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Ronald Reagan, R.I.P. By: Joseph J. Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 07, 2004

On Saturday, the world lost one of liberty's most eloquent voices and effective advocates. Ronald Reagan, who brought America back from the lowest ebb of her modern history, is remembered as "The Great Communicator" but he was much more than a sunny rhetoritician. Thanks to his often lonely (and always courageous) political leadership, the Soviet Union has been shattered, the threat of nuclear war diminished and the world targeted for a free and prosperous future. We, at Frontpagemag.com, mourn the passing of a great American, a fighter for freedom and a leader of his country and his cause. -- The Editors.

The greatest American President of the 20th Century is gone. Ronald Wilson Reagan — the man who revitalized America’s spirit, shaped modern conservatism, and won the Cold War — is now in God’s arms. Jesus told his followers, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Ronald Reagan was the greatest peacemaker of our time. We shall never see his kind again.

The mid-late 1970s saw a malaise engulf the American people. A president self-destructed, communism advanced around the globe, inflation ravaged the economy, and a humiliating hostage crisis raged. America’s best days were behind us, the intellectuals said. The presidency was too big for one man. Our problems were too complicated for simple solutions.


In the midst of these crises, a warrior from California entered the political scene with a few simple ideas — defeat communism, cut taxes, and rebuild the military. The elites laughed. He was an “amiable dunce,” the liberals said. He wouldn’t make it. Even the Republican Establishment privately made fun of the old man. They wanted a moderate policy guy — a George H.W. Bush or a Bob Dole. Reagan was a nut and a lightweight who could give a nice speech, but shouldn’t be trusted with the presidency.


In 1977, Reagan sat down with foreign policy advisor Richard Allen to discuss his philosophy on relations with the Soviet Union. Allen expected Reagan to describe a nuanced version of détente, the policy adopted by all Republican and Democratic presidents for 25 years. Instead, Reagan told Allen, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”


"We win, they lose." So simple, and yet so revolutionary. Allen says that Reagan’s words changed his life forever. No politician in either party had ever advanced the notion that we could, should, and would defeat communism. That was crazy talk. We could peacefully co-exist with Communism, hopefully contain it, but not actually defeat it.


In Dinesh D’Souza’s biography of Reagan, he shows that experts on both sides of the aisle were sure that Soviet Communism was here to stay. In 1982, Dr. Seweryn Bialer, a Sovietologist from Columbia University, proclaimed, "The Soviet Union is not now, nor will it be during the next decade, in the throes of a true systematic crisis." Later that same year, historian Arthur Schlessinger, Jr. indicated that "those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse (are) wishful thinkers." Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger insisted that "the Soviet system will not collapse."


They were all wrong. Ronald Reagan was right.


Reagan believed that America’s policy of mutually assured destruction to secure world peace was both dangerous and immoral. He did not believe that America’s best defense against Soviet threats was to threaten to kill millions of Russians. Reagan thought that such a philosophy was insane. He likened it to two men sitting in a room pointing pistols at each other, hoping that the other would not fire.


Instead, Reagan wanted to build a world where nuclear weapons were eliminated and where we had a defense against missile attack. He wanted to build a world where those who lived under Communism would enjoy their God-given right to be free.


In a 1981 speech at the University of Notre Dame, Reagan announced his policy loudly and clearly: "The West won't contain Communism. It will transcend it. It will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written."


And so Reagan began the process of rebuilding America’s military, installing Pershing missiles in West Germany, funding the Strategic Defense Initiative, and negotiating — from a position of strength — with the Soviets for arms reduction. He called on Soviet Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.


And in 1989, the wall came down. By 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved itself. We won, they lost. It was just as Reagan had said. Millions who lived in tyranny were free. And Ronald Reagan was the reason. As Rudy Giuliani said on Saturday, “Ronald Reagan changed the map of the world.” And he did it, in Margaret Thatcher’s words, “without firing a shot.”


Ronald Reagan believed that there were no easy answers, but that there were simple ones. And Reagan’s simple solutions were bold, courageous, and moral.


With intense media coverage surrounding the death of Ronald Reagan, Americans are getting a sustained look at the president’s heroic record. And many young people who were not alive during his presidency are learning about him for the first time. Let us hope that they will inspired by his great achievements and by his extraordinary character.


Ronald Reagan embodied love — love for his wife, love for his country, and love for his Lord and Savior. He was humble, principled, optimistic, and deeply devoted to America. In his final speech to the Republican National Convention, Reagan said:


“And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.”


Ronald Reagan brought peace to America and to the world. He brought comfort to those who grieved, inspiration to those who doubted, and freedom to those who were oppressed. He served others, living as the Gospels had taught him.


May God bless Ronald Reagan as he enters the Kingdom of Heaven. We miss him already. And we shall be grateful forever.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.

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