Reagan veneration in Eastern Europe

In the context of a rather snarky column on congressional junkets, we learn that the ex-Communist countries of eastern Europe are putting on big celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, something we didn’t really do in the United States:

Yes, we’re told that the codel [congressional delegation], led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), after a stop to mingle with the troops in Germany, was on hand Monday in Krakow, Poland, to kick off a week of celebrations across Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan. (The birthday was Feb. 6, but . . . it’s a big event.)

Krakow was home to Pope John Paul II for four decades. The events there celebrated the special relationship between Reagan and the pope in the fight against the Soviets.

The traveling party’s next stop was Budapest, where it arrived Tuesday to join the Hungarian parliament’s commemorative session for Reagan. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was on hand to speak.

A Reagan statue is to be unveiled Wednesday in Freedom Square, where the Soviets left a monument to remind the Hungarians that the Russians saved them from the Nazis. Reagan is staring down that monument, we’re told, looking through it to the U.S. Embassy. The Hungarians are putting on a gala dinner.

via European birthday bashes for Reagan – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jeremy

    I’m always surprised how much social conservatives love Ronald Reagan. When he was governor, California went to pro-choice after he signed a bill legalizing most abortions.

  • Jeremy

    I’m always surprised how much social conservatives love Ronald Reagan. When he was governor, California went to pro-choice after he signed a bill legalizing most abortions.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jeremy: Good point. Paleoconservatives (in my opinion, the “true” conservatives) like Peter Viereck excoriate Reagan for his obvious neoconservatism–which is really a form of liberal progressivism. Aside from his interventionist foreign policy, Reagan was a big spender and, instead of favoring the conservative impulse to limit the size and scope of government, he was was quite willing to employ our gargantuan bureaucratic institutions for his own purposes. The Department of Education is the most famous example, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (instead of ending the NHA as promised, he created a competing bureaucracy to serve “conservative” interests).

    Reagan had more in common with FDR than with Goldwater.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jeremy: Good point. Paleoconservatives (in my opinion, the “true” conservatives) like Peter Viereck excoriate Reagan for his obvious neoconservatism–which is really a form of liberal progressivism. Aside from his interventionist foreign policy, Reagan was a big spender and, instead of favoring the conservative impulse to limit the size and scope of government, he was was quite willing to employ our gargantuan bureaucratic institutions for his own purposes. The Department of Education is the most famous example, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (instead of ending the NHA as promised, he created a competing bureaucracy to serve “conservative” interests).

    Reagan had more in common with FDR than with Goldwater.

  • Cincinnatus

    And he also didn’t “win” the Cold War. Rather, he accelerated the Soviet Union’s inevitable disintegration.

    Don’t get me wrong: he was certainly one of our better presidents, particularly with respect to his charisma and his ability to “inspire” the American people. But I would take Calvin Coolidge over Reagan any day.

  • Cincinnatus

    And he also didn’t “win” the Cold War. Rather, he accelerated the Soviet Union’s inevitable disintegration.

    Don’t get me wrong: he was certainly one of our better presidents, particularly with respect to his charisma and his ability to “inspire” the American people. But I would take Calvin Coolidge over Reagan any day.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Cincinnatus @ 3,

    I’m curious; why exactly doesn’t that count as “winning” the cold war? Every nation is inevitably disintegrating, but taking an active and efficacious role in that disintegration is what makes the end of the cold war a past victory rather than a future observation. Your comment sounds to me like somebody saying “the plumber didn’t unclog my sink, he merely removed some pipes, cleaned out some gunk, then put them back together.”

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Cincinnatus @ 3,

    I’m curious; why exactly doesn’t that count as “winning” the cold war? Every nation is inevitably disintegrating, but taking an active and efficacious role in that disintegration is what makes the end of the cold war a past victory rather than a future observation. Your comment sounds to me like somebody saying “the plumber didn’t unclog my sink, he merely removed some pipes, cleaned out some gunk, then put them back together.”

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Ronald Reagan did win the Cold War. I know; I was there. The Soviet Union would be alive today, torturing people (like China and North Korea, whose disintegration is no more inevitable) were it not for the existence of Ronald Reagan.

    As for spending, Reagan had to deal with Tip O’Neal and the democratic legislature not to mention a leftist press who at the time had a monopoly on mass communication!

    Yes, he was not Goldwater. Goldwater didn’t accomplish anything, Reagan did much. Alas, effective politics requires compromise. At least when Reagan compromised he had something to show for it.

    Those who didn’t live through it, can’t appreciate how miraculous Reagan’s accomplishment was. Before he came into office the United States was facing a disintegration that had a greater claim to inevitability than that of the U.S.S.R.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Ronald Reagan did win the Cold War. I know; I was there. The Soviet Union would be alive today, torturing people (like China and North Korea, whose disintegration is no more inevitable) were it not for the existence of Ronald Reagan.

    As for spending, Reagan had to deal with Tip O’Neal and the democratic legislature not to mention a leftist press who at the time had a monopoly on mass communication!

    Yes, he was not Goldwater. Goldwater didn’t accomplish anything, Reagan did much. Alas, effective politics requires compromise. At least when Reagan compromised he had something to show for it.

    Those who didn’t live through it, can’t appreciate how miraculous Reagan’s accomplishment was. Before he came into office the United States was facing a disintegration that had a greater claim to inevitability than that of the U.S.S.R.

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt: …because Reagan didn’t actually do anything (other than explode our deficit in an inessential arms race)? The following analogy is more apt: “The plumber didn’t unclog my sink, he merely turned on the faucet and the clog washed away itself.” Sure, he technically did something that technically accelerated the unclogging of my drain–and I applaud him for that–but he didn’t actually engage in proactive, forceful action that actually defeated the clog.

    The Soviet Union had been decaying internally and irreversibly for a decade before Reagan even assumed the Presidency. It was only a matter of time, and we today often forget how uncertain was Russia’s control over its increasingly restless satellites in the ’70′s and 80′s. Furthermore, we had no reliable picture of the USSR’s disastrous finances until everything fell apart. Now we know. To be sure, no one knew exactly when it would happen, and no one expected it to happen so suddenly. Nor should we underestimate Reagan’s actual contributions to the USSR’s collapse. But then, the danger isn’t that we’re underestimating his contributions but vastly overestimating them. Be honest: do we really believe that a simple arms race, with no military action, etc., could have singularly defeated an entire empire if that empire had been at its full strength?

    Pastor Spomer: Your comment is absurd, Americanist, jingoist nonsense. The USSR would almost certainly not still exist regardless of Reagan’s involvement. As I said, the internal problems afflicting the USSR by 1989 were intolerable, ensuring its collapse–and would have caused its collapse regardless of what Reagan (and Thatcher and the Pope and the millions of revolutionaries across Eastern Europe).

    Compare to Rome: the Visigoths and their ilk didn’t really defeat Rome; they merely feasted upon the carcass of a city that had already effectively devoured itself from within, merely accelerating its disappearance.

  • Cincinnatus

    Matt: …because Reagan didn’t actually do anything (other than explode our deficit in an inessential arms race)? The following analogy is more apt: “The plumber didn’t unclog my sink, he merely turned on the faucet and the clog washed away itself.” Sure, he technically did something that technically accelerated the unclogging of my drain–and I applaud him for that–but he didn’t actually engage in proactive, forceful action that actually defeated the clog.

    The Soviet Union had been decaying internally and irreversibly for a decade before Reagan even assumed the Presidency. It was only a matter of time, and we today often forget how uncertain was Russia’s control over its increasingly restless satellites in the ’70′s and 80′s. Furthermore, we had no reliable picture of the USSR’s disastrous finances until everything fell apart. Now we know. To be sure, no one knew exactly when it would happen, and no one expected it to happen so suddenly. Nor should we underestimate Reagan’s actual contributions to the USSR’s collapse. But then, the danger isn’t that we’re underestimating his contributions but vastly overestimating them. Be honest: do we really believe that a simple arms race, with no military action, etc., could have singularly defeated an entire empire if that empire had been at its full strength?

    Pastor Spomer: Your comment is absurd, Americanist, jingoist nonsense. The USSR would almost certainly not still exist regardless of Reagan’s involvement. As I said, the internal problems afflicting the USSR by 1989 were intolerable, ensuring its collapse–and would have caused its collapse regardless of what Reagan (and Thatcher and the Pope and the millions of revolutionaries across Eastern Europe).

    Compare to Rome: the Visigoths and their ilk didn’t really defeat Rome; they merely feasted upon the carcass of a city that had already effectively devoured itself from within, merely accelerating its disappearance.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Alright, Cin. I was confused because your first post seemed to me to indicate you thought he did something rather than nothing (accelerating the downfall of one of the worlds two superpowers certainly strikes me as doing something rather than nothing). Can’t say I agree, but thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Alright, Cin. I was confused because your first post seemed to me to indicate you thought he did something rather than nothing (accelerating the downfall of one of the worlds two superpowers certainly strikes me as doing something rather than nothing). Can’t say I agree, but thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Geez, Louise

    In the mid-late 1970s it was nearly universally accepted among foreign policy bigwigs that we were just going to have to live with the Soviet Union (remember “detente”?). The Soviet Union seemed for much of that decade to be in ascendancy while the U.S. was in decline. Reagan was one of the few leaders who believed that the Soviets were weaker than they appeared and believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy. He (along with Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa and the many dissidents within the Soviet Union) deserves a great deal of credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union and political and economic freedom coming to Eastern Europe. Countries like Poland and Hungary get that which is why they honor Reagan’s memory.
    The myth of “inevitability” given historical hindsight is what is pure nonsense. Very few things are “inevitable”. All nations will ultimately crumble and fall, but when and how are not written in stone. Policy decisions and actions do have consequences.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Geez, Louise

    In the mid-late 1970s it was nearly universally accepted among foreign policy bigwigs that we were just going to have to live with the Soviet Union (remember “detente”?). The Soviet Union seemed for much of that decade to be in ascendancy while the U.S. was in decline. Reagan was one of the few leaders who believed that the Soviets were weaker than they appeared and believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy. He (along with Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa and the many dissidents within the Soviet Union) deserves a great deal of credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union and political and economic freedom coming to Eastern Europe. Countries like Poland and Hungary get that which is why they honor Reagan’s memory.
    The myth of “inevitability” given historical hindsight is what is pure nonsense. Very few things are “inevitable”. All nations will ultimately crumble and fall, but when and how are not written in stone. Policy decisions and actions do have consequences.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Dear Cincinnatus,
    “Your comment is absurd, Americanist, jingoist nonsense.”
    That is not an argument.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Dear Cincinnatus,
    “Your comment is absurd, Americanist, jingoist nonsense.”
    That is not an argument.

  • Cincinnatus

    Pastor Spomer@9: Indeed. A fine observation. Perhaps you care to read beyond the quoted words (and before the quoted words) for an argument, which I did, in fact, provide?

  • Cincinnatus

    Pastor Spomer@9: Indeed. A fine observation. Perhaps you care to read beyond the quoted words (and before the quoted words) for an argument, which I did, in fact, provide?

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, I might add, Spomer, that your original comment doesn’t constitute an argument but rather a series of unfounded assertions: “If not for Reagan, the USSR would still be torturing people!!!!1″ “You don’t understand how MIRACULOUS it was!!!1″ “Reagan accomplished things!!! [a statement, by the way, that I did not deny]”

    Yeah? Why or why not?

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, I might add, Spomer, that your original comment doesn’t constitute an argument but rather a series of unfounded assertions: “If not for Reagan, the USSR would still be torturing people!!!!1″ “You don’t understand how MIRACULOUS it was!!!1″ “Reagan accomplished things!!! [a statement, by the way, that I did not deny]”

    Yeah? Why or why not?

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Dear Cincinnatus,
    Thank you for responding to my post.
    First, regarding my proposition that it would still be involved in torture were it still in existence-

    Torture was an indispensable component to the Soviet enterprise (see Solzhenitsyn)
    Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would engaging in torture.

    Next the more contentious issue of whether or not it would still exist-
    The decrepitudes exhibited by the Soviet Union are shared by other extant dictatorships (such as the aforementioned China and North Korea, but also South American juntas such as Cuba), dictatorships which either adjust to the existential threats which they face, or by virtue of the dictatorial capacity to remain unresponsive to their populace, simply endure the difficulties.

    These other dictatorships prove that such nations, sadly, have great longevity.

    The USSR had at least the intellectual resources and ruthlessness as these other dictatorships which survived.

    In addition, the USSR had (and still has) an influential segment of the US population doing all within its power to help it succeed. From the New York Times, which still holds a torch for Walter Duranty, to the Universities.

    The actions of Ronald Reagan such as forward missile deployment, the reestablishment of a credible military threat, the initiation of STI, etc. which necessitated the regrettably large military expenditures, as well as his articulation of the moral illegitimacy of the socialist enterprise. Were all instrumental to the demise of the USSR.

    Therefore Reagan won the cold war.
    God bless,
    Pastor Spomer

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Dear Cincinnatus,
    Thank you for responding to my post.
    First, regarding my proposition that it would still be involved in torture were it still in existence-

    Torture was an indispensable component to the Soviet enterprise (see Solzhenitsyn)
    Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would engaging in torture.

    Next the more contentious issue of whether or not it would still exist-
    The decrepitudes exhibited by the Soviet Union are shared by other extant dictatorships (such as the aforementioned China and North Korea, but also South American juntas such as Cuba), dictatorships which either adjust to the existential threats which they face, or by virtue of the dictatorial capacity to remain unresponsive to their populace, simply endure the difficulties.

    These other dictatorships prove that such nations, sadly, have great longevity.

    The USSR had at least the intellectual resources and ruthlessness as these other dictatorships which survived.

    In addition, the USSR had (and still has) an influential segment of the US population doing all within its power to help it succeed. From the New York Times, which still holds a torch for Walter Duranty, to the Universities.

    The actions of Ronald Reagan such as forward missile deployment, the reestablishment of a credible military threat, the initiation of STI, etc. which necessitated the regrettably large military expenditures, as well as his articulation of the moral illegitimacy of the socialist enterprise. Were all instrumental to the demise of the USSR.

    Therefore Reagan won the cold war.
    God bless,
    Pastor Spomer

  • Jonathan

    @12 “Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would [be] engaging in torture.” Like the US, under Bush/Cheney.

  • Jonathan

    @12 “Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would [be] engaging in torture.” Like the US, under Bush/Cheney.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Pastor Phil Spomer @12

    Well said!

  • Steve Billingsley

    Pastor Phil Spomer @12

    Well said!

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Jonathan
    “@12 “Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would [be] engaging in torture.” Like the US, under Bush/Cheney.”
    To a degree, I’ll concede the point. However, look at who is being tortured in each case and why.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Phil Spomer

    Jonathan
    “@12 “Therefore, if the Soviet Union existed it would [be] engaging in torture.” Like the US, under Bush/Cheney.”
    To a degree, I’ll concede the point. However, look at who is being tortured in each case and why.

  • Cincinnatus

    Pastor Spomer,

    While I don’t intend to appropriate this thread for a discussion of foreign policy arcana, I must take issue with several of your assertions.

    First, torture is an essential component of totalitarian regimes, along with secret police and other staples of 20th century regimes. This point requires no additional enlargement, and it is obvious that, were the USSR still extant, it would still be torturing. I maintain, of course, that the USSR likely would not be extant.

    Second, your analogies to China are spurious. China no longer qualifies as a totalitarian regime, though it is certainly authoritarian. Furthermore, it has saved itself from economic oblivion by incorporated structurally capitalist reforms into its state and economic institutions. While I tend to believe this economic bubble will burst, China is in no immediate danger of economic collapse like the USSR was, as we know now, between 1970 and 1990. North Korea, on the other hand, is an apt analogy. Its economy and population in shambles, I warrant that North Korea would have crumbled decades ago if we didn’t support them. That’s right, folks, North Korea receives millions and millions of dollars in food and other economic aid from South Korea, China, and other nations that are probably the sole reason a nation called “North Korea” even exists in 2011. The reason North Korea is propped up is that neither China nor South Korea wish to deal with a basketcase on their borders (perhaps the lack the courage of West Germany). I don’t recall our economically propping up the USSR prior to Reagan. The longevity of dictatorships is on a case-by-case basis. I don’t know of any that have lasted longer than the USSR (~70 years), and it was on its way out after 30, in fact.

    Third, as to your cryptic reference to “influential segments of the US population doing all within its power to help it succeed,” I’m not sure what you mean. Are you referring to journalists and academics who found Stalinism to be fashionable and thus publicly proclaimed affection for it? A fat lot of good that did. I’m fairly certain that the actual instruments of American power–the CIA, the military, the State Department, Congress, the Presidency, etc.–were decisively opposed to the Soviet Union. Hence the Cold War. Implying that America’s intelligentsia still pines for the USSR is just silly. No academic will be caught dead calling himself a Stalinist or a Trotskyite any longer (and a few prominent academics who once called themselves so–when it was trendy–are now ashamed of these associations).

    Finally, it is a gross overstatement to claim, as you do, that Reagan “won” the Cold War. Sure, his budget-busting military expenditures helped–much like our earlier analogy of turning on the faucet to wash away a clog–but they certainly weren’t decisive or even terribly proactive. I’m fairly certain we didn’t invade Russia or actively aid the rebels through the Eastern empire. On that note, assigning the victory to Reagan seems both an extreme ignorance of history (the USSR’s economic collapse, we now know in hindsight, was inevitable) but also an insult to the millions in Poland, East Germany, the Baltic states, Russia itself, and elsewhere, who actually did the work of tearing down the Soviet edifice.

    Like I said, Reagan was one of our better Presidents, and he put an inspiring face on the end of the Cold War (and he also helped salvage the American economy, though he laid the foundation for some troubling economic problems later). But we tend to deify too quickly, I fear.

  • Cincinnatus

    Pastor Spomer,

    While I don’t intend to appropriate this thread for a discussion of foreign policy arcana, I must take issue with several of your assertions.

    First, torture is an essential component of totalitarian regimes, along with secret police and other staples of 20th century regimes. This point requires no additional enlargement, and it is obvious that, were the USSR still extant, it would still be torturing. I maintain, of course, that the USSR likely would not be extant.

    Second, your analogies to China are spurious. China no longer qualifies as a totalitarian regime, though it is certainly authoritarian. Furthermore, it has saved itself from economic oblivion by incorporated structurally capitalist reforms into its state and economic institutions. While I tend to believe this economic bubble will burst, China is in no immediate danger of economic collapse like the USSR was, as we know now, between 1970 and 1990. North Korea, on the other hand, is an apt analogy. Its economy and population in shambles, I warrant that North Korea would have crumbled decades ago if we didn’t support them. That’s right, folks, North Korea receives millions and millions of dollars in food and other economic aid from South Korea, China, and other nations that are probably the sole reason a nation called “North Korea” even exists in 2011. The reason North Korea is propped up is that neither China nor South Korea wish to deal with a basketcase on their borders (perhaps the lack the courage of West Germany). I don’t recall our economically propping up the USSR prior to Reagan. The longevity of dictatorships is on a case-by-case basis. I don’t know of any that have lasted longer than the USSR (~70 years), and it was on its way out after 30, in fact.

    Third, as to your cryptic reference to “influential segments of the US population doing all within its power to help it succeed,” I’m not sure what you mean. Are you referring to journalists and academics who found Stalinism to be fashionable and thus publicly proclaimed affection for it? A fat lot of good that did. I’m fairly certain that the actual instruments of American power–the CIA, the military, the State Department, Congress, the Presidency, etc.–were decisively opposed to the Soviet Union. Hence the Cold War. Implying that America’s intelligentsia still pines for the USSR is just silly. No academic will be caught dead calling himself a Stalinist or a Trotskyite any longer (and a few prominent academics who once called themselves so–when it was trendy–are now ashamed of these associations).

    Finally, it is a gross overstatement to claim, as you do, that Reagan “won” the Cold War. Sure, his budget-busting military expenditures helped–much like our earlier analogy of turning on the faucet to wash away a clog–but they certainly weren’t decisive or even terribly proactive. I’m fairly certain we didn’t invade Russia or actively aid the rebels through the Eastern empire. On that note, assigning the victory to Reagan seems both an extreme ignorance of history (the USSR’s economic collapse, we now know in hindsight, was inevitable) but also an insult to the millions in Poland, East Germany, the Baltic states, Russia itself, and elsewhere, who actually did the work of tearing down the Soviet edifice.

    Like I said, Reagan was one of our better Presidents, and he put an inspiring face on the end of the Cold War (and he also helped salvage the American economy, though he laid the foundation for some troubling economic problems later). But we tend to deify too quickly, I fear.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Jonathan @ 13
    I agree that the enhanced interrogation tactics used during the Bush administration were torture. They were wrong and should have never been allowed. But that is just a bit hyperbolic. I don’t remember the Bush administration building gulags, sending secret police to “disappear” people in the middle of the night and murdering millions of its own citizens. The tactics used during the Bush administration don’t rise anywhere close to the level of what was practiced in the Soviet Union (and likely still happens in Putin’s Russia to some degree).

    (By the way, extraordinary rendition, which is merely the outsourcing of torture, began in the Clinton administration and continues today by the way)

    Criticizing immoral and wrong-headed policies in the present day U.S. is one thing. Moral equivalence to one of the all-time murderous regimes in history is just over-the top and undermines the credibility of legitimate criticism.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Jonathan @ 13
    I agree that the enhanced interrogation tactics used during the Bush administration were torture. They were wrong and should have never been allowed. But that is just a bit hyperbolic. I don’t remember the Bush administration building gulags, sending secret police to “disappear” people in the middle of the night and murdering millions of its own citizens. The tactics used during the Bush administration don’t rise anywhere close to the level of what was practiced in the Soviet Union (and likely still happens in Putin’s Russia to some degree).

    (By the way, extraordinary rendition, which is merely the outsourcing of torture, began in the Clinton administration and continues today by the way)

    Criticizing immoral and wrong-headed policies in the present day U.S. is one thing. Moral equivalence to one of the all-time murderous regimes in history is just over-the top and undermines the credibility of legitimate criticism.

  • Cincinnatus

    (pardon my typos; I need to cultivate the habit of editing my posts)

  • Cincinnatus

    (pardon my typos; I need to cultivate the habit of editing my posts)

  • Steve Billingsley

    Cincinnatus @ 16
    I generally agree with you on political issues, but again with the myth of “inevitabilty”? Every nation will “inevitably” fall, but the policy decisions made my Reagan made a difference. Without them, would the Soviet Union still be around? I don’t know and neither do you. Were there many other players in drama? Absolutely. But if Reagan’s role was insignificant than why are Poland and Hungary honoring him? Why is his popularity in the former Soviet satellites still so high? I wouldn’t say that he “won the Cold War” any more than I would say that FDR “won World War II” or Lincoln “won the Civil War”. But they certainly weren’t bystanders and Reagan certainly did more than “put an inspiring face on the end of the Cold War”.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Cincinnatus @ 16
    I generally agree with you on political issues, but again with the myth of “inevitabilty”? Every nation will “inevitably” fall, but the policy decisions made my Reagan made a difference. Without them, would the Soviet Union still be around? I don’t know and neither do you. Were there many other players in drama? Absolutely. But if Reagan’s role was insignificant than why are Poland and Hungary honoring him? Why is his popularity in the former Soviet satellites still so high? I wouldn’t say that he “won the Cold War” any more than I would say that FDR “won World War II” or Lincoln “won the Civil War”. But they certainly weren’t bystanders and Reagan certainly did more than “put an inspiring face on the end of the Cold War”.

  • Cincinnatus

    Steve@19: The collapse of the USSR was inevitable, according to current economic statistical data collected from the regime, in the sense of a closed system: had the USSR not made radical, revolutionary reforms, its collapse was assured. So, theoretically, the USSR could have reformed itself, much like China has, and averted catastrophe, or perhaps some miraculous, unforeseen intervention could have occurred. Gorbachev in fact attempted reforms that would open the markets and grant more autonomy to its satellites and republics, but they were too little and too late. Consider also that had the USSR pursued these reforms, it would probably no longer be “totalitarian” and we would probably exist in a tense but ultimately mutually beneficial relationship with them, as we do currently with China.

    Claiming that Reagan won the Cold War and defeated the Soviet Union is not like off-handedly claiming that Lincoln won the Civil War. The latter is true, the former is not. Lincoln waged a war. Reagan did not. Saying that Reagan “won” the Cold War is like claiming that we “won” the recent revolution in Egypt because we aided the protesters. Okay, sure, but…

  • Cincinnatus

    Steve@19: The collapse of the USSR was inevitable, according to current economic statistical data collected from the regime, in the sense of a closed system: had the USSR not made radical, revolutionary reforms, its collapse was assured. So, theoretically, the USSR could have reformed itself, much like China has, and averted catastrophe, or perhaps some miraculous, unforeseen intervention could have occurred. Gorbachev in fact attempted reforms that would open the markets and grant more autonomy to its satellites and republics, but they were too little and too late. Consider also that had the USSR pursued these reforms, it would probably no longer be “totalitarian” and we would probably exist in a tense but ultimately mutually beneficial relationship with them, as we do currently with China.

    Claiming that Reagan won the Cold War and defeated the Soviet Union is not like off-handedly claiming that Lincoln won the Civil War. The latter is true, the former is not. Lincoln waged a war. Reagan did not. Saying that Reagan “won” the Cold War is like claiming that we “won” the recent revolution in Egypt because we aided the protesters. Okay, sure, but…

  • Steve Billingsley

    Bad analogy, we didn’t really aid the protesters in Egypt and the Cold War was, “well”… Cold. It was always fought through proxies, alliances and propaganda.

    The analogy of Lincoln and FDR is that they didn’t “win” single-handedly. Grant, Sherman, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, etc…(not to mention millions of soldiers) had a part as well.

    You are still overstating “inevitability” and understating Reagan’s role.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Bad analogy, we didn’t really aid the protesters in Egypt and the Cold War was, “well”… Cold. It was always fought through proxies, alliances and propaganda.

    The analogy of Lincoln and FDR is that they didn’t “win” single-handedly. Grant, Sherman, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, etc…(not to mention millions of soldiers) had a part as well.

    You are still overstating “inevitability” and understating Reagan’s role.

  • DonS

    The reason why Eastern Europe desires to celebrate Reagan’s centennial is because they believe Reagan played an important role in expediting their freedom from the Soviet empire, whether or not Cincinnatus concurs.

    Of course, we cannot say whether or not the Soviet Union would yet exist, or whether it would have lasted substantially longer than 1990 if Carter, rather than Reagan, had won the 1980 election. Clearly, the arms race which had been in effect since the 1950′s had taken its toll — it’s very hard as a command and control economy to effectively compete with free enterprise. And, certainly, the Afghanistan morass had sapped a lot of Soviet strength (sound familiar?). However, Carter, with his defeatist, “malaise”, “era of limits” approach had also sapped American confidence and severely damaged military capability in the post-Vietnam era. We had also lost the Vietnam War, essentially because we quit. It was definitely the sense of those of us who were alive and adults at the time that the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War.

    Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric and infectious confidence that America was a blessed land and that its reverence for human rights and liberty was a beacon in an oppressed world resonated with the American population. It stirred our patriotism, confidence, and sense of purpose. It scared the Soviets, particularly when it was accompanied by a rebuilding of our military capability. It forced them into renewing an arms race it could ill afford, and the resultant diversion of resources so deprived the population that internal politics and mood became dangerous to the regime. The evidence is that Reagan precipitated the end of the Soviet empire, and, as I mentioned above, the eastern Europeans believe and appreciate that fact.

    As for internal, domestic politics, as has already been mentioned above, Reagan’s record is clearly more mixed, but this is understandable given the stranglehold the Democrats had on Congress. Yes, the Reagan wave temporarily won the Republicans a tenuous hold on the Senate (53-46 or something like that) until 1986, when they lost it again, but the Democrats and its powerful leader, O’Neill, and appropriators, led by Dan Rostenkowski, always had overwhelming control of the House, and had since 1955. Reagan believed restoring the military was essential to winning the Cold War and the Democrats insisted, in return for increased military spending, on maintaining and increasing domestic spending. Reagan, for better or worse, accepted that trade-off. The other thing he insisted on was a flatter tax system, with lower rates and fewer deductions, which he achieved, until Clinton later screwed it up.

  • DonS

    The reason why Eastern Europe desires to celebrate Reagan’s centennial is because they believe Reagan played an important role in expediting their freedom from the Soviet empire, whether or not Cincinnatus concurs.

    Of course, we cannot say whether or not the Soviet Union would yet exist, or whether it would have lasted substantially longer than 1990 if Carter, rather than Reagan, had won the 1980 election. Clearly, the arms race which had been in effect since the 1950′s had taken its toll — it’s very hard as a command and control economy to effectively compete with free enterprise. And, certainly, the Afghanistan morass had sapped a lot of Soviet strength (sound familiar?). However, Carter, with his defeatist, “malaise”, “era of limits” approach had also sapped American confidence and severely damaged military capability in the post-Vietnam era. We had also lost the Vietnam War, essentially because we quit. It was definitely the sense of those of us who were alive and adults at the time that the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War.

    Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric and infectious confidence that America was a blessed land and that its reverence for human rights and liberty was a beacon in an oppressed world resonated with the American population. It stirred our patriotism, confidence, and sense of purpose. It scared the Soviets, particularly when it was accompanied by a rebuilding of our military capability. It forced them into renewing an arms race it could ill afford, and the resultant diversion of resources so deprived the population that internal politics and mood became dangerous to the regime. The evidence is that Reagan precipitated the end of the Soviet empire, and, as I mentioned above, the eastern Europeans believe and appreciate that fact.

    As for internal, domestic politics, as has already been mentioned above, Reagan’s record is clearly more mixed, but this is understandable given the stranglehold the Democrats had on Congress. Yes, the Reagan wave temporarily won the Republicans a tenuous hold on the Senate (53-46 or something like that) until 1986, when they lost it again, but the Democrats and its powerful leader, O’Neill, and appropriators, led by Dan Rostenkowski, always had overwhelming control of the House, and had since 1955. Reagan believed restoring the military was essential to winning the Cold War and the Democrats insisted, in return for increased military spending, on maintaining and increasing domestic spending. Reagan, for better or worse, accepted that trade-off. The other thing he insisted on was a flatter tax system, with lower rates and fewer deductions, which he achieved, until Clinton later screwed it up.

  • Cincinnatus

    For those of you think I’m just a liberal provocateur, I concur with DonS.

    My point is that it’s a bit of American chauvinism to claim that Reagan won the entire Cold War. It would have happened without him. He was favored as much by historical circumstances as by his powerful television presence and bravura in the arms race.

  • Cincinnatus

    For those of you think I’m just a liberal provocateur, I concur with DonS.

    My point is that it’s a bit of American chauvinism to claim that Reagan won the entire Cold War. It would have happened without him. He was favored as much by historical circumstances as by his powerful television presence and bravura in the arms race.

  • Steve Billingsley

    What’s funny is that the basic overall American strategy for the Cold War was really set by the Truman administration and every successive administration adhered more or less to it. (Carter was wobbly as could be).

    Reagan, as much as anything, just restored the resolve that existed in the 50s and 60s.

  • Steve Billingsley

    What’s funny is that the basic overall American strategy for the Cold War was really set by the Truman administration and every successive administration adhered more or less to it. (Carter was wobbly as could be).

    Reagan, as much as anything, just restored the resolve that existed in the 50s and 60s.

  • Cincinnatus

    Truman? I’m pretty sure the Eisenhower administration pioneered the horrific but probably necessary and effective policy of mutually assured destruction (and containment, for that matter).

  • Cincinnatus

    Truman? I’m pretty sure the Eisenhower administration pioneered the horrific but probably necessary and effective policy of mutually assured destruction (and containment, for that matter).

  • Jonathan

    Steve @17, good points. I’m not making a wholesale moral equivalency argument, just noting the irony of praising one US president for helping to stop an evil overseas that another, to a smaller degree, started on our soil. Likwise, we can praise FDR for helping to defeat the Nazis, yet it’s still important to remember the US went to war with a racially segregated army to defeat a grossly racist enemy. Then, having won, the US discharged those soldiers back into a legally segregated culture.

  • Jonathan

    Steve @17, good points. I’m not making a wholesale moral equivalency argument, just noting the irony of praising one US president for helping to stop an evil overseas that another, to a smaller degree, started on our soil. Likwise, we can praise FDR for helping to defeat the Nazis, yet it’s still important to remember the US went to war with a racially segregated army to defeat a grossly racist enemy. Then, having won, the US discharged those soldiers back into a legally segregated culture.

  • Cincinnatus

    At least we didn’t gas them, Jonathan. I’m not sure how helpful your point is. I think everyone–here, at least–knows that America isn’t flawless, and that her past is undeniably checkered.

    But yeah. Racial segregation does NOT = extermination camps.

  • Cincinnatus

    At least we didn’t gas them, Jonathan. I’m not sure how helpful your point is. I think everyone–here, at least–knows that America isn’t flawless, and that her past is undeniably checkered.

    But yeah. Racial segregation does NOT = extermination camps.

  • Steve Billingsley

    MAD was on Eisenhower’s watch, but containment was really the brainchild of George Keenan and was adopted by the Truman administration (which explains the Korean War).

  • Steve Billingsley

    MAD was on Eisenhower’s watch, but containment was really the brainchild of George Keenan and was adopted by the Truman administration (which explains the Korean War).

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, you’re right: Kennan was 1946.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, you’re right: Kennan was 1946.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve Billingsley said (@8),

    Reagan was one of the few leaders who believed that the Soviets were weaker than they appeared and believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.

    Steve (or anyone else), can you provide any evidence from Reagan’s own words that he believed this, at the time? I’ve often heard this asserted, but not in Reagan’s own words.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve Billingsley said (@8),

    Reagan was one of the few leaders who believed that the Soviets were weaker than they appeared and believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.

    Steve (or anyone else), can you provide any evidence from Reagan’s own words that he believed this, at the time? I’ve often heard this asserted, but not in Reagan’s own words.

  • Steve Billingsley

    The official version of this was found in NSDD-32 (National Security Defense Directives) which outlined, among other things, the economic strategy underlying the large defense build-up in the first term of the Reagan administration.

    He also outlined this in a June 8, 1982 speech to the British Parliament. I don’t have time currently to dig up links to these but there are also other places this was articulated.

  • Steve Billingsley

    The official version of this was found in NSDD-32 (National Security Defense Directives) which outlined, among other things, the economic strategy underlying the large defense build-up in the first term of the Reagan administration.

    He also outlined this in a June 8, 1982 speech to the British Parliament. I don’t have time currently to dig up links to these but there are also other places this was articulated.

  • SKPeterson

    What Reagan did was alter the terminology of the debate. He actually called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and refused to yield any moral high ground to the Soviets. The Soviets tried to respond – see Afghanistan (actually please don’t, the parallels between the efforts of the US and USSR are eerie) – but found that they didn’t have the resources. Essentially the Soviets had been lying to themselves for 50 years and Reagan’s rhetoric caught them without the means to respond. The game was up long before, but the realization came to everyone when the USSR couldn’t continue.

    Oddly, we too are now in this debate – we cannot afford the military that Reagan initiated, Bush I and Clinton expanded, Bush II pushed into two war efforts, continued, if not expanded, under Obama. We played a game to see who could slit their throat the fastest and the Soviets won. We just didn’t bother to take the blade away from our own neck.

  • SKPeterson

    What Reagan did was alter the terminology of the debate. He actually called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and refused to yield any moral high ground to the Soviets. The Soviets tried to respond – see Afghanistan (actually please don’t, the parallels between the efforts of the US and USSR are eerie) – but found that they didn’t have the resources. Essentially the Soviets had been lying to themselves for 50 years and Reagan’s rhetoric caught them without the means to respond. The game was up long before, but the realization came to everyone when the USSR couldn’t continue.

    Oddly, we too are now in this debate – we cannot afford the military that Reagan initiated, Bush I and Clinton expanded, Bush II pushed into two war efforts, continued, if not expanded, under Obama. We played a game to see who could slit their throat the fastest and the Soviets won. We just didn’t bother to take the blade away from our own neck.

  • Cincinnatus

    SKPeterson: The comparison of the contemporary United States with the latter-day Soviet Union is quite apt. It’s often forgotten that essentially all of our current conflicts, hot or cold–Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Egypt, among others–are little more than “blowback” from our Cold War entanglements.

  • Cincinnatus

    SKPeterson: The comparison of the contemporary United States with the latter-day Soviet Union is quite apt. It’s often forgotten that essentially all of our current conflicts, hot or cold–Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Egypt, among others–are little more than “blowback” from our Cold War entanglements.

  • Jonathan

    @@32-3 Well put, both.

  • Jonathan

    @@32-3 Well put, both.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@31), NSDD-32 states quite clearly that one of its “global objectives” was “to foster, if possible in concert with our allies, restraint in Soviet military spending” (my emphasis).

    This seems directly at odds with your assertion that it shows that Reagan “believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.”

    It’s also interesting to note that, all the way back in 1982, NSDD-32 already noted, in keeping with Cincinnatus’ assertion, “Despite increasing pressures on its economy and the growing vulnerabilities of its empire, the Soviet military will continue to expand and modernize.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@31), NSDD-32 states quite clearly that one of its “global objectives” was “to foster, if possible in concert with our allies, restraint in Soviet military spending” (my emphasis).

    This seems directly at odds with your assertion that it shows that Reagan “believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.”

    It’s also interesting to note that, all the way back in 1982, NSDD-32 already noted, in keeping with Cincinnatus’ assertion, “Despite increasing pressures on its economy and the growing vulnerabilities of its empire, the Soviet military will continue to expand and modernize.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@31), having skimmed a transcript of Reagan’s June 8, 1982 speech to the British Parliament, I also can’t find the “outline” you referred to in which Reagan laid out “the economic strategy underlying the large defense build-up in the first term of the Reagan administration.”

    As such, I still consider your claim unfounded. Help me out here.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve (@31), having skimmed a transcript of Reagan’s June 8, 1982 speech to the British Parliament, I also can’t find the “outline” you referred to in which Reagan laid out “the economic strategy underlying the large defense build-up in the first term of the Reagan administration.”

    As such, I still consider your claim unfounded. Help me out here.

  • SKPeterson

    Cincinnatus @ 33 – Many are enamored of realpolitik when they are in the midst of the action, but they rarely come to terms with the consequences. And there are always consequences. The expansionism of Bismarck, the containment strategies and tensions of the British-Russian Great Game, the imperial machinations of France were all manifestations of realpolitik that blew up into the conflagration of WWI. At the time no one seemed to see it coming and they were shocked that political actions and foreign policies had real consequences. Yet, we smugly recognize the consequences 100 years later, but are appalled by the suggestion that our own foreign policies and realpolitik too have consequences.

  • SKPeterson

    Cincinnatus @ 33 – Many are enamored of realpolitik when they are in the midst of the action, but they rarely come to terms with the consequences. And there are always consequences. The expansionism of Bismarck, the containment strategies and tensions of the British-Russian Great Game, the imperial machinations of France were all manifestations of realpolitik that blew up into the conflagration of WWI. At the time no one seemed to see it coming and they were shocked that political actions and foreign policies had real consequences. Yet, we smugly recognize the consequences 100 years later, but are appalled by the suggestion that our own foreign policies and realpolitik too have consequences.

  • John C

    Yep, the Soviet Union lost the cold war but it is not clear that America won it.
    During the 1990s, with no enemies abroad, the Republicans turned inwards and fretted over Clinton’s dalliances — a lost decade.

  • John C

    Yep, the Soviet Union lost the cold war but it is not clear that America won it.
    During the 1990s, with no enemies abroad, the Republicans turned inwards and fretted over Clinton’s dalliances — a lost decade.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Todd @ 36

    You didn’t read the speech to the British Parliament very carefully, he spends several paragraphs outlining the specific weaknesses of the Soviet economy, arguing that a country that cannot meet the economic needs of their people is deeply flawed.

    I haven’t read the National Security Document in a long time and may have it confused with another one. I can dig a bit on that.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Todd @ 36

    You didn’t read the speech to the British Parliament very carefully, he spends several paragraphs outlining the specific weaknesses of the Soviet economy, arguing that a country that cannot meet the economic needs of their people is deeply flawed.

    I haven’t read the National Security Document in a long time and may have it confused with another one. I can dig a bit on that.

  • Jonatnan

    @SKPeterson, would you agree that America’s insistence on its ‘exceptionalism’ hinders it from considering the consequences you speak of? It’s one thing for a nation, or person, to act with quiet but introspective self-confidence; it’s another altogether to act as if it were always extraordinary.

  • Jonatnan

    @SKPeterson, would you agree that America’s insistence on its ‘exceptionalism’ hinders it from considering the consequences you speak of? It’s one thing for a nation, or person, to act with quiet but introspective self-confidence; it’s another altogether to act as if it were always extraordinary.

  • Cincinnatus

    Steve@39: My point exactly. No, literally: you’re arguing my point for me. What you’ve demonstrated from the speech, in your own words, is that national security analysts in the Reagan administration were, as early as 1982 (!), perfectly aware that the Soviet Union was an empire in (irreversible?) decline, unable even to “meet the economic needs of [its] own people” and “deeply flawed.”

    You may be correct that there is an early National Security briefing lying around out there somewhere expressly stating an intention to engage in a disastrous arms race with the USSR, but so far, all you’ve proven is that such an arms race was probably unnecessary. Again, my point exactly.

    Again, Reagan did some great things–he was what we needed at the time–but we tend to overstate his accomplishments.

  • Cincinnatus

    Steve@39: My point exactly. No, literally: you’re arguing my point for me. What you’ve demonstrated from the speech, in your own words, is that national security analysts in the Reagan administration were, as early as 1982 (!), perfectly aware that the Soviet Union was an empire in (irreversible?) decline, unable even to “meet the economic needs of [its] own people” and “deeply flawed.”

    You may be correct that there is an early National Security briefing lying around out there somewhere expressly stating an intention to engage in a disastrous arms race with the USSR, but so far, all you’ve proven is that such an arms race was probably unnecessary. Again, my point exactly.

    Again, Reagan did some great things–he was what we needed at the time–but we tend to overstate his accomplishments.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    The comment about the trends looking awful for the USSR is interesting, but keep in mind that if you’d looked at what Walter Duranty didn’t, you’d have said that the USSR was going to be gone before 1940.

    What happened? Easy; food and industrial aid made it possible for the Soviets to survive; GAZ was basically “Ford” in Russia, and their vehicles were so similar to the Model As that U.S. pilots would often refuse to shoot at them during the Korean conflict.

    Reagan reduced this aid by linking trade to human rights, which is probably just as important in starting liberalization as Pershing missiles on our side of the Fulda Gap. So I’d argue that, while it was certainly true that the USSR was teetering, Reagan pushed it over while Carter would likely have extended a hand to hold it.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    The comment about the trends looking awful for the USSR is interesting, but keep in mind that if you’d looked at what Walter Duranty didn’t, you’d have said that the USSR was going to be gone before 1940.

    What happened? Easy; food and industrial aid made it possible for the Soviets to survive; GAZ was basically “Ford” in Russia, and their vehicles were so similar to the Model As that U.S. pilots would often refuse to shoot at them during the Korean conflict.

    Reagan reduced this aid by linking trade to human rights, which is probably just as important in starting liberalization as Pershing missiles on our side of the Fulda Gap. So I’d argue that, while it was certainly true that the USSR was teetering, Reagan pushed it over while Carter would likely have extended a hand to hold it.

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 40. Perhaps, or at least a variation of “exceptionalism.” I believe in American exceptionalism, or rather I support it. However, I don’t believe that exceptionalism should entail dangerous foreign entanglements. In fact, some of the things that made the United States exceptional were its studious evasion of such entanglements and its promotion of private property and capitalism. Those were fairly revolutionary concepts especially in combination. We can also add religious liberty into the mix and the US becomes extraordinarily unique in the history of mankind.

    But, to your point, there are some who believe that because we are America, we can act in the world in the same manner that others have tried and failed and expect different results. And if our results are the same, then it was our weak allies, or the hatred of the people we are “helping,” or ….

  • SKPeterson

    Jonathan @ 40. Perhaps, or at least a variation of “exceptionalism.” I believe in American exceptionalism, or rather I support it. However, I don’t believe that exceptionalism should entail dangerous foreign entanglements. In fact, some of the things that made the United States exceptional were its studious evasion of such entanglements and its promotion of private property and capitalism. Those were fairly revolutionary concepts especially in combination. We can also add religious liberty into the mix and the US becomes extraordinarily unique in the history of mankind.

    But, to your point, there are some who believe that because we are America, we can act in the world in the same manner that others have tried and failed and expect different results. And if our results are the same, then it was our weak allies, or the hatred of the people we are “helping,” or ….

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve said (@39) Reagan, in his speech to the British Parliament,

    spends several paragraphs outlining the specific weaknesses of the Soviet economy, arguing that a country that cannot meet the economic needs of their people is deeply flawed.

    But this does not address your original claim, for which you pointed me to that speech. My question is not whether the Soviets’ economic approach was flawed and failing. It was. In fact, as Cincinnatus notes, this is his point, and not yours, that it was known for quite some time before the USSR collapsed.

    But you pointed me to that speech as proof, in your own words, that Reagan “believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.” Again, I definitely don’t see that in his speech to Parliament. And I see the opposite of that in NSDD-32.

    Again, I ask because this is a common trope from “conservatives”, that Reagan intentionally (and therefore, quite cleverly) ratcheted up the arms race, with the prime intent of bankrupting the Soviets, and not so much with an eye towards military equivalency or defense. This has always seemed something of a post-hoc conclusion, however — apparently, I would suggest, in defense of the seeming quandary of Mr. “Government is the problem” accumulating a small mountain of debt through government spending. The argument being that the accumulation of debt was, itself, the main front of the war, in a way.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Steve said (@39) Reagan, in his speech to the British Parliament,

    spends several paragraphs outlining the specific weaknesses of the Soviet economy, arguing that a country that cannot meet the economic needs of their people is deeply flawed.

    But this does not address your original claim, for which you pointed me to that speech. My question is not whether the Soviets’ economic approach was flawed and failing. It was. In fact, as Cincinnatus notes, this is his point, and not yours, that it was known for quite some time before the USSR collapsed.

    But you pointed me to that speech as proof, in your own words, that Reagan “believed that escalating an arms buildup would collapse the Soviet economy.” Again, I definitely don’t see that in his speech to Parliament. And I see the opposite of that in NSDD-32.

    Again, I ask because this is a common trope from “conservatives”, that Reagan intentionally (and therefore, quite cleverly) ratcheted up the arms race, with the prime intent of bankrupting the Soviets, and not so much with an eye towards military equivalency or defense. This has always seemed something of a post-hoc conclusion, however — apparently, I would suggest, in defense of the seeming quandary of Mr. “Government is the problem” accumulating a small mountain of debt through government spending. The argument being that the accumulation of debt was, itself, the main front of the war, in a way.

  • SKPeterson

    bike @ 42 – to your point, the West bailed Poland out in the early 1970′s, which unwittingly propped up the Communist government for another 15+ years. However, the rot was in, Poland effectively defaulted, and Solidarity emerged in the aftermath the harbinger of the end for the Warsaw Pact and eventually the USSR. I would argue that the final heyday of the USSR was Prague, 1968. Twenty years later, the USSR did not have the wherewithal to intervene in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest or Berlin.

  • SKPeterson

    bike @ 42 – to your point, the West bailed Poland out in the early 1970′s, which unwittingly propped up the Communist government for another 15+ years. However, the rot was in, Poland effectively defaulted, and Solidarity emerged in the aftermath the harbinger of the end for the Warsaw Pact and eventually the USSR. I would argue that the final heyday of the USSR was Prague, 1968. Twenty years later, the USSR did not have the wherewithal to intervene in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest or Berlin.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd – A slight nuance may be that Reagan et al were aware of the weakness of the USSR, but did not know the extent or depth of such weakness. They sought then to exploit this weakness by putting the Pershings in close proximity to the Warsaw Pact nations.

    Now, in hindsight, we probably would like to view ourselves as having defensively pushed the Soviets to the brink, rather than having adopted a more belligerent posture designed to see what reaction would be forthcoming.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd – A slight nuance may be that Reagan et al were aware of the weakness of the USSR, but did not know the extent or depth of such weakness. They sought then to exploit this weakness by putting the Pershings in close proximity to the Warsaw Pact nations.

    Now, in hindsight, we probably would like to view ourselves as having defensively pushed the Soviets to the brink, rather than having adopted a more belligerent posture designed to see what reaction would be forthcoming.

  • John C

    I would also add that the belief capitalism is inherently superior to communism leads directly to the current global financial crisis.
    For 20 years Governments around the world thought that the free market was part of a natural order which did not require government scrutiny because it was self correcting and self regulating.
    They got that wrong.
    In brief, it is strength of public institutions, particularly in justice, education and health, that creates capitalism’s vigour.
    Government was the solution not the problem, Ronnie.

  • John C

    I would also add that the belief capitalism is inherently superior to communism leads directly to the current global financial crisis.
    For 20 years Governments around the world thought that the free market was part of a natural order which did not require government scrutiny because it was self correcting and self regulating.
    They got that wrong.
    In brief, it is strength of public institutions, particularly in justice, education and health, that creates capitalism’s vigour.
    Government was the solution not the problem, Ronnie.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus @41 sez “Again, Reagan did some great things–he was what we needed at the time–but we tend to overstate his accomplishments.”
    This may well be a valid observation. Reagan’s unique contribution was to recognize (not at all axiomatic at the time) that “give peace a chance” wasn’t the right stance with the Soviets. Assuming that the collapse of the USSR was inevitable, it seems that his accomplishment was to shorten the duration of the oppression of the Russian and Eastern European people and to usher in an era of improved security for the West.
    It strikes me that presidents often get ascribed both praise and blame somewhat unfairly. Take President Obama’s elimination of Bin Laden for example. Praiseworthy, to be sure and (in hindsight) his decision to go with a SEAL attack rather than a drone bombing proved to be a good one. But I would submit that, if you are the leader of a relatively small terrorist outfit and you decide to fly planes into a skyscraper in the flagship city of the only remaining military superpower, then your days are very likely numbered. The credit for Bin Laden’s demise rests largely with the efforts of the US military and intelligence communities but, to President Obama’s credit he didn’t screw it up. The same could be said about President Reagan with regard to the collapse of the evil empire – he didn’t screw it up and very likely accelerated it.
    In this regard, I feel some sympathy (well, nano-sympathy) for President Obama. he’s getting beaten up for a sputtering economy that he inherited and is sputtering as a result of policies that preceded his presidency by years to decades. (Not that he voted with the Good Guys during his oh-so-brief tenure in Congress.) What he can legitimately take heat for is offering solutions that insure that a bigger economic mess will be inherited by some president down the road.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus @41 sez “Again, Reagan did some great things–he was what we needed at the time–but we tend to overstate his accomplishments.”
    This may well be a valid observation. Reagan’s unique contribution was to recognize (not at all axiomatic at the time) that “give peace a chance” wasn’t the right stance with the Soviets. Assuming that the collapse of the USSR was inevitable, it seems that his accomplishment was to shorten the duration of the oppression of the Russian and Eastern European people and to usher in an era of improved security for the West.
    It strikes me that presidents often get ascribed both praise and blame somewhat unfairly. Take President Obama’s elimination of Bin Laden for example. Praiseworthy, to be sure and (in hindsight) his decision to go with a SEAL attack rather than a drone bombing proved to be a good one. But I would submit that, if you are the leader of a relatively small terrorist outfit and you decide to fly planes into a skyscraper in the flagship city of the only remaining military superpower, then your days are very likely numbered. The credit for Bin Laden’s demise rests largely with the efforts of the US military and intelligence communities but, to President Obama’s credit he didn’t screw it up. The same could be said about President Reagan with regard to the collapse of the evil empire – he didn’t screw it up and very likely accelerated it.
    In this regard, I feel some sympathy (well, nano-sympathy) for President Obama. he’s getting beaten up for a sputtering economy that he inherited and is sputtering as a result of policies that preceded his presidency by years to decades. (Not that he voted with the Good Guys during his oh-so-brief tenure in Congress.) What he can legitimately take heat for is offering solutions that insure that a bigger economic mess will be inherited by some president down the road.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus @16 sez “On that note, assigning the victory to Reagan seems both an extreme ignorance of history (the USSR’s economic collapse, we now know in hindsight, was inevitable) but also an insult to the millions in Poland…”

    But we read above that the Poles are wildly celebrating Ronald Reagan? Do they not get it? Is Cincy telling us a thinly disguised ethnic joke?

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus @16 sez “On that note, assigning the victory to Reagan seems both an extreme ignorance of history (the USSR’s economic collapse, we now know in hindsight, was inevitable) but also an insult to the millions in Poland…”

    But we read above that the Poles are wildly celebrating Ronald Reagan? Do they not get it? Is Cincy telling us a thinly disguised ethnic joke?

  • Pete

    And I in no way wish, in my last paragraph @48, to hijack this heretofore marvelous thread from a discussion of the end of the Cold War to that of our current economic woes. As I read it now, it makes me feel a bit trollish.

  • Pete

    And I in no way wish, in my last paragraph @48, to hijack this heretofore marvelous thread from a discussion of the end of the Cold War to that of our current economic woes. As I read it now, it makes me feel a bit trollish.

  • Chips

    Reagan and Thatcher understood the economic and political weakness of the Soviet Union, while John Paul II knew of its moral weakness. By forcefully standing up to the Soviet Union these great leaders brought it down. The idea that the Soviet Union inevitably fell is no more valid than that Hitler inevitably fell. Both these evil entities fell due to strong, heroic opposition, including that of Reagan, something that Eastern Europe well knows.

  • Chips

    Reagan and Thatcher understood the economic and political weakness of the Soviet Union, while John Paul II knew of its moral weakness. By forcefully standing up to the Soviet Union these great leaders brought it down. The idea that the Soviet Union inevitably fell is no more valid than that Hitler inevitably fell. Both these evil entities fell due to strong, heroic opposition, including that of Reagan, something that Eastern Europe well knows.


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