Monday, November 09, 2009

November 9, 1989

This is the 20th anniversary of one of the top few most historic days in my lifetime. It causes me to think of my younger days, and a man who greatly influenced the course of world events.

During the first semester of my freshman year in college, ABC aired the made for TV movie, The Day After. I remember having nightmares after watching it and having it really sink in for the first time that the entire country could be virtually destroyed within 30 minutes if a leader in the Soviet Union got an itchy trigger finger. That movie, as much anything, started my course of study in international relations and national security issues.

Two years later, after taking every available course at St. Olaf in those areas, I transferred to The George Washington University so that I could major in international affairs. I wanted to know everything I could about the political systems and military capabilities of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries in Eastern Europe. While I was in Washington, I was also lucky enough to procure an internship at the State Department in the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs. There, I got a behind the scenes look at how foreign affairs regarding military issues operate at levels that don't make the newspapers. It was absolutely fascinating.

During my college years, Reagan was president. Although he was caricatured by his opponents, particularly in Western Europe, as a war-mongering cowboy (not unlike another president 20 years later), I was absolutely convinced that he was pursuing policies that offered the best chance to protect the country from the potential catastrophe of war. And, in fact, his steadfastness in the face of the protests over the deployment of Pershing missiles and cruise missiles in West Germany led directly to the INF Treaty, the first treaty ever to actually result in the reduction of the number of nuclear weapons rather than just limitations on increases in the number of nuclear weapons.

But Reagan's greatest contribution to West Germany was a speech that was heard around the world. It didn't start the snowball, but it definitely gave it a huge boost.




Which leads back to this day in history. It would not have happened, at least as quickly and and peacefully as it did, but for Ronald Reagan. And for that, the Gipper deserves an honorable mention on this day.