Let me add one note to my post below
about Ronald Reagan. Sweeping evaluations of a president's role in geopolitics have their place, and in this case we may or may not see convincing evidence that Reagan's ambitious policies resulted in some greater good for the world. But such analyses all too often gloss over the many ways in which such masters of civilization cause real, brutal, unnecessary harm to ordinary people.
I said that I don't know much about Reagan, relatively speaking, but I do know that he was the president whose administration illegally sold arms to a hostile theocratic Iran in order to finance an illegal war in Nicaragua, and on a personal level, I know a little bit about the results of that scheme. A member of my extended family was a Sandinista. He was not some scary communist automaton seeking to bring down democracy in America - just a small farmer who felt obligated to try and defend the best interests of his village from the brutality of the Nicaraguan right. Reagan's war left my relative deeply traumatized, in a way he can't really communicate - and now he and his neighbors struggle to get by without even the modest social assistance once offered by the (admittedly corrupt and authoritarian) Sandinista government. Those little I's and V's and X's roll across the global Risk board without hinting at the destruction they cause ordinary people along the way. All that talk of "freedom" sounds very grand, but it doesn't look like freedom when it's killing the people you love.
Maybe Reagan was a grand strategist who engineered the end of the Cold War. Or maybe not. But, if every world leader has blood on his or her hands, Reagan's hands had more blood than necessary. And it was real.
Labels: Ronald Reagan