When young Mr. Bush told Vladimir Putin in June 2007 that "The Cold War is over," we couldn't have gotten more surefire confirmation that the Cold War was, in fact, alive and kicking. The recent monkey business in Georgia has been in the pipeline since at least then, probably since much earlier.
Noam Chomsky used the term "Cold War II" in August 2007. I first mentioned it in February of that year (so there, Chomsky, you snoozer). Stephen F. Cohen referred to a "new cold war" in a June 2006 article for The Nation. It's eminently arguable that President Bill Clinton started the second Cold War when he intervened in Kosovo in part to distract the world from his pants-capades.
It has been the Bush administration, though, that has managed to escalate the second cold war by losing the first one retroactively.
Winners and Losers
It's fair to say that the cause of the second Cold War is similar to the cause of the second World War: the stupidity of the victors of the first one. The boot heel England and France took to Germany's neck set the conditions that made Hitler's eventual genesis possible, much as the bird the Bush administration flipped Russia from its first day in office—most notably by unilaterally poop canning the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty—made the bear's angry reemergence from hibernation inevitable.
You have to be looking an ostrich in the eye to imagine that the deal for the U.S. to build a missile defense shield in Poland being closed as the administration tries to pry Russia out of Georgia is a coincidence. Just last month, the Poles turned our missile defense offer down because it was not "satisfactory."
The missile shield issue is a combobulated one and begs a dram of discussion here.
Heroes and Villains
At first blush—which is the blush the neocons want you to see—a missile shield is an air defense system that, as its name implies, is "defensive" in nature. Ballistic missiles, conversely, are a means of bombarding fixed positions on an adversary's territory, a seeming function of offensive warfare. These things are largely true at the tactical level, but at the strategic level the roles reverse.
Ballistic missiles aren't an effective part of an offensive strategic arsenal. If you're looking to invade and occupy your adversary, or blockade his shipping, or interdict his trade routes or what have you, you'll only use your ballistic missiles if your missileers whine loudly enough about being left out of the reindeer games to get on your nerves.
Ballistic missiles are deterrence weapons, and, depending on your perspective, not especially good ones. They belong in a category I call "you should see the other guy" weapons. If the other guy decides to drive into your capital city and change your regime for you, he'll need a nose job and some dental work and he may walk funny forever because of the punch you managed to land on him before your lights went out. The problem is that by the time you have to use your BMs, they're almost not worth bothering with because you're already on a collision course with the canvas and they've already failed to perform their mission, which was to keep you and the canvas apart. This explains in part why the mutually assured destruction theory worked during Cold War I, and why ballistic missiles didn't do Saddam Hussein a burp's bit of good during Gulf War I.
The U.S. claims the missile defense system in Poland won't be for defending it from Russia's ballistic missiles but from Iran's. Well… You don't need an advanced degree in geography to figure out that Poland can't do squat to Iran that Iran needs ballistic missiles to deter it from doing. Russia, on the other hand, has much to fear from Poland and the rest of the NATO newbies who used to be part of the Warsaw Pact if the U.S. bullies them into, oh, say, cutting off Russia's oil pipelines.
In that light, America isn't being the good guy offering Poland defenses against Russia's offensive weapons. America's being the aggressor by neutralizing Russia's deterrence.
It's so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys in these post-modern times, isn't it? Here, one second, you're thinking Russia is being a bully to Georgia until you stop and think that Georgia was being a bully to South Ossetia and Abkhazia until the Russians stepped in and set things right, kind of like we did for Kuwait in Gulf War I. And don't you just wonder who told Georgia Peach Mikhail Saakashvili that we'd back him if he goaded Russian into invading him?
War and Peace
By whatever corrupted logic system they used, guys like Hitler and Stalin all arrived at the conclusion that they were doing the "right thing," so it's probably moot who's a good guy and who's a bad guy in the present Georgia malarkey. The major players got what they needed. Putin's Russia is a major player again and the American neocons have a new boogey man they can use to either get their boy elected president or to stick in the other guy's eye.
One occasionally despairs at ever figuring out the neocons. How could a group of such theoretically smart people keep getting themselves—and us—in one quagmire after the next, entangled with nations and other political entities whose measurable power amounts to a slight fraction of ours? Fortunately, someone has already cracked their code:
To understand the nature of the present war—for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war—one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive.The Inner Party members of 1984 operated with a critical factor that does not apply for the New American Century neocons. Oceana, Eurasia and Eastasia were empires of roughly even strength, and "everlasting" war was fueled by their balance of power.
…No Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world… Their lives are dedicated to world conquest, but they also know that it is necessary that the war should continue everlastingly and without victory.
-- George Orwell
America, as you hopefully know by now, spends as much on "defense" as the rest of the world combined. Russia and China, the closest thing we have to peer military competitors, spend about a tenth as much on arms as we do. Iran, the nation that young Mr. Bush and his echo chamberlains would have us believe presents our greatest "challenge," has a defense budget less than one percent the size of ours. And as I've said a time or two, the terrorists have no defense budget at all, and no navy and no air force and no proper army to speak of.
That the neocons have managed thus far to keep us in a "generational" war against phantasms that consumes over half the federal budget through two presidential terms is a testament to their ingenuity, I suppose. How much longer they can fool enough of the people enough of the time to keep their agenda in play is yet to be seen. I hate to express too bleak a view of my fellow citizens, but I worry that as long as the beer at 7-Eleven is cold, America will stay tuned to the fear factor rather than reach for the remote.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.