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Tear Down This Wall!

12. March 2010

Since I am a great enthusiast for all things Cold War, I find this article from Catholic Exchange quite interesting in its balanced perspective on Gorbachev’s role in the break down of the USSR.

This brings me to Gorbachev. Liberals in the West woefully exaggerated Gorbachev’s positions and role in ending the Cold War. Their misunderstandings and misrepresentations were based on a fatal combination of wishful thinking, partisan politics, and blind adherence to ideology—an irrepressible desire to credit Gorbachev at the expense of Ronald Reagan.

The reality is that both men—Gorbachev and Reagan—were critical to ending the Cold War, along with Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Vaclav Havel, to name a few.

The most important thing that liberals got wrong—even as Gorbachev himself reiterated it a thousand times—was their failure to understand that Gorbachev’s first priority, from the outset, had been to save and sustain the USSR, not to mention the entirety of the Soviet Bloc in Eastern Europe, to the point where he even initially opposed taking down the Berlin Wall. This fact is undeniable, as Gorbachev emphasized in his best-selling 1987 book Perestroika. To this day, he calls the breakup of the USSR his greatest regret. (See, for instance, “Soviet Union ‘should have been preserved,’” interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, USA Today, April 6, 2006.)

At the same time, however, Gorbachev also sought to create a peaceful USSR. He vigorously opposed totalitarianism. To get there—and here’s where conservatives need adjustments in their understanding—Gorbachev took several monumental steps that, unwittingly, led to the implosion of the USSR and the Soviet Bloc. These ranged from freedom of press, speech, assembly, and religion, to the introduction of political pluralism (democracy) by formally ending the Soviet Community Party’s constitutional monopoly on power. These were wonderful feats. read more

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