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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  May 11, 2013 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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who you're talking about. i think the service for ridgway, died in 98, 1993, no one knew who he was. you in the military of this man more than any other. nobody had really known what happened to him. he just sort of faded away. i tried to bring public attention to people that are out of the collective attention span. >> that is just a little taste of victor davis hanson's newest book, military book, to save your generals is the title. if you go to you will be able to read see many videos with victor davis hands and talking about his books, as well as a longer version of him in fresno talking about this book. you're watching book tv on c-span2. book tv ..
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>> host: hello christian caryl. we are here to talk about your terrific new book, "strange rebels" 1979 and the birth of the 21st century. i am going to let you explain in a second why it is that 1979 was the crucial hinge point to history but let me first start out with a little bit of explanation for what i think is a really unusual book that you have done.
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christian for those of you joining us today is a longtime news correspondent creature theatre to the new york review of books as well as my colleague and contributes to foreign-policy magazine where i am the editor-in-chief. i think you have done some very unusual things with this book which is that you have managed to do in a way the impossible, linking together in one place margaret thatcher and ayatollah khamenei as characters in a unified narrative about the great counterrevolutionary year of 1979 and a very provocative that this was the year in which basically the backlash or the return of markets and religion to global politics in a big way signaled a counterrevolution toward the reactions of the
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earlier post-war era. you know, how did you come up with that? who could possibly write a book that says margaret thatcher deng xiaoping, the ayatollah khamenei, the communists and the iranian revolutionary having, nevermind pope john paul ii and the resurgence of religion as a factor in polish national labor which is a whole fascinating part of the book. how did you come up with putting these things together? >> guest: it had a lot to do with my reporting in afghanistan after 9/11. you were there too. we actually, if memory serves me we actually stayed in the same house for a while. you were with "the washington post" and i was with "newsweek" and that house struck me at the time and had this shag carpeting and particular light fixtures and it was a ranch style house just like the kind of houses we were growing up in the 70s when i was a kid.
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i was kind of struck by that. when you win out in kabul and were driving around in american cars and sometimes with eight-track tape players in them and we all remember what those were, the ministry buildings were built in the 1970s and then when he went to the bookstore and cobbled you found all these great postcards and books about afghanistan in the 1970s. what all of this showed was that afghanistan was actually an up-and-coming country in the 1970s. it was really going somewhere and then in the end of the 1970s, history starts running in reverse as it were. the more time i spent in afghanistan the more i felt myself wondering about that. you shouldn't take this as as a self-evident thing for an entire country goes into reverse. and during my reporting over the past couple of years i began to notice similar things in other places and i began thinking about what happened near the end
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of the 1970s. i realized if you look at it globally it's a very very important moment. we tend to focus in the united states on the 60s, western europeans tend to focus on the 60s but if you look at it from a global perspective i don't think it looks quite that way in my book was kind of an exploration, an attempt to figure out why this was so. >> host: let's take the five and take them quickly. you have afghanistan and i always thought that house to me was like "the brady bunch." it was literally a copy of the house and "the brady bunch" with the open staircase you know that the family would come down and yet it has been most recently occupies by al qaeda at least that is what we were told. that is a disclaimer that a great point that you made. afghanistan and the communists
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take over of afghanistan which happened in 1979, china, the rise of deng xiaoping and the beginning of a turn towards the merchant annan and two now this cultural revolution. poland as you mentioned and the election of pope john paul ii and his return to his homeland after the precursor of the solidarity movement. great britain and the election of margaret thatcher and the british economy which i think is really been lost as a part of that political narrative of britain after thatcher and coming back to that and number five of course the one probably most people think of first when they think of 1979, the iranian revolution, a shot in the hostage crisis in 1979. wow, that's an awful lot of ground to cover but let's start with thatcher. there was a huge outpouring of
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tributes to thatcher on her death with magazine covers. your book takes apart some of the myths of margaret thatcher. >> guest: i try to do that. it's always a challenge because you want to show why someone is worth knowing about. there have been a lot of revisionist history of thatcher and a lot of people correcting some misperceptions of her but of course first you have to establish why she was in port in the first place and very few people would dispute that she was hugely and immensely important. as a transformative figure she has generated a lot of myths and for example we think of her, american conservatives now think of her as an icon of conservatism. well guess what? she was in favor of national health insurance. she never seriously tried to dismantle the national health system ticket she knew how popular it was. she voted for the law to
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criminalizing homosexuality. she never interfered with gun control. when she had a chance she voted for abortion, so the social issues which sometimes are very different opinions with american conservative she doesn't look like a traditional conservative at all. one of the most interesting stories is her relationship with ronald reagan. they were very close and they really adored each other but they were fourth very intense and intense when it came to defending the national interests of their respective countries. and make no mistake margaret thatcher even when it came to ronald reagan was not shy about defending our national interest. >> host: she wasn't shy about much. the economy in many ways it rises or falls. >> guest: yes, we live now in a world where it's taken for granted that capital has almost
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no barriers at all and one of the first thing she does when she became prime minister was she dismantled capital controls in great britain. there was a period in britain where they wanted to leave the country you have to fill out a form and then they would give you 50 francs or something if you are going to france. you actually have this whole bureaucratic procedure and she did away with all that. that was important requisite for what came later, the huge deregulation project that turned london into a european and global financial center. but we take all the stuff for granted today, right? we just assume that this is kind of a given. we assume that the big companies should, the multinational corporation should not be owned by governments. this is another legacy of hers that i think endures. perhaps the legacy hasn't endured because we face such different conditions.
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austerity i think is a good example. she was very austere and her financial policies and those sorts of policies are really coming under attack a lot these days. i think economically she was hugely important in shaping this market-oriented world that we live in today but you know by no in a aspects of legacy remained in place. >> is striking how much she has invoked sort of the patron are the modern patron of austerity politics and that may well be the reason that her successor david cameron the current leader of great britain embarked on that path, that path is a response to the financial crisis of 2008. she has been much invoke in the conditions of today bear no resemblance to the kind of massive labor strikes and heavily nationalized economy that she was dealing with in 1979. >> guest: exact way. people forget for example that
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she did reduce the impunity of high rate of personal income tax in britain. incomprehensible, right? no country hasa pesonal income tax rate like that today but at the same time she raised taxes on consumption because she believed in a balanced budget. she was willing to raise taxes to make them balance and thus she was quite different from ronald reagan who you know about enormous deficits to build up and caused friction between the two of them. and when american conservatives now positioned themselves as part of her legacy, i really wonder if they are paying attention to that part of it she was such a budget hawk and she was not averse to raising taxes to make the books balance. >> host: that is one of the things that comes through and is striking in the history of her early part of her tenure is the willingness to use all the tools that she saw in the toolkit of government. that certainly is not addressed
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in the american conservatives on capitol hill and dealing with the budget crisis here. so sometimes history gives us questions and sometimes we don't learn. i think that brings me right to kind of she was a real lightning rod centrist of the book in iran and afghanistan. those are both countries that are very much front issues in the united states today in terms of policies that frankly are still discussed in the many ways we are dealing with a legacy of the tumultuous 1979 and both of those countries but frankly i'm not sure we have come up with a better way to negotiate with the iranians then we did at the disastrous time time of the hostagetaking in afghanistan and how we work -- to find itself enmeshed in the world there.
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the war in afghanistan is now the longest war in u.s. history by a long shot. let's start with iran for example. what surprised you as you delve into the history of? something we feel like we know but then i think you turned up a lot of things that they probably didn't know it or had forgotten. >> guest: the most fascinating thing when i delved into the iranian revolution besides the blend of the old and the new was the revolutionary traditionalism , right? it was the revolution ended overthrew the shah but it was a conservative revolution. it was a revolution staged in part by men in white beards, turbans and they allied themselves in the beginning of that revolution with nonislamic democratic secular in some cases nationalist democrats and a portion of the left. ayatollah khamenei was very smart in the way that he talked
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like a leftist. he loves talking about imperialism and colonialism and the fight against american hegemony and he was very very good at incorporating that sort of rhetoric. which plato huge played a huge role in bringing the leftists and the other revolutionaries into his coalition. he discarded them. but even today i would say that the iranians still have some very interesting characteristics that he can trace directly back to the revolution. yet this congregation of an elected parliament and elected president which is the legacy of the democratic revolution shall we say and then you have the supremely pure who is really appointed by the other clerics and who exercises the authority. even today, more than 30 years after the revolution we still see a power struggle between the president and people who support him and the supreme leader. there have been power struggles
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like this since the day the islamic republic was founded. i'm fascinated by the way that legacy that they ayatollah khamenei established continues to shape that country today very clearly. >> host: it is perfectly woven with another presidentpresident ial election coming up in just a few weeks in june and i think you will see that tension as well as america continues to struggle with the question of who really makes decisions in today's islamic republic? who can renegotiate with and another striking thing was the internal american divisions at the highest levels of the u.s. government over how we should approach this new much more threatening iran and from the very beginning you chronicle how secretary of state vance was much more in favor of negotiating a more conciliatory stance than brzezinski at the
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time. the national security adviser to president carter took a much harder line and if you take names you could be talking on today's front page about the internal division within the united states government. >> guest: yeah and of course many are similar today. nobody had a friend countered an islamic revolutionary movement like this. people did not know what to make of it. people at the time were looking for all kinds of comparisons and for example there were people comparing ayatollah khamenei to gandhi. what other comparison do we have? yes a religious leader that let an independent struggle. it was that simple of them may look at this policy feud if that is not putting too much on a between secretary state in the national security adviser at the time. what you see us competing views about what this whole thing means in what's going on here.
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because it was very hard to understand at the time. we have to remember the word islamist and didn't even exist at the time. the islamic revolutionary was pretty new. >> host: and two points or want to follow up on. one, the historical point is striking if you recall in historical terms what role the hostagetaking of the american diplomat played in resolving that internal power structure. in fact that was the key moment in which this balance between a more elected democratic form of government and a harder line clerical form of government was resolved in part because of the internal political success of taking the american hostages and using that in a way that i think many americans wouldn't be familiar with. see exactly and that's another thing that i wanted to examine in my book because quite naturally and understandably and rightly we americans tend to look at the hostage crisis from
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an american viewpoint. how could they possibly violate all of these diplomatic laws and traditions by holding our diplomats hostage? people understandably and rightly very exercised over this but at the time people tended to pay less attention to how that factored into these internal conflicts within the iranian revolutionary -- and as you say ayatollah khamenei very skillfully use the hostage crisis to undermine his secular liberal opponents, branding them as agents of america and enshrines the principles of clerical rule. from then on really he had no challenges. >> host: i think of terry striking and in terms of his present-day role you make a point about this being almost the key moment in the creation of modern political islamism as we know it. it sounds a lot like what is going on in egypt these days.
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what is going to happen in egypt and what of the toppling of the post-mubarak regime mean? we don't really know yet but it seems like they can be parallel between the rise of the muslim brotherhood and what happened in a sort of early vacuum and jostling for power between a whole bunch of different political factions in the cairo revolution and a bunch of western oriented democrat -- they were the ones who are in control now. i wonder if that goes in the story of the revolution in iran and? >> guest: absolutely, absolutely and i think what we are seeing right now is the process where the muslim brotherhood, for example now the muslim brotherhood which controls the presidency in the parliament in egypt is showing signs of cracking down on the judicial branch and putting in
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judges who are amenable to the muslim brotherhood. again this looks very much like iran at a certain stage of the revolution there and the clerics extending their control over everything. i think the difference would be just that egypt 30 years later and we have the iranian islamic republic of iran as an example of a fundamentalist state can look like and it isn't necessarily so pretty. an economic basket case, very unstable and so even though the islamist right now are cementing their power over politics in egypt, i wonder if they are going to go quite so far as the iranians have and i wonder if there is at least some extent to which that mantle deters them from absolute power. right now it does not look very good but the big difference is
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also that the people in charge of egypt now are not clerics. they are not members of the theocratic regime. they are members of the muslim brotherhood who have appointed themselves to be defenders of religious politics in egypt. i think that also colors the situation a little differently but for the moment of course it does not look very good. >> host: in a way everything is relative because we go from iran to afghanistan which has an even more tragic narrative over the last 30 years and it depends in many ways with the soviet tanks rolling in to defend the regime they didn't project only want. i think that's an interesting take away from this sad history of coups and communist infighting that led to the soviet invasion in the first place. >> guest: that of course is a very important part of the
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story. you know when the british intervened in the 1970s the intervened several times in afghanistan and you'd never really quite want to go into in a stand. you always get kind of drawn in against your will by the internal politics of the place. that is what happened with the british and that's what happens with the soviets and the many respects that is what happened to us. we weren't that keen in getting involved with afghanistan in 2001 but we felt was something we have to do. >> host: that is the key part. other then there was a consensus across the political spectrum that the u.s. was going to do something in retaliation, but they have to find something that was not going to involve a footprint on the ground that would last a dozen years later and that is the part of the dysfunctional hostage situation on the ground. >> guest: the situation in afghanistan and 78 and 79 was
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just how different it was from what we face today. many things are radically different. there are no radical leftist parties are secular parties in afghanistan today. that is open pretty much wiped out but in the 1970s those were the powerful forces in afghanistan. the president mohammad khan for much of the 1970s was an effective modernizer not to shop by brand but he was -- by the afghan communists who began trying to remodel society according to their own utopian design and they very quickly ran aground with that. the whole country rose up against them and that is why the soviets had to come in. what is amazing is the way that invasion and almost unending civil war that has followed by the u.s. intervention of 2001 and after have completely wiped out that old afghanistan that we
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saw in the 60s and 70's that is really theoretically different. there were a lot of religious people in afghanistan at that time as well, and more in the countryside were quite conservative and it's always been a quite conservative country. if you walked around in kabul in the 1970s he would sir in skir and very few women in burkas. you would see women dressed in western-style clothing taking the many visiting tourists around to the tourist sites, radically radically different place. one of the things are true to do in my book is explore why change that radically. >> host: one of the most popular things we have ever run on our web site is a terrific photo called once upon a time in afghanistan. people just can't get enough of the pictures of women and pencil skirts and snazzy madmen era
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furniture and development projects and these groovy record hang out kind of clubs and stuff. we got a sense of afghanistan on a development trajectory and actually in that. met before, the u.s. was competing for influence in afghanistan say that both in building these big projects in the south and the tunnels that connected afghanistan north with the capital in kabul. these were moving society forward in significant ways though was a poor landlocked country. it's astonishing that such a thought experiment. there was an ultimate trajectory that was possible for afghanistan. after-the-fact we are like that was inevitable, wasn't it? what i like about your book is
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it actually urges us to get away from that lazy habit of saying oh yeah it always was this way. i think that is the core of this book, that once upon a time in afghanistan. a quick question and then we will move onto the next example. you and i both lived in russia. how did you come away from your study of the soviet engagement in afghanistan in terms of what was that in hastening -- are you one of those people that think no it have to do with the price of oil in the 1980s or do you think afghanistan hastened the soviet demise? >> guest: and one of those people that think that the soviet demise have a lot of causes. i don't think you can focus on one to the extent of the others. i think it was a conjunctive influence of several things. but i think afghanistan was one of the biggest and one of the
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most important. it made life difficult for the soviet military in terms of resources, just enormous resources. and most importantly it change the way the soviets involved a government. the government was forced to lie lie about a lot of the things it was doing. when soviets started coming home and seeing coffins it was not widely publicized. they try to keep the news from happening so it did a lot to undermine the authority of the government itself of among large swaths of the population. they also made the central asian republic of the soviet union very arrested and very turbulent in the way that they hadn't been before. 1979 by the way is also the year when the muslim population of the old soviet union really began to overtake the european population in the soviet union,
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at very interesting moment in soviet history. higher oil prices in the arms race with the united states can and a lot of these are the things that conspire to make life very hard for the soviet regime but i certainly do think the war in afghanistan was a major major factor. >> host: so let's go to the other rim of the soviet empire and the 1979 you had this really amazing spectacle of a polish pope and not only was he the first non-italian and western european but really it's your view that he started the series of rulings and the solidarity movement that became the unraveling if you will of soviet dominance in europe. what strikes you in the story of
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pope john paul ii? >> guest: the thing that strikes me is the way that the polls have described the impact we had. it was not just the pride in a polish pope. he became pope in 1978. the poles were extremely happy about that needless to say and the kremlin was extremely worried about it. but i think it has a great deal to do with the special quality of john paul ii. he was one of the most brilliant men to become pope and he spoke many many languages. he had to dock truths and was an incredible figure. he combined that intellect with a very easy charismatic way of dealing with ordinary folks. he was a parish priest because he did things with his parishioners. he went out and did sports with them and he attended their
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confirmations for their children. he was very much involved when their lives. that was the kind of guy he was. he was a remarkably unique individual and i think that played a big role. the other big thing that i think was the most interesting thing to me when i came back to look at the story again was the world that the pope would play in getting the poles to think about running their own country because when the pope arrived in 1979, the communist state basically set all right, this is your show. we are not we are not going to get involved in this. we will provide the security but you have to organize everything yourself. the poles rose to that task. they organized the trip. they managed the crowd and for a lot of poles they had grown up under the communist system and they were used to having the states do things for them. suddenly here they were
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organizing nine days of papal events were 11 million poles traveled to different parts of the country and it went off without a hitch. that was quite a revolution for many -- revelation for many poles in the precondition for solidarity and independent trade union in is meant. i don't think those two events are unrelated. >> host: religion as classical politics in opposition to public but can you really make a link and is there a link between the kind of religious opposition to communist authority that the pope offered to the poles and the religious opposition to the shah that the ayatollah offered to the iranians? is it a phenomenon or is it different? >> guest: i think they are different because the pope as far as conservatism and doctrinal matters, john paul ii,
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he had suffered under both nazi occupation of poland and the stalinist period colin so you've is really quite upset and he built up an entire personal philosophical direction based on the primacy of the human individual and human rights. i think khamenei did not have any view like that. the view that islam was everything and individual rights very often had to be superceded to that. i think in that perspective they were fundamentally if i may say different. there are some striking parallels and one of the interesting parallels is both of these men were mystics. in some ways they were very unusual in their religious beliefs. john paul ii had an intense mystical relationship to christ and the virgin mary. he was not your ordinary
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priests. his beliefs went off into some really amazing and unconventional rounds. ayatollah khamenei was also a practitioner of the mystical belief, things along the line of what we would call dubious him in sunni islam. there were many other clerics who regarded him as a practitioner of forbidden or really suspect ideas. what is very interesting is mysticism can lead to political activism leading to political actions by showing you the prospective ability of men and their whole bunch of different things but if you have a direct line to god, you might think you have a greater ability and the greater power to shape events in the world. that is something that i find to be an interesting parallel between these two men. >> host: where do you see the story of poland and the catholic
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church today? in many ways people perhaps have moved on or at least in eastern europe and have moved on from that and we have a new pope today and a story that very much moved out of europe where the church was on the decline. but does this chapter of your book have relevance today? >> guest: i think it does. the striking thing to me when you look at the history of the catholic church and politics in the 1970s and 90s is the way the church is very effective when it is, how can i put it, when it's given the opportunity and it's not aligned with the forces of the state. so in the philippines and even in south korea churches play incredibly powerful roles in mobilizing opposition and organizing opposition and certainly in eastern europe. then when you have a regular democracy, aul became very cozye
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state in poland and the poles suddenly realize they didn't like that so much. they like the church in opposition. and iran we see an interesting phenomenon with the church quote unquote have become the state and many opinion polls and studies actually undermine the position of islam in their friend because young people grow up seeing islam as part of the establishment. islam has lost oppositional cachet of power to defend the powerless. it has become part of the power structure so what i think is fascinating is in these cases we have seen the power of the church to marshal opposition but when it becomes part of the power structure ... that ability to become part of the establishment and the people don't think about it in the same way. that is something that i find very relativethe story which continues today. >> host: it's interesting because the other part of your
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book which is one of the major themes that has to do with incredible transformation in china, the opposition comes from within the upper echelon of the communist party and so you have an insurgency from on high if you will. that is the story of deng xiaoping and his return from the spanish and cultural revolution to unleashing probably one of the greatest -- of our lifetime. in a way, as is the biggest story that you tell. how do you crack into that when so many people have tried to tell that story? >> guest: that is a good question. i think it's a fantastic story and i think it's a story that a lot of people are forgotten. again like we take china as a capitalist country so for granted now and we seem to have forgotten that it was a wrenching and very difficult and unlikely change.
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>> host: and it was like north korea. >> guest: exactly, it was exactly like north korea except people making a transformation and transforming itself into something completely different. at the time it started rather small so the chinese certainly understood but a lot of people in the outside world didn't. one of the things that i enjoyed very much about this period was people at the time did not compare china's economic form to the united states or western europe for capitalist china entering the world trade organization would have gotten you sent to an insane asylum. people compare economic reforms to hungary or yugoslavia or east germany being an economic good a successful member. it goes to underline how unlikely and how surprising hap. and as i tell in the book, a
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great way to tell the story in china is by going back and looking at what people were looking at the time. i have the story where an american is brought to a place and told he should invest and he sees water buffalo and rice paddies and that place they took him to his notion should which has a population of new york city and the ipad was made there. so i think there are a lot of great ways to tell the story and some people told him at the time very visibly, there've been great books at the time in china but nowadays people have forgotten that story. i had a lot of fun trying to bring that to light. >> host: that raises a question that applies to china and i think across the stories that you look at in the book and that is how right or wrong were we at the time? as you look back into it and how the stories were covered at the time and instant histories that
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were written, deeply understand the historical events or were we really off the mark? >> guest: i think we missed a lot of the story at the time. you know the big story in 1979 for americans and the chinese was deng xiaoping's visit to united states at the beginning of 1979 which marked the diplomatic relations between the two countries and it was a huge, huge event. i think the economic changes going on in china at the time which would probably now regard as much more consequential and important were largely missed. people couldn't imagine how far they would go. people didn't understand how significant they were. when the soviets invaded afghanistan we could look at the memos and see what people were thinking in the carter white house. carter reacted quite toughly and before the invasion he was giving covert aid to the islamic rebels who are revolting against
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the afghan communist party government. but what was interesting when you look at this is people in the white house that this was part of some larger soviet plan and they thought it was like the soviets invading czechoslovakia or hungary to throw out communist party rule, that this was an extension of the brezhnev doctrine but what they didn't understand was that they didn't want to do this at all. they kind of, they felt they were forced into it by the rapid deterioration of the situation there. they were extremely reluctant to do it and when they actually made the decision, they didn't even have a proper paper that they all signed. it was this very vague memorandum where they didn't say what they were going to do. >> host: just like vietnam. >> guest: just like vietnam. they slid into it and they didn't really want to be there. i'm not sure the extent to which
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that was the case. we didn't understand what it improvisational was. >> host: you know, that is really interesting. the united states was involved of course as a significant player in all of the stories in a different way and get you have not put the u.s. front and center although they have deep relevance both to american history and also to decision-makers today. [inaudible] are we too self-involved to read a book about other people? >> guest: it's a good question. that was a conscious decision because i felt that as important as the united states is, it's not the only country in the world and this was the year i felt there was a lot of interesting things happening in
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the world. the united states was a part of all of these stories but is not at the center and in many ways it's reacting to them more than it is shaping them. i was trying with this book to write a truly global book. >> host: ronald reagan is not on the cover here and many people would say 1939 was a crucial year when he was about to be elected president in 1980 in the beginning of the republican revolution here in the united states. tc reagan as fitting into the story you are telling? >> guest: i would contend that he wasn't a player in 1979. he was starting to campaign against carter and he was aided port and domestic politician but i think his moment came a little bit later and that is why did include him them in this book. there are some very important events that predated the era. the moral majority was found in
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the united states of that was the start of evangelical, born-again entering directly in american politics and away they had before that was crucial to reagan's 1986 race but this moment i'm trying to capture here is a slightly earlier moment. for that reason i haven't really brought reagan into it. i just felt that he really belongs to a slightly later era. >> host: tell me about where you think 1979 fits in on those years that are kind of the hinges of history, the pivot points of history, 1789 and 1989 and most recently the arab spring revolution of 2011. where is 1979 on that spectrum in terms of importance? is it going to be one for the long-term books? are we going to be talking about it, about 1789 or 1848?
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host. >> guest: it was such an important turning point. i think it marks a really important moment when the domination of the ideas from the left, which really really played a huge role in the 20th century. even if you want a communist or socialist or social democrat you invariably find yourself reacting to these ideologies and i think what we have seen in 1979 is the rise of how would i put it, suddenly markets are no longer -- they are an ideology. islam becomes an ideology and it turns out that ideology repeats quite well with communism and social democracy. that was just talking to somebody the other day who read the book and much more
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were left us but he said will the left ever find a language that -- marxism did. i thought that was a very good question because i don't think it has. i think the left is still trying to find a response to these things and i think that is because of the things that happened this year and the changes that this year and issued it. and i think maybe this error might be drawing to a close. the ideological important people have to be different from what they are today. >> host: at it's such an interesting point you're making. i think it's a really important one because actually most of our conversations about the death of ideology have revolved around the collapse of communism later in 1989 up to the end of the 1991 soviet union. that conventionally speaking has, to the moment when ideology
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dies, and when leftism dies that you were in a sense saying no, that is exley wrong. the death of leftist ideology was really in 1979. it had this decade-long afterlife you could argue as events play themselves out from 1979 to 18 -- 1989. you could say there was the ideological consensus that had given birth in that year around religion that has yet to die. that is a very interesting take on things and it's certainly true that today's left is a very different one than the left when we were kids. >> guest: oh yeah. >> host: republicans love to call barack obama's socialist and talk to him as them as a european left-wing up and in reality those on the european left has accepted the basic what came to be known as the
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washington although you are arguing really that it belongs in an earlier hybrid read even the left accepts that basic principle about markets team threatened by the last two years. do you think that the financial crash of 2008 and the ongoing trauma associated with that in europe especially could define the end of that market oriented consensus? >> guest: i think it has in many ways. as i tell people that if you are 25 in the united states today and you can find a job and settle with $100,000 in college debt, i wonder if you will believe in capitalism the way somebody did who went to college in the early 1980s and was in a completely different world. i think that what has happened with the financial crisis is it deeply undermined a lot of our faith and capitalist institutions but again no one found her language to bring the
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oppositiooppositio n to that together. no one found it coherent ideological alternative to that. barack obama is a great example. i agree he does not fit the definition of the 1970s or 1980s socialist by any stretch of the imagination. he is something very very different. you mentioned united kingdom and of course it was one of tony blair's associates who said we are all thatcher eyes now. the members of the late labour party party say we are all thatcher eyes now. what i think is still missing is the opposite of being thatcher eyes. what is the coherent alternative to market consensus? the chinese have abandoned that a long time ago. i don't think it's being marxist-leninist. the russians have abandoned that but -- >> host: basically it's a
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pragmatic marketeer except for the people that are religious maybe. >> guest: exactly. we all know that there are big problems in the system but we haven't figured out an ideological alternative. >> host: your book in many ways is a history of ideas as well as how it shaped by those ideas and that's part of what makes it such an unusual book. but then it does go back to this question of you know is it relevant to the time we are living we are living in or have you captured a moment in time. you said earlier something that 30 years has already passed since really if you think about it, in 1979 they were close to world war ii as they are for us today. in a way what we are saying in 1979, that and a post-world war ii era of ideology and politics
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and sort of governing consensus in many of these countries, the shop iran as a good example. directly as a result of his father's bill seated alliance with the nazis in world war ii. we have arrangements it came about at the end of world war ii, finally reaching their endpoint in 1979. certainly that is true of the story of written. so are we reaching the endpoint? >> guest: is a great question. i think a lot depends on what works and what doesn't because you know again people need to put themselves back in the historical context. european welfare state in american welfare state delivered unprecedented prosperity after world war ii.
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people live better and the working classes in europe and the united states looks better than they had ever looked before, unprecedented and that really worked for a good 30 years. in the 1970s with the energy crisis, stagflation, the west hit a wall and they needed new solutions. it was clear the old model wasn't going to work anymore for whatever reason. i see two interesting parallels in the financial crisis because the financial crisis again showed us that our limited faith in markets with, that we do need some sort of alternatives or corrections perhaps would be a better way of putting it and some countries have tried to put in place corrections are somehow reform their market structures but we can't help but think that might not be enough to satisfy voters in this country in europe who are now having a very large time of it. the employment rate may be
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increasing but their enormous segments of the american population who are not benefiting from the growth that is going on. you can't help but wonder whether that will at some point turn into a fundamental discontent that has a really transformative effect. but i don't know. perhaps it will see that. >> host: so when you started on the book and it's been a long journey, were there things that surprised to? these are stories that you came into it knowing a fair amount about. >> host: >> guest: one thing that continue to surprise me is the extent to which a lot of people didn't really understand what was going on in china and took my wisdom at face value. there is a fun story in my book when deng xiaoping comes to the white house in 1979 and puts on a big steak dinner. they sit deng xiaoping down at the table with the actor shirley
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mcclain. she had just been to china a few years earlier with the documentary team and she is a good 70's leftist so she begins to gush to deng xiaoping about how they were out out of his farm and that this professor working on the farm. this was part of the cultural revolution. mcclain is going on and on to deng xiaoping about how the professor loved it and deng xiaoping listens to her and then he says, that is ridiculous. repressor should be teaching in universities. they should not be planting crops. that was pretty much his verdict of the cultural revolution. a lot of the chinese scholars at the time still bought into maoism and bought into this ideas. it is one of the reasons why it was so hard for them to understand the reforms going on in china. if you go back to the accounts at the time, a lot of the established china scholars just didn't quite get the story. they didn't understand what they
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were seeing. a lot of them were still wedded to these old images of maoist china and some were quite beleaguered. >> host: it's an argument for on the ground journalism and observation. the people you rely on where the british diplomat who just went out there and behaved as if he were a journalist and interviewed people and wrote down what he thought. >> guest: exactly. roger who is i'm happy to say still life and has an absolutely magnificent book that has withstood the test of time. precisely as you say he went out and he was on the ground and he got the story. he saw things very very pragmatically without an ideological lens and so he caught a lot of things that other journalists miss. >> host: that's interesting. ideology is or can be the enemy of history.
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>> guest: very much so. and i am struck when i look back at this period again by how the very ideological people didn't understand what they were seeing. they had a very good conversation with makia whom you might remember as the man who wrote a fantastic book about the evils of the saddam hussein regime in iraq and makia was a very condensed leftist. he was a trotskyite andy describes the server innings at the time of the iranian revolution. they were both trotskyists and he described how completely bewildering the array named revolution was deeply the fears of a struggle in the dictatorship and the things that were invoked at the time he just didn't understand it. it was completely nonsensical. so they try to write articles and their trotskyite journals explaining why the masses were temporarily being you know
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seduce by ayatollah khamenei and in the end he said they were completely flummoxed. he basically said this was the end of the lot of communist and socialist leaders in the middle east because there seems to be a viable alternative and people did not wanted. >> host: i think that is an important note and on. we are almost out of time but not entirely. i want to throw out the question we were debating before they came on which is what is not in the book, one of the most significant things you're talking about. there is a great other book or somebody in the rise of the personal computer which happens in the 1979 and 1980s time period. tc technology is playing a role even backstage with this new order breaks. >> guest: absolutely. the rise of telecommunications is important. ayatollah khamenei was an exile for most of the iranian revolution and communicated with his supporters by rand through
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the state-of-the-art telephone switching system installed by the americans for the shah. he could call up anybody in iran and it was important for the iranian revolution. with the help of satellite of course. satellite communication for very important. there were a lot of different levels in which the technology was influenced all this. pcs were not yet there but i think they're very much a part of it. the technological aspect really deserve to be gone to a lot more able -- deeply than i was able. >> host: tell me, if you were to follow up the book would you jump right in with 1980 or where's your next home and? does it go to 1979 and 1989? is that going to be the next part? >> guest: that's a great question. i think i'm going to work on something totally different. >> host: absolutely. it's really interesting in terms of the response you've gotten so
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far, what if you made up what the critics of had to say? >> guest: i'm very happy. i feel a lot of people got the bug. when you're writing this book you are sitting in a little room all alone and i'm wondering am i just a nutcase or a people going to understand the points i'm trying to make your? make your? so far i been gratified by the response and i think a lot of people have understood exactly what i is trying to say. of course i am making that argument to a certain degree but if you just want to read the story and examined the life of these incredible characters and the stories they are going through i think that is quite enough. you don't necessarily have to buy my larger argument about ideology and counterrevolution in things like that. you just enjoyed as a historical narrative i hope that i try to write a book that would have different levels, something for everyone. >> host: congratulations on the book and thank you again for this very interesting conversation. good luck with the book to her.
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>> guest: thanks very much. >> that was "after words" booktv's signature program and with authors with the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journals public policymakers legislators and others familiar with their material. "after words" airs every weekend on booktv at 10:00 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9:00 p.m. on sunday in 12:00 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" on line. go to and click on "after words" in the booktv series on the upper right side of the page. now on booktv a panel discusses the career and examines the speeches of former attorney general edwin levy who took office following the watergate scandal. he died in 2000. the panelists include attorney general eric holder, former
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attorney general john ashcroft, university of chicago law professor geoffrey stone and jack fuller editor of restoring justice and former special assistant to edwin levy. this is about an hour 20. ..


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