Excerpt: 'Your Government Failed You'

For much of the following twenty years, I worked on the Cold War, which, despite its seeming unimportance now, was a struggle far greater than what we face today. Many years after that struggle was over, on the day Ronald Reagan died, I was driving into Berlin on the autobahn. When I heard on the radio that he had passed, I changed my destination from the hotel to the Brandenburger Tor, where Reagan had famously said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." (A few years after that speech, the young people of Berlin tore it down—with their hands.) Getting there just before midnight, I saw young couples walking together, apparently oblivious that a few years before this had been no-man's land, where once American and Soviet tanks had pointed their cannon at one another, where East Germans had been gunned down running for freedom. Ronald Reagan and eight other American presidents, supported by tens of millions of American citizens, had prevailed. Our conduct of the Cold War was certainly imperfect and the Soviets may have lost that struggle more than we won it. Nonetheless, the U.S. government did both prevent nuclear war and contribute to the collapse of the opposing Communist alliance. Doing so was complicated, expensive, and challenging. It required a sustained, multifaceted, and coordinated effort, equal in scale to what government did in World War II. You can see the results today, not only there in Berlin on Unter den Linden, but also on every street in America. Nuclear missiles did not fall. Communism did not take away our freedoms. The American government had worked. In the post–Cold War world, my government career gave me additional windows onto instances of government succeeding. George H. W. Bush created an improbable diplomatic and military coalition of more than sixty nations that liberated Kuwait and reestablished an international security system. When Bill Clinton was in office, the U.S. government–created internet burst forth, creating cyberspace and forever changing the nature of society. His Vice President, Al Gore, sliced through bureaucracies, "reinventing government" and bringing better service with less cost and fewer government employees.

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