Chapter 8 – Setting the New Cold War Strategy: The First Term - Statements and Decisions

After his inauguration, Reagan’s National Security Council staff, and the interagency system it coordinated, supported the president’s Cold War strategy discussions and processes by preparing a full range of systematic policy assessments, options, and decisions designed to restore American and Allied strength. The documents reviewed below and in other chapters of this historical narrative illuminate the audacious, authoritative, and ultimately highly effective Reagan strategy that won the Cold War.

2. Reagan’s Inauguration—Reagan’s Political and Strategic Vision

Reagan’s inauguration on January 20, 1981 provided a beginning for Reagan’s presidency that was both spectacular and profound. At Reagan’s request, the location of the swearing-in ceremony was moved from its traditional place on the east front of the U.S. Capitol building, with limited eastward views, to the Capitol’s west front with its sweeping westward vistas.

Washington. The new location looked across the capital city of Washington, a city on a hill named for an American founding father, George Washington. To Reagan the city and its monuments and memorials even in a difficult time at home and abroad still honored the best principles and aspirations of generations of Americans. As a general, Washington commanded America’s troops throughout the nine years of bitter Revolutionary War that followed colonial America’s Declaration of Independence from a British Empire that had usurped their rights. Washington and his army of yeomen suffered severe trials in Valley Forge and other places of extreme danger and sacrifice before achieving victory against the professional soldiers and foreign mercenaries of an empire. He rejected the crown offered to him by a grateful people and was a leader in the debates and the drafting of the unique constitution that established the American republic. Although desiring to return to private life, Washington saw his civic duty in his nomination and election as president, and for two terms he nobly carried the enormous responsibility as the first president of the United States of America.

Capitol Hill. As Reagan took the oath of office and addressed the American people for the first time as their president, he was framed by the Capitol building behind him—the home of the U.S. Congress. Farther back, was the Supreme Court, established to assure the people’s rights and provide liberty under the law as the independent judicial arbiter of the Constitutionally-required balance of power. Near the Supreme Court stood the Library of Congress that exemplified America’s commitment to freedom of thought, learning, and research. Much farther to the East, across the Atlantic Ocean was the Old Europe from which millions had come to seek the American dream of liberty for all.

Shrines of Freedom. Looking forward from his platform on Capitol Hill to the assembled crowd and into the cameras that would carry his words across the country and the world, Reagan looked westward. His vision encompassed the National Mall with its museums flourishing with an unparalleled array of art, nature, science, and history. He saw below him famous places of dreams and protests, fueled by insistence on liberty and justice for all and marked by what Reagan called out as “the shrines of the giants on whose shoulders we stand.”

In his address, Reagan spoke of the Washington Monument and the light-filled memorials to Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Each expressed in its architecture and the words inscribed on its walls America’s founding faith and its invocation of inalienable God-given human freedoms. Like Reagan’s American faith, these monuments were polar opposites to the dark national mausoleum tombs of the Soviet Union and other Communist tyrannies that featured worship of fallen idols—mummified bodies in class cages. These were of the Communist faith’s long dead dictator-gods—Lenin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, and other “supreme leaders” whose personality cults had aspired to give them immortality.

America. Beyond the National Mall toward the western horizon, were the hills of Arlington National Cemetery, honoring more than 200,000 Americans who fought and died for freedom. From there, Reagan’s vision and his evident love for his country extended westward to the new frontiers across American lands reaching three thousand miles to the Pacific Ocean and even further across the globe. In this setting, addressing millions, Reagan was unambiguous and unapologetic as he drew strength from and for “a nation under God,” with its exceptional blessings and strengths, its history, and its future prospects as a free society grounded in a faith in inalienable rights and expanding human liberty and justice. Unshaken by the awesome tasks ahead, Reagan left no doubt that he was well prepared for his providential, Constitutionally-mandated mission “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” In the midst of U.S. national malaise and superpower Cold War, he was ready to lay the foundations for new strategy to end the Cold War and open the door to a rebirth of freedom, prosperity, and peace not only in the United States of America, but also across the globe.

[Book pg. 171]