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TomDispatch: Call the Politburo, We're in Trouble, Entering the Soviet Era in America
From TomDispatch this afternoon: By following the Soviet Union's path into a losing war in Afghanistan and into military gigantism, is the U.S. becoming the second loser in the Cold War, almost 20 years late? -- Tom Engelhardt, "Call the Politburo, We're in Trouble, Entering the Soviet Era in America." (The most recent TomCast audio interview with Tom Engelhardt on how Washington took the Soviet path to ruin and on his new book, The American Way of War, can be found here.)
Can it be? Are we finally losing the Cold War, almost two decades after the Soviet Union collapsed and disappeared?
My latest TomDispatch post offers an unexpected and original analysis of how Washington, having watched Soviet leaders pour their wealth into their military while letting their society go (and imploding), declared victory in the Cold War in 1991 -- and then decisively embarked on the Soviet path to disaster. "Mark it on your calendar," I begin. "It seems we’ve finally entered the Soviet era in America."
If, these days, you hear historical analogies when it comes to the Afghan War, Vietnam is always what comes to mind. The Cold War is forgotten, even though the Soviets, too, fought a decade long, disastrous war in Afghanistan and then the Red Army limped home to a country which was dissolving. "Looking back," I write, "the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military -- and its military adventure in Afghanistan -- when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it. In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation. They mistook military power for power on this planet."
Running a far wealthier and more powerful country, the leadership in Washington in successive administrations would make a similar miscalculation with similarly disastrous long-term consequences. Almost two decades later, the parallels -- including collapsing infrastructure, soaring budgets, rising indebtedness to other nations, and a military that never stops growing even as the society it is meant to defend begins to sag around it -- are nothing short of eerie, as is the ongoing war in that "graveyard of empires," and of the Soviet Union, Afghanistan.
I conclude: "In 1991, the Soviet Union suddenly evaporated. The Cold War was over. Like many wars, it seemed to have an obvious winner and an obvious loser. Nearly 20 years later, as the U.S. heads down the Soviet road to disaster -- even if the world can’t imagine what a bankrupt America might mean -- it’s far clearer that, in the titanic struggle of the two superpowers that we came to call the Cold War, there were actually two losers, and that, when the 'second superpower' left the scene, the first was already heading for the exits, just ever so slowly and in a state of self-intoxicated self-congratulation. Nearly every decision in Washington since then, including Barack Obama’s to expand both the Afghan War and the war on terror, has only made what, in 1991, was one possible path seem like fate itself.