Why Should Millennials Care About the Cold War?
Bryan English, Featured Reviews Contributor
“No war is over until the enemy says it's over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
- General James Mattis
Type “New Cold War” into a search engine and the results reflect a growing consensus that the ideological, geopolitical, and military chess match between Russia and the West may not be as dead as previously reported.
The revelation that we have entered a New Cold War, or that the old one never truly ended, is unlikely to elicit much of a reaction from Americans in their 20s and 30s. The fact is, Millennials have little or no memory of the Cold War.
Demographers mark the beginning of the Millennial generation as those born after 1980. Millennials were either not yet born, or were very young, when President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” Most lack a personal frame of reference for the significance of the breakup of the Soviet Union, or the way Russia has continued many of the practices that made it such a global threat.
Just as Generation X grew up in the waning shadows of the Vietnam War, or Baby Boomers came of age in an environment reshaped by World War II, Millennials now find themselves confronted with geopolitical realities that until very recently were a part of history they had only read about.
To make matters worse, Millennials have grown up in a culture that downplays American history, denies American exceptionalism, and defers when it should defend our founding principles. Having come of age in a season of political and moral relativism, much of the Millennial generation is susceptible to diversionary arguments designed to paint the US as somehow equivalent to, or even worse than our enemies.
Current events will be misunderstood without an eye toward the past. It’s important to understand just how important figures like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II were to slowing the spread of Communism in the 20th Century. It’s equally important to understand the behaviors and beliefs of people like Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Unfortunately, Millennials have been treated instead to revisionism that casts Gorbachev as an elder statesman, and communism as a viable and equivalent alternative to liberty.
A study of the historical relationship between the US and Russia is relevant, not just because the Cold War appears to be heating up again. Were we to view the reported Russian hacking, and other active measures to undermine the credibility of our system of self-government, without the perspective of history, much would be missed.
The United States is unique. History has validated the American experiment, and our continued existence places us at odds with every other political and philosophical system. That includes the governing philosophy of recent Soviet and Russian leaders.
The Cold War was, and is, a culture war. Our founding principles include the assertion that we are created with rights government cannot take from us. We have built our legal and political systems upon the concept that the individual, and not the government, is sovereign. Our Founders designed a government that derives its authority from the people rather than the other way around.
Compare our history with that of the Russian experience, and recent events begin to come into focus. From the Tsars, to communist dictators, to Vladimir Putin, Russia has struggled from one oppressive form of government to another. Given our stark differences, it isn’t a mystery as to why a former KGB officer like Putin would want to undermine faith in the American political system.
When tyrants, terrorists, and aspiring dictators seek to oppress people in other parts of the world, America stands as a beacon of hope, and a constant reminder that liberty is attainable. As long as America continues to function as a Constitutional republic where government of, by, and for the people is a reality, we should expect to be attacked. We will always be a threat to those who know their people would never empower them to govern were they truly free.
That is why it is important to look past the individual events and accusations of what Russia may have done in the lead-up to the recent election. Who they targeted, or who might have been helped or hurt is not insignificant, but is more relevant when understood in the context of a decades long attempt to ultimately destroy our way of life.
America is worth fighting for. Our founding principles, if applied as intended, result in degrees of personal liberty and opportunity that are unmatched under any other form of government conceived by man.
Russia will continue to fight to destroy us. They are not alone. Both China and the proponents of radical Islam see our way of life as a threat as well. Similarly, socialist elements within our own society will not rest in their efforts to see the United States brought low.
We may say that the Cold War is over, but if Russia continues to fight to undermine us, we ignore their aggression at our own peril.
Now is a time for choosing. Will history look back on this period as an awakening for a new generation of American patriots who preserve and expand liberty, or will Millennials be remembered as the last generation of free Americans?
Bryan English is a homeschool dad dedicated to leaving a legacy of liberty.
Originally from Iowa, he helped lead the successful 2016 Iowa Caucus campaign for Ted Cruz. As the Iowa State Director for Cruz, Bryan played a key role in building what nationally syndicated talk radio host Steve Deace deemed “the best caucus operation the GOP has ever seen.” Called “a skilled grassroots activist” by Politico, Bryan’s background also includes pastoral ministry, public relations and communications, research, and a season as a Congressional Staffer.
Bryan currently lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife and three teenage sons. Follow this author on Twitter: @BE_1776