Cold War warmed over

By Bill Schneider
March 7, 2014

Can we have a new Cold War without a communist threat?  Some important political players seem to think so.

One of them is Russian President Vladimir Putin. At his surreal press conference, Putin depicted the protest that overthrew the pro-Russian government in Ukraine as a plot by the West to undermine Russia. He even accused the United States of training the Kiev protesters: “I have a feeling that they sit somewhere in a lab in America . . . and conduct experiments, as if with rats, without understanding the consequences of what they are doing.”

Then there’s Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who seemed thrilled over the prospect of a new Cold War.  “We are all Ukrainians now!” McCain declared in what sounded like a call to arms. He even dragged out an article President Barack Obama wrote for a college publication more than 30 years ago. Obama had argued that “President Reagan’s defense buildup” had “distorted national priorities.

For old Cold Warriors, as William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”

What’s missing now is ideological confrontation. When the Cold War started in the 1940s, a lot of people thought the United States — which had a 200-year-old history of isolationism — would never support an endless confrontation with no prospect of a definitive victory in the foreseeable future. But Americans did support the Cold War.  For more than 40 years.

That’s because they saw communism as a unique menace — atheist and anti-capitalist. And they saw the Soviet Union as a threat to U.S. security and world order.

Today, however, the Soviet Union is gone.  And communism is no longer the dire menace it once was.

Russia is still a dangerous power, of course, and it still has nuclear weapons.  But Russia’s objectives now appear to be less ideological and more nationalistic and ethnic. A statement released by Putin’s office said, “Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population.”

The Ukrainian crisis has not provoked deep partisan division in the United States.  Sure, Republicans in Congress are criticizing Obama for “emboldening Putin” by not showing George W. Bush-like resolve in Syria.  But Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “If you’re asking whether the U.S. should be taking military strikes against Russian troops in Ukraine or Crimea, I would argue to you that I don’t think anyone is advocating for that.” Not even McCain.

The Cold War may be over, but the United States continues to be the pre-eminent world power and the principal guarantor of international order. President Bill Clinton, in his Second Inaugural Address in 1997, said, “America stands alone as the world’s indispensable nation.”

History shows this is true. Since World War II, whenever there has been a serious threat to world order or humanitarian values, one rule has applied: Unless the United States acts, nothing happens.

What would have happened if the United States had failed to act after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990? Most likely, nothing. Kuwait would now be part of Iraq.

Having acted decisively in Kuwait, President George H. W. Bush left the crisis in Bosnia to the Europeans. The United States had no vital interests there. So what happened?  Nothing.  The Europeans failed to act, and a new horror entered the world’s vocabulary: ethnic cleansing.  Eventually, Washington felt morally compelled to step in and lead a coalition to end the brutality.

When atrocities occurred in Cambodia, Rwanda, Congo and Darfur, the whole world — including the United States — looked away.  So nothing happened. The result was genocide. Clinton later expressed regret for America’s failure to act in Africa.

If the United States had not led an invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban would likely still be in power, harboring al Qaeda terrorists. It is unlikely that anything would have been done to stop Muammar Qaddafi’s murderous reprisals in Libya if the United States had not played a crucial role. It is hard to imagine a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians without a U.S. guarantee.

In 2008, Russia invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia to defend pro-Russian minorities who felt threatened by the anti-Russian government. President George W. Bush ordered U.S. ships to the region and sent humanitarian aid. But there was no sentiment in the U.S. for a military response. Russian troops are still in Georgia.

The United States may be “the world’s indispensable nation,” but it no longer wants to be policeman to the world. For one thing, the ideological zeal provided by the Cold War is gone. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the communist threat has been reduced to a rivalry (China) or a nuisance (Cuba).

Anti-communism is not a major issue for the Tea Party movement. Certainly not the way it was for earlier conservative movements led by Barry M. Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

After two less-than triumphant foreign wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), the American public has turned against U.S. military intervention. Public pressure stopped Obama from launching a military strike on Syria last year. Last week, a Huffington Post-YouGov poll asked, “Do you think the United States has any responsibility to protect Ukraine if Russia were to invade?” Only 18 percent of Americans said yes.

Then there’s the fact that the New America movement that Obama brought to power is highly suspicious of U.S. military intervention. After all, it developed out of two antiwar movements, one in Vietnam and the other in Iraq. “When I’ve sent young men and women into harm’s way,” Obama said in a 2012 campaign debate, “I always understand that [force] is the last resort, not the first resort.”

There is certainly no support for Putin among progressives in the United States.  They see him as a creep and a bully. They are outraged by his suppression of gay rights in Russia. The instinctive sympathies of Obama supporters were with the protesters in the streets of Kiev (and last year in Cairo).

The left today, like the right during the Cold War, wants to export American values to the rest of the world. Bush tried to export democracy. Obama wants to export human rights.

The difference is Obama does not want to do it at the point of a gun.

 

PHOTO (TOP): Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C), attends the opening ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, March 7, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

PHOTO (INSERT 1): Photograph of President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, 1961. Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

PHOTO (INSERT 2): President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

8 comments

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This explains a lot about what geoplotics is doing behind the scenes today:

“British Intelligence (MI6), however, was interested in Bandera. MI6 first
contacted Bandera through Gerhard von Mende in April 1948. An ethnic
German from Riga, von Mende served in Alfred Rosenberg’s Ostministerium
during the war as head of the section for the Caucasus and Turkestan section,
recruiting Soviet Muslims from central Asia for use against the USSR. In this
capacity he was kept personally informed of UPA actions and capabilities.53
Nothing came of initial British contacts with Bandera because, as the CIA
learned later, “the political, financial, and tech requirements of the [Ukrainians]
were higher than the British cared to meet.” But by 1949 MI6 began helping
Bandera send his own agents into western Ukraine via airdrop. In 1950
MI6 began training these agents on the expectation that they could provide
intelligence from western Ukraine.”

From HITLER’S SHADOW
Nazi War Criminals, U.S.
Intelligence, and the Cold War
Richard Breitman and Norman J.W. GodaChapter 5

Posted by Thingumbob | Report as abusive

I say, let it all go to hell. If you look at the articles about the latest Russian military movements, all you see are comments still verbally attacking the US… yammering on and on about killing innocent people, the ‘drones’, and all the other usual hysteria and conspiracy insanity. This very site just a couple weeks ago, had an op-ed claiming that Russia supposedly, really isn’t about expansion anymore, and how we stupid Americans, apparently just don’t understand them. ie: Everything is our fault… Like always. When we invade a country, it’s our fault… And when somebody else invades a country… Well, that’s still our fault. When we don’t invade, it’s our fault for letting people die… Blah blah blah. Let it all fall apart… Let the mid-east descend into complete anarchy… Let the gas prices triple. Let all the crybabies have their way, without the big bad USA intervening in anything. We’ll see who the real bad guys are, and we’ll see how bad it can get. My guess is that, it will be just like always… Everybody hates the US, until they’re getting overrun. Then a** kissing begins, and we can’t come and kill people fast enough for them. Hypocrites.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

Pure nonsense. This current President has attempted to reduce America’s exceptionalism in the world’s view, and has succeeded. He does not believe in America, does not have a realistic foreign policy, and has created a world-wide power vacuum. A vacuum is never empty for long. His decisions on the Middle East have resulted in a renewal of Russia as a regional power and a distrust of the U.S. Coupled with a lack of respect for America, and a conviction that the political will to wield “a big stick” is simply not there, countries throughout the world are moving in the vacuum. China is another example, in the Sea of Japan.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

“Obama does not want to do it at the point of a gun.”

Schneider’s living in la-la land. Superpower foreign policy is always backed up by the threat of deadly force.

I guess drones and special ops don’t qualify as physical coercion. Kind and gentle persuasion.

Posted by f00 | Report as abusive

The issue is that the US economy is still entrenched in the cold war. So the firms lobby the politicians (both sides) to keep up ‘a perpetual war’. I think the US needs to find a new identity.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

The existence of an anti-capitalist and atheist ideology alone wasn’t and isn’t sufficient reason to wage a massive military standoff against that ideology, or else we would have launched a full-scale invasion of tne Soviet Union the moment it was created. No, the reason we fought the cold War was because the USSR had a anti-democratic ideology…and in the wake of World War II it appeared to be willing to export that ideology at gunpoint.

Posted by delta5297 | Report as abusive

I don’t think the politicians themselves want a cold war. I think the American military industrial complex does, and it pays the politicians to do their bidding. When the cold war ended, corporate America took over our government resulting in the USCA. Once corporate America was firmly in control (late 90′s?) we became a different nation. One that I don’t believe should be in control of such power. As this article states, we only act decisively when corporate Americas “interests” are threatened. So we are really NOT the worlds policeman, just a bully. Policemen would have acted in African and many other places, and would not have invaded Iraq.
I hope that China will become the worlds policemen soon.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

The war on terror was supposed to replace the cold war as a way of continual war mongering without the need for an actual enemy. These old school Russia haters are just taking any opportunity to hype up another military action that will again be very profitable for some few. John McCain comes to mind, but there are others. However, this harkening back to the cold war is a bit cheering really, in that it suggest that the war on terror is getting old and is not likely to be sustained indefinitely as it was hoped. To me that suggests a learning curve for americans. Now, obviously the old very brainwashed people as might watch FOX or Oprah, are unlikely to ever learn, but they are old and won’t be around too much longer. So I think there is hope. In my opinion Putin is doing nothing different than Kim Jung Un of north Korea. He is talking big and rattleing swords simply for what it gets him internally. By the way, Crimea is mostly Russian and has belonged to Russia in the past. We should, if true to our words, allow a referendum from the people of Crimea. However, everyone knows that the US government and all of the politicians are liars and don’t really believe in anything regarding freedom and self determination. It’s simply all ploys to control the masses for the benefit of our corporate masters.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive