GEORGE FRIEDMAN, chairman of Stratfor Forecasting, Inc., is not everybody's cuppa tea. It's not because he's not good at what he, Robert Kaplan, and other Stratfor analysts do, which is global intelligence. They're fabulous. It's because old-fashioned balance-of-power geopolitical analysis is out of fashion. Moralists right and left agree that realpolitik is too darned amoral, too Kissingerian, to deserve respect. And, in a way, they're right. All Stratfor-style analysts have going for them, compared to the alternatives -- neoconservatists, neoisolationists, pacifists, and all the others -- is that the Stratfordians are more often right than wrong. The others can't make that claim.
Mr. Friedman has written more than his fair share of great columns, but the best I've ever read came yesterday: "What the Fall of the Wall Did Not Change."
I'm not going to summarize the essay. You should read it yourself. What I will do . . .
. . . is publish delicious snips. I don't recall that Mr. Friedman has ever displayed talent as an epigrammist -- perhaps I just missed it -- but, wow! I've emboldened the best ones.
For my generation, at the better universities, Marxism was not an exotic form of oriental despotism, but a persuasive explanation of the world and how it worked, as well as a moral imperative that a stunning number of students and faculty were committed to.
It was never clear to me what Marxists had against affluence . . . but the venom against the previous generation's capitulation to ordinary life was intense.
That the young feel superior to the old is built into the Enlightenment.
The young always have greater aspirations than to simply live, but they grow out of it.
Stalin is the finest argument there is against sincerity.
[The fall of communism] was less a revolution than the fact that the jailhouse door had been left unlocked.
[Communism] had views not only on politics and economics, but also on art, the proper raising of childen, proper methods of plowing and the role of sports in society.
In the end, Marxism discredited the Enlightenment. It was the reductio ad absurdum of systematic reason.
Marxism never succeeded in escapting the primordial reality of the human condition.
[The Soviet Union] could claim that the Soviet Man was being created, but the truth was that the Russian was a Russian, the Kazakh a Kazakh, and the Armenian an Armenian.
[In] the end their economy was weak, their satrapies were restless and the leaders wanted to enjoy their dachas and their pleasures.
[The fall of the Soviet Union] was partly because [Soviet leaders] had lost all belief, but it was also, in retrospect, because they knew they were weak.
The American solution was simple: to wait.
Geopolitics imposed a strategy of waiting on both sides, and the Soviets had less time than the Americans and their allies.
And so the wall came down. The most fantastic dreams of the Enlightenment were shattered.
And the empire shattered into small pieces that cannot be rebuilt, in spite of a leader who would like to think of himself as Stalin, but is really a better-dressed Brezhnev.
From 1871 onward, a united Germany has posed a problem for Europe. It is too productive to compete with and too insecure to live with. This is not a matter of ideology; it is a matter of geography and culture.
The young men and women at the wall now emphatically support austerity in Europe, not accepting responsibility for the rest of Europe's fecklessness. Why should they?
The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago served as an exclamation point in history ending an ideology and an empire. It did not end history, but rather it renewed the puzzlethat has dogged Europe since 1871. What will German do next and what will the outside world do with Germany? This once slightly unsettling question has become a moderately unsettling one. In Europe, history sometiems throws a party and then presents an unpleasant surprise. But then, Europe is always a surprise, or at least pretends to be.
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A story for another day is what moral imperatives have replaced Marxism in the skulls full of mush drawn to teach and attend our universities. Here are some candidates: progressivism, genderism, greenism, community organizerism, and Occupyism.
How can we recognize these modern Marxists-lite when we see them? Like the old Soviet ideologues, they have views not only on politics and economics, but also on art, the proper raising of childen, proper methods of plowing and the role of sports in society.
Remind you of anyone and his First Lady?
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Another subject for another day is to explore how the apparently amoral systems of organizing and understanding things -- market economics, American-style constitutional government (commonly called democracy, but not quite), and balance-of-power geopolitics -- prove in the end to be the most moral of all alternatives. All are based -- to use Christian terminology for the primodial reality of the human condition -- on a proper understanding of the fallen state of humanity.
Greed exists. Build a system that recognizes that reality. Set boundaries by law and common morality. This approach has nothing to recommend it, particularly to the moralists of the left, except that it works better than anything they or their Marxist ancestors have ever dreamed up.
The constitutional system established by our Founders also works. It confronts a different species of greed -- the greed for power -- by channeling it within the boundaries of divided and limited government.
Finally, realpolitik works, mostly, because it is constructed around honest appraisals of national interests and the uses and limits of power -- also expressions of the primordial realities of the human condition -- and not around earnest hopes.
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