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Americans Aren’t Ready for Cold War II
30th April 1952: The newly-appointed US ambassador to Moscow, diplomat and historian George Frost Kennan, walking in London before leaving for Moscow. (Keystone/Getty Images)
(Keystone/Getty Images)

Americans Aren’t Ready for Cold War II

Walter Russell Mead

A series of conversations with Trump administration officials at every level as well as leading Democrats points to two clear and disturbing conclusions. First, the U.S. is increasingly committed to a historic turn in its relations with China as opinion hardens on both sides of the aisle. Second, we aren’t ready for what is coming.

In some ways the situation is comparable to the mid-1940s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union moved quickly from wartime alliance to Cold War. President Truman and a handful of State Department and War Department officials saw the clash coming early, but public opinion was slower to move. Winston Churchill’s now-famous “Iron Curtain” speech in March 1946 was widely criticized as too hawkish; Truman, who sat through the speech and applauded it, had to distance himself from Churchill’s hard line. It took the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the start of the Berlin Airlift in June, and the reinstitution of the draft in July to bring the reality of the Cold War home to the American public.

Today both Washington and Beijing are maneuvering themselves for some kind of long-term competition—but just as few observers in 1946 could imagine a four-decade global standoff, neither we nor the Chinese can predict the scale, scope or consequences of the emerging rivalry. It is likely both to echo the Cold War in some ways and to diverge radically from it in others.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal here

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