Reagan, 'Hero in History'; the Eventful Man Who Understood Soviet imperialism.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 31, 2002 | Go to article overview

Reagan, 'Hero in History'; the Eventful Man Who Understood Soviet imperialism.(OPED)


Byline: Arnold Beichman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"The paradox inherent in democracy," Donald Kagan has written, "is that it must create and depend on citizens who are free, autonomous, and self-reliant. Yet its success - its survival even - requires extraordinary leadership."

I was reminded of this judgment by Yale's eminent historian as I noted the news report that President Bush had presented a Congressional Gold Medal to Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Reagan for their service to the country and, I would add, to the free world. And, perhaps just as important an event, is the upcoming commemoration by the Heritage Foundation of Mr. Reagan's historic Westminster speech Tuesday, June 8, 1982, in which he predicted that "the march of freedom and democracy [would] leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history." And how right he was. It took extraordinary moral courage to make such a prophecy at a time when the Soviet Union was on the march, threatening Western Europe with intercontinental missiles.

More and more it becomes obvious, if not to the dominant school of American historians, that in terms of achievement Mr. Reagan was one of the country's greatest presidents. Why? Because his momentous deeds were accomplished without war, without bloodshed. It is not to minimize the pantheonic stature of Abraham Lincoln to point out that his decision to save the Union cost millions of lives. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet empire, the outcome of the eight years of Mr. Reagan's extraordinary leadership, saved the world from what might have been a nuclear war.

In fact, Mr. Reagan was one of the most successful U.S. politician-statesmen of the postwar era. An editorial in the distinctly non-conservative London Economist hailed Mr. Reagan in these words:

"Judged strictly on his own terms, Ronald Reagan was a great president. He said he would reduce regulation; he did. He said that he would cut taxes; he did. He said that he would spend the Soviet Union into submission; he did. He was a successful president . . . because he knew who he was and what he believed in."

Mr. Reagan fits perfectly a definition of what Sidney Hook called the "hero in history." That phrase was the title of a book in which the philosopher dealt with the role of personality in history and the impact of that force on mankind:

"The great man or woman in history is someone of whom we can say on the basis of the available evidence that if they had not lived when they did, or acted as they did, the history of their countries and of the world, to the extent that they are intertwined, would have been profoundly different. …

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