January 22, 2007


Faith and risk in the Cold War: a review of The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister by John O'Sullivan (Spengler, 1/22/07, Asia Times)

John O'Sullivan's account of the Western victory over communism should have a place in the medicine cabinet of every literate family, as an antidote to the stultifying academic drivel and the self-serving bureaucratic memoirs that may cause choking.

O'Sullivan's Cold War, spent in part advising British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (now Baroness Thatcher), was strange, even miraculous. Who could have predicted that a broken-down movie star, a grocer's daughter from the English provinces and a Polish priest would become the improbable protagonists of the great conflict of the 20th century's second half? Perhaps because their own rise to power was so implausible, bearing the burden of uncertainty came naturally to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Karol Wojtyla.

Interweaving these three improbable stories produces a narrative that is strange, even uncanny. The sense of the uncertain, even the miraculous, that O'Sullivan conveys sets his book The President, the Pope and the Prime Minister apart from many others reporting the same events. Especially convincing is the parallel that O'Sullivan draws between the faith with which pope John Paul II offered stern moral resistance to the Soviet Empire in Poland, and the faith that led Ronald Reagan to offer the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as an alternative to the horrid doctrine of mutually assured destruction. [...]

Reagan was less the great communicator than the Great Destabilizer, subverting the principle of strategic balance that had ruled US thinking since the late 1940s.

People -- the experts in particular -- are confused by the Reformation in the Middle East because they fail to grasp that the instability we've created is intentional. Given that we've so far destabilized tribes, kings, imperialists, racialists, Applied Darwinists, and communists, you'd think they might figure out that it is no coincidence when we start toppling Islamic totalitarians and authoritarians as well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2007 7:37 AM

Intentional. Quod licet Jovi.

It has been brilliant. There is a risk, however. Because the scam must concealed, the people do not sustain it.

No "We won't come back 'till it's over, over there;" no "Thy banners make tyranny tremble." So a steady drip of casulties, which for all that they are individual heroic sacrifices, amount to an insult to the losses of real war, and the country loses heart.

The will to victory is a resource, a matter of logistics, to be husbanded, as we have frittered it away.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 22, 2007 8:24 AM


You're ignoring the Reagan lesson--in the media age we can do it from here. We don't need to be there.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 8:32 AM

Lou, unfortunately, oj's right.

Posted by: erp at January 22, 2007 11:58 AM

I have been misunderstood. I never meant that we must necessarily be over there physically, although this may be required from time to time to some degree.

What I meant is not more or less than the geistliche will to win. Not saying, "Excuse me, please," not feeling the need for Kerryesque permission slips, and never, ever holding that our struggle is a twilight and not a dawning.

This is not 1918: numbers are an impediment now.

I am extending, not ignoring Reagan's program for victory. Victory means telling them, telling the the enemy, that their grandchildren will live under freedom.

We do not talk this way now, because we doubt that any deterrence is credible, and thus we shrink from the mystery of deterrence, fulfilling the negative prophecy.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 22, 2007 4:31 PM