Writer's Block

Day of German Unity

It’s the Day of German Unity, marking the 1990 reunification of East and West Germany. In our current period of global instability, do you ever feel nostalgic for the seeming simplicity of the Cold War?

Answers (249)

  • I feel nostalgic with a lot of things I see, but this isn't one of them.
  • Nope. Come on over to , the new archive community for old Writer's Block questions!
  • Do most LJers even have a point of comparison? Do we even remember what the Cold War was like anymore? In an era where Indiana Jones survives ground zero through a lead-lined fridge and farmers on Jericho have simply to stay out of the first rain and "take six inches off the topsoil" to avoid radiation poisioning from worldwide nuclear holocaust, we've certainly no grasp of the nuclear threat any longer. For myself, it's a draw. In the Cold War, the menace came from only one source but represented total annihilation and was omnipresent. Today, the threat comes from many directions but concerns (mostly) localized destruction (dirty bombs, Ahmadinejad's frequently-expressed desire to nuke Israel, etc.) and is pushed to the media back burner by more immediately sensationalist fare. The Cold War was a game that could only have been played so long without mutual (and complete collateral) destruction; no sane person would ultimately be nostalgic for it. We've got only so long before a rogue nuke gets out now, though, either.
  • There was nothing seemingly simple about the Cold War. Never in the history of the planet Earth were the human race so dangerously close to Thermal Nuclear Holocaust. The United States of America and Russia has enough combined nuclear bombs to destroy all life on Earth several times over. Every second that the United States and Russia were at each other's throats were another second we came close to armageddon. The scariest part is that the United States and Russia still has nuclear weapons. No, the nuclear weapons isn't pointed at any particular country like it was during the Cold War, but it's still there. The United States and Russia making peace with each other was certainly the best thing to happen to the human race.
  • no
  • No. I was born in '80. I was in 4th grade when the Berlin wall came down; I remember at the time that a lot of people who had traveled to Berlin were coming back with chunks of the wall. I remember being showed some of them. They were magic talismans of a sort, symbols of a changing world. And maybe they did; they were concrete (excuse the pun) shows that something had definitely changed in the world as a whole. I was in 6th grade when the USSR dissolved. I vaguely remember a tour where George H. W. Bush and Gorbechev toured the US together. I read 's account of his teenage years growing up in the DC area, which I find strikingly different from my own. By the time I moved to the DC area in '98, the threat of nuclear war was something I never really feared. There were people that pointed out to me that if the Bomb came to DC in some fluke, then there'd be nothing we could do about it. But even a fluke misfire didn't really scare me. By that time, I knew how these things were wired, that a misfired missle wouldn't arm and detonate. Perhaps the biggest apprehension I might have had was the possibility of a suitcase bomb carried by some old guard Soviet, but even that wasn't really serious, more the stuff that scared you on the X-Files, 'possible,' but outlandish enough to dismiss without any real pause. One thing I remembered clearly about my youth: from 4th grade on, after those magic talismans of the hunks of concrete that had once been a part of the Berlin Wall-- we were the generation for which things were going to be different. When the USSR itself dissolved, this became even more apparent. I remember the idea that World Peace could actually be realized, the idea that we might be the generation that realized it. As a child in that period, and as an adolescent-- adults were always telling my generation that things would get better. And indeed they were, for the most part. The internet was popping up, the Clinton administration was working on eliminating the budget deficit and paying down the deficit. We were going to save the whales, and the dolphins. We were going put an end to war. That turned out to be mostly daydreams-- or so it seemed. Clinton got embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal; partisanship became the hallmark of politics, which coalesced into the 2000 presidential election, the first election I was able to vote in. Then 9/11 hit. I remember watching the news when the second plane hit. I went to class that day, which they still hadn't closed. I remember getting out of class and hearing that the Pentagon had been hit. I remember thinking "That's just wild speculation. I mean, they have to have F'n missile launchers at the Pentagon, right? I mean, it's the Pentagon, the center of our military. They've got to have like a shoulder-mounted stinger missile or something somewhere down there, right?" Apparently not. 9/11 seemed to be the day that that better future totally evaporated for my generation. Or seemed to. We're all out of school now-- not quite generation X, but somewhere just after them. I actually think that the reason Obama gets so much support from people my age is that he promises to deliver on that better future all the adults promised us when we were kids. We're adults ourselves now, and realize that the challenges in doing so are real and numerous-- but I think this election is the turning point, the election in which my generation begins to deliver on the better world our teachers, parents, and mentors all told us we could build when we were grownups ourselves. If anything, I find the McCain campaign to be the last gasps of that Cold War mindset. This election in a very real way is about the future vs. the past, and frankly I find McCain to be the candidate of the past.
  • No.  I think that yearning for the Cold War is very similar to romanticizing the First or Second World War.  Great from a vantage point of watching movies and wanting an artificially simplified struggle, but not so great if you are dying at the Somme or Malmedy.  I spent most of my teen years growing up under the shadow of nuclear annihilation.  Was that reasonable?  Possibly not.  There is no well defined suggestion that the U.S. was in serious danger of a real nuclear war after 1962.  But we read about computer errors like the 1979 Exercise Tape and 1980 Computer Chip failures, and were concerned that a war might start accidentally.  We also knew that Soviet systems were technologically inferior to ours and that based on their WWII experience Soviet logicians might potentially consider a catastrophic nuclear war that broke U.S. military power a "win." 

    When international tensions rose, we feared that there would be a catastrophic war brought about by human failure.  I don't think I was as prone to this as others, because I was very familiar with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and knew there were a lot of checks in the loop.  But that also meant I was aware of the potential for real misunderstandings, or simply a real conventional war.  I'd read Gen. Sir John Hackett's "The Third World War," illustrating a Fulda Gap invasion of Europe.  It was also conventional wisdom that if 3 or 4 "hotspots" ever detonated at once, it could trigger an international situation so completely chaotic that a nuclear attack might be expected.

    There was tension there because all of us knew two things.  We were suburban kids, not survivalists, and we were not going to drive to cabins in West Virginia every time things looked a little rough.  None of us wanted to behave like imbeciles.  But at the same time we knew that realistically only people who guessed well which crisis would be the "big one" and got out of town were going to live.  We lived in the DC suburbs, and there was not going to be any "running away" after a war started.  In a way you hoped for the conventional war scenario, because that would give plenty of time to get out of town.  I'd planned to meet my friends in Austinville where my grandmother lived, which we felt might be a target because of the lead mines, but we also felt had a lot of mountain coverage that would contain a subsurface blast, so that even a blast that destroyed the mines would probably leave the area habitable.  

    We hadn't worked these things out in detail but it was understood we might have to if "things got worse."  I was also the political kid and basically the person in my peer group that I think people counted on to tell them whether or not things were "bad enough" to warrant "doing something."  I never panicked or did anything stupid, but I think we did. Other people might have the bliss of thinking a blast would kill them outright, but we'd all read John Hersey's  "Hiroshima" and we knew that at extended range, most of us would live, and it was a coin toss depending on what was a target whether you'd die horribly or be stuck having to live in a world without infrastructure.   We knew the bombs were bigger than the Hiroshima blast, but we also knew a lot of them were subsurface penetrators, and smaller warheads...more accurate but less "beefy."  Only a small handful of "city busters" were supposed to be deployed. 


    I'd just entered College when the Soviets shot down a KAL airliner for violating their airspace at Sakhalin Island.  I called my girlfriend of the time, and we had many hours of conversation.  We all agreed right then that things weren't "really bad" but that they might go south quickly and I made plans to leave school if the situation really deteriorated. 

    I don't miss not responding to every international crisis by waking up thinking "is something going to start a nuclear war today, and if it does, is enough information going to leak out that I can second guess right, and not give a false alarm and make an ass of myself, but also actually successfully second guess and get out of the way.  Even if I do, will it be worth it?"

    The nukes are still out there, but nobody seriously thinks they are going to be used.   At least not in a big way.  There's still Russia-Ukraine or Pakistan-India.  That's meant that there is more fighting in the world today.  Maybe the nukes were good.  They made everybody behave.  The U.S. would not have conducted a resource-motivated seizure of Iraq during the Cold War, nor would it have had to.  A lot of people in a lot of the world have lived in misery since the Soviet Empire fell apart and every two bit power can fight over the scraps.  But...I don't miss not living under the shadow of death, and I think if it came back, very few people around today would be happy about it.

  • the simplicity of the cold war? are you serious? i would like to see this question asked to afghans. for one, my father was on submarines during the cold war and i can say with much assurance, nothing about it was simple. the fact that every time we saw our father off when he was shipped out and he prepared himself for that to be the last time he saw his family shows how positively NOT simple it was.
  • What drugs is the person that came up with this question on, and where can I get some?
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →