Exposing the Citadels of Freedom to a Slow Death by Strangulation

Just a few years before Ronald Reagan became president of the United States, the Soviet Union was the world's 800-pound gorilla.  Countries across Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America were falling to Communism.  American politicians and beatniks had taken to talking of  losing the struggle to communism.

As Reagan weakened the Soviet Union with his words of encouragement to communism's captives, many Americans worried that Reagan was too boorish and too aggressive.  Yet, suddenly, when the Soviet Union imploded on the wings of his inspirational critique, those same Reagan detractors said they had seen it coming all along.

A monday morning quarterback is someone who, the day after Sunday's football game, either says he knew his team was going to win all along, or that he has the solutions which, if his team had applied them, they would certainly have won.  The sudden U.S. victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War is likely the most monday-morning-quarterbacked event in American history.

During the Cold War, Americans began to use the term "Mutually Assured Destruction" to highlight the probably correct belief that if America and the Soviets got into a nuclear war, both countries would be annihilated.  This prompted many Americans to chant the slogan "Better Red than Dead".  If it meant a chance to go on living, more and more Americans were willing to concede their liberties for a place at the barren table of communism.

Such defeatism was stock in trade for the United States government.  In 1959, for example, Joseph E. Johnson, a planner in the U.S. State Department stated that
From now on, every decision facing the United States in this field must be taken in the light of the fact that a good part of this country could be destroyed ...We must be prepared to fight limited wars, limited as to weapons and as to goals, to stabilize the situation temporarily, tide things over. But victory is no longer possible.

In 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was erected, the New York Times advocated complete capitulation to Communism by the United States
We must seek to discourage anti-communist revolts in order to avert bloodshed and war. We must, under our principles, livev with evil, even if by doing so we help to stabilize tottering Communist regimes, as in East Germany, and perhaps even expose the citadels of freedom, like West Berlin, to slow death by strangulation.

It was perhaps for this reason that American social progressives were incensed when President Ronald Reagan, in off-handed comments, referred to the Soviet Union  an "Evil Empire" early in his presidency.  After all, the Kremlin's recent occupation and rape of Afghanistan was proceeding very successfully, and the Communist menace was gathering strength in the Western Hemisphere.  Americans seemed to have every right to be afraid of the Communist juggernaut.

In 1987, President Reagan had the audacity to further buck the conventional wisdom expressed by the New York Times, when, standing in front of the same wall that the Times considered eternally impregnable, he asked the Communists to tear it down. Just a few short years later, as the wall indeed came down under the crushing weight of liberty, the New York Times' dream of capitulating to communism had been dashed by a man who did what many thought (or perhaps hoped) was impossible.

Yet as soon as Reagan committed the dastardly deed of helping liberty to triumph over slavery, the monday morning quarterbacks emerged from every fissure of the woodwork in protest, their documented fears of yesteryear having been hastily discarded down the memory hole.  Suddenly, for those who wished for their pre-conceived notions of Ronald Reagan as a criminal mastermind to remain intact, what once was thought impossible was, in retrospect, considered to have been inevitable.

Isn't it astonishing how, in such a short period of time, a group of proven-wrong naysayers could so successfully adopt a completely new and opposite way of saying nay?  Isn't it even more astonishing that the very things that the naysayers claimed could never be overcome--the very same things whose defeat Ronald Reagan presided over--are the very same issues that are now returning to plague the United States of America?

Sadly, if we allow these naked naysayers to foist their plans of climate change control, health care subjugation, military empire, and economic patronage upon us,  we may yet indeed succumb to the very death that the New York Times prognosticated nearly a half century ago.


  1. Frank, first I think you are exaggerating the influence Reagan had on the Soviet Union. First of all, the Soviets were never as big a threat as the American establishment made them out to be. Second, the pathway to the end of the Soviet Empire was strewn with traumatic events: their defeat in Afghanistan, the Chernobyl disaster for example, and by the advent of the Gorbachev regime the need for internal reform was already clear.

    The Soviet system could not survive glasnost and perestroika. The more openness and tolerance permitted, the more the people saw the corruption and inequity in the system and began to rebel. Perhaps one can say that Reagan's supplying of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan was instrumental in that defeat, but obviously the blowback from that mistake is still with us.

    What could bring down the American Empire? The same things that have brought down empires throughout history. Military overreach and unilateralist approaches to other nations; an economic system with gross disparities between rich and poor; a culture focused on greed and consumption, and in some cases, exhausting available resources.

    I think you have little to worry about from the Obama Administration. It's pretty clear they aren't going to do anything meaningful about climate change, or make any serious changes in the health care system, or halt our imperial militarism or interfere with the economic dominance of Wall Street. You can rest assured that we will continue marching toward the cliff, just with better speeches.

  2. Charles: I can respect that. There are two strident schools of thought on how much effect Reagan had on the implosion of the USSR. I didn't mention above, but I do appreciate, the benefit that Mikhail Gorbachev had on his country.

    You are correct that we have military overreach. The gross disparities that we have between rich and poor are a product of (1) our easily abused tax system, (2) bestowals of favors on the obscenely rich, who by virtue of their power, are designated as "too big to fail", (3) and the revolving door of theft from the taxpayer to give to social organizations to give back to the re-election campaigns of the politicians.

  3. Frank, I'm puzzled by your analysis of the reasons for income disparity. While I agree that the tax system is easily abused (particularly when you can buy provisions in tax bills that benefit your corporation or bank specifically), and the rich have favors bestowed on them by the government (in return for money, jobs, travel and all sorts of graft to politicians). In both cases there is a quid pro quo. Corporations corrupt the political process with their money in order to get the politicians to let them feed on taxpayer money.

    The reference to social organizations is puzzling. I'm not aware of any social organizations that give significant amounts of money to politicians. In fact they are generally precluded by law from doing so. They may engage in issue campaigns that have the effect of supporting one politicians over another, but there just is not enough money flowing through social organizations to be consequential for our political system or income disparity.

    I tend to believe that income disparity is a natural feature of modern capitalism. If there is no check on the natural workings of the market, we end up with rising income disparity.

  4. You shouldn't be puzzled, because you stated well yourself an example of what I was trying to say "Corporations corrupt the political process with their money in order to get the politicians to let them feed on taxpayer money."

    Here's a specific example of a quids pro quo, including one between Barbara Boxer and La Raza: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndsRNIGmS6g

    It is hard to say whether "income disparity is a natural feature of modern capitalism", because what we have in America is much less like capitalism and much more like socialism and fascism.

  5. Thanks for making my point. La Raza receives about $3.5M per year in unrestricted federal grants which is extremely small by government standards. They spend only about 2% of that on advocacy with government. The pharmaceutical industry (to name just one industry) spends nearly $200M per year on lobbying Congress - that's five times the total annual revenue of La Raza.

    I can imagine you dislike La Raza's politics, but their actual influence has more to do with the need for politician's to get Hispanic votes than any sort of corruption. Organizations like this can't afford to play the political game in Washington, much less do anything about income disparity. La Raza, of course, is dedicated to reducing income disparity while big Pharma increases it, and given the numbers of the last few decades, La Raza is clearly losing that battle.

  6. Big pharmaceuticals is a much better example.

    The point is that government has become, due to its sniffing at the Constitution, a dispenser of favors and an inciter of class disputes and class hatred. This is something that was warned against by the American Founders. We are headed for a failure similar to that of the soviet union because so many Americans still "concede their liberties for a place at the barren table of communism."

    This is the crux of what Reagan fought against. This is what caused the death of the USSR and may yet cause the death of the United States as a political entity.

  7. You seem to get so close to the point then (at least from my point of view) veer off in another direction. I cannot see how the government has incited class hatred. It has certainly played a part in a class war on working people for the benefit of the wealthy, is that what you're talking about?

    I'm not sure what it means to sniff at the Constitution, but part of the problem is the insistence that legal entities chartered by the states have the same Constitutional rights as individual citizens. That's been going on at least since the 1880's however.

    I'm also unaware of more than a few hundred Americans who support communism. Even democratic socialism would be happy to attract 1% of the populace. Empires tend to be brought down by a sort of over-militarized narcissism that inspires imperial overreach coupled with a shift of economic power away from production of goods toward manipulating money. At this point, we have a bipartisan consensus for continuing to do both. There are a few political figures at each end of the spectrum who object (Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich come to mind), but they rarely even get a platform to speak much less win a battle.

    Look again at the USSR vs today's USA. The Soviets blew a huge portion of their economy on the military - check. They spent billions and lost thousands of lives and generated lots of internal unrest through an unnecessary war in Afghanistan - check. When it finally began to unravel, they switched cold turkey to unregulated capitalism and devolved into a corrupt state where a few billionaires sucked funding from the government while millions starved - are we going there too?

  8. Millions of Americans support communism by other names.

    It's interesting how you don't see that we are agreeing with each other. You say "I cannot see how the government has incited class hatred. It has certainly played a part in a class war on working people for the benefit of the wealthy, is that what you're talking about?" Yes. Exactly.

    I have written quite a bit in the past on this blog about (how I agree with you that) corporations being treated as individuals is a large part of the problem. I see this not as capitalism (i.e. free market, laissez faire, etc.) but more as a form of fascism where governments collude with their favorite business tycoons to ensure that they have special favors.

    I agree that this is the sort of damaging thing that occurred in the former USSR. One of the greatest fallacies in circuit today is that free marketeers think that the free market needs no regulation. If government performed one of its basic functions by punishing theft and fraud as it should, people and groups like George Soros and Goldman Sachs would be behind bars, as Russia's Mikhail Khodorkovsky currently is and deserves to be.

  9. Well then, it seems most of our differences on this topic are semantic. That's a relief!


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