Growing up, it was hard for me to imagine that World War II could have turned out differently. After all, America doesn't lose wars, I was assured. (At least not unless politicians screw it up -- the same story Germans told themselves after WWI.) With America's great natural resources, and with her factories protected by both vast oceans and (in many cases) hundreds of miles of land, victory for the Allies was just a matter of time. Didn't people of the day understand this?
School tended to reinforce this idea. The North was destined to win the War Between the States because of their greater industrial output. America had a Manifest Destiny to break away from the British Empire and form a vast republic "from sea to shining sea". It really couldn't have happened any other way.
By now, though, most college students were not even born when the Soviet Union was dissolved. For them, the peaceful end of the Cold War was also inevitable. The thick gloom of that period, when everyone assumed that the Cold War would either stretch on for centuries or end in a full-scale nuclear exchange, is unimaginable to them. I remember it well, though; this time, I know very well that the ending could have been much, much worse.
With that in mind, read this story about one of the men who played an important role in making sure the Cold War had a happy ending for Russians and Americans alike.