George Orwell wrote, "He who controls the past controls the future." Some of the most distinguished American historians are working hard to "control" the past by proving, to state it simply, that the United States did not win the cold war. Why? So that when our children and their children read their history textbooks they will never know that the democracies, led by the United States and a popular two-term president, Ronald Reagan, triumphed over Soviet totalitarianism.
Liberal academic opinion has created the fiction that nobody won the cold war. But there is no more Soviet Union, no Berlin Wall, no Gulag. Never mind. The United States did not "win" the cold war, period.
Weird. Everybody agrees that the Allies beat Germany in two world wars and that the United States lost in Vietnam. But when it comes to the question of who triumphed in the cold war, a great smog immediately blankets the question. George Kennan, for example, writes: "Nobody 'won' the cold war." Thirty years ago, however, he wrote, "The retraction of Soviet power from its present bloated and unhealthy limits is essential to the stability of world relationships."
Here it is thirty years later. There is no Soviet power; its "bloated and unhealthy limits" have been retracted without bloodshed. There isn't even a Soviet Union. So didn't the democracies win the cold war? The problem with Kennan and his revisionist followers is that they never tell you how they define victory.
Professor Ronald Steel has written this grudging verdict on the end of Soviet totalitarianism: "We have won a victory, of sorts." Of sorts! Would Professor Steel describe our triumph over fascism as "a victory, of sorts"?
Professor Steel seems to regret the end of the cold war; he writes, "In its perverted way, the cold war was a force for stability." Yes indeed—Afghanistan, Cuban missile crisis, uprisings in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia—some force for stability. On the other hand, the cold war was, he says, "dangerous, wasteful, obsessive, and at times irrational." So take your pick.
Ask Russians who won the cold war and their replies are unequivocal. Vladimir Lukin, onetime Boris Yeltsin foreign policy adviser; Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, former Russian foreign minister; Sergio Khrushchev, son of Nikita S. Khrushchev who recently became a U.S. citizen, all agree that the United States won the cold war.
Operation Rewrite about the cold war, in full swing for a decade, has produced books like Losing Our Souls: The American Experience in the Cold War, by Professor Edward Pessen, or an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, by a Whitman College academic, titled "The United States Was the Loser in the Cold War" containing this hallucinatory sentence: "Considering what might have been, the United States was the loser in the cold war, not the winner."
All these exhibits reminded me of Jonathan Swift's observation in Gulliver's Travels: "there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth." Ditto some historians.