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November 9th, 1989
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:25 am    Post subject: November 9th, 1989 Reply with quote

This is just too important not to have its own thread.



[url=reason.com/archives/2009/10/12/the-unknown-war]The Unknown War[/url]
Quote:
On August 23, 1989, officials from the newly reformed and soon-to-be-renamed Communist Party of Hungary ceased policing the country’s militarized border with Austria. Some 13,000 East Germans, many of whom had been vacationing at nearby Lake Balaton, fled across the frontier to the free world. It was the largest breach of the Iron Curtain in a generation, and it kicked off a remarkable chain of events that ended 11 weeks later with the righteous citizen dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

Twenty years later, the anniversary of that historic border crossing was noted in exactly four American newspapers, according to the Nexis database, and all four mentions were in reprints of a single syndicated column. August anniversaries receiving more media play in the U.S. included the 400th anniversary of Galileo building his telescope, the 150th anniversary of the first oil well, and the 25th anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A Google News search of “anniversary” and “freedom” on August 23, 2009, turned up scores of Woodstock references before the first mention of Hungary.

Get used to it, if you haven’t already. November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes in this issue as the “Jurassic Park statism” of the 1930s (see “ ‘The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs,’ ” page 42). There have been more Hollywood hagiographies of the revolutionary communist Che Guevara in the last five years than there have been studio pictures in the last two decades about the revolutionary anti-communists who dramatically toppled totalitarians from Tallin to Prague (see Tim Cavanaugh’s “Hollywood Comrades,” page 62). And what little general-nonfiction interest there is in the superpower struggle, as Michael C. Moynihan details on page 48 (“The Cold War Never Ended”), remains stuck in the same Reagan vs. Gorby frame that made the 1980s so intellectually shallow the first time around.

The consensus Year of Revolution for most of our lifetimes has been 1968, with its political assassinations, its Parisian protests, and a youth-culture rebellion that the baby boomers will never tire of telling us about. But as the preeminent modern Central European historian Timothy Garton Ash wrote in a 2008 essay, 1989 “ended communism in Europe, the Soviet empire, the division of Germany, and an ideological and geopolitical struggle…that had shaped world politics for half a century. It was, in its geopolitical results, as big as 1945 or 1914. By comparison, ’68 was a molehill.”

I recently asked Simon Panek, one of the student leaders of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, why he thought 1968 still gets all the headlines. He gave a typically Czech shrug: “Probably 1968 happened to more people in the West.” But even that droll formulation understates the globe-altering impact of 1989.

Without the superpower conflict to animate and arm scores of proxy civil wars and brutal governments, authoritarians gave way to democrats in Johannesburg and Santiago, endless war was replaced by enduring peace in Central America, and nations that had never enjoyed self-determination found themselves independent, prosperous, and integrated into the West.

In 1988, according to the global liberty watchdog Freedom House, just 36 percent of the world’s 167 independent countries were “free,” 23 percent were “partly free,” and 41 percent were “not free.” By 2008, not only were there 26 additional countries (including such new “free” entities as Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia), but the ratios had reversed: 46 percent were “free,” 32 percent were “partly free,” and just 22 percent were “not free.” There were only 69 electoral democracies in 1989; by 2008 their ranks had swelled to 119.

And even these numbers only begin to capture the magnitude of the change. The abject failure of top-down central planning as an economic organizing model had a profound impact even on the few communist governments that survived the ’90s. Vietnam, while maintaining a one-party grip on power, launched radical market reforms in 1990, resulting in some of the world’s highest economic growth in the last two decades. Cuba, economically desperate after the Soviet spigot was cut off, legalized foreign investment and private commerce. And in perhaps the single most dramatic geopolitical story in recent years, the country that most symbolized state repression in 1989 has used capitalism to pull off history’s most successful anti-poverty campaign. Although Chinese market reforms began in the late ’70s, and were temporarily stalled by the Tiananmen Square massacre (which, counterintuitively, emboldened anti-communists in Europe), China’s post-Soviet recognition that private enterprise should trump the state sector helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. (For a celebration of how markets have liberated Chinese women from cultural repression, see Kerry Howley’s “Are Property Rights Enough?,” page 30.)

Perhaps the least appreciated benefits of the Cold War’s end have been those enjoyed (if not always consciously) by the side that won. Up until 1989, mainstream Western European political thought included a large and unhealthy appetite for governments owning the means of production. The original Marshall Plan was an almost desperate attempt to prevent the kind of domestically popular (if externally manipulated) communist takeover that would submerge Czechoslovakia in 1948. Socialist French President Francois Mitterand nationalized wide swaths of France’s economy upon taking office in 1981. By the time the Berlin Wall fell, it was the rule, not the exception, that Western European governments would own all their country’s major airlines, phone companies, television stations, gas companies, and much more.

No longer. In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide. Although media attention was rightly focused on the dramatic economic changes transforming Asia and the former East Bloc, fully half of the world’s privatization in the first dozen years after the Cold War, as measured by revenue, took place in Western Europe. European political and monetary integration, widely derided as statist by the Anglo-American right, has turned out to be one of the biggest engines for economic liberty in modern history. It was no accident that, in the midst of Washington’s illegal and ill-fated bailout of U.S. automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson, when asked about the fate of struggling Saab, tersely announced, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

When Western Europeans are giving lectures to Americans about the dangers of economic intervention, as they have repeatedly since Barack Obama took office, it’s a good time to take stock of how drastically geopolitical arguments have pivoted during the last two decades. The United States, at least as represented by its elected officials and their economic policies, is no longer leading the global fight for democratic capitalism as the most proven path to human liberation. You are more likely to see entitlement reform in Rome than in Washington (where, against the global grain, the federal government is trying to extend its role). Even the much-ballyhooed and well-earned U.S. peace dividend proved to be as temporary as Bill Clinton’s claim that “the era of big government is over.”

Ironically, the one consistent lesson U.S. officials claim to have learned about the Cold War is the one that has the least applicability outside the East Bloc: that aggressive and even violent confrontation with evil regimes will lead to various springtimes for democracy. It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military. Telling, and tragic.

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - PJ O'Rourke
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"Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." - Charles Stewart
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"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

oh NOOO! agree with Cail time...I hate that. I agree and disagree with a number of points/conclusions in the article itself...but whatever. The effect was massive and undeniable, and ignored. [I had no idea it was an "anniversary"..wasn't on my calendar..but I remember the happening, now that I'm reminded of the times]
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
When Western Europeans are giving lectures to Americans about the dangers of economic intervention, as they have repeatedly since Barack Obama took office, it’s a good time to take stock of how drastically geopolitical arguments have pivoted during the last two decades. The United States, at least as represented by its elected officials and their economic policies, is no longer leading the global fight for democratic capitalism as the most proven path to human liberation. You are more likely to see entitlement reform in Rome than in Washington (where, against the global grain, the federal government is trying to extend its role). Even the much-ballyhooed and well-earned U.S. peace dividend proved to be as temporary as Bill Clinton’s claim that “the era of big government is over.”


Excellent article, Cail. As usual.

I think that in the discussion of economics, what most often gets overlooked is the impact of capitalism upon freedom. Too often (though understandably), the debate is focused on strictly economic factors--the numbers. And the most conspicuous thing about the numbers is the gap between the rich and the poor (well, conspicuous if you ignore the gap between capitalist populations and populations subject to the alternatives of capitalism). The debate gets framed in terms of "greed" and "fairness."

But what about freedom? No one even questions the idea that capitalism coincides with more freedom. Rather, they criticize the ways in which that freedom is put to use (greed, corporate power, etc.). And the remedy for this perception of negative uses of freedom? More regulation. Less freedom. More state control.

But when you compare the abuses of state power to the abuses of corporate power, the difference is pretty clear. When you compare the dangers of too little freedom to the dangers of too much freedom, the difference is pretty clear.

We forget these differences out of our own complacency, arising out of a pampered existence within prosperous, free nations. In our desire to see monsters in the closet, we make enemies of each other, and forget about the real monsters we've defeated.

I heard a black man call into the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday. He asked, "How can anyone be a victim in this land of opportunity?" Those humans who have been lucky enough to be born in this time, in this country (or others which approximate its virtues), have already won life's lottery. Hell, we've won history's lottery. We are the luckiest humans to have ever walked this earth. And yet we constantly forget it, and are actively taking steps to reverse the processes which led to it.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
He gave a typically Czech shrug: “Probably 1968 happened to more people in the West.”


LOL Totally not related, but I know quite a few Czechs, Slovaks and Poles, and that just typifies their demeanour. Very Happy I love the eastern european outlook on life. (And their sense of humour.) Like African's, they're disarmingly fatalistic. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forget Guy Fawkes – remember, remember the Ninth of November for the fall of the Berlin Wall
Quote:
I am thinking champagne. And cake. And fireworks, of course, not just any old fireworks but some of those truly shell-shocking bits of Chinese ordnance called Harmonious Geese or Whispering Swans.

Far more important than the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot, far more benign in its consequences for world peace and prosperity, we celebrate next week the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – the ultimate triumph of simple human instincts over an evil and degenerate system. Without the Fall of the Wall, millions of people in eastern Europe would still be living in terror of the Stasi or the Securitate.

Without the end of Soviet communism, China would never have launched the turbo-charged entrepreneurial drive that has helped fuel two decades of global consumption and growth, and spread undreamt-of material benefits around the world. Without the end of one oppressive regime in Moscow, another one – in South Africa – might have limped on for a few more years.

Without the Fall of the Wall, Nelson Mandela would never have walked to freedom. How much the greatest political event it was in my lifetime, and how much the best.

That is why I believe we should remember the Ninth of November, not just because the revolution introduced British tourists to the delights of the Easyjet weekend break in Vilnius and the stag party in Prague. We should remember that magnificent collapse with songs and cheers, because we are now still enduring a recession caused by the defects of free-market capitalism.

It is precisely now, when the public mood is so bitter towards bankers, so hostile to profit, so seemingly brassed off with the very idea of wealth creation that we should remember how ghastly, grim and unworkable was the alternative – state-controlled socialism. It was a moral disaster, a system that extolled equality but entrenched the privileges of an unelected elite who luxuriated in their dachas and their Zil limos, roaring down their reserved lanes and splashing the people with contemptuous sludge. It was a cultural and artistic wasteland, a regime that promoted the kitsch and camp of socialist realism and whose only literary legacy is the handful of books by authors brave enough to denounce the regime. It was a complete and utter environmental catastrophe, as anyone who travelled behind the Iron Curtain will remember. I don't just mean Chernobyl; I mean the cynical way in which socialist planning obliged human beings to endure the proximity of some of the filthiest factories in the world, the roiling clouds of smoke that seeded the warts and the cancers on the skin and in the lungs and the eyes of an innocent public.

It wasn't even a scientific success, but rather a series of appalling embarrassments, from Stalin's wacko genetic theories to Konkordski, to the abject failure to respond to the technical challenge of Star Wars. It was a human disaster, which crushed the spirit and sent tens of millions to their deaths or the servitude of the Gulag. Above all, it was an economic non-starter.

What mixture of joy and rage impelled those crowds, 20 years ago, to tear down the Berlin Wall with their bare hands? It was the rage of Germans obliged to live in miserable flats and drive hopeless two-stroke brown exhaust-puttering Trabants, when they could see their fellow Germans using all manner of gadgets and driving BMWs; and it was joy that the end was in sight.

State socialism failed because it was completely useless at satisfying human wants. Nobody wanted to buy Bulgarian shoes. Of course I do not claim that it was impossible for the human race to be happy under communism. No doubt there were people and families who were happy as clams, as there are under any tyranny. Sweet are the uses of adversity.

And yet after an exhaustive test it was our system that triumphed, not just because of the material advantages of capitalism, but because a liberal free-market democracy has proved the best way of allowing individuals and families to realise their hopes, and to make something of their lives as independent and rounded moral agents. That is the freedom those crowds recognised and wanted in Berlin. It is the freedom of the human spirit, and it is worth infinitely more than some fancy BMW.

If you persist in objecting that capitalism promotes individual greed, and excessive consumption, then I would have to admit that you have a point, though those vices were certainly not absent from the communist nomenklatura. If you complain that free-market practices share some of the blame for the worst recession in 30 years, I would have to agree.

But look at the changes to this country in the past three decades, and look at the benefits that free-market capitalism has brought to all levels of society. Whatever you may think about the quantum of goodness in the human soul, or the sum of human happiness – and I persist in my view that both are greater in a free system than under communism – look at the food!

Look at the stuff in Tesco, where they sell the juice of raspberries and mangoes and other things that would have been unimaginably luxurious in my childhood. Look at the iPods and the gizmos, and look at growing life expectancy. This winter we face an echo of the 1970s, with angry postal workers crowded round braziers. The tragic reality is that millions of people will get round the strike by using electronic mail. That technology was invented by geeks in Californian garages who took it to market with capitalist flotations and gave us all a power to communicate on a scale never seen before. The force that brought down the Wall is the force that will get us through the postal strike, and that force is people power.

Communism took power away from the people, eroding democracy with the promise that the system would improve their quality of life in exchange. It failed dismally. Remember, remember the 9th of November, and remember all the idiots – some now running this country – who supported communism in their youth. Peter Mandelson, Alistair Darling – how will you be celebrating the Fall of the Wall?

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - PJ O'Rourke
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"Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." - Charles Stewart
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"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Behind Obama's Berlin Wall snub.
Quote:
In his first year in office, Barack Obama has visited more foreign countries than any other president. He's touched ground in 16 countries, easily outpacing Bill Clinton (three) and George W. Bush (eleven). It's an itinerary befitting a "citizen of the world."

But there's one stop Obama won't make. He has begged off going to Berlin next week to attend ceremonies commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. His schedule is reportedly too crowded. John F. Kennedy famously told Berliners, "Ich bin ein Berliner." On the 20th anniversary of the last century's most stirring triumph of freedom, Obama is telling them, "Ich bin beschäftigt" - i.e., I'm busy.

It doesn't have quite the same ring, does it? Obama's failure to go to Berlin is the most telling nonevent of his presidency. It's hard to imagine any other American president eschewing the occasion. Only Obama - with his dismissive view of the Cold War as a relic distorting our thinking and his attenuated commitment to America's exceptional role in the world - would spurn German president Angela Merkel's invitation to attend.

Obama famously made a speech in Berlin during last year's campaign, but at an event devoted to celebrating himself as the apotheosis of world hopefulness. He said of 1989, "a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one."

The line was typical Obama verbal soufflé, soaring but vulnerable to collapse upon the slightest jostling from logic or historical fact. The wall came down only after the free world resolutely stood against the Communist bloc. Rather than a warm-and-fuzzy exercise in global understanding, the Cold War was another iteration of the 20th century's long war between totalitarianism and Western liberalism. The West prevailed on the back of American strength.

But Obama doesn't think in such antiquated, triumphalist terms. Given to apologizing for his nation abroad, he resolutely downplays American leadership. "President Obama is applying the same tools to international diplomacy that he used as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side," the Washington Post notes, approaching "the world as a community of nations, more alike than different in outlook and interest." To the extent that the Cold War doesn't fit this unbelievably naïve worldview, it's an intellectual inconvenience.

Wouldn't Obama at least want to take the occasion to celebrate freedom and human rights - those most cherished liberal values? Not necessarily. He has mostly jettisoned them as foreign-policy goals in favor of a misbegotten realism that soft-pedals the crimes of nasty regimes around the world. During the Cold War, we undermined our enemies by shining a bright light on their repression. In Berlin, JFK called out the Communists on their "offense against humanity." Obama would utter such a phrase only with the greatest trepidation, lest it undermine a future opportunity for dialogue.

Pres. Ronald Reagan realized we could meet with the Soviets without conceding the legitimacy of their system. He always spoke up for the dissidents - even when it irked his negotiating partner, Mikhail Gorbachev. Whatever the hardheaded imperatives of geopolitics, we'd remain a beacon of liberty in the world.

Obama has relegated this aspirational aspect of American power to the back seat. For him, we are less an exceptional power than one among many, seeking deals with our peers in Beijing and Moscow. Why would Obama want to celebrate the refuseniks of the Eastern Bloc, when he won't even meet with the Dalai Lama in advance of his trip to China?

So Obama huddles with Merkel during her visit to Washington and leaves it at that. An American president will skip events marking the end of a struggle to which we, as a nation - under presidents of both parties - devoted blood and treasure for 50 years. For Barack Obama, 1989 is just another far-away year - and the Democratic party of such men as Harry S. Truman and JFK has never seemed more distant.

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - PJ O'Rourke
_____________
"Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." - Charles Stewart
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"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[url=reason.com/blog/2009/11/03/how-washington-got-it-right-be]How Washington "got it right because it got it wrong" in 1989[/url]

Quote:
Some great observations by the greatest chronicler of the 1989 anti-communist revolutions, Timothy Garton Ash, in The New York Review of Books:

Some pictures never get oldDuring the first half of 1989, the new US administration of George H.W. Bush was extremely reticent in its response both to Gorbachev and to the changes being pushed forward by a combination of reform communists and dissidents in Poland and Hungary. What we have learned from the Soviet and East European archives confirms that Washington's assessment was, in fact, far too skeptical. (In one of several excellent scholarly essays in the volume edited by Jeffrey Engel, Melvyn P. Leffler notes how then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney suggested that Gorbachev's policies "may be a temporary aberration in the behavior of our foremost adversary.") Nor did Bush set much store by bearded dissidents who looked like something out of Berkeley in the 1960s. Victor Sebestyen, in a book full of sharp snapshots and crisp narrative, has a well-sourced account of the President meeting with the leading Hungarian dissident János Kis in Budapest in July 1989, and subsequently telling aides, "These really aren't the right guys to be running the place." Much better to stick with a preppy reform communist.

Yet even though Washington's cautious attitude partly resulted from a misassessment, this was actually the best possible position it could have taken. This time around, unlike in 1956, no one in Moscow could suggest with even a jot of plausibility that the United States was stirring the cauldron in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, Bush personally urged General Wojciech Jaruzelski to run for Polish president, as a guarantor of stability, and he was obsessed with doing nothing that could derail Gorbachev. Sarotte suggests that American restraint made it easier for the Soviet Union, too, to step back and let events unfold on the ground in East-Central Europe. With some exaggeration, one might say that Washington got it right because it got it wrong.

Never forget!To give credit where it is due: in the last months of 1989, especially after the fall of the Wall, and throughout 1990, this initial superabundance of caution turned into a combination of entirely deliberate restraint ("don't dance on the Wall!" was the injunction heard in the corridors of the White House and the State Department) and some quite impressive statecraft in support of Helmut Kohl's drive for German unification on Western terms. But for the decisive nine months, from the beginning of Poland's roundtable talks in February to the fall of the Wall in November, the United States' contribution lay mainly in what it did not do. [...]

It is perhaps a characteristic of superpowers that they think they make history. Big events must surely be made by big powers. Yet in the nine months that gave birth to a new world, from February to November 1989, the United States and the Soviet Union were largely passive midwives. They made history by what they did not do. And both giants stood back partly because they underestimated the significance of things being done by little people in little countries.

Link via Alex Massie. Reason on 1989 here.

I'll never forget just how baffled H.W. Bush seemed by events back then. He gave a speech to 100,000 people on Wenceslas Square in Prague on the one-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that was almost a masterpiece of mangled cues, from botching the pronunciation of "Vaclav," to piping in Civil War music at a time when the Czechoslovak Federation was beginning to fracture, to prattling on about God to one of the most atheistic countries on earth. Bush was advising Yugoslavia to stay together long after the first shots of that breakup had already been fired, and focusing most of his diplomatic attention (and even Central Europe speechifying) on putting together a coalition for the Gulf War. It's a pretty weird feeling when events are hurtling much, much faster than the participants, let alone superpowers, can comprehend or control.

_________________
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - PJ O'Rourke
_____________
"Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas." - Charles Stewart
_____________
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison
_____________
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cail, I'm loving the history lessons. I don't know much about that time.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One fact I see getting lost in all the quotes here....the constant references to the US championing human rights to undermine the Communist regimes and fronts simply ignores the countless brutal dictatorships supported by the US if they were willing to oppose international communism. We installed the Shah in power, overthrowing a democratic government. And when Iran went pro-Soviet, the US backed Saddam Hussein. Central America and Africa are replete with similar instances. Were the "progressive freedom fighters" these thugs fought shining paladins of the people? Absolutely not. In moral/ethical terms, they were indistinguishable apart from their rhetoric...but one was on "our" side, one was "the enemy".

Now....how do I feel about Communism? It's a wonderful idea, that is UTTERLY unworkable in the real world. I feel that the US governing system is elitist, corrupt, self-serving, exploitative, avaricious, and horrifically unjust. I also feel that it is the least bad of all forms of government extant.

Nov 9th 1989 I feel is a much bigger event in WORLD terms, but '68 was a bigger event DOMESTICALLY.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Communism, especially that practiced by the Soviet Union, was the most horrific form of repressive government ever unleashed upon humanity. The Holocaust, in terms of loss of life, pales in comparison to the deaths that are directly attributable to the Soviet government (to say nothing of their abhorrent human rights violations).

1968 was flyshit compared to 1989. A bunch of smelly hippies got high listening to Vanilla Fudge, versus the fall of the most evil government in the history of the world.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cail wrote:
Behind Obama's Berlin Wall snub.
Quote:
In his first year in office, Barack Obama has visited more foreign countries than any other president. He's touched ground in 16 countries, easily outpacing Bill Clinton (three) and George W. Bush (eleven). It's an itinerary befitting a "citizen of the world."

But there's one stop Obama won't make. He has begged off going to Berlin next week to attend ceremonies commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. His schedule is reportedly too crowded. John F. Kennedy famously told Berliners, "Ich bin ein Berliner." On the 20th anniversary of the last century's most stirring triumph of freedom, Obama is telling them, "Ich bin beschäftigt" - i.e., I'm busy.

It doesn't have quite the same ring, does it? Obama's failure to go to Berlin is the most telling nonevent of his presidency. It's hard to imagine any other American president eschewing the occasion. Only Obama - with his dismissive view of the Cold War as a relic distorting our thinking and his attenuated commitment to America's exceptional role in the world - would spurn German president Angela Merkel's invitation to attend.

Obama famously made a speech in Berlin during last year's campaign, but at an event devoted to celebrating himself as the apotheosis of world hopefulness. He said of 1989, "a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one."

The line was typical Obama verbal soufflé, soaring but vulnerable to collapse upon the slightest jostling from logic or historical fact. The wall came down only after the free world resolutely stood against the Communist bloc. Rather than a warm-and-fuzzy exercise in global understanding, the Cold War was another iteration of the 20th century's long war between totalitarianism and Western liberalism. The West prevailed on the back of American strength.

But Obama doesn't think in such antiquated, triumphalist terms. Given to apologizing for his nation abroad, he resolutely downplays American leadership. "President Obama is applying the same tools to international diplomacy that he used as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side," the Washington Post notes, approaching "the world as a community of nations, more alike than different in outlook and interest." To the extent that the Cold War doesn't fit this unbelievably naïve worldview, it's an intellectual inconvenience.

Wouldn't Obama at least want to take the occasion to celebrate freedom and human rights - those most cherished liberal values? Not necessarily. He has mostly jettisoned them as foreign-policy goals in favor of a misbegotten realism that soft-pedals the crimes of nasty regimes around the world. During the Cold War, we undermined our enemies by shining a bright light on their repression. In Berlin, JFK called out the Communists on their "offense against humanity." Obama would utter such a phrase only with the greatest trepidation, lest it undermine a future opportunity for dialogue.

Pres. Ronald Reagan realized we could meet with the Soviets without conceding the legitimacy of their system. He always spoke up for the dissidents - even when it irked his negotiating partner, Mikhail Gorbachev. Whatever the hardheaded imperatives of geopolitics, we'd remain a beacon of liberty in the world.

Obama has relegated this aspirational aspect of American power to the back seat. For him, we are less an exceptional power than one among many, seeking deals with our peers in Beijing and Moscow. Why would Obama want to celebrate the refuseniks of the Eastern Bloc, when he won't even meet with the Dalai Lama in advance of his trip to China?

So Obama huddles with Merkel during her visit to Washington and leaves it at that. An American president will skip events marking the end of a struggle to which we, as a nation - under presidents of both parties - devoted blood and treasure for 50 years. For Barack Obama, 1989 is just another far-away year - and the Democratic party of such men as Harry S. Truman and JFK has never seemed more distant.


This one I may have some issue with. The lack of dialogue between the east and the west put us a hair's breadth from mutual annihilation at least a couple of times. (don't forget Able Archer). I think Obama's foreign policy is right for a different, smaller, globalized world with mass communication technology available to nearly everyone. There is no proverbial "spotlight" anymore, we are living in full time, omnipresent stadium lighting across the world. I believe it has become nearly impossible for anyone to hide nearly anything, and harder as time goes on. This sounds worse than it is. The obliteration of secrecy has some upsides.

Oppression as bad as what was experienced behind the iron curtain isn't possible in the 1st and formerly second world anymore. The third world is shrinking by the moment. (I can think of at least a dozen countries that were third world in the 80s, and 1st world now) That is, of course, largely thanks to the defeat of communism, which was one of the most glorious events in American history, and a triumph that the Reagan administration has been rightly credited with.

It's a brave new world. Communism was a bad idea, and the eastern bloc was a scary, crazy place. But that world is gone now, the technology of mass destruction is leaking all over the known world. The prudent call is to encourage our economies and cultures to intertwine to the point that war is completely impractical, which Obama's foreign policy seems to be aiming at, and I respect that.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wouldn't say flyshit. '68 may have changed the US more than '89. As 7W says, domestically, it may have been a bigger event, both at the time, and in long run.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dreaming, I can agree w/what you say, when dealing w/the idea of nations. But we have replacements of communism, if not in way of governing, in at least in the way of restricting their people, and making decisions irregardless of the people w/in that nation. We can't ignore that some people who are in charge of countries, aren't rational. Period. Treating them as such gives them an upper hand.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cybrweez wrote:
Wouldn't say flyshit. '68 may have changed the US more than '89. As 7W says, domestically, it may have been a bigger event, both at the time, and in long run.



You guys, really, thank you but please, although it's great that you're all so into celebrating my birthday I think the fall of the Berlin Wall deserves equal praise.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seven Words wrote:
One fact I see getting lost in all the quotes here....the constant references to the US championing human rights to undermine the Communist regimes and fronts simply ignores the countless brutal dictatorships supported by the US if they were willing to oppose international communism. We installed the Shah in power, overthrowing a democratic government. And when Iran went pro-Soviet, the US backed Saddam Hussein. Central America and Africa are replete with similar instances. Were the "progressive freedom fighters" these thugs fought shining paladins of the people? Absolutely not. In moral/ethical terms, they were indistinguishable apart from their rhetoric...but one was on "our" side, one was "the enemy".



SW, I'm curious and I mean no offense but how old are you?
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can't honestly compare the threat of terrorism to the threat of communism. There is a serious threat that there could be a tragic loss of life in a major city at least a couple of times in the near future.

Compare that to complete obliteration of everything. We came so close to the brink, it's a damn miracle we are around to celebrate the fall of communism. If our leaders had been just the tinniest bit less patient and prudent, humanity as we know it wouldn't even exist. That's serious. The terrorists may be crazier, but they are a hell of a lot "weaker" than the USSR.

The problem with dealing with these leaders of corrupt regimes is, how do we fix it? How do we improve the lives of the people living in these countries? If Iraq has taught us anything, it's that sometimes force isn't the most prudent way to help people. In fact, that's been an enduring lesson of the modern age. Hell, even dropping grain has made things worse. We are a less naive people now, mass communication has done that. We actually hear about girls getting raped in Iraq. Hell, even today maybe only 1 in 10 people even know about the firebombing of Tokyo in WW2. What about at the time? (Killed several orders of magnitude more than the nukes did, In fact, nearly a holocaust unto itself in terms of death toll) We don't live in a nastier world, we live in a less naive, more mature world. It isn't because of we're better now, it's just because technology has been destroying secrecy and borders.

By including these regimes in the world, we FORCE the world to engage with us. Membership in the international community has a stiff price, you can't get away with that gestapo bullcrap anymore when you are one of us. That's what I see Obama building too. We include so we can influence, rather than just provoke hostility. It's the wiser call. It's the prudent call, it's the worldly call.

If you want to call BUSH's foreign policy good (or even better than Obama's) ... well I would probably scoff unintentionally if we were face to face... otherwise just a really?! should suffice.

P.S. God, I sound like an honest-to-god liberal today. Quick, someone bring up abortion so I can shuffle back to my usual position right of center.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

High Lord Tolkien wrote:
Seven Words wrote:
One fact I see getting lost in all the quotes here....the constant references to the US championing human rights to undermine the Communist regimes and fronts simply ignores the countless brutal dictatorships supported by the US if they were willing to oppose international communism. We installed the Shah in power, overthrowing a democratic government. And when Iran went pro-Soviet, the US backed Saddam Hussein. Central America and Africa are replete with similar instances. Were the "progressive freedom fighters" these thugs fought shining paladins of the people? Absolutely not. In moral/ethical terms, they were indistinguishable apart from their rhetoric...but one was on "our" side, one was "the enemy".



SW, I'm curious and I mean no offense but how old are you?


35...but I'm a history buff.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Dreaming wrote:
You can't honestly compare the threat of terrorism to the threat of communism. There is a serious threat that there could be a tragic loss of life in a major city at least a couple of times in the near future.

Compare that to complete obliteration of everything. We came so close to the brink, it's a damn miracle we are around to celebrate the fall of communism. If our leaders had been just the tinniest bit less patient and prudent, humanity as we know it wouldn't even exist. That's serious. The terrorists may be crazier, but they are a hell of a lot "weaker" than the USSR.

The problem with dealing with these leaders of corrupt regimes is, how do we fix it? How do we improve the lives of the people living in these countries? If Iraq has taught us anything, it's that sometimes force isn't the most prudent way to help people. In fact, that's been an enduring lesson of the modern age. Hell, even dropping grain has made things worse. We are a less naive people now, mass communication has done that. We actually hear about girls getting raped in Iraq. Hell, even today maybe only 1 in 10 people even know about the firebombing of Tokyo in WW2. What about at the time? (Killed several orders of magnitude more than the nukes did, In fact, nearly a holocaust unto itself in terms of death toll) We don't live in a nastier world, we live in a less naive, more mature world. It isn't because of we're better now, it's just because technology has been destroying secrecy and borders.

By including these regimes in the world, we FORCE the world to engage with us. Membership in the international community has a stiff price, you can't get away with that gestapo bullcrap anymore when you are one of us. That's what I see Obama building too. We include so we can influence, rather than just provoke hostility. It's the wiser call. It's the prudent call, it's the worldly call.

If you want to call BUSH's foreign policy good (or even better than Obama's) ... well I would probably scoff unintentionally if we were face to face... otherwise just a really?! should suffice.

P.S. God, I sound like an honest-to-god liberal today. Quick, someone bring up abortion so I can shuffle back to my usual position right of center.


LOL....I see current terrorism as a greater threat, simply because the vast majority of current terrorists are religiously motivated. Religion easily overwhelms self-preservation (not just talking suicide bombers...look at martyrs for their faiths throughout history). Also, religious fanatics (NOT religious-minded people, but FANATICS) cannot be reasoned with. Communist governments could be reasoned with, had discernable coherent goals, etc. These lunatics want to kill everyone who won't follow THEIR idea of the True Faith.

As far as including these regimes....has to be on a quid pro quo basis. Otherwise, you end pulling as Neville Chamberlain with "Peace in our time"
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good posts guys. Some interesting reading.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will say this, and it may sound more than a little controversial, but I think the fall of the Soviet Union was the most momentous event of the 20th century.

It's really easy to look back with the wisdom of hindsight and criticize decisions made then.
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