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Natan Sharansky: The Power of Freedom; What Soviet dissidents, Scoop Jackson, and Reagan understood
NRO ^ | December 08, 2004 | Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer

Posted on 12/08/2004 7:12:47 AM PST by Tolik

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series of excerpts from The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky with Ron Dermer. They are taken from the book’s introduction.

How was one Soviet dissident able to see what legions of analysts and policymakers in the West were blind to? Did Amalrik have access to more information than they did? Was he smarter than all the Sovietologists put together? Of course not. Amalrik was neither better informed nor more intelligent than those who had failed to predict the demise of the USSR. But unlike them, he understood the awesome power of freedom.

Dissidents understood the power of freedom because it had already transformed our own lives. It liberated us the day we stopped living in a world where “truth” and “falsehood” were, like everything else, the property of the State. And for the most part, this liberation did not stop when we were sentenced to prison. Having already removed the shackles that imprisoned our minds, our physical confinement could not dull the sense of freedom that coursed through our veins.

We perceived the Soviet Union as a wooden house riddled with termites. From the outside, it might appear strong and sturdy. But inside it was rotting. The Soviets had enough nuclear missiles to destroy the world ten times over. Over 30 percent of the earth’s surface was under communist rule and the Soviets possessed enormous natural resources. Its people were highly educated, and its children second to none in mathematic and scientific achievement. But forced to devote an increasing share of its energies to controlling its own people, the USSR was decaying from within. The peoples behind the Iron Curtain yearned to be free, to speak their minds, to publish their thoughts, and most of all, to think for themselves. While a few dissidents had the courage to express those yearnings openly, most were simply afraid. We dissidents were certain, however, that freedom would be seized by the masses at the first opportunity because we understood that fear and a deep desire for liberty are not mutually exclusive.

Fortunately there were a few leaders in the West who could look beyond the facade of Soviet power to see the fundamental weakness of a state that denied its citizens freedom. Western policies of accommodation, regardless of their intent, were effectively propping up the Soviet’s tiring arms. Had that accommodation continued, the USSR might have survived for decades longer. By adopting a policy of confrontation instead, an enervated Soviet regime was further burdened. Amalrik’s analysis of Soviet weakness was correct because he understood the inherent instability of totalitarian rule. But the timing of his prediction proved accurate only because people both inside and outside the Soviet Union who understood the power of freedom were determined to harness that power.

For me, and for many other dissidents, the two men leading the forces of confrontation in America were Senator Henry Jackson and President Ronald Reagan. One a Democrat, the other a Republican, their shared conviction that the individual’s desire for freedom was an unstoppable force convinced them of the possibility of a democratic transformation inside the Soviet Union. Crucially, they also believed that the free world had a critical role to play in accelerating this transformation. Their efforts to press for democratic reform did not stem solely from humanitarian considerations. Like Sakharov, these men understood that the spread of human rights and democracy among their enemies was essential to their own nation’s security.

Had Reagan and Jackson listened to their critics, who called them dangerous warmongers, I am convinced that hundreds of millions of people would still be living under totalitarian rule. Instead, they ignored the critics and doggedly pursued an activist policy that linked the Soviet Union’s international standing to the regime’s treatment of its own people.

The logic of linkage was simple. The Soviets needed things from the West — legitimacy, economic benefits, technology, etc. To get them, leaders like Reagan and Jackson demanded that the Soviets change their behavior toward their own people. For all it simplicity, this was nothing less than a revolution in diplomatic thinking. Whereas statesmen before them had tried to link their countries’ foreign policies to a rival regime’s international conduct, Jackson and Reagan would link America’s policies to the Soviet’s domestic conduct.

In pursing this linkage, Jackson, Reagan, and those who supported them found the Achilles heel of their enemies. Beset on the inside by dissidents demanding the regime live up to its international commitments and pressed on the outside by leaders willing to link their diplomacy to internal Soviet changes, Soviet leaders were forced to lower their arms. The spark of freedom that was unleashed spread like a brushfire to burn down an empire. As a dumbfounded West watched in awe, the people of the East taught them a lesson in the power of freedom.

Dazzled by success, policymakers in the West quickly forgot what had provided the basis for it. Astonishingly, the lessons of the West’s spectacular victory in which an empire crumbled without a shot fired or a missile launched were neglected. More than fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the free world continues to underestimate the universal appeal of its own ideas. Rather than place its faith in the power of freedom to rapidly transform authoritarian states, it is eager once again to achieve “peaceful coexistence” and “détente” with dictatorial regimes.

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner, is author of the memoir Fear No Evil and currently serves as the Israeli minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs. Ron Dermer is a political consultant and former columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: freedom; natansharansky; rondermer; sovietunion; ussr
The first part was posted here:


1 posted on 12/08/2004 7:12:48 AM PST by Tolik
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To: Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; Valin; yonif; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; Alouette; ...

Nailed It!
Moral Clarity PING!

This ping list is not author-specific for articles I'd like to share. Some for perfect moral clarity, some for provocative thoughts; or simply interesting articles I'd hate to miss myself. (I don't have to agree with the author 100% to feel the need to share an article.) I will try not to abuse the ping list and not to annoy you too much, but on some days there is more of good stuff that is worthy attention. I keep separate PING lists for my favorite authors Victor Davis Hanson, Lee Harris, David Warren, Orson Scott Card. You are welcome in or out, just freepmail me (and note which PING list you are talking about).

2 posted on 12/08/2004 7:17:01 AM PST by Tolik
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To: Tolik
I've been pushing this book for a while now, here and on a couple other forums I'm on. I highly recommend all FReepers read this book. It offers crucial insights into our relations with Islam, and dealing with radical.

"Over the years, I have come to understand a critical difference between the world of fear and the world of freedom. In the former, the primary challenge is finding the inner strength to confront evil. In the latter, the primary challenge is finding the moral clarity to see evil."

That last also helps us understand the irrationality of the Left's approach to many issues.

3 posted on 12/08/2004 7:27:41 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: FreedomPoster
and dealing with radical Islam.
4 posted on 12/08/2004 7:28:28 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: Tolik

"Though generally healthy for a society, this competition can be quite dangerous if we lose sight of the fact that there is a far greater divide between the world of freedom and the world of fear than there is between competing factions within a free society. If we fail to recognize this, we lose moral clarity."

"A country that doesn't respect the rights of it's own people will not respect the rights of it's neighbors."

I can't recommend this book highly enough! One of the best things I've read this year. A clear cold eyed, yet optimistic look at what's going on in the world.

5 posted on 12/08/2004 7:53:25 AM PST by Valin (Out Of My Mind; Back In Five Minutes)
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To: Tolik
I know one thing that Scoop Jackson understood. He thought he could be President if he sold out on South Vietnam, which he did with a smile on his face in 1975. I despised him ever since.
6 posted on 12/08/2004 7:57:13 AM PST by bjs1779
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To: FreedomPoster; Tolik

I've just started another nook that I think you might like.
"The Universal Hunger For Liberty"
(Why the Clash of Civilizations is not Inevitable)
Michael Novak.

As I said I've just started it but so far pretty good.

7 posted on 12/08/2004 8:00:08 AM PST by Valin (Out Of My Mind; Back In Five Minutes)
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To: Valin

That's probably my second-favorite quote from the book.

I'll have a look at your other recommendation.

8 posted on 12/08/2004 8:03:37 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: Valin

That first quote of yours, that is.

9 posted on 12/08/2004 8:04:19 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: FreedomPoster

I can think of a number of people here who REALLY need to read The Case For Freedom.
I'd like to see a PJB review of it, or anyone of the "nuke Mecca" crowd . Although I'm sure it would hurt.

10 posted on 12/08/2004 8:28:45 AM PST by Valin (Out Of My Mind; Back In Five Minutes)
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To: Valin

I've got to admit, I was there. I have moderated my views, but I was there.

I still believe that if Bush's efforts to inject representative government into the Middle East via Iraq fail, then it will likely ultimately result in us nuking Middle Eastern cities in retaliation for some sort of WMD attack on the U.S. I really hope this doesn't come to pass.

11 posted on 12/08/2004 8:50:25 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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To: FreedomPoster

I still believe that if Bush's efforts to inject representative government into the Middle East via Iraq

You do know that's the REAL reason we went into Iraq? If 9-11 hadn't happened don't doubt we would of invaded. Will it work? Only time will tell, I believe they hacve a good shot, and after all that's all we can give them a shot.
Will it look like our system, I doubt it, Iraq is after all a whole other country.
/ little miss mary sunshine

12 posted on 12/08/2004 9:07:01 AM PST by Valin (Out Of My Mind; Back In Five Minutes)
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To: Valin

Oh yes, I've believed that all along. And for the strategic geographic positioning, both militarily and politically. If you're going to directly confront the big-picture Islamic radical problem in the Middle East, Iraq was simply the obvious best place to start. Saudi or Iran weren't options, for many reasons.

13 posted on 12/08/2004 9:53:09 AM PST by FreedomPoster
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14 posted on 12/24/2004 6:47:36 AM PST by jla
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