Technology with attitude

Lessons Learned After The Cold War

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Andrew Sullivan pens one of the more level headed walks through the post Cold War era and details where we find ourselves now and where we must go…

The end of the Cold War was an opportunity to create a new one. For some, we now realize, the Cold War was not about democratic values versus totalitarianism, in the Kirkpatrick formulation. It was about American hegemony against any rival power, totalitarian or not, globally expansionist or not. The end of Communism was, for some, a problem. It removed a key rationale for military power. China was the first object of demonization, in the first months of the Bush administration; then – defensibly – Islamism; then Iran, Iraq and NoKo; now, Russia. Islamism may well be seen as a rival to Communism in ideological terms, and worthy of a new Cold War of sorts. But we also learned fast enough that its asymmetrical dispersal across the world made traditional warfare, as in the Cold War, irrelevant, even counter-productive. But we still put a militarist template on it in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it remains an over-arching defense of more traditional hegemonic actions – largely centered on oil supplies – in the Middle East. You can absolutely understand and defend a military state-centered response to 9/11 at the time. But we have surely learned the limits of its potential – indeed the further damage it can do. […]

Where does thus leave us? If the reaction to the last week is any indicator, Americans are still viscerally committed to the kind of Cold War dynamics we once had a chance to leave behind. The Republican party especially thrives on such conflict, enabling it to dominate domestic politics with appeals to bravado and patriotism and empire. Meanwhile, America’s fiscal standing continues to slide down and down; its military consumes more and more resources; dependence on foreign oil does not prompt us to find alternative energy resources as an urgent national security matter, but to face off against Petro-powers, demonize oil companies, offer gas tax gimmicks, and occupy dysfunctional regions in far away countries because our addiction to a substance that is wrecking the planet is too great to resist.

This is the way great powers fall. And this election presents us with a very rare chance to move in a different and more rational direction. Turning this around will be a monumental task because so many forces now conspire to push this country further and further along on this declinist, neo-imperial path. But it can be done over a generation.

This is just an excerpt. I urge you to read the whole thing.