Kissinger 31 – The End


So what is this “New World Order”? I am not inclined to give much credit to the boundless conspiracy theories but they do make for some humorous anecdotes (see Simpson’s “Stonecutter’s Song”).

Seriously though what would Kissinger say now, 21 years after the publication of this book, about the New World Order. There is an inescabably Eurocentric focus to his analysis of the periods of various World Orders, from the Peace of Westphalia to the Congress of Vienna. What did these conceptions mean to the populations of Southeast Asia, Africa or the Americas? Not much, thank you. If that is the case then, if Kissinger is really talking about European hegemony, and I think we could safely argue that the United States is a product of that, then is our current embroilment in the “war on terror” really much of a suprise?

As we conquered the west in the euphamism of “manifest destiny” the native American’s pushed back but could not prevail. As “we”, meaning the European history and culture of representative democracy, seperation of church and state and free market systems, push into all corners of the globe, is it really suprising that some are pushing back? Is it suprising that some have acquired the means to really hurt us? Will 9/11 be regarded as a sort of modern battle of little bighorn? Was the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan like the Spanish retreat from the great Pueblo Revollt of 1680? Are the events in Ukraine and North Korea a Cold War 2.0?

By 2110 at least one other “New World Order” will have emerged by then according to Kissinger’s rubric, what will the students of this classroom refer to our time as? What do you think?

Kissinger 30 – end of the Cold War


Kissinger’s assessment of Reagan is a riot I think.  So unintellectual, so contradictory, so bombastic but also for HK, so effective.  In the end even though RR skewered our dear Henry in his 76 presidential bid (running against incumbent Ford for nomination), Dr. K. cannot hold a grudge.  All those recycled jokes and stories, though he was bored with the details of foreign policy (or perhaps just with Kissinger), Reagan wins the approval of our dear ex-secretary.

Another big part of the story here is of course the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Why?  It certainly was not Gorbachev’s intention.  We’ve read about it before but this is Kissinger’s version.  Why, according to Kissinger, did the USSR collapse?

For tomorrow be prepared for a couple of quizzes.  The daily quiz and the IB history test quiz.  For this you need to know the following;

Paper #1 = The document test

1 hour – communism in crisis

Paper #2 = 20th century world history topics

90 minutes.  two essays from two different topics.  War, single party states, Cold war

Paper #3 = History of the Americas

2.5 hours.  Three essays on topics from the Americas.  US Civil war, Cold War, Civil Rights, Great depression etc.

Then we’ll start some review

We Can’t Go On Like tHis


No this was not a lover’s warning, this was rather Gorbachev’s assertion, on the eve of taking power, that something was fundamentally wrong.  He believe change had to come, and it came, but not in ways he could have predicted.  In 1988 the state history exams were cancelled because as “glasnost” unrolled, the lies of the soviet textbooks became more and more evident.

Singled out as one of the most oppressive regimes by White, Honecker’s GDR, being depicted in our movie, was a place where Gorby had to muscle in and force some change.  Some of the claims in the film, problems of corruption, prostitution, are supported by White here, as are the existences of the subversive authors and artists who, in White, want to push harder and harder for reforms.

I think its in Pipes, but it might be in Kissinger to come, someone makes the claim the regimes are at their most vulnerable when they begin to institute reforms.  Reforms begin to trickle in and they’re like “salted peanuts” to use Kissinger’s analogy from before.  People want more and more.

Why did change come in the way that it did?  White has some musings on possible answers.  What do you think?

A system in decline and change from below


I remember these streetcars in Prague in 1992 looking very much as they looked here.  The only difference is that in 1992 the occasional streetcar would be painted as a giant ad for M&Ms, or Marlboro.  Capitalism was on the march.

In these pages White portrays the entire system in the eastern bloc as on the decline economically, despite enormous gains earlier (after WWII).  One might fairly ask though, if we look at economic growth in the US at the same time, don’t we see a similar story?

I’m no economist but the numbers  of growth in the US are generally under 10% and often under 5%.  What is the difference?  White offer up a few clues.  Did you pick them up?

Secondly, in the chapter on “Change” it is so interesting to read this story now when so much potential change appears to be happening in the world. Is Syria going to turn out like Romania?  Is Ukraine more like Hungary or CZ?  Those sorts of comparisons might provide some really interesting analysis in today’s world.  I’ll try to look for my ’92 visit to Prague pictures tonight.  Maybe I can bring a few in for show & tell.

National Communism and the limits of reform


The marchers are marching for the “Solidarity” party you read (or will read) about in Poland in the 1980s.  Of the names you need to know besides Gorbachev and Brezhnev, who you’ve read about before, I would include Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement in Poland and Dubcek, in Czechoslovakia, where White claims in 1968 we see the most far reaching attempt to change communism in this time period.

One thing that is interesting to me is White’s claim that communism was resisted by most east european countries from the start. It was Stalin’s repression and purges and things like the coup in CZ in 1947 that you read about a long time ago which made the people cower in fear.  After his death in 1953 we see an immediate revolt begin in east Germany but repressed just the same.  That keeps the reform minded people underground until Khrushchev openly accuses Stalin of atrocities, in his 1956 “secret” speech, and then we see events in Hungary and Poland unfurl.

For our purposes here keep your mind focused on the later, post 1968 events as those are the ones likely to be on your documents this may.

In searching for an image of putting a saddle on a cow (Stalin’s pithy comment about communism and Poland) I ran across this very interesting article from 1989.





What was Communism & how was it established?



Workers were to have “no country”.  No country and no religion.  For a people, like the Polish, who identified so strongly with both, its a wonder socialism was successful at all.  Notice I used the word “socialism” instead of “communism”.  Whats the difference?

Communism remained this ideal, for all but Khrushchev apparently, that would only be realized in the far far future.  It would only be much later the individuals would really receive from society based on their need.  In socialism your needs are provided for but in part based upon the work that you do.

Communism map.svg

What resonates most in these chapters with the people I think is that claim of no exploitation.  No landlords.  No stock traders.  No one making money off of others money, no billionaires, but no paupers (homeless) either.  This would seem a powerful promise after decades of depression and World War.

A nice perspective is also here from White, of the relative isolation of the USSR.   Completely isolated until WWII but then again largely so by the 1960s when not only were Hungary and Poland feeling a bit independent, we also know that China was clearly out on its own.

Both chapters for tomorrow.  1&2.

Testing the Limits


“Breaking a Han Dynasty urn” is the title of the photo taken by the often jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.   What do you suppose he intended to say with this photograph?

On to Spence and of course the protests of 1989.  The protests of course don’t fall out of the clear blue sky.  Though the excuse was the death of Deng’s former compatriot Hu Yaobang what was the “real” or longer term reason for the events?

Interesting at the opening of the chapter of how all the changes and reforms in China, like getting rid of the communes, weren’t really seen as completely positive.  China was in a muddle in many ways, and despite economic growth of even recent years, might still be.

There is a lot here.  The Not-Not manifesto is interesting.  The “communist weeds” vs. capitalist seedlings, and a literal return to 100 flowers.

Enjoy your final read of Spence.