July 22, 2018

REDEFINING SOVEREIGNTY:

The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union: It championed an idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. (Natan Sharansky, July 20, 2018, NY Times)

Fifty years ago this Sunday, this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.

Sakharov's essay carried a mild title -- "Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" -- but it was explosive. "Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships," he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union's most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident. [....]

Sakharov's decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country's domestic behavior -- and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors," he often explained.

As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and '80s challenged a d├ętente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America's relations with what he called the "evil empire."

Approaching the fight to win the Cold War as a human rights crusade as well as a national security priority energized Americans. It reminded them that, regardless of the guilt and defeatism of the Vietnam War or the shame and cynicism of Watergate, the country remained a beacon of liberty.

Isolationism, Realism and Nationalism are immoral.

Posted by at July 22, 2018 4:05 AM

  

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