Saturday, April 19, 2008

A very good question

Writing about the end of the Cold War, William Astore (Leaving Cheyenne Mountain TomDispatch.com 04/17/08) raises an important question:

The optimism of 1990 was strikingly mainstream. President George H.W. Bush spoke of "a new era, freer from the threat of [nuclear] terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace." We were supposedly lining up as a society to cash in our "peace dividend" chips -- with our winnings designated for pressing domestic concerns. Like presidential candidate Warren G. Harding, who campaigned for a return to "normalcy" after World War I, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan's tough-talking ambassador to the United Nations, wrote that, after so many decades of vigilance and sacrifice, we could once again become "a normal country in a normal time."

But it never happened. Instead of normalcy, we remained hunkered down in Cheyenne Mountain. We continued to look fearfully out at the world, while arming ourselves to the teeth. We became wedded to the idea of bunkers and barriers, whether fortified fences along the Mexican border, imperial military bases along the peripheries of a burgeoning empire, or, on a micro scale, security gates patrolled by small armies of private guards to keep the "have nots" out of "have" communities. ... After the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was as if we had "buttoned up" and slammed shut the blast doors to Fortress America.

How did the planet's self-proclaimed "sole superpower" in its moment of triumph become such a fearful country? In our endless face-off with the Soviet Union, did we come to resemble it far more than we ever imagined? After all, instead of the USSR, it's now we who are fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan; it's now we who are deflating our currency with massive deficits for weapons of marginal utility; it's now we who put forward unilateral proposals for earth-penetrating, bunker-busting nukes; it's now we who are often seen as aggressors on the world stage. (my emphasis)
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