In 2009, Barack Obama said the Cold War’s “most dangerous legacy” leftover nukes. I disagreed. I wrote, in part:
…what really interests me is the question of what the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War really was, if it wasn’t the existence of nukes.
Some might say the military-industrial complex or the national-security state. But not me. To me, the most obvious dangerous legacy of the Cold War would have to be the damage the Soviets did to the world. I don’t mean the millions they murdered; those dead do not threaten us now, even if they should haunt us.
I mean the relentless distortion of the truth, the psychological violence they visited on the West and the World via their useful idiots and their agents. I’m thinking not merely of the intellectual corruption of the American Left (which even folks like Richard Rorty had to concede), but the corruption of reformers and their movements around the globe. Soviet propaganda still contaminates, while nuclear fallout does not. Lies about America, the West, and the nature of democratic capitalism live on throughout the third world and in radioactive pockets on American campuses.
The Soviet effort to foster wars of national liberation, to poison the minds of the “Bandung Generation,” to deracinate cultures from their own indigenous building blocks of democracy, to destroy non-Marxist competitors interested in reform, to create evil and despotic regimes that are seen as “authentic” because they represent the “true will” of their subjugated and beaten down peoples: these seem to me to amount to the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. Not least because it was those sorts of efforts that gave birth to North Korea in the first place.
One of the possible benefits to regime change in Libya might be that we could get access to the state records. The country was at the nexus of Soviet propaganda, terrorism, even U.N. shenanigans for decades.
Consider the web of corruption and wickedness which Gaddafi’s oil money has spread round the planet in forty years.The support for terrorism, including the PanAm bombing and the explosives sent to the IRA. The propping up of dirty regimes and so-called liberation movements across Africa. The illicit arms deals and sanctions-busting activities.The bribes paid to other Arab leaders. The furtive links with KGB Moscow and Maoist Beijing, not to forget our good European chums in Paris and Rome and Sarajevo.The infiltration of Islamist movements. The Libyan WMD programmes and the murky efforts made over many years to assemble them.The sheer looting of the state’s oil treasure to fund all this trash.What a prize it would be to get that lot out in the open. Not to ignore the education value for Libyans of seeing exposed the gory innards of the regime and the way it brutalised them for so long.