Discussion:
New York for Berlin?
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David Tenner
2017-06-06 15:54:11 UTC
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"Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of
the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and
Kennedy, threatened Russia with 'massive retaliation' (i.e., all-out nuclear
war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?

"No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not
anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any
aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years..."

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/01/krauthammer-trumps-refusal-to-make-nato-pledge-weakens-deterrent/

OK, then--*would* "we" (i.e., Ike or JFK) "really have sacrificed New York
for Berlin" if it came to that? Was massive retaliation a massive bluff?
(I'm not saying it was intended as such, only that it could have turned out
that way. After all, there was no "doomsday machine" *requiring* "massive
retaliation. It still remained in the president's discretion whether to
abandon the strategy if deterrence failed and he concluded that a
humiliating climb-down was a lesser evil than a thermonuclear war.)

(Yes, the article is a criticism of Trump on Article 5 but *please*
don't focus on that. The point is that in making that criticism Krauthammer
*incidentally* raised a good what-if on the 1950's and 1960's, and it's that
"what-if" which concerns me here.)
--
David Tenner
***@ameritech.net
Pete Barrett
2017-06-06 17:24:23 UTC
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Post by David Tenner
"Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of
the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and
Kennedy, threatened Russia with 'massive retaliation' (i.e., all-out
nuclear war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?
"No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not
anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any
aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years..."
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/01/krauthammer-trumps-refusal-to-make-nato-pledge-weakens-deterrent/
OK, then--*would* "we" (i.e., Ike or JFK) "really have sacrificed New York
for Berlin" if it came to that? Was massive retaliation a massive bluff?
(I'm not saying it was intended as such, only that it could have turned
out that way. After all, there was no "doomsday machine" *requiring*
"massive retaliation. It still remained in the president's discretion
whether to abandon the strategy if deterrence failed and he concluded that
a humiliating climb-down was a lesser evil than a thermonuclear war.)
(Yes, the article is a criticism of Trump on Article 5 but *please*
don't focus on that. The point is that in making that criticism
Krauthammer *incidentally* raised a good what-if on the 1950's and 1960's,
and it's that "what-if" which concerns me here.)
Retaliation isn't really a rational act; it's not really a rational act
between two blokes in the pub, and still less when one country attacks
another (_defending_ yourself could be rational, and so could trying to take
back what the other has taken, but we're not talking about that here). In
the particular case of a massive nuclear attack on the US (and still more in
the case of a massive nuclear attack on a US ally), the _rational_ thing for
any President to do is nothing, because no action will make things any
better for the American people, and simply making things worse for the
Russian people would do nobody any good.

Deterrence depends on people (incuding Presidents) not always being
rational, or at least not always behaving rationally - if you hit me, I'm
likely to retaliate, however irrational it would be to do so. The reason the
UK has an 'independent' nuclear deterrent is that if Britain was attacked,
and the US President decided to behave rationally, Britain could do some
damage before being completely obliterated (assuming that the PM isn't
rational, of course). It's that potential irrationality which makes
deterrence credible.

So it comes down to which US Presidents would act rationally, and which
would not? I'm obviously not the expert you are, but here's a quick guess,
judging purely from how they appear:

Eisenhower - rational
Kennedy - not
Johnson - not sure
Nixon - not
Carter - rational
Reagan - not
--
Pete BARRETT
Dimensional Traveler
2017-06-06 17:34:52 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by David Tenner
"Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of
the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and
Kennedy, threatened Russia with 'massive retaliation' (i.e., all-out
nuclear war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?
"No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not
anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any
aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years..."
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/01/krauthammer-trumps-refusal-to-make-nato-pledge-weakens-deterrent/
OK, then--*would* "we" (i.e., Ike or JFK) "really have sacrificed New York
for Berlin" if it came to that? Was massive retaliation a massive bluff?
(I'm not saying it was intended as such, only that it could have turned
out that way. After all, there was no "doomsday machine" *requiring*
"massive retaliation. It still remained in the president's discretion
whether to abandon the strategy if deterrence failed and he concluded that
a humiliating climb-down was a lesser evil than a thermonuclear war.)
(Yes, the article is a criticism of Trump on Article 5 but *please*
don't focus on that. The point is that in making that criticism
Krauthammer *incidentally* raised a good what-if on the 1950's and 1960's,
and it's that "what-if" which concerns me here.)
Retaliation isn't really a rational act; it's not really a rational act
between two blokes in the pub, and still less when one country attacks
another (_defending_ yourself could be rational, and so could trying to take
back what the other has taken, but we're not talking about that here). In
the particular case of a massive nuclear attack on the US (and still more in
the case of a massive nuclear attack on a US ally), the _rational_ thing for
any President to do is nothing, because no action will make things any
better for the American people, and simply making things worse for the
Russian people would do nobody any good.
Deterrence depends on people (incuding Presidents) not always being
rational, or at least not always behaving rationally - if you hit me, I'm
likely to retaliate, however irrational it would be to do so. The reason the
UK has an 'independent' nuclear deterrent is that if Britain was attacked,
and the US President decided to behave rationally, Britain could do some
damage before being completely obliterated (assuming that the PM isn't
rational, of course). It's that potential irrationality which makes
deterrence credible.
So it comes down to which US Presidents would act rationally, and which
would not? I'm obviously not the expert you are, but here's a quick guess,
Eisenhower - rational
Kennedy - not
Johnson - not sure
Nixon - not
Carter - rational
Reagan - not
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
--
"That's my secret, Captain: I'm always angry."
Pete Barrett
2017-06-07 16:52:17 UTC
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Post by Dimensional Traveler
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
Well, the point about deterrence is that _neither_ party knows whether the
other is rational (or, more preceisely, will act rationally) or not. With
hindsight we can make a better guess (with the added advantage that our
guess can't be proved wrong, and won't cause a global conflagration even if
it is), but for the people at the time, it's an unknown.

To take your example: if you _knew_ that your opponents meant it, the
rational thing to do would be to disarm and surrender - it coulod never be
rational to say 'no' and have your cities nuked.
Equally, if you knew that your opponents _didn't_ mean it, then the rational
thing to do would be to say 'no' (or words to that effect), because then
there would be no threat.
If you _don't_ know, then the rational thing to do is probably to say 'no' -
your opponents are not reacting to anything which would make them behave
irrationally, so what would they gain from obliterating your country, even
if they could be sure that you wouldn't retaliate? The country wouldn't be
worth much after receiving a devastating nuclear strike, after all.
--
Pete BARRETT
The Horny Goat
2017-06-07 18:28:49 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
Well, the point about deterrence is that _neither_ party knows whether the
other is rational (or, more preceisely, will act rationally) or not. With
hindsight we can make a better guess (with the added advantage that our
guess can't be proved wrong, and won't cause a global conflagration even if
it is), but for the people at the time, it's an unknown.
To take your example: if you _knew_ that your opponents meant it, the
rational thing to do would be to disarm and surrender - it coulod never be
rational to say 'no' and have your cities nuked.
Equally, if you knew that your opponents _didn't_ mean it, then the rational
thing to do would be to say 'no' (or words to that effect), because then
there would be no threat.
If you _don't_ know, then the rational thing to do is probably to say 'no' -
your opponents are not reacting to anything which would make them behave
irrationally, so what would they gain from obliterating your country, even
if they could be sure that you wouldn't retaliate? The country wouldn't be
worth much after receiving a devastating nuclear strike, after all.
Even as far back as the late 1950s Herman Kahn was expounding on the
undesirability of political leaders being completely rational (or
seeming to be) in nuclear strategy.

The other thing in his analysis was the important question of "even if
you win a nuclear war what would victory look like?" - he claimed
probably correctly that if the Soviets felt they could conquer western
Europe (am not sure if he included the UK or not) they would accept
WW2-level casualties - but that not knowing whether that would be the
limit was the best deterrence the West had.

It was widely believed that even in the late 1950s (e.g. before the
introduction of nuclear missiles) the United States could inflict
casualties north of 100 million and that such losses would be
unthinkable for any conceivable Soviet leader. The first time the
United States felt a comparable level of fear was during the "missile
gap" of the 1960 presidential campaign.

One thing for sure - during October 1961 I was 6 years old and recall
my grandmother crying several times saying "1939". I had no idea till
much later what that meant - obviously I and everybody reading this
now knows exactly what she meant and the significance of that
particular month. When I was 10 I remember a lot of MAD magazine
cartoons about nuclear war and civil defence which I understood but
though in extraordinary bad taste - which was of court the point!
Pete Barrett
2017-06-08 17:23:44 UTC
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Post by The Horny Goat
Even as far back as the late 1950s Herman Kahn was expounding on the
undesirability of political leaders being completely rational (or
seeming to be) in nuclear strategy.
Much what I was saying. I wonder if I got it from him directly or
indirectly? The trouble with being our age is that we forget what our
influences are! I wonder how often I say something which I think is my own
(even if I know someone else must have said it before), but is really just
regurgitated from someone else.
Post by The Horny Goat
The other thing in his analysis was the important question of "even if
you win a nuclear war what would victory look like?" - he claimed
probably correctly that if the Soviets felt they could conquer western
Europe (am not sure if he included the UK or not) they would accept
WW2-level casualties - but that not knowing whether that would be the
limit was the best deterrence the West had.
Again, ignorance is the point - neither side could really predict how the
other would behave, or what the outcome for themselves would be.
--
Pete BARRETT
Dimensional Traveler
2017-06-07 18:40:26 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
Well, the point about deterrence is that _neither_ party knows whether the
other is rational (or, more preceisely, will act rationally) or not. With
hindsight we can make a better guess (with the added advantage that our
guess can't be proved wrong, and won't cause a global conflagration even if
it is), but for the people at the time, it's an unknown.
To take your example: if you _knew_ that your opponents meant it, the
rational thing to do would be to disarm and surrender - it coulod never be
rational to say 'no' and have your cities nuked.
That's where we disagree, if for no other reason than "rational IN WHAT
CONTEXT". There's also the simple fact that you cannot argue rationally
and change the mind of someone irrational on the subject.
Post by Pete Barrett
Equally, if you knew that your opponents _didn't_ mean it, then the rational
thing to do would be to say 'no' (or words to that effect), because then
there would be no threat.
If you _don't_ know, then the rational thing to do is probably to say 'no' -
your opponents are not reacting to anything which would make them behave
irrationally, so what would they gain from obliterating your country, even
if they could be sure that you wouldn't retaliate? The country wouldn't be
worth much after receiving a devastating nuclear strike, after all.
But it might be worth more than an intact hostile nation. If the three
options, in order of preference, are:
1) Conquered and occupied other nation
2) Nuked and no longer extant other nation
3) Existing and hostile other nation
Then the rational thing to do would be to demand #1 and execute #2 if
the demand is refused.
--
"That's my secret, Captain: I'm always angry."
Pete Barrett
2017-06-08 17:17:55 UTC
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Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
Well, the point about deterrence is that _neither_ party knows whether
the other is rational (or, more preceisely, will act rationally) or not.
With hindsight we can make a better guess (with the added advantage that
our guess can't be proved wrong, and won't cause a global conflagration
even if it is), but for the people at the time, it's an unknown.
To take your example: if you _knew_ that your opponents meant it, the
rational thing to do would be to disarm and surrender - it coulod never
be rational to say 'no' and have your cities nuked.
That's where we disagree, if for no other reason than "rational IN WHAT
CONTEXT". There's also the simple fact that you cannot argue rationally
and change the mind of someone irrational on the subject.
I suppose it might be rational _for the people making the decision_ to have
their cities nuked, as long as they could be sure of surviving themselves. I
must have been making a hidden assumtion that they would be making then
decision honestly in the interests of the nation taken as a whole.
Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Pete Barrett
Equally, if you knew that your opponents _didn't_ mean it, then the
rational thing to do would be to say 'no' (or words to that effect),
because then there would be no threat.
If you _don't_ know, then the rational thing to do is probably to say
'no' - your opponents are not reacting to anything which would make them
behave irrationally, so what would they gain from obliterating your
country, even if they could be sure that you wouldn't retaliate? The
country wouldn't be worth much after receiving a devastating nuclear
strike, after all.
But it might be worth more than an intact hostile nation. If the three
1) Conquered and occupied other nation
2) Nuked and no longer extant other nation
3) Existing and hostile other nation
Then the rational thing to do would be to demand #1 and execute #2 if
the demand is refused.
That is a fair point, though only as long as they have knowledge that there
will be no retaliation. In real situations, there would never be such
knowledge, of course.
--
Pete BARRETT
Dimensional Traveler
2017-06-08 18:11:22 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
The counter to your argument is as soon as the irrational party finds
out the rational party won't respond if attacked, they simply blackmail
them into surrendering. "Disarm and put the people we send in power or
we nuke all your cities!"
Well, the point about deterrence is that _neither_ party knows whether
the other is rational (or, more preceisely, will act rationally) or not.
With hindsight we can make a better guess (with the added advantage that
our guess can't be proved wrong, and won't cause a global conflagration
even if it is), but for the people at the time, it's an unknown.
To take your example: if you _knew_ that your opponents meant it, the
rational thing to do would be to disarm and surrender - it coulod never
be rational to say 'no' and have your cities nuked.
That's where we disagree, if for no other reason than "rational IN WHAT
CONTEXT". There's also the simple fact that you cannot argue rationally
and change the mind of someone irrational on the subject.
I suppose it might be rational _for the people making the decision_ to have
their cities nuked, as long as they could be sure of surviving themselves. I
must have been making a hidden assumtion that they would be making then
decision honestly in the interests of the nation taken as a whole.
They would be if they believed that it was better for the nation to be
dead rather than conquered subjects of the other nation.
Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Dimensional Traveler
Post by Pete Barrett
Equally, if you knew that your opponents _didn't_ mean it, then the
rational thing to do would be to say 'no' (or words to that effect),
because then there would be no threat.
If you _don't_ know, then the rational thing to do is probably to say
'no' - your opponents are not reacting to anything which would make them
behave irrationally, so what would they gain from obliterating your
country, even if they could be sure that you wouldn't retaliate? The
country wouldn't be worth much after receiving a devastating nuclear
strike, after all.
But it might be worth more than an intact hostile nation. If the three
1) Conquered and occupied other nation
2) Nuked and no longer extant other nation
3) Existing and hostile other nation
Then the rational thing to do would be to demand #1 and execute #2 if
the demand is refused.
That is a fair point, though only as long as they have knowledge that there
will be no retaliation. In real situations, there would never be such
knowledge, of course.
And you have just re-discovered the principle behind MAD.
--
"That's my secret, Captain: I'm always angry."
Alex Milman
2017-06-06 17:33:10 UTC
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Post by David Tenner
"Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of
the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and
Kennedy, threatened Russia with 'massive retaliation' (i.e., all-out nuclear
war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?
"No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not
anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any
aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years..."
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/01/krauthammer-trumps-refusal-to-make-nato-pledge-weakens-deterrent/
OK, then--*would* "we" (i.e., Ike or JFK) "really have sacrificed New York
for Berlin" if it came to that? Was massive retaliation a massive bluff?
(I'm not saying it was intended as such, only that it could have turned out
that way. After all, there was no "doomsday machine" *requiring* "massive
retaliation. It still remained in the president's discretion whether to
abandon the strategy if deterrence failed and he concluded that a
humiliating climb-down was a lesser evil than a thermonuclear war.)
Well, neither JFK nor Khruschev wanted to rule the radioactive ruins so the
whole thing was a mutual bluff (remember, Nikita was removed when his buddies
found his course too risky). Actually, I'm not even sure that the "bluff" is
a precise word for what was going on. An underlying idea was to became so
strong that the opponent would not have a chance to retaliate against you in
a seriously destructive way and you'll be a victor without a fight. An
interesting question is what each side was intended to do with such a victory
and I'm anything but sure that the answers were known (the events following
disintegration of the SU demonstrated that the US did not have a clear answer
and I suspect that the Soviet leaders had one either).

Of course, all of the above was not completely excluding the situation when
the war could be started by a sheer stupidity. Nikita - JFK confrontation
probably could escalate into something bigger and then there was Soviet -
Chinese crisis into which Kissinger decided to "contribute" (with all my deep
respect to him, strengthening China proved to be a VERY BAD idea in a long
run). But "NY for Berlin" brings an obvious question: who in the SU would give
a damn about Berlin?
Post by David Tenner
(Yes, the article is a criticism of Trump on Article 5 but *please*
don't focus on that. The point is that in making that criticism Krauthammer
*incidentally* raised a good what-if on the 1950's and 1960's, and it's that
"what-if" which concerns me here.)
Without concentrating on it, Charles Krauthammer proved to be a complete fool
during the last elections so his opinions on pretty much anything are of a
very little value. :-)
David Tenner
2017-06-07 03:06:07 UTC
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Post by Alex Milman
But "NY for Berlin" brings
an obvious question: who in the SU would give a damn about Berlin?
I don't think anyone in the USSR leadership would want to risk a nuclear war
over Berlin. But my premise is that somehow Khrushchev is so convinced that
the US will not start such a war that he thinks he can act with impunity. My
question is what the US does then.

*Why* would Khrushchev think that way? Well, consider Dean Rusk's account of
his meeting with Khrushchev at the latter's Black Sea dacha in 1963:

"'Mr. Rusk, Konrad Adenauer has told me that Germany would not fight a
nuclear war over Berlin. Charles de Gaulle has told me that France would not
fight a nuclear war over Berlin. Harold Macmillan has told me that England
would not fight a nuclear war over Berlin. Why should I believe that you
Americans would fight a nuclear war over Berlin?' That was quite a question,
with Khrushchev staring at me with his little pig eyes. I couldn’t call
Kennedy and ask, 'What do I tell the son of a bitch now?' So I stared back at
him and said, 'Mr. Chairman, you will have to take into account the
possibility that we Americans are just goddamn fools.' We glared at each
other, unblinking, and then he changed the subject and gave me three gold
watches to take home to my children..."

https://books.google.com/books?id=RSNkzD77io4C&pg=PA171

So what if Khrushchev just can't beleive the Americans are foolish enough to
start a nuclear war over Berlin, and that he can therefore 'settle" the staus
of the city once and for all with little risk?
--
David Tenner
***@ameritech.net
Alex Milman
2017-06-07 16:47:31 UTC
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Post by David Tenner
Post by Alex Milman
But "NY for Berlin" brings
an obvious question: who in the SU would give a damn about Berlin?
I don't think anyone in the USSR leadership would want to risk a nuclear war
over Berlin. But my premise is that somehow Khrushchev is so convinced that
the US will not start such a war that he thinks he can act with impunity.
But what "impunity" means in this specific context?

As the practical scenarios I can see (a) military occupation of the West
Berlin, (b) building a wall (happened), (c) an attempt to establish a
blockade by cutting the land routes (happened).

Scenario (a) more or less implies a direct military confrontation with the
US troops and, if we are still operating within framework of a reality,
Khruschev (or his successors) would not do that, just as they would not risk
to start firing at the American planes carrying supplies into West Berlin.
Post by David Tenner
My
question is what the US does then.
If a Soviet action result in a direct confrontation with the American troops
(as in "a" above), the US does not have options and this is why I don't
consider such an action realistic.
Post by David Tenner
*Why* would Khrushchev think that way? Well, consider Dean Rusk's account of
"'Mr. Rusk, Konrad Adenauer has told me that Germany would not fight a
nuclear war over Berlin.
Of course it would not: it still does not have nuclear weapons. :-)
Post by David Tenner
Charles de Gaulle has told me that France would not
fight a nuclear war over Berlin.
A safe bet there by more than one reason.
Post by David Tenner
Harold Macmillan has told me that England
would not fight a nuclear war over Berlin. Why should I believe that you
Americans would fight a nuclear war over Berlin?'
What he should or should not believe was up to Nikita but he clearly
understood that whatever he is going to do should NOT involve a direct
military confrontation with the US troops because from that point on the
things would get out of his control. So he built a wall.
Post by David Tenner
That was quite a question,
with Khrushchev staring at me with his little pig eyes. I couldn’t call
Kennedy and ask, 'What do I tell the son of a bitch now?' So I stared back at
him and said, 'Mr. Chairman, you will have to take into account the
possibility that we Americans are just goddamn fools.' We glared at each
other, unblinking, and then he changed the subject and gave me three gold
watches to take home to my children..."
Just as I said.... :-)
Post by David Tenner
https://books.google.com/books?id=RSNkzD77io4C&pg=PA171
So what if Khrushchev just can't beleive the Americans are foolish enough to
start a nuclear war over Berlin,
and that he can therefore 'settle" the staus
of the city once and for all with little risk?
1963 (conversation with Rusk) was a little bit of a post factum thing: the wall
had been built in 1961 and this pretty much "settled" status of the cI ity (with
the "tank crisis" being reasonably easily resolved).

Why Nikita tried to look crazier than he was is a completely separate issue
to which, not being a shrink, I have no convincing answer. Rusk's response
also had little in common with his actions in 1961 (see below) so perhaps
he was trying to look on a level insanity-wise after the danger had been
gone. :-)


Actually, in OTL it was the American military command in Berlin who launched
a number of actions intended to provoke a Soviet response. The whole thing
escalated into "tank crisis" at which point 'US Secretary of State Dean Rusk conveyed to General Lucius Clay, the US commanding officer in Berlin, that "We had long since decided that Berlin is not a vital interest which would warrant determined recourse to force to protect and sustain."'

Rather typically for a military mindset 'Clay was convinced that having US tanks use bulldozer mounts to knock down parts of the Wall would have ended the Crisis to the greater advantage of the US and its allies without eliciting a Soviet military response. His views, and corresponding evidence that the Soviets may have backed down following this action, support a more critical assessment of Kennedy's decisions during the crisis and his willingness to accept the Wall as the best solution.'

At which point both JFK and Nikita decided that the things went far enough and
ordered their tanks to withdraw. 'Kennedy offered to go easy over Berlin in the future in return for the Soviets removing their tanks first. The Soviets agreed. Kennedy stated concerning the Wall: "It's not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war."' Clay was recalled to the US.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Crisis_of_1961#Berlin_ultimatum


Perhaps, this gives an answer to your question:

(a) For JFK Berlin did not worth a war
(b) Neither was it for Nikita

Speaking of (b), after all Nikita was not an almighty dictator like Stalin
and had to keep in mind opinions of the Presidium and the Central Committee
and it does not look like there was a bellicose majority in any of these
bodies.
The Horny Goat
2017-06-07 18:18:16 UTC
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On Wed, 7 Jun 2017 09:47:31 -0700 (PDT), Alex Milman
Post by Alex Milman
But what "impunity" means in this specific context?
As the practical scenarios I can see (a) military occupation of the West
Berlin, (b) building a wall (happened), (c) an attempt to establish a
blockade by cutting the land routes (happened).
Scenario (a) more or less implies a direct military confrontation with the
US troops and, if we are still operating within framework of a reality,
Khruschev (or his successors) would not do that, just as they would not risk
to start firing at the American planes carrying supplies into West Berlin.
One of the lessons Stalin "learned" from Stalingrad was that it was
not possible to supply a major city long term by air. Now pre-1941
Stalingrad had a population of 400-500,000 while West Berlin was
estimated to be roughly 1.5 - 2 million (I've had a hard time getting
definite stats on the population of West Berlin in 1949 - Berlin as a
whole was 4 1/2 million before the war, under 3 million in 1945 though
both those numbers included the future East Berlin)

There's no question militarily West Berlin could have been taken by
the Soviets but obviously that meant war with the United States and
NATO.

As for the airlift, based on the experience at Stalingrad, Stalin did
not expect the Allies to be able to maintain the airlift through the
winter months as while Berlin conditions weren't anywhere near as
severe as on the Volga the Soviets did not expect the Allies to be
able to maintain the required tonnage during the winter.

Moral of the story is that military and political leaders ALWAYS
"learn the lessons of the last war" and many of those "lessons" are
just plain wrong. If we learn anything from history we learn that!
Alex Milman
2017-06-07 22:57:54 UTC
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Post by The Horny Goat
On Wed, 7 Jun 2017 09:47:31 -0700 (PDT), Alex Milman
Post by Alex Milman
But what "impunity" means in this specific context?
As the practical scenarios I can see (a) military occupation of the West
Berlin, (b) building a wall (happened), (c) an attempt to establish a
blockade by cutting the land routes (happened).
Scenario (a) more or less implies a direct military confrontation with the
US troops and, if we are still operating within framework of a reality,
Khruschev (or his successors) would not do that, just as they would not risk
to start firing at the American planes carrying supplies into West Berlin.
One of the lessons Stalin "learned" from Stalingrad was that it was
not possible to supply a major city long term by air. Now pre-1941
Stalingrad had a population of 400-500,000
Sorry, I did not quite get who exactly was trying to supply Stalingrad's
pre-war or as of 1942 POPULATION by air?
Post by The Horny Goat
while West Berlin was
estimated to be roughly 1.5 - 2 million (I've had a hard time getting
definite stats on the population of West Berlin in 1949 - Berlin as a
whole was 4 1/2 million before the war, under 3 million in 1945 though
both those numbers included the future East Berlin)
Supplying West Berlin by air was an unique operation but what did it had
to do with Stalingrad?
Post by The Horny Goat
There's no question militarily West Berlin could have been taken by
the Soviets but obviously that meant war with the United States and
NATO.
As for the airlift, based on the experience at Stalingrad,
Which was quite irrelevant because the American abilities to carry cargo by
air had been absolutely incomparable with what Luftwaffe could spare to
supply surrounded 5th Army. Not to mention that, unlike Stalingrad, the
air traffic was not disrupted and there was no danger of the airfields being
lost.

I have no idea if he was considering Stalingrad experience at all but this
experience was clearly inapplicable.
David Tenner
2017-06-08 02:02:44 UTC
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Post by Alex Milman
Supplying West Berlin by air was an unique operation but what did it had
to do with Stalingrad?
Leaving aside Stalingrad, here is a little-known fact: there was no *total*
Soviet ground blockade of West Berlin in 1948-9. See my post at
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/soc.history.what-if/LfMjnpRwwI4/M3MmfbLNs9kJ

***

Paul Steege, associate professor of history at Villanova University, and
author of *Black Market, Cold War: Everyday Life in Berlin, 1946-1949* has
argued that conventional discussions of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift start
from a faulty premise--namely that the Soviets had entirelly shut off
supplies to West Berlin by land, and that only the Airlift stopped West
Berliners from starving. Actually, Steege argues, West Berliners (who to
survive even before 1948 had to use technically illegal methods of getting
food and other necessities) continued to get food and other resources from
the Soviet zone, and if they had not been able to do so--in other words, had
the blockade on the ground been complete--the Airlift would not have been
enough to supply West Berlin:

"While the airlift delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies to
Berlin, this amount failed to meet West Berlin's food needs, and the planes
never even attempted to supply coal to heat private homes. The Western
victory in this first Cold War battle came in spite of the fact that the
airlift never achieved its ostensible purpose: to fully supply West Berlin.

"That the West 'won' depended first and foremost on Berliners' survival
practices in the face of ongoing scarcity - practices that the great powers
could not control and failed to understand...

"After World War II, the four victorious allies - Britain, France, the Soviet
Union and the United States - divided Germany into occupation zones. Berlin,
located more than 100 miles into the Soviet zone, was likewise divided into
four occupation sectors. By spring 1948 the four-power structures designed to
administer occupied Germany had collapsed.

"On June 24, 1948, the Soviets halted rail and road traffic from the three
Western zones to Berlin. Because each occupying power was obligated to
provide the food and fuel for the inhabitants of its sector, most historical
accounts assume that this step completely cut West Berliners' supply lines,
leaving them dependent on airlifted supplies.

"But West Berliners did not just tighten their belts and wait for a delivery
of dried potatoes or stand at the end of the runways at Berlin's Tempelhof
Airport in an effort to catch the chocolate bars imaginative airlift pilots
dropped by handkerchief parachute.

"They embarked on foraging trips into the surrounding Soviet zone, made
under-the-table arrangements with shopkeepers and bartered and traded on the
streets and squares of Berlin. Berliners had practiced these black market
strategies since war's end and were used to depending on them for their
survival.

"These ordinary if technically illicit practices continued in 1948-1949 and
made for a steady if occasionally hazardous flow of goods through the Soviet
blockade. More than a month into the blockade, one German Communist begged
Soviet officials to do something about the vegetables streaming into the
Western sectors, which were available in greater quantity and at lower prices
than in the Soviet half of Berlin.

"Even after the blockade had been tightened in October 1948, it remained
rather porous. In mid-November U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall
received an intelligence report entitled, 'Is Berlin blockaded?' The answer
provided by the report and supported by evidence from East German archives:
Only partially.

"Rejecting the standard account of a total blockade does not deny the
incredible technical accomplishments of the airlift or the sacrifice of the
American and British personnel killed while flying supplies to the former
German capital. Nor does it deny the ruthlessness of the Soviet and German
Communists who showed no qualms about defending their hold on power with
brutal violence. But it does challenge Cold War Berlin's status as the West's
Achilles' heel that only a miracle could save from the Soviets.

"In fact, Berlin was a site of Western (and especially American) strength.
Even at the height of the blockade, German communists in Berlin repeatedly
expressed how they felt besieged in the city.

"The international settlement that resolved the blockade crisis guaranteed
West Berlin's independence, but it also marked the West's acceptance of a
Stalinist state in half of Germany. It thus helped assuage the Communist
anxieties that motivated their expanded 'control measures' in the first
place.

"In 2008 we risk conflating the symbolic and the material accomplishments of
the airlift. While the airlift did cement the alliance and even friendship
between Germans and Americans after World War II, the blockade never
threatened West Berlin with starvation..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/opinion/13iht-edsteege.1.13693535.html

Steege's argument is supported by William Stivers, "The Incomplete Blockade:
Soviet Zone Supply of West Berlin, 1948-49," Diplomatic History (1997).
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119170267/abstract
Unfortunately, only the first page is available online for non-subscribers
but it at least indicates the article's thesis: "For it is not only the
commonly held popular view but also the understanding of surprisingly many
professional historians of the period that the Berlin blockade entailed an
*isolation* of West Berlin--as if the Wall were already reality in 1948--and
that West Berlin survived the blockade months on supplies brought by the
airlift alone. What has hardly been questioned, or at best rather sparsely
been questioned, is the understanding--fundamental to the entire history of
the blockade--that West Berlin was isolated. In fact, the Soviet blockade
neither attempted nor achieved the isolation of West Berlin..."

See also Roger G. Miller, *To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948-
1949*:

"Additionally, it is now clear that the Berlin Airlift was aided by the fact
that the Soviet blockade was loosely applied, especially during the first few
months. According to historian William Stivers, 'the Soviet blockade neither
attempted nor achieved the isolation of West Berlin.' The Western sectors of
Berlin simply could not be walled off from the rest of the city: The
railroad system wound in and out of the Western and Eastern sectors and
occasional Soviet attempts to reroute trains proved fruitless. Canal traffic
from the Elbe and Oder Rivers also passed through the British sector of
Berlin. In addition, thousnads of Germans who lived in one sector and worked
in another traveled between the sectors daily. Such access offered endless
temptation and little hazard to German traders, who often had to do little
more than falsify their manifests to show a delivery destination in the
Soviet zone and then deliver their cargo to the Western sectors. American
military intelligence reported the arrival in August of large amounts of
foodstuffs--including fish products, vegetables, cereals, soups, and fruits--
fodder, firewood, coal, and building materials in this manner. Such
deliveries were documented well into October and apparently continued
throughout the blockade.

"The enterprise of individual Berliners with access to the Soviet occupation
zone contributed as well. Before the blockade, citizens had foraged for food
in the countryside in the Eastern zone to supplement bare shelves, and that
practice continued even after the borders closed. During the crisis, Germans
developed a 'widespread and efficient smuggling organization' that brought
truckloads of food into the Western sectors of the city. Berliners flocked
to the *Potsdamerplatz* in the center of Berlin, where black market items
were available in substnatial amounts to those who could afford them. Frank
Howley counted on the porouisness of the Soviet blockade: 'Tight lines were
drawn between the Soviet sector and the three Western sectors, but they
didn't prevent intermingling during the blockade...About eighty thousand
Germans, living in our sector and working in another, or doing business
outside their own sector, went back and forth daily...Theoretically, the
Germans were not permitted to bring anything into our sectors, but the
Russians, so keen on searching people on the slightest pretext, shrank at the
formidable task of searching eighty thousand every day.'

"Additionally, the Soviets kept the door to Berlin half open because they
needed the West as much as, if not more than, the West needed them.
Industries in Berlin were able to negotiate deals with suppliers in the
Eastern zone in exchange for finished goods that the Russians were
interested in obtaining...When Marshal Sokolovsky and Col. Sergei Tiulpanov
met with members of the East German Industrial Committee on June 28, they
appear to have been shocked when their hosts explained that industry in the
Soviet zone would soon cease to function without access to raw materials and
parts from the Western zone. Seemingly, Soviet leaders lacked any
understanding of the extent to which their region of Germany depended on
Western materials and industries. Ultimately, various sources estimate that
as much as five hundred thousand tons of supplies reached the Western sectors
of Berlin through either authorized or unauthorized means during the months
of the blockade.

"The interdependence of the sectors was demonstrated by an incident that
bordered on the farcial...At one point duirng the blockade, the irrepressible
[Frank] Howley [US commander in Berlin] learned that Marshal Sokolovsky's
home was serviced by a gas main that went through the Western sector. He
turned off the heat, forcing the Marshal to move. When Soviet soldiers
loaded Sokolovsky's furniture on a van and tried to cross the American
sector, Howley's alert men confiscated it all...."

http://books.google.com/books?id=3I-m9WkwwBYC&pg=PA52

As Miller notes (p. 54), the dependence of the Soviet occupation zone on the
western zones was the "Achilles heel" of the Soviet blockade. Ultimately,
the Allied counterblockade (officially begun in September) hurt the Soviet
zone's economy much worse than the Soviet blockade did the Western areas of
occupation where "rations of bread, suga, and potatoes suffered little as a
result of the stoppage of meager deliveies previously received from the
Soviet zone"...

Interestingly, restraint by the US (at its Allies' urging) may have been
partly reponsible for the Soviets discreetly allowing some leakage:

"In another important instance, as the United States probed ways to wrest
time from the list of Soviet advantages, and before the Western counter-
blockade, or embargo, could pose serious inconvenineces for the East, General
Clay wanted to make the westmark *sole* currency in the western sectors of
Berlin by November 1. Britian and France again reacted cautiously, fearing
that forcing the Soviets to negotiate on currency from a position behind
where they were when they imposed the blockade was, at the onset of winter, a
needless provocation. In fact, the Western currency did not become exclusive
tender in West Berlin until March 20, 1949, months after Truman's reelection,
with the delay attributable mainly to Allied objections.

"William Stivers [in the article I mentioned]...concludes that Allied
obstructionism and US sensitivity to its junior partners helped the Western
cause in this case. Particularly, during those foggy months in late fall,
there are no records confirming how the airlift tonnage in those days could
have kept West Berliners fed and warm unless the Soviets were discreetly
permitting leakage. This means that during November-December 1948, the
Russians had maneuvering room to counter any American 'currency offensive' by
squeezing Berlin harder on the ground, threatening the slim margin remaining
to the airlift without the necessity of actually attacking the air
corridors..." Damon V. Coletta, *Trusted Guardian: Information Sharing and
the Future of the Atlantic Alliance,* p. 76.
http://books.google.com/books?id=6TZk3xhe0pgC&pg=PA76

I really do have to get around to reading the books by Steege and Miller as
well as the entire article by Stivers...
--
David Tenner
***@ameritech.net
Alex Milman
2017-06-08 02:41:10 UTC
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Post by David Tenner
Post by Alex Milman
Supplying West Berlin by air was an unique operation but what did it had
to do with Stalingrad?
Leaving aside Stalingrad, here is a little-known fact: there was no *total*
Soviet ground blockade of West Berlin in 1948-9. See my post at
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/soc.history.what-if/LfMjnpRwwI4/M3MmfbLNs9kJ
***
Paul Steege, associate professor of history at Villanova University, and
author of *Black Market, Cold War: Everyday Life in Berlin, 1946-1949* has
argued that conventional discussions of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift start
from a faulty premise--namely that the Soviets had entirelly shut off
supplies to West Berlin by land, and that only the Airlift stopped West
Berliners from starving. Actually, Steege argues, West Berliners (who to
survive even before 1948 had to use technically illegal methods of getting
food and other necessities) continued to get food and other resources from
the Soviet zone,
With no serious physical obstacle like a wall, which was not there yet, this
comes as no surprise and does not even require any extra proof. I'd even assume
that at least some the of goods in questions had been received from the Soviet
personnel as a barter trade (unofficial, of course).
The Horny Goat
2017-06-08 16:15:04 UTC
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On Wed, 7 Jun 2017 15:57:54 -0700 (PDT), Alex Milman
Post by Alex Milman
Post by The Horny Goat
Post by Alex Milman
Scenario (a) more or less implies a direct military confrontation with the
US troops and, if we are still operating within framework of a reality,
Khruschev (or his successors) would not do that, just as they would not risk
to start firing at the American planes carrying supplies into West Berlin.
One of the lessons Stalin "learned" from Stalingrad was that it was
not possible to supply a major city long term by air. Now pre-1941
Stalingrad had a population of 400-500,000
Sorry, I did not quite get who exactly was trying to supply Stalingrad's
pre-war or as of 1942 POPULATION by air?
Fair enough - I forgot that by October-November 1942 the population
was much smaller My point was that Stalin knew the Germans had tried
and failed to supply Stalingrad by air and that West Berlin in 1949
was much larger so he was surprised when the US and NATO successfully
DID air supply West Berlin.
Post by Alex Milman
Which was quite irrelevant because the American abilities to carry cargo by
air had been absolutely incomparable with what Luftwaffe could spare to
supply surrounded 5th Army. Not to mention that, unlike Stalingrad, the
air traffic was not disrupted and there was no danger of the airfields being
lost.
Well it was 6th Army of course but I assume you deliberately made that
mistake to see who was paying attention.
Post by Alex Milman
I have no idea if he was considering Stalingrad experience at all but this
experience was clearly inapplicable.
Prior to the Berlin Airlift in 1949 the attempted airlift at
Stalingrad was pretty much the ONLY attempted air supply of a major
city - and was a failure. That's the connection. The Berlin airlift
was of course anything but a failure.

Again - had Stalin wanted to seize West Berlin militarily he could
have done so but obviously it would mean a much bigger war than just
for Berlin. Given the American nuclear monopoly (while the Soviets had
detonated a test nuke they didn't have significant numbers of nuclear
weapons until 4-5 years later) that can't have been taken as a serious
option by Moscow.
Alex Milman
2017-06-08 16:39:28 UTC
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Post by The Horny Goat
On Wed, 7 Jun 2017 15:57:54 -0700 (PDT), Alex Milman
Post by Alex Milman
Post by The Horny Goat
Post by Alex Milman
Scenario (a) more or less implies a direct military confrontation with the
US troops and, if we are still operating within framework of a reality,
Khruschev (or his successors) would not do that, just as they would not risk
to start firing at the American planes carrying supplies into West Berlin.
One of the lessons Stalin "learned" from Stalingrad was that it was
not possible to supply a major city long term by air. Now pre-1941
Stalingrad had a population of 400-500,000
Sorry, I did not quite get who exactly was trying to supply Stalingrad's
pre-war or as of 1942 POPULATION by air?
Fair enough - I forgot that by October-November 1942 the population
was much smaller My point was that Stalin knew the Germans had tried
and failed to supply Stalingrad by air
AFAIK these attempts had been related strictly to the surrounded German
troops, not to the population that was still in the city. That's why I
said that the size of Stalingrad's population was irrelevant to the subject.

Besides that, example of Stalingrad was irrelevant because weight-carrying
abilities of (a segment of Luftwaffe) in that specific case had been obviously
incomparable with those of the American and British aviation at the time of
Berlin airlift.

I repeat, I have no idea if Stalin did or did not use that parallel but it
looks totally inapplicable.
SolomonW
2017-06-07 11:32:41 UTC
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Post by David Tenner
"Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of
the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and
Kennedy, threatened Russia with 'massive retaliation' (i.e., all-out nuclear
war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?
"No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not
anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any
aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years..."
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/01/krauthammer-trumps-refusal-to-make-nato-pledge-weakens-deterrent/
OK, then--*would* "we" (i.e., Ike or JFK) "really have sacrificed New York
for Berlin" if it came to that? Was massive retaliation a massive bluff?
(I'm not saying it was intended as such, only that it could have turned out
that way. After all, there was no "doomsday machine" *requiring* "massive
retaliation. It still remained in the president's discretion whether to
abandon the strategy if deterrence failed and he concluded that a
humiliating climb-down was a lesser evil than a thermonuclear war.)
(Yes, the article is a criticism of Trump on Article 5 but *please*
don't focus on that. The point is that in making that criticism Krauthammer
*incidentally* raised a good what-if on the 1950's and 1960's, and it's that
"what-if" which concerns me here.)
An interesting book on this subject is

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the
Illusion of Safety

Its not a brilliant book by any means but it does have a fairly good study
of about nuclear strategy. What you have read about flexible response with
its counter force and counter city is probably wrong. The command and
control systems could not handle such an event once a serious nuclear
conflict broke out. Nuclear war was going to be all out affair, the plans
for the US included hitting targets in Europe, Russia and China.
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