© 2024 KENW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Herb Meyer has lost his mind.

Tease: Herb Meyer has lost his mind.


Intro: Welcome to “Dumb Ideas that Changed the World.” The views expressed are solely those of the host and do not reflect the opinions of this station or its funders.


Years ago the U.S. and Soviet Union were locked in a cold war: a high-stakes economic and military competition. Our top spies, Congress, and intellectuals agreed that Soviet communism was a permanent reality—one to be accepted, not reversed—or we’d risk World War III and nuclear annihilation.


Enter our latest dumb idea. Herbert Meyer was a career journalist hired by the CIA as an analyst. (To say he was underqualified is an understatement.) In 1983 Meyer wrote a classified memo to President Reagan declaring that the Soviets weren’t on the rise, but were terrified. That the invasion of Afghanistan and attempted assassination of the Pope were desperate moves to prevent their “shattering descent into history.” Disgust in the government and a Russian economy headed “for calamity” meant that if current trends continued, quote, “we’re going to win the Cold War.”


His CIA colleagues were appalled, as was nearly everyone else when the memo leaked to the press. Dr. Paul Kengor says the intelligence community thought Meyer had “lost his mind.” Colleague Harold Ford piled on, saying, “I would hazard a guess that the U.S.-Soviet Cold War may still be confronting our grandchildren.”


The worst part was that the President agreed with Meyer, and continued his anti-communist offensive. Rather than legitimize the U.S.S.R., Reagan took Meyer’s advice and prepared for a “post-Soviet world.”


Well, perhaps I’m being too hard on Herb Meyer, whose predictions turned out to be on the nose. America’s military buildup occurred precisely when the Soviets couldn’t afford to keep up. As he predicted, their satellite nations soon reached their “boiling points,” and the U.S.S.R. itself disbanded on Christmas Day, 1991. For predicting the U.S. would win the Cold War sooner rather than later, Herb Meyer received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. Not bad for an underqualified analyst.


His was one of those dumb ideas that aren’t so dumb after all.


I’m Jeff Gentry


(If underwritten, ask announcer to acknowledge it here)


Best reference:

Meyer, H. E. (2017, May 1). How intelligence works (when it does). USA Today (Magazine), 145(2864), 10.



Dumb Ideas that Changed the World copyright 2024 by Jeff Gentry. All rights reserved.


Host of Dumb Ideas the Changed the World
Related Content
  • Join ENMU’s Jeff Gentry each week on "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" as he uncovers some of the most important brain cramps of all time. "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" airs on Wednesdays at about 12:45 p.m. MT on KENW-FM.This program is also available online by clicking the title of an individual episode listed below. Please send any comments or show ideas in an email to Por.Dumbideas@enmu.edu.Explore the fascinating and often surprising blunders made by influential people who should have known better. Tune in to "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" and feel a little better about your personal cognitive function!
  • Host of Dumb Ideas the Changed the World
  • History