Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Cold War and American Exceptionalism - General Impressions

The WSJ article by Liz Cheney linked in the previous post set me to thinking in a general way about rating America's goodness in the world, not against an external standard, but compared to the other forces in international politics. I avoided the external standard, because with nations as with people "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It might be an interesting discussion whether God does indeed require us to judge ourselves only by that standard, and not comparatively. My initial impression is that there's something to that. I can see immediate biblical exceptions however, and am saving that for another day. Suffice it to say that God may have an argument against the Israelites for lack of perfection, but the Hittites are not in a position to accuse.

Politics and judgement are much more of a comparative exercise, when the standard of proof is not "beyond a reasonable doubt," but "preponderance of evidence."

Anyone showing up with a formulation that says America was 100% right in the Cold War, the Russians 0% I reject as someone unwilling to look at uncomfortable facts. But I might go 90-10. An estimate that put America 80% in the right versus the USSR's 20 also doesn't strike me as unreasonable. When a person from the Anglosphere gets to 70-30, however, I begin to wonder if there is a particular issue that causes him to be especially cynical, based on knowledge of some vile act by American business, or the military, that he believes we ignore. that point we start coming up against the comparative information that communism killed 100 - 200 million of its own citizens and impoverished 90% of the rest. Whatever evil America and the west have done, it's hard to keep up with that. Thus a 70-30 balance strikes me as verging into unreason and unreality.

This is why Obama's portrayal of the Cold War troubles me so deeply. By assenting to American exceptionalism but equating it with Greek exceptionalism from the POV of Greeks, he is in effect saying "I think it's 60-40, but wink, wink, I'm prejudiced. It's probably closer to 50-50." Because of the mild approbation he gives to the US in terms of the Cold War, perhaps the estimate in his heart of hearts is something like 55-45 in favor of America's role in the world.

That is simply insane.


Gringo said...

I wonder if Obama ever read any works by Solzhenytsin- fiction or the any of the Gulag trilogy?

As there were a number of refugees from Hitler and the Iron Curtain residing in the small town where I grew up, I had no difficulty believing in the existence of the Evil Empire.

While I never voted for Reagan, his calling the Evil Empire for what it was gave further evidence to me that he knew how to conduct foreign policy.

karrde said...

My first thought was also of Solzhenitsyn.

My own journey through the Gulag Archipelago ended ten chapters in, but I'd seen enough.