Reagan and the Cold War

2007/11/14

Reagan did not win the Cold War. It was over by 1965. We put a wall around Cuba, they put a wall around Berlin, and both sides removed the leadership that almost started a war in the early 60’s, and a de facto borders became de jure borders. Then we began mucking about on the margins, Africa, SE Asia, and Central Asia.

I would say that the post 1965 Soviet government was all about the corrupt enjoyment of power. We each made the other the bogeyman for our own domestic political reasons. When the USSR collapsed there was a scramble for a new bogeyman. China wasn’t credible, Iraq and Iran weren’t credible, but the illusive “terrorist” was: reminds me of an H.G. Wells story
Reagan was a pussycat militarily. He took no significant action and was obviously unnerved by causalities. Witness his lame pull out from Lebanon, and his inability to free American hostages. And his comic invasion of Lilliput aka Grenada. But, Reagan did one good thing, because he believed in redemption, because his foreign policy abhorred aggression, he put the USSR on the spot. Though we still acted like nuclear war could come at any time, the Russians realized, the game was long past over, they wearied of their imperial burden, and knew that the US would not attack them while they reorganized. A ridiculous claim by Reagan hagiographers notwithstanding, it was Reagan’s humanity not foolish defense expenditures that allowed for the USSR’s collapse. Senator Webb was right. Reagan’s defense policy was pusillanimous. But that was the best thing Reagan did for national security: he gave Gorbachev reason to believe the U.S. & NATO would remain passive and peaceful should the USSR reduce its military commitments and reform. Reagan also raised taxes more than any previous president and let foreigners loot our domestic markets and industries. But we loved him, because he made us feel good.

Yes we miss the USSR, our old bogeyman. The U.S. conquered Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We beat the USSR in the contest of political supremacy; they relied on armed force, a security apparatus, and will. And yet we have now adopted those methods. Still we have inchoate, irresolvable fears of a never ending struggle with and irrational fear of ‘terror, climate change, and eternal damnation.’ To butcher Shakespeare: “The fault, dear reader, is not in our enemies, But in ourselves, that we lack virtue.” Hmmm. Still, it is kind of interesting that it was Carter and not Reagan who began our overt intervention in the Middle East.

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