Did Anyone In Washington Ask You If You Wanted A New Cold War?

If you were to ask the average American what they wanted from their government, what percentage of the population do you reckon would list “heightened tensions between the planet’s two great nuclear powers” in their top ten?

Do you reckon it’d be anywhere remotely close to 100 percent of Americans who would wish for such a thing? I ask because almost every single Capitol Hill lawmaker opted for exactly that last week.

After the House voted 419 to 3 and the Senate 98 to 2 for codified sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea (how cool and retro is it that we’ve got a new Axis of Evil, by the way? Russia replacing Iraq feels kind of like Shemp replacing Curly, but beggars can’t be choosers), Vladimir Putin ordered hundreds of US diplomats expelled from the nation. It’s unclear if the Kremlin will be taking additional action.

Ninety-eight to two in the Senate. The vote was 51–49 on whether to keep Obamacare. A knock-down, drag-out, skin-of-the-teeth barn burner of a fight over whether to keep the ACA or replace it with something that will kill even more Americans than Obamacare does, but escalating tensions with the only nation that has a reasonable shot at annihilating the United States in a matter of minutes gets passed with near unanimity. Even Bernie Sanders said he only voted against it because of the Iran provisions, not because a new cold war with Russia threatens the life of every terrestrial organism. Had Iran been excluded the vote would have been 99–1, the lone dissenter being the Republican Rand Paul.

A near-unanimous veto-proof supermajority in both the House and the Senate, geared toward preventing the only two nuclear superpowers on planet Earth from getting along. This imperils us all. Why didn’t anyone else get a say in this?

After all, the last Cold War brought us within a hair’s breadth of total annihilation on more than one occasion. In 1983 Soviet Air Defense Forces officer Stanislav Petrov received a notification from the Soviet early warning system that the US had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile attack on the USSR. The standard protocol for this notification was to sound the alarm for an immediate counterattack, but Petrov didn’t think it looked right and kept his cool. It turned out to be a false alarm caused by a technical glitch. In 1962 we came even closer to extinction at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis when, due to a communications breakdown, a Soviet submarine ended up under fire from light explosives by a US naval fleet who did not know that the sub was nuclear-armed. Two of the three officers whose consent was required to deploy the nuke moved to launch it; only a third, Vasili Arkhipov, kept his head in the stressful and chaotic situation and refused.

You owe your life to both these men. If Arkhipov had had a little less rationed water to drink on the hot submarine that day, or if Petrov had gotten into a fight with his wife that morning, if any of the many, many variables that fed into those situations had been a tiny bit different, you and I and everything we love might not be here today.

All those decades of fear and stress and far-too-close calls, and now here we are, right back there once again.

“You know it’s easy to joke about this, except that we’re at maybe the most dangerous moment in US-Russian relations in my lifetime, and maybe ever. And the reason is that we’re in a new cold war, by whatever name. We have three cold war fronts that are fraught with the possibility of hot war, in the Baltic region where NATO is carrying out an unprecedented military buildup on Russia’s border, in Ukraine where there is a civil and proxy war between Russia and the west, and of course in Syria, where Russian aircraft and American warplanes are flying in the same territory. Anything could happen.”
~ Leading US-Russia relations authority Stephen Cohen

There are so many unpredictable factors and chaotic moving parts that go into cold war escalations between two nuclear powers, and there are so very, very many things that can go wrong. Add in the extra variables of the possibility of hot war erupting in Syria, the US-Russian proxy war in Ukraine, or any of the tensions caused by NATO expansionism along the Russian border, and you can see that we’ve already placed ourselves in an extremely dangerous situation.

The more unfriendly things get between these two nuclear powers, the greater the likelihood of something going wrong. The decision to enter into this potentially world-ending situation was made by a few hundred people on Capitol Hill who only got to where they’re at because they conducted themselves in a way that was pleasing to their wealthy donors. This decision to imperil the lives of you, me, our friends and our families was made by people who’ve never met us, and who never asked us what we think about all this.

419 votes in the House and 98 in the Senate. Think about what could be done with numbers like that if you had a government aimed at helping you instead of propping up the international hegemonic dynasties of a few extremely powerful plutocrats. If those numbers were pointed at getting rid of corruption in government instead of facilitating it. If they were geared toward prying the fingers of the military-industrial complex off the steering wheel of America instead of helping it plunge our species into peril. These Washington lawmakers could do so much to help their constituents, but instead they’re degrading relations between the two countries on earth who most desperately need to get along.

I don’t know about you, but I see this as a problem. It’s not like America skated gracefully through the last Cold War without ever being in danger; that glass was repeatedly placed on the brink of tipping, and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union was unanticipated and chaotic. The whole thing was chaos and uncertainty, and America happened to get lucky.

Are you quite confident you’ll get lucky again? If not, perhaps it is time you made your voices audible to those lovely folks over at Capitol Hill.

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