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12/26/02

THE COLD WARRIORS

By Sheldon Drobny

 Remember the good old days of the Cold War when we were dealing with what was then called the “evil empire”?

In many ways Americans now might look back in fondness to those days when the enemy was easily identified and somewhat predictable. I will bet right now that Bush administration Cold War retreads Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz  feel exactly that way.  I myself did not believe that I would see the collapse of the Soviet empire in my lifetime, although I hoped it would happen.  But when it did happen, it seemed to me to be a great opportunity for the U.S. to exert its influence, as the only remaining superpower, to change the world in positive ways, perhaps to further a friendly global community.  As the old saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for, your wish may come true.”  Instead of creating a new world order, the U.S. lost an opportunity that may be gone for another fifty years, about the same length as the Cold War.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, three administrations have seen the effects of the collapse, and have not preemptively taken action to prevent the consequences in a non-military way. Our leaders were so busy celebrating winning the Cold War that they did not have the vision to see the natural consequences of the fall of empires, though history has given us so many examples.  Because our leaders are not visionaries and are usually reactive instead of proactive, they were blind to what could happen.  Like what happened after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire, although ruthless at times, gave the world many positive things, including Roman law, advancements in science and literature, and an orderly administration of its provinces.  Alexandria, in Egypt, with its Great Library, was the center of learning.  But when the empire collapsed and fragmented into many parts, the world was thrown into 1000 years of Dark Ages.  Not until the Italian Renaissance did the world begin to advance again its desire for scientific knowledge and improvement of the human condition.  I doubt seriously if anything could have prevented such a dark period in human history, simply because there was no other power in the world to fill the void left by the fall of the Roman Empire.

Just as the Roman Empire fragmented into many parts, so it was with the Soviet empire.  But our leaders did virtually nothing to prevent the consequences of the collapse, and may even have set in motion a darker and more dangerous period than we ever experienced during the Cold War itself.  Now, Americans and the world in general are in more fear than ever about their security and their future.  I do not remember in my lifetime when I feared the danger of mass destruction of human beings as I do today.

One might ask, why are so many frightening events occurring, and what can we do about them?  The obvious answer is that we are fighting the fragments of the old Soviet Union, which was our nemesis during the Cold War. 

The emergence of regional violence today, including ever more terrorism, has made traditional military responses obsolete.  When we were fighting the Cold War, the U.S. had a reasonably rational and predictable enemy.  That is why the policy of containment worked, as did the attempt to achieve military balance.  Our Cold War policy of MAD (mutual assured destruction) only works when the opposition is somewhat rational.

In a world where rationalism is waning and extremism is on the rise, there is no assurance that the old methods of military dominance will prevail.  I would argue that the military approach will only incite our enemies to be even more aggressive and suicidal.  Yet our leaders still set us down this dangerous course. The possible invasion of Iraq and the military buildup in the area will just further inflame those who hate us.  We are already seeing the effect of this course of action.  North Korea has decided to continue its nuclear development.

Our preemptive strike policy against Iraq was meant to scare our so-called enemies.  Instead, it may be giving them more resolve.

This week, Rumsfeld assured us that we could fight Iraq and North Korea at the same time if necessary.  That is patently absurd.  Unlike Iraq, North Korea has an army of 1.5 million, and would use it to invade South Korea, if they believe they have no other choice.  Our only military response that could save our 35,000 U.S. soldiers occupying South Korea would be to use nuclear weapons, a very disquieting thought.

Rumsfeld and his gang are still using Cold War methods in an attempt to enforce their foreign policy.  They are doing it because it is what they have done for their entire political careers.  They really do not know any other approach.  And those are the consequences of the Bush appointments from previous Republican administrations.  Like the French in WW II, in building the Maginot Line, the Bush team is using the tactics of a previous war.  The Germans proved in World War II that the World War I strategy of trench warfare and fortifications was no match for the Germans’ new strategy—mobile armored attack accompanied by air power, commonly called Blitzkrieg.

Those who have a cold war mentality cannot solve the current world crisis.  Let us get rid of these old Cold Warriors before they bring us into a world conflict that could bring about the destruction of humanity. 

If we do not stop them, the victory in the Cold War may prove to have been a Pyrrhic one.  If their actions do not destroy us completely, they may well put humanity into another thousand-year dark age.

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Sheldon Drobny is co-founder of Air America Radio, providing talk radio for the majority of Americans.

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