"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. ...I have felt bound to portray the shadow which, alike in the west and in the east, falls upon the world."
        - Winston Churchill, 1946.

Ours is a supreme position. The Great Republic has come into its own; it stands first among the peoples of the earth.
        - New York newspaper at the end of World War 2

"Seldom, if ever, has a war ended leaving the victors with such a sense of uncertainty and fear, with such a realization that the future is obscure and that survival is not assured."
        - Edward R Murrow, 1945.

"We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."
        - Edward R. Murrow, from a CBS broadcast about Senator Joseph McCarthy

"The Senator charged that Professor Harold Laski a British scholar and politician, dedicated a book to me. That's true. He is dead. He was a socialist, I am not. He was a civilized individual who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a pre-condition for conversation or friendship. I do not agree with his political ideas, as he makes clear in the introduction dedicating the book to me — not because of political agreement but because he held my wartime broadcast from London in high regard. And the dedication so reads. I believed years ago and I believe toda that mature Americans can engage in conversation and controversy the clash of ideas, with Communists anywhere in the world without becoming contaminated or converted. I believe that our faith, our conviction our determination are stronger than theirs and that we can successfully compete, not only in the area of bombs but in the area of ideas."
        - Edward R Murrow

"There is some risk involved in action, there always is. But there is far more risk in failure to act."
        - President Harry Truman, 1948.

"The greatness of America, in the future as in the past, is that it has never sought anything for itself it has not sought for all mankind."
        - Adlai Stevenson, Democratic Presidential Candidate (1952)

"We have won an armistice on a single battlefield, not peace in our world. We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest."
        - President Dwight D Eisenhower, following ending of Korean War, 1953.

"Forces of good and evil are massed and armed and opposed as rarely before in history. Freedom is pitted against slavery; lightness against the dark... In the final choice, a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains."
        - President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1954.

"If Berlin fell, the US would lose Europe, and if Europe fell into the hands of the Soviet Union and thus added its great industrial plant to the USSR's already great industrial plant, the United States would be reduced to the character of a garrison state if it were to survive at all."
        - President Dwight D. Eisenhower

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid."
        - President Dwight D. Eisenhower

We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.
        - President John F Kennedy, undelivered speech, 1963.

He was, albeit only briefly, the hero of the world's hopes.
        - David Cannadine, describing John F Kennedy, "History in our Time"

Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.
        - Margaret Thatcher, The Heritage Foundation, 1991.

The argument, now, is about whether Bolshevik Russia was 'better' than Nazi Germany. In the days when the New Left dawned, the argument was about whether Bolshevik Russia was better than America.
        - Martin Amis

Asked if Stalin was an antisemite, Robert Conquest replied: "Yes, but it hardly noticed. He was broadly and generously anti-human."
        - John Derbyshire, in "National Review"

The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress.
        - President George W Bush

Every generation has its war. I have just been reminded of mine. It ended in 1989, 43 years after it began, the longest war Britain fought and certainly the most expensive. Its climax was total victory.
Yet there was no parade, no medals, no colours hung in cathedrals. The Cold War saw no battles and cost almost no blood. Where there is no blood there is no glory and hence no history. Asked "What did you do in the war, Daddy?", I could say only that I paid my taxes and left it at that.
        - Simon Jenkins, "Cold War Relics", The Times of London

The Falklands victory came at a time when the Soviet Union was trying to work out whether the West had the will to resist. Although the battle in the South Atlantic had nothing to do with the Cold War, that question was now conclusively answered. By the end of the decade, it was the Russian will that had collapsed... And so it came about that a fight for 1,800 people 8,000 miles away over territory that did not matter in itself made a difference to everything... Even at the time, the Falklands crisis seemed unbelievable, and it came almost without warning. Its importance is that it provided Britain with an astonishing test, which we passed.
        - Charles Moore, "The Spectator"

What makes me nostalgic is that Soviet wickedness made politics so much simpler in my youth. Either you saw the evil empire for what it was, or you were one of the many suckers who fell for its mendacious propaganda. Many of my contemporaries at university in the 1980s blamed the United States for the arms race and joined the Campaign for (Unilateral) Nuclear Disarmament. Others bought the idea of "convergence" between the economic systems of West and East. Fools. You only had to go to the Eastern Bloc to see what a real military-industrial complex looked like — and what the absence of freedom actually meant. Every time I took the S-Bahn to Friedrichstrasse, the old gateway to East Berlin, I shuddered at the knowledge that I was entering the realm of despotism — a place where there were no rights to privacy, to property or to political representation. Now you need to take a trip to North Korea if you want to get that salutary feeling, which did so much to clarify my own political views. So a new Cold War might be good for Western Europe, just as it would be bad for Eastern Europe, for the simple reason that we would be reminded of the value of our hard-won freedoms, which we increasingly seem to take for granted.
        - Niall Ferguson, "I Miss The Cold War, "The Telegraph" (Jan'06)

Peter Beinart excoriates the “doughface” liberals who during the Cold War put anti-imperialism before anti-totalitarianism and demanded total moral purity on the part of the United States, thus opposing any action in the real world to resist Soviet expansionism. If the Democrats were, as he advocates, to return to the Trumanesque anti-totalitarian liberalism that held sway in the party from roughly 1947 to 1972, the party and the country would be better off.
        - Rich Lowry, reviewing Peter Beinart in "National Review"

My parents, who were Communists, always pretended to be American patriots. You can always convince yourself you are: 'I love America, I just want it to be perfect, which it will be when it becomes a Soviet Communist state'. When the left called for 'liberation' what it really wanted was to erase the human slate and begin again. Like everybody else, I see things that need to be improved. I just am mindful of the fact that they can be made a lot worse.
        - David Horowitz

Remind me: who was the greater mass murderer, Stalin or Hitler? Well, Stalin is thought to have been responsible for about 50 million deaths, and Hitler for a mere 25 million. What Hitler did in his concentration camps was equalled if not exceeded in foulness by the Soviet gulags, forced starvation and pogroms. What makes the achievements of communist Russia so special and different, that you can simper around in a CCCP T-shirt, while anyone demented enough to wear anything commemorating the Third Reich would be speedily banged away under the 1986 Public Order Act?
        - Boris Johnson, "Why do these Mass-Murdering Commies get such a Good Press?", "Telegraph"

"Communism had failed to retain enough true believers who would murder on its behalf."
        - John O'Sullivan, on the end of Communism

"The Soviet Union was brought down by a strange global coalition of Western European conservatives, Eastern European nationalists, Russian liberals, Chinese communists, and Afghan Islamic reactionaries, to name only a few. Many of these discordant groups disliked the United States intensely. But Americans were able to mobilize them to direct their ire at the Soviet Union first."
        - David Frum, "National Review"


The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom... The West won't contain communism. It will transcend communism. It will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written.
        - Ronald Reagan, 1981.

"It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history. It is the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxist-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people."

"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" "No Western nation has to build a wall round itself to keep its people in." "Their pitiless ideology only survives because it is maintained by force. But the day comes when the anger and frustration of the people is so great that force cannot contain it. Then the edifice cracks: the mortar crumbles."

        - Margaret Thatcher

"We speak of peace, yes, but whose peace? Poland's? Bulgaria's? The peace of the grave?"

        - Margaret Thatcher, as the 'peaceful' Cold War raged

"Against the typhoon winds of modern leftist ideology, President Reagan had the courage to fight the armies of evil with the slingshot of truth. Of course, liberal politicians in this country complained when he called the Soviet Union the 'evil empire', and the media laughed when he challenged Gorbachev to tear down the infamous Berlin Wall.
It is appropriate to wonder why the crimes of communism aren't derided to the same extent as the other tyrannies of history. The answer is simple: Liberals were and are soft on communism. Even during the Cold War, as communism threatened our nation with nuclear annihilation, Democrat leaders in Congress coddled Marxist revolutionaries such as Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. Such outrages must never be forgotten.
Liberals in every country still hope that various forms of socialism can be instituted in government. The message needs to be clear: Marxism, socialism and communism, under any name in all their forms, are intrinsically evil in any regime at all times."

The social model of the Bolsheviks failed, as will any model that denies individual rights, intellectual freedom, and freedom of competing political parties. Without these freedoms and rights, there is no motivation for people to work. Such a system cannot be sustained, especially in light of the technological revolution of the information era. We Americans understand freedom; we have earned it, we have lived for it, and we have died for it. This nation and its people are freedom's models in a searching world. We can be freedom's missionaries in a doubting world.
The genius of the American system is that through freedom we have created extraordinary results from plain old ordinary people. To coexist with communism on the same planet is impossible. Either it will spread, cancer-like, to destroy mankind, or else mankind will have to rid itself of communism (and even then face lengthy treatment for secondary tumors). Communist regimes were not some unfortunate aberration, some historical deviation from a socialist ideal. They were the ultimate expression, unconstrained by democratic and electoral pressures, of what socialism is all about.... In short, the state is everything and the individual nothing. To persuade thinking persons in Eastern Europe that Central American Marxists - the Sandinistas, the guerillas in El Salvador - are in absurd and tragic error is not difficult. Poles and Czechs and Hungarians can hardly believe, after what they experienced under socialism, that other human beings would fall for the same bundle of lies, half-truths, and distortions. Sadly, however, illusion is often sweeter to human taste than reality. The last marxist in the world will probably be an American nun. When Marxist dictators shoot their way into power in Central America, the Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies, they blame United States' policies of one hundred years ago, but then they always blame America first. Communism will never be halted by negotiations or through the machinations of detente. It can only be halted by force from without or by disintegration from within. Nowhere on the planet, nowhere in history, was there a regime more vicious, more bloodthirsty, and at the same time more cunning than the Bolshevik, the self-styled Soviet regime. To reject this inhuman Communist ideology is simply to be a human being. Such a rejection is more than a political act. It is a protest of our souls against those who would have us forget the concepts of good and evil. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to prosecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing. A state that denies its citizens their basic rights becomes a danger to its neighbors as well: internal arbitrary rule will be reflected in arbitrary external relations. The suppression of public opinion, the abolition of public competition for power and its public exercise opens the way for the state power to arm itself in any way it sees fit... A state that does not hesitate to lie to its own people will not hesitate to lie to other states.

        - Vaclav Havel

My dear fellow citizens: For forty years you have heard from my predecessors on this day different variations of the same theme: how our country flourished, how many millions of tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us. I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you.

The previous regime ... reduced man to a means of production and nature to a tool of production. Thus it attacked both their very essence and their mutual relationship. It reduced gifted and autonomous people to nuts and bolts in some monstrously huge, noisy, and stinking machine. We were happy a hundred years ago. We knew that there were exploiters and exploited, wealthy and poor, and we had a perfect idea of how to get rid of injustice; we would expropriate the owners and turn the wealth over to the common good. We expropriated the owners and we created one of the most monstrous and oppressive social systems in world history. And we keep repeating that "in principle everything was all right, only some unfortunate accidents slipped in and slightly spoiled the good idea. Now let us start afresh...." - Leszek Kolakowski, "The Socialist Idea" Only about three quarters of the way through did I finally work out the purpose of this otherwise baffling work: to defend what remains to be defended of Soviet Marxism. It’s an uphill battle, to say the least. For starters, it requires Lewin to spend a certain amount of time redefining Marxism, or at least socialism, so that it doesn’t include the USSR — usually thought of as the ultimate socialist state — at all. ‘Socialism involves ownership of the means of production by society, not by a bureaucracy,’ he opines. Yes, maybe, but what on earth can that mean in real life? ‘To persist in speaking of “Soviet socialism” is to engage in a veritable comedy of errors,’ he says at another point. Perhaps; but the Soviet Union was socialist by its own definition, and it was a part of the international socialist tradition by any definition, which surely a historian must respect.
        - Anne Applebaum, reviewing "The Soviet Century" by Moshe Lewin in "The Spectator"

In the polling booth God can see you but Stalin cannot.
        - Slogan of Christian Democrats in 1948 Italian election

When Chancellor Helmut Schmidt came under fire for advocating the deployment of short-range missiles on German soil, thus making Germany a prime target for a Soviet nuclear attack, he was told: "But if you do this, you are certain to lose the next election." He replied, "What makes you think I care?" The politician who dares to say or do the unexpected deserves the respect of the people.
        - Seen in "The Irish Independent"

President Gorbachev gave us freedom of worship and freedom of speech and freedom to see what was going on and freedom to vote, but that freedom won't last unless it is underpinned by economic freedom.

If we are safe today, it is because America has stood with us. If we are to remain safe tomorrow, it will be because America remains powerful and self-confident. When, therefore, the Americans face difficulties, we need to say to them more clearly: "We are with you." "We had to do what we had to do; Britain is great again." "The Lady's not for turning." "We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of all-embracing police governments. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war. But we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.
All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind." I really didnt understand before that moment, I didn't realize until just then - we won. The Free World won the Cold War. All the people who had been sent to gulags, who'd been crushed in the streets of Budapest, Prague and Warsaw, the soldiers who'd died in Korea and my friends and classmates who had been killed in Vietnam - it meant something now. All the treasure that we in America had poured into guns, planes, Star Wars and all the terrifying A-bombs we'd had to build and keep - it wasn't for nothing.
And the best thing about our victory is the way we did it - not just with ICBMs and Green Berets and aid to the Contras. Those things were important, but in the end we beat them with Levi 501 jeans. Seventy-two years of Communist indoctrination and propaganda was drowned out by a three-ounce Sony Walkman. A huge totalitarian system with all its tanks and guns, gulag camps, and secret police has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes. They may have had the soldiers and the warheads and the fine-sounding ideology that suckered the college students and nitwit Third Worlders, but we had all the fun. Now they're lunch, and we're number one on the planet.
        - PJ O'Rourke, "The Death of Communism"

"It wasn't worth one dollar or one American life," a US tourist had scribbled in a well-thumbed visitors' book in a one-room Khe Sanh museum erected on an abandoned runway. "Who won? Who lost? Who knows? wrote another. A veteran artillery sergeant from Oklahoma confessed: "Am truly sorry for what we have done. Have learned much here." Other visitors struck a more defiant note. "Ultimately the American way is winning," wrote Gary from California. "That's true, there's nothing like a Big Mac," responded the next visitor. "We love you America."
        - Conor O'Clery, revisiting Vietnam in 2000, "May You Live in Interesting Times"

Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see.

The International Brigade was not formed to protect freedom and democracy. It was founded as a tool of of the Comintern, to promote the interests of the Soviet Union - and thereby of Joseph Stalin, the butcher of millions. It made political sense for the International Brigade to recruit non-communists - useful fools was what Lenin had called such people in an earlier manipulation of gullible decency - but of course most were then vetted by the NKVD, the Soviet Union's secret police.

       - Kevin Myers, "The Irish Times"

I was guilty of judging capitalism by its operations and socialism by its hopes and aspirations; capitalism by its works and socialism by its literature.

"The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on America’s alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at America’s deplorable 'Cold War mentality' - none of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitler’s, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesn’t need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there."

        - Ron Rosenbaum, "New York Observer"

Aside from MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), few factors did more to keep the Cold War cold than the erection of the Berlin Wall. After it went up, the level of East-West tension in Europe went down.
While it was something of an embarrassment for the West to stand idly by while the wall went up, the thing was a much greater embarrassment for the East Germans and Soviets, who had been forced to put a fence around their Worker's Paradise to keep all the workers from running away. The West could not have asked for a greater propaganda coup, a more striking symbol of the economic and moral bankruptcy of their Communist adversaries.
        - David Clay Large, in "The Cold War Turns Hot" from "What If?"

"Do not hesitate with the use of a firearm, including when the border breakouts involve women and children, which the traitors have already frequently taken advantage of."
        - Order given to East German border guards at the Berlin Wall


"What is the difference in fact between a Communist and a Fascist? Answer: none worth noticing."

        - House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1947.

"In America, any man who is not a reactionary in his views is open to the charge of alliance with the Red hell."

        - Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, 1953.

"We cannot risk living all our lives under emergency measures."

        - President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1954.

"In opposing Communism, we are defeating ourselves if we use methods that do not conform to the American sense of justice."

        - President Dwight D Eisenhower, 1954.

"For all their faults, right-wing authoritarian regimes more easily accept democratic reforms than left-wing totalitarian states."

        - Jeane J Kirkpatrick, Reagan-era US Ambassador to the UN.


From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness.
Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe.

"We must face the fact that peace must be built on power, as well as upon good will and good deeds."

        - President Harry Truman, 1945.

"The United States should not under any circumstances throw away our gun until we are sure the rest of the world cannot arm against us."

        - President Harry Truman, 1946.

"In some sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose."

        - J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of research team into atomic bomb

Wars are not caused by the buildup of weapons. They are caused when an aggressor believes he can achieve his objectives at an acceptable price.

Isn't a policy of conventional weapons, with the terrible bombs raining down, with the missiles, with the aircraft, with the submarines, with the torpedoes, with the tanks, with chemical weapons - isn't that based on the possibility of threat?

        - Margaret Thatcher, interview in Moscow on Soviet state television, 1987.

We're saying to anyone who dares to attack us, "Do not do it, you couldn't win, the result would be devastating!" I think you're saying the same.

       - Margaret Thatcher, interview in Moscow on Soviet state television, 1987.

Hope is no basis for a defense policy.

I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap. Nations do not mistrust each other because they are armed, they are armed because they mistrust each other.

        - Ronald Reagan, 1986.

Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.

        - Ronald Reagan

Trust, but verify.

        - Ronald Reagan

Armaments do not, generally speaking, cause wars. This notion, the logical crux of all arguments in favor of disarmament, turns the causal relationship upside down. Actually, it is wars, or conflicts threatening war, that cause armaments, not the reverse.


"To this day, America is still the abiding alternative to tyranny. This is our purpose in the world,  nothing more and nothing less."
        - Ronald Reagan, 1981.

"We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history."
        - Ronald Reagan, Normandy June 6, 1984.

"Freedom is a fragile thing and never more than one generation away from extinction."
       - Ronald Reagan

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
        - Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16.

"We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world."
        - John Winthrop, sermon on deck of the Arabella off Massachusetts, 1630.

"We can meet our destiny, and that destiny to build a land here that will be, for all mankind, a shining city on a hill."
        - Ronald Reagan, 1981.

"As the greatest communicator of our time, Sir Winston Churhcill enlisted the English language itself in the battle against Hitler and his hateful doctrines. When the Nazi might prevailed from Warsaw to the Channel Islands and from Egypt to the Arctic Ocean, at a time when the whole cause of human liberty stood trembling and imperiled, he breathed defiance in phrases that will ring down through centuries to come.
And when the guns at last fell silent in the Spring of 1945, no man on earth had done more to preserve civilization during the hour of its greatest trial.
In the exhausted aftermath of World War II, few were prepared to listen to warnings of fresh danger.  But Churchill was undaunted. Once before his had been a voice crying out in the wilderness against the suicidal dogmas of appeasement. Once before he had sounded an alarm against those deluded souls who thought they could go on feeding the crocodile with bits and pieces of other countries and somehow avoid his jaws themselves. His warnings had been ignored by a world more in love with temporary ease than long-term security. Yet time had proven him tragically correct. His Fulton speech was a firebell in the night, a Paul Revere warning that tyranny was once more on the march."
        - Ronald Reagan, Speech at Westminster College Cold War memorial, 1990.

"Historians looking back at our time will note the consistent restraint and peaceful intentions of the West. They will note that it was the democracies who refused to use the threat of their nuclear monopoly in the forties and early fifties for territorial or imperial gain. Had that nuclear monopoly been in the hands of the Communist world, the map of Europe, indeed, the world, would look very different today.
The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies - West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam - it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people. And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.
The British people know that, given strong leadership, time, and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of self-government, the Mother of Parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God."
        - Ronald Reagan, Speech to the House of Commons, 1982.

"If not us, who? And if not now, when?"
        - Ronald Reagan

"Let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world."
        - from Ronald Reagan's speech where he dubbed the Soviet Union an 'Evil Empire"

I urge you to beware the temptation ... to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of any evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.
        - Ronald Reagan

The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people's democracy. It's the same difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.
        - Ronald Reagan, 1986.

How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin.
        - Ronald Reagan

If the Soviet Union let another political party come into existence, they would still be a one-party state, because everybody would join the other party.
        - Ronald Reagan

An old Russian woman goes into Kremlin, gets an audience with Mikhail Gorbachev and says, "In America anyone can go to the White House, walk up to Reagan's desk and say, 'I don't like the way you are running the country.'"  Gorbachev replied, "You can do the same thing in the Soviet Union.  You can go into the Kremlin, walk up to my desk and say 'I don't like the way Reagan is running his country.'"
        - Joke told by Ronald Reagan to Mikhail Gorbachev at Geneva Summit

We are a nation that has a government - not the other way around.
        - Ronald Reagan

"My fellow Americans, I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
        - Ronald Reagan, testing a microphone.

Intelligence reports say Castro is very worried about me. I’m very worried that we can’t come up with something to justify his worrying.
        - extract from "The Reagan Diaries"

Americans are hungering to feel proud and patriotic again.
        - extract from "The Reagan Diaries"

"I didn't leave the Democratic party; the Democratic party left me."
        - Ronald Reagan, on his decision to become a Republican

"Liberals are people who think that being tough on crime means longer suspended sentences."
        - Ronald Reagan

"Reagan survived the Iran-Contra scandal because the elements of it that were illegal (aiding anti-communist Nicaraguans) were popular and the things that were unpopular (arming the Iranians) were quite legal."
        - David Frum, on the toughest times of the Reagan presidency, "National Review"

Her many achievements will be appreciated more as time goes on.
         - Ronald Reagan, describing Margaret Thatcher, 1994.

When others spoke of the fear of war, you spoke of the need for warriors and peace through strength. When others bewailed the failure of big government to provide for the collective good, you spoke of self-reliance, of personal responsibility, of individual pride and integrity. When others preached compromise - when others demanded compromise, you, Ronald Reagan, preached conviction.
        - Margaret Thatcer, describing Ronald Reagan, 1994.

I think if someone else other than Reagan, someone less of a hardliner, had been in power then the breakthrough in ending the Cold War would not have happened.
        - Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet Union Foreign Minister under Gorbachev

All Presidents, like all human beings, get many things wrong. Ronald Reagan's extraordinary achievement as President of the U.S. was to succeed in getting the two biggest challenges of his time right: defeating the Soviet Union and reviving the American economy and spirit. Neither of those achievements was inevitable. Both were fiercely opposed at the time. But he persisted; his visionary focus matched only by a gentleness of character and a brilliance of rhetoric.
        - Andrew Sullivan, "Time Magazine"

"Even admirers of Lady Thatcher, among whom we count ourselves, would hardly claim that she brightened the skies wherever she ventured. But Ronald Reagan brought his native optimism to the job of president and fine-tuned it into a formidable political tool... Yet Ronald Reagan’s focus on favourable rather than negative outcomes played an important role in the West’s peaceful victory in the Cold War. Eight years of handshakes and arms talks later, Mr Reagan left office to a mood of unparalleled optimism so bright that the world’s doomsters were obliged to forget briefly about nuclear war and begin to warn us of meteorological Armageddon instead."
        - Spectator Editorial, "Victory For Optimism"

Even now, the irony that so non-intellectual a man should choose to engage the Soviet Union on the battlefield of ideas has eluded most commentators and historians.
        - Richard Perle

You can’t uninvent things, you can only make them obsolete... Ronald Reagan understood that the surest method of neutralising any weapon is to make it obsolete.
        - Mark Steyn, on Reagan's commitment to 'Star Wars'

The 1970s was the era of 'detente', a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: The presidents and prime ministers of the Free World had decided the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Unlike these men, unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That's what counts. He brought down the 'evil empire', and all the rest is fine print.
        - Mark Steyn, "The Washington Times"

The arrogance of every age is the assumption of permanence. It's unusual to find a leader who thinks beyond that: 'smart' in media politics means someone who can recite by heart every sub-clause of his plan on prescription-drug re-importation from Canada, not someone who looks a decade or two down the road and figures out the lie of the land. Ronald Reagan had a much rarer intelligence - a strategic intelligence. In 1977, he told Richard Allen, 'Some people think I'm simplistic, but there's a difference between being simplistic and being simple. My theory of the Cold War is that we win and they lose. What do you think about that?'. Cute. So few politicians talked like that a quarter-century ago that I'd have been content if it was just a neat line. But Reagan figured out a way to make it come true. Within 10 years. That's strategic thinking.
        - Mark Steyn, "Chicago Sun Times"

When he became president in 1981, Reagan embarked on a policy of confrontation with the Soviet Union. He was not content merely to contain communism. He wanted to roll it back. Therefore, he armed anti-communist insurgents wherever he could find them and embarked on a massive programme of military spending that the moribund Soviet economy couldn't hope to match.
He called the Soviet Union "the evil empire", something that also led to him being widely condemned, even though the USSR had killed millions upon millions of its own people since the 1917 Bolshevik putsch. If the USSR wasn't evil, then neither was Nazi Germany.
Reagan was continually accused of running the risk of sparking a war between East and West. He was told that the USSR was a permanent reality and the best way to deal with it was through negotiation, or détente as it was called. Then, suddenly, one year after he left office, the Berlin Wall was torn down and the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe for more than 40 years was no more.
Just as suddenly, those who had declared the USSR to be a permanent reality did a complete volte face. No, no, no, they declared, communism wasn't a permanent reality. It was as clear as the nose on your face that it was going to collapse. It, and not capitalism, was full of internal contradictions that made its implosion inevitable.
What else could they say? They were hardly going to credit Reagan in any way for something so epoch-making as the collapse of European communism; and they were hardly going to admit that they, the intellectuals, were wrong about communism, and Reagan, the moron, was right.
       - David Quinn, "The Irish Independent"

Ronald Reagan certainly didn't come under fire on the beaches of Normandy, but his policies had a similar, liberating effect on Europe nonetheless. It's doubtful there will ever be a celebration marking the Reykjavik conference or the Berlin Wall speech. Denial of their own history will always be popular with left-wing Europeans and their political leaders. Someday soon, no doubt, in the pages of Le Monde or the Guardian, the American defeat of Soviet ambitions will be seen not as an American victory, but as a victory the Russians won for themselves. But for a day, on June 6, 2004, as the TV stations in France, Germany, and the U.K. switched back and forth between Normandy and Paris and Los Angeles and Washington, truth invaded Europe.
        - Dennis Boyles, "National Review", as the sad news of Ronald Reagan's death breaks

Days after being shot, weak from wounds, he spilled water from a sink, and entering the hospital room aides saw him on his hands and knees wiping water from the floor. He worried that his nurse would get in trouble. The good book says humility goes before honor, and our friend had both, and who could not cherish such a man?
        - Part of eulogy of George Bush Snr. for Ronald Reagan

Others prophesied the decline of the West; he inspired America and its allies with renewed faith in their mission of freedom. Others saw only limits to growth; he transformed a stagnant economy into an engine of opportunity. Others hoped, at best, for an uneasy cohabitation with the Soviet Union; he won the Cold War - not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends.
His ideas, though clear, were never simplistic. He saw the many sides of truth. Yes, he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power and territorial expansion; but he also sensed it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform. Yes, he did not shrink from denouncing Moscow's 'evil empire'. But he realised that a man of goodwill might nonetheless emerge from within its dark corridors.
We live today in the world that Ronald Reagan began to reshape with those words. It is a very different world with different challenges and new dangers. All in all, however, it is one of greater freedom and prosperity, one more hopeful than the world he inherited on becoming president.
        - from Margaret Thatcher's eulogy for Ronald Reagan

"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it."
        - Barack Obama

"How does it feel to be the president’s third choice? Humiliating?"
"You could have thrown a dart. That’s how close they were. We had so many excellent candidates."
        - Ronald Reagan, fielding a questions for his Supreme Court nominee Anthony Kennedy

"A few months before 9/11, I went to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, a rather somnolent affair aside from the anti-globalisation mobs hurling concrete across the perimeter fence. The assembled heads of government were there to plan for a hemispherical free trade area, and I spent a catatonic 48 hours listening to eminently reasonable Foreign and Finance Ministers eager to explain at length why Costa Rica and Bolivia were now open for business. The summit was attended by every President and Prime Minister in the region except one: Fidel Castro. Comrade Fidel had been ruled ineligible to attend because Cuba was not a democracy. Everywhere else was. One can argue that things have slipped a little in the last three years: fiscal woes in Argentina; the grubby thug Chavez in Venezuela. But still, even by the most pessimistic reading, an area that 30 years ago was wall-to-wall dictatorships is now overwhelmingly democratic... What changed the dynamic in the region? Two things: Mrs Thatcher's Falklands War, which was a decisive defeat for Latin-American macho militarism; and Ronald Reagan's determination to roll back Communist expansion, at a time of Castro-friendly coups in Grenada and elsewhere."
        - Mark Steyn, analysing the effect of Reagan's Americas policy


We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success - only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development.
        - Ronald Reagan, 1981.

By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith, to strive with all our strength toward the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society. We believed then and now there are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.
        - Ronald Reagan, 2nd Inaugural Address, 1985

The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decisions disappears.
The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in the economic field. There exists another form of ownership which is becoming no less important than land: the possession of know-how, technology and skill. The wealth of the industrialized nations is based much more on this kind of ownership than on natural resources. Besides the earth, man's principal resource is man himself. Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellsprings of initiative and creativity.
        - Pope John Paul II, "Centesimus Annus"

I will never oppose the Vietnam War. I thought that the Americans were right to do it. I think it was a responsible effort by the United States. I think they fought it in the wrong way, it wasn't run as a proper war. It was run with one eye on public opinion the whole time. But I think that they were right to oppose the attempts by Ho Chi Minh and Giap to make the whole of Vietnam into a Marxist society. And looking to what's happened to the country since, I still believe that it was right to try and stop them.
I wouldn't have felt it was the end of the world if the Vietnam War hadn't been fought. It's not that kind of war. I don't think it's a war like fighting Hitler, but I think it was a correct war, a right war, and it had indirect effects of the greatest importance as well. I think it demonstrated to the Russians of the Russian leadership of the last years of communism that the Americans were serious when they said that they opposed communism. And I think it, therefore, eventually contributed to the end of the Cold War and the fall of Communist regimes all over central and eastern Europe.
        - Sir John Keegan, Military Historian

As the CIA and KGB, like God and Satan, fight Miltonic battles across five continents...
        - Paul Johnson, writing during the Cold War, "The Offshore Islanders"

"The superpowers often behave like two heavily armed blind men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision."
        - Henry Kissinger

Fronting an excellent TV Eye documentary on the subject of Islam, the redoubtable Vanya Kewley once again demonstrated that it is possible to be passionate in the cause of decency. Her Everyman programmes for the BBC were copybook examples of how right-wing nightmare nations like the Philippines and Paraguay can be discredited without any implication that left-wing nightmare nations are somehow not so bad after all. Kewley elegantly embodies the principle that the truth is absolute, even if our grasp of it is relative. Q. Baebius Herennius believes that the truth is relative and his grasp of it absolute. She can understand him, but he will never be able to understand her.
        - Clive James, from his "The Crystal Bucket" (1981)

For many in many countries, the heroic myth of the Spanish Republic is closely linked to the International Brigades. Nobody can doubt the idealism and self-sacrifice of the volunteers from 52 nations who went in the belief that they could defeat fascism in Spain, yet recent discoveries in Russian archives cast a chilling light on the Comintern organisers who threw away their lives so callously in futile attacks. Even before most volunteers reached Spain, Soviet advisers were planning to destroy their left-wing allies. The greatest shock for these “volunteers for freedom”, as the International Brigaders were called, came with the Soviet style of discipline, selecting men at random and shooting them through the back of the head.
        - Anthony Beevor, author of "The Battle for Spain"

The Soviets supplied the Republicans with tanks and planes, together with the services of some 800 pilots and military advisers of lamentable competence, in exchange for most of Spain’s gold reserves. The preposterous coalition of leftists and anarchists of every hue that sought to deny power to Franco’s Nationalists was endowed with courage and ideals, but bereft of everything else: cash, military ability, discipline, diplomatic guile and, above all, willingness effectively to collaborate with each other. When Stalin determined that Spain’s communists must secure a monopoly of power, the Republicans conducted a bloody power struggle in their ranks. It was executions, executions all the way: of alleged deserters, traitors, cowards, rivals in scores and even hundreds — most innocent, of course. Non-communist Republican units were often denied ammunition and medical care by communist ones. Who can wonder that they lost? The civil war will never be studied with admiration by strategists. Both sides were pitifully incompetent. General Franco possessed political cunning, but his limitations as a commander drove his German and Italian mentors to despair. Only the support of Hitler’s Condor Legion, together with the follies of his enemies, enabled the nationalists to prevail.
Franco and the Nationalists sought to overthrow the legitimate government of Spain by force of arms. Beevor notes the significant point that had the Republicans lost the prewar election they, too, would almost certainly have resorted to arms to contest the democratic verdict, and that had they won the war, the communists would probably have seized monopoly power with their usual ruthlessness. Stalin, incidentally, afterwards executed most of the Soviet advisers who had served in Spain.
Franco continued to kill his defeated foes even after 1945, when any political necessity was gone. Some 200,000 Spaniards are estimated to have died in prison or by execution during Franco’s decades of vengeance. Both sides deserved to lose, but Franco proved an especially repulsive victor.
        - Max Hastings, from his review of "The Battle for Spain", "The Times"

The more active Boris Yeltsin was on the Politburo, the more he aroused suspicion in the mind of his one superior, Mikhail Gorbachev, the general secretary of the Party. A test of strength developed between the two men. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen in the history of Communism. The stakes were enormous. Gorbachev appeared to win when he fired Yeltsin. Yeltsin used the novelty of elections to fight back. Elected president of Russia, he played the nationalist card, and it proved stronger than Communism. Civil war might well have erupted between die-hard defenders of Communism and Russian nationalists.  Standing on a tank in August 1991, Yeltsin successfully appealed to nationalism. It was a brave moment, and will always mark his place in history. At the same time, he fulfilled his ambition of achieving supreme power. Nobody, certainly not Yeltsin himself, realised that breaking Gorbachev necessarily entailed breaking Communism too. The Party could not survive factionalism, Lenin had always warned, and so it proved.
       - David Pryce Jones, assessing the late Boris Yeltsin, "National Review" (Apr'07)

Italian intellectuals, Cambodian peasants, Hungarian workers, Russian colonels, Angolan insurgents, French philosophes, American actors, British miners, Chinese craftsmen, Nicaraguan labourers: over the years, the adherents of the international communist movement have been so geographically and socially diverse as to defy classification. During the 100-odd years of the movement’s existence, nations as different as Czarist Russia, semi-feudal China and post- colonial Cuba subsequently developed into communist states...
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that Robert Service’s Comrades is a deceptively ambitious book. Neither unreasonably long nor overwhelmingly theoretical, it swiftly chronicles the movement from its philosophical origins to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic transformation of China, along the way touching on Albania, North Korea and Cuba, among many other countries. In mercifully clear prose, Service explains how the Bolsheviks divided from the Mensheviks, why Tito veered away from Stalin, what caused the great rift between the Soviet Union and China...
This is not the book to read if you want neat conclusions, because there aren’t any. As Service points out at the very end of the book, communist ideology is in fact part of a larger story. After all, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, as well as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, shared the same ‘totalising impulse’ and dedication to ‘unrestrained state power penetrating all aspects of life — political, economic, social, cultural and spiritual’. More to the point, the attraction of communism, or of regimes that echo communist rhetoric, still appears strong in places as varied as Venezuela, Vietnam and Russia itself. Whatever it is that persuaded people to cheer for Stalin hasn’t yet disappeared from human nature, and it doesn’t seem it will any time soon either.
        - Anne Applebaum, reviewing "Comrades: A World History of Communism" "The Spectator"

Bill Buckley is an heroic figure to many because he was right about the great question of the second half of the 20th century at a time when far too many in the west thought it boorish and vulgar to be: As a character in one of his last novels tells a self-regarding liberal, "The kind of people who have offended you since you were at college are the people who won the Cold War."
Bill was not a shrill man about politics, but he had a consistent moral clarity. Not long ago, we had a lunch a deux and spent most of it chatting about spy fiction. His Blackford Oakes novels had just been reissued, and Bill was talking of how he'd created Blackie as an antidote to the John Le Carre ethos, in which there's no good, there's no bad, there's just shades of gray and total moral equivalence between east and west, and thus between their respective warriors at the KGB and in the western intelligence agencies. And once you accept this view the conflict is necessarily trivial: it's just a game between opposing bureaucracies whose machinations and manoeuvres are their own justification. Le Carre was profoundly wrong but a good enough writer that his became the default template of spy fiction, and, because life imitates art, of far too many real intelligence types at the CIA and MI6 toward the end of the Cold War.
        - Mark Steyn, on the life of Bill Buckley (1925-2008)

Russia in the late 1930s was not a good place to be. People really did sleep in their outdoor clothes, with a ready-packed suitcase at their bedside, waiting for the NKVD (the secret police) to knock on the door. You could be arrested and killed for a joke, for a factual remark about a food shortage, or for failing to denounce other people, including your immediate family. And you could also be arrested and killed for nothing at all, since the NKVD, like other elements of the Soviet economy, had productivity targets to meet. Anyone who was different was suspect. In 1937, 53 members of a deaf-mutes' association were arrested in Leningrad, and 33 were sentenced to death for conducting 'conspiracies' in sign-language. Stamp-collectors, who had shown an unhealthy interest in letters from foreign countries, were hunted down, and so too were people who had learnt Esperanto. If life was as bad as this for Russians, just think how bad it must have been for people who were trying to live like Russians, but were in fact Americans.
Not tourists, businessmen, or diplomats; no, these were just ordinary working people, who had moved to the Soviet Union. Their total number is unknown, but it must have run to several thousands, and their story - the subject of Tim Tzouliadis's gripping and important book - has never been fully told before.
Why had they come? Some were idealistic Communists, or left-wingers whose trade-union activism had cost them their jobs in the US. But most were just looking for work, having lost their jobs in the way that millions of other Americans lost theirs, in the Great Depression. While American industry contracted, Russia had been recruiting skilled technicians, not least to run the giant car factory which was purchased - en bloc - from Henry Ford and plonked down on the banks of the Volga.
At first, life was good for most of these immigrants - better, certainly, than the life of the unemployed in the US. They were fêted by the Russian media, and the authorities allowed major stadiums to be used for their baseball matches. The workers of the world were able to unite at last, it seemed, losing their chains but not their bats and gloves.
True, there were a few little warning signs. Many of the immigrants were relieved of their American passports on arrival, never to see them again. (Suitably doctored, some of the passports were used for sending Soviet agents to America.) Wages which the Russian authorities had promised to deposit in US bank accounts mysteriously failed to appear there. Pressure was put on some of the Americans to take up Soviet citizenship, thereby losing the protection of international law; and some found that they had taken it up unknowingly, having been made to sign forms in Russian which they could not read. But with the onset of the Terror, it hardly mattered what anyone had signed. To visit the American Embassy in Moscow, in order to register US citizenship, was in many cases to write one's own death sentence: NKVD men waited on the other side of the street, seized people as they emerged, and bundled them into vans... this book is also about all the ways in which America managed to ignore, or misrepresent, what was happening to thousands of its citizens. There is a roll-call of shame here which runs from the privileged Moscow press corps (led by the sycophantic Walter Duranty, who had published articles urging Americans to move to Russia in the first place), to visiting celebrities such as Paul Robeson (who dismissed all stories of mass-arrests as anti-Soviet propaganda), to a whole string of prominent officials in the Moscow Embassy, the State Department and the White House...  This is a writer who, though he does not preach to the reader, clearly possesses a 'moral compass'. Some of the American officials he describes had lost theirs altogether; and, as Tzouliadis shows, it was partly as a result of this that so many American citizens lost their lives.
        - Noel Malcolm reviews "The Forsaken", "The Telegraph"


From an interview with James Piereson, author of "How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism", with National Review in June 2007.

Q: You write of JFK’s assassination that “no other event in the postwar era, not even the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has cast such a long shadow over our national life.” How did JFK’s murder change American politics and culture?
A: Kennedy’s assassination, happening the way it did, compromised the central assumptions of American liberalism that had been the governing philosophy of the nation since the time of the New Deal. It did this in two decisive ways: first, by compromising the faith of liberals in the future; second, by undermining their confidence in the nation. Kennedy’s assassination suggested that history is not in fact a benign process of progress and advancement, but perhaps something quite different. The thought that the nation itself was responsible for Kennedy’s death suggested that the United States, far from being a “city on a hill” and an example for mankind, as Kennedy had described it (quoting John Winthrop), was in fact something darker and more sinister in its deepest nature.

Q: How did this play out politically in the 1960s and beyond?
A: The conspiracy theories that developed afterwards reflected this thought. The Camelot legend further suggested that that the Kennedy years represented something unique that was now forever lost. Liberalism was thereafter overtaken by a sense of pessimism about the future, cynicism about the United States, and nostalgia for the Kennedy years. This was something entirely new in the United States. It was evident in the culture during the 1960s. George Wallace tried to confront it in the electoral arena in 1968, as did Richard Nixon — though it was somewhat difficult to do so because neither Lyndon Johnson nor Hubert Humphrey represented this new orientation. It was not until this mood of pessimism was brought into the government during the Carter administration that it could be directly confronted in the political arena, which is what Ronald Reagan in fact did.

Q: Isn’t it a little early to say that 11/22/63 mattered more than 9/11/01?
A: No. We know from looking back over the decades that Kennedy’s sudden death cast a long shadow over American life, which I have tried to describe. Many of us thought that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would also have great consequences for the way Americans looked at politics, the parties, and national security. In particular, some felt that the attacks might drive out of our politics the tone of anti-Americanism that had been a key feature of the American Left from the 1960s forward. That did not really happen. The liberal movement today remains far more the product of the 1960s than of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Indeed, the terrorist attacks now seem to have had very little effect on the thinking of American liberals who view the war on terror and the war in Iraq through the lenses of the Vietnam War. That is not true of conservatives. In that sense, the terrorist attacks have simply deepened the divide between liberals and conservatives. What is surprising, then, is what little enduring effect the terrorist attacks have had, particularly for liberals.

Q: Would liberalism have unraveled even if JFK had lived?
A: It is hard to say what would have happened if Kennedy had lived. He may have lost his popularity in a second term. He may have avoided the dead end in Vietnam. It’s hard to say. Kennedy was in the process of renewing liberalism when he was killed, expanding it into cultural areas beyond issues of economic security and national security. I am certain that liberalism would not have unraveled when it did and in the way that it did if Kennedy had lived. The assassination shattered its core assumptions.

Q: Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist. Have liberals been reluctant to accept this fact? And is their reluctance at the heart of all the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination?
A: Liberals who were rational and realistic accepted the fact that Oswald killed JFK but at the same time they were unable to ascribe a motive for his actions. They tended to look for sociological explanations for the event and found one in the idea that JFK was brought down by a “climate of hate” that had overtaken the nation. Thus they placed Kennedy’s assassination within a context of violence against civil rights activists. They had great difficulty accepting the fact that Kennedy’s death was linked to the Cold War, not to civil rights. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in his 1,000-page history of the Kennedy administration, published in 1965, could not bring himself to mention Oswald’s name in connection with Kennedy’s death, though he spent several paragraphs describing the hate-filled atmosphere of Dallas at the time — suggesting thereby that Kennedy was a victim of the far right. The inability to come to grips with the facts of Kennedy’s death pointed to a deeper fault in American liberalism which was connected to its decline... The loss of faith among liberals in the years after JFK’s death opened a path for conservatives to come to power. It might be said that Ronald Reagan picked up the torch of national optimism that was dropped by the liberals when Kennedy was killed. Kennedy’s death, as its implications were worked out, destroyed the capacity of liberals to govern the country.

Q: Was JFK’s assassination more consequential than Abraham Lincoln’s?
A: ...In contrast to Lincoln, Kennedy was killed before he could achieve any great success. Kennedy was thus viewed in terms of dashed hopes and unfulfilled promise. Lincoln was viewed in terms of what he had achieved, Kennedy in terms of what might have been. Liberals at the time were convinced that the nation was threatened more by right-wing radicals like Sen. McCarthy or fundamentalist preachers than by Communists. Given their assumptions, they had great difficulty assimilating the fact that JFK was shot by a Communist — for this was exactly the kind of thing that the hated Sen. McCarthy had been warning against. Instead of seeing Kennedy as a casualty of the Cold War — which he was — they saw him as a martyr for civil rights. They saw his assassination as a sign of the nation’s guilt. Thus, Lincoln’s assassination reinforced the legitimacy of the nation while Kennedy’s undermined it, at least in the eyes of liberals.

Q: What did you think of JFK, the Oliver Stone conspiracy movie?
A: The Oliver Stone movie was foolish to the extent it was held up as an account of the Kennedy assassination. Using Jim Garrison as a credible authority on the Kennedy assassination is akin to citing Rosie O’Donnell as an authority on the collapse of the Twin Towers. It is not possible to claim that Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll without at the same time claiming that the autopsy (which said he was shot from the rear) was wrong or fabricated. The conspiracy theories do not arise from any evidence but from a need to believe that Kennedy was shot by someone other than Oswald... There is as much evidence to prove that Oswald killed Kennedy as that Booth shot Lincoln.

Q: Would liberals have had an easier time of it if Jack Ruby hadn’t killed Oswald?
A: If Ruby had not intervened, Oswald probably would have tried to stage some kind of “show” trial in which Kennedy’s policies in Cuba would have been raised as a central issue. Oswald proudly acknowledged that he was a Communist. If the case had been brought to trial, Oswald would have certainly been convicted. In that case, it would have been far more difficult for liberals and the Kennedy family to maintain that JFK was killed because of his support for civil rights. There would have been less talk of conspiracies; less anti-Americanism from the left; perhaps it would have further reinforced the anti-communism of post-war liberalism. There is no question that Ruby changed the equation a great deal.


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