November 18, 2004

Recent Read

I have been reading this week a slim memoir by Richard Pipes, entitled: Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger. This was a fabulous read. Dr. Pipes has had a fascinating life and he breaks it down into three periods: 1, his escape from Poland during WW II and almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis followed by his acclimation to the US and earning a Ph.D. at Harvard; 2, his time as a prof. at Harvard during the Golden Years of the 50's and 60's; and, 3, his service at the National Security Counsel under Pres. Reagan. Of the three periods, only #2 is kind of boring.

Period 1: Escape from Warsaw. This was particularly interesting for me as all of my Polish family who didn't immigrate to the United States were killed during the Holocaust and it was compelling to read about the journey of a family who was luckier or had more foresight than my own. You felt as if the Pipes family was absolutely one step ahead of the Fascist bureacracy the whole way but just barely. As if they were closing the back door to the house as the Fascists were coming in the front door. It felt that close. I also enjoyed Pipes' descriptions of his first college days in the US and how he acclimated to America.

Period 3: Life with the NSC. Pipes was a Soviet specialist and very critical both of the Soviet Union (he was called one of the great Cold Warriors) and of detente and the scholarly / diplomatic class that was build up with a vested interest in business as usual with the Soviets. He and Reagan shared the view that business with the Soviets was a moral issue and the Soviet system was inherently corrupt. He provided, it appears, a lot of the theoretical support for Reagan's positions on arms control and countering Soviet actions with decisive responses. Pipes was the one who pushed for sanctions during the Solidarity crackdown in Poland, for instance. Absolutely fascinating reading and I just wish there was more of it. Pipes paints Haig as a freak, by the way, who Reagan detested and he has few if any nice things to say about Nancy.

Upshot? Go and read this. I think you'll enjoy it. I picked it up at the library but intend to buy a copy for my father in law as a gift.

Posted by Random Penseur at November 18, 2004 09:44 AM
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