The New Cold War?

The current rivalry between the United States and China has much less in common with the Cold War than with the old Russia-China tensions. For the Cold War was, as common parlance would have it, “a clash of ideologies,” whereas today’s semi-hostile relations between the U.S. and China are really just a turf war between ideological allies whose respective self-interested ambitions have inevitably come into conflict.

The phrase “a clash of ideologies” was always a misnomer at best, and a deliberate misrepresentation at worst, as it infused all discussion of the old East-West conflict with a heavy dose of implicit moral relativism. The Cold War, described this way, seemed to be reducible to a disagreement between two theories of how to tend to the public good, such that the key terms of the debate became “efficiency,” “realism,” and “success,” rather than the only true or relevant ground of the conflict, freedom vs. tyranny. 

Today, however, the entire West, and the United States most emphatically, is ruled by variations on Marxism, with the U.S. government itself currently consisting of, and aligned with, many overtly Marxist individuals and groups, and awash in overt sympathizers with the Chinese Communist Party. Hence, there is no significant “ideological divide” between Washington and Beijing, but only disputes about trade practices (Donald Trump had a large role in fostering that stupidity), spying, and of course global influence. The fact that the latter issue, global influence, was often treated as the real source of disagreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union is merely a product of the relativistic attitude toward the conflict among left-leaning academics and diplomats. In fact, territorial preeminence was only an accidental feature of the Cold War — whether any given players involved on either side fully understood this — since that conflict was, at its essence, really a fight to resist a tyrannical force bent on imposing enslavement on all mankind. In other words, the Cold War was not a “clash of ideologies”; it was a clash between political philosophy as such and thuggery as such — between reason and violence — in which one side aimed to negate political theory and rational discussion outright in favor of the rule of brute force and universal compliance.

And that fundamental dispute between philosophy and force, reason and compulsion, freedom and bondage, is exactly what is lacking in the current U.S.-China conflict, which is truly more like an increasingly nasty sibling rivalry than like a genuine war between those who would be free and those who would enslave them. The U.S. government, right down to its sinews, is in fundamental agreement with China about goals and methods. The only real dispute is about who should have the leading role in defining these shared goals and administering these agreed-upon methods for the rest of the world.

There are two clear implications of this historical shift from the intellectual and moral terms of the Cold War to a mere rivalry between neo-Marxist allies. First, Russia won the Cold War — she “buried” the West, just as Nikita Khrushchev promised. Second, following from the properly understood nature of the Cold War, as explained above, universal enslavement is here — there is no geopolitical voice of freedom and mankind today, no defense of reason and political philosophy against the premises and aims of tyranny.

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