Legacy of a Leader 4
Throughout his presidential career, Reagan remained inexorably resolute in containing Soviet influence. He blatantly denounced them as “the focus of evil,” (De Gregario – The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 657).
His anti-Communist temperament never tapered. Reagan intrepidly confronted the USSR. After the Soviet Union, intercepted, “a South Korean Airliner inside Soviet air space, killing 269 people, including Democratic Representative Lawrence Mc Donald,” America, in an attempt to counterattack their voluminous accumulation of medium range missiles aimed at Western Europe, “deployed Pershing and Cruise missiles over Europe on December 1983,” (De Gregario – The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 657). Again, Reagan preserved his preemptive position with unabated persistence. (Extensive elaboration required).
Infuriated, Reagan reminded America that only one enemy exists: “The Soviet Union” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 553). Cognizant of their rapacious obsession for power, Reagan pondered how the Soviets, “might react to a significant increase in defense spending,” He tested his hypothesis, feeling confident that, “the substandard Soviet economy lacked adequate resources to keep pace with the U.S. in an arms race,” (PBS – American Experience – The Presidents, Ronald Reagan). Apparently, this “rigid Soviet system,” proved insufficiently capable of, “responding effectively to the rigorous challenge,” presented by Ronald Reagan (Sloan, John, 23). Destined to over-spend them in defense armaments, Reagan’s experiment triumphed. Lacking in facilities, the Soviet regime relinquished.
The Reagan administration proposed their national security mechanism, Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a space-based missile shield envisioned to encompass Earth. Announced on March 23, 1983, Reagan introduced the technologically sophisticated SDI program, designed to intercept massive missile attacks, required extended surveillance system capabilities, including, advanced weapons possessing “very large electrical power levels and space nuclear reactors,” (FAS, 1). Many mainstream liberals considered Reagan a reactionary warmonger. Contrary to popular belief, Reagan frankly despised nuclear weapons. In his national speech summoning “the scientific community” Reagan pronounced,
“…those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete,” (PBS – The American Experience Timeline, 4).
Although initially “designed to devastate a Soviet offensive strike,” the program progressively transitioned toward diminutive systems that sought destruction of, “limited or accidental launches,” (Star Wars – Strategic Defense Initiative, 1). While critics condemned the proposal as a “fanciful” Star Wars “fantasy” that violated ABM treaties, it still managed to suppress Soviet resistance (D’Souza, 177).
Various critics simply condemned it unattainable, identifying Reagan’s objective as, “centrally and fundamentally,” invalid because supposedly, “it cannot be achieved,” (Bundy, Kennan, McNamara, Smith, 166). Yet, history proves these unsubstantiated claims erroneous. By 1987, the U.S. possessed sufficient capability to dismantle, “a major attack,” perpetrated by Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces (DefenseLink, 1). A voluminous accumulation, “of American defense spending, continuing previous trends, combined with implicit spending from the SDI, destabilized Soviet resources, transcending their economic limit,” (Gould – The Modern American Presidency, 199).
Consequently, U.S. proliferation of nuclear weapons superseded Soviet expenditures, instigating their self-destruction, which eventually rendered them unsustainable. The initiative not only proved successful but became a distinguished accomplishment of his presidency. Yet, this tremendous victory remained virtually impossible without the surprising cooperation of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev himself. Obviously, such an achievement also proved insurmountable without the, “exhibited adroitness, flexibility, and prudence that Reagan employed in positive response to Gorbachev’s reforms, which included persistent requests for arms cuts and international cooperation,” (American National Biography Online, 13). The Cold War began to dissipate in 1985, “with the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev,” (De Gregario – The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 657).
With Soviet poverty rampant, Gorbachev wanted nothing more than to accommodate the United States (De Gregario – The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 657). In actuality, Gorbachev rather, “than lose the arms race and Cold War altogether, he terminated it” (American National Biography Online,11). Moreover, it happened at the most favorable time, following Iran-Contra, “when Reagan desperately needed a stimulus to spark recovery,” (American National Biography Online,11).
In fact, “two heartwarming summits with Gorbachev, not only prompted resolution, but allowed Reagan to retire at near pinnacle popularity,” (Nelson –The Presidency and The Political System, 301). While both summit meetings, “produced little agreement” each initiated advancement in American Soviet relations, (De Gregario – The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 658). Hence, Reagan’s, “summit meetings with Gorbachev yielded the first treaties in history to reduce nuclear arsenals possessed by both nations,” (PBS – American Experience – The Presidents, Ronald Reagan).
Reagan first encountered Gorbachev on Tuesday November 19, 1985, at the Geneva summit to construct an arms control agreement. Prior to meeting, Reagan perceived Gorbachev as primarily, “a propagandist determined to alienate America’s European allies,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 544). After all, with Communism dangerously prevalent, the United States remained in no position to remain passive, or therefore assume any risk of potential threats, most especially after witnessing past attacks. Gorbachev experienced reciprocal apprehension about the United States. Even after the second summit at Iceland in October 1986, Gorbachev still ardently opposed this defensive/offensive shield.
However, after initial confrontation, the pre-existing fear and hostility pervading their preconceived perceptions suddenly subsided. Contrary to initial expectations, Gorbachev appeared “timid” as he approached Reagan (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 556). Then a sigh of relief overcame his senses, accompanied by a smile, for which he felt, “both simultaneously welcome and caressed,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 556). Henceforth, receptivity followed. Reagan’s penetrating personality proved the catalyst. His genuinely gregarious demeanor suppressed preceding apprehensions, which triggered an unusual spark of hope between them.
Reagan effectively removed any possibility of suspicion for Gorbachev, leaving the Soviet leader utterly stunned. The first rather mystical impression left both men dumbfounded in incredulous disbelief. Both men seemingly never felt more at ease. As Edmond Morris vividly described, “Gorbachev looked into Reagan’s eyes and saw – what? …Only visible in appearance remained the presidential pompadour, glossy and impenetrable. The roaring sky drowned out their initial exchange…Reagan pointed twice, with easy authority, at the steps, inch by inch those two silhouettes, ill-matched in shape and size, yet already companionable, together, moved across memorably, and ascended out of frame,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 556). This unique scene as depicted by Morris concluded like a mysterious melodrama of sensationalistic proportions. Yet, the sheer nature of this strange historical phenomenon, barely exaggerates truth.
From that moment forward, reconciliation remained inevitable. The two men established immediate reciprocity. They exchanged conversation. Minutes progressed into hours, listening to each other, debating the issues. Composure continued to sustain, even throughout the plenary session, “where euphoria of intimacy often withers as leaders discuss bilateral business,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 560). Gorbachev gracefully stated, “We are not at War with each other, and let’s pray God we will never be,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 561). The nonchalant invocation of God in addressing peace, sounded awfully strange, spoken from a Marxist-Leninist, most especially, “without deliberation,” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 561).
Nevertheless, it resonated positively with Reagan. Afterwards, the gentlemen departed in mutual agreement. In a personal interview years later with Morris, Gorbachev himself revealed that when he looked into Reagan’s eyes he saw, “Sunshine and clear sky” and while each understood nothing that the other said, Gorbachev instantly sensed a special “authenticity” emanating from his presence; someone possessing immense strength of character or “Kalibr” (Morris – Dutch, A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, 556).
After firing Donald Regan, alongside numerous other, “hard-line advisors connected to Iran Contra, in December 1987,” Reagan and Gorbachev finally sanctioned a monumental intermediate-range missile reduction (American National Biography Online, 13). Nevertheless, as a promising future of interdependence replaced previous Cold War apprehensions, Reagan retired among the most popular presidents in post-World War II America, finishing with an approximate “70% approval rating,” (American National Biography Online, 13).
Perhaps the most underestimated, grotesquely devalued, aspect of Reagan’s diplomatic interactions involves Pope John Paul II and his consummate commitment to conquering communism. As Steve Forbes succinctly stated in an interview, “Pope John Paul was one of the Giants of our era…[he] will be most remembered for his key role in destroying Soviet Communism,” (Forbes, Steve, 1 “Great Man Gone—His Legacy Endures). Witnessing its contradictions through internal struggle, John Paul prophesized that, “…Divine providence caused the fall of communism,” (Bernstein and Politi, 482).
Indeed, the Pope represented an active proponent of American policy, possessing access to, “carefully guarded secrets, sophisticated political analysis: information from satellites…electronic eavesdropping,” etc. (Bernstein and Politi, 482). In his personal memoir Reagan annotated a scheduled conference with, “the Pope’s Vatican study team on Nuclear War,” which again alludes to Pope John Paul’s active political involvement (Brinkley, Reagan, 55). By participating in a Nuclear War study team, Pope John Paul references his active collaboration with confidential U.S. government intelligence to monitor Soviet activities. During his presidential tenure, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II, “worked closely,” endorsing the Solidarity labor movement in Poland to suppress Soviet stronghold, exercising dominion throughout Europe (NewsMax Wires, 1).
Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II consolidated a collaborative alliance to curtail, contain, and conquer its virulent dissemination. The Pope, a truly devout pacifistic man of unassailable religious faith and benevolence, considered communism dangerous not only to Christianity alone, but humanity itself. The atheistic influence of Soviet Communism, which sought global domination, represented a ruthless disease against religion. Before Gorbachev, Pope John Paul witnessed the malevolent manifestation of Soviet communism first hand through Stalin, who annihilated countless lives to preserve his political power.
By indoctrinating the people with a cancerous mix of unadulterated evil, imposing greed, power, hatred, oppression, death, even torture upon innocent lives, targeting humanity through violence, Pope John Paul recognized a moral duty to actively confront communism, prevent its sacrilegious spread, and ultimately, obliterate it from society. Hence, Pope John Paul, perceived this Godless doctrine which sought destruction to achieve power, as an imminent threat directed against the indispensable faith and existence of humanity. During 1987 at a Meeting with Charities organized in San Antonio, T.X., the Pope, with his sage, saintly words referencing superior intellect and wisdom, verbatim articulated,
“Social injustice and unjust social structures exist only because individuals and group of individuals deliberately maintain or tolerate them. It is these personal choices, operating through structures, that breed and propagate situations of poverty, oppression, and misery. For this reason, overcoming “social” sin and reforming the social order itself must begin with the conversion of our hearts” (Pope John Paul II, 89-90, “In My Own Words”).
Therefore, the Pope, tired of tolerating this oppressive climate created by communism, assumed a bold initiative with Ronald Reagan to trigger its termination. Consider the following commentary offered by William P. Clark, one of President Reagan’s most trusted advisers in a 1999 interview. Clark succinctly summarized Reagan’s relationship with the Pope, as two courageous crusaders of providence struggled to restore international prosperity through interdependence. According to Clark, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II established a direct collaborative compromise that targeted Soviet Communism, seeking its obliteration. During Reagan’s inauguration as President in 1981, Poland became subsumed by Soviet dominion, subjugated to its destructive influence. Clark comments,
“During his first visit to Poland in 1979, John Paul II encouraged 5 million Poles’ [transition] toward moral, spiritual, and political freedom…” Hence, “a natural convergence of interests,” facilitated collaboration with the Vatican (Catholic World Report, 1).
By Jan. 20, 1981, when Reagan assumed office, the White house already arranged strategic contacts for alignment against communism (Bernstein, Politi, 257). However, contact officially commenced between Reagan and the Pope in Feb. 1981. Thereafter, both men maintained a close correspondence to plot their annihilation of the global communist threat. In December 1981, the Communist government of Poland exercised its capricious totalitarian reign, arresting countless Polish workers. Months earlier, campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Reagan witnessed Poland, “dissolve in rapture,” as “tears” swelled his eyes (Bernstein, Politi, 8). Expressing his aggressive posture, Reagan informed the Pope, “the U.S. will not let the Soviet Union dictate Poland’s future with impunity,” (Riebling, 1). On Dec. 29, 1981, Reagan verbatim composed in a letter addressed to Pope John Paul,
“I am announcing today additional American measures aimed at raising the cost to the Russians of their continued violence against Poland. … Unfortunately, if these American measures are not accompanied by other Western countries, the Russians may decide to pursue repression, hoping to provoke a rupture within the Western world, while escaping the consequences of our measures. … I therefore ask your assistance in using your own suasion throughout the West in an attempt to achieve unity on these needed measures [economic sanctions on Poland and the Soviet Union]… I hope you will do whatever is in your power to stress these truths to the leaders of the West,” (Riebling, 1).
Consequently, acknowledging support for U.S. sanction, the Pope responds in a letter dated Jan. 6, 1982,
“The Vatican recognizes that the U.S. is a great power with global responsibilities. The United States must operate on the political plane and the Holy See does not comment on the political positions taken by governments. It is for each government to decide its political policies. The Holy See for its part operates on the moral plane. The two planes (politics and morality) can be complementary when they have the same objective. In this case they are complementary because both the Holy See and the United States have the same objective: the restoration of liberty to Poland,” (Riebling, 1).
On June 7, 1982, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II met for their first time in person, discussing their concerns for roughly “50 minutes” (Bernstein, “The holy alliance”, 28). During this, “extraordinary period of U.S.-Vatican collaboration,” Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II embarked upon a “historic relationship,” to conclude communism in Europe (Bernstein, Politi, 270, 280). On June 6, 2004, the day following Ronald Reagan’s death, Pope John Paul II paid tribute to him, recollecting, “his efforts to bring down communism that, ‘changed the lives of millions of people,’ as one Vatican spokesman announced (NewsMax Wires, 1). Therefore, the collaborative compromise between Reagan and Pope John Paul II, who collectively conquered communism, holds monumental significance. Together, they established a diplomatic alliance that deliberately signaled its end. Hence, Pope John Paul and his unprecedented contributions proved necessary to the inevitable defeat of Soviet Communism. Thanks to the Pope and Ronald Reagan, communism saw its destruction.
Reagan also found other constructive methods for conquering communism. For instance, Reagan exercised diplomacy with cooperative nations. In extending U.S. support, he established connections with, “Angola, Afghanistan, and most especially, Central America,” to dissuade communist control, (PBS – American Experience – The Presidents, Ronald Reagan). Reagan, resurrected the Truman Doctrine, a provision designed to contain communism and hinder its diffusion, empowering anti-Communist regimes located in Africa and Central America.
The Truman Doctrine, instituted by President Harry Truman, promised to provide any nation who summoned U.S. attention, evidencing threat by communist guerilla influence, all necessary military resources, money, arms, and ammunition, for defeating them. Hence, Reagan, like Truman, guaranteed diplomatic alliance, accommodating any nation threatened by Communism. Again, Reagan references his diplomatic dexterity, epitomizing Roosevelt’s Corollary, the aphorism, “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” Subsequently known as the Reagan Doctrine, President Reagan expanded the Truman Doctrine to include any nation that feels reasonably threatened by communist influence. On May 5, 1985, Ronald Reagan introduced the Reagan Doctrine, endorsing armed, “insurgencies against Soviet-supported governments,” (PBS – The American Experience Timeline, 4).
The Reagan Doctrine proved a significant presidential innovation. Unlike the Truman Doctrine, which only sought to thwart communist spread, Reagan advanced one step further. Rather, Reagan initiated a preemptive foreign policy stratagem that surpassed all preceding documents in its scope of intervention. It assumed an aggressive approach to truly contain and conquer communism.
The Reagan Doctrine actually sought, “to reverse Soviet gains,” (D’Souza, 152). It aspired in its objective to, “extend and defend freedom,” against communism, for other nations seeking political refuge, while simultaneously preventing, “nuclear confrontation,” (Nixon, 122). Again, Reagan referenced his superior diplomatic initiative through the Reagan Doctrine, offering an affirmative approach to combat communism, without assuming any bellicose posture. Reagan harnessed his SDI capabilities in conjunction with the Reagan Doctrine to ultimately eradicate communism as an international threat, concluding Cold War atrocities.
As mentioned earlier, Ronald Reagan derived enlightened understanding of foreign policy initiative, acquiring wisdom and knowledge from Larry Beilenson, who influenced his effective foreign policy strategy to a substantial extent. For example, years before initiation of the Reagan Doctrine, Beilenson outlined his fundamental measures in an analysis he entitled “Power through Subversion”, which prescribed that American administer sustained assistance for, “dissidents against all communist governments,” (Evans, 211). Beilenson recommended, “a doctrine” designed to “deal with Communist engendered ‘wars’ incorporating maximum range of, “political military and economic,” resources required for implementation (Evans 211). Evidently, Reagan extracted these sage suggestions and exploited them to his advantage in combating communism.
Unquestionably, Beilenson influenced Reagan. The Reagan Doctrine closely resembled his strategic perspective. Yet, Reagan adapted the basic objectives underlined by Beilenson to suit his own innovative administrative style, in an evolving historical context. Reagan accentuated, “the Jeffersonian universality of freedom,” facilitating a democratic framework or, “crusade for freedom,” (Lagon, 112). In a poignant “Address to the British Parliament”, Reagan’s effervescent message which demonstrates undeterred dedication to democracy, embodies the Reagan Doctrine and its principal foreign policy objectives. Through the Reagan Doctrine, Reagan envisioned a “democratic revolution” defined by universal freedom. In the following excerpt, Reagan emphatically elucidates his consummate commitment to conquering communism, and restoring universal freedom:
“While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings,” (Ronald Reagan Library, Address to Members of the British Parliament).
Therefore, Reagan’s initiation of the Reagan Doctrine proves another conspicuous achievement of his remarkable foreign policy record. Communicating his utopian vision, a leader delivers the legacy of mankind. For Ronald W. Reagan, freedom applies to everyone, transcending gender, race, religion, nationality, etc. The world deserves freedom from oppression. Few modern leaders understood the value of freedom better than Ronald Reagan. His words resurrect the enlightenment philosophy championed by our constitutional founders. Freedom represents the beacon of inspiration, an impetus that provides common salvation to mankind. Restoration of freedom began when Reagan proposed the Reagan Doctrine. It inevitably foreshadowed the end of communism as an international threat to humanity.
Additionally, Reagan even extended so far in application to accommodate military assistance for “friendly governments within the region and supported secret warfare that posed minimal danger toward American lives,” (American National Biography Online, 11). Reagan offered amnesty to nations who sought cooperation with the U.S., furnishing infrastructural facilities, yet concurrently, exercised authoritative force, only when necessary, targeting and dismantling any power posing a potential threat against American interest. For instance, Reagan authorized nearly $5 billion in fiscal expenditures to buttress the government of tiny El Salvador, “a nominal democracy dominated by reactionary militarists battling left-wing radicalism since 1979,” Within days of assuming office, Reagan assisted contra rebels in their, “fight to overthrow the newly installed Marxist led Sandinista regime,” (American National Biography Online, 11).
Nonetheless, Reagan avoided, “direct military intervention” with other nations, after the lingering aftermath of Vietnam, to secure public interests. As a result of Reagan’s relentless persistence against communism, the Soviet Union decomposed and eventually terminated in 1991. On January 11, 1989, Reagan delivered his final address declaring retirement, from the Oval Office, nine days before presidential incumbent George H.W. Bush assumed office (American National Biography, 13). Reagan received honorary knighthood, “Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath,” in commemoration of his unprecedented contribution to America and the world.
Reagan announced his unfortunate discovery of Alzheimer’s disease. However, despite the terminal illness, Reagan still accomplished major achievements post presidential retirement. Reagan published several prominent publications, including anthologies of his speeches and an autobiography which he entitled “An American Life” (Spark Notes, 1). Ronald and Nancy collaborated to establish the Ronald Reagan Foundation, a resourceful educational facility commemorating his unsurpassed historical legacy. On June 5, 2004, Reagan died at the ripe age of 93 in his own home, after battling persistent deteriorating health. “9,277” visited the funeral to pay their respect, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II (CNN, Americans Line Up to Pay Respect, 1). Ronald Reagan restored moral integrity to American society invigorating patriotism, national faith, and a profound respect for the freedom our constitutional framers so cherished. The Cold War terminated serving as a testament to his unprecedented contributions. He facilitated global peace and bestowed a beacon of inspiration for future democratic initiative in our world. Despite death, the true legacy of a leader lives on forever hereafter.
Ronald Wilson Reagan, the oldest man and only professional actor ever inaugurated, entered at a time of social discord. A tempestuous period necessitating reform, Reagan provided reconstruction. History inevitably produced the most auspicious conditions for his emergence as an impeccable leader. Reagan’s inauguration restored Republican balance to Congress, conservatism in contemporary America. His election resulted in a landslide victory. Determined to provide political reform, his relentless persistence as president progressively ameliorated societal conditions. Reagan championed an aggressive posture in both foreign and domestic relations. Nevertheless, notwithstanding his aggressive stance, he never neglected diplomacy nor diverted from democratic initiative. His foreign policy initiative embodied the Roosevelt Corollary. Following the pithy principle, “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked,” he maintained isolationism, yet exercised authority against dangerous regimes, while offering peace to amiable nations, particularly those who supported American interests.
By resurrecting the Truman Doctrine, while incorporating diplomatic dexterity with influential leaders, including Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan contained and curtailed communism, eventually conquering its virulent dissemination. Under the Reagan Doctrine, an expanded version of Truman’s Doctrine, he secured peaceful conclusion to Cold War tensions. In domestic affairs, Reagan sought limited government. He championed federalism, as advocated by our constitutional founders, and reinvented it as a contemporary concept. After witnessing economic deterioration, his implementation of supply side economics and tax reform gradually reversed conditions. Ronald Reagan represented the moral righteousness and dignity of America. In defending justice, he once eloquently proclaimed that, “Life begins when one begins to serve”.
Reagan utilized his formidable Christian foundation and virtuous principles to regenerate faith among citizens, restoring the national consciousness of religion, amalgamating America as a principled society. Hence, he not only restored moral providence, but rejuvenated a sense of American patriotism and nationalistic fervor among Americans. Certainly, Ronald Reagan served the U.S. presidency in such a manner that other leaders only aspire to fulfill. Thus, his consummate commitment to America democracy remains unparalleled. Reagan revolutionized the modern American presidency. His profound influence on society, providing conservative reconstruction, conquering communism, revitalizing national prosperity, faith, and moral righteousness while simultaneously renovating America’s infrastructure, represents the quintessential paragon for subsequent leaders.
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