YES, it's Monday, which means it's time once again to play See, I'm A Deep Thinker, Because Sometimes I Criticize A Right-Wing Strawman, Too, starring America's Favorite Thirty-Year-Old Teenager with a job at the Times.
Maybe you're ahead of me. Maybe you've been counting the hours until this Ooooh, 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall stuff crammed me with enough bile to reply, "Great. And as a result 'Right Here Right Now' joins the ranks of 'Like a Rock' and 'Melt With You' as rock anthems which will be serially adopted as commercial jingles by multi-national corporations which would've gladly given the Commies a volume discount on the concrete had that come up for competitive bid".
Sure, part of this is congenital irascibility--it's more than a little irritating to me that a nation so conflicted and Calvinist that its favorite professional sport has to penalize on-field celebrations on the grounds that the paying white customers are more than a little disturbed by the sight of gyrating African buttocks yet appends this thing to every CNN intro, Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, and Christmas in July advert for two decades without the merest sign of approaching the saturation point--and part of it is Reagan, and, yes, even if the man deserved 1% of the credit that's heaped on him I'd still work to minimize it, assuming something which wouldn't break a sweat qualifies as "work".
The history of the thing is a triple-dip cone of shit ice cream. And so, without further ado:
For most of the last century, the West faced real enemies: totalitarian, aggressive, armed to the teeth. Between 1918 and 1989, it was possible to believe that liberal democracy was a parenthesis in history, destined to be undone by revolution, ground under by jackboots, or burned like chaff in the fire of the atom bomb.
Mauled, by the Russian Bear. Burned, by the Chilean Pepper. Sandwiched, by the Westphalian Ham…*
Look, Ross-boy, there's a reason you couldn't write that sentence, over and above your collection of inadequate tools: you don't fucking care. The Cold War extremists you parrot didn't believe it, except to the extent that they convinced themselves it was boffo PR; twenty years later, spouted by someone who was busy being picked last for kickball When The Wall Fell, it's nothing but the most happenin' excuse for right-wing Cold War excesses and the utter confusion "Conservatism" falls into without a handy scapegoat. The people who ran this mega-scam didn't think Democracy was going to disappear, not that I'd go so far as to affirm they really cared any more about "liberal democracy" than your contemporary Republican cares about "term limits". Y'know, kid, back before hyperreality vanquished its competitors, most people understood Red Dawn was a stupid shoot-em-up, not a documentary. "The West" was in fact confident it would come out on top of a nuclear conflict, and the resultant losses were acceptable so long as the people who conducted it made it through okay. Just consider how for the last seven years we've imagined we'll prevail over an Idea, and how we still limit our debate to the question of precisely how much force we need to apply to get the job done. Now square the number of years, and make the idea Godless Communism instead of Islamowhatsit, and you have the Right's attitude to the Cold War. "Saving Democracy" had nothing to do with it. No doubt there was serious pants-fouling going on in some quarters at the height of the thing, but the notion that Fear Of Our Imminent Destruction was the engine that drove it? As false then as it is now.
Twenty years ago today, this threat disappeared.
No it didn't. That threat--to the extent it was real, not theoretical--dissipated in the 1970s, because the Soviets couldn't keep up, because they'd backed the wrong technology and crippled scientific advancement by subjecting it to ideological litmus testing, because the thawing of our relationship, and theirs with Western Europe--a direct result of our belated recognition that Godless International Communism, Inc. wasn't bent on global takeover the way Coca-Cola™ was, nor nearly as capable of it, and which permitted Nixon to recognize China--created a consumerist demand they couldn't answer. They then sealed the deal with an invasion of Afghanistan that made Vietnam look like a paragon of sound military planning.
An East German functionary named Günther Schabowski threw open his country’s border crossings, and by nightfall the youth of Germany were dancing atop the Berlin Wall, taking hammers to its graffiti-scarred facade.
Hey, I'm not sayin' this was purely a local question of a hated obstacle to public transport, but then again, if I ever get the chance to take a mattock to those trendy roundabouts up in Carmel I won't care if they are blaring Pink Floyd all night, either.
There will be speeches and celebrations to mark this anniversary, but not as many as the day deserves. (Barack Obama couldn’t even fit a visit to Berlin into his schedule.)
Damn! Missed a prime opportunity to conflate his Messianic Complex with his secret Reagan envy.
Never has liberation come to so many people all at once — to Eastern Europe’s millions, released from decades of bondage; to the world, freed from the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; and to the democratic West, victorious after a century of ideological struggle.
And somehow we owe it all to your good sense to be born white, privileged, and American, Ross.
Twenty years later, we still haven’t come to terms with the scope of our deliverance. Francis Fukuyama famously described the post-Communist era as “the end of history.” By this, he didn’t mean the end of events — wars and famines, financial panics and terrorist bombings. He meant the disappearance of any enduring, existential threat to liberal democracy and free-market capitalism.
Well, it is difference of opinion that makes horse races, but I'll always remember Francis as the guy who finally realized--after it hit him for the tenth time or so--what a load of crap the above argument is. Which either made him a fast learner by "conservative" standards, or a secret agent of the Devil.
This thesis has been much contested, but it holds up remarkably well.
Sure. It belongs now to Immortality, having survived for two-thirds of of the span since you first created the world in your diaper.
Even 9/11 didn’t undo the work of ’89. Osama bin Laden is no Hitler, and Islamism isn’t in the same league as the last century’s totalitarianisms.
"Offer subject to sudden Jim Rockford 180ºs, not to mention the same sort of slow, sheepish recognition of reality that got us to this bald admission from World War IV in just eight years."
Marxism and fascism seduced the West’s elite; Islamic radicalism seduces men like the Fort Hood shooter.
Our enemies resort to terrorism because they’re weak, and because we’re so astonishingly strong.
Okay, panel, I'm going to flip over all the cards, and you can remove your blindfolds. Look, here's the remarkable thing, Ross-boy, and it's not that you'd like one day a year to pretend you like Europeans, and it's certainly not that you can prattle on without the slightest inkling of what you're pontificating about (speaking of which, doesn't an hour of Mass every week, plus all the trimmings, ever get this sort of thing out of your system for a spell?). You might wanna take an actual look at our military record since 1946 some time. That Astonishing Strength, Now with Eternalol™! costs us an arm and a leg with no way out. (Remember which side it was screamed bloody treason at the merest mention of a Peace Dividend after St. Reagan banished The Wall? It was back when you were roughly as old as your beard is now.)
We have an active supercarrier fleet of eleven. Ten are Nimitz-class (we're also keeping the older Enterprise around, just in case we need to threaten an eleventh country with a shoreline and no anti-aircraft capabilities in the near future). The Nimitz class is now to be superseded by the Gerald R. Ford class.
Those ten supercarriers cost about $4 billion each to build, in 1990 dollars. They have, to date, shot down two, that's (2), that's two Libyan jets, in 1981. Each one costs about $160 mil to operate annually, absent flight operations or the expense of their 5000+ crewmen. Their only real mission is intimidating tenth-rate military powers; in a real shooting war (play along and pretend there's still such a thing as History, Ross) carriers would be forced to drop all offensive operations in order to defend themselves. (Here, however, we're in an agreement of sorts with Fukuyama: no other country on earth is likely to be foolish enough to try and build a comparable number of these Elephants of the Sea. The Ford class carriers are projected to cost $8 billion each, in 2005 dollars, and if you believe projected military costs quit bogartin'. We've pretty much committed future generations (you remember them, right? They're the ones you weep for when we spend tax money to help citizens who do not hold military contracts) to building ten of the things, to replace the Nimitz class by 2040.
That's carriers, Ross. It doesn't even count the aircraft, nor the half-dozen other ships in a strike force, or the rest of our blue-water Navy, or the Marines, or those "invisible" planes that can't fly supersonic.
'Course the good news there is that it probably still costs the Chinese a couple thousand yen to destroy the electronics and/or space-based telemetries these things depend on, so it's still cheaper and easier for them, if we piss 'em off, to just pull the plug on our credit and watch us sink. So it looks like we'll still be able to impress those weaker, terrorist countries, right up to the time where we invade and lose to another insurgency. The lousy cheaters.
*with apologies to SCTV.