Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Excellent post!

I agree with you regarding the triumphalism of "winning" the Cold War when it was more of a case of the Soviet bullfrog, having puffed itself up beyond sustainability - exploding.

The same neo-cons would have apoplexy if you suggested that the Vietcong, simply by being around when the American forces destroyed their own self-belief, "defeated" the entire US amed forces.

I suppose in five hundred years from now, Chinese historians will conclude that the only effect of years of turmoil and the deaths of 50-75 million people was to move forward the date when an American landed on the moon from 1999 to 1969...

by Saif on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:52:40 AM EST
There is actually a case to be made that it was the runaway arms race that destroyed the Soviet economy. If it hadn't had to commit an ever-incresing proportion of its (slowly-growing) GDP to military expenses to compensate for the military budget of the US which, having faster GDP growth, could do more comfortably.

Then you investigate a bit and find that in the 1970's the CIA had an accurate assessment that the USSR was not a very potent threat and was economically overstretched. Then the neocons (yes, the same people now calling the shots) got Bush the Father to authorize an exercise in "competitive threat assessment" called "Team B". Team B fabricated data and used Rumsfeld's rule that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence to argue that the USSR was far, far ahead of the US militarily. Ford increased the military budget accordingly. The Carter administration continued this and (through Zbigniew Brzezinski) played a key role in miring the USSR in Afghanistan. The US bounced back from Vietnam, but the Soviet system was too rigid to recover from Afghanistan. When Reagan won the presidency the neocons set to work on closing the "missile gap" and started working on "Star Wars".

So, actually, one could argue that the neocon strategy of exaggerating external threats and cooking intelligence if necessary worked against the Soviets. It forced them into overdrive and they collapsed under their own weight.

I may sound conspiratorial, but these are the same people, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush the Father... Their names keep cropping up, they have been in control of various branches of the US government most of the last 30-35 years, and have succeeded in subverting the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA. Quite an accomplishment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 06:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points, but I'll extend it after a quibble. The quibble is that even the CIA estimate was an over-estimate (if I remember correctly, by 50%, while Team B pushed it to 200% - but don't take my word on it).

Now, the neocons do claim after-the-fact (rather dishonestly) that they pushed the Soviets out with the armament race they fomented. But the problem with this widespread view is that dictatures do not have to collapse due to economic crisis: witness North Korea. Or indeed, witness the Soviet Union itself in the thirties under Stalin, or for that matter, China during the Great Leap Forward, and again during the Cultural Revolution.

No, the implosion of the Empire, especially here in the Warshaw Pact countries that got free 1989-90, was more of a political nature. I think above all, it can be connected to Gorbachev personally. Without Soviet military support, the puppet regimes crumbled under much weaker attacks (with the exception of Romania) than say in 1956 here in Hungary.

However, I even encountered a neocon supporter who was not only aware of this, but pointed out that neocons even claim Gorbachev as their own success! They claim Reagan frightened the Politburo into choosing a reformist. Which is ridiculous - the wish for stability after the death of three gerontocrats in fast succession had much more to do with his accession, and besides, he was already considered before (I read of this recently).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 06:35:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reagan specifically put into place a strategy aimed at raising the stakes financially, thinking the empire would crumble.  He did, and they did.  he also took a much more confrontational stand on the issues with the leaders of the USSR.  In his own style of humor, he put the Cold War strategy as, "how about we win, they lose".

Now of course it's possible that this fall would have happened anyway.  And though I don't know the %'s, it is true that CIA estimates significantly overstated the economic power of the USSR.

I imagine history books will give Reagan credit, for at least hastening the fall.  But I doubt this is an argument that will be resolved in our lifetimes, though it certainly has been, and will be, argued strongly.

by wchurchill on Tue Nov 8th, 2005 at 01:17:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series