The Cold War is often associated with the idea of making great and physical divides between the good and the bad of the world. It was a symbolic representation that extended for about 30 years on the expectation that the greatest powers of the world could, under the right circumstances, impose a sort of benign order on the planet by isolating the evil empires and showcasing how the non-evil ones could administer their own ideas of peace, justice and liberty .
In reality, what was happening was much different. The Cold War was about engagement, not separation (Tirman, 2006). No matter that the Berlin Wall was its most powerful symbols of division, the world as a whole was learning that military might was not all that it was made out to be (U.S. History, n.d.). Together and separately, the biggest countries across the planet were starting their own march toward globalization and struggling to understand just what that meant. Unfortunately for America, it was taking a different, almost celebratory path that included showcasing how its views in regards to freedom and democracy were the right and proper military might, and that it was more than capable of using that force in many ways wherever it found bullies in the world.
How has the Cold War affected American sensibilities?
MILITARY ENGAGEMENT: The American mentality of superiority was a very strong public concept perpetuated at the time (Diamond, n.d.). Americans felt it and its government sought to capitalize on that fact in many ways. It wanted the world to consider that it had won the Cold War because of its strategic use of military authority. The planet's iconic representations of this still literally picture military and industrial equipment tearing down the wall, often with America's Commander in Chief leading the charge. But the fact is that experts who now look beyond the headlines see the situation of the time quite differently and there is reason to believe the public did too. While military deterrence played its part, the game that was going on was more about the world coming to terms with how it would have to become more interconnected and engaged, not separated by divides like political walls. A movement was well underway fro European nations to come together for their own collective benefits. It is no accident that way before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the declared end of the Cold War, the roots of the European Union were firmly in place. The economics of the Cold War and the war on terror are much different than the way the media portrays them as they unfold (Levine, 2006)
Two recognized scholars from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology addressed this issue in part of a series of documents that scholars have put together as they sought to "audit" the conventional wisdom of those days: "While the causes of the end of the Cold War remain a contentious topic, there is much to suggest that these dense networks, institutions, global norms, rational discourse, and civil society advocacy had enormously powerful effects in lowering tensions and opening opportunities to conclude the rivalry. The military competition was essentially a stalemate" (Tirman, 2006:2). This reassessment has now settled in as part of the conventional thinking about what actually happened during this period and even into assessments as to whether deterrence aimed at terrorists may or may not work at all (Levine and Levine, 2006:17).
GOOD AND BAD GLOBAL BULLIES: Following the attacks on the U.S. On 9/11, President Bush went out of his way to link the war on terrorism with the Cold War (U.S. History, n.d.). He saw it as a continuation of the battle for what America was all about: supporting freedom, justice, democracy, and, of course, capitalism. America had beaten the forces of the Evil Empires through a combination of freedom and military justice, and it was ready to do so again, no matter where those powers existed. But it was also ready to play the game of its enemies, because it saw itself as having the authority to do so (U.S. History, n.d.). The attack on the U.S. By al Qaeda and what those terrorists represented were no different in many ways from the cultural integration that the Soviet Union was all about in the past, and it was important for the U.S. To make it known that it knew how to fight and win these kinds of wars as well -- almost without regard to the tools and tactics that it used to accomplish this goal. This was very much why it undertook policies and military practices that directly confronted America's perception of civil rights and liberties (Levine and Levine, 2006:17). There is very little question but that this type of hype and authoritarian freedom, which is directly founded on the Cold War mentality, contributes to the ways in which terror groups evaluate America and its actions.
Did the Cold War change America's role in the world?
There is no question but that the end of the Cold War changed the way the America viewed the world and opened the door for a change in the way the world viewed America. The U.S. government assumed that it could make use of its perceived moral and military victory as a justification for undertaking whatever efforts were necessary to weed out the evils that the Cold War wall of separation highlighted. This included giving the U.S. justification to provide military and counterintelligence activities to leaders who it thought needed weapons to protect their interests, no matter whether those actions brought about other concerns (U.S. History, n.d.). On the other hand, it also set the stage for the building of an entirely different cultural force that the U.S. would have to learn how to deal with -- the development of the European Union, for example. This momentum sought to create and integrate economic and capitalistic forces into a collection of countries that did not have to really defend themselves because of the U.S.'s military bravado. America simply found itself in playing the role of the protectors of all sides of political confrontations, sometimes no matter whether the controlling leader was doing good or bad toward his people. Soon, however, the same forces that opened the world to globalism allowed American business and cultural practices to further expand the foundations they have built during the cold war. In many ways, the U.S. was seen on the surface as a country that could use either its military or its moral authority as a justification for whatever actions seemed necessary.
Has this change been good or bad for the U.S.
There is little question but that the U.S. has benefited. It is very likely that in the long run as well America will be seen as having had a powerful and positive impact on the entire planet because of the thawing of the Cold War. It empowered social and cultural development and it helped to support the growth and stability of many nations; some of it made possible because of its large military authority. Some people believe deterrence worked (in both directions) during the Cold War, and that because of this it is having some impact today (Levine and Levine, 2006). The money it spent to do this was a powerful force for encouraging business development in many countries too, often giving the economies of many countries the footing they needed to rebuild and move toward the future.
However, as America is now recognizing, its excessive belief in the power of the military strength as a result of the Cold War has likewise set it up as being its own evil representation (U.S. History, n.d.). There is little doubt but that the U.S. government and the military undertook inappropriate, often secretive activities in the name of justice in the past or for explicit purposes of controlling some of the fighting factions of the world. America's military leaders openly believed that the Cold War taught them what they needed to know about doing different kinds of warfare, though many question this assumption (Tirman, 2006). But moving from having a mentality of being a global protector to an active participate in all that a shrinking world means locally and regionally is a different game (Levine and Levine, 2006). This has given terrorist organizations the room they often need to identify America as their moral or religious enemy, thus setting it and its allies up for battles that will not be so easy to fight. The wars being fought in Iraq, for example, are much different than those being fought in Afghanistan (Diamond, n.d).
A final area of concern for America is in regard to how the military and its anti-terror authorities have undercut issues of freedom, justice and even fairness. Americas have generally allowed its government to use a number of rather authoritarian powers in the name of stopping terrorist activities (Levine and Levine, 2006:16-17). As a nation it…