Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev died last week at 91. I’ve refrained from commenting because I have a general policy of not speaking ill of the recently dead, and frankly, it’s hard to discuss Gorbachev honestly without bringing up a lot of negatives.
He was lionized by the same “historians” who care more about promoting a political agenda than accurately recording history, showered with every award including the Nobel Peace Prize, and given credit for ending the evil empire of the USSR when that was actually Ronald Reagan’s doing (he even coined the phrase “Evil Empire,” something that the liberals who hailed Gorbachev attacked him for at the time – those of us who actually lived through the history don’t need biased “historians” to distort the facts.)
The USSR ended because Reagan took them head-on, and they couldn’t keep up militarily or financially. It also helped that improving technology such as satellite communications tore down the Iron Curtain and allowed the people under Soviet dominion to see what the rest of the world was really like, the depredations they were suffering under communism, and how they had been lied to.
The fact is that, like many of our own current leaders, unfortunately, Gorbachev never stopped believing that communism was good, it just needed a few “reforms.” It was to his credit that when he saw the USSR starting to crumble, he didn’t use military force against its rebelling satellite states. But that didn’t mean he just sat by and let communism die in peace.
I decided that instead of trying to summarize Gorbachev’s “complicated legacy,” I’ll just direct you to this excellent article by Jeff Jacoby.
Jacoby makes the point that Gorbachev is remembered as a great figure only because he lost the Cold War and didn’t have the Putin-like brutality to launch a hot war. He wanted to save communism and keep the USSR together, but R. Emmett Tyrrell may have provided his best epitaph, saying that he made the world a better place because of his repeated failures to achieve what he really wanted to do.