09 March 2011

Who won the Cold War?

Who won the Cold War? In a book I read recently, Book review: A history of the English-speaking peoples | Khanya the author was in no doubt that Maggie Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan "won" the Cold War, but the author's worldview was utterly anachonistic, and can only be described as neojingoism.

Clarissa takes a somewhat different view of it in Clarissa's Blog: Who Caused the Collapse of the Soviet Union? Part I:
Nothing annoys me more than hearing people discuss completely in earnest whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by Ronald Reagan or by somebody else. Such discussions make just as much sense as trying to figure out whether world peace was achieved by this or some other politician. 'Well, there is no world peace,' you'd say. Right you are. And there was no collapse of the Soviet Union. Not in any meaningful sense, that is. As to the end of the Cold War, if you seriously think it's over, you need to stop spending so much time listening to the American media and turn to some external sources of information every once in a while. The winner of the Cold War is yet to be decided but I somehow doubt that you can win any war by pretending it isn't taking place.

I think her whole article is worth reading, though I disagree with the premiss that the Cold War is continuing.

To that extent I agree with the late Samuel Huntington, who said that the Cold War was primarily a clash of ideologies, while what we are seeing in the post-Cold War world is a clash of civilizations.

One of the relics of the Cold War is the term "Third World", which still seems to persist, though its meaning seems to have changed, or rather dissipated. The "three worlds" view of geopolitics was composed of
  • First World: the capitalist world
  • Second World: the communist world
  • Third World: the non-aligned states
The Third World was founded by India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia was the only Third-World state in Europe, and, in a sense, its disintegration, like that of the Soviet Union, marks the end of the Cold War.

If the Cold War was a war of ideologies, as Huntington says, then one could say that Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher "won" the Cold War, because their brand of free marketism is the dominant religion in the world today. That is where Huntington got it wrong; he posits Western Christianity as the religion of Western Civilization. It isn't. Free Marketism is.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and Bolshevik rule in Russia is a somewhat different matter. By Brezhnev's time, if not before, faith in communism had grown cold. The leaders of the ruling Communist Party uttered all the old slogans, but the conviction had gone out of them. All that was left was a clinging to power, and, as Clarissa points out, the most powerful men in Russia today resemble nothing so much as the Vicar of Bray.

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