FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New Cold War

There are many ominous signs that dark clouds are gathering over international relations, from the South China Sea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea to the Middle East, and to Ukraine and the Baltics. We are entering a new and perhaps a more ominous Cold War.

This is something that will affect all our lives and will plunge us into a new era of East-West confrontation that none of us wants and that all of us should try hard to prevent.

Many young people were born after the end of the Cold War or were too young to remember its horrors, and how the world was on a knife’s edge about a possible global confrontation between the two superpowers with thousands of nuclear weapons whose use could have ended human civilization. We, who remember those days, should make sure that we do not see a repetition of that dark period in human history.

Yet, sadly, a Cold War mentality is once again creeping back into political discourse.

The Second World War that killed more than 60 million people and devastated many countries had hardly ended when new hostilities emerged. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not so much the final act in the Second World War as the opening shot in the Cold War. Contrary to the stated justifications for the dropping of the bombs as a means of forcing Japan to surrender, it is now clear that Japan was ready to surrender before the use of those awful weapons.

Many historians believe that the real reason for the use of nuclear weapons was to prevent Japan falling into the hands of the Soviet Union, as the Red Army was poised to take on Japan’s remaining army in Manchuria, thus forcing Japan to surrender to Russia. Furthermore, it was a clear signal of the West’s possession of the new devastating weapons.

For instance, the scientist Leo Szilard who met with US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes in May 1945, reported later: “Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war … Mr. Byrnes’ view was that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable.” (1)

Therefore, far from wanting to save lives, the use of nuclear weapons was to demonstrate America’s overwhelming military might, and to issue a warning to Russia.

The war had hardly ended when in a speech in the British House of Commons on 16 August 1945 Winston Churchill referred to “the iron curtain which at the moment divides Europe in twain.”

It was in view of those ominous events that mankind decided to create international organizations that would “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” The Charter of the United Nations aimed “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small” and “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security”.

Yet, despite those lofty sentiments, the world has witnessed non-stop conflict and proxy wars ever since.

Far from establishing permanent peace, the West formed the mighty North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), followed by the Eastern bloc’s Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance (the Warsaw Pact) in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO.

Although the Warsaw Pact was dismantled after the end of the Cold War, NATO has gone from strength to strength. In addition to all the warlike talk about the need to confront Russia, the confrontation has moved beyond words into action.

Recently, the United States switched on the $800 million missile shield, ironically at a Soviet-era base in Romania.

Rightly or wrongly, many Russians believe that Russia is vulnerable to a pre-emptive Western attack that could destroy most of Russian nuclear sites. If the West also builds a missile defence shield against Russian retaliation, the nuclear deterrence, or the concept of MAD (mutual assured destruction), would lose its value and Russia would have no option but to surrender to Western demands.

This may be a mistaken perception, but in politics perception plays a major role.

In response, speaking to his top military officers, President Putin said: “This is not a defence system. This is part of U.S. nuclear strategic potential brought onto a periphery. In this case, Eastern Europe is such periphery.” He went on to say: “Until now, those taking such decisions have lived in calm, fairly well-off and in safety. Now, as these elements of ballistic missile defence are deployed, we are forced to think how to neutralize emerging threats to the Russian Federation.”

All this sounds very ominous.

There are clear signs of a return to a new Cold War based on false premises. In fact, the dangers of the new Cold War are much greater than was the case with the old Cold War, because at that time there was some form of parity between the two sides, and neither side pushed openly for confrontation, while at the moment, the Warsaw Pact is gone and Russia’s military spending is only 8% of NATO’s spending.

This imbalance creates excessive self-confidence in the West and great apprehension in Russia.

During the Cold War, each side knew the rules of the game and did not transgress them. Each side knew how far it could push before igniting a serious confrontation. Such constraints do not exist at the moment. The proliferation of tactical nuclear weapons is another factor that makes their use more likely, which then would inadvertently result in a full-blown confrontation.

Perhaps the most important factor was the post-World War generation was still aware of the horrors of the war, while at the moment the younger generations fortunately do not have such memories and may not be as sensitive to the use of force.

Recently, former U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that both sides would find themselves “very quickly in another Cold War build-up here that makes sense for neither side.”

As President Obama eloquently said in his speech in Hiroshima: “Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

He reminded us: “The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.”

He went on to say: “Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines. The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

We must bring about a moral revolution if we do not wish to repeat our past mistakes.

Footnote

1- See: “The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy”, p 367

More articles by:

Dr. Farhang Jahanpour, Oxford University, is a member of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research’s board.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail