“The new Cold War is coming,” increasingly echoes in the American media’s editorials, talk show discussions, and comment sections on the Internet. Closer attention reveals that the emphasis is on “Cold,” rather than “War,” as if the word war has lost its traditional true meaning.
Perhaps it has, because the residents of the United States are in a perpetual state of war with something. Terrorism, drugs, cancer, childhood obesity, illiteracy, poverty, diabetes, racism, social media, and insurance scams are just some battlefronts on the long list of everlasting wars and crusades. Only the word “hero” surpasses “war” in frequency of nonchalant public attributes. Nearly everyone seems to be some kind of a hero today.
[Nonchalant: having an air of easy unconcern or indifference.]
Devaluation of the meaning of the term war has been so drastic that even the warnings about a devastating global conflict are taken lightly. The seriousness of a geopolitical standoff in Eurasia, with indicators pointing in the direction of a possible real war—for those who bother to pay attention—is downgraded into the casual attachment of the adjective “cold” to the “next” war. Its purpose is to calm the public into the comforting belief that the next Cold War will be similar to the previous one; i.e., global business continues as usual without a direct military confrontation between the superpowers. The adjective “Cold” is a form of mental valium. It tends to minimize potential anxiousness about real conflict.
Every medication, however, has adverse effects. One of the real valium’s effects is “anterograde amnesia and confusion (especially pronounced in higher doses) and sedation…. Long-term use of benzodiazepines such as diazepam [valium] is associated with drug tolerance, benzodiazepine dependence, and benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Like other benzodiazepines, diazepam can impair short-term memory and learning of new information.”
Anterograde amnesia is a “loss of the ability to create new memories after the event that caused the amnesia leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past, while long-term memories from before the event remain intact.” In the national collective memory, the adverse effect of mental valium has forced us to separate long-term and new memories, creating an illusion that the next global confrontation will resemble the one people remember from before 1991. Under such illusion, their perception is that the outcome will be a return to the unipolar world.
In absence of new memories, the latest actions are unrelated to each other. Their combined evaluation is based on long-term memories. As a result, each new decision is less productive in preventing a real war. Foreign policy ventures and the movement of military forces across the globe to contain various villains, for example, are then evaluated upon the reality of old geopolitical experiences.
Absence of new memory also enhances relic recollections of previous grandeur, while it reduces acceptance of their old memories’ probable negative impact. It is impossible to correctly measure a phenomenon when we cannot measure it in a realistic context; hence, changing a political course of direction becomes extremely difficult if we cannot clearly comprehend a phenomenon’s impact.
On July 25, 2017, The U.S. House of Representatives members voted on Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (419-3; 98-2 in the Senate) in order to sanction America’s enemies de jour. Little debate took place in the Congress’ chambers about the consequence of such act.
Economic sanctions and similar blockades of countries are acts of war. The recipients of the sanctions hold a different viewpoint; they do not lean on previous-Cold War memories in order to evaluate current hazards. To them, an act of war is an act of war, not an adjective nonchalantly spread around the Beltway.Figure 1. Front page of the New York Times on July 26, 1941. Sometimes long-term memories are not old enough.
When it comes to wars, countries cannot do anything. They are concepts. Humans are reality. Individuals, through their own actions or working with other individuals, make decisions that generate outcomes. At the same time, those who are in power face a disproportionately lesser burden then average citizens from unpleasant outcomes of their actions. This arrangement allows them to increase the decision-making risks regardless of negative consequences.
When outcomes are negative, the same decision makers deflect paying for their actions and blame someone else for short-sighted judgments. Combined with anterograde amnesia, such an approach to solving current geopolitical anxiety is a recipe for more than just the next Cold War.