Winning the Cold War
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as America's 40th president on Jan. 20, 1981, the United States was reeling from a series of setbacks, and the Soviet Union was ascendant. He inherited a demoralized military, resulting in large part from America's defeat in Vietnam, and the subsequent fall of Cambodia and Laos to Communism. Since the mid-1970s, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Grenada had also fallen to Soviet-aligned Communist forces. A Soviet-backed puppet regime had seized power in Afghanistan. American technology and economic support were helping to prop up the Soviet Union and its allies. In Western Europe, advocates of unilateral disarmament threatened to block NATO's planned deployment of cruise missiles and Pershing-2 missiles to counteract Soviet SS-20s and other missiles deployed by the Warsaw Pact.
By the time Mr. Reagan left the White House eight years later, the balance of forces was undergoing a revolutionary transformation in favor of the West. The Soviet Union and the Communist dictatorships that dominated Eastern Europe were about to collapse, to be replaced by democratic governments. The Communist dictatorship in Grenada was no more, having been ousted by the American military in 1983. Daniel Ortega, the Communist boss in Nicaragua, had been forced to agree to hold free elections. A nascent democracy was in place in neighboring El Salvador, a nation which had been under siege from a Communist insurgency originating in Nicaragua. And in Afghanistan, the local Communist dictatorship was crumbling as well.
How did this happen? Under the leadership of Mr. Reagan's secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, the U.S. military was rebuilt. Mr. …