The 'Amazing and Mysterious Life' of Ronald ReaganIssue: Fall 2004
In 1987, Ronald Reagan uttered the immortal phrase: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!" Two years later, the Berlin Wall, the symbol and brace of the Soviet empire, fell under its own weight, while the real thing collapsed without a sigh on Christmas Day 1991 when the Soviet Union committed suicide by self-dissolution. No empire has ever exited from history without major war--recall the violent demise of the Wilhelmine, Habsburg, Romanov and Ottoman empires in World War I. So whatever else Clio--the Greek goddess of history--may yet report about him, she will always praise Ronald Wilson Reagan for this absolute first in the annals of statecraft: an empire that died in bed. They thought him demented when he challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Wall. Yet down it came, and as I retrace the historic voyage of America's 40th president, I would like to note that I helped to pry a chunk or two out of the Wall.