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Tags: Latin America | Mexico | Presidential History | contras | leiken | reagan | sandinistas

Remembering Robert S. Leiken

Remembering Robert S. Leiken
Jan. 10, 1985, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega after being sworn in as the country's new president, in Managua, Nicaragua. Ortega, who helped topple the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza as a Sandinista guerrilla leader, ruled Nicaragua from 1979-1990. After losing power, he later returned through the ballot box, assuming the presidency in 2007. Fidel Castro is pictured left. (Jeff Robbins/AP)

Craig Shirley By Thursday, 06 July 2017 02:27 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Earlier this month, on June 7, Robert S. Leiken, esteemed political science professor, enlightened anti-communist, died at the age of 78. He was active in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the most influential people to shape the U.S. involvement in Nicaragua during the Reagan years. And he was a liberal.

During the 1970s, he referred to himself as a Marxist, teaching in Mexico. He soon went to several think tanks, from the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1981 to liberal Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1983. It was in Carnegie where he edited "Central America: Anatomy of Conflict" a year later, which was highly critical of President Reagan’s foreign policies, especially towards the communists in Central America.

It all changed when he visited Nicaragua itself. Since the late 1970s, the freedom fighter group Contras — ragtag but for the most part sincere — were in an active war against the Soviet-backed communist Sandinista government.

The conflict, which only became worse throughout the 1980s, was the flashpoint of U.S. policy in Central America. When Leiken visited Nicaragua in 1984, after communicating with the son of future Contra leader Arturo Jose Cruz, he noticed how poorly the Communist government treated their poor. It was exactly what they promised not to do.

Several years later he said, "Sympathy with the Contras is becoming more open and more pervasive. I was stunned to hear peasants refer to the Contras as 'los muchachos,' the boys  — the admiring term used to once describe the Sandinistas when they were battling the National Guard."

The National Guard were part of the previous Anastasio Somoza regime. Somoza was corrupt and overthrown by the Sandinista’s promising reform. Leiken further noted that the reigning corrupt communist government’s failures "polarized the country, led to disinvestment, falling productivity and wages, labor discontent, and an agrarian crisis."

Leiken saw through the lies of the Nicaraguan government and its disinformation, as well. He experienced it first-hand. "These thousands of demonstrators were hardly 'bourgeoisie,' as the Sandinistas claimed,” he said before Congress. "They were overwhelmingly workers, peasants, and young people." It was his hands-on experience that swayed the United States. It coming from a self-proclaimed Marxist showed that it wasn’t typical liberal bias.

Ronald Reagan even mentioned Leiken by name during his remarks at a fundraising dinner for the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund, and again a year later at a speech at the Heritage Foundation (in which, Reagan said, Leiken’s conclusion about the Communist government came "much to the distress of some of his liberal colleagues").

The significance of not just Leiken, but the whole of the Contra insurgency, cannot be understated. The fight over the Contras was the fight of the century.

Before Nicaragua, with few exceptions, Communist governments were sequestered, more or less, across the Atlantic and the Pacific — China, Russia, Eastern Europe. Cuba was, and continued to be, a Communist threat. But Nicaragua represented a new front in their war against freedom, a new threat to America. Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, was different. It not only was the linchpin of Communism close to the U.S., but emphasized the division between American conservatives and liberals.

As one Republican leader, Newt Gingrich said in 1983, "Because they fail to understand the nature of evil, radical Democrats support policies at home that favor the criminal rather than the victim."

The Democrats, by being against intervention in Nicaragua, intended or not, said that they supported the Communist dictators, and did not care for the freedom fighters.

Leiken fought tenaciously for the Contras and against the Sandinistas and their liberal apologists in America because like Reagan, who compared the Contras to America’s founding revolutionaries, he knew that freedom was not only good, it was spiritual and that communist enslavement was wrong and evil.

As it turned out, Reagan was right, the Contras were right, we were right, Leiken was right and the Sandinistas were wrong and their liberal apologists were wrong.

Just as the left has always been wrong and American conservatism has been right. Leiken had the wisdom to change. Leiken became a great American because he had the courage to change. Robert Leiken, RIP. 

Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer. His Books include, "Reagan Rising: the Decisvie Years," and  "Reagan's Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is the founder of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, and has been named the first Reagan scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Just as the left has always been wrong and American conservatism has been right. Leiken had the wisdom to change. Leiken became a great American because he had the courage to change. Robert S. Leiken, RIP. 
contras, leiken, reagan, sandinistas
Thursday, 06 July 2017 02:27 PM
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