Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Much has been said and written on the passing of Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

Today's WSJ reprints his speech at Harvard in 1978:

Very well-known representatives of your society, such as
George Kennan, say: We cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus we mix good
and evil, right and wrong and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute
Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West
against communism's well-planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. .
. .

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of
it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is. There have
been naive predictions by some American experts who believed that Angola would
become the Soviet Union's Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in Africa would best
be stopped by special U.S. courtesy to Cuba. Kennan's advice to his own country
-- to begin unilateral disarmament -- belongs to the same category. If you only
knew how the youngest of the Moscow Old Square officials laugh at your political
wizards! As to Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States, sending his
troops to distant adventures from his country right next to

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to
understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just
as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or
communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with
particular clarity. But members of the U.S. antiwar movement wound up being
involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the
suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists
hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today?
Or do they prefer not to hear? The American Intelligentsia lost its [nerve] and
as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But
there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the
hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing pause;
however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a
warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation's courage. But if a full-fledged
America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the
West hope to stand firm in the future?

I am reading Tony Judt's wonderful Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. It's all quite stunning, especially the author's recollections of the century's intellectual giants who could not and would not face up to Communism's horrors. Even after they had all become common knowledge.

Here is Judt's final judgment on one of many of the greats that he covers.

"Eric Hobsbawn is the most naturally gifted historian of our time; but rested and untroubled, he has somehow slept through the terror and shame of the age."