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Though our historical reflection allows us to resolve that this approach had a great deal in common with colonialism in terms of the self-interested foreign rule which it often brought to occupied locales, the belief for its supporters at the time was that nation-building was a new and morally-superior approach to the issue of advancing the Third World.
Several of the more historically prominent moments of tumult to be sparked by the Cold War held to suggest in retrospect that moral differentiation between colonialism and nation-building is baseless. Indeed, the victims of both American and Russian occupation would suffer immensely, experiencing the regression and devastation of foreign aggression and war with little means for self-directed defense. In Chapter 5, the author calls to conversation the issues of Cuba and Vietnam, both of which would find themselves of geographical relevance to the philosophical and strategic positioning of opposing worldviews. Outcomes would include the standoff of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- which to date represents perhaps the closest that we as a global community have come since World War II to deploying nuclear weaponry -- and the quagmire of Vietnam, which is a war that clearly produced no victors. In both instances, it would become quite clear that the ambitions of the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. would spill out into the sometimes divergent interests of puppet states. Westad notes that 'revolutionary states,' such as "Cuba and Vietnam challenged not only Washington in defense of their revolutions; they also challenged the course set by the Soviet Union for the development of socialism and for Communist interventions abroad." (Westad, 158) This is to indicate that one of the core failures in the premise of Cold War nation-building would be in this idea that the independent wills of nations could be molded by outsiders. Resistance to the pressures from both sides would produce forces in Cuba and Vietnam that would persist independently, with the socialist leadership of the former, for instance, persisting two decades past the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This issue would prompt a shift in Cold War strategy that would ultimately produce far larger scores of casualties. Indeed, "many were inspired by what they considered to be the lessons of the wars in Vietnam and in Cuba, believing that guerilla warfare and mass political mobilization would defeat their enemies, while preparing their societies for the postwar building of a socialist state." (Westad, 207) This would produce that strategy of arming natives with principles and armaments and stimulated widespread civil conflict, wherein the two superpowers battled against one another by proxy and to a minimum of personal human loss. That burden would be shouldered increasingly by the natives in the venues of Africa and Central Asia. It is to this extent that Chapter 7 focuses on the 'intense radicalization' of Third World populations such as those in Arab states. (Westad, 250) Many of these groups, more driven by Islamic theology than socialism, found sympathy from the Soviets in resisting capitalist imperialism. This would demonstrate the manner in which the Cold War would also allow smaller rogue states to act out personal interests. For instance, by endorsing the premise of Soviet rule in the Middle East, many leaders found strong support in their mission to destroy Israel.
Ultimately though, such strategies would backfire on both the U.S. And the U.S.S.R., who respectively used such forces as Islamic extremism to their own purposes. A consideration of Iran and Afghanistan, offered in Chapter 8, is an appropriate place to end our discussion, as it delivers us to the global conflicts which are today dominant. The exploitation of these groups for centuries helped to produce a radical orientation with a longer shelf life than the Cold War itself. Today, as we grapple with rogue states and nations with sympathies for terror methodologies, it is clear that the Cold War as a failure to both of its champions.
Westad, O.A. (2005). The Global Cold War. Cambridge…[continue]
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