I’ve finally figured out why so many pundits and journalists are signing on to the new cold war with Russia: they weren’t alive during the last one. They have no memory of the Cuban missile crisis, they didn’t grow up in the era of backyard bomb shelters: for them, Fail Safe and On the Beach are just old movies.
Take Greg Sargent, an opinion columnist with the Washington Post, who was a twinkle in his parents’ eyes when John F. Kennedy put American nukes in Turkey and the Russians responded by installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. So eager is he for a confrontation with Vladimir Putin that he tweeted this the other day. I responded with this. And he fired back with this – I must be a Trump supporter! As I told him, I hope he’s alive after the next missile crisis with Russia – which will be coming real soon after Hillary Clinton takes office.
Or take Josh Rogin, who writes about foreign policy for the Washington Post: he’s upset that Trump won’t risk World War III by facing off with Putin over Ukraine. Trump must be “in lockstep with Putin.” Yet Rogin didn’t dispute the merits of what Trump had to say – that he’d consider recognizing the Crimean referendum – only implying that Trump was some kind of Manchurian candidate. I answered him here, and he soon fled back into the nether reaches of the Twittersphere. And I’d make the same point about him that I made about Sargent: these people are children. They have no memory of the cold war. They never lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation., To them it’s all a game.
We are living in an age when George Stephanopoulos can start off an interview with the GOP presidential candidate by demanding to know: “What is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?” It was an astonishing interview, one in which the former spokesman for the (Bill) Clinton administration could accusingly ask why the Trump campaign softened a GOP platform plank calling for the shipment of lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Little Georgie was born in 1961 – a year before the Cuba missile crisis. Ukraine
was a part of the USSR, and no one then living had the faintest conception that
it would ever be an independent state, never mind that people – Very Serious
People – would one day be telling us we had to send them arms to fight off a
Russian “invasion” (that never happened and won’t happen). To Stephanopoulos,
and Sargent, and Rogin, “standing up to Putin” is as easy and as morally uncomplicated
invading Iraq “standing up to Saddam Hussein.”
Except it isn’t.
There is, indeed, nothing to stand up to: quite the opposite, as the geo-strategists of the West know full well. NATO has been expanding steadily eastward since the end of the cold war and the implosion of the Soviet empire. Today Western armies are at the very gates of Moscow – and it is for Putin to stand up to us.
Through our “NGOs” and government-subsidized “democracy promotion” programs, Washington has been angling for regime change in Moscow. Every since their puppet, the drunken Yeltsin, was succeeded by someone who had Russia’s interests at heart, they’ve been plotting and scheming to get rid of him. Yet Putin just gets more popular with the Russian people as time goes on. And so they are resorting to external pressure – military pressure – in order to squeeze the Russian bear until he collapses – or lashes out.
Economic sanctions, relentless propaganda, meddling in Ukraine, and now a presidential election in which the demonization of Russia has become the central issue of the campaign – all this is building toward a climax that could turn deadly at a moment’s notice.
There is a silver lining to this dark cloud, however, and no matter what you think of Trump, he is providing it. In answer to Little Georgie’s Russia-baiting, Trump averred:
“We’ll have a better relationship with Russia. And having a good relationship – maybe having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Stephanopoulos didn’t like that, but you should’ve seen George’s face when he asked him about Crimea and Trump came out with the following:
“You know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.”
“The U.S. and European Union may want to save Crimeans from themselves. But the Crimeans are happy right where they are.
“One year after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in the Black Sea, poll after poll shows that the locals there – be they Ukrainians, ethnic Russians or Tatars are mostly all in agreement: life with Russia is better than life with Ukraine.”
Over 80% of Crimeans, according to a Gallup poll, say the referendum merging Crimea with Russia was legitimate and will lead to a better life. A poll taken by GfK, a German polling firm, registered higher numbers: 93% said they’re happy being part of Russia.
No one is supposed to acknowledge this – but Trump is acknowledging it. What he’s betting on is that steelworkers in the swing state of Ohio aren’t going to desert him because he won’t start World War III over Crimea. And that’s one bet Trump is bound to win.
The political class, in attacking Trump in this way, is talking to itself. The only people who want to confront Russia and restart the cold war live in Washington, D.C. and make their living thinking up new “threats” with which to scare the American people into spending billions more on “defense.” Except Americans could give two shits about Putin, Ukraine, and the NATO alliance – because they are sick and tired of perpetual war. They wonder why we’re building bridges in Afghanistan while our own are falling to pieces. They don’t care about “saving” Ukraine from a nonexistent Russian “threat” – they just want our government to save them from crime in the streets of our own cities.
What is happening this presidential election year is frightening: we haven’t
seen this kind of a poisonous atmosphere since the 1950s – only this time it’s the Democrats
who are seeing a
communist Putinist under every bed. That Hillary Clinton
is willing to risk a serious international incident over the dubious claim that
the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server – a contention
cyber-warfare experts – tells us everything we need to know about her dangerously
overweening ambition. When even James Clapper, the head of our intelligence
services, is telling us to calm down and not jump to conclusions about attributing
the hack to the Russians, the Clinton campaign is making reckless accusations
– and these people have the nerve to talk about how Trump can’t be trusted with
his finger on the nuclear trigger.
Hillary Clinton and her supporters would start World War III rather than lose this election. And if she does win it, you’d better start digging that bomb shelter.
Yes, it’s getting scarier every day, to the point where even Donald Trump is apparently less scary than the alternative. And that’s taking scary to a whole new level.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.