Belmont Club

"We've only just begun"

Maybe nothing captures the attitude of Obama’s ascent to power as much of Tom Brokaw’s description of it when he compared it a Velvet Revolution. Mark Steyn writes in the NRO:

Kathryn, Jonah, that Tom Brokaw comparison between Obama’s inauguration and the Czech revolution is, of course, deeply insulting to millions of people around the world who know what it’s like to live under a tyrannous regime and aren’t so parochial and narcissistic as to confuse it with sitting around over a decaf latte and lo-fat granola bar complaining that Bush is shredding the Constitution because some radio station in Texas hasn’t put the Dixie Chicks’ “Rock Against Libby” CD into high rotation.

Nevertheless, large numbers of Democrats do sincerely believe that some sort of Velvet Revolution has taken place—that a mass hopey-changey vibe forced the hated Gustav Husak of Crawford to revise his plans to seize power for life and agree to go quietly. And they look on today’s events not (as Kathryn does) as the wondrous ritual of an enduring democracy but as a necessary tactical compromise—after which “war crimes” trials and “truth and reconciliation commissions” and all the rest will surely follow.

Steyn’s observation that Obama’s election is regarded by some as merely a “necessary tactical compromise”, a half-way house to the real entry into Paradise, indicates that there is more where that came from. A number of problems now face conservatives. First, what is their program? Second, who will lead? Third, what attitude will they adopt towards the coming wars within the Democratic Party? Or will they retreat to some lonely political Masada?

Winston Churchill knew that an unbending strategic vision was not the same as intransigence. He hated Stalin and mistrusted him far more than Franklin Roosevelt, who was a comparative dupe in his relationship with Uncle Joe. Churchill was one of the staunchest anti-Bolsheviks of the interwar years. Yet in defending his support for Lend-lease shipments to Russia after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Churchill said, “If Hitler had invaded hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” Yet this same Winston Churchill commissioned Operation Unthinkable, a staff study to invade the Soviet Union after Germany in order to “to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire.” When that proved impractical, Churchill advocated containment. He practically invented the term “Iron Curtain”.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Conflicts can often be won with a mixture of strategic constancy and tactical flexibility. But they will always be lost by a combination of strategic vacuity and tactical inflexibility. Where are going? And how do we get there.