Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2001 / 8 Adar, 5762

Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Echoes of leadership against a global threat


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- A PRESIDENT uses the adjective "evil" in a speech to describe an enemy. US allies attack him for being unilateralist and dangerously retrograde. Diplomats cite the speech as evidence of a widening rift between the US on the one hand and Europe on the other. Colin Powell is concerned. The administration qualifies itself, slightly.

The above lines could describe President George W. Bush's recent "axis of evil" speech. But they do not. They in fact represent reactions to a triad of speeches delivered by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s: his remarks at Westminster in 1982, in which he consigned Marxism-Leninism to the "ash heap of history"; the 1983 "evil empire" speech in Orlando; and his 1987 Berlin address, in which he undiplomatically ordered Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this Wall".

The similarity between the 2002 reaction to Mr Bush's "axis of evil" and Mr Reagan's 1980s rhetoric has been noted. But the parallel is worth looking at more closely, especially by those who are now positing that US unilateralism endangers the transatlantic alliance. For what the history of the Reagan speeches and their consequences show is that forthright US leadership in the face of a global threat can yield positive political change. And the by-product of that change can even be a stronger friendship between America and Europe.

Consider Ronald Reagan's last big inflammatory speech, his 1987 demand in Berlin that Mikhail Gorbachev "tear down this Wall". Today, this speech is generally regarded as a small and obvious link in a chain of inevitability that culminated in the end of Europe's division and the superpower arms race.

That, though, was not how it played at the time. Many viewed the speech as a threat to peace and an obstacle to the orderly progress of history. In the days before Mr Reagan mounted the dais in Berlin, recalls Peter Robinson, the author of the famous "Wall" line, both the US State Department and White House staffers tried to block the phrase.

John Kornblum, the senior US diplomat in Berlin at the time, was concerned that it would damage the work of detente between the two Germanies, just as diplomats this week are saying that Mr Bush's speech is hurting Korean-Korean relations. Colin Powell, then national security adviser, personally took Mr Robinson to task.

More resistance - just as after Mr Bush's State of the Union address - followed the Berlin speech. Moscow, via Pravda, attacked Mr Reagan, in much the way that the Arab press has slammed Mr Bush for the "axis of evil". As today, the speech was said to have increased the risk of nuclear war. A correspondent from The Guardian reported that crucial talks on shorter-range missiles - so vital to Europe's security - would slow down, because "the Soviet authorities have been angered" by the West Berlin appeal. The western press noted 25,000 protesters in West Berlin against Mr Reagan; a small group of supporters on the eastern side of the Wall got almost no coverage. And just as today, the State Department began emitting a few soothing noises.

The view that held that such speeches were trouble neglected to take into account that this speech, like Mr Reagan's earlier remarks, gave eastern Europeans from Poland to Moscow the will to push for greater change. In his memoirs, Natan Sharansky, the former dissident, recalls the inspiration he derived from a 1983 letter Mr Reagan had written on totalitarianism to Mr Sharansky's wife.

Mr Gorbachev himself hurried faster towards change because he knew Mr Reagan was serious. And Mr Reagan's frank remarks about the Wall did not, as feared, retard arms negotiations: by October there was a breakthrough.

Nor did the Berlin speech harm diplomatic relations at the moment they mattered most - when the Wall cracked. Indeed, the US, Britain and even France co-operated so well with the two Germanies that unification became a fact less than a year after the Wall had fallen.

What about now? Europe's diplomats are taking great pains to argue that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are different from that cold war challenge. But in the emerging US view, the analogy holds. The Soviet Union was a dictatorship that defended itself with nuclear weapons; the rogue three are too - but more unreliable. Containment - to borrow a cold war word - will no longer work.

This argument starts to look valid when we consider that containment was, in effect, the policy throughout the 1990s. In spite of clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was pursuing his development of biological and chemical weapons, the US desisted from its efforts to police Iraq, because doing so was too much trouble. In calling regimes preparing weapons of mass destruction "states of concern", the US was seeking a post-cold war version of detente; but such diplomacy obscured the problem, so allowing it to worsen.

Which brings us back to the "axis of evil". The phrase has already had an inspiring effect for those who live in the shadow of Middle Eastern regimes; at a recent Council on Foreign Relations meeting, visiting Kuwaitis cited it while making the case for fresh US intervention in Iraq.

Complaints of unilateral-ism really reflect the fact that the US is taking action in areas where Europe has been "apathetic, even though it may be concerned about the same problem," says Aram Bakshian, a former Reagan speechwriter.

The point here is not to bash Europe. It is that the US now believes that diplomacy alone will not prevent the rogue states from using their dangerous weapons and that it is time to stop them. The seriousness of this project has caught everyone off guard. But success would be of benefit to us all.


JWR contributor Amity Shlaes is a columnist for Financial Times . Her latest book is The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy and What to Do About It. Send your comments by clicking here.

Up

02/13/02: Jackson Vanik May be a Useful Analogy When Thinking About the Middle East
02/07/02: Budgeting for victory: Requiem for a peace dividend
02/05/02: The detectives of 1930s pulp fiction had a nose for clients bearing gifts. Sadly, those consulted by Enron did not
01/22/02: Allow all American children a decent chance
01/15/02: Do not disturb the profit-sharing revolution
01/09/02: It is dangerous to elevate a currency as a political emblem if the need for other economic reforms is obscured
01/03/02: There is only one way for a free thinker to bring up children
12/20/01: Why America's economy always bounces back
12/18/01: When it comes to taxes, Washington lawmakers can learn a thing or two from The Honeymooners
12/13/01: Bush opens a new era
12/12/01: A flamboyant reversal for the Democratic party
12/06/01: Threat of an oil embargo on the U.S. is a bluff
11/29/01: Which is more important--the war or diplomatic comity?
11/20/01: Unbalanced by a wealth of oil and diamonds
10/17/01: Afghanistan Needs a General MacArthur
09/27/01: The US has gained an understanding of the costs of war for which its European allies have hitherto wished in vain
09/13/01: War against terrorism will rise from the ashes
08/15/01: Geography is no excuse for the state's economic stagnation. Its policymakers should take a leaf from Ireland's book
08/07/01: Teamsters may pay a heavy price for winning its batle in Congress
07/25/01: Towards a patent-free nirvana?
07/17/01: History proves the lasting value of tax cuts
07/10/01: Stem cell research has awakened a bitter debate in Washington but voters care more about other electoral issues
07/03/01: America foots the bill for Europe's largesse
06/26/01: America the litigious, land of the lawyer's fee
06/20/01: Five reasons for gloom about global growth 06/18/01: Show pity for Alice in Tax Wonderland
06/13/01: America must take a French lesson in trade
06/11/01: Time to dream the impossible dream for Iraq
06/07/01: Whatever happened to simple?
06/04/01: When the relationship between companies becomes as close as a marriage, the eventual break-up is often very painful
06/01/01: Loving and hating the Bush tax bill
05/30/01: Will Grisham soon be unemployed? In America's courts these days, there's no room left over for legal fiction
05/22/01: Republicans sample the rhetoric of confidence
05/16/01: Boeing has been promised $60m to site its headquarters in Illinois. The deal looks a poor one for taxpayers
05/14/01: Adam Smith in love
05/09/01: Those rotten Russian capitalists
05/07/01: Why tax havens provide shelter for everyone
05/04/01: Middle classes pay for get-the-rich folly
05/01/01: Money can't buy happiness? Think again.
04/26/01: Calling America's rogues and entrepreneurs
04/19/01: High earners right to feel lonely at the top
04/11/01: The right must learn the comfort of strangers
04/04/01: When domestic law arrives by the back door
03/30/01: A Lexus tax cut suits the jalopy driver
03/27/01: The unchallenged dominance of King Dollar
03/20/01: Natural selection of an intellectual aristocracy
03/16/01: The hidden danger of a regulatory recession
03/14/01: Is the American condition that boring? Why so many Oscar nominated movies aren't set in America
03/07/01: Trampling on the theory of path dependence
03/05/01: Fighting the good fight
03/01/01: It is time for Fannie and Freddie to grow up
02/27/01: IT's important
02/22/01: The guilty conscience of America's millionaires
02/14/01: The benefits of helping the 'rich'
02/09/01: The Danger and Promise of the Bush Schools Plan
02/05/01: Crack and Compassion
01/31/01: Debt is good
01/29/01: Clueless
01/24/01: A gloomy end for a half-hearted undertaking
01/17/01: The challenge of an ally with its own mind
01/15/01: An unexpected American family portrait
01/10/01: A fitting legacy for America's beloved dictator
01/08/01: The trick of tax 'convenience'
01/03/01: Time to stop blaming Greenspan over taxes
12/11/00: So smart they're dumb
12/06/00: How economic bad news came good for Bush
12/04/00: The Boies factor
11/30/00: "The inevitable demands for recounts erupted like acne…"
11/28/00: Fair play and the rules of the electoral game
11/23/00: The shining prospect beyond a cloudy election
11/21/00: Try the Cleveland model
11/16/00: A surprising winner emerges in the US election
11/09/00: Those powerful expats
11/07/00: What's right for America versus what works
11/02/00: Time to turn off big government's autopilot
10/30/00: Canada beating America in financial sensibility
10/26/00: When progressiveness leads to backwardness
10/24/00: The most accurate poll
10/19/00: The Middle East tells us the hawks were right
10/17/00: The split personalities of America's super rich
10/10/00: 'Equity Rights' or Wake up and Smell the Starbucks
10/04/00: Trapped in the basement of global capitalism
09/21/00: The final act of a grand presidential tragedy
09/21/00: Europeans strike back at the fuel tax monster. Should Americans follow?
09/18/00: First steps to success
09/13/00: America rejects the human rights transplant
09/07/00: Minimum wage, maximum cost
09/05/00: Prudent Al Gore plans some serious spending
08/31/00: A revolution fails to bring power to the people
08/28/00: A reali$tic poll
08/21/00: "I Goofed"
08/16/00: Part of the union, but not part of the party
08/09/00: Silicon Alley Secrets
08/02/00: Radical Republicans warm up for Philadelphia
07/31/00: I'll Cry if I Want To
07/27/00: Cold warrior of the new world
07/25/00: The Estate Tax will drop dead
07/18/00: Shooting down the anti-missile defence myths
07/14/00: A convenient punchbag for America's leaders
07/07/00: How to destroy the pharmaceutical industry
07/05/00: Patriots and bleeding hearts
06/30/00: Candidates beware: New Washington consensus on robust growth stands the old wisdom on its head
06/28/00: White America's flight to educational quality
06/26/00: How Hillary inspired the feminist infobabes

© 2001, Financial Times