Liberals like to taunt conservatives who decry Russia’s startling moves. “What would your Reagan do about Crimea?” they say, as if even Mr. Reagan would be stymied when confronted by such a menacing maneuver.
Actually, we did have a crisis not unlike the Ukraine and the Crimea in the Reagan years. It was called Poland. The armed forces of the Communist government of Poland were ordered on high alert and the country was placed under martial law. Soviet tanks were on the border, ready to roll into the streets of Warsaw, Cracow, and Gdansk in case the situation got out of hand.
Reagan never invaded Poland. He never even threatened the use of military force. He was very careful to give all support to the Polish people—and especially to the first free trade union in the Soviet bloc, Solidarity.
Unlike today, this crisis occurred at a time when President Reagan was re-building the hollowed-out U.S. military. He daily honored those who serve in our all-volunteer forces. And he never failed to speak to the spiritual aspects of the U.S.-Soviet clash.
Another key factor in the peaceful resolution of the Polish crisis was the role of the first Polish Pope. John Paul II publicly prayed for his countrymen. He raised up their plight to God. And he was widely rumored to be ready to fly to Poland to risk his own life in the event of a Soviet invasion.
Faced with such a united front, the Soviets held back. In short, Reagan never had to rattle the saber because he used every other form of power so effectively.
President Obama has a unique opportunity. He can act to re-vitalize our American military, economic, and spiritual strengths. He can conduct our affairs as if we are not the Austria-Hungary of the 21st century. He already has his Peace Prize. Now, he can work to earn it.