January 25, 2010

1989 with 20/20 Hindsight

It is always difficult to differentiate between current perceptions and those that dominated in a previous era. The benefit of hindsight is that it allows us to re-evaluate past events and, if the conditions are auspicious, to gain better insights into our own earlier shortcomings. What was understood about communism in 1989 is very much at variance with what we can see now, which is why the assessments that were made back then, the strategies that were developed and the policies based on them were all necessarily affected by two serious handicaps. One handicap was the accumulated information about the communist world and the deductions that were made about how people in communist states would behave once the communist system disappeared. The other was the sheer speed of events, meaning that what was valid on Monday was unthinkable by Thursday.

It is always difficult to differentiate between current perceptions and those that dominated in a previous era. The benefit of hindsight is that it allows us to re-evaluate past events and, if the conditions are auspicious, to gain better insights into our own earlier shortcomings. What was understood about communism in 1989 is very much at variance with what we can see now, which is why the assessments that were made back then, the strategies that were developed and the policies based on them were all necessarily affected by two serious handicaps. One handicap was the accumulated information about the communist world and the deductions that were made about how people in communist states would behave once the communist system disappeared. The other was the sheer speed of events, meaning that what was valid on Monday was unthinkable by Thursday.


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