Cold War II

By James Freeman

I am not an alarmist and yet I find myself alarmed by the upcoming Bush-Putin meeting, intending to abrogate the 1972 Ballistic Missile Treaty, thus clearing the way for the discredited Star Wars development and concentration on China as a new Cold War adversary. Let me hasten to advise you that I am no Bush-basher (well, maybe that’s a stretch), although along with James Jeffords I have much reason to be. I have learned to pick my fights and the current threat overrides all others in my opinion. I am old enough to have witnessed the mutual waste of resources attendant to arms races, not the least of which is neglected infrastructure and social progress on both sides. Even at that, we did not defeat the Soviet Union---the wheels merely came off a system that never worked.

The practical side of me when I can’t figure out what government is up to tends to ask who profits and who loses---where the money goes. Those who profit in a Star Wars-Cold War II environment will be those dear to Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld twenty-five years ago and dear to them yet; Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, TRW/Raytheon and their like, supported by a nearly endless slipstream of subcontractors---a lobbying group of unparalleled proportion. The losers will include a mass of humanity with virtually no lobbying clout, that huge silent majority we keep hearing about. Struggling nations will be made to remain poor. On the American side, further neglect of the infrastructure is the way of arms races, which in its broadest sense includes schools, the arts and nearly all civic progress worth speaking about.

Ten years ago when the Iron Curtain fell apart and we were suddenly left as the only viable military power in the world, there was talk of huge budgetary surpluses and what wonders we were going to achieve with all that extra dough. Social Security safe forever, the national debt paid off along with a lowering of taxes and happy days ahead. Eight of those ten years the Republicans were out of office, the country prospered either by accident or plan and happy days actually seemed to have arrived. But Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld make it clear that without a credible opponent, their administration would find one double quick to get the good old boys back in the good old business.

China was it, nominated while we were attending to Oprah and Timothy McVeigh. A little slight of hand would do. Get rid of that messy ABM treaty from thirty years ago, convince Russia that China is actually our mutual bad guy (which isn’t a stretch for the Russians), slip them a little weaponry to make them feel part of the team and the deal is done. No one will even look up from their TV.

Looking deeper for a subtext, one might consider that China, that long sought-after and bottomless source of consumers so dear to American business, has recently flexed its muscles as a producer. Quite often a black market producer, occasionally annoying and yet, with nearly a quarter of the world’s population might not that annoyance grow to threaten American interests? Horrors! Was it really such a good idea, this WTO membership? Might not a China impoverished by an arms race be more elegantly profiled as gradual consumer rather than imminent producer? It merits attention, this possible rethinking of the business climate. When in doubt, follow the money.

There is not a single military voice in support of this treaty abrogation. Not one. Nor is there a credible threat from China, busy as it is with a grinding of gears from communist to consumerist society. In the absence of any viable superpower other than ourselves, the vision of space-delivered weaponry against us is ludicrous. If there is a threat it is a terrorist threat and delivery of a bomb will be by suitcase and rental car rather than missile.

Peace among the superpowers (or what remains of that once mutually threatening group) has been achieved after forty years of unbelievable expense, waste of human resources and precipitous international fear and an unparalleled degree of mistrust. Standing alone among these ruined economies, our American predecessors proposed a Marshall Plan, the benefits of which could hardly stand more starkly in comparison to the following Cold War.

Presidents Bush and Putin must not be allowed to put us once more on that failed course of Cold War.

James C. Freeman (US citizen living in the Czech Republic)