Aug 17, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 46 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It’s more than a quarter-century since the Berlin Wall came down. We now take it for granted that it happened, assume it was inevitable that it would happen, and forget that some people helped bring about victory in the Cold War while others sought to impede their efforts.
As Joseph Bottum explains elsewhere in this issue, the late Robert Conquest was decidedly in the first category. He told the truth about the Soviet Union when doing so wasn’t fashionable. He helped educate and guide two politicians who weren’t afraid of the derision of their supposed intellectual and cultural betters, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. When a second edition of his 1968 classic, The Great Terror, was to be issued in 1990, his publisher asked him to come up with a new title. His friend Kingsley Amis is reputed to have suggested I Told You So, You F—ing Fools.
There were lots of Cold War fools. Some were senators, like Joe Biden and John Kerry. Some were students and community organizers, like Barack Obama. They did not come to power in time to lose the Cold War. They did come to power in time to lose the Iraq war and preside over an extraordinary diminution of U.S. power and stature in the post-9/11 world.
In 1992, Conquest wrote that the lessons of the 20th century “have not yet been learned, or not adequately so.” Nor have they been learned since. Conquest lamented the “massive reality denial” that prevented many from having a clear-eyed view of Soviet communism. But the denial of reality embodied in the Iran deal is the latter-day cousin of the denial of reality with respect to the Soviet Union.
It’s all there, after all—the wishful thinking, the belief that accommodation on the part of the West is all that is needed to make the world safer and that appeasement on the part of the West will produce peace. The resort to the same dishonest rhetoric is also there—the claim that to be tough-minded is to be a warmonger and that to insist on moral clarity and military strength is to beat the drums of war. Having chosen to remember nothing of the Cold War, especially nothing that would dent their amour propre, John Kerry and Barack Obama have learned nothing from the Cold War years. Conquest wouldn’t have expected them to.
But we are not simply putty in the hands of Barack Obama and John Kerry. We have a Congress that can act. In 1979, congressional opposition, led by men educated and inspired by Robert Conquest, doomed a bad arms-control deal with the Soviet Union and laid the groundwork for the election of Ronald Reagan, who reversed America’s course. Congress has an opportunity to follow in their footsteps today. It would be a fitting posthumous tribute to Robert Conquest.
Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
There’s a thick vein of subversion in any good conservative journalist, and in M. Stanton Evans, who died last week, the vein ran wide and deep. Always, though, it was tempered by good humor, a sly appreciation for human absurdity, and an implacable love for his country and for what his friend Russell Kirk called “the permanent things.” He was one of a handful of men who could lay claim to being a founder of the conservative movement in the United States, and if the movement has lost some of his bounce and zing along the way, we can’t blame Stan.
Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In an earlier life, The Scrapbook worked at the Washington Times under the storied foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave, whose long career at Newsweek was already the stuff of legend when he became editor in chief of the Times in 1985. As an underdog, upstart, scrappy competitor of the Washington Post, the Times had an eccentric newsroom in those days.
Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook was saddened to learn last week of the death, after a long illness, of Sir Martin Gilbert, the British historian. He was 78 years old. Sir Martin, whose grandparents had fled to England from czarist Russia after a pogrom, was an Oxford-educated scholar and writer of exceptional fluency and industry. Obituary tributes have made much of the fact that he produced some 80 books in his lifetime—an astonishing record, by any measure—but of course, there was more to his achievement than mere numbers.
Walter Berns, 1919-2015.Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By JEREMY RABKIN
Walter Berns, who died last week at 95, was a scholar who spoke for a more serious and more confident America. He did his best service in the 1960s and ’70s, when America was at its least sober and self-confident.
Aristotle says nature intends the gentleman to be physically imposing but does not always achieve this intention. Nature delivered for Walter Berns. Or anyway (which may have been Aristotle’s point), Berns made the most of nature’s gifts. He was imposing.
The constitutionalist par excellence.Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By JAMES W. CEASER
Walter Berns, a leading figure in the study of constitutional law for nearly half a century, enjoyed an advantage over most other scholars in this field: He never attended law school. Unburdened by this professional training, Berns brought to his subject the fresh perspective of an outsider who had studied political philosophy at the University of Chicago, earning his doctorate in 1953. This theoretical background helped prepare Berns to see not only differently but further than his more legalistic colleagues.
Harry Jaffa, 1918-2015.Jan 26, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 19 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
To begin to convey a sense of what an extraordinary and compelling figure Harry V. Jaffa was, I offer a confession: The only class notes I have kept from college or graduate school are contained in the dog-eared, green notebook from my courses with Jaffa, and I keep it in my top desk drawer. In idle moments, I read over those notes, reminding myself of key points, puzzling over ideas and observations I still don’t fully understand, but above all marveling at the mind of one of the great teachers of our time.
Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Martin Anderson, the economist and adviser to Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan foremost among them, died this past week. The Scrapbook remembered with a pang being hosted by him one pleasant afternoon more than a decade ago at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he was for many years a senior fellow and adornment to that institution.
P. D. James, 1920-2014Dec 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 14 • By JON L. BREEN
The British novelist P. D. James, who died late last month at the age of 94, was one of the most significant crime fiction figures to emerge in the latter half of the 20th century. A late starter at 42 when her first novel Cover Her Face introduced Scotland Yard detective and published poet Adam Dalgliesh in 1962, she was still contributing major work 50 years later.
6:02 PM, Sep 27, 2014 • By MATT LABASH
If I sported a hairpiece, I’d be wearing it at half-mast right about now, upon hearing that the world just grew a little less interesting. For the most colorful man who ever inhabited Congress, former Ohio Democratic Rep. James A .
Fred Barnes on an unforgettable hero.Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By FRED BARNES
Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. had three careers in the course of his 89 years. He was a Navy pilot. He was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for seven years and seven months. And he was a U.S. senator from Alabama.
He excelled in all three, but it was as leader of the POWs at the Hanoi Hilton that he should always be remembered. He spent four years in solitary confinement and was brutally beaten many times. Yet he defied his captors year after year and suffered as much as the POWs he led.
Fouad Ajami, 1945-2014.Jul 14, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 41 • By LEE SMITH
Hardly a day passes that I don’t think it’s a good time to go back and reread Fouad Ajami. As events unfold in the Middle East, he always offers some insight or information, or better yet one perfect and memorable sentence or phrase, that points at an answer to the whole puzzle. And now I want to read it all again—the books, the countless essays and newspaper columns, transcripts from interviews and TV appearances—all at once, as if to fill the hole left by his death in late June.
Tony Gwynn, 1960-2014.Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By JEREMY ROZANSKY
The Hall of Famer Greg Maddux once explained his pitching success by pointing to a road a quarter-mile off. At that distance, he observed, you couldn’t tell whether a car was traveling 55, 65, or 75 miles per hour. So it was in pitching. Unless the batter is tipped off by a hitch in the delivery or an anomalous spin, he’s left guessing at whether the ball will come at 80, 85, or 90 miles per hour. “You just can’t do it,” Maddux explained, “except for that [expletive] Tony Gwynn.”
May 19, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 34 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook cited Gary Becker last week, in a list of outstanding recipients of the Bradley Prize. We’re sorry to have a sadder reason to mention his name this week: He died May 3, at the age of 83. “He was perhaps the greatest living economist,” George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen eulogized. Becker’s influence is felt far beyond his own field, however. If the basic lesson of economics is that incentives matter, Gary Becker taught the world that incentives matter everywhere.