A good ol’adversary is hard to come by. Sorry, but al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iraqi terrorists, Al Shabaab, and Iran are terribly disappointing. Islamic jihadist rhetoric will never entertain as much as Nikita Khrushchev. Verbal, political, and military posturing makes good television.
On November 18, 1956, Khrushchev told ambassadors from Europe and North America that “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in.” Later, in a speech he stated “We must take a shovel and dig a deep grave, and bury colonialism as deep as we can.” On August 24, 1963, Khrushchev stated “I once said ‘we will bury you,’ and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.”1
That is how an adversary talks. The best Osama bin Laden could do was “We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two.” At least Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is able to dig a little more philosophically with “Global equations undergo changes, this is their nature.”2 These quotes may be interesting, but they are not entertaining. Double A ball at the most, and definitely not worthy of identifying themselves as a legitimate opponent. However, the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact countries were true enemies that made one know where one stood along the great divide of capitalism and communism.
In the past ten years, al-Qeada has been decimated, Al Shabaab has fought over the desert scrub in the Horn of Africa, Iran finds itself getting economically strangled, the Taliban got ousted and now looking for way back into power through negoiations, Iraq is on the verge of a large-scale civil war, and Osama bin Laden got shot in the face. These are all lackluster events in the post-Cold War era.
My introduction to the Cold War was as the son of an Army sergeant in the 1970s when my family lived in Germany. My childhood was filled with words such as Fulda Gap, REFORGER, military alert, Noncombatant Evacuation Operations, Red Army Faction, and Iron Curtain. This was repeated again when we returned to Germany in the early 1980s.3 Olive drab green is how I remember the 1970s, in the 1980s it was woodland camo. When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, a familar era of my childhood ended. My 1970s were different from my 1990s in many aspects.4 The comforting knowledge of who your nation’s enemy ended in 1991. It was replaced by the rise of nationalism- and ethnic-driven conflict of the 1990s and populated by confusing thugs and combatants. The 1970s gave America a great enemy.
The 1970s had great music too. The September 20, 1990, issue (#587) of Rolling Stone was a retrospective look at the “SEVENTIES.” Inside this issue was a special insert titled “The Top 25 Albums of the ’70s.” Parke Puterbaugh writes, at the beginning of this insert, that
“The seventies made the term ‘rock&roll’ seem nearly obsolete. The music splintered into a multitude of styles: soft rock, hard rock, country rock, folk rock, punk rock – and let’s not forget disco.”
He then lists the 25 albums that spent the longest amount of time at Number One on Billboard magazine’s albums chart in the 1970s. They are:
1 – Rumours, Fleetwood Mac
2 – Saturday Night Fever, Soundtrack
3 – Tapestry, Carole King
4 – Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
5 – Grease, Soundtrack
6 – Frampton Comes Alive, Peter Frampton
7 – Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel
8 – Greatest Hits, Elton John
9 – The Long Run, The Eagles5
10 – Cosmo’s Factory, Creedance Clearwater Revival
11 – Pearl, Janis Joplin
12 – Chicago V, Chicago
13 – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
14 – 52nd Street, Billy Joel
15 – Hotel California, The Eagles6
16 – In through the Out Door, Led Zeppelin
17 – Wings at the Speed of Sound, Wings
18 – American Pie, Don McLean
19 – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Elton John
20 – All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
21- Breakfast in America, Supertramp
22 – Spirits Having Flown, The Bee Gees
23 – Abraxas, Santana
24 – A Star is Born, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson
25 – Bad Girls, Donna Summers
Okay, on secong thought… there wasn’t a lot of great music in the 1970s.
1. This is a reference to the Marxist saying: The proletariat is the undertaker of capitalism.
2. I have no idea what “global equations” are, but it sounds deep as shit.
3. My youth was literally filled with Cold War references and experiences. This web page even provides a list of 1980s Cold War songs… it is a little inaccurate and stretched a bit for some of them.
4. However, they were similar too. I lived 3 years in Germany in the 1970s and the 1990s. The U.S. Army was my Dad’s employer in the 1970s, and it was my employer in the 1990s.
5. I hate The Eagles.
6. I really hate The Fucking Eagles.