Yesterday the West celebrated one of its greatest triumphs. After 44 years of oppression, the Iron Curtain dissolved twenty years ago. The events in Berlin and throughout Eastern Europe in 1989 did not occur simply because an East German bureaucrat misspoke. No, they were the result of the strong moral position that the United States took beginning in the Truman Administration and carrying on through the early days of President Bush the First.
John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were the most colorful of the Cold Warriors. Their respective visits to Berlin in 1963 and 1987 are important mile markers of a long and brutal Cold War. Another great American effort must also be remembered. President Truman oversaw the most dramatic effort to preserve the freedom of West Berlin when he supplied the city with food and all other necessary supplies during the Berlin Blockade by the Soviets in 1948 and 1949. An entire city was kept alive by airlifting in every necessary supply to sustain life.
During the Berlin Airlift alone 71 American and British airmen lost their lives. It took courage to stand up to the Soviet bullies in the 1940s and it took commitment and vision to continue that stand for over four decades.
Americans, and other westerners whose nations supported our policy of containing communism to its 1945 borders in Europe, have much to be proud of. Yes that day in Berlin twenty years ago was a long day coming and it was no accident. It was one of the primary goals of U.S. foreign policy for almost half a century. Not only were German families split in two, but all of Eastern Europe suffered for two generations under the grip of Soviet Communism. Coming after two generations of war in the first half of the twentieth century, Eastern Europeans paid a heavy price for politics gone awry between 1914 and 1989.
All of this amounts to more than just historic facts. American efforts to contain communism in Europe represent the best of our country. In history nothing is inevitable. There are many possible outcomes and the future is impossible to predict.
Below you can see my friend Mirja Riester, who grew up near the intra-German border in West Germany, discuss the fall of the Berlin Wall: