20 years ago today

On this day in 1983: The Evil Empire Speech

Frank Warner notes one of the most famous/infamous things Ronald Reagan ever said:

“So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals I urge you to beware the temptation of pride – the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

The thing that gets me about some in the media asking “What if Bush was right?” about Iraq is the fact that most of them still don’t think Reagan was right about the USSR.

That morning, after Reagan left to deliver the speech, Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) had this to say:

“I wish that we had an administration that was more concerned with preventing nuclear war and less concerned in preparing for nuclear war.”

Oops. Well, Ed, you can’t get them all right.

I’d say that there’s a fair chance that in a couple of decades we’ll be recognizing the 20th anniversary of the ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, as well. And many of today’s Bush-haters will be saying “but the medieval governments in the Middle East would have collapsed on their own anyway” just like they pretend that the USSR would have floundered without any help from Reagan.

Go read Frank’s entire post.


  1. I’d say that there’s a fair chance that in a couple of decades we’ll be recognizing the 20th anniversary of the ‘Axis of Evil’ speech’ Yeah….I had the same nightmare. The ‘Axis of Evil’ speech makes you the laughing stock of the world. Maybe we’ll remember it the same way we will remember ‘Is our children learning’ and ‘nucular threat’ and ‘too bad Casper got to the WMDs before us’

  2. Laughing stock of the world? I’d say that’s stretching it a bit. I’ll grant it’s not a guaranteed thing, of course. But years (decades) after Reagan said what he said, a lot of people were making fun of him. It’s not my fault they’re wrong. Keep laughing, though, while the world powers do the heavy lifting.

  3. What was that you said about WMDs. Oh, nothing. But we liberals keep living in the past. we should forget that the very basis for this war (WMDs) was a hoax. We should focus on the part where the Iraqis got to vote. I have one question. If going to war simply for the purpose of nation building really is such a just cause, why didn’t Bush go to the international community without all spweing rubbish, unfounded claims about WMDs. About those WMDs…..

  4. Jeff: What part of ‘regime change’ don’t you understand? That was the reason for invasion of Iraq. There were many reasons for desiring regime change, one of the biggest of which was Iraq’s WMD programs (which existed as stated in the Kay and Duelfer reports). Bush very clearly said that Iraq must be disarmed BEFORE (that means that they don’t have them yet, as opposed to ‘after’) they become a threat. I will grant that the programs were not nearly as extensive as I suspected. But every other intel agency in the world that I’m aware of was also very wrong. If it was a bluff by Saddam, we called it. Now, back to the reasons for the Iraq campaign. I can’t help it if everyone latched on to the WMD reasoning at the expense of everything else. I did, too, to an extent. But there were many other reasons given for regime change. WMD programs was the reason which most immediately hit home in most people’s minds, and it was the most immediately-actionable of the reasons given. (For instance, way more people are dying in the Sudan, but no one wants to let anyone do anything about it.) Iraq is a campaign in the war. Our enemies were in Iraq and the removal of those enemies and the setting up of allies in their place is a logical strategy. If you look over my site you’ll see that my own main concern with WMD was the threat to our troops in a military sense, and that the removal of the Baathist regime and the establishment of an island of democracy in the ME (best case) or at least a military base to strike from (worst case) was the main goal. This has been beaten to death. On my site and others. If you’d like to pretend that WMD was the only reason for invading Iraq, you’re certainly welcome to do so.

  5. He’s right though. I support kicking out Saddam Hussein and his butchers 100%. But that’s not what Bush and friends claimed they were going to Iraq to do. Why not? It was by far the best reason to do it and still is. But the fact remains, they did this stupid ‘WMD’ dodge (note: the US defines a hand grenade as a weapon of mass destruction – try looking up the definition sometime). I agree Iraq did have NBC programs and probably would have tried to get more in future. I agree kicking Saddam out is a good way to end this. I don’t agree that saying you’re invading because he *has* such weapons, if you don’t *know* it, is a good move. I think it was seen as the only way to get public support, which is sad, but public support is vital. Look at Vietnam. The US military were winning the war but the US politicians lost it because the NV had better propaganda (‘PR’). I agree, the WMD dodge is worth it if it means that thousands of US troops survive because you don’t get the same malaise back home, but they should fess up rather than playing ignorant. I’m sure they did believe there was a slim chance of their being NBC weapons present, but why not admit they knew the evidence was weak and just needed a good excuse? Political suicide I suppose. It’s sad that pretending otherwise is better for all concerned. Just more evidence that lying is integral to succeeding in politics. But it’s the voters’ fault. Personally I think Bush is dumb, but even dumb people can do the right thing sometimes. People can also do the right thing sometimes for the wrong reason. What he DOES understand (as do I) is that the only proper way to deal with a bully is to be strong and fight. If you give in to a bully all you’re guaranteeing it that you will continue to be bullied. This is what makes the Democrats so hopeless too. Bush does something positive, and they all bash him about it. Why can’t they concentrate on attacking him for things he does which actually are detrimental? I hate the politics of automatic gainsaying without thought. It’s practiced by all sides. I’m not American BTW. However being Australian, and a frequent visitor to the US with many friends there, I care about the political situation. It affects us all. Sorry for the ramble. I’m sure it doesn’t make much sense.