The Politico, one of the many vectors for creating and maintaining conservative dominance of the media and cultural conversations in the US, has its obligatory puff piece on Mister Death Squadder this morning:
Bently Elliott, Reagan’s top speechwriter in his first term, recalled an interview his old boss gave at the end of his time in the White House.
“He didn’t say he wanted to be remembered as the president who turned around the economy or the president who brought down the Evil Empire,” Elliott recalled. “He said he wanted to be remembered as ‘the president who made the American people believe in themselves again.’”
Except he did neither.
Contrary to conservative myth, Ronald Reagan didn’t do jack to bring down Russia or East Germany; they were falling apart all by themselves. Even the aid given to the mujahideen in Afghanistan — aid that helped sustain them during the long war of attrition that sapped Russia’s strength and was the final blow to the régime — was not essential to the mujahideen’s success; the Saudis, conservative Sunnis similar to the mujahideen, were already funding them quite extensively, as were Pakistan, China, and various other nations and entities, and would have given them even more aid had we not done so.
In fact, not only did Reagan not bring down Russia, it is a well-documented fact that neither he nor his CIA knew what was going to happen until it was already happening. Just as the CIA of today was caught totally off-guard by the lightning-fast spreading of revolutionary fervor in various Middle Eastern dictatorships, they were caught totally off guard by the equally-rapid collapse of the Soviet bloc, as former CIA official Mel Goodman relates:
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union created an entirely new international setting and totally surprised U.S. policymakers, the Central Intelligence Agency providing no strategic warning. President George Bush stated that he had no idea that the Berlin Wall was coming down and was surprised by the coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev in
1991. His national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, could not recall receiving any CIA warning about the Soviet demise. President Ronald Reagan’s last national security adviser and Bush’s chairman of the joint chiefs, General Colin Powell, recorded in his memoirs that CIA specialists “could no longer anticipate events much better than a
layman watching television.”.
Former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner recorded that the agency’s “corporate view missed by a mile” and that it “should not gloss over the enormity of the failure to forcecast the magnitude of the Soviet crisis.”
The memoirs of former Secretary of State George Shultz offer the best evidence of CIA’s failure to track the Soviet decline and the revolutionary impact of Gorbachev’s leadership. Shultz believed that “CIA analysis was distorted by strong views about
policy” and accused CIA director William Casey with providing “bum dope” to the president. He told national security adviser Frank Carlucci in 1987 that, even “when it became evident that the Soviet Union was in fact changing”, the CIA line was
that the changes wouldn’t really make a difference. 
Shultz had “no confidence” in the CIA and warned the White House that the agency was “unable to perceive that change was coming in the Soviet Union.”.
He accused acting CIA director Robert Gates with trying to “manipulate me” and reminded him that the CIA was “usually wrong” about Moscow and had dismissed Gorbachev as “just talk, just another Soviet attempt to deceive us.”. Shultz,
Turmoil and Triumph, p. p. 864.
CIA’s failure to recognize the weakness of the Soviet Union and the importance of Gorbachev had serious implications for U.S. interests. The Reagan administration unnecessarily increased defense spending, dragged its feet on arms control, and missed opportunities to resolve regional confrontations. The tab for CIA funding and support for Islamic militants in order to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan now includes the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and attacks on U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia.
Oh, yes: The brave mujahideen the CIA helped fund? Osama bin Laden was one of them, as were the persons who would go on to become the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. Ironically enough, Condoleeza Rice, as an alleged specialist on the subject of Soviet Russia, has tried to engage in some classic neocon revisionism by claiming that she and her PNAC buddies knew all along that the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan was what would weaken and eventually bring down the USSR, all the while not recognizing that Osama bin Laden was and is using that very same game plan against us by keeping us bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. (As Mel Goodman points out, she too was totally taken by surprise by the 9/11 attacks, attacks even the CIA saw coming and about which they had tried in vain to warn Bush and his neocon friends.) And make no mistake, we’re still in deep up to our hips in Iraq, except it’s through the use of “private security firms” (aka privateers or mercenaries) like Blackwater (now Xe), whose troop levels are harder to ascertain than those of the Army, Marines, Air Force or Navy.
Bin Laden knew he could easily provoke the Reagan-Bush PNAC crowd into an armed response to a terrorist attack (as opposed to the far more sensible and effective response by Bill Clinton to an earlier attack on the World Trade Center, a response that actually collared the perpetrators and didn’t inflame the Middle East against us). He knew he could easily lure them into a ruinous two-front war even as Bush’s tax cuts for the rich were wrecking America’s ability to sustain the expense of these wars. It’s almost as if PNAC and the George W. Bush administration were run by Al Qaeda sleeper cell agents, so closely did they follow bin Laden’s plans for their behavior.
(Crossposted at Renaissance Post.