Jacob Heilbrunn

Jacob Heilbrunn is writing a book on neoconservatism.

Recent Articles

Who Won the Cold War?

Is it high time for liberals to apologize to the anticommunist right, which correctly gauged the red menace from the start? Sorry, the credit belongs to a brave band of liberal cold warriors beginning with George Kennan.

Works Discussed in This Essay: Richard Gid Powers, Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism (Free Press, 1995). John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1994 (Yale University Press, 1995). Jay Winik, On The Brink: The Dramatic, Behind-the-Scenes Saga of the Reagan Era and the Men and Women Who Won the Cold War (Simon and Schuster, 1996). Robert M. Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (Simon and Schuster, 1996). George F. Kennan, At A Century's Ending: Reflections 1982-1995 (Norton, 1996). T he end of the Cold War has not been kind to the American left. As the opening of the Soviet archives has revealed, the Kremlin was, in fact, intent on conquering the globe to carry out a Marxist-Leninist revolution. Even in the United States, Yale University's new "Annals of Communism" series has demolished the revisionist pretensions of a band of New Left scholars who began...

Apologists Without Remorse

Most leftists have accepted that the Soviet Union was an evil empire after all. Such contrition is conspicuously absent, however, from conservatives who defended apartheid.

T he end of the Cold War has ushered in a period of contrition on the American left. While most liberals, like Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., never had any illusions about the Soviet regime, the sixties New Left included revolutionary romantics who were outright apologists for communism. Lately, however, many of those leftists have belatedly conceded that the Soviet Union was an evil empire after all. If the collapse of the Soviet Union has prompted such reflections on the left, there are no comparable signs of remorse on the right about another political failure of similar moral significance: apartheid. South Africa collapsed at the same time as the Soviet Union. Like the USSR, it was the product of an ideology that claimed exemption from ordinary moral strictures. And though South Africa did not threaten a universalist geopolitical crusade, it did espouse a universalist ideology—of racial superiority—claiming to be the last outpost of Western civilization on the dark...

The Moynihan Enigma

Why the Senate's intellectual giant is a strangely ineffective lawmaker.

D aniel Patrick Moynihan was in an apocalyptic mood. As a late winter rainstorm lashed the windows of his darkened Senate office, Moynihan read scornfully from a column by the Washington Post 's William Raspberry quoting the departing secretary of housing, Henry Cisneros: "Signing the welfare bill pushes the cities, and for that matter, the federal government to the wall. If jobs are not created to take up the people who are coming off of welfare, social chaos is the result. That's unacceptable. Therefore, there's no alternative but to address the problems of jobs in the cities." "No alternative?" Moynihan sputtered. "There's chaos already. Things could get vastly worse." The senior senator from New York, now in his fourth term, has never been diffident about expressing his ever-shifting views. A few decades ago, he might have been heard inveighing with equal fervor against the same social programs that he now defends. In foreign policy, Moynihan went from hawkish nemesis of the New...

Secrets and Lies

Critics from the right often condemned the old liberal foreign policy establishment for an excess of secrecy. Now the right has a new elitist establishment of its own. 

E ver since Harpagus conspired with Cyrus against his uncle, the King of Medea, by placing letters to Cyrus in the belly of a hare, secrecy has always been part of government—and particularly part of the conduct of foreign affairs. Secrecy is obviously an indispensable part of espionage and intelligence gathering, and there are times, to be sure, when even a nation's own people need to be kept (temporarily) in the dark if foreign policy interests are to be best served. But this is dangerous; secrecy can become an end in its own right, or a tool by which political leaders can arrogate more power to themselves than a democratic system warrants. Throughout the Cold War era, secrecy in national security matters repeatedly threatened to undermine democratic freedoms at home. There were peak periods of this dynamic, most notably during the Mc Carthy era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War, as well as during recurring inappropriate uses of the FBI, CIA, and IRS at the time...

The Clash of the Samuel Huntingtons

It's one of the fundamental dilemmas of foreign policy: Should American democracy be for export? Samuel P. Huntington makes a powerful case -- for both sides.

S ince the end of the Cold War, two opposing schools of thought on American foreign policy have emerged. The first school consists of what we might call triumphalists. Triumphalists argue that America has an obligation to democratize the world. For them the successful conclusion of the Cold War validates a Wilsonian approach to spreading democracy—a core tenet of the Clinton administration's foreign policy. Triumphalists range from Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to academics such as Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington. Then there is school number two: the debunkers. Debunkers view the post-Cold War era with apprehension and gloom. Far from believing that the end of the Cold War will usher in a new golden age of American foreign policy, debunkers insist that America should avoid foreign entanglements with a world now riven by ethnic conflict. America, they maintain, should seize the opportunity to mend its own woes rather than waste precious treasure on crusading...