View From Wasilla?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“Palin Was Right” is the headline that catches our eye on the Daily Beast. It runs over an Associated Press dispatch, disclosing details of a long-ago program to prepare for an invasion of our northern territory by the Soviet Union. The AP has worked itself up into something of a swivet about this. To us the FBI looks ever more far-signed now that the Europeans are scrambling to see whether the Russians have actually invaded Ukraine and President Obama is admitting in respect of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that he lacks a strategy.
Where is J. Edgar Hoover when we need him? He was apparently behind the program in Alaska. Between 1950 and 1959, the AP reports, the FBI “recruited and trained fishermen, bush pilots, trappers, and other private citizens across Alaska for a covert network to feed wartime intelligence to the military.” The idea was that when the Reds got across the Bering Straight, these agents would know of pre-placed caches of radio equipment and survival supplies and start transmitting intelligence back to our government. Smart. They could see Russia from their houses.
Governor Palin, of course, didn’t actually say “I can see Russia from my house.” That was Tina Fey parodying her reply to Charlie Gibson, to whom she said of Russia: “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” But Mrs. Palin did actually comprehend the significance of Russia’s proximity to America. The secret program AP reports on was codenamed “Washtub.” The wire advises that “with the benefit of hindsight, it would be easy to dismiss ‘Washtub’ as a harebrained scheme born of paranoia.”
Washtub, the AP says, reflected “genuine worry about Soviet intentions and a sense of U.S. vulnerability.” It notes that as the plan was being shaped in 1950, “Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, triggering a war on the peninsula that some in the Pentagon saw as a deliberate move by Moscow to distract Washington before invading Europe. The previous summer the Soviets stunned the world by exploding their first atomic bomb. Also in 1949, the U.S. locked arms with Western Europe to form the NATO alliance.” Plus Mao declared victory in China.
It’s something to imagine how, three generations into the future, reporters of the Associated Press will summarize the situation today. America and the Europeans are being outmaneuvered in Ukraine by a Kremlin whose leader, in Vladimir Putin, is threatening nuclear war. A hooded Army of Islamists is on the march in the Middle East, shooting, beheading, or crucifying those who refuse to submit. A North Korean tyrant is threatening to take the war to America shores, while local sheriffs on our southern border are warning that an invasion is already under way. How was it possible to see it all from Wasilla?