThe Birth of Neocons: Peace Through Strength, 10/22/2012, http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=931#top
Book Discussion on The Forty Years War, BookTV, 1/7/2010, http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/291579-1
The Nixon Quartet, History News Network, Tom Shachtman, 12/6/2009, http://hnn.us/articles/119555.html
Copyright 2013 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.