Tags: Presidential History | dutch | gipper | mad | sag | sdi

Reagan Challenged Us to Save Freedom from Extinction

Reagan Challenged Us to Save Freedom from Extinction

As a Republican presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan spoke to an audience at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on St. Patrick`s Day, March 17, 1980. (Laurence Agron/ Dreamstime.com)

By Saturday, 06 February 2021 06:10 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Today, Feb. 6, 2021, marks the 110th birthday of my favorite president, Ronald Reagan.

Our 40th commander in chief was born in Tampico, Illinois — to Jack and Nelle Reagan.

They lived in an apartment without indoor plumbing.

It was Reagan's father who would nickname him "Dutch," reportedly because the child resembled  "a fat little Dutchman."

That nickname stuck.

Following several moves in Illinois, Reagan graduated in 1928 from the Dixon High School, where he was an athlete and student body president.

During the summers, he was a lifeguard — when I visited with him in Los Angeles after he retired to update him on his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), he recalled those days, and with justifiable pride recalled the lives he saved.

At Eureka College, he continued his athletic interests, and was student council president there. At that time, his interest in acting emerged.

Following his graduation he became a radio sports announcer, elaborating from other radio accounts with imaginative commentary on the ongoing games as if he was present and watching.

In 1937, while in Los Angeles covering the Chicago Cubs spring training, he did a screen test for Warner Brothers, launching his movie career. Among other films, he starred as Notre Dame’s football star George Gipp in "Knute Rockne All American" and picked up another nickname, "the Gipper," as in urging folks to "win one for the Gipper."

Ronald Wilson Reagan exhibited leadership wherever he went…inclusive of his being president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

It was in that role that he testified before the House Unamerican Activities Committee.

He hosted the "General Electric Theater" TV series (CBS), and became a related GE public relations representative, giving speeches around the nation. He started calling out excessive government control and wasteful spending, while establishing themes central to his budding political career.

At first, he was a Democrat.

Later, he said he did not leave the Democratic Party, it left him.

A memorable 1964 Republican National Convention (RNC) speech launched his political career. Two years later he became governor of California and was reelected in 1970.

Following two attempts he was elected U.S. president in 1980.

During his Inaugural address he said, "In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem."

He inherited a troubled economy — high interest rates, economic stagnation and a weakened military — e.g., Army Chief of Staff General "Shy" Meyer pointed to "a hollow army." Reagan championed Meyer’s efforts to renovate the Army, supported building a 600 ship Navy, modernizing our tactical air forces and, perhaps most significantly, a Strategic Modernization Program to upgrade our strategic deterrent forces.

He delayed arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union until he could demonstrate his intention to negotiate from a position of strength — to underpin his "Peace Through Strength" strategy.

Reagan's most important visionary initiative that shortly followed was his SDI program —which drew fire from the international Arms Control elite who claimed that we could have arms control or SDI but not both.

They criticized his frank descriptions of Soviet practices — e.g., he called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire."

In confronting these concerns by the World Council of Churches in Geneva — I explained that Soviet human rights practices merited such a label and that his SDI program to protect people — illustrated that it was "better to save lives than to avenge them."

This was Reagan’s slap at the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine that had been our deterrent policy since the 1960s, and Reagan’s aspiration for initiating the SDI.

In any case, he disproved the so-called experts who thought SDI would undermine arms control. His policies achieved arms control treaties with the Soviet Union that for the first time in History produced deep reductions in nuclear arms, without further limiting his SDI.

In 1990, when I hosted Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at our Colorado Springs National Test Facility, Reagan’s closest international partner stated, "I believe that it was the determination to embark on that SDI program and to continue it that eventually convinced the Soviet Union that they could never, never achieve their aim by military might because they would never succeed."

I was privileged to support these important national security initiatives from senior positions in the Air Force, the State Department and as Reagan’s Ambassador and Defense and Space Negotiator defending his SDI program.

And, I was pleased to be SDI director under President George H.W. Bush, when we began acquisition programs for most if not all the ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems that we now operate around the world.

But Reagan’s favorite system was scuttled in early 1993, when Defense Secretary Les Aspin "took the stars out of Star Wars."

This "Star Wars" moniker had been attached to SDI efforts to suggest building effective BMD systems, especially in space, was a fantasy.

President Reagan was so committed to exploring space-based defenses that he walked out of the 1986 Reykjavik Summit when Mikhail Gorbachev demanded that we limit such research to the laboratory — gutting our programs.

But we "pocketed" the Soviet concessions made in this failed effort to convince Reagan to gut his SDI efforts, and we achieved historic treaties on those terms. So, the 1993 Democrat leaders accomplished what the Soviets could not.

No administration since has sought to revive those most important SDI efforts.

It was good to hear that the Biden administration will continue the Space Force that was begun by President Trump. Today’s leaders should adopt Ronald Reagan’s vision for the most cost-effective defenses based in space, while recognizing that other nations —particularly China — actually could beat us in reaching that goal.

As we consider future prospects, it is well to remember Reagan’s challenge that "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same."

That is a worthy challenge for us today — for which we need his commitment to such consistent objectives as economic growth, limited spending and military strength second to none.

Stay tuned.

Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary, Science Adviser to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and a USAF Reserve Captain. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.

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HenryFCooper
It's well to remember Reagan’s challenge that "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same."
dutch, gipper, mad, sag, sdi
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2021-10-06
Saturday, 06 February 2021 06:10 AM
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