IMAGES OF 1988

THE YEAR OF THE PEACEMAKERS

Many of 1988’s signposts pointed to a moderation of the old muscular ethic

December 19 1988
IMAGES OF 1988

THE YEAR OF THE PEACEMAKERS

Many of 1988’s signposts pointed to a moderation of the old muscular ethic

December 19 1988

THE YEAR OF THE PEACEMAKERS

IMAGES OF 1988

Many of 1988’s signposts pointed to a moderation of the old muscular ethic

An army wins the world's premier peace prize. Military engineers cut modern missiles into scrap. Apostles of the economics of self-interest adopt the politics of caring. Soviet oligarchs preach power to the people. Many of those images of 1988 carry the message that long-established patterns in personal attitudes and public affairs may be breaking up. Heading out of the Me First 1980s, the year’s signposts point to a moderation of the muscular ethic that often guided manners between nations, among people and in the marketplace during the decade. Those portents suggest a more sociable passage toward the 21st century. Excessive muscle—in military, economic or social behavior, not to mention Olympic sports—may be going out of style.

Against the signs of change, many of the perennial racial, religious and political hostilities left bloody stains on the year’s image—in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, in Africa,

Sri Lanka and South Korea. Both the bitter fight over free trade in Canada and the pugnacious U.S. election campaign were far from being mannerly as conservatives renewed their grip on power in both countries. But the year’s heroes were the peacemakers. Decisions to cease fire, or mediated agreements for peace, came to four battle zones— on the front between Iran and Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Nicaragua and in southwest Africa.

The pivotal role played by the United Nations in most of those peacemaking efforts, and in others, refurbished the world body’s tat-

tered reputation as an agent for amity among its members. That turnabout received crowning recognition when the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo presented its 1988 award to the army of 10,000 from 35 nations—including about 1,300 from Canada—who wear the blue berets of UN peacekeepers on the world’s truce lines.

Some people had expected that the 1988 peace prize might well go jointly to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leaders of the superpower nations that have been better known for 40 years for building up overkill in nuclear weaponry and for military interventions within and beyond their claimed spheres of influence. The basis of that expectation was the implementation—with power hacksaws and welding torches—of the first agreement between the superpowers to dismantle nuclear weapons rather than simply limiting additions to the arsenal.

Gorbachev, who pressed his peace initiatives abroad and reforms at home in a series of diplomatic and political initiatives, was the year’s major news-maker. While the United States spent most of 1988 electing a government to be installed on Jan. 20, Gorbachev overcame domestic political opposition and launched the Soviet Union on a reformist path that shook the nation, its allies and its adversaries. Throughout the year—notably at the midyear 19th Soviet Communist party congress and in a renovation of his government at a late-September Central Committee meeting—Gorbachev gave substance to his words for openness and restructuring, glasnost and perestroika.

Those watchwords became the slogans of dissent and change not only within the Soviet Union, but beyond. Gorbachev’s espousal of people power and economic decentralization activated demands for regional sovereignty and self-government from Soviet Armenia to the Baltic republics. His revolution encouraged restive nationalists in the satellite nations of Eastern Europe. As a result, the Soviet reformer faced the new year trying both to maintain the impetus for change and to contain the upheavals that it generated. In that dilemma is the danger of backlash which, in turn, could set back the reform movement—and stall the momentum toward calling off the Cold War.

MACLEAN’S PHOTO OF THE YEAR

The election debate on the Free Trade Agreement, Oct. 25

“I happen to believe you have sold us out.”

Liberal Leader John Turner

“I believe that in my own modest way I am nation-building.”

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

For his part, president-elect George Bush echoed Reagan’s more guarded attitude toward disarmament, at least during the U.S. election campaign. But in an October peace-through-strength speech at Fulton, Mo.—the place where Winston Churchill in 1946 decried the “iron curtain” dividing Europe—Bush did allow that Gorbachev’s initiative “shows promise.” And in a campaign that stressed his conservative attachments to Reaganism, Bush also repeatedly made the point that his aim is to bring about “a kinder, gentler America.”

But perhaps the most telling departure from the astringent conservatism that has dominated Western politics in the 1980s came from Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady, whose government will complete 10 years in office in May, appealed to the party’s annual conference in October to accept the importance of caring and compassion. She called for greater efforts to protect the environment, a point repeated in a later meeting with Reagan and Bush.

The signs of a greening of attitudes on both sides of the Iron Curtain found echoes elsewhere. Among those were the electoral triumph of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to win a national election in a Moslem society, and Chile’s popular vote against extending the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Still, even the most promising images of 1988 are no guarantee of a user-friendly future. British cosmologist Stephen Hawking, whose A Brief History of Time was a best-selling book for much of the year, takes a longer view. “The most immediate threat is from nuclear weapons,” says Hawking. “We will need luck to get through the next 200 years. But if we do, it must be because we are conducting our affairs in a more sensible way.”