Against the New Republican Isolationism

by Mark Helprin

I believe that with regard to Michael Anton’s essay “Nuclear Autumn” (Fall 2022), it is necessary to offer a counterpoint to its portrayal of, and the lessons it derives from, the Missile Crisis of 1983, in which I was a minor participant but a close observer. Now unjustly obscure, this was the last great struggle of the Cold War. The Soviet aim was not only to achieve and maintain an unmatched nuclear advantage via the deployment of the SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles menacing Europe, but, more importantly, to convince the West that having provoked this action and thus bearing the guilt, it had better not react, as doing so would be yet a greater provocation that might lead to nuclear Armageddon. Fought in the hearts and minds of Western populations, the battle was a political crisis that willfully and for effect was passed off by one side as a military crisis. The conclusion was hardly certain, but as Ronald Reagan might have said: we won, they lost.

Like Gaul, my counterpoint is divided into three parts.

Between the Extremes

First, a modern, conventional war is raging between Russia, a nuclear-armed, inherently unstable semi-superpower,

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