Friday, February 6, 2015

Remembering Reagan on the 65th anniversary of his 39th birthday: What he did to end tyranny in Russia and Cuba

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness... - Ronald Reagan, Evil Empire Speech 1983
Staffers advised Reagan not to call on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall
 Having established that the new Cuba policy announced by the Obama Administration, was based on several false assumptions,that to a large degree is a retread of the Carter administration's disastrous 1970s Cuba policy. The word most often used to describe this new policy is détente with a Google news search generating 10,300 entries. Some have had the chutzpah to try to claim that President Reagan would have been on board with this new policy. This leads to two questions: What did Reagan do in Cuba during his presidency? and What did he do in Russia that sped up the end of the Soviet Union?

Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981 and re-imposed the travel ban, toughened economic sanctions, in 1982 placed the Castro regime on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and started Radio Marti to break through the communist monopoly with uncensored information for Cubans on the island.

On March 8, 1983 Ronald Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida and gave a speech that became known as the "Evil Empire" speech due to the following passage:
Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness -- pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world.

It was C.S. Lewis who, in his unforgettable "Screwtape Letters," wrote: "The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice."
Upon closer examination the above statement is a remarkable condemnation of totalitarianism and Communism but it offers a clear separation between the "sin" and the "sinner" and a call to prayer for those advocating Communism to be saved from the totalitarian darkness. This is a very different kind of dialogue that those who misname the communist totalitarian regime in Cuba as authoritarian and refuse to denounce the profoundly evil system that is operating there.

The Reagan administration advanced freedom and U.S. interests while avoiding major armed conflicts through out the eight years presidency. President Reagan did engage the Soviet Union in a dialogue but it was one based on hard truths and often language that was not diplomatic. He understood who and what he was dealing with and identifying the regime for what it was in 1983:
During my first press conference as President, in answer to a direct question, I pointed out that, as good Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution. I think I should point out I was only quoting Lenin, their guiding spirit, who said in 1920 that they repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas -- that's their name for religion -- or ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. And everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old, exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.Well, I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates an historical reluctance to see totalitarian powers for what they are. We saw this phenomenon in the 1930's. We see it too often today.This doesn't mean we should isolate ourselves and refuse to seek an understanding with them.
On January 29, 1981 in a news conference responding to a question from Sam Donaldson of ABC news whether detente was possible with the Soviet Union; the new president answered as follows:
"Well, so far detente's been a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims. I don't have to think of an answer as to what I think their intentions are; they have repeated it. I know of no leader of the Soviet Union since the revolution, and including the present leadership, that has not more than once repeated in the various Communist congresses they hold their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state, whichever word you want to use.
Now, as long as they do that and as long as they, at the same time, have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards, I think when you do business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind."
Reagan understood the nature of communist ideology something many have forgotten today or never learned in dealing with the communist regime in Cuba under the Castro brothers. Furthermore his policy towards the Soviet Union was one of confrontation to undermine the Soviet economy. While it is true that Reagan lifted the grain embargo imposed on the Soviets by President Carter in retaliation for the 1981 invasion of Afghanistan he did impose new sanctions and policies that sought to cripple their economy. According to Gus W. Weiss in the CIA report, The Farewell Dossier, Duping the Soviets:
On 17 January 1983, to define his policy for political, military, and economic relations with the USSR, Reagan approved National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 75, U. S. Relations with the USSR, a document spelling out purposes, themes, and strategy for competing in the Cold War. It specified three policy elements: containment and reversal of Soviet expansionism, promotion of change in the internal system to reduce the power of the ruling elite, and engagement in negotiations and agreements that would enhance US interests. In economic policy, NSDD 75 highlighted the need to control technology; Farewell's reports had moved those writing the Directive to put emphasis on preventing technology loss, and the President had agreed (so a KGB defector working for a foreign intelligence service put his stamp on a part of presidential policy). Later in 1983, Reagan proposed the SDI, which Gorbachev and the Soviet military took far more seriously than American commentators. SDI would, if deployed, place unacceptable economic and technical demands on the Soviet system. Even Reagan's 1983 "evil empire" speech had its economic effect, for immediately thereafter the Soviet military asked for a budget increase, this on top of already-bloated defense expenditures.
 In March of 2014 The Washington Times reported on how early on in July of 1981 the Reagan administration warned Europe not to build a pipeline from oil and gas rich Russia to the West because it would increase Soviet leverage.  At the same time the Reagan administration having, with the help of France, identified espionage networks stealing Western technology tricked the communists into stealing booby trapped software and technology that crippled the Soviet economy and in 1982 caused a huge explosion in the Siberian gas pipeline after Reagan gave the green light

Peter Schweizer in his book Reagan's War explores the development of Ronald Reagan's anti-communist vision and how the 40th president translated it into a coherent national policy that brought a nonviolent end to the Soviet Union. A more nuanced look at the end of the Cold War, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan by James Mann, demonstrates that Ronald Reagan was his own man neither following his own conservative base or the establishment school of Nixon, Kissinger, Scowcroft, George Schultz and his own State Department.
For example both Colin Powell, then the deputy national security adviser, and White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker both advised Reagan against calling on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

 Needlesss to say Fidel Castro on February 19, 2007 in Prensa Latina weighed in on this topic in one of his reflections filled with half truths, conspiracy theories but with nuggets of information, including this:
A clear example of the use of science and technology with the same hegemonic goals is described in an article written by the former official of United States National Security, Gus W. Weiss; it originally appeared in the magazine Studies in Intelligence, in 1996, even though it was more widely distributed in 2002 under the title of Deceiving the Soviets. There, Weiss claims the idea of sending the USSR software that they needed for their industries, but already contaminated, with the aim of making that country’s economy collapse.
Castro fails to mention that the software was stolen by communist spies as part of a campaign so that by the mid 1980s the Soviet Union would "be in a position to return to an aggressive foreign policy designed to gain the upper hand with the West.”  The other unasked question by policy makers today now that the vast majority of computers used in the United States and the West generally are made in the Peoples Republic of China: Who is to say that Communist China will not return the favor to set up the conditions to switch on software, perhaps something hardwired into the computers they manufacture, and cripple the U.S. economy? 

Unfortunately, in 2015 there does not appear to be another Reagan-like candidate running for president who can repair the damage done by the Obama presidency that amounts to the equivalent of a two term Carter presidency and George W. Bush that with his 2008 bailouts and big government spending was an equivalent disaster to the Nixon - Ford years for the national economy.

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