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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  May 19, 2013 12:00pm-1:01pm EDT

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the mill house was built in the early 1800s. this was the water store for that mail which was the heartbeat of the whole plantation. this is one of the three rivers that make up the cowasee basin. this is a major tributary. you ask about war heroes, the best known one that frequented this area was francis burton, known as the swamp fox, a revolution were here. he did a lot of skirmishing to this whole area of south carolina. he was known as the swamp fox because he hit the british and almost guerrilla like and escape into the swamp and they couldn't find it. they dubbed him the swamp fox. and also general sumter. the british and the continental army came right to this area on their way to the battle of
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camden at the house which historically across the river from goodwill. a few weeks after that nathanael greene, southern continental commanding officer also had his troops there. all that was within a couple miles of where we are now. very interesting piece of revolutionary history. >> a real notable event was in 1540. that was hernando desoto, early spanish in case you don't explore your but he came right up the side of the river in search of indian gold, traveled from roughly the confluence of the rivers of the westside to the town of what is now camden. but we're getting ready to go now to cooks mountain. looks met with be one of the highest points in cowasee basin. altitude is 374 feet.
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altitude at the river behind me, is roughly 100 feet. basically the equivalent of a 70 -- 27 story building rising by the out of this world. it's my understanding it is land to wash away around as opposed to regular mountain that rises up from underneath the the significance of primary geographical for the fact that it is such a large promontory in what is mostly surrounded by low land to its name for a man named james cook and he lived in this a. he was one of the early surveyors of this part of south carolina. just a great place to come and look and get a vista of the basin. all of the proceeds of the book go to the congaree landmass and the work we do and land preservation here in the cowasee basin. >> we would like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback,
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>> for more information on booktv's recent visit to columbia, south carolina, and the many other cities visited by our local content vehicles, go to up next on booktv, "after words" with guest host susan glasser of "foreign policy" magazine. this week christian caryl and his book "strange rebels: 1979 and the birth of the 21st century." and it is senior fellow of the center for international studies at mit argues that a lessening consensus develop across the western world after world war ii, and that a counterrevolution, representing a new era, began in 1979 with the election of margaret thatcher as the british prime minister, and the overthrow of the shah of iran. program is about an hour. >> host: hello, christian
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caryl. we're 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 in history. but let me first start with a little bit of explanation for what i think is a really unusual book that you are done. i know it's a labor of love book, but for those of you joining us today, he is a longtime "newsweek" foreign correspondent, contributor to the new york review books as well as my colleague who contributes to "foreign policy" magazine where i am the editor in chief. i think you're done something very unusual with this book which is that you've managed to do and the way the impossible, linking together in one place margaret thatcher and the ayatollah khamenei as characters
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in a unified narrative about the great counterrevolutionary year of 1979. it is your very provocative thesis that this was a year in which basically the backlash or the return of markets and religion the global politics in a big way signaled a counterrevolution towards the reactions of the earlier postwar era. how did you come up with a? who could possibly write a book that says what do margaret thatcher, deng xiaoping, the ayatollah khomeini, the afghan communists and the iranian revolutionaries have in common? nevermind pope john paul ii and the resurgence of religion as a factor of polish nationalism which is a whole faceting part of the book. how did you come up with putting
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these things together? >> guest: it had a lot to do with my reporting in afghanistan after 9/11. you were there, too. if memory serves me, we stayed in the same house for a while. you are with "washington post," i was with "newsweek." that house kind of struck me at the time and had this shattered carpeting at the tv or light pictures any ranch style house but it was just like the kind of houses that we were going up in in the '70s when i was a kid. i was kind of struck by the. when he went outside and kabul you are driving around in 1970 in american cars, sometimes a tractate players in them, if you can remember what those were. all the ministry buildings, government buildings were built in the 1970s. then when he went to the bookstore in kabul you done all of 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.
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and then at the end of the 1970s, wham, it hit the wall in history start running in reverse as it were. the more time i spend in afghanistan the more a cumbersome wondering about that. we shouldn't take this as a self-evident thing when 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 connecting the dots and just thinking about what happened at the end of the 1970s. i realized that if you look at it globally it's a very, very important moment. we tend to focus the united states on '60s, much europeans tend to focus on the '60s, but you look at fro it from a global perspective i don't think it looks quite that way. my book was kind of an exploration and attempt to figure out why this is so. >> host: so let's take the five and take them off of the project afghanistan as you mentioned, and i thought that house to me look like the brady
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bunch. it is literally a copy of house in the privilege with the open staircase you know, that the family will come down in the opening scene of the radio bunch. and yet ended and most recently occupied before "newsweek" took it over by al qaeda leaders, or least that's what we were told. it'it's a great point document. so afghanistan and the communist takeover of afghanistan which happened in 1979. china, the rise of deng xiaoping and his beginning of a turn towards the market and in the mao and this cultural revolution. poland as we mentioned, the election of the polish pope john paul ii and his return to his homeland in sort of a precursor to the solidarity movement great britain, the election of margaret thatcher and the real pommel over the british economy which i think haspart of the hie
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of britain after thatcher. some looking for becoming back to that. vin number five of course, the one probably that most people think of first when you think of 1979, the iranian revolution, the toppling of the shah and the hostage crisis in 1979. wow, that's an awful lot of ground to cover. let's start with thatcher. there's this huge outpouring, tribute to thatcher on the occasion of her death. and i've seen covers. your book takes apart some of the myth of margaret thatcher. >> guest: i tried to do that. 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 revisions of history is much. a lot of people correcting some misperceptions about her. of course, for sure this tells why she is important first place and i think very few people
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dispute she was hugely and immensely important. but like any huge we important figure, informative figure should generate a lot of myth. there are many myths about it. for example, we think of her, american conservatives now think of her as this kind of icon of conservatism. guess what? she was in favor of national health insurance. she never safely try to dismantle the national health system in britain because she knew how popular it was. she voted for the law when she was in parliament before she became prime minister. criminalizing -- she never interview with gun control. when she had a chance she voted for abortion. so the social issues in which britons are sometimes very different opinions than american conservatives, she doesn't really look like a traditional conservatives at all. when the most interesting stories is her relationship with ronald reagan. there is no question she and reagan were very close. there really a door to each other. but they were both very intense
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and intent when it came to defending the national interests of their respective countries. and make no mistake margaret thatcher even when it came to outbreak in was not shy about defending our national interest of make she wasn't shy about much. so it's really the economy in many ways her legacy kind of rises or falls, according to your account country is. for example, we live now in a world where it's taken for granted the capital cross boundary without any barriers at all. one of the very first things that she didn't you begin -- became prime minister when she dismantled capital controls in great britain to there is appeared in britain when it going to leave the country got to fill out a form and then they would give you 50 francs or something if you're going to france. you have this whole your credit procedure. she did away with all the. that was important prerequisite for working there, this big bang, this huge the revelation
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project that turned london into european and global financial center. but we take all this stuff for granted today. we just assume that this is kind of a given. we assume that big companies should not be multinational corporations shouldn't be owned by governments, right? and this is another legacy of first that i think and tours this day but other parts haven't endured because we face such different conditions. austerity i think is a good example. she was very, very austere in a financial policies, and those with the policies are really coming under attack a lot nowadays. so i think economically she was hugely important in shaping this market-oriented world that we live in today, but by no means have all aspects of her legacy remained in place. >> host: other than how much in vogue as a patron or modern patron of oscar politics and very may well be a reason that
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her successor david cameron, the current leader of great britain embarked upon the outcome of the painful path in response to the financial crisis of 2008, i me, much invoke even if ashley the conditions of today bear almost no resemblance to the kind of massive labor strikes and having nationalized economy that should do with in 1979. >> guest: exactly. people forget for example, she did reduce the putatively high rate of personal income tax in britain. in fact, 83%. no country as far as i'm aware has personal income tax late -- rate like that today. she raises taxes on consumption because she believes in balanced budgets. she was willing to raise taxes to make the books balance. and in this she was quite different from ronald reagan about enormous deficit to build-a-bear this is quite a source of friction between the
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two of them. but when an american conservatives now's seek to position themselves as part of her legacy, i really wonder if they're paying attention to that part of the. she was such a budget hawk. she was not adverse to raising taxes, to make the books balance. >> host: that's one of the things that comes to very strikingly in your history of her early part of her tenure is the willingness to use all the tools that she had in the toolkit of government. that certainly is not the direction that american conservatives on capitol hill have gone in dealing with this latest budget price. sometimes history gives us lessons and sometimes we don't own them. i think that brings me right to kind of two other real lightning rods subjects of your book, iran and afghanistan where there are both countries where their front page news in the united states today in terms of policies that
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frankly feel stuck and in many ways we're getting with the legacy of the tumult of 1979 and both of those countries. but, frankly, i'm not sure that we've come up with a better way to negotiate with the iranians than we did at the disastrous time of hostagetaking in. in afghanistan have learned the lessons of the last superpower to find itself enmeshed 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. will surprise you as you delve into the history of this? something we feel like we know but then i think it turned up a lot of things that we probably didn't know or had forgotten into one of the most fascinating things as i got into the history of the arena revolution was precisely this blend of the old and the new. one historian calls a revolutionary traditionalism, right? it was a revolution.
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it overthrew the shah, but it was a conservative revolution. it was a revolution staged in part by a man in a white turbans, and they aligned themselves at the beginning of the revolution with non-islamist democrats, secular, some cases nationalist democrats, and the forces of the left. and ayatollah khomeini was very smart in the way that he talks like a leftist. 11 talking about imperialism and colonialism and the fight against american hegemony. he was very, very good at incorporating that sort of rhetoric, which played a huge role in bringing the leftists and the other revolutionaries into his coalition. when he didn't need them anymore he discarded them. but even today i would say that the iranian system still has some very interesting characteristics that you can trace driven back to the
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revolution begin of this commendation of an an elected parliament, an elected president, which is the legacy of the democratic revolution shall we say, and then you have supreme leader who is really appointed by the other clerics, and to exercise the most authority. and even today, more than 30 years after the revolution, we still see a power struggle between the president, people supporting them and the supreme leader. there've been power struggles like this almost since the day the islamic republic was founded. never quite seemed to come to rest. i'm just passing by the way that legacy that ayatollah khomeini himself established in 1979 continues to shape the country today. they very clearly. >> house of representatives that puts us above and -- i think you'll see that as well as americans continue to struggle with the question of who really makes decisions in today's islamic republic, who can we
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negotiate with. that's another striking thing was the internal american visions at the highest levels of the u.s. government over how we should approach this new, much more threatening iran. from the very beginning you chronicle how sector estate fans at one point of view was much more in favor of negotiating a more conservative stance -- secretary of state vance. he was gnashes good advisor to president carter, took a much harder line. if you change the names it seems to me you could be talking, writing a story on today's front page about the internal division within the united states government over how it is towards iran. >> guest: i think those things are very, very similar today. the thing that is new then is nobody ever encountered an islamic revolution and movement like this. people don't know what to make of it. people at the time, they were
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looking for all kinds of comparisons. for example, there were people comparing ayatollah khomeini to gandhi, right? what other investigative? he's a religious leader who led an independent struggle. pretty much that simple. when you look at this, this policy feud, putting too much on, between secretary of state and national security advisor at the time, what you see is competing views about what this whole thing means, what's going on here. 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 but this oid of islamist revolutionaries, was putting it. >> host: and 2.0 want to follow up on a historical point, it strikes me to recall in historical terms what role the hostagetaking of the american diplomats played in resolving the internal power struggle but, in fact, that was a key moment in which this tension, imbalance
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between a more elected 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 americans hostages. they use the inwood added many americans wouldn't be the money with. >> guest: exactly and that's another thing i wanted to examine in my book because quite naturally understand and rightfully we americans could look at the hostage crisis from an american viewpoint. how could it possibly violate all of these diplomatic laws and traditions by holding our diplomats hostage? people were understandably and quite rightly very exercised over this. but at the time people tend to pay less attention to how that factored into these internal conflicts within the iranian revolution regime. and as you say, ayatollah khomeini, very, very skillfully, use the hostage crisis to undermine his secular liberal opponents, branding them as agents of america, and enshrined
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the principles of clerical rule. and from then on really he had no serious challengers to smack i think that's very striking. just in terms of present-day relevance you make the point about this being almost a key moment in the creation of modern political islamism as we know it. it sounds a lot like what's going on in egypt these days, what is going to happen in egypt and what did the toppling of hosni mubarak really mean? we don't know yet. it certainly seems like you can see parallels between the rise of the muslim brotherhood and what happened, there was this early vacuum and jostling for power between a whole bunch of different political factions in egypt. the cairo revolution was driven by a bunch of sort of western
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oriented democrats, small d kids. they're not the ones who are in control now. i wonder if you saw sort of echoes and resonances in the story of the revolution in iran? >> guest: absolutely. and i think what we're seeing right now is the process where the muslim brotherhood, now the muslim brotherhood which controlled the presidency and the parliament of egypt is not for showing signs of cracking down on the judicial branch and putting in judges who are unable to the muslim brotherhood. and again this looks very much like iran and the revolution there as the clerics were spinning their control over everything. but i think the difference with egypt is that egypt is 30 years later and we have the iranians come the islamic republic of iran as an example of what a fundamentalist state can look like. and it ain't necessary so pretty, right? an economickeca, very,
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very cy unstable. and so even though the islamists right now are cementing their power over politics in egypt, i wonder if they're 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 will see. right now it doesn't look very good. but, of course, the big difference is also that the people in charge of egypt now are not clerics. they are not members of a theocratic regime. they are just members of the muslim brotherhood who have a -- who have appointed themselves to be the defenders of religious politics in egypt did something that also colors the situation somewhat differently, but for the moment of course it doesn't look very good. >> host: it doesn't look very good in a way, because we go from iran to afghanistan, which has an evenre tragic
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near-death over the last 30 years. it begins in many ways with those soviet tanks rolling in to defend a regime that actually didn't particularly want to defend that i think that's an interesting take away from your recounting of sort of a sad history of coups and coming in inviting that led to the invasion in the first place. >> guest: that, of course, is a very important part of the story. when the british intervene in the 19th century they intervened several times in afghanistan. and you never really quite want to go the to afghanistan but you always get sort of drawn in against your will by the internal politics of the place. that's what happened to the bridge but that's what happened to the soviet. in many respects that's what happened to us in 2001. i don't think anyone was that team in getting involved in afghanistan 2001. we felt something we have to do. once we were there we couldn't leave. >> host: that's the key part. everybody there was sort of
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consensus around the political spectrum that the u.s. was going to do something in retaliation for the attack on 9/11. but they have in mind something that was not going to involve a big footprint on the ground that would last a dozen years later. and that's the part about getting sucked in by the dysfunctional politics situation on the ground. >> guest: what frustrated me 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 parties or secular parties in afghanistan today. that's all been pretty much wiped out, but in 1978, those really the powerful forces in afghanistan. the president, for some, much of the 1970s, was a secularist modernize, not unlike the shah of iran. thabut he was replaced in 1970 y the afghan communists to begin
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time to remodel society according to the own utopian design. may -- they very quickly ran aground as the old country roses against him and that's what the soviets had it coming. what's amazing is the way that that invasion and the almost unending civil war that has followed compounded by the u.s. intervention 2001 and after, has completely wiped out the old afghanistan that we saw in the '60s and '70s, that's really different. i don't want to exaggerate too much. there were a lot of religious people in afghanistan at that time as well, and more in the countryside were quite concerned because we've been a very conservative country. but if you walked around in kabul in the 1970s you would see girls with skirts. you see very few women in burkas. you would see people dressed in western-style clothing taking the many visiting tourists around to the booming tourist sites.
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it was a radically radically different ways but one of the things i tried in my book is explored why a change so dramatically. dramatically. >> i think that's so important one of the most -- is a terrific photo essay called once upon a time in afghanistan. people just can't get enough of what are the, pictures of women in pencil skirts, madmen care of furniture and and -- [talking over each other] sort of groovy records, you know, hang out kind of stuff. it was a sense of afghanistan on a trajectory, a development trajectory. and actually in that carried before all start to go downhill, the u.s. had continued influence in afghanistan say both of them building these big projects. the tunnel that connected afghanistan's north with the
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capital in kabul. these were incredible, they were moving society forward in a very significant way there was an alternate trajectory that was possible for afghanistan but i do think we all become sort of historical determinants, like after the fact. that was inevitable, wasn't it? what i like about your book is it actually forces us to get away from that kind of lazy habit of saying sure, you know, like it just always was this way. i think that's the core of people strike without once upon a time in afghanistan, photo essay. so quick question and then 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, thinking in terms of what role that conflict
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made in hastening the demise of the soviet union? are you one who thinks no, it had to do with -- you think afghanistan hastened the soviet demise? >> guest: i'm one of those people who thinks the soviet demise was a lot of causes. i don't think you can focus on one to the extent of the others but 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 resource, just enormous resources. and not any less importantly i think also change the way the soviet citizens saw their own government. the government was forced to lie about a lot. when dead soviet soldier started coming home in coffins, it was not widely publicized. they try to keep it quiet but people know it was happening. so did a lot to undermine the
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authority of the governmt itself among large swaths of the population to anything quite important it also made the central asian republic to the soviet union very restive and very turbulent in a way they had not been before. 1979 by the was also the year when the muslim population of the old soviet union really began to overtake the european population of the old soviet union, a very interesting moment in soviet history. so certainly higher oil prices and the arms race with the united states. a lot of these other things that conspire to make life very hard for the subversion by soaring to think that the war in afghanistan was a major, major factor. so let's go to the other room of the soviet empire, and in 1979 you had this really amazing spectacle of a polish pope. not only was he the first
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aln and western european, but really it's your view that he started the series of earthquakes rolling that became the solidarity movement, that became the unraveling, if you will, of soviet dominance in eastern europe. what strikes you as fresh and the story of pope john paul ii? >> i think the thing that strikes me as particularly fresh is the way that have described impact that had on them. it was not just the pride in the polish pope. he became pope in 1978. they were extremely happy about that needless to say. and the criminal is extremely worried about it. but i think it has a great deal to do with a special quality of john paul ii at usually one of
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the most brilliant men ever to become pope, and amazingly brilliant guy. he spoke many, many like which. he has two doctorates. he was an incredible figure, and he combined that intellect with a very easy charismatics way of dealing with ordinary folks. he was a very fine parish priest because he did things with his parishioners. he went out and did sports with them, and he attended the confirmation for their children that he was very much involved in the life. that's just the kind of guy he was. he was remarkable, unique individual in the history of apathy. i think i played a big role. the other big thing that i think the most interesting thing to me was when h i came back and lookd at the story again, was the role the pope's visit played in giving poles to think about running their own country. because when the pope arrived for his nine-day visit in 1979, the commonest state basically said, all right, this is your
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show, we are not going to get involved in this. we will provide sensitive budget organize everything yourself. and poles rose to that task with enthusiasm. they organized the trips, they organize, they managed the crowds. and for a lot of poles it was a revelation because it had grown up under the commonest system. they were used to having the state do things for them. and suddenly here they were organizing nine days of apple events for 11 million connected to the streets and traveled through different parts of the country, and it went off without a hitch. that was quite a revelation for many poles. but that was a very important precondition for solidarity, independent trade union movement which came up the very next year. i don't think those two events are unrelated. >> host: religion as a crash course in practical politics, as well as in opposition politics. but can you really make a
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linkage -- you think there's a linkage between the kind of religious opposition to communist authority of the pope offered the poles and the religious opposition to the shah, the ayatollah offered iranians? are they the same phenomena are they different? >> guest: i think they are different, because the pope followed his conservatism and was obsessed with human rights. john paul ii wrote quite extensively about human rights. he had suffered under both not the occupation of poland and the stalinist period and pulled. so he was really quite upset to keep up of an entire personal philosophical direction based on the human, the human individual and human rights. ayatollah khomeini did not have if you like the. he had the view that islam was everything and individual rights very often had to be uprseded
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to the. so i think in that respect they were very, very fundamentally different. but there are some striking parallels, and one of the interesting parallels that both of these men were misfits. 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, your ordinary priest. his beliefs went off to some really amazing and unconventional realms. ayatollah khomeini was also a practitioner of mystical the police, sort of things along the lines that we call suffuse him in sunni islam. and there were many other clerics who regard him as a practitioner of forbidden are really suspect ideas. and what's very interesting is the way the mysticism can lead to political activism. it can make you more of a political activist by showing
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you the perfectibility of man, a whole bunch of different things here, it's very complex but if you think, you have a direct line to god, which is what mystics and, you might think that you have a greater ability, a greater power to shape the human world and that's something that i find actually to be very interesting parallel between these two men. >> host: i see the story of poland and the catholic church leading to today? in many ways perhaps moved on or declared the end of history, at least in eastern europe, and moved on from there. we have a new pope today, and a store that is very much moved out of europe where the church is on the decline. but does this chapter of the book have relevance today? >> guest: i think this. the striking union to look at the history of the catholic church in politics in the 1970s and '80s is the way that the church is very, very
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effective when it is, how can i put, when it is in the opposition. when it is not aligned with the fortunes of the state. so in the philippines, even in south korea churches put an incredibly powerful role in mobilizing opposition, organizing opposition, and certain so in eastern europe. then when you have a regular democracy, a regular separatists say, for example, in polling, the church became very cozy with the state in poland. and poles suddenly realize they didn't like it so much. they like to their church and opposition. and iran we see very interesting phenomenon where the church, political, has become the state. and you'll see many opinion polls, many studies that suggest that this is undermining the position of islam and iran because young people grow up seeing islam as part of the establishment. islam has lost its oppositional
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cachet, its power to defend the powerless. it's become part of the power structure. so what i think is fascinating is that in these cases we've seen the power of the church to marshal opposition but when it becomes part of the power structure it loses the ability. it becomes part of the establishment and then people don't think about it in the same way. that's something that i find very, very relevant in the story, which continues to be. >> host: it's interesting because any other part of your book which is really one of the major themes which has to do with incredible transformation in china that has come the opposition comes from within the upper echelon of the commonest party. and so you have and insurgency from on high, if you will. and that's the major story of deng xiaoping and his return from being banished in the cultural revolution to enmesh and probably one of the greatest transformations of our lifetime.
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in a way this is the biggest story that you were telling. and how do you crack into that when so many people have tried to tell the story? >> guest: that's a good question. i think it is a fantastic story but i think it is for a lot of people have forgotten. again just like political islam, we take china as a capitalist country so for granted now. and we seem to have forgotten that it was wrenching in favor difficult and very unlikely change. >> host: like north korea has been exactly, it was north korea. it was exactly like north korea except with a billion people making a transformation, transforming itself to something completely different. at the time that started rather small, so the chinese certainly understood that something was going to a lot of people from the outside world didn't have one of the things i enjoy for much about this was people affected not compare china's economic reforms to the united
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states or western europe, the idea of capitals of china entering the world, trade or position public would've got you sent to an insane asylum. to compare pared- people compared. so i think it just goes to underline how unlikely and how surprising changes were when it happened. and as i tell in the book, a great way to tell the story in china is like going back and looking at what people were looking at at the time. i had this story were an american investor is brought to the police and told he should invest nt gses water buffalo and rice in paris and that pleased that the token that is now changing which has the population of new york city after ipad was made there, right? so i think there are a lot of great ways to tell the story. some people told them at the
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time very, very visibly have been some great books right at the time of these changes in china, but nowadays i think it was kind of forgotten that story. i had a lot of fun trying to bring it back alive. >> host: that raises a question that applies to both china and i think across the stories that you look in the book. and that is, how right or wrong were we at the time? as you look back into and how the stories were covered at the time, the instant histories that were written, could we understand the historical import of these events at the moment for one would really off the mark? >> guest: well, i think we missed a lot of the story at the time. the big story in 1979 for americans and chinese was deng xiaoping's visit to the united states at the beginning of 1979, which marked the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries and it was a huge, huge event. i think the economic changes
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that were going on in china at the time, which would probably now regard as much more consequential and important, were largely missed simply because people couldn't imagine how far they would go. just missed. we didn't understand how significant they were. when the soviets had made in afghanistan we can look at the memos and we see what people were thinking in the carter white house. carter reacted quite tougher to the invasion of course, and even before the invasion he was giving covert aid to the islamic rebels who are revolting against the afghan commonest party government. but what's very interesting when you go back and 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 or hungary to slide off -- shrugged off commonest party will. they were going back into sharp and older forget what they didn't understand was the soviets didn't really want to do this at all.
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they felt they were forced into it by the rapid deterioration of the situation there. and they were extremely reluctant to do. when they made the decision, they didn't even have a proper paper that they all signed. it was just a very big memoranda didn't even say what they were going to do. >> host: just like vietnam. >> guest: just like vietnam. they slid into. they really did not want to be there. and i'm not sure we understood the extent to which that was the case. we thought it was all part of the grants of design. we didn't understand -- >> host: you know, that is interesting when you think about the extent to which the united states was involved the course as a significant player in all of these stories in different ways, and yet you have done something world i think commendable for a book which is your not put the u.s. financing of the stories although they have deep relevance, both to
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american history and also to decision makers today. how daring of that are you being to not put the united states front and center? are we too self-involved to read a book that is about other people? >> guest: i don't know. i may, we will see how the book does. it's a good question though. yet, 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 a year rifle through a lot of other really interesting things happening in the world. the united states is a part of all of these stories but it's not at the center. in many ways it's reacting to events more than it is shaping them. i thought it was important to capture the end of the. i was trying to write a truly global book. >> host: ronald reagan, for example, is not on the cover. many people would say well, in 1979 was a crucial year, he was about to be elected in 1980. this was the beginning of the
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republican revolution here in the united states. do you see reagan as fitting end to this story that you're telling? >> guest: i would contend that he wasn't really a player in 1979. he was starting to campaign against carter. he was a very important domestic politician but if you think his moment came later, and that's why didn't include him in this book. there's some very important events, for example, 1979 was the year the moral majority was out here in the united states. so that was the start of evangelicals, born-again, and getting dragged in american politics again anyway they hadn't before, and that was crucial to reagan's 1980 victory. but this moment i'm trying to capture here is i think a slightly earlier moment. and for that reason i haven't really brought reagan into it. i just felt that he really, he belongs to a slightly later era. >> host: to me about what you think in 1979 hits in on those
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years that are kind of the hinges of history, the pivot point of history, the 1789 and 19 seventeenths in 1989 and most recently the arab spring revolutions of 2011. where is the 1979 on that spectrum in terms of import? will be one for the long-term books or are we going to be talking about as we still do about 1789 or 1848? >> guest: well, i would make a case that we should because i something to such an important turning point but i think it marked the really important moment when the domination of these ideas from the left, right, which really played a huge role in most of the 20th century. even if you weren't a common is our socialist or social democrat you invariably found yourself
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reacting to these ideologies. and i think what we see in 1979 is the rise of, how would i put it, finally made very, suddenly markets are no longer just -- islam becomes an ideology. and it turns out that as ideologies these things can be quite well with communist and social democracy. i was just talking somebody the other day who read the book, and he was, felt himself be much more of a leftist, but he said with the left ever find a language that unified us in way that marxism did, right? i thought that was a very, 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's because of issue, because of the things that happened this year and the changes that this year initiated. and i think this new drawing to a close.
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when it does, the ideological viewpoints of people have to be very, very disciplined than they are today. >> host: it such an interesting point of making. i think that's an important one because actually most of our conversation about the death of ideology has revolved around the collapse of communism later. in 1989 up to the end of the soviet union in 1991. and that conventionally speaking has come to be seen as the age, the mum when ideology died, when leftism died. but you're innocent say no, that's wrong and we need to move the clock back. the death of leftist ideology usually in 1979. it had this decade-long afterlife you could argue as events play themselves out from 1979, 1980. i think that's a really interesting argument. you could say that actually there was a new ideological consensus that was sort of given birth in that year around
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markets and religion, that has yet to die. that's a very interesting new take on things. and it is certainly true that today's left is a very different one than the left of 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 became known as the washington consensus, although you are arguing really that it belongs in an earlier time period. but even the left accepts that basic principle about markets, being threatened by the last few years. do you think that the financial crash of 2008 and the ongoing, associate with that in europe especially could finally spell the end of that market oriented consensus?
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>> guest: i think it has in many ways but as i tell people, if you are 25 in the united states today and she can't find a job and your salad with $100,000 of 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 in a completely different world, right? i think that what happened is, with the financial crisis is that it deeply undermined a lot of our faith in capitalist institutions. but again no one sent language to bring the opposition to that, together. no one sent a coherent ideological alternative to the. and personally i think barack obama is a great example. i agree, he really does not fit the definition of a 1970s or 1980s socialist by any stretch of the imagination. did something very, very different. you mentioned the united kingdom. of course, is one of tony blair's associates who said
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we're all set to rights now. members of the labour party thing we're all that you rights now. and what i think is it's still missing is the opposition of being that. was the coherent alternative which was the coherent alternative is market consensus. i don't think it's being a maoist because the chinese have abandoned that a long time ago. i don't think it's being a marxist leninist. the russians have abandoned the. but there still a few out there in the woods. >> host: but basically everyone is a pragmatic marketeer except the people who are religious. >> guest: right, exactly. so we all know there's some big problems with the system but we haven't figured out, and ideological alternative. >> host: and that's right, your book in many ways is really a history of ideas as well as the events have been shaped. i think that's part of what makes this such an unusual book, but then it does go back to the question of, is it relevant to
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the time we're living in our have you captured a moment in time that is lost. he said something early that a striking the 30 years has our past sins and. if you think about it like this in 1979, there was post-world war ii as they are to us today. in a way you are seeing in 1979 the end of that post-world war ii era of both ideology and politics, sort of governing consensus in many of these countries. you know, the shah of iran is a good example, directly came to the throne as a result of his father's ill-fated, televised alliance with enough seats in world war ii. so you have these arrangements that came about at the end of world war ii, finally reaching their endpoint in 1979. certainly that's true of the
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sort of britain. >> guest: exactly. >> host: are we reaching the input? its 30 years of lifecycle of these ideologies? >> guest: i don't know, it's a great question but i think a lot depends on what works and what doesn't. because again, people need to put themselves back into historical context the european welfare state, and as i said the american welfare state, delivered unprecedented prosperity after world war ii, right? people live better, the working classes in europe and then the united states lived better than they had ever lived before. unprecedented. and that really work for a good 30 years, then in the 1970s with the energy crises, stagflation, and the west hit a wall and they need new solutions. it was clear the old model was going to work anymore, for whatever reason. so i do see some very interesting parallels to that. and the financial crisis. because the financial crisis again showed us that on limited
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faith in market is going up thing, 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 or somehow reforms their market structure. but you can't help but think that might not be enough to satisfy voters in this country, in europe are now having a very hard time of it. in the unemployment rate may be increasing but there is still enormous segments of the american population if we are not benefiting from the growth that is going on but you can't help but wonder whether that is somewhat will turn into a fundamental discontent it has ever transformative effect, but i don't know, perhaps we will see that. >> host: so when you started in on the book, and it's been a long journey, where the things that really surprise you with what you found? these are stories you came into
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knowing a fair amount about. >> guest: i guess one thing that surprised me, continues to surprise me is the extent to which a lot of people didn't really understand what was going on in china, and took mt. pleasant at face value. there's a fun story in my book -- maoism. deng xiaoping comes to the white house and carter puts on a big stake different. they sent him down with shorter mclean, the actor shirley mcclain. and she's just been to china a few years earlier with a documentary team, and she's a good \70{l1}s{l0}\'70{l1}s{l0} leftist and so she begins to judge to deng xiaoping about how they're out of how they're out of this for a thing that this professor who is working on the farm. this is part of the cultural revolution, when mao and all the revolutionaries out of the countryside. is going on about how great this was and how the professor loved it. and deng xiaoping listens to her and then he says, that's
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ridiculous. professors should be teaching in universities. they shouldn't be planting crop. i was pretty much his verdict on the cultural revolution. but a lot of the china scholars at the time still bought into maoism, still bought into these ideas and this is one of the ideas one it was so hard for them to understand reforms that were going on in china. and 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 were seeing. a lot of them were still wedded to these old images of maoist china but in some cases they were quite bewildered. >> host: this argument on the ground journalism and observation, right? one of the people whose recount you rely on was a smart british diplomat who know, you know, beat the pavement as if you were a journalist and in effect in the people just exactly.
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roger, who i'm happy to say is still alive. an absolutely magnificent book that has stood the test of time. some journalist broke pretty good books at the time but i see his is the one that's hard to be. precisely as you said, he went out, he was on the ground, he got the story. and he saw things very, very pragmatically without an ideological lens, and sweet caught a lot of things that others missed. >> host: interesting. so ideology can be the enemy of history. >> guest: i think very much for. i'm kind of struck when i look back at this period, again by how the very ideological people didn't understand what they were seeing. i had a very good conversation with the man who wrote a fantastic book about the evils of the saddam hussein regime in iraq, and he was a very, very convinced leftist. he was a trotskyite.
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he describes, his wife was a ring at the time of the arena revolution. they were both trotskyites. he described to me how completely willing the iranian revolution was to them. if you believe in greece of class struggle and dictatorship of the public and all these things that were so much in vogue at the time, you just didn't understand it. it was completely nonsensical. so they tried to write articles in their trotskyite jones explain why the masses were temporarily being, and, seduced by ayatollah khomeini. and in the end he said they were just completely flummoxed your he basically said this is the end of a lot of communists and socialists believers in the middle east because it just seems to be a viable alternative. people didn't want to. >> host: i think is almost an important note for us to end on. i want to do other this question we were debating before we came on, which is what's not in the
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book one of the most significant things we're talking about, a great 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 backstage, where the hands of this new order transit absolutely. the rise of telecommunications is usually important to he communicated with supporters in iran to the state of the art telephone switching system that had been installed by the americans for the show. he could call it anybody anywhere in iran at a moments notice and it was usually important for the iranian revolution. with the help of satellites of course, which were, the cost of come down. satellite communications were very important so i think you see a lot of different levels at which the technology was influencing office. pcs were not yet there, but i think they are very much a part of this. the technological aspect really
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deserves to be going into a lot more deeply than i was able to. >> host: tell me if you were to do a follow-up to the book, would you jump right in with 1980, or where is your next moment? does ago 1979, 1989, will that be the next part? >> guest: that's a great question but i don't think i will write about a year again but i think i will write about something totally different. >> host: absolutely. it's really interesting to an instance of a bunch of gotten so far, what have you made of what the critics have to say? >> guest: i feel like a lot of people got the book. when you write a book like this you're sitting alone in your living room and you were wondering and i just a nutcase or are people going to understand some of the points i'm trying to make. so far it's been very gratifying. i think a lot of people have understood exactly what i was trying to say but, of course, i am making an argument to a certain degree, but if you just want to read


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