Giving Tanks to the Next Generation


Rumsfeld waxes nostalgic about Cold War, gives future American leaders a conflict to call their own

The event that transformed the Bush regime’s muddling into meddling was 9/11, and now it looks as if those old white men in Washington have figured out the perfect legacy to bequeath to future generations: a new Cold War, only much hotter.

We already know that the “war on terror” was the perfect excuse to seize oil-rich Iraq and generate enough work for Dick Cheney to bail out Halliburton. More importantly for the now more uncertain future, the Bush regime has created a monster.

Naturally, cold warriors like Don Rumsfeld see history as if it were writ as a comic book. Like the other refugees from the Reagan era who have found new purpose, Rumsfeld had a cause back then—the struggle against them Commies—and suddenly it was over, and now there’s another great cause that he has “willed” to the next generation.

He basically said that in a speech last October 10 to Marines in Iraq:

There can be no doubt but that this global war against extremism is a task for a least a generation. It is a war that very likely will go on for many years, much like the Cold War went on for many years.

Rumsfeld sounded nostalgic as he told the troops:

We will look back at the Cold War in the history books as a great, almost preordained, victory for freedom. But I was alive during that whole period, and involved in it, and I can tell you that the almost 50-year span of the epic battle between the free world and the Soviet empire was filled with division, it was filled with uncertainty. There was self-doubt, there were setbacks, there were failures during those 50 years. Territories were seized, wars were fought—many times when the enemy seemed to have the upper hand. There were times when the free world contemplated withdrawing from the Cold War. It was not simply a smooth, upward path towards victory, as it looks now in the history books. Indeed, very few things in life are simply a smooth, upward path towards victory.

Of course, Rumsfeld left out some of the good parts. Mushahid Hussain, writing a prescient piece in the Asia Times on July 27, 2001, filled in some of the blanks:

What do the Palestinian intifada, the Kashmir insurgency, the Chechnya uprising, the unrest in Central Asia, the violence of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in the Philippines, the civil war in Algeria, and U.S. plans to counter the “threat” from “rogue nations” by building the controversial National Missile Defense system have in common?

All the countries trying to meet these challenges invariably attribute these to a common cause emanating from similar lineage—a “threat” supposedly rooted in a religion conveniently labeled “Islamic extremism.”

Keep in mind that Hussain, based in Islamabad, Pakistan, wrote this before 9-11. He continued:

Ever since the collapse of Communism with the break-up of the Soviet Union a decade back, a big issue has always been the question: Who will be the next enemy? After all, for decades on end after World War II, bloated bureaucracies, intelligence organizations, arms contractors, media outlets, think tanks, and even Hollywood had worked overtime to contain, counter, and combat the “Evil Empire,” as former U.S. president Ronald Reagan graphically characterized the Communist system.

But once Communism suddenly collapsed to everyone’s surprise, analyses, alliances, armaments all had to “switch gears” in the quest for a new credible adversary, or conjure up one in the process. That is precisely what seems to be happening now.

It is an abiding irony that roots of this violence can actually be traced back to U.S. policies during the decade-long Afghan War, the last battle of the Cold War. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA pumped in $2.1 billion over a 10-year period (with matching funds from Saudi Arabia and another $1 billion donated by the Chinese) to create a resistance that at its height included almost 200,000 highly motivated volunteers from 20 Muslim countries.

They were trained in Pakistan but supported covertly by a disparate coalition comprising Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, China, and the United States. Osama bin Laden was among the early recruits to the Afghan jihad, along with thousands of others.

So, actually, you could say that Rumsfeld and the other cold warriors helped manufacture the new shibboleth that would replace Communism. Oops.

But even dim bulb Bush himself was bright enough by the end of 2001 to see the benefits of 9/11, telling the world barely two months after the horrific attack, “All in all, it’s been a fabulous year for Laura and me.”