Monday, June 07, 2004

Remembering a great leader of the Western alliance

It would be wrong for this blog not to honour and remember President Ronald Reagan, a great leader of the Western alliance and, possibly, one of the greatest American presidents.

His death, after ten years of Alzheimer’s on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day was particularly poignant. The D-Day landings and the battles across Normandy, the rest of France and Germany, in conditions that were infinitely more horrific than anything we have heard of from Iraq, accomplished the victory against Nazism in Western Europe. It was President Reagan with Maragaret Thatcher, who helped to accomplish the final victory in Europe against totalitarianism by destroying Communism, just as Nazism was destroyed far more bloodily in 1945.

Everything about Reagan shows up the wrongness and shallowness of the clever dick mentality that is so prevalent in the political and media establishment and has had such a dire effect on political thinking and writing in the West in general and in Britain in particular.

Ronald Reagan was described as being stupid; was laughed at for having started his life as an actor; was derided for being “politically crude”, “unsophisticated”, “prone to seeing things in black and white”, “a cowboy”. He was not like those sophisticated, highly intelligent west European and American politicians, who had had no experience of anything outside their own world and who were always ready to strike a deal in the name … well, what exactly? Their vision of a comfortable political existence. Does this, by any chance remind anybody of anything?

In fact, Reagan, was highly politically motivated with a very good, clear understanding of the reality of politics. He knew the basics very well: people want to lead their own lives with as little interference from the state as possible; they want to have a good life and give their children a good life; and this is true for people wherever they happen to be, whether in the United States, whose economy grew under his “unsophisticated” and “economically illiterate” but somehow successful reforms, or in the Soviet Union and the then Communist countries, whose future has been changed for ever through his actions.

President Reagan understood freedom. He understood that the West is nothing if it does not know it and fight for it. It is, perhaps, as well that he could not see what has happened to the western alliance in its hour of triumph.

He did not see the relentless attempt to destroy it by the “sophisticated” west Europeans; he did not see the alacrity with which EU apparatchiks have preferred to deal with former Communist apparatchiks instead of democrats, who may be free-market opponents of the great “European ideal” of social-democratic corporatism; above all he did not see the way in which the EU has claimed credit for victory in the Cold War while positing quite shamelessly that the only purpose of that desperate struggle was to integrate the whole of Europe into a highly centralized, bureaucratized, inward looking state.

The coincidence of President Reagan's death and the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the D-Day landings should inspire us all, in Europe as well as America to think more clearly about the Western alliance and its purpose in the twenty-first century.

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