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Cold War was never entirely cold

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Cold War was never entirely cold

Cold War was never entirely cold
January 07
17:09 2020

We use the term “Cold War” to refer to a period of enmity between the democratic nations and the communist alliances that was expressed in verbal fuselages rather than real bombs.  The concept of “mutual assured destruction” that rose out of the atomic age was said to keep the great power – essentially the United States against the old Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China.

Some say that we are re-entering a cold war that will again pit America against the two major communist nations.  After a period of perestroika and glasnost that brought down the Soviet Union empire and the Nixon Initiative that brought down the Bamboo Curtain isolating China, things are getting a bit chilly again because of two men.

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President-for-life Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, and President-for-life Xi Jinping, in Beijing, represent the return of the hardliner.  They have ended a trend toward democratization in favor of greater authoritarianism.  While Russia and China remain important trading partners and share some common global goals – such as the destruction of ISIS – there is a growing adversarial relationship.

While it was called an era of “cold war,” the old global situation was far from cold.  It is true that America never had to engage in a shooting war with neither Russia nor China, but we did have our “seconds” to battle things out in a more military manner.  Rather than boxing in the ring, the bifurcated world used smaller nations like pieces on a chessboard to fight it out.  The Korean and Vietnam conflicts were essentially wars between the United States and China that grew out of President Truman’s bumbled “containment policy.”  Afghanistan was initially a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Hundreds of thousands of people actually died on the fields of battle in the so-called Cold War.

While the battlegrounds may change, the concept does not.  The fighting in the Middle East is essentially a battle between the United States and Russia.  Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, etc. are the pieces on the chessboard.  The war in Ukraine is currently America versus Russia.  So was the war in Iraq and the civil war in Syria.

Unlike World War I and World War II, these conflicts are asymmetrical,  they are divided between conflicts based on factional civil unrest – as we see between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq — and a network of terrorism that is not clearly defined by national borders – most recently manipulated by the late-Qasem Soleimani.  It is an international free-for-all.

There are a lot of other pieces on the board that are not being moved into conflict—yet.  North Korea and Cuba to name a couple.  There has been a lot of saber rattling but no new clashing of swords.  That does not mean it cannot or will not happen in the future.  We have come close in the past.

Compared to the Korean and Vietnam wars, the clashes around the world are more like brushfires.  Very few American, Russian or Chinese boots are on the ground.  The casualty counts for the big players – though tragic – are nowhere near the number who died or were wounded in Southeast Asia in the last half of the Twentieth Century.

There are, however, two spots in the world today that could bring us back into major conflicts, as unlikely and unwanted as that may seem – North Korea (again) and Iran.  War on the Korean peninsula would be essentially between America and China, and war with Iran is between America and Russia.

In the crazy world of modern warfare, it is possible for America, Russia or China to have boots on the ground in the same arenas without officially be fighting each other.  That is exactly what has been happening in Syria for several years.

When Trump ordered the attack on a Syrian airfield in response to the use of chemical warfare, there was a concerted effort to not hit Russian soldiers in the region.  You will recall that Russia issued a mea culpa when a unit of theirs “inadvertently” attacked an American unit. The Russian unit was wiped out without any repercussions from Moscow.

What this means is that the world has been engaged in an unending conflict between the two major ideologies – the democracies against the authoritarians.  This will not end until one side or the other is essentially defeated.  And it damn well better not be our side.  That is why we cannot stand down in the face of aggressive expansionism by the totalitarian alliances anywhere in the world.

So. There ‘tis.

About Author

Larry Horist

Larry Horist

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com.

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