President Barack Obama has succeeded in bringing down the world’s worst terrorists, Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi. Right-wingers, who inflate the achievement of Ronald Reagan, will never give Obama any credit.
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Reagan’s prescient remarks at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 are perhaps his most famous and emblematic. Nobody who loves freedom could deny their importance. Two years later, the Berlin Wall crumbled. After that, it only took the Soviet empire two more years to dissolve.
To conservative ideologues, Reagan’s legacy hangs like an Olympics Gold Medal on those stirring phrases and subsequent events. Since then, we have heard countless times that “Reagan brought down the Soviet Union.”
Sober historians hold a different view. They credit Reagan’s rightful role in a consistent four-decade, anti-Soviet policy initiated by Harry Truman, continuing through John F. Kennedy’s rescue of Berlin and “Ich Bien Ein Berliner” speech in 1961, and the eventual, dramatic shattering of the wall in 1989, after Reagan retired.
Similarly, Obama went to the Mideast to call for democracy. Speaking June 4, 2009 at Cairo University, he said “I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed’ and “these are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.”
It took less than two years before the citizens of Middle Eastern nations began to heed Obama’s clarion call. Tunisia’s 74-year-old autocratic president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down in mid-January after peaceful protesters demanded his ouster. A month later, Hosni Mubarak, 82, yielded to the will of Egyptians to end 30 years of increasingly corrupt rule. Libyans arose against strongman Gadhafi, who was finally killed in October.
Obama backed his words with military precision that resulted in the deaths of bin Laden and Gadhafi. Obama directed the military special operation that on May 2 killed the mastermind of the 9/11 horror. NATO aided Libyan rebels in tactics that led to Gadhafi’s death at the hands of angry L:ibyans. Gadhafi was responsible for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner that crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, along with numerous other terrorist acts.
Crackpot right-wingers, instead of crediting Obama for bin Laden’s death, expressed their delusions that the policies of George W. Bush that were responsible for catching bin Laden. Everyone else around the world endorsed Obama’s bold decision making toward the bin Laden mission and cautious approach toward the Mideast uprising.
Rush Limbaugh encouraged insurrection in the United States if the 2010 health care legislation is not overturned. “If that doesn’t happen, we go Egypt on Obama.”
Fox’s Glenn Beck described the Egyptian uprising as the “beginning of a new world order” in which Islamic fundamentalists are taking over the world with Obama’s collusion and that the president wants chaos. “The kind of change that’s he’s (Obama) demanding, and they are rioting and they hurting the economy, and they are killing people, and setting things on fire,” Beck told his radio listeners.
Not a single member of the Republican leadership rebuked these dangerous, crazy words.
The Obama administration encouraged democratic reforms without meddling in ways which risk turning Arabs against Washington as happened in Iran. “Regime change” began to sweep the Arab world during Obama’s presidency in ways Bush could never accomplish through his divisive gunboat diplomacy.
If the revolutions in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia or another Arab nation end up anti-Western, try to find one conservative who won’t blame Obama for the outcome. Yet, these same conservatives don’t blame Reagan that Putin’s Russia falls far short of earlier expectations, that Belarus has slid toward autocracy, or that Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan never became democracies after the Soviets pulled out.
You can’t have it both ways. If Reagan gets star billing for vanquishing the evil Soviet empire, he also deserves equal blame for the enduring repression in some former Soviet republics. And if Reagan is credited with eliminating the Soviet menace, Obama conquered repression and terrorism in the Mideast.
John Wright is the author of The Obama Haters: Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo and Racism (Potomac Books) and co-author of Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future (Prometheus Books). His web page is www.johnswright.com.