News Year’s Eve has found its way to Arizona’s outback and, although I haven’t checked, probably to the rest of the world this side of the International Dateline. While the celebrations wind-up, my thoughts turn to the legacy of the Cold War and what we may have learned. A likely candidate for consideration is the U.S.’s foreign policy and the accompanying foreign relations. I love the rich, stand-up comedy fodder the subject offers until thoughts of the millions of affected people sober the tone. The Cold War became the test bed for ‘new’ foreign policy trials. As newly deployed policies failed and yielded to military adventures, the federal government ‘doubled-down’ rather than admit an error. As bad foreign policy and relations are implemented they come back to haunt ordinary U.S. citizens and the citizenry is being engulfed by its own government’s fear and paranoia; FUBAR.
This post will discuss wars and some of the dumb decisions (in my opinion) that were made by policy makers who did not have the moral backbones to stand up and take the heat. It is not about the honor and integrity of American soldiers, who fought; many of whom died or were wounded physically or emotionally. I am grateful to you for your service. It is also not about the millions of civilians who were carried by the tide of policy into harm’s way. And it is not about the policy decisions currently in the public debating forums. The post is about the past that brought us to where we are today.
In Greece, the U.S. threw its policy weight and money at the Greek Civil War with the passage of The Truman Doctrine in 1946 by the Republican Congress. Oops, the Soviet Union had already refused to assist the Greek Communists in the struggle so the Civil War was just that. The Truman Doctrine set the tone of American interference in other countries’ business going forward, though.
The Marshall Plan in 1947 seems to have worked out well for everyone concerned, although Asia, without a ‘Marshall Plan’, did even better and faster.
The battle over Berlin took a hard turn straight into crisis on June 23, 1948 when the U.S. and
its allies, England and France, talked about forming a federation with their three slices of the Berlin pie. The allied discussions spooked the Soviet Union so they closed the Berlin border to allied vehicle and rail traffic. The confrontation over the closures was passive/aggressive; the Berlin airlift response kept Berlin provisioned-just barely. The airlift was sufficient, however, for the Soviets to assess the will and capacity of the allies and they came to the table after seven months. The result was years and years of tension over the East-West German borders. Millions of American soldiers’ rite of passage to man and womanhood occurred under the constant, unrelenting threat of World War III at the German border as they stared into the eyes of their counterparts under the same pressure.
The sustained tension at the German border coupled with the assumed military strength of the Soviet Union was the genesis of the nuclear arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine (MADD). It was the second plank in Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy in 1953: “relying on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression or, if necessary, to fight a war”. Both sides geared up and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could be fatefully delivered on any platform. It also spurred the unanticipated consequence of everybody wanting a nuke. Now, twenty six nations are capable of exercising the incredible destructive force of the nucleus of an atom.
Let us not forget NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. sponsored joint military that has grown in both size and strength. NATO clung to its initial policy of not attacking
unless attacked as long as the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with. On the sidelines, those of us old enough to remember, watched helplessly and in horror as our Western governments let calls for help from East Europeans challenging the Soviet iron fist go unanswered; Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1956, the Czechs again in the Prague spring of 1968 and the Poles in the 70’s. After the Soviet Union fractured and retreated, NATO changed its tune and went aggressive. NATO beat up feckless Yugoslavia in Kosovo and sent troops into Bosnia and Afghanistan. The neighborly NATO took U.S. taxpayer money by the wheelbarrow but decided not to replace or augment U.S. troops in Iraq. NATO has also stimulated a new arms race:
“…The treaty between west European nations, inaugurated as a barrier to Soviet aggression, graduated to new prominence in 2011 with establishment of a “free fly” zone for Libyan insurgents, and aerial attacks on Libya. The spread of NATO actions to several continents redefines NATO as an arm of western political and military policies, and replaces the policy of deterrence against a defunct Soviet Union. Coupling that with the anti-missile system the U.S. and NATO allies propose to deploy in Eastern Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian First Channel program Cold Politics (Kholodnaya Politika) and exclaimed that this anti-missile system “is undoubtedly aimed at neutralizing the nuclear rocket capability of Russia.”