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Purge the Experts

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Dave and Gary both have both commented on Yglesias’ post on George Kennan and the appreciation of foreign policy expertise at the beginning of the Cold War. I’d like to further note that the situation that developed in the diplomatic and intelligence communities regarding China at the end of World War II is quite similar to what holds regarding the Middle East today. Although the story is a little more complex than this, essentially what happened was that knowledgeable experts on China repeatedly indicated that a Communist takeover was likely. Such warnings were ignored by policymakers, political appointees, and Congress (this was rather a bipartisan situation, although in fairness the Republicans tended to be worse than the Dems). When the Communists took over, the experts were blamed for not doing anything, and were purged as commie simps. Thus, for the first ten years or so following the establishment of the PRC, government expertise on China was in desperately short supply.

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