Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The Sputnik Rules
Yes, it was only 50 long years and at least a generation or three ago when the Russians (that’s what we called them back then) successfully launched the worlds first satellite into the heavenly void to begin its menacing orbit of the Earth, mechanically beeping its eerie and undeniable message of Soviet Superiority as it soared above us, looming down on our awestruck faces, solitary, untouchable, unstoppable, terrifying and otherworldly.
The Public cowered and the Military shook the Halls of Power with their panicked rhetoric.
They’ve beaten Us to space!
Soon They’ll be able to rain missiles down upon us from the Stars! Throw godlike thunderbolts of Communist aggression onto our Armies, cities and schools at will!
We have to fight back! We must beat them to the High Ground!
And so this basketball-sized aluminum egg circled our globe and kicked into a much higher gear what we would later call our “Cold War” against the monolithic power of the Communist Soviet Union, a “War” that would have the entire planet on Doomsday Alert for the next 3 decades and then some. As a direct result of that metal sphere flying inviolate through our skies the US Government went into a frenzy of missile production determined to build thousands of nuclear warhead payloaded ICBM’s that could strike at any moment into the heart of the Enemy’s cities- having the USSR basically ringed with Military Bases and being able to violate their airspace with entire formations of B-52 bombers being apparently insufficient to our defense needs as long as Sputnik was up there somewhere!
The USSR, angered and frustrated militarily by our Air superiority and brass-balled flyovers of their Motherland but retaining the edge in rocket technology, subsequently ramped up their production of same and in a few short years we both had thousands of missiles pointing in each others direction and poised to launch at the literal touch of a button, almost assuredly leading to a catastrophic confrontation of civilization ending proportion as it was certain that not much of the rest of the world would likely survive, or even want to, the Nuclear Winter that would follow our showdown with the Soviet Bear.
So our little game of Atomic Chicken was All In, boys and girls! The only two Great Nuclear Superpowers were perfectly ready, willing and (for the 1st time in history) able to bring down the other along with the rest of the planet in One Big Boom before either of us surrendered to the Menace of - pick ‘em- the Spread of Evil Communism or the Threat of American Imperialism, depending on which side you were standing, while everyone else paced on the sidelines and prayed for the best.
We both took turns accusing, tough talking, posturing, threatening, spying, saber-rattling and stockpiling our deterrents in a near hysterical mania of military one-upmanship.
We both engaged in disastrous conflicts (Vietnam, Afghanistan) to prove our willingness to fight, military might and dogged determination to the other guy.
We both, combined, spent more money on weapons than most of the worlds economies complete GNP’s, combined.
Then, as befitting this glacially paced conflict, in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down signaling a death knell for the Soviet Union.
In 1991 Premier Gorbachev officially folded his cards and the USSR dissolved.
Almost 5 decades of teeth gnashing hostility, harsh words and very real threats ended with no bang but something much more like a whimper.
7 separate US Administrations (Democratic and Republican) were at the wheel during all this time yet somehow we managed not to kill each other and everybody else with not one single missile launched in anger over those many, many tense years. I don’t know about anyone else but I’d call that a history of proper thinking, bilateral responsibility and hope for the future.
The American architect of this almost unbelievably sound and sensible policy?
An Ambassador to the Soviet Union, George F. Kennan. In 1947 he wrote an article that would become the foundation for decades of US policy concerning the USSR. The article’s advice- Containment.
Mr. Kennan correctly and very wisely surmised that nothing fruitful was to be gained by direct conflict with the USSR and instead preached strategic containment. In short, match the Soviet Threat- politically, ideologically and, not the least, economically- and we will eventually win a “War” that does not need to be fought on any battlefield.
“Thus the decision will really fall in large measure in this country itself. The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.
Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin's challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.”
I’m not at all confused about Our Republic being under current threat but I think I’ve said all that I’m going to about the nature and reality of that challenge we now face.
(Analogblog:My Ex-Pat Manifesto…continued/4.10.07)
There are ways to deal with terrorists. I would suggest small, effective, covert assassination squads. Then go to the source of the terrorist Hydra and salve the wound before it grows two additional heads.
And I’m certain that greater minds can think of even better ways.
To be clear let's remember that for decades we faced off against total annihilation and somehow, someway, slowly, surely triumphed. Now we face religious fanatics who willingly kill themselves in order to take a few of their enemies, and lots of the innocent, with them.
What did our current leaders come up with to combat this most modern form of aggression?
The War on Terror.
We needed a long range foreign policy with realistic goals and sensible short range actions. What we got was a laughable slogan (Remember the War on Drugs? Yea, Drugs won) that didn’t even work on our own shores, a candy color-coded panic meter and a near endless bloodbath with a dog that wasn’t even in the fight.
A threat must be dealt with appropriately but fear is only fear, it can harm no one but can most certainly lead everyone to disaster.
Mr. Kennan, where are you when we need you?