Cold War strategist Ikle dies; ex-Pentagon leader
A staunch conservative, Mr. Ikle took part in some of the most significant Cold War policy debates and weapons developments from the 1950s through his tenure as undersecretary of defense for policy, the Pentagon’s No. 3 position, from 1981 to 1987.
“Fred was among the least known, yet most influential, of the team that helped develop and implement Ronald Reagan’s Cold War strategy of sending the Soviet Union to the ‘ash heap of history.’ ” said Richard Perle, who worked with Mr. Ikle as assistant secretary of defense.
The Wall Street Journal said of Mr. Ikle: “The far-seeing defense strategist was one of those who helped win that long twilight struggle, as it was once known, without a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange.”
“A man who cared deeply about his country and worked all his life to secure it, he will be missed by his colleagues at CSIS [the Center for Strategic and International Studies] and fellow board members of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, among many other organizations.”
During the 1980 Reagan presidential campaign, Mr. Ikle was one of a few key advisers - including William Casey, Edwin Meese, Richard Allen and Jack Kemp - who met in Atlanta along with Reagan to draw up plans for what would become the anti-communist strategy of defeating the Soviet Union.
“All advisers present were all under the chairmanship of Fred Ikle for the three-hour meeting,” said Michael Pillsbury, a deputy to Mr. Ikle at the Pentagon. “This was the start of the idea of an ‘evil empire’ effort to topple the USSR and not accept defeatist detente.”
Significantly, Mr. Ikle was behind the Reagan administration decision to send Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Afghan rebels battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The missile transfer was widely viewed as the key to defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan and eventually toppling the Soviet Union, itself, in 1991.
The Stinger program was opposed by the CIA, which feared upsetting Moscow, and the U.S. military, which was reluctant to send the arms.
Mr. Ikle also helped rebut the thesis of the 2008 film, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which credited former Rep. Charles Wilson - and not Reagan - for the successful covert action in Afghanistan and falsely asserted the program boosted al Qaeda. The movie also mistakenly portrayed the CIA and Mr. Wilson as enthusiastic backers of sending Stingers.
“Senior people in the Reagan administration, the president, [CIA Director] Bill Casey, [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger and their aides deserve credit for the successful Afghan covert action program, not just Charlie Wilson,” he said at the time.
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