Reagan did not win the Cold War. And I don’t mean because many others had a hand in a contest that lasted for a long time. It was simply over by 1965. We put a wall around Cuba, the Soviets put a wall around Berlin, and both sides removed the leadership, Kennedy and Khrushchev, that almost started a war in the early 60’s. De facto borders became de jure borders. Then we both began mucking about on the margins, Africa, SE Asia, and Central Asia.
We would never have sent 500,000 troops to Vietnam if we thought the USSR would launch a surprise attack. We lost our first war there, and no dominoes fell, and we didn’t have to fight them again over here. As we prepare to lose our second war, we would do well to look at it rationally. The contest we call the Cold War, which lasted from 1947 to 1965 was largely due to a mutual incomprehension and fear.
Reagan in fact was a pussycat militarily, pusillanimous you might say. He took no significant military action and was obviously unnerved by causalities. Witness his lame pull out from Lebanon, his inability to free American hostages in Lebanon, and his comic invasion of Lilliput, aka Grenada. His support for child killers (Contras) versus thugs (Sandinistas.)
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 many here still feared that nuclear war could come at any time, the Russians realized finally, the game was long past over, they wearied of their imperial burden, and knew by then that the US would not attack them while they reorganized, and quite rationally moved to ratchet down the rhetoric. A ridiculous claim by Reagan hagiographers notwithstanding, it was Reagan’s humanity not foolish defense expenditures that was his contribution to the USSR’s collapse.
The post 1965 Soviet government of Brezhnev 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