Editorials - November 12, 2004
ON JUNE 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and famously roared, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Two years later, the citizens of Berlin did the tearing down themselves.
This week marks the 15th anniversary of the wall's destruction. It is an anniversary met in the midst of a similar ideological struggle between the East and the West — and one that is similarly misunderstood.
By the time Reagan made his historic speech on the free side of the wall, he had been roundly vilified by many Europeans and American leftists for pursuing what they derided as a simple-minded, arrogant and dangerous foreign policy. Communism, they said, would not be defeated by a show of American strength and resolve. Some even questioned whether it should be challenged at all.
"The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship," Reagan said during his speech at the Brandenburg Gate. This understanding is what set Reagan apart from the defeatists who urged a non-confrontational approach to the Soviet Union.
History records the results in Reagan's favor. Writing in The Wall Street Journal this summer, former Polish President Lech Walesa said of Reagan, "We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty."
Reagan's resolve to defeat America's greatest totalitarian enemy while spreading freedom and democracy — no matter what the rest of the world thought — is President Bush's model for conducting the War on Terror. It is the right model.
Appeasing dictators and tyrants in the name of stability will never bring freedom to the oppressed or security to Americans. President Bush understands this, as Reagan did before him. And as the Iron Curtain's former captives celebrate Reagan's victory this week, so may many in the Middle East celebrate Bush's 15 years from now.
The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)