The answers to these questions matter at a time when the West is once again fighting an ideological enemy, in the form of radical Islam. If we remembered, truly remembered, why the Cold War was fought and how it was won, for example, we would know that it is unacceptable to alter our liberal democracy in order to fight the war on terrorism either at home or abroad. This week, I heard a university professor tell a television interviewer that he thought the use of torture in the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the al Qaeda leader, was acceptable, as long as it is done abroad, and as long as it is not used on U.S. citizens. Elsewhere, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said, "We don't sanction torture," but there are "psychological and other ways we can get what we need" out of him -- whatever that means. Comments such as these have sparked, once again, a mini-storm about whether Americans should be allowed to use torture or not.
Properly understood, the history of the Cold War should lead us directly to the answer: We fought Stalin's system because it was inhuman, not just because it was powerful. Our weapons helped us to win, but our victory, in the end, had far more to do with the moral and material success of Western society and the bankruptcy of communism. On the anniversary of Stalin's death, it is worth remembering that radical Islam will also come to a swifter end if we abide by our own rules of decency at home, and apply them to others as well.
(. . . A Lesson For the West/By Anne Applebaum Washington Post, Wednesday, March 5, 2003; Page A21)