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I remember reading about the trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, to Damascus, Syria. Throngs were flabbergasted such a powerful leader felt comfortable walking the streets and engaging peaceful Syrians in conversation. They could not imagine their leaders doing so.

As a former Soviet citizen, I know how weak, xenophobic and repressive regimes behave once the Free World pays attention. When the United States of America stands with its strong voice against the abuse of innocent people’s human rights, action can occur. Mr. Reagan unleashed the wave of freedom and there was no way “The Axis of Evil” could stand.

Anyone who dares raise his or her voice against oppression is considered a criminal — men like Messrs. Mandela, Sharansky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I remember meeting Mstislav Rostropovich in Moscow. He said the Soviets took away his passport while he was in Paris, the first step toward building a criminal case. Sen. Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, once told me at an airport meeting once, that democracy is the only logical choice in the world today.

In the case of U.S. scholar Haleh Esfandiari, what would Mr. Reagan do? Certainly, take pen to paper and work out a deal. No one would have to know. He would not reveal the request. It would be done privately, just “the two of us.” Ronald Reagan understood the power of the personal plea, the putting aside of empty political threats to accomplish his goals. His reaction would have been harsh and swift. Mr. Reagan was brilliant at it.

And he would be a very busy man today.

Tsotne Bakuria is a former member of parliament in the Republic of Georgia and director of the America for Justice and Freedom Center.