I’m sorry I wasn’t and I don’t quite know what happened. I don’t say this to be flippant in the least. I knew that big things were happening, but unlike many others’ experiences, it all seemed very gradual to me and finally anti-climactic. It seemed like something that was gradually sliding into place that had been sliding into place for a long time but was also terribly fragile.
I credit that feeling to two things. One was that I was working in a Manhattan law firm, and completely buried in learning international tax. The other was that I had spent the previous several years putting in large amounts of time with Human Rights Watch, both its Americas division and its Helsinki division. I had done many missions in Yugoslavia, watching the Soviet empire fall apart while watching Yugoslavia fall apart very much upclose, at the village level, and watching it lead to war, affected how I saw the Soviet Union. I had a huge anxiety that war would break out in the Warsaw Pact; or that it would be a repeat of 1968 – especially a fear of a repeat of the end of Prague Spring, that fear more than anything – or something that I didn’t know, but bad, would happen.
I was also perhaps lulled into a sense of passivity that was somewhat Bush senior’s approach – looking backwards, it had important advantages by treating it as a matter of course – but for me, at least, it felt a little like events were unfolding, not so much as Frank Fukuyama would later say, but more as people like Adam Michnik and the Eastern Europeans intellectuals I knew said it would, if only the US and Western Europe would stay the course. In Yugoslavia, it was a very [...]