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Friday, June 11, 2004
WHAT IF REAGAN HAD LOST IN 1980?
What I think is most remarkable about Reagan is that he understood the challenge of his time and did not shrink from it. He recognized what we were up against -- the evils of socialist totalitarianism -- and he called it what it was. He didn't accomodate it. He didn't equivocate, he spoke firmly about what he knew was right, and he acted boldly to change the world.
In hindsight, the fall of the Soviet Union is being described as if it was destined to happen. It was a corrupt and morally bankrupt system, the economy was failing, they couldn't keep up with our military spending, etc....
But the fall of the Soviet Union wasn't even thinkable in 1981. That may be because we had poor intelligence. But it may also be because it wasn't going to happen. Without Reagan, I think there is good reason to believe that the Soviet Union would still be here.
Let's take the reasons for Soviet collapse one at time.
A. It was a corrupt system.
Yes, it was corrupt and morally bankrupt, and inefficient too. But it was no less corrupt, immoral or unwise in the previous 60 years. Besides, if corruption and moral bankruptcy led directly to collapse, we could all vacation in Cuba.
B. The Soviet Economy was Failing
Sure, the Soviet economy was failing -- socialism and command and control approaches to economic problems never work. But the Soviets could have propped up the system in several ways:
First, conquest. The soviets had done it before in Eastern Europe, and by 1980, it is clear they had their sights set on two areas: the middle East (directly with troops in Afghanistan) and Central America (through communist surrogates and fronts). From both of those spots they are a short hop away from a whole lot of Mexican, Iraqi, and Saudi oil. Second, blackmail. The Soviets could have adopted an approach of international negotiation, trading arms deals for financial support. The North Koreans did this effectively under Clinton, after all, and the Soviets certainly had a lot more to bargain with.
C. The Soviets Couldn't Keep Up with Our Military Spending
Damn right they couldn't (see reason 2 above). But that is only because we dramatically increased our military spending during the 1980s. If we had kept up with the trend from the 1970s, the Soviets would have been able to keep up just fine. Beyond that, though, we also forced them to deploy more resources by aggressively combating the soviets at every turn -- we supported opposition forces, we started to develop anti-missile technology, and we put missiles in Europe. These were, every one of them, controversial choices that would not have been made by the previous administration.
Ask yourself, would the Soviet Union still be around if the following things happened in the 1980s:
* US Military Spending stayed flat during the 1980s
* The US chose not to "escalate" the cold war by putting missiles in Western Europe
* We refused to walk away from the table and gave the Soviets a deal on arms control
* We failed to inspire the dissidents with "inflammatory" rhetoric and demonstrations of American resolve
* We failed to oppose communist aggression in the middle east and central America
* We responded to increased aggression with negotiations and accomodations?
Had all those things happened, I think it is likely the Soviet Union would still exist today, in a more menacing and aggresive form than ever before. Of course, none of those things happened because Reagan made the exact opposite choice, over the recommendations of advisers, over the objections of the state department, and despite the harsh criticism he received from academicia and the media.
In the early 1980s, none of the experts foresaw the demise of the Soviet Union. Reagan not only foresaw it, he set it in motion. It was bold, it was risky, but it was not foreordained.
Reagan was resolute despite it all. He was called a "cowboy" and a dimwit by the intelligencia, who warned that his actions would fan the flames of hatred against America. Reagan did it anyway.
Were it not for Reagan, I think our sons and daughters would still be living in a cold war world. God bless him for knowing what was right and for speaking unwelcome and uncomfortable truths and for acting boldly in our defense.
All in all, not bad. Not bad at all.
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