William Casey at 100: Herbert Meyer’s Brilliant Lecture

Bill Casey

I made a brief reference here the other day to a lecture Herbert Meyer recently gave to the Young Americas Foundation on the occasion of the 100th birthday of William Casey, Ronald Reagan’s extraordinary CIA director.  Meyer was a special assistant to Casey from 1981 to 1985.  This lecture, along with Meyer’s contribution to the endgame of the Cold War, deserve more attention.

American Cold War policy might be said to have begun with the famous “Long Telegram” from George (“Mr. X”) Kennan, and then NSC 68, the equally important strategy document written largely by Paul Nitze.  Both of these documents routinely find their way into nearly every history of the Cold War that has ever been published.

But a third document deserves to take its place next to Kennan’s “Sources of Soviet Conduct” and Nitze’s NSC 68: Herbert Meyer’s November 1983 memo to Casey (and Reagan) on “Why the World Is So Dangerous.”  It was in this remarkable document that Meyer predicted that the United States under Reagan was on its way to winning the Cold War, and why.  His analysis of what was going to happen in the USSR (before Gorbachev, remember) was dead on.  The memo was later leaked in an attempt to embarrass Casey and Meyer (and Reagan, of course), but we can see who ended up embarrassed.  The CIA bureaucracy sniped at Meyer, but Casey told Meyer: “Not to worry.  You have two important fans and allies.  Me, and the president.”

The entire lecture is a riveting tour of the endgame of the Cold War, told without a single note, in the compass of about 50 minutes to a group of students for whom the Cold War is pure history.  It’s 50 minutes well spent, but if like most you’re pressed for time, we’re going to offer a series of short highlights here on Power Line.  In this first five-minute segment, Herb describes the situation of the Cold War in the late 1970s, the “miraculous” simultaneous arrival on the scene of Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Reagan, and why Reagan turned to Bill Casey to run the CIA:

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