Thursday, September 3, 2009

George Will, the Cold War, Analogies, etc

George Will has written that the U.S. should bail on Afghanistan. Today he writes that bailing on Iraq is also a good idea. Will's fellow conservatives are not pleased.

I like Yglesias' post.

Peter Wehner has pointed out that Will praised Jean-Francois Revel for saying the democracies were losing out to communism in the 80s. Now, says Wehner, Will is taking the side of surrender instead of fighting to victory. Yglesias:

But consider Revel. His thesis was that the West had lost its nerve in the face of the totalitarian threat it faced and that Western democracy was on the verge of perishing. Six years later the Berlin Wall came down. Two years after that, the Soviet Union broke up. Why would you cite that guy as prescient? He’s an example, if anything, of the conservative tendency toward bedwetting hysteria in the face of foreign threat along with totally unwarranted lack of confidence in the ability of liberal institutions to prevail over the long term. Democracy didn’t perish in the 1980s, the main ideological alternative to democracy perished. Maybe you couldn’t have known any better in 1983, but how has Wehner not noticed this twenty-five years later?

So: even if you accept the analogy between the Cold War and today's War on Terror, it is worth keeping in mind that the West won the Cold War without much of a fight. I would add: the analogy is very weak. 9/11 did not mean it was 1949 all over again, or 1939, or 1919. For those influenced by Leo Strauss and his friends: even if a democracy has powerful enemies, and indulges in fantasies about peace and universal co-operation, this does not mean it is Weimar Germany all over again.

Communist governments, while making relentless war on their own people, were less of a threat to other countries, even their neighbours, than they might have seemed. Of course those relentless domestic and civil wars took a lot of resources, in economies that were kept in a shambles by policies that were both stupid and malicious. Anti-communists exaggerated the communist threat, and this exaggeration led the way to the CIA's crazier experiments on their own people, Joe McCarthy, and other things. Of course the anti-anti-communists were wrong to keep pretending there was a communist paradise somewhere, and to say there was a moral case that we shouldn't make war because communism was superior. But if they felt safe from actual war, they turned out to be correct. Surely Americans are even safer now.

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