What caused this dire loss of faith in our government and leaders? Mr. Judt spreads the blame around. He criticizes the narcissistic left of the 1960s, which was largely uninterested in social justice. "What united the '60s generation was not the interest of all, but the needs and rights of each," he writes. He blames that generation's political leaders too. What the baby-boomer politicians have in common, he notes, is "the enthusiasm that they fail to inspire in the electors of their respective countries."
He surveys an earlier and "superior class of statesmen," who, regardless of its members' political leanings, "represented a political class deeply sensitive to its moral and social responsibilities." Politically speaking, he declares, "ours is an age of the pygmies."
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West missed an opportunity to reshape the world. "Instead," Mr. Judt writes, "we sat back and congratulated ourselves upon having won the cold war: a sure way to lose the peace." Here is his historical judgment: "The years from 1989 to 2009 were consumed by locusts."
-- Tony Judt