- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2000

George Orwell has written: "He who controls the past controls the future." Some of the most distinguished American historians are working hard to control the past by proving, to state it simply, that the United States did not win the Cold War. Why? So that when our children and their children study post-World War II history they will never know that the capitalist democracies, led by our country, saved the world from what could have been conquest by a communist totalitarian dictatorship based on Marxist socialist dogmas. And, perhaps even more to the point, they will never know that an overwhelmingly popular two-term president, Ronald Reagan, presided over the slide of the Soviet Union into oblivion.

In the modern history of warfare, the Cold War seems to be the only one where victory is in dispute. And it is liberal academic opinion that has created the fiction that nobody won. There is no more Soviet Union, no Berlin Wall, no gulag. Never mind. The United States did not "win" the Cold War, and that's that.

Now that's really weird. Ask who won World War I, World War II or the war in Vietnam, the answers are readily forthcoming: The Allies beat Kaiser Wilhelm, then they beat Adolf Hitler, the United States lost to North Vietnam. Ask who won the war over the Falkland Islands, the answer is undisputed: Britain. But when it comes to the question of who triumphed in the Cold War, a great smog immediately blankets the question. The response by George Kennan, is simple. "Nobody," he now writes, " 'won' the Cold War." And any suggestion that President Reagan had anything to do with winning the Cold War, Mr. Kennan writes, "is intrinsically silly and childish."

Professor Ronald Steel has written this grudging verdict on freedom's bloodless victory over Soviet totalitarianism: "We have won a victory, of sorts." Of sorts. Would Mr. Steel describe our triumph over fascism as "a victory, of sorts"? Because we won the Cold War, we are the only superpower, he writes, "yet this is an ambiguous victory." What's ambiguous about it? The one-time "evil empire," as Mr. Reagan called it to jeers from the liberal left, is no more; the Soviet Union is a collection of some 15 nation states; Germany is united; Central Europe is free of Soviet domination; democracy flourishes where once dictators reigned. What's "ambiguous"?

Mr. Steel, like others of his liberal persuasion, seems to regret the end of the Cold War; he writes: "In its perverted way, the Cold War was a force for stability." Yes indeed bloodily suppressed uprisings in East Germany and Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, trampling of human rights, Afghanistan, Soviet support for the Yom Kippur War of aggression against Israel, the KGB everywhere, Cuban missile crisis some force for stability. On the other hand, the Cold War was, he says, "dangerous, wasteful, obsessive and at times irrational." So take your pick.

You would think that Mr. Kennan would remember what he had written before his post-Cold War rush to judgment. Thirty years ago he wrote:

"The retraction of Soviet power from its present bloated and unhealthy limits is essential to the stability of world relationships." Here it is, 30 years later. There is no Soviet power; its "bloated and unhealthy limits" have been retracted without bloodshed. There isn't even a Soviet Union. So did not the democracies win the Cold War? Did not the once Soviet-satellized countries of Central Europe and the Baltic win the Cold War? When the Berlin Wall came down on Nov. 9, 1989, without bloodshed, followed by German reunification, was not that victory? The problem with Mr. Kennan and his revisionist followers is that they never tell you how they define victory.

Now when you ask Russians who won the Cold War, the replies are unequivocal. Vladimir Lukin, once Boris Yeltsin's foreign policy adviser, has said that the Reagan Doctrine and the strategic defense initiative (SDI) "accelerated our economic convulsions by perhaps five years." Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, a former Russian foreign minister, said in a Princeton speech that Mr. Reagan's leadership won the Cold War. Sergio Khrushchev, the son of Nikita S. Khrushchev who recently became a U.S. citizen, said in a TV interview: "Sure, you won the Cold War." Surely these and many other similar opinions can't all be KGB "disinformation" ploys. I have asked Czechs, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Poles: Who won the Cold War? The answer always is: America.

Operation Rewrite about the Cold War has been in full swing for a decade. Its target: historical memory and our schools. Operation Rewrite has produced books like "Losing Our Souls: The American Experience in the Cold War" by Edward Pessen; or like an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by a Whitman College academic titled "The United States was the loser in the Cold War" containing this hallucinatory sentence: "Considering what might have been, the United States was the loser in the Cold War, not the winner."

All these exhibits reminded me of Jonathan Swift's observation in "Gulliver's Travels": "There is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth." Ditto some historians.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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