George Smiley finally gets his man at the end of John le Carré’s Karla trilogy, but is far from jubilant as the Soviet spymaster defects from East to West Berlin. Reminded by a colleague that he has won his cold war battle, Smiley replies: “Did I? Yes. Yes, well, I suppose I did.”
Smiley’s world-weariness was notable by its absence when the west finally claimed victory in the cold war 30 years ago this week. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of oppression. Its demolition was a euphoric moment.
But everything was black and white back then. Freedom had triumphed over tyranny. Washington had defeated Moscow. The market would extend into parts of the world where it had been off limits. The power of a united Germany would be diluted by a new pan-European currency. Victory for a certain set of American-inspired principles meant ideological conflict was at an end. The demolition of the Berlin Wall marked not just the end of history, but the end of geography and the end of politics as well.
That was the theory. But three decades on, Le Carré’s caution appears to be warranted. Link