The Corner

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Soviet Spy Morton Sobell Dies

Morton Sobell, the Soviet spy who was convicted alongside Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, has died. He served 18 years in prison for crimes that contributed to countless deaths, including those of U.S. servicemen.

(An interesting side-note: One of the names on the byline of Sobell’s New York Times obituary is that of a reporter who passed away in 2010. The obituaries of famous people are partly written in advance, and the writers sometimes interview their subjects for them, a job that must require a very sensitive kind of etiquette.)

All that Cold War stuff surely seems like ancient history to Millennials — and people such as Bernie Sanders, well more than old enough to know better — with their nostalgic and idiotic talk of “socialism.” But it isn’t ancient history: See Venezuela.

You know how this goes: “Oh, but we don’t mean that. We don’t mean authoritarianism and repression.” And maybe they don’t. But, historically, that has not been true of American progressivism as a whole. American progressives were happy to make excuses for Stalin and Mao, just as they were happy to make excuses for Castro, just as they are happy to make excuses for Maduro right now. Progressives — not all of them, of course; that should go without saying — have been content, and even eager, to cooperate with tyrants and murderers over the years, believing that these are necessary evils in the campaign against the real enemy, which is the United States and the values it represents.

Sobell and the Rosenberg spy ring helped to put military technology — including nuclear weapons — into the hands of one of the most murderous ideological regimes in human history. That Sobell spent many years walking around in daylight after having done so is not obviously a testament to the rightness of our national priorities in matters of justice. If he’d been involved in the history’s largest cocaine-production ring instead of history’s largest corpse-production ring, he’d have done more time.

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