Cold War: Historical Asssment
Figure 1.--The internet provides a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas with people around the World. And because of CIH we have spolen with large numbers of both Americans and foreigners, especially Europeans. And many, particularly yong people, insist that the Cold War was not a struggle for freedom, but simply one more historical struggle between two powerful nations. Notably those views mostly come from young Americans and Western, but not Eastern, Europeans. Easten Europeans who actully personally experienced Soviet control and Communism tend to have very different attitudes about the Cold War. Here we see West Berlin children playing in the shadow of the early Berlin Wall during 1967. (Notice how low the Wall was at the time.) This was a still early phase of the Wall construction. We wonder what these children, now grown up think about the Cold War and Communism. As President Kenndy said, "There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin. Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us."
Not everyone agrees that the Cold War was necessary and that the foundation of Western democracy was at stake. Gore Vidal has described the Cold War as "40 years of mindless wars which created a debt of $5 trillion". A British journalist described the Cold War as "the most unnecessary conflict of all time". This view is the Cold War was just one more exercise in great power politics. It is difficult to understand Vidal's view when in the Soviet Empire any independent thinker, certainly anyone like Vidal, was silenced permanently or ended up in the Gulag. This is not to say that America and its allies always acted in the best tradition of their values. The McCarthyite excesses of the 1950s were a serious stain on the Cold War effort. Accommodations were made with dictators, people like Franco, Suharto, Mobutu, and many others. Nor was the Cold War always well fought. As with any human undertaking of the dimensions involved here, there were undoubtedly mistakes, serious mistakes. The Cold war was not, however, just another in the endless historical confrontations between nation states. The Cold War was fought not because the Soviet Union was powerful and threatening. It was fought because the totalitarian system created by Stalin was inhumane, even as President Regan charged evil. The Soviet Union threatened the basic human rights that we cherish today. These freedoms evolved slowly and painfully as any review of history will show. The Western democracies led by America contained Soviet expansion and allowed the Soviet Union to destroy itself. We have noted that large numbers of people, even some Europeans and Americans believe that the Cold war was not an effort to defend freedom, but nothing more than another conflict between two cometing superpowers. This attitude seems particularly prevalent among young people. We believe that the facts speak for themselves. There is a simple test here. Compare East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and Taiwan and Mainland China (before capitalist market reforms). Another iseful comprison is betwen Russiaoday and the United States.
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Created: 5:23 AM 5/24/2016
Last updated: 5:23 AM 5/24/2016