Was 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.
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.
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.