- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

Angry Euro-protesters attacking an American warmonger president? Yawn. In the American idiom, “Been there, done that.” Translation for Euro-sophisticates: “Passe, pal.”

It’s 2003, and the president is George W. Bush, but the teeth-gnashing rhetoric is right of out 1983 and the “Euro-missile protests” against Ronald Reagan.

This month is the 20th anniversary of the Great Euromissile Crisis. Oh, the accusations. Mr. Reagan was stupid. Mr. Reagan was dangerous, a warmonger seeking the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union. Mr. Reagan was — good heavens — a unilateralist. Today, the mayor of London calls Mr. Bush “the greatest threat to life on the planet.”

Twaddle. The current crop of Axis of Neville (Chamberlain) leftish pundits and leaders are thus exposed, recycling 20-year-old insults.

Here’s the background: In the late 1970s, the Soviets began deploying SS-20 theater ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. In response, NATO pursued a “dual track” strategy. NATO would negotiate to remove the SS-20s but would deploy its own missiles if the Soviets refused.

Germany’s Socialist Chancellor Helmut Schmidt saw dual-track’s flaws, the most dangerous being loss of will to follow through with deployment. Mr. Schmidt was livid with Jimmy Carter, who insisted on “dual track.” Mr. Schmidt favored an approach that said: “You deploy, we deploy. If you want to talk, we’ll listen.”

Dual-track delighted the Soviets. They could jiggle the American nuclear umbrella protecting the West and perhaps deal NATO a fatal political blow. The American media were wallowing in the defeatist “Vietnam Syndrome” and, if one trusted European polls, neutralist sentiment, evident in the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, had spread to West Germany.

The Soviets knew the negotiating track of NATO’s “dual strategy” was doomed. Moscow had no intention of withdrawing the SS-20s. With the SS-20s as the rattling sword, the Soviets began a political and propaganda campaign designed to portray the NATO missile response as an aggressive act.

By 1983, NATO realized dual-track had failed. Cruise missiles and Pershing 2 ballistic missiles would have to be deployed to militarily and politically counter the 200-plus Soviet SS-20s. So the Soviets launched the “Euro-missile crisis” to frustrate NATO’s deployment. Communist sympathizers, Western “peace” organizations, Western pacifists and other political elements in the West participated in demonstrations throughout Western Europe and the United States.

Despite the heady boost from left-wing elements in the West, Moscow’s strategy experienced setbacks. In 1983, the Dutch elected their most conservative government (Lubbers government) since World War II. Italy issued statements welcoming deployment. Fear, it seemed, wasn’t selling. Common sense and the common need to defend democracy against tyrannical bullies held sway.

Though in some brash sectors hysteria reigned (a review of the videotapes of television news programs and talk shows will illustrate hysteria’s near-domination in the American mass media), thanks to U.S. leadership NATO made the cool chess move of counterdeployment.

With a theatrical huff, the Soviets withdrew from negotiations. Nothing, however, went “poof,” except perhaps the protesters’ adrenalin high. Within 18 months, the Mikhail Gorbachev regime would assume power in Moscow. The Soviets would return to the bargaining table and accept the Reagan administration’s “zero-zero” offer — no SS-20s, no NATO missiles. And we’re all better off.

History never really repeats itself. However, themes from 1983 remain relevant in 2003, a key one being the absolute necessity that democratic leaders demonstrate to tyrants and thugs that the consequences of testing a free people’s will to defend themselves are deadly sure and certain. It’s a sad fact of human existence: There will always be another tyrant who’ll need convincing.

Another theme isn’t so important, but it’s worth noting. The leftish teeth-gnashers will never get it. The figment utopias they tout can’t be challenged by difficult facts. The green-cheese moons they detect orbit their own weightless imaginations, and the gravity of down-to-Earth decision, particularly when it comes to defending liberty, exerts little pull. Hence, the rhetorical hokum they spew that Mr. Bush is “more dangerous than bin Laden.”

Ironically, the Euromissile Crisis proved to be the last big political battle of the Cold War. In 1989, the Berlin Wall cracked, and the communist workers’ paradise was exposed for the Red Fascist hell it always was.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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