Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The great Ronald Reagan takes his rightful place

As His Grace was contemplating the life and achievements of Ronald Reagan, it brought to his mind John O'Sullivan's excellent book The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister, who together hastened the fall of the Soviet Empire and ended the Cold War. O'Sullivan's account is one of the most important investigations into the most significant triumvirate of the 20th century.

As Reagan's statue was unveiled, it occurred to His Grace that the President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister are now preserved for posterity in bronze or marble, the Great Lady even while she is still alive. They were all utterly right for their time, and all survived assassination atttempts within a few years of each other: Reagan just months after his inauguration; Pope John Paul II at the hands of a Turk; and Margaret Thatcher, during the 5th year of her administration, by the IRA. How different history might have been if the assassins had succeeded.

A summary of O'Sullivan's book talks of Reagan, Thatcher, and Wojtyla as being 'strong and individual leaders, perfectly suited to take power when liberalism failed'. It tells of how John Paul's first visit as Pope to Poland in 1979 led to the birth of Solidarity; how the moral undermining of Communism by the Pope worried the Soviet Politburo than any military threat; how Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope all, in their own ways, assisted the growing cultural resistance of the peoples of eastern Europe to Soviet control.

It also discloses an 'extraordinary collaboration between the Vatican and Reagan - who arranged for the Pope to receive U.S. intelligence on developments in the Soviet bloc'; and why 'the Soviet-backed "nuclear freeze" movement's campaign to halt installation of US missiles in Europe failed - despite support from most social democratic parties in Europe and the Catholic Bishops in the US'.

One thing these three had in common was that they called evil evil: they did not compromise with dictators, tolerate oppression, or accommodate terror: they revolutionised the world and 'restored optimism and hope to their people'. Bronze and marble will last for centuries: the liberty they wrought is far more ephemeral.

36 Comments:

Blogger The Heresiarch said...

A fine piece. How very true that last sentence is, though.

5 July 2011 at 09:39  
Anonymous Tony B said...

"they did not compromise with dictators, tolerate oppression, or accommodate terror: "

Very amusing. History tells a slightly different tale though, doesn't it? They compromised with dictators whom they could work with; they tolerated the oppression of those dictators, and UKUSA continue to do so, until such people have outlived their usefulness. Some of us haven't forgotten Thatcher's support of the murdering dictator Pinochet, though obviously you have. Take your rose-tinted spectacles off, there's a good chap.

5 July 2011 at 10:20  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

‘Bronze and marble will last for centuries: the liberty they wrought is far more ephemeral.’

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Percy Bysshe Shelley

5 July 2011 at 10:24  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Tony B, you are right to a degree. There was an element of realpolitic in their decision. I opposed them at the time but time has given me the ability
(and I hope the grace) to say they were right and I was wrong.

We ought to remember that Hitler was brought down by the co-operation with Stalin, who was as vile as he was. You and I are in a poor position to criticise those who made the decision, benefitting, so much, as we do from the consequences.

The Book of Ecclesiastes advises us " Be not righteous overmuch".

I hope that you will be able to be generous to these three giants of their age who made some errors and compromises, but who advanced the cause of Liberty much more than most of their critics.

5 July 2011 at 10:34  
Blogger D. Singh said...

‘By the end of this decade we will live under the first One World Government that has ever existed in the society of nations...a government with absolute authority to decide the basic issues of survival. One world government is inevitable.’

Wojtyla

‘It would seem that not only is religion lacking in the schools -- so is common sense. I wonder what a teacher is supposed to say if a kid asks about those four words on a dime -- 'In God We Trust.' Or maybe that's why they aren't being taught how to read these days.’

Ronald Reagan

‘But let us never forget that our way of life, our vision and all we hope to achieve, is secured not by the rightness of our cause but by the strength of our defence.

‘On this, we must never falter, never fail.’

Margaret Thatcher (‘Bruges Speech’)

5 July 2011 at 11:01  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B, your attitude is exactly that which got us embroiled in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya - refusing to compromise with dictators to the extent of war. Such a stance sounds superficially commendable, but in practice not even the mighty USA can order the whole world into a benign, peaceful, secular, law abiding liberal democracy.

The difference then was that West was faced with an implacable world wide foe; one which boasted of its self serving remit to conquer us all. Nothing else was as important as defeating international socialism. As Cranmer said: "Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope .... revolutionised the world and 'restored optimism and hope to their people'". And no, that does not mean they were perfect.

5 July 2011 at 11:18  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Good to see Blessed John Paul's role in the defeat of Communism acknowledged. The book cited can be purchased reasonably cheaply on a well known site.

Reagan and Thatcher spred the message of liberal-democratic freedoms and the Pope the powerful message of "Do not be afraid - trust in God" to the Polish people.

God Bless the three of them!

5 July 2011 at 11:51  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Well said Cranmer. All three were the opposite of many politicians then and now, none suffered from ostrichism

5 July 2011 at 12:24  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Pssst,tell sid that the new world order made a magnificent profit from being allowed to steal the English peoples utilities,manufacturing,and thier childrens futures,aint life grand now!

5 July 2011 at 14:26  
Anonymous carl jacobs said...

Budgie

[Y]our attitude is exactly that which got us embroiled in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya - refusing to compromise with dictators to the extent of war.

The three cases are very different and none of the three have anything to do with failing to compromise.

1. Afghanistan was a failed state that was being used to harbor Al Qaida. The hope was to clean it out and create a state capable of controlling the country.

2. Libya was a potential refugee crisis on Europe's border, plus a Quixotic "humanitarian war on the cheap" that appealed to the European ideal of military force as international law enforcement.

3. Iraq had real global and strategic purpose. Hussein was seeking to create a nuclear-armed hegemony over the Arab oil states of the Middle east. If he had achieved his objective, he would have created a geostrategic disaster for the west in general and the US in particular. He would have significantly altered the balance of power in the Middle east with Israel, and might actually have started a nuclear war. The 2003 war against Iraq was necessary and history will record it so.

carl

5 July 2011 at 14:36  
Anonymous John Thomas said...

" ... the Great Lady ..." There are two (possible) objections, to Margaret Thatcher, in my eyes (if what I have read is correct): She supported the idea of aborting babies had Down Syndrome; she was ultimately complicit in us remaining in the EU (albeit on advantageous terms, which she herself negotiated). If anyone can tell me that these pieces of information are not correct, please do so (as HG suggests, she had many qualities which one wants to admire).

5 July 2011 at 14:47  
Anonymous CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI said...

John Thomas said...
" ... the Great Lady ..." There are two (possible) objections, to Margaret Thatcher...

Perhaps you could add that she failed to prevent the teacher's unions from imposing their constructivist ideology in the classroom.

5 July 2011 at 15:38  
Anonymous Oswin said...

On a lighter note: are there no sculptors remaining, capable of producing work of dignity, accuracy and presence?

The statue of Ronald Regan resembles a plastic model of the type found free, in packets of breakfast cereal. Whereas, that of Baroness Thatcher looks like 'work in progress' or else, 'distressed' to resemble five hundred years worth of 'acid rain' corrosion.

Off stage, the new statue of Pope John Paul II, erected in the piazza outside Rome's main railway station, bears a striking resemblance to Benito Mussolini!

Too many artists, and not enough artisans perhaps? A common sign of our times ...

5 July 2011 at 15:43  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Budgie, you seem a little confused. Are you agreeing with me that Thatcher and Reagan DID compromise with dictators? The point I was trying to illustrate was that his Grace had said they did not, and that in fact they did. Are you agreeing with me?

5 July 2011 at 15:50  
Anonymous Budgie said...

carl jacobs said: "The three cases are very different ...".

You don't say. Nevertheless the major factor of all three wars was "regime change". The West could have lived with them, as we have had to with other dictators because of our limited capability, even if we could truly discern the guilt of any one dictator.

And none of them posed the sort of global threat (with real, as opposed to imaginary, weapons of mass destruction) that international socialism did.

Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul 2, achieved a magnificent victory of quite a different order of magnitude by eliminating the threat of the USSR.

5 July 2011 at 16:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dread to think how many statues of Obama will spring up in towns, cities and BBC gardens all over Britain when it is time for the USA’s first “black” president to depart the earth.

5 July 2011 at 16:13  
Anonymous Toby the Jug said...

Praise where it's due. I didn't support the policies of all three of the cited leaders just like Churchill didn't get it right on all things. However, credit to them for breaking Communism in Eastern Europe in each of their own ways.

5 July 2011 at 16:31  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B, it is enlightening then that you chose to illustrate your view of "compromise" with Pinochet, rather than Hoxha, Pol-Pot, Castro or numerous other bloody dictators.

I think Cranmer is correct in saying that Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul 2 "did not compromise with dictators, tolerate oppression, or accommodate terror ...". What they did not do is go to war with every little dictator on the planet as your namesake, the sanctimonious Tony Blair, seemed wont to do.

5 July 2011 at 16:35  
Anonymous carl jacobs said...

Budgie

You don't say.

I do say. It was necessary given your first comment.

Nevertheless the major factor of all three wars was "regime change".

Regime change was not the objective. It was a means to achieve the objective. These three operations have nothing in common beyond that phrase.

1. I will grant your criticism of the Libyan operation. I have opposed it from the beginning. But 'refusing to compromise with dictators' was not the motivation for that operation. It was rather the result of an internationalist motivation to 'do good' yet without bloodshed. Could the West have lived with Gadhaffi? Of course.

2. Afghanistan was an Al Qaida base. There was no opposition to the US intervention in Afghanistan in November 2001. Even Al Gore said he would have done the same thing. Afghanistan was in effect a terrorist base camp. The regime change was intended to remove that base camp. Again this had nothing to do with 'refusing to compromise with dictators.' There was no compromise possible with Al Qaida or the Taliban.

3. Iraq was a wholly different matter. As I said, Hussein was seeking to dominate the middle east oil states with nuclear weapons. He saw himself as Nebuchadnezzar reborn. This was a nation that had started two wars in ten years. There was the seven year blood bath with Iran the resembled nothing so much as WWI. There was the invasion of Kuwait. Hussein concluded that the only mistake he made in Kuwait was to act before he had those weapons. If he had such weapons, Kuwait would no longer exist. The regional instability created by a nuclear-armed Iraq would have been enormous.

The West could have lived with them, as we have had to with other dictators because of our limited capability

By which you mean "The United States could have set the 3rd Division in Saudi Arabia in perpetuity and assumed the responsibility to deter Hussein." Meanwhile, the French would have bought his oil and sold him weapons. Thanks, but no thanks.

And none of them posed the sort of global threat...

You are correct that none of them posed the same kind of threat as the Soviet Union. But that is not the only level of threat that needs to be addressed - as Al Qaida demonstrates. Hussein would have greatly threatened US interests in the Middle east. He would have counter-balanced Israeli nuclear power thus expanding the level of operations that could be undertaken against Israel by its enemies. He was reckless enough to actually start a nuclear war.

... (with real, as opposed to imaginary, weapons of mass destruction) that international socialism did.

Yes, I am well acquainted with Soviet nuclear power since I commanded a missile crew during the 80's. I had friends who were transferred out of my squadron to staff GLCM for Greenham Common.

The Second Iraq War was fundamentally an act of risk mitigation. You can't wait until the enemy actually fields the capability before you interdict it. If he has nuclear weapons, and you attack, he might use them. If your requirement is "When he gets them, then we attack" you have just postulated an impossible scenario. Once he gets them, you can no longer attack for fear of what he might do. Why do you think North Korea worked so hard to field a nuclear capability?

But I suspect your requirement is "So he gets nukes? The Americans can deal with it." Yes, we certainly did - but in a much more permanent fashion.

carl

5 July 2011 at 17:14  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Budgie, you make no sense.

5 July 2011 at 17:55  
Anonymous Budgie said...

carl jacobs said: "Regime change was not the objective."

Yes, it was. It is playing with words to dismiss "Regime change" as just a "phrase". It was the prime objective from which all others flowed. The (often unspoken) assumption was that all the bad things would cease happening upon regime change. Unfortunately, that has proved illusive.

Your making an issue of the differences between the wars in Iraq and Libya etc rather misses the point. Reagan, Thatcher and the Pope achieved a victory over the USSR far more profound and of far greater consequence than the wars against Iraq etc.

5 July 2011 at 21:18  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B said: "Budgie, you make no sense."

Hmmm, first you say I'm confused, and now you are confused.

It's simple. It is just not practicable to go to war against every dictator in the world. I believe that Mrs Thatcher did not compromise her principled opposition to dictators, whilst recognising that fact.

That also means, with limited resources, we must choose the worst cases very carefully indeed. And then we should not slag off politicians like Thatcher, as you did, for making those careful and limited choices.

5 July 2011 at 21:59  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Budgie
In other words, they did compromise with dictators. You seem to be saying that they both did and did not, while throwing in other random examples of dictators for no discernible reason. When Pinochet was under arrest in the UK for the murder of an estimated 60,000 of his own people, Margaret Thatcher publicly expressed support for him. That is not slagging her off, it is a fact.

5 July 2011 at 22:50  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B said: "... throwing in other random examples of dictators for no discernible reason." You picked out only Pinochet. I reminded you that there are many other dictators just as, or more, bloody. That is neither "random", nor without reason.

My point is the eminently practical view that you can be opposed to dictators in principle without having to go to war with every one of them to "prove" it to politically selective people like yourself.

5 July 2011 at 23:24  
Anonymous Tony B said...

You are jumping to unwarranted conclusions. I mentioned Pinochet as an example of a dictator that Thatcher could be said to have compromised with. The people you mentioned are simply not relevant to the point.

5 July 2011 at 23:53  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Tony B and Budgie

It's called 'the lesser of two evils' when politicians have to chose between two unacceptable options.

Pragmatic politics accepts one sometimes has to support an otherwise unacceptable regime to secure another objective.

Hitler's Germany posed a greater risk to freedom in 1939 than Stalin's Russia. Allowing Germany to overrun Russia would have strengthened Facism. Unfortunately the Americans conceeded too much after the war to the Russians and perhaps America, Britain and its allies should have turned their weapons Eastwards in 1945.

Similar considerations have applied in the Middle East, South America and Africa. Support dictators to resist what are judged to be greater threats e.g chaos, communism or islamism.

Realpolitik is a bugger, isn't it? Nowadays it's made more complicated by considerations of Human Rights and a call for morality in politics.

6 July 2011 at 00:59  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Dodo,
Yes I understand this. The question is, does realpolitik mean "never compromising with dictators". Clearly it doesn't. You're making my point for me

6 July 2011 at 06:23  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B - No, Pinochet does not hold the special place you claim. Thatcher failed to act against numerous dictators of which Pinochet was one of the least bloody. She even helped to install Mugabe. And failing to act against the socialist Pol-Pot who engaged in genocide and not just a civil war was probably the worst example.

So it can certainly be argued that Thatcher was naive. She touchingly believed in the rule of law, which is very culturally English. But failing to act, to the point of war, does not prove that Thatcher compromised with dictators.

6 July 2011 at 09:31  
Blogger Dodo the Dude said...

Tony B

That was my intention.

6 July 2011 at 11:44  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Budgie. Are you denying that Thatcher regularly had Pinochet round for tea, and wrote to The Times "demanding" his release, or just denying that these activities constitute compromising with dictators?

6 July 2011 at 12:54  
Anonymous tony b said...

Dodo, thanks for clarifying :-)

6 July 2011 at 12:55  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Tony B - "Despite [the letter], [Thatcher] has always been acutely aware of General Pinochet's extremely poor human rights record - alluding in her letter to abuses "on both sides of the political divide" - and kept her distance while in office." (BBC 22-10-98).

Mrs Thatcher also stated of Gobachev that they could do business together. This did not mean she compromised with the bloody Soviet Socialist dictatorship, either.

6 July 2011 at 13:54  
Anonymous Tony B said...

Yes it did.

6 July 2011 at 19:30  
Anonymous Budgie said...

Defeating the Soviet Socialists was hardly a "compromise".

6 July 2011 at 20:02  
Anonymous badstephen said...

"the most significant triumvirate of the 20th Century"
?
Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt?

9 July 2011 at 00:01  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Tony b: "When Pinochet was under arrest in the UK for the murder of an estimated 60,000 of his own people, Margaret Thatcher publicly expressed support for him. That is not slagging her off, it is a fact."

I reckon Mrs T got the wind up her about the criminal culpability of leaders in office, probably about the sinking of the General Belgrano, and the potential for arrest when travelling abroad.

10 July 2011 at 18:53  

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