The Angry Economist
Global Warming And The War On Terror: A Cold War Reminder
By William P. McGowan, Ph. D.
Jun 25, 2006 - 7:47:00 PM

UNITED STATES— When I read and then confirmed that Bill Clinton had pronounced Global Warming to be a greater threat to the United States than the Global War on Terrorism, I realized that the Presidential Campaign of 2008 is officially underway. 

On its face, the assertion that Global Warming is more dangerous than guys flying planes into buildings is pretty ridiculous, but that only proves Clinton's political abilities. Minimizing a threat is the first step towards questioning its entire existence. As the GWOT enters its fourth year, we can use the benefit of historical hindsight of the Cold War to better understand our own predicament. 

Throughout the Cold War, many very intelligent people at very powerful places like Harvard and Yale argued that the United States had it all wrong about the Soviet Union.  In his famous "Long Telegram" from Moscow station, State Department official George Kennan argued that America underestimated the paranoia created by the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union.  Russia needed territory, he argued, to feel safe. 

At the time, Republican Senators like Barry Goldwater were taking the Communists at their words: the Arizona conservative actually believed Nikita Kruschev when he pounded his shoe on his desk at the United Nations, screaming "we will bury you" to the American delegation.  Despite these and other aggressive tactics by the Soviets, throughout most of the Cold War the Intellectual Left feared that it would be American aggression by cowboys like Goldwater and Reagan that would trigger World War III, not Soviet expansionism.

We know now that most of the things the Russians were accused of doing turned out to be true.   Many were much worse.   After the opening of the Soviet Secret Archives (since closed by the "democratically" elected President Vladimir Putin), Russian scholars all over the West revised texts they'd written during the Cold War. 

Noted Soviet Scholar Robert Conquest, advised his readers that he got it all wrong. To give one example, Stalin's elimination of millions of Kulaks, so painstakingly detailed in Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, proved much higher than the 1.3 million he claimed in his 1986 book.


The opening of the Soviet archives was the end of the debate on the merits of Communism.  Intellectuals, who spent their entire careers defending the Soviet way, suddenly fell silent and the debates that raged across campuses and the aisles of Congress disappeared almost as quickly as they'd appeared. 

Once again, the American people are forgetting lessons paid for by the lives of thousands.  That this rapid collective memory loss is happening to a period as formative and complex as the Cold War makes me legitimately concerned about our country's long-term commitment to end the GWOT.  By openly questioning the threat terrorism poses to our society for political advantage is the first intellectual step towards questioning its very existence. 

I WISH it were true that something as far off and relatively benign as Global Warming is the greatest threat my kids face.  Unfortunately, my youngest was up that September morning in 2001, and like me, he saw planes fly into buildings.  That threat still exists, and people in the Middle East still talk openly about killing lots of Americans.

Sorry, Mr. Clinton, that seems to be a pretty clear and present danger to me and mine.

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