Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Berlin Wall: Weasel Vs Hawk

Andrew BatesWas it some kind of "collective will" that caused the Berlin Wall to fall, or some kind of individual agency that pushed it over? Our guest poster Andrew Bates characterises the makers of these two arguments as Weasels and Hawks respectively.

London’s normally excellent paper City AM also publishes a fellow called Dr John C Hulsman, described as “a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations,” and a political consultant “explaining American politics and policy to the wider world, while also assessing the broad contours of the new multi-polar era we find ourselves in.” In other words, a long-time member of the Weasel vanguard.

For the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, City AM have published Hulsman’s take on ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’: “The weary West,” he says, “has forgotten how it won the Cold War.”

Mark Steyn has also written an essay to commemorate the occasion, ‘The Will to Fell.’ Steyn could fairly be called a Hawk.

Hulsman’s argument, on behalf of the Weasels, is that all that were necessary to win the Cold War were “consistency in foreign policy, the cultivating of a real alliance system based on mutual trust, and political courage…

A quarter century on [he concludes] my fervent wish is that the West rediscovers what it did right in that brief, but very happy time.

But "in that [not so] brief, but very happy time", hundreds of millions of people in the Eastern Bloc were suffering sheer horror and oppression that should not be glossed over.

Steyn sums up Hulsman’s moral equivalence:

On the other side of the wall - the free side - far too many westerners were indifferent to the suffering of the east. … The presidents and prime ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated.

Hulsman touts

almost 50 years, of the containment doctrine, whereby the West would politically challenge the USSR but avoid direct military confrontation, amounts to a record of political and foreign policy success that has yet to be matched in the modern era.

Steyn disagrees.

Under cover of "détente", the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada.

Hulsman says “consistency in foreign policy, the cultivating of a real alliance system based on mutual trust, and political courage were all necessary to win the Cold War”, which he notes in his title as “The Fall” of the Berlin Wall.

Steyn says the passive verb is wrong.

It did not fall, of course. It was felled. It was felled by ordinary East German men and women who decided they were not willing to spend the rest of their lives in a large prison pretending to be a nation.

But why did they not fell it earlier? Steyn notes that among others, it was Reagan and Thatcher’s stand that gave them the courage:

One half of Europe was a prison, and in the other half far too many people - the Barack Obamas [and John Hulsmans] of the day - were happy to go along with that division in perpetuity. And the wall came down not because "the world stood as one" [or practiced the containment doctrine] but because a few people stood against the pap-peddlers. The truly courageous ones were the fellows like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel and a thousand lesser names, who had to stand against evil men who would have murdered them if they'd been able to get away with it.
    That they were no longer confident they could get away with it was because a small number of western leaders had shovelled détente into the garbage can of history and decided to tell the truth. Had Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and John Paul II been like Helmut Schmidt and Francois Mitterand and Pierre Trudeau and Jimmy Carter, the Soviet empire would have survived and the wall would still be standing.

Hawks 21, Weasels 0.


  1. "Steyn notes that among others, it was Reagan and Thatcher’s stand that gave them the courage:"

    Interesting that the British govt archives show that just as the Berlin Wall was about to be torn down, Thatcher phoned Gorbachev demanding he set loose the USSR military in East Germany to reign in the "subversives", restore order and prevent the risk of a future reunification of Germany. Apparently Mitterand did the same thing and made the same demand.

    It nearly was a rerun of the Hungarian Revolution.


  2. So what about this wall?


  3. V

    Good question. That one gets a free pass.


  4. I respect the stand taken by Reagan and Thatcher, and believe that stand had something to do with the wall falling. But the thesis taken in this post and the thesis of the earlier post (that it was inevitable economic disfunction that led to collapse) can't both be right.

  5. Mark

    Does that respect extend to when Thatcher phoned Gorbachev and asked him to send in the tanks?


  6. @V and Amit: Yes, they're both walls. Brilliant.

    But if you don't know the difference between a wall built to built to imprison its citizens with barbed wire and guns, and one built protect citizens from the rockets and suicide bombs of its neighbours -- one built to keep in people yearning to breathe free, the other built to keep out animals trying to kill people trying to be free -- then developed chains of argument are probably not for you.

    I suggest craps.

  7. @Mark: I agree that's true on first inspection, but I think they're actually complementary. Mises argued (correctly in my view) that the collapse was inevitable, and (economically speaking it would last as long as it was able to consume all its capital.
    So the collapse was inevitable, but it still needed someone to initiate the final push.

  8. @Amit: Re Thatcher, you mis-report the facts and overstate what case you have.

  9. @PC your dismissal of the Palestine wall as "built to keep out animals trying to kill people trying to be free" is absolutely pig-ignorant and typical of people who are told what to think by Zionist entities such as the ARI.

    The truth is Israel's claim to the land in Palestine is just as religiously motivated as any Islamic nutter. The Jews just happen to have more money and influence, and are more diplomatic/expedient about their intentions. Obviously you can't be bothered to do any objective research into the matter so here is a video that might educate you towards some balance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wb4_R5qaV8

  10. PC

    Thatcher's duplicity bothered you, eh? Indeed it does appear to have caused enough discomfort that you sought solace from........... The Margaret Thatcher Foundation!

    Even they can't avoid coughing to what she did (especially as it was revealed in the press, on a US intelligence release, in the US archives, in UK and Russian official documents and archives, in Gorbachev's personal papers, in French papers and reports). The facts are that neither Thatcher, nor Mitterand, were in favour of the collapse of the wall. Both wanted the status quo retained. Both directly lobbied Gorbachev to put down the civil unrest. Given the doings Thatcher was presiding over in N. Ireland her approach to this situation is hardly out of character. Lucky Gorbachev didn't act as invited to. Had he, then it would have been a rerun of the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution wherein Western leaders said one thing in public and did something quite different in secret (gave the Soviets the green light, upon which they soon acted).

    I'm glad that you had the decency to start doing a bit of a search into this though. I commend you for your effort, at least as far as it went. Keep going. There is more to the story than what you have so far discovered. By the way, this ought to warn you not to take the standard conservative Objectivist view as necessarily truthful, even though questioning it can be uncomfortable.


  11. PC

    It would appear you suffer from a difficulty in determining the difference between animals and human beings. The trouble with this approach to Arabs and Palestinians and so forth is that when you collectivise some human beings into the category "animals", then it is merely a matter of how many it suits to categorise thus. Of course, Objectivism does not identify animals as possessors of rights. From that point the rest is simple.

    And yes, you do give that wall a free pass. Every time.



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