One of the most traumatic events during the Cold War was the Hungarian uprising of October 1956. It occurred at almost the same time as the unsuccessful British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt. The Soviet Red Army succeeded in suppressing the Hungarian revolution despite a dozen U.N. resolutions calling upon the Kremlin to withdraw from Hungary.
Johanna Granville’s The First Domino: International Decision Making during the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 (foreword by Raymond L. Garthoff, Texas A & M University Press, $49.95, 323 pages), a pioneering work on East European Cold War history, confirms that when President Eisenhower had his chance to redeem the Republican campaign pledge to “roll back” the Soviet occupation of Hungary, he failed and thus perpetuated that occupation for three more decades.
This is a remarkable study of Cold War history because the author, at home in several Slavic languages as well as the immensely difficult Hungarian, has availed herself of recently opened Soviet and other archives to describe how Hungary became the first “domino” in a process that “resulted ultimately in the Soviet Union’s loss of hegemony over Eastern Europe in 1989.”
The Hungarian revolt resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and the flight of over 200,000 refugees to the West. It is worth noting that a far smaller group of earlier Hungarian refugees, who fled to America from a Nazi-endangered Europe, helped build the first atomic bomb during World War II.
Chapter 6 of “The First Domino” is the most fascinating, since it explores U.S. psychological warfare and covert activities in Eastern Europe during the 1950s, including broadcasts by Radio Free Europe.
Relations between China and the United States since Mao Tse-tung’s 1949 Communist victory have never been friendlier, despite our annual criticism of China’s human rights record, the collision between a Chinese jet fighter and a U.S. EP-3 surveillance plane in April 2001, and the 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
More and more, as China becomes our biggest trading partner, I am reminded of Montesquieu’s insightful statement: “It is almost a general rule that wherever the ways of man are gentle there is commerce; and wherever there is commerce, there the ways of men are gentle.”
China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy by Peter Hays Gries (University of California Press, $24.95, 224 pages, illus.) deals with the new Chinese nationalist ethos, a phenomenon that U.S. policy makers should study carefully even if they may disagree with Mr. Gries’ policy prescriptions. The author is a critic of the William Kristol-Robert Kagan thesis of deterrence and their warnings about appeasement of China.
This debate will continue — especially on the Taiwan issue — but it will be a peaceful debate, I think, until after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The emergence of a soi-disant capitalist China, its discarding of Marxism (but not Leninism), may be the global political event of the 21st century. Mr. Gries’ book is a welcome guide to what the world hopes will be a new and peaceful China.
Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey (edited with an introduction by Jamie Glazov, Spence Publishing, $29.95, 497 pages) is a treasure of a book. It is a collection of articles by David Horowitz, a “red diaper” baby, onetime leftist and today the most articulate and productive foe of left liberalism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. Mr. Horowitz, probably the most hated ex-radical in America since the death of Whittaker Chambers, has over the years written political essays with an Orwellian ring in their honesty and stylistic simplicity.
Several essays in this book are outstandingly readable: “Alienation in a Time of War,” which deals with Henrik Hertzberg, a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter and now a senior editor at the New Yorker magazine; “Clinton’s Pardoned Bombers”; and “The Road to Nowhere.” “Left Illusions” is a carefully footnoted history of American radicalism and neo-conservatism in the late 20th century.
“As the twenty-first century began,” writes Peter Laufer in Exodus to Berlin: The Return of the Jews to Germany (Ivan R. Dee, $26, 256 pages), “Germany found itself in the ironic position of being home to the fastest-growing population of Jews in the world.”
Since 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, more than 100,000 Jews, mostly from Russia and Ukraine, have accepted Germany’s invitation to make a new life in a democratic, unified Germany. But as seems inevitable, this immigration has aroused a neo-Nazi skinhead response and its cry of “Germany for the Germans.”
At a Jewish center in the heart of Berlin, policemen watch over the entrances 24 hours a day, assisted by Jewish private guards. Will the new Jewish immigrants assimilate to the new Germany as their forebears did before the Hitler era?
What the new Germany has done has been to face its horrible past and to try to make some restitution for the monstrous evil it inflicted on a helpless people. In comparison, the Soviet Union has never faced up to the decades of Joseph Stalin’s genocidal governance, and it never will. Mr. Laufer has done an excellent reporting job about a country trying to overcome a past that is still difficult to understand.
Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.