Saturday, November 01, 2003

Reagan and the Cold War?

One of the responses to my earlier piece about FDR and Reagan argued that Reagan didn't win the Cold War- that it was a "45 year bipartisan effort". This is wrong.

It was neither a "bipartisan effort" that won the cold war nor the actions of one man. It was a war that was never won at all. The Russians decided to turf it, largely because it simply didn't work. The end of the Soviet Union was at heart an internal matter, which is why nobody was able to predict it beforehand. (Please don't mention Reagan and Thatcher. That was bluster, not prediction.)

As for the annihilation I predicted- no, that is not speculation. Prior to Gorbachev, the Soviets were in disarray- Reagan was able to act tough due to the leadership problems. Gorby ended those, but Gorbachev was only one man. The reason his reforms failed was because of the tension between reformers and conservatives within the Kremlin, including between his close advisors. One conservative named Ligachev came very, very close to taking over. The rhetoric was crystal clear: were they to take over, the Soviet Union would no longer be as conciliatory as it is, Perestroika and Glasnost would have ended, and the devolution of power that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union would have been immediately halted.

After that, of course, Reagan's belligerence would have been answered by belligerence in triplicate. And, quite possibly, nukes, as the Russians remained quite paranoid about their American counterparts.

I maintain my position that there was only one man who ended the Cold War, and his name was Mikhail Gorbachev. He didn't intend for it to end the way it did, but he was responsible nonetheless. Reagan's role was, at best, subsidiary. More likely, it was entirely counterproductive.

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