Monday, September 13, 2004

A Cold Warrior

I remember the exact moment it happened. I believe I was a junior in high school, which would place the event in the 1976/77 school year. Our English classes were set up so that just as in college, students had a series of classes to choose from each quarter. As I recall, most of the classes were literature. The class I chose for that fateful class was centered on totalitarianism. We read two or three books that quarter, but there was one that made a profound impact on me.

That book was "1984" by George Orwell. To this day I remember how profoundly I was struck by this work. Like everyone else who reads it, I was rooting for Winston Smith throughout the book. When he was utterly defeated by the overpowering might of the totalitarian state, I was devastated. It was not just that they had imprisoned him, or tortured him, that hit me. It was the success of their effort at mind control. By the end, Smith is not merely forced to cooperate, he willingly converts to the belief that Big Brother is good. He becomes a total convert to Ingsoc, the state ideology. It was this, then, that hit me the hardest.

As I said, I remember the exact moment that I finished the book. Before this event, politics, and especially the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union, were abstractions. No more. "The Soviet Union must be destroyed" went through my mind again and again.

I was never taken in by those leftists who insist on seeing Orwell's work as an attack on the west, and in particular the United States. To be sure, we can see "Orwellian" speech in our daily lives, and we sometimes say that "Big Brother" is doing this or that in our country. But there was never any doubt in my mind that Orwell's masterpiece was primarily an attack on the totalitarian mind-control ideologies of his day; Soviet communism and German Nazism. We had defeated the latter, but the former remained a significant threat.

This began a life-long study of the world around me. Over the past twenty-five or so years I have read dozens if not hundreds of books on a variety of subjects. Initially my primary reading centered around military history and totalitarian ideologies, and indeed books on these subjects still make up the majority of my library.

It always seemed natural for me to be a political conservative. My parents were Republicans, and not being a rebellious type it was natural for me to follow in their footsteps. This, coupled with my anti-Soviet crusade, led me to the right.

I suppose if I had been born twenty years earlier the chances of my going to either party were about equal. Up until the late '60s the Democrats were as anti-Soviet as the Republicans. The sea change that occurred at the end of the Vietnam war squelched any chance of my becoming a Democrat.

My beliefs have not changed that much over the years. If anything, perhaps I have become more libertarian. As I have grown more as a Christian, I have been less impressed by the "religious right"; something of a paradox, perhaps.

I then grew up as a dedicated Cold Warrior. If you check out my personal blog, you'll see that it's got a Cold War name. The story there is simple; when thinking of a title, I started looking at my book collection for inspiration. I came across William F Buckley's The Redhunter. This book tells the story of Senator Joe McCarthy in novel form. Buckley's theme is that while McCarthy and his minon Roy Cohn were scoundrels, the cause of anti-communism is noble and just. It is a theme with which I agree wholeheartedly. I therefore chose it as the title of my blog.

I therefore see our current war against the Islamofascists as in the same mold as the great twentieth-century struggles against Nazism and Communism. Different in many ways, but also quite similar. Whether we win or seek accommodation depends on our willpower. Despite occasional missteps, we prevailed against the old totalitarians. We can do so again.