“There was one vital factor in the ending of the Cold War. It was Ronald Reagan’s decision to go ahead with the Strategic Defense Initiative.” Margaret Thatcher
March of 1983 was a very bad month for the Kremlin. On the eighth of March President Reagan gave his famous “Evil Empire” speech, which clarified the moral issues of the Cold War and undermined support for the Nuclear Freeze movement the Soviets had been nurturing. On the twenty-third of the month Reagan gave another speech, in which he called for a Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI, to shield the American people from the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack.
Most conservatives credit Reagan with leading the Free World to victory in the Cold War, and cite the Strategic Defense Initiative as the most important single factor in achieving that victory. There is ample evidence to support this view.
Unfortunately for Reagan, conservatives don’t get to write college history books.
“The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.” Ronald Reagan
In 1983 President Reagan gave a famous speech in which he outraged American liberals, and warmed the hearts of conservatives, by describing the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.”
College faculties were pretty uniformly left wing in the 1980’s, and reflexively hostile to anything anti-Communist. Professors on campuses all around the nation reacted to the President’s speech with outrage. Dr Henry Steele Commager, a history professor at Amherst College, spoke for many of his colleagues when he said that this was “the worst presidential speech in American history, and I’ve read them all.”
History professors haven’t gotten much more moderate over the ensuing years. They still tend to lean very far to the left, and they still resent Reagan.
”The cold war is now behind us. Let us not wrangle over who won it.” Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990
In an insightful 1944 essay, George Orwell coined the famous phrase “History is written by the winners.” His point was that totalitarian regimes like the Nazis and the Communists showed no regard for truth, in and of itself; and would compose and teach whatever “facts” suited their political agendas. If Hitler succeeded in conquering Europe, Orwell said, future generations of Europeans would believe whatever lies his National Socialists chose to put in their history books.
Orwell, however, did not foresee scholars in free countries like England and the US practicing this kind of creative “history” writing on behalf of the enemies of their own countries. He would probably be surprised at some of the tendentious teaching that goes on in college history classes these days.
“The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.” Alexis de Tocqueville
In an earlier column, I wrote about the tendency of textbook authors to deny or denigrate the role of religion in their depictions of the founding of the United States. Historians like Professor Eric Foner teach their students that the Founding Fathers were able to embrace progressive ideas like freedom and equality because they viewed Christianity and the Bible as “outdated superstitions that should be abandoned in the modern age.”1
The truth is very different.
College history professors, like other left wing extremists, are loath to acknowledge that religion has played a positive role in the development of this nation; yet any honest portrayal of American history would have to acknowledge it. The rights and freedoms enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were, the Founders thought, quite literally sacred; having been bestowed on the human race by God Himself.
The American people of the late eighteenth century were more generally devout in their Christianity than the citizens of any other nation, and there is a reason for that. In America religion was not imposed on the people by government, it was freely chosen.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Arab Proverb
As regular readers know, the purpose of the “Columns” section of this website is to expose the leftwing bias prevalent among history department faculties on most American universities, and in the textbooks most of them require their students to read. In reading and re-reading the most widely-used freshman history textbooks, I see certain patterns emerge. One pattern that stands out like a sore thumb in these textbooks is the very harsh treatment given to anyone who ever fought vigorously against Communism.
This pattern of demonization extends not just to domestic political figures like Joseph McCarthy, but to anti-communist military and political leaders in foreign countries, to law enforcement officials who prosecuted Soviet spies, and even to our nation’s own troops when they fought against Communist forces on the battlefield.