Welcome Jon Wiener (UC Irvine) and Host Arthur Goldwag (ArthurGoldwag.com)

How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America

Jon Wiener, who is perhaps best-known for his 20-plus year court battle with the FBI over the release of John Lennon’s files, is a historian, teacher, journalist, broadcaster, and activist whose interests range from the social foundations of the Reconstruction of the south to the trial of the Chicago 8, from fraud and corruption in the Ivory Tower to mendacity and malice in Washington. A contributing editor to The Nation since 1984, a history professor at the University of California Irvine, and the host of an afternoon interview show on LA’s public radio station KPFK, his witty writing style, effortless erudition, and fair-minded skepticism rebuke the stereotypes of the humorless progressive and the hidebound academic alike.

Wiener’s new book How We Forgot the Cold War (“a book that would’ve split the sides of Thucydides,” says Mike Davis, the author of City of Quartz) is a travelogue of visits to sites across the US (plus one in Cuba and one in Grenada) where the Cold War is publicly commemorated. As different as they are—among them are half a dozen presidential libraries, a general’s tomb, missile silos, a VIP fallout shelter, a CIA museum that’s closed to the public, and a proposed $100 million Victims of Communism museum, a grandiose project that was never built—all of them are notable for a curious lacuna: the Cold War itself, or perhaps more accurately, the neo-conservative, triumphalist narrative about the Cold War that has been so successfully projected onto the memory of Ronald Reagan.

Reagan is still the man on horseback when it comes to cutting taxes, bringing the hostages home from Iran, and dispelling Jimmy Carter’s malaise. But if the Cold War was marked by bipartisan consensus from the very beginning, the far right always argued that the Cold War should have been hotter—that instead of containing Communism, the US should have been rolling it back. The conflicts in North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, among other places, were lost because of insufficient resolve and an unmanly fear of nuclear combat, the story continues. It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan called the Evil Empire what it was, ended détente, liberated Granada, funded the contras, and launched such big ticket initiatives as Star Wars that the Russians finally bankrupted themselves into submission.That’s the story the right tells, but it’s not the story that’s told at any of the commemorative sites. Many of them avoid the subject of the Cold War altogether. The Churchill Memorial at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill made his Iron Curtain speech, has almost nothing to say about the Iron Curtain—instead, it tells about England’s finest hour, the blood, sweat and tears of the Blitz. Nuclear sites like the testing grounds in New Mexico, the Hanford plutonium plant in Washington State, Rocky Flats near Denver, and the radioactive mound in Weldon, Missouri don’t highlight the theme of sacrifice and ultimate victory but of safety and restoration; their exhibits gloss over the deadly accidents and the high cancer rates that plagued workers and neighbors while assuring visitors that the radiation is no longer a problem. When you go to MacArthur’s tomb in Norfolk, Virginia, the story isn’t about how Truman wrongly relieved him of his command in Korea when he proposed to launch a nuclear war against China but about his heroism in World War II.

Wiener visits monuments to Elvis’s military service at the Patton Museum in Fort Knox (Elvis was a Sergeant in the Third Armored Division that Patton had commanded) and at Graceland, delving into the political-military realities of the Berlin crisis which heated up during Elvis’s service, and the symbolic importance of his presence in Germany to both the US and the Germans (his celebrity was strong enough to spark a series of Elvis-inspired teenaged insurrections in the German Democratic Republic, where authorities tried to introduce a dance craze of their own, the Lipsi, to counter him). But Elvis wasn’t exactly gung ho himself. “What the hell are we doing this for anyway?” his commander recalled him asking. “Most people I know don’t want any more Korean War kind of stuff.”

Wiener recounts how Sarah Palin admitted that she didn’t really understand why there were two Koreas and he tells how Dana Perino, George W. Bush’s press secretary, admitted that she didn’t know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was about. Even right wing insiders aren’t getting the message anymore.

Maybe that’s because most historical efforts to heat up the Cold War were rejected by Republican presidents. It was Eisenhower who warned about the military industrial complex—the Democratic Kennedy, who politicked on a non-existent missile gap, was much more its creature than the old general was. It was Nixon who went to China over the angry objections of such right wing icons as William F. Buckley, and for that matter it was Reagan who brought Gorbachev to the table for negotiations and the moderate George H.W. Bush who presided over the USSR’s collapse.

Perhaps the main reason the Cold War refuses to serve the partisan purposes that its propagandists want it to is because the public was never as on board with its premises as it was for World War II, the last war to end in a decisive victory. Interestingly enough, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were both great proponents of the idea that the Cold War should have been won rather than negotiated—though neither was in office, they acted as consultants for the Reagan administration when it was devising its continuity-of-government plan for a full-on nuclear war (Oliver North was to be its “action officer”). With 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld finally had the opportunity to put their ideas into practice, with less than stellar results.

I’m excited to have a chance to finally meet Jon Wiener, who I have been reading for years, even if it’s just in cyberspace, and I am looking forward to your questions and his answers.

The question I want to begin with is this: is the bi-partisan nature of the Cold War part of what makes it so problematic for the right? The Robert Taft/Barry Goldwater right in the 1950s and 1960s, and the talk radio, Tea Party right today, contend that the left is/was soft on Communism—that the difference between Social Security and Stalinism is one of just a few degrees. Maybe you could make that case about the people who were demonstrating for clemency for the Rosenbergs, but you certainly couldn’t say it of Truman, Kennedy, or Johnson, who were Cold Warriors to the core.

Does the Cold War fail as partisan propaganda because it’s insufficiently divisive?

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

163 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jon Wiener, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America”

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Jon, Welcome to the Lake.

Arthur, Welcome back to the Lake, thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hi Bev, Hi Jon. I’m here and looking forward to the Salon.

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Hi Arthur! welcome back.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Good to be here. I loved Jon’s book and I’m eager to hear how it resonated with FDL readers. A lot of what I like about it, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, is that it’s a book about absence, and what that absence is evidence of.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Are you here Jon?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:03 pm

yes I’m here!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:03 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 6

Arthur – Yes the Republican presidents’ support for “containment” rather than the “rollback” of communism did hurt the right-wing cause. The right-wing Republicans always claimed to be persecuted by the liberal media and the Washington elite, and sometimes betrayed by their own leaders: Kennedy and LBJ didn’t go to China; Nixon did. So the true right-wingers see themselves as a minority that is unpopular because they refuse to compromise their core values. It works for them.

dakine01 March 23rd, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Good afternoon Jon and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Arthur, welcome back to FDL.

Jon, I have not read your book but do have a couple of comments. I grew up in the “duck and cover” era where the civil defense triangles were all around. I also served in the USAF from 12/76 – 9/82. One of the realities in the USAF was doing drills and exercises where we would get an “alert” and have to report to the shelter. We pretty much assumed they were drills but until that was confirmed there was always the possibility of it being real. When sitting in a shelter, you tend to tell a lot of dark humor jokes.

Whatever happened to the idea that on foreign policy issues, such as the Cold War, partisanship ended at the coastline?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 8

Ah yes the Duck-and-Cover drills — now the symbol of the fifties, along with the hula hoop. It turned out, however, that almost no one had a fallout shelter in the back yard.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I think it works for them still–they are a group that derives its energy from indignation.

Here’s another question–which of the monuments you visited stayed with you? Do you find yourself haunted by the missile silo, the mound? Do you find yourself thinking about that little piece of England in the midwest?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 8

as for bipartisanship, there was a lot of competition between the parties over who was more fierce in fighting the Reds, but in practice JFK did pretty much what Ike did, and so on until Reagan.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:07 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 9

But what about the idea of partisanship ending at the coastline? To me, that’s the biggest change in politics in my lifetime, and I think it’s enabled the drift (if that’s the word) to the right.

bluewombat March 23rd, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Welcome, Jon. I asked a question and spoke with you after your panel appearance at the West Hollywood Book Festival last year.

My first question, which I hope isn’t outside the scope of your book: It’s my understanding that Russia and the U.S. still have nuclear ICBM’s pointed at each other on hair-trigger alert. Twenty-plus years after the end of the Cold War, shouldn’t our government be trying to negotiate a deal with the Russians to make an accidental nuclear cataclysm less likely?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 10

The monuments that are hardest to forget are the former nuclear weapons factories — which have contaminated their neighborhoods and given their neighbors cancer. The result, as I say in the book, is that the tours emphasize reassurance about the current safety of the sites, rather than their significance in deterring Soviet aggression — not very convincing.

Elliott March 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I was traumatized by duck and cover.

that and the non-ending war movies shown on TV

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Jon, What years / events bookmark your definition of the Cold War?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 13

Plus there’s all that loose nuclear material lying around all over the world–probably a bigger threat than the stuff that we know about.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:09 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 13

Obama has been working on reducing the nuclear stockpiles in the former Soviet Republicans since before he was president — one of the few things he is committed to despite the fact that it didn’t get him any votes. Yes he needs to do a lot more — and he knows it.

RevBev March 23rd, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I hope this question is OK….Can you say something about how you got
to the structure of the book….the sites and the journey. Really inspired, I thought it was an interesting venture to read.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 16

beginning of the Cold War — well, Churchill announced that “an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent” in 1946, but it wasn’t unitl 1947-48 that the US became committed to a military competition with the USSR. The end probably came with Reagan meeting Gorby in Reykjavik.

Elliott March 23rd, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Arthur
Was there anything like Iran/Contra back in the 50s and 60s?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 16

While I’m waiting for Jon’s reply to this, I have to say, just as a kind of personal observation, that one of the weirder things is the idea of the ’50s as an age of complacency. It had its own quagmire in Korea, it had McCarthy, and it gave birth to MAD, the destruction of the world as a tactic. No wonder people freaked out in the ’60s!

Elliott March 23rd, 2013 at 2:12 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 20

So doesn’t Gorby get the credit for bringing an end to the Cold War?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:13 pm
In response to Elliott @ 21

What a great question! I don’t really know the answer off hand. We were certainly busy in a lot of the same places–Iran, Central America–but nobody got as embarrassed as the Reagan people did.

bluewombat March 23rd, 2013 at 2:13 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 18

Ah, thanks. It’s nice to know he’s doing something worthwhile.

OK, another question: did our government (mainly Bush 1) fail to adequately support Gorbachev? He seemed both practical and visionary, as opposed to Yeltsin, a drunken tool of the kleptocrats. Given the direction our government has moved in, providing concierge-like service for corporate titans and pretty much spitting on the rest of us, I sometimes think the people running our government were more comfortable with a kleptocrat than a visionary. Do you think I’m being unduly cynical?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to RevBev @ 19

The book is a series of reports on my visits to museums, monuments and memorials — organized in chronological order of their appearance — starting with the memorial to Churchill’s “iron curtain” speech in Fulton Missouri. The opening two chapters consider the end of the Cold War, where the strongest case can be made for the conservative interpretation — that Reagan won the Cold War. And I ended with what I consider to be some better examples of how the Cold War should be remembered.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to Elliott @ 23

Gorby gets the credit, but Reagan had to agree with him — which, amazingly, he did. Still hard to understand exactly what happened at Reykjavik.

bluewombat March 23rd, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 22

It’s my theory that the culture of complacency in the ’50′s grew up as a way of not having to deal with all the new and terrifying threats, such as the possibility of nuclear incineration.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 22

yes the idea of the 1950s as a more innocent and happy time seems pretty foolish — although a lot of older people will tell you that. But you are right — the Korean war, the constant fear of nuclear attack, plus McCarthyism at home — doesn’t sound very happy to me.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 25

Gorbachev has so outlived his fame, prestige, and popularity that it’s kind of mind-boggling. He clearly did end the Cold War by his many acts of omission; I don’t think he ever meant to end the USSR, though. The illusion of western “victory” has made so many horrible things possible over the past couple of decades.

RevBev March 23rd, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 26

So it sounds like that journey was your vision from the beginning.
I also wondered if you had the ending reflection in mind from the
beginning. So powerful.

Elliott March 23rd, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 28

until “The Day After”

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:17 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 28

the “culture of complacency” was aided by McCarthyism and the blacklist, which punished and isolated people who spoke up against the Cold War and nuclear brinkmanship.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:19 pm

People who were old enough to remember the Cold War and Duck and Cover are kind of traumatized by it. I know I am. People who didn’t experience it first hand weren’t taught about it–either formally, in school, or by cultural osmosis, through monuments, pictures, and TV shows and the like.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:19 pm
In response to RevBev @ 31

In the beginning this was NOT a book, it was a series of articles for The Nation magazine — I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read more than a couple, and there are 22 chapters in the book. I leave it to readers to decide how many of those is enough!

bluewombat March 23rd, 2013 at 2:20 pm

RESPONSE TO JON WIENER @33

Yes, that too. Do you have any thoughts about my post. 25?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 30

“The illusion of Western ‘victory’” is a fascinating theme. Immediately after the Berlin Wall came down, reporters who talked to people in Leipzig or Berlin found they did NOT think the Wall fell because Reagan spoke out against it; they thought it was their own grassroots organization and protests. Americans never quite got this.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 33

Jon, I didn’t think of this when I was reading your book but it seems totally germane to it now. 9/11–a bloody airborne strike against the US–was the thing we were raised to have nightmares about (even if it wasn’t nuclear). Once it actually happened and we responded, the reality turned out to be so different than anybody’s dreams. Massive force ended up looking like Korea or Vietnam too–perhaps because massive force had been applied in those places too.

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 20

The fact that the question even has to be asked says something about the muddiness of using the Cold War for partisan propaganda. Other wars have defined starts and ends (Fort Sumter/Appomattox, for example), which make them much more understandable and digestible. The same goes for how other wars were fought and the battles won and lost — it’s harder to even define most of the battles of the cold war, let alone say who won or lost them.

I live in the KC area, and have been to several of the sites your book covers. I’ve been to the Churchill memorial in Fulton, though that was many years ago and it has changed greatly over the years. The contrast between the Reagan library (so big they’ve got an old Airforce One inside of it!) and the Truman library is stunning — and each reflects the president around which it was built.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:24 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 36

Sorry but I don’t know much about US support for Gorbachev in the era of Bush I — I can tell you that the Bush I presidential museum has the largest of all monuments to the fall of the Berlin wall, weighing seven tons. It got a prize from the CIA.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to Peterr @ 39

This is for you and Jon–the Cold War president who seems to me to have changed the most in retrospect is Eisenhower. From what I’ve read, JFK’s experience with the military establishment (and right wingers like Walker) as president, worked a big change in his thinking.

People in power should change–but ideologues don’t want them to.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:27 pm
In response to Peterr @ 39

the contrast between the modesty of the Truman Museum and the grandeur of the Reagan Museum — on a mountaintop — is indeed striking. The greatest thing about the Truman Museum is that its exhibits on the start of the Cold War do NOT say the president was right — they say the president might have been wrong. And they give you the arguments on both sides. the other presidential museums should follow that example.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:27 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 40

Jon, is Blue Wombat too cynical? In your opinion?

bluewombat March 23rd, 2013 at 2:28 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 40

It probably also got a big bill and a profuse “thank you” from whatever shipping company delivered it.

One last question: when I was a kid growing up during the Cold War, I believed the government line — we were fighting for democracy against the evil autocrats of the Soviet Empire. In light of how things played out, though, I can’t help wondering if we were really fighting for geopolitical hegemony and access to the energy reserves of Central Asia. What’s your take?

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to Elliott @ 21

Yes…it was called the Bay of Pigs.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 41

Yes Ike’s warning against the “excessive power of the military industrial complex” is remarkable and also unique in our presidential history. Of course he waited until his last day in office. . . . but as a general apparently he was outraged by the way the “defense lobby” controlled Congress.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to Elliott @ 21

Read Blum’s Killing Hope. U.S. overthrows of elected govts were no less prevalent in the 1950s but they were easier to accomplish.

I have a question for Goldwag along those lines.

Were all sites you visited rightwing ones celebrating American exceptionalism? Was there even one site exposing the record of U.S. military interventions of countries for the sake of U.S. biz interests alone, under the pretext of anticommunism?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:30 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 42

I’ve never been to a presidential library, but I imagine them promoting a historical “brand” (at least with Reagan). Truman’s clearly doesn’t.

In general, do you think historical monuments can teach effectively? The Vietnam Memorial moves people, and in doing so, teaches us all a broader lesson about the “meaning” of that conflict.

What an incredible contrast with the monument to the 100,000,000 dead that no one even knows about!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:32 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 44

This is far outside my area of expertise, and my book, but I’m not so sure the energy reserves of central asia explain our wars there. We can, and do, buy oil from whoever has it, including Chavez in Venezuela–at the price set by the world market. Maybe I’m missing something here.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 47

your question is for Jon, I think–and it’s a good one. Though is it even possible to disentangle corporatism and anti-Communism?

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 42

Reagan’s military intervention was Grenada. Thought that was appropriate for the courage & intellect of the man. Any monuments to that?

Any sites commemorating Reagan hightailing marines out of Lebanon?

Also, I was sorry to see the Reagan dime didn’t work out. Perfect coin for what he was worth.

Phoenix Woman March 23rd, 2013 at 2:33 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 30

With regard to the horrible things you mention, would you count as one of them the idea that, with the Soviet Union destroyed, the corporate titans were emboldened to roll back the New Deal and usher in an age of massive inequality that resembles yet outstrips the worst excesses of feudalism?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 48

The presidential libraries almost all present the best possible case for their president, so visiting there is not the best way to understand them! But there is something about the aura of reality around a missile site or a plutonium factory that is powerful and compelling–although it takes some explaining to bring that home.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 50

Though is it even possible to disentangle corporatism and anti-Communism?

Huge propaganda diff.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 52

Good one PW. :-)

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:35 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 45

Ha! Of course. How amazing that I didn’t think of it–a colossal disaster, and in many ways the defining disaster for the right’s version of the cold war as not being hot enough. And it completely slipped my mind.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:36 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 51

in fact there IS a monument to the invasion of Grenada, in Grenada — one of my favorites. On behalf of the people of Grenada it thanks the armed forces of the US for liberating them from Communism. The plaque, however, was erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars — an American organization.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 52

excellent question: did the end of the Cold War free corporate America to go to work dismantling the New Deal? As long as the USSR was telling the Third World about American racism and poverty, Republicans as well as Democrats in the White House were eager to prove that Soviet propaganda was a lie. since 1990 they haven’t had that problem.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 48

Has anyone to your knowledge, i.e. did you look for such info on your research into the book, added up the number of lives the U.S. took and casualties the U.S. inflicted, vs. those that the USSR did, including Stalin’s slaughter of his own people.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 52

Neo-liberalism gained the upper hand with Reagan and Thatcher and it has certainly unloosed terrible demons….but a lot of the same things were happening during the Cold War too. What’s changed since the Cold War is the Republican and Democratic legislators don’t feel like they have to have any kind of consensus at all, so the government’s default mode has become one of inertia.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 57

Pics, I want pics!!! Any online that you know about. Never mind, I’ll do a search.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 58

I myself have stated many times that the fall of The Soviet Union was the worst thing that happened to this country.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:40 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 51

“Any sites commemorating Reagan hightailing marines out of Lebanon?” Great point! I don’t think that is even mentioned in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library — Grenada is featured there, and the tours they give schoolkids include a section on fighting the commies is Grenada. “This American Life” did a feature on that, I think.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 61

my book has 40 pics! my favorite part, actually — GWBush dedicating the monument to the Victims of Communism, a school tour of the Titan Missile museum in Arizona –

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 61

Let’s roll the video. Best laugh I’ve had all day.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 63

Jon, any thoughts on the McCarthy era vis a vis the civil liberty issues of our own day? Secret CIA assassinations versus drone strikes? I’m always interested in parallels, because I tend to see them everywhere.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:43 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 62

the fall of the USSR led to the “peace divided” — remember that? We were going to shift all that money from “Defense” to things we actually needed . . . then came 9/11.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:44 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 66

McCarthyism was terrible, but Obama is the only president to claim the right to kill American citizens without the due process of law — if HE determines they are “enemies.” Of course McCarthyism had a much broader and more pervasive reach than drone strikes–but still it’s a big change.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:44 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 64

I visited an inground missile site in AZ, round about mid 1990s. Head shaking experience.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 2:45 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 67

Yes…9/11….how convenient.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 69

Yes the Titan Missile Museum, South of Tucson. The only remaining Titan missile, which carried the largest warhead in our history — display permitted under Salt II, and requires visibility to spy satellites. The tour takes you underground to the “control room” where you get to pose for pictures “launching a missle.” Fun for the whole family!

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 69

I didn’t know about that museum – I spent 10 yrs in those silos.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 59

Jon has a whole chapter about the effort to tabulate Mao’s and Stalin’s casualties. Jon, do you know if the Communists (when they were still around) had a number that they threw around in their propaganda? Or if real scholars have made real efforts to count up the casualties that our side inflicted, directly and indirectly? You make the point–one that few Americans realize–that we virtually leveled all of North Korea, dropping as many bombs on them as we did everywhere in WW II. Little wonder that their infrastructure is so poor today!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:48 pm

The stats are crucial but difficult to find. We know exactly how many Americans were killed in the Vietnam war — but how many Vietnamese did we kill? Estimates — that’s all anybody has — range from one million to three million. Big range. But it does sort of suggest that keeping the war going even longer could have led to American “victory.”

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 61

There’s a photo of it in the book, and the caption to the photo says this:

The marker reads “This plaque expresses the gratitude of the Grenadan people to the Forces from the USA . . . who sacrificed their lives in liberating Grenada in October 1983.” It was erected not by the people of Grenada but rather by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

The VFW speaks on behalf of the people of Grenada. Stunning. Not surprising, but stunning nevertheless.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Was there any pattern you noticed developing, as time went on.

Grandiosity in prez libraries is an obvious example.

But more subtle ones, like increasingly making mountains out of molehills.

One story I’ve loved is that someone’s prez library (LBJ?) is across the street from some TX football stadium, so that during game intermissions, the bathroom overflow crowd uses the library, upping their attendance stats.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to BevW @ 72

10 years in those silos! I’m so glad you were never ordered to turn the key.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 71

That’s the one. Thanks for the memory…

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:50 pm
In response to BevW @ 72

:-(

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:51 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 76

yes I visited the LBJ Library on the UT campus on a game day — pretty crazy time in Austin — and the stadium is indeed right next door. There were a lot of people in the museum during the game — but they were all foreigners.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Another interesting thing you talk about in your book is the spy world’s successes and failures. The Soviets had a lot more spies in the US than we had in Russia–and we were taken completely by surprise a bunch of times because of that. What do you make of our inability to understand the other side, then and now?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:52 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 76

patterns in presidential libraries? The big disruption of the pattern came three years ago when the Nixon Library finally installed a historically responsible Watergate gallery. The Nixon people still hate it, but it’s there to stay.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:54 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 73

that we virtually leveled all of North Korea

Book. Pre-Korean War N. Korea history equally devastating.

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 77

No, my job was to make sure the key turned (grin). Launch, control and guidance systems.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 81

yes it’s pretty amazing to learn that the US had virtually NO “human intelligence” inside the USSR during the entire Cold War. We had a few spies who got caught and executed, and that was it — partly because Aldrich Ames was working for them. So we relied on high tech surveillance.
The CIA failures outlined in Tim Weiner’s book are astounding. the US had no advance intelligence of the Korean War, the Tet Offensive, or the fall of the Berlin Wall — not exactly minor developments.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 84

“make sure the key turned” — LOL. Somebody had to do it!

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:55 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 80

That LBJ was one wily character.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Jon, the chapter about Greenbrier–the fallout shelter for both houses of congress–is wild; the fact that Oliver North was going to be a figure in the post-nuclear War Reagan government (by design of Cheney and Rumsfeld) is pretty mind-blowing too. Also that Julie Nixon had her own personal bunker in Northhampton, MA. When I was a little kid in DC in the late ’50s and my Dad worked at the Pentagon, he promised us he’d never go to the shelter he was assigned; he said he’d come right home.

Do you know if Obama and his family have a bunker?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 83

The difference between North and South Korea today is the best argument that the Cold War was a good war. But maybe there’s something specific about the North Korean regime and the aftermath of the war there that explains the differences in a more convincing way.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 85

the US had no advance intelligence of the Korean War

Um, according to Cumings book, U.S. provoked N. Korea, China into war.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 2:59 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 88

I’m sure the Obamas have a bunker but they haven’t told me about it.
Yes the Greenbrier story is one of the most amazing — the idea that all of Congress would travel for 5 hours to get to a shelter where they would continue to govern AFTER a nuclear war. . . . they would have to leave their families behind, which never seemed realistic. The tour there is a great one — of course they are proud to have served their country, and don’t really welcome skeptical questions.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 89

Too complicated for this thread.

Short version: Rightwing U.S. dominated dictatorship in S. Korea for 30 or 40 years.

For DPRK perspective, at least as I’ve been able to find in English, read Cumings.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 90

yes but I think when the N Koreans attacked the US had no intelligence warning. Reports say the CIA didn’t even have a Korean dictionary–Tim Weiner’s book.

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 91

My fave story about CoG is how Cheney/Rummy continued to participate in it when the were in “private” biz.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 84

Jon talks in his book about how the sites rarely acknowledge the people whose job it was to carry out the Cold War–the workers in the plutonium factories, the people who kept the Titans fueled and who went to work in the silos not knowing if they were going to be a party to ending the world–and if they’d get incinerated themselves. When you were part of the war machine, did you think about the big implications–or did you try to hold them at a distance and just do your job? I apologize if it’s a rude question, but it’s not often I have the opportunity to ask it.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:02 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 92

I agree: comparative history of N & S Korea is too complicated — and something I don’t know much about. Read Bruce Cummings.

bigchin March 23rd, 2013 at 3:03 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 18

Obama has also been working to maintain Israel’s (undeclared) nuclear stockpile while pointing his finger at Iran, which doesn’t have one.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 94

“CoG” for the uninitiated is “Continuity of Government” during and after a nuclear war — something the Reagan admin. worked on quite a bit — basically they concluded Congress was hopeless, they would preserve only a president capable of commanding the military.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:04 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 91

They didn’t welcome skeptical questions when I visited Graceland either. Funny, though, in your book you describe Elvis asking exactly the right questions at the Fulda Gap as the Berlin Crisis was heating up.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 95

yes Bev would love to hear from you on Arthur’s question.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:06 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 99

“Cold War Elvis” is one of my favorite chapters. Elvis served in the army in Germany during the “Berlin Crisis,” and there are a couple of memoirs written by his officers saying he asked “what the hell are we doin’ this for anyway?” The American voice — skeptical and anti-authoritarian.

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 3:06 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 95

We knew what we were doing, and the global implications. To preform maintenance, I’d have to take a missile off alert, it changed the defense status. I think for most after a while, it was just a job. Remember Viet Nam was the war we watched.

CTuttle March 23rd, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to BevW @ 84

I had the pleasure of manning the Engagment Control Station of a Patriot Bn, in Germany, for 36 hours right after the Berlin Discotheque bombing and Ray-gun’s subsequent bombing of Qadaffi’s palaces, Bev…! ;-)

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to BevW @ 102

The titans had liquid fuel which was terribly dangerous and in fact caused some terrible accidents — would have been much less scary to work around the Minutemen, which had solid fuel and just sat there underneath North Dakota.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Jon, this is outside the purview of your book, but it has to be addressed in any consideration of the Cold War. MAD worked–neither side ever hit the button, even though there were figures in government and the military who thought it would be a great idea.

The RAND Corporation game theory was right about big governments being stalemated–but what might happen when a small country (Israel, Pakistan, India) uses a nuke? We might be in more danger now than we ever were.

dakine01 March 23rd, 2013 at 3:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 102

While I was not in missile silos, I was at a SAC base with active nuclear weapons and B52s. You are pretty much always aware of the global situation there

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to BevW @ 102

I grew up in New Jersey and I could see several NIKE missile bases near my house. I took them completely for granted of course, because I was a kid. I think the NIKES were defensive, they were there to shoot down Russian bombers.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I agree about the current danger. However it wasn’t so clear in October 1963, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that everything was going to turn out okay–after that I think leaders on both sides were chastened and worked to avoid another confrontation on that scale — so instead we fought the Reds in Vietnam, and killed a couple of million Vietnamese.

bigchin March 23rd, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 60

Neo-liberalism gained the upper hand when Jimmy Carter started to destroy unions at a time when the idea of a Reagan presidency was still a joke.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:14 pm

yes the Nikes were to shoot down Russian bombers — but what about Russian missiles? The Civil Defense people said we needed those shelters because the missile defense system wouldn’t really protect Americans.

CTuttle March 23rd, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 110

To this day, missile defenses don’t work, with the Iron Dome being the latest boondoggle…!

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Jon, here’s another question. If someone asked you to devise a monument to the Cold War, what would you memorialize? And how would you do it? Statue? Library? Living Theater?

IS there in fact a big lesson for all of us that can embodied somehow?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:17 pm

May I raise the question of how the Cold War SHOULD be remembered? The book has something like 20 examples of museums and memorials that are misleading or change the subject . . . .

bigchin March 23rd, 2013 at 3:17 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 67

as I recall, over a decade ensued, including 8 years of Clinton, between the end of the USSR and 9/11. What happened to the peace dividend during the interim?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:17 pm
In response to bigchin @ 109

Plenty of neo-liberal Democrats too. I remember when the idea of a Reagan presidency was a joke too–but of course the joke was on us.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Originally the book ended with my ideal Cold War museum — but my friends told me that was not a good idea. So instead I end with a couple of actually existing museums that do a good job. First is the Truman Museum in Independence, MO. — they deal with the beginning of the Cold War, and present visitors with a debate — was the Cold War necessary? At the time, and also today, people disagreed; visitors should learn the arguments and make up their own minds. It’s a wonderful approach.

RevBev March 23rd, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 113

Didn’t you get at that with the closing chapter….loss and stupidity, refusal to learn. Most of you book reveals a whole lot of people not
knowing what they are doing….Some survive in spite of ourselves.

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 3:21 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 113

Who are visiting the museums? Is attendance raising, falling? How are they paid for?

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:21 pm

the other “good” museum I recommend is still being created: Rocky Flats, outside Denver, had a huge nuclear weapons plant, massive contamination following a disastrous fire, now the whole site has been demolished but the feds do not have a single historical marker there. Instead the locals are putting up their own museum — in Arvada — that will tell the story from the ground up — the voices of former workers who thought the plant was a disaster, and those who thought it was necessary. Completely fascinating. http://www.rockyflatscoldwarmuseum.org/

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:22 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 113

Maybe the most honest museum is the Whitaker Chambers pumpkin patch memorial, the one that has a “no trespassing” sign outside it, and that gets two visitors a year.

Chambers had had it with the Cold War himself by the end of his life. When he resigned from the National Review he wrote Buckley a letter saying he felt like those guys WANTED a nuclear war. He was an anguished figure, all in all–filled with contradictions and ambivalences. I think he would have been disturbed by his iconic status.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:23 pm
In response to BevW @ 118

there’s a misconception that Americans have no interest in history and prefer to stay home and watch Reality TV. In fact historical museums and monuments in the US have millions of visitors — almost half of Americans say they like to visit historical sites and have visited in the past year — it’s pretty amazing. But the visits are selective: Civil War stuff, WWII sites, the Vietnam Memorial in DC — but not the Korean war.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 117

For me, that was the beauty of the book–its acknowledgement of what a muddle it all was. The more confusing and frustrating and filled with contradictions a story is, the more likely it is to be true, at least when you’re dealing with history.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to BevW @ 118

how are the museums and monuments paid for? Some are run by the National ARchives — the presidential libraries. Some are run by the National Park Service — the national historic landmarks. Some of course are run by states and cities — I report on the Korean War memorial in the town of Lakewood, Calif., next to Long Beach; and some are private nonprofits — the Korean War “memorial” in San Diego is actually a religious site with a 45-foot cross.

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 113

From a design/architectural angle, I would think such a museum might do a lot with shadows and darkness. Much of the war was fought out of sight, and even those who thought they knew what they were doing were almost as blind as everyone else.

I’d love to see a collaborative museum, involving perhaps two universities — one in the US and another in the former Soviet Union — where each institution prepared half of the joint exhibit. Imagine an exhibit space dedicated to a particular slice of the war, divided down the middle by a glass wall, with a walkway above it allowing visitors to look down on the whole thing from above as well as move from one side to the other. Each side of the space would discuss/display how that episode played out FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE ACTORS of that side. A visitor could view the whole museum from one perspective, cross over, and then view the other. Alternatively, they could bounce back and forth with each exhibit in turn.

Part of what such an arrangement would communicate is how both sides were engaged with each other, even as they were locked away from each other.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:28 pm

yes I seem to be one of the few people in America to have visited the Whittaker Chambers Pumpkin Patch National Historic Landmark. The National Park Service recommended AGAINST it, said it “lacked historic significance” — this is the site where Chambers said he had hid the microfilm he gave to Congressman Richard Nixon, who said it proved Alger Hiss was a spy.” But the Reagan Admin. went ahead with the designation. It’s west of Baltimore.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I think the WWII sites, in some ways, reflect our desire to feel gratitude and admiration, our need to love our parents (or our grandparents or great-grandparents, depending on what generation you are). Hitler was evil, no question. But of course Stalin was our ally–and the USSR paid a vastly higher price in lives than we did. You look too close at anything and there’s muddle.

RevBev March 23rd, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Beauty and what? Fear, I guess. I have no feeling that we are
any smarter, the “When Will they ever Learn” question. Because the
book is so well written, you not only get the conflict in the characters,
but also the rank blindness and impulsiveness.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to Peterr @ 124

I love that idea.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:29 pm
In response to Peterr @ 124

a joint museum — a brilliant idea! Ted Turner had a similar idea with his CNN series “Cold WAr” — 24 one-hour documentaries that won big awards in the early 1990s — his principle was equal time for the Russians. Half of each hour had Russian producers and film footage and experts and “witnesses.” The right wing media here hated the show. I have a chapter about it.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Jon talks about the CNN Cold War series, which has input from both sides. Of course the right hated it.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:32 pm

yes the celebration of the “greatest generation” of WWII certainly has a lot to do with honoring the parents, now dying, on the part of children, now getting older — with a big boost from Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg. Living thru the Depression and then WWII must have been really hard.

CTuttle March 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 123

If you ever get the opportunity, Jon, you should visit Panmunjom in Korea…!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 pm

what about “Cold War Nostalgia”? Anybody feel a bit wistful about the days before 9/11 when we knew who our enemy was, and he was a risk-averse, conservative force? That’s an argument you hear these days–GWBush himself made it.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 pm

When you look at the right in America over the course of the twentieth century, it was gearing up for a showdown with the Bolsheviks since the 1920s. It believed that they were subverting us domestically, and that they were a front for elitist billionaires. Many of them–like Lindbergh–believed that Hitler was a dictator we could live with. World War II caused a lot of cognitive dissonance for them, and the Cold War was sort of a chance for them to reboot themselves.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 131

Yes it was according to my mother. She had it pretty easy. My father not so much.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:36 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 132

what do you do as a tourist in Panmunjom? I’ve heard the DMZ is a great place for bird-watching.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:37 pm

and then we have the famous George Kennan and his famous doctrine of containment. Much misunderstood. Kennan thought we should compete with the USSR economically and politically but not militarily — he thought eventually the USSR would collapse from its own internal problems. and guess what?

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 133

GW Bush’s foreign policy team lived and breathed the Cold War. Powell as a soldier; Rice was a Kremlinologist. All of that tactical and political and cultural knowledge, and no idea what to do with it!

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 113

how the Cold War SHOULD be remembered

Something akin to VN memorial, with the name of every person the U.S. killed engraved.

Phoenix Woman March 23rd, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to Arthur Goldwag @ 60

I’m also thinking of the newly-elected FDR’s rapid change from deficit hawk to Keynesian (a change with which he was personally uneasy, hence Morgenthau’s convincing him to backslide into “fiscal conservatism” by killing off the National Recovery Administration in the wake of the 1936 elections, a move that immediately threw the US back into depression).

This change was occasioned by the (eeeek Communist-infiltrated!) labor unions coming to him and saying something along the lines of “See Soviet Russia? They executed their ruling class, redistributed the wealth, and now they’re a global power to rival the US. Tell your rich buddies that something similar could happen here”.

mzchief March 23rd, 2013 at 3:40 pm
In response to Peterr @ 124

This is a great idea. I’d like it to also include the material presented by Dr. Wargo up through the recently presented information on the medical reality. Worldwide ban everything nuclear (including those SMRs in the US and the scheduled nuke bomb factories to be built in China, too!) and decommissioning of it all now!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:40 pm

and we have GW Bush himself — of the Texas Air National Guard of the Vietnam war era. Bush is part of the Vietnam Generation — and yet he thought invading Iraq would be a cakewalk.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 133

Actually I do have some. Thanks to the cold war, the elites would pay ANYTHING in taxes to keep communism out of here. So we had one of the lowest unemployment rates ever, I think.

Congress actually got along…well mostly. Just about any kind of spending got passed as long as you could justify it by saying it would help to defeat communism.

That and WWII having returned most of Europe and Japan to the stone age and keeping their competition at bay…at least for a while.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Jon, do you think the idea of a “tactical” nuclear war went away with Reagan–or do you think that it is alive in the context of the Middle East and N Korea and “rogue” nations.

I was just reading somewhere–I guess the New Yorker–about the Australian who wanted to use H bombs to dig canals and harbors in the 1950s.

CTuttle March 23rd, 2013 at 3:43 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 136

They have a lot of exhibits and the UN guides(yes the UN is there) will take you around to some of the notable sites, etc…! On your way into the UN controlled Compound you’ll pass by the rows of minefields marking the DMZ…!

I should add that it was far spookier than the Fulda Gap DMZ that I’d once patrolled before the fall of the wall…!

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 143

As a professor at the University of California I have to add higher education funding to the topic of “Gee I Miss the Cold War.” Public universities thrived during the Cold War because of generous government funding. Now they are in crisis.

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 3:45 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 133

It’s amazing how different generations of people think about war.

For those who grew up with WWII, war is an all-or-nothing, everyone fights, winner take all deal. Good vs evil, and everyone but the Swiss has to pick a side.

Korea, on the other hand, was always the poor stepchild to WWII. It was a police action, not a war; it was only fought by a few countries, not the whole world; and it was a tie that is now in quadruple overtime.

Vietnam was the antithesis of WWII — lots and lots of shades of gray, instead of black and white; lots of ways to get out of fighting if you had money and/or connections, and worst of all (from the viewpoint of American historical mythology), the US lost.

The backers of Iraq I and II wanted to claim the WII good vs evil mantle, but it’s ending up more like Vietnam with its shades of gray and Korea with its unending nature.

I don’t know that folks are having Cold War nostalgia, as much as they are wistfully trying to reclaim the whole WWII “save the world from Evil” mentality.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 143

It takes great fear to make even a weak consensus. The fear of economic collapse apparently pales next to the fear of a nuclear war.

mzchief March 23rd, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to cmaukonen @ 143

Erm, “Communist” in name only I posit. Business paid for by the tax payer at infinite indebtedness of the 99% is the greatest, eh?

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to Peterr @ 124

What a great idea.

I’m aware of a joint writing project, VN vets from both sides. Randomly ran into a U.S. participant about 15 years ago.

Memorials are erected by the winners. Just as history is written by the winners. Most CW sites are in the north.

Your idea of balance is a good one, but U.S. will never stop making the same mistake unless memorials are erected to the losers and the cost they pay.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:47 pm

it wasn’t just the Australians! When you take the tour of the Nevada Test Site you visit Sedan Crater, now a National Historic Landmark — part of a project seeking the “peaceful use of nuclear weapons.” They were considering building a new Panama Canal using atomic bombs. The Sedan test successfully moved many tons of dirt — but most of it fell back into the hole. One other problem: now it was radioactive.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 146

Oh for sure. I forgot about that one. When Sputnik went up, so did funding for science and technology.

Being a science nerd and tech nerd was very in in the 1960s. OY radio and communications. All that stuff.

(Speaking as a life long tech nerd here…:-) )

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I’d say it is still very much alive.

In addition to Israel and Iran, see also Pakistan, India, and Kashmir.

cmaukonen March 23rd, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Actually I think it was more a fear of a “1917″ here. But I digress..

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:49 pm
In response to Peterr @ 147

love the concept of the Korean WAr going into “quadrouple overtime.”
and of course we have learned a lot about the dark side of WWII — esp. the way it ended, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then Eastern Europe controlled by the USSR.

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Jon, I’m one of those folks who love history museums and memorials, and your book will definitely be something I’ll be thinking of when I make my next trip.

That, and you’ve renewed my desire to take my 11 year old to the Truman Library.

Many thanks for this thought-provoking book, and for the discussion today!

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:51 pm
In response to Peterr @ 147

I think that’s sort of the larger lesson of Jon’s book–that people keep trying to attach a heroic meme to the post-WWII era, and it just doesn’t take. It’s fascinating, really, because Americans are so good at selling stuff, including really stupid economic ideas like supply side and trickle down and austerity and the like and militaristic ideas like Sadam had to be punished for 911. They work in a practical way–they get Congress to vote a certain way, they get the troops deployed and so on…. But the people don’t buy it in their hearts. They visit the Arizona and walk the battlefield at Gettysburg, but they don’t lay flowers at the Berlin Wall shrines.

Jon Wiener March 23rd, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Peter R: Have fun in Independence! There’s also that ice cream parlor there that Truman went to.

BevW March 23rd, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Jon, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and how we remember the Cold War.

Arthur, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Jon’s website and book

Arthur’s website and book

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Daniel Hernandez / They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth; Host – Teddy Partridge. (Daniel was the first responder to Rep. Gabby Gifford during the Tuscon shooting.)

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

FDL Book Salon has a Facebook page too

Peterr March 23rd, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to Jon Wiener @ 158

A great place.

The name is kind of presidential, too: Clinton’s Soda Fountain.

Arthur Goldwag March 23rd, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thank you, Jon, for writing such an interesting book. Thank you FDL, for inviting me to host–and thank you to everyone who participated!

eCAHNomics March 23rd, 2013 at 3:56 pm

But the people don’t buy it in their hearts

That’s one of the interesting things about economics surveys. Despite overwhelming propaganda, that has convinced voters they need to answer that they are conservative when faced with the binary liberal/conservative Q, they nonetheless answer liberal/progressive when the Q is related to policy.

CTuttle March 23rd, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 159

Mahalo, Arthur, Bev and Jon, for another excellent Book Salon…!

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