Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Cold War Is Finally Over (Both Sides Lost)

We tend to think that the Cold War ended in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, or in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I tend to think nowadays that it finally ended with the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency.

The Cold War was, in many respects, a conflict destined to destroy both of its participants. It just so happens that the Soviets lost the war of attrition first. Their stagnant economy could not sustain its military and imperialist commitments as belief in communism eroded. While America claimed to emerge victorious, its society was already crumbling into steep inequality and cynicism in the 1980s. Those trends have only continued to the point of absurdity to the present day. The Cold War demanded a massive level of spending and multiple wars. As America's military might increased, the standard of living for its people took a dive. America may have "won" the Cold War, but people are drinking poison in Flint, and parts of cities across this country still look like they've been bombed. Much like Britain after the two World Wars, victory does not save the empire.

Meanwhile, in the international arena, America tried to extend the life and reach of Cold War institutions, rather than replacing them. Hence NATO moving into Eastern Europe, for example. The post-1989 presidents still maintained America's commitment to a global projection of power, changing the enemy from communism to Islamism after the 9/11 attack.

As awful as the United States behaved during the Cold War, it at least had a somewhat idealistic self-conception of its behavior. Trump has set about shredding the institutional webs of the Cold War world, not out of ideals, but out of craven nationalism. Beyond that, of course, he was supported in his quest for power by Vladimir Putin. The ex-KGB agent got the last laugh, avenging the end of the Soviet Union by helping to install a destructive idiot at the head of America. Obama tried to repair the damage done by Shrub to America's standing in the world, Trump has torn that work to shreds. Now that damage will be permanent. I don't think there's any going back from this.

In 2018, that aforementioned idiot is driving the nation into the ditch. Despite this accomplishment, Putin's Russia is still economically weak and irrelevant. The USA and USSR both managed to bury each other, making way for an ascendant China. The Cold War is finally over, and both sides lost. 

1 comment:

Terry said...

I'm more optimistic than you are, even while worrying away at every atrocity being perpetrated on the best things about our country. Laws can be appealed, reversed. I think decent people are in the vast majority and Trump & Co. have roused a tiger they are incapable of even knowing it ever existed. And now with the young people finding and using their power, my hope for the future is even stronger. I think things are going to be very bad for awhile until we can get the old boat upright again, but I also think we're going to end up a much better and stronger people. I'm 68 this year, so I might not see it. But I think it will happen. I saw someone from the Hollywood culture tweet that there is a wave of films getting financed and prepared that will make All the President's Men look like about 60 seconds of that Lego movie. When they start hitting the theaters there will be more people informed about what's going on. vast number of D.C. staff and appointed officials who have been forced out or quit still have their education, experience and dedication and some of them are already writing books, starting social justice groups, and speaking out. Getting rid of them might be one of Drumpf's biggest mistakes. And "ordinary" people are reaching out to their neighbors, protecting targeted groups, and putting their money where their mouths are to the best of their ability. I think America has found herself again, it always takes teetering on the abyss to get people moving, and boy are we there now. We're on the edge. It could still go either way and I'm scared. But we have the decent Americans waking up now.