OPINION

Nostalgia and pragmatism

The panic that struck London and spread throughout the world after the foiled terrorist attack on US-bound airliners has revealed a very high degree of insecurity that is being gradually imposed on the average Western citizen. One may even say that the times of the Cold War can be seen with nostalgia nowadays, as the average citizen in Western societies lived freely and prospered in the framework of strong welfare states, enhanced by governmental fears of the domestic communist threat. Conflicts in the northern hemisphere were acted out – at least – in the intangible field of the intelligence services, which occasionally provided inspiration for spy thrillers. There were also however, the less fortunate, who lived under illiberal regimes behind the Iron Curtain. When they did revolt, they received no material aid from the Western world because the main concern was maintaining the stability of the global system and averting an all-out nuclear war. There are those who insist on criticizing the bi-polar system, forgetting, obviously, that the balance-of-power system in Europe had led to bloody wars ever since the 19th century. One of the greatest achievements of the Cold War was the realization that military might, because of the development of weapons of mass destruction and therefore mutual assured destruction, had a preventive effect. Nowadays, your average television viewer daily witnesses the dramatic reversal of this concept. The collapse of the bi-polar system has seen the transformation of Western politics from the art of the possible to an exercise of rigid ideological radicalism, aimed at liberating humanity by exporting the concepts of democracy and the free market. The first step was made by NATO, with its «humanitarian» war against Balkan dictator Slobodan Milosevic, which destroyed Yugoslavia. Next came the war in Afghanistan, a country that suffered huge material and humanitarian losses without benefiting from the so-called new order, and then there was Iraq, where, despite the toppling of Sadam Hussein, the country is still mired in complete chaos and bloody conflicts. Mismanagement on such a grand scale is unfathomable, and if the leaders – champions of the free market – who hold the starring roles of these wars were executive partners in multi-national corporations, they would have been thrown out on their ear a long time ago for their sheer incompetence. But they have been democratically elected and as such have a free reign by virtue of their public mandate. The post-communist-era leaderships of the Western world have succeeded in destroying the preventive character of their military forces, using them instead to raze infrastructure, kill civilians and, as a result, radicalize the Islamic world to a degree that has the West living in fear. Israel accordingly invaded Lebanon, causing incalculable material and humanitarian damage. Its only real achievement has been to debunk the Israeli armed forces. Their chilling use of firepower and ultra-modern weapons in the region has not – after 30 days – succeeded in vanquishing the ragged Hezbollah fighters, who are armed with World War II-era Katyusha missiles and Kalashnikov rifles. There were conflicts in the Middle East during the Cold War too, but they were carried out between sovereign states and Israel came out a winner. When Ariel Sharon invaded Lebanon the first time he was after Palestinian forces who had occupied the south of the country and who were deemed unwelcome by the local population. That was then. In short, the collapse of the bi-polar system has thrown the winners into turmoil, because their political victory over their foes has made them lose their sense of balance and moderation. The opposite has happened for the great loser, the Soviet Union. Russia is being re-born and Vladimir Putin is the only European leader who operates along political criteria, exploiting Russia’s strongest weapon, energy.