As he ponders his response to unfolding events in Iran, President Obama would do well to consult a new book by Martin and Annelise Anderson, Reagan's Secret War, that lays everything out for him. The Andersons quote from a Top Secret letter that Reagan sent Soviet Party Chief Brezhnev on December 23, 1981 - ten days after the Polish government arrested Solidarity leaders and imposed martial law:
The recent events in Poland have filled the people of the United States and me with dismay....
The most elementary rights of the Polish people have been violated daily; massive arrests without any legal procedures; incarceration of trade union leaders and intellectuals in overcrowded jails and freezing detention camps; suspension of all rights of assembly and association; and, last but not least, brutal assaults by security forces on citizens...
The United States cannot accept suppression of the Polish peoples...The United States will have no choice but to take concrete measures affecting the full range of our relationship...As leaders of two great and powerful nations, we bear a mutual obligation to demonstrate wisdom, moderation and restraint.
Let me assure you that I am prepared to join in the process of helping to heal Poland's wounds and to meet its real needs - if you are prepared to reciprocate...The alternative is not in the interests of anyone.
All President Obama has to do is replace "Brezhnev" with "Khamenei," substitute "Iran" or "Iranian people" for "Poland" or "Polish people, and make a few other minor tweaks ( Iranian detention camps are probably "sweltering," not "freezing,"), and he's got a Top Secret letter ready for immediate mailing.
In case this letter doesn't convince the Iranian Supreme Leader to call off his thugs, President Obama should address the American people from the Oval Office. Again, all he has to do is take President Reagan's December 23, 1981 "Address to the American People," and alter a few words here and there:
As I speak to you tonight, the fate of a proud and ancient nation hangs in the balance...this Christmas brings little joy to the courageous people ... The men who rule them and their totalitarian allies fear the very freedom that the Polish people cherish.
They have answered the stirrings of liberty with brute force, killings, mass arrests and the setting up of concentration camps...
I have also sent a letter to President Brezhnev urging him to permit the restoration of basic human rights in Poland provided for in the Helsinki Final Act. In it, I informed him that if this repression continues, the United States will have no choice but to take further political and economic measures affecting our relationship.
Let the light of millions of candles in American homes give notice that the light of freedom is not going to be extinguished.
Figuring out how to respond to Iranian events is not all that difficult. All it takes is adapting Reagan's words, and emulating his courage.
Joseph Shattan is the author of Architects of Victory: Six Heroes of the Cold War.