Tag Archives: Mikhail Gorbachev

The Berlin Wall Came Down, But Now The Washington Wall Goes Up

Bookmark and Share    This week marked the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is the anniversary of an Berlin_Wallevent worthy to revisit and rethink.

Of the dominoes that remained standing during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall’s fall, set in motion, the end of communism in Europe. And not slowly. Within days of the first chunks of concrete that sledgehammers shattered, an avalanche of freedom came tumbling down on Soviet satellite states.

On November 16th 1989, day’s after it the manmade divide between East and West Germany became no more, Czechoslovakian students began to peacefully protest against the Communist Czech government. As each day passed, more citizens began break into spontaneous protests until one day, over half a million citizens stood together in Prague, protesting Communism. Then, on November 27th all the citizens of Czechoslovakia took part in a 2 hour long general strike. The following day, the Communist government of Czechoslovakia announced that it would relinquish their power to the people and dismantle the existing government apparatus.

Prior to the ethnic conflicts that took place between the Czechs and the Slovaks and eventually consumed the region, the event was a remarkable example of a people yearning for freedom and it was triggered by the fall of one of the greatest symbols of Communist oppression in the world—–the Berlin Wall.

I remember the day it happened. All of my life I had known Germanys. I had heard how people were shot and killed for trying to go from East to West. I was also aware of why few if any people tried to go from West to East. On one side of the Wall you had a thriving society with advanced technology and luxury automobiles, high tech companies, busy entrepreneurs and happy youngsters wearing Nike and Adidas as they bounced basketballs with Michael Jordan’s name imprinted on them. You had a generally happy society hopeful about tomorrow and full of optimism.

Old Model TrabantOn the other side, you had rationing of food and fuel, state owned businesses that produced little and paid little. On the other side of the wall , optimism was nothing more than a concept. The Communist government told its people what they should hope for. Tens of thousands of fortunate East German’s drove the state car, the Trabant. It was a shell that boasted its ability to seat four people. It was mechanically unreliable, lacked any comforts or conveniences and required lots of effort just to pour fuel into. One joke often repeated by East Germans asked how one could try to double the value of a Trabant? To which the answer was “Fill up the tank”. Another asked if you knew that they had Knight Rider in East Germany?………to that the answer was……It’s a Trabant with a pocket calculator! The car became a symbol of Communism’s inability to compete in industry and technology. When the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of East Germans abandoned their Trabants and walked to West Germany, never to retrieve the GDR made autos again.Inside a Trabant

These were the two Germany’s I knew all my life. So when I saw young German men and woman cheering as they climbed the graffiti covered 3 and a half mile long, abomination to freedom, as they chipped chunks of it away, I was stunned. I never thought I would see the people who Communists hid away from the rest of the world, suddenly celebrate the joy of freedom with unbridled glee. But I did. It was the goal of Ronald Reagan and it was being realized.

The Iron Lady, Margaret ThatcherSince then, leftists have often demonized Ronald Reagan. They do so with unrelenting force and mock his boldness, bluntness and military build up, which all helped to create the fatal cracks in the Berlin Wall that brought it down. Many have come to take for granted the course which led to our winning the Cold War. For many of us, that nonchalant attitude is disappointing. We also see it as dangerous. In Statecraft. Strategies for a Changing World, one of contemporary history’s great women and even greater leaders, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher writes;

“Revisionism about the Cold War has taken various guises. But underlying them all is the assertion that the policies of Ronald Reagan towards the Soviet Union were, as you prefer, superfluous, dangerous or even counter-productive“.

She goes on to describe such revisionist interpretations or uninformed opinions as

“ potentially disastrous, because learning the wrong lessons could still result in adopting the wrong responses”

Her point being that the world was not changed by accepting that which we know is wrong. Even East Germans knew that Communism was wrong. They knew that they were falling behind the rest of world. Some East German’s knew this all too well and they tried to make a break for freedom. Since it was erected in 1961, 136 of such West German thinkers were shot to death as they tried to go from East German oppression to West German freedom.

Lady Thatcher reminds us that timidity in regards to freedom does not allow it to flourish.  She also reminds us that Ronald Reagan knew that.  He never apologized for freedom, he shared its virtues, knowing that those who get a taste of freedom become addicted to it. Just as did the people of Czechoslovakia who in “peaceful” protests jingled keys in symbolic display of their demand to “unlock the doors” of “their” government.

20 years later, although Europe and all the continents still suffer from the human condition, we are for the most part, free. We are free to choose between construction and destruction, free to choose between living in harmony or in war, in richness or poorness, ignorance or intelligence. We are free to make the right or the wrong choices and it is that freedom and the challenges that comes with it that makes life——-the free life——-a thrilling, promising experience. But its promise can only thrive if the sea of oppression is not allowed to douse the flame of freedom. The Berlin Wall doused that flame. But Ronald Reagan fought off its drowning tide, and he did not by ignoring the world’s oppressors, but by confronting them.

For that we are here today. For better or worse, after some decisions correctly made and many others wrongly decided, we are here today to celebrate the possibilities of freedom and the demise of it’s enemy—–oppression.

But twenty years later while we celebrate what we once achieved, the United States and the world must decide what we will achieve in the years to come.

It would seem that in America we have begun to move away from the freedom of independence and independent thought, the type of independence that was granted to half of Germany when its dividing line came down. With this trend, moving forward, we must stop and understand that the freedom which we celebrated on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, is the very same freedom that some of our nation’s leaders are now trying to limit. Such sentiments are expressed in the actions of the House of Representatives. Their recent recommended government takeover of healthcare or the decision to tax the air that we breathe, are legislative walls between freedom and oppression. They are examples of just the opposite of the 20th anniversary we just praised and celebrated .

And even worse, most Americans don’t even realize it.

The trend is one that was predicted. It is one we were warned about from past leaders and one that current leaders are now warning us about. Some seven years ago Margaret Thatcher addressed the road we are on right now.

She warned;

“Neither the fall of the Berlin Wall, nor victory in the Gulf War, nor the collapse of the Soviet Union, nor the establishment of free markets and a measure of democracy in South-East Asia – none of these has resolved the tension between liberty and socialism in all its numerous guises. Believers in the Western model of strictly limited government and maximum freedom for individuals within a just rule of law often say, and rightly, that ‘we know what works’. Indeed we do. But equally there will always be political leaders and, increasingly, pressure groups who are bent on persuading people that they cannot really run their own lives and that the state must do it for them. And sadly but inevitably, there will always be people who prefer idleness to effort, dependency to independence, and modest rewards just as long as nobody does better. There is always a danger that, as Freidrich Hayek put it in his Road to Serfdom, ‘the striving for security tends to become stronger than the love for freedom’.  It mustn’t.”

As a unified Germany and their elated allies rejoice in the fall of a wall that allowed freedom to sweep across a continent, America has begun to map out the creation of a permanent welfare state. The dichotomy between the celebration of freedom in Europe and the limiting of freedom in America is startling and is the very dichotomy that Thatcher and Hayek both once wrote about. If freedom is so worthy of celebration than why are we simultaneously legislating it away. The Nostradamion words of Hayek and Thatcher are worth our attention. They are worth our asking whether or not we have in fact placed more value on personal security than individual freedom.

It is a question we must. For whether we realize it or not, we have begun to build a wall of our own. The Washington Wall. One which is a solid divide of federal control that will give bureaucrats and the political class freedom on one side, and on the other side will be us, the ones being oppressed by the regulations and laws of the political class.

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Cutting The Defense Budget….And Our Throats

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Bookmark and Share    Hurray!   During this period of troubling economic times, with increasingly poor economic indicators and concerns over deficit spending, President Obama’s new administration has proposed their first budget cuts.

Out of all the  cuts that can be made, these proposed budget reduction measures are proposed in of all places, our defense budget

These proposed cuts came from one of the administrations few Republicans, the Secretary of Defense. The same Defense Secretary that was given the job by former President Bush.

I saw President Obama’s decision to keep Secretary Gates on, as a wise decision. I saw the perceived acceptance of continuity in the advice given in regards to our national defense as a prudent decision.

It is probably part of the reason why President Obama has not changed our approach to the war in Iraq. The advice and leadership of Secretary Gates has amounted to President Obama’s continuation of the Bush policy in Iraq and the time schedule set in motion by Secretary Gates under the direction of former President Bush. That is a bit ironic since President Obama campaigned on changing the Bush policy in Iraq and pulling out of there as soon as possible.

Yet the latest advice of Secretary Gates is a bit concerning.

He is the only cabinet official to have suggested budget cuts, at this point in time, but I am not sure that the defense of our nation is where I want the budget cut.

I am also not sure that I agree with the specific proposed reduction of national defense monies regarding the specific proposal he made.

Secretary Gates wants to cut back on air born laser anti missile development and technology or ABL.

Now, unless my short-term memory fails me, North Korea  just fired off a rocket that scared the bejeezus out of the international community. The damn thing flew over Japan, an ally of ours, and an enemy to the crazed regime running the show in North Korea.

The North Koreans said they were putting a satellite up into orbit. That explanation didn’t really satisfy the powers that be. First of all, U.S. intelligence sees no evidence of a new satellite up there. Secondly with the scientific capabilities that North Korea possess, the only working technology that they could possible place into orbit is a transistor radio. And it would be an AM one at that.

So all this suggests nothing but ominous intentions on their behalf. They could be using their new found ability to raise much needed money for their faltering economy by selling this rocket to another upstanding, humanitarian minded nation like maybe Iran. Such a move will not exactly be an advance for the cause of peace in the world. Of course North Korea could intend to use it for transportation. They could want to transport a missile that is armed with the nuclear capabilities that they claimed to have stopped trying to obtain.

Either way, the fact that they fired a missile that can strike too many vulnerable American allies as well as the United States itself, makes me wonder how wise it is to reduce government spending by eliminating a technology that could shoot down the next Taepodong-2 multistage rocket.

According to Gates, his proposed budget is “the product of a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks and needs for the purpose of shifting this department in a different strategic direction.”

As for the laser technology that could be used to shoot down a future Taepodong-2 rocket, Gates stated “the ABL program has significant affordability and technology problems, and the program’s proposed operational role is highly questionable.”

That assessment and the decision to go through with halting use and study of the technology is beyond disappointing. In my view it is distressing.

ABL-like technology was first popularized back in the 80’s when President Ronald Reagan initiated studies for the military implementation of what he called a Strategic Defensive Initiative.

Back then, the left tried to ridicule Reagan for this pursuit. They tried to trivialize it by calling it Star Wars and defining it is imaginary capabilities dreamed up by a doddering old fool.

But while doing that, Ronald Reagan used SDI to win the Cold War and he used it to eventually bring about the collapse of the “evil empire”.

The last leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev knew that his country could not spare enough of its own money to study SDI and try to compensate for America’s use of such potential technology.  So in arms negotiations with Reagan, Gorbachev agreed to eliminate all of the Soviet empire’s nuclear arsenal if the United States promised to drop SDI.

Reagan said no.

He felt that that SDI was a new approach to the threat of nuclear weapons. It was a defensive tool and as such it posed no threat to anyone. The only offense it could be to our enemies would be the fact that, if it worked, it would render the missiles aimed at us, ineffective.  Since it was not a threat to anyone, Reagan refused to negotiate it away.

The move proved to make it impossible for the Soviet Union to continue its arms race and it ultimately led to the transformation of a new Russia.

Years later SDI technology has continued to prove itself to be quite valuable and its continued development increases our ability to shoot down potential threats to America or allies.

The recent activities of North Korea and their promise to retaliate if the world community places any sanctions against them, helps to demonstrate the need for our increased use of, and study of,  the type of technology that the Defense Secretary is proposing to abandon.

As President Obama returns homes from his tour of Europe and surprise visit to Iraq, I am more convinced than ever that we need to increase funding for capabilities such as ABL.  After President Obama went abroad and promised to stop flexing America’s muscle in favor of going along with what the rest of the world wants, I believe that the ability to shoot down missiles aimed at us will become increasingly crucial to our security.

I believe that President Obama’s policies will do little to discourage our enemies from becoming bullies in their own right. His policies will do little to convince places like North Korea to stop their pursuit of nuclear capabilities or the need to produce rocket systems that can reach America.

His policies will help to increase the need for us to shoot such rockets down. Yet the means to do so is now being scrapped.

So I am glad to finally see our government attempt to cut the budget and to rid itself of a program but this is not the government program to cut.

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