Go back with me to 2002 for a second. Martin Amis published a book called Koba the Dread. It said that Stalin was bad. Some people in the anti-Communist camp said, “Gee, that’s nice, Martin. Stalin has been dead for half a century. What will you come up with next? That the bubonic plague was harmful, killing a lot of people?” But a better view was this: When a cool, stylish, best-selling novelist joins your side, you say, “Hurray.” Amis’s book was helpful.
I thought of this when reading a Richard Cohen column last week. Cohen wrote,
I used to not believe in evil. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” I thought it was a dandy phrase but also a confession of ignorance. The word itself connotes something or someone diabolical — bad for the sake of bad. The Soviet Union was bad, I conceded, but not for no reason. It was bad because it was insecure, occupying the flat, inviting, Eurasian plain, and because it had a different system of government that it dearly wanted to protect. Reagan had it right, though. The Soviet Union was evil.
On one hand, you want to snort and roll your eyes. “Gee, thanks, Dick. You might have done us some good when Reagan was being hammered as a fascist moron who wanted to subject the world to a nuclear holocaust.” On the other hand, you think, “Good.” That’s what I think (mainly). Good.