Book Review: Reagan's War by Peter Schweizer

As I mentioned previously in this post, one of the books that I've been reading through is highly relevant to the state of near-terminal decline and decay that Western civilisation finds itself in today. That book is Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Against Communism, by Peter Schweizer. I was first introduced to this book by a documentary film called "In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed", a highly emotional and extremely powerful documentary of Ronald Wilson Reagan's life, times, and politics based on this book, and it's not difficult to see just how thoroughly the source material affected the final product. This is a book that every man, of any age, should read, if only to understand what it means to confront historical forces greater than oneself and triumph over unspeakable evil. Reagan's fight is in many ways our fight, and this biography of the quintessential happy warrior shows us the way to conduct that fight.

Reagan's War is more than just a look inside the nature and character of the Cold War. It offers amazing insights into a man who is simultaneously perhaps America's most beloved and least understood modern President. It is a biographical account of one great man's long political and philosophical journey. And finally, it is the epic account of courage and integrity in confronting and destroying evil. It is a warning from the past that will help us preserve our future.

Ronald Reagan: A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it gives you almost unparalleled third-person insight into the true nature of America's 40th President and greatest exemplar of republican virtues in the 20th Century. I've said this many times both online and in person: if you think you know who Ronald Reagan was based on his public persona, think again. The affable, grandfatherly chap behind those seemingly simplistic, jingoistic, almost absurdly patriotic speeches, supposedly led around by the nose by his wiser and smarter advisers, was a carefully and artfully constructed fa├žade. The real Ronald Reagan was courageous, charismatic, calculating, immensely charming, and yet driven by extremely powerful and deep convictions. His core beliefs were unshakeable, and his core motivations were pure.

The real Reagan was also highly intelligent and extremely well-read. Most people who don't know anything about Reagan's actual life, do not realise just how intelligent he really was. Reagan spent the better part of fifty years refining his message, shaping his political theories, and honing his speaking abilities. His early speeches were written entirely by himself, longhand, and contained references to Greek literature, Roman philosophy, and Scripture made from memory. His ability to quote entire passages from one of his favourite books, Witness by Whittaker Chambers, is legendary among those who knew him well. Anyone who thinks that Reagan didn't read much is in for a very big surprise; Reagan was never far from a book and devoured intelligence briefings from the CIA every morning. He was constantly reading, learning, and improving his knowledge and his mind. His vocabulary was formidable, and his memory was prodigious right up until his late seventies when his faculties finally began to degrade.

And yet Reagan himself was a mystery, which this book does a very good job of trying to unravel (insofar as such a thing is possible, for Reagan was also very private as far as his family and friends went). Here was a politician who did not seem to care for political games, a man who could charm an entire stadium with his enormous charisma and yet never seemed happier than when he was alone with his beloved wife Nancy and his children. He was a man of absolute principle, yet was coldly pragmatic when it came to achieving certain ends. He was loved and respected by many, but truly known by only a very small inner circle of an intimate few. He was an old man by any standard when he was elected President, yet he was also a man of truly immense physical strength and stature; when Reagan was shot by John Hinckley and was rushed to the hospital for immediate surgery, his chest muscles were so strong and so developed that the doctors had to cut through them in order to reach the bullet that was lodged less than an inch above his heart. The surgeons who operated on him later remarked in amazement that they had never seen such physical strength in a man of Reagan's age.

One aspect of Reagan that I find truly fascinating was his deep and abiding faith in God. Reagan's faith was never the in-your-face Christianity that you find all too common among Churchians (not true Christians) these days. Yet his faith informed and motivated everything else about him. Reagan truly believed that God had given him a purpose in life- and that purpose was not necessarily to achieve high office. It was instead to fight the evil of a totalitarian system that denied the very existence of God, denied the dignity and life-affirming power of faith, and degraded and destroyed the instruments of faith. That faith was deepened after Reagan's brush with death; he came out of that experience with the unshakeable conviction that he had been spared to complete his mission, and that whatever time he had left was in the hands of his Creator. One anecdote that chokes me up every time I watch the film is about Reagan's visit to the 700-year-old Danilov monastery that the Soviets had converted into a refrigerator factory, and which was re-consecrated in 1987; Reagan gave a short speech there and then said, "let us pray", closed his eyes, and bowed his head.

Every man there- including the KGB agents in his "security escort"- followed suit, in reverence of the power of the Lord. And they prayed, to a God that Russians had been told for 70 years did not exist.

This deep humility and spirituality is something for which I have immense respect, for it mirrors my own belief that life without faith in God is empty, and a life lived in the light of the Lord's love and power is a life well spent.

If you want to learn more about who Reagan was, rather than just what he did, this book is definitely going to be a treat. And once you understand what made Reagan the legendary leader that he eventually became, perhaps then you will also understand just why I hold him in such great respect.

Reagan's Crusade

While giving the reader a deep understanding of who and what Reagan was, the book also gives a real idea of the nearly insurmountable battle that Reagan faced- which makes his final triumph all the more amazing in the face of such a daunting challenge. When Reagan was elected as President, America faced the prospect of long-term and perhaps terminal decline. Reagan was facing a moribund economy, a shattered and demoralised people, an even more demoralised military that had been on the receiving end of massive budget cuts throughout the 1970s, and a resurgent and seemingly invincible enemy in the form of the Soviet Union. Any single one of these challenges would have broken a lesser man. Reagan faced them all and triumphed.

The book starts by telling of Reagan's early days as a young actor, struggling to make it in Hollywood. Eventually Reagan's screen career fizzled out and he became President of the Screen Actors' Guild- and it is there that he first confronted the true, hideous, evil face of communism. Reagan came to understand, instinctively as much as intellectually, that Communism and everything it represents is truly evil. The subordination of human liberty in the name of "the proletariat", the violence and terror that inevitably comes from the establishment of any Communist regime, and the system of economic slavery that inevitably results, are all things that Reagan understood better than any of his contemporaries.

There is an interesting parallel drawn in the documentary (but not in the book) between Reagan and the legendary Roman Senator Cato the Elder, a man renowned for his stern, patrician demeanour, absolute and unquestionable integrity, and utter commitment to ancient traditions and values. It is said of Cato that his distrust of the Carthaginian system of kings and oligarchs was so deep that he would end every speech, whatever the subject, with the words "Carthago Delenda Est"- "Carthage must be destroyed". So too it was with Reagan. His convictions about Communism were more than mere exercises in intellectual discovery. Reagan knew in his very bones that Communism was evil and had to be destroyed. And so he made it his crusade in life to destroy the system that had brought so much appalling misery and death to so many millions.

The book then goes on to describe exactly how Reagan fought his war. He fought it on multiple fronts- economic, military, diplomatic, and covert. Reagan's support for freedom around the globe was unflinching and uncompromising. Example after example is provided to show that to Reagan, word and deed were one and the same.

When the Polish Solidarity Movement sought to restore their own God-given liberties, Reagan was unyielding in his support of their right to be free. He imposed crippling economic sanctions on Poland- in the face of violent opposition from big business in America- and set about using instruments like Voice of America and Radio Free America as true weapons in the war for the hearts and minds of the people enslaved behind the Iron Curtain. His impact was such that when his "evil empire" speech, and other speeches attacking the Soviet Union in the most vehement terms, were broadcast, prisoners in Polish jails would tap the walls to communicate his messages between themselves. Leaders of Solidarity later made it very clear that it was Reagan who gave them hope, who inspired them in their cause, and who ultimately helped them triumph.

Reagan never once backed down in the face of evil; instead, he put Western civilisation right where it belonged- on the offensive. When Reagan was confronted by Marxists in Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador threatening American interests and personnel, he didn't hesitate. He ordered the American military in to bring medical students trapped in Grenada back home. Reagan's military actions against the Soviets were open provocations. He gave his military commanders a free hand to do whatever it took to intimidate and harass the Soviets. Because of his decisions, Strategic Air Command began sending massed fleets of B-52 bombers over the North Pole in battle formations, right up to the edge of Soviet airspace. American nuclear submarines would tail their Soviet adversaries, sometimes breaching literally just a few dozen metres away. American war games would emulate direct beach assaults against hardened Soviet targets. Reagan authorised a 600-ship Navy, new fighters, new bombers, and massive spending on upgraded and uprated military hardware.

The book goes into great detail about just how badly all of this rattled the Soviet leadership. They literally had no idea what the hell had hit them. Just three years before Reagan's election, Leonid Brezhnev had confidently predicted that the Soviet Union would win the Cold War and that America's leadership was weak and divided, incapable of forming a coherent and combative response against Soviet expansion. Yet when Reagan came at them, they realised that their entire economic system was built on foundations of sand- and worse, Reagan knew it, which is precisely why he hit them so hard and so quickly. This is perhaps the best thing about the book- you get to understand the Cold War from the perspective of America's enemies, and you begin to understand just how important fighting this particular fight really was. As the book makes clear, Reagan's enemies in Russia in many ways actually understood the man better than any of his domestic critics; they knew that Reagan would not back down, would not be bullied, bargained with, or bought off; and was utterly and totally committed to bringing them to their knees. And they were terrified by him, because they knew, deep down, that he was winning.

Reagan's Lessons for the Long War

As I wrote in my previous post about the war against Islam- and that is the proper term for it- there are deep and powerful lessons to learn from Reagan's war. This book gives them to you in one highly readable, very interesting package. You will see very quickly just how and what we have to do in order to apply Reagan's lessons for fighting the Cold War to fighting a war for civilisation itself against a threat that is far older and far deeper.

Reagan's war was based on courage, sacrifice, and an unyielding, uncompromising belief in the righteousness of the cause. These are ideas that are horribly unfashionable in this day and age- even among fellow denizens of the Manosphere. The reason for this is not difficult to understand. Many Manospherians would rather fiddle while Rome burns; we are, after all, outcasts within our own civilisation and society, prophets without honour in our own lands. Yet so too was Reagan, for a very long time. His ideas were considered radical, dangerous, even extremist- but he was right. And he proved it by pushing a rotten, evil ideology to and beyond its breaking point.

So too it must be in the long war for Western civilisation, which currently is confronting crises of unparalleled severity and scope. I do not know if the West can be saved; I don't even know if it's worth saving at this point. I do know, however, that its intellectual legacy is worth preserving for future generations. And I know that the West will not be able to maintain that legacy if good men are not willing to stand and fight. It is indeed up to us; as Reagan liked to say, "evil is powerless if the good are unafraid".

Today we face multiple threats: overbearing governments that believe that no power is outside their remit, including the right to kill citizens without the right to a trial; the insidious evil of feminism and everything it represents; and the 14-century-long war against Islam. All of these wars can be won, because they are all against opponents which are rotten at their core, incapable of sustaining civilisation without the willing assistance of those they seek to conquer. Reagan's War offers a clear path to victory in each of these wars: never negotiate except from a position of strength, never back down in the face of evil, always seek to attack your enemy where he is weakest, and above all never relinquish your faith in the justice of your cause, for you are fighting for basic human liberties and eternal Truth. The fight is not easy; the price is severe; but it is worthwhile nonetheless.

In conclusion- this is one hell of a great book. Even though this is a biography, it is still very readable; the prose style is very engaging, and the subject matter is incredibly interesting. The characters in this story leap off the page at you; Reagan goes from being a charismatic but distant memory to a living, breathing exemplar of Republican virtue and Christian faith, while lesser men and even traitors like Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter* are given rather unflattering portrayals of their human weaknesses, and the leaders of the Soviet Union are portrayed as exactly what they were: old, bloated, corrupt oligarchs of a decaying empire.

Didact's Verdict: 5/5, Reagan's War is a must-read book for any student of history, any man who wants to understand what differentiates great leaders from the merely good, and any man who seeks to comprehend what is truly at stake in our epic and ongoing war for civilisation.

Buy or download Reagan's War here

* I do not call any man "traitor" lightly. In these cases, the epithet is appropriate. Recently declassified documents from the old Soviet archives have noted that Edward Kennedy did in fact ask the Soviets for help in his election campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1984; and Jimmy Carter promised to give the Soviets a nearly free hand in their sphere of influence in exchange for backing off a little bit during the election season of 1980 in order to avoid giving political ammunition to Reagan. If this world were truly rational, both men would be called out by the mainstream media as the traitors that they truly are, rather than lionised as paragons of "progressive" thinking.


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