My whole childhood was built on the notion the Soviets were the real threat." Like John Driscoll, I, too, am a baby-boomer.
Born on October 10, 1952, the Cold War shaped my childhood and spanned most of my adult life, as the front-page headlines from the New York Times on that day illustrate: "South Korean Unit, Bayoneting Reds, Regains Key Peak"; "Work Completed on U. Buildings"; "Stevenson Taunts Rival for Backing Mc Carthy, Dirksen"; and "U. to Give France $525,000,000 in Aid and Hints at More.
Political Scientist Louis Hartz once hypothesized that Americans were so ideologically straight-jacketed that a philosophy that did not espouse individualism, equality of opportunity, and freedom would be seen as alien.
Alexis de Tocqueville held a similar view, writing in Democracy in America (1835): "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." In 1848, Lewis Cass, the Democratic nominee for president, told a Tammany Hall audience that he was "opposed to all the isms of the day. communism and socialism, and Mormonism; to polygamy and concubinage, and to all the humbugs that are now rising among us." As the decades passed and with no end of the Cold War in sight, communism became the antithesis to the American creed. Communism violently opposes democracy and the democratic way of life." These views were shared by the vast majority of Americans.
Remembering the pro-Humphrey views of the Soviet ambassador, the KGB never told him about the letter.
Days later an "official" communique from the Soviet embassy offered Moscow's best wishes to the president-elect.
" Like so many of my generation, I accepted the Cold War as a fact of life.
But the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the cascade of events that resulted in the demise of the Soviet Union two years later caught nearly everyone unawares.
That drastic step was electing Richard Nixon president.
While Kalugin thought Nixon "unpredictable," he also believed that Nixon's long-time anti-communism might be the needed catalyst "to improve relations between our countries, for no one would ever dare accuse Nixon of being soft on communism." Cloaked with a veil of secrecy, Kalugin and his KGB colleagues spun a web of intrigue.