Mr. Rumsfeld's Wars

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Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has compared America’s war on terrorism
with the Cold War, saying that such a comparison “… might be a more
appropriate way to think about what we’re up against here, than
would be any major conflict.” Truer words were never spoken, but
not for the reasons Rumsfeld intended.

The
Cold War was a fabrication – albeit a brilliant construct – created
from whole cloth by the architects of the welfare-warfare state
as a less destructive alternative to open warfare, which, with the
advent of nuclear warheads, had actually become difficult to sustain
on a large scale. So the “health of the state” had to be nourished
through small scale conflicts – carefully controlled to prevent
escalation – and large scale saber-rattling, sufficiently frightening
in potential to assure that defense budgets could sustain at Rooseveltian
levels of scope and intensity.

Rumsfeld
asserts that the Cold War “…did not involve major battles, it involved
continuous pressure, it involved cooperation by a host of nations,
it involved the willingness of populations in many countries to
invest in it and to sustain it.”

Here
is one notion on which Reaganites, neocons, and the laughably pugnacious
left1 manage to agree: that the US government
actively brought about the demise of the former Soviet Union through
political means. Such an argument requires willful ignorance of
the economic forces that had been at work since 1917, inexorably
eating away at the political structure of Soviet communism.

Says
Rumsfeld, “… when it ended, it ended not with a bang, but through
internal collapse, and the support for that way of life and that
threat to the world just disintegrated from inside.” True enough,
but linking that internal collapse to actions by the US and its
allies is wishful thinking at best.

Most
revealing of all in the linkage between the war on terrorism and
the war on communism is the unintentional presumption that the former
will require the same level of commitment from the American economy
as did the latter. During the Cold War years, even the most pacifist
administrations persisted in rattling very expensive sabers all
over the world, engaging in “force projection”, “showing the flag”,
and intervening in far-away sovereignties to capture the “hearts
and minds” of indigenous populations away from the dreaded specter
of communism. The real dollar costs to the economy were staggering,
and the effects are still being felt today.

Even
more disastrous were the “intangible” costs of the Cold War: the
loss of life, the loss of liberty, the loss of trust and faith in
the “American system” being notable among them. And ultimately,
the war on terrorism itself has the Cold War as a primary cause.
For it was our anti-Soviet interventions that made the Saudi (not
Afghani) Osama bin Laden the authority figure that he is in the
Islamic world.

Now
all we have to do is define our strategy for prolonging our “Cold
Jihad”, and we’re in business for the next half-century.

Notes:

  1. Whose
    bellicosity in this case surely must stem from its ingrained
    hatred of all fundamentalist religious movements.

October
6, 2001

John
Taylor [send
him mail]
is the editor of The
Libertarian Enterprise
.

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