Alexander Solzhenitsyn is dead. Peter Rodman is dead. And memory is dying with them.
Over the weekend, Solzhenitsyn, the 89-year-old literary titan, and Rodman, the American foreign policy intellectual, passed away. I knew Rodman and liked him very much. We were partners in a debate at Oxford University last year. He provided the gravitas. A former protege of Henry Kissinger and high-ranking official in two Republican administrations, Rodman was one of the wisest of the wise men of the conservative foreign policy establishment. Calm, elegant, dryly funny, brilliant, but most of all gentlemanly. He died too young, at 64, of leukemia.
Solzhenitsyn was, of course, a landmark of the 20th century, one of the few authors capable of elevating literature to the stuff of world affairs.
What I admired most in both men was their memory. They remembered important things, specifically the evil of communism. And, perhaps nearly as important, they remembered who recognized that evil and who did not.
Rodman, for example, was an architect of the Reagan Doctrine in places such as Angola and Afghanistan. One of his books, "More Precious Than Peace: The Cold War and the Struggle for the Third World," was the quintessential defense of thwarting the Soviets in ugly spots of the globe where Americans were understandably reluctant to spend blood or treasure.
In Berlin on July 24, Barack Obama's history of the Cold War sounded cheerier. There was a lot of unity and "standing as one," and we dropped some candy on Berlin, and now we need to be unified like we were then.
But unity was hardly the defining feature of the Cold War. There were supposed allies reluctant to help and official enemies who were eager to do their share. There were Russians - like Solzhenitsyn - who bravely told the world about Soviet barbarity. Here at home, there were a great many Americans, including intellectual heirs to the "useful idiots" Lenin relied on, who rolled their eyes at self-styled "cold warriors" such as Rodman. And from Vietnam through the SANE/Freeze movement, liberal resolve and unity were aimed most passionately against America's policies - not the Soviet Union's.