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What to Expect When You're Expecting a New Cold War

What to Expect When You're Expecting a New Cold War

Thursday, 25 February, 2021 - 05:45

Maybe because people of a certain age (mine, roughly) create so much of our entertainment, we never seem to stop reliving the 1980s, like we’re a whole culture of Uncle Ricos. And mostly it’s fine. “Cobra Kai” is our era’s “Anna Karenina,” for example, and many of the 47 other ’80s-themed TV shows are not terrible, either. The musical influences are tolerable.

The one ’80s revival we could really do without, though, is another cold war, this time with China. Unfortunately, as Bloomberg Opinion presciently started warning a few years ago, we seem to be in one.

The outcome of Cold War 2.0, as with Cold War 1.0 and so many other, warmer wars, will be determined by the quality and quantity of alliances each side manages to compile, writes Hal Brands. The US outlasted the Soviet Union partly because it had so many stable, economically healthy democracies on its side. The calculus is a little more complicated this time. Some of America’s old allies aren’t quite ready to commit to conflict with a rival that has greater economic and cultural influence than the Soviets ever had.

And though President Joe Biden has ended his predecessor’s bullying approach to NATO, the tensions in that alliance haven’t dissipated, writes James Stavridis. The group is still fraught with intractable problems, such as its own funding and the seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan. They can’t even all agree on whether China is an adversary yet.

One thing we can hope this new cold war won’t revive is the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. I mean, sure, it never really went away, but at least Sting stopped making songs about it. The Trump administration had set plans to spend $500 billion replacing all 400 of the nuclear-tipped ICBMs the US has in the ground, which were old even when Huey Lewis was new.

But Bloomberg’s editorial board suggests a wiser use of funds would be to upgrade America’s more modern nuclear platforms, while working with Russians to scrap old ground-based missiles. Those children Sting sang about are taking over, for better or worse.

Complicating matters further, America already has a cold civil war happening at home. Unthinkably large swaths of the population believe Biden stole the presidency from Donald Trump, with the help of the Chinese, Hunter Biden’s laptop and the ghost of Hugo Chavez. Even church congregations are being torn apart by these divisions, writes Frank Wilkinson.

Republican grownups long indulged these fantasies for electoral advantage but now know they must break with Trump or face eventual annihilation, either of the party or the country or both. Bloomberg’s editorial board suggests Democrats can help their rivals transition back to reality by compromising when possible for the good of the country.

Republicans could have joined Democrats in convicting Trump and barring him from future office, but instead they opted to cross their fingers and hope the criminal justice system would do the job for them. They got some good news today in a Supreme Court ruling that the infamously private former president must share his tax returns with the Manhattan district attorney. Tim O’Brien writes the ruling means Trump finally faces the financial exposure he dreads, and criminal prosecution along with it.

Of course, even when Trump is truly gone, remnants of him will remain in the government for a long time. Karl Smith suggests Biden can use this to his advantage, taking Trump’s constructive economic ideas, from industrial policy to pushing for full employment, and making them his own. He’ll have more support in his own party than Trump did and can maybe even sway some Republicans to join him.

To succeed, Biden and the Democrats will need to display a little more hustle. Congress taking a week’s vacation in the middle of several national emergencies may have set Ted Cruz up for embarrassment, but it was a waste of precious time, writes Jonathan Bernstein.


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