Home/Daniel Larison/The Hawkish Marriage of Cold War Nostalgia and Threat Inflation

The Hawkish Marriage of Cold War Nostalgia and Threat Inflation

Josh Rogin reports that leading Republicans in Congress are out of their minds:

The current crisis in the Ukraine and the looming crisis on the Korean Peninsula would be much easier to manage if the Cold War was still going strong, according to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and Senate Armed Services Ranking Republican James Inhofe.

I look back wistfully at the Cold War [bold mine-DL],” Inhofe said Thursday at a breakfast meeting with reporters. “There were two superpowers, they knew what we had, we knew what they had, mutually assured destruction meant something. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Now we have these people who are not rational, not logical, they’re nuts.”

This is just embarrassing, but it is unfortunately only too consistent with the standard hawkish view these days. Many hawks believe that the world is more dangerous than ever, which is demonstrably untrue, and that causes them to misjudge and exaggerate the dangers from every political dispute to support this profoundly wrong belief. We see here not just nostalgia for the Cold War because of a distorted understanding of current issues, but a bizarre belief that the world was less dangerous and more manageable when the USSR still existed. This is true only in the warped sense that the Soviets had more of a stranglehold over many more countries than other major powers have today, but this is hardly the sort of “management” that anyone should want to have back. There would not have been a crisis in Ukraine during the Cold War, or at least not one that the U.S. would have been in a position to influence. There would have been no question of Western involvement in the affairs of what was then a Soviet republic, just as the U.S. and its allies were unable to do anything in 1956 or 1968 when uprisings and protests in Soviet satellites were brutally crushed. Cold War rivalry was not only much more intense and destructive than anything we see today, but it was also potentially much more perilous for the entire world. However difficult some conflicts and crises may be today, they were no less so during the Cold War, and in some respects they were harder to address successfully because they were usually being viewed in terms of U.S.-Soviet competition.

The conclusion of the Cold War was not only marked by a great advance for freedom in Europe and the former Soviet republics, among other places, but it also contributed significantly to a reduction in the incidence and duration of armed conflict around the world. Despite the misguided efforts of many hawks to try to bring back the bad old days of arming proxy groups in foreign civil wars and the constant agitation to pick fights with Russia as often as possible, we face far fewer dangers than we did during the Cold War, and it is madness to wish to return to that era.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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