In the US and the West we
automatically speak of the cold war, 1945-1991.
To the millions
in the non euro-american world it has been the longest, bloodiest, and
most devastating war in history. America and the West need to understand
that in depth, in order to forstall and causally neutralise mounting
negative perceptions in many devastated societies that crave
understanding and help to heal, rebuild and develop
Is the concept of cold war
an expression of self-damaging Euro-American egocentrism?
Tarek Ali Hassan
In the US and the West even the former Soviet
Union, everyone automatically speaks of the cold war, 1945-1991. The
concept has become a universal automatism.
Yet, the continued
reference to the great war of 1945 - 1991 as the cold war is a reminder
that in the minds of the leading powers of the world, even
mind of many intellectuals and historians in the West,
the people of
the south, especially when they belong to other cultures or religions,
do not really register or count in a comparable way. To the “others” in
the South the cold war was the hottest and, in human terms, the most
costly war in man's history.
Is the very concept of the
“cold war” a loud diagnostic sign of an injurious double standards
syndrome? Or is it an expression of deep self-defeating egocentrism? Is
it perhaps an automatic unconscious egocentrism and racism in peoples
who like to think of themselves as upholders of freedom and democracy
and examples of fairness, justice and anti-racist even handedness. Being
a habitual automatic and unconscious phenomenon, perhaps the
Euro-American Judeo-Christian Worlds most guilty of this conceptual
aberration, would therefore willingly try to correct this aberration
once they are made aware of it. The history of the real Third World War
needs to be written and understood before we plunge ourselves and the
world in more wars and more violence.
At this critical
juncture, we all need to understand the reality of the Third World War
in order to understand the wounds, the disruptions, the ruin and the
continued after effects of the hot part of the cold war.
Third World War, in human, social and economic terms, has been the
costliest war in human history. It has been a veritable holocaust. The
understanding of how it can be simply dismissed as the cold war is a
subject of utmost interest and importance to all of us and certainly to
students of sociology, international relations and relations between
races, cultures and disparate socio-political entities.
the affected peoples deserve -by precedent- compensation and support for
effective restitution and rehabilitation. A sort of a Marshall plan or a
German Jewish reparations scheme for the victim peoples of the cold/hot
war 1945 -1991.
In the South, outside the arena of
EuroAmerican-centrism, the cold war was in every way one of the
bloodiest, and most costly and long hot wars in human history. It lasted
forty five years from 1945 to 1991, dovetailing into the lesser horrors
of the second world war. The adverse effects and after-shocks are still
unleashing themselves on the inhabitants outside Euro-America. ( Study
casualty statistics in all the nations and groups of nations that became
an arena for the cold/hot war confrontations. Study in particular the
high percentage of casualties in non-combatants, civilians, women,
children and the elderly. Study also the numbers of refugees and
displaced persons and detainees without trial sometimes for the duration
of their effective lifetime. The staggering figures surpass those for
the first and second world wars put together) The terrible journey goes
from Greece to Iran to Korea to Cambodia to Vietnam to Indonesia to the
Middle East to Guatemala to all of South America Chile, Argentina and
Africa. I suppose many would say all for the good cause of freedom and
security of the civilised West and stopping the epidemic of communism.
How many in the Euro-American West have contemplated how it all looked
from the OTHER side?
Millions of innocents killed or
uprooted; many social, political and ecologically balanced life systems
were completely disrupted. As the Western and Eastern blocks struggled over
zones of influence and strategic advantages, each pouring expensive and
sophisticated arms into the interface areas as the dynamics of the hot
confrontations in the south unfolded, millions were suffering an
unprecedented and complex holocaust ignored.
The voices, suffering,
frustrations, dreams and tragedies of the (other) peoples involved were
largely not heard. There was no attempt to hear that voice or to
discover it by the power-hungry regimes instituted to harness their own
people into the Western block camp or into the eastern block camp. There
was no attempt to listen by the super-power in whose sphere of influence
the particular Southern Hemisphere people had been placed. There was
very little joy from the International community representative bodies
whose channels of communication with the relevant voices remained
incomplete. For the US and the Western block since 1945, the priorities
were simple and clear; contain communism and protect the state of
Israel! All other considerations were subservient to this highest
priority of containing communism. Dictators and oppressive military and
quasi-military regimes were Okayed and fully supported if they were
It was a case of war emergency there was no
space, for niceties like self-determination, democracy and human rights.
But how about AFTER the cold war was lost and won? Has a
non-participatory world order where fear rules, non-representative
governments survive by great powers’ endorsement. Are we then surprised
that mistrust towards
the great powers is therefore the norm, an accepted ingrained
pattern? I certainly hope this mistrust can be transcended, but there is work to be done to surmount
this legacy of the cold-hot war.
What after the anti-Communist
hysteria is over?
What after the great Sadat peace initiative and
the acceptance by the Arab nations of co-existence with Israel? A major
development that should be cemented and built on?!
To contain communism at any price regardless of the interest of
the weak and the different was the guiding principle of US and Western
block policy. As was the Eastern block policy a mirror image of the same
attitude i.e. gain points in the global power struggle with complete
disregard to the real interests of the peoples of the
Arms were poured into
interface areas. Power hungry adventurers mostly from the petty military
ranks were encouraged and supported to set up dictatorships of one
revolutionary description or another. Religious fundamentalism and
fanaticism was condoned, encouraged and supported by the West as an
excellent barrier against communism. The big mess was all justifiable as
part of the fight against communism which had to be contained and
destroyed. From the other side it was all justified in the cause of the
fight against capitalism which had to be contained and destroyed. What
It is important not to cast a blind eye to this recent
history, because it underlines that inspite of all easy pretense to the
contrary, we have a long way to go towards validating a new belief in
plurality and in the inalienable right to human rights of those millions
of (others) so ruthlessly entangled in the big superpower struggle of
the great war of 1945-1991.
A concerted policy of
rehabilitation, restitution, compensation and support is imperative. To
those who find the argument in this article far fetched it is
informative to analyse the human death and devastation data during the
hot/cold war in Asia, in the middle east, in Ethiopia, Uganda, Zaire, in
Angola, in Rwanda, in Iran, in Afghanistan, in Cambodia, in Indonesia,
in South and Central America, amongst the military and civilian victims
of all ages and social strata not only in the form of casualties and
displaced persons. A subtle untold damage to these communities was being
perpetrated in the form of an enforced abortion and modification of
normal socio-political dynamics conducive of natural growth and
development etc. Syndromes of development-arrest secondary to variations
of involvement in the cold/hot war front with massive influx of modern
arms to non-modern communities are worthy of deep study.
need to reconstruct the history of that Great War 1945 - 1991 and assess
the real losses inflicted on its silent and voiceless and sometimes
It is unfair to all and certainly to the
US to cast a convenient blind eye to that history of social devastation
and (collateral damage) just because the millions involved are unable to
communicate in a manner coherent to Western ears the depth and gravity
of the Holocaust they have been subject to.
It is a devastation
that will not just vanish and it is unfair to have the syndrome of
accumulated hurt and anger, as the gap between privileged and
underprivileged widens, erupt periodically into anti-US and anti-western
sentiment or actions regardless of present commitment and honest
aspirations for a just and pluralistic global peace in the future. Past
hurt and damage must be understood and resolved in order to build
present and future on a sound basis.
To turn into reality the
declaration of human rights and to validate in action the belief in
pluralism may be a difficult and expensive process at all levels. A
dispassionate farsighted analysis will show that in the end it is our
least costly and most effective road to peace and security.
The hot/cold war has left an enormous devastation and mess
in the South. It is in the North’s interest to address that mess
effectively whatever the cost in a way that is much deeper than to
institute non-representative friendly regimes that chronically fail to
identify or address the far reaching problems of social devastation and
of modern arms in non-modern societies