Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Odd Couple Who Diffused Nuclear Threat

None of my children remember the threat of nuclear war. They never had duck and cover drills in school or had to consider how really lame hiding under your desk is when the threat is a thermonuclear warhead. My vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 was my first Presidential vote. I voted for him again in 1984. The growth of the defense industry through Reagan's policies provided my first real job. I wonder whether the defense budget under Reagan was the equivalent of Roosevelt's public works projects and perhaps equal to his tax cuts in getting the nation moving again. My children also don't have to remember 20% interest rates on their houses and double digit inflation.

However, back in 1986, when Reagan was negotiating with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, I became very angry with him. I felt he was playing poker with nuclear war. One of the offers on the table in Reykjavik included complete disarmament if we would just give up talk of our Star Wars missile defense system. Reagan wouldn't do it. At the time, I was in a speech club and was writing a speech. I said in my speech that Reagan's was treating the American people and the people of the world like those Who's on the dust speck in Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hears a Who." "All my life," I said in the speech, "I've been stretched out over a cauldron of boiling oil. All my life the chant of 'Boil that dust speck, Boil that dust speck' has been roiling through the world. All my life the people of the world have been shouting, "We are here, we are here, we are here!"

You see, I didn't then and I don't now believe our missile defense projects can protect us from the massive type of nuclear war we saw in the movie, "War Games." I didn't and don't believe missile defense can ever be a shield that stops nuclear war as seen in movies like "Threads" and "The Day AFter." Missile defense might be lucky enough to stop a missile, one missile, launched from Mexico or from off the coast, but never thousands of missiles in a wave.

Today, most people believe Reagan was the architect of the downfall of the Soviet Union. The person most responsible for removing the threat of nuclear war. I'm glad my children don't have to grow up under the threat of a massive nuclear strike that no one could survive, but to this day I believe it would have been better to disarm. I'm like "Chuck" in the movie "Amazing Grace and Chuck." If you've never seen that one, you should find it. The movie is about a kid (Chuck) who stops playing baseball because of the threat of nuclear war. Eventually, a Michael Jordonesque basketball player nicknamed "Amazing Grace" joins him... and many other children and athletes in the world stop playing, demanding disarmament. Amazing Grace is murdered and Chuck stops talking... eventually all the children in the world stop talking, demanding a future for themselves. Gregory Peck plays the president...

Anyway, if we had disarmed in 1986 the world would be a different place now. Perhaps there wouldn't be stray nukes floating around, available for a price to the terrorist world. Perhaps... oh, the perhapses can go on forever but there's no way to know, is there. Reagan may have been right in playing hardball with the soviets, maybe there was no other way to free Eastern Europe. The world is safer today than when I was growing up. At least it feels safer. I forgave Reagan for Reykjavik long ago.

Reagan was a great man and a great leader. Some people have called in to CSPAN this morning and have blamed him for everything from AIDS to obesity to homelessness, but he had Faith and he believed in Truth and people saw that about him. I begin to know how people must have felt when Roosevelt and Churchill died. Reagan and, indeed, Pope John Paul II defined the times when I became an adult. It's a sorry day when strong leaders leave the world.

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