Back to Brinkmanship.

Author:Heilbrunn, Jacob
Position:The Realist - Essay

At the heart of the original Cold War was nuclear confrontation. In his 1945 essay "You and the Atomic Bomb," which he wrote two months after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, George Orwell coined the term "cold war" to describe the new epoch that he saw emerging after the fall of Nazi Germany and the rise of the Soviet Union and the United States. He predicted that the bomb would "put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a 'peace that is no peace.'" It was this very scenario that he depicted in his dystopian novel 1984, which drew on James Burnham's Managerial Revolution and features Eurasia, Oceania and Eastasia in a permanent standoff several decades after an atomic war. Any actual conflicts or skirmishes take place in borderlands that are located well away from the three main empires.

This cold peace was pretty much what obtained after 1945 in international affairs. The two superpowers, the Soviet Union and United States, avoided direct conflict. Instead, they used proxy powers and national liberation movements, mostly located in the Third World, to try and shift the correlation of forces, as the Kremlin used to call it, in their favor, whenever and wherever they could. The territory under their direct control was off limits--the United States did not intervene during uprisings in the eastern bloc in East Germany, Hungary or Poland. The Kremlin confined itself to helping to fund communist parties in France and Italy, and to supporting the peace movement clandestinely. The peril of an atomic exchange was so immense that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States went to war over flashpoints such as Cuba and Berlin.

What Orwell did not anticipate was that one side, the Soviet Union, would collapse completely, leaving the other as Mr. Big. After 1989, a euphoric belief in a kind of Whig interpretation of history took hold in the West, in which the progress of liberal democracy was seen as inevitable--a credo that was encapsulated in Francis Fukuyama's essay in the National Interest, asking, "The End of History?" At the time Fukuyama's essay provoked furious ripostes, but this triumphalist doctrine was embraced by many neocons and reached its apogee in the 2003 Iraq War, when the George W Bush administration proclaimed that regime change would lead to a democratic wave washing through the Middle East. In his second inaugural address in 2004, Bush drew an explicit link between America's prosperity and...

To continue reading