- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

The speech 20 years ago in which President Reagan predicted that the Soviet Union was headed for "the ash heap of history" was remembered yesterday as a crucial turning point in the Cold War.
Mr. Reagan's June 1982 speech to the British Parliament known as the Westminster Address was a "clarion call" that "demanded world liberation" from communism, former Reagan speechwriter Tony Dolan said yesterday during a seminar at the Heritage Foundation.
By outlining democracy's "claim to the future," said Mr. Dolan, the Westminster Address helped rally the West and challenged the long-held assumption of the permanence of communist rule in the Soviet empire.
"What I am describing now," Mr. Reagan told the British Parliament, "is a plan and a hope for the long term the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people."
Though Mr. Reagan predicted a long struggle against communism "the task I've set forth will long outlive our own generation," he said his prophecy was fulfilled within a decade by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Westminster Address foretold "a great victory even Reagan never believed would happen in our lifetime," said syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.
But at a time when most in the West had accepted the Soviet empire as permanent, Mr. Reagan's "psychological optimism was a revolutionary idea," Mr. Krauthammer said at yesterday's event, sponsored by the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Former Reagan administration national security aide Richard Pipes noted that ironically, the 1982 speech's most famous phrase originated with early Soviet communist leader Leon Trotsky, who had dismissed the rival Menshevik party as doomed "to the ash-heap of history."
With the benefit of hindsight, many writers now suggest the fall of the Soviet Union was inevitable, but Mr. Pipes said it was "totally unacceptable at that time" for Western leaders to talk of change in Moscow.
The Westminster Address "flatly contradicted the Sovietological establishment" of recognized experts in Soviet affairs, Mr. Pipes said, crediting Mr. Reagan's "intuitive judgment" for his decision to confront communist aggression directly.
Describing a "democratic revolution gathering new strength" around the world, the speech was an early exposition of the Reagan Doctrine, under which the United States and its allies supported armed opposition to Soviet-backed regimes in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and other Third World countries.
Mr. Reagan viewed the speech as a "kickoff" of his foreign policy efforts to reverse the expansion of communism, said Edwin Meese III, attorney general in the Reagan administration, calling the Westminster Address "one of the most significant events in the Cold War."
Soviet imperialism "was morally unacceptable" to Mr. Reagan, who rejected the idea of detente or peaceful coexistence with communism, Mr. Meese said.
"Detente to [Mr. Reagan] meant that we would perpetually be living side by side with communism," he said.
"Reagan thought that the Cold War was winnable," said Elizabeth Spalding, an assistant professor of government who administers Claremont McKenna College's Washington program. "Reagan chose to tell the truth as he saw it about the Cold War."
Rooted in "decades of Reagan's thoughts," the Westminster Address was the "clearest and deepest articulation of Reagan's views of communism," Mrs. Spalding said. "With hindsight we can see that the whole of Reagan's foreign policy was prefigured in the Westminster speech."
And while Mr. Dolan wrote the draft on which the Westminster Address was based, he said both the original idea and the final words were Mr. Reagan's own.
"Reagan's speeches were Reagan's speeches," Mr. Dolan said. "It was not hard to know what Reagan wanted to say he'd been saying it for 30 years."


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