The Cold War was an attempt, using every means possible, by the United States and its allies in North America and Western Europe, along with other countries that had their own reasons for joining in, to prevent the expansion of Soviet power through military means or through other means, including the spread of the ideology of Communism. That Cold War began after World War II, even though from the earliest days of the Bolsheviks it had always been clear to some that Soviet Communism was inherently expansionist, totalitarian, and aggressive, and lasted until the time of Gorbachev, when the rulers of the Soviet Union conceded that on its own terms Communism had not delivered the goods, had failed. Then Yeltsin, in almost a stupor, allowed most of the Soviet “republics” to leave the Soviet Union, thus putting an end to the Soviet Empire and reducing it to “nash dom” — that is, the House of Russia and, as English estate agents like to say, messuage.
The two sides to the Cold War — an economic and propagandistic component, and a military component — can both be seen in the two developments that mark it at the beginning. In the late 1940s, the American government conceived and implemented a plan to revive the broken economies of the war-ravaged countries of Western Europe, and to do so with a transfer of economic aid, much of it administered by Americans on the spot, and technical know-how. It was understood that the appeal of Communism was very strong. In the late 1940s and 1950s the Communists formed the largest political group in both France and Italy, and that both improvements in the local economies and a propaganda war would be necessary. The aid flowed, and the economies slowly revived. And at the same time, there was targeted aid to certain newspapers (such as Der Monat in West Germany) and to political parties (such as the Christian Democrats in Italy) known to oppose the Communists. The Soviet Communists were not idle. Their theme was “peace” — which was opposed only by those war-profiteering capitalists who needed interminable conflict to keep churning out and using up their weaponry, while the Soviet Union, with that mild-mannered shy and retiring, earnestly pacifist Lover of Peace Joseph Stalin as its benevolent, twinkly-eyed leader, was so much for peace that it would set up the World Peace Council to organize festivals, usually but not always in Helsinki, with propaganda posters by the leftist likes of Picasso (who during the war and Nazi Occupation of Paris had not lifted a finger to save the life of his “godchild” Max Jacob from death at Drancy, and thought nothing of inviting German officers into his studio on Quai des Grands Augustins to see his latest works, and they would bring him steaks and other luxuries available only to the Germans).
Along with Peace, the other great theme of Soviet propaganda was Colonialism, An End To. Since the main colonial powers were Great Britain and France, the most important allies of the United States, taking the side of all those seeking to be independent — ready or not, and no matter what the outcome — was a way to profitably exploit what was seen, too easily, as on-the-side-of-the-angels decolonialism. Furthermore, this was said to be the Side of History. The “winds of change” were blowing, said Harold Macmillan, and no one could stop it. It was not the Soviet Marxists who were the only determinists. Though a grouping of countries in Africa and Asia and Latin America became known as the Non-Aligned, those Non-Aligned, in solemn conclave assembled at Bandung or elsewhere, always seemed to pass resolutions against the West for its supposed machinations. But the machinations that counted were those of the Soviets and their collaborators, who manipulated these gatherings for their own ends. The Non-Aligned never seemed to worry about the Soviet Union, or about the new and unfamiliar kind of “colonialism” (therefore not recognized as such) that the Soviets practiced in Eastern Europe.
The Nonaligned Nations became, over time, what was called the Third World, and the playing off of the United States and the Soviet Union, or the invocation of the threat of now one, and now the other, allowed countries that were in fact always playing their own game to obtain aid, and then still more aid from the other side, in a bidding war for political affections. Unlike the economic aid given to the countries of Western Europe, countries that were part of the West, much of the economic aid given to countries outside that historic West was misused, or appropriated by local rulers, or spent on inappropriate projects. But this does not take away from the achievements of the original Marshall Plan, even as it should make one wary of invoking that Plan — as so many Muslim leaders, from Al-Jaafari (who preceded Al-Maliki) to Karzai, to Zardari, or their associates do. They fondly think they can inveigle still more money out of the by-now disabused Americans for a “Muslim Marshall Plan” that makes no sense, unless one really believes that “poverty” and “joblessness,” and not Islam itself, are the cause of Muslim economic backwardness and, especially, the cause of Muslim hostility to Infidels, including the Infidel Americans.
At the same time as the American government was implementing the Marshall Plan, it also created and largely funded a military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, that remains till now the chief and still the only effective military alliance that unites the advanced countries of the historic West. The NATO alliance, along with a series of American bases, helped deter further Soviet military penetration into Western Europe, and possibly stopped the Red Army from entering Yugoslavia when Tito became too independent of Soviet commands. American and NATO forces went to war in Korea to halt North Korean, and implicitly Chinese Communist, aggression. Members of NATO also undertook on their own to suppress revolts connected to the Communists: the British aid to the Greek government in the late 1940s, and in Malaya in the early 1950s, were directed at groups that were thought to be allied to Communists, including those in the Soviet Union.
The war in Korea did save South Korea for the West, and by comparing South Korea today with North Korea, one might draw some conclusions about a Communist dictatorship and a relatively free capitalist society.
How was the Cold War won? Some say it was this, and some say that. Some point to the Marshall Plan. Some point to NATO. Some say it was Lech Walesa and Solidarnosc. Some say it was Ronald Reagan, and his spending on defense that forced the Soviet Union into an arms race it could not, in the end, finance. Some say it was Pope John Paul II.
But it was not one of these men, nor a single event or series of events.
Communism failed in the Soviet Union because it could not deliver. And instead of continuing to believe the stories that the stage of Communism had not yet been reached, and so it would be unfair and premature to judge Communism a failure, too many of those in the know, and in the Party itself, or close to those in the Party, realized that Communism was a political, economic, and moral disaster. Gorbachev himself, for example, had in the early 1950s roomed with a Czech student at MGU (Moscow State University) who took a dim view of Communism, and who apparently made a deep impression on Gorbachev. Another factor, one which I have not seen mentioned, is the influence of the children of the Party elite on their own parents. Many of these children attended universities or institutes with others who were not the children of the Party elite but were among the most intelligent and morally aware of Russians. These people had been chosen to go to certain Institutes because of their intelligence, while the children of the Party elite might get into the same Institutes because of their families. Sometimes the two groups overlapped. Gradually, the very people who ran the Party, and hence the Soviet Union, could no longer deny that Communism could not deliver and that it was based on an economic theory that did not fit the case, and that something had to be done if the constituent republics of the SSSR, and if Russia itself, were to be saved. A few farseeing souls, such as the late Alexander Yakovlev, an adviser to Gorbachev, also were more than mere political advisers but also provided a kind of moral guidance that led, in the end, to a willingness to admit that the system, as constituted, had not worked.
Now the United States is the leader of a group of nations that are threatened in different ways by those employing different weapons, but animated by an ideology that in many respects, in its claim to regulate every area of life, may be called totalitarian, and that has hundreds of millions, indeed more than a billion, of claimed adherents. Those adherents control and dominate a large part of the world, and are moving aggressively, in every way they can, to make the rest of us, those who do not share that ideology, concede to their demands, and to make the world safe for the adherents of that ideology to work to remove all obstacles to its spread and then to its dominance. That ideology, with its Complete Explanation of the Universe (an explanation even more far-reaching than Communism, that limited itself to the sphere of economics relations and its natural epiphenomena) and its Total Regulation of Life, has a remarkable hold on the minds of its adherents. And unlike Communism, there is no one thing that Islam must deliver to prove itself. It is multidimensional and hydra-headed, and there is no one thing, no one failure, that would lead its adherents to question, much less abandon it.
But that does not mean that in this new Cold War — like the old Cold War, one that has a military component — that the forces of the advanced West cannot supplement military measures with others, in the realm of propaganda. So far that propaganda war has not been fought, and it cannot be fought, as long as we all pretend that there is nothing wrong with Islam. For if we all pretend that there is nothing wrong with Islam, but only with some “violent extremists” — whose ideology is never differentiated from the standard teachings to be found in Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, of mainstream Muslims who are not “violent extremists.” We continue to tell the world’s Muslims how much we hold them and their faith in high esteem, what a splendid faith it is, and what enormous good it has done for the world and, by the way, how welcoming we are, and wish to continue to be, to the Muslims in our midst who, incidentally, are doing splendidly, and fitting right in, and there’s not a problem in the world with having Muslims in our midst, for they are, ca va sans dire, perfectly capable of being loyal (Americans, Canadians, British, French, Germans, Dutch, Danish, Australians — fill in the Western country of your choice here). And anyone who dares to even hint otherwise must surely be a bigot, to be consigned to the outer darkness.
There is little need in this new Cold War for much military action. No need for a Korean War. Certainly there was no need for the large-scale interventions in Iraq and now Afghanistan. In-and-out movements of special forces, the extensive use of air power (including drones and missiles as well as planes), should be enough to control the various bases of various groups of “violent extremists.” Only one thing requires more than small-scale but constant attack: the attempt by various Muslim states to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Again and again Muslim leaders have spoken about the need to acquire weapons technology. When Mahathir Mohamed, then the outgoing head of the O.I.C., spoke to assembled Muslim leaders a few years ago, he did not mention the need for Muslims to catch up in pure science. It was a matter of indifference to him that Muslim contributions to science have been practically non-existent for the past thousand years. He was not interested in Muslims having little to do with studying DNA, or elementary particle physics, or any other branch of science or technology save one: military weaponry. There he was interested. There he was deeply concerned. And if one views, for example, the videotapes (to be found online at YouTube) of such well-known Muslim apologists as “Dr.” Zakir Naik, one finds him asserting that the Muslim world is superior in every sense to the non-Muslim world but, Dr. Naik allows, it is willing to receive training in (military) technology from that non-Muslim Western world, almost as if such willingness were a kind of favor bestowed by Muslims on non-Muslims.
We all know that the “Islamic bomb” of Pakistan — the sole reason for the American government to worry about Pakistan at all — was a result not of unaided Pakistani scientific achievement, but in the first and main place, the result of Western negligence, that allowed a Pakistani metallurgist, working in the West, to place himself where he could steal nuclear secrets from Western labs. And that is exactly what he did. And the criminal negligence of the West in this affair was compounded by the vast sums given by the American government to Pakistan that allowed that government to pay for its very expensive nuclear-weapons project. And the project of the Islamic Republic of Iran has required expertise. That expertise was acquired by Iranians studying, in large part, in the universities and laboratories of the West, both before Khomeini came to power thirty years ago, and well after. It was not understood until the day before yesterday that Muslims have received their training in the non-Muslim West and are then using that training in ways that contribute to the threat to that same West, and such a sharing of knowledge, and expertise, is now — and was twenty or thirty years ago — unacceptable. Why, even the female scientists who worked for Saddam Hussein, specialists in biological and chemical warfare, had studied in Great Britain. That folly, if it hasn’t been ended, has now to be ended. And the same vigilance, and same prohibitions must be extended, beyond the Muslim nationals of Islam-dominated states, to Muslims who live in, and may even be citizens of, Western countries. As long as Islam inculcates the idea of loyalty owed to Islam, we understand that this loyalty will be acted on and that it would be far too risky to put our faith in protestations of loyalty by Muslims to whatever Infidel nation-state they live in. In this new Cold War, the denial of technological know-how, and the refusal to transfer advanced technology to the Muslim states, will do the job, and hot wars, and invasions, are not necessary.
There are two exceptions. One is Pakistan, where nuclear weapons have been acquired, but those nuclear weapons must be vigilantly kept from being transferred out of the country, and to the extent possible, Pakistan not allowed to acquire the means to deliver, against its enemies, such weaponry. The second is the Islamic Republic of Iran (not to be confused with Iran), that is working busily, seemingly unstoppable in its march to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. The farce of the last few years, a farce correctly seen as such by a farsighted few, and now it seems by almost everyone and his brother (but do everyone and his brother have the will to do something about it?), has now played out. The United States, as a great power, has a responsibility to deal with Iran’s nuclear project efficaciously and quickly, and that will require military action. It will not require an “invasion.” It will not require anything like the resources spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. It need not take as its goal something impossible: the complete and total and final destruction of Iran’s nuclear capacity. But enough damage can be inflicted to set a tottering regime back, by many years. When Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Saddam Hussein did not start up his nuclear project for another twenty years, and even then it was not a full-throated attempt. He knew the Israelis were watching. And the Islamic Republic of Iran, for all of its bravado, will, if an attack is carried out and much of its nuclear project destroyed, hesitate for a long time before starting it up again, whatever it now says. For a clear indication, by the American government, and its allies, that it is willing, when necessary, to use force to stop such a project, will be a lesson not lost on the Islamic Republic. It might, for a week or a month or even a few months, manage to conduct a Rally-Round-the-Flag exploitation of such an attack, but in the end, the display of impotence will do much to push the Islamic Republic over the abyss toward which its own actions, and the growing strength of the opposition, is taking it. But if it were ever to successfully acquire nuclear weapons, the pride among the primitive villagers in Iran, who outnumber the advanced people in the opposition, would be so great as to make it impossible to dislodge the current regime.
The American government, in concert with other Western governments, was fully capable of acting militarily against far more threatening and powerful enemies. When the Americans went to war in Korea, the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons. Some of those weapons might have been transferred to Communist China, and then to North Korea. What, after all, did North Korea have to lose? But the Americans went ahead anyway. In Vietnam, the Americans never knew if the Communist Chinese might send a few million men southward. They never did, but they could have. A Iranian regime that has had to raise the prices on staples (angering the populace) and that relies for its survival on the Revolutionary Guard storm-troopers who act against students, including the children of former high officials in the very same ruling regime and, indeed, against that part of the Iranian population which thinks, and in its own neighborhood, has alarmed practically everyone, and not just uber-Sunni Saudi Arabia. What’s more, it has shown that it is willing, through its agents and collaborators, to behave viciously everywhere it can, even as far away as Buenos Aires, and there are many other attacks. Many are not publicly attributed to Iran, but its involvement is strongly suggested.
The other part of the Cold War — the propaganda part that was fought — does not yet have an analogue in the war being fought, without a declaration of such a war (which is understandable) but even, alas, without a recognition of the nature of the war now being waged on us, but that many are still too tongue-tied or inhibited to discuss, even obliquely, metonymically. That propaganda during the Cold War was directed at two different audiences. The first was behind the Iron Curtain. To that audience, through Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and all sorts of publishing ventures, the American government provided material of many different kinds. It published Ã©migrÃ© writers, and had those writers broadcast on Radio Liberty, or Radio Free Europe, to show that outside the confines of Communism, Russian and Polish and Czech and Bulgarian and other writers, even in their exile, had managed to continue their work, and some of that work was even about the miseries of totalitarianism. News stories about Western achievements were contrasted with stories about repeated failures — crop failures, technical failures, failures of every kind in the Communist world — were also beamed into the satellite nations and the Soviet Union. Special attention was given to those who had, like Arthur Koestler and others who contributed to “The God That Failed,” once been Communists, even fanatical Communists, but had managed to grasp the nature of the system and to fight their way out of it, and to become its most cogent because most knowledgeable critics.
And the other audience to which American and other Western propaganda was aimed, was those in the West who might have been most vulnerable to the siren-song of Communism, or Marxist-Leninism, or whatever it called itself. This audience included not only members of the Communist Parties in the Western world, but also those who, as members of left-leaning parties, were deemed in some cases insufficiently vigilant about Communist influence and Communist propaganda. It was understood that Soviet propaganda was clever, not clumsy, and that it would take an effort to counter it — one directed in the main by those who were advised by, or themselves had been, refugees from Soviet Communism, from the Soviet Union or from the Soviet-controlled nations.
Where is such a propaganda effort today? Who are the analogues of those refugees from Communism, from the world of Islam? And up till now, what has the American government done about disseminating, not behind some Iron Curtain, but simply by all the means now so widely available — radio, satellite television, the Internet, audiocassettes and videotapes — news about Islam’s failures, or the failures of states where Islam rules? How many Muslims have been told, again and again, about how much money the Muslim members of OPEC have taken in, and how little they have managed to do with it, save spend it on armaments, and luxury goods, and palaces, and every sort of decadence that goes far beyond anything the non-Islamic rich are known to routinely indulge in? How many Muslims have listened, in broadcasts from abroad, to economists discuss the economic performance of Muslim states, compared to non-Muslim states, and discussions of the reasons for this — the inshallah-fatalism, and the hatred of bid’a (innovation)? How many programs do you know of where the moral failures of Islam are discussed, discussed regularly, not intermittently, by the likes of Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
The nature and lineaments of this propaganda war, a war that more than eight years after the attacks of 9/11/2001 still does not exist, will be the subject of another article. This one has gone on for you, long-suffering reader, long enough.