In light of US foreign policy since 9/11, perhaps a reassessment of official Cold War history is in order. This reassessment is vitally important because the US has used the pretext of the war on terror as a means to maintain a Cold War level of militarism. And now, in a disturbing but not surprising turn of events, a new Cold War with Russia and China is brewing.
The reassessment* I’m proposing is that the central premise of containment, where the US contained the Soviet Union is wrong. It wasn’t the US containing the Soviets but vice-versa.
Crazy, when you think about it like that, isn’t it?
Let’s test the hypothesis. Did US foreign policy change when the Soviet Union ceased being the evil empire? Is anything, US foreign policy became more expansionist with the Soviets no longer containing us. Continuing with this idea, the great challenge posed by the Soviet Union’s containment for US planners was that it placed the communist controlled parts of the world off limits to capitalist penetration in the search for resources, cheap labor and markets. Communism effectively contained the American empire from expanding into certain areas of the world.
The present conflict in the Ukraine is where we can see the clearest indication of this reversal of the containment meme. According to Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria (fuck the EU!) Nuland, the US has spent $5 billion dollars since the Orange Revolution in a quest to bring about regime change and to wrench Ukraine away from traditional trading partner–Russia. And this all comes after two decades of steady eastward expansion by the US and NATO into eastern Europe, despite promises of neutrality for the region.
“Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato Enlargement Project. Reneging on a promise made to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has, in effect, militarily occupied eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s expansion is the biggest military build-up since the Second World War.”
The conflict in the Ukraine is also where we can glimpse the US corporate media, functioning much like an official propaganda system, expertly parroting official US foreign policy dispatches. In complete inversion of reality, Putin and Russia are depicted as the aggressor–Invading Crimea and threatening all of Europe with their evil bellicosity. And the US? Why, just like during the Cold War, bravely confronting an evil empire bent on world conquest, and encouraging nascent democracies.
Any sort of Cold War reassessment would be met with ferocious resistance. For starters, the Cold War was invaluable as a domestic political weapon against labor. Think of Joseph McCarthy and the post WWII Red Scare. Think its a coincidence that Taft/Hartley, the anti-labor legislation, passed in this super charged atmosphere? And what about all that action by the US in the Third World supporting murderous dictators, all in the name of containing communism? If the Soviets were containing us, how does that look?
It wouldn’t look good at all. In fact the latest scandal de-jour, of Latin American children attempting to enter the US, has its roots in these Cold War policies of supporting brutal right-wing governments in Central America, all in the name of containing communism.
“Devastated by Reagan’s terrorist war against the region, thousands of Central Americans traveled north to escape the violence of US-backed death squads.”
A reassessment of the Cold War would also expose some dark truths about the class conflict that’s ongoing in America. Turning to 20th century American history a pattern is discernible. Whenever working people and labor achieves any gains, the result is a new Red Scare. We already mentioned the post WWII one, but the justification given about the evil Soviets poised to invade was false. The real reason was the New Deal. The owners were desperate to put labor back in its place after the war, and the Cold War was a great pretext. But, there was an earlier Red Scare, that took place post WWI. The Progressive Era of the early 20th century combined with labor militancy needed to be nipped in the bud. And under progressive hero Woodrow Wilson it was. What about recent events? I remember the Battle in Seattle and a growing awareness of the effects of globalized capitalism on working people. The War on Terror, post 9-11, with its hyper-militarism and patriotically correct censorship put an end to that.
Hopefully this reexamination of Cold War history will demonstrate the linkage between foreign and domestic policies that have devastated working class peoples to the advantage of the 1%. The history since the end of the Cold War provides an objective lesson. With the Soviet Union and communist parties no longer able to contain the US, the free market has been allowed to run wild.
Margaret Thatcher laid out the brutal reality with her admonishment that–“There is no alternative.”
*See Noam Chomsky’s Deterring Democracy for much more on this subject