January 21, 2006

The saboteurs

From a book review by Rich Lowry (Thanks to Commonsense and Wonder). Sounds great; I've put in a request for the book at our library...

John Lewis Gaddis, author of a half-dozen books on the topic, is the nation's foremost historian of the Cold War. So when in the 1980s he dismissed Ronald Reagan's goal of ending the Cold War, arguing instead that the American-Soviet competition had settled into a stable "long peace," it would have been natural to conclude that Gaddis, the august expert, was right.

He was wrong, of course. Gaddis explains why in his crackling-good, recently published book, "The Cold War: A New History."...

...As Gaddis puts it, "An entire generation had grown up regarding the absurdities of a superpower stalemate — a divided Berlin in the middle of a divided Germany in the midst of a divided Europe, for example — as the natural order of things." It fell to the saboteurs to remove the world's "mental blinders."

"They used to the utmost," he writes, "their strengths as individuals: their personal character, their perseverance in the face of adversity, their fearlessness and frankness, but above all their dramatic skill, not only in conveying these qualities to millions of other people, but also in persuading those millions themselves to embrace those qualities."

When the might of the rival superpowers was measured in material terms — how many missiles, with how much throw-weight — they realized the power of "a moral and spiritual critique of Marxism-Leninism." When stability had come to be valued above all, they sought change. When the truth — most importantly about the nature of the Soviet Union system itself— had become obscured, they spoke it.

Gaddis quotes Thatcher: "I had long understood that detente had been ruthlessly used by the Soviets to exploit western weakness and disarray. I knew the beast."...

"I knew the beast." I really like that. And I don't need to point out the obvious parallels with our own time.

Posted by John Weidner at January 21, 2006 6:24 PM
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