Jonah Goldberg

In 1993, in an interview with The Washington Post, the newly elected Bill Clinton joked that he missed the Cold War. Clinton explained to the Post that, "We had an intellectually coherent thing. The American people knew what the rules were."

Of course, when the pressures of the Cold War actually pinched Bill Clinton, he took a different tack. As a young man of draft age, Clinton wrote that Vietnam was "a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I have reserved solely for racism in America."

Meanwhile, a young John Kerry nobly volunteered for military service.

So, going by the actions of the last Democratic president and the man who hopes to be the next one, maybe the Cold War wasn't really this "intellectually coherent thing" where everyone knew what to do.

Charles Krauthammer, who in a 1993 Time magazine essay decried "The Greatest Cold War Myth of All," first identified this pernicious tendency toward historical revisionism. Despite its recent denials, during the last 20 years of the Cold War, the Democratic Party was on the wrong side of the argument and it was only after the Berlin Wall came down that most Democrats claimed to have been Cold Warriors all along.

Obviously, there were countless honorable exceptions from the liberal anti-Communist senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, to Georgia's Sen. Sam Nunn to the 1980s version of Al Gore. But, in the broad scope of things, the liberals learned all the wrong lessons from Vietnam. John Kerry, who left for war presumably thinking the exact opposite of Bill Clinton, returned even more of a dove than Clinton, believing the U.S. military to be a bunch of war criminals and that American troops should only be dispersed under United Nations supervision.

For the next 30 years, Kerry was a tenacious dove on national security. In 1982, in his race for lieutenant governor, Kerry came out in favor of the nuclear freeze - not that anyone cared much then. But, two years later, when Kerry moved to the United States Senate, he kept to his principles battling Sam Nunn and Ronald Reagan over everything from arms control to "Reagan's illegal war in Central America" to missile defense. He called the war in Grenada a "bully's show of force." And, in 1991, he opposed the use of force in Iraq because it would constitute a violation of "the theory of deterrence" - even Saddam was not theoretically in Kuwait.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.