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February 19, 2007

Paul Kennedy: The good old days of the Cold War - Los Angeles Times
Posted by Rosa Brooks

In the LAT, Paul Kennedy lambasts nostalgia for the good old days of the Cold War. Terrorism is a serious threat, but as Kennedy notes,

Those were really scary times, and much more dangerous than our present circumstance because the potential damage that could be inflicted during an East-West conflagration was far, far greater than anything that Al Qaeda can do to us now.


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The myopic US government is trying to revive the "good old days" with the GWOT against the new Islamic caliphate that will, unless we act, extend from Indonesia to Spain. Yawn. It makes one wonder if Russia was really a threat, or, like the current "threat", was it concocted merely to keep expensive Pentagon corporate welfare high? Isn't there evidence that we could have reached a more reasonable accommodation with the USSR after WWII?

Don, if we had been friendly with the russians after WWII we would have wound up including them in the Marshall plan. Their economy would have recovered much faster.

And then if things hadn't worked out, they'd have been a lot stronger and harder to deal with.

Stalin wasn't much better to our way of thinking than Hitler. Maybe not crazy in the same ways, and he had the luxury to go defensive -- he had many more men and miles to sacrifice than Hitler did. And as far as I've heard he didn't run death camps, he had the luxury to dump prisoners in siberia and work them to death over however many months or winters it took them to die.

It would have come down to Stalin whether we could get along. And he showed us right away that he just didn't think the way we did. We agreed with him that eastern europe should have representative governments. He installed communist governments. He said they were representative. "See, this legislator is a trained carpenter, this one is a trained shoemaker, this one worked in coal mines, they represent all the professions." But they were all communists assigned to represent people. A different way of thinking.

There's no way to find out now whether we could have gotten along well with them without a strong standing army. My guess is that they had enough trouble running eastern europe that they wouldn't have tried to take western europe too. But it's hard to be sure how things would be if they were different.

Aha, now I've got you. A "different way of thinking" is no reason for war, cold or otherwise.

Don, that's often the main reason for war. When people understand each other then sometimes they can agree and sometimes they can't. When they can't agree to co-exist together then they fight.

But when they don't even understand what the other side wants and how they intend to get it, they tend to fight. They don't know what the other guy will do. He's likely to do something dangerous. They can't trust him to keep his word -- not because he's dishonest (though he may be) but because he simply doesn't use language the same way.

And those wars tend to be bloodier. We assume the crazy foreigners are implacable, we assume they won't do an honest surrender, we don't believe in a negotiated settlement, etc.

We didn't really understand or trust the communists, and they certainly didn't trust us. Not a real good start for a interdependent peace.

Now you're saying: Well it really wasn't my idea--it's conventional wisdom--something "they" think. So I mis-read you--I thought that you were expressing your own thoughts. In any case, no matter whose thought it is, the "different way of thinking" reason for war is a cover for power, profit and corporate welfare. America must always have an enemy, or manufacture one.

Don, it's possible you're right. But it isn't necessarily so. We didn't trust the russians not to turn into a bigger nazi germany. They were keeping all of eastern europe. They were not only preaching communism, they were trying to get local communists to take over governments where they didn't have a majority. As a gesture of goodwill they allowed jews from poland etc that they had put into concentration camps go home. But the fact was they put those jews in concentration camps for being jews, before they got all friendly and let the survivors leave. Is that a wash, morally? Lots of jews survived the russsian concentration camps, not so many survived the german ones.

See, they were saying that we were ruled by corporations and rich people who didn't have the welfare of the people at heart. Whether or not it was true, them trying to set up a US government where the rich people would be put in camps didn't go over very well with the US government.

America did very well without much of an enemy before WWII. There was Pancho Villa, does he count? We went a long and successful time without much of a standing army. Though our government (and rich people and corporations) also didn't have that much control over anything outside the western hemisphere.

America did very well without much of an enemy before WWII

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