Skip to comments.The Long Twilight Struggle - What a Cold War realist can teach us about winning a "long war."
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 opinionjournal.com ...
Thanks. Very Interesting.
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.