I miss the Cold War. Lucky for me it’s back.
I came of age during the era of Reagan, tape cassettes, video arcades, and VHS recorders. It was also the age of the Soviet Union – the bad guys on the other side of the planet who were going to nuke us in the middle of a school day, which is why we practiced those duck-and-cover drills. Apparently, hiding under a desk with your hands over your head is enough to counter the effects of a nuclear blast.
Most of us only knew the USSR as a giant, red-colored country on the other side of the globe designated by a golden hammer and sickle. We knew it was cold there, and that the Soviets liked to lineup and march in high-stepping fashion while wearing fur coats, apparently to keep warm. We knew they had lots of missiles, and were very fond of them, because they were always having parades with missiles instead of floats like normal people. And we knew they had buildings with big swirly, twirly gumdrops on top, like something from the Candy Land game. In short, they were like an exotic alien species on the other side of the planet. They even lived behind an iron curtain, which made them sound that much more menacing.
But the thing we knew most about the Soviets was that they wanted to kill us. There was simplicity in that , and even comfort. At least we knew who the enemy was and from where death would come. We didn’t worry about backpack bombers , or shoe bombers, or underwear bombers. We knew that if we woke up one morning and the sky was filled with contrails, the end had come . As long as the sky was clear, life went on.
I thought the Soviets had gone away. Apparently, they were only waiting for a revival. It’s unfashionable to call the Russian invasion of Crimea a renewal of the Cold War, but that’s what it is. I don’t blame President Obama. The new Cold War started with the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. President Bush didn’t do much about that, and he was perceived by the Russians to be a Cowboy. The Russians have little fear of a Community Organizer whose greatest weapon is his charm. Putin, a former KGB agent (that’s like our CIA for all you readers born after 1990), must think the US has gone soft. “Invade Crimea,” he says, “and the American president will lecture us like a tenured professor disturbed during office hours.” And he’s right. So far the President has lectured Putin on the irrationality of the invasion, the rule of law, and the judgment of world history.
The Cold War I grew up in wasn’t just a clash of ideologies. It was real because the Soviets were bent on territorial expansion and the risk of war was omnipresent. Effete members of the political left don’t understand that, or they don’t want to see it. It’s the same crowd who feel that we can end bullying if we just ” learn to walk in each other’s shoes.” Sometimes a punch in the nose is the only thing that works. Faculty club talk about international obligations and rule of law is fine, but it’s pointless when you are dealing with a foe who doesn’t care to listen.
“The 1980’s called and they want their foreign policy back.” It was a clever line.
Putin’s still laughing.