On May 1, 1960, during the Cold War, a U.S. U-2 spy plane was doing a routine flight, and pilot Charles Maultsby began to drift off course. He was to use celestial navigation to make his way, when the night sky suddenly became obscured by the northern lights. Due to this navigation anomaly, he unwittingly found himself in Soviet air space. The Soviets discovered the presence of the plane and assumed that the Americans were attempting to bomb them. Hoping to prevent this alleged attack, they ordered their military air crafts to destroy the spy plane. The Americans, also discovering the turmoil in the Soviet Union, interpreted the Soviet’s actions as nothing short of an act of war. They immediately sent F-102 fighters armed with nuclear weapon to escort Maultsby back into U.S. airspace. Any confrontation between the two groups would have led to an all out war. The fact that both countries believed that the other was attempting to undermine one another’s authority, reveals that previous, deeper tensions had caused the miscommunication.
Often times we allow similar events take place in our daily life. We tend to get so caught up in what we believe and how much we disagree with another person that it blinds us, and we refuse to listen to another point of view. This conflict between two people or groups of people leads to a misunderstanding of information, actions, and ideals, which, in turn, can cause previously existing conflict to escalate.
In our daily life, there are many times when we misunderstand what our peers say or do for the simple reason that we disagree with them. These everyday disputes are often harmless and forgotten the next day. However, some can cause long standing grudges that can go on for generations and cause no end of trouble for both parties. If people were to set aside their disagreements and hatred for one another, it would contribute to a happier more peaceful community, unhindered by the plague of miscommunication. Arguments and conflicts alike would be solved in a more efficient and helpful manner, instead of years of debate that leads to no tangible solution. A similar logic can be applied to issues on the global or national stage. Not only does understanding that conflict causes miscommunication help better our relationship with Russia, but with all other countries as well. This understanding can lead us to find peaceful solutions to issues that seemed impossible to solve before, because we are willing to truly listen to each other.
For instance, in 1912, a man named Mr. Yeager was commonly known as a, “horseman, gambler and all around plunger.” His wife was well aware of his reputation, and the subject was a point of tension between the two. So it is no surprise that when Mrs. Yeager received a telegram from her husband, who was at a horse track, that read, “Broke. Even lost on Dollie," she believed he had lost all their money. Panicking, she sold her priceless jewels at a pawn shop for very little money. Later she found out that the letter truly read, "Broke even. Lost on Dollie," and her husband came home with money in his pocket.
This simple, small example of conflict leading to miscommunication can be easily applied to the global stage in a way that is far more frightening. Just as Mrs. Yeager misunderstood the message due to previous conflict, the United States and the Soviet Union did much the same during the Cold War. The only difference being that one of the miscommunications led to priceless jewels being lost and the other could have led to a war.
The Cold War is one of the finest examples of how conflict lead to a misunderstanding that could have had perilous results. If we take a look into history, it becomes obvious that the
antagonism between the two countries had existed long before the Cold War erupted. Despite the United States and the Soviet Union’s alliance during World War II, the two countries disagreed on a multitude of issues.
Government was one such issue. The United States was opposed to a government ideologically based on communism. The U.S. had spilt much blood in the struggle to spread democracy, and believed that the Soviet Union was a threat to their efforts. In addition, Joseph Stalin's regime and the Soviet Union’s stance on human rights created even larger obstacles for a friendly diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The Soviet Union saw the United States as an imperialist and capitalist state, and perceived this as a threat to their way of life. Because of their differences ideologically, these two countries disagreed on almost every issue, which, inadvertently, led them to see each other as their greatest enemies.
Furthermore, we can identify a similar mistrust between the two countries today. Although Russia claims it is a democracy, many of their practices remain the same as when they were a communist state. For this reason the United States believes that Russia is not a proper democracy. Similarly, Russia remains steadfast in their belief that the U.S. an imperialist country and that they have no right to any of their claims against Russia. The two countries ideological differences from the 1960’s have remained and only gotten stronger. Even today, the two countries are constantly at each other's throats.
The resentment and conflict between the two countries prevented them from even attempting to understand any explanation from the other during the Cold War. Blinded by hate and suspicion, the Soviet Union and the United States refused to accept or even listen to explanation. The same resentment caused them hyperbolize one another’s actions, which could have led to nothing less than an all out war. This misinterpretation of actions served to escalate the conflict that had already existed.
Not only has this issue shaped our history, but it plays a major role in today’s world. Even the recent American presidential election has been tainted by this disease. The controversy over Putin and Trump’s relationship, and its role in our election have been a point of concern for many. Their friendly relationship has inflamed many suspicions, and has only led to creating a cloud of confusion surrounding what truly happened during the election. With neither side offering theories or explanations that can be proven and the steadily escalating conflict, the situation is shaping up to be scarily similar to the Cold War. Even to the point where many people are becoming increasingly concerned about a nuclear war breaking out.
Much of this can be applied to violence in Syria. The many factions within Syria have differing agendas that cause conflict, mistrust, and suspicion to insue. Due to the opposing ideals, conflict has broken out in Syria with no end in sight. Because of the mistrust and suspicion, world leaders are at a loss as to what the Syrian people actually want and what truly started the conflict.This lack of knowledge causes there to be a back-and-forth situation with any solution presented to end the conflict failing. Meanwhile the death and destruction in Syria continues and only gets worse, because no side is willing to listen to each other. In addition, the lack of information leaves other world leaders at a loss for how to resolve the violence before it spreads.
However, if we were to understand that the conflict between people is what causes miscommunication and an escalation of the conflict, many of today's problems could be solved more easily, and efficiently, and peacefully. We would finally be able to listen to each other without our prejudice hindering us, and be able to move towards a more peaceful and successful community.