By Daniel Larison, Antiwar.Com
The Soviet Union ceased to exist 30 years ago, and with its disappearance the United States embraced a triumphalist interpretation of the end of the Cold War that has served to fuel its militarism for another generation. The loss of its major rival could have freed the US from the costly militarized foreign policy that it had pursued since the end of WWII, but instead it freed the US to act however it liked in the world without regard for the consequences for itself or other countries. Desperate to find new causes to champion and new monsters to slay, the US appointed itself as the world’s armed enforcer and then professed bewilderment when the countries that it threatened resisted its “benevolent” leadership. US militarism should have died with the Soviet Union, but instead its supporters just went looking for new enemies.
Rather than recognizing that it was the peoples of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union that were responsible for the epochal political changes that brought down their communist governments, US leaders and policymakers congratulated themselves for having “won” the standoff. Some went further and credited the Reagan administration itself for having supposedly delivered the fatal blow. This was a dangerous error. It was just as wrong as the self-centered belief that the US had been responsible for “losing” China in 1949. While the panic over “losing” China had caused Americans to become excessively afraid of communist power, the excitement over “winning” the Cold War caused far too many to become excessively confident in American power.