What is more, the philosophy that guided Ronald Reagan throughout his life and whose practice made the 40th presidency one of this country?s greatest ? the proposition that the competent exercise of American power is essential to maintaining international security ? remains a formula for guiding U.S. defense and foreign policy in our own time.
At a moment when the Nation is in the throes of mourning and nostalgia for our fallen leader, it is easy to forget that this core Reagan principle was once considered wildly controversial. In fact, it took great fortitude and robust leadership to overcome the virulent opposition of those who railed against the then-President?s costly military build-up and ?aggressive? policies in Europe, Afghanistan and Central America.
The history of strenuous opposition to Mr. Reagan?s application of the philosophy of peace through strength for the purpose of ending the ?Evil Empire? and liberating its oppressed subjects offers important perspective on the present controversy: George W. Bush?s determination that, among other things, the liberation of Iraq was required to achieve success against yet another global threat ? the use of terrorism to advance political agendas.
One of the most important insights from the previous experience, however, is the importance of being clear about precisely who and what we are up against. Ronald Reagan appreciated that it was necessary ? but not sufficient ? for America?s military strength to be rebuilt. He also understood the need to wage a ?war of ideas? against the Soviet Union. Specifically, Mr. Reagan explicitly and repeatedly addressed the odiousness and illegitimacy of Soviet communism, discrediting it in the world?s eyes, demoralizing its proponents and emboldening those who longed to be free of that tyrannical ideology.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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