Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cold War River: Forgive and Forget

František Janouch, part 2: Why the Velvet Revolution was "too velvet"

When Czechoslovak dissidents produced samizdat literature in the late communist period they did so in large part thanks to the material and financial support of  The Charter 77 Foundation. It was run by František Janouch, a Czech émigré who is still mainly based in Sweden. In the second half of a two-part interview with the nuclear scientist, we discussed his relationship with Václav Havel, the Velvet Revolution and the work of the Charter 77 Foundation today. But first I asked Mr. Janouch, now 85, how the organisation had managed to get printers and other technical equipment into communist Czechoslovakia

You have often said that the Velvet Revolution was “too velvet” – that the revolutionaries were too easy on the Communists. Was that because they were too nice, too good as people? Or were they naïve and didn’t understand how powerful they were?

“I think the Velvet Revolution was too soft, too velvet, so to speak, against high-ranking people in the secret police, in the Communist Party, in the government and so on.”

ONE ON ONE František Janouch: Why the Velvet Revolution was “too velvet”

Communist spies kept 'top secret' file on Trump when he married Ivana

Top secret intelligence files on US president-elect Donald Trump have emerged in the Czech Republic where he was kept under observation ...

Thanks to the CIA, the Cold War's so-called “free market of ideas” was hardly free. Butweaponizing ideas is a tricky business 

Story image for czechoslovak revolution  internet from New York Magazine

Maybe the Internet Isn't a Tool for Democracy After All

New York Magazine-27 Nov. 2016
Maybe the Internet Isn't a Fantastic Tool for Democracy After All ... were attempting to coordinate efforts outside the watchful eye of Czechoslovakstate security. ... Were free modems the catalyst for the Velvet Revolution?
White House Red Scare MoDo, NYT

Russia’s RT: The Network Implicated in U.S. Election Meddling NYT. Check the circulation figures at the end. An elephant stamping and trumpeting at the sight of a mouse. Great powers, and confident elites, just don’t act this way.

Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, first published in 1994 shortly after his death, is a forgotten classic. Lasch was well ahead of his time in foreseeing how the rise of technocratic, transnational elites would dissolve the social contract that in the postwar era had kept the interests of haves and have nots at least loosely aligned and lubricated a considerable degree of wealth transfer from the former to the latter, which in turn would lead to socio-economic polarization.

If he were alive today I’m sure he would be appalled by a President Trump even as he recognized that this was the logical culmination of the trends he himself had identified all those years ago.
Lasch was notable for other trenchant social criticism, including identifying narcissism as the dominant trait of the postwar American psyche and challenging some tenets of second wave feminism. As befits a fearless and original thinker he didn’t fit neatly into any established intellectual paradigm.
He died on St Valentines Day 14 February 1994 

Lasch called for a politics based on “the nurture of the soil against the exploitation of resources, the family against the factory, the romantic vision of the individual against the technological vision, [and] localism over democratic centralism.” Nearly a half-century later, as a place to begin, his prescription remains apt. 

Cold War Air: Age of Great Expectations might be running out of oxygen by Andrew J. Bacevich, professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. Originally published at TomDispatch

The fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 abruptly ended one historical era and inaugurated another. So, too, did the outcome of last year’s U.S. presidential election. What are we to make of the interval between those two watershed moments? Answering that question is essential to understanding how Donald Trump became president and where his ascendency leaves us.

Hardly had this period commenced before observers fell into the habit of referring to it as the “post-Cold War” era. Now that it’s over, a more descriptive name might be in order.  My suggestion: America’s Age of Great Expectations. 

Forgive and Forget

The end of the Cold War caught the United States completely by surprise.  During the 1980s, even with Mikhail Gorbachev running the Kremlin, few in Washington questioned the prevailing conviction that the Soviet-American rivalry was and would remain a defining feature of international politics more or less in perpetuity. Indeed, endorsing such an assumption was among the prerequisites for gaining entrée to official circles. Virtually no one in the American establishment gave serious thought to the here-today, gone-tomorrow possibility that the Soviet threat, the Soviet empire, and the Soviet Union itself might someday vanish. Washington had plans aplenty for what to do should a Third World War erupt, but none for what to do if the prospect of such a climactic conflict simply disappeared.