Reagan and the Cold War Essay Example


In 1947, the United States took part in a war with the Soviet Union that would last until 1991. The United States saw many new Presidents during the forty-four year battle and Ronald Reagan was one of them. He was the 40th President of the United States and served two terms from 1981 to 1989. The war, later in history called the Cold War, never had any form of battlefield contact and was mostly propaganda in order to scare the opposing country. Ronald Reagan and his policies set America up to win the Cold War by successfully weaponizing propaganda and using old ideals from before the United States had even formed.

Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois in 1911 above a convenience store to Jack and Nelle Reagan. Jack worked as a salesman and during Ronald Reagan’s early life moved with his family all over Illinois in search of a well paying job. Jack was an alcoholic which implanted many bad memories into the future president’s head. Ronald Reagan’s parents were members of the Democratic party and disapproved highly of the segregation happening in the country at the time. Ronald Reagan’s education included a college diploma from Eureka College in Illinois, which was rare in the 1930’s and 40’s as not many people finished college.

Before politics, Reagan worked as a radio sportscaster for WOC and eventually as a staff announcer for NBC. In 1937, Reagan appeared in Hollywood movies and went on to spend twenty-seven years of his life in the film industry starring in 52 films up until 1964.

Since Jack and Nelle Reagan had Democratic views of politics, Ronald was exposed to these views his whole childhood. The entire Reagan family supported Theodore Roosevelt’s New Deal and Ronald voted for him all four times he ran for President of the United States. In the 1950’s, Ronald Reagan’s political views changed as he began to realize the freedoms that the government was taking away from him and millions of other Americans. Although hesitant at first, Reagan ran for governor of California in 1966. Handily cruising past his opponent, Reagan won the governorship with just under a million votes and 53 out of the 58 counties in California. Four years later he won a second term. As the governor of California,  Reagan introduced the Welfare Reform Act which made the requirements to receive welfare more strict and increased property tax relief. As a successful governor for eight years, Reagan eventually announced his candidacy for President of the United States and was sworn in on January 20th 1981.

By the time Reagan had been sworn into office, the Cold War had already been going on for thirty four years with no signs of stopping. The war had started due to tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II because American citizens feared a Communist takeover of the country. Mostly consisting of propaganda, the Cold War saw numerous developments of nuclear weapons and an opposition to Communism by the United States.

Over the course of Reagan’s eight years in office, two major actions were enacted to combat the Soviets. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a plan to build a ballistic missile which would intercept and defend the United States in the event of a nuclear attack. Another policy was introduced to allow for a massive military buildup.

To combat the Soviet Union in the event of an attempted bombing of various landmarks across the United States, the Ronald Reagan administration introduced the SDI. The administration proposed to build a missile which would intercept an incoming ballistic missile from the Soviet Union by detonating the incoming threat in the air to avoid making contact with American soil. Arlen Specter, a United States Senator for Pennsylvania from 1981 to 2011 once said, “The fundamental purpose of government is to protect its citizens.” The SDI fulfilled this purpose as it prevented the Soviet Union from bombing the United States which would certainly have killed thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. Although the technology to create such a device was in the beginning research stages at the time, the United States still managed to strike fear into the Soviet Union by weaponizing the SDI as propaganda forcing the Soviet Union to respond with a defense of their own, which they could not justify economically and technologically.

Along with the SDI, Reagan oversaw the single biggest military build up in United States history in preparation for battlefield combat. Reagan’s military buildup for the Cold War was a 43% increase in the total military expense during the Vietnam War. This made U.S. citizens feel safer and more protected as there were millions of military soldiers ready to be deployed to defend America. The military buildup intimidated the Soviet Union as it made them unsure of their capability to fight against such a big force. The intimidation Ronald Reagan was forcing on the Soviet Union can be compared to the Gadsden Flag and what it stands for. “Don’t tread on me.” In other words, do not mess with us and expect us not to mess with you, retaliation will come. The United States military was so massive that any force the Soviets could use would be met with ten times the force in return. In 2020, former President Donald Trump stated in an online rally talking about relations with Iran, “If you **** around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before.” This is the same type of leadership and force that was presented by Reagan towards the Soviets which made the U.S. feared. The Soviets feared for their lives as they knew that a military retaliation would certainly lead to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Although Reagan had not been in office for two years when the Cold War ended, the policies he enacted brought the United States far ahead of the Soviet Union, militarily and technologically. Consequently, the Soviet Union was unable to overcome their deficit and thus dissolved in 1991 due to an unstable government. Ronald Reagan not only set up America for success, but was so forceful against the Soviet Union that they were forced to back down and eventually collapse as a country.

Bibliography

AP, TOI staff and, et al. “Trump Drops the F-Bomb on Iran.” The Times of Israel, 9 Oct. 2020, www.timesofisrael.com/trump-drops-the-f-bomb-on-iran/. 

“Arlen Specter Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/arlen_specter_167604. 

Cannon, Lou, et al. “Ronald Reagan: Life Before the Presidency.” Miller Center, 11 July 2017, millercenter.org/ President/reagan/life-before-the-presidency. 

“Causes of the Cold War.” History Crunch - History Articles, Summaries, Biographies, Resources and More, www.historycrunch.com/causes-of-the-cold-war.html#/. 

“The Cold War Erupts.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association, www.ushistory.org/us/52a.asp. 

“The End of the Cold War.” The End of the Cold War, americanhistory.si.edu/subs/history/timeline/end/. 

History.com Editors. “Ronald Reagan.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/ronald-reagan. 

“Ronald Reagan.” The White House, The United States Government, 18 Jan. 2021, www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/ronald-reagan/. 

“Ronald Reagan: Foreign Policy (Article).” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/modern-us/1980s-america/a/ronald-reagan-as-president-part-2-foreign-policy. 

“Ronald Reagan's Military Buildup.” Ronald Reagan's Military Buildup, www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1957.html. 

“Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).” Atomic Heritage Foundation, 18 July 2018, www.atomicheritage.org/history/strategic-defense-initiative-sdi. 

“The True History Behind the Gadsden Flag.” Patriot Wood, www.patriotwood.com/blogs/news/the-true-history-behind-the-gadsden-flag.

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