Tuesday, February 16, 2016

HBO's Vice Reporting on The Cold War 2.0

I recommend that you all give this episode a view. It is important. Not only because another round of cold war brinksmanship isn't any more advisable now than it was 30+ years ago, what we claim we are going to the brink for, or in defense of, has gotten a good deal more complex.

Let us start out, however, by being clear on one thing right away. Most, if not all, of those states that made up the so called Warsaw Pact have no desire to go back to the harsh collectivism at the point of a gun that the Soviets of the time occupied them with. No one in their right mind would want to go back to that. One wonders, however, if they are really all that clear on what our brand of commercialized democracy might leave them with. Everything has a downside after all.

Sure, the one thing that they've been denied for so long, the real material improvement that the west has enjoyed for decades, has obvious appeal. It would to anyone who had gone through the kinds of deprivation, as well as bureaucratic corruption, and repression that Soviet occupation left in its wake. In that context, even if you knew you weren't going to get an idealized Democracy, having to settle with a commercialized one, real material gain is still real material gain.

We must ask ourselves, however, now that someone like Donald Trump might become president; knowing that our brand of the governance by the rule of law has questionable application precisely because of the corruptive power of money; and knowing as well that it is also our cost based form of economy that makes addressing all of the pressing ecological issues for the planet as a whole so difficult; knowing all of this are we even sure what we're pushing back on the Russians for? Freedom is a good word if used in the right context, but are we certain of whose interests are making the most pressing demands for freedom of action in Eastern Europe? Certain enough to risk putting the bullet we dodged in Cold War version 1.0 back into the cylinder, giving the cylinder a good spin and then daring either side to blink or pull the trigger?

It certainly doesn't help that Putin is doing a pretty good imitation of the Soviet Strong Men of old. Many of the old repressive methods have been reinstated and, though they like to call themselves a Democracy, nobody would mistake it for even a bad version of our commercialized Democracy. The fact is, however, a lot of things might be going on there, of which "Putin is a power strutting idiot" might only be one. They are a proud people after all and the fall of the old Soviet Union didn't do that much good. Having the baltic states wanting to embrace Nato so openly cannot have been much aid for that either. And now they are also having their economy embarrassed as well. The thing we need to remember is that gloating over these facts while Nato grows stronger, and closer to their actual borders, is an easy formula for making bad leaders, desperately bad leaders, and a population that might not ordinarily support them, desperately thankful for a strong man. And lest you think we can ignore that at our ease just remember this: Germany was treated much differently after World War Two precisely because of the lessons learned of the harsh treatment dealt out at the treaty of Versailles, ending the first World War.

The bottom line here, it seems to me, is that, in asking these questions honestly, we ought to be able to come up with compromises that leave enough wiggle room for everybody to not only save face, but to be guaranteed enough freedom, as well as increased material well being, to make everybody at least a whole lot less desperate, no matter what you call the organizational methodologies that actually get set up. And after all, shouldn't that be the whole point in the first place? Along with the free flow of information so that nobody gets left out in the cold at all any more?

Cold War 2.0 (VICE on HBO: Season 3, Episode 14)