By Ghassan Kadi for the Saker Blog
The world does not need a new cold war, or does it?
The Cold War started before the hot war was over. It was put into motion when America dropped the ‘bomb’ and Stalin declared that the USSR should ramp up its efforts to have this technology as soon as possible. And even though the Soviet Atomic Bomb Project was initiated in 1942, the first Soviet test was conducted in 1949, four years after Hiroshima.
The blame here is not on Stalin. After all, if Stalin did not take this ‘pre-emptive’ move, the West was planning to take him down next. It’s quite likely that Stalin and the USSR were saved from a Western invasion by the nukes they developed.
If the USA had the wisdom to learn from history, it should have realized that the moment it revealed to the rest of the world that it has a new cutting-edge super weapon, a rival will come and demand to have the same. In retrospect therefore, the ‘Manhattan Project’ was the real underlying trigger point for initiating the Cold War.
With both the US and the USSR, and later on Britain and France and other nations becoming nuclear powers, overtly or secretively, the deterring effect of a major direct confrontation between superpowers became obvious, though not strong enough to prevent major regional conventional proxy and hybrid wars all over the globe.
Nations of the Middle East together with Korea, Vietnam and many others, cannot claim any benefit from the deterring effect of the Cold War, but perhaps the USA, Europe (including Russia) and even Cuba can.
Unlike the story that the West wishes to peddle to the rest of the world, America did not win the Cold War neither did the USSR lose it. In reality, this was a negotiated agreement that happened prior to the breakup of the USSR; not afterwards.
With all the fear, tension, nuclear pollution, waste and plundering of resources that the Cold War generated, the world community has by-and-large won it with flying colours. It did stop WWIII from eventuating and definitely did not allow for more A-Bombs to be dropped on more cities after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Upon the breakup of the USSR, the United States had an opportunity to change direction and embark on a trajectory of demonstrating good leadership and innovation in the international community. Instead it set about promoting and installing a self-declared New-World Order that rendered the USA the sole superpower, and at all costs, ensured it stayed that way by whatever means necessary.
Nearly thirty years on, there is definitely a new cold war underway even though no one wants to give it this name. The encroachment of NATO into Eastern Europe and stationing missiles in former Warsaw Pact countries, which resulted in the development of hypersonic Russian weapons, followed by America’s unilateral cancelation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, China’s home-built aircraft carriers, not to mention fighter jets, state-of-the art weaponry and rising tension in the South China Sea are all indicative of a new cold war irrespective what name the media and politicians want to give it.
I will not argue for or against the numerous theories that make different readings about its nature, scope, extent of danger and what mileage some parties are allegedly trying to achieve from it. COVID-19 however did expose a previously unseen and unspoken-about form of cold wars; the industrial dependence war.
Growing up in the Middle East in the 1960’s, I clearly remember how the then Egyptian President Nasser took great pride in industrializing Egypt. As a matter of fact, when Egypt built its car-assembly plant under license from Italian manufacturer Fiat, the brand name given to Egyptian product was Nasr; meaning victory.
On a much larger scale of course, who could forget the insatiable desire for Chairman Mao to industrialize China? I remember going to a Chinese industrial expo in Beirut in 1973. The manufacturing of heavy machinery in China was still in its infancy, but the Chinese officials manning the expo, as well as local supporters of Communist China, could not hide their broad smiles and feelings of pride and rejoice seeing the Chinese achievements.
And long before any of this, the manner in which European nations were able to conquer the rest of the world and turn it into colonies was because Europe was technologically advanced and industrialized; otherwise nations like Britain and the Netherlands would have never been able to conquer and rule much larger nations like India and Indonesia.
Presently whilst it is still a guarantee of quality to see the words ‘Made in Germany’ on a manufactured product, there was a time not long ago when similar assurance came from labels such as ‘Made in England’, or ‘Made in Great Britain’.
Isn’t this what the industrial revolution was all about, or has the world forgotten?
When Asian products began to appear in the Western markets, their quality was shockingly inferior. They were competing on price and price only. Japan took the lead, and in a short time produced high quality goods, especially in the areas of photography, sound equipment and motor vehicles; and the rest is history.
The West often ridicules ‘totalitarian regimes’ and advocates the principles of capitalism, private enterprise, and recently globalism. These principles, alongside democracy, are considered sacrosanct. Criticizing them is tantamount to blasphemy and reflects tendencies of Communism and even Fascism.
For fairness, for as long as the Western nations had viable economies that were underpinned by highly developed industrial prowess, the above doctrines proved to be successful. However, it seems that the initial efforts behind the Western rise were forgotten and that Westerners in general expect on-going success to come effortlessly.
Western manufacturers were eventually unable to compete, and many of them either closed down or moved their manufacturing base to Asia.
The model that the West developed over the last three decades or so was structured on turning its economy into one that is based on finance and service. In almost no time at all, the concept of manufacturing took a backstep and was regarded as something that only developing nations need to do in order to develop their own economies. This in fact reflects a Western covert arrogant elitist supremist vision of manufacturing as being tantamount to slavery; something that should only be done in foreign cheap labour camps. And a new type of slavery did develop indeed. Sports shoes sold in the West for $200 a pair were manufactured in sweat shops in Asia by workers paid around $2 a day.
Western industrialists were drawn to the benefits of paying for manufacturing in Yuans and Rupees and selling the goods in Green Backs. And when an imported T-shirt bought from Asia for $1 gets sold in the West for $20, it makes its own humble contribution to the national economy, and it is little wonder therefore as to why Western governments were joyful to partake in the spoils, after all, such arrangements produced high GDP’s, albeit that they were not based on actual domestic productivity.
Once again, enter COVID-19.
All of a sudden, the West found that it was crippled and unable to provide its citizens with basic hygiene necessities any faster that it could import them from China. But importation meant having to compete with other importers, and ‘begging’ suppliers for priority status, and when all failed, shipments going to other clients were confiscated and hijacked.
In an instant, the Western economic giant found itself in dire need of the manufactured goods it had considered itself too superior to produce.
Unable to produce ventilators, unable to provide facial masks for its citizens; the repercussions of the downfall of Western de-industrialization have never before been made so obvious for all to see.
And when President Trump enacted the Defense Production Act to demand that 3M should produce more masks, the production had to be done in 3M’s factories in China. How ridiculous is this!
These revelations certainly indicate that the West may not only be dependent on China for imports of the above. Certainly, this should shock the West into urgently examining the multi-faceted vulnerable position it has put itself in.
COVID-19 has exposed the West as a paper tiger with dependence on China on multiple levels. But the real questions to ask are the ones that haven’t yet surfaced.
What other vital supplies does the West depend on China for? And if the West was unable to deal with COVID-19 -related supplies in peacetime, how will it be able to deal with supplying its citizens with basic needs in wartime?
What about food security? What about pharmaceutical security?
Fleets, aircraft carriers, air-forces and off-shore military bases do not put food on the tables of citizens in wartime.
And speaking of military hardware, how do we know for certain whether or not Western military hardware does not use imported components? After all, even in peacetime, the USA buys Russian-made rockets to put satellites into orbit because it is unable to manufacture its own. But what other simple commodities is America no longer able to produce? This begs the question of what would America have to rely on for China in wartime? Socks? Blankets?
What is interesting to note here is that whilst the West was scrambling to import its needed supplies from China, almost overnight Russia was able to reach self-sufficiency and even be able to extend aid to other nations. And when Italy was expecting to receive such aid from its EU and NATO allies, those allies were too inept to even be able to look after themselves, and the aid ended up coming from Russia. Russian aid included the USA, with little appreciation from the receiver.
With free economy and free enterprise considered sacred in the dictionary of Western modus operandi, Western governments can neither fill in the missing industrial gap nor coerce private companies to do so. Will the West reflect on where they went wrong with their once successful model? Such self-examination is unlikely to happen because any Western political party that evaluates and proposes solutions to this failure will be accused of Socialism and even Fascism. One of the biggest ironies here is that Western political rivals are only interested in making political scores against each other; scores that can get them elected. They are not at all necessarily interested in what is good for their nations.
The world certainly does not need a new cold war, but the West is unknowingly deeply engaged in one already. If lessons are to be learnt is for the future to reveal. COVID-19 did not trigger a war. It did however expose the reality of an existing and on-going war, a cold war, a war no one paid much attention to before, one not based on buildup of military arsenals, but rather one of industrial dependence; a war the West has already lost to China.