Saturday, January 23, 2016

Good News, World! You Can Stop Worrying About the South China Sea!

There has been a concerted campaign to depict the South China Sea as an indispensable artery for commercial shipping and, therefore, a justifiable object of US attention and meddling.
This flagship of this effort is invoking the “$5 trillion dollars” worth of goods that pass through the SCS each year.  Reuters, in particular, is addicted to this formula.
Here’s seven Reuters news stories within the last month containing the $5 trillion figure:
What interests me is that these seven articles reflect the work of six reporters and seven editors (seven to six! Glad to see Reuters has a handle on the key ratios!) in five bureaus and they all include the same stock phrase.  How’s that work?  Does headquarters issue a ukaz that all articles about the South China Sea must include the magic $5 trillion phrase?  Does the copyediting program flag every reference to the South China Sea omitting the figure?  Or did the reportorial hive mind linking Beijing, Manila, Hanoi, Hong Kong, and Sydney spontaneously and unanimously decided that “$5 trillion” is an indispensable accessory for South China Sea reporting?
I guess it’s understandable.  A more accurate characterization of the South China Sea as “a useful but not indispensable waterway for world shipping whose commercial importance, when properly exaggerated, provides a pretext for the United States to meddle in Southeast Asian affairs at the PRC’s expense” is excessively verbose and fails to convey a sense of urgency. 

The kicker, of course, is that the lion's share of the $5 trillion is China trade, and most of the balance passes through the South China Sea by choice and not by necessity.

In other words, the only major power with a vital strategic interest in Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea is the People’s Republic of China.  And the powers actually interested in impeding Freedom of Navigation down there are...pretty much everybody else, led by the United States.

Obviously, words fail me.
Instead, let’s look at a map. 
Here’s the map not to look at.  The oft-reproduced and abused US Department of Energy deranged tentacled monster hydrocarbon liver fluke writhing in the South China Sea map:

Instead, let’s look at  Marine Traffic, a most interesting website which offers dynamic real time ship information and some useful historical data free of charge, and provides an idea of the actual shipping patterns in the region.
If you select the “density map” option and zoom in, you get this view of the busiest shipping routes (green lines) and busiest ports (red blobs) in and around the South China Sea:

Note that marine traffic in the South China Sea does a few things.  First of all, much of it goes, unsurprisingly, to the Peoples Republic of China and Hong Kong.  Second, except when friendship-building volleyball games in the middle of the SCS are on the agenda, Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Philippines are largely served by coast-hugging routes outside the PRC’s dreaded Nine-Dash-Line. 
Third, the rest of the traffic that transits the SCS pretty much on a straight line is headed for Japan and South Korea.  This would seem to support the perception that Japan and South Korea, our precious allies, need protection against threats to their supply of hydrocarbon-based joy juice, their economies, indeed their national security and ways of life emanating from the overbearing PRC presence on the South China Sea lifeline.
Not quite.
The strategic insignificance of the South China Sea to Japan and the Republic of Korea has been well known since the 1990s, when "energy security" became an explicit preoccupation of Japanese planners.
 Here is an insightful passage from a book by Euan Graham, Japan's Sea Lane Security: A Matter of Life and Death?, published in 2005.
The cost to Japan of a 12-month closure of the South China Sea, diverting oil tankers via the Lombok Strait and east of the Philippines, has been estimated at $200 million.  A Japanese estimate puts the cost as basically the same to that imposed by a closure of the Malacca Strait, requiring 15 additional tankers to be added to the route, generating an extra $88 million in shipping costs.  This is roughly corroborated by the reported findings of a joint study conducted by the JDA and the Indonesian authorities in the late 1980s, which put the number of extra tankers required to divert around the South China Sea via Lombok and east of the Philippines at 18.
...The volume of oil shipped to Japan from the Middle East is evenly split between Lombok and the Straits of Malacca...
Here’s a nice map showing the Lombok route, also mentioning the only difference with Malacca—two more days in sailing time over twenty days for the straight shot through the South China Sea.  Also note, as this graphic does, that the biggest biggest crude carriers, 300,000 DWT and up, can only take the Lombok route.

What does two extra days on the water mean?  Per Graham,
...Based on an oil import bill of $35 billion in 1997, [a cost of $88 million for diverting through Lombok] accounts for 0.3% of the total. 
To update these figures, the oil/tanker market has gone pretty gonzo recently, as everyone is aware.  Crude prices have gone down, while tanker rates are currently upupup as importers stampede buy cheap strategic reserves and, on occasion, hold the tankers for temporary storage instead of releasing them back into the wild.  Most recent shipping figure I could find was about $2.50/barrel from the Gulf to Japan.
Let's assume $30/barrel crude plus $3/barrel shipping costs.  Japan imports about 2 billion barrels per year.  That's $6 billion dollars.  And we assume the Lombok route adds 10% or $0.30/barrel to the shipping cost.  That's another $600 million dollars against $60 billion in total crude costs.  1%.  By a funny coincidence, $600 million is also about 1% of the annual Japanese defense budget.  Japan's GDP: $4 trillion dollars.
So is Japan going to light off World War III to keep the purportedly vital SCS SLOC open and save 1% on its oil bill?
Here's one fellow who doesn't think so:
CSD [Collective Self Defense] will not allow minesweeping ops in SCS/Malacca Strait as unlike Hormuz there are alternative routes.
That's a statement that notorious appeaser, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made in the Diet, as reported on Corey Wallace's Twitter feed.
Republic of Korea: imports less than 1 billion barrels per annum.  Cost of the Lombok detour: maybe $270 million.
Bottom line, everybody prefers to use Malacca/South China Sea to get from the Persian Gulf to Japan and South Korea.  It’s the straightest, it’s the cheapest, there’s Singapore, and, in fact, shipowners looked at the economics and decided to dial back the construction of “postMalaccamax VLCCs” (Very Large Crude Carriers) so they’d always have the option of going through the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. 
But if that route goes blooey, they can always go via Lombok and the Makassar Sea.  Just a little bit more expensive.
So, the South China Sea is not a critical sea lane for our primary North Asian allies Japan and the Republic of Korea.
What about the threat to the Antipodes?  Core ally Australia?  If the PRC shut down the South China Sea, what would that do to Australian exports (other than to China, naturally)?
From Euan Graham’s volume quoted above:
Iron ore and coke shipments from Australia account for most of the cargo moved through the Lombok Strait...Lombok remains the principal route for bulk carriers sailing from Western Australia to Japan.
They use Lombok already! 
As to the South China Sea factor, Sam Bateman, a retired Royal Australian Navy commodore who now think-tanks in Singapore, debunked a dubious piece of numerology by Bonnie Glaser:
Bonnie Glaser has recently claimed that approximately 60 per cent of Australia’s seaborne trade passes through the South China Sea…
When measured by value, the figure of 60% of our seaborne trade passing through the South China Sea is way off the mark. Based on the latest data for Australia’s overseas trade, it mightn’t even be half that—and about three-quarters of it would be trade to and from China. Thus the notion of a threat to our seaborne trade from China is rather a non-sequitur.
Doing the math…25% of 30%...that’s 7.5% of Australia’s total seaborne trade by value through the South China Sea isn’t going to the PRC.  Back of the envelope, that’s A$40 billion, about half of which is back and forth with Singapore, which could be end-arounded by entering the Malacca Strait from the west and avoiding the South China Sea completely.  So maybe A$ 20 billion theoretically at risk in the unlikely event that the PRC decided to close the SCS completely to Australian shipping.  By contrast, Australian two way trade with the PRC: A$152 billion.
If you are wondering why there is a “spirited debate” as to whether confronting the PRC, the biggest customer for Australian ore and real estate, in the South China Sea serves Australia’s national interest, I think you have your answer.
Euan Graham, now Director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, recently appeared on Australian television to remark that "geography doesn't change".  No kidding.
It's worth watching his appearance and his careful parsing of the South China Sea issue.
Notice he does not advance the canard that the South China Sea is a vital waterway for Australian commerce under threat from the PRC.  It’s more about Australia doing its best to act as a willing, nay eager, ally of the United States in Asia, or as Graham puts it paying “the alliance premium”.  And that “international law” thing.  And free movement of naval forces.
It should be clear by now that the South China Sea as a commercial artery matters a heck of a lot more to…China, unsurprisingly, than it does to Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States.
Here’s the funny thing.  The South China Sea is becoming less and less important to the PRC as well, as it constructs alternate networks of ports, pipelines, and energy assets.
The idea that the PRC will ever wriggle free of the maritime chokehold is anathema to the US Navy, which has staked its reputation, claims to a central geostrategic role, and budget demands on the idea that the US Navy’s threat to the PRC’s seaborne energy imports is the decisive factor that will keep the Commies in their place.  America’s interest in d*cking with the PRC in the South China Sea predates any Xi Jinping-related arrogance, expansionism, and island-building and indeed predates the appearance of any PRC Navy worthy of consideration.  It can be traced to the Office of Net Assessment’s 2004 report prepared via Booz, Hamilton for Donald Rumsfeld, Energy Futures in Asia. 
As I don’t think that report has been declassified, interested readers can check out this 2010 paper from the US Naval War College titled, “Your Pitiful Pipeline Plans Will Never Succeed, Silly Chinese!  Learn the Will of the Mighty US Navy and Tremble!” (actual title, China’s Oil Security Pipe Dream, not so far off the mark).
Indeed, Middle Eastern oil, oil that at the very least leaves the Middle East by ship, is probably going to be a big deal in China for decades.  But the PRC is trying to do something about it  in reckless disregard of the friendly and disinterested advice of the (Motto: Share and Be Nice!) USNWC.
Again, it helps to look a map.  The Belt and Road initiative is creating a lot of new channels to move energy and goods in and out of the PRC that don’t rely on the South China Sea.
While you’re at it, find the Andaman Sea.  It’s between Burma and India, to the west of the South China Sea and Malacca Strait.  The PRC has already built a terminal at Maday in Burma’s Rakhine State and twinned oil and gas pipelines to Kunming in China to, as The Hindu put it, “bypass the Malacca trap’.  

Those little red men, by the way?  Burma Army battalions.  Security of the pipeline is a big deal for the PRC, something that it is prepared to ensure even if it means blackmailing the Burmese government with the threat of unrest in the border areas, as Aung San Suu Kyi apparently already understands.
And for container shipment, the PRC apparently plans to jog the highspeed railway it’s building to Bangkok over to a new deep sea port down the coast from Maday in Burma at Dawei (instead of pursuing the perennial Thai pipe dream of the Kra Canal across the isthmus separating the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand).
Also check out Gwadar.  The PRC has made a commitment to invest tens of billions in the Pakistani insurrectionary, logistical, and geopolitical nightmare that is the Boondoggle in Balochistan with the prospect of sending oil and gas over the Himalayas to give provide another option for avoiding the South China Sea.
Pipelines are, of course, more expensive to operate and vulnerable to attack by local insurgents and more mysterious forces, as US strategists are suspiciously keen to point out.  Ports in third countries are liable to meddling by pro-US governments, factions, and regional proxies.  But the PRC is building ‘em.  If the US can spend half a trillion dollars on our national security, the PRC is also willing to gamble a couple hundred billion on its energy security in defense and capital budgets (and enrich deserving PRC contractors) and bear the added operating expense of moving oil & gas from A to B not through the Malacca Strait.
Which means, of course, it’s time to hype that PRC threat to the Indian Ocean!
As these massive and risky alternative expenditures by the PRC—and the complete absence of plausible threats to Japan, South Korea, and Australia interests—indicate, the only genuine role the South China Sea played as a strategic chokepoint worthy of US interest is…against the PRC.
Bad news is, with the PRC putting its energy eggs in a multiplicity of baskets, if it ever comes to fighting the real war with China—a full-fledged campaign to strangle it by cutting off its energy imports (like we did with Japan in the 1930s! Hey! Useful historical analogy)—we’ll have to do it in a lot of places, like Burma, the Indian Ocean, and Djibouti, as well as the South China Sea.  A real world war!
Good news is, as the PRC’s shipping options increase, the strategic importance of each individual channel decreases…as does the desire of  the PRC, Japan, ROK, or Australia to risk regional peace for an increasingly irrelevant sideshow—and the local interests of Vietnam and the Philippines--diminishes. 
What I hope is that the South China Sea, instead of serving as the flashpoint for World War III, may well end up as a stage for imperial kabuki as the US & PRC bluster and posture to demonstrate resolve to their neighbors and allies…and an opportunity for political posturing, amped-up defense spending, and plenty of opportunities for the hottest of media and think-tank hot takes.
That would keep everybody happy.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall

In the case of Martin Luther King, America's deep state intersected with politics and civil rights and Thurgood Marshall's strategy for African American legal equality in some ugly and dangerous ways.

And they intersect at a most unpleasant and unhappy point, one that is largely ignored when putting an optimistic, feel-good gloss over Dr. King's struggle for civil rights: the infamous MLK sex tape gambit cooked up by the FBI.

The most uncomfortable issue raised by the existence of tapes is not the matter of Dr. King's human appetites and deficiencies in the area of marital fidelity.  It is the potential for blackmail, the leverage that the FBI and the US government could have brought to bear against Dr. King and his direction of the civil rights movement by exploiting the tapes.

And the case of the tapes also shines an awkward light on the relationship between America's deep state and another African-American civil rights giant: Thurgood Marshall.  

For background, I highly recommend Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America.  Reading it in the context of Ferguson, Garner, etc. this book really f*cked me up, as they say nowadays.  Based on my experience, I’d recommend just picking up the book and reading it, without googling “Groveland Boys” or looking at some reviews of the book.  All I can say is that, despite that determinedly sunny subtitle, it will take you into some very dark places.

Actually, what I will say is that the book also offers some more fascinating insights into the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, the political civil rights movement served by Dr. King, and the "lawfare" civil rights legal battle fought with similar dedication and personal courage by Thurgood Marshall.  

As I wrote in a previous post, “Everybody Wants Their Own Stasi,” Hoover disliked and distrusted Martin Luther King as a troublemaker and, possibly, a communist asset.  One of the worst abuses of the FBI was the campaign of illegal wiretaps and bugging against King and his inner circular conducted at the behest of the Kennedys.  It culminated in the infamous “suicide letter” with an audio tape purporting to represent King's sexual activities,  prepared by the FBI and mailed to King’s home (not at the behest of the Kennedys, I should point out).  

On the other hand, when pressed by LBJ, Hoover devoted massive resources to breaking the Mississippi Burning case and went on to destroy the Mississippi KKK with considerable efficiency and apparent enthusiasm.

And then there was the NAACP.

In the 1950s the NAACP’s strategy for attacking Jim Crow in the south was to federalize the legal issues, using the appeals process to pull the most egregious cases out of the racist local courts and carry them through the appellate courts and, if necessary/possible, before the relatively sympathetic Supreme Court.  The Justice Department, including the FBI, was often a significant adjunct to this process, providing federal investigators to gather exculpatory evidence in NAACP Legal Defense Fund cases that local law enforcement, usually riddled with KKK members and sometimes too cowed and incompetent to do their jobs, had ignored or suppressed or worse.

The NAACP, and Thurgood Marshall in particular, were sedulous in courting the FBI and endorsing, encouraging, and actively supporting J. Edgar Hoover’s highest priority/obsession: his jihad against communist subversion.  

And J. Edgar Hoover, as long as he was confident that inserting the FBI into southern civil rights cases would not “embarrass the Bureau”, particularly by involving the FBI in cases which threatened to terminate with humiliating defeats in local courts, was willing to oblige the NAACP.

I haven’t read up on the full history of the NAACP or Marshall, so I’m not in a position to tease out how much of their anti-communism was strategic (reflecting the need for rock-solid federal backing), political (the NAACP competed with a communist-penetrated organization, the Civil Rights Congress, for leadership in the black civil rights struggle), or deeply-held ideology.

All I can say is, after a bumpy start, in the late 1940s and 1950s the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall assiduously stroked J. Edgar Hoover on the anti-communism issue, and J. Edgar Hoover was generally sympathetic to the NAACP and its need for federal agents to assist in the investigation of crimes in the Jim Crow South.

Devil in the Grove provides some examples:

In April 1947, putting together an NAACP anticommunism position pamphlet, [NAACP president Walter] White requested a patriotic encomium from J. Edgar Hoover, who replied that it would be his “pleasure”. [pp. 111-112]
Early in the summer of 1950 [with nationwide desegregation of public education now seen as an achievable goal—ed]…Marshall and the board of the NAACP found it necessary to pass and adopt an anticommunist resolution, which directed the organization’s leaders to “eradicate Communists from its branch units.”…Marshall took special delight in trumping the political maneuvers of the NAACP’s communist wing…Marshall could…boast, “we socked them good”…The executive staff and majority delegates of the NAACP had in fact socked the communists good on virtually every resolution they’d brought to the convention floor in 1950.  They walked out in frustration “and never came back,” said Marshall, whose management of the communist issue…earned him an oral commendation from J. Edgar Hoover.  [pp. 205-207]
[On one occasion, Marshall was embarrassed that an informant with communist ties whom he had introduced to the FBI had found disfavor with the Bureau...]  While Kennedy’s communist affiliations hardly bore upon the case, they provided Marshall, in his dismissal of the writer’s presumed scoops, with the opportunity to affect solidarity with the FBI.  As always, Marshall expressed his appreciation for the bureau’s efforts…In return, he was thanked “for his appreciation of confidence in the work of this Bureau…”  Once again, Hoover and Marshall performed their private rites of cooperation. [261]

Remarkably, the relationship between Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King, two civil rights icons, does not seem to have been any closer or sympathetic than the ties between Marshall and J. Edgar Hoover.

King, the evangelical populist was not on the same page with Marshall, and Marshall, whom I would characterize as the black cardinal in the high church of America’s deep state, perhaps found himself somewhat more at home in the company of its Grand Inquisitor, J. Edgar Hoover.
 Readers can judge for themselves, with this excerpt from interviews recorded by Marshall’s biographer, Juan Williams:

Q: Did (Hoover) fear that King was a communist?
A: He just had an absolute blur on communism. It's unbelievable. I don't know what happened to him, I don't know what happened but something happened.

No, it was personal. He bugged everything King had. Everything. And the guy that did it was a friend of a private detective in New York who's a good friend of mine, Buck Owens.  He called up and said, Buck, do you know Martin Luther King? And he said, no. He said do you know anybody that goes? He said yes. He said well you please tell him, don't use my name but I'm in the group that's bugging everything he's got. Even when he goes to the toilet. I mean we've bugged everything and I think it's a dirty damn trick and he ought to know about it.
So Buck called me and I called Brother King. He was in Atlanta then. And I told him about it and he said, oh forget it, nothing to it. Just didn't interest him. That's what he said. He didn't care, no. 
Q: How do you interpret that?
A: I don't and I've never been able to. That he wasn't doing anything wrong. Well they ain't nobody who can say that. Right. Right. And when I called him up and told him that his house was bugged and all, he said so what? Doesn't bother me. That's what he said.

Q: Did you guys know about all this sex stuff that they talk about these days?
A: I knew that the stories were out. And I knew who was putting them out.

Q: Mr. Hoover?
A: No, it was a private police business. They used to settle strikes and everything. [Pinkertons] I'm not saying whether, I don't know, I don't know whether he was right or Hoover was right. I don't know which one was right.

Q: What did you think about the fact that he didn't care about being bugged?
A: Well, the answer was simple. I don't know if a man can humanly do all the things. Five and six times a night with five and six different women. We add it all up, I mean he just couldn't be all them places at the same time. I don't believe in it personally. But I don't know, when I was solicitor general, a lot of things came by, arguments between the attorney general and the director of the FBI and I, by internal rules, had to get copies of all of it. And we had to have a special safe and I know that of all the things that I listened to and read, I never found Mr. Hoover to have lied once. Not once. I don't know, I'm not saying he always told the truth -

Q: You never found him to have lied?
A: That's right. I mean he was never proved to be a liar. He always came up with the right stuff, usually it would be a taped thing. You can tell by the tape. I don't know. But that's between him and, I think the only way to do it would be him and King and put 'em in the same room. And it's too late to do that.

Marshall’s remarks support Tim Weiner’s portrait of Hoover in Enemies as an unnervingly astute and capable bureaucrat who effectively performed his impossible mission—navigating between the conflicting demands of the Constitution for civil liberties and the Executive Branch for universal intelligence—with marked success for five decades…

…perhaps as astutely and capably as Marshall shrank the grey areas between the Constitution, state law, and justice in his epic struggle for civil rights.

Contrast with Marshall’s dismissive attitude toward King and Jesse Jackson:

Who made Jesse Jackson? The press. Who made Martin Luther King? The press, they do it. Because it writes good, it writes well. And you know Martin Luther King didn't have a publicity person. No sir. The press did it all. The press did it all.

Reading Marshall’s account of his awkward exchange with King over the surveillance issue, I find it hard to believe that King’s reaction to the intense surveillance was really “oh forget it, nothing to it. Just didn't interest him...He didn't care, no.”

I have a feeling King didn’t really feel that way.  Maybe what he was thinking, “Marshall, he’s close to Hoover.  I’m not going to let it get back to Hoover that I’m upset or afraid.  That’s what he wants.”

David Garrow’s biography of King, Bearing the Cross, tells us of the actual aftermath of the letter:

The FBI’s frightening threat sent King into an even worse state of mind.  He became so nervous and upset he could not sleep…”They are out to break me,” he told one close friend over a wiretapped phone line.  “They are out to get me, harass me, break my spirit.”…King…had decided that something must be done about the FBI’s threat.  He had tried resting at a private hideaway known to just two other people, only to have Atlanta fire trucks turn up at the door in response to a false alarm that King correctly surmised had been turned in by the FBI so as to upset him further…As a deeply depressed King...discussed the FBI situation [the Bureau had bugged King’s hotel room in New York]…The conversation revealed how greatly disturbed King was…King [characterized] the mailing of the tape as, “God’s out to get you,” and as a warning from God that King had not been living up to his responsibilities…When King was in Baltimore, [Andrew] Young and [Ralph] Abernathy met in Washington with [the FBI’s Deke] DeLoach [who denied] that the FBI had any interest in…King’s private life.  Young and Abernathy knew that DeLoach’s assertions were false…Its one value, Young explained later, was to show him how FBI executives like DeLoach had “almost a kind of fascist mentality.  It really kind of scared me”…DeLoach gloated to his superiors that he had tried to make the talk as unpleasant and embarrassing as possible…Meanwhile the Bureau kept its campaign on full throttle.  Assistant Director Sullivan tried to derail a dinner honoring King…and two prominent Georgia newsmen…were contacted to offer them tidbits on King’s personal life…” [pp. 373-77]

A complicating element of the situation that King had been previously aware of Hoover’s hostility, and that the FBI was building a file on his sexual activities.  At first, in November 1964, King tried to go on the offensive against Hoover.  King critiqued Hoover’s alleged shortcomings in investigating civil rights cases and went the extra mile in denouncing Hoover (in calls wiretapped by the FBI) as “too old and broken down” and “getting senile.”  Then King proposed, in Garrow’s words, that Hoover “should be ‘hit from all sides’ with criticism in a concerted effort to get President Johnson to censure him.” [p. 361].  As one might expect, this gambit failed to sway Johnson.

Instead, King was in the unhappy situation of realizing he had mortally offended a supremely ruthless, capable, and vindictive national security bureaucrat, one who also had documented evidence of details of King’s personal life that could destroy him.

King’s efforts to backtrack and reconcile with Hoover in a meeting arranged by Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach were, if not doomed from the start, too little too late, and King spent the next weeks under a pall of anxiety that even overshadowed his triumphal appearance to receive his Nobel Peace Prize at Stockholm.

Then the FBI dropped the hammer in January 1965, sending the tape and suicide letter.   His wife, Coretta, heard the tape; King gathered his advisers to deal with the imminent threat of humiliation, disgrace, and failure.

King, bearing this unimaginable mental and emotional burden, descended into the vortex of Selma…

…and that is, apparently, where the saga of the King sex tape ends.

The next reference to Hoover in Garrow’s biography occurs in May of 1965, after King’s triumph at Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and LBJ’s endorsement of federal voting rights protections for African-Americans:

King knew the FBI still had an active interest in his personal life, and he worried greatly about a public revelation of the Bureau’s embarrassing tapes.  He asked a longtime family friend, Chicago’s Rev. Archibald J. Carey, Jr., to speak with his friends in the FBI hierarchy.  Cassey did so, reporting back to King that it would be wise to keep up his public commendations of FBI accomplishments. [425]

Hmmm.  That’s all?  Recall that Hoover bore an intense personal dislike for King, had information that could destroy King’s reputation and public standing and, indeed, had already played the sex tapes for much of official and unofficial Washington.  Judging by the FBI’s machinations, Hoover would have been glad to see King commit suicide.  For King, suppressing the tapes had been a matter of desperate, existential importance and endless worry.

After all this, all the lethal J. Edgar Hoover wanted was just a few generous public attaboys from Martin Luther King?

Don’t think so.

I can only draw the inference that LBJ, the only individual with the necessary stroke and personal relationship with Hoover to channel and modify the Director’s actions, convinced Hoover that the tapes should stay in the safe.  

And Hoover, perhaps, stayed his hand because LBJ convinced him that there were plenty more radical and scary African-American leaders out there to destroy and King, in contrast, was actually a manageable, moderating force.  

And perhaps, with the sex tapes in his safe--and serving as a sword of Damocles over King's head--Hoover believed he could regard King as something of a beholden asset that could be accessed, guided, cajoled, bullied, and if need be publicly discredited in the course of the Bureau's operations involving the African American civil rights movement.

 King was the idealist who advocated for America "as it could be".

Hoover and Marshall were two insiders “present at the creation”, their exalted status and power the result of a hard-won, superior understanding of the contradictions and potentialities of American government "as it is".

Their lives--and services to the state--followed different paths.

At the time of the King surveillance, Marshall was serving as an appellate court judge; the next year LBJ appointed him Solicitor General and, in 1967 nominated Marshall for a seat on the Supreme Court.  Hoover served as director of the FBI until his death in 1972.  Martin Luther King, of course, was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

Maybe declaring April 4 as "Martin Luther King Day" would be a more meaningful recognition of Dr. King's suffering, struggle, and sacrifice.