The new World Military History Blog has a concise history of the US Berlin Brigade in the few years after the fall of the wall and before the unit was de-activated in 1994. It is something I was not aware of, but an interesting case study on how units and commanders react to losing a mission when policy has not caught up to the facts on the ground. In the 2nd Armored Cavalry, we continued to patrol the border for approximately eight months after the fall of the wall. We stopped active patrolling only about three months before German reunification on 3 October 1990. In some sense, we were lucky to get sent to Desert Shield/Storm as it forced us to focus on a new mission and not wallow around looking for another mission for three or four years.
As a military historian, I marvel at how a narrative forms after the fact. We search for a story that will help us make sense of what just happened. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union, and the whole international order in the span of a few months is something I’ll never forget. Don’t let anyone tell you they expected it or prepared for it or even had a idea of what to do afterwards. The major story of how the Cold War ended has yet to be told fully. I think a lot of the reason for this is that so many insiders are still alive and active. It is just to painful for many to acknowledge how off kilter their predictions of the future were. I try to remember that when I hear people telling me what is going to happen in the future. Or they will tell you confidently how something can never happen, because of a world view that is obvious to any right-thinking person.
I think Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shifts apply to international relations as well.