The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (07. Full Spectrum Dominance)

[I am posting rough drafts of the chapters from a book I am writing about World War II and its moral legacy. My hope in posting these chapters is that I might receive helpful counsel. So, please, read the chapters and let me know what you think. All comments, questions, and challenges are welcome and will be most useful as I revise the chapters this winter and spring.]

7. Full Spectrum Dominance

Ted Grimsrud—January 4, 2011

The Cold War ends

On a sunny spring day, April 1992, I biked to work as usual. Along the bike path in west Eugene, Oregon, I suddenly stopped and paid attention to what I was feeling. I realized a weight of anxiety I had lived with going back to the civil defense drills of my early childhood, was gone. At times I had been quite self-conscious about this anxiety, but mostly it was simply a part of life, something always there but usually in the background.

This new sense of relief almost overwhelmed me. As I stopped my bike and simply reveled in it, I reflected how I never actually thought this day would come. All through the 1980s, with the Reagan arms buildup and rhetoric about the Soviet Union as the evil empire, the Contra War in Nicaragua, talk of an impending bloodbath in South Africa that could turn nuclear, the squashing of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, to imagine that in the early months of 1992 we’d see the end of the Cold War and the end of apartheid—essentially achieved nonviolently—seemed like pure fantasy.

Of course, as events proved over time, the commitment of American policymakers to “full spectrum dominance” throughout the world, militarily and economically, managed to transform this moment of relief and hope into deepened anxiety and insecurity. For that brief moment in 1992, though, the basic story I have recounted that began with American entry into World War II, an extraordinarily discouraging story, came to an unexpected (and largely undeserved, on the American side) moment of possibility, where the ideals of the Atlantic Charter actually seemed achievable. Continue reading “The Long Shadow: World War II’s Moral Legacy (07. Full Spectrum Dominance)”