James H. Billington

Capsule Review
Sep/Oct
2004
Robert Legvold
Essay
Special
1986
James H. Billington

US foreign policy has a split personality, between (1) realism-conservatism, the need for military power and political will to maintain friendly alliances to contain Soviet expansion (2) idealism-liberalism, the need to perfect and spread democracy. These might be harmonized, by a foreign policy combining prudent realism with the universal appeal of 'inner aspirations' towards political accountability, economic opportunity and religious freedom. This will however entail attention to the USA's own decadence in divorcing freedom from the responsibility to protect the values on which the USA was founded. Discusses several "ideals drawn from the America of yesterday" which may be "relevant to the emerging world of tomorrow".

Essay
Oct
1968
James H. Billington

Astonishing events in Czechoslovakia were only the latest in a series of changes in the communist world that took the outside world by surprise. The thaw and Hungarian rebellion of 1956, China's break with the Soviet Union and immersion in internal convulsion, and even the rejection of Russian control in Rumania-all were largely unforeseen (with only a few exceptions) even by expert opinion in the West, Like military planners who prepare for the last war, commentators on communist affairs in their preoccupation with accounting for the last surprise have often left the public unprepared for the next one. The concept of monolithic totalitarianism, based on parallels between Hitler and the later Stalin, ill prepared us to expect rebellion in Hungary; preoccupation with the Sino-Soviet split (which was only belatedly thought to be important, and then rapidly promoted into being the controlling factor in the divided communist world of the sixties) distracted us from any expectation of liberal deviation in Czechoslovakia.