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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  May 13, 2013 12:00am-1:01am EDT

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mccain on campaign finance reform twice and his bill still was worthless. it's worthless as it was back then. he made the paulson 527. but at the end of the day but citizens united and bolack of the true campaign finance reform debate reform at that time the other situation today where a super pak comes along and we can take on carvel '04 on george bush, whatever side of the aisle you want to work with the super pact goes after peoples of the average member to counter that $3 million which is 10,000 a day. they take their stature and they go across the street and get on the television to the dcc or the rcc. ..
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the public can do an intervention on the hill, it's a beautiful place and they can make it better. so i address a lot of issues in the book, and i hope it's not just looked at as one issue or attacking one person. i'm not a bitter person. i spent time with the granddaughter today. get to go to india. if have a chapter on india.
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i get to do radio. people to the right or left or middle get their voice out there and tell people what is going on in their government. the downtownistic side of this is critical. so i'm happy. i'm not a person that is unhappy and i'm angry and i want to get everybody. but there are some things i had to tell. and i know it's going to cause some heartburn. my grandmother says there are two sharp halves. i want to thank everybody for coming. >> up next on book tv, this week, christian caryl and his brook, strange rebels, 1979 and the birth of the 21st century in it -- it's argued that a
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left-leaning consent sense developed across the world after world war ii and a counterrevolution-representing a new era, began in 199 -- 1979 with the election of margaret thatcher and the overthrow of the shah in iran. the show is about an hour. >> hello. we are here today to talk about your terrific new book "strange rebels: 1979 and the birth of the 21st century." i'm going to let you explain in a second why it is that 1979 was really 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. it's a labor of love. and christian is a long-time news week foreign correspondent,
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contributed to the new york review book, as well as my colleague, who contributes to foreign policy magazine where i'm the editor in chief, and i think you've done something very unusual with this book. you have managed to do in a way the impossible, linking together in one place margaret thatcher and the ayatollah, and the great counterrevolutionary year of 1979, and very provocative but this was a year that -- in which basically the backlash or the return of markets and religion to global politics in a big way, signaled a counterrevolution towards the reactions of the earlier postwar era. how did you come up with that? who could write a book that says, margaret thatcher, the
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communists, and the ayatollah, and the onan revolution north carolina have a common, never mind pope john paul ii and the resurgence of religion in a factor of polish. how did you come up with putting these things together? >> guest: had to thereto do with my reporting in afghanistan after 9/11. you were there, too. we actually stayed in the same house for a while. you were with washington post, i was with news week, and the house struck me at the time and had this shag carpeting and these tubular light fixtures, and ranch style house, like the kind of houses we were growing up in the '7s so when i was a kid. and i was struck by that. when you went outside in kabul you were driving floindz 1970s american cars, sometimes with eight track tape players in
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them, if you remember those. or the ministry buildings were built in the 1970ss, and in the book store you found all these great post cards and books about afghanistan 1234e9 70s. what all of this showed was that afghanistan was actually an up and coming country in the 1970s. it was going somewhere. and then at the enof the 1970s, wham, it hits a wall and history starts running in reverse, as it were. the more time i spent in afghanistan the more i found myself wondering about that. we shouldn't take this as a self-evidence thing when an entire country goes in reverse. and during my reporting over the past couple of years i began to notice similar things in other places, and i began connecting the dots and just thinking about what happened at the end of the 1970s, and i realize that if you look at it globally, it's a very, very important moment. we tend to focus the united
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states '60s, western europeans focus on the '60s, but from a global perspective, i don't think it looks quite that. my book was an attempt to figure out why this is so. >> host: let's take the five and tick them off quickly. afghanistan, and i always thought the house looked look the brady bunch. literally a copy of the house with the open staircase, and the family would come down in the opening scene, and it has been most recently occupied before "newsweek" took it over by al qaeda leaders, or at least that's what we were told. to make it more glamorous. but it's a great point you made. so, afghanistan, and the communist takeover of afghanistan which happenin' 1979. chine. china. the rise of dung xiaoping and his beginning of a turn towards
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the markets and an end to mao and his cultural revolution. poland, as we mentioned, the election on the polish pope john paul ii and his return to his homeland and the precursor of the solidarity movement. great britain, the election of margaret thatcher and the real thumb put over the british economy that has been lost as part of the historical narrative of britain after thatcher. so, i'm looking forward to coming back to that. and then number five, the one people thing about first, the iranian revolution. the toppling of the shah and the hostage crisis. that's an awful lot of ground to cover. let's start with thatcher. there's just been huge outpouring of honors for thatcher.
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and your book takes apart ofsome of the myth office margaret thatcher. >> guest: i tried to do that but it's always a challenge because you want to show why somebody is worth knowing about in the first place, right? there's been a lot of revisionist histories of thatcher, a lot of people correct something misperceptions but first you have to establish why she was important in the first place, and few people would dispute she is hugely important. but she had generated a lot of myths, and there are many myths about her, and for example, we think of her, american consecutives think of her as this icon of conserve conservatism. well, guess what. she was in favor of the national health energiance and never tried to did dismantle the system. she voted for the law when she was in parliament. she vote for the law decriminalizing homosexuality in britain she never feared into in
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gun control, and she voted for abortion. so these social issues in which brittons have different opinions than american conservatives, she opportunity look like a traditional conservative at all. one of the most interesting stories is her relationship with ronald reagan. there's no question she and reagan were very close. they really adored each other. but they were both very intense and intent when it came to defending the national interests of their respective countries, and make no mistake, margaret thatcher, enwhen it came to reagan, was not shy about defending her national interests. >> host: she wasn't shy about much. it was the economy that her legacy kind of rises or falls according to your account of it. >> guest: yes. for example, we live now in a world where it's taken for granted that capital can flow across bound without any barriers, and one whenever the very first things she did as prime minister she dismantled
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capital controls in great britain there was a period in britain when, if you wanted to leave the country, you had to fill out a form and they would give you 50 franks or something, if you were going to france. you had a whole bureaucratic procedure, and she did away with that. that was an important prerequisite that came later, the big bang, the deregulation that turned london into a financial center. we talk al this stuff for granted. we just assume this is the given. we assume that by companies should not -- multinational corporations should not be owned by governments. right? and this is another legacy of hers i think endures to this day. other parts of her legacy perhaps haven't endured because we face such different conditions. austerity is a good example. she was very, very austere in her financial policies, and that -- those sorts of policies are coming under attack a lot
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nowdays. so economically she was hugely important in shaping this market oriented world we live in today. by no means have all aspects of her legacy remained in place. >> host: it's striking how much she is invoke ited a the pattron or the modern patron of austerity politics and may well be a reason that her success that david cameron embarked upon the path in response to the financial crisis of 2008. she has been much invoked, even if actually the conditions of today bear almost no resemblance to the coined of massive labor strife and heavily nationalized economy she was dealing with in 1979. >> guest: exactly. people forget, for example, that she did reduce the punitively high rate of personal income tax in britain. at that time it was 83%.
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incomprehensible. no country has a personal income tax rate like that. but at the same time she raised taxes on consumption because she believed in balanced budgets. she was actually willing to raise taxes to make the books balance. and in this she was quite different from ronald reagan, who allowed enormous deficits to build up and this is actually quite a source of friction between the two of them. but when american conservatives now seek to position themselves as part of her legacy, i really wonder if they're paying attention to that part of it. she was such a budget hawk. not averse to raising taxes to make the books balance. >> that's one of the things that comes through strikingly in your history of her early part of her tenure, is the willingness to use all the tools she saw in the tool kit of government, and that certainly is not the direction that american conservatives on capitol hill have gone in dealing with the latest budget crisis here.
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so sometimes history gives us lessons and sometimes we don't learn them. right? >> guest: exactly. >> host: i think it brings me right to kind of two of the subjects of the book, iran and afghanistan. both countries that are very much front page news in the united states today in terms of policies that frankly feel stuck and in many ways we're dealing with the legacy of the tumult of 1979, and in both of those countries. frankly i'm not sure we have come up with a better way to don't with the iran -- to negotiate with the iranians than we did at the time of the hostage-taking. in afghanistan, have we learned the lessons of the last superpower to find itself in a war there? it's hard to say that when our war in afghanistan is now the longest war in u.s. history by a long shot. so, let's start with iran, for example. what surprised you as you delved
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into the history of this? something we feel like we know but you turned up things we probably didn't know or had forgotten. >> guest: i think the most fascinating thing to me of the iranian revolution is this blend of the old and the new. one called it revolutionary traditionalism. it was revolution. it over -- overthrew the shaw but it was revolution staged by men in white beards and turn bans and they alied himselfs with nonislamist democrats, secular, and the forces of the left, and ayatollah khomeini was smart in the way he talked like a leftist. he evidence of loved talking about colonialism and he was very, very good at incorporating
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that sort of rhetoric, which played a huge role in bringing the leftists and other refiners into his coalition but he discarded them. even today i would say the iranian system has some very interest characteristics you can trachedirectly back to the revolution. a combination of an elected parliament and elected president, which is the legacy of democratic revolution, and then you have the supreme leader, who is really appoint by the other clerics, and who exercises the ultimate authority. and even today, more than 30 years after the revolution, we still see a power struggle between the president, the people who support him, and the supreme leader, and there have been power struggles like this almost since the day the islamic republic walk -- was founded and never quite comes to rest, and just fascinated the legacy that
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ayatollah khomeini established and continues to shape that country today very clearly. >> host: relevant with another presidential election coming up in just a few weeks in june, and i think you'll see that tension as well as americans continue to struggle with the question of, who really makes decisions in today's republic? who can we negotiate with? and that's 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 cyrus vance had one point of view, much more in favor of negotiating a more conciliatory stance. bris sin ski, and then if you change the names, you could be
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talking -- writing a story on today's front page about the internal divisions within the united states government over how to approach iran. >> guest: yeah. i think those things are very similar today. the thing that was new then was that nobody had ever encountered an islamic revolutionary movement like this. people didn't know what to make of it. people at the time were looking for all kinds of comparisons. for example, people were comparing ayatollah khomeini to gandhi. he is a religious leader that led an independent religious struggle. that simple. and when you look at this policy feud between secretary of state and the national security adviser at the time, what you see is competing views out what this whole thing means. what's going on here? because it was very hard to understand at the time. we have to remember, nobody -- the word islamist didn't really even probably exist at the time.
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this whole idea of islamic revolutionaries, fundamentalists is new. >> host: two points i want to follow up. one, the historical point, it's striking to recall in historical terms what role the hostage-taking of the american diplomats played in resolving that internal power struggle. in fact that was a key moment at which the tension is intestinalled between a more elective democratic form of government and a harder line clerical form of government was resolved in favor of the clerics, in part because of the internal political success of taking the american hostages. they used that in a way that i think many americans wouldn't be familiar with. >> guest: exactly and that's another thing i wanted to examine in my book. because quite naturally and understandably and rightly, we americans didn't look at the hostage crisis from an american viewpoint. how could they possibly violate all of this diplomatic laws and traditions by holing our ople were understandably and
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quite rightly very exorcised of this but people paid less attention how that factored in, and ayatollah khomeini very conservefully used the -- skillfully used the hostage crisis, branning his opponents as agents of america and enshrined the principle of clerical rule and from then on had no serious challenges. >> host: just in terms of the present-day relevance you make the point of this being almost a 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. we're early into what is going to happen in egypt, and what did the toppling of hosni mubarak's
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regime mean. we don't know yet. certainly seems like you can see parallels between the rise of the muslim brotherhood and what happened on -- there was a sort of early vacuum and jostling for power between a whole bunch of different political factions in egypt, and the cairo revolution was driven by a bunch of sort of western-oriented democrats, small d kids. they're not in control now. and i wondered if you thought, echos and resonances in the story of the revolution of iran. >> guest: absolutely. i think what we're seeing right now is the process where the muslim brotherhood -- for example now the muslim brotherhood, which controls the presidency and the parliament in egypt, is actually showing signs of cracking down on the judicial branch and putting in judges who are amenable to the muslim brotherhood, and again, this looks very much like iran at a certain stage of the revolution there, as the clerics were
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extending their control over everything. but i think the difference with egypt is that egypt is 30 years later, and we have the iranian -- islamic republic of iran as an example've what a fundamentalist state can look like, and it ain't necessarily so pretty, right? it's an economic basket case. very, very chaotic, very unstable. and so even though the islamists right now are cementing they're power over politics in egypt, wonder if they are going to go quite so far as the iranians have. i wonder if there isn't at least some extent to which that example deters them from absolute power. we'll see. right now doesn't look very good. but of course, the big difference is also that the people in charge in egypt now are not clerics. they're not members of a theocratic regime.
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they're just members of the muslim brotherhood who have appointed. thes to be the defenders of religious politics in egypt. so, i think that also colors the situation differently. but for the moment, of course, it doesn't look very good. >> host: well, doesn't look very good. in a way -- we go from iran to afghanistan, which has an even more tragic narrative over the last 30 years, and it really begins in many ways with those soviet tanks rolling in to defend a regime that didn't particularly want to be defended. that's an interesting takeaway from your recounting of the sad history of coups and the invasion. >> guest: when the british intervened they intervened self times in afghanistan and you never really quite want to go into afghanistan.
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you always getdrop in against your will by the internal politics of the place, and that's what happened to british, to the soviets, and in maybe resects that's what happened news 2001. i don't think anybody was that keen on getting involved in afghanistan in 2001. he thought it was something we had to do, ande we were there we couldn't leave. >> host: that's the key part. there was a consensus across the political spectrum that the u.s. was going to do something in retaliation for the attacks on 9/11, but they had in mind something that was not going to involve a big footprint on the grind, that would last a dozen years later and that is the part about getting sucked in by the dysfunctional process on the ground. >> guest: think about the situation in afghanistan in '78 and '79 was just how different it was from what we face today. many things are radically different. there are no radical leftist
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parties or secular parties in afghanistan today. that's all been pretty much wiped out. but in the 1970s, those were the powerful forces in afghanistan. the president, muhammad kaan from some of the -- for much of the 1970s was a secularist modernizer, not unlike the shah of iran and he was replaced by the afghan communists who ban to try to remodel society according to their open utopian design, and they quickly ran aground in that, and the country rose up against them and the soviets had to come in. what's amazing that invasion and the almost unending civil war that has fold, compounded by the u.s. intervention in 2001 and after, has completely wiped out that old afghanistan that we saw in the '60s and '70s, so radically different. i don't want to exaggerate it too much. there will a lot of religious people' in afghanistan at that
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time as well, and more in the countryside were quite conservatives. always been a very conservative country. but if you walked around in kabul in the 1970s, you'd see girls in skirts, very few women in berkas, tourists, radically, radically different place, and one of the things i try to do in my books is show why it changed so dramatically. >> host: one of the most popular things we have ever run on our web site foreign policy, a terrific photo essay called once upon a time in afghanistan. and people can't get enough of picture of women in pencil skirts and madmen era furniture and -- >> guest: girl students. >> host: absolutely. and development projects, and sort of groovy record hangout clubs, and there was a sense of
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afghanistan on a trajectory of development, and actually in that period before it all started to go downhill, the u.s. and soviet union were competing for afghanistan and they were both building big projects, a dam in the south, and the tunnel that connected afghanistan's north with the capitol in kabul. they were moving society forward in very significant ways of what has been a very poor country. but people are astonished to realize it's such a sad experiment. there was an alternate trajectory that was possible for afghanistan and we all have become sort of like historical determinants after the fact. that was inevitable. what i like about your book, it actually forces us to get away from that kind of lazy habit of saying, oh, yeah, sure, it just always was this way. and i think that's the core that
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people think about once upon a time in afghanistan photo essay. so a quick question. 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 role that conflict played in hastening the democracy? do you think, no, it had to do with the price of oil in the 1980s or do you think that afghanistan hastened soviet -- >> guest: i think the soviet dem miles had a lot of causes. i don't think you can focus on one at the expense of the others. i think it was a confluence of several big things. but i think afghanistan was indeed one of the biggest and one of the most important. it made life very difficult for the soviet military. consumed enormous resources,
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just enormous, and not -- and most importantly, also changed the way the soviet citizens saw their own government. right? the government was forced to lie about a lot of the things it was doing. when dead soviet soldiers started coming home in zink coffins, people new it and it did undermine the authority of the government in large swaths of the population and made the central agents of the soviet enon very restive and very turbulent in the way they had not been before. 1979 is the year when the muslim population of the old soviet union ban to overtake the european population of the old soviet union. a very interesting moment in so if yet history. so certainly higher oil prices and the arms race with the united states, a lot of these
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other things conspired to make life very hard for the soviet regime but i do think the war in afghanistan was major, major factor. >> host: so, let's go to the other wing of the soviet empire, and in 1979 you have this really amazing spectacle of a pollish pope, and not only was he the first nonitalian and western european in centuries but it's you're view that he started the series of earthquakes rolling that became the solidarity movement, that game the unraveling, if you will, of soviet dominance in eastern europe. what strikes you as fresh in the story of pope john paul ii? >> guest: well, i think the thing that strikes me is the way that pols have talked -- have described the impact he had on them.
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it was not just the pride in a polish pope. he became popin' 1978. pols 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 qualities john paul ii. one of the most brillent men to become pope, spoke many, many languages, he had two doctorates. an incredible figure, and he combined that intellect with a very easy, charismatic way of dealing with ordinary folks. he was a very fine parish priest because he did things with this parishioners. he went out and did sports with them, and he attended their conference -- the corn firmations for their children, very much involved in their lives. that's the kind of guy he was. a remarkable, unique individual in the history of the papacy and
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i think that played a big role. the most interesting thing to men when i looked at the story again was the role the pope's visit played in getting pols to think about running their own country, because when the pope arrived for his nine-day visit in 1979, the communist state basically said, all right, this is your show. we're not going to get involved in this. we'll provide security but you have to organize everything yourselves, and pols rows -- rose to the task with great enthusiasm. the organized the trips, managed the crowds, and for a lot of pols it was revelation because they had grown up under the communist system they were used to having the state do things for them, and suddenly here they were organizing nine days of papal events where 11 million pols took to the streets and it went off without a hitch.
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and that was a revelation for many pols and that was a very important precondition for solidarity, the independent trade union movement which came up the very next year. i don't think those who evens are unrelated. >> host: religion as a crash course in practical politics as well mass opposition politics. can you make a link -- do you think there is a linkage between the kind of religious opposition to communist authority that the pope offered to pols and the religious opposition to the shah that the ayatollah off -- offered to iranians? >> guest: i think they're different because the pope, with all of this conservativism and dock turnal matters was obsessed with human rights. john paul ii wrote quite extensively about human rights. he had suffered under boths in sis occupation of poland and in
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the stalin poland. so he had an entire philosophical direction based on the human individual and human rights. ayatollah khomeini did not have the view like that. he had the view that islam was everything and individual rights very often had to be super seeded to that. so they were very fundamentally, if i may say, different. but there are some striking parallels. and one of the interesting parallels is that both of these men were mystics. in some ways they were very unusual in their religious beliefs. john paul ii had an intense religiousship with christ and she virgin mary. he was not your ordinary priest. his beliefs went off into the really amazing amazing and unconventional realms. ayatollah khomeini was a
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believer, and -- there war many other clerics who regarded him as the practitioner of some forbidden or suspect ideas, and what is very interesting is the way mistickism can make your more a political activist. it's very complex. but if you think you have a direct line to god, which is what mystics think, you might think that you have a greater ability, a greater power to shape events in the human world, too, and that's something i find actually to be a very interesting parallel between these two men. >> host: where do you see the story of pole land -- pollland -- poland and the catholic church today? people have moved on from that, and we have a new pope today,
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and a story that is very much moved out of europe, where the church is on the decline. but did this chapter of the book have relevancy today? >> guest: i think it does. whoown you look at the history of the catholic church, in politics in the 1970s and '80s, the church is very, very effective when it is -- how can i put it -- when it is in the opposition, when it is not aligned with the forces of the state. so in the philippines, even in south korea, the churches play an incredibly powerful roll in organizing opposition and certainly so in eastern europe. then when you have a regular democracy, regular secular state, for example in poland, after the fall of communism, the church became very cozy with the state in 'oland, and polls didn't like that so much.
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they looked the church in opposition. in iran we see very interesting phenomenon where the church, quote unquote, has become the state. and you will see many opinion polls, studies that suggest this has undermine the position of islam and iran because young people grow up seeing islam as part of the establishment. islam has lost its oppositional cachet, it's power to defendant the powerless. it's become part of the power structure and what's fascinating is that we have seen the power of the church to marshal opposition but when it becomes part of the power structure it loses that ability. it becomes part of the establishment and then people don't think about it in the same way, and that's something that i find very, very relevant in the story which continues today. >> host: you know, it's interesting because in the other part of your book, which is really one of the major themes which has to do with the incredible transformation in
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china that -- the opposition comes from within the upper echelons of the communist party, and so you have an insurgency from on high, if you will, and that is the amazing story of dung xiaoping and his return from being banished the the cultural revolution to unleaving one of the greatest transformations in our lifetime. this is the biggest story your telling in a way. how do you crack into that? many people have tried to the that story. >> guest: that's a good question. i think it is a fantastic story, story that a lot of people have forgotten. just like political islam, we take china as a capitalist country so for granted and seemed to have forgotten it was a wrenching and very, very difficult and very unlikely change. >> like north korea. >> guest: exactly. it was north korea,le and like north korea except with a
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billion people. making a transformation -- transforming itself into something completely different. at the time it started rather small, so the chinese certainly understood that something was going but a lot of people on the outside world didn't. and one of the things i enjoyed very much of exploring this period was that people at the time did not compare china's economic forms to the united states or in western europe. the idea of a capitalist china entering the world trade organization would have gotten you sent to an insame asylum. people compare the economic reforms to hungary or ewing slav ya or east germany, which seemed like the most economically successful member of the eastern bloc, so that goes to underline how unlikely and surprising these changes were when they happened. and as i tell in the book, a great way to tell this story in china is by going back and looking at what people were looking at, at the time.
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i have this story where an american investor is brought to a place and told he should invest, and he just sees water buffalo and rice paddies and the place is now a city with the population of new york city and your ipad was made there right? so, i think a lot of great ways to tell the story, and some people told them at the time very, very vividly. there have been some great books right at the time of the changes in china, but nowdays people have forgotten the story. so i had a lot of fun trying to bring it back to life. >> host: that raises a question that applies both to china and i think across the stories you look at in the book, and that is, how right or wrong were we at the time? as you looked back into it and how these things changed and the instant histories that were written. did we understand the historical import or were we off the mark?
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sunny think we missed a lot of the story at the time. the beg temperature? 1979 for americans and chinese was dong xiaoping's visit to the united states at the beginning of 9 which marked the resumption of diplomatic relationship between the two countries and it was a huge event. i think the economic changes that were going on in china at the time, which we would probably now regard as much more consequential and important, were largely missed. simply because people couldn't imagine how far that would go. when the soviets inveiledded afghanistan, we look at the memos and see what people were thinking in the carter white house. carter reactioned to the invasion and he was giving covert aid to the islamic rebels who were revolting against the afghan party government. what is interesting when you
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look at this, is that people in the white house thought that this was part of some larger soviet plan. they thought it was like the soviets invading czechoslovakia 0 or hungary, an extension of the brezhnev dock transcribe and they didn't understand the soviets didn't really want to do this at all. they felt they were forced into it by the rapid deterioration of the situation there, and they were extremely reluctant to do it. when they actually made the decision, they did move in -- have a proper paper that they all signed that was -- this vague memorandum that didn't say what they were going to do -- >> just like vietnam. >> guest: just like vietnam. they slid into it. they really did not want to be there. and i'm not sure we understood the extent which that was the case. we thought it was part of the grand soviet design.
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>> host: really interesting when you think about the extent which the united states was involved, of course, as a significant player in all of these stories, in different ways, and yet you have done something i think commendable. you have not put the u.s. front and center of these stories, although they have deep relevance, both to american history and also to decisionmakers today. how daring of you being -- but in general, are we too self-involved to read a book about other people? >> guest: i don't know. we'll see how the book does. a good question, though. that was a conscious decision, because i thought that, as important as the united states is, it's not the only country in the world, and this was the year i felt where there were a lot of other really interesting things happening in the world. the united states is part of all the tv stories but not at the center and in many ways it's
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reacting to events more than it's shaping them. and we thought it was important to capture that in the book. i was trying to write a truly global back. >> host: you know, ronald reagan, for example, is not on the here, and many people would say, well, 1979 was a crucial year. he was about to be elected president in 1980, the beginning of the republican revolution here in the united states. do you see reagan as fitting into this story you're telling? >> guest: well, would contend he doesn't really -- wasn't really a player in 1979. he was starting to campaign against carter and was a very important domestic american politician but i think his moment came later and that's why i didn't include him in this book. there's some very important events that presage his sierra. for example, 1979 was the year the moral majority was founds here in the united states. that was the start of evangelicals, born-agains, intervening directly in american politics in a way they hadn't
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before and that was crucial to reagan's 1980 victory. but this moment that i'm trying to capture here is i think a slightly earlier moment. and for that reason i haven't really brought reagan into belongs to a slightly later era. >> host: tell me about where you think 1979 fits in on those years that are the hinges of history, that pivot points of history? the 1789 and 1917s and 1989, and most recently, the arab spring revolution of 2011. where is 1979 on that spectrum in terms of import? one for the long-term? are we going to be talking about it as you still do about 1789 or 1848? >> guest: i would make the case we should. i think it was such an important turning point. marks aomt
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when the domination of the ideas from the left -- right, which really, really played a human role in most of 20th 20th century, even if you weren't a communist or social democrat you invariably found yourself reacting to these ideaols and what we see in 1979 is the rise of -- how would i put it -- very viable alternative ideologies. suddenly markets are no longer just -- they're an ideology, too. islam becomes an ideology. and it turns out that as ideaols these compete well with communism and social democracy. i was just talking to somebody the other day who read the book, and he was -- felt himself to be much more of a left is but he
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said will the left find a language that unifies them like marckism did? i thought that was a good question because i don't think it has. i think the left is still trying to find a response to these things and that's because of this year, because of the things that happened this year and the changes that this year initiated. and when we -- i think maybe this epic may be drawing to a close. when it does, the ideological viewpoints of people have to be very different from what they are today. >> host: it's such an interesting opinion you're making, really important one, because most of our conversation about the death of ideology has revolved around the collapse of communism later in 1989, actually the end of the soviet unionin' 1991, and that conventionally speaking has come to be seen as the moment when ideology died, when leftism died, but you're in a sense saying, no, that's actually
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wrong, and we need to move the clock back, and the death of leftist ideology was really in 1979. it had this decade-long afterlife you can argue, as events played out from 1979 to 1989. i think that's a really interesting argument. you can say that actually there was a new ideological consensus given birth in that year around markets and religion; that's a very interesting new take on things. and it's certainly true that today's left is very different one than the left when we were kids. >> guest: oh, yeah. >> host: republicans love to call barack obama a socialist and talk about him as a sort of european left-winger, but in reality, even the european left has accepted that basic, what came be known as the washington consensus, although you're arguing that it belongs in the
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earlier -- but even the left accepts basic principles of markets, been threatened by the last few years. do you think that the financial crisis of 2008 and the ongoing trauma associated with that in europe, especially, could finely see the end of the market-oriented consensus. >> i think it has in many ways. as i tell people. if you're 25 and the united states today and you can't find a job and you're salted with hundred thousand in college debt, i wonder if you're going to believe in capitalism the way somebody did who went to college in the early 1980s and was born into a completely different world. right? i think that what has happened is -- with the financial crisis is it deeply undermined a lot of our faith in capitalist institutions, but no one assigned language to bring the opposition to that together. no one sent a coherent cdologyal
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alternative. so i think bill -- broke baracka is a great example. he does not fit the shape of a 1980s socialist. simply very, very different. you mentioned uit inned kingdom. one of tony blair's associates who said we're all thatcherrites now. members of the labor party, saying we're all thatcherrites now. and what i think is still missing is the opposite of being a thatcherite. what's the coherent alternative to this market consensus? i don't think it's being -- the chinese abandoned that. i don think it's been marxist lynninist. >> host: except people who are religious leader.
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>> guest: exactly. we all know there are big problems with the system but we have not figured out an ideological alternative. >> host: your book is really a history of ideas as well as the events that have been shaped by these ideas and i think that is what makes such an unusual book, but then it does go back to this question of, is it relevant still to the time we're living in or have you captured a moment in time? you said earlier something that is -- taken 30 years -- have passed since really, if you think about it like this in 1979, they were as close to world war ii as they are to us today, and in a way you're seeing in 1979 the end of that post world war ii era of both ideology and politics and governing consensus, in many of
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these countries. the shah of iran is a good example. directly came to the throne as a result of his father's ill fated and ill advised alliance with the nazis in world war ii. so you know, you have these arrangements that came about at the end of world war ii, finally reaching their end pound -- end noints 1979. that's the story of britain. so are we reaching the end point? is 30 years the life cycle of these ideologies? >> guest: i don't know. a great question. a lot depends on what works and what doesn't. again, people need to put themselves back into the historical context. european welfare state and the american welfare state delivered unprecedented prosperity after world war ii. right? people lived better. the working classes in europe and the united states lived better than they'd ever lived
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before. unprecedented. and that really worked for a good 30 years. then in the 1970s, with the energy crises, stag nation, the west hit a wall, and they needed new solutions. it was clear that old model wasn't going to work anymore for whatever reasons. so, i do see some very interesting parallels to that, and the financial cries -- crisis because the financial crisis showed us unlimited faith in the markets is not the thing and we need some sort office alternatives or corrects would be a better way of putting it. and some countries have tried to put in place corrections, or somehow reform their market structures, but you can't help but think that it might not be enough to satisfy voters in this country, in europe, who are now having a very, very hard time of it. the employment rate may be increasing here but there's still enormous segments in the american population who are not benefiting from the growth that
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is going on. and you can't help but wonder whether that won't at some point turn into a fundamental discontent that has some really transformative effects but i don't know. perhaps we'll see that. >> host: so, when you started in on the book and it's been a long journey, were there thing that really surprised you? these are stories you came into knowing a fair amount about. >> guest: i think one thing that surprised me and continues to surprised me is the extent to which a lot of people didn't really understand what was going on in china, and took maoism at face value. there's a story in hi book, when dong xiaoping comes to the white house in 1:99 carter puts on a big state dinner for them and the sit dong you ping down at the table with shirley mcclain, the actress, and she has just been to champion a few years earlier with a documentary team and she is a good 70s
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leftist, and so she begins to gush to congress somehow page how they were out at this farm and met this professor who was working on the farm, and this was part of the cultural revolution, right? when mao sent all the intellectuals into the countryside, and she was going on and on how great this was and how the professor loved it. and deng xiaoping listens to her and says, that's ridiculous. professors should be teaching in universities. they should be planting crops and that was his verdict on the cultural revolution. but a lot of the china scholars at the time still bought into these ideas and this is one of the reasons white -- why it was so hard for them to understand the reforms in china, and if you go back to the accounts at the time, a lot of the established china scholars didn't quite get the story. they didn't understand what they were seeing. a lot of them were still wedded to these old images of maoist
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china and were quite bewildered. >> host: an argument for on the ground journalism and observation. one person you relied on was a smart british diplomat who went out there and beat the pavement as if he were a journalist, and in effect interviewed people and worked on what he saw. >> guest: romer garside who i'm happy to say is still alive, an magnificent book that has stood the test of time. some journalists wrote pretty good books at the time but his is hard to beat because, as you say, he went out, on the ground, got the story, and he saw things very, very pragmatically, without an ideological lens and he caught a lot of things other observers misted. >> host: that's interesting0. ideology can be the enemy of hi sunny think very much so. and i'm kind of struck when i look back at this period again
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by how the very ideological people didn't understand what they were seeing. i had a very good conversation with -- you might remember as the man who wrote a fantastic book about the evils of the saddam hussein regime in iraq, and he was a very, very con sinced liftist, a trot skiite and his wife was iranian. they and he described to me how completely bewildering the iranian revolution was to them. if you believe in theories of class struggle and dictatorship of the proletariat and other thing that were in vogue you just didn't understand it. it was completely nonsensical. so, they tried to write articles and their journals explaining why the masses were temporarily being seduced by ayatollah khomeini, and in the end he said
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they were flummoxed and he said this is the end of a lot of communist and socialist believers in the middle east because it just ceased to be a viable al turnty. people didn't want it. >> host: i think that's almost an important note for us to end on. we're almost out of time but not entirely. i want to the out there this question we were debating before we came on, which is what is not in the book. one of the most significant things we talk about, a great other book for somebody in the rise of the personal computer, which happens right in the 1979-1980 time period. but do you see technology as playing a role, even in back stage, the hints of the new order that would come? >> guest: absolutely. the rise of telecommunications is usually important. ayatollah khomeini was in compile for much of the revolution and communicated to the supporters in iran through the state-of-the-art telephone switching system installed by
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the america shah cheech call anybody anywhere in iran can and it was hugely important and with the help of satellites, of course, which were caused to come down -- satellite communication are very important. so a lot of different levels in which the technology was influencing all this. pcs were not yet there but they're very much a part of this, and the technological aspect deserves to be gone into more deeply than i was able to. >> host: if you were to do a followup to the book, would you begin witch 19 -- begin with 1980? does it go 1979-1989? >> guest: that's a great question. i don't think i'm going write bat year again. >> host: absolutely. well, it's really interesting. in terms of the response you have gotten so far, what have you made of what the critics had to say. >> guest: i'm very happy with it. i feel like a lot of people got
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the book. when you write a book like this, you're sitting alone in your little room and wondering, aim just a nut case or are people going to furnished the points i'm trying to make here? so far i'm gratified by the response. people have understood what i was trying to say...


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