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John Hughes

Arab revolts: What would Reagan do?

President Reagan's championship of the unfree would have made him deeply sympathetic to the Egyptian protesters who toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Despite initial wavering, President Obama's response was in line with what Reagan might have done – let ideals triumph over the maneuverings of diplomacy.

By John Hughes / February 15, 2011

With major centennial ceremonies under way honoring Ronald Reagan, it is tempting to speculate how he would have responded to the dramatic events in Egypt.

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President Reagan was an idealist who believed, and declared, that freedom was a God-given mandate deserved by all mankind. He experienced, confronted, and deplored two of the three most dangerous “isms” of our times: fascism and communism. Had he lived longer, he would certainly have confronted with vigor the third “ism,” Islamic extremism.

He believed that “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

He was incensed at man’s inhumanity to man anywhere on the globe. He declared the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” he shouted in Berlin. Not always lauded while president, he is today praised for a significant role in ending the cold war.

He dreamed of a world free of nuclear weapons because he thought the concept of deterrence, killing millions of human beings, was “immoral.”

Although a strong supporter of Israel, Reagan got into a telephone shouting match with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982, warning him that the “future relationship of their two nations was at stake” if Israelis did not halt a merciless attack on the people of Beirut, Lebanon.

I think his championship of the dispossessed and the unfree would have made him deeply sympathetic to the Egyptian protesters whose tenacity caused the resignation of the autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

In 1986, Reagan told another autocrat, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, that it was time to make the transition from power. Marcos was a US ally, but he had lost touch with his people.


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