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The Confederate Lawyer
July 22, 2010

The Cold War
Part VII: Reagan, Bush, and Victory

by Charles G. Mills
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GLEN COVE, NY — The victory of the West in the Cold War was an accomplishment of the American people, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Venerable John Paul II, and above all, Ronald Reagan. George H. W. Bush was President when the Berlin Wall was torn down and the Red flag was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time, but these were the fruits of Reagan’s policies. Bush did not waver from his predecessor’s policies because he knew that, if he did, Baroness Thatcher would be on the telephone.

Reagan’s string of victories began with a small one, the liberation of the island of Grenada. It was America’s first military success since Vietnam, and it had a positive effect on the country’s morale. It also helped Reagan get the funding that was sorely needed to rebuild America’s armed forces.

Reagan’s next success was the liberation of Panama from the communists. He faced serious opposition by the Democratic Left, but he got it done.

Reagan was a superb and experienced negotiator. He never made the first concession, and he never conceded more than he got. The Soviets learned this the hard way, when he walked away from the table during the first negotiations with them at Reykjavik, despite some progress. He never gave the Soviets the one thing they wanted most -- continuation of the policy of mutually assured destruction. Although he was hampered by a myopic and immoral treaty prohibiting the construction of missiles designed to intercept missiles, he began work on alternative defenses against Soviet missiles. Members of the American Left were horrified at Reagan’s position because they knew that the Soviets could not keep up with us in a new arms race and that American dominance would replace mutually assured destruction.

Reagan was not afraid of the truth. Despite the reluctance of the members of the American Left to call the Soviets “evil,” Reagan did so with great success. Over the objections of his speechwriters, he called on the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall and open the gates in the Iron Curtain. He knew far better what could be accomplished than did his speechwriters.

When Reagan became President in 1981, virtually no one in the media believed that the West would ever win the Cold War or that communism would cease to enslave the Soviet bloc. When he left office in 1989, a free Poland was imminent and the Soviets were preparing to release their captive nations.

Some say that Reagan’s accomplishments were simply the natural consequences of Truman’s policy of containment. Containment, however, was a progressively greater failure in each administration from Eisenhower to Carter. Victory in the Cold War was Reagan’s accomplishment, and it was the result of abandoning the timidity of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter.

The Venerable John Paul II certainly helped Reagan’s policies. Truman and Eisenhower held office during the pontificate of the Venerable Pius XII, the most anticommunist Pope ever with the possible exception of the Venerable John Paul II, a victim of communism himself. Neither Truman nor Eisenhower took advantage of what this ally could offer because neither of them really set their sights on victory.

Prime Minister Thatcher was a valuable Reagan ally as well. Eisenhower, in contrast, destroyed the administration of Anthony Eden in Great Britain.

Reagan had the support of the American people but not of the press. Popular support was critical to his success. The American people also rallied to Douglas MacArthur and would have fully supported Eisenhower if he had sought victory over, rather than coexistence with, communism.

Reagan was not just some President who had the good luck to be in office when communism crumbled. He was the architect of the crumble.

Reagan had ideals from which he never deviated, and he had an excellent grasp of how to advance those ideals in the real world. He had a vision of a world without the evil Soviet Empire. The six presidents before him, who lacked these ideals and vision, doomed the world to the decades of the Cold War. Reagan ended the War through complete victory, and the world must be forever grateful to him for that.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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