If anyone today is shocked by the biased, one-sided, xenophobic rush to judgment alleging Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election, they need look no further than to Brian Crozier’s closet for the blueprints. As we were told outright by an American military officer during the first war in Afghanistan in 1982, the U.S. didn’t need “proof the Soviets used poison gas” and they don’t need proof against Russia now. Crozier might best be described as a daydream believer, a dangerous imperialist who acts out his dreams with open eyes. From the beginning of the Cold War until his death in 2012, Crozier and his protégé Robert Moss propagandized on behalf of military dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, organized private intelligence organizations to destabilize governments in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa and worked to delegitimize politicians in Europe and Britain viewed as insufficiently anti-Communist.
The mandate of his Institute for the Study of Conflict (ISC) set up in 1970 was to expose the supposed KGB campaign of worldwide subversion and put out stories smearing anyone who questioned it as a dupe, a traitor or Communist spy. Crozier regarded “The Machiavellians” as a major formative influence in his own intellectual development, and wrote in 1976 “indeed it was this book above all others that first taught me how [emphasis Crozier] to think about politics.” The key to Crozier’s thinking was Burnham’s distinction between the “formal” meaning of political speech and the “real,” a concept which was, of course, grasped only by elites. In a 1976 article, Crozier marveled at how Burnham’s understanding of politics had spanned 600 years and how the use of “the formal” to conceal “the real” was no different today than when used by Dante Alighieri’s “presumably enlightened Medieval mind.” “The point is as valid now as it was in ancient times and in the Florentine Middle Ages, or in 1943. Overwhelmingly, political writers and speakers still use Dante’s method. Depending on the degree of obfuscation required (either by circumstances or the person’s character), the divorce between formal and real meaning is more of less absolute.”
But Crozier was more than just a strategic thinker. Crozier was a high-level covert political agent who put Burnham’s talent for obfuscation and his Fourth International experience to use to undermine détente and set the stage for rolling back the Soviet Union.
In a secret meeting at a City of London bank in February 1977, he even patented a private-sector operational intelligence organization known at the Sixth International (6I) to pick up where Burnham left off: politicizing and privatizing many of the dirty tricks the CIA and other intelligence services could no longer be caught doing. As he explained in his memoir “Free Agent,” the name 6I was chosen “because the Fourth International split. The Fourth International was the Trotskyist one, and when it split, this meant that, on paper, there were five Internationals. In the numbers game, we would constitute the Sixth International, or ‘6I.’ ”
Crozier’s cooperation with numerous “able and diligent Congressional staffers” as well as “the remarkable General Vernon (‘Dick’) Walters, recently retired as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence,” cemented the rise of the neoconservatives. When Carter caved in to the Team B and his neoconservative National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s plot to lure the Soviets into their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, it fulfilled Burnham’s mission and delivered the world to the Machiavellians without anyone being the wiser. As George Orwell wrote in his “Second Thoughts on James Burnham”: “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud. … Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”
Today, Burnham’s use of Dante’s political treatise “De Monarchia” to explain his medieval understanding of politics might best be swapped for Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” a paranoid comedy of errors in which the door to Hell swings open to one and all, including the elites regardless of their status. Or as they say in Hell, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” “Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire” and “The Voice.” Visit their websites at invisiblehistory.com and grailwerk.com.