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December 28, 2016 / Congau

The Rational Cold War

In the days of the Cold War the world was rational. The great global antagonism was apparently about fundamental ideas, capitalism or communism, and what kind of social system might be the best. It makes sense to fight for whatever you believe in.

Now it looks like another cold war. America and Russia are again competing to extend their influence around the world, but what is it all about this time? The same as it always was: Power.

There seems to be a basic instinct or an animal law that whenever two or more human beings inhabit an area, they will either be dominated from outside or struggle to dominate each other. That is human history, that is our world today and that was probably also the essential nature of the Cold War.

But humans are supposedly rational and their animal instincts cannot morally justify their behavior. Therefore it is somehow edifying to look at the old east-west, Soviet-NATO rivalry and interpret it as an ideological dispute. (After all back then many people did believe that that was the nature of the conflict.) We may now suspect that the ideologies were just a camouflage for primitive strife, but it was more rationally convincing that what we see today. It had the character of an epic struggle between good and evil, and whatever your conviction you had a rational incentive to support either side.

Today the antagonists are openly fighting for themselves and their national interests only. It is a petty quarrel without principles and universal ideas. The Cold War was a grim story, but it made sense.

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