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Lessons from the Cold War for the War on Terror By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union, by Jamie Glazov. (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002).

In the decades following the Second World War, the West faced the greatest threat to its existence in the form of an aggressive, nuclear-armed Soviet Union. Driven by a totalitarian and expansionist ideology, the Soviet regime attempted to spread its Marxist-Leninist doctrine of class hatred around the world by any means possible. As a result, during the period of history now called the Cold War (1945-1991), countless countries, from Korea and Vietnam to Ethiopia and Afghanistan, were to experience the full, bloody force of communist efforts to bring them under the umbrella of the "most progressive doctrine in history." In confronting the assault of Marxism, these nations paid the price of millions of dead bodies, ruined economies and devastated societies.

In his new book, Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union
, author Jamie Glazov deals with this remarkable, but frightening, epoch, rendering a detailed account of Canadian foreign policy towards post-Stalinist Russia. The book covers the decade 1953-1963, which contained such pivotal Cold War events as the Soviet 20th Party Congress, the Suez Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The author, who holds a Ph.D. in history with a specialty in American and Canadian foreign policy, is the managing editor of Frontpagemag.com and also the author of the popular satire on the leftist mindset 15 Tips on How to Be a Good Leftist. In this new project, while he deals with a Canadian topic, the author casts his research and arguments far and wide: offering further incontrovertible proof of Soviet guilt in starting and prolonging the Cold War. Glazov nails the coffin shut on the illegitimacy of "revisionist" histories (i.e. Gabriel Kolko, Walter LaFeber, etc.), which blamed the U.S. for the Cold War. He achieves this by employing many translated de-classified files from the Soviet archives and synthesizing the recent conclusions of top experts in the field.

Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union also provides crucial lessons from the Cold War for the contemporary War on Terror. The author reveals the key strategies the West employed to defeat communism, which should inform the current effort to defeat the free world’s new despotic enemies.

In terms of its specific focus, this book deals with the two Canadian governments that held power during those critical years: that of Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent from 1953-1956; and its successor, Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's administration of 1956-1963.

Glazov expertly analyzes the responses of both governments to the important Cold War events of that decade. He also provides a fascinating account of how the St. Laurent government developed and followed a remarkable foreign policy toward the communist giant, termed the "containment-accommodation" approach.

This key theme of accommodation combined with containment was possible for Canada to pursue, since it didn't bear the United States' heavy and noble burden of defending the Western world and thus didn't have to follow the American hard-line policy toward the Soviets. Taking advantage of its fortunate position, Canada decided to use its middle power status to keep the lines of communication open with the Soviet Union, while still contributing to the containment of communist expansionism by membership in Western defensive organizations like NATO.

This Canadian, anti-communist "containment-accommodation" strategy, Glazov shows, resulted in helping to stop communism in its tracks in many areas of the world while, at the same time, facilitating the exposure of the post-Stalinist Soviet regime to ideas that would ultimately plant the seeds of communist self-destruction. It was a strategy, he writes, that was ultimately vindicated by Mikhail Gorbachev, whose Glasnost and Perestroika policies increased East-West contact and Soviet liberalization -- two developments that helped fuel the disintegration of the Soviet empire.

From the book's findings, it becomes clear that Canada's "containment-accommodation" strategy contains vital lessons for today's War on Terror. The reality of the Soviet experience, as outlined by Glazov, is that if tyrannies can be both contained and coaxed into trying to civilize themselves, they will self-destruct. Glazov praises the Western strategy of trying to find friendships within the communist bloc (i.e. Yugoslavia in 1948) -- a tactic that helped to splinter and devastate the Soviet empire.

Thus, in the current war on terrorism, we learn how the West, in drawing from its Cold War experiences with the Soviet Union, must now take a hard-line against militant Islam while simultaneously nurturing democratization and alliances within the Islamic world. In this way, the West can best defend itself, while fuelling the liberalization and fragmentation of its enemy.

Besides the "containment-accommodation" strategy, another pertinent and important lesson readers can draw for today's struggle with militant Islam concerns the role a middle power like Canada can play on the world stage, especially in times of crisis. Glazov's account shows that such countries can develop their own foreign policy outside the purview of the major powers with far-reaching, beneficial effects for the international community. At the same, independent diplomatic efforts can also serve to help middle powers assert their sovereignty vis-à-vis those major powers.

Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union
makes for a very interesting and insightful read and will hold a special attraction for anyone interested in Cold War history or foreign policy. The author has solidly researched his subject, making extensive use of previously closed files in the National Archives of Canada, as well as of interviews with former Canadian officials in charge of Canadian foreign policy at that time. He has also incorporated many translated, de-classified documents from the Soviet archives and recent findings of top scholars in the field. This work, therefore, represents an important and original contribution to the scholarship on the Cold War. There is no other work, for instance, that covers the "containment-accommodation" strategy in such comprehensive detail.

Canadian readers will obviously find the book of special interest, as it deals with an absorbing and little-known aspect of their country's history when Canada, unlike under today's Liberal government, was taken seriously internationally. The prominent personages appearing in the text are also familiar to most Canadians. Diefenbaker, for example, comes in for special scrutiny. A fervent anti-Soviet, his government's policy reflected his personal disposition the first four years in office, but then fell apart due to his intense dislike of President John Kennedy and his own increasingly erratic behavior. Lester Pearson, St. Laurent's Foreign Affairs Minister and the man who succeeded Diefenbaker as Prime Minister in 1963, played a prominent role in the "containment-accommodation" strategy, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1958 for his mediation of the Suez Crisis.

The book's only weakness occurs, however, in regard to the people who appear in its pages: the account contains no photographs. Pictures of the leading figures, such as of the Nobel Prize-winning Pearson, would definitely have added to the text and helped those not familiar with Canadian history.

Overall, Jamie Glazov's Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union
sheds significant and fresh light on the history of the Cold War and brings much new to our understanding of that critical epoch -- when the fate of the free world hung in the balance. In so doing, this new book also provides crucial lessons for an effective Western strategy against its terrorist foes today.


Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.


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