Ronald Reagan and the Cold War

For some reason, some ideologues refuse to give any credit to Ronald Reagan for helping to win the Cold War. While they have a legitimate point that claims that "Reagan won the Cold War" unfairly diminish the roles that other presidents had in prosecuting the war (specifically Truman and Eisenhower), you must give Reagan credit where credit was due.

What Truman and Eisenhower did during the respective presidencies were instrumental in winning the Cold war, there is no doubt about that. But Ronald Reagan ran on the principle that the Soviet Union contained fundamental flaws, was weak because of them, and with enough pressure would collapse under the wait of it.

Some revionist historians make the claim ex post facto that: since the Soviet Union collapsed, that means it would have inevitably collapsed. This formulation is too cute by half. The correct formulation is that Since the Soviet Union collapsed, it must have been possible for it to collapse.

As the scholar on International Relations Michael McFaul notes in response to someone who makes this claim,

No, I disagree because I think just as I said there was an alternative response to SDI back in '83, there was also an alternative response to the crisis that the Soviet Union faced in '85. And Gorbachev chose a strategy of reform that ultimately created the space for it to collapse. I think the Soviet Union could be here today had another set of characters came to power. And that's where Reagan comes in and in a way that I think you put in your book--I think you have some very nice quotes from Reagan. The one where he says we're going to spend them in to history I think is wrong, but the one where he says we're going to roll back communism and we have superior ideas, that part of the story I think gets underplayed because we can measure GDP, it's very difficult to trace ideas. And in my book about the Soviet Union, that's where the ideas that we can be in a different world, those took hold with Gorbachev and with the people of Russia.

I find myself in complete agreement with this ( although I would probably give a little bit more credit to the military buildup). In essence, Reagan pressured the Soviets with the following
1) A strong military buildup coupled with
2) the Reagan doctrine to aid anti-communist insurgents with the assumption that
3) This would pressure the communists into negotiations we would dictate because they
4) could not compete with us economically.

The sum total of the pressure Reagan put on the Soviets forced them into negotiations whereby The Soviet Union was pressured into reforms it could not sustain because of its weakness.

While it is rightly unfair to claim that "Reagan won the Cold War" all by himself, you must give him credit as a brilliant stategic leader who saw and opportunity and acted successfully on it. Because of this, the world owes him a debt of gratitude.