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The Long Twilight Struggle - What a Cold War realist can teach us about winning a "long war."
Wall Street Journal ^ | September 6, 2006 | PATRICK J. GARRITY

Posted on 09/06/2006 12:18:47 PM PDT by neverdem

In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, a Yale University student asked one of her instructors, "Would it be OK now for us to be patriotic?" The professor, John Lewis Gaddis, widely regarded as the dean of American Cold War historians, replied: "Yes, I think it would."

Even allowing for the emotions of the moment, such a response from a prestigious Ivy League academic might seem a bit surprising in these politically correct times. Yale University was once home to Samuel Flagg Bemis, the pre-eminent U.S. diplomatic historian before World War II. Bemis is now widely ridiculed in the academy as "U.S. Flagg Bemis" for treating America as something other than a rapacious, racist, retrograde regime. Gaddis runs the same risk of professional ostracism. He told the story of his student in a controversial 2004 book, "Surprise, Security, and the American Experience," in which he concluded that the Bush administration's policy of strategic pre-emption, whatever its merits in the particular circumstances, did not depart radically from the American foreign policy tradition. Gaddis's latest work, "The Cold War: A New History," intended for popular audiences, offers a conclusion that is equally guaranteed to set his colleagues' teeth on edge. "The world, I am quite sure, is a better place for that conflict being fought in the way that it was and won by the side that won it. . . . For all its dangers, atrocities, costs, distractions, and moral compromises, the Cold War--like the American Civil War--was a necessary contest that settled fundamental issues once and for all."

Gaddis, to be sure, is no political conservative, much less a cheerleader for the Bush administration. He gained his professional reputation as the leading expositor of an interpretation of the Cold War known as post-revisionism, which emerged during the 1970s...

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; Russia; US: District of Columbia; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: coldwar; fifthanniversary; september12era

1 posted on 09/06/2006 12:18:48 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Thanks. Very Interesting.

2 posted on 09/06/2006 12:32:22 PM PDT by Hound of the Baskervilles (A)
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To: neverdem

Great review.

3 posted on 09/06/2006 12:40:27 PM PDT by hc87
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To: Hound of the Baskervilles
Very Interesting.

Yes, but . . .

One of my favorite quotes is, "The difference between Engineering and opinion is numbers." All this fine theory doesn't really address the numbers that might give credence to or refute the theory.

And, in a deliberately ironic twist, the first issue is yet another theory. It was (and is) widely accepted that an offense needs an advantage - at least locally - of 3:1 in combat power over the defense for reasonable chance of success . If each power were truly interested in defense, then they would stop producing conventional combat power (e.g. tanks) when they had reached something like parity. This would be enough to assure the other side could not achieve a 3:1 advantage, and as a defensively minded nation, no superiority in combat power would be desired.

However, the Soviet Union worked frantically, to the point that they brutally cut back all other areas of their economy, on achieving not only superiority, but a 3:1 advantage in combat power all along the European front. There is no justification for this except an offensive intent.

And, perjorative labels like 'triumphalist' aside, it was precisely Reagan's buildup of combat power - negating in just a few years what the Soviet's had been working toward for a generation - that made it clear to the Soviets that it was hopeless. They had 'eaten the seed corn' to achieve the correlation of forces required for offensive operations, then found they had fallen short, with neither additional 'seed corn' nor inherent economic vitality to go further.

True, they could have bet it all on the hope that surprise or some other factor (defeatist liberal press in the US) would compensate for their lack of combat power, but even more than the US, the Red Army was institutionally bound to McNamara-style operations analysis. So Gorbachev really had no choice short of self-immolation. To his credit, he refused the Hitlerian exit, but it really wasn't that much of a choice.

Just a few numbers, like the actual build-up of Soviet bloc forces and how close they came to a 3:1 advantage before Reagan, would resolve the 'originalist,' 'revisionist,' and 'post-revisionist' debate.

But of course, social 'science' academics are not very fond of numbers, except poll numbers or other subjective pseudo-data that support their pre-conceived ideas.
4 posted on 09/06/2006 1:12:35 PM PDT by Gorjus
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To: neverdem
That's a worthy article, but I don't know about this:

Containment, according to Kennan and Gaddis, should have been limited geographically as well as instrumentally. It went askew, Kennan argued, when the United States grossly overreacted to a series of apparent strategic setbacks in 1949, most notably Mao's victory in China and the unexpectedly early detonation of the first Soviet atomic bomb. Paul Nitze, Kennan's successor in the State Department, was the villain of the piece. Nitze and other hardliners seized the moment to advocate, in a famous internal document (NSC 68), the pursuit of an aggressive political counteroffensive supported by a massive American military buildup and the expansion of the containment perimeter to encompass the entire globe. The United States, by the post-revisionist line of analysis, became a victim of the classic mistake of all empires, strategic overextension, caused by an inability to distinguish vital from peripheral interests.

Of course, Kennan would say that his successor dropped the ball, but realistically, if you say you won't worry about Korea, you invite further aggression. It's not that the "domino theory" is right, just that if you don't make plain that you mean business with containment, no one will believe you.

5 posted on 09/06/2006 3:57:49 PM PDT by x
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