cover image REAGAN'S WAR: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism

REAGAN'S WAR: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph over Communism

Peter Schweizer, . . Doubleday, $26 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50471-3

The Cold War rhetoric of the subtitle is completely apropos to this hagiography, which gives the Gipper full credit for bringing down the Soviet Union. Schweizer is a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution and coauthor, with Caspar Weinberger (Reagan's secretary of defense) of The Next War. Using Reagan's own files and papers, and other newly released material, Schweizer demonstrates Reagan's development as a critic and determined opponent of communism and of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Schweizer depicts Reagan, from the beginning, regarding tactics and realpolitik as more important than ideas; in the process, the author does not carefully distinguish (as Reagan and most others of the era did not) Stalinism and what came after from communism as an ideal. Reflection, study and conviction led Reagan to the belief that steady pressure systematically applied would eventually bring down a Soviet Union whose legitimacy rested ultimately on force. He remained committed to this vision as his status rose in a Republican Party itself increasingly committed to a détente that Reagan argued both weakened the West and prolonged the survival of its rival power. Schweizer takes pains to establish the widespread belief in the West by 1980 that the balance of economic, military, and political forces had irrevocably shifted in favor of the U.S.S.R. On assuming the presidency, Reagan brought about a huge change in U.S. policy, abandoning defensive counterpunching and actively prosecuting a Cold War the U.S.S.R. had never ceased to wage. Schweizer argues that Reagan spent as much time convincing his own lieutenants to abandon the defensive as he did confronting the Russians. It's a story that is clearly and stirringly told, but without seriously entertaining dissenting views on its iconic subject. (Oct.)