- Erbe des Kalten Krieges ed. by Bernd Greiner, Tim B. Müller, and Klaas Voß
This book represents the sixth volume on aspects of the Cold War put out by the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung. Known in the past for its controversial traveling exhibit of war crimes committed by the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern front during World War II, the Hamburg Institute nowadays is fishing in less troubled waters.
The 27 essays on various aspects of the Cold War and their legacies in the post-Cold War world, mostly by scholars on the political left, are consistently thoughtful. Some essays are sparkling, but several lack focus in a volume that otherwise is clearly structured. Each of the chapters addresses prominent Cold War policies and ideas that continued largely unabated in the years after the East-West conflict. The book is well arranged in four larger thematic sections. Not all chapters clearly address the issue of the 1989 divide, showing how (or whether) Cold War practices and thinking continued as legacies into the post-Cold War era. If anything is missing, it is the cultural arena and the “Americanization” of the world that continues to this day.
Continuities in and legacies of the national security state over the past eighty years are addressed in the first section. Robert McMahon addresses the permanent sense of insecurity that has gripped U.S. policymakers since World War II. Fear of the Axis powers was quickly transferred to the threat of Communism after the war. In the same fashion, the U.S. government transferred Cold War fears of nuclear weapons to post-Cold War insecurity about nuclear proliferation, rogue regimes, and the global terrorist threat. William Walker locates the deep roots of the post-Cold War “security ethos” in the national security state of the Cold War. The intelligence services, he argues, were politicized during the Cold War and segued into the politicization of intelligence in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He sees much the same with U.S. disregard for human rights and financing the “warfare state” (military Keynesianism). Berndt Greiner’s chapter on the imperial presidency suggests that a cowed Congress abandoned its function of balancing the executive branch even more eagerly after 9/11 than during the Cold War. He claims that a perception among the electorate of being “soft on terrorism” might be even more devastating for a politician than were concerns during the Cold War about being seen as “soft on Communism” (p. 95). Greiner concludes that one of the most serious legacies of the Cold War was [End Page 237] the undermining of constitutional checks and balances, which he claims has gravely “damaged the root system of democracy” (p. 96). According to Sean N. Kalic, the U.S. government has been framing Cold War and current geopolitical antagonists with the rhetoric of “preparedness” and “monolithic enemies.” In Bettina Greiner’s view, the abuses perpetrated at Abu Ghraib and the notion of “taking the gloves off” in the war against global terrorism (p. 112) have their precedents in what she sees as the efforts by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Cold War to convert torture into a “clean science” (p. 116). John Philip Baesler contends that the proliferation of polygraph testing after 9/11 has its Cold War roots in CIA polygraph experiments. Rolf Hobson maintains that the strategic ideas produced by U.S. defense intellectuals in think tanks funded by the government are rarely scrutinized. He argues that the post-Cold War paradigm of the “Revolution of Military Affairs” propounded by defense intellectuals is rooted in spurious historical analysis and a troubling infatuation with the Wehrmacht’s alleged strategically innovative blitzkrieg triumphs (pp. 153f).
Vojtech Mastny’s and Dieter Krüger’s chapters open section 2 on “foreign and security policies” with overviews of alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that collectively...