Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The New Cold War

Kyer at Whatsakyer asked me why I termed Uzbekistan the first front on the new Cold War.

Let me start by simply saying I hope the war stays cold. It has two hot fronts -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- but these wars are contained, modest compared to Vietnam, and hopefully will be winding down soon.

Here are the players in the new Cold War:
  • The old Soviet bloc, now known at least temporarily as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The Bear and the Dragon are working together as the pro-authoritarian bloc, and Uzbekistan and other old-school dictatorships are allying with them.
  • GUUAM, the Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova alliance, which probably won't be a big player, but as a force for democracy could pressure Russia to be more moderate, weakening the SCO.
  • The US and its democratic allies, which sometimes may appear as a one- or two-man show, but if the Cold War heats up in ways that threaten other democracies, the make-up of this group could change quickly and dramatically. New Europe will be particularly sensitive in this manner.
  • The Islamofascists, who won't ally significantly with any of the "infidel" factions, except to get weapons or money.
Uzbekistan is the first battleground of this new Cold War because the message stakes are so high there. We made military and perhaps some political inroads into the country, which put the Russians on red alert and bothered the Chinese as well. (Remember than China was ruled for centuries by Central Asians.) By supporting Karimov and letting him know it's OK with them if he cracks down on dissidents, they're provoking the Bush administration, testing whether or not it will stand by the Bush Doctrine.

Europe will be one key area. With its growing Muslim population, it could fold under appeasement pressure and be a thorn in our side, or it could rise up against the virus of radical Islam and become a battleground in the war. The latter is the braver, smarter course, so don't expect much.

Central Asia will be another, with its volatile mix of Muslim populations, historic Soviet rule, ethnic ties to (and resentments of) China and newfound strategic importance. They've got oil and nukes, and are midway between the Middle East and the two CSO nations, and would be a wonderful foothold for the Democratic factions.

We can expect no meaningful diplomacy in this war from the UN. We can expect no reasonable position from the Islamofascists. So whether or not this becomes a true Cold War, or even a hot war, depends on how the Democracies, the Democracy-friendly GUUAM and the dark forces of CSO can work ... or not work ... things out between themselves.