Thursday, December 20, 2012
A PRESIDENTIAL HALL OF SHAME CONTENDER: RONALD REAGAN – CHAPTER FIVE
REAGAN AND HIS ASKEW ECONOMIC IDEAS SCREWED UP AMERICA FOR DECADES - CHAPTER FIVE (Some previously posted but still relevant years later)
KABUL, Afghanistan — About 300 Taliban fighters overran the tiny capital of a remote mountainous district in northeast Afghanistan...www.msnbc.msn.com
MISCONCEPTION: REAGAN DIDN’T CAUSE THE SOVIET EMPIRE TO FALL –AFGHANISTAN WAR FATIGUE, CONTAINMENT WEAR AND ECONOMIC FAILURE DID THE SOVIET UNION IN.
While conceding that some of Reagan’s economic plans did not work out as intended, his defenders – including many mainstream journalists – still argue that Reagan should be hailed as a great President because he “won the Cold War,” a short-hand phrase that they like to attach to his historical biography.
However, a strong case can be made that the Cold War was won well before Reagan arrived at the White House. Indeed, in the 1970s, it was a common perception in the U.S. intelligence community that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was winding down, in large part because the Soviet economic model had failed in the technological race with the West.
That was the view of many Kremlinologists in the CIA’s analytical division. Also, A senior CIA’s operations official even said that some of the CIA’s best spies inside the Soviet hierarchy supported the view that the Soviet Union was headed toward collapse, not surging toward world supremacy, as Reagan and his foreign policy team insisted in the early 1980s.
The CIA analysis was the basis for the détente that was launched by Nixon and Ford, essentially seeking a negotiated solution to the most dangerous remaining aspects of the Cold War.
The Afghan Debacle
In that view, Soviet military operations, including sending troops into Afghanistan in 1979, were mostly defensive in nature. In Afghanistan, the Soviets hoped to prop up a pro-communist government that was seeking to modernize the country but was beset by opposition from Islamic fundamentalists who were getting covert support from the U.S. government.
Though the Afghan covert operation originated with Cold Warriors in the Carter administration, especially national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the war was dramatically ramped up under Reagan, who traded U.S. acquiescence toward Pakistan’s nuclear bomb for its help in shipping sophisticated weapons to the Afghan jihadists (including a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden).
While Reagan’s acolytes cite the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan as decisive in “winning the Cold War,” the counter-argument is that Moscow was already in disarray – and while failure in Afghanistan may have sped the Soviet Union’s final collapse – it also created twin dangers for the future of the world: the rise of al-Qaeda terrorism and the nuclear bomb in the hands of Pakistan’s unstable Islamic Republic.
“Ronald Reagan got a lot of mileage out of his seductive charm and movie star smile. He knew how to deliver a great line. Love him or loathe him, the man was a wildly successful, hugely manipulative media presence. A master of the slick sound bite, he uttered one of his most memorable lines during a trip to Germany in 1987. Standing at the Brandenburg Gate that divided East and West Berlin, Reagan pointed to the "iron curtain" and bellowed, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" While no objective historian believes the Berlin Wall tumbled two years later as a direct result of this dare, Reagan succeeded brilliantly in drawing attention to one of the world's most heinous creations. His palpable indignation resonated around the globe.”
There is a school of thought that prevails even today and it is based on the assumption that Ronald Reagan's assertive policies caused the collapse of the Soviet Union and ended the cold war.
This school of thought is referred to as “The Victory School” is based on the misleading concept that winning the cold war was inextricably linked to obtaining peace through strength and it took a life of its own even after the Soviet fall. The neo-cons continued with this cold war mentality and that suited the military industrial complex just fine…the same one that a Republican predecessor had warned America about. (Eisenhower)
The Reagan victory school and the broader peace-through-strength perspectives are, however, misleading and incomplete-both in their interpretation of events in the 1980s and in their understanding of deeper forces that led to the end of the Cold War. It is important to reconsider the emerging conventional wisdom before it truly becomes an article of faith on Cold War history and comes to distort the thinking of policymakers in America and elsewhere.
While it is true that Reagan called for a “Star War” kind of anti-nuclear program and as much as he despised, his antipathy for nuclear weapons "I know I speak for people everywhere when I say our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the earth," Reagan said in November 1983.
But this Star Wars program was just a pipe dream, an illusory, wishful thinking endeavor that did not have the technological capacities nor the practical workings to be successful…it was as real as Star Trek, which leads us to believe that as diligent as the Soviets were in their spying, research and resolve to crush the West, they certainly knew that this anti-nuclear missile shield was only empty rhetoric as was the pronouncements made in front of the Berlin Wall by Reagan…the now famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”.
In reality, the bark was much bigger than the bite and the Soviets knew it. Perhaps a more reasonable explanation for the demise of the Soviet Union could be explained by saying that after decades of struggling to fight containment and spending huge amount of treasure and effort to this effect but also, and most dramatically, the mutual vulnerability created by nuclear weapons overshadowed containment, but the right wing conservatives love barking, loudly expressing their disdain and even becoming downright uncivil, arrogance is one of their strongest suits…it is part of their footprint, it is something that makes them feel good but accomplishes little and at times creates bigger problems than the ones we had before we employed aggressive rhetoric as we have so clearly seen with the dismal failure of George W. Bush’s foreign policy which managed to turn empathy and solidarity with America after the 9-11 attacks into resentment and hatred.
“In any case, although containment certainly played an important role in blocking Soviet expansionism, it cannot explain either the end of the Cold War or the direction of Soviet policy responses. The West's relationship with the Soviet Union was not limited to containment, but included important elements of mutual vulnerability and engagement. The Cold War's end was not simply a result of Western strength but of mutual weakness and intentional engagement as well.”
Furthermore, as far as anyone knows, there were no spies or operatives working inside the Kremlin at the time. There was no effort on the part of the United States to subvert, sabotage or undermine the Soviet government. No CIA operatives had a role in the transition and to this day, the levels of military budgets surpass those of the cold war when the Soviet Union actually presented a real threat to America.
In the end, Reagan partisans have been far more successful in claiming victory in the Cold War than they were in actually achieving it.
* Ronald Reagan's Presidency Did Not Cause the Collapse of the Soviet Union
Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry