Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ending the Cold War

Before Western Europe and the United States could win the Cold War, they had to first believe and imagine that they could win it. For many years, the Iron Curtain had divided the free world from the communist world, and many people had come to see that situation as permanent. But it wasn't. Somebody had to wake them up. Somebody had to get people to see that things could be better, that we didn't have to accept communist tyranny over half of Europe. The Wall Street Journal reports that

on June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan delivered a speech in Berlin. Standing in front of the Berlin Wall, with the Brandenburg Gate, the historic ceremonial entrance to the city, rising behind him, the president of the United States issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Although Reagan's speech posed the question rhetorically to Gorbachev, its effect was also to wake up Europeans, Americans, and others to the notion that the world did not have to endure Cold War misery indefinitely. We could end the Cold War, and even better, we could win it. Before Reagan's speech, says Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a former Soviet dissident interviewed by the Journal,

even the West accepted the division of Europe. "Imagine how hard this made our struggle. We almost had to admit that it was hopeless. Then Reagan says, 'Break the wall!' Why break this wall if these borders are valid? To us, it was more than a question of Berlin or even of Germany. It was a question of the legitimacy of the Soviet empire. Reagan challenged the empire. To us, that meant everything. After that speech, everything was in play."

It is a powerful thing to open people's minds to a new possibility - the possibility that they did not have to accept the Soviet Union as a communist bully threatening free people - the possibility that freedom could be brought back to those suffering under communist tyranny. A wake up call - getting people to see that a new thing is possible:

To come to, to snap out of it, to awaken. Ronald Reagan was hardly alone, of course. John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel called for an end to the division of Europe. Yet when the president of the United States demanded the destruction of the Berlin Wall, Dieter and Yuri enabled me to see, he issued a summons of such power and clarity that many who heard him felt as if they had suddenly regained consciousness. The Berlin Wall address represented a call to awaken.

Ronald Reagn was not alone - a number of heroes not only bravely opposed communism, but awoke their fellow citizens to the possibility that Western Europe and America together could win the Cold War, which we did!