Wednesday, January 28, 2015

US Foreign Policy Goes Retro

Progressives have saddled themselves with a theory of history that sees the "march of progress" as an ever upwardly-bound journey to political perfection: thus the appellation "progressive," as in "things are getting progressively better." Yet history – real history, that is – lacks any such teleological plan or direction. It is characterized, instead, by ups and downs, golden ages and dark ages: the golden age of Greece and Rome was followed by centuries of ignorance and retrogression that we call – not without reason – the Dark Ages. And while this characterization is meant to define the state of a culture in general – its mores, its level of technology, etc. – we can apply it to any field of human endeavor: e.g. the "golden age" of invention, the "dark age" of political repression signaled by the Alien and Sedition Acts – and also to the realm of foreign policy, where periods of relative peace are interrupted by periodic wars of aggression.

History, in other words, sometimes runs "backwards," and we are entering such a period today in our relations with Russia.

During the first cold war, Russia and the United States were engaged in a worldwide conflict which the two nuclear-armed protagonists fought via proxies, avoiding direct encounters but keeping up a constant assault on the other side’s positions. The Soviets – having basically abandoned their ostensibly revolutionary aims and retreated to the Stalinist revision of Marxist orthodoxy embodied in the concept of "socialism in one country" – pursued a mainly defensive strategy: the Americans, while supposedly set on "containment," often went beyond this and in several instances attempted to roll back Communist gains in what we used to call the Third World, e.g. Vietnam, Chile, and the various unsuccessful attempts to drive Fidel Castro from power.

In the end, the Soviets defeated themselves: their foray into Afghanistan, made in order to prop up a vastly unpopular "People’s Republic," exposed their vaunted military might as a paper tiger, to use Mao’s famous phrase. The demoralization brought on by that defeat combined with an unworkable economic system eventually brought down the Communist colossus – which, in the end, proved to be hollow.

Until the Great Soviet Implosion of 1989, however, that colossus looked pretty … well, colossal. Right up until the day the Berlin Wall fell, our "intelligence" agencies had no clue as to the huge cracks that were appearing – and widening – in the structure of the Red Empire. Taken by surprise, and fearful of any sort of "instability," the US administration of George Herbert Walker Bush tried to hold back the tide of anti-Communism that swept through eastern Europe like a tsunami, albeit to no avail. 

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