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April 10, 2010

Reagan's Secret War

The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster
Martin and Annelise Anderson - 9780307238610

This new book opens still more doors into the mind of Ronald Reagan. It includes more exculpatory evidence that he was not the "amiable dunce" the left claims him to be; an attitude widely accepted, based upon personal prejudice and a deep seated, irrational hatred of the man. Would that a man of his character, conviction, grace and amiable steel were in the White House now. I'd even vote for JFK, the last courageous, well-grounded, patriotic American president from the left--which left was a hell of a lot further right than it is now. Indeed, JFK was well to the right of most every prominent Republican on the scene today. But I digress.

Declassification of documents made this book possible. "Reagan accomplished so much with such apparent ease that the casual observer often assumes he had nothing to do with it." The authors then chronicle what Reagan did, factually and in depth. Myriad documents were reviewed, portions of which are entered into the narrative. Amongst them are cabinet minutes, congressional records, and Reagan's own notes and diaries.

Those who believe Reagan to be a humorous, doddering old shit with stage presence, need be prepared to be surprised, even awed if approached with an open mind. After Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and the catastrophic Jimmie Carter it was felt by most that the presidency was unmanageable by any one. Reagan proved this conclusion false by commanding the resurrection of the economy and the restoration of our military might, while elevating our image in the world and authoring victory in the cold war. His simple--anything but simplistic--philosophy regarding communism? "We win, they lose!" He had help, but it was his passion an assurance which drove the efforts. His cabinet was widely accepted as the best in the 20th century, and contrary to popular opinion he made all of the decisions himself, often against the recommendations of his advisers.

Soviet "shopping" had always included theft--thru espionage. It had been widely recognized, but until Reagan, nothing was done to stop it. Their huge weapons build-up was fueled by pirated technology; Reagan reduced the theft and overwhelmed them with new technology. The Soviet economy was largely dependent on raw materials. They found that the price of wood, oil, gas, even (or especially) gold dropped to historic lows, which eliminated the flow of hard currency at a time they were ramping up production. This was a result of Reagan's plan and actions! In essence he said to hell with coexistence . . . you wanna rumble? Great! Have at it. We'll play the game to win--no quarter--and do whatever it takes to bury you (Khrushchev's line.)

Because of their financial difficulties the Soviets were themselves considering, or at least receptive to weapons reduction. Reagan played upon that. Depleting their revenues by reducing the price of raw materials helped immensely. He was the first to convince the Soviets to sign treaties reducing armaments . . . a complete contradiction of Kissinger's realpolitik and prevailing concepts of coexistence . . . of staying even . . . of MAD (mutual assured destruction.) Whole classes of weapons disappeared as a result of negotiated treaties.

Decades before his election he had asked in his diary, "How much is it worth to not fight World War III?" He dedicated his life to achieving that goal. The book chronicles his numerous and varietal efforts to reduce nuclear armament, open up trade and dialogue with the Soviet Union, and ultimately, bring it down. Gorbachev may have been a factor, but Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope were the architects of its demise. They didn't set a goal of keeping the Soviets at bay. Their goal was to defeat the U.S.S.R.

His personal correspondence with leaders, most notably with masters of the Kremlin (from Brezhnev to Gorbachev) is reviewed in detail. Much of it is fascinating; equally so in reportage of his "face-offs" with Soviet power. It necessarily includes discussion of his famous "tear down this wall" speech in Berlin, and there is considerable verbiage about the Reykjavik summit. Gorbachev came determined not to sign any document permitting the continuation of research into anti-missile defense. Reagan simply walked out. "With nothing!" The press, the state department, the left and Gorbachev were apoplectic. He'd ruined the summit . . . !! . . . well, maybe not. Gorbachev later returned, reluctantly, to sign on to the missile reduction without eliminating "Star Wars." The cold war was won. The Soviets could not create, and could no longer borrow, buy, steal (or even afford) the technology to keep up with the mighty economic and military engines Reagan had rebuilt. It took a while, but the gate was opened. The wall did come down. Germany was reunified, Poland and other satellites were free, and the U.S.S.R. did devolve; buried in the "ash heap" of history by its own inadequacies.

So, how did the old duffer accomplish so much? He had a clear vision of what he wished to do. He was a superb communicator, a skilled negotiator and the supreme "decider" (a familiar Bush term.) But even now, decades after his departure and a decade after his death he is not understood . . . in large measure because a considerable majority of the left is unwilling to acknowledge his accomplishments.

Shortly after his inauguration Reagan opined that he wanted to change the nation. Instead--with help from the Pope, Thatcher, and some from Gorbachev--he changed the world.

Read it. It is a masterfully done book, enlightening and heartening.

(I purchased this book "used" but unused. Inside was a library envelope dated May 28, 2009, indicating it had arrived on publication. It showed up as a used book only a few months later! Perhaps it was gifted to the library by a conservative? No library purchases and then divests itself of a $33 book a couple of months on, before it has even been checked out! The library clearly practiced censorship. How awful! How unforgivable! It's history, not pornography . . . er, sorry, I forgot . . . porn is permitted in libraries; just not stuff about conservatives.)

Posted by Curmudgeon at April 10, 2010 11:02 AM