In this century alone a hundred million Russians, give or take a few million, have died in war, revolution and repression. Against that ghastly backdrop one would have thought the bureaucrats who overthrew Mikhail Gorbachev would have understood that the success of their treacherous enterprise depended upon their willingness to make the blood flow in the streets.
But they blinked. Instead of murdering Gorbachev as Stalin would have cheerfully done, the conspirators went to pains to assure that Gorbachev is alive and might even return to power.
Perhaps that is a vain, even naive hope, but President Bush is right to join Russian President Boris Yeltsin in demanding the reinstatement of Gorbachev.
Should this incredible scenario work out, it is conceivable that the attempted coup could even become a blessing in disguise by giving Gorbachev the credibility and authority he hitherto lacked to make the final surge to complete his historic mission.