" 'Imagine if a president had stood before the first graduating class of this academy five decades ago and told the Cadet Wing that by the end of the 20th century, the Soviet Union would be no more, communism would stand discredited and the vast majority of the world's nations would be democracies,' Bush urged graduates at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs nearly two weeks ago."-quoted in today's Washington Post.
If Dwight Eisenhower had stood up in front of the Air Force's most recent graduates in 1958 and told them that the Soviet Union would not exist in 50 years, one of two things would have happened. Khrushchev would have taken this statement by the leader of the Allied forces in World War II to be a declaration of war and possibly started hurling atomic bombs aross the ocean, or the Air Force's own generals would have thought that they were suddenly going to start dropping atomic bombs on Russia in a couple hours. There are probably other possibilities, but those are the two that spring to mind.
This was also the year that Martin Luther King, Jr., published his first book and the NAACP began sitting in at lunch counters, so it's possible that Eisenhower may have had, you know, the present on his mind, and not what may or may happen around the Berlin Wall (which hadn't been built yet) in 1989. 1989 is, of course, 31 years after 1958, and the nuclear escalation may have been even swifter had Eisenhower used that number. So while I can imagine what would have happened had Eisenhower said it, I'm glad he didn't, because the result is the stuff of nightmares.