The Cold War and all that: was it worth the effort, trouble, pray?

Karl Lyimo

GRANTED ‘Independence’ (of sorts) from alien rule on November 30, 1966, Barbados is a tiny British Dominion in the West Indies.

Today, July 26, Barbadians celebrate a ‘Day of National Significance’ as part of the ‘Season of Emancipation,’ partly in remembrance of the ‘Slave Trade and its Abolition…’ Also, today’s ‘Day of the National Rebellion’ in Cuba… On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro Ruz and his brother Raul led an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks, thus beginning the Cuban Revolution – a.k.a the ‘26th of July Movement.’

However – in due course of time and more rebellious attacks- Dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba on Jan. 1, 1959- and Castro assumed power on Feb 16!

And, it is ‘Independence Day’ in Liberia on the West African coast, commemorating 170 years since the country was established in 1822 by freed Black slaves from the US - ‘secured Independence’ from the American Colonisation Society on July 26, 1847!

… But, the story here today is largely about cold wars in general, and the Cold War to be precise. Unlike its aggressive cousin, a ‘hot war,’ a ‘cold war’ is a conflict that’s carried on by methods short of sustained overt military action – and, usually, without breaking off diplomatic relations! Good examples of these were the relations that existed between the ‘Capitalist West,’ principally spearheaded by the United States, and the ‘Communist East,’ spearheaded by Soviet Russia.

THE ‘Cold War’ here was “the state of geopolitical tension” between Eastern Bloc countries (the Soviet Union and its satellite states) and Western Bloc countries, including the US and its NATO allies.

Generally, this lasted from 1947- the year when the Truman (US) Doctrine was proclaimed, pledging to aid nations threatened by Soviet expansionism- and 1991, when the Soviet Union imploded. In one sense, it pitted the countries of the Axis Forces (which fought on the side of the German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler in WW-II) against the Allied Forces led by Great Britain.

In another sense, the Cold War saw clashes involving Western Capitalist nation-states – ably spearheaded by the US, self-styled ‘Land of the Free and Home of the Brave’ – and Communist nation-states, wobbly spearheaded by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Russia/Soviet Union).

Indeed, the Cold War was basically the result of Western fears of further Russian territorial and geophysical advances/expansion in the wake of victory by the Allies, with post-war border changes that included huge gains for Russia.

Communist Regimes, aided and abetted by Russia, took power in most of Eastern Europe – including the Soviet-occupied German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany). In the event, the West embarked upon measures to safeguard – and, perhaps: boost –their interests in the rapidly-evolving global context. Perhaps among the most significant developments of that in relation to the Cold War, took place on a date like today’s 70 years ago- on July 26, 1947, to be exact.

That was when American President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act into law to create the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the US Department of Defense (DoE), the US Air Force (USAF), the US National Security Council (NSC) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)! And, as they say: the rest is history that’s still in the making – including evolvement of the post-WW-II ‘Marshall Plan’ that provided US$12bn in aid on European recovery from 1947-to-1951…

Incidentally, the much-lauded British Conservative Party Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill was unceremoniously jettisoned from power on July 26, 1945 when the Labour Party won by a landslide the July 5 UK General Elections!

Oh, what with one thing leading to another, Mikhail Gorbachyov came on the Russian scene as Secretary-General (1985-91). Strenuously promoting ‘glasnost’ (openness) and ‘perestroika’ (economic, political and social reform), Gorbachyov is widely considered responsible for ‘ending’ the infamous Cold War… Boy!

But: did the Cold War really ‘end’ as claimed? Well, I don’t know for sure… Look at it this way… When the US-based World Bank refused to fund building the Aswan Dam (‘Lake Nasser’) in Egypt on July 26, 1956, the Russians reportedly stepped in the breach…

And President Gamal Abdel-Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal two days later! But, pray: was the Cold War necessary; worth the effort and/or trouble? I ask YOU…!

Other historical/historic developments on today’s date include the Irish playwright and Nobel Prize Laureate George Bernard Shaw who was born on July 26, 1856 and the American Mathematician-cum-Statistician George Gallup of the Gallup polling Company who died on July 26, 1984! ‘Now hear (read) this: the South Vietnamese Political Opposition Leader Trương Đình Dzu was sentenced to five years hard labour work on July 26, 1968 for advocating a Coalition Government to end the Vietnam War. Government of National Unity? Where did I hear that ‘GNU’ before, pray…? Well: never mind… Cheers!

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