Yale’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. John Lewis Gaddis on Cold War Lessons for Russia’s Hot War in Ukraine

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-host Cara Candal talks with John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life. He shares some of the wider background knowledge, major historical themes, and key events that today’s students should know about the Cold War and its impact. He discusses the life and legacy of George F. Kennan, the subject of his Pulitzer-winning biography, who was the architect of America’s Containment policy toward Soviet communism and understood the true character of the Russian people and why communism would fail. They survey some of the outstanding political, military, literary, and religious leaders, as well as the murderous dictators, of the Cold War era. Prof. Gaddis explains why the West has often seemed less resolute towards Communist China and Putin’s Russia since the Cold War, and explores what teachers, students, and the public should know regarding Russia’s long-standing goal of dominating Ukraine. The episode concludes with a reading from Prof. Gaddis’s book, The Cold War: A New History.

Stories of the Week: In Massachusetts, education policymakers are moving ahead with a second review of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), which may lead to state receivership, after reports found that 16,000 BPS students attend schools performing in the bottom 10 percent statewide. Pioneer Institute’s Senior Fellow Charles Chieppo, most recently co-author of a RealClearPolicy op-ed on this topic, joins Cara for an in-depth discussion.


Dr. John Lewis Gaddis is Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University, where he teaches courses on the Cold War, grand strategy, biography, and historical methods. His most recent books include The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (2002), Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (2004), The Cold War: A New History (2005), a new edition of Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (2005), George F. Kennan: An American Life (2011), and On Grand Strategy (2018). Professor Gaddis has received two awards for undergraduate teaching at Yale, as well as the National Humanities Medal and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

The next episode will air on Weds., April 6th, with Dr. G. Edward White, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and the author of the three-volume book Law in American History from Oxford University Press.

Tweet of the Week:

News Link:

State education officials begin review of Boston Public Schools


Get new episodes of The Learning Curve in your inbox!

Please excuse typos.

[00:00:00] Cara: Learning curve listeners. It’s an exciting week for many reasons. This is Cara Candal coming at you today. And unfortunately I am without my usual partner in crime, the wonderful Gerard Robinson, but we do have one of my very favorite. Edgy provocateurs from the Boston area with me today. And we’re going to have sort of a Boston centric chat about things that I think are relevant actually, nationally as well.

[00:00:53] So please help me welcome my friend Charlie Chieppo, Pioneer senior fellow & principal at Chieppo Strategies [00:01:00] and an adjunct professor at Suffolk university. Charlie Chieppo, welcome to the Learning Curve. I can’t believe this is the first time this is happening. How are you? Well,

[00:01:10] Charlie: I’m, better now to be talking with you

[00:01:12] and I’m definitely not above a little flattery, you know? So this is

[00:01:16] Cara: going great. so far, will you just wait, so Charlie, you know, what we usually do here on the learning curve is Gerard not George sings a little bit and we go back and forth and then we each have a story of the week.

[00:01:30] Right? know all it’s in John Denver usually has picked. Because there’s so many questions. I have so many and waiting for him to sing Dolly Parton. , maybe you could do that.

[00:01:39] John: Well Charlie

[00:01:41] Charlie: bought a contention for the rock and roll hall of fame. There you go.

[00:01:44] Cara: She’s the best, right?

[00:01:48] So Charlie, listen, here’s something that I think learning curve listeners able to be interested in, on any number of levels. So you are amongst all of your titles. I [00:02:00] think the most important title you hold is editing. Of all of the white papers that Kara Campbell writes for pioneer and they all come back just slashed with red and better for it.

[00:02:12] But you and I, would like to think of us as collaborators in many way, a couple of weeks ago. Released report that, well, it makes us slightly controversial claim that actually the state should be taking over Boston’s public schools, which have been performing. don’t know. What’s the word, Charlie abysmally.

[00:02:33] Not, not doing well by kids. for a very, very long time. Now, now not taking any credit here because I don’t think that we are that influential, but it wasn’t long. We have good timing at least because shortly after the publication of this report the commissioner of education here, Jeffrey Riley announced that he’s going to be undertaking a second.

[00:02:56] District review of the Boston public schools. Now a [00:03:00] review may seem like it’s just a review, but this got our new mayor, mayor, Michelle Wu, and many others, very concerned and talking about that word receivership, which under Massachusetts state law allows the state to take over low-performing districts.

[00:03:14] And as we note in the paper, Charlie. District review must be commissioned within a year of the state making a move to put the school district under receivership. so there’s a lot of angst here in the Commonwealth. Now. Our paper got a little bit of attention, but Charlie, you’ve been a long time watcher of BPS, a long time provocateur talk to our listeners a little.

[00:03:40] About this moment in the history and what indeed, you hope that district review team, which went in this week is going to be taken a long, hard look at, as they assess the health of the Boston public schools.

[00:03:53] Charlie: Well, let me just take a step back first and say that, I have been associated with playing here for a long time.

[00:03:58] And, there was a [00:04:00] time when pioneer, I felt did not have a ton of influence. But in this case I think that has certainly changed over the years. And in this case, I think you sort of undersell what you’ve done because I have indeed been. Editing, the papers that you write for a while.

[00:04:15] Just a while, because we were both quite young. yes, but nonetheless, you know, I have to say that they are all good, but this one is particularly good. I think that this one is, very powerful terms of the conclusions and the recommendation. That it makes. so I think you don’t give yourself enough credit, but I would say this, look, my reaction to all this is kind of astonishment.

[00:04:39] First of all. what is this review going to find? Well, I think it’s probably safe to say that this review is going to find the exact same thing as the last two or three reviews, because, going back to the EQA, when we used to have an accountability system that review in 2004, 2005 The review that took place right as the [00:05:00] pandemic hit, which of course, understandably got no play because the world was about to find that the day

[00:05:05] Cara: before the world closed down, we’re going to just release a lot of,

[00:05:09] Charlie: yeah. That certainly got no play, but I would be shocked if it didn’t come to the exact same conclusions as those dead.

[00:05:19] And so, but I guess the bigger issue for me is. Since BPS won the Brode prize in 2006 it has been. And I think to say that it’s been in steady decline with probably be kind, because I think it’s been a steeper decline than that. I think that you have a number of, times we have essentially.

[00:05:41] diagnosed and it is very clear that there is a massive amount of, unwillingness to embrace any of those issues. the big issue that you always get is of course, you need to give us more money and we’ll solve these things. And the fact is that, as you point out in the paper, I believe the a hundred.

[00:05:58] School systems, the [00:06:00] country BPS is the second best funded. So we’re at a situation where generation after generation of kids essentially go uneducated unprepared for life. This is a district that has for more than 15 years shown an absolutely unwillingness to do anything, to improve itself. It gets a lot of money and nothing ever changes except for getting worse.

[00:06:22] why there is such massive resistance to this. To me only speaks to the fact that well, let’s say that maybe the students are not the number one priority of everybody associated with BPS, because this is pretty clear cut.

[00:06:39] Cara: Yeah. Well, and let’s be clear about where the resistance is coming from, because I have to, say to you, for one of the first times in my career, I’ve actually had parents reaching out to me on LinkedIn and finding my email address and saying, thank you for writing this report. Thank you for writing this report.

[00:06:53] And for our listeners, let’s be clear. Some of the things. It’s not like it was any uh, new research [00:07:00] here. Basically what we did is rehashed. The district’s first report that as we said, was buried and Friday before the world shut down in the middle of the pandemic. And the state had already assessed at that point that they weren’t going to have the probably political capital to put Boston public schools into receivership.

[00:07:16] But what the report uncovers is, for example, it’s something like 35% of. In BPS are able to pass the basic tests of, reading and math, which is our M cast test. It’s the stories of

[00:07:29] Charlie: how little it takes to pass the

[00:07:32] Cara: how little, yeah, it’s not, meant to be the highest bar and it’s important for her, but it’s not meant to be the highest bar.

[00:07:38] And then, our students with special educational needs or students with disabilities and of course, students of color, which makes. A lot of BPS, right? Most of BPS the most dramatically underserved. And so the voices of resistance, I think the thing that’s killing me here, Charlie, is that they’re just saying receivership.

[00:07:58] Can’t be the. [00:08:00] And there’s no answer in there, non answer. so what the paper really says is nobody thinks receivership is a magic bullet. We’ve seen progress in some places like Warren’s where receivership has happened, but in other places, yeah, it hasn’t worked as well. Nobody else is providing. An alternative.

[00:08:18] Right. And in this memorandum of understanding that came out after the first district review was one of the most toothless things I’ve ever seen. it was sort of like show some growth. What, what I went, how much that

[00:08:30] Charlie: was a political guy. Absolutely.

[00:08:33] Cara: And so really provoke your thoughts, Charlie, so may or whew.

[00:08:37] Right? So she’s new. She is inheriting this problem and there was an op-ed , in the Boston globe about a week ago saying. Does she really want this to be her problem? Why is it that she’s so, against exploring the idea that maybe it’s a buck should stop with somebody else. It’s the state’s constitutional obligation to make sure that children in Boston have the educational opportunities there.

[00:08:59] Do[00:09:00] what do you think is her tactic here or is it just other stakeholders driving the. I would

[00:09:07] Charlie: say it’s a couple of things. First of all, I do think that there’s a large degree to which other stakeholders are, driving the bus. she’s a new mayor of Boston. I mean, if somebody can come up with a political force in Boston that is more powerful than the Boston teachers

[00:09:21] union, then, I’d love to hear about it, but I certainly

[00:09:24] Charlie: don’t know of any.

[00:09:26] So I think that is certainly. an issue. I think the other issue, I said, you know what, Michelle blue is a very bright, very capable and very capable, bright people who are in political positions of leadership. I think it’s in their DNA to not want to give up control things, because I think that they think that they can fix things.

[00:09:46] And I think that that’s. You know, thinking that to a certain degree is, probably a good thing, but I just there’s this other issue that I always, Jamie’s heard me say this a million times that, this idea that, every political office holder,[00:10:00] thinks that time began when they put their hand down in the Bible.

[00:10:03] And , the reality is that it, and we have got a long, long history here that So clearly about BPS, inability to fix itself. And I just think that’s critical. And I think the other piece I would add to that is just to say that I think the other thing is. Is that even, less than 10 years ago, I think you could’ve made a better argument that said that the state isn’t going to be , any better at this and that, receivership is just not a good option.

[00:10:32] Well, as you so clearly said it. A silver bullet, but the reality is that there’s a lot of good that came out of Lawrence. And I think on balance warrants was clearly a successful receivership. and I think that changes things. When you look at that Democrats for education reform paper that came out, it showed all the ways in which warrants.

[00:10:54] No, I guess what two thirds of the funding that, that, Austin has, , is outperforming Boston.[00:11:00] I mean, that gets my attention. You know, it does show me that it can happen and, you talk about not a silver bullet. Well, I’ll tell you one thing that is, absolutely certain that if we don’t do anything, this is just going to keep , getting worse.

[00:11:12] That is the one thing that is beyond.

[00:11:16] Cara: Well, the status quo is absolutely unacceptable. And you know, if I were a BPS parent and boy, boy. Right. And I know there are a lot of BPS parents out here that are satisfied with their schools. We’ve got a handful of schools that work really well.

[00:11:28] And we can guess who attends those schools? You know, they don’t tend to look like the kids who make up the majority of BPS. Right. , but if I am a Boston parent and in any stakeholder in the system, the mayor, the head of the Boston teachers union is saying to me, oh, but just wait, we’re making incremental change.

[00:11:44] Things are getting better over time. I don’t have time for that. I don’t have time to wait for you to get your act together when you’ve lost. What is it? Five superintendents in four years, or, we know that the huge problem is, leadership and a system in its own way. It’s not the teachers, it’s not the [00:12:00] principals there by all accounts in the report, the people on the ground are trying to do their job and.

[00:12:05] That are at the top. That seemed to just come up with a new policy a week that nobody can comprehend, understand, or effectively implement because they don’t have, they have the resources, they don’t have the support to do it, which are two different things. And I think that, yeah, if I were a BPS parent, I would be thinking.

[00:12:21] So basically you’re asking me to wait a generation until my kid has lost all of this learning. By the way, you got $400 million in federal relief, funding and experience exactly how that’s going to impact my kid’s education. So, Charlie, one of the things hope we can do here, For our listeners who don’t like hearing about Massachusetts and my day job, I often find that people are like, oh gosh, tell me more about Massachusetts.

[00:12:47] Right? You all love to think you’re so great. I mean, we do have, some pretty good international test scores speaks a lot to our social capital, but I think one of the lessons learned here is that Massachusetts should actually be looking to a lot of other places. [00:13:00] That are making moves.

[00:13:02] And I know people here don’t like to hear it, but look at a place like Mississippi, that’s actually said we’re going to implement comprehensive early literacy policy. That’s going to impact every kid. If you just did that in BPS, if what could happen to Mississippi’s NAEP scores happened to our Nate scores happened to our efficacy scores.

[00:13:22] That would be one step in the right direction. So I think that there’s some lessons learned here for listeners. Are coming from other states about the fact that, it’s all shiny. It’s like a, what’s it like from clues? It’s like a Monet. It looks really good from far away. Do you get up close with a big old mess?

[00:13:40] You know what I’m saying? And it looks like to me right now that the state of the Commonwealth, because we’re number one for some is some of our friends like to say, go ahead.

[00:13:48] Charlie: Yeah, no, no, look, just think you’re, I think you’re still right there. I mean, I think, you know, they don’t call us Masshole for nothing, right?

[00:13:54] I mean, they’re arrogant, and I think that is, very clear, and I think our [00:14:00] students would probably benefit the most dialing that down.

[00:14:03] Cara: Absolutely. And ladies and gentlemen, I want it to be noted that I think it’s perfectly acceptable to say mass holes on this podcast, because in fact it’s an entirely different now in here in the Commonwealth, I’m especially led in say, seeing as I’m a Detroit or by birth Michigander by birth,

[00:14:19] Charlie: I’ve made it clear when I came in that, the average IQ.

[00:14:22] Of the host was going way down when you swap.

[00:14:27] Cara: Well, Gerard’s going to love that, but Charlie, it’s been such a pleasure. Gabbing with you. Thanks so much for pinch hitting. I know that Gerard appreciates it and , maybe we’ll have to have you back on when we’d see what actually happens with the second district review, or maybe I’ll write a paper about it that you can tear apart now.

[00:14:47] I love it. I love it. Charlie, have a great one. All right, we’ll connect again soon.[00:15:00]

[00:15:20] Learning Curve listeners. We have with us, Dr. John Lewis Gaddis, he’s the Robert A Lovett professor of military and Naval history at Yale university, where he teaches courses on the cold war, grand strategy, biography and historical methods. His most recent books include the landscape of history. How historians map.

[00:15:39] Surprise security and the American experience, the cold war, a new history, a new edition of strategies of containment, a critical appraisal of post-war American national security policy and George F, Kennan and Americans. And on grand strategy, Professor Gaddis has received two awards for [00:16:00] undergraduate teaching at Yale, as well as the national humanities medal and the 2012 filter prize for biography.

[00:16:07] Professor John Lewis Gaddis, welcome to The Learning Curve. Thank you.

[00:16:10] John: It’s good to be here.

[00:16:11] Cara: Well, I feel like our listeners are going to be very intrigued by your body of work and by what you have to say, especially given the current moment. So let’s dive right in. Then your times has called you the Dean of cold war historians.

[00:16:25] And you have earned a lot of honors for teaching undergraduates at Yale. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about the wider background knowledge, the major themes or key events that. Students, all Americans probably should know about the cold war and its impact on our.

[00:16:42] John: Well, first of all, that, term Dean of cold war studies is something that I think is going to be on my tombstone or in my opening, but it actually originated as a prank by a colleague years ago.

[00:16:57] so it’s been taken off ever since, even by [00:17:00] the New York times. So I guess I’m stuck with that. There is an official Dean of culvert studies, just to clarify that aspect. I think the important things to know about this almost half century of cohort are the fact that it remained cold.

[00:17:16] For sure it did not become a world war three. We got through it. The costs were enormous. But the crises were managed and there were plenty of other earlier periods in history when multiple crises developed that simply escalated to world war that happened in 1914, it happened again in 19 39 41.

[00:17:38] And so the circumstances that caused this period of intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet. Not to erupt in world war three, I think are still highly relevant today. Maybe all the more. So given the crisis in Ukraine that we now confront.

[00:17:56] Cara: absolutely. And actually I was going to ask you about this later, but it feels [00:18:00] really appropriate to jump right in.

[00:18:01] I mean, many of us, I have three young children. There are things that we were talking about at the dinner table. Wouldn’t have imagined questions that they have specifically about what is going on in Ukraine. so help us a little bit here because it was going all the way back to 1922 under Lennon.

[00:18:18] Ukraine was one of the original republics within the Soviet union, and then Stalin’s forced famine in the third. Killed between three and 4 million Ukrainians and Ukraine didn’t regain its independence until the collapse of the, what we would call the USSR. So given what’s going on now can you help us understand the relationship between the cold war and this current moment?

[00:18:43] Like, what is it. That we need to know about what is clearly this standing goal to dominate Ukraine?

[00:18:50] John: Well, I think it has two initials. They are VPP and they stand for Vladimir Putin who actually did an amazing thing the other day. He [00:19:00] criticized Stalin for having set up Ukraine as one part of a federal union, it used to be the union of Soviet socialist republics.

[00:19:08] And that meant Ukraine was to have a status equal to that the Russian Republic, and to be able to rush Republic and so on. And this is precisely what futon is seeking to deny Putin is claiming there is no such thing as Ukrainian nationality. Ukrainians are all Russians. They are just little Russians and Putin considers himself to be a great Russian bigger than they are.

[00:19:33] This is very primitive stuff. This is going back to an earlier period before the Bolshevik revolution to the age of the czars to the old imperialisms of the 19th and 18th and 17th century to the interface between the authoritarian rule and religious Orthodox. So these are mentalities that I think maybe Peter, the great art I’ve in the terrible might have found [00:20:00] reasonably congenial.

[00:20:01] And they’re surprised today to have them emerging in this age, throwbacks as they are. And I think what it shows is actually the limits of authoritarianism. It shows what. When you entrust the running of a state to a single person and have no means of replacing that person, he’s there for life. Is he going to get wiser and more sophisticated and more experienced as he ages more adept, more agile, more.

[00:20:33] No, none of those things, he’s going to get rigid. He’s going to get cranky. He’s going to get blind is going to get deaf. And that is what we see with Putin is the aging of an autocrat who I think for the reasons of the disaster that he is inflicted upon himself will not much longer being.

[00:20:52] Cara: Wow. a lot to process. And given the remarks of our own president the other day about the, that he should not be empowered. Something that I [00:21:00] think many people are thinking, but nobody of that stature has said out loud.

[00:21:03] John: Well, not, it may not have been the most politic thing to say, but it is the truth.

[00:21:08] Yeah,

[00:21:09] Cara: absolutely. you want to appeal to her for your biography of George F Kennan and he was known as the architect of America’s containment policy towards Soviet communism, which really defined foreign policy in our era. could you talk about his life and his influence on 20th century voltage?

[00:21:27] John: Well, Ken was from Wisconsin, grew up in Milwaukee, but he became one of the very first of the young foreign service officers who were trained in Russian affairs. This was in the 1920s and in the 1930s. And so he was there when we opened diplomatic relations with Moscow in 1933, he was there during style lands, great purges.

[00:21:48] He was there in bark to but when. War ended. And when it became apparent that the Alliance, the wartime Alliance we had with the Soviet union was going to turn [00:22:00] into a geopolitical rivalry that we vanquished one authoritarian only to give rise to a second. Authoritarian, Washington was scratching its head, wondering what to do.

[00:22:10] We don’t want to have another war, but at the same time, we don’t want to peace style in the ways that if there was a peace. And so there was a search for the third one. Which would be neither more nor a peacemaker. And this is for Kennan in a lonely moment in a cold bedroom and Moscow dictated the longest telegram ever received in the state department.

[00:22:33] He was so exasperated with the state department for asking this question that he just let them have it, but this became the basis for the grand strategy. The long telegram became the company. Strategy which proposed a third way which was let the contradictions within the Soviet system itself, bring it crashing down.

[00:22:55] Canon was confident that those contradictions existed. One of the biggest ones was the [00:23:00] one I’ve already mentioned about the futility of authoritarian rule. And Kennan was convinced that sooner or later The leaders of the Soviet union themselves would come to understand that their system was unworkable.

[00:23:14] They would change it from within, and we would not have to change it from, without that was the strategy kind of, and thought it would take maybe 15 years. It took closer to 45 years, but the leader that Kennan had foreseen did in fact emerge in 1985, and this is garbage. Who did say very quickly after taking power, we cannot continue in this way.

[00:23:36] And ultimately changed the nature of the Soviet Union. I think what’s a hope of saving the Soviet union, but the changes themselves brought down the Soviet. And that was something that made Mr. Kennan pretty nervous when that happened. But his strategy was proven.

[00:23:55] And I repeatedly, because I was working with him at that time, [00:24:00] tried to convince him that his strategy had been correct, and he just would not have it. He could not understand it. He could not fathom how his strategy could have been implemented successfully by an actor who had become president of the United States.

[00:24:16] And this of course was Ronald Reagan. So it kind of never quite got over the. Of having his strategy put into effect most effectively by a movie.

[00:24:26] Cara: That’s actually really, really fascinating. And so he was present in many ways, but as you write about he also really had a deep knowledge of deep understanding of Russian culture, the Russian people.

[00:24:42] And you observed that through his work during the cold war that humanities saved the world. Can you talk to us a little bit about how his knowledge. Russian literature like Tolstoy and checkoff helped him to really understand the character of the Russian people and predict that Soviet communism would [00:25:00] not persist

[00:25:01] John: well.

[00:25:02] This is what the study of culture and the study of language and the study of literature and the study of poetry. Do for you. They help to define a culture. And the culture is the underlying sentiment of the people. That’s why Russian culture is different from German culture, which is different from French culture.

[00:25:19] It’s why Texas culture is different from Massachusetts cultures are psychos. And if you want an understanding of a country, you have to know the deep cultural roots, and that’s how you get there. You don’t get there by putting forward abstract theories. That are going to claim that all people are going to behave online because they don’t do that.

[00:25:37] And this is why the humanities are important. It’s that deep dive into culture that allows you to understand country. Ironically, I think Kennan had a better grasp of Russian culture than he did American culture. I think partly because all the time he spent overseas partly because he was Hypercritical of his own country.

[00:25:59] He had [00:26:00] many blind spots and really was a sharper observer of the Russian people. Then he was of his own people.

[00:26:07] Cara: So you mentioned Kennan as being surprised that his plan would be carried out by an actor from California. Right. But now you’ve also observed in your work that principled intelligent democratic leadership incredibly important. And we’ve seen that in the form of many actors in the Western world and other places, of course, but from Pope John Paul, the second Winston Churchill, et cetera, can you talk a little bit.

[00:26:37] About what it means to have intelligent principle democratic leadership and kids need to know. You know, this is a show that, which a lot of educators listen. what would you want young children to know about the importance of

[00:26:48] John: leadership? But I would just say on this point about actors probably the most influential person in the world today is a former comedian who happens to be [00:27:00] president and president Xeljanz.

[00:27:02] Who got to be president of Ukraine by playing the precedent of Ukraine. And I’ve been watching his son series servant of the people, which is well worth watching. So that’s an irony that historians are going to puzzle over for a very long time. But if you think about it leading requires influencing people, knowing how to reach people, how to communicate with people and many of the greatest leaders while they have not been professional actors, they certainly had the instincts of actors.

[00:27:32] Certainly Franklin Roosevelt had those instincts Teddy Roosevelt had those instincts Lincoln had those instinct. Go back as far as Napoleon or, the first queen Elizabeth, they all had those instincts, the instincts of an actor through dramatic performance, through courageous actions, through the ability to make great speeches through the capacity to instill a sense of drama in what is happening even in everyday life.[00:28:00]

[00:28:00] Zelinsky has that as did Pope John Paul and Ronald Reagan and Margaret. So he’s going to be regarded as one of the greatest actors Selinsky of the 21st century in the sense of his capacity to move the world, which is what he’s doing right now. And that is leadership leadership and performance are very closely linked to each other.

[00:28:22] It seems to me,

[00:28:23] Cara: he certainly , has moved the world and has all eyes on him. So, yeah. Just talk a little bit more. I can’t let you go without asking another question about the current moment and the cold war era the rise of many murderous dictators from Stalin to mouth. Right?

[00:28:42] And is this where there was a staggering death toll associated with the cold war? Not only in the Soviet union, but in China, in Cambodia, but since the end of the cold war, many would say that the. Has been less resolute towards China and towards Putin’s [00:29:00] Russia. And you can hear this today and people saying, some people say, no, we have to stand down.

[00:29:06] we can’t start. What we’re three and others today. We’re not doing nearly enough. how can we simply stand by? Can you talk a little bit about why you think the west has taken this approach?

[00:29:17] John: Well, it’s because the west is democratic it’s because the west has representative government representative government pulls you in six or eight different directions at once.

[00:29:27] You don’t focus on any one thing, you try to focus many things and this. Sometimes to a certain absentmindedness or lack of focus in one area or two areas or whatever. We were accused of neglecting domestic policy during the cold war. I think we maybe focused more on domestic policy in the post-Cold war period and to some extent neglected what our foreign policy priorities should be.

[00:29:54] But the new crisis that has developed has certainly seized the democracies and the democracies. [00:30:00] Decisively within this last month, there’s never been anything quite like this rallying of the democracies that suddenly has happened. And this shows the flexibility of democracy so they can recover very quickly and they can accomplish great things, even though they appear to have been distracted.

[00:30:19] So that’s where we are right now. And that’s why I think we have witnessed really the high watermark of post cold war authoritarianism with what’s happening in Ukraine. And what’s going to happen to president and Putin. And certainly in the lessons that the Chinese must be drawing from his experience as they consider what they might do or might not do about Taiwan.

[00:30:43] And it seems to me, the democracies have surprised them. The democracies have surprised themselves. And all of us in the democracies have much to benefit and to learn from this experience, maybe I’ll be a historic turning point.

[00:30:59] Cara: [00:31:00] Absolutely. And let’s hope that it’s a turning point that comes to a swift end.

[00:31:04] and that the violence. Students for the people of Ukraine. We can’t let you go without asking you to read a passage from, one of your books, professor Gaddis. And we would be just so delighted to hear what you’ve chosen.

[00:31:18] John: Well, and writing a book, you always have to try to end with a portentous passage of some sort and some you later regret having written and others sound pretty good.

[00:31:29] Even after something like 15 years so. So this is from my book, the cold war, a new history, which was published in 2005. it’s just a paragraph. When is the concluding program? There was to be sure a great deal to regret about the cold war, the running of risks with everyone’s. The resources expended for useless armaments, the environmental and health consequences of massive military industrial complexes, repression [00:32:00] that lighted the lives of entire generations, that loss of life, that all too often accompanied it.

[00:32:06] The still for all of this and a great deal more. The cold war could have been worse, much worse. It began with a return of fear and ended in a triumph of hope, an unusual trajectory. For great historical upheavals. It could easily have been. Otherwise the world spent the last half of the 20th century having its deepest anxieties, not confirmed.

[00:32:32] The binoculars of distant future will confirm this four had the cult word taken a different course. There might have been no one left to look back through them. That is.

[00:32:44] Cara: Well, that may very well be required reading. I would say , for American high schoolers to learn about the cold war professor John Lewis, Gaddis has been such a pleasure and an honor to have you with us today.

[00:32:56] Thank you so much for your time. And I hope that [00:33:00] once we get. Has this critical and difficult moment in our world history. Maybe we can turn to you to reflect upon it with us again. So thank

[00:33:11] John: you so much, sir. Okay. If I’m still here I would be happy to do it. Well,

[00:33:16] Cara: we’ll look forward to that. Thanks so much for your time.

[00:33:20] That was wonderful.

[00:33:21] As always listeners, we’re going to close it out with our tweet of the week and this one out of nola.com on a new Orleans, a 100 year old rule bands jazz in new Orleans schools.

[00:33:56] It may finally be reversed school board. President Olin [00:34:00] Parker said the flouted rule was rooted in racism and in fact listeners, thank goodness. So I guess this rule. It had not actually been enforced, but we can imagine don’t have to imagine much, That it was rooted in extreme racism as this type of music was associated with, as our producer, Jamie Gass, put it, some back then would call it “the devil’s music,” which is ridiculousness, especially this is American music by any measure, folks at any rate rule overturned a small, if not super delayed victory

[00:34:33] Listeners it’s been lovely to be with you this week. We are wishing all the best to our wonderful friend and my usual partner, Gerard Robinson, and a huge thank you to Charlie Chieppo. Gerard and I will be back next week. Speaking with Dr. G Edward White. He is the David and Mary Harrison distinguished professor of law at the university of Virginia school of law and the author of the three volumes.

[00:34:56] Law in American history from Oxford university [00:35:00] press until then stay safe and have a wonderful.[00:36:00]

Recent Episodes:

POLITICO’s Peter Canellos on Justice John Marshall Harlan & Plessy v. Ferguson

Mr. Canellos delves into Harlan's upbringing in a prominent slaveholding family, his Civil War service in the Union Army, and his rapid rise in Kentucky politics as a Republican. He highlights John Harlan’s mixed-race half-brother Robert Harlan and key legal precedents like the notorious Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which influenced Harlan's views on race and equality. 

Colonel Peter Hayden on U.S. Cyber Command & National Security

General Counsel of U.S. Cyber Command, Colonel Pete Hayden, shares insights about growing up in western Massachusetts, attending law school, his military service, and emphasizes the legal aspects of his national security work. Col. Hayden discusses Cyber Command's mission, distinguishing it from the NSA, while stressing the importance of defending the nation in cyberspace.

Hoover at Stanford’s Stephen Kotkin on Stalin’s Tyranny, WWII, & the Cold War

Dr. Stephen Kotkin explores Stalin's origins, consolidation of power, and his Communist despotism. Kotkin delves into Stalin's cunning political maneuvers, his complex relationships with other Soviet leaders like Lenin and Trotsky, and the devastating consequences of his regime, including the forced collectivization and mass starvation of millions.

Johns Hopkins’ Ashley Berner on Educational Pluralism & Democracy

Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy director, Dr. Ashley Berner discusses educational pluralism's role in improving K-12 performance, exploring European models and the impact of U.S. school choice programs. Dr. Berner analyzes universal ESAs and vocational-technical schooling, addressing persistent academic struggles and civic knowledge gaps.

39th U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky for National Poetry Month

 Boston University professor, Robert Pinsky discusses his memoir Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet; the enduring influence of sacred texts like the Psalms; and the wide cultural significance of classic poets like Homer and Shakespeare.

U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hilary Crow on K-12 Civics Education

U.S. Chamber Foundation VP, Hilary Crow discusses the state of K-12 civics, emphasizing the Chamber Foundation’s role in addressing America’s wide civic education deficits. Crow highlights a recent national civics survey, alarming civic literacy gaps, and links between political unrest and our nation’s educational shortcomings in K-12 civics.

UCLA’s Ronald Mellor on Tacitus, Roman Emperors, & Despotism

Dr. Mellor delves into the enduring influence of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, on both America’s Founding Fathers and contemporary understanding of politics and government. He discusses Tacitus's insights on the early Roman emperors, unchecked authority, moral judgment of leadership, and the decline of the Roman Republic, as well as ancient lessons for modern governance.

Tufts Prof. Elizabeth Setren on METCO’s Proven Results

Prof. Setren discusses her recent study of METCO, a pioneering voluntary school desegregation program under which Massachusetts students in Boston and Springfield are bused to surrounding suburban districts. She discusses METCO's history, the academic performance of students in the program, enrollment challenges, long-term benefits, and disparities among students.

Pulitzer Winner Joan Hedrick on Harriet Beecher Stowe & Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Prof. Hedrick discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe's wide literary influence on U.S. history. From her abolitionist activism to the publication of international bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin, they explore Stowe's New England upbringing, anti-slavery convictions, and lasting impact on American literature and social reform in the 19th century.

Dr. Adrian Mims on The Calculus Project & STEM

Dr. Mims navigates through the contentious "math wars" and underscores the pivotal role of Algebra I as a gateway to higher math. He also evaluates the negative impact of Common Core math standards, and proposes strategies to combat pandemic-induced learning setbacks and bridge the gap in math proficiency between American students and their international counterparts.