Thursday, June 10, 2004

Tempering Reagan

Ronald Reagan's relationship with modern America is complex, ambivalent; he encouraged us in much that is great, but there are dark places. I know this time is for praising him, not for blame, but people with an eye to history's bigger picture should not let the encomiums become dogma. Take the end of the Cold War, for instance. It is quite possibly true that Reagan deliberately turned George Kennan's plan for slow death of the USSR by containment into a quick, merciful kill by turning up the heat in the arms race.

That policy may have saved many lives -- who knows if there would have had to have been another Vietnam or another Afghanistan if it had been done the slow way? But it gave us Osama bin-Laden, and the current state of the former SSRs is anything but uniformly free. Johann Hari this week has a timely reminder of the dark side of the Cold War, and what it cost the world:

The President lumped all independent third world liberation movements into his war on Soviet tyranny. Thanks to his disconnection from the grey hues of reality, everybody who opposed US policy became in his -– and Middle America’s -– mind somehow a Soviet stooge.

Requiescat in pace. The wall is gone. I saw it; I lived for a time almost in its shadow. It was the ugliest thing I have ever seen, and it stank. The world is better without it.