Let the debate begin:
At the beginning of his presidency in 1981, the hawkish Reagan declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” announced a massive buildup of U.S. nuclear weapons, and vowed to roll back communism around the world. But when he left office eight years later, communism was beginning to collapse, the superpower conflict was heading toward an improbably peaceful end, and a new, little-understood threat from Islamic militants was only beginning to emerge.
Reagan didn’t “win” the Cold War single-handed; he was only one of nine presidents who led the United States in the long East-West conflict from 1947 to 1989, from Harry S. Truman to George H.W. Bush.
But Reagan did play a central role in ending the Cold War, and by the time of his death 15 years after he left the Oval Office, even some of his most dogged critics were willing to grant him credit.
“Reagan’s contribution to ending the Cold War was comparable to [President Richard M.] Nixon’s contribution to opening up China,” said Walter F. LaFeber, a historian at Cornell University who has long been critical of Reagan. “Politically, to have somebody of Reagan’s ideology do this was very important. It would have been very difficult for [a Democrat] to do it.”
Reagan’s presidency, fiercely controversial in its day, can still start arguments. But at least among scholars, the debate over Reagan is no longer over whether the conservative president had a serious foreign policy strategy or contributed to the end of the Cold War.
Is this really a debate the media wants? At this time? I think no to both answers. I think most Americans realize how much of a role Reagan played. The media trying to dispell that notion will only result in a backlash. Oh, but it would probably help the guy seen as Reagan’s successor. Another reason for the media to lay off.