Monday, February 19, 2007

Cold War Nostalgia

Paul Kennedy, History, Yale, had an op-ed questioning current nostalgia for the Cold War in the LA Times yesterday. The title: The good old days of the Cold War: Don't wax too nostalgic -- the world was once a much more dangerous place. Thanks to Cliopatria for the tip.

Kennedy writes, in part,
The argument goes as follows: The Cold War, although unpleasant, was inherently stable. It was a bipolar world — centered on Washington and Moscow — and, as UC Berkeley political scientist Kenneth Waltz argued, it was much more predictable than, say, the shifting, multipolar world of the 1910s or 1930s, decades that were
followed by calamitous wars. Yes, it's true that the two sides possessed masses of nuclear weapons aimed at each other's biggest cities, but the reality is that they were constrained by a mutual balance of terror....

Today's world is far less stable and indeed much less favorable to the comfortable Western democracies. It is not just that we face an almost-impossible-to-manage "war on terrorism," with all of its capacities for asymmetrical damage to ourselves, our allies and everyone else, even as we swat the occasional terrorist group. It is not just that we are deeply mired in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the whole Middle East may totter because of the failure (one hopes not, but let's not blink) to win on the ground....

And here, Kennedy adds many other contemporary security problems.
So is it true? Was the Cold War era, on the whole, a safer era?

To find out, click here.