John W. Pinkerton

I don’t claim “shock” each time a dark  horse wins the Super Bowl or Dancing with the Stars.   I save the word “shock” for the biggies.

The Berlin Wall falling is the biggest shock of my lifetime.  I went to bed with the almost fifty year Cold War in tact: I awoke to the Berlin Wall coming down.  I didn’t see it coming, but I was not alone.  The CIA didn’t have a clue.  I would not have been more surprised by aliens landing in my backyard. 

The Cold War began with the Yalta Conference in 1945 which divided Germany into occupation zones.  In 1948 Russia began its Berlin Blockade which denied Western nations overland access to Berlin.  The Berlin airlift went on into 1949 when the Russians finally conceded the West’s right to overland access to Berlin.  In 1961, the Berlin wall went up sealing in East Germans.  June 1989, Poland becomes independent from the Soviet Union.  September 1989, Hungary becomes independent.  November 1989, the Berlin Wall falls.  December 1989, Communist governments fall in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Rumania.    March 1991, Lithuania becomes independent.  By August of 1991, the Soviet Union was kaput.

Between Yalta and the end of the Soviet Empire, the United States went through a lot.

The Cold War years brought the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Western Europe; NATO was formed (1949) to protect Western Europe; the Korean War (1950-1953) was fought to protect South Korea from the Chinese and Korean communists and to a lesser degree the Soviets; 1960 a US spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory; 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis; Vietnam (1962-1975) which was fought to protect South VietNam from the communists of North Vietnam and China and once again to a lesser degree the Soviets; 1983 US troops overthrow the regime in Grenada to prevent the Soviets building a strategic air base in the Western Hemisphere.  In addition to these events, the US and the Soviet Union fought proxy wars in South America and Africa and the Middle East.

The Soviet Union was a real threat to the safety of the United States: they exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949 and their first hydrogen bomb a few years later (1953); they beat us into space with the launch of Sputnik in 1957.  They were a superpower which was malevolent and kept us awake many nights worrying about their intentions. 

The threat of the Soviet Union was elegantly handled via a policy of mutually assured destruction for nearly fifty years.  What caused the Soviet’s sudden demise?  The obvious answer is a political and economic system which did not work, will never work.  Was that all?  Well, their failed efforts in Afghanistan didn’t help.  Anything else?  Let’s not forget about Korea and Vietnam.  How could a tie in Korea and a loss in VietNam help bring the Soviet Union down?  The US sacrificed over 54,000 men and women in Korea and over 58,000 in Vietnam.  It was not until after the Cold War ended that I realized these two wars were not in vain.  I figure the Soviets realized that we were a people not to be toyed with.  Well, I sometimes hear liberals saying President Reagan’s proposal in 1983 of the Strategic Defense Initiative’s, STAR WARS’s, role in the end of the Cold War is debatable. I know the translation is “Yeah, but we’re not going to admit it.”

With the end of the Cold War, we took a moment to say, “This is great!”  Then we reflected for a moment and wondered what  was next.  The answer came on 9/11 when the Twin Towers crumbled.  Surprised, yeah: shocked, no.  I won’t live long enough to see our dispute with radical Islam come to a satisfactory end.  If I do see the end of this dispute, I’ll once again be shocked. 


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