Kids, our relations with Europe have never been worse. And rarely much better, frankly. To remind us of that, Peggy Noonan remembers the speech President Reagan gave at Normandy, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day:
But it was the subtext of the speech that was most important, that contained the speech’s true purpose. The subtext was a message aimed at the leaders of the West and the people of Europe. It was: Fellow NATO members, you must remember that just as our fathers beat back the totalitarian Nazis, we now must beat back the totalitarian Soviets–and we can do it, we can triumph if we hold fast, hold firm and stand together just as our fathers did 40 years ago.
That message was important: In those days NATO seemed on the verge of breaking up over disagreements on how and even whether to resist the Soviet Union. Europe roiled with anti-American peace marches. The Pointe du Hoc speech was not a commemorative event but a speech intended to exhort, persuade, and move history.
It is difficult to remember that just five short years after that speech, just six years after the Pershing II missile almost toppled the German government, that the Berlin Wall came unexpectedly down and we won the Cold War.