March 30, 2007

Countercultural Reading

Every once in awhile a book comes along that refreshes the palate and serves as a tonic for whatever ills are currently plaguing the body republic.

Back in the Clinton years, the constant ingestation of spinelessness prompted a slow reading of Robertson's magisterial bio of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

It was like spending time in a beautiful dream, reading of that bygone era and of long dead man who stuck to Christ and principle like glue. (I was able to overlook the fundamental error of Jackson's fighting for the wrong side.)

Now at last I've found the biblio-foil for the Bush years. After drinking from a sea of incompetence, at least with respect to Iraq*, how nice to spend some time in the land of competence when things went right in an almost magical way. I'm speaking of the years of Reagan and Thatcher & John Paul II, when there was a healthy suspicion of government and souls (Bush on Putin: "I saw into his soul..."; Reagan: "Trust but verify!"; Vatican curia: ostpolitik;...John Paul II: "Be not afraid!").

John O'Sullivan's The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister is remarkably well-written, a joy to read. If this were a just world it would be a bestseller. O'Sullivan shares released Soviet documents that allow insight into what they were thinking, and how they tried to avoid the fall of their empire.

It's interesting to see that our European allies, who during the '70s were growing increasingly fond of the Soviets compared to the Americans due to their own socially leftward move, unwittingly helped cause the fall. Russia was so pleased by what they hoped would be an eventual complete rift between America and Western Europe that they didn't want to jeopardize that by crushing Poland the way they did with other Eastern European countries in the '50s and '60s.

One realizes in reading this book that good leadership is an aberration. It is certainly not a "right". And reading this fills me with gratitude for them, for the very fact that they existed. If I didn't fully appreciate them at the time I do now.

* - You get one free error. That would be the lack of WMD's. The second error, the lack of postwar planning and/or insufficient troops was the camel that broke this straw's back.

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