Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Not Exactly

In a long post about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Ross Douthat makes this minor point regarding comparisons of Iran to the Soviet Union:

I think a better analogue still would be Mao's China, where the evidence of fanaticism and recklessness throughout the 1950s and '60s - in Mao's public statements, in his brinksmanship around Korea and Taiwan, and in his domestic conduct - was arguably much more pronounced that anything from the post-Stalin Soviet Union. And of course China's recklessness arguably diminished after it joined the nuclear club in 1964, and by the 1970s Nixon and Kissinger were toasting Mao's health in Beijing. So there you go ...

Actually, it was not China that was playing brinksmanship in Korea. It was North Korea, the Soviet Union and more specifically, us. Stalin was more than happy to let Kim Il-Sung invade the South, so long as his fingerprints weren't all over an invasion. For his part, Kim Il-Sung was frothing at the mouth to invade and reunite Korea. Mao's concern, more than anything, was not to get into a shooting war with the United States over Korea, though he was happy to support North Korea in its war (to a point anyway.) And China would have succeeded in avoiding war had not Douglas Macarthur driven American troops almost all the way to the Yalu, dismissing increasing signs of Chinese intervention and concerns that China would never permit American troops so near their border.

A minor quibble with a minor point. But still, we should be accurate in our assessment's of history if our purposes in quoting it is to provide illumination of the present.

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