Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Cold War Memories
For those of you younglings who only read about it in your history books, one of the things we had to live with during that period was two nuclear armed superpowers aiming thousands of nuclear warheads at each other on hair trigger alert.
There were days I'd wake up and wonder at times whether this would be the day that somebody did something stupid, a political miscalculation or a misinterpreted malfunction would happen that kicked off World War III and altered our world forever.
If you've heard the songs '99 Luftballons' and Men At Work's 'It's A Mistake', it spoke to that fear of nuclear annihilation many of us humans around the planet had. Our literature of the period spoke to those fears with books such as 'Alas, Babylon', 'Warday' and 'On The Beach' which was later turned into a movie. There were movies such as Fail Safe, Dr. Strangelove, Red Dawn and War Games , and television miniseries such as 1983 The Day After as the US and USSR both built up their nuclear stockpiles to obscene levels.
Hearing about the Soviets nearly launching on nuclear armed China during a 1969 border clash along the disputed Ussuri River border between the two nations, Fidel Castro incessantly calling for nuclear first strikes on the US, the 1983 NATO Able Archer exercise that nearly jumped off a Soviet first strike and about other too close to call instances of malfunctions in command and control on both sides that nearly jumped off everyone's worst nightmare only heightened that planetary anxiety.
It also didn't help matters that the Soviet Union's citizens and leadership believed we'd launch a first strike on them and we grew up in the States immersed in the belief that the 'godless commies' would do the same to us and order that devastating nuclear first strike that would destroy our American way of life.
We entered a period of detente in the 70's, but the military buildups continued The Soviet navy became a global force that posed a challenge to US naval dominance, the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces trained on their sides of a split Germany in endless maneuvers and wargames waiting for the other side to invade.
Glasnost, the demise of the Soviet Union and the unification of Germany at the tail end of the 80's thankfully spelled the end of the Cold War and a much needed respite from the international stress that period caused..
I'm also thankful that my nieces won't have to grow up in a world that was a hair trigger away from self inflicted nuclear annihilation.