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The following sentence is from The Economist, October 30th 1993.

Unlike his eight immediate predecessors, Mr Clinton became president at a time when the simplifying rigors of the cold war had evaporated.

I am wondering what simplifying rigors means in the above. My understanding is that it is not an idiomatic phrase, but it means that during the era of the cold war, foreign affairs were simple because it was all about the conflict of two superpowers. Binary relationships are simple. But I may be wrong. Maybe simplifying rigors is a set phrase.

Therefore I am asking what simplifying rigors means.

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ANY President of the United States who takes office believing that he will be able to treat foreign affairs as a minor part of his job is tempting fate. For Bill Clinton the temptation has been especially perilous. Unlike his eight immediate predecessors, Mr Clinton became president at a time when the simplifying rigors of the cold war had evaporated. This removed the only conceivable threat to America's existence, but at the cost of depriving the United States of a clear idea of its role in the world just when--as the sole superpower--its ability to perform that role became more important than ever.

The result for Mr Clinton has been a series of muddles, zigzags, fiascos and falling opinion-poll ratings. etc.

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rigor (Merriam-Webster):

a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable especially : extremity of cold
the rigors of a New England winter

strict precision : exactness. logical rigor. Tentatively one might suggest that what characterizes science is the rigor of its methodology …

I think it refers obliquely to the cold of winter, and also makes reference to the rigidity of cold war relations.


Edit:

During the cold war, things were black and white. Simple. The Soviets were the bad guys. The US and its allies were the good guys. (From a US president's point of view.) This schematic could be used (in those days) to simplify complex international relationships.

  • That answers the question of what “rigors” mean. But why are the rigors “simplifying?” – Tom Bennett Jun 23 '19 at 17:16
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    During the cold war, things were black and white. Simple. The Soviets were the bad guys. The US and its allies were the good guys. (From a US president's point of view.) This schematic could be used to simplify complex international relationships. – aparente001 Jun 23 '19 at 18:57
  • That’s what I thought! Thanks. Could you update your answer? – Tom Bennett Jun 23 '19 at 18:59

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