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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gorby In, Garbage Out

If this doesn't open your eyes up to what is going on, Nothing will!!


Mention the name Mikhail Gorbachev to anyone under 35 or so, and you'll likely draw a blank look. Even those old enough to remember Gorbachev may be astonished to learn that he is still alive. Yet although history's second and subsequent drafts have relegated him to a supporting role, the first draft--that is, the journalism of the 1980s--mistook him for the lead character. In 1989 Time magazine named Gorbachev, not Ronald Reagan (or Margaret Thatcher or Lech Walesa or Pope John Paul II), "man of the decade."
But Gorbachev's name came up earlier this week in an odd context, an Associated Press "analysis" by Steven R. Hurst of President Obama's foreign policy:
President Barack Obama has gone abroad and gored an ox--the deeply held belief that the United States does not make mistakes in dealings with either friends or foes.
And in the process, he's taking a huge gamble both at home and abroad, for a payoff that could be a long time coming, if ever. . . .
While historic analogies are never perfect, Obama's stark efforts to change the U.S. image abroad are reminiscent of the stunning realignments sought by former Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev. During his short--by Soviet standards--tenure, he scrambled incessantly to shed the ideological entanglements that were leading the communist empire toward ruin.
There are lots of problems with Hurst's analysis, one of which is that the "belief that the United States does not make mistakes" is not an ox but a straw man, as Hurst himself implicitly acknowledges:
Critics, especially those deeply attached to the foreign policy course of the past 50-plus years, see a president whose lofty ideals expose the country to a dangerous probing of U.S. weakness, of an unseemly readiness to admit past mistakes, of a willingness to talk with unpleasant opponents.
In other words, the people who supposedly believe that the U.S. does not make mistakes are arguing that the U.S., right now, is making a big mistake!

The Obama-Gorbachev comparison is what really got our attention, though. There is a striking parallel between the two men, in that both have drawn adoring coverage from the media. But what makes Gorbachev an interesting figure is also what makes him a relatively minor one: He was consequential because he was passive.

Gorbachev did not succeed in bringing down the Soviet empire. He failed at saving it. History is replete with circumstances in which evil triumphed because well-intentioned statesmen failed to act effectively. In this case, freedom triumphed because an ill-intentioned statesman failed to act effectively.

Gorbachev was a communist who presided over the disintegration of the country he had been chosen to lead. There are those who say the same thing about Obama, but most of them are right-wing nuts.

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