The Right Coast

December 31, 2005
A must read, and I really mean it
By Tom Smith

A marvelous essay from Heritage about how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. (HT to VC.)

The basic principles that guided President Reagan's foreign policy -- peace through strength, "trust but verify," tyranny is evil, and evil must not be allowed to triumph -- proved more effective, concludes political scientist Andrew Busch, than the rationalizations and moral equivocation offered by many academics and liberal policymakers during the 1980s.28 Margaret Thatcher has recounted a private conversation with President Reagan in 1983 in which he expressed his conviction that if the United States built up its armed forces as far as necessary, the Soviets would have to change their attitude because "they knew they could not keep up the pace."29

There were many important actors -- and actions -- in the 1980s that led to the collapse of communism first in Eastern and Central Europe and then in the Soviet Union, including the leadership of Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, the rise of Solidarity and the impact of the Velvet Revolution, valiant dissidents in the Soviet Union and elsewhere behind the Iron Curtain, but the United States led by President Ronald Reagan was the central player. And a turning point in the decade was President Reagan's eloquent and prescient address to the British Parliament in June 1982, a carefully designed rhetorical volley in a strategy calculated to take full advantage of fundamental Soviet weaknesses and bring an end to the Cold War on terms favorable to the forces of freedom.

Historical lessons don't get any bigger than this. Those of you too young to remember this have to understand, the consensus of virtually all of the smart people, the experts, the academics, the tenured professors, the whole lot, was that Reagan was a simpleton, a dangerous crackpot, a B movie actor and a joke. And yet, he was right, and they were wrong. I count it as one of the things I am most proud of that I quit my tenure track job at politically correct UC Davis to go work in the Reagan White House. He saw what the professors, in all their wisdom and profound learning, did not. Not only did he see one of the gigantic truths of the 20th century, both historical and moral, that freedom not only could but should triumph, but he acted upon it. And he acted upon it against every bit of resistance his enemies could muster, not only those in the USSR, Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere, but many in Congress and the press as well. They would have sent Casper Weinberger, as responsible as anyone but Reagan for winning the Cold War, to jail, had not Bush pardoned him. William Casey had to die to get out of his troubles. If the US had orders of nobility, they should all have gotten Dukedoms.

Instead, of course, the academics are busy constructing revisionist histories of how the USSR would have collasped anyway, and/or it's bad that it did collaspe, really, or whatever. How odd that Reagan could defeat perhaps the most powerful and evil (as measured by number of victims) empire in human history, and yet not win the battle for favorable treatment by historians and the intelligensia. But then, this is not really so mysterious. A dock worker in Poland has much more to be grateful for in freedom than a tenured professor at Harvard, especially one whose whole discipline has been discredited.