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Lingering Effects of The Cold War

A crisis as long as the Cold War (approx. 1947-1991) that encompasses almost half a century, involves many diverse countries, has effects on large-scale wars, and permeates so deeply into the roots of the social and cultural mind frames of the nations’ populations will undoubtedly carry a vast amount of implications and present speculative questions in the years following its conclusion.   The Cold War was a long and harsh ideological war which involved bloody wars, covert espionage, omnipresent fear, and xenophobic sentiments and propaganda.  An entire generation of Americans can recall the feeling that at any given point in time, nuclear warfare may lead to a worldwide cataclysm.  To analyze the lingering lessons and effects of the Cold War, it is imperative to recognize the fundamental clashes that defined it, as well as the technological, political, and industrial advances that were made in order to preserve each nation’s supremacy.

In a revisionist sense, the Cold War was so extremely unique, revealing, and innovative due to the realization of the great amounts of techniques, resources, and skills which are involved in effectively fighting a war of any kind.  The Machiavellian manipulation which was imperative to concealing and discovering information in the Cold War is now regarded in an almost Romantic sense for the appreciation of the amount of power and dominance that can be attained when performing it properly.  Furthermore, not only is this espionage an effective form of State usage, it has permeated the mainstream culture in the population’s acknowledgement of the power of deception.  The Cold War showed the world how important it is to be able to handle oneself in handling delicate information.  The pressures and calculated risks, notably by both sides in the Cuban Missile Crisis, displayed deeply philosophical and logical principles such as game theory and deterrence, which were illustrated and brought to life by the implications that were involved in the situations in which they were displayed.

While the Cold War caused destruction, disagreement, fear, and uncertainty, it is evident that effects of it that exist today are beneficial to our world.  For instance, international peace organizations dedicated to establishing and maintaining peace in regions or the world were either created or began flourishing in the post-Cold War world, largely due to the awakening the Cold War provided to nations of the possibilities that exist when superpowers are equipped with nuclear weapons and exert hostility toward one another.  The Cold War has quite possibly taught many government officials how to deal with high tension situations dealing with possible large scale destruction.  The Space Race of the 50’s and 60’s also motivated the United States and the Soviet Union to advance their emphasis on engineering and technology, which unarguably propelled and enhanced the world’s scientific technological interests and capabilities.

The end of the Cold War has also unquestionably helped citizens of Soviet-Communist satellite nations, in that they were given political freedom and the dissolution of fear that they may be directly implicated in a nuclear war involving the Soviet Union.  Many of the former Warsaw Countries of Eastern Europe experienced eras of economic growth and increase in citizens’ rights thanks to the end of the Cold War.  Citizens of East Germany were able to reunite with family they had not seen in almost thirty years with the end of the Cold War.  Furthermore, the post-Cold War era has eased tensions that exist between so many countries that were at large with one another over incidents that occurred during the era.  In terms of benefactors for the U.S. of the end of the Cold War, their global political role was clearly established, and military alliances and treaties, as well as foreign military stations have undoubtedly made the United States more versatile and powerful on a worldwide scale in terms of direct action, foreign intelligence, deterrence and power projection.

However, the end of the Cold War has also signified many difficulties in the world today.  The fall of the Soviet Union signified one of the greatest economic depressions of modern history in Russia.  The privatization of companies and banks led to widespread organized crime influence that is still problematic in Russia today.  The nuclear arms buildup that was at the center of the Cold War combined with the alliances that were formed in order to gain influence has led to the contemporary issue of nuclear proliferation.  Countries such as North Korea and Iran who are suspected of having large scale nuclear capabilities in the hands of impulsive despots leaves the world in a continued, albeit decreased, state of fear of nuclear warfare.  Afghanistan, as a result of the end of the Cold War, experienced state failure, and was  ruled almost entirely by feudal warlords that ascended to power during the Soviet-Afghanistan War, a situation that was influential in allowing Taliban rule to flourish in the region, influencing Al-Qaeda’s worldwide abilities, and concomitantly aiding the 9/11 attacks and subsequent War in Afghanistan.  Furthermore, many of these warlords are responsible for the drug trade and violence that is at the center of U.S. involvement in the nation.

While it is often implied that the Cold War a “proxy war” which did not involve bloodshed, this moniker does not effectively encompass the Cold War in its totality.  The Korean War, Vietnam War, and Soviet-Afghanistan War are the three major wars that were all at least partially a result of the worldwide battle between Capitalism and Communism.  Many lasting national borders, cultural beliefs and prejudices, and lifestyles that are a direct result of these wars are in full effect to this day.  Since the Cold War was such a large part of society’s lifestyle for such a long period of time, it is often difficult to determine whether effects that exist today are certainly a result of the Cold War, or of other occurrences that happen to fall within its time frame.

That being said, it should be argued that the world is better off in the post-Cold War era, if for no other reason than the decreased threat of Mutually Assured Destruction.  However, it is certain that the Cold War has produced many theories (like intense real world application of game theory), fears, beliefs, organizations, economic residuals, international relations, and national borders that play a large role in the world’s everyday life and geopolitical landscape today; for better or for worse.

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