Sunday, November 07, 2004

Ronald Reagan Did not Win the Cold War, at Least Not Single Handedly

Flush with victory, I noticed more editorials in today's newspaper about Reagan winning the cold war. With this in mind I submit the following:

While his most ardent supporters are clamoring to give President Reagan full credit for ending the cold war I would note, humbly, they do a disservice both to their cherished hero and millions of others who fought for decades to bring about an end to the threat of communist aggression.

In bestowing sole credit on Reagan for ending the cold war we do a disservice to President Truman who ordered the Berlin Airlift during his confrontation with the Soviets. We also ignore Truman’s and Eisenhower's stand against communism in Korea, as well as the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American service men and women who served in that conflict. Kennedy stood firmly against the Soviets over missiles in Cuba. Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam, a painful memory for many in our nation, was none-the-less a stand against communist aggression. Nixon had the foresight and courage to establish relations with China creating a powerful eastern front against the Soviets in the cold war. President Carter imposed stiff economic sanctions against the Soviets while undertaking one of the largest defense buildups in peace-time US history. We also forget the legacy of George Bush Sr. who presided over the Soviet Union's final demise.

President Reagan's supportesr also detract from the courage of the Hungarian people who rose up against the Soviets in 1956 and threatened to remove their nation from the Warsaw pact; an action undertaken at enormous risk and at terrible cost. Also forgotten is the courage of the Czechoslovakians whose attempt to create "socialism with a human face" was brutally crushed in August of 1968 ending "Prague Spring." What of the founding of the Solidarity trade union in Gdansk, Poland in 1980 and the uprising of the East German people who toppled the Berlin Wall in 1989, an event prompted in large measure by a visit just days earlier by Mikhail Gorbachev? These bold acts of defiance each took their toll on the Soviet Empire.

Finally, we must remember the legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev who introduced glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring"). It was Gorbachev who renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine and allowed those nations trapped behind the iron curtain to turn to democracy. Indeed, could President Reagan's dramatic results in arms reduction have been achieved so quickly without his partnership with Mikhail Gorbachev?

If President Reagan's place in cold war history seems large it is because he was standing on the shoulders of so many others who fought and seriously weakened the Soviet menace. As we rightfully honor President Reagan let us not forget everyone who fought and won the cold war. President Reagan, a man of self-deprecating humor and humble spirit, would have asked no less.


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