Craig Shirley, author of Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan, is an impressive writer with a vast knowledge of Reagan’s terms as president who has nonetheless gotten a very important part of Reagan’s legacy wrong. Shirley has writtenabout how Reagan would have reacted to the Paris massacre by enlisting today’s “Christian Russia” and “free market China” in a coalition against Islamic terrorism. Shirley is wrong on both counts. Reagan would not have been fooled by the use of the Russian Orthodox Church by the Putin regime in Russia. He would not have accepted China as a capitalist nation simply because its communist rulers use capitalism to enrich themselves. Reagan would regard both nations as adversaries, if not enemies.
There is something else seriously wrong in Craig Shirley’s article, “How Reagan Would Handle Paris.” He writes that “Reagan would have approached the fight against radical Islamic terrorism ideologically, the way he did with communism. He would break ISIS economically, employ heavy surveillance and espionage techniques and would go after all those who aid them…”
Shirley doesn’t explain what he means by “heavy surveillance,” but it is a fact that Reagan visited the headquarters of the NSA in 1986 and strongly endorsed the work of the agency that is tasked with conducting surveillance of America’s foreign enemies. I recently visited the library in the NSA’s National Cryptologic Museum to go over materials from that period, including a transcript of Reagan’s remarks. There exists a video of Reagan’s dedication of new buildings at the agency complex at Fort George H. Meade, Maryland.
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