Inspired by a recent interview of Stephen F. Cohen by John Batchelor….
All around that dull grey world
From Moscow to Berlin
People storm the barricades
Walls go tumbling in
All around this great big world
All the crap we had to take
Bombs and basement fallout shelters
All our lives at stake
The bloody revolution
All the warheads in its wake
All the fear and suffering
All a big mistake
All those wasted years
All those precious wasted years
Who will pay?
The Cold War seems so long ago. Twenty-five years ago the Soviet Union was no more. Whether you believe the Cold War was real or merely a ploy to consolidate global power, it seems unquestionable that the time was one of potential (and at times almost realized) nuclear holocaust, even if only by mistake.
This came to an end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union…supposedly. In the intervening years, NATO – whose entire raison d'être was to protect Western Europe from Soviet expansion – has remained and grown, expanding further to the east. While there is some disagreement as to what promises were and were not made at the time regarding an eastern expansion of NATO, it is undeniable that such moves would be and are seen as threatening to Russia.
Stephen Kinzer writes, in “The US as a fading superpower”:
Fifteen years into the 21st century, it is clear that the United States faces an era full of new threats. Some are political and military. The most serious is psychological.
During this century, the United States will not dominate the world as it did during the last one. If Americans can adjust to this reality, there is hope for global stability. If we refuse — if we do not accept the relative decline in our power — our frustration may lead us to lash out in self-destructive ways.
Not only self-destructive. In any case, this self-destruction is ongoing – perhaps the best date to mark the beginning of this decline is September 11.
Nations naturally rise and decline over the course of time. Those that survive the longest, like China and Iran, do so by riding the tides of history. Americans have no experience doing that. For us the tide has always been high.
To understand this, Americans would have to understand history – not a strong suit. Americans have no memory of being anything other than the one on top – the dictator.
Signs of the emerging new world are impossible to miss. A terror gang in the Middle East has seized territory, and we are forced to realize that despite all our military might, we cannot dislodge it without help from local partners. Russia openly defies us. Turkey, a NATO ally that was long our lap dog, ignores our pleas and goes its own way. Saudi Arabia launched a war without even consulting us.
It is even worse. The US hasn’t been on the winning side of any meaningful “hot” war since about 1945 (yes, I know about Norman Schwarzkopf). A super-power without resume.
Kinzer offers a sobering – and realistic – perspective:
Most challenging is our changing relationship with China. By mid-century, if not before, Americans will be faced with a reality we have never known: a rival that is more populous, richer, and more historically powerful than the United States. Our response to recent Chinese probes in the Pacific has been militaristic…. If we pursue this policy, the long-term victor is likely to be them, not us.
The risks are, unfortunately, high:
Great wars often explode at moments of tectonic geopolitical change: when rising states challenge a long-dominant power. The conflict is set off not by a challenger, but by the dominant power, which fears losing its top-dog status. Thucydides cited this as the reason for the Peloponnesian War 2,400 years ago: “It was the rise of Athens, and the fear that this inspired in Sparta, that made war inevitable.”
The Top Dog’s Self-Destruction
The inertia of empire allows for movement in only one direction…. From the Los Angeles Times:
The Obama administration wants to enlarge the U.S. military presence in eastern and central Europe next year by stockpiling heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other military equipment across the region, a substantial expansion of U.S. efforts to counter a resurgent Russia.
The proposed $3.4-billion initiative will permit the Pentagon to keep the equivalent of a 4,000-soldier armored brigade in the region at all times on rotational deployments, though no troops will be formally based there, officials said.