Welcome to the fourth installment in my ongoing examination of the Stanley Kubrick classic Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. With the first installment I briefly considered some of the popular conspiracy theories concerning Kubrick as well as addressing an incident which occurred during the Cuban missile crisis that may have partly inspired the film. In part two I broke down the characters, considering their symbolism and their real life inspirations.
Beginning in the third and most recent installment I began to examine Strangelove's plot line in earnest, leaving off with President Muffley (Peter Sellers)'s decision to bring the Soviet ambassador (Peter Bull) into the War Room. As was noted in the prior installment, this series from here on out will be spoiler heavily and written with the assumption that the reader is both familiar with the film as well as the prior installments in this series. If the reader is not familiar with either, it is strongly advised that they redress this before preceding so as to fully appreciate this article. And with those disclaimers out of the way, let us move along.
General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) reacts with horror at Muffley's decision to allow the Soviet ambassador into the War Room, pathetically stuffing his documents into a binder and clutching it to his chest while proclaiming a colossal security breach at allowing the ambassador to glimpse "the Big Board" and such like. "That is precisely the idea General Turgidson, that is precisely the idea" Muffley responds almost snidely.
But this blog is partly concerned with understanding the reality of the American power structure and not regurgitating decades old propaganda put out by the Pentagon. So, let us try to look at Muffley's actions from a different perspective.
I suspect that Muffley's collaboration with the Soviets in the film to overt Armageddon was based upon policies being persuaded by JFK during the time Strangelove was in production, most notably his pursuit of "Detente." Kennedy seems to have become fully committed to this strategy by late 1962.
"The next day, President Kennedy held a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, and a few top civilian advisers to discuss the defense budget for 1963. He had Wiesner attend the meeting and give his opinion that the defense buildup was actually an 'unprofitable' waste of money and counterproductive to the nation's security. Kennedy then told them that he was now considering cutting the Pentagon's funding for nuclear weapons and possibly even freezing further production of them. He may clear that he would never give the order for a first strike and if he wasn't going to do that, then, he wondered, what did they need to build so many missiles for?
"Kennedy told them, 'If the purpose of our strategic buildup is to deter the Russians, number one; number two, to attack them if it looks like they are about to attack us or be able to lessen the impact they would have on us in an attack... if our point, really, then, is to deter them... I mean with the Polaris submarines, with the planes we have, the navy's strategic force, and with the missiles we have, we have an awful lot of megatonnage to put on the Soviets sufficient to deter them from ever using nuclear weapons. Otherwise, what good are they? You can't use them as a first weapon yourself, they're only good for deterring... If we fail to deter them, and they attack us, then it's just – just destroy them out of – just to fulfill your part of the contract, we just drop it on their cities and destroy them and ruin the Russians. I don't see quite why were building as many as were building...'
"Taylor explained that building this force wasn't simply to 'destroy the cities, but ideally to destroy their military forces.' As long as the Joint Chiefs had the potential to destroy all of the Soviet nuclear weapons and bombers, they could prevent them from retaliating from the American first-strike attack. 'But everybody agrees that can't be done,' Kennedy said.
"'We can now. We can now,' General Taylor responded.
"'Well, yeah,' said President Kennedy, 'but, by '63, can you do that?'
"[The recording source for this conversation is censored for twenty-seven seconds at this point for 'national security' reasons] Kennedy responded to something General Taylor said (probably about using nuclear weapons in a first strike, because in a memo sent to McNamara he wrote that counterforce targeting was feasible only in a pre-emptive strike), by saying, 'That's right, that's right. How could anybody except that as a political goal? What political goal would that be unless you are faced with a most devastating attack?'
"'I can't imagine Mister President, but we still approach the problem this way,' Taylor said, 'by that time frame we ought to have a dual capability: the ability to blunt importantly their ability to destroy us. And with our means today, if we have a surprise attack, we can indeed reduce that very substantially. Now it's still not good with ten million people lost, but nonetheless we don't think we should give up that possibility.'
"The Pentagon's counterforce first-strike plans estimated that in the worst-case scenario, the Russians would only be able to retaliate against a surprise attack through the end of 1963 with a few bombs left of the kill up to ten to twenty million people in the United States, and most likely they wouldn't be able to get any of their weapons off at all. If Kennedy reduced the number of weapons the United States was producing, he would cut down the time frame left for a viable first-strike option, something that people in the Pentagon wanted to maintain for as long as possible.
"Robert McNamara told Kennedy that if they didn't build all of the requested missiles, then he'd come under political attack from the military and its allies in the Congress. 'If we don't buy them then two claims will be made which we can't rebut,' the Secretary of Defense said, 'one, that we're changing the basic military strategy of this country to exclude procurement of weapons necessary to destroy the nuclear capability of the Soviet Union. This will be the charge that will be made. It will come out in the open because the air force feels very strongly on this already. We've cut them down substantially.' General LeMay had wanted three thousand Minutemen missiles while the air force commander of the Strategic Air Command had wanted up to ten thousand of them, and Kennedy had promised to build a thousand as a compromise.
"'The second charge,' McNamara said, 'will be made that we will end up, and we are following a program that will lead us to a position, where the Soviets have more megatonnage and more warheads than we do. I think those two charges, which I don't believe we can rebut, will seriously weaken our position within this country and with our allies.'
"Robert McNamara warned Kennedy that 'there was created a myth in this country that did a great harm to the nation. And it was created by, I would say, emotionally guided but nonetheless patriotic individuals in the Pentagon. There are still people of their kind at the Pentagon. I wouldn't give them any foundation for creating another myth – and they are beginning to say the same sort of thing sir – I'm not saying he [General LeMay] encourages this emotional bias, but he is saying that the program I am presenting is endangering national security, and he believes it.' He isn't the only one, so we need to keep 'our policy maintaining nuclear superiority, now maybe we can change that someday, but we can't change that today,' he said.
"John Kennedy had campaigned on a Cold War platform that blamed President Eisenhower for creating a mythical 'missile gap' to become president. He now wanted to make changes and had become disturbed by the number of nuclear missiles the country was building, but he accepted McNamara's advice and approved the military budget without making any cuts to it.
"To general Curtis LeMay's way of thinking, there were dangers in the budget as it already was. 'It became apparent to me that McNamara's goal was to try to build a strategic force that was equal to the Russian force. Sort of drag his feet, until the Russians build up to what we were equal. These men believed that if we were equal in strength then there wouldn't be any war. Well, this is an indication of how impractical these type of people are,' LeMay later said, 'even if by some miracle you could design these two forces where they could be equal, will everyone think they are equal? You can't control men's minds. Then, if by some miracle, you can design these two forces, how long are they going to stay equal? One in an open society; the other a closed society. When is the closed society going to come up with a breakthrough on some weapon system that will give them a tremendous advantage that you don't know anything about?' He thought that they mistakenly thought '1,000 Minutemen missiles would be enough for this.'
"Even though President Kennedy's thinking about nuclear weapons had evolved and now diverged from that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was boxed in, because the permanent government of the war state set limits to what a president can and cannot do. Kennedy had just toyed with the idea of cutting the military budget and freezing further construction of the nation's arsenal of nuclear weapons and had basically been told by his secretary of defense that if he tried to do it, he would be ruined. McNamara wasn't trying to pressure him; he was looking out for him. The military-industrial complex is the most powerful lobby in the country.
"Thwarted in making major changes to the military budget, President Kennedy moved towards detente with the Soviet Union in the Spring of 1963 in his own way. He came to the realization that a true turning point in the Cold War was at hand, but it could easily come and go. According to McGeorge Bundy, 'I think his sense of perspective on this was cautious, but very determined, in the sense that the more he measured the situation after Cuba the clearer he was that a kind of corner had been turned, and that it was certainly part of his job to keep that corner turned and to move along.' In the first few months of 1963, Bundy said, 'There was an extraordinary quiet' from the Soviet Union 'and the President noticed, as we all did, that life was normal in Berlin for the first time, that there was no pressure for a conference or a peace treaty, that the whole noise level changed.'
"Then on April 3, Robert Kennedy received a personal message from Khrushchev. 'It was full of poison,' he told his brother, with old arguments against a test-ban treaty, and about Berlin and Cuba. 'It was as if a person had come down from Mars and written this,' he said. The Kennedy brothers correctly realized that Khrushchev personally wanted to move to detente too, but was under some sort of pressure of his own.
"They discussed sending Robert Kennedy to Moscow to meet personally with him, but Dean Rusk and McGeorge Bundy told them it would be a huge political mistake. Instead, they sent a Averell Harriman, who and served as the US ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II, and the journalist Norman Cousins, who had met with Khrushchev before to deliver a personal message on their behalf. 'As soon as I heard that Harriman was going I knew you were serious,' someone in the Soviet embassy told Arthur Schlesinger.
"According to Ted Sorensen, Norman Cousins reported back that 'Khrushchev faced a critical choice at the next Soviet Central Committee meeting later in June. Under pressure from the Chinese because of his withdrawal of missiles Cuba the previous year, he had either to denounce the United States as an imperialist warmonger who had failed to respond to his policy of peaceful coexistence or show some concrete change in response to his statesmanship. The United States, argued Cousins, should therefore speak first, demonstrating our peaceful intentions.'
"President Kennedy decided to do something only an individual president can do. He bypassed the permanent government bureaucracy and reached out to the Soviet Union himself by giving a major speech on detente without its input. As Sorensen wrote, 'In foreign policy, much more than domestic policy – where Congressional legislation and appropriations are the key – a president's words are policy.' McGeorge Bundy told Sorensen that Kennedy wanted him to write a draft for the speech. The national security adviser got a few of his aides and Arthur Schlesinger to join in the work. They were to keep the text secret until the moment Kennedy was to deliver it, because, as Sorensen put it, 'the President knew that the unprecedented message of the speech would set off alarm bells in more bellicose quarters in Washington, possibly producing leaks and political attacks in advance of his talk.' Not even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk knew the speech was being prepared."
(The War State, Michael Swanson, pgs. 358-367)
There's a lot to take in here. As was noted in part two of this series, the character of Jack D. Ripper is partly based on General Curtis LeMay (along with General Edwin Walker) while a pre-emptive US nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union was first advocated by General Lyman Lemnitzer in 1961 for an attack date some time in 1963 (the year in which Strangelove was filmed and initially set to be released in). Lemnitzer, and to a much lesser extent General Nathan Twining, was the inspirations for the character of Buck Turgidson. LeMay, Walker, Lemnitzer and Twining were all aligned with the emerging far right faction of the nation's ruling elite. Many of these military men along with the United States' leading defense contractors pulled their resources together in an organization known as the American Security Council (ASC), the military industrial complex's answer to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). I've written extensive on the ASC before here.
Several of the individuals mentioned above --most notably General Maxwell Taylor, Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, and Averell Harriman --are still among the most universally despised American public officials of the twentieth century by the conspiratorial right (of which was largely bank rolled by the ASC clique). All five of the prior mentioned individuals were members of the Council on Foreign Relations while McNamara, Bundy, Rusk and Harriman were also Bilderbergers. Bundy and Harriman were initiates of Skull and Bones to boot (which is very interesting as other Bonesmen seem to have been involved in JFK's assassination, as I noted before here). So yes, this group was something of the elite of the Anglo-American Establishment. While some of these individuals, most notably Harriman and possibly fellow Bonesman Bundy, seem to have approved of Kennedy's pursuit of detente Taylor was strongly opposed and seemingly a part of the CFR who threw in with the ASC crowd after 1969. But more on that in a moment.
|the CFR and many other long time targets of the conspiratorial right such as the banking interests are a part of what I like to refer to as the Anglo-American Establishment as this faction's origins lie with the notorious Round Table group|
"Khrushchev held a Presidium meeting and told its members that the era of brinksmanship and threats was now over. 'Let's change the tactic,' he said, 'we will not get an agreement for the Americans on Berlin' so let's just drop it. They can make some economic deals with West Germany and work on what they can do together with the Americans. On July 2, 1963, Khrushchev announced that he was prepared to sign a partial test-ban treaty. Kennedy immediately dispatched Averell Harriman to Moscow.
"Two weeks later, Harriman arrived in Moscow with a five-man delegation and a British team led by England's minister of science, Lord Hailsham. Before Harriman even got on his airplane, the Soviets and Americans agreed to set up a telephone 'hot line' to send instant messages between the White House and the Kremlin. Technicians in Washington tested it by sending the message 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog' to their counterparts in Moscow...
"The night the treaty was signed, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote in his diary that he had 'prayed hard for this, night after night.' He went and told his wife the news with tears in his eyes. He sent President Kennedy a cable: 'I found myself unable to express my real feelings on the telephone tonight... I do understand the high degree of courage and faith which you have shown...'
"The test-ban treaty helped to deepen the split between the Soviet Union and China. Ray Cline, the CIA's directorate of intelligence, called Kennedy and told him that the Chinese had issued a statement calling the treaty 'a dirty fraud' in which the 'people of the Socialist camp, including the people of China, have been sold out by the Soviet Union through the policy pursued by the Soviet government and aligning itself with the United States to oppose China.' Cline told Kennedy that 'we feel this name calling reveals a gulf that is not going to be easily bridged.'
"President Kennedy did not stop with the test-ban treaty. Through Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, he changed the military's nuclear weapons strategy from a first strike counterforce strategy to one of 'assured destruction'. In a draft presidential memo McNamara defined 'assured destruction' as the ability to absorb a Soviet attack and have enough weapons left to inflict unacceptable losses in retaliation. This led to what became known as 'mutually assured destruction' – a nuclear war that would mean suicide for anyone who started one. From then on, Robert McNamara used this as a benchmark for the size of America's nuclear arsenal.
"General Thomas Powers of SAC had wanted 10,000 missiles, because he wanted to maintain the huge numbers advantage in missiles against the Soviets going forward to ensure their destruction in a pre-emptive strike. According to a Pentagon history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff air force leaders were 'dismayed' by McNamara's changes, because 'having struggled to gain a decisive advantage of the Soviet Union, they saw their efforts coming to naught.' As one general put it, McNamara and the President 'did not understand what had been created and handed to them. SAC was about at its peak. We had, not supremacy, but complete nuclear superiority over the Soviets.'
"In 1962 the Joint Chiefs believed that they had the ability to launch what they termed a 'coercive' nuclear attack against the Soviets that would destroy all of their missiles and, in the words of a Pentagon historian, 'threaten such a great destruction of population (after most of the Soviet arsenal have been expended) that the Soviets would be willing to end hostilities on US terms.' The Kennedy White House was now going to erode this ability away. General Curtis LeMay voiced 'serious reservations' about this 'apparent shift in basic US military strategy.' The other service chiefs though did not complain, probably because their budgets were in competition with LeMay's.
"Robert McNamara argued that in order to maintain a first strike counterforce capability they would have to increase defense spending by an additional eighty-four billion dollars. This would provoke the Russians into accelerating their own build up and force the United States to outspend them on a three to one basis in order to maintain the advantage. It would create a mad arms race."
(The War State, Michael Swanson, pgs. 372-377)
|Harriman (top) and McNamara (bottom)|
"In March 1969, senior members of the Council on Foreign Relations establishment journeyed from Wall Street to Washington, D.C. to warn Nixon 'of the disastrous possibilities for the international economic order if the war were continued.' But the old CFR consensus on the world had been shattered by the challenge of the Vietnamese Tet offensive in 1968, and they no longer spoke for Wall Street as a whole. The 'traders' whose priority was economic order were now challenged by a minority of 'warriors' or 'Prussians' within the CFR, notably Paul Nitze, whose overriding concern was, as in earlier years, not to yield world dominance to the Soviet Union.
"Many of those who once passionately disliked the policies of Nixon and Kissinger in Chile, Vietnam, and other countries have come to give them credit for helping to stabilize a particularly dangerous period of potential nuclear war and for hammering out the basis of a crude global equilibrium that included China. But in 1974 Nitze publicly attacked Nixon and Kissinger before the Senate Armed Services Committee for promoting their 'myth of detente.' In so doing, he represented what was still a small but significant Overworld minority (who in 1976 would organize as the Committee on the Present Danger). Within the US government a similar gulf had emerged between the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nitze, still in the minority under Nixon, would soon see his position prevail under presidents Ford and Reagan."
(The Road to 9/11, Peter Dale Scott, pgs. 30-31)
|Paul Nitze played a key role in shaping the ideology of the Committee on the Present Danger, one of the early institutions to bring together the military establishment with "Prussian" elements of the old CFR clique and reshaping America's ruling structure in the process|
"There were those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. At the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we had been spending on defense in a single year. The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap."
|Ambassador de Sadeski (Peter Bull)|
"In 1959, the Soviet Union deployed in East Germany a dozen short-range primitive R-5M missiles, derived from Nazi World War II V-2 rocket technology capable of striking targets in Western Europe and London, up to 750 miles away. The United States put similar Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey in response. By 1960, the Americans had plenty of missiles that could reach the Soviet Union from the United States, but the Soviets were unable to go beyond the R-7 and develop a reliable intercontinental missile able to reach the United States until April 1962. The whole Soviet missile program became more expensive than Khrushchev expected, causing the share of his country's national income that went to military production to increase from 2.9 percent to 5.9 percent from 1958 to 1961.
"Having a few missiles made the Soviet Union into a superpower, but their high cost caused Khrushchev much grief. 'Missiles are not cucumbers,' he complained, 'one cannot eat them and one does not require more than a certain number in order to ward off an attack.' Instead of a costly unlimited arms race he had to come to some sort of agreement with the United States. The tougher he could be, he thought, the easier it would be to get what he wanted. 'The purpose,' he told his Presidium members, 'is to give a rebuff, to steer to detente.'
"What Khrushchev aimed to do was consolidate the Soviet empire's position in Eastern Europe and then demilitarize the Cold War. He knew that Russia could not compete with the United States in an arms race. 'If we're forced into doing this,' he told his son, 'we'll lose our pants.' But just as Eisenhower had critics in the American war state so did Khrushchev face critics in his government too. He heard reports of military men complaining of 'Nikita's folly' for reducing the armed forces by 1.3 million men in three years in order to put a priority on nuclear weapons..."
(The War State, Michael Swanson, pgs. 267-269)
The United States, however, had at least considered the possibility of a doomsday machine far earlier than this. Herman Kahn, one of the inspirations for the character of Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), had proposed such a devise as early as 1960 while working for the RAND Corporation. During Dr. Strangelove's first speaking appearance in the film this is alluded to as well as the "former" Nazi's thinly veiled admiration (ample amounts of which are also displayed by General Turgidson) for the devise. He tells Muffley:
"... Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the fear to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing."Dr. Strangelove even expresses a hint of contempt at being hamstrung by American sensibilities (after President Muffley inquires about the availability of the technology required for a doomsday machine, Strangelove responds: "The technology required is easily within the means of even the smallest nuclear power. It requires only the will to do so"). Strangelove is still a marginal figure at this point in the film, having just been elevated from the ranks of faceless administrators sitting around the War Room. Ah, but this shall soon change. More on this in the next installment.
Speaking of the conspiratorial right, by this juncture in the film Ripper's dialogue could almost be taken verbatim from a John Birch Society publication of the time (and bears more than passing resemblance to the modern day concerns of the average Alex Jones disciple). Consider this exchange between Ripper and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake:
Ripper: Have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?
Mandrake: Well, I can't say I have.
Ripper: Vodka, that's what they drink, isn't it? Never water?
Mandrake: Well, I-I believe that's what they drink, Jack, yes.
Ripper: On no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.
Mandrake: Oh, eh, yes. I, uhm, can't quite see what you're getting at, Jack.
Ripper: Water, that's what I'm getting at, water. Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven-tenths of this earth's surface is water. Why, do you realize that seventy percent of you is water?
Mandrake: Uh, uh, Good Lord!
Ripper: And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.
Ripper: Are you beginning to understand?
Ripper: Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure-grain alcohol?
Mandrake: Well, it did occur to me, Jack, yes.
Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation. Fluoridation of water?
Mandrake: Uh? Yes, I-I have heard of that, Jack, yes. Yes.
Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?
Mandrake: No, no I don't know what it is, no.
Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?
|Ripper and Mandrake|
Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream.
Mandrake: Good Lord, Jack.
Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
The obsession with fluoridation has been a long time staple of the conspiratorial right. Conspiracy theories concerning fluoridation first came to light within a decade after World War II. The first proponent seems to have been an individual named Charles Eliot Perkins.
"There is a more sinister side to fluoridation. At the end of WWII, Charles Eliott Perkins, a research worker in chemistry, was sent to Germany to take charge of the vast IG Farben chemical plants. While there, he learned about a scheme by IG Farben scientist during the war and adopted by the German general staff. Water supplies in certain areas were medicated with sodium fluoride to control the people. Repeated doses in minute amounts over time can reduce an individual's power to resist domination by slowly poisoning and narcotizing a certain area of the brain, making the person submissive and easy to control. The Nazis used fluoridation in the concentration camps.
"Maj. George Racey Jordan independently confirmed Perkins findings on fluoride in Germany. Jordan, stationed at Great Falls, Mont., was in charge of overseeing the Lend-Lease shipments of sodium fluoride to Russia. When he asked his Russian counterpart what the shipments were for, he was told bluntly that it was added to drinking water in the prisoner of war camps to take away their will to resist."
(The Nazi Hydra in America, Glen Yeadon & John Hawkins, pg. 547)Major Jordan would go on to become the first major proponent of fluoride conspiracy theories on a national level and was likely the inspiration behind Ripper's musings on the substance. Jordan is most well remembered, however, for his allegations that Harry Hopkins was who passed on American nuclear secrets to the Soviets (among other things) via Lend-Lease. During the era of Strangelove these were major staples of Bircher literature and other such publications from the conspiratorial right. To a certain extent Jordan's allegations are still part of the conversation in such circles even if he has been surpassed by more recent "experts."
|Major George Racey Jordan|
Beyond this, Jordan had become involved with an organization known as the Ten Million Americans (TMA) by the 1950s. The TMA featured more than a few pre-WWII "isolationists" (i.e Nazi backers) and sported former Lt. General George E. Stratemeyer as one of its national directors. Stratemeyer was a member of the American Security Council as well as a bizarre secret society known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John (SOSJ) that featured numerous ties to the Pentagon and US intelligence community, as I noted before here. What's more, the SOSJ's origins may have gone all the way back to the notorious Thule Society of post-WWI Bavaria, as I addressed here.
And with that I shall wrap things up for now. With the next installment I shall pick up with Ripper's musings on his "loss of essence." Stay tuned.