At All Cost: War Abstraction in U.S. Domestic Policy in the Late Cold War Era


Political analysis is fraught with inference amongst an incomplete dataset, and as time progresses, sensitive information either disappears as a result of any variety of reasons, or surfaces as a result of investigation and declassification. In light of the Cold War, which ended officially in 1991, policy matters, their antecedents, and associated actions are still potentially subject to classification amidst declassification reviews under the U.K. Official Secrets Act (1989) and the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (2000). To those who do not have access to classified materials (i.e., journalists and historians), caution is urged as there is most likely an absence of a greater unknown matter of detail of potentially greater importance than understood from public records. That said, it is possible to assemble analysis of perceptions, inclusive of this one, in Public Opinion from open-source intelligence (OSI), as it is here that a plurality of Public Relations roles across institutions works to shape the supply and demand public, to and from governing bodies, and naturally, the foreign policies of these.

One of the greatest matters in public opinion of recent history is War and Terror, and while an aspect of U.S. government plays significant roles to be discussed, it should be noted that both an American and global public benefitted from two aspects of U.S. democracy. The first is the freedom of the press in uncovering and publishing unflattering truth from the front lines of Vietnam, and state secrets on activities of CIA across the Cold War. The second comes by way of the separation of powers of U.S. federal governance, namely U.S. Congress. It is here that the general public has seen revelations of clandestine U.S. foreign policy exposed via further inquiry, yet again, caution is urged, the entire story, may be, unheard; enter Nation Talk.

“My argument is that the theoretical roots of Islamist political terror lie in the state- centered, not the society-centered, movement,” Mahmood Mamdani states in Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (2004).1 Yet the reader should be challenged to another concept entirely, could the function of Culture Talk obscure a business-centered rather state-centered, and rather than society-centered, movement? Enter, Nation Talk where businesses are as settlers to nations as natives; focusing a people on the distrust of governance just as Orientalism as described by Edward Said entrains distrust of the Palestinian people,2 and just as Culture Talk as described by Mamdani entrains distrust of foreign cultures.3 Culture Talk and Orientalism, operating under the schema of stereotype, discrimination, and segregation, can be seen as, and has been used, and most likely will be used, as Public Relations weapons whether in the hands of politicians, nations, individuals, or business leaders and multi-national businesses.

War Abstraction

In the late Cold War, U.S. foreign policy directed at the fall of the Soviet Union, increasingly mixed with business interests, as business interest provides the work of a people which affords a people its needs. Indirect “proxy” support (one could argue, direct support) of terrorism, illicit trade in drugs and arms due to a democratically unsupportive environment for funding these very same activities, and finally, a great damage to a people as a result of policies and public relations efforts both by channels official and unofficial, to subvert Russians, at-all- cost. The at-all-cost mentality in the case of the late Cold War pursued defeating the Soviet Union, where seemingly ultimate results may have culminated in the fall of the Soviet Union but where the penultimate results are bearing fruit as a “source of privatized and globalized terrorism

in the world of today, the international jihadis are the true ideological children of Reagan’s crusade against the ‘evil empire’”.4 Three aspects of the late Cold War generated a template for the abstraction of acts of war and a convenient terror, from those wishing for war, where the template is composed of three abstractions, the first is private armies, the second is high margin revenue in funding these, and the third is public relations to provide cover in the field of public opinion. Where the first fights, the second finances, and the third provides air cover. This template has been applied not only by agencies of nation-states during the Cold War but set the groundwork for a kind of warfare driven not by national interests, but by private interests, under the cover of affairs of state, much like a public relations weapon of Culture Talk, yet a kind of Nation Talk.

Private Armies

While the history of proxy warfare could be discussed, within the context of the late Cold War, it had already been operating as a result of efforts of U.S. foreign policy, military and agency efforts in Laos and Vietnam in rooting out communist influence. Proxy warfare evolved in the jungles of Laos where over a decade, where 30,000 mercenaries had worked in support of CIA under the cover of air superiority.5 Technological advancements of television, color broadcasting, and high-speed communications allowed for the American public to see the results of military activities in Vietnam, which had become disdained in U.S. public opinion with mass warfare post-WWII. These mercenary armies, private soldiers for hire, were a quick option for plausible deniability. What better way to disassociate U.S. government from U.S. foreign policy than enlisting private mercenaries? This continued in nearly all subsequent engagements of U.S. agencies and departments, inclusive of CIA and the U.S. military, up to the present.

Get Rich Quick Schemes

Also, what better way to dissociate U.S. government and its public accountability from U.S. foreign policy of providing avenues to fund clandestine activities “off the books” with a known high margin, revenue producing business, known otherwise as, the drug trade. As the British had done this with opium in colonial times, the CIA had done with heroin during in the Golden Triangle starting in WWII on the border of China in support of anti-communists.6 This behavior extended to Central America via Nicaraguan cocaine trafficking,7 and to the Middle East via Pakistani heroin production.8 Drugs offered “get rich quick” revenue to not only the acquisition of arms for confederates of CIA missions, but also the same for those and their families, a kind of bottom-up way to develop fast wealth for the disenfranchised where the ends justifies the means.

One could take a perspective that the mission mandate of CIA, desired expectations for results of policy makers, and a suspect public conflicted with the reduced funding due to the Clark Amendment of 1976, and the Boland Amendment 1982-1984. These are working individuals, just like the Palestinians, working to make ends meet, with mortgages, families, and commitments, often secret. What were they to do? Perhaps what others do in dire straits, turning to the drug trade, in inner cities and in countries that have little to offer legally on the world market. Is it an excuse, no, however it is an eerily similar reality that many around the world face.

Public Relations

Finally, what better way to dissociate U.S. government from the same public accountability than Culture Talk? Polarizing a people against another peoples with words is noted in some of the earliest texts and art of humanity. Gustave Le Bonne, Edward Bernays, and many of their like understand and communicate the reality of public opinion. Over the course of the late Cold War, after the 1978 Communist Coup in Afghanistan, CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) efforts “combined result was to flood the region not only with all kinds of weapons but also with the most radical Islamist recruits.”9 The Reagan Administration sought no containment, not co-existence, but that of “killing Russians.”10 Regarding Afghanistan, of armed jihad, “… now CIA was determined to create one in service of a contemporary political objective.”11 A central objective occurred, “to unite a billion Muslims worldwide in a holy war, a crusade, against the Soviet Union, on the soil of Afghanistan.”12 This was no longer a proxy-war, it became a proxy-crusade, and just as settlers and natives are as pawns in political behavior, so too is the raising of private armies to distance a national institution from its national behaviors.13

Regarding Culture Talk, one of the most compelling propaganda items is the suicide bomber. It drums up imagery that rapidly polarizes opinion, as Said mentions of Orientalism. The suicide bomber is often portrayed as the Palestinian on popular media during the Cold War. They are the natives resisting the settlers in Israel, yet objectively, what tools do they have? What funding do they have to operate on the same capacity as their peers? The mere fact that Israel and translators use the term settlers, in an audience unable to hold a dialectic, it implies there is an opposite to settler, how can the general American population not assume opposition given their own cultural history with the Native American?

Here in this very essay, how does one make a case, when it is full of anecdote and potential disinformation left in the hands of those manipulated? Limited in one’s ability to pull from a variety of sources, and only from a single book, a single video, and a handful of discussion board posts? The exercise is as frustrating as it is futile, and one is left perhaps with a taste of the disenfranchisement of Edward Said, toward his later life, saddened by the Oslo Peace Accords, and seeing a possible future Palestine thwarted by yet again, a continual tragedy, a play of settlers vs. natives where the settler’s activities are operated by some remote, unknown force, yet if even remotely touching “conspiracy” one is Conspiracy Talked out of academic relevance in much the same way as Culture Talk writes off the marginalized and frustrated, amplifying a search for relevance, escalating to “terrorist activity”. The real story is most likely secret, and the audience only catches glimpses of it occasionally.


Regarding known U.S. foreign policy at the end of the Cold War, and subsequent harm to actors, both complicit and innocent, across pursuits of objectives known and objectives unknown, there is nowhere in history that one can reasonably assume complete access to past secrets in corridors of herds set about conflict with other herds. As a computer scientist, there is close familiarity with the Halting Problem, as there is close familiarity with the Trolly Problem. In an environment of decision making, how does one know that saving this or that people will work better in the short, near, medium, and long term? The decision makers would need to both solve the Halting Problem for every permutation of possibility at each distance of temporality across great locality to even have a hope to determine if the people on the trolly or down range from the trolly should be saved, and as an added bonus, how the accident should unfold to preserve the greatest positive impact potential, yet it’s just not possible. The Halting Problem is known to be unsolvable, then by inference, just as with history, all solving is basically a short, and incomplete analysis, where the analysis is and of itself a Public Relations officer’s effort standing at the switch manipulating the trolly, focused on short term gains: annualized gains.

The only problem-solving capability is to, as Douglas Adams wrote of deftly in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979),is to create an emulation, a clone of behavior domestic within one’s reality, to a foreign behavior in near exact detail apart from one’s reality, in order to experiment on differences between realities. It is here, that a historian is urged to look, for as ethnocentric as U.S. foreign policy is, and the harm it has done to cultivate probabilities of near and a long-term terrorism in the world, unleashed upon great peoples judged harshly and cruelly, one could ask, at what cost?

Yet, it goes without saying, on the flipside, standing in front of a mirror, knowing what one knows, and few, or no others know… is keeping a secret worth it if the greater good comes of it? It is here, one may realize, that the settler is not only similar to a native, but truly, the settler, is exactly, the native. Here, perhaps beyond separation, the dialectic can transcend, one can only hope, all politic and put to bed its analysis, incomplete. An incomplete, passed in judgement, just as the settlers of knowledge says of natives of wisdom, and is not this a kind of Culture Talk of its own, subject to weaponization, just as it had been against Muslim and Islamic Culture, just as Chairman Mao said of the Four Olds?14 One must realize, just as there is Culture Talk, and sees it for what it is, then surely the next valence of it, used by multi-national corporations, many of which are greater than nations, employ it’s variation: Nation Talk. It is in this Nation Talk that mere cloaks obscuring a kind of stratified Towers of Hanoi problem at play, where stacks of valuations are shuffled in a continual optimization of a theft of wealth of natives many, either of peoples to planets, by a political elite castled by rooks, and moated by settlers few.


1 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 61.

2 Sut Jhally and Sanjay Talreja. Edward Said on Orientalism (Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2002), DVD.

3 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 18-21.

4 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 18-21.

5 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 65.

6 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 67.

7 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 105.

8 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), 142-143.

9 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), pp. 125-126

10 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), pp. 124

11 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), p. 127

12 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), p. 128

13 Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), p. 131

14 The Four Olds of the Chinese Cultural Revolution are Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs.

Written with restricted sources for Washington State University, HIST-105 lead by Dr. Nicholas Harrington.