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Tilting at Windmills

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March 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE COLD WAR....Mike Tomasky's regular guy cred is now solidly in tatters after demanding that we all pass his sniffy history and politics test if we ever want to read his magazine again. He has officially become one of those dreaded coastal liberal elites, looking down his nose at the beer swilling masses. No red state victories for you, Mike!

Still, in the spirit of expanding knowledge among the politically active, here's a book recommendation. Based on Nick Thompson's review in the current issue of the Monthly I went out the other day and bought John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War, a brief and unusually lucid history of, um, the Cold War.

It's terrific. The whole book clocks in at a svelte 266 pages, and it's that rarest of things: a readable and accessible primer for readers who are new to the subject, but still an illuminating and valuable review for those who have already read deeply in the history of the post-WWII era. There are plenty of judgments embedded between the covers of this book, but they're all backed by Gaddis's unparalleled scholarship and his careful and lively language. Agree or disagree, there's nothing shallow in this book despite its brevity.

Highly recommended. It's a sterling example of the value a world class scholar brings to the table when he writes for a popular audience, not down to it.

POSTSCRIPT: And since there are always a few people who don't get the joke, I'm just kidding about Tomasky.

Kevin Drum 12:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (66)

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Wow. I just read Tony Judts take down of Gaddis' book over at NYRB and then find Drum praising it!
Judt claims the book is parochial and triumphalist and, in short, misleading and bad. I'd like to see Kevin respond to some of Judt's points, he makes it sound like Gaddis is writing an apologia for unlimited executive power and American interventionism. I didn't know Kevin favored those things.

Posted by: Vanya on March 8, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I agree, knowing something today in the USA is tantamount to treason. John Wayne not George Will. Thank god we have a president who didn't know who Musharraf was when he was elected. Now when he insults Musharaff we can blame it on his fundamental american virtue of ignorance. Ignorance, baseball, Mom and apple pie! Hurrah!

Posted by: exclab on March 8, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Tomasky is an elitist -- what has he done to help win the War on Terror? Nothing! Not a single word on how anyone who questions Bush is a traitor who whould be put in a re-education camp, at the very least.

But I guess you would defend him, Kevin. You showed some promise when defending Bush on the ports deal, but now, you are just another Bush-hating hack, not willing to admit that only terrorists insist on civil liberties!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on March 8, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

POSTSCRIPT: And since there are always a few people who don't get the joke, I'm just kidding about Tomasky. Kevin Drum

Most of that list is obscure to the point of being meaningless, with next to none of the events or people having the faintest resonance today.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I highly recommend the Judt essay in NY Review. It's online, and I link to it at my blog. I took Gaddis' undergrad class (in which is basically sat aside and had us watch CNN's Cold War miniseries instead of actually delivering lectures) and I read his "We Now Know" book, but not this one. Nevertheless, I could have guessed with near-complete accuracy the shortcomings that Judt points out. Maybe the book is worthwhile for those without much knowledge and who want to know what US policy-makers thought, but as a comprehensive history, it's probably as lame as Gaddis' teaching techniques.

Posted by: Goldberg on March 8, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Judt review is here.

New York Review of Books doesn't like it? I'm there, man.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 8, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I hate Tomasky and all of his private school, brandy-swilling, book-reading ilk!

Posted by: Royko on March 8, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair, Judt gives Gaddis credit when it comes to describing "Great Power Relations", particularly his elucidation of early nuclear policy. His main criticism, as Vanya indicates, is Gaddis's parochialism and failure to address the intellectual history of the cold war as well. Judt also states that Gaddis is weak on the Soviet perspective, cold war intelligence operations, and the importance of the left wing movements of the '60s and early '70s, particularly in Western Europe. Overall, the book would probably be a solid introduction for someone new to cold war history, but, at least according to Judt (who I admire), it is far from complete and fairly one-dimensional.

Posted by: Chuck Darwin on March 8, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I second the strong recommendation of Tony Judt's review in the NY Review of Books, particularly for those who think there's "nothing shallow" in Gaddis's book.

Posted by: No Preference on March 8, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I think I want to just reiterate that my view is, indeed, much like Chuck Darwin's. The fact that I have some personal loathing for Gaddis (neither here nor rhere), and also think his scholarship overall is lame for the reasons Judt points out (I mean, the guy can't read any language in play here besides English...), does not mean that he doesn't get the general US view mostly correct. The problem comes, however, when he lays out that view and then says that it is that US policy that led to certain outcomes, when it is much, much more complicated than that.

Judt's view, on the other hand, is very good.

Posted by: Goldberg on March 8, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Your joke has a point though Kevin.

The point is that knowledge is far too easily waved away in US politics by the "elite" charge. Many politicians have used this handy dandy excuse just to dismiss reality. (Along with a few other handy tricks of course, the partiotism cover, you call me a liar? cover, you're supporting the terrorists, etc.)

But this tactic is stunningly effective. Look at the US's major policy failures over the last few years: Iraq, huge deficit, ineffective response to 9-11. On each every one the "elite" charge has very effectively hobbled the opposition.

So, how the heck should fact-based decision-makers counter attack?

Maybe, "ignorance isn't a an American value."?

Posted by: Samuel Knight on March 8, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

That was a really tough test. It's a good thing I remember the Scope monkey trial . . .

Posted by: EmmaAnne on March 8, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"but they're all backed by Gaddis's unparalleled scholarship "

There are /no/ other cold war scholars? Holy crap! Who knew?!

There is a great book, called "the Fateful Pebble" about Afghanistans role in the fall of soviet russia. It has a great background of the soviet political system, from what seems a soviet perspective. I don't remember the author.

I'm not sure I agree with everything about the book's conclusions, but it is a great, short read.

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 8, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Though Tomasky isn't likely to sway any votes to the blue side of the big toteboard, I'm just glad he's on our side.
HRlaughed (who got five correct answers)

Posted by: HRlaughed on March 8, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not that I'd disparage "book-learnin'" as a prerequisite for politicians, but anyone who could answer 15 of 25 of those particular questions is, by definition, an elite.

I'd guess less than 1% (.1%?) of people could get 15 out of 25 right.

This Tomasky tool must be a lot of fun at parties. He refers back to an age where the average Ed Sullivan watcher had a "working familiarity" with DeGaulle, Ben-Gurion, Camus, Pollack, Roth, de Beauvoir, Maria Callas, Glenn Gould, Bizet, Verdi, Debussy, etc, etc...

This age never existed.

Take some elitist liberal like Yglesias - prep-school educated, a father prominent in performing arts, Harvard, a political junkie, political writer....I'd bet even someone like him couldn't get 10 of those 25 questions right.

Tomasky either doesn't know how isolated he is, or is deliberately flaunting his particular erudition. And he's a tool, obviously.

Posted by: luci on March 8, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yglesias claims he got 19 correct.

Posted by: Jim E. on March 8, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

We only got two correct - and we've tapped Tomansky's phone and ISP connection.

Posted by: NSA Mole on March 8, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

'Fauvists' is the tough answer --?! Harder than Mr. Kite?

Posted by: cld on March 8, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

5 right and a couple of Dohs when I saw the answers. All along I have thought alternating current was Westinghouse's devlopment, not Tesla's. Maybe I was fooled by Edison's hatred of Westinghouse.

Posted by: anandine on March 8, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

That's a pretty rough test. I got about 5 right, and I'm in College, working hard to become a liberal elite. Apparently my training is incomplete.

Posted by: A middle class college student on March 8, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'd recommend you read a book called In the Shadow of the Garrison State,/i> by Aaron L. Friedberg. It's a good read on how American gov't balanced the need for national security versus our tradition of liberty from the end of WWII through the end of the Cold War. However tilted you may have viewed the balance between nat. sec. and liberty during the Cold War, this is a fascinating look at how we managed the tension.

Posted by: Roger on March 8, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

My score was in the high single digits, thanks in part to loving Chez Jay, which is surrounded by the Rand Institute.

But my beef with the quiz is that $200 Jeopardy questions are EASY. I think Tomasky's questions are just kind of randomly hard. I mean, Fauvism as the toughest question? come on...

Posted by: Cal Gal on March 8, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Tomasky's test was a joke... He's serious? Well, I'll never get a job at the Prospect.

The problem with quizzes like that is that they're inherently alienating. I'm a solid liberal, overeducated professional, avid reader, better-than-average-Jeopardy player, etc. etc. and I only answered a handful. Makes me think twice about my TAP subscription...

Same quiz from a conservative pundit, and I'd just dismiss it out of hand...

Posted by: Drinker Nisti on March 8, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK
Mike Tomasky's regular guy cred is now solidly in tatters after demanding that we all pass his sniffy history and politics test if we ever want to read his magazine again.

Shouldn't it be the person who wants people to read their work, not the reader, who is required to demonstrate that they have knowledge which makes them credible?

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I just can't see how knowing any of that could possibly make you a better candidate, pundit or anything else. Knowing civil war generals is easy, if its something you want to know (I say it as someone who got that question). Knowing why the civil war happened, and what came out of it, is a lot more important.

anyone can know who wrote a book, or advocated a position. You could teach someone to ace that test in 5 minutes, and they wouldn't be one lick smarter or more informed.

There is a reason they call questions like that "trivia".

Posted by: Mysticdog on March 8, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK
I just can't see how knowing any of that could possibly make you a better candidate, pundit or anything else.

Well, they are all boosts to your Truthiness Quotient, since they are all credibility-building points of trivia which are almost entirely aside from the substance of the matter they relate too.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

anandine: All along I have thought alternating current was Westinghouse's devlopment, not Tesla's.

Westinghouse was the businessman and Tesla the engineer.

Westinghouse was from an engineering background though - he started out by inventing air brakes for trains.

Ironically, when Tesla first came to the US he worked for Edison, but quit when Edison didn't pay the bonus he promised for solving a major problem.

Bonus question: who invented radio?

Posted by: alex on March 8, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Well, they are all boosts to your Truthiness Quotient, since they are all credibility-building points of trivia which are almost entirely aside from the substance of the matter they relate too.
Posted by: cmdicely

Practicing for a midterm there? If you keep spouting subjectless sentences like that and your head will explode. Either that or you'll go to the head of your class.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I got 19 and a half right (and damn proud of it). The half is for writing "feminist convention, upstate New York" instead of Seneca Falls. I think some of the stuff on the quiz is way too obscure. I don't think a successful president needs to be able to identify George Eliot, modernist painting trends of the early 20th century or the inventor of alternating current. (Am I tipping my hand about which answers I didn't get?) And Govenour Morris, Jane Addams and Russell Kirk probably aren't names one necessarily needs to know. But I do actually think it would be nice to have a president who has strong familiarity with both American and World History over at least the last two centuries to help guide him/her through the many pitfalls out there. Bush might have been a little more cautious vis a vis Iraq if he had the slightest sense of the history of the Middle East, colonialism, etc. Being smug, incurious, and insulated is probably not the best quality for his job.

Posted by: Triumphal Elitist Regular Guy on March 8, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ouch. I got about five of them (the Tesla one was easiest), but given thirty minutes on the internet, I could probably answer them all. Nowadays facts are easy to find out.

There's a difference between knowledge and intelligence, or knowledge and common sense. Working at Stanford I knew a few professors with so much information in their heads they practically had to carry their brains around in a wheelbarrow, but who had no sense of logic, or the ability to integrate that information to work out new ideas.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 8, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

I found Mr. Gaddis' blithe assertions about the US Army winning the war in Europe (with the assistance of Mr. Stalin's human wave attacks on the eastern front of course) to be more than a touch arrogant and insensitive. To whit, "With its ally Great Britain...the United States was able to choose where, when, and in what circumstances it would fight, a fact that greatly minimized the costs and risks of fighting." Although it has escaped Mr. Gaddis's attention, WWII started in 1939 and the men, women and children of many fully engaged combatant countries died in astounding numbers before the United States even bestirred itself to act. Alas, the great book on the German wars of the 20th Century has yet to be written. The Cold War was but a continuation of those hostilities by other means it seems to me.

Posted by: Craig McKie on March 8, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK


Your claim that Tomasky is an "elitist", "erudite," "tool" because his little trivia test made you feel stupid says a lot more about your intellectual insecurity than it does about him. It wasn't meant to be the end-all-be-all diagnostic of intelligence, just an illustration of the kinds of things he feels a well-educated person, and particularly politicians, should know.

I got 17/25 and I'm not an elitist--I'm from the lower middle class, a public high school, from which I got into a good college. The truth is, curious people educate themselves, no matter what their social background (and given the proper resources).

And try leaving this ugly strain of anti-intellectualism to the other side of the aisle, ok?

As for that weird, ad hominem, out-of-nowhere swipe you take at Yglasias. Try focusing on his words and less on his bio--you may actually start feeling less stupid.

Posted by: Bucky on March 8, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

There's a difference between knowledge and intelligence, or knowledge and common sense.
Posted by: tbrosz

So true. Consider the all-time Jeopardy champion, Ken Whats-his-name. He's a Mormon.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's perfectly OK to take a swipe at Tomasky. I'm a reasonably well-educated, intellectually curious person. Hell, I was even on Jeopardy. I got 7 1/2 right (I gave myself a half becaue I couldn't remember Arbenz's name, but I knew he was the President of Guatemala.) I think this was more test of what Tomasky knows. I'm sure you could put together a similar test on which he'd do relatively poorly, depending on which holes in his knowledge you managed to hit.

I guess what offended me wasn't that he felt that Presidential candidates should know these kinds of things. He felt they should know these exact things -- primarily because he knows them. And yes, that's elitist, and no, saying that doesn't make me "anti-intellectual."

Posted by: Chris on March 8, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I scored 11, and I'm also familiar with the work of Kirk and Morgenthau, even though I couldn't come up with their names off the top of my head.

Still, most of the quiz is pretty much just testing trivial knowledge and instant recall. It gives you a hint as to how well-read someone is on subjects of interest to policy-makers, but only a hint. Some of those questions were really just cocktail-party showoff stuff.

Reminds of this prick on the Kerry campaign who sneered at me for not coming up with the name of the nuclear research lab at the University of Chicago off the top of my head. As if this somehow indicated that I was unfit to lick envelopes for the elite. It's good to know most of this stuff, but fuck Tomasky for thinking that his own personal set of trivial knowledge is the essential set of knowledge for our political leaders.

(It's the Fermi Laboratory aka Fermilab, by the way, in case you didn't know)

Posted by: Violet on March 8, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I enjoyed the Judt piece in the New York Review. I cannot understand why anyone takes Gaddis seriously.

Posted by: Bill on March 8, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Tomasky mistakes trivia for knowledge. It's not something someone intelligent does, it's something someone who poses as inteligent does.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 8, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK
If you keep spouting subjectless sentences like that and your head will explode.

Its not a subjectless sentence. If you are going to issue grammar flames, do aim for accuracy: the problem is a pronoun reference error (the subject is the pronoun "they", the error is that, in the preceding quoted material, there is no clear referent for "they"; "it", referring back to "knowing any of that", or more clearly, "knowing that" or "knowing those things" would clearly have been preferred as the subject.)

But, yeah, I don't always proof my posts that well for grammar.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

the problem is a pronoun reference error . . .
Posted by: cmdicely

No. The problems are a monumental ego and a stick so far up your ass you've got leaves tickling your uvula.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Very clever of Kevin to conflate in one post a reference to a trivial test with unqualified praise for a book with a clear right-wing agenda written by one of the neocons' most die-hard supporters. Did Kevin do this on purpose to distract us from his sudden shift to the Right? He certainly seems to have gotten a lot of readers to ignore what should be a fairly shocking post. Imagine if Instapundit praised Antonio Negri's "Empire". That's essentially what Drum has done here from the other side.

Posted by: Vanya on March 8, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think I got 4: Jane Adams, Fauvism, Mr. Kite, and the George Eliot one.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 8, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

The difference between intelligence and knowledge:

There's a story, probably apocryphal, about Twiggy being asked about the Holocaust. She didn't know. When it was explained, she said, "That's terrible."

Smart girl.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 8, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

That Kerry campaign worker ought to be sneered at right back. Fermilab is 40 miles away from the University of Chicago, out in Batavia. It's not a University of Chicago lab at all.

It's also a particle accelerator, mainly doing experiments in high energy physics, not a nuclear science lab. And it's run by the DOE, I'm pretty sure (definitely a Federal Lab, anyway.)

I'd agree with those who labelled the Tomasky test as mostly trivia. Too many names/dates and very little on concepts or ideas. I'm confident the test was worthless because I only got 9 correct. And I'll match my own font of abstruse and useless knowledge of history up with anyone.

Posted by: Doug T on March 8, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Although someone who can score well on that test is obviously well-read and, considering the nature of the questions, would also have a good memory, its also obvious that this little test was not all that serious.

For example, I'm having a tough time figuring out why a presidential candidate would be required to know anything about the last five questions.

Arguably, it would be more important to know something about current hip-hop culture than the Best Picture winner of 1947, or, despite his greatness, some lyric of John Lennon's.

And, not arguably, I would bet Bush might score about a 1, with the Adams/Jefferson thing being something so trivially famous that he might actually remember it.

Clinton was about a 17 to 21 scorer, I would bet, the type who had, obviously, a solid educational background that he paid attention to and a good memory as well.

So, what should a president know?

I'd say:

1. History -- definitely, things have not changes as much since the Napoleonic era as we would all like to believe.

2. Comparative religion -- not popular on the Republican side of the isle these days, but clearly useful in assessing the motivations of the people who seem to be most angry with us.

3. Science/Engineering -- boy would that be nice.

4. Political science? Perhaps not so imporant, as you get to learn on the job with plenty of help.

5. Actual experience (e.g. military, working for a living, etc.) Although Bush certainly pushes the envelope in terms of the least actual life experience, it seems to me that this doesn't really help. I know just as meany cheap rich guys as cheap poor guys.

Posted by: hank on March 8, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK
And it's run by the DOE, I'm pretty sure (definitely a Federal Lab, anyway.)

Its funded by DOE, but like most DOE labs is operated under contract. I don't know if University of Chicago has a role similar to the University of California's with, e.g., Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, though.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 8, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a acerbic takedown on Gaddis's book: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18793. Money:

this is a book whose silences are especially suggestive. The "third world" in particular comes up short. How we look at international history is always in some measure a function of where we stand. But it takes a uniquely parochial perspective and one ill-becoming someone described by Michael Beschloss in The New York Times Book Review as "a scholar of extraordinary gifts" offering "his long-awaited retrospective verdict on the cold war"to publish a history of the cold war containing not even an index entry for Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, Grenada, or El Salvador, not to speak of Mozambique, the Congo, or Indonesia. Major events in Iranwhere the CIA's 1953 coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq is still held against the US and Guatemala (where the US toppled Jacobo Arbenz Guzmn on June 27, 1954, precipitating decades of armed and bloody conflict) each receive passing acknowledgment from Gaddis, summarized thus: "The consequences, in both regions, proved costly."

Indeed so. But those costs are never analyzed, much less incorporated into the author's evaluation of the cold war as a whole. For Gaddis, as for so many American politicians and statesmen, the "third world" was a sideshow, albeit one in which hundreds of thousands of the performers got killed.[4] And he seems to believe that whatever unfortunate developments took place in the course of these peripheral scuffles, they were confined to the cold war's early years. Later, things improved: "The 1970s were not the 1950s." Well, yes they werein El Salvador, for example, not to mention Chile. But this sort of tunnel vision, tipping most of the world offstage and focusing exclusively upon Great Power confrontations in Europe or East Asia, is the price Gaddis pays for placing himself firmly in Washington, D.C., when "thinking" the cold war. For the other superpower saw the cold war very differently....

While it may seem tempting to dismiss John Lewis Gaddis's history of the cold war as a naively self-congratulatory account which leaves out much of what makes its subject interesting and of continuing relevance, that would be a mistake. Gaddis's version is perfectly adapted for contemporary America: an anxious country curiously detached from its own past as well as from the rest of the world and hungry for "a fireside fairytale with a happy ending."[20] The Cold War: A New History is likely to be widely read in the US: both as history and, in the admiring words of a blurb on the dust jacket, for the "lessons" it can teach us in how to "deal with new threats." That is a depressing thought.

Posted by: Nils on March 8, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I'm confident the test was worthless because I only got 9 correct. And I'll match my own font of abstruse and useless knowledge of history up with anyone. Posted by: Doug T

Hear, hear!

There weren't any questions about the Clash or professional bowling.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, the Gaddis book is awful, Kevin. The first half of it is okay but the second half of it turns into very vague bullshit about Reagan's leadership. It has more the flavor of propaganda than history.

I'd hoped to read the book to find out morea bout why the world is the way it is today. That's what history is for. And Gaddis' book sucks shit in that respect.


Posted by: notsobright on March 8, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Does the book conclude that because the attack on 9/11 can be directly traced to the U.S.'s various Cold War entaglements that the Cold War is not yet over?

If it does not,is it an intentional or unintentional omission?

Admittedly, W does not give many speeches, and, when he does, I really can't stand to listen to the guy, its such an embarrassment, so I check the reports after, but whether or not Gaddis can connect the dots, its clear W doesn't.

Posted by: hank on March 8, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if Kevin showed up and told us he was just kidding about Gaddis, too.

Unfortunately, he's probably not.

And that, in a nutshell, is how people can prattle on and on about the U.S. "exporting democracy". They just don't know enough to realize that what we've exported for 60 years was dictatorship.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 8, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, is there anything in this book about Team B, that cooked the intelligence on the Soviet Union, in much the same manner that the intelligence on Iraq was cooked? Our friends from the conservative side of the aisle Im sure are blissfully ignorant of the fact that George H.W. Bush, William Casey and other right-wing hacks were involved in exaggerating the strength of the Soviet Union throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which caused the United States to squander billions upon billions of dollars on unnecessary weaponry. Same modus operandi as Bush the Younger, Dickless Cheney and Semi-Colon Powell, who cooked the intelligence on Iraq, a beaten, destitute tinpot dictatorship and scared Americans into thinking that this sad little country actually posed a threat to the United States! The Bush family has a long history of deceit, secrecy and deception.

We should send the Bush family an invoice for about a trillion dollars, and if they dont pay up, net 30, we throw the entire family (Barney and Millie included) into Fort Leavenworth, the worthless scumbags! Good God, how can one family have done so much damage to this great country????

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 8, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I kinda noticed that too. If Reagan ever saw the folly of the arms race (which was clearly described by Seversky in a book in 1960) why are we still paying for Star Wars? No, wait, now I remember- "It will never work, so it doesn't escalate the arms race".

Even funnier is the reviewer's description of Mao as "diminutive". In actuality, Mao was very large, towering over even the Americans, or, if you prefer the figurative interpretation, Mao was the man who led the Long March, the greatest and most successful flanking movement in military history.

All in all, the kind of review that makes you still feel glad you don't subscribe to the Washington Monthly.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 8, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Kriz,

Aren't Fort Leavenworth and the penitentiary two different places? I realize that Dubya and Dick were rather desperate to avoid military service, but I suspect the pen would be more appropriate.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on March 8, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the Cold War, whatever happen to the third leg of the Axis of Evil? Don't hear much about them these days. I guess everything's okay now.

Pyongyang to deploy missiles that threaten U.S. in Pacific

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) North Korea is preparing to deploy a new intermediate ballistic missile capable of "easily" reaching Okinawa, Guam and "probably" Alaska, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea said Tuesday.

North Korea already has over 600 Scud missiles that can deliver conventional or chemical munitions throughout the Korean Peninsula, and as many as 200 Rodong ballistic missiles with a medium range of 1,300 km capable of reaching Japan with the same payloads, Gen. Burwell Bell said in written testimony for the Senate Armed Services Committee. (continues)


Posted by: Jeff II on March 8, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Andre on March 8, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Judt correctly states Gaddis' main set of ideas: The cold war in Gaddis's account was both inevitable and necessary. The Soviet empire and its allies could not be rolled back but they had to be contained. The resulting standoff lasted forty years. A lot of time and money was spent on nuclear weapons and the cautious new strategic thinking to which they gave rise. Partly for this reason there were no major wars (though there were a number of nerve-wracking confrontations). In the end thanks to greater resources, a vastly more attractive political and economic model, and the initiative of a few good men (and one good woman)the right side won

Judt makes a lot of good points, but he never really refutes the idea that the US won because it was the better system. But it is true. Dictatorial socialism failed as an economic system, and capitalism triumphed. Take a look at China for example. Or Russia, which today is authoritarian, but semi-capitalist. There is not one authoritarian socialist country in the world today that has a successful economy.

Dovish liberals like Judt are in a very awkward position. They don't support communism, but they also don't like rah-rah American style democratic capitalism (a system I myself have rather mixed feelings about). So they pretend that the Cold War was mainly the US's fault, and do their best to confuse people about why it ended.

Posted by: Les Brunswick on March 8, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Grady

My bad. This is the prison that I was referring to.

From the link: The USP Leavenworth came into existence through an act of Congress in 1895. Inmates from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth were used in the early construction and were marched two and one-half miles to the site daily, returning each night to the prison at Fort Leavenworth. This continued until February, 1903 when the first 418 inmates to occupy the prison site were moved into what now serves as a laundry building.
In 1906, all of the federal prisoners from Fort Leavenworth were housed in the new institution and the prison at Fort Leavenworth was returned to the War Department.

I was only off by a hundred years. But, any prison will be fine for the Bush crime family, in my opinion.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on March 8, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Long March was not a flanking march. It was a desperate attempt to flee several Kuomintang armies that were attempting to cut off Mao's army. Casualties were horrific, but a remnant was able to reach Yenan and hold it. It proved to be suffcient.

Posted by: Wombat on March 8, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, if you thought you liked Gaddis, mainly because it is short, please read Tony Judt's
Postwar. it is amazing, though perhaps a bit long for you. But it makes Judt's takedown in the NYRB
more telling.

Posted by: Lee Hartmann on March 8, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Thirteen. Missed some easy ones like Hofstater because I can't remember names to save my life. Why would a president need to know about Fauvism?

I'm a Foreign Service brat whose father was an Eastern European specialist, but even so I found Gaddis' "We Now Know" a very useful read. But I agree with Judt about the new book.

Posted by: dcbob on March 8, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

The reason communism fell is because the nomenclatura class of Soviet citizens could not help but notice and envy all the high quality consumer goods in the West. They realized that it was all their command economy could do to keep up in the arms race. We should recognize that centrally controlled economies can do some things rather well. If I had to build an army on a shoestring budget, everything but the air superiority domination weapons would come from Russia.

It also seems to be true that the old Soviet Union really was a worker's paradise, in the sense that most factories were staffed with three times the workers they really needed, thus allowing one employee at any given time to be lazy and unmotivated, one to be seriously drunk, and one to actually do the job.

I can't help but marvel at the current globalized capitalist system. I suspect we quickly are going to need to move an active exploitation of outer space, to escape stagnation and complacency, if nothing else.

The moon not only offers an abundant supply of titanium and maybe even some water, it is possible to build radio telescopes on the backside of the moon that will be so shielded from Earth interference as to be sensitive to extremely weak radio signals from intelligent life elsewhere. Moreover, the more we learn about the history of our solar system, the more we realize that there are a whole lot of cosmic events that could wipe our life on our planet.

If we want a mission for ourselves, it should be to get out and about in the solar system so that we have some options if we see a major catastrophe coming. This is not a selfish human-centric view, for if humans send an ark somewhere it will undoubtedly pack a lot of other Earth biota along for long-term survival.

I optimistically believe that humans will wean ourselves off of liquid carbon fuel long before all the petroleum runs out. Automobiles have barely been around for a century and look how rapidly they are evolving. I think the 1956 Ford Crown Victoria with the 312 C.I.D. Thunderbird engine was the coolest ride you could ever want to motor down Route 66 in on a lazy summer adventure, but a 2006 Explorer is infinitely safer, carries twice as much of anything, gets about the same fuel mileage, pollutes much less, requires about a third the servicing and repairs, goes faster, plows through snow or deep water in all wheel drive, and even rides more softly, not to mention having creature comforts undreamt of in 1956.

Progress, you gotta love it and you'd better hope it doesn't stop because history nose dives into a Dark Age or something equally ridiculous.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on March 8, 2006 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

Judt makes a lot of good points, but he never really refutes the idea that the US won because it was the better system.

This is a commonplace that most left-wing American critics of US policy would agree with, as would Noam Chomsky.

The predominant foreign view of the US is that they admire our country and its way of life, and don't like how how we behave in the world. There is a very long, detailed track record that accounts for that. According to Judt, Gaddis basically ignores that track record.

The US does not need more patriotic propaganda, even if written by a Yale professor. We have been getting a steady diet of that for years now. It accounts for the enormous gulf between how Americans view our role in the world, and how practically everybody else views it.

Posted by: No Preference on March 9, 2006 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

The truth is, curious people educate themselves, no matter what their social background (and given the proper resources).

And try leaving this ugly strain of anti-intellectualism to the other side of the aisle, ok?

Posted by: Bucky

Amen. I used to, when people would ask where I received my education, respond with, "Carnegie." And since the question was generally grounded in snobbist status preening, my questioner would become animated and respond, "Oh! Carnegie-Mellon! Do you know so-and-so?"

"No, no, sweetie," I'd say. "The Carnegie Library in Lake Charles." They'd deflate like a leaking party balloon.

A library card, intelligence, and an inquiring mind constituted my only access to 'resources'. Hell, I was working at the LC Country Club from age 15 to buy my own clothes and books.

14/25 without sneaking any looks at my own library.

Thanks for the New York Review heads up.

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I think there was a blatant EastCoastism slant to the Q's.

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

Cal Gal,

Thanks for mentioning Chez Jay - One of the classic watering holes - Where else can one enjoy escargots at the bar?

Many a memorable night in that oasis.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 9, 2006 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is a commonplace that most left-wing American critics of US policy would agree with, as would Noam Chomsky

Posted by: Adam on March 9, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK



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