Two Minutes' Hate
The Cold War never ended. Is it any coincidence that both protagonists are now involved in ideological and unconventional conflicts, which, like the Cold War, they know that they can never win.
But winning was never the point, instead the object was the continuation of the system. In America, Corporate Democracy thrives, disguising itself in compassion every four years, while Putin's Russia is a Soviet dictatorship in all but name, much the same as in the rest of the Former USSR where Lukashenko, Kuchma, Niyazov rule with the iron fist wielded by their communist forebears.
Without the nuclear stand-off which was the basis of world order for four decades, the military-industrial complex, the guarantor of jobs, investment and cold, hard cash was in danger of falling silent. After all, there's only so many killing machines you can export to Third World countries, only so many minor conflicts you can "police", ensuring the installation of a favourable regime, hungry for imports, in need of re-arming.
Orwell was right. Without perpetual war, where does the authority of the state stand? Without eternal war, the state is naked, the military-industrial complex has no purpose in which to perpetuate itself. Worse, control is lost over a well-disciplined, loyal and, above all, frightened population.
A new enemy must be found.
And like the wars against Eurasia and Eastasia, the enemy is unseen, far away, referred only to in the two minutes' hate and retold stories of barbarism. International Terrorism. Just as there were Reds under beds back in the fifties, regular drills and information films exhorting its citizens to 'Duck and Cover', it's now Middle Eastern terrorists, and unending drills for chemical warfare and dirty bombs. And still the language is the same - fear, homeland, conflict, the words "unamerican", "unpatriotic".
Just as America has unfinished business in both Afghanistan and Iraq, imposing its alien values on an unwilling population, Russia tries the same in its rogue republic of Chechnya, where struggles against political and criminal activity become bloody wars of nationalism and religion, acting as a catalyst and a magnet for those with an axe to grind. In a vicious circle repeated across the Middle Eastern theatre, aggression breeds retaliation, breeds justification and more aggression. The war now perpetuates itself.
Beslan, sickening as it was, just one of a string of outrages connected to the Chechen conflict where the value of human life to both sides has reached rock bottom. And as American losses in Iraq reach 1,000, arch-hawk Rumsfeld points to how the "civilised world" passed that mark some time ago. Indeed, the Iraqi civilian death toll has passed that milestone thirteen times over, and nobody even bothers to keep count in Afghanistan. Tanks and attack helicopters vs civilians tends to have that effect.
The language of both American and Russian governments is strikingly similar - vows of military might against outsiders threatening "our way of life", diverting their "War on Terror" away from specific targets and onto unspecified, unseen scary monsters, while the terror level is raised to newly invented frightening colours. Another fake war against another unseen enemy, keeping the status quo (no, not THAT Status Quo) in power.
War on Poverty. War on Drugs. War on Terrorism. They've done so well, haven't they? Enjoy your freedoms while you still can, citizen.