Some 60 million people perished in World War II. Before the embers of that terrible conflagration could cool, a new conflict loomed. Joseph Stalin’s Russia was imposing a cruel dictatorship on the conquered peoples of Eastern Europe and threatening Western Europe by subversion and force of arms. By 1949, the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons in its arsenal. In the event of a clash between the superpowers, many millions more would die.
The United States and its allies began to check Soviet expansionism by following George Kennan’s prescription for containment: The “application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” One such shifting political point involved student politics. Here in the United States, student politics had seldom been important. But in some of the embattled countries of Europe, very different traditions prevailed, and student politics were at the center of events.
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