The “Real” Reagan Role in History

How can any serious person claim that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War?

Easily, and perhaps even persuasively, especially this weekend when participants and scholars are holding the first serious conference assessing the Reagan presidency.

The overall topic is hot, especially since Reagan’s presidency is regularly trashed by the media.

But economic and cultural truths of the 80's will be for others to debate.

Surely, the single most sensational story of Reagan was his initial combat with and eventual victory over communism. Ronald Reagan came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, dealing with soviet leaders.

“I didn’t change. They did.” Reagan said in June 1988, when he and Gorbachev stopped kissing babies in Red Square long enough for Dan Rather to ask if the president still deemed the place “the evil empire.”

No one, even the most fervent partisan, would contend that Reagan “won the Cold War” himself. As more objective scholars surely are stressing at Hofstra this weekend:

* U.S. opposition to communism dates back six decades.
* Harry Truman devised and first executed a successful containment strategy.
* Each president from then onwards vigorously implemented that strategy.
* Each Congress appropriated the funds needed for a firm NATO and Western defense.
* Our major Allies contributed consistently.
* Eastern European freedom fighters rose up in 1956, 1968, and 1981. and dissidents arose throughout the Soviet bloc all those years.
* The Soviet Union was bankrupt economically, spiritually, and politically by the time Gorbachev came to power, etc.

All this is true, and granted.

Yet, Reagan still deserves the top step on the Cold War winner’s stand, even though medals should be handed to many leaders of many countries over many years.

Reagan deserves this special salute since no other president (or Western leader) would have taken any of these four steps which made the ultimate difference.

First; more than any other president, Reagan vigorously de-legitimized communism and the Soviet regime.

While Secretary of State Cyrus Vance told, during the 1979 superpower summit, how President Carter and Brezhnev “dreamed the same dreams and had the same aspirations” for the world, Reagan began de-legitimizing the Soviet system during his very first press conference.

The new president rather offhandedly told how the Soviets would lie, cheat and steal to advance their cause. Though the rhetoric was often toned down later, Reagan’s views remained unaltered.

Obviously, the most memorable encapsulation of Reagan’s de-legitimization was when he tagged the U.S.S.R. with being “the source of evil in the modern world,” or “the evil empire.” That stuck, as it was right and it was powerful.

Second. Reagan launched the “Reagan Doctrine.” justifying aid to anti-communist fighters in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. He boosted the Carter aid to the Afghan rebels, especially giving them Stingers. This markedly changed Soviet tactics, upped the price of their invasion, and pained Gorbachev.

And he applied the Reagan Doctrine with great fanfare and far greater controversy, in Central America and the Caribbean. This happened via the U.S. operation in Grenada and aid to those fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan regime.

Third. Reagan alone initiated SDI. None of us, including even the exuberant Ronald Reagan, could have imagined SDI’s impact when he launched it 10 years ago last month. For even those hoping that this research program might lead to defense against Soviet power couldn’t conceive that it would help end Soviet power altogether.

Ex-Soviet leaders now admit as much.

Past Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh told a February 1993 conference that SDI was deemed “something very dangerous.”

Last. Reagan boosted American military might and national pride in a special way.

We “stood tall” once again.

That came in handy during Desert Storm, but became much more historic when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Sure, there were excesses—$900.00 toilet seats and all that—but in the larger sweep, the Reagan defense build-up was worth ever dime we paid out. It was the best investment for America to triumph and for freedom to flourish in the 21st century.

Source : @ 1993, Tribune Media Services
By: Ken Adelman

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