The back-and-forth between Mark Steyn and Orrin Judd is not only irresistibly fascinating but, I think, Important. May I chime in with a question?
Responding to Mark, Orrin writes as follows:
Unfortunately for the hundreds of millions of victims of Communism, our willingness to follow the Kennan model meant that the Cold War lasted for decades, during which we stood by as tens of millions were murdered and the rest lived in near slavery. To the extent that Kennan was responsible for our not settling Soviet hash in the late 40s, he (and we) enabled the repression and mass murder of a significant portion of the human population for a disturbingly extended period of time. The cost of his accuracy was catastrophic to them and morally disabling to us. Four decades of compromising with evil led directly to the spiritual malaise that even Jimmy Carter could diagnose and lament — though, having bought into the Kennanesque status quo, he was incapable of snapping us out of it.
Every word that Orrin Judd writes about the terrible costs of “the long twilight struggle” strikes me as entirely correct–and of course it was the signal contribution of Ronald Reagan, four decades into the struggle, finally to succeed in snapping us out of it.
My question, though, is this: How, precisely, could we have settled Soviet hash in the late Forties? All my reading on the Second World War–as also, for that matter, every conversation I’ve ever had with a man who fought in that war–leads pretty forthrightly to the conclusion that a new war, against the Soviet Union, was utterly out of the question. The public in Britain and the United States alike was both exhausted and unready to see the Soviets, our allies against the Germans (and, in the final days, against Japan) as an “evil empire.” And the military situation would have proven difficult to say the least–throughout large swathes of Eastern Europe the Red Army outnumbered us. We’d have had no recourse but to nuclear weapons. Would the mere threat of nukes have deterred Stalin? I doubt it. Would we then have been willing to drop nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe? Short, possibly, of Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and Curtis LeMay, I’m not sure a single American commander would have had the stomach for it–in the final drive across the Rhine, after all, Ike had removed Berlin from the list of American objectives simply to end the war that much more quickly.
Take a long, hard look at the history of 1945–a fully mobilized Red Army, a devastated Europe, and an exhausted public in the United States and Britain–and I think you more or less have to conclude that “settling Soviet hash” just wasn’t a realistic option.
If readers can name reputable historians who suggest otherwise–well, I’m all ears.