Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Lessons from the cold war

Posted By on 02.07.07 at 01:02 PM

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Publius at Obsidian Wings reads John Gaddis's The Cold War: A New History and sees a lesson:

"Throughout the Cold War, America negotiated with -- and talked to -- the Soviet Union and its satellites. When Mao initially took over China, America didn't come to Taiwan's aid in the hopes that it could negotiate with him, as it did with Tito.  And of course, even despite China's support of America's enemies in Korea and Vietnam, Nixon shrewdly reached out to China to play the communist states against one another. Even the great Reagan adopted a strategy of engagement with the USSR. And throughout this entire period, communism was a far greater threat than either modern terrorism or the states of Iraq and Iran.

"None of this is to say that America was happy that Mao or Tito held power. But people realized that the world was not black and white, and that the national interest (and world security) in some cases required you to make nice with people you don't particularly care for. It's part of living in an adult world rather than a fairy tale world of dragons and knights.

"In addition, every silly argument you hear in favor of invading Iraq or of failing to engage with Iran or Syria could just have easily been made in the Cold War. People could have easily justified all-out war with, or diplomatic isolation of, Russia or China under the theory that those countries are 'evil' or that we would eventually have to fight them down the road. But we chose neither route. We didn't attack them (despite opportunities) and we chose to engage them. And our patience paid off. In 1989, Communism died in Europe without the inevitable war that the Kristols of the day predicted. And China has become one of our most important trading partners. Just imagine how different the world would be if someone like Dick Cheney had been making these critical calls."

Not that the Cheney administration has learned anything from its own experience. Via TPM Cafe, here's Karen DeYoung in Sunday's Washington Post:

"The success of the Bush administration's new Iraq strategy depends on a series of rapid and dramatic political and economic reforms that even the plan's authors have little confidence will work." She spoke with a think-tanker who'd been approached by the White House in December: "'They wondered could I give them some [names] from the provinces or anywhere' from which to construct a new political base."

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