By John Corry on 2.19.02 @ 12:01AM
The Cold War is back, and a good thing it is, too. So admit now that you missed it. Things were simpler then. We had a tidier world, with tidier problems, and hardly any dumb arguments about unilateralism vs. multilateralism (except when Madeleine Albright was secretary of state, but that’s another story), and we knew it was us against them. But then the Evil Empire collapsed, and one thing led to another. George W. Bush even looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and found that he could be trusted. But old Cold War warriors knew rapprochement would not last, and it turns out they were right. You may especially count Donald Rumsfeld among them. I refer you now to the Winter Olympics.
As all the Western world now knows, the Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were jobbed. The gold medal in pairs skating was awarded to two Russians. To quell the controversy that followed, the International Olympic Committee decided that Sale and Pelletier would also get gold medals, although by then the truth was out. Everyone knew this was no ordinary case of corruption among Olympic judges. Ordinary corruption we know about; we get scandals every four years.
But clearly this was corruption of a much higher order. The old Commie-Free World divide had been re-opened, and once again the French were making mischief. The judges from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, China, and France had awarded the gold medal to the Russian pair; the U.S., Canadian, German, and Japanese judges had wanted to give it to the Canadians. Two days later, the Washington correspondent for Tass, the Russian news agency, wrote a defensive piece about this in the “Washington Post.”
“There is even some talk now about political motives in the judging — some kind of East-West division among the judges,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”
But you expected a Tass correspondent to say that, and the old cold warriors knew we were back in Khrushchev-Brezhnev days. Recall that NATO was standing tall then, but the French were causing problems. They remained a member of the North Atlantic Council, but said they would not make any military commitment. In other words, you never knew which side they were on, although you were entitled to your suspicions.
So when the judges from the old Eastern bloc, and the lady judge from France, voted for the Russians it was déjà vû with a vengeance. We knew the world had not changed, and that the old dangers were still there. This brings us back to Donald Rumsfeld. He knew that all the time.
It’s good, of course, that he’s at the Pentagon while we take on al Qaeda. If Al Gore had won, God forbid, we would have had a Bill Cohen. At the same time, Rummy has shown he’s still aware of the old Red menace, even though for a while he had made the old cold warriors unhappy. When Rummy became secretary of defense, he had talked about “transforming” the military, and creating a swifter, more mobile force. It was almost as if he thought the U.S. no longer had to worry about stopping Soviet tanks at the Elbe, or penning up Soviet cruisers in the Bering Straits. Worse, Rummy had even suggested that we cancel some old weapons programs, and shed “outmoded thinking.”
The alarm, however, was premature. The $379 billion Pentagon budget that Rummy presented two weeks ago had room for every big weapons program that was in the pipeline when he took office: the 42-ton Crusader artillery system, for example, heavy destroyers, and even the tilt-rotor plane that no one really wants, and the first Bush administration tried to kill more than ten years ago. Consequently there is very little talk now about transforming the military or creating a more mobile force, and one hopes the Winter Olympics has brought us all to our senses. It’s reassuring to know we can still stop those tanks at the Elbe.
John Corry is a former New York Times media critic and reporter.
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