Failures – exposed, reflected, considered

Posts Tagged ‘ww2

From the second hot war into Cold War

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May 1945. The WW2 was over.

The shattered financial and industrial worlds were given band-aid remedies in guise of Bretton-Woods (giving birth to IBRD, World Bank and IMF). Soon enough, few new states emerged (Israel), few split apart (India and Pakistan) and in few, liberal discontents led the way eventually winding up with democratic governments (Egypt).

One socialist regime, based on narrow-minded dogmatic doctrines, emerged from WW2 as one of the two strongest nations in the world. This nation had not only a large conventional military base, but was also in the middle of developing its own nuclear weapons (first tested in 1949).

The other victor of WW2 became a superpower not least due to the war itself. It advocated neatly idealistic doctrines, had a constitution spelling out loud the commitment to highest social and moral values, respect for human dignity and equality and adherence to human rights and law.

The first General Assembly of the United Nations met in London in January 1946, and created the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. Part of their charge was to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, including the atomic bomb.

America’s first effort to define a policy on the control of atomic energy was Acheson-Lilienthal report (1946). Its premise was that there should be an international “Atomic Development Authority” which would have worldwide monopoly over the control of “dangerous elements” of the entire spectrum of atomic energy. Drawing heavily on the information in the report, the US proposal (July 1, 1946) to the United Nations on international controls on nuclear material (named the Baruch Plan) was presented. It called for the establishment of an international authority to control potentially dangerous atomic activities, license all other atomic activities, and carry out inspections.

The Soviets rejected the Baruch Plan, since it would have left America with a decisive nuclear superiority until the details of the Plan could be worked out and would have stopped the Soviet nuclear program. They responded by calling for universal nuclear disarmament. In the end, the UN adopted neither proposal. Seventeen days after Baruch presented his plan to the UN, the US conducted the world’s first postwar nuclear test. Two atomic tests – code named “Operation Crossroads” – were conducted at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. These tests explored the effects of airborne and underwater nuclear explosions on ships, equipment, and material. Almost 100 surplus and captured ships were used as targets, including the Japanese battleship Nagato (flagship of the attack on Pearl Harbor). These tests were witnessed by hundreds of politicians and international observers, and 42,000 military and scientific personnel. The two bombs used in Crossroads were identical in design and yield to the bomb used on Nagasaki. Crossroads put pressure on Soviets to pour significant amounts of money into research and development of their nuclear arsenal.

This is how the Cold War started. It had two main axes, which were usually typified by one or some of following doublets:

USSR took on the challenge and a nuclear arms race, which became the determinant factor during the next 50 years, ensued. Nuclear race was followed and paralleled by development of strategic triad by Americans. This race got a new spatial dimension, when Soviets launched the Sputnik into orbit on Oct. 4, 1957. John F. Kennedy, despite his short tenure as American president, made few speeches, which resulted in creation of, among others, Peace Corps, and first (American) landing on the moon. As  crucial ideological battle against oppression, McCarthyism became a prominent movement, a sort of a “witch hunt” for communists and communist sympathizers inside America.

As Marx’s tenets had instructed, communism did not stay home; it had be to spread worldwide to achieve utopia. Some countries had adopted communism to help realize that goal, including Warsaw Pact nations, Yugoslavia (1945 – 1992), DPRK (1954 – present), Yemen (1969 – 1990), Somalia (1969 – 1991), Cambodia (1975 -1989). The communist governments in all of these countries (except DPRK) collapsed right around the same time as the Soviet Union. Communism also rose to power in the nations, where it is still alive today, such as China (since 1949), Cuba (since 1959), Vietnam (since 1976), and Laos (since 1975).

The tension between America and the Soviet Union wasn’t just restricted to technological and economic races. Few full-fledged crisis erupted during the Cold War, including the Korean War (1950 – 1953), Vietnam War (1959 – 1975), the Bay of Pigs (1961) Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

Then Gorbachev came in 1985 with his Perestroika (reconstruction). At that time, all means of production were state-controlled, a fact which discouraged the initiative and innovation. The Soviet system was not adaptable by itself and perestroika was therefore doomed from the start. Gorbachev did not have the political capacity to push the desired reforms through (one of the most significant being Law on Cooperatives). His half-hearted efforts eventually triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was completely unexpected.
The political system, like the economy, rested on a foundation of lies. Political leaders from cities and regions fabricated domestic and foreign policy statistics, using propaganda, including the newspaper “Pravda.” This newspaper later became a symbol of hype about Soviet productivity. In 1991, the Soviet Union officially came to an end (under Yeltsin elected a year before) and split into republics.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, it led to a domino effect of communist nations collapsing.

Cold War was over as well.

The biggest democratic failure of 20th century

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The World War I was over. German Revolution was declared a success and Weimar republic was proclaimed. But the suffering from the Great Depression and unfavorable conditions of Treaty of Versailles couldn’t not help but widen the gap of declared system of parliamentary democracy and the harsh political and economic reality of the country. Important factor exacerbating the situation was a right-wing myth that Germany lost the war because of the German Revolution. Radical left-wing communists, on the other hand, were playing with popular emotions by trying to combat what they saw as capitalist policies. To quench the political instability, a rather controversial figure was appointed as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January, 1933.

His rise was difficult and littered with obstacles. It started when the German government received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A terrorist had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. At the time the man who claimed to be the nation’s leader had not been elected by a majority vote and many claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted. Six years later, this leader did not only command popularity and patriotic feelings of his nation but was also hailed as the “Man of the Year” by Times magazine.

He was a simpleton and had a coarse use of language. His simplistic and inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended foreign leaders and the well-educated elite. And, as a young man, he’d joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name. The only visible talent he possessed was drawing.

You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history,” he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned building, surrounded by national media. He used the occasion to declare an all-out war on terrorism, originating, according to him, in the Middle East and in their religions.

Four weeks later, the nation’s now-popular leader had pushed through legislation – in the name of combating terrorism – that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges; police could sneak into people’s homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism. To get his patriotic “Decree on the Protection of People and State” passed over the many objections of concerned legislators, he agreed to put a four-year provision on it. Citizens who protested the leader in public – and there were many – quickly found themselves confronting the newly empowered police, jail cells.

He wanted to stir a “racial pride” (based on eugenics of Gobineau) among his countrymen and began referring to the nation by “Heimat” (Homeland). Playing on this implicitly racial nationalism, he argued that any international body that didn’t act first and foremost in the best interest of his nation was neither relevant nor useful. He withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in 1933, and in 1935 negotiated a naval armaments agreement with England. To further consolidate his power, he reached out to industry, bringing former executives of the nation’s largest corporations into high government positions.

His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious Christian. Every then German soldier was sporting a belt buckle with “Gott Mit Uns” (God Is With Us). Along the same lines, he declared that the nation had clear Christian roots, that any nation that didn’t openly support religion was morally bankrupt. Many government functions started with prayer.

His speech on April 12, 1922 included:

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers … was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

“As a Christian … I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…”

But after an interval of peace following the terrorist attack, voices of dissent again arose within and without the government. Students (later regrouped as White Rose) had started an active program opposing him and leaders of neighboring nations were speaking out against his racially discriminatove rhetoric. His propaganda minister ntensified the nationalistic campaign. Those questioning him were labeled “anti-German” or “not good Germans.” Another technique was to “manufacture news,” through the use of paid shills posing as reporters, seducing real reporters with promises of access to the leader in exchange for favorable coverage, and veiled threats to those who exposed his lies.

In 1939, to “attenuate” the economic decline and re-unify the nation, he pointed at an external threat: Czechoslovakia (despite English warnings). Shortly after, Poland was invaded in a “defensive, pre-emptive” action.

As his propaganda minister said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

This dictum not only became reality in Germany but also with it, the leader’s popularity grew as the nation plunged into yet another world war.

The leader of the nation was Adolf Hitler who put an end to the first democratic experiment in Germany.