The Cold War on the Gray Zone


“But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth”— Revelation 3:16

To understand the specific function of the Terror War is to also comprehend its predecessor and analogue: the Cold War. As Murray Rothbard wrote in 1990:

“A goal that can never be reached but can always be kept shimmering on the distant horizon is perfectly tooled for an endless policy of massive expenditure of money, arms, blood, and manpower in one foreign adventure after another: what the great Charles A. Beard brilliantly termed ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace.’”

He wrote this as the Cold War was winding down. This had American imperialists in a tizzy. The Cold War wasn’t supposed to end. International communism wasn’t supposed to be a tractable problem. Its defeat was not supposed to be a reachable goal. After World War II, upon achieving mastery of the globe, the U.S. imperium required a nebulous, unconquerable menace in order to maintain the essential war footing that is the health of the State. That was the role that international communism was supposed to play forever. When the Soviets lost the will to power and simply surrendered their empire, this left hardliners in the West casting about for a replacement menace.

As Rothbard wrote in the same article quoted above, Irving Kristol, the godfather of the neocons, had lighted upon the solution a full decade early.

“Kristol, in a rambling account of the post-Cold War world, leaps on the ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ threat… Of course, pinpointing Islamic fundamentalism comes as no surprise from the neocons, to whom defense of the State of Israel is always the overriding goal.”

After 9/11, Islamic fundamentalism became the perfect foil for perpetual war. On 9/12, the Terror War was born, along with a new nebulous, unconquerable menace, and a new bottomless pit for war expenditures.

And the neocon cup runneth over with this new menace. The Israel-firsters could have their cake and eat it too. They could maintain and even ramp up their decades-long tacit support for Islamic fundamentalists as against secular-Arab nationalists. And the American public would be none the wiser, incapable as they are of discerning between the two. “We killing some kind of Muslims? Roger that. Good enough for government work.” And of course the inevitable blowback from aiding jihadis has since generated outrage that has perversely reinforced more of the very same kind of intervention that seeded it in the first place. Thus, the Terror War has been even more of a self-licking ice cream cone than the Cold War ever was.

The similarities between the two perpetual wars go beyond the nebulous nature of their respective menaces. They were also fought in a similar manner.

After 9/11, George W. Bush famously said, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” This was ardently seconded by none other than Osama bin Laden, who craved nothing more than for the conflict to be cast in black and white, between his own extremist “Camp of Islam” and the “Crusader Camp” of the West and its phony-Muslim collaborators. George Lucas famously had Obi-Wan Kenobi respond to this line of thinking with the rejoinder: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Indeed, the warmongers and terrorists are more Sith allies than enemies: linked in a symbiosis of savagery.

ISIS even explicitly formulated this strategy in its official publication, calling it “withering the Gray Zone.” The Gray Zone is the realm of moderation and co-existence. Neither terrorists nor hardliners have any use for it. For them, hellbent as they are on polarizing the world into a Manichean clash of civilizations, “co-existers” are an even greater threat than their opposite numbers across the divide.

This dynamic characterized the Cold War just as much as the Terror War. As Stephen Kinzer wrote in his book The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War, John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower, much preferred outright communists to “neutralists.”

“Foster had identified an emerging enemy of freedom in the world: neutralism. He defined it as “the immoral and shortsighted” belief that countries could hold themselves apart from the Cold War confrontation. This put him at odds with emerging statesmen like Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, who wanted his country “to avoid entanglement in power politics and not to join any group of powers as against any other group,” and the new Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser, who reasoned that there was no reason for Egypt to oppose the Soviets because “we’ve never had trouble with them.”

Mossadegh shared their view. He did not use the term “neutralism” to describe his foreign policy, but came up with one that meant the same thing: “negative equilibrium.” Foster realized that if Mossadegh thrived, leaders of other countries might follow him toward neutralism. If he were to fall, neutralism would seem less tempting.”

Kinzer continued:

“Foster’s dipomacy in the post-Bandung period was aimed not at softening the clash between superpowers, as neutralists wished to do, but sharpening it. One of his tactics was constructing anti-Soviet alliances, or what some in the press called “pactomania.” Having created SEATO in 1954, he went on in 1955 to create CENTO, the Central Treaty Organization, whose founding members were Britain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. It began falling apart just three years later, when Iraq withdrew, and never had a substantial impact on regional events.”

John Foster’s brother Allen Dulles, as head of the CIA helped his brother’s war on neutralism by specifically targeting neutralist regimes for overthrow and destabilization.

Allen was so hellbent on eliminating any “gray zone” between West and East, that he revelled in driving Joseph Stalin toward paranoid extremes. He and his deputies exulted in Stalin’s crackdowns on moderates. That was the express purpose of “Operation Splinter Factor,” in which Dulles sent a sincere dupe behind the Iron Curtain, leaking to the Soviets the falsehood that the sacrificial lamb was the centerpiece of a vast covert anti-Soviet conspiracy coordinated by Dulles himself. The psy-op was devastatingly successful. As David Talbot wrote in his recent book Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government:

“Back in Washington, Wisner exulted over each wave of arrests and each new round of show trials, where the accused were made to publicly condemn themselves before they were executed. “The comrades are merrily sticking knives in each others’ backs and doing our dirty work for us,” Wisner gleefully reported.

The Office of Policy Coordination men knew that many of the Splinter Factor victims were patriots who were beloved by their own people. But in the eyes of Dulles, this actually made them more dangerous. As one political observer of Splinter Factor remarked, “Dulles wished to leave Eastern Europe devoid of hope so that he could introduce a pro-American, anti-Soviet form of government…. Nationalist Communists were making communism acceptable to the people, and so, accordingly, they had to be removed.”

As a result of the rapidly spreading inquisition, political dialogue in Eastern Europe was frozen, the screws of thought control were tightened, and cultural exchange and trade with the West were shut down. But Dulles saw all this as a positive development. Like the most rigid of Marxists, he believed that by increasing the suffering of Eastern Europe’s enslaved populations, they would be pushed beyond their breaking point and forced to revolt against their Soviet masters. But, as was the case with the Communist true believers who advocated “heightening the contradictions” in order to bring about the glorious revolution, Operation Splinter Factor brought only more misery to the people of the Soviet bloc. Dulles would not live long enough to see their day of liberation.”

This “heightening of contradictions” was also expressly cited by terror analyst Juan Cole as the strategy adopted by Islamic terrorists in France. They successfully sought to elicit a crackdown in order to drive moderate Muslims into the arms of ISIS.

John F. Kennedy himself saw what the psycho hardliners on both sides were up to. As Talbot writes:

“By 1963, Kennedy would come to the conclusion that “the hardliners in the Soviet Union and the United States feed on one another” — an observation that struck Schlesinger as wise.

Talbot himself showed a firm understanding of the root objective of all this conflict mongering.

“Foster’s staunch resistance to making peace with the Soviets did not reflect a perverse contrariness or extreme anti-Communism. Nor did it suggest his true assessment of the Soviet threat. His belligerence was strategic. As his revealing cable stated, this militant sense of alert was the “cement” that held together the Western alliance. And as [C. Wright] Mills pointed out, the “continual preparation for war” was also the main factor holding together America’s power elite. Or, in the mordant observation of Randolph Bourne as the United States plunged into the epic madness of World War I, “War is the health of the state.” Foster, who always acted in the interests of the American establishment, understood this. It was this permanent war fever that empowered the country’s political and military hierarchies and enriched the increasingly militarized corporate sector. It was the very lifeblood of this ruling group’s existence — even if, in the atomic age, it threatened the existence of humanity.”

Both Kinzer’s and Talbot’s books on the Dulleses are indispensable reading for understanding the deep state power elite, and its strategy of perpetual warfare that has plagued us since World War II.

Also published at and

Dan Sanchez is a contributing editor at and an independent journalist for Follow him via TwitterFacebook, or TinyLetter.