Tony Judt reviews court historian John Lewis Gaddis’s The Cold War: A New History in the current New York Review of Books. It’s worth a read, particularly for the reminder (if any is needed) that victory in the ideological struggle was Pyrrhic indeed:
On the contrary: far from “settl[ing] fundamental issues once and for all,” as Gaddis would have us believe, the cold war has an intimate, unfinished relationship with the world it left behind: whether for the vanquished Russians, whose troubled post-imperial frontier zones from Afghanistan and Chechnya to Armenia, Abkhazia, and Moldova are the unhappy heirs to Stalinist ethnic cleansing and Moscow’s heedless exploitation of local interest and divisions; or for the victorious Americans, whose unconstrained military monopoly ought to have made of the US a universally welcome international policeman but which is instead—thanks to cold war memories as well as the Bush administration’s mistakes—the source of an unprecedented level of popular anti-Americanism.
Not, to be sure, that anyone should really have expected the world to welcome American hegemony.
There’s an anecdote in Karl Hess’s Mostly on the Edge in which he relates the Barry Goldwater eventually came to the belief that the USSR and the USA were indeed headed for “convergence” of a sort (as several popular theorists at the time had suggested), but that the two superpowers would go past convergence, to the point where the USSR began to liberalize, while the U.S. headed towards ever more stifling regulation and larger government. Post-Soviet Russia isn’t very liberal, but Goldwater was not altogether wrong. Even success in a worldwide struggle (and in any war) comes at a very high cost — something more conservatives ought to appreciate.