Fighting Tyranny

Twenty-five years ago, communist authorities declared martial law in Poland to defend socialism against freedom-seeking workers. It was a cold, dreary day in Poland and metaphorically over all the world. Communism was ascendant. Gas prices, inflation and unemployment were up; U.S. prestige and confidence down. Yet not eight years later the Berlin Wall came down throwing communism into the ash heap of history. What happened?

By 1981, the U.S. had suffered through seven years of poor growth, rising unemployment, high energy prices & setbacks abroad. President Carter, never a bundle of joy, had depressed everyone who listened to his speeches. Even optimists were feeling low. Experts told us that we would have to learn to live with shorter horizons. Liberals predicted that Reagomics would destroy the U.S. economy, create a permanent under class and drive unemployment up to third world levels. Clever investors bought gold & other precious metals to hedge against the dollar collapse. Some people actually made plans to take to the hills when society crumbled. Books about the imminent gotterdammerung sold well.

1981 was truly the winter of our discontent, but the warming sun was on the way.

Some was simply recovery from a series of bad blows. During the Vietnam War, we opted for both guns and butter while at the same time massively expanding Federal power with the war on poverty, injecting inflation and efficiencies into the system. These bills came due in the 1970s. On the international front, our failure in Vietnam energized & emboldened our opponents. We should also not underestimate the effects of the massive increase in oil prices. Our economy was much more vulnerable to oil price shocks at that time. It just took time for the deleterious effects to wear off. But that is not the whole story.

There is no such thing as fate or destiny. Human decisions make history. By 1981, many of the post-WWII arrangements that had served us well for 30+ years were running out of steam. Conditions were ripe for change. However, decisions made during that time determined the type of change we would experience.

The 1980s were the crucible of our times. Fortunately, with newly elected leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, the world had a good transition team. Later Gorbachev joined them and acquiesced to the fall of the Soviet Empire. This allowed the transition from containment, to confrontation to solving the Soviet problem. In economics, Reagan and Thatcher reforms changed the economic game plan, such that we have not had a serious recession since 1982 and unemployment is half of what it was in the early 1980s.

If the 1980s sowed the seeds of our current success, it also germinated many of today's problems, showing that for a problem solved another is created. The extreme radicalization of Islamic fighters was born on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Contrary to what some people think, the U.S. did not train or finance people like bin Laden. These "Afghan Arabs" were self financed. With so many willing Afghans, they were not needed and in fact they were not very useful as fighters. But they did share in the defeat of the Soviet Union and managed to convince themselves and others that they had brought it about. You could well say that the Soviet invasion created the radicals. As a side effect of U.S. aid to the Afghans, they survived to fight another day, but we just didn’t travel in the same circles.

Globalization also accelerated during the 1980s. It was a two-way street. U.S. industry went thorough a massive restructuring in the 1980s, altering the whole nature of U.S. management and making the U.S. economy more open to the world while at the same time reaching out to all corners of the globe.

Let me return to martial law in Poland. For a time, it looked like the communists had won. Western intellectuals criticized the Polish people and Solidarity for pushing too far too fast. Conventional wisdom counted the Poles out. Fortunately, not everyone reads those papers. The Poles continued to agitate for their freedom and got crucial support from the U.S. Diplomatically, we warned the Soviet Union about a wider crackdown. Polish security forces were less enthusiastic about oppressing their own people, which kept the actual death toll in the dozens, not the hundreds or thousands we are accustomed to seeing today.

The U.S. also supplied resources to keep Solidarity's communications going and supported the Polish people through various overt and covert means. Labor leader Lane Kirkland deserves special credit for putting aside his differences with the Reagan Administration and working in close coordination. Nobody expected the end to come so quickly, but the constant dripping wore away the walls of communism.

I have often speculated whether this could be a template for Iran, but maybe the differences are too great. Besides, I wonder how this could work today. To achieve the happy result in Poland, everybody made some pretty strange alliances. If this happened today, I fear that someone would leak information about clandestine activates to the NYT, which on being published would embarrass our friends and tip off our enemies.

In the run up to martial law, we had a man on the inside. Ryszard Kuklinski, chief of a planning division of the Polish army and liason with the Russians, shared the Warsaw Pact plans with us. His information allowed President Reagan to warn the Soviets against a Czechoslovak style invasion and helped us anticipate Soviet moves. Could we keep such secrets safe in today's environment or would our friends find themselves exposed to criticism and worse?

Our twilight struggle with the tyranny of world communism ended well because of two generations of cold warriors and the human desire of people in E. Europe to be free. The struggle against terrorism is much more nuanced. I hope we can handle that as well.

Posted by Jack at December 13, 2006 3:23 PM
Comment #199094

As someone who actually visited pre-Solidarity communist Poland way back in the 1970’s, please take to heart what I am about to say: the Poles deserve all the credit.

Sure, I know many conservatives want to talk about Reagan and the downfall of the Soviet Union. And labor movement people will reminisce about their unwavering support of Solidarity. But it was the Poles who held tough.

To Poles, the Polish Communists were just a farce, waiting to fall. Poland had a vibrant, free Catholic church that served very much as an official political opposition. Poles forced the downfall of communist governments in 1956 and 1970. Unlike many people I knew, I didn’t laugh when Gerald Ford made his so-called “Poland isn’t ruled by the Soviets” gaffe in 1976. I knew what he meant, and he was right. The Poles knew it as well.

Posted by: Steve K at December 13, 2006 3:57 PM
Comment #199101

Lets be real here folks. We spent the Soviet Union to death. They spent a fortune on building a world class navy, army, and nuclear program and their economy collapsed under the weight. The controlled form of socialism that the Soviet Union worked under and it’s massive corruption could not stand up to the economic demands of waging the cold war and meeting it’s social obligations. In the end they couldn’t even put bread on the table. Their supermarkets were empty.

As long as Iran has oil it will not suffer the same fate as the old soviet union. Iran has enough money to coming in to avoid that. And it has Russian and China as allies propping up it’s evil, terrorist government.

The entire free world owes the collapse of the soviet union primarily to the US and to Nato who kept up the pressure and kept up their military might until the soviet Union collapsed rather than invaded us.

Ironically, John Kerry at the time opposed the cold war and wanted the west to “accept” the soviet unions enslavement of the Eastern Europe under the soviet union. Enlightened liberals around the globe told us that this was the only “reasonable” thing to do….to let up the pressure on the soviet union, help them economically and to abandon the “foolish” idea of freeing easter Europe from it’s enslavement. The enlightened left was wrong. John Kerry was wrong.

I would make one other point very clear. We had the CIA all over the soviet union. We were listening in to all their conversations. We had spies all over the place. And the CIA assessment was that the Soviet Unions economy was going to eclipse ours. Get it??!! The same CIA that failed us in the cold war and told us that the soviet union would become a mighty economic power able to defeat us also failed us in IRAQ and told us (Clinton, then Bush) that IRAQ had a viable and growing WMD program.

One of the lessons of the cold war and the Iraq war is that no matter how dedicated the CIA is and no matter how many resources they have….they get it wrong. In the cold war the CIA was burried in money and spies and they told us that an empire that had bread lines had an economy that was going to eclipse ours. The CIA is very very bad at doing it’s job. They made the excuse in Iraq that they had been hindered and had their programs slashed…but what was their excuse for being so wrong during the cold war when the money flowed?

Posted by: Stephen at December 13, 2006 4:35 PM
Comment #199102

The Poles did it. I agree. But w/o the external support, they may not have been able to pull it off, at least not at the time they did.

You can mention Polish uprisings in 1956 & 1970. You can go back to the Warsaw uprising, or 1860 or 1830. You can praise Kosciuszko and talk about his exploits at Raclawice, but all these things ended in the same way. Sometimes heroism alone is not sufficient.

Those involved with Solidarity acknowledge the important role of Reagan, the Pope and others. I use the standard phrase that Reagan was necessary, but not sufficient to the success in the 1980s.

I will not downplay the Poles. But lots of people are heroic and stubborn and they do not achieve results. You will recall that Poland was occcupied by foreign powers for 123 years and reborn as a nation only as a result of World War I. Sometimes the weight of oppression is too much to lift alone.

Posted by: Jack at December 13, 2006 4:36 PM
Comment #199106

Steve K,
Good observation on Poland.

Thank you for the article.

You are wrong about the CIA. Their assessment that the USSR would collapse under its own economic mismanagement was correct. You are thinking of “Team B.”

From the article:

“Donald Rumsfeld began to make speeches arguing that the Soviets were ignoring Kissinger’s treaties and secretly building up their weapons, with the intention of attacking America. The CIA strongly disagreed with Team B’s assessments, calling Rumsfeld’s position a “complete fiction” and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.[7] A top CIA analyst called it “a kangaroo court of outside critics all picked from one point of view.”

Yes, that is the same Rumsfeld who said:

“…the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”
Donald Rumsfeld - March 30 2003

To summarize: the CIA correctly assessed USSR economic weakness and military disarray. TEAM B and other conservatives incorrectly assessed it, greatly exagerrating USSR capabilities. As a result, the US squandered enormous amounts of money unnecessarily. Even worse, we came closer to nuclear war than the public will ever know. It happened in a pointless confrontation over deployment of medium range nuclear missiles in Europe. The peace protestors were right. They may never know just how right they were.

Posted by: phx8 at December 13, 2006 5:04 PM
Comment #199109

A few points.

First, I’m not trying to argue that Reagan didn’t have something to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But so did every president from Truman through Carter. I thinkit is important to repeat that for those who keep writing as if the entire decline of the Soviet Union began when Reagan was inaugurated. It didn’t, and those advocates need to point to some hard facts that support their claim.

Second, there is a lot of misinformation about the CIA’s assessment of the Soviet Union. Following up on phx8’s comments, in the 1970’s the CIA issued non-military assessments (primarily economic) of the Soviet Union’s future that were remarkably accurate. The CIA forecast ethnic unrest, guns v. butter debate, a more “liberal” leadership, almost everything short of the break up of the nation. I’m not claiming their assessments were perfect, but they did a pretty good job of predicting what actually happened in the following decade. All this before Ronald Reagan was even a candidate for President.

Third, let’s not forget that the Walesa’s revolt in the Gdansk shipyard happened when Carter was President — not Reagan. Many Poles felt empowered by Carter’s human rights agenda. Say what you will about malaise in the USA — overseas Carter had a big moral impact on people in oppressed countries.

Finally, Stephen writes “We spent the Soviet Union to death …and their economy collapsed under the weight” overstates the impact. Soviet military spending in the 1980’s wasn’t terribly different from what they spent in the previous decades. Perhaps the minutes of Politburo meetings has someone saying “we can’t keep up with the Americans,” but that’s not followed by someone saying “let’s just give up.” By 1980 the Soviet economy was already into a nosedive on auto-pilot. WIthin a few years it was too late to do anything.

Posted by: Steve K at December 13, 2006 5:26 PM
Comment #199110


But the Soviet Union did not collapse only from economic weakness. If you look at the resurgent Russia, you can see that they could have hung on if not pushed off the ledge, maybe giving up some of their periferal places.

The danger I saw at the time was that an economically weak Soviet Union would hold on politically. Unreformed commumism can never work, but authoritarian communism can hang on for a long time. Think of Cuba.

I also credit Gorbachev for going peacefully. He could have made a bloody mess. Reagan and Gorbachev developed an excellent working relationship. Carter did not do that kind of thing well. Anyway, consider the case of China. What is the Chinese had not crushed the democracy demonstrations. Communism in China might be very different (or not there at all) and all of us would say that was inevitable.

There is no such thing as fate or destiny.

It is always tempting to think what is now is what had to be, but this is not true. Sometimes even bad regimes can hand on and push out. How many times did Russia teter on the brink and not fall over?

What if Reagan had not armed the Afghans with stingers? It is very likely the Soviets would have not lost (I am not sure they could have won by our definition, but their definition of winning is more like a peaceful graveyard). Would the Soviet Union have fallen? The same goes for Poland. If Carter had been president, I think there is a good chance the Soviets would have taken harsher measures. They may not work forever, but they can work as long as we are alive.

I repeat my belief that Reagan was not sufficient to the happy result of the Soviet demise, but he was necessary.

Posted by: Jack at December 13, 2006 5:29 PM
Comment #199112

Steve K

We both remember the 1980s. It is very easy to go back now and find assessments that said the Soviet Union was on the ropes. But I remember arguing that in the 1980s. I would say that the Soviet Union was the last of the great empires and it too would fall (I never thought so soon). Liberals was tell me that what I was saying was stupid Reagan talk. The only person who thought the Soviet Union was headed to the ash heap was Ronald Reagan.

Many people have claimed to have said it and they find their out of context statement, but the standard liberal (and mainstream line) was that the Soviet Union was fundamentally sound and would be with us for a long time. We should work to accomadate it.

And they came close to things going the other way. Had Reagan not reacted to the SS 20s, NATO might have split. Suddenly Soviet prospect change. All that they really needed to hang on was an increase in the price of energy and they would have been on the road again.

Communist is a very bad an inhuman system. But such things can hang around longer than we think possible and sometimes weakness in one area makes them more dangerous in others. A third world country with a strong military and nukes is a very dangerous thing.

Posted by: Jack at December 13, 2006 5:39 PM
Comment #199117

Tyranny at home is always far costlier and an immensely greater threat than tyranny overseas. Tyranny overseas that directs its tyranny at us, results in all of us fighting back. Tyranny at home divides us, leaving us weak and unable to fight back without fighting each other.

Bush’s tyranny has driven so many wedges between us at home, that we cannot gain concensus on any of the major issues facing our nation from Iraq to deficits and debt to education.

Reagan? Reagan left us with a Republican debt which awaited Bush to increase beyond all acceptable proportion. Republicans and debt are synonymous. And now the people, present and future are saddled not only with the Republican’s debt, but, all of the opportunity costs that debt presented and will continue to. Like saving Soc. Sec., rebuilding and maintaining our infrastructure, and military growth sufficient to meet the challenges we face in Iraq and others surely to come.

Tyranny at home is always the greater threat in the long run with far higher costs.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 13, 2006 6:03 PM
Comment #199118


Good article. Communism fails every time it is tried. China has crossbred communism and capitalism together to keep it competetive with the world. People in capitalist societies want to introduce communism (aka wealth redistribution) and people in communist societies want capitalism so they can earn what they work for and choose their occupation for themselves. That is ironic.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at December 13, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #199125

The only person who thought the Soviet Union was headed to the ash heap was Ronald Reagan.
… the standard liberal (and mainstream line) was that the Soviet Union was fundamentally sound and would be with us for a long time.


I agree with you — in part. I don’t recall Reagan stating that the USSR was headed for the “ash heap” or something like that. (A citation here would be nice.) If he did say that, I would not be surprised and probably reacted (at the time) that he was just too optimistic.

As for the standard liberal/maintream line, I agree with you in part and add that many conservatives felt that way as well. But I was one of the liberals at the time who did not believe that the system was “fundamentally sound.” Rather, I believed the high degree of repression in what was essentially a failing society could keep it going indefinitely.

But the one thing you haven’t convinced me on is the CIA analyses. Go read them if you can find them (I believe they were released via the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. They were written in the 70’s and what they say will come as a shock.

Posted by: Steve K at December 13, 2006 7:01 PM
Comment #199126

stubborn conservative,

I disagree with your characterization that “People in capitalist societies want to introduce communism (aka wealth redistribution).” Communism (as an ideology and economic system) is a lot more complex than that and the mixed economies of the West have very little in common with communist states.

Posted by: Steve K at December 13, 2006 7:04 PM
Comment #199156


Though your comments regarding Reagan’s 80’s are extremely accurate, I have to disagree on one issue. You mention that the radicalization of Islam was born in the 80’s in the conflict between Afghanistan and the Soviets. I believe the radicalization started in the late 60’s and continued throughout the Ford / Carter years when strides were made to obtain peace between Egypt, Israel, and others in the region.
Another factor that could have spurred radical Islam is the lead that the United States took in the late sixties that proved to the world that civil unrest, rioting, and violent terror could force even the greatest of political giants to their knees if the rioters and terrorists could win the hearts and minds of the citizens. This was also the time that Islam began spreading and taking hold among certain segments of our society that were trying to make particular political, and social strides- Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabar, etc.! Though those two persons were not specifically involved to my knowledge in any political or social violence, it is just an example of the rise of Islam in the social and political culture of that time which perhaps, more than coincidentally, co-exists with an extreme time of violence within the United States.
The Olympics in Munich, Germany of 1972 is another good example of such Islamic radicalism. I believe this destruction of the Israeli Olympic team was carried out by Hamas. The truth is, there was very little peace in the region way before the 80’s.

Posted by: JD at December 13, 2006 10:03 PM
Comment #199163

Remer -
“Bush’s tyranny…”

Please! No such thing. Tyranny is something we have NEVER seen in the United States. Please choose your words more carefully. That Bush may not have listened to the advice of his political opponents and that he may have been stubborn (etc.) is NOT the same as tyranny.

You are waaaay off base.

Posted by: Don at December 13, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #199170

No, Don, I am not. It is tyrannical for the President to ignore the laws signed by the Congress and approved by signature of a previous President. It is tyrannical to exercise power in contravention of the Bill of Rights to make one’s job easier, or more effective, or to justify results. It is tyrannical for President to present the FALSE choice that we must have security at the cost of liberty or liberty at the cost of security. Only a tyrant in America would use that false logic. For in America, it is entirely possible to have the same level of security without infringing on Constitutionally defined liberties.

So, Don, support your tyrants if you wish and defend them if you wish, but, tyrants remain tyrants by definition of their actions. Bush has been tyrannical both in domestic and foreign affairs. It is one of many reasons why his approval rating is scraping the bottom of the barrel both internationally and domestically.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 13, 2006 11:08 PM
Comment #199174

Well, I could have done that. I just don’t remember.

Thank you Nancy, we may never know how important your role was.

Posted by: jlw at December 13, 2006 11:21 PM
Comment #199175

Remer -
You are waaaay off base.

We have NEVER had tyranny in America like those Jack refers to. Bush is not a tyrant in scope or depth with anything that has been called “tyranny” prior to 9/11. That you want to call him a tyrant says MUCH more about YOU than it does about him.

I disagree with some of the things Bush has done. I even think that history will show that he has made many major mistakes in his presidency. I think he has either crossed the line or has come close to crossing the line on several of the issues you raise. But the items to which you point would only be the starting point for a true tyrant.

So, choose another word and I may agree. But one thing is clear, Bush will not be seen as a “tyrant” by historians 75 years from now. So why muddy the political waters now! Save the word “tyrant” for those to whom it fits, else every president who does something that “we” think unrepentantly crosses some ethical or legal line will be fair game to the charge.

Posted by: Don at December 13, 2006 11:21 PM
Comment #199181

Steve K

This is what President Reagan said in 1982:

“What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term - the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-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.”

Read the whole speech .

Even he did not think it would happen so fast.


I think it metastasized in Afghanistan.


I agree with Don. You are using the word tyranny very loosely. We all write what we want and nobody fears any retribution. We Americans think it is oppression when a cop gives us a speeding ticket that we deserve. It just is nothing compared any historical repression.

If this is tyranny, I hope we never recover.


Reagan actually developed the ideas he advocated. You can read his notes and see the development of his thinking over the years. No recent president has done that. Reagan was the only president who had been a labor leader too. He was a great man. History is treating him much better than his contemporary critics or those who still hold his success against him.

Posted by: Jack at December 13, 2006 11:46 PM
Comment #199197


Thanks for this article.

I took the attitude that from the outset of the revolution in the USSR in 1917 that the “leaders” of the Soviet Union were conducting a criminal enterprise. They killed, stole, cheated, etc. all around themselves, including their own rulers so that the criminal enterprise could enrich them. Diplomacy sure was not part of their vocabulary. It appeared that every action they took was of a criminal nature. History shows that organizations and governments like the old USSR, usually collapse of their own weight. Unfortunately a revival is occuring in the present SSR with Ras-Putin leading the way.

Posted by: tomh at December 14, 2006 3:52 AM
Comment #199209

Well, this is typical Remer.

Posted by: Mark at December 14, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #199218

Don said: “We have NEVER had tyranny in America like those Jack refers to.”

Thank you Don for that qualifier: “like those Jack refers to.”

But, there again you would be wrong. For King George was just such a tyrant, and we held a revolution to throw his ass out of our colonies. No doubt, you will retort, but we weren’t America yet. To which I will reply, not officially, but, the essence of what is America was well in place before the Revolutionary War.

Also, your statement that reflects a typical relativist argument, our tyranny has never been as bad as the tyranny the likes of which Jack discusses. Here again, that depends on whether you were on the receiving end of the tyranny. Many Black Americans prior to 1865 and 1964 would disagree with you Don, that our tyranny is better than that in other nations.

And how about the Hollywood folks called before the Red Scare Sen. McCarthy hearings? That was tyranny at least reaching the level of the Politburo of China or Kruschev where guilt by association was all that was needed to ruin a person’s livelihood.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 14, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #199219

Mark, thank you. I do my best to insure the dialogue examines issues from differing angles and does not allow disinformation to rule unchallenged.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 14, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #199226


How many people were jailed for guilt by association? How many actual non-Communists even lost their jobs? Many of those who had trouble with congress ended up making more money later on. And the red scare ended by the normal operation of the system.

In China during the cultural, 40-50 million people lost their lives. Millions were send to the countryside to eat manure. They were imporverished, their health was broken, they never recovered, they were not merely inconvenienced.

The comparison of the U.S. to any communist country is absurd. I have met people who were imprisioned for merely making the wrong commment. Many died. And speaking about losing your job, in a communist country the state can make that one stick.

The fact is that nobody is afraid of this kind of tyranny in the U.S. NOBODY. If you look at a place where tyranny really exists, people are a lot more circumspect in what they say.

If you define tyranny widely enough to include America today, you would have to include all the countries of the world. Most European countries have, as a matter of ordinary law, what Bush does. As a matter of fact, Bush is acting within American law as a general rule. When he does not, the courts step in, as is their role. That is hardly tyranny.

So your tyranny is a lot like a Christian definition of sinner. We are all sinners and I guess we are all tyrants.

Posted by: Jack at December 14, 2006 12:03 PM
Comment #199232

Well actually the downfall of the Soviet Union and Iron Curtain countries started right after the fall of Germany and WWII, with those in East Berlin and East Germany coming to the west. It was only a matter of time and the Presidents(as one other said) from Truman to Reagan all had a hand in the downfall. Reagan just happened to be the one in Power when the Berlin Wall came down. He did not do anymore or less then the other Presidents.
As far as Bush being a tyrant, I don’t care for him and think he is the worse President of modern times, he is not a tyrant, just someone lost in his own dream of being famous or is that infamous

Posted by: KT at December 14, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #199233

“People in capitalist societies want to introduce communism (aka wealth redistribution) and people in communist societies want capitalism so they can earn what they work for and choose their occupation for themselves.”

You know what you get when you cross the social welfare of communism with the economic free trade of businesses?

A democratic-republic.

Hey, I know where one of those can be found!

Posted by: Bryan AJ Kennedy at December 14, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #199242

David Remer

The Hollywood people were not called before the McCarthy Hearings. McCarthy was a senator and was dealing with State Dept. issues. The House Un-American Activities Committee(HUAAC) was the one that called upon the Hollywood personalities. Different scope and people involved.

Posted by: tomh at December 14, 2006 1:21 PM
Comment #199244

David Remer,

You left out another prime example of American tyranny.
How about when Bill Clinton and Janet Reno stormed Waco, Texas with tanks and military assault vehicles incinerating an entire religious compound with the inhabitants still inside. So much for human rights, right?


Posted by: JD at December 14, 2006 1:23 PM
Comment #199248
Yet not eight years later the Berlin Wall came down throwing communism into the ash heap of history…Our twilight struggle with the tyranny of world communism ended well because of two generations of cold warriors and the human desire of people in E. Europe to be free. The struggle against terrorism is much more nuanced. I hope we can handle that as well…Posted by Jack at December 13, 2006 03:23 PM
You mean like Communist China is on the ash heap? And are you equating a state based political philosophy (Communism) with a non-state based violent political tactic (Terrorism)? Not impressive. As for the historical rewrites by JD… Makes a supporting point for Michaels latest thread. Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 14, 2006 1:40 PM
Comment #199250

The Soviet Union is gone, but Russia lives on. The colonies revolted, sort of like South America and Iran and Indonesia revolted from American and European Colonialism.

I think there is some confusion here about reality. In an age of easy mobility and communication, it is harder to BS your satellites. They can be reached without a massive Navy or Air Force.

I know some people want to believe Democracy has triumphed. The free market of ideas is helping both phoney ideals of Marxism and Capitlism lose its influence. The winner over time will be the ideas that give freedom, encourage education, and equinamously distribute wealth. It doesn’t matter what “ism” you attach to it.

Posted by: gergle at December 14, 2006 1:43 PM
Comment #199278

Jack: In your first paragraph, you insinuate that Communism and Socialism are one and the same. You also proclaim that the Soviets were Communists. They may have called themselves Communists and we may have called them Communists but they were not. They created for themselves a Socialist workers economy without any incentive whatsoever for the workers to be productive, creative and inovative other than the promise that someday it would lead to a great Communist Utopia.

You also make a crude attempt at a joke, ” Communism was ascendant.” Ha ha! Viet Nam had been lost a half decade earlier and by all accounts of the Domino Theory, Thailand, Indonesia and possibly India and Australia should have been well on their way to following in Viet Nams footsteps by the time Reagan had become president.

Furthur down, you proclaim that Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II through confrontation and economic reform, stopped the ascendancy of Communism, destroyed the Soviet Empire and created the great Capitalist Utopia that we enjoy today. Well, I have news Jack, this ain’t no Capitalist Utopia and I can name three Presidents that did more to stop the ascendacy of Communism than Ronald Reagan in his or your wildest imagination ever did.

If not for President Truman and the Marshall Plan, there is a very distinct possibility that all of Western Europe could have fallen to the Soviets. President Eisenhower, by breaking the Soviet blockade of Berlin, dealt a serious blow to Soviet prestige at a time when they were on the ascendancy. In my opinion, no president did more to stop the Soviet plan for world domination than President Kennedy did during the Cuban Missle Crisis. If the Soviets had been successful in that endeavor, Our nation may have been relegated to the ash heap of history before Ronald Reagan had the opportunity to screw this country whith his supply side trickle down economic fiasco.

Since you are so interested in revising history, perhaps you should have mentioned how his Iran Contra scheme was such a marvelous success. Perhaps you should have mentioned his great foriegn policy success when he sided with the Israelites and lobbed VW sized shells into Lebanese villages resulting in a terrorist attack on our troops which killed more than 200 of them. Perhaps you should have mentioned how he turned tail and ran from that one as quickly as possible and how tiny Granada pulled his ass out of the fire. I wonder how much that debacle in Lebanon emboldened the radical Islamists.

Perhaps I should mention a little on tyranny. George Bush is not a tyrant, he is a want to be tyrant who is encouraged by a true tyrant, Dick Cheney. Thanks to our system of government and free speech dissent, it is hard for a tyrant to gain control. But, we have to give the Republicans credit for giving him a good go at it.

Although we have avoided falling under the influence of a tyrant such as Hitler, or Joseph Stalin, we have had our fair share of tyranny.

The tyranny of slavery in which anyone who dared to make a run for freedom was hunted down like an animal by men on horseback following packs of dogs was accepted by every Congress, every Supreme Court and every President from Washington until Lincoln. The systematic destruction of the Cherokee Nation, beginning during the Revoluntionary War and culminating with the Trail of Tears during the Jackson Administration was a vicious act of tyranny against one of our indigenous peoples and one of many such acts. Let us never forget segregation and the Jim Crow Era, for it is the most flagrant act of tyranny ever perpetrated on American citizens.

Posted by: jlw at December 14, 2006 3:05 PM
Comment #199279

JD, you are absolutely right. The abuse of power by those in office must be checked and they must be held accountable when that the power they exercise is used against the American people instead of for them, against the nation’s future instead of for it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 14, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #199280

Thanks Tomh, so you are saying Sen. McCarthy never appeared at the HUAAC hearings, which I refer to as the McCarthy hearings? Interesting.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 14, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #199299


I find these arguments intriquing and very educational. I wish I had taken history more seriously as a youngster. However I had more important things on my mind at the time. Mainly women and money. Shame on me. I am a great procrastinator and as a result am always bringing up the rear in such discussions. I did a bit of research and found these quotes which I think can be compared with accusations and ideaologies in respect to recent events and those not too distant. I would find it interesting to see what associations with current events those of you who are so well versed in history might make of these quotes.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own
conscience. — C.S. Lewis

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. — Daniel Webster

I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another for none comes into the world with a saddle upon his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him. — Last words of Richard Rumbold before being hanged for planning an insurrection against the tyrant Charles II, 1679

Of course the people don’t want war… That is understood. But… it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. — Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, 1946 from Nuremberg Diary, by G. M. Gilbert.

Posted by: ILdem at December 14, 2006 4:46 PM
Comment #199305

Remer -
“Thank you Don for that qualifier: ‘like those Jack refers to.’”

No, the real qualifier is “pior to 9/11”. Because before 9/11 your definition of “tyrant” would have been the same as mine, I would guess. No relativism needed.

(In the past I thought you were sometimes a little over the top; but on this you have outdone any previous attempt.)

All the references to blacks, Indians, McCarthy, etc. do nothing to change the argument. Mistreatment of a people-group (ethnic, racial, religious, or political) is wrong and cruel, but is not considered to be a mark of tyranny if not done as an act of a cruel, unrestrained, leader. A tyrant is a ruler who is cruel and oppressive, with no laws or constraints on her actions (Hillary-ish, if you will). If Bush were a tyrant we would not have worried about the mid-term elections, because they would not have mattered.

Posted by: Don at December 14, 2006 5:11 PM
Comment #199331

Don, your argument falls flat. You adjust definitions to meet your argument’s need. Making debate fairly pointless since language becomes useless.

Bush is responsible for the deaths of more than 650,000 people who would otherwise be alive were it not for his decision to invade Iraq on any premises he could fabricate. That is tyranny, even by your definition of cruel and oppressive. Taking someone’s life unnecessarily is the height of cruelty and oppression.

But, of course, you can rationalize the invasion of Iraq was a warranted act, somehow, to make the the world make sense, given the Cognitive Dissonance over supporting a tyrant. Enjoy your CD!

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 14, 2006 7:12 PM
Comment #199343


I address the Chinese. They gave up communism economic ideology in favor of a sort of authoritarian state capitalism. In the long run, I do not believe it will work and I hope it will not. If it does work, and you can have authoritarianism and economic dynamism, it will be bad for the world. BTW - despite China’s impressive economic growth, it is still a developing country in terms of most things. It is not comparable to the U.S. or Europe.


I am a pragmatist. That means I call things by what they do. Marxism in its ideal forms nobody has ever seen. Nobody has ever seen the ideal form of anything. We have to judge by whatever corruptions we get in the real world. Communism corrupts into tyranny in every place but very small poor place or monasteries. It is unworkable

Re socialism - The idea of protecting socialism comes from the martial law decree. They said that they had to move to defend socialism.

Re history - containment was a necessary and useful policy. Truman, Kennedy et al are heroes of mine. AS I WROTE the post war arrangements had run out of steam by the 1980s. That does not mean they were failures anymore than a seed is a failure when it grows into a tree. But you cannot treat the seed and the tree in the same way.

Re American tyranny - all history is full of atrocities. The comparison is important. Bush is not a tyrant by any logical comparison. You never experienced a dictatorship or really talked to anybody who has. You would know that in a true tyranny people like you and I do not casually write about that tyranny.

The robust debate on this blog in this here and now place is evidence that we do not live in tyranny.

Posted by: Jack at December 14, 2006 8:13 PM
Comment #199347

David Remer

Sen. McCarthy dealth with the State Dept. issues. The most notable House of Representative member that headed up the House Un-American Activities Committee was Martin Dies. They were instrumental in the conviction of Alger Hiss for perjury and for the issues dealing with Hollywood. Sen. McCarthy had nothing to do with the HUAAC.

Posted by: tomh at December 14, 2006 8:46 PM
Comment #199349


Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy dealt with specific time related items but were not that influential in bringing down the Soviet Union. We could have stepped in to help Poland and Hungary during their uprisings, but we didn’t. Had we done so, I would agree that the USSR colapse would have been a different thing. But the USSR and the criminal enterprise that they conducted continued to get more powerful. To this day the Soviet Empire is gaining new strength. They will continue to grow in power because the western world will let them. Several years ago Antony Sutton wrote a book with the subtitle “Soviet Technology is Western Technology”. He spent 1700 pages documenting that thesis. So in my opinion when the Berlin Wall came down it only dented the Soviet Empire, it did not destroy it.

Posted by: tomh at December 14, 2006 8:55 PM
Comment #199374

Remer -
“You adjust definitions to meet your argument’s need.”

Since the dictionary I use regularly was written pre - 9/11, and since its definition is the one I am using… no adjustment needed.

Language only becomes useless when it is improperly used, like using “tyrant” to describe someone who is not. Use the word as it is commonly accepted, instead of putting your own spin on the world.

Using your definition of “tyrant” (eg., “Bush is responsible for the deaths of more than 650,000 people who would otherwise be alive were it not for his decision…”) I can point to several U.S. presidents who have, therefore, been tyrants… Johnson and Kennedy, for instance. Of course, we can include the presidents or prime ministers of the several countries who have supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Goodness! We could really re-write history! I don’t need my CD, I’m enjoying yours much more!

Posted by: Don at December 15, 2006 12:26 AM
Comment #199380

Us money filtered through other countries security forces,noably Pakistan,did help train and arm arab jihadist. Our money,matched by the Saudis set up recruiting madrses for them as well. They may not have known it themselves. The Cia denials historically do not hold much water. Still even granting your specious assertion,there is no denying that we used the jihadist in our forign policy efforts against the Soviet Union in Chechniya,Uzbekistan and Wherthe f..k is thatastan.
Your first paragraph ,as is often the case from the right,clouds the difference between communism and socialism. Comunism,worker control of the means of production. Socialism,public ownership of escential institutions. All modern industrial countries have some degree of socialism. For example we have the interstate highway system,public education etc. There are publicly owned municiple power systems all over the country. Many of our allies are funementally socialist. You know the list. Many on the right do not understand the difference between the two. I know you do and you strive for accuracy so please do not add to their confusion.

Posted by: BillS at December 15, 2006 4:12 AM
Comment #199386


The martial law decree mentioned the need to defend socialism. I used the term the Polish communist authorities used.

I understand that people on the right sometimes blame socialism for too much, but this is more than matched by the left’s appologies for a mechanism responsible for most of the really big atrocities of the 20th century. Dictators almost by definition use socialist policies to keep power. The only exception I can think of is Chile, which is one reason the dictatorship ended peacefully there and endures in Cuba, for example.

All economic/political systems contain aspects of government control. The free market cannot exist w/o rule of law supplied by government, so a reasonably efficient government is a prerequisite for a free market. Unfortunately, it is not always the case that government requires a free market.

It all depends on how much the market mechanism is allowed to function and how much the state protects private property and private initiative. Socialism can be many things.

Democratic socialism, National Socialism (Nazi), communist socialism etc are variations, heresies of the same statist religion, and the range for the benign to the absolutely horrible in practice.

Government management is a necessary and integral part of any economy, but it is like medicine. The dosage and application determines whether it is a helpful cure or a deadly poison.

Re Afgahistan

We were on the same side as the Arab Jihadis and our aid made the defeat of the Soviet Union possible (you would think they would be more grateful). But the bin Laden types were self financed and working independent of us. I do not doubt that our efforts sometimes overlapped. That is not the same as being responsible or training. The fact is that there were plenty of Afghans willing and able to fight the Soviets. It made no sense for us to import these unreliable foreign fighters. You saw during our own invasion of Afghanistan how poorly the Afghan Arabs fight in an actual battle.

As I point out all the time (as with that 0.47% we contributed to Saddam) it is possible ot find an American connection to almost anything. A country like ours produces around 25% of everything in the world. Our military, aid programs and economic penetration dwarf those of any other. Blaming the U.S. in many of these situations is a lot like claiming someone is responsible for an accident in which his legally parked car was hit by a truck. Yes, indeed, had he not parked there, the accident may not have happened, but it hardly makes sense call that the cause.

Posted by: Jack at December 15, 2006 8:34 AM
Comment #199463

Don said: “I can point to several U.S. presidents who have, therefore, been tyrants… Johnson and Kennedy,”

And I would agree with you on this 100%. Tyranny:

1. A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power.
2 The office, authority, or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.

Bush circumvented the laws of this land - ergo, he attempted to establish absolute power - power not bound by the laws of the people or any other power but his own will. Rulers who do this are tyrranical.




1. A government in which a single leader or party exercises absolute control over all citizens and every aspect of their lives: absolutism, autarchy, autocracy, despotism, dictatorship, monocracy. See over/under, politics.

The ability of power to arrest, detain, and punish citizens without trial and without judicial review, is a power the Bush administration sought and still seeks. This is tyrannical by definition, as it would be the power to exercise absolute control over citizens and every aspect of their lives.

Changing the definitions only diminishes credibility, Don, it doesn’t change reality or the concepts. Tyrants are known by their actions. In a Democracy built on the notion of informed public consent and review, a President who seeks to operate outside the laws and and embed those operations in secrecy in the name of national security a tyrant. Regardless of word games one may wish to play with the definition.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 15, 2006 8:31 PM
Comment #199465

Tomh, thank you. I read up on it, and of course, you are quite right. There was clear connection however between HUAAC and McCarthy however as demonstrated by the following passage on the period:

“More importantly, however, the questioning style and examination techniques employed by HUAAC served as the model upon which Senator Joseph McCarthy would conduct his investigative hearings in the early 1950s.”

Which takes nothing away from the accuracy of your correction directed toward me. I thank you for that elaboration and its correctness.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 15, 2006 8:37 PM
Comment #199496

“but this is more than matched by the left’s appoligies for a mechanism responsible for most of the really big atrocities in the 20th century.”

If we were to apply that standard in an equitable fashion then every one on the right has the blood of thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s on their hands.

Most on the left and the right have no problem in seeing that Socialism, in it’s application as a dominate economic system has succumb to the forces that work on and control the minds of men and yet, many who espouse the virtues of a capitalist system, have much trouble seeing that those same forces are controlling many of their thoughts.

In the future, corporate capitalism will continue to grow until it dominates the economics and the governments of the World. I imagine that many think this will lead to the elimination of poverty and hunger. It will not because poverty and hunger are necessary components of a capitalist system.

Posted by: jlw at December 16, 2006 10:32 AM
Comment #199613


Poverty and hunger have been a part of every system since the beginning of human history. There is relatively less of it in the free market.

Posted by: Jack at December 17, 2006 8:42 PM
Comment #199783
If it does work, and you can have authoritarianism and economic dynamism…The robust debate on this blog in this here and now place is evidence that we do not live in tyranny. Posted by: Jack at December 14, 2006 08:13 PM
a)This has seemed to be the goal of BushCo. Suppress dissent, more profits to the corporation, increased concentration of wealth to the few, and subservient minions of workers. The dream of the neocons…

b) Yup, they missed this time. Not because their plan couldn’t have worked, but because they had an idiot for a figure head. Of course the blogs could be allowed simply as a tool to generate future death lists; since they have no chance of actually changing anything, then why not let them continue until the lists are complete?

As for China being a developing nation…That is true only from a consumerist point of view. They have been a culture for thousands of years. Also, the trade deficit numbers for the summer are in this week, over $200 billion. Pays for a lot of rice, TV’s and nukes, doesn’t it? But I guess it’s cheaper to buy them off than another war…

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 19, 2006 10:34 AM
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