Chapter 16 - Reagan’s Freedom Strategy: Key Freedom Speeches, Public Diplomacy, Supporting Anti-Communist Resistance

Such changes, Reagan knew, could break the totalitarian authority and power of the Soviet state and set a path for liberation across the Iron Curtain and throughout Moscow’s “Socialist Camp” of captive nations. In his commitment to freedom, Reagan is reminiscent of America’s first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, as a “Great Communicator” and “Great Emancipator,” seeking peace and freedom in a time of extended conflict. For contemporary readers, there is no better way to get “inside” this core freedom element of the Reagan Revolution and his winning Cold War strategy than to experience the power of Reagan’s own words in the soaring speeches reviewed in this chapter and book.

Pressing the Battle of Ideas. Reagan and his “Reaganaut” supporters understood the illusory nature of the faltering Western Cold War strategies that relied on concepts like “Communism with a human face” (as attempted in the reformist “Prague Spring” of 1968), “peaceful coexistence,” “Euro-communism,” “convergence,” and “détente” (as proclaimed in the 1970s). These concepts would surely founder on the obstacles of Soviet Marxist-Leninist doctrine and practice. To Reagan it was clear that only sustained pressure from the United States and its democratic allies could significantly stress the Soviet system and compel its leaders to reassess their Communist dogmas and to open their long-closed minds to new ideas of freedom and political and economic reforms. Real reforms, however, would loosen the regime’s totalitarian control and open a Pandora’s Box of divergent views that would raise Soviet expectations that the Communist Party hierarchy would find increasingly difficult to control and contain. The Party’s obsolete theories, authority, and imperial power would deteriorate, and the ideologically vulnerable Communist state would start a slide toward what Reagan called the “ash heap of history.”

Reagan, Freedom, and Moral Idealism. Reagan’s idealism was evident as his Cold War strategy of peace and freedom took unassailable moral high ground far beyond the reach of the totalitarians’ ideologies. For Reagan, human freedom did not derive from the grants of a government, nor from a Communist Party hierarchy, nor from any party or regime that claimed command of all aspects of political, economic, and personal life. Vladimir Lenin had famously asserted that Karl Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” would somehow evolve into an administrative structure in which “the state withers away.” Yet the dictatorship called for by the Marxist-Leninist blueprint in fact required a collectivist theocratic state, led by god-like dictators who directed a new class of Communist Party officials with a monopoly of power and privileges and who claimed history and a new “social science” to justify their total control (see Chapter 2). True to America’s freedom faith at its best, Reagan, in contrast, held human rights and democracy to be grounded in inalienable, historically transcendent, God-given rights inherent in each individual person, no matter their nationality, party, class, race, or religion. These rights included an individual’s equality under the law, toleration of individual and minority opinions, a constitution of checks and balances assuring severe limits on state power, continuing and competitive free elections, and a democratic constitutional and institutional dynamic for peaceful societal progress.

Reagan’s Realism and Statecraft. The Soviet Union and Reagan’s domestic opponents denounced Reagan as an “anti-Communist,” “ideologue” and “hawk” likely to provoke crises on flashpoint issues of the Cold War. Yet in his person, leadership, and statecraft, Reagan, far more than his opponents, was both an idealist and a realist. His new Cold War strategy’s mix of idealism and realism lay in Reagan’s moral and philosophical understanding of the antagonistic nature of the superpower protagonists and in his realistic grasp of the instruments of strength and statecraft required by a free society to overcome the Soviet Union’s Communist ideology and empire without superpower war. Realism about Marxist-Leninist dogma understood that it denied the ideals, personal rights, and institutions that defined human freedom, as Communist Party elites ruled through a continuous stream of lies and unconstrained police-state censorship, surveillance, and violence against their own captive people and international targets. Realism and idealism together meant that only pluralistic free societies with democratic institutions and laws could speak the truth and build the strengths to secure the genuine “blessings of liberty” and “pursuit of happiness” throughout the world.

Reagan’s Instruments of Strength and Statecraft for a Revolution of Liberty. It was in the high, forward-looking cause of freedom that Reagan rebuilt dormant American strengths—moral, military, economic, diplomatic, and in intelligence. These strengths were vigorously reinforced by extensive use of “soft-power” public diplomacy to become key instruments of Reagan’s Cold War strategy and statecraft. They were levers of power that exposed Soviet vulnerabilities, ended U.S. arms control concessions and economic bailouts, raised the Soviet costs of empire, and pressed the Soviet leaders to open their minds to real reassessments and reform.

[Book pg. 372]