Peace keeps trying to break out in unlikely places in the world, and quite frankly, the nation that wields the power to make peace possible isn't being much help.
It is a puzzling development. The United States has been the most successful and eager defender of peaceful solutions between fractious nations for the past 65 years. Its military and economic domination makes such efforts possible, and its main problem during that span has been small nations whose warlike tendencies are not deterred by nuclear threat and most of their leaders are not beholden to the people, or have crazy religious beliefs that override their secular interests and consciences.
During the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Russia, the best interests of both nations usually prevailed, thus keeping the general peace, and avoiding open war between the two major powers. The U.S. deserves most of the credit for that. As many new nations were created, the turmoils avoided conflicts with either the U.S. or Russia.
Today, with that good history to build on, and the U.S. currently having the most peace-oriented administration in its recent past, there is a disturbing nostalgia in some circles for another Cold War with Russia.
Defense secretary Ash Carter, now at a NATO meeting in Berlin, says the U.S. and NATO need a "strong and balanced approach" to Russia until Russian leader Putin changes his "backward looking policies." Carter was quoted as saying the U.S. welcomes Russian assistance in combating terrorism and its support in negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran, but that the U.S. will join other NATO nations in extending economic sanctions against Russia and will provide NATO with money and military means to deter Russian military action.
In short, the military-industrial complex in the U.S. has no reason to worry about any budgeting cutbacks. In fact, Congress just passed an appropriation bill for more defense spending than President Obama or the Pentagon had requested.
Carter and Obama recognize the nostalgia in some Washington circles for a return to the Cold War. It was a strange and dangerous time. The enemy was easy to identify and vilify and difficult to defend without being called an "appeaser," un-American or worse.
But the Cold War with Russia has been over for 25 years and its wounds should have closed, just as wounds from World War II inflicted by Germany and Japan closed, and those wounds were much deeper and less forgivable since they involved real bloodshed and thousands of lives, as well as dollars, compared mainly to bombast during the Cold War. During all the years of the Cold War, no shots were exchanged between Americans and Russians, to my knowledge.
The battle against stateless terrorists such as ISIL, Hamas, and Al Qaeda changed the rules. Since the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the U.S. has waged several wars without utilizing as many friendly forces as it should. The results have not been edifying.
Despite overwhelming military power, the U.S. needs more friends on the ground, reliable friends who share the basic principles of modern civilization, even if their commitment to freedom or civil treatment of their own people are not all the US might prefer. After all, there is no agreement among Americans on the broad scope of freedoms, or what they mean for different peoples, or tribes, or religions. The best we can expect is lack of war, adequate food, water and good plumbing; later indoor toilets might become a priority. For most of the world, a washing machine and indoor toilets should be more welcome than more tanks and trucks which Defense Secretary Carter is promising our NATO allies.
But could Russia become a reliable ally again?
The record is encouraging.
A century ago, in the first terrible months of the first World War, German troops drove across Belgium and France, bringing them within 30 miles of Paris in less than 30 days. France and England, Germany's main opponents on the so-called Western front, fell back. The French government abandoned Paris in early September and defeat seemed imminent. But along the Marne River, the French armies, after weeks of retreat, stopped the German advance in what was called the Miracle on the Marne. But miracles have reasons.
What turned the tide was the German decision to move two corps to its Eastern front against Russia, giving the French and English a manpower advantage.
In World War II, Russian armies at great human cost held off the Nazis until the U.S. and other allies mustered the men and munitions for the D-Day invasion of Europe in June 1944.
The number of deaths in these wars is difficult to count, but it is estimated that more than 2 million Russians died of disease or wounds, the largest total of casualties for any of the nations involved.
Russia has been an invaluable ally for the US in two wars, and actually in the cold war years.
NATO was organized after World War II for the specific purpose of defending its members against Soviet aggression. In response, the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact composed of Russia and the European nations that Russia dominated at the time. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved nearly 20 years ago, but NATO remains a costly anachronism and a drain on the U.S. budget with no compelling reason to continue.
So we are sending more tanks. Do the terrorists even have tanks?
Against all odds, peace still seems to have a chance to break out, but the nation that is powerful enough to assure please must show the way.