Wednesday, November 07, 2007

November 9th Should be a Day of Celebration

November 9th should be a National holiday. Or better yet, it should be a worldwide holiday. It should rival a combination of New Years’ Eve and the 4th of July. There should be concerts, dancing in the street, Champagne toast, ringing of church bells, and fire works.

On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the world changed forever. As the world watched, we did not know if Russia would send in troops to put down the rebellion or not. We did not know if East Germans guards would fire on their fellow citizens. In 1958 an uprising in Hungary was crushed. In 1968 the Czech rebellion was likewise suppressed. As we watched in 1989 it was hard to believe that the East German rebellion would end differently, but there was reason to hope.

There was reason to believe that there were few true believers in Communism left behind the Iron curtain. Gorbachev, to save Communism, had launched Perestroika and Glasnost, which had not saved Communism but sealed its fate. The Soviets had been forced to realize that they could not outspend the west in the arms race. The Solidarity union movement had sprung up in Poland and not been crushed and Catholicism had a Polish pope who was encouraging the Catholics behind the Iron Curtain to keep the faith, and America had a president who said his goal was not to co-exist with Communism but to defeat it. The West was more confident and the East seemed exhausted.

With modern communications and contact between the captive peoples of the East and the free people of the West, Communist governments could no longer convince their people that Communism was a superior way to organize society. And, for the first time, attempts to spread Communism had failed. From the tiny island of Granada, to Nicaragua, to Afghanistan, attempts at expansion had met with failure. When the demonstrators in East Germany began chipping away at the wall, the guards did not fire, the Soviets did not send in tanks and the walls came tumbling down.

It would still be a couple more years before the other Communist dominoes fell, but one by one they did, except for the two dysfunctional teetering states of North Korea and Cuba. China did not fall, but morphed into a state that Marx or Mao would not recognize. While still nominally communist, China became a capitalist state with an authoritarian government that daily continues to change.

From the time of the establishment of the first Communist state in Russia in 1917, Communism had steadily grown taking country by county until by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall 34% of the worlds populations lived under Communist domination. And by peaceful means, Communism was gaining ground in much of the west with “Euro-communism” gaining acceptance and becoming parties in coalition governments. For more than seventy years, freedom had been on the defensive and Communism at been ascending.

During that time, between 85 million and 100 million people were killed with a brutal efficiency. Approximately 65 million were killed in China under Mao Zedong, 25 million in Leninist and Stalinist Russia, 2 million in Cambodia, and millions more in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. This was accomplished by mass murders, planned famines, working people to death in labor camps, and other ruthless methods. From the thousands of Cossacks slaughtered on the orders of Lenin to the victims of Mao’s “land reform” the totals mounted. In addition to the millions of deaths, many more millions spend part of their lives in prison in the Gulag of Russia and the reeducation camps of Vietnam and China. Those who never spend part of their life in real prisons, lived in societies with secret police, enforced conformity, thought control, fear, scarcity, and everyone spying on everyone else.

While the world looked with horror on the approximate 11 million victims of Hitler’s Europe, for some reason less attentions was paid to the 100 million victims of Communist tyranny. While the Nazi era lasted for only 11 years, the Communist terror began in 1917 and continues to this day. The story would be complete if the last Communist regime fell, but the fall of the Berlin Wall is a land mark event. By the fall of the wall, it was clear that Communism was not the wave of the future and that freedom would survive in the world.

Not only would freedom survive in the world, but the world itself would survive. It is easy to forget what a dangerous place the world was on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The world's nuclear stockpiles had grown to 70,000 warheads, with an average destructive power about 20 times that of the weapons that were dropped on Japan. One deranged colonel, one failure of a radar system, or one misreading of intentions could have led to events that destroyed the world. We were one blink away from destruction of life on earth. If there is any event in the history of world worthy of celebrating, it should be the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The fist time I saw the Berlin Wall

(Excerpt from The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman, Chapter 2, The Ten Forces That Flattened the World)

The fist time I saw the Berlin Wall, it already had a hole in it.
It was December 1990, and I was traveling to Berlin with reporters covering Secretary of State James A Baker III. The Berlin Wall had been breached a year earlier, on November 9, 1989. Yes, in wonderful kabalistic accident of date, the Berlin Wall fell on 11/9.

The wall, even in its punctured and broken state, was still an ugly scar across Berlin. Secretary Baker was making his first visit to see this crumbled monument to Soviet Communism. I was standing next to him with a small group of reporter. “It was a foggy, overcast day,” Baker recalled in his Memoir, The Politics o f Diplomacy, “and in my raincoat, I felt like a character in a John le Carre’ novel. But as I peered through a crack in the wall [near the Reichstag] and saw the high-resolution drabness that characterized East Berlin, I realized that the ordinary men and women of East Germany, peaceful and persistently, had taken matters into their own hands. This was their revolution.”

After Baker finished looking through the wall and moved along, we reporter took turns peering, through the same jagged concrete hole. I brought a couple of chunks of the wall home for my daughters. I remember thinking how unnatural it looked-indeed, what a bizarre thing it was, this cement wall snaking across a modern city for the sole purpose preventing the people on the other side from enjoying, even glimpsing, freedom.

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Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

This is the text of Ronald Reagan's remarks at the Brandenburg Gate, delivered on June 12, 1987, to the people of West Berlin. The speech was also audible on the east side of the Berlin wall.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

(To see the full text of this famous speech, click here: Mr Gorbachev...)

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's Fred!

Fred Thompson has favorably impressed me from the first time I ever heard of him. From his role in bringing down the corrupt administration of Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton and getting justice for whistle blower Marie Ragghianti, to his role as minority counsel in the Watergate hearings, to his service as Tennessee Senator, I have liked Fred Thompson.

When Fred Thompson announced for President on the Jay Leno show, however, I was less than impressed. With my disgust with the Bush administration, I wanted to see someone who would distance himself from Bush. Thompson didn’t do it, but I guess that was just too much to expect from any Republican candidate seeking his Party's nomination. (see “Not Ready to Jump …")

Today, I watched Fred Thompson being interviewed by Tim Russert on Meet the Press and liked what I heard. I am supporting Fred Thompson for President.

On the social issues: He and I are in the same place. He is a social conservative but not a hardliner in the pocket of the religious right. He doesn’t pander. He said the Federal Government should never have gotten involved in the Terri Schiavo case. Amen, Fred!

He flatly stated he did not support the Republican Party platform plank that calls for passing a Right to Life Amendment to the Constitution. He opposes abortion but does not support a constitutional amendment to outlaw it. He thinks Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and hopes someday it will be reversed. If it is, then no doubt many states will legalize abortion. He stated he believes in Federalism and the people of each state have the right to decide their states abortion policy. He also said that while he has always voted pro-life, that he admits that at times he has had doubts about the moment at which life begins. No doubt the most pro-life element in the Party will not be pleased with Fred’s response. Most people who consider themselves pro-life, I suspect, have a position closer to that of Thompson however, than to that of the pro-life activist.

On the issue of gay marriage, he said that while he believes marriage should be between a man and a women, if some state wants to define a marriage as a union of two people of the same sex, then that should be up to the people of that state.

On Foreign Policy: Fred said for now we need to stay the course in Iraq. Our policy is making progress. However, Fred does not become jingoistic and rattle sabers when talking about Iraq. He does not sound like a man on a crusade. He impresses me as someone who would be pragmatic and decide the best course of action as events unfold.

On Iran, he warned of the danger of a pre-emptive strike and said we need better intelligence and he was critical of the intelligence failure in Iraq. He said we should be doing more to support the moderate forces in Iran. While he said he would do all he could to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, I do not fear that a Fred Thompson Presidency would prematurely conduct a pre-emptive strike.

On these and other issues, I agreed with Thompson, but there are other issues that were not addressed. I do not know the details of Thompson’s position on other issues that I care about such as combating global warming or immigration reform. I may not agree with Thompson on every issue, but I don’t suspect there is anyone with whom I would agree 100% on every issue. As far as I am concerned however, I care as much about how someone thinks as what they may think.

Fred Thompson has the intelligence, the temperament, and the integrity to make a good president. I do not take caution and thoughtfulness as a sign of weakness. We have had enough cowboy politics; we do not need a knee-jerk ideologue who will shoot first and ask questions later. Fred Thompson’s thoughtful nuanced position will not play well with those who want a passionate hardliner. Anyone who finds policy-making easy, however, concerns me. The issues we face are tough. Certainty of the righteousness of one’s position, I do not see as a virtue. Thompson’s positions do not translate well to sound bites or slogans. Many of his positions do not fit neatly on a bumper sticker, but Fred Thompson is the kind of thoughtful, moderate, modest, conservative we need as President. He is reassuring. He is someone I could trust.

I am making my donation and putting a Thompson bumper sticker on my car.

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