Thursday, September 14, 2006

60 Million Murdered is not Nitpicking

In a piece posted at RedBlueChristian, Rob Asghar writes that Fareed Zakaria is demonstrating clear thinking with the statement, “Washington has a long habit of painting its enemies 10 feet tall-and crazy. During the cold war, many hawks argued that the Soviet Union could not be deterred because the Kremlin was evil and irrational.”

Most people, especially passionate people, are prone to exaggeration. However, real clear thinking, along with a knowledge of a few facts, would indicate the Soviet Union was a real threat, not just a perceived threat. Most historians agree that at least 20 million people were murdered by the Soviets after World War II. Some, including R.J. Rummel, even believe the number is closer to 60 million. It is not unreasonable to assume a country with leaders that murdered 20 to 60 million people would also be a threat to America.

The military capability of the Soviets is also a documented fact. There is no way to know what would have happened if America didn’t fight the cold war, but there is absolutely no doubt, the Soviets could have wiped America off the face of the earth if Americans didn’t take the threat seriously and increase Defense spending and planning.

Rob is an impressive and professional writer, but he seems to be paving his path to glory with the same in-astute observations as the current crop of Washington pundits. I don’t know if this is a tactic or just a careless mistake on his part. I don’t think it will work. The Washington pundits of the future will not just be the writers who graduated from the right schools with a talent for writing and very little time for nitpicking. The Washington pundits of the future will be mostly bloggers who honed their skills by being challenged and nitpicked with facts and counter arguments.


Rick Cendo said...

I don't see a contradiction. What you and Zakaria say are both correct.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

The problem with Mr. Zakaria’s piece and the problem with Mr. Asghar’s comment regarding the piece is that Mr. Zakaria displays the opposite of clear thinking when he tries to make a point by giving an example which disproves his point.

Washington, both politicians and pundits, do have a history of wild exaggeration. The Soviet threat was not a wild exaggeration, though. The Soviet threat was documented by both the United States and the Soviets. The Soviet threat to the United States is a fact which was extremely serious and completely real.

Iran does not represent a level of threat similar to the Soviets yet. However, Iran is a threat to the United States and the free world that needs to be dealt with seriously and appropriately. Real clear thinkers are needed to determine appropriate actions, not faux clear thinkers who don’t know enough to know the Soviets were a danger to the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of others.

Rick Cendo said...

Hi David --

The Soviets were definitely a huge danger. The hardliners in 1944 advocated pre-emptive war with the Soviets. Containment was considered a form of appeasement. Indeed, some of the Central European countries that we ceded to the Soviets (like Poland) were the exact same countries that the Brits ceded to Hitler.

But I think everyone now considers containment of the Soviets as a great success (despite the fact that we hear a lot more about the failure of appeasement than we do the success of containment.)

I would argue that the containment policy toward Iraq from 1991-2003 was also successful, relative to the results that we have had with pre-emptive war.

David M. Smith said...

Hi again Rick,

The Viet Nam war, the Cuban blockade, the “arms for hostages” were all part of Soviet containment, mostly failures, and all part of our inability to be clear and consistent in our response to Soviet aggression.

Containment against the Soviets worked if you weren’t one of the 20 to 60 million murdered by the Soviets or the 1 million murdered by the Khmer Rouge or Castro or any number of communist dictators. The same with Hussein in Iraq. The same with half of the countries in the Middle East and Africa today.

I am satisfied that removing Hussein in Iraq was appropriate, but I honestly don’t know what would be an appropriate response to Iran. War is terrible where innocent people are killed and hurt. Not going to war is also terrible where innocent people are killed and hurt. Sober leaders need to be making these decisions while explaining their rationale to the rest of us. President Bush is sober, but not articulate. I prefer the sober over the articulate, but I wish we had more of both.

Rick Cendo said...

Hi David -- Yep, it's absolutely true that containment was hard on the local populations, both in the Soviet world and in Iraq. I wonder if pre-emptive war in 1944 would have ultimately been better for the local populations. I guess it depends how it played out.

It certainly seems that most Iraqis would now prefer that we had never invaded, despite the harsh conditions under Hussein.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

I haven’t heard any Iraqis claim they were better off under Saddam. I’m guessing that many Sunnis wish Saddam was still in power and most Kurds and Shia’s are glad he is gone, but I really don’t know. I know I would prefer freedom with hardship over authoritative security, but I know everyone doesn’t feel the same way.

One of the problems with going to war or not going to war is that the results of both options can never be measured or quantified. In hindsight we can make guesses, but we will never know for sure. Iraq was forever changed when Saddam was removed and captured. People who want freedom must claim, defend, and fight for their own freedom. America can remove despots, but we can’t give freedom to anyone who is not willing to die to keep it.

We may think we are enlightened, but history has a way of repeating. Human nature may just be un-evolvable. We may forever, until the end, have periods of peace and periods of war.

Buz said...


I think we are beyond un-evolvable ... we are devolving. If you look at countries we consider primitive, they once had great and thriving civilizations. The tribal systems in Africa and parts of Asia are not where our civilization has come from but where we are going to. 500 years from now, you may find small groups of white aboriginies [sp?] roving the great plains and telling legends of the once great civilization with magic flying machines, the men who took a boat to the moon, and the magic screens which let you talk to anyone, anywhere.


World War IV will be fought by lizards and frogs.