An old man looks at his world
The NYT City Room Blogs covers what was, for the blogosphere, a pretty blue chip affair. "It was a bit like the great-grandson having a party for the patriarch. On Monday night, the six-year-old conservative blog Power Line gathered a group of luminaries — including Henry A. Kissinger, William Kristol and Paul D. Wolfowitz (with his companion, Shaha Ali Riza, in tow) — to honor Norman Podhoretz with a book award." During the course of the evening, Kissinger got up and allowed that the blogosphere might have a few things going for it.
As Mr. Kissinger said in his remarks: “I don’t know what a blog is. I don’t know how to find a blog.” His computer, he said, is used to read newspapers. ... Mr. Kissinger said he was skeptical about the digitalization of media, for if his words and sentences “get shortened for cyberspace, there is no telling what will come out.” ...
The world is undergoing three types of transformation, Mr. Kissinger argued: the collapse of the state system, the shift of the global center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and an emerging set of problems that can only be dealt with on a global basis. And he largely agreed with Mr. Podhoretz’s assertion that the most important global conflict, which was once the cold war, is now the struggle against terrorism by Islamic radicals.
“This is a war against radical Islam that has to be won,” said Mr. Kissinger, who was national security adviser and then secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations, from 1969 to 1977.
The country cannot try to escape the battle with Islam by withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, for such a withdrawal would have “not just long-term consequences, but immediate consequences.”
So there it is, at least according to Henry Kissinger: the world is officially caught up in something, that if not called the War on Terror is nevertheless of the same urgency as the Cold War. It took a long time for America to realize that the Cold War itself was underway. It was fifteen months after VE day before one of its key phrases was even coined. Churchill used the word "Iron Curtain" at a speech in Westminister College in Fulton, Missouri. It isn't true to say the speech marked the "beginning" of the Cold War. Rather it was the moment when an ongoing conflict was publicly recognized and from then its existence was gradually accepted.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. ...
The world today is in the grip of an equally mighty crisis. Across the British Isles, through Western Europe, beyond the span of the steppes into Central Asia and downward to the Indian Ocean, the world is torn between absolutist theocratic ideas and a decadent, almost dreamy memory of Western democracy. And while there is no "Iron Curtain" this time, the cradle of liberal Western democracy is fragmenting into mutually fearful enclaves, whose only hope of "social cohesion" according to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, lies in allowing each to go his own way. It is as if a virus that once shattered the Balkans into fragments awoke from dormancy and spread across the face of what was once fancifully called Christendom. In 1946 Churchill looked to an Atlantic Alliance, but primarily the United States to prevail. In this battle of ideas and indeed of competing visions, would he be so confident today?