In his novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Czech novelist Milan Kundera defines the struggle against power as ‘the struggle of memory against forgetting’.1 He begins by narrating that important event in Czech history, in February 1948, when the communist leader, Gottwald, surrounded by his comrades on the palace balcony at the Old Town Square in Prague, addressed the nation and proclaimed its future. It was a cold night, and comrade Clementis dutifully took off his fur cap and put it on his leader’s bare head. After Clementis’ purge in 1952, the propaganda section typically airbrushed him out of all history and photographs. The only thing that stubbornly kept reminding the Czechs of his existence was that cap on Gottwald’s head, which figured in this historic photograph that every child was shown in schoolbooks, posters and museums. History plays curious games. Our situation in this particular juncture of (postCold War) history has its own ironies. This chapter, for example, was initially written as a paper for a conference on the role NATO could play in the future of European security, hosted in the Czech Republic, a ‘divorced’ country that during the Cold War was a NATO ‘enemy state’ and one that officially espoused the position that the Atlantic Alliance was not the solution but the very cause of European insecurity. Those days are surely gone and we are now told we live in the more secure days of a ‘partnership for peace’. One could even say-if the term was not so overdetermined-that we are all comrades now. However, what has not been asked at this point is whether this partnership for peace is after all not such a novel idea. It is possible that we already had a partnership for peace in the past without even realizing it. In fact, I do not think it would be at all inappropriate to describe the relationship that existed between East and West during the days of the Cold War as an unofficial partnership for peace. For all
opposites are partners in the politics of identity. And so, during the Cold War, the opposites that articulated ‘peace’ (by constantly preparing for war) in their own antithetical way were joined in a partnership that was apparently conflictual but more cooperative than the adversaries cared to admit. Here I refer not only to the ‘cooperation under the threat of nuclear war’ that is supposed to have kept the ‘peace’ in post-World War II Europe. Nor do I simply point to the fact that both NATO and the Warsaw Pact were ‘partners in arms’ charged, in their respective and mutually recognized spheres of influence, with the production of deterrence under the madly reassuring discourse of mutual assured destruction. I refer also to the legitimizing credentials that each camp provided for the other, credentials that accredited the two military alliances as the sole guarantors, the indispensable missionaries of European security-a task they sustained in turn by credibly insecuring European space. In those days, NATO and the Warsaw Pact were like ‘partners in crime’, not really trusting each other but joined in a single purpose; not a purpose outside some domestic or international law but an ideological mission that in its parity laid down the very rules of European and world order. Now that the latter partner has been purged, I ask you to allow me to recall the cap, the cap of the enabling Other, the cap that was lent to NATO as a cover during the cold years of the Cold War, the cap that also established NATO as the captain or figurehead of (Western) European security for more than forty years, the cap we can laugh about but not forget.