For Americans of the Greatest Generation that fought World War II and of the Silent Generation that came of age in the 1950s, the great moral and ideological cause was the Cold War.
It gave purpose and clarity to our politics and foreign policy, and our lives.
From the fall of Berlin in 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, that Cold War was waged by two generations, and with its end Americans faced a fundamental question:
If the historic struggle between communism and freedom is over, if the Soviet Empire and Soviet Union no longer exist, if the Russians wish to befriend us and the Maoists have taken the capitalist road, what is our new mission in the world? What do we do now?
The debate was suspended when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. George H.W. Bush assembled a mighty coalition and won a war that required but 100 hours of ground combat.
We had found our mission.
The United States was the last superpower and a triumphant Bush declared that we would build the “New World Order.” Neoconservatives rhapsodized over America’s “unipolar moment” and coming “global hegemony.”
But Americans were unpersuaded and uninspired. They rejected the victor of Desert Storm — for Bill Clinton. By Y2K, the Republican Party was backing another Bush who was promising a “more humble” America.
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