An 1898 cartoon by Leon Barrit features newspaper publishers
Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst as Yellow Kid, a cartoon character
of the day. It is a satire of their role in drumming up support to go to war
with Spain. (

Most Americans outside Washington
policy circles don’t know about Team B, where it came from or what it did, nor
are they aware of its roots in the Fourth International, the Trotskyist branch
of the Communist International. Lawrence J. Korb, a senior fellow at the Center
for American Progress and assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985,
attributed the intelligence failure represented by 9/11 to Team B and had this
to say about it in
a 2004 article for the Los Angeles Times.

The roots of the problem go back to
May 6, 1976, when the director of Central Intelligence, George H.W. Bush,
created the first Team B to assess a report his agency had done on Soviet
strategic objectives. The report — a National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE,
completed the previous year — did not endorse a worst-case scenario of Soviet
capabilities and, as a result, some outsiders demanded access to the same
classified intelligence used by the CIA in preparing it so that they could come
to their own conclusions.

The concept of a “competitive
analysis” of the data done by an alternative team had been opposed by William
Colby, Bush’s predecessor as CIA director and a career professional. But Bush
caved in, under pressure from President Ford, who was facing a strong challenge
from right-wing Republicans in that year’s presidential primary, as well as
from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, which was trying to
undermine support for Henry Kissinger’s detente with the Soviet Union.

The outside experts on Team B were
led by Harvard professor Richard Pipes and included such well-known Cold War
hawks as Paul Nitze, William Van Cleave and Paul Wolfowitz. Not surprisingly,
Team B concluded that the intelligence specialists had badly underestimated the
threat by relying too heavily on hard data instead of extrapolating Soviet
intentions from ideology.

The Team B report was
enthusiastically received by conservative groups such as the Committee on the
Present Danger. But the report turned out to be grossly inaccurate. … Team B
was right about one thing. The CIA estimate was indeed flawed. But it was
flawed in the other direction.

Korb went on to explain that a 1978
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review concluded “that the selection of
Team B members had yielded a flawed composition of political views and biases.
And a 1989 review concluded that the Soviet threat had been ‘substantially overestimated’
in the CIA’s annual intelligence estimates. Still, the failure of Team B in
1976 did not deter the hard-liners from challenging the CIA’s judgments for the
next three decades.”

Now long forgotten, the origins of
the Team B “problem” actually stretched back to the radical political views and
biases of political theorist James Burnham, his association with the Communist
revolutionary Leon Trotsky and the creation of powerful Eastern establishment
ad hoc groups: the
Committee on the Present Danger
and the
Security Council

From the outset of the Cold War in
the late 1940s, an odd coalition of ex-Trotskyist radicals and right-wing
business associations had lobbied heavily for big military budgets, advanced
weapons systems and aggressive action to confront Soviet Communism. Vietnam was
intended to prove the brilliance of their theories, but as described by author
Fred Kaplan in “
Wizards of Armageddon
” (page 336): “Vietnam brought out
the dark side of nearly everyone inside America’s national security machine.
And it exposed something seamy and disturbing about the very enterprise of the
defense intellectuals. It revealed that the concept of force underlying all
their formulations and scenarios was an abstraction, practically useless as a
guide to action.”

Kaplan ended by writing: “The
disillusionment for some became nearly total.” Vietnam represented more than
just a strategic defeat for America’s defense intellectuals; it represented
a conceptual failure in the half-century battle to contain Soviet-style
Communism, but for Team B, that disillusionment represented the opportunity of
a lifetime.

Trotskyist Intellectuals Become the
New York Intellectuals Become Defense Intellectuals

Developed by an inbred class of
former Trotskyist intellectuals, the Team B approach represented a radical
transformation of America’s national security bureaucracy into a new kind of
elitist cult. In the 1960s, Robert McNamara’s numbers and statistics justified
bad policy decisions. Now, personal agendas and ethnic grudges would turn
American foreign policy into an ideological crusade. Today, those in control of
that crusade fight desperately to maintain their grip, but only by de-encrypting
the evolution of this secret “
double government” can anyone understand America’s unrelenting post-Vietnam drift
into despotism over the last 40 years.

Rooted in what can only be described
as cult thinking, the
Team B experiment tore down what was left of the CIA’s pre-Vietnam
professional objectivity by subjecting it to politicization. Earlier in the
decade, the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research (OSR) had been
pressured by Nixon and Kissinger
to corrupt its analysis to justify increased defense spending, but the Team B’s
ideological focus and partisan makeup so exaggerated the threat that the
process could never return to normal.

The campaign was driven by the
Russophobic neoconservative cabal that included Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pipes,
Richard Perle and a handful of old anti-Soviet hardliners such as Paul Nitze
and Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham. It began with a 1974 article in The Wall Street
Journal by famed nuclear strategist and former Trotskyist
Albert Wohlstetter decrying America’s supposed nuclear vulnerability. It ended
two years later with a ritualistic bloodletting at the CIA, signaling that
ideology and not fact-based analysis had gained an exclusive hold on America’s

The ideology referred to as neoconservatism can claim many godfathers, if not godmothers. Roberta
reputation as one of the pre-eminent Cold Warriors of RAND Corp. was
equal to her husband’s. The couple’s infamous parties at their Santa Monica
home acted as a kind of initiation rite for the rising class of “defense

But the title of founding father
might best be applied to
James Burnham.
A convert from Trotsky’s inner circle, Burnham championed the anti-democratic
takeover then occurring in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in his 1941 “
Managerial Revolution
” and his 1943 “The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom,” while in his 1945 “Lenin’s Heir,” he switched his
admiration, if only tongue in cheek, from Trotsky to Stalin.

George Orwell criticized Burnham’s
cynical elitist vision in his 1946 essay “
Second Thoughts on James Burnham,”
writing: “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.”

Orwell is said to have modeled his
novel “1984” on Burnham’s vision of the coming totalitarian state, which he
described as “a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and
probably based upon slavery.”

As a Princeton- and Oxford-educated
scholar (one of his professors at Balliol College was J.R.R. Tolkien), Burnham
landed a position as a writer and an instructor in the philosophy department at
New York University just in time for the 1929 Wall Street crash. Although
initially uninterested in politics and hostile to Marxism, by 1931, Burnham was
radicalized by the Great Depression and, alongside fellow NYU philosophy
Sidney Hook, was drawn to Marxism.

Burnham found Trotsky’s use of “dialectical materialism” to explain the interplay between the human and the
historical forces in his “History of the Russian Revolution” to be brilliant.
His subsequent review of Trotsky’s book would bring the two men together and
begin for Burnham a six-year odyssey through America’s Communist left that
would, in this strange saga, ultimately transform him into the agent of its

As founder of the Red Army and a
firebrand Marxist, Trotsky had dedicated his life to the spread of a worldwide
Communist revolution. Stalin opposed Trotsky’s views as being too ambitious,
and the power struggle that followed Lenin’s death splintered the party. By
their very nature, the Trotskyists were
expert at infighting, infiltration and disruption.

Burnham reveled in his role as a
Trotskyist intellectual and in the endless debates over the fundamental
principle of Communism (dialectical materialism) behind Trotsky’s crusade. The
“Communist Manifesto” approved the tactic of subverting larger and more populist
political parties (
entryism), and following Trotsky’s expulsion from the Communist
party in November 1927, his followers exploited it. The most well-known example
of entryism was the so-called French turn, when in 1934 the French Trotskyists
entered the much larger French Socialist Party (the SFIO) with the intention of
winning over the more militant elements to their side.

That same year, the American followers
of Trotsky in the Communist League of America (the CLA) did a French turn on
the American Workers Party (the AWP) in a move that elevated the AWP’s James
Burnham into the role of a Trotsky lieutenant and chief adviser.

Burnham liked the toughness of the
Bolsheviks and despised the weakness of the liberals. According to his
Daniel Kelly
: “He took great pride in what he
saw as its hard-headed view of the world in contrast to philosophies rooted in
‘dreams and illusions.’ ” Burnham also delighted in the tactics of infiltrating
and subverting other leftist parties and in 1935 “fought tirelessly for the
French turn” of a far larger Socialist Party (the SP), some 20,000 strong. The
Trotskyists intended “to capture its left wing and its youth division, the
Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL),” Kelly wrote, “and take the converts
with them when they left.”

Burnham remained a “Trotskyist intellectual” from 1934 until 1940. But although he labored six years
for the party, it was said of him that he was never of the party, and as the
new decade began, he renounced both Trotsky and “the ‘philosophy of Marxism’
dialectical materialism” altogether. He summed up his feelings in a letter of
resignation on May 21, 1940: “Of the most important beliefs, which have been
associated with the Marxist Movement, whether in its reformist, Leninist,
Stalinist or Trotskyist variants, there is virtually none which I accept in its
traditional form. I regard these beliefs as either false or obsolete or
meaningless; or in a few cases, as at best true only in a form so restricted
and modified as no longer properly to be called Marxist.”

In 1976, Burnham wrote to a
legendary secret agent, identified by biographer Kelly as the British political
Brian Crozier, that he had never swallowed dialectical materialism or the
ideology of Marxism but was merely being pragmatic given the rise of Hitler and
the Depression.

But given the influential role
Burnham would come to play in creating the new revolutionary class of
neoconservatives, and their central role in using Trotsky’s tactics to lobby
against any relationship with the Soviet Union, it’s hard to believe Burnham’s
involvement with Trotsky’s Fourth International was only an intellectual
exercise in pragmatism.

Copyright – 2022 Fitzgerald &
Gould All rights reserved

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are authors
Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, published by City Lights (2009), Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire, published by City Lights (2011). Their novel The Voice , was published in 2001. Their novelized memoir, The Valediction Three Nights of Desmond was published by
TrineDay (2021) and
The Valediction Resurrection was published by TrineDay (2022). For more
information visit
invisiblehistory , grailwerk and


  1. I know I’m not qualified to comment because I don’t live in the USA and I have not spent my whole life researching us politics but I have to say something here, because after all us policy does impact on the whole world. Team B or plan B or whatever I don’t see even if you have ten teams investigating CIA intel if those at the top of the pile are in on the internal plot to start a war or create grief or whatever no amount of intelligence is going to stop something like 911. As little as I know about that event it seems it was planned for months if not years and hundreds must have known about it, if explosives were planted throughout the trade towers during so called maintenance upgrades, good grief it appear even the own of the towers knew what was about to happen by the way they had been insured for multiple terror attacks. So many in the know and the DoD throws it’s hands in the air what a surprise this was ! So you have two group sorting the intel ha ha! Both in the know but surprised well you know that’s bullshit

    • Americans just refuse to admit it to themselves that while they were scrambling for Schlomos shekels Schlomo stole their country, it's pathetic really if it were not so dangerous to the entire world. The West is done, stick a fork in it.

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