We are SO happy to announce that the Cold War is not over after all! The bad guys are still the Russians!
Whew! It was a rough patch there, the breakup of the USSR, then the nice-guy premiers they had, old pal Gorbie, Yeltsin drunk but friendly, the oligarchs, it looked like the Russkies were just homeys with a heavy accent. What were we gonna do? Do you remember back twelve years, twenty, what was it? The fall of the Berlin Wall! Détente! Friendship! Mir! Drüg! Hoo boy, what was going to happen to all those unneeded defense dollars? Remember? Nobody knew, the talking heads, Ted Kennedy, the Repubs. For a while there Ronnie Reagan had a Star Wars thing going but then he went to Reykjavik and almost called off the arms race! That’s how close it was. People were thinking we might have to fight AIDS in Africa or have single-payer healthcare. Remember Hillary during Clinton’s first year? Hegemony was gonna have to come through non-violent means like NAFTA. George Bush was elected and there was antiglobalization, Seattle, lowest presidential ratings since Howard Taft. Desperate times.
And then 9/11, which was a lifesaver for George and the gang. The War on Terror! The Patriot Act! Osama bin Laden! The Military Commissions Act! Islamic Fundamentalism! Even, for god’s sake, Peak Oil and Global Warming!
But mainly The War on Terror. The Endless War, like a Beach Boys song or Annette Funicello movie or Warren Miller ski flick. Chase that bad boy Osama into the hinterlands of Afghanistan, into the North-West Frontier of Pakistan. And anthrax, remember? And the USS Cole. And Saddam, the yellowcake terrorist of Iraq, the pal of Osama, he invaded Iran on our behalf but later went bad, manufactured weapons of mass destruction or something.
It never quite took, though. Much as we tried to get enthusiastic about terrorism, it was always a little forced. Remember Freedom Fries? The Dixie Chicks? All those newscasters stumbling over strange middle-eastern names. Talk shows with university experts explaining the difference between Shias and Sunnis. The history of the Muslim Brotherhood. We tried so hard to learn why it all made a difference.
And Israel grew from our one democratic friend in the region—heck, the region grew into The Region—she moved into the executive branch and became our main partner in the War on Terror, our best collaborator. (Better than any of the EU countries, certainly—remember the French, who wanted conditions, the Spanish pulling their troops out?) Now we softies understood terrorism too, we felt the pain of direct assault, the intransigent Muslim mind, we’d had a lesson, we began to appreciate why we’d been sending so much money to so few for so long, though I must say from personal experience that it still wasn’t so easy for a taxpayer from their primary means of support to enter on foot from Jordan—the guards must have thought our training needed reinforcement, we didn’t appreciate the dangers of standing in the Arab line…
Lessons, lessons, it was so much work that War on Terrorism, trying to understand why Musharraf had to go when until now he’d been our staunch supporter in his own Region, and poor Benazir Bhutto—Bhutto who?—not that Small Gods Must Be Crazy author? Oof. We’d had practice in Latin America, but it was so hard to learn a new set of friends and enemies and arguments. We tried.
But now! Calloo callay! The Russians are back. You can see the relief on the newscasters’ faces! You can hear the joy in the BBC radio voices! These are the enemies we grew up with! We can say their names! Maybe not the way they say them—that doesn’t matter—but the way we say them. We know who we’re talking about again. Not those damn Arabic foreigners! The ones we grew up hating when we were kids!
Remember how we used to crawl under the desks together? Weren’t we cute? It was the Russians! And now they’re back! The SOBs invaded Georgia. (Not the one next to Florida, the one next to our Regional Friend.) The SOBs! They’re not good guys after all! They’re still SOBs! Ah, how warm and fuzzy defending the world’s democracies from Communism again.
The War on Terror is over! The Cold War is back! La guerre est morte, vive la guerre!