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In this context, we may turn to another question raised at the outset: in what ways do the typical events and practices of the Cold War differ from what came before? The bipolar system was new, and gave a different flavor to traditional practices as well as extending their scope. But the similarities undermine still further the credibility of the conventional picture.
On the Soviet side, for half a millenium, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Moscow had extended their sway over "all the Russias," creating a huge imperial state, though one far more backward than Western Europe and not closing the gap, and by 1914, "becoming a semi-colonial possession of European capital."37 Hardliners are quick to remind the victims of Gorby mania that "as a great power, Russia frequently deployed its armies into Europe and repeatedly crushed popular uprisings in central Europe," suppressing the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and Czech democracy in 1968 just as "Russian troops bloodily suppressed the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 and violently put down uprisings in Poland in 1831 and again in 1863-64." "Soviet troops occupied Berlin in 1945; Russian troops occupied and burnt Berlin in 1760." And indeed, "in pursuit of Russia's interests as a great power, Russian troops appeared many places where as yet Soviet troops have not," including Italy and Switzerland (Samuel Huntington).38 One "cannot assume," he continues, that the Soviets will not "revert to the bad old ways of the past"; inclusion of the Soviet occupation of Berlin in 1945 among these "bad old ways" perhaps reflects the current tendency to lend credence to the Nazi claim to have been defending Western civilization from the Bolshevik menace.
As for the United States, scale aside, changes induced by the Cold War were in large part rhetorical. Since 1917, intervention has been in self-defense against the Soviet threat -- including intervention in Russia itself immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution and the clandestine support for armies established by Hitler in the Ukraine and Eastern Europe into the 1950s.39 Before the Bolshevik revolution, similar actions were taken, but in fear of other menaces. When Woodrow Wilson invaded Mexico and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) -- where his warriors murdered and destroyed, reestablished virtual slavery, demolished the political system, and placed the countries firmly in the hands of U.S. investors -- the actions were in self-defense against the Huns. In earlier years, conquests and interventions were undertaken in defense against Britain, Spain, the "merciless Indian savages" of the Declaration of Independence -- in fact, anyone who was in the way.
Leading thinkers have never found it difficult to identify the culprits. In the early years of the Republic, Reverend Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College and a respected author and exponent of Puritan values, devoted a poem to the savage slaughter of the Pequot Indians. The colonists viewed the Pequot Indians "with generous eye," he wrote, and strove to gain their friendship, but were thwarted by "base Canadian fiends" and thus had no choice but to massacre them, men, women and children. Thomas Jefferson attributed the failure of "the benevolent plan we were pursuing here for the happiness of the aboriginal inhabitants of our vicinities" to the English enemy; "the interested and unprincipled policy of England has defeated all our labors for the salvation of these unfortunate peoples," and "seduced" them "to take up the hatchet against us." It is the English, then, who "oblige us now to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach." The English, not we, were thus responsible for "the confirmed brutalization, if not the extermination of this race in our America..." On the same grounds, he urged the conquest of Canada in a letter to John Adams, who agreed, writing that "Another Conquest of Canada will quiet the Indians forever and be as great a Blessing to them as to Us."40
The same theory was adopted when General Andrew Jackson rampaged through Florida, virtually annihilating much of its native population and leaving the Spanish province under U.S. control. His murderous Seminole War campaign was defended by John Quincy Adams in a letter to Minister to Spain George Erving that "has long been recognized as one of the most important state papers in the history of American foreign relations" (William Earl Weeks). The document impressed Thomas Jefferson as being "among the ablest I have ever seen, both as to logic and style," a judgment in which modern historians have concurred. So taken was Jefferson with this racist diatribe justifying Jackson's aggression and brutality that he urged wide distribution "to maintain in Europe a correct opinion of our political morality."41
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38 National Interest, Fall 1989.
39 See Turning the Tide, 198, and sources cited.
40 Richard Drinnon, Facing West: the Metaphysics of Indian-hating and Empire Building (U. of Minnesota, 1980), 68, 96f. Jefferson letters of 1812, 1813; John Adams, 1812.
41 Adams, Dispatch to Ambassador Erving, 1818. William Earl Weeks, "John Quincy Adams's `Great Gun' and the Rhetoric of American Empire," Diplomatic History, Spring 1990.