Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Leadership as refusal: "But he wouldn't do it."

"Reagan had everything to gain -- everything in the eyes of the world -- if he had accepted the Reykjavik deal. He would have had the applause and respect of his foes, the thanks of a relieved world that would read the headlines the next morning that said BREAKTHROUGH! He would have been celebrated by history, known the pleasure of having given the world a gift of extraordinary and undreamed-of progress. Nothing but win all around him.

But he wouldn't do it. Because he didn't think it was right.

And because he didn't do it, the Soviet Union finally fell, crushed by a hundred forces but most immediately by its inability to keep up with the United States. The only thing that would have saved them was a cave-in on SDI. That way, the old status quo could continue.

And so the wall fell and Soviet communism fell and the expansionist threat fell, and every globe maker who made the globes for every schoolroom and office in the world had to redraw all the lines.

What a crisis that day was. What a tragedy it seemed. What a triumph it was."

Peggy Noonan, When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, page 297.