Tuesday, February 12, 2008

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?




6 Comments:

Blogger Nomenklatura said...

The primary conditions of life are not so different for us than they have been for any other privileged society over the centuries. Basically, as Westerners we can lead just about any kind of life we want, as long as we are prepared to defend our own territory.

Some of us are, but others will only become ready (will only realize what they stand to lose) after it is too late to mount an effective defense. In this respect the Europeans of the twenty first century are exactly like their predecessors of the twentieth century.

2/12/2008 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I wonder if we shouldn't seriously think about changing the Constitution so that people who were born in places like GErmany or Austria and who know first hand what the face of evil looks like could run for President.

I have thought that Schwarzenegger has earned his shot at the Presidency, even if the face of evil that he has faced is a combination of Hollywood studios and the Kennedy family.

Kissinger's comments still have a reassuring gravitas about them even though I know that, logically, he was one of the major players in Watergate, and should have taken a fall along with Haldeman, Erlichman, and Mitchell.

But now, given the War on Terror and the enemy's list(s) the Muslims are drawing up, Watergate - nor even Monica Lewinsky -- just doesn't seem that important.

2/12/2008 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

A foreign born President? That's a really bad idea. We have a magical charismatic now, whose father was born elsewhere, who belongs to a 'church' whose web site says its primary allegiance is to Africa, and whose pastor bounces about Arabia with Louis Farrakhan, messiah. That's enough.

We should have drug tests for Presidents though, and Presidential candidates, and other elected government employees, just as in private industry. Even a basic series of lie detector tests so we know what their true stance is before elected might be wise, as in the security agencies.

2/12/2008 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

And the Austrian isn't even a good actor, and is ugly.

2/12/2008 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

My problem with Secty Kissinger – which did not prevent me from fetching him coffee once – is that he seemed to accept the idea in the 1970’s that the Soviets were on the rise and was concerned primarily with managing that fact. This was diametrically opposed to Ronald Reagan’s “They lose and we win.” approach. The result is that I can’t think of any real foreign policy successes under Kissenger.

Few seem to be able to recall that Kennedy attacked the Republicans from the RIGHT, as being too soft on Communism. And few indeed know that JFK admitted that if he had not been running for President himself he would have voted for Nixon.

But the problem we have today with our new Cold War is that the menace is not as obvious as that of the USSR. When someone is holding parades with tanks, missiles, and long range bombers and as one nation after another is forcibly brought into the fold, it is hard to ignore what is going on. The Islamic Fascists don’t hold comparable parades because they can’t build all that stuff. And they cloak their offensive actions in the rhetoric of an oppressed minority – the USSR only did that as a cover in third world countries, not in Europe. And nations are brought into the fold by a simulation of democracy, not T-34’s rumbling through the streets.

2/13/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Off-topic:

And the Austrian isn't even a good actor, and is ugly.

Indeed, even his signature role (as the star of three Terminator films) is now not so impressive, as The Sarah Connor Chronicles is showing that that particular universe can get along just fine without Ahnuld.

2/13/2008 05:29:00 PM  

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