Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’
October 25th, 2010 at 9:43 pm
Remembering When Liberals Had Guts
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As we ramp up to the midterm elections with liberals claiming that the threat of Iran is overstated, that all we need to accomplish peace in the Middle East is for Israelis to stop building condos, that terrorism is better defined as “man-caused disasters”, and that Afghanistan can be won with a publicly-defined date for withdrawal, it’s worth remembering a time when Democrats produced some of the fiercest of our cold warriors.

Forty-eight years ago today, we were in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the time, Adlai Stevenson — the failed presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in both 1952 and 1956 — was serving as President Kennedy’s Ambassador to the United Nations. In recent years, Stevenson’s name has been most frequently invoked in comparison to President Obama — another liberal Illinois politician with a reputation for haughtiness. But Obama’s arrogance could be forgiven if he could ever produce a moment like the one Stevenson generated in Turtle Bay on October 25, 1962:

Oh, for just one more national Democrat (Joe Lieberman doesn’t count) like this.

November 8th, 2009 at 3:48 am
Ich Bin Indifferent
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Back before he took his oath of office, there were moments when Barack Obama seemed to have an intellectual clarity that occasionally allowed him to transcend partisanship. One such moment came in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal’s editorial board during the 2008 presidential primaries, when he made the (utterly true) claim that Ronald Reagan had been a transformative president in a way that figures such as Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton had not.

Of course, the fact that Obama wasn’t praising the content of Reagan’s legacy was obvious at the time.  Long before he was praising the virtues of Whole Foods arugula to Iowa caucus-goers (denizens of a state without a single Whole Foods location), The One was a Columbia undergraduate sympathetic to the nuclear freeze movement that thought Reagan was Dr. Strangelove with Pomade.  So this is a man who has never been a fellow-traveler with us Reaganites.

That being said, there are certain times when presidential grace requires biting history’s bullet (especially when it’s in service of a noble cause).  Thus, President Obama’s decision to snub Germany’s invitation to help commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise is as petty as it is revealing.

Two decades ago, the world witnessed the parting shots of perhaps the most protracted struggle between liberty and tyranny in human history. That this victory was achieved without any actual shots owes to the man that Obama once rightly recognized as transformational.  Yet while Obama was able to take time out of his presidential campaign to visit a Germany eager to enshrine him as a golden calf, he can’t find room in his day-planner for a return trip to celebrate the greatest human liberation of the 20th century.

Being wrong about the Cold War in the 1980s can be chalked up to an honest mistake fueled by a lack of intellectual sophistication. Being wrong about it 20 years later ought to disqualify you from any public office … let alone the highest in the land.

September 17th, 2009 at 1:56 am
Andrew Sullivan Pulls Grenade, Throws Pin
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A reader sent me a link to this confused piece by Andrew Sullivan over at his Daily Dish blog on the Atlantic.

Sullivan — whose career in recent years has consisted of trying to find the most erudite style in which to whine — fixates on the revelation that Margaret Thatcher feared the implications of a reunified Germany and a disbanded Warsaw Pact in the wake of the Cold War’s end.

As Sullivan rightly notes, this was a rare example of the Iron Lady embracing foreign policy “realism”: the notion that states act only in a narrowly-defined sense of self-interest that is true regardless of regime type and ideology. And — though I rarely have cause to say it — Thatcher was wrong about this one. After two decades of peaceful German reunification, we have empirical proof that the catalyst for German expansionism was the nature of the regime and not the fact of German nationhood. While the former Warsaw Pact countries have been decidedly less stable, there is no question that the spread of liberal democracy throughout Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (along with the expansion of NATO) has made the world a freer, safer place in the years since the Berlin Wall came down.

What’s so peculiar about Sullivan’s take is his snide conclusion: “… what’s interesting is to see Thatcher, a neocon idol, acting in such brutally realist fashion. Toryism, even Thatcherism, is not neoconservatism, is it?” Well, in this instance, no, they’re clearly at loggerheads. But Sullivan, who seems to think he can win arguments these days simply by invoking “neoconservatism” as a pejorative, seems blithely unaware of the implications of his argument.

If neoconservatism stands athwart Sullivan’s lionized realism, does that mean he longs for a still-partitioned Germany and an expanded Soviet orbit? And if so, isn’t that a bit of a jog to go on just because you hate neoconservatives?