From the New York Times’ obituary on Ronald Reagan:
It was Mr. Reagan’s good fortune that during his time in office the Soviet Union was undergoing profound change, eventually to collapse….
That was, and remains, the liberals’ view of Reagan: unaccountably lucky, to the end.
This morning Dinesh D’Souza punctures the left’s retrospective conviction that Communism’s fall was inevitable, and that Reagan therefore had nothing to do with it:
Writing on Ronald Reagan’s achievements in Newsweek, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. notes, “Reagan’s admirers contend that his costly re-armament program caused the Soviet collapse. Maybe so; but surely the thing that did in the Russians was that time had proved communism an economic, political and moral disaster.”
Funny: Here’s Schlesinger in 1982, observing that “Those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse” are “wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves.”
Many historians and pundits have refused to credit Ronald Reagan’s policies for helping to bring about the Cold War victory, blaming communism’s chronic economic problems. Yet, like Scheslinger, they failed to describe it as inevitable while Reagan was actually in office.
In 1982, the learned Sovietologist Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University wrote in Foreign Affairs: “The Soviet Union is not now nor will it be during the next decade in the throes of a true systemic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability.”
But the genius award undoubtedly goes to Lester Thurow, an MIT economist and well-known author who, as late as 1989, wrote: “Can economic command significantly . . . accelerate the growth process? The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can. . . . Today the Soviet Union is a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States.”
In truth, it was inevitable that a grotesquely unjust and ineffective system like Communism would someday collapse. But if it had been up to the left, that “someday” would have been deferred a long time, and American efforts would have been devoted to perpetuating Marxist tyranny, as in Nicaragua, not ending it.
For a more objective study of Reagan’s life-long battle against Communism, which confirms his status of one of that system’s most astute critics, read Peter Schweizer’s Reagan’s War.
DEACON adds: As Oliver Kamm said, in the piece I posted yesterday, “while most issues of recent political history are ‘open questions’, the particular issue [of the effect of Reagan’s policies on Soviet behavior with respect to arms control and internal reform] is not. We have the testimony of Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and Eduard Shevardnadze, both Soviet Foreign Minister under Mikhail Gorbachev: they are adamant that Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative was crucial in convincing the Soviet Union that it had no alternative to concluding arms control agreements and undertaking internal reform. (Shevardnadze’s judgement is in his book The Future Belongs to Freedom; Bessmertnykh made his comment at a conference at Princeton University in Febuary 1993; both are cited in Andrew Busch, Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Freedom.)”