Lately some on the left have been working hard at revising downward Ronald Reagan’s legacy of ending the Cold War and creating the opportunity, since lost, for the first period of extended peace since WW II. The Soviet Union, Kathy says, was never a threat at all. In fact, the U.S. was the antagonist all the while.
Ronald Reagan did not “win” the Cold War. If any one person can be credited with bringing the Cold War to an end, that person was Mikhail Gorbachev.
It’s true that the Soviet Union fell in large part because it was bankrupted by 40 years of the most unprecedented arms buildup in human history, but that’s nothing the United States should take pride in…
During the lead-in to Myth Busters, my kids’ favorite TV show, Adam Savage jokes that he rejects our reality and substitutes his own. This would be a nice bit of juxtaposition, were it possible for mere mortals. Yet it’s both possible and fashionable, in certain circles, to reject the reality of the past and substitute one’s own neo-liberal anti-Americanism in its place.
More from Kathy:
The entire Cold War was premised on two false beliefs: one, that the Soviet Union had a military arsenal equal or superior to our own, so that we always had to “catch up”; and two, that the Soviet government had global expansionist ambitions, and was willing to launch a first strike on the United States to achieve those ambitions. In fact, the Soviets were convinced that the U.S. government was planning to launch a first strike on them.
Referring to my admittedly shaky memory of history lessons long since learned, it seems to me that the Soviet Union overran, occupied, and ruled all of Eastern Europe for 4 decades after WW II. The Soviets also agitated for and funded communist takeovers around the world, notably in Southeast Asia, the site of two wars against communist expansion. The Soviets also helped fund and supply the Chinese communists in their fight against that country’s Nationalist government and worked closely with Mao for number of years after his victory.
It’s possible that the Soviet Union believed that the United States might preemptively strike out with it’s nuclear arsenal. Possible, barely, but not rational. Then again, Stalin, a man directly responsible for the murder and torture of hundreds of thousands of his own people, was hardly sane. His megalomaniacal paranoia probably fueled the Cold War more than any other single factor. The Soviet Union was formed in his image, according to his 5-year-plans, to be a democracy killing machine.
Even so it’s quite likely that most Soviet leaders understood that their country was in no danger of being attacked by the United States. This had to become painfully obvious during the Vietnam era in which the U.S. was unable to pacify a tiny, poverty-stricken nation despite massive troop and equipment expenditures. Invading the Soviet Union was impossible, nuclear war unthinkable save in response. And the Soviets surely knew that. Claiming otherwise is an attempt to subvert reality.
Yet minimizing Reagan’s accomplishment is essential if the left is to discredit current efforts to confront Islamic terrorism. It’s therefore both a blessing and a curse when Barack Obama says things like this:
…the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons, and Iran doesn’t have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn’t we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies?
The Soviet Union was a grave threat to the freedom of this nation as well as many others. Those countries like Great Britain often had an even greater understanding and fear of the Soviets’ intentions. Reagan’s push to break the Soviets’ economy was the right approach at the right time, as the results demonstrate. Revisionist history should not try to alter that fact.
Neither should the lesson be lost on the left, as unpleasant as it may be to accept. When dealing with enemies whose ideology demands the conquest of free people it is vitally important that we understand that they cannot be reasoned with on our terms. Individual rights, economic opportunity, and social freedom mean nothing to Islamic terrorists, just as they meant nothing to the Soviet leadership who had already acquired those things for themselves. From what position are we then to negotiate with the likes of Iran? The only chip in our hands is to absent ourselves from their region of the world, something that would be a disaster for Israel and the world energy market.
Very few Americans are interested in pursuing war for war’s sake, whether conservative or liberal. If an opportunity exists to establish a kind of peace with Iran we should investigate it. But if the cost of such an agreement is the surrender of Israel, the one fully functioning nation in the Middle East, to the mullahs in Tehran then it’s an unacceptable trade.
Every U.S. president from Truman to Bush 43, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, understood that America’s military strength helped to keep the peace more than it encouraged war. Fantasies about disarming so that terrorists and the nations, like Iran, that sponsor them will feel secure enough to lay down their arms are just that – fantasies.