I started with the FS twenty-four years ago today. Time flies. I wanted to fight world communism and the Soviet Empire, which seemed to be ascendant. Five years later it was gone. Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, millions of Poles, Afghans and others were undermining the foundations in the middle of the 1980s, but the outcome was far from assured, despite our hindsight certainty. Nobody predicted its imminent demise in the middle of the 1980s and the relatively peaceful breakup of the Evil Empire was completely unexpected. We can thank many for pushing the old bear off the cliff, but we have to credit Gorbachev for taking it quietly into that good night. It could have gone down a lot worse. The decline agony or the Austria-Hungarian Empires dragged us into WWI.
Vladimir Putin considers the fall of the Soviet Union the biggest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th Century. That is an astounding statement when you consider the many tragic events of the 20th Century. Today Russia is resurgent, buoyed by the high prices of oil and other primary materials. There is no reason to believe the Soviet Union could not also have restructured and also been resurgent if it had not been dispatched when it was down.
Some people long for the stability of those times because they have forgotten the fundamental horror of the Cold War and have sometimes taken the wrong lessons from the finish. We rightly see our success as the triumph of the ideas of freedom and democracy over those of communal tyranny. But our ideas won because they were supported by an infrastructure of strength. If Ronald Reagan had not faced down the Soviets AND the peace movements in the early 1980s, we could still be facing the near instant Armageddon we did back then. If Pope John Paul II had not pushed communism in Poland, if the American and Western labor movement had not worked with the president and the Pope to help keep Solidarity alive, the Warsaw Pact would not have cracked. And if we and our allies had not carried on the forty-year twilight struggle that interdicted the spread of communism they would not even had the chance.
Freedom is built on a foundation of strength and resolve. When people forget that or just take it for granted, they soon stop being free. However, when strength and resolve are exercised successfully in a timely and prudent manner their impossible achievements tend to look inevitable. That is why some people think that the Soviet Empire just kind of fell by itself or that Iraq would have worked out okay w/o our recent efforts.
Freedom is usually not taken away. People give it away because they think keeping it is too hard or they want to get things w/o the effort. When you give someone the power to take care of you, you also give them the power to control you.
Anyway, it has been twenty-four good years to be alive and active.
The start was not that auspicious. We had the fear of nuclear war; uemployment had reached more than 10% a short while back and the economy had shrunk. We could all remember long lines for gas and even long lines to get free cheese. All those things we worry COULD happen now DID happen in then. But we were coming out of it. It was morning in America.
Old guys get nostalgic and I look at the time of my youth and vigor with fondness, but when I really think about it, times are a lot better now. There is no final victory, just constantly changing challenges and our happiness and success depends on how well we identify and address them.
I am glad I chose the FS and very lucky in what I got in the last twenty-four years. I am more or less where I should be doing what I do well. What more can you want?
“There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”