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The Iron Lady
April 10, 2013 - Stephen Browne
When I heard Maggie Thatcher had died the first thing I thought was, now only one is left.
Only one of the four individuals most responsible for bringing down the mighty Soviet Union. The four were an American, a Brit, and two Poles: Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Lech Walesa.
Some say that's hyperbole, the Soviet Union was perishing from the weight of its own contradictions: a dysfunctional economic system and the fact they couldn't keep on murdering, torturing, and imprisoning people who longed to be free - or just to live a normal life.
But me and the CIA, based on an article I saw in a magazine called International Combat Arms (a magazine for arms dealers, and heaven knows how it wound up on that Safeway rack), figured the collapse would come around the year 2000.
These four working both together and separately brought down the USSR, and furthermore brought it down in a manner that involved casualties in the low hundreds. The CIA worried that when the masters of the Kremlin saw their power slipping away, would they push the button?
Not a trivial question. Hitler tried to drag Germany down into a Gotterdamerung, and the Japanese came within an ace of doing it.
Reagan "bought the pot" (to use a poker analogy). He announced the "Star Wars" missile defense project - and here's what's really clever. He told the Soviets he wouldn't try to create a shield so we could attack with impunity - we'd share it with them so they could feel safe too.
"Here, have some plans. Build your own, go ahead."
The Soviets looked at the price and figuratively threw up their hands.
Pope John Paul II wielded the spiritual authority of a man who had grown up under communism and knew the system for what it was, from outside the captive nations.
Lech Walesa defied the Soviet Union from the streets of their satellite state - and when the Soviets didn't invade, as they had invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, the dominoes began to fall when the peoples of the captive nations saw the Soviets no longer had the will to project power.
And Maggie Thatcher took back the Falkland Islands after Argentina Seized them in 1982.
A story I had from my son's godmother, the widow of a KGB agent who defected after the Second World War who had family connections in NATO, has it that the Soviet hierarchy actually believed their own propaganda. That the West was weak, decadent, and had been sufficiently weakened from within by fellow travelers and useful idiots (in Lenin's phrase) that Western Europe would fall easy prey to an invasion.
The story goes that the Soviet chief of staff burst into a meeting of the Politbureau and shouted, "You lied to us! You said the West was weak, and now only one nation in NATO has mounted a campaign that I could not with all my forces."
(To give credit where it's due, former U.S. military officers have pointed out that whenever U.S. trained and equipped proxy forces met Soviet trained and equipped forces in a conventional war, they beat them handily, forcing the Soviets to realize their huge advantage of conventional forces in Europe was no guarantee of success.)
As a result the Soviets postponed the invasion and looting of Europe long enough for their system to collapse.
And now there is only one. Has it really been that long?
Good night Maggie, God bless.
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