Friday, February 29, 2008

RIP William F. Buckley

I was never a huge fan of him personally, because quite simply he was too erudite for me. I've always enjoyed National Review, but my eyes skated right over WFB's columns. The suave sussuration of his voice got between me and whatever he was saying on Firing Line too, much more than his formidable vocabulary. It's entirely my loss, I admit.

His importance to the defense and then triumph of liberty in the world cannot be overstated, however. The most consequential event in my adult lifetime would have to have been the West's victory in the Cold War. WFB's meditation on the fall of Soviet Union was printed in NR's Sept. 23, 1991 issue is worth reading in full, if you have access to an online periodical database. It struck me so much that I remembered enough of it to find with a keyword search just now. Have a sample:

"IN THE first issue of NATIONAL REVIEW, published on November 19, 1955, we announced that we were ``irrevocably'' at war against Communism, and that we would oppose any substitute for victory. Thirty-six years later, Communism was banned within the Soviet Union. [...]

"A new Soviet leader, having recognized that Afghanistan would not be conquered, attempted to revive the morale of a deadened culture with injections of freedom, and its results were magical, the whole Soviet thinking world suddenly heard from, intoxicated by the glasnost license. Structural reforms were, if not permitted, at least debated. The final failure of the long design to overcome Europe, frustrated now by American nuclear missiles, vitiated the importance of continuing military colonization of Eastern Europe; and one after another they peeled off. The debated reforms brought a crisis, the sentiment hardening all over the land that there had to be not talk about reforms, but reforms; and on the eve of the first important one of these, a reconstitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist states, the dissenters raised their mailed fist in a final show of defiance. Within 48 hours, the mandarinate that controlled the principal instruments of force, the KGB and the military, fell. We would learn that the eight leaders who sought to stem the tide were during most of those critical hours drunk on vodka. They had for most of their lives been intoxicated by more noxious matter. Before the end of the week, the Communist Party was legally suspended.

"We won.

"I am uniquely situated to summon the memory of men and women associated with this journal, whose birth was substantially motivated by the historical calling for a moral-analytical journalistic distillery to animate the resistance to Communism. [...T]he spirit was regenerated, and every month, every year, the writers in NATIONAL REVIEW did what they could to press hope, and to maintain the moral perspective. We are stly proud that one of our readers became the leader of the Free World, who exercised the critical voice in the critical deliberations of the Eighties.

"And, on bended knee, we give thanks to Providence for the transfiguration of Russia, thanks from those of us who lived to see it, and thanks to those, departed, who helped us to understand why it was right to struggle to sustain the cause of Western civilization."

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