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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Friday, May 09, 2003


Forgetting the Cold War
There has been a huge amount of good blogospheric discussion and debate over the piece by Michael Totten (a "life-long liberal") suggesting that the Right tends to care about history and foreign policy (and especially the two combined) more than the Left. Matthew Yglesias links to an article by a Clinton speechwriter that I remember reading a while ago, which makes the same point.

Many and varied exceptions notwithstanding, I think he's certainly right, if only because conservatives have to care about history more than liberals do, because that's where we find our purposes. We look back, liberals look ahead--that's the way life works. But in a more specific, I think it's true as well. While most who do history as a profession tend to be liberal, most educated non-history professor conservatives tend to know more about history than educated non-history professor liberals. Two cases in point--Bethel's Iraq forum pitted a conservative, pro-liberation literature professor against a liberal, anti-war philosophy professor. The conservative had an answer for every question, plucked directly from the newspapers of yesterday. The philosophy professor was, predictably, more philosophical, but even when he tried making non-philosophical arguments, it was evident that his knowledge was significantly limited. He was basing his argument off of the belief that war is wrong, period. Second case, my own posts on Afghanistan and Albania (Algeria is coming, I promise!) are specific examples of a conservative (me) taking an in depth look at the history of another country of my own volition, and without any specific connection to American policy (necessarily, though it has come up in both).

But there's one major example of this difference that I have been observing more and more frequently: liberals tend to ignore the Cold War. Oh, they'll reference things that happened as a result of the Cold War (Veitnam, as only one example) but rarely the Cold War itself, or the reasons those things happened in the first place. This was remarkably evident in the anti-war movement's constant references to America-backed dictators, with no mention of why we were backing them, or what may have happened had we never backed them. Or, in the continued apologetics, or downright admiration, for Castro--why do they assume the people there are better off or happier than the people in Russia in 1987? Or, in the constant talk of the "Clinton boom years," with no mention of what paved the way for it, as if the 90's sprung fully formed from the head of Father Time.

A particularly egregious example of this is the book mentioned to the left, The Best of Times by Haynes Johnson. It's one of those histories by a journalist who not only thinks he is a historian, but that he's an even handed, unbiased historian. I'm not even halfway through, and I'm already sick and tired of it. Possibly his worst offense, however, is that he completely, utterly and unabashedly ignores the end of the Cold War, and how that may have contributed to the 90's. The index lists the Cold War as being mentioned on four total pages--two pages in the begining, where it's end is mentioned, but hardly analyzed, and two pages in the section on the development of the Internet, thanks to Cold War technology. He spends inordinately more time on the deregulation of the FCC in the 1980's, and the effect that had on the 90's, then on the deconstruction of communism in the 1980's, and the incomprehensible effect that had on the 90's. (On an unrelated note, his totally unbiased weeping over media deregulation, paired with his discussion of the lightning advance of the essentially unregulated computer industry and Internet, carried out with no irony whatsoever, caused me to realize that the Internet is the love child of two Republican ideals: military spending, and no government regulation.)

This forgetfulness is disturbing. I realize that I'm hardly the first person to realize, or even mention, this, but it is something that needs to be said over and over. Just as we promise to "never forget" the victims of the Taliban, we must never forget the victims of our last great enemy, who number millions more. This is something conservatives seem to understand much better than liberals, and, despite the partial explanations given by myself, Totten and others, I'm not entirely sure why.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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