Ronald Reagan would be appalled… and so should you!

By Bruce S. Lemkin

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photo credit: Max Pixel

Most — perhaps, all — of us who served in uniform, carried out Cold War operations, and developed and executed strategies to deter and, if necessary, defeat the Soviet Union were gratified to witness the results of President Reagan’s tough, but pragmatic policies in dealing with Soviet leadership, countering Russian aggression, and fielding a U.S. military force and capabilities that not only could the Soviets neither afford nor match, but that ultimately resulted in the collapse of this once potent adversary.

Who among us, the Cold Warriors, would have imagined that some thirty years later, another manifestation of a Russian totalitarian state would build and field an even more highly capable, powerful military force than that of the Cold War era? And that this Russian state would solicit and pay bounties for the murder of American Servicemen and women, and, through hacking and manipulation of the American electoral process, constitute an existential threat to the very viability and reliability of American democracy! How would President Reagan have dealt with such circumstances? Can any of us even imagine that President sitting still, staying quiet, much less essentially failing to even acknowledge these threats?! We know the answer — He would be appalled…and then, he would act.

Reagan was not the ignorant, though affable, actor that many have portrayed him to be. He had spent a lifetime reading, studying, and listening. He understood the context of history, appreciated the power of communication, cooperation, and collaboration, and he forged relationships across the aisle and across the sea to achieve objectives that would contribute to the safety, security, and success of our nation. Reagan surrounded himself with experts and sought their advice. He neither tolerated tyrants, nor “fell in love” with them. He called it like it was — The Evil Empire of the heavily nuclear-armed Soviet Union was the principal threat to the United States and Reagan ever kept his eye on the ball in the efforts of the U.S. and our allies to lessen, and, if necessary, defeat, that threat.

Of course, Reagan was human and mistakes were made on his watch. Famously, among them was the Iran-Contra scandal. When it was revealed that a relatively junior National Security Council aide (LtCol Oliver North) had engaged in a scheme to coordinate an arms sale to Iran in an attempt to gain the release of Americans being held there — and, then, provide the proceeds of the sale to the Contras, rebels opposed to the government of Nicaragua — Reagan directed the formation of a high-level commission to determine how and what had occurred. The Administration — including the President — fully cooperated with the investigative commission. When the commission issued its report, harshly critical of the Administration, President Reagan, in a televised speech to the American people, took full responsibility for what had occurred and, then, instituted the corrective actions, as recommended by the commission.

As I was writing this, I happened to turn on the television to a press event in the Oval Office in conjunction with the announcement of a deal to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and Sudan — in and of itself, a commendable development. However, with Israel’s President on the speaker phone, along with Sudanese leaders, the President of the U.S. in talking with Netanyahu, criticized his opponent — and, perhaps, successor as POTUS — referring to him as “Sleepy Joe,” and also excoriated the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Traditionally, U.S. domestic politics stop at the water’s edge…or did until now. Once again, Reagan would be appalled.

Fellow Americans, fellow patriots, as Ronald Reagan and so many other leaders, both Republican and Democrat, have shown us, a strong America, a safe America, is also a decent America, an America that values ALL of our citizens, regardless of differences in political affiliation, race, religion, etc. — and an America that does not bow to thugs and appreciates and supports friends and allies around the world. It is time to elect leaders of whom we can be proud, leaders who embody the integrity, values, and ideals that have, indeed, made America great. While a wall may be under construction on our southern border, at the same time, another wall stands between us and the true greatness of America. As Ronald Reagan famously ordered, “Tear down this wall!” To which I add, “…and vote!”

The author is a retired naval officer and a former government official and international negotiator.

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