Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review June 7, 2004 / 18 Sivan, 5764

John H. Fund

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Freedom's Team: How Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II won the Cold War | Ronald Reagan died just one day after President Bush bestowed the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, on Pope John Paul II for his heroic efforts to topple communism. Those two men, together with Margaret Thatcher, deserve much of the credit for the West's success in the Cold War.

As the nation mourns Ronald Reagan we should also pause to reflect that in the space of 27 months between 1978 and 1981 three such extraordinary leaders — each with the belief that evil must be confronted — should have come to power. Together they changed the world.

Containment had been the cornerstone of U.S. policy towards the Soviet Union since George Kennan articulated it in 1947. Reagan decided to add an active effort to undermine the props supporting the Soviet empire. Former CIA director Robert Gates says that "Reagan, nearly alone, truly believed in 1981 that the Soviet system was vulnerable . . . right then." In his famous speech to the British House of Commons in 1982 he stood with Mrs. Thatcher and declared, "It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. . . . The march of freedom and democracy . . . will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history." Last year, President Bush openly emulated Reagan's approach when he also went to Britain last year to issue a challenge that free nations unite to eradicate terrorism.

Few like to recall the feelings of resignation or even despair that many in the West felt in the 1970s as countries from Angola to Nicaragua became Soviet proxies. Mrs. Thatcher says that the West was "slowly but surely losing" the Cold War, and she eagerly embraced Reagan's strategy to win it by becoming "his principal cheerleader" in NATO.

That strategy rested on six pillars: support internal disruption in Soviet satellites, especially Poland; dry up sources of hard currency; overload the Soviet economy with a technology-based arms race; slow the flow of Western technology to Moscow; raise the cost of the wars it was fighting; and demoralize the Soviets by generating pressure for change.

Donate to JWR

On June 7, 1982, the day before Reagan gave his "ash heap" speech at Westminster Abbey, he met alone with the pope in the Vatican. Richard Allen, Reagan's first national security adviser, says the two men "agreed to undertake a clandestine campaign to hasten the dissolution of the communist empire." Until it was legalized in 1989, Poland's Solidarity union was kept alive by the U.S. and the Vatican. Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who later became president of free Poland, has said that "we owe our freedom to their unstinting efforts."

A new book by former Air Force secretary Thomas Reed reveals that the Reagan administration allowed a Soviet agent to steal gas-pipeline software that had been secretly designed to go haywire on a catastrophic scale. The ruse led to a June 1982 explosion in the Siberian wilderness that Mr. Reed says was "the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space." It crippled the Soviet's secret techno-piracy operation because they could longer be sure if what they were buying or stealing was similarly booby-trapped. They had reason to worry: Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline, and defective plans disrupted chemical plants and tractor factories.

Reagan's arms buildup also unhinged the Kremlin. His clarion call for a missile-based defense system against nuclear weapons in 1983 helped convince the Politburo to select Mikhail Gorbachev as a less hard-line Soviet leader in 1985. "Reagan's SDI was a very successful blackmail," says Gennady Gerasimov, the Soviet Foreign Ministry's top spokesman during the 1980s. "The Soviet economy couldn't endure such competition." Mr. Gorbachev himself agrees the U.S. exhausted his country economically and acknowledges Reagan's place in history. "Who knows what would have happened if he wasn't there?" he told the History Channel in 2002.

It's certainly safe to say that no other president would have made two famous speeches that drew a sharp moral distinction between the West and communism and lifted countless spirits behind the Iron Curtain. The State Department fought desperately to take out Reagan's reference to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" as well as his challenge to Mr. Gorbachev: "Tear down this wall." But Reagan's candor undermined Moscow's legitimacy. "Reagan's truth-telling — together with the examples of Mrs. Thatcher's economic success and Pope John Paul's moral strength — gave millions of people courage to rise up when the opportunity for change came," says President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic.

After Reagan's death on Saturday, Sen. Ted Kennedy graciously saluted him as "the president who won the Cold War." Historians know the reality is more complicated, but they will no doubt remark on the world's extraordinary good fortune that he, Pope John Paul II and Mrs. Thatcher were able to work as a team for a full eight years.

Joseph Stalin once dismissed the Vatican's influence by asking, "How many divisions does the pope have?" In the end, that didn't matter. The pope and two stalwart Western leaders helped topple the entire Soviet empire without moving a single division across a border. As Reagan himself said in his 1989 Farewell Address. "Not bad, not bad at all."

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor John H. Fund's column by clicking here.


05/25/04: Don't Touch That Dial? Radio hosts worry about the FCC's indecency regulations. What about political speech?
05/18/04: Anger Management: Dems start to realize that a campaign of hate won't beat President Bush
05/11/04: Will Sen. Kennedy turn out to be a political liability for John Kerry?
05/04/04: Buyer's Remorse: Dems start to worry that Kerry can't win
04/27/04: Arlen Specter's personality helps make him vulnerable in today's primary
04/20/04: Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks making laws should be a part-time job. He's right
03/23/04: Bragging of foreign support doesn't win many votes in America
03/16/04: The Vanishing Center: In both political parties, the defense of moderation is no virtue
03/09/04: A JFK-NBC Ticket? If Kerry wants to make things interesting, he'll consider Tom Brokaw for veep
03/02/04: As Virginia mulls a tax hike, all Americans should guard their wallets
02/24/04: Marriage of Inconvenience: Why same-sex nuptials make Democrats nervous
02/10/04: Republican Rot: Is Congress's GOP majority becoming as corrupt as the Democrats were?
02/03/04: Moore Trouble: Alabama's former chief justice may challenge Bush for the Religious Right vote
01/13/04: Rage of a Relic: Paul O'Neill is angry that the world has passed him by
01/06/04: Unintended Consequence: How Terry McAuliffe and James Carville created Howard Dean
09/03/03: The Anti-Dean: Why Hillary opposes the Democratic front-runner
06/27/03: The California jurist who may replace Justice O'Connor
06/02/03: Clinton the Hoover: Bill, Hillary and the Dems' political vacuum
05/27/03: Nerd Nirvana: Students are to the right of the faculty even at the U of Chicago
05/16/03: GOPers gain in the land of Humphrey and Mondale
04/28/03: With the war won, it's time for Bush to master the Senate
04/04/03: Is "diversity" on campus even a goal worth pursuing?
03/05/03: Sunday morning with the BBC
02/28/03: Shut Up, They Explained: If you can censor this, thank a teacher
02/21/03: Unmitigated Gaul: Saddam isn't the only dictator with whom Jacques Chirac is cozy
02/18/03: Growing number of black officials breaking ranks by calling for a more honest approach to race relations
01/31/03: Half and Half: Republicans have achieved parity among American voters
11/11/02: Sobering Thoughts: The GOP's cup runneth over? No, it's half empty
10/31/02: Blue Gray: California's governor answers a Nobel Prize winner with obscenities
10/14/02: Bad Hair Day: Did Montana Dems exploit antigay prejudice?
10/11/02: The kill-everything senate
09/30/02: Schroeder did what it took to win--but at what cost to Germany?
08/22/02: Buh-Bye Bob, So Long Cynthia : No amount of shouting could've saved Barr or McKinney
07/29/02: GOP: Get Over Panic --- Dems are vulnerable on corporate scandals, too
07/17/02: Not Just an Average Joe: A black GOPer may give Rep. Eliot Engel a run for his money
07/15/02: The McCain Mutiny-II
07/01/02: Opening the Schoolhouse Door: The politicians can't stop school choice now
06/20/02: The Body' Bows Out --- American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura
06/06/02: It's time for President Bush to stand up to California's senators
05/16/02: A Court Intrigue: Procedural funny business in a racial-preference case
05/14/02: Thin moral ice: New revelations from a skater's Stasi files recall an oppressive era
05/09/02: Newark, Zimbabwe!?
05/02/02: Will Terror Leave Us No Choice? Teachers unions try to use Sept. 11 as an excuse for bad schools
04/23/02: The New Nixon? Al Gore plots his comeback
04/16/02: 'I, Uh, I Have No Comment': A union plays dirty in opposing an antitax initiative
03/31/02: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Filibusters can help the Senate GOP get things done
03/14/02: Red-Light District: It's time to draw the line on gerrymandering
02/21/02: Slippery Slope: Can Dick Riordan beat California's Democratic governor?
02/14/02: Reform School: The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act
02/07/02: Arizona Highway Robbery: Politicians make a grab for campaign cash
01/31/02: Disfranchise Lassie: Even dogs can register to vote. We need election reform with teeth
01/17/02: Dr. King's Greedy Relations: Cashing in on a national hero's legacy
01/10/02: Oil of Vitriol
01/04/02: The little engine that couldn't--and the senators who don't want it to
12/24/01: E-mail and low-cost computers could be conduits for a learning revolution
12/13/01: How Gore could have really won
12/07/01: Let our students keep their cell phones
12/04/01: Why the White House gave the RNC chairman the boot
11/12/01: A Winsome Politician: She won an election in a majority-black district--and she's a Republican
11/01/01: Bush Avoids Politics at His Peril
10/30/01: Cocked Pit: Armed pilots would mean polite skies
10/24/01: Chicken Pox: Hardly anyone has anthrax, but almost everyone has anthrax anxiety
10/11/01: Will Rush Hear Again? New technology may make it possible
10/04/01: Three Kinds of pols
08/24/01: Lauch Out: Who'll replace Jesse Helms?
08/08/01: Tome Alone: Clinton's book will probably end up on the remainder table
08/03/01: Of grubbing and grabbing: Corporation$ and local government$ perfect "public use"
07/31/01: Affairs of State: The Condit case isn't just about adultery. It's about public trust and national security
07/14/01: The First Amendment survives, and everyone has someone to blame for the failure of campaign reform
07/12/01: He's Still Bread: Despite what you've heard, Gary Condit isn't toast --- yet
07/12/01: Passing Lane: Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences
06/25/01: Man vs. Machine: New Jersey's GOP establishment is doing everything it can to stop Bret Schundler
06/15/01: A Schundler Surprise? Don't count out "the Jack Kemp of New Jersey"
06/06/01: Memo to conservatives: Ignore McCain and maybe he'll go away
05/29/01: Integrity in Politics? Hardly. Jim Jeffords is no Wayne Morse
05/22/01: Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men
05/07/01: Prematurely declaring a winner wasn't the networks' worst sin in Florida
04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/09/01: Terminated
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet

©2001, John H. Fund