Cold War I and II – Solutions Anyone?
EDITORIAL, 30 Jun 2008
#14 | Johan Galtung
Cold War-I, say 1949-1989, came and went. Whathappened? Cold War-II started mid-1990s, building on the ruins of ColdWar-I and is now building up. What will happen? Anything to learn?
Whatwas Cold War-I about? Reading the rhetoric of the time byestablishment and anti-establishment we might believe it was about armsrace in general, nuclear arms in particular, and the threat of a madnuclear war. It was about that, with alliances and their wars pittedagainst peoples and their survival. The slogan “better Red than Dead”expressed something, as did the equally rhetorical “better Dead thanRed”. Most went for neither.
But, however mega-deadly serious, this was not the root issue, only ameta-issue. At the root were three related issues:
* Who rules Eastern Europe, the West or the Soviet Union?
* Which economy is better, capitalism or socialism?
* Which polity is better, democracy or proletariat dictatorship?
Were they also aiming at world dominion? By implication yes, beingconvinced that the world wanted the best economic-political model,meaning their own. The marxist position, socialism by the dictatorshipof the proletariat, had a touch of inevitability, withslavery-feudalism-capitalism to be followed by socialism and communismby the “laws” of historical materialism. It took time for liberalism,the West and the USA in particular, to produce something similar, the”stages of growth” with take-off into mass consumption. Walt Rostow wasno Karl Marx, but individualist materialism proved attractive. The”inevitability” was couched in mathematical terms impenetrable to most,hence not contested.
Many had compared the rapidly growing Soviet Union of the 30s under theFive years plans with depression USA favored the former. They had astrong point: basic material needs to the most needy.
But the West, state-centered, saw only Soviet expansion in the Red Armyin Eastern Europe, underestimating communist parties and aclass-centered distribution job that had to be done in post-feudalsocieties. The East saw only US expansion in favor of status quo,underestimating the growth job that also had to be done. EasternEurope moved in the Soviet direction, and much of the rest of the worldwas intervened militarily by USA.
The contradictions were real indeed. Attitudinal-behavioralpolarization followed, alliances were formed, NATO in 1949 and theWarsaw Treaty Organization in 1955, the arms race sky-rocketedliterally speaking. For each qualitative jump into new weaponry theSoviet Union followed where the USA was leading.
The Cold War did not end because the arms race subsided. The search forMAD, mutually assured destruction, went on (and still does) even ifbalanced destruction was tempered by balanced vulnerability (the ABMtreaty, leaving key cities vulnerable).
What happened was that the issues actually, to a large extent, weresolved. It took agonizing, nerve-wrecking time, but some rationalitywas at work. It could have happened much earlier:
* the solution to who rules Eastern Europe was obvious: theythemselves, Yugoslavia blazing a trail, gradually less communist;
*the solution to the economy was a mixed public-private economy with awelfare state. Social democracy, convergence in short; and
* the solution to the polity issue was human rights, but not only civil-political rights, also social-economic-cultural rights.
Many argued this while the alliances played deadly games. The Cold Warended because of the non-aligned 1972-75 Helsinki process initiated byPresident Kekkonen and because people’s movements turned against thegovernments; the Western peace movement focused on the arms issue, andthe Eastern dissident movement on human rights.
The Final Act of Helsinki 1975 confirmed borders in Eastern Europe,initiated a mixed economy through investment in the East, and a turntoward human rights in the Soviet Union. All useful.
So the Cold War withered away devoid of real issues, with no winnersand no losers. Then came a catastrophe: the USA declared itselfwinner, followed where the Soviet Union withdrew, serving Russia theGermany-Japan formula. China’s growth process startled a West notimpressed with distribution processes. NATO moved eastward and AMPO(USA-Japan) westward, encircling Russia-China. The ShanghaiCooperation Organization, SCO, was the answer, with Russia-China andfour Central Asian republics as members, India-Pakistan-Iran asobservers. Cold War-II was born and ABM skipped.
What is the solution today? What are the issues? There is a job to bedone: move people out of misery like China did for 400 million1990-2004. That economy is not socialist but capitalist with the Partyhaving the final word. The polity is not democracy nor proletariatdictatorship but democratizing in very many ways short of multi-partynational elections. There is armament, even an arms race with neitherRussian, nor Chinese armies abroad, but the USA having 700 bases in 130countries, engaged in devastating wars. The China-USA economic equationlooks like Soviet Union-USA 75 years ago. And Africa plays the role ofEastern Europe 60 years ago: raw materials against projects raising themost needy.
Solutions? A Helsinki style conference (Kekkonen, where are you whenwe need you?). Declare an end, no winner, no loser. The US empirecollapses like the Soviet did, the USA blossoms. A mixed economy isalready there, social if not democrat. Democracy and human rights withself-determination are on the world agenda, so also in the West withtheir numerous Tibets. What we need are nonaligned countries. Andmassive people’s movements. Coming?
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Jun 2008.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Cold War I and II – Solutions Anyone?, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.