IIASA and Richard Perle

For a substantial part of my Foreign Service career, while Reagan was President, I frequently crossed swords with Richard Perle at the Pentagon.  He was much superior to me.  He was an assistant secretary of Defense; for much of this time I was a junior officer at the State Department.  However, I often worked on technology transfer issues, and Perle was very interested in technology transfer issues, especially as they related to the old Soviet Union.  He always kept an eagle eye on CoCom, the old Coordinating Committee that regulated technology transfers from Western, allied countries to the Soviet Union.

 

My first brush with him must have been shortly after Reagan was elected and Perle was installed at the Pentagon.  I got a call from the science advisor to the State Department Under Secretary who handled technology transfers.  He said that Perle was cutting America’s support for and participation in IIASA.

 

IIASA is the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.  (IIASA web site, and IIASA Wikipedia entry.)  In the Cold War 1980s its mission was to promote cooperation between scientists from Western and Communist countries.  Perle was apparently concerned that it might be a conduit for uncontrolled technology transfer from the West to the East.  It was such an innocuous, academic institution that this seemed ridiculous.  The Under Secretary’s science advisor and I tried to stop Perle from blocking US participation, but as I recall, we failed.

 

The good news is that IIASA survived and is still going today, with a broader mandate, since the old bipolar Cold War has ended.  It was my introduction to Richard Perle, who always seemed to be on the opposite side of issues that we were both interested in, from East-West technology transfers to third world transfers involving nuclear proliferation or other high tech problems.

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