Archive for March, 2013

We can’t go on like this

Monday, March 25th, 2013

No this was not a lover’s warning, this was rather Gorbachev’s assertion, on the eve of taking power, that something was fundamentally wrong.  He believe change had to come, and it came, but not in ways he could have predicted.  In 1988 the state history exams were cancelled because as “glasnost” unrolled, the lies of the soviet textbooks became more and more evident.

Singled out as one of the most oppressive regimes by White, Honecker’s GDR, depicted in our movie, was a place where Gorby had to muscle in and force some change.  Some of the claims in the film, problems of corruption, prostitution, are supported by White here, as are the existences of the subversive authors and artists who, in White, want to push harder and harder for reforms.

I think its in Pipes, but it might be in Kissinger to come, someone makes the claim the regimes are at their most vulnerable when they begin to institute reforms.  Reforms begin to trickle in and they’re like “salted peanuts” to use Kissinger’s analogy from before.  People want more and more.

Why did change come in the way that it did?  White has some musings on possible answers.  What do you think?

National communism and the limits of reform

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

A nice article and more pictures here;

National communism.  What’s that?  If a true communist is one with no state, no nation, how can there be “national communism”?  Maybe there can’t be.  Maybe that was one of the problems.

Why did the “Cold War” the USSR, and commuism in East Europe collapse?  Some will say, Reagan in the 80s, and his “tear down this wall!” speech, but these chapters tell another story.  Here, in CZ in 68, in Poland in 1980 we see the resurgence of independence that these countries had once known, and not too long ago, held dear.  These are very good quiz/term related topics.  What was CZ’s history and what was Poland’s history?  How do these histories feed into tension over communist rule according to White?

What evidence is here of the collapse?  Look at Hungary in 1956, and China, and try to make a case for the collapse of communism that eventually will come in the late 1980s.  It will do you well.

Here’s another promised article on the role of the Pope;

Beyond Vietnam: the MiddleEast and Africa

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Here we have a story with amazing relevance to our world today.  Not just because of Egypt, Syria and the Middle East but also because of South Africa as evidenced by the above recent NY Times article, articulating the painful process that led to the end of apartheid.  That that process did not lead to civil war could be counted as one of its successes, but the time, effort and struggle, and the hypocritical stance of America and American investment (though “small” by Ambrose’s accounting) need to be judged in some way as a great failure.  Not until Jimmy Carter, mentioned briefly here, would we have a promise of a US Foreign Policy based on human rights interest, and not national interest, but the failure of that policy, in the upcoming chapter, would bring no real new results, and frankly bring about substantial challenges which will lead to his resounding defeat by Reagan in 1980 and a three term (Reagan, Reagan, George HW Bush) conservative Republican ascendancy along, broken only by Clinton in ’92 (with the help of Ross Perot) who then faced the “Contract with America” defeat in ’94.

So Ambrose begins by illustrating the Middle East as decidedly indifferent to the Cold war.  That two NATO allies could attack each other (Turkey and Greece over Cyprus) is great evidence that the bipolarity of the Soviet – American conflict held little sway in other parts of the world.  That Egypt, under Sadat would at one moment have Soviet advisers  in his country, and in the next be appealing for American aid, goes to show how difficult this terrain was to navigate with the lens of the Cold War.  Furthermore in this time the Middle East is emboldened by the initial success of Egypt and by the success of the oil embargo which resulted in long long lines in the US, cars wrapped around the block waiting for gas at the few stations that had it, a quadrupling of gas prices, the end of Detroit, the ascendance of the Japanese automotive industry and the federal government’s imposition pictured before, of a nationwide federal speed limit of 55mph to assure maximum efficiency of all cars on the road.

Hint:  if you consider yourself a card carrying environmentalist check your mpg driving normally for a tank of gas, then fill the tank and keep your speed at 55 or below, treat the gas pedal like an eggshell leaving stops (avoid stops) and you will be amazed at the difference.

On to South African we have there an excellent example of national interests in conflict with any legitimate view of human rights, civil rights, equity that serve to show terrible contradictions with America as either a beacon or crusader.  Read the above linked article for a South African view on the lurching policy of America in those years.

Questions to pose here for your comments might include an assessment of why the Cold War didn’t matter in Africa, what was going on in Portugal and Angola and why that matters to this story and anything else you find interesting, confusing, or curious.

Detente and its Discontents

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013


I have alwys believed that Kissinger titled this chapter with full knowledge of its allusion to Sigmund Freud’s famous book of 1930, “Civilization and its Discontents”.  In Freud’s book he wrote that individuals and societies are in inherent conflict.  Individuals have certain desires which orderly society must thwart.  I wonder how Kissinger would explain this vis-a-vis “Detente”. 

One result of tensions in the middle east was the OPEC oil embargo and the quadrupling of gas prices; hence the mandated 55mph speed limit for all freeways across the country, to save gas.  Should we try this again?

Back to the comparison though.  If Civilization is replaced with Detente, well the Disconents for Freud are individuals.  Who are the Discontents with Detente?  Take a look at the image below and figure out who the little man tugging on Nixon is and I think you’ve got a start.

So what exactly is detente and why don’t people like it?  How does it work and what are some tangible examples that Kissinger offers up?  What goes on in the Middle East, with arms control, eastern europe and the USSR that serve as results of detente and to what end?  Where did this all take us?  One thing to muse over of course is the image in the “Time” magazine article above.  Who is Nixon shaking hands with?  look at the other details of the image and tell us what the cartoonist is trying to say.