Jonah Goldberg

The truth is that the Cold War's most dangerous legacy remains the bundle of radioactive lies that poisoned so many lands and deformed so many minds. The Soviets fueled national-socialist movements around the globe, telling the poor that if they embraced violent revolution and systematically purged capitalism, tradition and religion from their societies, they would hasten their ascent to the sunny uplands of history. The reverse was true: Whole generations were either slaughtered or left to live as dehumanized industrial cogs, or to labor as serfs tending crops amidst the bleached bones of their fellow countrymen.

The Soviets spread lies about the nature of democracy and destroyed indigenous democratic movements, lest they leech off the revolutionary ardor of groups both more murderous and more loyal to the Kremlin. In the West, they employed useful idiots in academia and the press to foment self-hatred and eat away at civilizational self-confidence with cancerously idiotic arguments about the "moral equivalence" between West and East. They funded antiwar movements, peace congresses and supposedly crusading "independent" journalists. For example, they spread the lie around the globe that America invented AIDS to kill blacks.

That lie made it all the way to Barack Obama's church, where Obama's former mentor and pastor, Jeremiah Wright, would repeat it with blindingly ignorant passion, saying that America invented "the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."

Obama talks a lot about wanting to move beyond the "stale arguments" of the Cold War. In one sense that's fine, since that twilight struggle is over. But in another sense, as we watch him apologize for America's history, it is hard to shake the feeling that he only saw one side's arguments as "stale."

That wouldn't matter if the past were a page one could merely turn, as Obama frequently claims. But the Cold War's lessons aren't so irrelevant to the times we live in. The past is never completely irrelevant.

One small example: The Wall Street Journal's Dan Henninger asked a former Eastern European dissident imprisoned by Communists: "If you were sitting in a cell in Cuba, Iran or Syria and saw this photo of a smiling American president shaking hands with a smiling Hugo Chavez, what would you think?"

The former dissident responded: "I would think that I was losing ground."

When I see the president telling so many of America's enemies and critics what they want to hear, I feel like we're all losing ground -- ground that was worth winning.

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.
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