With the round the clock eulogizing of Ronald Reagan that's going on, you'd think he was the least controversial President in American history (believe me he was plenty controversial back when he was more than just a nice old man with Alzheimers). He is being credited with everything from saving the American economy to winning the Cold War. The plan seems to be nearly a week of uninterrupted Republican Party propaganda and revisionist history. I'm increasingly moved to say..."Well, there you go again."
To pick one issue for this posting: Should Reagan get credit for "Winning the Cold War?" To the extent that he was a Cold War era President, yes. But should he get more credit than any other Cold War era President or even the people of East-Central Europe? Probably not.
Strong US support for the Afghani resistance to the USSR is widely credited with sapping the Soviet military machine of its strength (and blamed for giving birth to the Taliban and Al Qaeda). But was it really Reagan's project alone? No. President Carter started the military support of the Afghans. It was also Jimmy Carter who ordered the Olympic Boycott and the embargo on grain exports to the USSR both in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Reagan is widely credited for inspiring Solidarity and other East-Central European dissident groups to resist Soviet Authority. This is possibly the most ridiculous revision of history. Central European resistance to the Soviets began almost as soon as the Red Army arrived (Stalin murdered hundreds of Polish officers during WWII for their resistance to Soviet post-war ambitions). Hungarian resistance in 1956 is well known as is the 1968 "Prague Spring." But resistance to the Soviets occurred throughout East-Central Europe and with little apparent encouragement from ANY US President. There was a spontaneous, violent uprising against the Soviets in East Germany in June, 1953. Polish resistance to the Soviets had successfully toppled two Polish Communist leaders (one in 1956, another in 1970) decades before Reagan was elected. Poland also saw a wave of national strikes and violent demonstrations in 1976. Solidarity was founded in 1980 (before Reagan took office) - hardly the first East European resistance movement. The main Czechoslovakian dissident group was called Charter '77 - not because Reagan did anything in 1977 but because of the 1975 Helsinki accords on Human Rights which the Czech government had signed and ratified through a law in 1976. Charter '77 was a dissident petition that had the goal of forcing the Czechoslovak government to abide by the Helsinki treaty it had signed but ignored. Incidentally, it was Carter - not Reagan - who pressured the Soviets on applying the Helsinki Accords faithfully.
To sum up: Reagan should share some credit - along with a number of US Presidents - for "Winning the Cold War." But the most credit should go to the people of East-Central Europe who never fully accepted Soviet rule and eventually overthrew it through repeated uprisings.
One last parting shot: In the Summer 1989 after Reagan left office, no one thought the Cold War was nearing its end. Yes, there was talk about a new detente associated with Glasnost/Perestoika but no one really believed a fundamental change was in the wind. I heard no less a foreign policy authority than Henry Kissinger say as much as a speech at Ohio State University. All this talk about Reagan "Winning the Cold War" started up well after he had left office. Reagan himself probably never believed that he had "Won" the Cold War.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 11:13 AM