Twenty years ago today, I sat in front of the TV with my dad, watching the Berlin Wall fall. It was one of the defining moments of my youth. He had served in the U.S. Army in West Germany in the early ’70s and had walked along the wall, seeing first hand the division it represented. That night, we sat watching the events unfold, and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks. Seeing my father’s reaction more than anything else impressed on me the enormity of the changes unfolding in Eastern Europe. I hope we never forget that we defeated a real enemy in that war, not just a philosophical paper tiger.
It took the courage and insight of an entire generation to defeat that evil. While the war may not have been as obvious, these heroic men and women defeated an evil just as nefarious as the Naziism defeated a generation earlier.
It is a tribute to Reagan’s moral and strategic determination, as it was to everyone else who played their part in bringing down the Wall, that they could see through the sophistries of Soviet propagandists, their Western fellow travelers, and the legions of moral equivocators and diplomatic finessers and simply look at the Wall.
My children likely will not understand. It will be just so much ancient history—like Vietnam, WWII, the British Empire, Rome and the Pharaohs. Already the memory is fading. But, in case anyone needs reminding, communism is not merely an alternative political lifestyle, it is evil.
Considering the enormity of what it commemorates, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That’s a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.
The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin’s victims is 40 million. Pol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia’s Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.
Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.
Not by coincidence, yesterday’s dedication took place on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Back then, the smart set (and some of his own advisers) said he was a fool for seeking to bring the communist nightmare to an end. Inasmuch as he led the free world in doing so, the memorial is also, inescapably, a tribute to him.
— On the dedication of the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Wall Street journal – June 13, 2007.