Try a word association quiz with the phrase “Cold War,” and the first two responses that are almost certain to come to the mind of the general public are “paranoia” and “McCarthyism,” which is practically a synonym for paranoia. The common assumption, thanks to decades of public school indoctrination and the influence of leftist intellectuals, is that the Cold War, at least in its early decades, was all about suspicious Republicans fearing a Red under every bed and blacklisting innocents in Hollywood. But a recent book (the paperback edition hits bookshelves next month), lays out the historical evidence for massive Communist penetration of our government beginning in the New Deal era, increasingly rapidly during World War II, and afterward leading to gaping breaches of national security and the betrayal of free-world interests.
Contrary to the notion that domestic Communists were simply harmless, misguided idealists, Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein shows that widespread government infiltration by Soviet spies sabotaged our foreign policy and molded the post-WWII world in favor of the Soviet Union. Evans, the author of eight previous books including the controversial revised look at Joseph McCarthy called Blacklisted by History, is a former editor of the Indianapolis News, a Los Angeles Times columnist, and a commentator for the Voice of America. Romerstein is a leading Cold War expert, formerly head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the U.S. Information Agency from 1983 until 1989, who has served on the staff of several congressional committees including the House Intelligence Committee.
The early Cold War spying which resulted in the theft of our atomic secrets, radar, jet propulsion, and other military systems was serious enough, but that wasn’t the major issue. “The spying,” as the authors put it, “was handmaiden to the policy interest,” which was by far the leading problem. As President Franklin Roosevelt’s health and mental ability waned, covert Communist aides exerted pro-Soviet influence on U.S. policy, which was reflected in postwar discussions by the Big Three powers about the new shape of the world. The policy impact of such deceptive influence on the part of Soviet agents
was to turn Western influence and support against the anti-Communist forces and in favor of their Red opponents, as U.S. and other Allied leaders based decisions on false intelligence from pro-Soviet agents. The effects were calamitous for the cause of freedom, as numerous countries were thus delivered into the hands of Stalin and his minions.
The three leaders – FDR, Churchill, and Stalin – “would ultimately decide what political forces would prevail where and the forms of government to be installed in formerly captive nations, including those in alignment with the victors.” Unfortunately, at that time “seeking Soviet ‘friendship’ and giving Moscow ‘every assistance’ summed up American policy [in meetings] at Teheran and Yalta, and for some while before those meetings.”
The most powerful pro-Red influence was actually the President himself. He distanced himself from Churchill’s warier stance about Russian imperialism, and instead made common cause with Stalin. “His main object was to get Stalin to agree with the Rooseveltian vision of a peaceable kingdom to come via the United Nations.” FDR seemed to be “guided very heavily by his advisers and took no step independently,” as one observer noted. Harry Hopkins, FDR’s longtime and most powerful adviser, “held pro-Soviet views of the most fervent nature.” Indeed, the authors claim, “Throughout the war years, Moscow had no better official U.S. friend than Hopkins.” FDR’s wife too advocated in a pro-Red direction, and Vice President Henry Wallace was “arguably the most prominent pro-Soviet political figure of his time.”
But entities outside the government affected American foreign policy in these years too. The press corps, academics, lobbyists, and think tanks all helped mold a climate of opinion that paved the way for pro-Red policymakers in federal office. Media spokesmen then helped promote pro-Soviet policy “while attacking the views and reputations of people who wanted to move in other directions.” A complicit media helping to advance the Communist agenda while shutting down opposition voices – sound familiar?
The most famous example of infiltration was, of course, the spy Alger Hiss, whose “skill in positioning himself at the vectors of diplomatic information indicates the degree to which Soviet undercover agents were able to penetrate the U.S. government in crucial places, up to the highest policy-making levels.” Hiss rose from obscurity to become the custodian of all memoranda for the President on topics to be considered at the crucial Yalta summit. However, “he wasn’t an isolated instance, but only one such agent out of many.”
The authors’ conclusions are threefold: 1) Communist penetration in the American government in the WWII-era and early Cold War was deep and extensive, involving many hundreds of suspects; 2) the infiltrators wielded important leverage on U.S. foreign policy in that period; and 3) pro-Soviet penetration and the resulting policy damage occurred because Soviet agents preyed on the credulity of officials who were willfully ignorant of Communist methods. “The net effect of these converging factors was a series of free-world retreats” in the face of Marxist conquests across Europe, Indochina, Latin American states, and African nations.
The lessons of this highly readable and concise history are well worth taking to heart today, not merely as an historical study, but as a reflection of the subversive infiltration and influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on our current administration.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 5/14/13)