November 9, 2009

The Forgotten Architects

Hatched by Dafydd

What is missing from these two articles?

The first is from the Associated Press, commemorating the anniversary of the historic day when the Berlin wall came a-tumblin' down:

Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev crossed a former fortified border on Monday to cheers of "Gorby! Gorby!" as a throng of grateful Germans recalled the night 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall gave way to their desire for freedom and unity....

Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and was one of thousands to cross that night, recalled that "before the joy of freedom came, many people suffered."

She lauded Gorbachev, with whom she shared an umbrella amid a crush of hundreds, eager for a glimpse of the man many still consider a hero for his role in pushing reform in the Soviet Union.

"We always knew that something had to happen there so that more could change here," she said.

"You made this possible -- you courageously let things happen, and that was much more than we could expect," she told Gorbachev in front of several hundred people gathered in light drizzle on the bridge over railway lines.

And here is the New York Times' take on the same meeting:

Mrs. Merkel’s symbolic walk across the Bornholmer Strasse bridge, accompanied by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Lech Walesa, the former shipyard worker who led a fight against Moscow-backed Communism in Poland, came as Berlin prepared for an evening of celebration to mark the moments on Nov. 9, 1989, when the wall began to crumble....

She said that a “new generation is growing up who are embedded in Europe, for whom the world is much more open than for our generation.”

“That is worth fighting for,” she said. The bridge was packed shoulder to shoulder with people, and the biggest cheer came when Mrs. Merkel thanked Mr. Gorbachev for the reforming attitude he brought to the Soviet leadership. The crowd chanted, “Gorby, Gorby, Gorby....”

During the celebrations, a long line of 1,000 oversized painted dominoes are to be toppled along the route of the wall as a symbol of its collapse in the heady days of 1989 when dictatorships tumbled across eastern Europe. German television said Mr. Walesa would push over the first domino, reflecting Poland’s lead in Eastern Europe’s campaign against Communism.

What is missing? How about even a single mention of the true architects of the fall of the Berlin wall? The wall was not brought down by Mikhail Gorbachev; he desperately wanted to preserve the Soviet Empire... all of it. Nor was it brought down by Lech Walesa, who wanted only for Polish authorities to allow trade unions and strikes in that country.

German citizens did not just wake up one day and begin dismantling the wall, out of the blue. And American protesters were not protesting against the Berlin wall in 1989 -- they were too busy protesting against the efforts to dismantle it!

Forgotten -- or more accurately, airbrushed out of the picture in an American instance of "the Commisar Vanishes" -- are the two men who actually wrought that change in the face of strident, almost hysterical opposition by virtually the entire world: Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. Neither receives so much as a mention in either article -- nor in the articles by the Washington Post or Reuters.

Only the Wall Street Journal reluctantly brings up Reagan, almost as an embarassment; he sneaks in through the back door in a single throw-away line in the eleventh paragraph of a 15-graf story. And the reference is preceded by the following expurgated history:

Ms. Merkel, then a 35-year-old physicist living in East Berlin, was among those who walked through the open gate into democratic West Berlin that night. On Monday she led former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity movement, across the bridge, through a chaotic throng that Ms. Merkel said reminded her of the real event 20 years ago.

The chancellor thanked both men for their contributions to the democratic revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in 1989. The independent trade union Solidarity challenged Communist rulers who claimed to speak for the workers, while Mr. Gorbachev "bravely let things happen" in Poland, East Germany and other former Soviet satellites, Ms. Merkel said to cheers from onlookers. For 28 years the Berlin Wall stopped East Germans from visiting or escaping to West Berlin, an enclave of the democratic, capitalist West inside the Communist bloc during the Cold War. The fortified and guarded Wall fell to crowds of ordinary citizens 20 years ago after an East German official bungled the announcement of new travel regulations, giving media the impression that the border lay open with immediate effect.

While Germans have celebrated that happy accident in recent days and weeks, Ms. Merkel's government has been at pains to commemorate the wider context of reforms, mass protests and democratic revolutions across Eastern Europe in 1989.

Symbolically, Mr. Walesa and former Hungarian Communist reformer Miklos Nemeth were due to tip over the first of the decorative dominoes on Monday night.

Solidarity led the first non-purely-Communist government in the Soviet bloc following its victory in June 1989 elections. Mr. Nemeth, as Hungarian prime minister, opened his country's border with Austria in May 1989, a move that allowed thousands of East Germans to flee to the West and set off the unravelling of the Iron Curtain that had divided Cold War Europe.

Yeah... that's how I remember it. (One must bear in mind that the only portion of the WSJ that is in any sense "conservative" -- is the Opinion section. The rest could be written by Reuters, and frequently is.)

The Los Angeles Times does deign to mention Reagan, at least; but it saves him for an opinion piece -- in which James Mann of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies argues, in a rather snide and smug tone, that Reagan really had no intention of bringing down the wall or dismantling the Soviet Union; rather, he was anxious to buddy up to Gorbachev and preserve the evil empire, so we could do business with it. (Mr. Mann makes Reagan out to be more dovish than Jimmy Carter.)

Confused? Here's a sample:

But how significant was the speech, really? How important was its seemingly defiant tone in reuniting Berlin and "winning" the Cold War? [Note the scare quotes]

To many American conservatives, the answer to those questions is simple: Reagan stared down the Soviet Union. And the Berlin Wall speech stands as the dramatic symbol of Reagan's challenge and triumph.

But those who say this ignore the actual history and context of the speech. In fact, Reagan's address served the purpose of shoring up public support as he moved to upgrade American relations with the Soviet Union. It was Reagan's diplomacy with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, bitterly opposed at the time by his conservative former supporters, that did the most to create the climate in which the Cold War could end.

The Cold War just... ended. For some inexplicable reason.

It's an amazingly tendentious opinion piece, the only purpose of which is to pooh-pooh the obviously silly idea that Reagan had any animus towards the USSR; rather, all his blustery rhetoric was just cover for a Kissengerian realpolitik. Reagan just wanted to improve our bargaining position -- he never meant for the Soviet Union to fall! One gains the impression that Ronald Reagan might even have been horrified at the loss of a negotiating partner...

Mr. Mann's thesis is a patent absurdity, and I don't care if the entire Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies gives it a hearty thumbs-up. Mr. Mann argues that Reagan spent four decades fighting against the evil that was (and may yet be again) the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and then he abruptly turned a corner in the late 1980s and started liking them, trying to prop them up as long as he could. Mr. Mann is an idiot -- but a useful one for today's American Left. He is not literally unintelligent, in the sense of a Joe Biden or a Barack H. Obama; but by his anti-Right animus, he has allowed the Left to make a fool of him.

Reagan himself famously said that if he succeeded in his goals (one of which was the destruction of the Soviet Union), he didn't care who got the credit. But we, the living, cannot afford the luxury of such magnanimity. We cannot allow the American and Euro-Left to hijack the credit for ending the Cold War, when they were the very ones who tried mightily to perpetuate it, and indeed tried their crooked best to ensure victory for the other side.

Why not? Because the same Left is today beavering away at restoring that same evil empire, this time under the tender mercies of Russia's Vladimir Putin and his sock puppet, Dmitri Medvedev; under the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, in North Korea; under Hu Jintau in China; under Oogo Chavez in Venezuela and los bros Castro in Cuba... and especially under the leveling regime of the United Nations, which treats socialist, totalitarian states that impose tyranny with the same respect as they treat free, independent states that promote individualism and liberty. Hey, who are we to say which is best?

Reagan and John Paul II were not "commisars," and we must not allow them to vanish from the picture. They stood proud and strong for clear principles of freedom, democracy, self-determination, individual responsibility and accountability, and Capitalism -- the great marriage of liberty and economics. Above all, both men, following in Thomas Jefferson's footsteps, had "sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." (Of course, Jefferson would have listed the Church itself among those tyrannies.)

It is long past time for us anti-Leftists to take back the Right.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 9, 2009, at the time of 2:59 PM

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Tracked on November 9, 2009 2:34 PM


The following hissed in response by: Chris Hunt

To be fair, in a Der Spiegel interview, Walesa gave a lot of credit to John Paul. He also seemed dismissive of this whole spectacle. Evidently he feels that Poland has not made the most of its opportunity for freedom, especially economically.

The above hissed in response by: Chris Hunt [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2009 5:23 AM

The following hissed in response by: dasbow

I was stationed in Germany from 86 to 88. Every once in a while we would see a news story about an elderly man from Illinois who would be arrested by the East Germans. You see, he found the wall such an abomination that he would travel to Berlin, and climb onto the wall, hammer in hand. He always managed to get a few chunks out of it before they hauled him away. Even the Communists didn't want to imprison this old man, so they would deport him. I don't know if his passport was ever revoked, but he'd still reappear up on the wall, hammer in hand. I'd like to think he was first in line greeting the newly freed East Berliners as they streamed through.

The above hissed in response by: dasbow [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2009 9:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

I seem to remember a quote by Reagan, when asked for his strategy for the cold war, he responded: "We win, they lose."

But I'm sure he didn't really mean that.

Gorby deserves credit for not being stupid, Reagan deserves credit for being smart. There is a difference.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 10, 2009 2:36 PM

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