Before you read this, make sure you scroll down to the previous entry and watch that young man’s statement.  His name is Joe Cook, and he returned from Iraq last year.  He wanted to make that video– he was not paid by the McCain campaign to say what he said.  He said it from his heart.  Because he knows.  He knows what our country faces today.

A lot has been said about McCain’s experience as a POW, and I won’t repeat the story here.  He is a hero, and no one can deny that.

Unfortunately, there are many who think he will lead us into war.  They see him as trigger-happy, unwilling to sit down and discuss things.   Perhaps because he has fighting experience, they see him as only a fighter — and they fear that in this time of uncertainty, a McCain presidency will mean WWIII.

These are not new fears.  In fact, when I hear these things coming out of people’s mouths, I almost want to laugh… or cry.  Doesn’t anyone remember anything of history?

Modern man has a very short-term memory.  And I guess I’m asking a lot… not only am I asking you to remember the events of September 11, 2001, I’m also asking you to remember the events of February 26, 1993.  The World Trade Center was bombed… under the presidency of Bill Clinton. The guy who liked to sit and talk about things.  The president that the world loved.

And we were attacked again.  Why?  Because we weren’t strong.  And everyone knew it.

I’m actually asking you to remember farther back than 1993.  I’m asking you to remember the greatest presidency of the twentieth-century.  A “trigger-happy” guy.  Someone who everyone said was going to lead us into WWIII.  Someone who wouldn’t sit down and talk to the enemy… at least not until we could talk on equal terms.

When I hear all the talk about McCain leading us into war with Russia, I just have to shake my head.  McCain doesn’t want war with Russia any more than we do.  He has seen war.  He knows what war is.  He knows what war does.  Do you think he likes war?

Peace comes through strength.  Peace doesn’t come from us weakening our defenses, hoping everyone likes us, and then sitting around and waiting for our enemies to attack us.  Sure, it would be great if everyone loved us.  But they don’t.  And they won’t.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but not everyone loves everyone.  “Love your enemies” is a uniquely Christian belief.  As much as we would like to think that everyone can just get along, everyone can love everyone… it isn’t that way right now.  There are people that want to destroy America.  And, with all due respect Senator Obama, they don’t want to sit and talk about it. They want to kill us.  They don’t mind if you want to sit and talk about it… because, sure, they’ll sit and talk.  While their men attack your country behind your back.

But back to the greatest president of the twentieth century.  It is only now, after his death, that Ronald Reagan is getting the proper credit for his achievements, although many political analysts are still reluctant to attribute the success to him.  Something revolutionary happened.  A superpower was erased from the map; an empire ceased to exist.  Even though these days Russia is rising as a threat, no one can deny that the disappearance of the U.S.S.R was astonishing.  The Cold War that had threatened America for so long came to an end.  What happened?  Who deserved the credit for this incredible victory?

When Mikhail Gorbachev told the students of Stanford University in 1990 that the Cold War was over, the message was received with applause.  His additional statement, “And let us not wrangle over who won it,” was punctuated with a standing ovation and wild cheers.

It was, perhaps, an odd reaction.  Other civilizations have fallen in history, and most of the causes are well known. The fall of the Soviet Union was, in the words of Henry Kissinger, “the greatest diplomatic feat of the modern era.” Why did the Soviet Union fall at that moment in history? It had survived depressions and economic struggles before. As Dinesh D’Souza points out, “Historically, poor economic performance is commonplace, but the peacetime implosion of a great political regime is rare.” It fell not of its own power, as some historians still argue. Its fall was the result of a courageous man whose courage and understanding of the struggle outweighed his inexperience in foreign policy. The students of Stanford were happy to avoid the discussion of who won the Cold War because no one wanted to acknowledge the cause of victory. No one wanted to admit that radical Ronald Wilson Reagan had been correct.

Now, the threat of Russia may be back in our minds, although before the invasion of Georgia, the Cold War may have seemed slightly remote.  It may be too easy to take the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall for granted, as if it was inevitable rather than a surprise. Political theorists even fall into the trap, with a modern analysis of the conflict that radically departs from that one given by the intellectuals of the time. Paul Wolfowitz points out that the claim of contemporary politicians and intellectuals that “the Cold War was universally understood at the time to be a fight between ‘good and evil’ in which our choices were clear” is inconsistent with a study of 1980s.

In 1983, Ronald Reagan declared to America that the communist Soviet Union was “the focus of evil in the modern world.” Not all shared Reagan’s assessment of the nature of the Soviet Union. He was mocked, criticized, and declared a warmonger. (Sound familiar?) Rather than recognizing the threat Communism posed to the free world, Reagan’s critics portrayed him as the threat. A journalist for the New York Times warned, “For a President to attack those who disagree with his politics as ungodly is terribly dangerous.” One author, Burns Weston, cautioned against the “error in our one-sided characterizations of the Soviet Union” and urged America to stop the “evil empire” rhetoric, to “cap the volcano before it is too late.”

Reagan refused to “cap the volcano,” refused to ignore the injustices of the Communist system, and refused to alter his rhetoric, even when his wife Nancy attempted to persuade him to temper it. A year after Weston published his concerns over Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall fell, just as Reagan had predicted in 1987.

Reagan understood the true nature of Communism and the true nature of the struggle in which the world was involved. Since its conception, the Communist system had oppressed its citizens and threatened the security of the world, spreading its errors across the globe. After World War II, with the new possession of nuclear weapons, the danger of the Communist goal of “revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” grew.

In the 1970s, the threat had found fertile ground in which to grow without much disruption. The leadership of America had begun discounting the danger, looking for ways to cooperate with the system, and building a friendship with the Soviet Union.  All of this was done despite the Soviets’ oppression of their citizens, subjugation of other countries, and the system’s direct opposition to the rights America held dear. The Soviet Union was pleased with America’s new outlook. Evil enjoys being ignored and allowed to work covertly, so that its progress, once realized, cannot be stopped.

When Reagan began to fight the evil and push back the threat, he was criticized for his harsh rhetoric, his intolerance, and his “sectarian religiosity.” The Soviet Union of the 1980s, his critics insisted, was not the Soviet Union of the 1940s and 50s. There were no mass executions, no Gulag, no torture or intimidation. While the threat of a nuclear war was still present, they admitted, America could avoid war if the Soviet Union was treated as the fellow superpower it was and negotiations continued as they had under Nixon and Carter.

Reagan knew the Soviets were a superpower—in some areas, stronger than the United States. He understood the importance of open dialogue with the Soviets, but he refused to continue the negotiations of Nixon and Carter. Détente had compromised America’s position and the SALT talks had only enabled the Soviets to build more nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union was still a place of evil. It was still spreading its errors, invading countries and subjugating citizens, and committing acts of terror throughout the world. It was still a place where people were arrested for the ideas they held, where people were prohibited from emigrating, where the state regulated the press and religion, and where freedom and self-determination were viewed as menaces to the system. Most fundamentally, Reagan felt, the Soviet Union could never be a place of peace unless it was a place of freedom. Freedom could only come when the Communist system was abandoned—a system inherently opposed to individual freedom.

Reagan knew the struggle was ultimately not a political one. He knew America was facing the conflict between right and wrong, freedom and oppression, good and evil, and must ignore it no longer. Only by understanding the true nature of the conflict historians call the Cold War was Reagan was able to help the people push down the walls of Communism. Reagan’s rhetoric, often dismissed by critics as empty, was a sign of hope to the oppressed people behind the Iron Curtian.

After Reagan’s reelection, he received a tiny note on tissue paper, “so small a microscope was almost necessary to read” it, written in Russian. Smuggled through to the Radio Free Europe offices in Germany, it was from ten women, prisoners in a Soviet labor camp. It read:

Mr. President:
We, women political prisoners of the Soviet Union, congratulate you on your reelection to the spot of President of the USA. We look with hope to your country which is on the road of freedom and respect for human rights. We wish you success on this road.

Aside from producing his stirring rhetoric, Reagan’s awareness of the nature of the struggle influenced his foreign policies and relations with the Soviet Union. First, he understood that good, diametrically opposed to evil, could never concede to evil’s demands. Thus, he remained steadfast and faithful in his commitment to freedom, never compromising the security or peace of the American people. Despite criticism from the Soviet Union and fellow Americans, Reagan remained resolute, rejected the notion of “accommodation” with the Soviet Union, and refused to compromise away the principles of America for the sake of a false sense of peace or agreement. Although remaining open to dialogue with the Soviets, he understood that a true resolution to the conflict would not come by empty bargaining or making agreements that only increased production of weapons.

Secondly, Reagan believed in the renewal of American strength and realized good must never weaken in the face of evil. Thus, he built up the American military and became an unwilling participant in the arms race, knowing the free world could no longer allow the Soviet Union to dominate.

Lastly, he defended the people oppressed by the Soviet Union, understanding that if the embers of freedom in every human soul were nourished, the people would be empowered to throw off the totalitarian regime that had oppressed them. He pressured the Soviet government to restore human rights and supported Solidarity’s fight for freedom in Poland.

In the present day, as the United States has a chance to look back at the Reagan administration, Reagan’s once-critics fall silent. In a U.S. News and World Report article after Reagan’s death, Jay Tolson questioned, “Was Reagan’s fealty to his ideals . . . the crucial factor in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War?” He admits that most Americans, if they once criticized Reagan, now answer the question in the affirmative.

Reagan made mistakes, of course, and his presidency is not without its failures, but “failings and shortcomings come across, by and large, as blemishes only slightly diminishing the large triumphs—restored national confidence, a nascent industrial and economic boom, and the winning of the Cold War.” Perhaps Reagan’s popularity has increased now, after his death, because the world does not have to feel threatened by his uncompromising attitude or because his mistakes have been forgotten. On the other hand, perhaps it is realized that his strategies worked, his predictions were fulfilled, and the world is a different place because of his presidency.

All that being said, is John McCain the same man as Ronald Reagan?  No.  He’s not.  But are the critics the same?  Yes.

There is evil in the world.  There are countries that would like to see us wiped off the map.  We cannot weaken our defense and then attempt to sit down and negotiate with the evil.

John McCain is not afraid to face that evil.  He will not lead us into war, but he will also not lead a weak country.

We have seen what happens when America is weak.  McCain will keep us strong.

Senator Brownback, the man I backed for the Republican nomination until he had to pull out, recently told a group of Catholic university students:

“John McCain has been pro-life for the past 24 years. I will keep pushing him on the stem cell research issue, but John McCain is very strong on the social justice issues. He is key for our times. The Russian bear is coming back. We are facing militant Islamics, and Iran is very problematic. We need a candidate who is very good on the national security issues.”

I may not agree with everything John McCain says.  But I agree with Brownback: McCain is key for our times.  Peace comes from strength.