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Patience and thanks

By Bruce Walker
web posted October 17, 2005

Patience is one of the hardest virtues in an age of cellular phones, cable news and internet information explosion. Because it is possible for good to win quickly, we presume that if victory takes time then something is wrong. This impatience is most often profound among those of us who have wandered in the wilderness for all our lives.

Sit back, though, and reflect. Twenty-five years ago, almost to the day, that the Conservative Revolution was won at the ballot box, the world faced a Soviet Union in firm control not only of the constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but also six of the eight communist nations of Eastern Europe. Marxism regimes controlled Nicaragua and it appeared almost inevitable that Marxism would sweep over much of Africa and Asia.

Americans were being held hostage in an Iran which was, at the time, enormously popular with the Iranian people, who, wrongly, believed that the Shah of Iran was the worst thing to happen to that nation (instead of the best thing in fifteen hundred years.) Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, and Hafez Assad was the leader of a brutal Syria that shelled Israel and occupied Lebanon.

Mexico had the same one party rule that it had had for ages, with no prospects for real democracy on the horizon. Nicaragua was militantly Marxist and exporting Soviet imperialism in El Salvador and other Central American nations.

Not only was democracy rare in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but democracy in non-communist nations in Europe like Spain, Portugal and Greece was just learning to walk, and it was by no means certain that democracy would take root in those Mediterranean and Atlantic nations.

Northern Ireland was wracked by strife and terrorist bombings were commonplace. The rest of Ireland was relatively poor. The prospects for peace – much less prosperity, which the Irish have achieved magnificently – were lame and dull. Rather than being the most prosperous Europeans, the Irish seemed doomed to bloodshed and poverty.

The Republic of Korea, now a major economic power with a functioning democracy, was a minor economic power with a very imperfect democracy. What was true of Korea was also true of Taiwan. What was true of Taiwan was also true of Thailand.

India had just emerged from a period of "emergency rule" under Indira Gandhi, which was tantamount to dictatorship, and it was by no means clear that India would again become the largest democracy in the world. Soon after 1980, political assassination threatened to through India into an impossible religious and ethnic war, with Sikhs and Moslems both against the balance of India. Relations with Pakistan had been continuously bad since independence, with no prospects for improvement in sight.

Consider, now, where we are. All of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union are independent and most have functioning democracies. Nations like Poland and the Czech Republic are truly free and democratic, threatening no one and generally sympathetic to our nation. Mexico has a democratically elected president from an opposition political party and democracy has taken root in our neighbor to the south. Nicaragua is also free and democratic, rejecting Marxism repeatedly in free elections. Not only has Marxism failed in Latin America, but when Castro dies, the last bastion of Marxism in the hemisphere will doubtless collapse and another democracy emerge.

India has a Sikh Prime Minister and India and Pakistan are talking, in increasingly friendly terms, about common dangers. The theocrats of Iran are enormously unpopular and the people of Iran truly sympathetic to America. The Hitler of Baghdad, with his torture chambers and genocide, is gone. The Syrian Army is out of Lebanon and Moammar Ghadaffi, the once young colonel of revolutionary Libya, is now an aging and frightened autocrat, willing to sell out his revolutionary friends for personal survival.

Power in Spain, Portugal and Greece changes hands through the ballot box, and not by junta or civil war, and all three nations which never had democracies (except Greece, long ago) are fully functioning and free lands.

Israel has the best relations with its Arab neighbors than at any time since independence. After fighting a war for survival about every ten years - 1948, 1956, 1967, 1975 - Israel has not had to fight a war in thirty years.

Is everything perfect now? No. But perhaps, as well celebrate the twenty-fifth year of the Reagan Revolution, it is a good idea to sit back, see have much has been done, and smile.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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