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  • The Culmination of Reagan’s Foreign Policy: “Tear Down This Wall!”

    Twenty-five years ago today, President Ronald Reagan stood in West Berlin on a temporarily erected platform. The gray buildings of Soviet-dominated East Berlin were visible through the Brandenburg Gate behind the podium.

    Standing inches away from the tangible manifestation of the Iron Curtain, Reagan faced the crowd of West Berliners in front of him and the Western world beyond. But his real audience was behind him, behind the curtain: He spoke to the millions of people in Central and Eastern Europe held captive by the wall, and he spoke to the Kremlin, addressing Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev himself.

    In his rhetorically masterful speech, Reagan made the economic case for freedom and the security case for Western resolve, but his main argument was a moral one. He stated flatly the problem of U.S.–Soviet relations: “Our differences,” Reagan said, “are about liberty.”

    It was his spiritual case for freedom (“This wall will fall, for it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom”) that carried Reagan’s appeal to theSoviet Union. Without that moral force, his stringent demand to tear down the wall would have sounded odd and hollow. Indeed, his demands of Gorbachev did sound odd and even downright dangerous to many U.S. foreign policy experts in the State Department and Reagan’s own White House. Several times prior to delivery, experts and staff had attempted to cut out or water down these now immortal lines:

    There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate.

    Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.

    Mr. Gorbachev—Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    At these words, the crowd exploded into cheers. They were not idealizing the persona of Reagan. They longed for freedom. They aspired to the idea and model of liberty that Reagan’s America represented.

    Winston Churchill had first recognized the Soviet’s menacing consolidation and control of territory following World War II and coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” to describe how Moscow had cutoff half of Europe from the West. With similar foresight, Reagan recognized the Iron Curtain’s impermanence.

    In this, Reagan was squarely at odds with the best foreign policy minds to be had in America, but the experts were wrong. Two years later, the wall came down; the Soviet Union dissolved.

    Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate is a testament to the truth that bold and hopeful words are worth very little without great actions behind them. In essence, Reagan’s explicit challenge to Gorbachev was the culmination of six years of Reagan’s foreign policy strategy, which was guided by his realization that America’s material and moral interests were at stake.

    Reagan worked to bring all aspects of American statecraft to bear on the ultimate goal of defeating the ideology of communism and the menacing state apparatus that subjugated whole nations in its cause. In all of this, Reagan tapped into a noble tradition of U.S. foreign policy and sought to reestablish America’s proper role in the world.

    Join Heritage as we commemorate the 25th Anniversary of President Reagan’s call for freedom at the Berlin Wall with a screening of his historic speech.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to The Culmination of Reagan’s Foreign Policy: “Tear Down This Wall!”

    1. Todd says:

      A great man, a great President. Character and morals do matter in America. What we have today is what happens when America forgets that and "hopes" for a better future. We have to be reminded that to be great, we all must work for greatness. And it does not come easy.

    2. zbigniewmazurak says:

      Well, that shows that these "experts" weren't really experts, but amateurs, and they weren't brilliant foreign policy analysts.

    3. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Reagan could make you laugh and at the same time make dictators cry. He'll be sorely missed. We need more
      Republican candidates like him. Unfortunately, in this political environment, he wouldn't be conservative enough.
      He'd be called a "RINO"____a "Republican In Name Only." That wasn't Ronald Reagan. If he ran against Obama, he'd win because Obama doesn't have any ideas.

      • Danno56 says:

        you have no idea what your talking about !! NO one before or since was as conservative as reagan !!
        conservatives KNOW what a rino is !! the republican establishment (including moderates and rinos)
        despise conservatives, the tea party…….are you a mass. transplant ?

    4. Moderation says:

      Right…Obaman has no ideas. Positive job growth for, what, 23 months in a row now?

      Maybe we should have the tax rate be 70% for the highest wage earners, I believe it was something like this in the Reagan years. How do you think that idea would go over if Obama introduced it?

      Plus, Reagan's economic plan was 'trickle down'. It doesn't work. And, he was a big spender, raised taxes several times. Reagan probably would defeat Obama, he was a great campaigner and not a bad President.

      It doesn't mean his legacy is any better than what the reality actually is. Credit to him for calling Russia what it was, and even compromising with Democrats(like that should be something out of the ordinary)….but how about Iran-Contra?

      • Kent says:

        Positive job growth? You realize that the GDP growth each year is falling and currently is not keeping up with population growth in America right? Also we are losing nearly as many jobs in the economy as we are supposedly creating. If we had as many jobs available as in 2009, when Mr. Obama took office, we would have unemployment above 10%. Yes that is great economic policy. Median incomes of households are down over $3,000.

        The tax rate for top earners was slashed from 70% to 28%, as a result we came out of an economic downturn and by this time in his Presidency he had created over 5 million jobs in the economy. In fact his economic policy and, as a result, the economic boom, rolled well into the 90s. He adjusted taxes several times after slashing all taxes for people. You see conservatives believe in tax cuts for everyone, not just the rich as others would have you believe, because we are a consumer based economy. Thus people need money, to spend money. Government taking our money will never benefit the economy, and never has.

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