The Unknown War

The defeat of communism 20 years ago was the most liberating moment in history. So why don't we talk about it more?

On August 23, 1989, officials from the newly reformed and soon-to-be-renamed Communist Party of Hungary ceased policing the country’s militarized border with Austria. Some 13,000 East Germans, many of whom had been vacationing at nearby Lake Balaton, fled across the frontier to the free world. It was the largest breach of the Iron Curtain in a generation, and it kicked off a remarkable chain of events that ended 11 weeks later with the righteous citizen dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

Twenty years later, the anniversary of that historic border crossing was noted in exactly four American newspapers, according to the Nexis database, and all four mentions were in reprints of a single syndicated column. August anniversaries receiving more media play in the U.S. included the 400th anniversary of Galileo building his telescope, the 150th anniversary of the first oil well, and the 25th anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A Google News search of “anniversary” and “freedom” on August 23, 2009, turned up scores of Woodstock references before the first mention of Hungary.

Get used to it, if you haven’t already. November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes in this issue as the “Jurassic Park statism” of the 1930s (see “ ‘The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs,’ ” page 42). There have been more Hollywood hagiographies of the revolutionary communist Che Guevara in the last five years than there have been studio pictures in the last two decades about the revolutionary anti-communists who dramatically toppled totalitarians from Tallin to Prague (see Tim Cavanaugh’s “Hollywood Comrades,” page 62). And what little general-nonfiction interest there is in the superpower struggle, as Michael C. Moynihan details on page 48 (“The Cold War Never Ended”), remains stuck in the same Reagan vs. Gorby frame that made the 1980s so intellectually shallow the first time around.

The consensus Year of Revolution for most of our lifetimes has been 1968, with its political assassinations, its Parisian protests, and a youth-culture rebellion that the baby boomers will never tire of telling us about. But as the preeminent modern Central European historian Timothy Garton Ash wrote in a 2008 essay, 1989 “ended communism in Europe, the Soviet empire, the division of Germany, and an ideological and geopolitical struggle…that had shaped world politics for half a century. It was, in its geopolitical results, as big as 1945 or 1914. By comparison, ’68 was a molehill.”

I recently asked Simon Panek, one of the student leaders of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, why he thought 1968 still gets all the headlines. He gave a typically Czech shrug: “Probably 1968 happened to more people in the West.” But even that droll formulation understates the globe-altering impact of 1989.

Without the superpower conflict to animate and arm scores of proxy civil wars and brutal governments, authoritarians gave way to democrats in Johannesburg and Santiago, endless war was replaced by enduring peace in Central America, and nations that had never enjoyed self-determination found themselves independent, prosperous, and integrated into the West.

In 1988, according to the global liberty watchdog Freedom House, just 36 percent of the world’s 167 independent countries were “free,” 23 percent were “partly free,” and 41 percent were “not free.” By 2008, not only were there 26 additional countries (including such new “free” entities as Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia), but the ratios had reversed: 46 percent were “free,” 32 percent were “partly free,” and just 22 percent were “not free.” There were only 69 electoral democracies in 1989; by 2008 their ranks had swelled to 119. 

And even these numbers only begin to capture the magnitude of the change. The abject failure of top-down central planning as an economic organizing model had a profound impact even on the few communist governments that survived the ’90s. Vietnam, while maintaining a one-party grip on power, launched radical market reforms in 1990, resulting in some of the world’s highest economic growth in the last two decades. Cuba, economically desperate after the Soviet spigot was cut off, legalized foreign investment and private commerce. And in perhaps the single most dramatic geopolitical story in recent years, the country that most symbolized state repression in 1989 has used capitalism to pull off history’s most successful anti-poverty campaign. Although Chinese market reforms began in the late ’70s, and were temporarily stalled by the Tiananmen Square massacre (which, counterintuitively, emboldened anti-communists in Europe), China’s post-Soviet recognition that private enterprise should trump the state sector helped lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. (For a celebration of how markets have liberated Chinese women from cultural repression, see Kerry Howley’s “Are Property Rights Enough?,” page 30.)

Perhaps the least appreciated benefits of the Cold War’s end have been those enjoyed (if not always consciously) by the side that won. Up until 1989, mainstream Western European political thought included a large and unhealthy appetite for governments owning the means of production. The original Marshall Plan was an almost desperate attempt to prevent the kind of domestically popular (if externally manipulated) communist takeover that would submerge Czechoslovakia in 1948. Socialist French President Francois Mitterand nationalized wide swaths of France’s economy upon taking office in 1981. By the time the Berlin Wall fell, it was the rule, not the exception, that Western European governments would own all their country’s major airlines, phone companies, television stations, gas companies, and much more.

No longer. In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide. Although media attention was rightly focused on the dramatic economic changes transforming Asia and the former East Bloc, fully half of the world’s privatization in the first dozen years after the Cold War, as measured by revenue, took place in Western Europe. European political and monetary integration, widely derided as statist by the Anglo-American right, has turned out to be one of the biggest engines for economic liberty in modern history. It was no accident that, in the midst of Washington’s illegal and ill-fated bailout of U.S. automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson, when asked about the fate of struggling Saab, tersely announced, “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

When Western Europeans are giving lectures to Americans about the dangers of economic intervention, as they have repeatedly since Barack Obama took office, it’s a good time to take stock of how drastically geopolitical arguments have pivoted during the last two decades. The United States, at least as represented by its elected officials and their economic policies, is no longer leading the global fight for democratic capitalism as the most proven path to human liberation. You are more likely to see entitlement reform in Rome than in Washington (where, against the global grain, the federal government is trying to extend its role). Even the much-ballyhooed and well-earned U.S. peace dividend proved to be as temporary as Bill Clinton’s claim that “the era of big government is over.”

Ironically, the one consistent lesson U.S. officials claim to have learned about the Cold War is the one that has the least applicability outside the East Bloc: that aggressive and even violent confrontation with evil regimes will lead to various springtimes for democracy. It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military. Telling, and tragic.

Matt Welch (matt.welch@reason.com) is editor in chief of reason.

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  • ||

    We don't talk about it more because the media is lousy with commie rat bastards.

    -jcr

  • JohnD||

    Yeah, what he said.

  • kidslong||

    And even these numbers only begin to capture the magnitude of the change.propylene glycol The abject failure of top-down central planning as an economic organizing mod

  • DJF||

    We don’t talk about it much because the people who control most of the press are making lots of money off of the Communist Chinese and they don’t want anything to get in the way of those sweatshop profits so they don‘t talk about communism. Reason magazine is one of the media outlets who can only see the profits made in communist China and don’t want to talk about the communists.

    Its similar to talking about terrorism and some peoples attempt to connect it with Iran and Iraq when in fact Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of suicide bombers. But Saudi Arabia makes lots of money for the internationalists and so it is not mentioned

  • ||

    That's because the real threat comes from Fascism, which is still very much alive and well, thank you very much. People were concentrating too much on "Communism" as the main threat, when Fascism was already taking over breville bov800xl Western democracies.

  • Paul||

    In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide.

    Matt, Paul Krugman's on the phone and he'd like to have a word with you about your article.

    But seriously... excellent article Matt. Thanks for writing it.

  • Paul||

    “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.”

    Didn't Obama essentially say the same thing?

  • Robert||

    Obama said the Swedish state was not prepared to own car factories?

  • Xeones||

    Paul, Obama does this thing where he says stuff he doesn't mean.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Obama does this thing where he says stuff he doesn't mean"

    I believe that is ususlly referred to as telling lies.

  • Harpoon||

    No, no, it's called being nuanced. Or perhaps he just "misspoke".

  • ||

    Let me be clear, as I've always maintained, some say the Swedes shouldn't own car factories and others are getting all wee-weed up.

  • MJ||

    Somebody should tell the Nobel Committee about that thing.

  • ||

    November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating[...]

    That's because the real threat comes from Fascism, which is still very much alive and well, thank you very much. People were concentrating too much on "Communism" as the main threat, when Fascism was already taking over Western democracies.

  • ||

    As Albert Jay Nock would ask, what's the difference?

  • ||

    None, they all end up the same way. In the final result the leaders of the party want 'stuff' to make them feel as 'important' as leaders or more free nations who have a lot of 'stuff'. That means they have to have some way to motivate people to produce and that means set up some faux markets with state enforced monopolies.

  • ||

    Fascism: Kill you, take your money

    Communism: Take your money, kill you

  • ||

    I was drinking piss-warm vodka from a cracked plastic cup, with a shotgun across my lap while I watched The Wall coming down on TV.

  • Paul||

    So was I. God what an awful day at the office...

  • ||

    I was in a bar north of Atlanta with two women trying to pick me up, but all I could do was stare at the TV screen showing me the most incredible images. It was a wall I had seen up close just a few years before crumbling and people cheering. It was blurry, obscured by tears.

  • Paul||

    It was blurry, obscured by tears.

    They were that ugly, huh?

  • ||

    The Wall and the state I was in didn't really have much to do with each other.

    I did use that backdrop for a story with which I won an undergraduate writing award. And, keeping a drunken vow I made to my fellow creative writing classmates, I spent all the prize money on weed.

  • LarryA||

    I wrote one too, and got it published.

    Probably because I spent several weeks behind the Iron Curtain once. It was interesting.

  • ||

    Thank you for that beautiful comment.Amen.

  • JGR||

    I was watching the TV and just plain didn't believe what I was seeing. I kept waiting for the gunfire to start.

    When I finally believed it, I offered a silent prayer on behalf of that unknown last person to have been killed while trying to get across the wall that was being broken.

  • ||

    The MSM and Hollywood ignore the fall of Communism because (1) they, like Communist governments, are dinosaurs being made obsolete be new, individualistic technology and they don't want to face that they are next; and (2) they still view Communists as their vulgar country cousins -- lacking our style and polish, but still 'family.'

  • Tholan||

    Because the victory wasn't a large military action with man and machines it doesn't loom in the mind the same way victory over the Axis in WW2 or the Moon Shot does. What was essentially an ideological debate culminating in a trade war victory does not inspire in the same way.

    People crave symbols and monuments. There are no real symbols or monuments of the destruction of the Soviet Empire other than the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

    Much of the history that would inspire the generations who benefit from freedom is carefully avoided and kept out of the education system.

    How many people are aware of the great genocides of Stalin and Mao? Yet somehow everyone is aware of the Jewish Holocaust. Hitler's exploits were a drop in the bucket compared to the evils committed under the Red flag of communism. Yet the education system (and society at large) see this as un-noteworthy because unlike the Nazis and Japanese, we did not crush the Soviets militarily.

    No instead we crushed them economically and spiritually. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can't chain the human spirit. These are the things that brought down the Soviets. Not tanks and atom bombs. How can you spread the influence of the American Empire if you admit that it was more the Industry and raw Humanity rather than the Military that beat our greatest foe?

  • Stamokap||

    "How many people are aware of the great genocides of Stalin and Mao?"

    Billions. Stop flattering yourself.

  • Tholan||

    Billions? That is highly debatable on its face. The majority of Americans have no concept of these events. Nor do Canadians. Nor Europeans. Nor Indians. Nor Australians. Nor Africans.

    The history books may cover it, but covering the direct action or failure of centralized government resulting in near 100 million deaths in less then a 50 year period in a paragraph is not coverage nor is it awareness.

    That aside, further to it: who is aware and thinks of it as an evil?

    What was the question once asked of Lenin: How make eggs does it take to make a 2 egg omelet?

    Stop flattering yourself with a link to state monopoly capitalism. You show your red. How much blood is enough for you and your kind?

  • JohnD||

    Unfortunately, many public school history books DO NOT cover it.

    Most test books are written by revisionists, therefore kids today have no idea about what really happened 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago.

  • Not Me...||

    How many people are aware of the great genocides of Stalin and Mao? Yet somehow everyone is aware of the Jewish Holocaust.

    Ask yourself this - how many ex-Nazis or their supporters are owners of major media outlets or Hollywood studios? He who owns the megaphone gets to make the announcements.

  • ||

    still today, when i mention we won the cold war without firing a shot, people cannot comprehend the importance of that outcome. i cried too upon seeing the wall come down.

    give credit to reagan, thatcher, pope john paul ii. the soviet leadership too, ultimately must have dreaded war as much as us given their experience in wwii

  • nomilk||

    Congress still has not authorized the Cold War Victory Medal. I'm still waiting for mine.

  • JGR||

    Don't hold your breath. The Congressional Red Army Faction members are still crying in their vodka about it, and doing everything possible to resurrect totalitarianism.

  • Paul||

    Because the victory wasn't a large military action with man and machines it doesn't loom in the mind the same way victory over the Axis in WW2 or the Moon Shot does.

    Neither was 1968, but mention that year in a room full of journalists and you'll get the most gag-inducing reminiscing that no one should ever have to witness...

  • Xeones||

    I believe that is ususlly referred to as telling lies.

    Where's your Hope and, like, Change, man? What are you, some kind of racist?

  • DJF||

    Less then two weeks ago the Chinese Communists celebrated their 60th year in power with massive military parade by the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army and lighting up the Empire State Building in the red and yellow of the communism flag and Reason magazine thinks that communism was defeated. Looks like somebody did not tell the communists that they were beaten.

  • ||

    Bear in mind that the only reason Communism has been able to last for 60 years in China is through the partial application of capitalist principles. The closest the Chinese will come to admitting this, however, is with their "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" verbiage.

    Is, therefore, the forced change to "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" a victory for Communism per se, or merely another nail in its coffin?

  • Tman||

    I am also one that doesn't believe that communism actually "fell" very far, or for that matter at all in some places. It certainly wasn't defeated. The lighting of the Empire State building was an atrocious display of ignorance. The Communist "revolution" in China should be something we as Americans condemn, not honor.

    The reason that we don't is the same reason people don't talk about our defeat of communism.

    We didn't defeat it, and it certainly isn't dead.

    And one doesn't have to spend too much time on a college campus before realizing that no one is teaching why communism doesn't work when compared to capitalism. Indeed, they are still teaching the opposite.

  • ||

    good point. keep in mind though, that capitalism, if not liberty or democracy, has blown the the agrarian, maoist model away. again we integrated china without firing a shot. started with nixon.

    what to do with a nationalistic, authoritarian, competitive, perhaps hegemonic china is a new problem.

  • SPMonk||

    Soviet Union collapsed itself. That's why no one gives a shit. Their leaders where idiots.

  • ||

    Not idiots. Just humans running a system where there were no real checks on their ideas. Too much power has a way of doing that to folks. Kind of like a single party controlling the House, Senate and Oval Office. Guess we didn't learn our lesson with Bush and the Repubs of 2000-2006.

  • Attorney||

    If the Wall had come down during Carter's or Clinton's administration, you can be sure the MSM would be giving us heaping helpings of "1989: The Year of Freedom."

  • ||

    never would have happened in their wildest dreams. carter was a doormat to soviets. clinton would not even confront al qaeda and its multiple attacks on his watch

  • ||

    Reagan didn't actually confront the Soviets either when it mattered. That was why he succeeded. He talked to Gorbachev and helped prop him up by giving him concessions. Meanwhile the right-wingers were screaming that Reagan was "appeasing" the Soviets. Reagan knew when to be a hard ass and when to lay off, a bit of wisdom the current right-wing crowd has lost. If we'd had real hard liners like Bush/Cheney in office in the 80s the KGB would have dumped Gorbachev in a coup and taken power, and the USSR would still be there. The other thing that is problematic about the fall of Communism is the critical role that Saudi Arabia played. I'm not kidding - look at oil prices in the 80s, with US encouragement the Saudis dumped oil on the market to weaken Russia's ability to use oil to buy grain and industrial goods from the West. This is how the USSR was bankrupted, not military spending per se. No one in the US, left or right, really wants to dwell on the fact that the Saudis were a critical ally in bringing down the USSR.

  • Harpoon||

    South Africa also played a big part by dumping gold on the market; another big Soviet export.

  • ||

    Good point, and of course it's not permissable to say good things about the apartheid South Africa in public, so that point always gets glossed over as well.

  • ||

    That is a great point.

  • ||

    I was taking a post-war eastern Europe history class in college when the announcement came. Talk about your timing. My professor said she about drove her car off the road when she heard the news on the radio that morning.

    The best part of the class was before that day, she invited in a GDR official to the class, whom I berated. It was awesome.

  • ||

    I suspect no one is talking much about 1989 because most of the industrialized world is still living under communism light in the form of various overly powerful central governments. That people get to cast votes on occasion for career politicians who work for special interests (often monopolies in collusion with the state) doesn't exactly make anyone more free than they were under outright communism. I mean why are we supposed to celebrate the fall of communism in the US when we are under single party rule? When our federal government usurps more and more power and money for itself? And Eastern Europe--they're stuck between giving up sovereignty to a nanny state EU or to a still totalitarian Russia. I suppose we have "succeeded" in creating two democracies in the middle east, both of which will succumb to totalitarian theocracies once we leave the region. China has economic growth but no real increase in individual freedom. I pretty much see no region of the world that has actually taken the lesson of the fall of communism and actually decreased the role of the state in the lives of its citizens. So I'll celebrate when powerful central governments of all stripes finally fail (or rather collapse--they've all failed already) and people are actually liberated.

  • @||

    The lefty press still believe communism "looks good on paper." We don't hear more about its temporary defeat because those leftists dominate our media.

  • ||

    That could be your best, Matt. But you undervalue the significance of our huge investment in potential violence. I don't call it tragic that we learned that sometimes force is what it takes to free people from tyrany.

  • ||

    Agreed, the tree of liberty will always need fertilizer.

  • Paul||

    Obama still swears he has no interest in running GM.

  • Dabro||

    Great stuff Matt, it as a day that changed the world, thank you for reminding me.

    www.politicalsquare.com

  • ||

    Full throated celebrations would seriously piss off the wrong people in Russia and China. And at this point much of the population in Russia views 1989 as a time of national embarrassment rather than a time of liberation.

    For that we can thank the Western economic advisors who, through the 1990s, carefully guided Russia out of communism and into violent crony capitalism.

  • Paul||

    violent crony capitalism.

    Kind of like New London, CT.

  • ||

    Full throated celebrations would seriously piss off the wrong people in Russia and China.

    Yes, they would. And?

  • kolmogorov||

    "It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military."

    No doubt most of the blame for ignoring this historic marker lay with the natural sentiments of the press many of whom didn't see communism as so irremediably bad at the time and so weren't quite as relieved as the rest of us to see it collapse. Unfortunately, this tendency is greatly compounded by the way the GOP have wrapped themselves in this event as though it were a victory particularly of Regan policies rather than the probably inevitable collapse of a corrupt system. By attempting to own the event, to make it a GOP accomplishment to the exclusion of other parties, they make it easy for everyone to relegate it to the bin of partisan bluster rather than the rather profound world event that it was.

  • BakedPenguin||

    For that we can thank the Western economic advisors who, through the 1990s, carefully guided Russia out of communism and into violent crony capitalism...

    Tulpa, the Russians didn't need any Western help to set up a patronage system. Read The Russians by Hedrick Smith. Communism in Russia was Tammany Hall + Lenin. All they did was get rid of Lenin.

    Also, the same Western advisers talked to the Baltic countries, Poland, (then) Czechoslovakia, and they are doing far, far better than the former USSR states.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Hey... where's ChicagoTony? This is right up their collective alley!

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Er... make that collectivIST.

  • Joshua Holmes||

    There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can't chain the human spirit. These are the things that brought down the Soviets.

    Except that, in much of the former Soviet Union, the human spirit is at least handcuffed, if not still fully chained. The fall of the Soviet Union did little for freedom in Turkish Central Asia, although it did much in the Baltic states. Russia looks like a toss-up.

    More and more, it looks to me like the Soviet Union was shuttered so that the mafia could have personal ownership of the means of production, somewhat akin to the Clearances of British & Irish history. Whether mafia feudalism is better than late-stage communism is anyone's guess.

  • ||

    I can't recall the precise date that the slaves in America were freed either, because... I can't recall the precise date that the slaves in America were freed. As with penurious servitude, many of the circumstances of oppressive government continue under other names.

  • MNG||

    There is a great deal of tripe on this thread...

    "Fascism was already taking over Western democracies." Nonsense, unless Fascism is a really, really mild thing. You're free to travel to France or Norway and see this "fascism" for yourself. Don't expect Schindler's List nutso...

    "The MSM and Hollywood ignore the fall of Communism because (1) they, like Communist governments, are dinosaurs being made obsolete"

    Hilarious. Hollywood is not communist, it is capitalism squared.

    "That people get to cast votes on occasion for career politicians who work for special interests (often monopolies in collusion with the state) doesn't exactly make anyone more free than they were under outright communism." Idiotic. Have you never talked to anyone who lived under communism? They would tell you that they would have been afraid to post what you just did, yet I bet you felt no fear posting it. We have opposition parties, our administrations are thwarted, people dissent with vigor...Minimum wage laws do not = communism. Worlds apart man, worlds apart.

  • MNG||

    Baked-if only they would have REALLY tried capitalism it would have worked in Russia...Funny, my Marxist friends say the same thing about Communism...

  • ||

    Seriously, you think they actually tried capitalism?

  • ||

    I think the reason people didn't celebrate the fall of communism in Russia and its satellite countries is that most people - especially the intelligentsia and media types - no longer view the West and the US as mankind's best shot at freedom and prosperity. To them, the fact that the democratic/capitalist West is still standing is emphatically NOT a reason for hope. They see only the downside of Western culture, politics, and economics. The see only a history of war, racism, imperialism and economic inequality. If the future looks like more of the same, why would they be happy? Ironically, years of Soviet propaganda as well as the teachings of home-grown socialists and communists is responsible for this mindset. The Soviets might be gone, but the cultural diseases they injected us with are still very much alive.

  • ||

    agree completely. see my post below at 1.36pm

  • MNG||

    "The see only a history of war, racism, imperialism and economic inequality. If the future looks like more of the same, why would they be happy? Ironically, years of Soviet propaganda as well as the teachings of home-grown socialists and communists is responsible for this mindset."

    I dunno, it might also have to do with the history of war, racism, imperialism and economic inequality in this country. Just saying...

  • ||

    Thank you for proving you've swallowed the propaganda.

    Has it occured to you that the people teaching it might have had an agenda?

  • MNG||

    Bugs, in all seriousness I actually agree with you to a point that liberals in the US focus too much on that stuff. Conservatives gloss over it too much of course (the US did engage in awful racism, imperalism, war, etc., for a lot of its history). But it's strange for liberals not to focus on the really neat things the US did (from a liberal perspective). Yes, there was slavery, but there was also tens of thousands of whites willing to die to free those slaves in a Civil War. And whites willing to unselfishly engage in the Freedman Bureau programs to help those slaves once freed, and pass things like the Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution and various Civil Rights Acts when it was simply not in their self interest to do so. A nation that avoided Fascism and Communism and which held out more possibility for economic mobility, political dissent and the like than any other I can think of. I'm a liberal and I like to focus on this stuff, and it's why I love my country.

  • MJ||

    Liberals focus on that stuff so much because pandering to past resentments both real and imsgined are their political bread and butter, that and a significant number of them have bought into their own propaganda.

  • ||

    Leftists (not liberals) focus on it, because it is a deliberate ploy by them to undermine support for free markets and institute a socialist system. Capitalism is evil, and evil must be fought ... and lies are quite a preferable weapon.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It should also be remembered that the idea that racism does not have to be an inherent feature of society, or that it might not be such a good idea, originated in America.

    Surely no one in Egypt thought that it might be a bad idea to discriminate against people of Hittite or Canaanite descent, or that anyone in Greece thought it wrong that the law should treat barbarians differently from Greek city dwellers.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Yeah, MNG, we haven't made a lick of progress in this country. Shit's just the same as it was before Jim Crow was shitcanned. Not one bit of difference between fifty years ago and now.

    Jesus tapdancing Christ, that schtick gets old. Just as does the tired, withered wealth-envy argument. "That guy has more money than I do - sic 'em, IRS!"

    War, I'll grant, still exists, but the Dems have blood on their hands too.

    Imperialism? When was the last time we actually practiced that in its true sense? Not the watered-down liberal version, the real kind, like old-school British Empire shit.

  • MJ||

    I suspect that there are many reasons for the lack of commemoration. The protaginists of that story were people the western press despised: Reagan and Thatcher. By the end of the eighties the thought was that fragility of the Soviet Union was obvious and its collapse inevitable, even though at the beginning of the eighties it was anything but. Finally, a wistful regret that the "noble" Soviet experiment failed.

  • LarryA||

    By the end of the eighties the thought was that fragility of the Soviet Union was obvious and its collapse inevitable, even though at the beginning of the eighties it was anything but.

    I’m glad someone mentioned Reagan. Yes, the USSR was failing, but there are a lot of ways an empire can go down. IMHO it was Reagan’s “cowboy diplomacy” that kept the communists from going out with a bang.

  • ||

    I take some comfort from the fact that a lot of things celebrated on 20th anniversaries are of relatively minor importance. Woodstock, for instance, is easily one of the most over-hyped events of the past century. A mud-soaked music festival whose lasting impact appears to be only on sales of tie-dyed T-shirts. If the fall of communism doesn't share that company, I have no regret.

  • ||

    And a fact about Woodstock that no one seems to want to remember is that it was an event created to promote a record business...

  • ||

    November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history

    Well of course it wasn't. May 1945 was, November 1989 doesn't come close. Unless you consider "human history" to only matter in Germany and the Baltics, Matt Welch's whole thesis is ridiculous. In some parts of Eastern Europe - Poland or Hungary for example - the fall of Communism in 1989 now seems like an anti-climax. The system had already been rotting away for years in those countries and in retrospect 1989 doesn't seem that eventful. Then in much of the Soviet Union no liberation took place whatsoever, just signs changed. Are you really going to argue with a straight face that Uzbekistan, Belarus or Turkmenistan in 1998 (or today) were freer than they were in 1988? Even Moscow today is arguably more repressive than the chaotic optimistic Moscow of 1989. Then we have China - the single most murderous regime in human history is still in place and, while it has certainly reformed for the better, 1989 had nothing to do with it. I also don't remember the Vietnamese, Cuban or North Korean regimes falling in 1989. O h, what's that? They're still in place? Geez, Welch, while it's nice that Germany and the Baltics seem to be your only reference points for recent history, maybe you should leave articles like these to people with a little more perspective.

  • Space Fiend||

    Um, May 1945 was definitely only important in Germany and the Baltics, so your argument makes no sense.

  • Space Fiend||

    Um, May 1945 was definitely only important in Germany and the Baltics, so your argument makes no sense.

  • ||

    No, if you were French, Russian, Danish, Czech, or British then that was the month you felt liberated from the war. A lot of people weren't liberated in May 1945, very true, but it's still a far more important event in human history than November 1989.

  • ||

    Disagree. The fall of communism had profound effects on the entire globe. WWII was primarily a European and Asian affair.

    Think of all the Soviet client states in Africa that shortly died. Think of the shifts in global trading patterns. The end of communism is why we got to globalization.

  • ||

    Communism didn't end in 1989, that's the point. China - 1.1 billion people - is run to this day by a Communist party. So is Vietnam. 1989 is important for East Germany, and that's it. In the rest of the world the fall of Communism began earlier (Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia) or later (Romania, the USSR), or never (China, Cuba, Vietnam). This is why most people, even dedicated anti-Bolsheviks like myself, can't get that worked up about 1989. It's sort of like celebrating 1944 as the end of WWII. It would be artificial and false for Americans to go running around cheering every August 23

  • J.||

    Utter nonsense, vanya. Welch argued that November 1989 was the single "most liberating month". Most of Western Europe had been physically liberated well before the Battle of Berlin and VE Day.

    But maybe you know better how those Europeans "felt" or didn't feel liberated. I guess those jubilant crowds in Western European towns that greeted Allied soldiers were really just going through the motions!

    In November 1989, communism fell in East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia almost simultaneously, which effectively liberated 38 million or so people in one fell swoop. Within a month of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Romanians revolted against Ceaucescu, which liberated another 20 million people from communism.

    I'm not sure I agree with Welch's premise of it being the "most liberating month", but there is certainly a strong argument for it when 58 million people became free between November 17 and December 16, 1989.

    I am assuming that Welch is including the Romanians (since they are pictured on the magazine cover). If not, and we are simply talking about the calendar month of November, I'd say there is a bit of a double standard set with respect to the 30 million or so liberated in Iraq...

  • André Kenji||

    Maybe. But the image of the fall of the wall was very powerful.

  • Michael||

    Americans don't acknowledge the significance of the fall of communism simply because they've never experienced anything like it. In their minds they'd still have all of the everyday things they own and enjoy, but everyone would just be more "equal".

  • Michael||

    Which is to say that "equal" in the mind of the average American means something completely different than what "equal" means in an actual workers' state.

  • ||

    Equal in the sense that we all have the same opportunity to succeed, as opposed to forced equality, unless you're a government official.

  • SPMonk||

    Under capitalism the child of a CEO is much more likely to succeed then some ghetto ass welfare absorbing niggas.
    We definatly don't have equality under our current system.

  • Silentz||

    Are you suggesting we should punish the child of the CEO for his unfortunate circumstance of birth to "even the playing field"?

  • ||

    Under [free market] capitalism the child of a CEO is much more likely to succeed...but not guaranteed.

    Under central planning, the child of a CEO is much more likely to be a CEO, and the son of a crop picker is much more likely to be a crop picker...guaranteed.

    The fact is that central planning is tons easier for the people in charge when people don't "move around so much". Under these conditions, institutional blockages of social mobility WILL develop, because in any organization, the easiest solution for the boss usually ends up being the preferred outcome.

    In a true free market the industrious poor are far more likely to succeed than the silver spoon wastrel. The free market is the only one in which you will see the prodigal son of the CEO picking fruit for the industrious son of the crop picker without an intervening war.

  • Marian Kechlibar||

    People who never lived in communism or anything similar fail to realize how static, fixed and rigid the totalitarian society in fact is.

    A relatively closed layer of about 1-3% of the society ("nomenklatura") controls absolutely everything, regardless of any merit, and people from the rest of the society do not have many chances to enter this clique. Except by marrying into it, or showing extraordinary talent with extraordinary willingness to do anything for the regime and extraordinary lack of spin.

    Any business abilities, technical skills or proficiency are completely marginalized by stifling nepotism. If your grandfather helped to found the Party back in 1920s, you will have (relatively to the rest) luxurious life with no need to work. The only way how to lose that favored position is to be critical of the Party.

    On the other hand, if your grandfather actually fought against the Party, you are tainted forever and doomed to menial jobs for the rest of your life. You will never be allowed to study on a high school or anything like that.

  • ||

    The collapse of the Soviet Union and the reasons for it are not hyped more because doing so would undermine the ideals of almost every journalist, and college level educator in the nation. In other words the people who would do the hyping.

    How could they simultaneous trumpet the idea that the free-market trumped central planning in every facet, but then claim what we need now to fix our problems is more central planning.

    I think most liberals secretly wept (not for joy) when the wall fell. They more ostensibly believe that somehow the West cheated.

  • ||

    I spent some weeks in the Baltic countries last year. The artistic types my wife and I were hanging with were pro-McCain to a man (and woman). What liberals, and all too many libertarians, don't understand is that totalitarianism is degrading, stupid and vicious beyond anything in our experience in the USA. What they understand even less is that totalitarians cannot be appeased and cannot be converted.

    For the last thirty years this country has moved by fits and starts in a more classically liberal direction. The result was an unprecedented economic boom, with increases in standard of living across the board. But the universe being what it is, stuff happens. For many reasons too complex to summarize here we had a real estate bubble that burst and created the mother of all messes.

    We have two choices. We can follow Obama and his minions down the road to moral, social and economic decline. Or we can regain the heritage left to us by Ronald Reagan and resume progress at home and world leadership abroad.

  • ||

    To expand on my point on Welch's blinkered American provincialism, I note that Germans, Italians, French, etc. have been talking, debating and arguing about the fall of Communism virtually non-stop for the last 20 years. Try and google August 23 in German and see what you get. The obvious conclusion is that most Americans don't talk about Communism for the glaringly obvious reason that very few Americans lived under Communist regimes and very few Americans were directly impacted in their daily lives by Communist regimes before or after 1989. For Americans the Cold War was mostly an abstract debate whereas World War II was not.

  • t22||

    Well let's start with the Republicans were in power and the fall of the Berlin Wall was directly attributable to our policies in the 80s under Reagan. I'm surprised we haven't heard that Obama wrote a paper and gave a speech to the Harvard Student Union that caused it all.

  • ||

    Rome defeats Carthage and becomes preeminent in the western world. Without this external threat Rome enters into 150 years of internal partisan fighting, resulting in a civil war. Then the empire.
    I think there is a lesson here for the U.S.

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  • ||

    We won't see a major motion picture about that incredible year for the same reason we'll never see one about Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss.

  • ||

    Bravo!And for the same reason that no one ever heard of Andy Gracia's movie about Cuba.I for one think that "Witness" is a masterpiece.

  • André Kenji||

    Hey, at least at CNN International there is a serie called "Autumm of Change" dedicated to 1989.

  • pottfullofpith||

    This article marks the first time in forever that I have read the phrase "peace dividend." Mr. Clinton's fans point to his budgets n surplus, and Mr. Clinton's critics point to Newt Gingrich's House of Rep sending good legislation as part of the reason. Does anyone here know of any reliable analysis of how much the peace dividend impacted the ability of Mr. Clinton to balance his budgets?

  • ||

    The fall of the Communist Empire was liberating for its enslaved peoples. The evidence that this was not a liberating moment in history is all around us in the socializing of America. Yes, the one-million people on the Day of Outcry against omnipotent government in the streets of Wash.D.C. on Sept. 12th may prevent a communist-like take over of American industry and personal incomes. But, to have an American President dictating salaries, bonuses and business methods to financiers, bankers and auto makers, when the US Constitution makes no such provision for such actions means the battle is not over.
    It was an idea that motivated men to impose Communism on much of Europe and Asia. You don't defeat an idea by tearing down a wall and rearranging government. Ask Putin, the former head of the KGB, former secret police of the Communist Empire, why Russia isn't capitalist and free today.
    The Most LIberating Moment in History, which ought to be well-known and unquestioned in the mind of a Libertarian, was the publication of the Declaration of Independence, which, though a political document, announced the most liberating idea in the history of nations. It declared that each and every individual possessed the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and that for the purpose of protecting the individual's freedom of action governments were instituted among men.
    Turning the power structures of the past upside down, so that the individual was seen as the fount of all values, his freedom of action to keep his life as the sole purpose for government, and all authorization of the uses of power flowing from his say-so was an achievement that surpassed the understanding of all European intellectuals and most of America's today.
    The war for independence that followed was against the biggest and best-armed empire on the planet at that time. Human beings liberated themselves and for a century enjoyed something called freedom.
    If America is to survive, it is that idea that must be established on a moral foundation and fought for with every breath (and, hopefully, not guns) in the individuals alive here today.
    Conservatives have made themselves irrelevant to the stopping of Communist-like ideas in America by forgetting that moral principle. Will Libertarians forget the primary liberating force of individual rights, too?

  • ||

    The fall of the Communist Empire was liberating for its enslaved peoples. The evidence that this was not a liberating moment in history is all around us in the socializing of America. Yes, the one-million people on the Day of Outcry against omnipotent government in the streets of Wash.D.C. on Sept. 12th may prevent a communist-like take over of American industry and personal incomes. But, to have an American President dictating salaries, bonuses and business methods to financiers, bankers and auto makers, when the US Constitution makes no such provision for such actions means the battle is not over.
    It was an idea that motivated men to impose Communism on much of Europe and Asia. You don't defeat an idea by tearing down a wall and rearranging government. Ask Putin, the former head of the KGB, former secret police of the Communist Empire, why Russia isn't capitalist and free today.
    The Most LIberating Moment in History, which ought to be well-known and unquestioned in the mind of a Libertarian, was the publication of the Declaration of Independence, which, though a political document, announced the most liberating idea in the history of nations. It declared that each and every individual possessed the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and that for the purpose of protecting the individual's freedom of action governments were instituted among men.
    Turning the power structures of the past upside down, so that the individual was seen as the fount of all values, his freedom of action to keep his life as the sole purpose for government, and all authorization of the uses of power flowing from his say-so was an achievement that surpassed the understanding of all European intellectuals and most of America's today.
    The war for independence that followed was against the biggest and best-armed empire on the planet at that time. Human beings liberated themselves and for a century enjoyed something called freedom.
    If America is to survive, it is that idea that must be established on a moral foundation and fought for with every breath (and, hopefully, not guns) in the individuals alive here today.
    Conservatives have made themselves irrelevant to the stopping of Communist-like ideas in America by forgetting that moral principle. Will Libertarians forget the primary liberating force of individual rights, too?

  • ||

    The fall of the Communist Empire was liberating for its enslaved peoples. The evidence that this was not a liberating moment in history is all around us in the socializing of America. Yes, the one-million people on the Day of Outcry against omnipotent government in the streets of Wash.D.C. on Sept. 12th may prevent a communist-like take over of American industry and personal incomes. But, to have an American President dictating salaries, bonuses and business methods to financiers, bankers and auto makers, when the US Constitution makes no such provision for such actions means the battle is not over.
    It was an idea that motivated men to impose Communism on much of Europe and Asia. You don't defeat an idea by tearing down a wall and rearranging government. Ask Putin, the former head of the KGB, former secret police of the Communist Empire, why Russia isn't capitalist and free today.
    The Most LIberating Moment in History, which ought to be well-known and unquestioned in the mind of a Libertarian, was the publication of the Declaration of Independence, which, though a political document, announced the most liberating idea in the history of nations. It declared that each and every individual possessed the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and that for the purpose of protecting the individual's freedom of action governments were instituted among men.
    Turning the power structures of the past upside down, so that the individual was seen as the fount of all values, his freedom of action to keep his life as the sole purpose for government, and all authorization of the uses of power flowing from his say-so was an achievement that surpassed the understanding of all European intellectuals and most of America's today.
    The war for independence that followed was against the biggest and best-armed empire on the planet at that time. Human beings liberated themselves and for a century enjoyed something called freedom.
    If America is to survive, it is that idea that must be established on a moral foundation and fought for with every breath (and, hopefully, not guns) in the individuals alive here today.
    Conservatives have made themselves irrelevant to the stopping of Communist-like ideas in America by forgetting that moral principle. Will Libertarians forget the primary liberating force of individual rights, too?

  • ||

    You're reaching here. The Declaration makes no mention of individuals or individualism, and the Founders seem to have had no conception of the terms.

  • naturalfake||

    The reason is that several people like the President himself still live in:

    BARACK OBAMA'S FAIRY PALACE

    http://naturalfake.wordpress.c.....iry-palace

  • ||

    Pope Benedict noticed. That's one of the reasons he went to the Czech Republic at the end of September. Link:http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4726071,00.html

  • ||

    The reason the anniversary of the "fall of Communism" was not observed, in my opinion, is that for much of academia, the media and a significant portion of the Democrat Party -- not to mention elite European opinion -- it's a cause for sorrow and mourning.

    As for the failure of central planning, we are in the process of a vast expansion of government power in this country, rooted in the religious belief that central planning, as practiced by our social and political elites, works! In the battle for the minds of the elites worldwide, Communism didn't fail, it won!

  • ||

    I watched Stanford professors cheer when the Wall came down. Where on earth did you get the idea that academics mourned the passing of the USSR? Most of them, I recall, were gloating at the time - "see! we and George Kennan were right and the CIA, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Right wing alarmists were wrong!" It was right-wing doctrine in the 1980s that a totalitarian regime could never change from within.

  • ||

    Oh yeah, they changed their ways out of the goodness of their Commie hearts. Reagan had nothing to do with it. It was all Gorbachev, with Perestroika, Glasnost, and that other word that the liberal west drooled over.

  • ||

    Excellent post by Paul Beaird.

  • Chris||

    It is telling that the victors of an epic economic and spiritual struggle take away conclusions that are primarily military. Telling, and tragic.

    As they say, "Victory has a thousand fathers..."

    "epic economic and spiritual struggle"??
    ...and the Super Bowl rings go to the debate team at Concordia Missouri Synod Lutheran Seminary!!

    Did I also mention that Hindsight Bias is alive and well?

    Seriously, If you would have asked these "libertarian" people in the 1980s about the Cold War, they would have told (and continue to tell) you that the Federal Reserve (and the weevil American Empire) was a greater threat than the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ever was.

    So why should anyone "commemorate" the end of the Cold War if "Reason" simply portrays it as nothing more than the closing arguments in an Oxford Union Debate?

  • Bill Anderson||

    I applaud your article Matt. As one on the front lines those last years, I still am flabbergasted that no one really understands what happened, or the enormity of the undertaking. There was nothing inevitable about the outcome of the chaos of 1989-90, and that we ended with the Soviets and the US able to work as closely together as they did in 90-91 re Iraq is a testament to the leadership and diplomatic skill of the time. I don't know if you read George Bush Sr's and Brent Scowcroft's personal account of the careful dance with the the Soviets (and our own allies) to close the Cold War, but it's worth a read (And a good read at that. It's now on the reading list at my son's university, too). "A World Transformed" (Knopf, 1998). If ever a sitting President deserved a Nobel Peace Prize, it was GHWB (senior) for what he fostered in 1989-1990. Thanks again.

  • ||

    Why don't we talk about it more? Because, so many times, when someone talks about it, they sound like a sixth grade boy just beginning to feel his testosterone. I feel it is important. However, if we are all living under authoritarian or socialist governments 100 years from now, it may not be such a big deal.

  • ||

    It don't fit the narrative.

  • ||

    The Germans remember, and they celebrate. The celebration in Liepzig looked like the 4th of July.

    http://www.mdr.de/sachsen/leipzig/6711333.html

  • ||

    The commies never came up with sniffable beautybushes, that's for sure.

  • TMLutas||

    If we weren't all obsessing over Obama's peace prize, we might notice that the Literature Nobel went to a Transylvanian German who specializes in writing about how awful communism was and whose political activity consists in insisting that the secret police have just changed uniforms.

    But that doesn't fit anybody's narrative and so is ignored.

  • ||

    Good point.

  • ||

    Hello
    Red China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea. Any of these names ring a bell? What victory?

  • ||

    I know. That's the elephant in the room Welch wants to ignore. Given that most of America's business leaders would sell their mothers into prostitution if the Chinese told them to, it's not hard to figure out why there isn't much enthusiasm among our elites for celebrating the fall of Communism. But go ahead and blame the "liberal media" if that makes you feel better.

  • ||

    The answer is too obvious. It's because it was the wrong answer for those who want to control the world. In the 20th century, every imaginable form of statism was put into practice and failed with the cost of tens of millions of lives and incalculable destruction of wealth. It's the altruism, stupid!

  • ||

    We don't talk about it more because communism has not been defeated. It's alive and well and coming soon to America.

  • ||

    There was no defeat of communism; that and related forms of authoritarianism are part of a system of religious beliefs deeply rooted in the psyche or personality of roughly 50% of humanity, most of whom are leftists. The leftist or liberal fascists are in control in the US now, so don't expect them to celebrate what they consider a defeat in the ongoing war against authoritarians.

  • Cheappleasures||

    With all due respect to Mr. Friedman, the long fight is better characterized as between Adam Smith and Karl Marx. But the point is the same: The Good Guys won.

    Our fecklessness in refusing to adequately acknowledge and appreciate our liberation of the balance of Europe upon prevailing in the Cold War is akin to Britain's throwing out Churchill in favor of Attlee as WWII was winding down, showing WSC the door just as he had finished saving Western Civilization from a long, dark chapter in human events.

  • ||

    There was a republican in office in 1989, that is why the liberal media doesn't like to mention it.

  • ||

    It depends on whose liberty that you speak of when you say the most liberating moment.

    Liberty in the USA declined rapidly from that point. Having lost the reason to prove ourselves better, fascism became attractive.

    Today, gang stalker groups are allowed to openly and notoriously stalk, harass, poison and irradiate people without the slightest fear of arrest. The USA has the highest incarceration rate. The real crime rate, which is different from the reported crime rate, is at iunprecedented levels. Cultural rot is widespread.

  • Anti-socialist||

    It would also help if people stopped referring to it merely as the collapse of communism, and also referred to the USSR as the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics (as it was not the Union of Soviet Communist Republics). And stop referring only to the Holocaust and also mention the entire socialist Wholecaust (of which the Holocaust was a part): ~60 million dead under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; ~50 million under the Peoples Republic of China; ~20 million under the National Socialist German Workers Party. And start writing the National Socialist German Workers Party, instead of fascists, or nazis. And point out that the swastika was not called a swastika by German National Socialists, but was called a Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) and was used to represent crossed S-letters for "socialism" under the National socialist german workers Party. See the work of the historian Dr. Rex Curry.

  • ||

    Oh man you can't be bringing up these dark, wretched memories for liberals who think government run by elites is pure utopia.

    Plus, in any honest assessment, you have to credit Reagan for bringing all of this about. That is even worse.

    Liberals are such idiots that in many cities like San Francisco, Portland, and so on, if Reagan ran for mayor against Stalin, Mao, or Castro, Reagan would lose in a landslide. In the campaign, Reagan's mentioning of their mass murdering ways would be mocked as the rantings of a deranged old man and failed actor who couldn't even out-act a monkey.

  • ||

    It was right-wing doctrine in the 1980s that a totalitarian regime could never change from within.

    Yeah, they did it out of the goodness of their Commie hearts.

  • ||

    How old are you? 25? Do you realize that Reagan and Schulz were fighting against the mainstream right wing thinking of the time when they decided to bankrupt the Soviet Union? Most right-wingers at the time thought that you couldn't bankrupt a totalitarian state because it would just use repression to keep going. The right-wing position was that only military force could change the USSR and that the fanatical Communist ideologues would never bend to any economic or moral persuasion(kind of the way right wingers treat Iran today). Schulz agreed with the liberal position of Kennan that the Soviet Union would eventually collapse under its own weight from its own internal economic contradictions so he and Reagan gave it a little shove (and by the way Schulz should get most of the credit for strategy, Reagan gets credit for picking the right advisor and ignoring the hawks.). The lesson of the fall of Communism is that the hawks, as always, were wrong.

  • J.||

    "The lesson of the fall of Communism is that the hawks, as always, were wrong. "

    Oh, really? That's the lesson? So, how old are you vanya? Fifteen? Under your assertion, a moral browbeating of Nazi Germany would have precluded the need for American involvement in World War II. Your supposition that a hawkish stance is always wrong is as stupid and callow as saying that a hawkish stance is always right.

    I hardly think that deploying nuclear-armed air-launched and ground-launched cruise missiles and Pershing II medium-range ballistic missiles in Western Europe, pursuing militarization of space and developing ballistic missile defense, reviving the B-1 bomber, fully funding all the conventional weapons systems in development (Abrams, Bradley, Patriot, Blackhawk, Apache, etc), supporting anti-communist insurgencies and counterinsurgencies around the world, scrapping detente to take a confrontational stance against the Soviet Union, and further developing the strategy of a "winnable" nuclear war were dovish moves by the Reagan administration. And those were all executed with great success (except maybe the B-1) and furthered our national interests, those of our allies, and eventually those of the people living under communism.

    It's also probably also worth pointing out that Shultz (not "Schulz") was a libertarian Republican, not a liberal. Most consider that to be "right-wing".

  • ||

    "Under your assertion, a moral browbeating of Nazi Germany would have precluded the need for American involvement in World War II. "

    And how do you come to that incredibly stupid conclusion? You have to travel a long, long way from "hawk" before you get to "pacifist". Shultz was demonstrably not a hawk, nor was Reagan. A hawk is not someone who is willing to use force, a hawk is someone who wants desperately to use force in every situation, facts and analysis be damned. Shultz was attacked by the right wing of the party in the 80s. These are facts, plainly available for anyone who can read.

  • TNM||

    Maybe we don't celebrate because, 20 years on, we're still paying hundreds of billions of dollars every year for weapons to fight -- the Soviets?

  • J.||

    We pay to maintain a nuclear arsenal largely because the Russians inherited that of the Soviet Union. Despite most of Eastern Europe becoming freer after the collapse of the Iron Curtain, little has really changed in Russia. Instead of a politburo, the country is run by an oppressive and quasi-fascist government (including former KGB agent Vladimir Putin as prime minister) and a criminal nouveau-riche class.

    That does not diminish the fact that we should celebrate the millions of Europeans liberated because of the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.

  • André Kenji||

    It wasn´t a fight between Marx and Friedman because what Marx really preached was very different from what Marxists preached. Marx would be fascinated by the modern western democracies and it´s welfare policies.

    What most people here forgets is something called markets. The Che Guevara of the leftists is a imaginary figure, but it´s also a very attractive one. It´s easier to do a movie with Che Guevara than to do a movie with the fall of Berlin Wall.

    It´s true that there is a stupid fascination with 1968 among intellectuals, but it´s also true that most of what happened in 1989 happened outside the bigger centers of the Western World.

    By the way, the BBC World Service is hosting a special series on the event. CNN International is doing the same.

    Maybe the problem is that Matt, like all American pundits, can´t go beyond the most obvious sources.

  • ||

    Thank you Matt for a great article. I grew up in Poland under communism and came over to live in Australia in 1987 so I missed witnessing all the changes first hand. However, as a rather naive teenager newly arrived in the West, I was absolutely shocked and disgusted how many in our democracies if not supported than at least were indifferent or ambivalent towards the enemies of freedom. You see, having grown up under the communism, I had this childish vision that everyone in the West was as anti-communist as the overwhelming majority of people living under the communism.

    Yep, how wrong could I have been? I'm only rarely now disgusted, more sad than anything. So many people got the most important moral and political question of the twentieth century wrong then, it's not difficult to see why no one wants to be reminded of their shame.

  • ||

    re: "...remains stuck in the same Reagan vs. Gorby frame that made the 1980s so intellectually shallow the first time around."

    What kind of stupid shit is that Matt -- reflexively trying to assert your libertarian independence even at the cost of contradicting your main thesis?

    Obviously Reagan and his advisers (and Thatcher & JPII) had the correct take on reality -- after all, they won, succeeding in pushing the tottering USSR until it fell.

    Take the unthinking nod to Gipper bashing and stick it.

    P.S. Funny how you don't want to admit that, misteps aside, millions of Iraqis are better off today.

  • ||

    Iraqis are better off today? That's just a stupid thing to say. Some are better off, some are worse off, some are dead. You really have no idea what the final balance will be, nor do the war's opponents. We do know that Reagan and Schulz certainly would not have invaded Iraq, nor would GHW Bush.

  • J.||

    Iraqis are better off today? That's just a stupid thing to say.

    Once again, you are full of fucking shit, and I can tell you that from first-hand experience.

  • JohnD||

    Vanya, what frigging planet do you live on? If we can forget Tony for a moment, then you are the dumbest person on this forum.

  • ||

    You really think the average Russian is better off now than in 1989. I suggest you start paying attention. Corruptly wealthy oligarchs control most of the economy, the poor are even poorer, pensions almost worthless and the rate of alcoholism has skyrocketed to a true national embarrassment and a world health crises.

  • ||

    WHy aren't more people talking about it? Thats easy. It's because there is a large portion of people in this country who beleive that Communism is still superior to American individual based freedom and are actively promoting variations of Marxism. Our universities are shot through with such folk as is Hollywood. Much of the media are sympathetic to their arguements as shown by their reflexive parroting of old KGB moral equivalence propaganda talking points about how the USA is just as bad.

  • ||

    The lamestream media doesn't talk about it because they were devastated by the fall of communism and the destruction of all they hoped for. Second reason is because it was an almost total republican/conservative enterprise and thus reminding people of this victory reminds people of the highly unserious and dangerous nature of placing democraps in high office. Obama Biden, Pelousi and Reid are (thankfully?) reminding the general public of this longstanding piece of common knowledge. This is also the reason why the lamestream media won't play the videos from 9/11, again reminding the public of what happened that date diminishes democraps/socialists and enhances republicans/conservatives.

  • ||

    If we were to acknowledge the collapse of communism, we'd also have to acknowledge that US democracy is facing a similar legitimacy crisis which could lead to collapse of the government. Many powerful vested interests wish to suppress that concept.

    A Russian professor was asked "How did it happen so fast?"

    He replied "We were all radishes - red on the outside, white on the inside. We were just waiting for the right moment. When the Soviet government lost its popular support, it collapsed."

  • Liberty Lover||

    Hi Matt,
    Milton Friedman talked and wrote about it. See his Booknotes interview about the Road to Serfdom in 1994.
    http://libertylover.blogspot.c.....years.html

  • rs||

    the cold war continues to this day. in our schools, our media, and our oval office...

  • ||

    And according to the ads next to article; Ukranian beauties are now free to be enjoyed aswell. Why not get one, you could always just send her back if she's not up to standards. That's gotta feel like an improvement for those cuties.

  • ||

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    http://www.theagedp.com/?p=353

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