Gorbachev and Reagan Deserved Better

Gorbachev and Reagan Deserved Better

The death of Mikhail Gorbachev at 91 ends an era of extraordinary leaders who changed the world for the better. Along with the United Kingdom’s Margaret Thatcher, the Vatican’s Pope John XXIII, and, most importantly, one of America’s greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan, these visionary and heroic individuals defied conventional thought, ignored critics, and had the morality and courage to do what had to be done to end needless suffering and remove the planet from the brink of Armageddon.

Gorbachev realized that the Soviet Union’s foundation of communism and aggressive opposition to the west had bankrupted his nation and strangled the culture of his people. He measured the determination and strength of President Reagan, whose nation was backed by a capitalist system that left the Kremlin’s socialism in the dust. He understood that Reagan’s bid to build a space defense system would render the USSR’s only real claim to greatness, its vast nuclear arsenal, ineffective. He understood that the Pope’s moral authority, combined with the heroism of Polish labor leader Lech Wałęsa, would make Moscow’s occupation of its enslaved nations untenable.

It would have been easy for Gorbachev to take the path of least resistance, and continue with the same policies that had kept his predecessors in power. He chose to do otherwise. He implemented the concepts of “perestroika,” also known as restructuring, and “glasnost,” meaning openness. He understood the risk he was taking, and while not seeking the dissolution of the Soviet Union, nevertheless did what had to be done for the good of the Russian people, essentially eliminating his own power in the process.

It is important to understand the environment that existed when Gorbachev assumed power in the 1980s.

An extraordinary change had already occurred in the United States under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, who took office in 1981.  Throughout the prior decade, the debacles of the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, and ruinous inflation had demoralized America. The nation projected weakness abroad, (exemplified by the Iran hostage crisis) a declining military, and an economy that was subpar.  Despite overwhelming criticism from the media, the intelligentsia, and traditional politicians, Reagan projected optimism. He succeeded in reversing the multi-faceted decline. It was fashionable at the time to perceive America and the west as a fading power, losing out to the Kremlin.  It was believed that the nation’s capitalist tradition was no longer working for the majority.

As a presidential candidate, Reagan articulated a different reality.  He proposed rebuilding the nation’s armed forces and confronting expansionist Socialism. He championed the free market, and fought against domestic critics who attempted to knock it down through excessive strikes and leftist ideas. He opposed those academics and pundits who constantly and inaccurately criticized American national traditions.

Inevitably, he was harshly condemned by the political, academic, and media establishments.  It was said that, if elected, he would start World War III, crash the economy, and drive the U.S. into chaos. The result, of course, was the exact opposite.  By reducing taxes, he revived the economy. By fully funding the Pentagon and openly confronting the USSR, he restored American leadership throughout the globe. He praised America’s successes and history, and restored faith in the country.

It is an epic tragedy that the work of both Gorbachev and Reagan has been overturned in our day.  Vladimir Putin has returned Russia to its Stalinist practices, both internally and abroad. He has invested heavily in nuclear weaponry, and clearly seeks to rebuild the Soviet Empire.  His invasion of Ukraine is only the first step in that effort.

In the United States, Joe Biden has projected the weakness Reagan disdained. His feckless foreign policy, his underfunding of the military, and his manifest lack of appreciation for America’s history, along with his extreme partisanship, depresses the national mood.  His tax and spend policies devastate the economy.

Gorbachev and Reagan deserved far better from their successors.

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