Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cold War memories

I get e-mail alerts from Foreign Policy, so here is Apocalypse Soon, by Robert McNamara:

The SAC commander’s orders were to answer the telephone by no later than the end of the third ring. If it rang, and he was informed that a nuclear attack of enemy ballistic missiles appeared to be under way, he was allowed 2 to 3 minutes to decide whether the warning was valid [...], and if so, how the United States should respond. He was then given approximately 10 minutes to determine what to recommend, to locate and advise the president, permit the president to discuss the situation with two or three close advisors [...], and to receive the president’s decision and pass it immediately, along with the codes, to the launch sites. The president essentially had two options: He could decide to ride out the attack and defer until later any decision to launch a retaliatory strike. Or, he could order an immediate retaliatory strike, from a menu of options[...]
To declare war requires an act of congress, but to launch a nuclear holocaust requires 20 minutes’ deliberation by the president and his advisors.
What is shocking is that today, more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, the basic U.S. nuclear policy is unchanged.

What is also surprising is that the issue is hardly ever mentioned by the supposed 'left'. (They, of course, are making a great fuss in opposition to the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in the direct line of Stalin and Ceausescu.) Twenty years ago it was the touchstone issue. Although there were specific reasons for this - the deployment of tactical weapons in 'forward' positions, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the issue has lost its potency precisely because of  the end of the Cold War.


I finally got round to listening to an interview I recorded some time ago - with Czech writer Ivan Klima (see here). Although he was not able to get any sort of job in publishing, not even as a proof-reader, he continued to write and get about a hundred copies of his works produced. These were then circulated quite widely. He also got a deal with a Swiss publisher and had money remitted.

If you consider countries like Poland, where there was a grudging toleration of the Catholic Church, Hungary and East Germany, obviously life was pretty grim under Soviet-backed rule, it wasn't as bad as under the Nazi occupation (or indeed Stalin's Russia in the 1930's). And there were no gas chambers (although a continuing amount of anti-semitism).

In a surprisingly sensible article in the Daily Mail a few days ago on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, historian Andrew Roberts reaches a similar conclusion. This is not online, but I found this by him. While googling I also came across this, which led to some indexes of journals from IS / SWP (US and UK).


I will add this weblog to the side-bar, when I get around to it: Leila Abu-Saba at (Dove's Eye View - commenter at  Syriacomment).


Anonymous Leila said...

David - thanks so much for the plug. Your blog has an interesting collection of links and an erudite but not at all stuffy point of view. I'll bookmark and return!

6:14 pm, May 11, 2005  

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