Reading this speech by Dick Cheney and some color commentary, I can’t help but be a little glum about the future. The Cold War was great in hindsight because it asphyxiated Communism in all but a few small holdouts (okay China is big, but its new style of Communism is more like Sweden than Stalin), but it was a really, really scary thing while it was happening.
I’m lucky to have lived at the end of the Brezhnev era, when the Soviet Union devolved into musical chairs at the premier level. The threat posed by the Soviet Union was very real, to be sure, but there wasn’t any shoe-banging or U2-downing or nuclear war drills in school. The Soviets were embroiled in Afghanistan and only pestered us in Grenada and Angola. By the time I was old enough to realize the difference between Communism and capitalism, the best red-baiting we could muster was Red Dawn and Russkies.
So Cheney’s prognostications don’t fill me with the dread and fear that they might engender in someone one or two generations behind me, but I know enough about the history of the time to manufacture some of my own. The Cold War was costly in a very serious way and it mostly never came down to actual incidents or many lives lost (with the significant exceptions of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, though those weren’t against the Soviet Union). The war on terrorism promises to be both costly in money and lives since the foe is amorphous and willing to attack.
A war of this kind that goes on for several decades will surely have repercussions in the American and global economies. Cheney is already talking up massive military spending and I’m sure that Bush would like to do even more than what he’s let on. The dislocations of such military spending will likely dwarf the significant space-related spending taking place at the same time. And we’re supposed to believe that Bush is a Reagan-esque fiscal conservative?
I am not a peacenik. I don’t believe that we should take the terrorism threat lying down. I just think that we should have a tighter mission with a firmer strategy that seeks to eradicate terrorism in the most efficient manner possible. Perhaps it’s time to outsource the war on terrorism to an entity that knows how to do it (I’m not talking about Halliburton, Dick): Israel.
Seriously. Maybe it’s time to throw a few hundred billion at the Mossad and give them a real simple mission: eliminate al-Qaeda and all of its minions. It’s not like Israel isn’t chomping at that bit and it’s not like they’re worried about bad PR—the Muslim world already hates Israel. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re out of our league with the war on terrorism (or, at least, we’re not willing to do what’s necessary), so let’s contract out that war.