In Walrus, Christopher Shulgan shares some of what he uncovered while writing The Soviet Ambassador: The Making of the Radical Behind Perestroika, a book about Alexander Yakovlev, who is frequently referred to by titles like the “architect of perestroika” or the “father of glasnost.”
Remember the Doukhobors?
That group of Russian Christian anarcho-pacifist iconoclasts that were forced
into exile in the late nineteenth century? Leo Tolstoy championed their case,
and with the help of British Quakers, their community migrated to exile in
Which is where Yakovlev comes in. In the years before Gorbachev’s reforms,
Yakovlev was the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Canada. During the time when he
was a diplomatic pariah because of his country’s invasion of Afghanistan, he
spent some time getting acquainted with this exiled Russian sect. According to
Shulgan, these heartwarming meetings with the Doukhobors gave Yakovlev
confidence in the possibility of Russians thriving without a giant militarist
state overlooking them — a confidence that helped him to help Russia shuck off
the rule of its Communist Party not long after.
Shortly after president-elect Obama picked Joe Biden to be his running mate
and all good liberals everywhere began to make excuses for why this was
wonderful, someone pointed me toward
what Biden said as he urged his Senate colleagues to authorize Dubya to take the United States to war with Iraq. Excerpts:
…I will vote for the Lieberman-Warner amendment to authorize the use of
military force against Iraq. And unlike my colleagues from West Virginia and
Maryland, I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march
to peace and security.
I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely
to enhance the prospects that war will occur.…
In the middle of a long rant about Saddam’s many and dangerous weapons of mass
destruction that make his vote so necessary, he says — get this:
President Bush did not lash out precipitously after 9/11. He did not snub the
U.N. or our
allies. He did not dismiss a new inspection regime. He did not ignore the
Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and
deliberation. I believe he will continue to do so — at least that is my
fervent hope. I wish he would turn down the rhetorical excess in some cases
because I think it undercuts the decision he ends up making. But in each
case, in my view, he has made the right rational and calm, deliberate
Comedy gold, people.
…if it comes to war, I fully expect the President will come back to the
American people and tell us what is expected of us. As a matter of fact,
when he met with the congressional leadership and the committee chairmen
about 10 to 15 days ago — I forget the exact date — we were all around the
Cabinet table and at one point he turned to me and he said: Mr. Chairman,
what do you think?
And I said: Mr. President, I will be with you if you make an earnest effort
to go through the United Nations, if you try to do this with our allies and
friends; if in fact the
U.N. does not
support our effort, as in Kosovo, and if you are willing to be square with
the American people, Mr. President, of what sacrifices we are going to ask
of them, particularly the need to have a significant number of American
forces in place in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is taken down.
In the presence of all my colleagues at that meeting, he said: I will do that.
He has never broken his word.
Then there’s this part at the end:
…the sin of Vietnam, no matter what our view on Vietnam is, is not whether we
went or didn’t go. But the sin, in my view, is the failure of two Presidents
to level with the American people of what the costs would be, what the
continued involvement would require, and what was being asked of them.
No. I’m pretty sure that “the sin of Vietnam” has a lot more to do with the
dead and maimed people in Vietnam than it does with the President failing to
tell Americans how much all that killing and maiming was going to cost.
This is almost as good as when Gore picked Lieberman. And now I’ve got to
spend the next four years listening to my good, liberal friends pretend that
this kind of crap is something other than it is.