Peace Begins to Break Out,
During the 1980s, the reaction to the rise of the hawks was widespread and stormy. Both the peace movement and ever-widening circles of the public believed that, with nuclear weapons enthusiasts controlling major governments and talking glibly of nuclear war, a nuclear conflagration was becoming more likely. In response, millions of people around the world mobilized against the policies of their rulers. Peace and disarmament groups burgeoned into mass movements of unprecedented size and intensity. Major cities were swept by vast nuclear disarmament marches and rallies—in many cases, the largest political demonstrations in their history. Furthermore, powerful social institutions threw their weight behind the antinuclear campaigns. Ultimately, these forces proved irresistible, and many of the same government officials who entered office roaring like lions began bleating like lambs.
Some of the would-be lions governed the United States, where the Reagan administration took office in January 1981. Appointed Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger told his first news conference that “a strong confident America” was now ready to “fight for its freedom.” As Weinberger had no foreign or military policy experience, he leaned heavily for advice and expertise upon his new Assistant Secretary, Richard Perle. Smart and relentless, Perle was a staunch opponent of nuclear arms control and advocate of a nuclear buildup. For Secretary of State, Reagan chose General Alexander Haig, a zealous proponent of U.S. military power. Nancy Reagan recalled that “once, talking about Cuba in a meeting of the National Security Council, he turned to Ronnie and said, 'You just give me the word and I'll turn that f—island into a parking lot.'” She concluded: “If Ronnie had given him the green light, Haig would have bombed everybody and everything.”