Tear Down This Wall

I work with people from all over the planet — every continent and almost every country.

Not a single one of them credits Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I lived in (not as a tourist) a former Soviet Republic.  Twice.  No one there credited Ronald Reagan with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I visited Gdansk.  I didn’t see any monument to Ronny.

But this freaking meme will not die.

Even Gorbachev and liberal historians agree that Reagan was the driving force behind ending the cold war. Why would you want to deny it? So strange to me.

Completely unsourced and untrue.  I lived with people who lived through it.  I didn’t just visit them or read some book.  I lived with them.

What nonsense this woman spews.  She doesn’t even know what she is talking about.

On The New Hour tonight, West Germans admitted that while they paid for reunification monetarily, the people of East Germany paid in other ways, painful ways.

I will always remember my colleagues.  There were some good aspects of their system.  Ones that they missed.  Before independence, women weren’t assaulted.  Just go and search you tube for Russian prisons.  And now parts of the former Soviet Union have “leaders for life” — that’s progress if you don’t care about the people who live under those rulers — or don’t even know where those places are.

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6 responses to “Tear Down This Wall

  1. I agree. The true heroes who brought down the wall were an unlikely mix of Eastern European CP leaders (Mikhail Gorbachev, General Jaruselski, although his perception of himself as being akin to the little boy with his finger in the dyke might be a stretch) and a worker (Lechs Walesa), a playwright (Vaclav Havel), and a Pope (you know, the Polish one!). Unfortunately, the US response was to try a little Chicago School (Milton Friedman, not Muddy Waters) shock treatment on countries which were close to being flat on their back. Whatever people may think of Putin, the anything-goes-wild-west days under Yeltsin don’t seem to be missed by anybody but the gangsters and the Ph.Ds from Univ. of Chicago.

    • I will always remember going to Gdansk — for more than just the memorial (that’s another story).

      In Poland, there were no statues to Reagan. No plaques to name him as their freedom fighter.

      But here? Sheesh. The myth will never die in some circles.

  2. Well, I lived the life of an American soldier during the Cold War. I lived the reality that before the Reagan era NATO’s implicit strategy was to just “hang on” if the Soviet hords crossed the inter-German border. I also lived through an era of change, initiated by Reagan, in which the confidence to not only hold on, but prevail was restored in the force. This led to a decision to match Soviet adventurism wherever it reared its destabilizing head. I lived four years in Panama during the mid-80’s, when the outer reach of that adventurism was turned back by our commitment to stand against the challenge. Reagan forced the Soviet Union to rethink its strategy – to not only try and match our strategic missile forces to provide for mutually assured destruction, but to try and perpetuate the sense of conventional superiority that would paralyze the ability of the US to respond to their expansive goals (e.g. – Cater’s response to the intervention in Afghanistan). They could not, because Reagan and Congress were committed to ensuring that our armed forces were trained, equipped, and led in a way that would ensure success on that conventional battlefield. Your conclusions derived from experiences among the masses of dis-enfranchised former east block citizens is based on an extremely limited lens of perception. Go check the Politburo archives and let’s see if they thought Reagan was a challenge they could not match.

  3. Geoffrey, I appreciate your analysis, and it is certainly a well-argued view. I would however argue a differing view, and from my understanding of what the Politburo archives might eventually reveal, both our views would probably be represented. The monolithic unanimity of the USSR’s stated foreign policy objectives and their internal closed-door analysis of what we were up to didn’t always match up. So far as I know, the bulk of information now available is primarily through memoirs by former Red Army and/or CP big shots, and the occasional slightly nostalgic get-togethers of former enemies at various conferences. Needless to say, a lot of the recollections (from our guys as well as theirs) tend towards a certain level of self-exculpation. Not everybody is prone to the sort of public self-flagellation that say, Robert Macnamara was so fond of. The archives themselves have a slightly longer off-limits time frame than our own equivalent files (State Dept., Pentagon, CIA, etc.). Or at least that’s my understanding. I also think that the view of NATO as in disarray until the arrival of Reagan would be open to debate. The defection of the French under De Gaulle was far and away the biggest blow NATO had ever (has ever?) suffered and that was during the Johnson administration. That defection, if anything, made the US/Great Britain backbone stronger.
    As to Carter’s response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I suspect that the long-term view will continue to be that it was weak or insufficient, but given our total lack of interest in Afghanistan up to that point, and the utter surprise which the invasion caused (and not just in the Carter admin., but among governments around the world, including a fair number in the Soviet bloc as well), I think that view is a little unfair. It might seem laughable now, but the boycott of the Olympics did damage the USSR’s image more than it did ours.
    I’m very familiar with the charge that the civil wars in Central America were, if one followed the trail back far enough, the adventurist schemes of the Kremlin, with Cuba as the obvious cat’s paw in that scheme. The counter-argument is that the insurgencies against corrupt and oppressive governments which were US-approved, were in every case instances of liberation movements. The idea that the wars of the 1980s (in both Central America and Africa) were proxy wars fought between the US and the USSR, using the natives as pawns may have some validity to it, but I think it sorely devalues the very local grievances and homegrown aspirations of both Africans and Central Americans towards odious regimes which we tolerated for our own interests. There was very little American support for moderate opposition groups (other than through the Catholic Church), and the absence of such moderate forces led naturally to armed struggle which, as I think you’d agree, committed leftists have been fairly good at organizing at a grass-roots level, regardless of what Party members might think in Havana or Moscow.
    I don’t think that anyone is arguing that Ronald Reagan should be utterly excluded as one of many players in the entire drawn-out drama of the Cold War’s last days. Only that acknowledgment must be given to a large cast of characters and a whole range of circumstances (Moscow’s appreciation that if NATO might be cautious or more prone to a defensive posture, than the Warsaw Pact was useless as an instrument for crossing borders ; the not entirely surprising fact that the deep Catholicism of the Poles would make them permanently unreliable, and that the election of a Polish Pope would give them the will to resist not only the Russians but the thin veneer of the Polish C. Party ; the desire on the part of M. Gorbachev for reform within a Marxist frame, taking back some of the origins of the revolution from its Stalinist (and yes, Leninist) deviance ; etc. etc.
    All of the above can be argued one way or another. I’m just not willing to give Ronald Reagan more credit than I think he’s truthfully due.

  4. I lived four years in Panama during the mid-80’s, when the outer reach of that adventurism was turned back by our commitment to stand against the challenge.

    So geoffrey, did you facilitate the Noriega regime while you were there? The U.S. government supported them at the time.

    It must really piss you off that the Central and South Americans have elected people you would have killed, if you had had the chance.

  5. BTW, excellent reply Roberto. I have figured out that geoffrey is not who he claims to be. He’s a sparkly fan.

    But excellent reply — post worthy! Which reminds me. . . you should. I’ll have to figure out how to fix it.

    Thank you! and take care!

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