The U.S. lost another avatar of the conservative movement over the weekend – the 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. This was not unexpected, given that the man was 93 and had suffered a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a sad thing to see a former president pass away, and given that America is a nation still deeply disturbed from 9-11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the passing of Mr. Reagan will be given the full court press by the U.S. government. This includes a state funeral on par with the JFK funeral, massive drives to memorialize the Reagan moniker at major airports and landmarks across the U.S., and a week-long state of national mourning. Plus, our own former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, will be a pallbearer at Mr. Reagan’s funeral. This seems appropriate, given that Mulroney and Reagan were close friends during their corresponding days in office (including during the now-infamous Shamrock Summit, arguably the most disturbing and unsettlingly “friendly” display of Canada-U.S. relations during the 1980’s – I’ll never forget seeing Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan singing together on stage, an event I hope Paul Martin and George W. Bush never, ever plan to do).
Reagan was a unique president in American history, a man who lived the American Dream from start to finish. He became president during a particularly dark period for the U.S., for the country was going through hard economic times, rising crime and the after-effects of Vietnam. He instilled the phrase “Morning in America” into everyday parlance, inviting hope and positivity to a country exhausted from decades of war and civil strife. He was nicknamed “The Gipper” and “The Great Communicator” because he was, indeed, an ideal president for the television age (and a particularly good one for the rough-and-tumble world of the 1980’s).
But let’s be clear: Ronald Reagan may have led America out of the darkness, but he was by no means a saint, nor a president that deserves to be on Mount Rushmore (as some overzealous Republicans would love to do). His “Reaganomics” is a discredited economic theory, full of contradictions that ended up bloating the American trade deficit and creating a massive national debt of $1.5 trillion that future generations will be paying for decades to come. And his foreign policies were, at best, uneven. While he did a remarkable job at winding down the Cold War – just try to imagine George W. Bush convincing anyone to drop their ideological curtains in favour of “openess” or “democracy” – he also brought on the “Star Wars” plan, which involved the weaponization of space against Soviet threats (an idea which is back in vogue under Dubya).
But perhaps the best reason not to give Reagan the status of sainthood was his near-unforgivable support of vicious, paramilitary groups led by warlords (many of whom later became military dictators) devoted to taking down liberal or left-leaning governments in Central America, Asia and Africa. He supported British PM Margaret Thatcher in the U.K.-Argentina war over the Faukland Islands in 1982, did next to nothing to discourage the Soviet Bloc (with the notable exception of Romania) to boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and got far, far too friendly with certain military leaders abroad (more on that later).
The most upsetting of all has to be the Iran-Contra Affair, which involved illegally selling arms to the Iranian government (an “official” enemy of the U.S.) in order to set up a slush fund for the CIA to train and arm Nicaraguan rebels against the socialist government. The whole mess ended up ruining Oliver North, the resident fall guy who would later run, inexplicably, for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate (he lost).
But most importantly, Reagan also played an important role in a conflict still affecting us today: the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88. You see, Iran (a sworn enemy of the U.S.) engaged in conflict with Iraq, a nation led by none other than Saddam Hussein. Back in 1983, Saddam was America’s ally. But, in the grand tradition of foreign policy on the fly that is the America’s MO, he became an enemy when he got too uppity and invaded Kuwait in 1990, which lead to the first Gulf War, containment, 9-11, an “intelligence” drive to justify invasion of Iraq, Gulf War II, Iraq’s military smashed to bits, Saddam captured, Iraq in chaos… you can see where this is going.
So all in all, Reagan was a good president. But don’t deify him, he made some serious mistakes and did some virtually unforgivable things while in office.
WIRELESS, APPLE-STYLE: Apple has done what all us Wi-Fi friendly folks have dreamed of today – a portable base station called AirPort Express that allows for access to iTunes through wireless (called AirTunes) and easy transmission of data through stereos, TVs and other digital devices. This is the obvious first step towards a wireless iPod, which is very cool, but thankfully AirPort Express has an 802.11g wireless connection to the Internet (which is ridiculously fast, to the techno-unfriendly) which adds to the cool factor of this device. The mobile revolution for us laptop-infused, online folks is about to begin!
Apple, you officially kick serious ass now.