"Tear Down this Wall":

Yesterday I linked to a summary discussion of the internal deliberations inside the Reagan administration regarding the famous "Tear Down this Wall" speech. Peter Robinson has provided more details at Powerline today, along with some White House pictures of the final meetings.

To mark the date of the speech, today is also the grand opening of the new "Victims of Communism" memorial in Washington, DC. The Washington Times had a front page story here. The official website of the memorial is here.

Houston Lawyer:
Why is it that every time I read about the State Department, it is in the context of them trying to undermine the policy of the administration? They seem far more interested in protecting the interests of foreign nationals than of US citizens.
6.12.2007 4:24pm
yet many still pine away for the grand old days when they could be truly treasonous and assist that wonderful experiment. good chunks of them are lawyers who actively aided and assisted them while undermining this country.
6.12.2007 4:49pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
hey at least they're doing something with that stupid traffic triangle outside georgetown law
6.12.2007 5:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Nothing wrong with a victims of communism memorial, but it's a little bothersome that there seems to be a cottage industry of saying how bad the Left was during the cold war without any recognition that the Right victimized a lot of people too. How about a victims of Pinochet memorial, or a victims of Salvadorean and Guatemalan death squads memorial. Or perhaps the granddaddy of them all-- a victims of Apartheid memorial. Remember how many conservatives told us that Nelson Mandela and the ANC couldn't be trusted and that sanctions wouldn't work and could throw South Africa into a race war?

I don't say this to bash the Right-- conservatives were clearly right about the Soviet Union and communism, and many on the Left were way too cozy or unwilling to call the Soviets what they were. But these sorts of memorials represent a certain sort of conservative triumphalism that fails to recognize that there was a lot of blood on the Right's hands as well as the Left's from that period.
6.12.2007 5:42pm
thank goodness it took at least 4 posts for one of the piners to show up. makes me feel the left has some shame left.
6.12.2007 6:25pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I am glad for remembrance and recognition of the victims of communism, but I do find it a little odd that to commemorate the loss of life caused by an economy run by the state, it was felt necessary to lobby for a decade and a half for state funding and a state act to build a statue modelled after a statue put up in a communist country that was modelled after our own symbol of freedom...
6.12.2007 6:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

Are you implying that I am one of the "many [who] still pine away for the grand old days when they could be truly treasonous and assist that wonderful experiment"? That I am a traitor? That I am a communist or someone who believes Soviet communism was a "wonderful experiment"?

There is no word for that other than libel. You do not know me. And nothing in my post, above, says anything about communism being a good thing or advocates any sort of sedition against the United States. It just notes that the focus on victims of communism is somewhat one-sided, because the Right got plenty of things dead wrong too. It fully acknowledges the failures of communism.

Look, I realize that in certain quarters in the right, assuming that liberals are treasonist pinkos passes for argument, or at least is not questioned. This has been the case for at least 60 years since the days of the red scare. But it is neither an argument nor an appropriate response to my post. It is simply defamation of character of the worst kind, and is a form of name-calling that doesn't advance the discussion.

If you want to indicate where my post is wrong, do it. Show why it is that the Right never victimized anyone, or those victims don't deserve recognition, or that they are already recognized. Whatever. But don't call me a traitor. You have no basis to do so, and such inflammatory allegations should not be deployed against people without a very firm basis.
6.12.2007 7:31pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Dilan Esper,

If you believe NAZIs to be right-wing (and not simply another brand of socialism), then wouldn't the holocaust memorial count?

As far as I can tell, this tiny and absurd excuse for a memorial is the first in the US to the 100 million dead by the hand of communism, while we have recognized the victims of the NAZI evil for some time (and pay it much much more attention in our schools).

Your argument seems bizarre because of how backward it is, wherever your sympathies may actually lie.

(On the other hand if you recognize that NAZIsm was just another socialism and by right wing you mean either monarchist or libertarian then: if monarchist you may have a point, if libertarian I ask you which victims you refer to)
6.12.2007 7:56pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

I have long since stopped trying to classify Nazism within the conventional left-right spectrum. The ideology had elements of socialism and also elements of right-wing authoritarianism. It was really sui generis. (By the way, I think that many conservatives would agree with me on that point.)

But I also think you miss my point-- there were clearly many victims of unambiguously right wing regimes, just as there were victims of unambiguously left-wing regimes. Memorializing victims of communism is, I believe, part of a deliberate attempt to trumpet the fact that the Right was correct about Soviet communism (a fact I do not contest) and that the Left supported some brutal regimes. All true.

But the Right was also, for instance, wrong on the issue of apartheid and supported in various ways a brutal regime in South Africa. What I don't like is the one sided, "the Left was wrong and the Right was right" view of history, when in fact, everyone got things wrong and almost everyone supported one murderous regime or another. I have a feeling that many of the supporters of these victims of communism memorials would like to airbrush out the Right's complicity in apartheid while highlighting the Left's complicity in communism. That is what I object to.
6.12.2007 8:19pm
oh, I'm really not enthralled with the is-it-criminal or is-it-a-war debate, so let's push this topic:

Dilan E.,

"But the Right was also, for instance, wrong on the issue of apartheid and supported in various ways a brutal regime in South Africa."

While I don't feel competent to talk about the divestment campaign in the US and whether the "right" was pro or con, I would say it is the "left" too (not just in the US) that felt compelled to call the south africa regime brutal, evil, etc., but did not seem to be able to scale the evil of apartheid compared to, say, the widescale murder as a means of political expression by _all_ countries in sub-saharan africa at the time.

Or the fact that however tribal the south african regime was, the only difference between its tribalism and that practiced today in _much_ of southern africa is that westerners can tell one tribe from the other (european vs. other african groups, not all indigenous anyway). Hutu vs. tutsi tribalism wasn't really an issue to the left/right/west until people got killed at a scale never seen in SA. Tutsi's were roughly the same % of the population in Rwanda that whites were in South africa in the 1990s...
6.12.2007 9:31pm
The Left, still desperately seeking moral equivalency, I see... and after all these years... and all we've learned.

You might try adding up the body counts, as you develop your equivalencies.
6.12.2007 9:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

I don't think apartheid is nearly the same as other African atrocities you mention. The fact is, apartheid was rooted in white supremacy and assumptions that blacks could not govern themselves. It was supported by the Right in America because of false assumptions that Nelson Mandela and the ANC were a bunch of communists that were going to start a race war. (Note that this goes beyond the issues of divestment and sanctions-- the Right made predictions about what was going to happen when Mandela took power and assertions about Mandela that turned out to be totally wrong in the same way that some left-wing assertions about the USSR were.) In fact, South Africa is a much better place under black leadership than it was under white leadership. The Right was simply wrong, and countless black South Africans died as a result.

With respect to other African atrocities, I am not aware of left and right taking sides the way they did on South Africa. I think you need to provide actual examples of where they did.


"Moral equivalency" isn't any more of an argument than accusing ideological opponents of treason is. Again, you can say the Right actually did not support any brutal regimes, or that it was right to do so, or that it was wrong to do so but it is nonetheless not appropriate to memorlialize its victims, but crying "moral equivalency" doesn't do any of those things. It is just contentless name calling.

As for adding up the body counts, look, Stalin killed 20 million or more people. But much of that occurred prior to the Cold War. (Remember, during World War II, just about the entire American populace supported an alliance with Stalin.) During the Cold War, when there was a left-right divide over the USSR, the body counts were probably not that much different. Franco and Pinochet and various other right-wing regimes in Central and South America, as well as South Vietnam, were quite bloody, as were communist regimes. And there were also right-wing insurgencies and death squads and paramilitaries who killed thousands.

But the main thing I would say to you is, if the body count was less, so what? Again, is it a legitimate argument against memorializing the victims of the Armenian genocide that there weren't as many of them as there were victims of the Holocaust? The point is, this is ALL about a triumphalist view of history, a lie conservatives tell themselves where they were the smart ones who were on the side of truth and justice and the Left supported murderous regimes. In fact, the Right got crucial things wrong too, supporting its own band of brutal and bloody dictators, and we need to recognize the whole complicated story and not simply memorialize a conservative fairy tale version of history.
6.12.2007 10:12pm
Montie (mail):

During the Cold War, when there was a left-right divide over the USSR, the body counts were probably not that much different.

Dilan, that is frankly absurd...unless you consider Mao Zedong a rightist.
6.12.2007 10:26pm
Well, I have never equated the right in the USA with the RIGHT in Europe or elsewhere. There is NO equivalent right like that in the USA in any other country. But the left ideology is definately tied to the same origin ie. Socialism and its father Marx. The true right in the USA is classical liberalism. We did not invent right wing dictators or fascists. Did the USA support bad people to fight internatinal communism. You bet but those so called rightwing characters are not even a cousin to classical liberals. You can try to connect the dots but they do not draw the line you want. Social Justice, theological liberalism, Liberation theology, Communism, socialism or the nicer sounding Welfare State are all related back to their source. Please.
6.12.2007 10:47pm
...and there's always death at the source... lots and lots of death.
6.12.2007 10:58pm
Al (mail):
How about a victims of Pinochet memorial, or a victims of Salvadorean and Guatemalan death squads memorial. Or perhaps the granddaddy of them all-- a victims of Apartheid memorial.

Dilan, a problem with your comparison is that, while many may have seen Pinochet, or even the apartheid regime in South Africa, as the lesser of two evils, the vast majority on the right nevertheless could clearly see the moral shortcomings of those types of regimes. The same cannot be said for large swaths of the left, who have idolized a long line of despots, from Stalin to Mao to Kim Il-Sung to Fidel, etc. I don't seem to recall any starry-eyed young conservatives traveling to South Africa to help out in the diamond mines.
6.13.2007 12:00am
yep, the left never seemed to be able to find a villain in africa that wasn't white, no matter how high the body count. SA's white villains didn't have nearly the body count of many of the rulers of africa about whom the left never uttered a peep-in fact, with the correct rhetoric about colonial oppression, the left often lionized the murderers who had the correct color. I would say if you downplay the mote in the eyes of others to notice the sliver in your own, it is easy to figure out where one's sympathies are located.
6.13.2007 1:31pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

China can't count, because attitudes towards China didn't break down on left-right lines. Nixon opened up relations with China and broke with Taiwan.


While it is true that American Communism did descend from Marx, what conservatives call "the Left" did not. Most of the left side of the American political spectrum has no ideological roots in Marx whatsoever, instead descending from classical liberalism, the Enlightenment, and social democratic theorists who were mostly anti-communist.


If you go back and look at what the right said about Pinochet and white South African governments, it wasn't until very late in the day that they admitted that there was any downside to those governments. Indeed, many conservatives still say that Pinochet was the savior of Chile.

Not too many conservatives defend apartheid anymore, but you know, given the inaccuracy of right-wing statements about how dangerous Mandela was, I think they would probably like to forget the entire episode. At the time that the apartheid regime was in power, however, many conservatives made arguments that black majority rule would inevitably lead to chaos. In other words, this sort of represents the achilles heel of conservative ideology the same way that communism represented the liberal achilles heel. In both cases, background assumptions (liberals assuming that goverments that disempowered corporations were good, conservatives assuming that black empowerment represented a threat to order) caused people who should have known better to take offensive positions.


Thank you for making my point perfectly. Not a word of condemnation for apartheid, eh? And it's all justified because of things that happened in other African countries that weren't as rich as South Africa, right? Your position is why we desparately need the memorial; to remind people that the right wing made some very bloody choices just like the left did.
6.13.2007 3:12pm
markm (mail):
"Right wing authoritarians." Like the Left isn't authoritarian??? There were only two big differences between Hitler and Stalin:

1) Hitler had the sense to leave successful capitalists in charge of their businesses - but he both officially made it clear that anything could belong to the state if the Nazi government decided that it would support their policies better in other hands, and unofficially let his Nazi party thugs enrich themselves by such things as coercing successful businesses to give them partnerships.

2) Hitler was often honest about rejecting liberal values, where Stalin threw up a smokescreen of fine-sounding rhetoric to cover horrible acts. Conquest and oppression was "liberation". Death camps were "reeducation". Mass starvation was a new diet plan.

When the boot is on your neck, there is a way to tell if it's a fascist boot or a leftist boot - the leftist will be telling you its for your own good. And a bunch of useful idiots will be applauding, not noticing that they are next.

OTOH, the American "right" has it's own streak of cognitive dissonance - all the support for little Hitlers (Chiang Kai Shek, Pinochet, the Shah, once even Saddam), never noticing that their favorite "anticommunists" were socialists with everything they hated about Communism except the economic extremism, and crooks besides.
6.13.2007 5:37pm
And after all these words in here, we've still wound up with hundreds of millions of people liberated, thanks to our defeat of the Evil Empire.

Keep buildin' them statues, folks, this one's worth celebrating!
6.13.2007 7:21pm
Social Democracy is nothing more than another way to Socialism. It can be described as Socialism through evolution or of "one thousand cuts" instead of violent revolution. The roots are mired in Marxism. No way does it have anything to do with classical liberalism. That is impossible. It reminds me of those of the far left that still think Communism is still wonderful but it has just got a bad rap cause it has not been done or instituted properly YET. A rose is still a rose.
6.14.2007 12:19am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

I wouldn't use the term "liberated" so freely. In some places that clearly applies, such as Eastern Europe. But it appears that we "liberated" Russia into a kleptocracy followed by creeping authoritarianism under Putin, we "liberated" Yugoslavia into a civil war, and we still haven't "liberated" China, the largest Communist country, at all.

That's really the whole point-- some conservatives don't want to accept that communism wasn't the only form of illiberal government. Unfortunately, there were plenty of others, some of which were supported full-throttle by the American Right.


You are simply wrong as a matter of intellectual history. Someone like Rawls or Dworkin simply does not descend from Marx and Engels, but from Kant and Locke. There is a reason why we still use the term "liberalism" to describe a seemingly very different ideology from classical liberalism-- it is because the American left (except for the true communists and revolutionaries on the far left) for the most part accepts the notion of inalienable individual rights and liberties, and the disagreements do not concern the fundamental form of government but rather its means and ends.

Similarly, the social democratic tradition in Europe is a fundamentally anti-communist enterprise, and the USSR supported communist parties and tried to undermine it whenever it cold.
6.14.2007 12:53am
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks, Dilan, for doing yeoman's work. The Right will never admit to any mistakes, and certainly not in central America, Panama, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile or Cuba. People died there as a result of our support of their regimes? Who cares? Let's not mention the systematic slaughter of the American Indian either....

"You might try adding up the body counts, as you develop your equivalencies."

I suppose we could start with Darfur, which the Bush Administration refuses to recognize as a problem.

Al: "I don't seem to recall any starry-eyed young conservatives traveling to South Africa to help out in the diamond mines."

No, but I certainly do know that there were -- and are -- plenty of starry-eyed missionaries traveling to all parts of Africa, Asia, and S. America, in order to "civilize" them, whether they wanted it or not.
6.14.2007 2:08am
Victor Krueger (mail):
One thing most of y'all miss about or "support" of RSA in the aparteit time is that for a number of strategic minerals there are only 2 suppliers: south africa and russia. Russia was the ENEMY, and viewed us as the enemy as well. So we maintained decent relations with the only non-communist supplier of those minerals, although since the 1950s we refused to sell them weapons.

That refusal to sell them military weapons is why RSA's 1980s tech field artillery guns are significantly better than our 1950s tech guns.
6.17.2007 12:40am