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Connector of the Day – Nicholas Thompson

October 30th, 2009
02:17 AM ET

Have we learned anything from the Cold War?

At a time when the U.S. is fighting wars on two fronts, the recent publication of "The Hawk and the Dove – Paul Nitze, George Kennan, And the History Of the Cold War" has reminded the world how important the lessons of history can be. What policies are more effective: aggression or reconciliation? That's how Nicholas Thompson makes a work of two contrasting biographies relevant and important to us today.

Nicholas Thompson: tech guru, recording artist, and now historian, is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. His day job is as a senior editor at Wired magazine delving into everything from the existence of a Russian Doomsday machine to the latest developments in smartphones.

Send Nicholas your questions on anything from secret Russian weapons to the inside buzz on the new Mac tablet. We'll put them to him live during Friday's show.


soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Sayan Majumdar

    Did “Dead Hand” (The Russian Doomsday Machine) actually existed and if yes what is its status today?


    October 30, 2009 at 11:24 am | Reply
  2. Susan

    I've seen you on the television many times discussing google law suits, new cell phones, etc. Which do you prefer to discuss more – history or tech?

    October 30, 2009 at 11:38 am | Reply
  3. Super Me

    What's the craziest thing you've ever discovered in your research???

    October 30, 2009 at 11:40 am | Reply
  4. Jason

    Hi Nick –

    Smartphones have gotten exponentially better in the last couple years – what do you think the next big innovation will be on that front?

    October 30, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  5. Nguchi

    You're a senior editor at a magazine – how worried are you about the survival of the print industry in a digital age?

    October 30, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  6. Phyllis

    How relevant is a discussion on the cold war in an decade of wars on terror?

    October 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  7. Tom

    Nick, few years ago I was hoping that by today there would be some signs of a technology that would allow our mobile devices to be charged wirelessly (and that we would pay for this service using some kind of roaming electricity account). This would free us of wires, chargers and, more importantly, processors with limited power that are geared towards saving energy rather than performing well.

    Since technology exists for more than a hundred years (invented by Nikola Tesla) what is it that stops companies form comercializing it and when do you think we will have such a technology?

    October 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  8. Muthyavan.

    In recent times US and western world polices have become highly opposed by the Arab and Muslim world,is it because of unlimited support they give to Israel and its policy of continued occupation of Gaza and west bank in middle east?.

    October 30, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  9. Richard Paikoff

    I think this is a very appropriate discussion topic, especially since we are about one week from the anniversary of the Oktoberskaya Revolutsiya (The October Revolution) in Russia. My question is: do you think the 'Cold War' mentality that exists in both the Kremlin and in Washington will ever dissipate?

    October 30, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  10. Tony

    Do you see Vladimir Putin amending Russia's constitution and return to the position of President?

    October 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  11. Tony

    How is today's Russia with its psuedo-democracy any different from the Soviet Union?

    October 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  12. Chris from Budapest

    Do you think the world is a more dangerous place today or during the Cold War?

    October 30, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  13. Chris from Budapest

    How do you think the current crop of US diplomats and foreign policy officials compare with the Cold War actors like Kennan, Nitze and others? Are they up to the challenge?

    October 30, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  14. Kelly

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, public health sunk–leaving thousands dead from diptheria, polio, hepatitis, flu, typhoid, cholera, dysentary, AIDS, TB, syphilis, gonorrhea, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and childhood mumps–even though the Soviet Union had once boasted one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

    Do you think public health in America is threatened?

    October 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  15. David Sebastian

    What were some estimates of the USSR's GDP. Was it a very important factor in determining whether or not the Union was considered a global hegemony? Or was it the Union's military capabilities that mattered the most.

    October 30, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  16. Nascimento

    Do you think that Russian will agree that Brazil take place in security of U.N. ?

    October 30, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Reply
  17. Imam Ya'qub

    The existence of Soviet Union was a threat to America than rest of the rest of the world, more than a decade after its collapse is the world any safer?

    October 30, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Reply
  18. Alfonso

    Why President Roosvelt and Mr. Churcill did not open a war front in the Balcans consigning de facto East Europe to Soviet army?

    October 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  19. Magdalena

    I would like to ask you question about russian intelligence service in time of second world war in comparison with today. Do you think that russian intelligence practics have changed after 1991?
    Thank you very much for your answer.

    October 30, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  20. Olga

    Hi Nick,

    Don't you think that the Cold War was a good thing in a way? There was a healthy competition to show that your people live better than the ones in the county you are "enemy' with. Governments at both sides did their best to improve the quality of life of their citizens, decrease work hours, improve health system....sometiimes I believe just to show the "other side" that their people are better off in their own country. There was a LOT of propaganda involved in BOTH sides too.
    Do you think there was ever a REAL threat from either side?

    October 30, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  21. Anthony Arnold

    What lessons did the Soviets learn, if any, durning their invasion of Afghanistan? And what can we, as Americans, learn from their mistakes?

    October 31, 2009 at 12:10 am | Reply
  22. Anthony Arnold

    I'm interested in learning Pashto and the culture of Afghanistan. Do you think that this approach has a more winning number than the Soviets approach during the 1980's? And if so, what government agency would be interested in training veterans for this new approach?

    October 31, 2009 at 12:16 am | Reply
  23. John Dinwiddie

    A Russian engineer once told me that for her the real reason for
    the end of the Soviet Union was the Arpanet. Her reasoning was
    that the Arpanet accelerated the weapons R&D cycles due to the
    rapidity and informality of information sharing, whereas in the Soviet
    Union, even to copy a spec out of a components catalog required
    a sign out with a supervisor who was watched by the KGB.

    The Soviet leadership, already severely stressed by the Cold War,
    now faced an untenable choice. To imitate the networking that
    was so effective in the U.S.A., one had to bypass the cumbersome
    routines that came with police state security measures.

    So the Soviet Union leadership realized that to do it our way was
    to abandon oversight in its most privileged intelligencia, its weapons
    designers. They added it all up, which it didn't, threw in the towel
    in the slow motion of Glasnost.

    That was my friend Irena's thesis, Ph.D. Physics, University of
    Moscow. Comment?

    October 31, 2009 at 12:41 am | Reply
  24. John Dinwiddie

    I would like your comment also on this; Robert Service in his
    recent biography of Stalin suggests that judging Russia by
    its proclaimed ideology of the moment is to miss the central
    point that has made governing Russia so problematic for
    centuries, too big, too diverse.

    Now Russia faces Islamic fundamentalism as we do, and
    its last stand in Afghanistan was its own reaction to what
    it perceived as a domino theory threat, that all of the south eastern
    areas of the Soviet Union, each heavily populated with Moslems,
    would fall away as a group. It was Bin Laden and his highway
    building that defeated the Soviet Invasion, so we do have that
    part of the problem in common. But to understand Russia
    today, if one follows the advice of Robert Service, is to keep one's
    attention focused on what to him is the constant issue, size
    diversity. I do agree with this point of view, as I did with Irene's
    unusual take expressed in the letter previous.

    Your thoughts on this? Is Russia, even in its reduced size,
    governable without having to resort to military violence?

    October 31, 2009 at 12:53 am | Reply
  25. John Dinwiddie

    One last thing, in response to an earlier comment.

    The Cold War is relevant in two ways, as example, and as
    continuing fact. It changes its face and its popular mythology
    struggles to keep up.

    So may I suggest this baseline for the Cold War; it was, and
    so it remains, all about nuclear weapons. They are what must
    remain cold if nothing else in warfare does. Now the problem
    is worse than ever, because the controls are so heavily compromised. But as long as a nuke does not go off, then the Cold War, our best friend, abides. Disarming would be nice, however.

    October 31, 2009 at 1:01 am | Reply

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