Sunday, January 27, 2008

How Ronald Reagan Blew the World's Last Chance for Peace

Ronald Reagan is remembered for doubling the Federal Bureaucracy, tripling the national debt, and ushering in a two year long depression. He is remembered for making the rich, richer, the poor, poorer and all at taxpayer expense. As bad as all that is, Reagan's lasting legacy is his worst and most dangerous. Reagan may have blown the world's last chance to achieve a non-nuclear peace.
Reagan is a study in complexity. He believed in balanced budgets but never submitted one; feared a nuclear apocalypse but built a huge stockpile of weapons; preached family values while presiding over a dysfunctional family.

--American Experience

The story is about the talks Reagan held with the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik. It was Gorbachev who first put total nuclear disarmament on the table. It was Ronald Reagan, indebted to his radical base, who blinked.
If, that is, the ensuing “Great Society,” to borrow a term from JFK’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, were laid low by a nuclear attack on an American city (or seven, if al Qaeda had its way).

This is the territory into which Gorbachev launched his most daring raids. First, in 1985, he announced that the Soviet Union would no longer deploy intermediate-range nuclear forces (INFs) in Eastern Europe. Later that year, he proposed that both his country and the US slice their nuclear arsenals in half.

The next year, at the memorable Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev got Ronald Reagan to agree in principle to his plan for removal of all INFs from Europe, as well as to draw them down worldwide. Caught up in Gorbachev’s enthusiasm, Reagan expressed a willingness to join Russia in eliminating all nuclear weapons in 10 years.

In the end, though, Reagan clung to his blankie, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Gorbachev feared SDI would lead to nukes in space, not to mention leave the Soviet defense establishment with the impression he’d been played. Their dreams of saving the world came crashing back down to earth.

--It’s not a new JFK we need in Obama, but the next Gorbachev

Reagan was a typical Republican, that is, he said many things and did the opposite. That's because every Republican has two stories to tell: one they tell to their base via "code words" like "family values"; the other, they tell to the world. This second category often consists of lies and pure BS. In this case, Reagan had talked the talked ---world peace, nuclear disarmament, etc. When Gorbachev raised the stakes --total nuclear disarmament --Reagan suddenly recalled his base, the clique, the Military/Industrial complex, the moneyed class that "brung 'em"! He blinked!

Here is what Reagan himself said about the threat of nuclear war.
The Russians sometimes kept submarines off our East Coast with nuclear missiles that could turn the White House into a pile of radioactive rubble within six or eight minutes. Six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radarscope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that? There were some people in the Pentagon who thought in terms of fighting and winning a nuclear war. To me it was simple common sense: A nuclear war couldn't be won by either side. It must never be fought. Advocates of the MAD policy believed it had served a purpose: The balance of terror it created had prevented nuclear war for decades. But as far as I was concerned, the MAD policy was madness.

--Ronald Reagan, The Official Site

So, if that's how Ronald Reagan really felt about nuclear madness, why did he blow what is perhaps our last chance at peace? The answer is simple. Reagan was not his own man.

There were early warning signs that Reagan was utterly incompetent but Reagan was held to a much lesser standard than Jimmy Carter, whose regime was the butt of universal and planned, top-down derision by the GOP.
February 2: Reagan testifies to the Tower Board for a second time. His testimony is inconsistent and confused. The Board pointed out Reagan hadn’t known about August shipment of anti-tank missiles, but Reagan had said he DID know. When asked for an explanation, Reagan picked up a briefing memo he had been provided and read aloud: "If the question comes up at the Tower Board meeting, you might want to say that you were surprised."

--The Timeline of Ronald Reagan's Life

It is perhaps because the US media, during the Reagan's years, stopped doing its job of informing the population that the myth persists: Reagan's tax cuts were the foundation of a generation of American prosperity. The facts are these: 1) The regime of Ronald Reagan is characterized by anemic overall growth. 2) Jimmy Carter ranks second only to LBJ in over economic growth among American post-war Presidents. It is a myth, if not a deliberate GOP lie, that Reagan is among the best US Presidents in the category of job creation. He is, in fact, among the very worst:

Job Growth Per Year Under Most Recent Presidents

Johnson 3.8%
Carter 3.1
Clinton 2.4
Kennedy 2.3
Nixon 2.3
Reagan 2.1
Bush 0.6

You might be surprised to learn that the United States has long had the lowest tax rates of any industrialized nation. And how does the level of taxation compare to each nation's standard of living? There are three general ways to measure standard of living: earning power, purchasing power and individual worker productivity. The U.S. has lost its lead in
the first and is losing its lead in the other two.

Earning power is defined as GDP per capita, or how much the average citizen earns in a year. It is an important statistic because it measures how advantageously nations trade on the global market. After the Second World War, the U.S. was number one for 40 years. But in the mid-80s, the U.S. suddenly began dropping down the list.

1991 Earning Power2

Switzerland $35,490
Japan 27,300
Sweden 26,900
Denmark 24,230
Norway 24,150
Finland 24,110
United States 22,550
Canada 20,840
Germany 19,830
Netherlands 19,310

See: The Reagan Years, Steve Kangas
The US trails the rest of the world in many key areas. Space prevents my posting the official figures in every category. The general conclusion is valid: under Reagan, the US began a descent into third world status, a trend now aggravated by Bush who lately likes to compare himself to Lincoln ! Stop me! My sides are hurting!

It is because he was successful that Jimmy Carter is reviled today. The GOP will never tell the truth about Democratic successes just as it can be counted on to lie about its own failures. Reagan's following remarks not only sound hollow today, they are indicative of just how out of touch was Reagan as he presided over the demise of American industry.
The great dynamic success of capitalism had given us a powerful weapon in our battle against Communism - money. Moreover, incentives inherent in the capitalist system had given us an industrial base that meant we had the capacity to maintain a technological edge over them forever.

--Ronald Reagan, The Official Site

In fact, the history of how the US lost its lead in automotive manufacturing, electronics, steel production and almost every other "heavy" industry is largely a history of the Reagan years. It is essential reading.

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