With the ongoing diplomatic crises between the U.S. and Russia, many people have come off a bit confused, largely because they were under the impression that the Cold War had ended the better part of two decades ago.
Even those in charge of the international political system seem a bit confused.
John McCain was most certainly perplexed when he said “In the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations.” Huh?
Obama, meanwhile, was also a bit confused. His reaction was this: “No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country. Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks.” This is more elegant than his opponent’s reaction, but no great departure from the still prevalent foreign policy philosophy of “American Exceptionalism.” In the 21st century, just like the 20th, Americans and their mercenaries can drop bombs everywhere they want, and no one else has the right to defend themselves and their citizenry.
This is all pretty confusing to those people who thought the Cold War was over.
Many Americans are just as confused as me. They wonder “If the Cold War is really over, what ever happened to the peace dividend?”
In fact, matters seem to have gotten worse for Americans pushing for a social democratic state. The coffers of the military industrial complex continue to be fed at increasingly record rates, as public infrastructure programs from dams and levees to schools and community centers continue their savage decline.
On the other issue currently widening the diplomatic cleavage between the Americans and Russia, there are all sorts of confusing facts for anyone who believed the Cold War was over. This issue has to do with Missile Defense, or the Missile Shield, or however you’d like to call it. In this article, I am going to avoid any confusion by calling it Star Wars II. This way we are thinking about Ronald Reagan, the beloved 80’s, and the fictional capacity of humans to shoot down missiles in space. I believe it is important for journalists to strive for the truth, and, as such, calling this program a “missile shield” would lower me to the level of the New York Times et al.
If this system was actually meant to be used for defense, then now might be a good time to mention that it was never proven to work as such. The currently deployed mechanism over the Pacific Ocean passed its second test this June, but this only serves to counter against an overall failure rate of roughly 70% going back to Reagan’s Star Wars. Furthermore, these are unrealistic scenarios wherein the missile launch isn’t hidden behind a decoy system. The chances are basically zero that the system could ever successfully shoot down an incoming missile accompanied by the dozens of decoys that are common to any launch. This is what top scientists have been warning since the beginning days of Star Wars II, which saw it’s birth during Clinton’s final year (though Clinton did pretend to leave the decision to the next administration, his failure to cut funding for continual testing essentially left the system open for Bush Jr.). As recently as 2003, the Union of Concerned Scientists released the following statement with regards to the scientific feasibility of the Star Wars system: it has “no demonstrated defensive capability and will be ineffective against a real attack by long-range ballistic missiles”
Meanwhile, neither of the two major presidential candidates offers any hope of dismantling the project. McCain, predictably, wants full throttle ahead, while Obama’s position is: “If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies we should – but only when the system works. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment.” As I already mentioned, the military has succeeded in a rigged test as recently as June, and will gladly oblige an Obama administration with further passed tests, as long as the purse strings are opened for their mercenaries at Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
As I’ve already foreshadowed, the system isn’t even meant to work for the reason given: defense against missiles. In fact, calling it “missile defense” is a lot like calling the U.S. military’s prime organ the “Department of Defense” or saying “In the 21st Century, no nation invades another nation.”
The Orwellian Doublespeak is so common these days that nobody believes what they are told. The foundations of the international diplomatic system are resting on shaky ground as the empty and insipid rhetoric escalates out of control.
The Bush administration claims that the missiles in Poland are there to protect the U.S. and it’s European allies from attacks by “Rogue States,” such as Iran. So are you going to expect the Russians to believe this? The Americans are spending all of this money to deploy a system that no one believes will ever work for the advertised purpose to protect against missiles that don’t exist and are unlikely to ever exist!? When Russia claims that the recently brokered Star Wars deal with Poland has more to do with stationing military hardware near its borders so as to obtain a strategic advantage, this is because it’s the only explanation that makes any scientific and political sense! And yet we are supposed to get whipped into a patriotic fervor against the Russians because their government is capable of seeing through this thin cloud of smoke!? And people say that the Cold War ended nearly two decades ago!?
Meanwhile, it’s worth mentioning that there are still thousands of nuclear weapons lying around: the vast majority in the United States and Russia.
In the early days of Bush 2, the American President met with then-President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, for the purpose of reaching a handshake agreement on nuclear warhead reduction. Rather than formalizing nuclear disarmament commitments in line with their obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they agreed to an un-formalized reduction in their respective nuclear arsenals by two-thirds. With no enforcement mechanism put into place, the treaty was merely a means of squelching perceived dissent from the grassroots, which has traditionally been very hostile towards nuclear weapons.
The United States and Russia maintain roughly 10,000 of these city-destroying bombs each, with enough firepower in either country to easily destroy all life on Earth. As such, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists currently has the Doomsday Clock at 5 minutes to Midnight, which is its closest point since the mid 80’s. For those unfamiliar with this mechanism, Midnight means annihilation of humankind. If relations between the two primary nuclear powers continue to corrode any further, we should expect to see the clock slide a minute or two closer. The longer these relics of the 20th century remain, hundreds of them on hair trigger alert, the closer we come to the reality of Mutually Assured Destruction.
The madness of the Cold War continues! What was, after all, the defining characteristic of the Cold War? It was the extensive use of visceral propaganda in order to justify the exorbitant funding of a military industrial complex and police state paid for by your tax dollar with absolutely no corners cut.
And one thing is clear: no government is going to ever voluntarily put an end to this arrangement since almost everyone holding national elected office are buddies with the war profiteers.
However, Dwight Eisenhower, the same man that warned Americans of the impending rise of the military industrial complex, also left us with a little wisdom on how we can finally put an end to this insanity. He was once quoted as saying: “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
One of these days, the grassroots will have to finally put an end to all manifestations of the Cold War: be it an ongoing propaganda war against Communists or Terrorists or Russians or Grenadians or the French or what have you.
It is time we stop treating our leaders like great statesmen, and start realizing them as the truly disgusting people that they are. The late, great Kurt Vonnegut once wrote in the Nation that world leaders were addicted to war preparations in the same way that alcoholics are addicted to alcohol. He recommended: “From now on, when a national leader, or even just a neighbor, starts talking about some new weapons system which is going to cost us a mere $29 billion, we should speak up. We should say something on the order of, ‘Honest to God, I couldn’t be sorrier for you if I’d seen you wash down a fistful of black, beauties with a pint of Southern Comfort.’”
He wrote that piece back during the height of the Reagan Cold War in 1983. The advice remains just as prevalent today.