WASHINGTON. — Washington--I confess, I have been looking for a moment of opportunity. The establishment of the new mega-state of Ukraine offers it. Now is the time to declare an annual celebration to commemorate the victory in the Cold War. All we have to figure out is a date, a name and a ritual. So let's have a contest.
The Cold War lasted almost half a century. Its perpetrator, the Soviet Union, is now history, not only disgraced, but disbanded and diminished. (Without Ukraine's 50 million people, there can't be a threatening world-class power over there. Even a renascent Russia would have only about 60 percent of the U.S. population.)
The victory in the Cold War is a testament to democracy. It's often said, typically by conservative gloom-pots, that free people lack discipline. That has now been shown to be untrue. The Cold War revealed that free peoples, represented by freely elected governments of every political stripe, would stay a long course to save themselves from potential despotism. They would tax themselves and draft their children in order to destroy an evil empire. In doing that, the current generation has lifted a massive mortgage off the backs of succeeding generations.
It's a particularly American victory. America led the coalition; American taxpayers paid the heaviest share of the bill.
As the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, it was said to be important that America not officially gloat about it. Mikhail Gorbachev might lose face among the hard-liners, and that would make reform more difficult.
But now, with Ukraine and Russia separately independent, there is no nation remaining whose face needs saving. And so we ought to have an annual holiday. In fact, we ought to invite our allies and our former adversaries to join us in such an end-of-the-Cold War celebration. The world could use a shared party.
Annual festivals remind us of what we hold dear, and to what we aspire. This celebration of the near-global victory of democracy could help us renew our commitment to our cause. Does it make sense to spend trillions to win a Cold War and then risk letting some of the fruits of victory spoil because we won't send a couple of billions to ex-Soviets facing a winter of hunger? When those ex-Soviets still have nukes and nuclear experts who may get desperate in a world that seeks their hardware and their expertise?
A holiday could remind us that Americans love a great cause, that there is none greater than liberty, and (if further public motivation is needed in an election year) that great causes make great politics. So far the U.S. government has done better at preventing despotism than promoting democracy.
The way to establish the holiday for democracy's triumph is by a grass-roots contest. Readers are herewith notified of their grass-roots contestant-eligibility status.
''End-of-the-Cold War'' is not a good name for a holiday; neither is ''Now-that-Ukraine-is-independent.'' So, first task for contestants: Come up with a name. It must be short. Most holidays are one-worders, excluding ''Day''; some have two words (''New Year's'' and ''April Fool's''). The maximum is four (''Martin Luther King Jr.'').
Second task: On what date shall it be celebrated? Why?
Third task: How should it be celebrated? (We eat turkey for Thanksgiving, set off fireworks on July Fourth. . . .)
Brevity is encouraged; no entry may contain more than 650 words, the length of this newspaper column. The winning entry, or entries, will be published, in whole or in part, in this space. As Mickey Spillane once titled, ''I, the Jury.'' Further, I reserve the right not to pick any winner at all. (One contest brought sensationally good results; another pulled in junk.)
Entries can be submitted either to this columnist, c/o this newspaper, or to this columnist, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Park Ave., New York, NY 10166.
Ben Wattenberg, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is author of ''The First Universal Nation.''