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CONSTANTINE MENGES, R.I.P.

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By Michelle Malkin  •  July 12, 2004 04:18 PM

The name will be unfamiliar to most, but Constantine Menges was a great American dedicated to the preservation of freedom and security. He served under President Reagan as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs and at the CIA as a National Intelligence Officer. He was a scholar, author, university professor. Menges oversaw the design of several major successful foreign policy strategies, including countering Soviet political warfare/indirect aggression and encouraging transitions to democracy abroad.

Menges died on Sunday of cancer. Thor Ronay of the Strategic Information Group sends his remembrance:

Dr. Constantine Menges was a patriot, strategic thinker, and an accomplished national security official who served his country with honor and distinction. And, as important to him as a teacher, he was not only a trusted counsel for Members of Congress and Administration officials (of both parties) — but a valued mentor to several younger national security practitioners who went on to serve in all levels of government and policy leadership.

In a classic American story, Constantine was an immigrant whose professor father, after being arrested in 1937 for publicly opposing Hitler, upon release wisely fled Germany. Constantine, born on the run in Turkey on the first day of WWII, (9/1/39) arrived six years later in the US. After graduating from Columbia, Constantine began a career in service to his adopted country, first at Hudson, recruited by Herman Kahn, then at RAND (one of the first cohort developing Soviet nuclear targeting strategies), and then in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations. From the dock to the White House in one lifetime.

Aside from his training in both physics and security policy, and his broad education in political history (which he taught at Wisconsin), he knew that as important as how things worked was how to work them for postive change, not mere stewardship. From the beginning, Constantine understood the importance of what he called “political action”and “political education” in service of national security at home and freedom abroad. He also believed in the need for advocates, particularly conservatives, to match their ideological determination with the necessary if burdensome requisites both of bureaucratic infighting and strict adherence to the facts — all while never giving any quarter to opponents.

Constantine’s ability to conceptualize and guide political warfare in support of democracy was perhaps his strongest contribution; a skill he would lament is now almost completely absent in the US arsenal. He was an early supporter of the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, a co-founder of the Demcoracy International (1978), and played a major coordinating role in countering Soviet front activities and coalitions for over 30 years — having been present helping people to escape when the Berlin Wall was being built. (He was on the line similarly in Mississippi during the height of the voter rights struggles in the “long hot summer” of 1963.)…

…While he served three Presidents, his service in the Reagan years was, both at CIA and the NSC, was the most vital — especially in Latin America. While many take credit after the fact for what became known as the “Reagan Doctrine” — it was Constantine who, in 1968, wrote the original RAND paper that became the Reagan Doctrine, “Democratic Revolutionary Insurgency as an Alternative Strategy” — arguing that “Communist regimes are very vulnerable to a democratic national revolution that is conducted with skill and the determination to succeed.” He knew there had to be a military component to match the political work; neither alone would be sufficient.

…It is not to much to say that millions of people around the world, but particularly in Latin America, owe their freedom in some measure to the tireless efforts of Constantine Menges. Bill Buckley wrote, “Constantine Menges is among the wisest and ablest of those who have sought to realize Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy goals.”

…In recent years Constantine continued his work on Russia and China, and tirelessly pursued a range of political action activities aimed at target such as Castro’s Cuba and Chavez’ Venezuela, pointing again to the threat posed by destabilizing coalitions of antidemocratic forces.

The week before his untimely passing Constantine was slated to be a panelist at a Hudson Institute conference on the US-Taiwan-PRC relationship. He was concerned about China’s military threat and its potential to support anti-American coalitions in the Middle East and elswhere; and, at the same time, he was concerned about the cohering of democracies in the defense of freedom. In this case: how the US could best stand with the 27 million people of Taiwan, and how we might prepare now for supporting proactively democracy in mainland China, and of course, how those two properly are related.

That was Constantine Menges, giving his all to support the vision of democracy and freedom. “It’s not inevitable,” he always said of democracy, “but it’s certainly achievable by people of good will and strong conviction. And, it’s Always in the best interest of the United States.”

Freedom has lost a friend and the country has lost a Patriot.

Please keep his family in your prayers.

Update: For those in the Washington, D.C., area, funeral services for Dr. Menges will be held on Friday, July 16, at noon at the Holy Trinity Church, 3513 N Street, NW, Washington, DC.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. (Nancy) Menges and her son, Christopher, at 1543 33rd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.

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