October 28, 1999 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

Cold War Heroes & Victims

Who won the Cold War? Fashionable opinion holds that the former Soviet Union simply imploded, or was magically transformed by Mikhail Gorbachev. But with the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall coming up this Nov. 9, it's time to set the record straight: The Cold War was won because some giants of our century were bold enough to confront the ideological virus called communism with a determination unknown to current generations.

"Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War," a new book by former White House speechwriter Joseph Shattan, profiles those who "shaped the West's response to the Soviet challenge and are principally responsible for America's victory." His heroes are:

  • President Harry Truman, who crafted the doctrine of "containment," approved the Marshall Plan that rebuilt war-ravaged Europe, and launched other initiatives that blocked Soviet advances after World War II.

  • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an early, outspoken and persistent opponent of Bolshevism, whose 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech created as big a stir in its day as Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech would four decades later.

  • Konrad Adenauer, who as West Germany's chancellor from 1949 until 1963 discarded traditional German ambivalence toward the West and aligned his nation unequivocally with the United States and its allies.

  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn, World War II hero, Soviet labor-camp survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author of "The Gulag Archipelago," who portrayed the Cold War for what it really was: a struggle between good and evil, freedom and tyranny.

  • Pope John Paul II, whose epochal pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 inspired his native people, especially Lech Walesa, to cast off their fear of communist authorities and form the resistance movement Solidarity.

  • Ronald Reagan, whose initiatives-the military buildup, the ideological and economic offensives against the Soviets, the proposed anti-missile system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative-finally brought down the "Evil Empire."

But we must also remember communism's victims. We cannot allow the crimes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro to fade into the background of history. That's why my friend and colleague Lee Edwards is leading a drive to establish a Victims of Communism Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

It is a great moral failing of our age that the extent of communism's atrocities remains dimly understood. We know that 6 million perished in the Nazi holocaust. Yet who knows that the Soviet Union murdered 62 million? Or that China's dictators have slaughtered an estimated 38 million? Or that the communist plague has exacted a death toll surpassing that of all the wars of the 20th century combined?

The United States, symbol of freedom to the world, needs a memorial to the victims of communism, a place to explain to current and future generations why America undertook what President Kennedy called the "long twilight struggle" against totalitarianism. Americans need to thank those who heeded the warning of Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Edwin Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute.

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Founder's Office

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