December 30, 2010
Obama Dims the Light on Missile DefenseBy Paul Kengor
On December 13, 1981, under direct orders from Moscow, Poland's communist regime declared martial law. The move was another in a series of several decades of Russia's jackboot on the necks of Poles. A few days later, President Ronald Reagan, at the request of the Polish ambassador who had just defected, walked to the window of the White House dining room with a candle. He lit the candle for the people of Poland. More than that, he went on national television, on December 23, and told his fellow Americans, "For a thousand years, Christmas has been celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous Polish people. They have been betrayed."
Reagan added another extraordinary gesture, surely igniting the unholy rage of the church-state distorters at the ACLU. The president asked Americans everywhere to light a candle for freedom in Poland that Christmas.
It was the kind of gesture that the Polish people, who felt defenseless against the Russians, never forgot. One little candle made Reagan a hero to the Poles. At one point in the 1980s, a survey by the group Paris Match asked Poles who was Poland's "last hope." Reagan finished only behind the Polish Pope and Virgin Mary. To this day, the Polish people name landmarks and erect statues to one of our greatest presidents.
In January 1991, with the Berlin Wall still crumbling, Poland was already bolting the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact for a post-Cold War alliance with the United States. America is Poland's natural ally.
The U.S.-Poland relationship flourished into the 2000s, especially under President George W. Bush. The coup de grâce was Poland's blessed opportunity to participate in joint U.S. missile defense, along with another persecuted Cold War people -- the Czechs. Both Poles and Czechs would collaborate in what Ronald Reagan had described as his "dream": missile defense. History had been set right.
Unfortunately, last week the Senate approved New START, which President Obama was gung ho to conclude with Russia. The treaty is notoriously complicated, and trying to interpret it is a sticky business. I agree with those observers who fear the treaty might jeopardize missile defense -- largely due to Obama's strange eagerness to assuage the likes of Vladimir Putin.
Obama, for the record, insists that missile defense has not been compromised, but the language of the treaty -- combined with Obama's softness on the Russians, the Russians' toughness toward Obama, Obama's previous pro-Russia moves at the expense of Poles and Czechs, and Obama's traditionally tepid support of missile defense -- is not reassuring. I'm pessimistic, and I'm far from alone.
Reagan started START, championing "strategic arms" reductions rather than limitations. Reagan also started missile defense and rejected Russians' (Gorbachev's) pleas to reduce missiles at the expense of missile defense. That was what Reykjavik was all about.
For Barack Obama, call it the anti-Reykjavik.
Sadly, some Reagan administration members, including George Shultz, are arguing that Ronald Reagan would have backed this treaty. They cannot logically assert that. As one of Reagan's closest aides told me last week, with unusual anger: "That's a damned lie. You can only say that if you haven't read the treaty."
There's more to the argument against the treaty. And the "more" underscores how missile defense continues to lose under Obama. Recall Obama's action on September 17, 2009:
That day, Poles and Czechs grappled with a stunning announcement by America's new president, another shocker that was the utter antithesis of Reagan's thinking, and specifically Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Obama cancelled plans for joint missile defense with Poland and the Czech Republic. The American left, and the KGB -- literally, in Putin's case -- finally got what they wanted.
Poles and Czechs cherished this defense alliance. Few partnerships made them so proud. It was the crowning touch, a peaceful one, forged from the Cold War crucible. It was defensive, not offensive. Missile defense hurt no one.
Of course, that's why missile defense so appealed to Ronald Reagan. Mere minutes after his speech announcing SDI in March 1983, Reagan wrote in his diary that he didn't expect his "dream" to come true for at least a couple of decades. Well, after a couple of decades, the dream was bearing fruit in no less than the heart of the former Communist Bloc. Ronald Reagan would have loved that.
But Reagan's dream has become a nightmare under Obama.
Not unlike Frank Marshall Davis, his Hawaii mentor, Obama has taken the side of Russia over the likes of Poland. Davis was pro-Soviet, pro-Stalin, anti-American, anti-Truman, anti-NATO, and much more. As I've noted here before, and as I show through actual documents I've published, including a declassified FBI record with Davis's Communist Party number (that document is published on page 507 of my book, Dupes), Davis was a secret member of Communist Party USA.
Frank Marshall Davis would have relished everything Obama has done with Russia.
As to the big questions: Is missile defense on the ropes? Has it been completely undermined among America, Poland, and the Czech Republic?
Certainly, it's far more tenuous than any time since the Cold War's end.
Of course, why blame Barack Obama? Obama is who he is. The problem is Americans, especially the moderates and independents who elected Obama.
One concluding thought that brings all this together: it's a punch in the gut worth recalling here, a tragic historic parallel that happened along this road. Given America's wretchedly biased educational system and media, it's understandable that Americans wouldn't know about it:
President Obama made his amazing announcement canceling missile defense with Poland -- which, again, was a pro-Russia move -- on September 17, 2009. Why does that matter? Obama's announcement came seventy years to the minute since Stalin's Red Army, in compliance with the devilish Hitler-Stalin Pact, invaded Poland on September 17, 1939. The Russians thereby joined the Nazis in starting World War II. Among numerous other subsequent calamities for Poland, such as the Katyn Woods massacre, the invasion made possible the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz.
Back then, America failed Poland. America's president had been strangely pro-Soviet, with FDR duped by "Uncle Joe" and pro-Soviet advisers. (Click here and here and here.)
Many decades later, presidents such as Reagan and George W. Bush provided a crucial corrective. Obama may be undoing that corrective.
In September 2009, Poles (and Czechs) hoped for mere defense -- missile defense. Few Americans had any objection, except their current president.
The light that Ronald Reagan placed in the White House window for Poland in 1981 was about more than Poland. It was about the United States of America defending freedom against aggressors. That light, I fear, is dimmer this December.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.