History for dummies… a heated discussion Of the Cold War

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Poverty was declared to be obsolete, especially by the Republican Party. The ultimate consumer society followed, until 50 years later when it became evident that we had been consuming too much of the wrong things. But we will deal with obesity some other time.

William Annett Global News Centre

(DAYTONA BEACH)  In the aftermath (sometimes known as algebra) of World War II, there followed a strange period known as “the cold war.”  It was called that because most of the threats and counter threats took place over northern Canada, which was considered by both adversaries as the logical place to brandish nuclear warheads.

From 1946 through the 1980s, the Cold War cast a shadow over every facet of American life. Yet, paradoxically, it also created possibilities. In an arms race that threatened all of humanity, could America afford to confine women to the kitchen, where in most cases there was no bomb shelter? These and other vexing moral questions were raised by thinking Americans. For unthinking Americans, it was a period of unprecedented prosperity.

Poverty was declared to be obsolete, especially by the Republican Party. The ultimate consumer society followed, until 50 years later when it became evident that we had been consuming too much of the wrong things. But we will deal with obesity some other time.

The first hot battle in the cold war took place when North Koreans provoked their southern counterparts, or perhaps vice-versa. Unknown to  President Harry Truman, this had been going on for centuries, but being from Missouri, Truman committed American troops to  stop the spread of communism and later the threat of Chinese dog-food exports. That was in 1950. Less than a year later, in April, 1951, Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur for doing exactly the same thing.  Except, of course, that MacArthur wanted to invade China, because of his bias following five years as Honorary Emperor of Japan.

About the same time, Truman sent $15 million (considered to be a lot of money at the time) as financial aid to the beleaguered French in Vietnam, who were  having their horloges cleaned by Ho Chi Min at Dien Bien Phu. The Republicans commented that  Truman had always been expert at picking losers. Truman also sent 35 military advisers to tell the French how to control the Vietnamese, but they arrived too late.

A scant 14 years later, after the French had left, and so had Truman, President Lyndon Johnson authorized a further military buildup to prevent the Vietnamese from escalating aggressive military operations in their own country. The Vietnamese had already committed a preemptive attack on an American destroyer with a motor boat in the Gulf Of Tonkin, so it was clear that they wanted to be top dog in their own Gulf. The American destroyer captain thought that Tonkin was Indian country and that we owned it. Actually, by a former agreement, it belonged to British Petroleum.

The ensuing military action to protect Vietnam from Ho Chi Min took ten years or so, and cost about 50,000 American lives. The war demonstrated why, although Vietnam had been continually invaded for more than 1,000 years by the Chinese, the Japanese, the French and possibly warlike Tibetans, none of the invaders were still around.

American troops also invaded Cambodia in 1970, because they couldn’t tell the difference between the Vietnamese and the Cambodians, except  that Cambodian food was a little spicier and the Vietnamese spoke Vietnamese, while the Cambodians spoke pidgin English and sometimes, following the French occupation, fractured French. (My favorite is “Tant pis, tant mieux,” which is translated as “My Aunt has gone to the bathroom, and now she feels better.”)

Shortly thereafter the American people expressed their gratitude to Truman by limiting him, and subsequent Presidents, to two terms. Roosevelt, by contrast, had merely taken the U.S. into a war that enlisted 20 million  servicemen, for which he was granted a fourth term.

Two outstanding events occurred in 1953: Dwight Eisenhower, who had given the Russians many things, including Berlin, was inaugurated as the 34th President, and in an unrelated incident, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for giving military information to the Russians. The Russians insisted that the Rosenbergs had merely handed over  a secret recipe for borscht with an egg. If you’ve tasted borscht, you’ll probably agree that the death penalty was not too harsh.

In 1962, two things of note happened. John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth,  and in the same year President Kennedy imposed a naval blockade around Cuba to force the USSR to remove its missile bases.

As for the American missile bases surrounding the USSR, Kennedy said: “That’s different. Our bases defend you against aggressive Middle Eastern Powers, such as Yemen and Kuwait. Ask not what you can do to America; consider what America can do to you.”

Beginning in 1961, first the Russians put the first dog in space, then the first man and finally were first to orbit the earth. To get even, America put two men on the moon in 1969, just as Kennedy had said they would.

At the same time, American culture was spreading around the world, thanks to improved technology. We exported Hollywood, rock and roll, fast food and big-box stores, and imported British humor and cuisine, the Beatles, pizza, Japanese cars and Chinese dog food.  Or as economists call it, our adverse balance of trade.

The advance of medical science and the Green revolution in agriculture influenced the growth of the world’s population in this dynamic half-century  from 1.6 to more than 6 billion people. This explosive growth was cheered by medical scientists and car salesmen, but booed by the unemployed, the starving and the people living in overcrowded ghettos.

Women obtained equal rights in many parts of the world and most societies accepted equal rights for minorities, except for indigenous people, who only accounted for about 400 million, and had no experience in lobbying.

Other minor events in the latter half of the 20th Century included the formation of the State of Israel, the decline and implosion of the British Empire and the disintegration of the USSR. In biology, the structure of human DNA was first determined in 1953, with the initial result that there were fewer inmates on death row, and accordingly an increase in murders in the streets.

Medical science progressed rapidly. A vaccine was developed for polio, thanks to Jonas Salk. And another vaccine was developed for swine flu, and a swine or two in the Federal government, encouraged by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO),  made millions as a reward for making billions for the pharmaceutical industry (PI).

The discovery that lung cancer resulted from smoking stimulated a bull  market in tobacco stocks, over which most governments spent millions advertising the deadly effects of the habit, almost as much as they received in revenue from tobacco tax. According to the New Jersey Journal of Medicine, some doctors even quit smoking, at least in operating rooms.  As smoking fell out of favor, marijuana consumption soared, along with that of hard drugs ,  such as cocaine and LSD, resulting in an immediate skyrocketing of the price, the expansion of regulatory and investigative organizations, and of course the Mafia.

Among  the other great advances in the Cold War period, fossil fuel consumption ranks as one of the most significant. It resulted in almost continuous war in the Middle East, prompted by countries in the Far West. Universal use of petroleum and petrochemical products as fuel for automobiles and airplanes led to the marvels of road travel, flight, geopolitical and military explosions – such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s invasion of the Ukraine – the toxification of the atmosphere and the destruction of the earth’s environment and ecology  as we know it.

By the end of the century, Europe had obtained a sustainable state of peace, although in a state of economic dissolution, the Indian sub-continent had achieved independence, although much of its population was either starving or untouchable, China – with a fifth of the world’s population – had now assumed its place as a world economic power, although its people were still subject to a total lack of human rights, and finally, in Africa, another billion people had forged new nation states, not a few of them ruled over by genocidal bandits who profited by the technological advancement in weaponry provided by the rest of the world.

It was time to pause and take stock of mankind’s superhuman advancement. Be my guest. I’m too busy converting my bomb shelter to a wine cellar with an attached jacuzzi.

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annett-william
Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post’s history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.

At 18, Bill’s first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army’s CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.

He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.

Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.

You can write to Bill Annett at this address: hoople84@gmail.com

 

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