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The nations of the world are capable of undergoing great changes, while still being subject to the kind of scholarly considerations that Angela E. Stent observes in RUSSIA AND GERMANY REBORN / UNIFICATION, THE SOVIET COLLAPSE, AND THE NEW EUROPE (Yale University Press, 1999). Those who would accuse the Bush administration of adopting a policy proclaiming the need for an American victory in Iraq solely to boost the popularity of an endeavor which involved military personnel writing *we*Iraqis* editorials to be planted in Iraqi newspapers to tell Iraqis what they ought to be thinking might be interested in how actual domestic considerations in the Soviet Union prevented Gorbachev and Shevardnadze from following the advice of those in Russia who had spent a lifetime opposing German reunification. As "the Baltic states became increasingly assertive about their right to become independent" (p. 123), the hardline critics of Gorbachev "came from institutions such as the Communist Party, the KGB, and the military, which had coercive resources not available to the reformers, and were thus more threatening to Gorbachev." (p. 123). Politics in the Soviet Union was heading for an open split:
"Indeed, the key to understanding the lack of a coherent negotiating strategy on the Soviet side during the first seven months of 1990 is the growing domestic crisis within the Soviet Union. By this time, Gorbachev had alienated many of the reformers who had initially supported his programs. They felt that he had betrayed his promises and remained too wedded to the domination of the Communist Party and to `old' thinking. Many of Gorbachev's leading reformist critics had opted for political careers within the Russian Federation, whose newly elected legislature had in March chosen Boris Yeltsin, former colleague and now Gorbachev nemesis, as their president. Gorbachev's reformist critics focused on the national question--the desire of the constituent republics of the USSR, Russian and non-Russian, for independence--to argue their case against the Soviet leader. Eventually, at the Twenty-eighth Party Congress in July, Yeltsin and his allies left the Communist Party, declaring open warfare on Gorbachev." (pp. 122-123).
There will soon be elections in Iraq, perhaps determining who will call the shots there for the next four years, but possibly setting up a situation in which everyone elected will find themselves caught in a spiral more like the Soviet collapse than like Germany reborn. America's interest in maintaining Iraq as a state in opposition to Iran is likely to be an early casualty, as the new rulers of Iraq are far more likely to find kinship with Iran and millions of pilgrims than with America and thousands of soldiers, mercenaries, and embassy officials, some of whom might work undercover for the CIA, due to the lack of other Americans in the area.
RUSSIA AND GERMANY REBORN mentions the Treaty of "Rapallo in 1922, when the Soviet commissar of foreign affairs, Georgi Chicherin, managed to persuade the reluctant German Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau to sign a separate German-Soviet treaty instead of an agreement with the Western powers who were negotiating in nearby Locarno." (p. 6). "It provided merely for the resumption of full diplomatic relations, the cancellation of mutual claims, and the granting of most-favored-nation status, and it was separate from the secret military collaboration. Yet it symbolized for the Western powers the ultimate act of perfidy--the Soviet state, in its first diplomatic triumph, making a separate deal with Germany, persuading Germany to reject its western and eastern neighbors and collaborate with Russia to the detriment of European security." (p. 7).
American policy in the Middle East has placed a lot of emphasis on getting Israel accepted as a state, first by Egypt, then I'm a little fuzzy on how well Jordan is in this mix. A hundred years ago there were more Jews in Baghdad than in Jerusalem, but Iraqis spreading rumors that Jews will return to Baghdad as soon as things settle down are more likely to raise eyebrows than positive expectations. Freedom means that unofficial politics might well determine whether there is open warfare or just a series of votes in parliament about nothing going nowhere. Will it be possible for a budget to be adopted without making some key decisions about security, the kind of safety which America has been far too dedicated to political solipsism to provide to Iraqis? Scholars ought to be raising questions when governmental decisions are pushed in political directions like flat tax, propagandizing the world, and the complaint that independent prosecutors criminalize politics. Actually, this book is about "380,000 Soviet troops and their dependents on GDR soil; four-power rights over Berlin and Germany; and the possibility of stalling arms control talks, both nuclear and conventional, that the West was anxious to conclude." (p. 123). It just strikes me that we were so much more intelligent then, than now.
More About the Author
Angela Stent is a foreign policy expert specializing in U.S. and European relations with Russia and Russian foreign policy.
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