Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Deja Vu, All Over Again

Watched a documentary last night on Reagan's strategy for defeating the Soviet Union and winning the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher said it best when she toasted Reagan for putting freedom "on the offensive." It is interesting to note, in light of current events, that the actions Reagan took (rebuilding our conventional forces, deploying more capable nuclear forces in Europe, SDI, imposing unilateral economic sanctions, and supporting anti-communist insurgencies in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Poland), were wildly unpopular at home and abroad. A couple of years into his first term, Reagan's poll numbers made Jimmy Carter's look good. In his second term, there was talk of impeachment. But Reagan, to the chagrin of the Washington Wimps and the Soviets, stuck to his guns. In 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Two years later the Evil Empire crumbled to pieces like the Berlin Wall, hammered to fragments at the hands of millions yearning to live free.

I grew up watching the horizon for bright flashes and mushroom clouds, and learning to duck and cover in my school classrooms. My early training in the military was focused on defending against a tsunami-like Red Army conventional attack. I remember, clearly, sitting in a set of bleachers with fellow new lieutenants in training as a stern captain caused us to envision a Soviet Motorized Rifle Division attacking us from our front in wave after inexorable wave of infantry fighting vehicles and tanks supported by deluges of high explosive and chemical artillery rounds. At the end of his 30-minute imaginary tour de force, he paused and asked, "Any questions?" One of my buddies summed up our collective thoughts with the question, "Sir, how do they treat prisoners?"

In those days nobody believed that the Soviets could be beaten. They had the advantage of a ruthless ideology under totalitarian rule backed by overwhelming force. Heck, I didn't think we could beat them short of an all-out thermo-nuclear exchange that would have bounced each other's rubble pile until Paraguay was the new world super-power. But Reagan, and his faithful core of true believers, placed faith in the righteousness of freedom and in the incredible strength of free people, and bankrupted the Kremlin.

I can't help but think that history is repeating itself. Most of us don't recognize this because we don't care to study history--but that's grist for another post. Today we face an enemy that most commentators and many timid Americans believe is impossible to defeat. Our president's warfighting policies are unpopular. Listen, I'm the most jingoistic and patriotic American Empire-builder on the North American tectonic plate and I have a hard time following W's logic sometimes. But, the alternative to keeping freedom on the offensive is just too frightening to countenance.

And, oh by the way, while we are slapping at pesky islamo-fascist terrorists, we had better keep a fist tightly closed and coiled to strike the rapidly arming totalitarian masters of 1.4 billion Chinese.
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