Sunday, March 04, 2007

A strategy!

Returning to that well-gnawed bone of contention: was there a Russian grand strategy the Cold War? (I prefer 'Russian' to 'Soviet' because the first is eternal and the second, thank God, proved to be transitory. Europe's troubles with Russia did not begin in 1917, nor did they end in 1989/1991.) Our 'presenters' are pretty much in agreement that because Russian expansionism was all over the lot in the 1970s and 1980s, it couldn't have represented a grand strategy or anyhow not a very Grand one.

In one of our discussions, the subject of Jimmy Carter came up; I called his presidency the worst of the 20th century. This is rather odd, come to think of it, because his National Security Advisor (almost his secretary of state!) was Zbigniew Brzezinski, arguably the smartest individual who ever held such a position. Brzezinski was predicting the collapse of the USSR for years before it came about. After it did (and by which time ZB was back to academia) he wrote in Foreign Affairs, trying to remind people of what an astounding victory that collapse was for the west. In the course of that essay, he wrote:

'A Soviet definition of victory is somewhat more difficult to delineate, given the universalist aspirations of communist ideology and the more limited scope of actual Soviet power'.

Bingo! 'Universalist aspirations' is what I've been after. I don't suppose you could say of the Catholic Church that it had a Grand Strategy, but it did have universalist aspirations (like Islam today?). Saving a billion souls, one soul at a time. Doesn't that count as a strategy? So with the Soviet Union: enslaving (liberating, the apparatchiks would have preferred to say) a billion bodies, one body at a time.

If that doesn't count as strategy, perhaps there's something wrong with our definition of strategy.


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