How We End the Cold War (Without Heating it Up Again)

The Vietnam War. The Korean War. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. It seems that every time the United States assumes a role in a foreign conflict, it’s for the worse. This is why I’m hesitant to join the calls for U.S. involvement in Russia over the arrest of Alexei Navalny.
I wasn’t alive to witness the pissing contest between Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union, but I don’t wanna be around for part 2. And while I do certainly side with Mr. Navalny and the entirety of the opposition he stands for, but I cannot in good faith endorse an effort that would likely lead to conflict with Russia for moral reasons alone, I cannot endorse such a dangerous repetition of history. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better solution. One that stands to solve many of the problems our country has faced for the past decade. But in order to solve this, we must entirely rethink the ways in which we approach conflict, foreign and domestic alike.
Putin has been wiping the floor with us, and the rest of the free world, for the past decade because he’s been fighting a one sided war. While we were watching the nukes, he was planting seeds of doubt, disinformation, in the minds of Americans, “hacking” elections and eroding the very foundation of our democracy in the process. The battlefield isn’t on land, or in the seas, or the skies for that matter, it’s on the internet. War’s aren’t fought with bullets and bombs anymore, they’re fought with words. Power in the 21st century isn’t money, that realization is fading fast, it’s not information either, that’s part of it, but in reality, 21st century power is the basic ability to change a populations behavior ever so slightly, as to cause major ripple effects on a society. Russia doesn’t want to control the world, in the ability to manipulate social media algorithms to spread disinformation, they already do.
So, how do we fight back? Well, not with guns, that’s for sure. As I said before, war has changed, dramatically, the way we approach foreign conflict now is eerily similar to the way in which we approached conflict back in World War I-modern tech with antique tactics- a surefire recipe for disaster. As I said before, we need to rethink the way we approach conflict if we want to accurately combat the Russian threat. We’ve been playing Putin’s game for too long, it’s about time we made him play ours.
The first step is to metaphorically cut off Russia’s tongue: we need to abolish the social media algorithms that facilitate the spread of disinformation responsible for dividing our country. Once we do that, we need to reunite our country, to undo the damage that Russia has already done. Luckily, people still hate Russia, and as much as people love to hate each other, they love to come together and hate someone bigger than them even more, such is human nature. At this point, we’ve largely undone the damage done to our country, and we can begin to turn the tides against Russia. How you ask? By making them a victim of their own system. Russia has thrived off of sharing information, disinformation, but still information. We can do the same thing. The same way we airdropped supplies to East Berlin, one of the few truly good decisions we made during Ronald Reagan’s pissing contest. Instead of supplanting ourselves into Russia and taking over, we do what Russia has done to us, we give the people information and let them choose what they do with it. We set the dominoes up, but it’s up to the people to knock them down. If the people do indeed demonstrate a desire to knock them down, then we come in and offer some assistance, French Revolution style.
This, in my mind, is the best approach towards conflict with Russia. There’s a great quote by famed designer Dieter Rams that goes: “The best design is as little design as possible”. The same is true for conflict. The best conflict is as little conflict as possible. Through this approach we can define a clear path to ease domestic political tensions and restore productive and polite political discourse while also helping people like Alexei Navalny get their way, if that is indeed what the people of Russia want, they wouldn’t know now in the info-suffocated state they live in. This way we don’t supplant ourselves in foreign affairs like we did in the past, but we fulfill a moral responsibility to give the Russian people a choice that they didn’t previously have, it’s like any industry: the better product will prevail if people are given the option to buy it. If democracy is the better product, the Russian population will buy into it, and, if they need any assistance in doing so, we will be there. But for now, our only responsibility is to restore our democracy and give Russia a choice, not to make it for them.

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