The Cold War peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis and ended with the falling of the Berlin Wall. It left scars across the globe, many of which are still felt today. It tore societies apart. It created a feeling of angst and paranoia in those who lived through it. The lack of trust the West and East held for each other hasn’t really gone nor have the players changed that much. For younger generations, it used to be hard to imagine what a time like that must have been like but as this century progresses, but it’s becoming easier.
China refused to accept the ruling by an international tribunal over the issue of the islands in the South China Sea. This has previously unsettled the area, with a number of South-Asian countries casting a suspicious eye on Chinese activity and will no doubt continue to do so. The problems in Eastern Europe continue after the annexation of Crimea and the support of pro-Russian rebels in the east of Ukraine by the Russian state. These problems were addressed at the recently convened NATO summit in Warsaw which saw the agreement to send four multinational combat battalions to former Soviet states Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The United States has also agreed to deploy 1,000 troops as part of these battalions. This same summit also agreed to continue deployments in Afghanistan which will keep troops there until 2020.
For younger generations, it used to be hard to imagine what a time like that must have been like but as this century progresses, but it’s becoming easier.
So-called Islamic State continues to wreak havoc. Suicide bombers have now begun targeting holy sites in Saudi Arabia. They have also claimed responsibility for the recent attack in Nice during the Bastille Day celebrations. Despite losing ground in the Middle East, the terrorist group has been stepping up its European operations. This, nonetheless, didn’t stop them from carrying out one of the worst bombings Iraq has suffered in recent years with the deaths of over 200 people in Karada, Baghdad.
These are just some of the events that have taken place worldwide. What is disturbing is that we have become so accustomed to wars and violence that we identify it as a normal part of our world. Instead of focusing on war as a larger problem, we break it down into regions and simple scenarios. Some violence is new and irrational, some conflicts are old and established. But what we are seeing now is violence worldwide, not just on the battlefield but in our cities and homes. In the Cold War, there were two sides but now? New alliances are formed, old alliances become fractured, global demands are ripped apart and put back together under new conditions.
Instead of focusing on war as a larger problem, we break it down into regions and simple scenarios.
Those who lived through the Cold War felt at risk of nuclear war and from persecution from their own government. Apparently it hasn’t changed much. Citizens remain distrustful of their governments, yet governments carry on. The UK Parliament voted in favour of renewing its Trident weapons system. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirmed that she would be willing to push the button if necessary, a bold statement from the 15th Prime Minister to come to power without being elected by the people. She claimed during the debate that the nuclear threat had “not gone away, if anything it has increased”. ISIS was allowed to transform into a global terrorist threat, able to seemingly strike anywhere. This is in part due to President Obama’s failure to hold the ‘red line’ in Syria. President Assad continued with chemical attacks creating a greater need to fight back, enabling ISIS to grow in strength with US military assistance.
What we are feeling now is a heightened sense of alertness. We are prepared, in some small ways, for any kind of attack. If we were to fully believe the media and our politicians then we could be knifed on the street or vanquished in a nuclear explosion. For many of us here, neither is likely to happen, the odds are in our favour. And this leads to complacency. Not that we will be caught off guard but that we still believe that it will happen to someone else and not us. Therefore it becomes someone else’s problem. We still refuse to see war in the larger sense. The Cold War ended but the military industrial complex has always carried on for people who have been brought up with the attitude that there always needs to be an enemy. And if there isn’t an actual enemy, then at the very least, they can create one in your mind. We must be wary of what we are told, the so called truths we are sold and remain distrustful of our governments who make their decisions without asking the people.
We still refuse to see war in the larger sense.
Wars, both hot and cold, inflict substantial damage, both physically and psychologically, on all societies. The tensions felt today are becoming more heightened. The recent attempted military coup in Turkey demonstrates the frustration that institutions feel with regards to authoritarian governments actions over their people. Increasing police violence, especially in the US, has led to retaliation. The high murder rate of journalists and environmental activists and the censorship of political ideologies have left the public uneasy and untrusting of their governments. Like the Cold War, many now suffer in silence, their fates hidden by national security classification or used to further promote the agenda of opposing sides. The failings of intelligence services, despite vast funding, is matched only by the inability of those in charge to work towards peace and find ways to reduce the violence that only seems to profit the few.