WASHINGTON -- As I read the news about this Pakistani jackal who admits to planning a cowardly assault on hundreds of innocent people in New York's Times Square, a thought that occurs to me is, how endlessly interesting history is. Often things take place that one never would have imagined.
For most of the last decades of the 20th century, America girded its loins to defeat world communism, at the time led by the Soviets and the Chinese. We lived in fear of nuclear holocaust. We feared Soviet domination. Once our partners in thwarting Nazi domination of the West, the Soviets had replaced the Nazis as our enemies. Their war machine was even deadlier. It could bring down on the globe eternal night. We expended up to 9 percent of our gross domestic product annually to protect ourselves. We devised policies to neutralize Soviet aggression. Finally, when President Ronald Reagan faced down the Soviets with a vast arms buildup and a resolute, albeit flexible, foreign policy, his liberal critics warned that we faced nuclear world war.
Of a sudden, the Soviet Union collapsed. And what was the liberals' response? Well, it was one of history's surprises. The liberals announced that the Soviet Union had been a paper tiger all along. It had been destined to collapse from day one. All our military appropriations were a waste of money. Oh, yes, and one other surprising detail: It was not Ronald Reagan's vigilance and resolve that ended the Cold War, but Mikhail Gorbachev's good sense -- though practically every one of his policies and policy pronouncements was a failure. In, say, 1985, if you had asked me what the national response in America would be at the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union by the end of the decade, I would have predicted national jubilation. I would have predicted that liberals (many of whom, certainly up through the Johnson administration, were vigilant opponents of communism) would join with conservatives in a general feeling of good will. Both could take credit for their successful defense of democracy against tyranny. Instead, the liberals told us that our efforts against the Soviets were a waste.