Foreign Policy

Gorby, in The Nation: "Is the World Really Safer Without the Soviet Union?"


Things were just so much SAFER back in 1991

So how shall we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the demise of the objectively evil Soviet Union? I've got it! Let's "focus instead on what may have been lost." Such is the debased quality of moral thinking over at The Nation, where a commie-nostalgia symposium is kicked off by a lament from none other than the last emperor, Mikhail Gorbachev. Jumping straight to the authoritarian's conclusion:

In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable. Instead of a new world order—that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable—we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters. The global economic crisis that broke out in 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Has the world become less physically safe, more prone to, say, armed inter-state conflicts that produce 1,000 battle deaths in a given year? Here's what American University international relations professor Joshua S. Goldstein and Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker had to say about this on Christmas Eve:

These prototypical wars have become increasingly rare, and the world hasn't seen one since the three-week invasion of Iraq in 2003. The lopsided five-day clash between Russia and Georgia in 2008 misses the threshold, as do sporadic clashes between North and South Korea or Thailand and Cambodia. […]

What about other kinds of armed conflict, like civil wars and conflicts that miss the 1,000-death cutoff? Remarkably, they too have been in decline. Civil wars are fewer, smaller and more localised. Terrible flare-ups occur, and for those caught in the middle, the results are devastating - but far fewer people are caught in the middle.

The biggest continuing war, in Afghanistan, last year killed about 500 Americans, 100 other coalition troops and 5,000 Afghans including civilians. That toll, while deplorable, is a fraction of those in past wars like Vietnam, which killed 5,000 Americans and nearly 150,000 Vietnamese per year. Over all, the annual rate of battle deaths worldwide has fallen from almost 300 per 100,000 of world population during World War II, to almost 30 during Korea, to the low teens during Vietnam, to single digits in the late 1970s and 1980s, to fewer than one in the 21st century.

Read the whole thing here, and watch's interview with Pinker below:

Gorby, who I had the pleasure of arguing with in 2006, turns in some marvelous timeline-revisionism and deployment of the passive voice here:

In fairness, this was a picture of Romania. Which, as we know, was Richard Nixon's (and the Queen's!) great ally against the Soviets.

[T]he result [of various summit meetings] was mutual trust, which enabled me and President Bush to state at the Malta summit in December 1989 that our two nations no longer regarded each other as enemies. It meant that the cold war was over. This opened the way to cooperation in ending regional conflicts that had raged for decades in various parts of the world and in pushing back Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait in 1990, and, most important, led to peaceful change in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989–91, based on the free choice of its people. This process culminated in the unification of Germany.

Why, it's as if Mikhail Gorbachev supported the reunification of a NATO-allied Germany (to say nothing of the independence of the since-thirving Baltic states) in real time! It will certainly come as news to the ghost of Loreta Asanavi?i?t? that the Soviet tank treads that crushed the life out of her body in January 1991 was because Gorbachev's statecraft "led to peaceful change in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989–91, based on the free choice of its people."

Reason on Gorbachev here. Thanks to commie-hater and Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan for the heads-up.

NEXT: Depressing Quotation of the Day - Federal Debt Edition

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Gorbachev's living out on Sunset Boulevard.

    1. Poor Gorbi. He used to be big. He used to be huge!

      Oh, and "Read the whole thing here"? Why?

      1. "It's the world that got small."

        Er, that works for me.

  2. Pinker's a Stinker. Typical of Reason to keep pushing lies after they've been thoroughly debunked.

    Steven Pinker's Stinker on the Origins of War
    Did Steven Pinker knowingly mislead his audience at TED?

    1. You make a persuasive case; that link thoroughly debunks the man's body of work. I am convinced.

      Pre-agricultural society really does seem like the way to go. Everything was so peaceful then. Hey! I just had an idea! We should go back to that! Fuck, that would be so cool. Now THAT's the kind of fantasy that can sufficiently distract me from my general inability to fit in with contemporary society.

  3. Jingoistic Americans can never see past their caricatures of communism long enough to understand that communism brought progress and stability to regions of the world which had been mired in a primitive state beforehand.

    1. North Korea and Cuba are models of progress and stability, yes sir!

      1. Totalitarian states are always quite stable. Leave Latte alone; he's batting .500

      2. ...taken like candy from babies.

        Infant mortality rates per 1,000 live birth
        ? Cuba: 5.8
        ? United States 6.9

        1. Oh god, not this nonsense again!

          1. People who bring up that shit are just plain liars. Because you know that they have been corrected, yet they repeat it anyway.

            What a loser.

            1. I know how you Fundamentalist work.

        2. We could explain why this is a thoroughly misleading statistic, but you'd just ignore it as you ignore everything else.

            1. Abandon hope, dudes; how can we stand up to withering arguments like those - cap/bold no less.

              1. Easy. Don't reply. If nobody replies then the pathetic loser will eventually get bored and seek sympathy somewhere else.

                1. Unlikely. He's not here for any sort of response, he's just here to engage in several one-sided, long-winded rants about a favorite topic while misunderstanding or not recognizing the reader's feelings or reactions. Whether we respond or not is irrelevant.

                  1. If you reply to it, you get what you deserve. I am asking that we all voluntarily refrain from replying to it in any way, shape or form. No jokes, no mocking...nothing. It is looking for a response; that's all it wants.

                    1. Yes. xmas break will end next week and he'll be back in school.

                    2. ...White Uselful Idiot, just in time to apologize for Communism once again. Yawn.

        3. Yeah, lack of freedom of thought, no food, imprisonment at the whim of the ruling party, - these are just some fo the things that are worth enduring so that we can save that extra 1 out of a thousand baby.

          Remember, it doesn't matter how shitty things are as long as they are equally shitty for everyone.

          1. so that we can save that extra 1 out of a thousand baby

            Or you can ignore premature and sick babies, while the United States does not, making your statistics look better as a result.
            Of course that makes the comparison a lie, but that's never stopped a liberal from repeating it.

            1. Statistics issued or influenced by a totalitarian state are trustworthy why? It's like saying China has fewer prisoners than the U.S.

              1. Statistics issued or influenced by a totalitarian the state are trustworthy why?


                1. Also true. But at least there are some other channels for truth finding in countries like ours. Not so much in China, Cuba, North Korea, etc.

        4. And my tank factory produced 10 billion tanks this year, comrade Stalin (please don't shoot me).

          1. "Were we going to tell him that the tanks are 1:32 scale?"

        5. Wonderful, all I have to endure is repression, hunger, abject poverty in order to achieve that superior infant mortality rate.

          The infant mortality rates of Latin America and Caribbean countries have been trending downwards for decades, and some of those countries didn't even need to resort to oppressive communism to achieve it.

    2. I really admire Ayn Rand's penchant for genocide.

      "[The Native Americans] didn't have any rights to the land ... Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent." ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy at West Point, March 6, 1974

      The RIGHT. To TAKE.

      That's one honest capitalist.

      1. Or her attitude regarding the Palestinians. She made the Ron Paul newsletters look like a love poem.

        1. Everybody else is GOY.

          That's the way Objectivists roll.

          1. Take.
          2. Legitimize the taking.
          3. Call any other takers moochers.


        2. She knew the truth and told it.

    3. Eras like the Krushchev Thaw certainly did bring about progress and stability, but Leninist and Stalinist Russia were mired in war, internal cullings, hunger, and poverty.

      1. Eras like the Krushchev Thaw certainly did bring about progress and stability

        Yeah, because anyone who showed any initiative was in the Gulag.

        His predecessors did the dirty work; he just cleaned up.

        Although he did a great job enacting the purges in the Ukraine. One of Stalin's best butt boys.

    4. Da, tovarich, now be a good useful idiot and bring the dictator a beer.

  4. In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable.

    So come on, you Russians, Ukrainians and Armenians, you Cossacks and Georgians. Eastern Europe, I'm looking at you. Pitch in, be team players, give it up for world stability. Let's get that CCCP back together again for the good of all (the rest of) mankind.

  5. It seems that his argument is basically; "See! All of those people needed oppressing!"

  6. Communism is a religion and religious extremist opinions on most issues should be ignored. This is one of those issues.

    1. The members of the American economics profession, as [Thurman] Arnold contended, performed a vital practical role in maintaining this unique system of corporate socialism American style. It was their role to prevent the American public from achieving a correct understanding of the actual workings of the American economic system. Economists instead were assigned the task to dispense priestly blessings that would allow business to operate independent of damaging political manipulation. They accomplished this task by means of their message of "laissez faire religion, based on a conception of a society composed of competing individuals." However false as a description of the actual U.S. economy, this vision in the mind of the American public was in practice "transferred automatically to industrial organizations with nation-wide power and dictatorial forms of government." Even though the arguments of economists were misleading and largely fictional, the practical ? and beneficial ? result of their deception was to throw a "mantle of protection ? over corporate government" from various forms of outside interference. Admittedly, as the economic "symbolism got farther and farther from reality, it required more and more ceremony to keep it up." But as long as this arrangement worked and there could be maintained "the little pictures in the back of the head of the ordinary man," the effect was salutary ? "the great [corporate] organization was secure in its freedom and independence." It was this very freedom and independence of business professionals to pursue the correct scientific answer ? the efficient answer ? on which the economic progress of the United States depended.

      ? Robert H. Nelson, REACHING FOR HEAVEN ON EARTH

      Economic efficiency has been the greatest source of social legitimacy in the United States for the past century, and economists have been the priesthood defending this core social value of our era.

      ? Robert H. Nelson, ECONOMICS AS RELIGION

  7. "jump strait"? I see what you did there!

  8. Instead of a new world order?that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable?we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters. The global economic crisis that broke out in 2008 made that abundantly clear.

    This is particularly edifying, coming from the man I like to refer to as the Inspector Clouseau of totalitarian hegemony.

  9. Instead of a new world order?that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable?we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters.

    Who could argue with the truth of that? More effective global governance would be a great boon. The world missed a real opportunity when the cold war ended.

    1. Yes, comrade. I'm sure the Top Men in New York or Brussels or even Moscow know what's best for me here in Louisville, KY better than I do. And hey, if they think all the steel or wheat in the world is better used elsewhere regardless of pricing information, well, that's just too bad for me. For the good of the world, comrade.

      1. You may not realize what is best from your limited view in Louisville, KY. It is easier to see from the mountain top than from the valley. Not everyone has the perspective to make the wise decisions.

        1. Damn, fell for the spoof troll again. This argument is both facile and woefully esoteric.

  10. Dude that is like totally cool man

  11. I'm with Gorbie. I miss the Soviet Union in so far as it keep US imperial ambitions in check. Now we'll have Russia and China doing that, with less safety and effectiveness.

    1. Nothing keeps US 'Imperial' designs in check than the oppression of millions achieved through Soviet Imperial designs.

    2. Yeah, too bad the millions and millions slaughtered aren't around to argue with you.

      Hey, it's the price we, er, the have to pay to check US imperialism (whatever the hell that is).

      You know, those puppet states like Iraq that told us to leave. Or the Pakistanis who do whatever they want.

      If that's imperialism then I'm a potato.

  12. ...we have had global turmoil, a world drifting in uncharted waters. The global economic crisis that broke out in 2008 made that abundantly clear.

    Hahahahaha!!! Right, because communism would've gotten us out of this economic jam. Maybe if we'd switched to it for a couple years, let a billion or two people die, things would be better for the survivors?

  13. What's to stop Lichtenstein from annexing Poland, now that the USSR is no longer there to defend them?

    1. It is exactly this kind of flippant comment that makes real political discourse all but impossible. The primary role of the USSR was to prevent economic hegemony being used against countries like Poland.

      1. By having the USSR impose its economic (and military) hegemony on Poland itself? Huh?

        1. Hegemony is when other people do it. When we do it, it is cooperation.

          1. Geez, we can't even get a little country like Pakistan to do what we want.

            Iraq kicks us out, Karzai tells us to get lost...

            Some imperialism.

  14. Gorbachev is going to spend the rest of his life defending the indefensible. History pulled the rug out from under him and now he's trying desperately to say, "I told you so! See? If only I had been able to stay in power everything would have been wonderful." Kind of sad, and certainly proving that the man is not a deep thinker

    1. There are many Russian jokes on the ambivalent mind of Gorbachev.

      While he is winding down the Soviet Union, Gorbachev has to take a vacation to the south for his health. During this time the old guard in the Communist party start a coup against him. His secretary calls him in a panic.

      Secretary: Comrade, I have bad news. The party has launched a coup against you and your reforms.

      Gorbachev: No problem, I will help lead it.

      Or something like that. I guess you had to be there.

      1. A politician sees a parade...

    2. "Gorbachev is going to spend the rest of his life defending the indefensible."

      Yep, he's been doing this for 20 years. Or trying to. Only the fools at the Nation still believe it.

      If only he succeeded, you see, the Soviet Union would have evolved into a Slavic Sweden.

      All of these problems - caused by the US - would have been prevented!

      You have to admit that communists couldn't make much but they sure were experts in falsifying history. The one that happened and the one that didn't.

  15. Also, Rocky IV has lost its gravitas since the Soviet Union has expired.

  16. To steal from RoboMcCain:

    According to Heather Butthurt, the executive director of the National Security Network, "A foreign policy that lets our trading partners collapse (in Europe); fails to engage with new ones as they are busily building ties with each other (Brazil, Turkey, Korea, Indonesia); and lets new disease incubate in the food we import and pollution concentrate in the winds we breathe will kill citizens and impoverish our national treasury as surely as the wars Paul critiques."

    Not really on topic, I just like reading "Heather Butthurt".

  17. What we lost with the Soviet Union was a good mirror.

    After terrorist attacks in the 80's we didn't start strip-searching people at the airports - only commies did that shit. We didn't ban "assault weapons" or use SWAT for search warrants - tell people were they could smoke or get dj's fired for jokes on the radio - we were the good guys - the free.

    We used to know that too much state power was absolute evil. Now, not so much.

    1. Welcome to the Totalitarian States of Amerika.

    2. Yeah, we were far from perfect, of course, but the USSR did hold up a great anti-ideal to un-emulate.

  18. "Iran will block the Straight of Hormuz"
    --Mike Riggs

    "Jumping strait to the authoritarian's conclusion"
    --Matt Welch

    What's going on at Reason today with the homophones?

    1. Are the Straits of Hormuz homophobic?

  19. Pinker looks like an old lesbo.

  20. I miss Stalin.

  21. Next up: Simon Legree on how our inner cities are more dangerous since slavery is no longer around.

  22. For fuck's sake.

    1. What the world needs is more evil oppression. We don't have enough.

      1. I see you're glibly dismissing Gorbechav's words without even reading them. If you'd bother to read them, you'd see how much substance there is in his words. The world is not black and white, you know.

        1. I am pretty sure Gorby makes more money than you do.

        2. You're right. I'm a knee-jerk libertarian. Please send me off to re-education.

          1. Look, I've consulted the actuarial tables, and I know that you're probably a white male. You take your privilege as a given, don't you?

            1. Not only that, I'm descended from slaveowners.

              1. None, I say NONE! of you are respected libertarians!

                1. Oh, yeah? Read this quote, bitch: "Urkobold [is] a widely-read [sic] libertarian culture site. . . ."

  23. What the world needs is more evil oppression.

    Totalitarianism is only evil when the other guy does it. We, on the other hand, are totally committed to saving the life of ever man, woman and child; what's wrong with that?

  24. Seems to me like those guys know exactly what the deal is.

  25. Too bad the US did not also squeeze China economically like it did the Soviet Union so that the Chinese communist would have collapsed like the Soviets and their Warsaw Pack allies. Instead the US opened its markets and financial system to the Chinese communists which saved them from their own failed economic system. They now have access to money, technology and markets and combined with their sweatshop labor this keeps the communists in power.

    1. Nope. We've pretty much overheated their economy, only with demand instead of competition. If you look at the world a certain way, you see a cynical conspiracy rather than ineptitude at the highest levels.

      Like how not exploiting US resources due to rising EPA standards makes sure that we will extract our resources when they are most valuable.

  26. What exactly is so heretical about Gorbachev remarks except for an implicit and evidence-lacking assumption that he wants mother Russia to return in all her glory?

    His comments simplified:

    fall of Soviet Union = opportunity for world peace and prosperity

    fall of Soviet Union NOT = automatic world peace and prosperity

    efforts to bring world peace and prosperity after fall of Soviet Union = failure (evidence, 2008 financial crisis, among wars/conflicts).

    Disagree with his analysis and conclusions if you like, it's a stretch to say he wants the hammer and sickle to fly again

    1. The implicit assumption is that "global governance" - i.e. MORE STATE CONTROL OF EVERYTHING - would be a preferred solution to the 'messiness' of today, where we have rioting in the streets because certain people might be sick of being ruled by corrupt dictators.

      The world was much more 'stable' when most of these 'unstable' 3rd world countries were generally ruled by puppets managed either by the US or USSR.

      Stability for its own sake is not necessarily a desirable end for free people. For totalitarians? Sure.

  27. Instead of a new world order?that is, enough global governance to prevent international affairs from becoming dangerously unpredictable...

    And by 'global governance', we of course mean One Party Rule, crushing ideological totalitarianism, restriction of speech, centrally managed distribution of resources, and an extremely stable economy in which there is no socioeconomic inequality because everyone (except party leaders) will be equally miserable.

    Nor free to gambol

  28. efforts to bring world peace and prosperity after fall of Soviet Union = failure (evidence, 2008 financial crisis, among wars/conflicts).


    BY all means, tell the East Germans they are worse off. And the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians...

    For that matter, tell the Finns.

    You're a fucking retard.

    1. [Shaking] Please don't kill me Mr. Soprano, I'm just the messenger. Mr. Gorbachev, he's the guy you want. [Screen goes dark]

      The Eastern Europeans are much better off sans the Soviet Union. He's talking about how the Soviet Union used violent repression to bring out stability, and how it's absense doesn't mean we all hold hands and sign kumbaya, but rather have to deal with violence from the likes of Al Qaeda and such.

      To boil it down even further: people whose goal is violent attacks are still around even after the violent commies that kept them in check with violence themselves are gone.


  29. In short, the world without the Soviet Union has not become safer, more just or more stable.

    There's something to the suggestion that freedom doesn't bring stability in the short term.

    That having been said, if the people of the former Soviet Union wanted to rebuild --back into what the Soviet Union was when Gorbie was running things? They could have done that.

    They could do that tomorrow!

    Even after the horrors of the break up of the former Yugoslavia, I don't think anyone there would seriously consider going back to the way things used to be. They may be nostalgic for a time before all their neighbors were killing each other, but I don't think they want to go back to the Soviet Union any more than Americans wanted to go back to being part of England after the American Civil War.

    1. Give us time.

  30. "Has the world become less physically safe, more prone to, say, armed inter-state conflicts that produce 1,000 battle deaths in a given year?"

    It should also be noted that since the demise of the Soviet Union, there isn't as much in the way of arms and cash being thrown around by various communist dictatorships to spread revolution.

    Nowadays, when people talk about a Maoist insurgency somewhere, they're talking about the insurgency's ideology rather than its funding.

    Oh, and why talk about all this stuff in hindsight?

    Why not make the case in the present tense? If Gorbie wants to explain why the world's a safer and more stable place because a communist dictatorship is running North Korea, I'm all ears.

    If we could make North Korea go the way of the Soviet Union--minus the huge conflagration just like when the USSR dissolved? Is Gorbie gonna argue that we shouldn't let that happen?

  31. See what the US ruling military-industrial conglomerate has been doing since 1991! Father Bush unleashed the Gulf war in 1991 that Clinton continued but under a different guise. Then came Bush the Son who started the criminal wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan as there was no international restraining power as before. If the Soviet power were still intact, the American rulers would have thought twice before hurling millions of people in the hell of war and destruction. But the Soviet Union was gone and now the field for predatory wars was open for the American ruling elites and their imperial agenda.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.