I’ve been studiously ignoring the news but this penetrated my anti-media barrier thanks to my spouse:
Meteor explodes over central Russia, 500 people hurt
My first thought was, “Thank God this didn’t happen during the Cold War!” The Soviets were so batsh*t paranoid that they would have started with the assumption it was some kind of attack just like when they shot down the Korean airliner.
For all of the doom and gloom today about terrorism, global warming (or whatever apocalypse is fashionable this week) young folks should remember that no problem we face today was as serious and as dangerous as Cold War balance of terror. We faced the very real prospect that within the space of a mere hour, every major city and piece of infrastructure in the developed world, the communist and (it would turn out) India, would have been utterly destroyed along with most of the people inside them. Civilization would have ended for centuries. It would take just one hour for it all to end.
The post-Cold War revelation of just how ready the Soviets were to empty the silos, and how they almost did once out of shear delusion, are easily the scariest thing I ever read. The world could have ended just because a bunch of political zealots caught, in what was effectively a absolutist religious delusion, could have destroyed civilization for absolutely no valid reason at all, not even a reason valid in their ideology.
The Soviet Union would turn out to have been an utterly militarized state whose ruling caste was totally convinced not only that America spent its every waking moment trying to destroy them but that the “scientific” doctrine of Marxist historical inevitability made an eventual American attack as certain as the predicted orbits of the planets. Leftists scoffed at Cold War CIA estimates that the Soviet Union spent 20% of its GNP on the military. The CIA was in fact wrong. The Soviets actually spent 40% of their GNP on the military. Basically WWII, never ended for them and the Soviet Union was a military with the bare minimum civilian sector necessary to support it. They thought themselves constantly at war.
All the Cold War era arguments in the West itself about the West’s role in creating the Cold War turned out to be utterly moot. The Soviets were in hindsight so trapped in their ideological delusions that it never even seems to have occurred to any Soviet leadership that peaceful coexistence with the West was even possible. Nothing anyone in the West could have done would have prevented or even mitigated the Cold War because the Cold War ultimately arose purely from the internal dynamics of the Soviet’s Communist ideology.
Even at the very end, Gorbochev didn’t set out to dissolve the Soviet Union but to revitalize its economy with a new form of Communism. He, by his own admission, never thought peaceful coexistence when he became leader. He was only pushed to reform personally and was later able to push the hardliners along with his reform because they came to believe they had no other choice. Reagan’s defense spending and active support of anti-communist forces around the world had made it clear that no military solution e.g. seizing Middle-Eastern oil, was possible. The Strategic Defense Initiative caused the Soviets to seriously fear that America could eventually neutralize their nuclear arsenal. (That turned out not to be true but they certainly thought it a serious possibility at the time.) The only choices Reagan, Thatcher and a few others left the Soviet leaders was risking internal reform.
We can never let the world get in such a precarious situation again. We can’t assume that in the future, another delusional ideology won’t nearly destory the world for no reason at all.
Churchill famously said that Communism should have been strangled in its cradle. Had that been possible, the world would have been spared nearly being destroyed. Going forward, our technology will invest smaller and smaller groups of people with more and more power to both create and destroy. In another couple of decades, nuclear weapons will seem as quaint as a muzzle loading, black powder cannon seems to us today. We need to identify potential future communism-like threats and redirect or “strangle” them while they are small before their delusions threatens us all.
This won’t be the last big meteorite to hit us. Next time, we might not be so lucky.
12 thoughts on “Glad This Didn’t Happen During the Cold War…”
The city and area of the explosion are the formerly secret and closed city of Chelyabinsk which was the center of Soviet Nuclear arms research and production. If this had happened then who knows what they would have done.
Please explain about India. You imply that the Soviets had targeted Indian cities too. I haven’t heard of this, and would appreciate any sources you can cite. I’m helping someone with a novel.
“We can never let the world get in such a precarious situation again. We can’t assume that in the future, another delusional ideology won’t nearly destory the world for no reason at all.”
Iran has just begun to build nuclear weapons but I see no inclination to deter them in this crowd in Washington. The USSR was less responsible than we (the lefties) thought but they were philosophers compared to Achmadinnerjacket.
I expect Obama to try to reduce our nuclear arsenal to 1/2 of the present level and neglect the rest. Putin knows this and, while he is not as paranoid as the old gang, he knows he has an advantage and will try to extend it.
“The post-Cold War revelation of just how ready the Soviets were to empty the silos, and how they almost did once out of shear delusion, are easily the scariest thing I ever read.”
Which (of the several scary incidents) did you have in mind?
Today, you have to account for the fact that approximately half the country [including the entire Democratic Party and their allies on the Left] believes that the fact that we were neither destroyed nor conquered by the Soviets is proof positive that the Soviet beliefs about the US were true and the real danger to the world was the US. And nothing will disabuse them of that notion, or more romantic ones about the “workers’ paradise”. And they take the fact that we are still here as evidence that we have nothing to fear from a nuclear armed Islam, or the Norks, or anyone else who is openly working to destroy us. To them, those of us in the other half are the only real threat, and anything is justified in dealing with that threat.
We may not see the world destroyed in an hour. But I am sure we will see a WMD strike on the United States. And quite possibly a political surrender in the aftermath.
See Richard Fernandez’ [from BELMONT CLUB at PJMedia] Three Conjectures.
Except we are not the people we were 10 years ago.
Not to defend them, but one of the biggest reasons why Socialism and Communism gained so much traction early on is because of the legitimate grievances people had against the ruling classes in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the intelligentsia a big problem was merely that communism was fashionable. When you find yourself a “radical” who holds to ideas like an end to strong class-divisions, greater individual liberty, greater egalitarianism, etc. and then you start hanging out with other intellectuals who reject the current system it can be extremely difficult to avoid accepting some of their other ideals, such as communism. The fact was that a lot of the “cool kids” back in the day, people who supported gender equality and so forth also supported communism, and it took hold of people’s minds. Even when the Soviet Union was in full swing many ideologues were still so caught up in the conceptualization of perfect utopian communism that they cooperated with Soviet agents and spied against their own countries (people in high positions of government or science in the US, UK, and elsewhere).
There’s a lesson in there for today’s Islamic world. Right now a lot of tyrannies and evil systems have been overturned or are in the process of being so. This gives a lot of room for ideological “fashions” to insert themselves into the zeitgeist and become popular through association. It’s already happening to some degree with fundamentalist Islam (it already happened in Iran, of course), the question now is whether or not there is an ideology coherent enough to seize people’s interest and also rule. We can only hope that doesn’t come to pass.
One reason why Progressivism and the other socialist ideologies (Like fascism) were popular was that we had just arrived at the first stages of “credentialism” in the country. I’m reading Amity Schlaes’ “Coolidge” now and she explains the dilemma of Coolidge trying to decide between “reading law” like Lincoln did or attending Harvard Law School.
For the first time, colleges like Harvard and Yale, which had educated ministers until 1900, were now educating what we call “the ruling class.” The ruling class has the same instincts that ministers used to have.
Harvard Medical School at the end of the 19th century was a subscription school where students paid the professors.
If I may add something recent as far as Russian-American provocations. Right before the state of the union speech, two nuclear cruise missile armed TU-95 Bear-H strategic bombers flew from the Russian Far East to Guam and circled it. I will leave it to the readers to describe the particular hand gesture such action implies.
Subotai – and like a good liberal Obama is bending over backwards to placate the Russians.
Jimmy Carter redoux.
“legitimate grievances people had against the ruling classes”
Absolutely: kings, nobles, and emperors were so bad that the intelligentsia preferred Hitler and Stalin. And in our own time, freedom, human rights, and democracy are so bad, the intelligentsia prefers Castro, Chavez,…. Some things never change. The only and total solution to all human problems is mass-murdering socialism, or so say the intelligentsia. Hmm. How does one deal with class like that? What would Mao do?
“He, by his own admission, never thought peaceful coexistence when he became leader”
Is there a word missing from this sentence, or is it like that bumper sticker: “think snow?”
I must admit my initial reaction to your post was, “When was the CIA ever right about anything?”
They have missed or mis-analyzed just about every major trend or event in the past half century and more.
We’re constantly being blindsided by events all over the world.
Here’s some cheerful background music to the end of the world: The Hymn of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. Standard Soviet propaganda schlock. Notice the convincing acting. “Time to nuke the Americans, comrades!”
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