"Democracy is more cruel than wars or tyrants."
The correspondence on the origins of the Cold War between John Lukacs and George Kennan, who have been friends for more than four decades, is not entirely unknown to fans of either. Much of it was printed last year in American Heritage, and Lukacs's stately introduction to this expanded version of the exchange reprises themes that come up in The End of the Twentieth Century (1995) and in his earlier works on contemporary history. As I have elsewhere commented extensively on the work of both men, it may be redundant for me to repeat tributes to these acknowledged mentors. Instead, it may be more useful to focus on what I find problematic about their vision of recent history: both men see this century's two world wars as "the two mountains" (Lukacs's words) dominating the historic topography of the modern era; and both see the Russian Revolution as an event of only secondary importance, born of World War I but greatly overestimated by conservatives and neoconservatives as the turning point of the 20th century.
These notions are troubling for two reasons. First, it is not at all clear that neoconservatives hold the Russian Revolution to be as earth-shaking as Lukacs suggests. A year's subscription to Commentary or a reading of the...