In A.D. 1945, war was beginning...

1945

World War II ends. In opening moves, the Red Army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics jockeys with the armed forces of the United States of America and the United Kingdom for position in the former empires of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Despite a self-determination policy established at the Yalta Conference, the Soviets begin instilling communism in Eastern Europe, and supporting communist movements in Asia.

George Kennan, writing under the pen name of "X," proposes a strategy of "patient, but firm and vigilant, confinement" of this Soviet Menace, leading to the 1947 Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, which build up the other nations of the Free World, and the National Security Act, which establishes a Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. The United States continues to hold a monopoly on nuclear weapons until the Soviets explode their first bomb in 1949, officially beginning the arms race to end all arms races.

1950

The first shots of the Cold War are fired as the Korean War begins. The United States ends up submitting to the Korean People's Army, who establish North Korea just footsteps away from Seoul. Elsewhere, France is getting bitch-slapped by Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, and the People's Republic of China is threatening to beat the living bejeezus out of Chiang Kai-shek's army in exile in Taiwan.

Massive retaliation is the order of the day, and throughout this decade, everyone believes that Armageddon is around the corner. Schoolchildren duck and cover; buildings have fallout shelters. The Red Scare hits a peak in America, under the leadership of Joseph McCarthy. America and Russia equip their respective halves of Germany with new weapons, scaring each other's European allies. World War III appears to be coming, if not already underway.

Communism and capitalism are now entrenched through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Warsaw Pact. While the Soviets are leading a fairly tight alliance, America's coalition is beginning to stumble: the Suez Crisis of 1956 shatters their radical ideas about a bipolar world as Britain and France ally with Israel to take the Sinai against American wishes. In the meantime, the Soviets crush dissent within their alliance, stopping the Hungarian Revolution.

Sputnik. ICBM's. Then, the Berlin Wall, a graffiti manifestation of the Iron Curtain descending upon the world. Dwight Eisenhower is staring down Nikita Khrushchev. Nobody knows what's coming, but everybody knows it's going to suck.

1962

Russian queen to Cuba: check. Florida is staring in the face of annihilation, and the American heartland trembles. John F. Kennedy calls Khrushchev's bluff and demands that the missiles be removed. If Khrushchev goes forward, it's the end of the world. America's king is saved. Russia's king is also saved. Phew.

The hotline is installed between Washington, D.C. and Moscow. The Limited Test Ban Treaty is signed. Mushroom clouds are no longer expected over Nebraska, although they're still feared. Now, the war takes on a different, more clandestine tone. Communists are put down in Vietnam, while capitalists are put down in Czechoslovakia.

China and the Soviet Union form two dysfunctional halves of a Communist bloc, while the United States, Western Europe, and Japan form the three slowly diverging poles of the Free World, united in defense and bitter enemies in trade.

1969

Detente. Richard M. Nixon, one of the last Americans expected to be civil to the USSR, sits down with Leonid Brezhnev for the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks. Vietnamization signals a temporary end to America's overseas commitment, and to top it all off, a table tennis tournament in China sets off a cascade of events that bring Nixon to Beijing, the PRC to the Security Council, and Taiwan to... well, God knows where.

The gold standard is gone: credit is the way of the future. New York City, London, and Tokyo take turns every day dictating the state of the global capitalist economy. The need for oil brings the Middle East into the picture and gives OPEC a domineering role in policy. Technology is making the West richer, but the communists are having trouble competing. Europe's empires are all dead; the developing world is now independent and hungrier than ever. In short, while Africans and Asians starve, Europeans and Americans get fat, and Russians and Chinese try to keep in step.

1977

Jimmy Carter brings human rights back into foreign policy, and starts a crusade for peace that lasts for about four years. Anwar Sadat goes to Jerusalem to begin a peace process with Menachem Begin that finds Egypt and Israel shaking hands at Camp David. America becomes the dominant power in the Middle East. Soviet Russia gets diddly.

Carter also cuts off aid for allies he feels are ethically unworthy. Argentina and Turkey are two lesser examples: a greater one is Iran, where Carter's policies incite fundamentalist Muslims to take to the streets and topple the Shah's regime. Detente is over. The Soviets are in Afghanistan. SALT is dead on arrival. World War III is coming back. We're all going to die. Ronald Reagan shows up in dramatic form and smacks Jimmy Carter aside. "Kill the bastards," he says.

U.S. defense spending peaks, swallowing upwards of 50% of the federal budget. In Reagan's first term, defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, who had slashed social spending under the Nixon administration, appropriates billions of dollars to a 600-ship navy, a wildly advanced strategic bomber force, and the mother of all defense programs, the Strategic Defense Initiative. The kings look vulnerable. The bases are loaded with two outs. It's nil-nil, going into extra time.

1985

After two Soviet leaders die in rapid succession, Mikhail Gorbachev rises to power. He inherits a Soviet Union that can kick anyone's ass, but where vodka is the only industry showing any kind of growth, and where the only personal computer costs $17,000 to build and is noticeably inferior to the Apple II. Chernobyl doesn't help, either. Soviet Russia is definitely in trouble, and the status quo is only going to exacerbate the problem.

So Gorbachev does the same thing Lyndon B. Johnson did in Nam: gradual buildup. Glasnost. Perestroika. Russia opens up. Pepsi is sold on the streets of Moscow, and long lines form around McDonald's. Ronald Reagan starts granting Gorby audiences. Things are looking up.

Now Gorby is talking about disarmament, but nobody is listening. Americans and Europeans blink, then go back to building missiles and selling junk bonds. Finally, a treaty is drawn up to eliminate intermediate nuclear forces, and several people can be heard cheering softly.

The economy in Russia is still in the toilet, so Gorbachev plays another card: cutting back aid to Eastern Europe and North Korea. The year is 1989. Democratization begins. Poles vote for Solidarity. Hungarians and Austrians open their borders. The Baltic States assert their independence. Czechs and Slovaks riot in the streets.

East Germany decides to stop defending the Berlin Wall. Everybody gets drunk, tears it down, and parties on its disemboweled remains.

States begin dropping off of the USSR itself. Nobody is willing to admit what is happening, but it happens soon enough: on January 1, 1992, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics disbands without even leaving a suicide note. Leningrad becomes St. Petersburg. Cockroaches put away their party favors for the time being, and Russian scholars in the West go back to school to learn Arabic. The Cold War is over. Now the fun is about to begin.

Here's how the cold war was explained to me by my brother when I was 5-years-old or so. Paraphrased a bit, naturally.

Him: Imagine a rough part of a rough town. You have two bully kids, Nate and Warlow, who are thoroughly dominating their neighborhoods. Time goes by, and the bullies become stronger. One day, the two bullies meet. They each pull out a gun. Let's say you're one of them. What do you do?

Me: Okay..So I shoot the other guy!
Him: But he might be able to shoot you, too, on his way down.
Me: Okaaay...So I walk away!
Him: Idiot! He'll shoot you!
Me: Um..I try to talk to him?
Him: How do you know you can trust each other? You'd both like to be -the- top dog, and neither of you is above lies or murder.

At the time, the Soviet Union still stood, so the saga wasn't quite over. I suppose the completion of this story would be that the bullies stood as they did until one of them keeled over from exhaustion or starvation or something.

The origins of the Cold War are somewhat muddled due to the fact that one could look at it as a schoolyard fight between two children; both of them were there, participating in the same conflict, and still two different stories emerge. Sorting out the truth from both stories is sometimes akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron curtain has descended… Behind that line lie all the capitals…of Central and Eastern Europe…all are subject…to Soviet influence and a very high…measure of control from Moscow.” (Churchill 1).

Churchill is more than worried about the possibility of a Soviet empire growing out of the lands in eastern and central europe occupied by Stalin in the aftermath of World War II. “What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines” (Churchill 2). He speaks openly about being vigilant in not repeating the mistakes made by the allied powers prior to World War II. “Last time I saw it coming…but no one paid any attention…we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind” (Churchill 2). Churchill compares the situation immediately following World War II to the situation preceding it, where Churchill warned that the practice of appeasement would end in disaster. “Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed…by a policy of appeasement” (Churchill 2).

At the same time, Churchill relates some fears that may be irrational. “In a great number of countries, Communist fifth columns…work in…absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist Center” (Churchill 3). According to Churchill, all communist regimes work in collaboration to achieve their goal of spreading communism to a global scale. It is important to remember that at this time Winston Churchill was no longer the Prime Minister of Great Britain –although he did become the Prime Minster again in 1951- and that time and place (The US instead of the UK) gave him freer reign to express his own personal opinions and fears for the “English speaking peoples” (Churchill 1).

As for the Soviet reaction to this, Stalin makes a formal reply to Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. The first thing he does is extraordinarily clever. He equates Churchill with Hitler.

“One is reminded of Hitler… He began to set war loose by announcing his racial theory, declaring that only people speaking the German language represent a…valuable nation. Mr. Churchill begins to set war loose…maintaining that only nations speaking the English language are…valuable nations, called upon to decide the destinies of the entire world” (Stalin 1).

Stalin also tries to legitimate his claim over the nations that have been occupied. He explains that the Soviet army’s casualties were far greater than those suffered by allied forces. “The Soviet Union has lost in men several times more than Britain and the United States together” (Stalin 1). Stalin accuses Churchill of sensationalizing the attempts of the Soviet Union to ensure its future safety. “In a desire to ensure its security…The Soviet Union tries to achieve that these countries should have governments whose relations to the Soviet Union are loyal” (Stalin 1). He immediately follows that with an attack on Churchill and his faculties. “How can one, without having lost one’s reason, qualify these peaceful aspirations…as ‘expansionist tendencies’” (Stalin 1).

Stalin closes his rebuttal by attacking the government and the party of Churchill. He warns the people of the US and Britain to be wary of their leaders. “Churchill sometimes recalls…the common people…patting them on the shoulder in a lordly manner and pretending to be their friend” (Stalin 1). He then turns and tries to slyly infer that communism is rising in Britain. “Millions of these common people…voted Mr. Churchill and his party out…giving their votes to the Labor party” (Stalin 2). This tactic is a testament to Stalin’s political and diplomatic genius.

Both of these speeches contain tinges of implausibility and moments of unabashed mud-slinging. Not unlike children in a playground, one begins to doubt the honesty and motives of each; but this is not a playground, and this conflict will not be forgotten once recess is over. The Cold War will last almost a generation and will carry with it a fear borne out of the end of World War II, nuclear annihilation.

"Cold War" is the ninth episode of the seventh series of Doctor Who, starring Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor and Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald. The episode was written by Mark Gatiss, a frequent writer and sometimes actor for the show.

The show takes place onboard a Soviet submarine in the Arctic in the year 1983, giving a dual meaning to the title. A third meaning is presented when we find out there is an Ice Warrior, a classic Who monster, aboard the submarine as well. Fortunately, the TARDIS materializes, dropping a confused Doctor and Clara aboard the submarine, which also happens to be sinking and taking on water. The Russian crew of the submarine are obviously suspicious, and the Doctor must ease their fears and deal with an angry alien hunting in the sinking submarine.

This is probably the most used Doctor Who storyline ever: the Base Under Siege, with a side theme of The Doctor having to get warring parties to come to peace. But in Doctor Who, the most predictable things can still be made very good. And within this episode's predictable set-up, I found myself not knowing how it would end. It had a genuine suspense to it that is not always present in Doctor Who.

There is some type of odd polynomial formula for Doctor Who. A Doctor Who episode that takes itself too seriously can often become schmaltzy and melodramatic. A Doctor Who episode that nods too much to the ridiculousness of the show can become camp and kitsch. This episode, despite a few humorous moments, manages to be serious without becoming too serious. I think one of the defining moments of the episode came early on: ten seconds after appearing unexpectedly on a crashing submarine, the Doctor assesses the situation and shouts out to the Captain the one way to save his ship. The Doctor is often portrayed as an eccentric or humorous character, but this moment established him as what he is: a brilliant alien who can solve a life or death problem in a matter of seconds. This episode continued in that manner, with The Doctor portraying his more serious side, all framed by the claustrophobic setting of a sinking, predator-haunted submarine.

I can't really justify why I like this episode: I am sure for many, the spectacular scenery of the previous episode, and its colorful set of characters, would have been more appealing, and this would have seemed somewhat monotonous and formulaic. But for whatever reason, I consider this to be one of the strongest episodes of the season.

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