"The extreme militarization of American discussion and policy, as promoted by hard-line circles in this country over the ensuing 25 years, had the consistent effect of strengthening comparable hard-line elements in the Soviet Union." Kennan argued.
"The more American political leadership was seen in Moscow as committed to an ultimate military, rather than political, resolution of Soviet-American tensions, the greater was the tendency in Moscow to tighten the controls by both party and police, and the greater the braking effect on all liberalizing tendencies within the regime.
"Thus the general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook that country at the end of the 1980s.
"What did the greatest damage was ... the unnecessarily belligerent and threatening tone in which many of [the U.S. military strategies] were publicly carried forward. For this, both of our great political parties deserve a share of the blame.
"Nobody 'won' the Cold War. It was a long and costly political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other side."
In other words, in Kennan's view, Reagan -- along with "Team B" and other U.S. hardliners -- did more to extend the Cold War than to "win" it.
It also was a tragic by-product of the Reagan narrative on "winning the Cold War" that the argument was used to rationalize some of the most barbaric actions ever committed by the United States and its allies, especially in support of right-wing "death squads" that terrorized the countries of Latin America and other parts of the Third World in the Reagan era.
Without the rationale of fighting the "Evil Empire," these acts of Nazi-like brutality would have been easily judged as indefensible war crimes, with Reagan and other right-wing American apologists viewed as accomplices.
But none of this ugly reality is likely to find its way into the U.S. news media's adulation over the late Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday.
Instead, the American people will get a steady dose of Reagan shouting, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" -- and the Wall magically coming down.
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